Archive for the ‘Internet Free Speech’ Category

Flickr by Jamie Anderson

Paul Alan Levy

It was disheartening to say the least to hear a Major League Soccer (MLS) team player use abusive language with a ball boy in the middle of a game, but it’s positively shameful that the MLS decided to go after a fan who later posted a small clip of the game on YouTube to further discussion of the widely publicized incident.

There’s no question that the clip was taken from the copyrighted telecast, but there can also be no doubt that the fan is protected by fair use in posting a 20-second clip from a 90-minute game. MLS responded with an abusive DMCA takedown notice that caused the YouTube clip to be removed – an overreaction that boils down to attempting to deny the fan his right to free speech.

Colin Clark, a player for Major League Soccer team Houston Dynamo, made a significant mistake in lashing out at the ball boy at the Seattle Sounders stadium at the March 23 game, using a gay slur because the ball was not delivered directly into the player’s hands, but rather tossed onto the ground for Clark to pick up. Even though Clark issued an apology, the video prompted a widespread discussion among soccer fans, who compared the incident to recent controversies in Europe over racist comments there.

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The U.S. House of Representatives refuses to let up on its quixotic mission to destroy public safeguards. Its latest incarnation is H.R. 4078, the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012,” a misguided bill that seeks to halt regulatory protections until the unemployment rate is equal or less than six percent.

photo by Derek Keats vis flickr

It was the topic of the hour at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law, featuring two professors associated with the Hoover Institute, Allan Meltzler and John Taylor, who were there to bolster a weak argument that by “freezing” regulations, somehow all of our country’s jobs problems would magically disappear.

Fortunately, Public Citizen President Rob Weissman was there to speak on behalf of reality.

Weissman, who also serves as co-chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards,  reminded the subcommittee it was regulatory failures that helped create the current jobs crisis. He said a freeze on public protections not only would fail to create jobs, but would place the economy in serious jeopardy, particularly if newly created financial regulations were weakened or blocked. A little more on that in minute.

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One of the hot topics these days is income inequality and the out-of-sight paychecks that CEOs get, even if the company goes downhill on their watch.

That’s why a Public Citizen is helping organize a conference today about executive compensation and how it should be changed. The conference is hosted by Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition where Public Citizen leads leads the executive compensation task force. The point is to examine how the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law was intended to reduce the excessive earnings of senior executives and reduce the risks these pose to the economy. Proposed implementing rules meant to bar compensation schemes that incentivize excessive risk-taking are weak and have been delayed. Speakers include Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO; Robert J. Jackson Jr., a former senior adviser to the Treasury Department on executive compensation and corporate governance; a number of professors and others.

Also today, one of our senior attorneys, Paul Alan Levy, is making an oral argument before the Indiana Court of Appeals in Indianapolis. The case is Miller v. Junior Achievement, and Levy is arguing as amicus curiae. The suit arose from an attempt by the former CEO of Junior Achievement and his wife to unmask online critics who commented about the company’s financial situation. Levy will argue that the Millers have not met the test needed to unmask the identity of the anonymous posters.

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Peabody Award-winning journalist Bill Moyers’ keynote remarks for Public Citizen’s 40th Anniversary Gala are found below.

"Bill Moyers" "Public Citizen"

I am honored to share this occasion with you.   No one beyond your collegial inner appreciates more than I do what you have stood for over these 40 years, or is more aware of the battles you have fought, the victories you have won, and the passion for democracy that still courses through your veins.  The great progressive of a century ago, Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin – a Republican, by the way – believed that “Democracy is a life; and involves constant struggle.”  Democracy has been your life for four decades now, and would have been even more imperiled today if you had not stayed the course.

I began my public journalism the same year you began your public advocacy, in 1971. Our paths often paralleled and sometimes crossed. Over these 40 years  journalism for me has been a continuing course in adult education, and I came early on to consider the work you do as part of the curriculum – an open seminar on how government works – and for whom.   Your muckraking investigations – into money and politics, corporate behavior, lobbying, regulatory oversight, public health and safety, openness in government, and consumer protection, among others – are models of accuracy and integrity. They drive home to journalists that while it is important to cover the news, it is more important to uncover the news.  As one of my mentors said, “News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.”  And when a student asked the journalist and historian Richard Reeves for his definition of “real news”, he answered: “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.”  You keep reminding us how crucial that news is to democracy.  And when the watchdogs of the press have fallen silent, your vigilant growls have told us something’s up.

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Last night was a night to remember. From the performance of Capitol Movement, to the rousing speech by Public Citizen’s keynote Bill Moyers, energy filled the ballroom at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, D.C., where  public interest luminaries mingled with the next generation of Naders Raiders to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Public Citizen.

Cocktails were served beginning at 6 p.m. . Following this, attendees went to the main ballroom where dinner was served. Public Citizen board member Steve Skrovan, whose documentary about Public Citizen founder Ralph Nader is currently showing on Showtime, MCed the event and offered the following quote to start the evening off:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
-George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists”

Skrovan went on to say that he believed the ballroom of nearly 600 supporters was probably full of “unreasonable people.” One of those unreasonables: Joan Claybrook. Claybrook, who helped found the organization and served as president of Public Citizen for nearly three decades, spoke about her pride in the organization and all its accomplishments. Her remarks preceded a short video created to explain the origins of Public Citizen and highlight its accomplishments over the last four decades. It’s a must see! CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO . . .


U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who worked at Public Citizen in our Congress Watch division a number of years ago, recounted the many lessons she had learned working at Public Citizen. Public Citizen board member and commentator Jim Hightower then spoke, telling the audience that he serves on only one nonprofit board. The reason he chose Public Citizen’s board: because Public Citizen knows you can’t sweet talk a pig out of a creek– you need to “get right up behind it and push it!” (He was explaining how hard we push to get things done and how we don’t back down.) Maybe you had to be there.

Hightower’s Texas humor was given a run for its money though when Public Citizen founder Ralph Nader took to the podium. While his remarks were earnest and provided often somber reflections on the history of the consumer movement he fathered and the challenges before our nation, his wit was clear. Nader, who once said the point of leadership “is to create more leaders,” said, “You can always tell a Public Citizen project director but you can’t tell them much.”

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