Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Catch-22

...was supposed to be a novel. Not any more.

The worst aspect of this decision is described here:
After Ceballos, employees who do know what they are talking about will retain First Amendment protection only if they make their complaints publicly without going through internal grievance procedures. Although the Court suggests that its decision will encourage the creation and use of such internal procedures, it will probably not have that effect. Note that if employees have obligations to settle disputes and make complaints within internal grievance procedures, then they are doing something that is within their job description when they make complaints and so they have no First Amendment protections in what they say. Hence employees will have incentives not to use such procedures but to speak only in public if they want First Amendment protections (note that if they speak both privately and publicly, they can be fired for their private speech). However, if they speak only publicly, they essentially forfeit their ability to stay in their jobs, first because they become pariahs, and second, because they have refused to use the employer's internal mechanisms for complaint (mechanisms which, if they used them, would eliminate their First Amendment rights). In short, whatever they do, they are pretty much screwed. So the effect of the Court's decision is to create very strong incentives against whistleblowing of any kind. (Another possible result of the case is that employees will have incentives to speak anonymously or leak information to reporters and hope that the reporters don't have to reveal their sources)
Those of us who have actually been in a position where a government employer was acting stupidly, illegally, or against the public interest, and have suffered consequences for speaking out, can appreciate how bad this decision is. Apparently, five members of the Supreme Court haven't got a clue.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Standards are vital--let's have lots of them

A brief dose of reality, in the form of a rant. Those who whine about media bias should consider it (after all, it can happen to their side), but won't. Indeed, the complaints about media bias exist in order to justify the sort of things Foser is complaining about, and inoculate their side. Like complaints about the uncivil treatment of graduation orators, they use standards of behavior as weapons, not guides.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Jaw hits floor

I usually consider National Review to be useless (although they did run a good profile of Bob Newhart a while back, and it's always good for snarky fun and games), but this article by Jonathan Adler and Michael Berry warning against the prosecution of journalists for publishing politically embarrassing leaks is excellent. Adler and Berry are the first conservatives I have noticed who suggest that journalists can be patriotic Americans, too, who run leaks that they think the public needs to know about, but take care to do no harm to the nation in the process. Given the ignorant journalist-bashing that usually comes from the right, this is exceedingly refreshing. A tip of the hat to both (damn, now I've got to go buy a hat!)

The article and a debate involving Adler are linked here. Thanks to Laura Rozen for the info.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Useful fools

With this I can only agree with sadness.

Our problem is that the Republicans richly deserve to lose, and lose big, but the Democrats don't deserve to win.

Uncivil Wars

This post by Glenn Greenwald is pretty much all one needs to know about the endless right-wing bleatings about the "angry left" (do these people think that none of us remembers the late 1990s???).

But I would add one observation--it all makes perfect sense if you don't regard tolerance and civility as principles, but as weapons.

All right, maybe there is something to this apocalypse stuff after all

The Washington Post reports that the USPS is ready to sell ad space on stamps.

I'm sure this is intentional, if perhaps unconscious, to subvert the entire concept of public service and move toward a system where anything that can't pay for itself through donations from the rich won't exist. Ads on Medicare drug cards were a start (and they served their purpose by fooling some people into thinking that they had to go to a certain chain to get benefits). If we don't see those things that we (collectively, as a society, through government) support, then eventually we'll quit believing that there are such things that we should and must support as a society, and that everything is the dispensation of some corporate sponsor.