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A link roundup on the speech issues raised by outing Brutsch

With all the brouhaha caused by Adrian Chen putting a name to a handle, there has been a lot of discussion about what limits ((if any) there ought to be on what we think of as acceptable behavior on the web.

Tehcnosociology takes a look at how the perceptions of speech reflect power; and that the wild west attitude of the US masks why other groups react so strongly to what they see on the US internet.  The ways in which we don’t regulate it aren’t so understood; because they live in places where it is strongly regulated. That makes things like that film about Mohammed seem sanctioned (which she goes into here, “Why free speech is baffling to many“).

AaronBrady, at The New Inquiry points out that when we think an action is criminal we aren’t so quick to call it free speech, and what we think of as acceptable behavior changes the dialogue about it (who thought we’d see torture being publicly defended by serious contenders for the presidency?).  As a result the law isn’t really the issue.

Excremental Virtue has some thoughts (strung together from tweets) about the difference between taking a picture, and publishing them (which has been something I, as a photographer have been trying to make plain to people), and the assertion that faces are less real than names.
That’s all I’ve got time to put down for now, which is a pity, because there are a lot of questions there; some of them meta (what is free speech) and some of the apparently meta (is the internet “real life”?, to which I say yes) because work beckons, and so I don’t have time to explore those questions any more until later.


What worries me

I’m not worried about voter fraud.

Voter fraud is rare, and when it does happen it’s either extremely local, or small beans.  It’s not that it’s rare, it’s that it’s infinitesimal.  The sort of fraud being alleged… one person pretending to be someone they aren’t,  so as to vote more than once (which is the ostensible reason for the voter ID laws 12 states have tried to implement this election cycle) has been the cause of 10 arrests since 2000.

That’s 10 arrests in a dozen years, tens of millions of ballots cast and ten people charged with that specific fraud.  Which is what you would expect.  There is no benefit to it.  Get caught and it’s a felony.  For one vote.  To win an election (esp. a statewide, much less a national, election) would require thousands of people “double-dipping”.  It strains all credulity to imagine so large a conspiracy would go off without a hitch.

What worries me is election fraud.  That’s something which skews the odds of one party winning.  This is something of a republican party tradition.  In the 1960s future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William H.  Rhenquist took part in intimidating voters.  In 2000 Florida “purged” a lot of “felons”, in a slipshod way which also disenfranchised a lot of legitimate voters, who happened to belong to strongly Democratic leaning demographics.

In 2002, a Republican operative engaged in a criminal voter suppression campaign in New Hampshire.

The Bush administration has spent a lot of time talking about mythical cases of voter fraud and election improprieties, but the New Hampshire phone jamming case was the real thing. Republican operatives hired an Idaho telemarketing firm to jam the lines to prevent people who needed help in voting from getting through. The scheme was a direct attack on American democracy.

After the guilty plea from its executive director, the New Hampshire Republican Party paid to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the state’s Democrats. There is reason to believe, however, that the phone jamming ploy may have been coordinated out of the White House. Democrats say there were 22 phone calls between New Hampshire Republican officials and the White House Office of Political Affairs on election night and early the next morning.

The Republican Party, which has been going on about how even one case of interference in an election is too many, spent millions of dollars in t defense of James Tobin, who was making calls to the White House in the days before the election.

Sometimes the use of more subtle tricks, such as posting flyers with false information for the election.

…in 2004, minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin received flyers from a fictitious organization called the “Milwaukee Black Voters League,” claiming that if you had already voted in any election that year that you could not vote and if you had even minor infractions, like parking tickets, you were disqualified from voting. Flyers like these are often printed on official-looking local government letterhead with the wrong election date or other misleading information. As another example, in 2008 flyers were distributed to voters in Virginia stating, “Due to larger than expected voter turnout in this year’s electoral process,” people supporting Republican candidates vote on November 4th (actual Election Day) and Democrats vote on the following day.

In 2004 Sproul and Associates were hired to conduct voter registration drives in several states.  One of the things about such campaigns is they are supposed to be party neutral.  No matter for which party someone want to register, the form is to be accepted, and sent in.  In Calif. the person agenting a form has to fill out a receipt and hand it to the registrant.  Sproul and Associates had screening scripts which they told their employees to use before offering a registration form. Field workers were told they would be spot checked to see if they were actually letting Democrats register.  In Arizona they tore up forms which were filled out by Democratic registrants.

That, by the way is one of the most effective ways to suppress voters of any party one dislikes.  The people whom one fails to actually register will be turned away at the polls.  Since anyone who registers close to an election can be presumed to be planning to vote, it’s almost as good as getting a vote for your candidate.

A couple of weeks ago a firm, run by the same operative, (he had been chairman of the Arizona Republican Party in 2004) was fired because of irregularities in its voter registration campaigns in five states.  A month before the elections, in five swing states, they shut down their registration drives.  That’s got some serious implications.

That leaves, in the preventing people from voting tricks, things like “literacy” tests, and “grandfather” laws, both of which are categorically prohibited these days.  So too is any poll tax.

Which hasn’t stopped the Republicans who took over statehouses in 201o from managing to find a way to back-door just such a thing, to prevent the “single voter” fraud I was talking about at the top of this post.  A fraud they admit is insignificant.

The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

Additionally, the agreement states Pennsylvania “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.”

The estimate for people who are lacking in the needed documents this law would require is more than 700,000.  A large number, in fact a majority, are people who demographically tend Democratic.  This isn’t a mistake, it’s the entire point..

Mike Turzai, the state’s House majority leader, made the remark Saturday at the state’s Republican State Committee meeting, according to After listing off a series of GOP legislative accomplishments involving Second Amendment rights and abortion regulations, Turzai mentioned the new voting law, which requires voters to show a photo ID, as one of those GOP victories.

“Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,” he said, drawing applause.

Which is what these laws are all about.

I haven’t even tried to address the problems of ballot box fraud, which is much easier to do than one thinks.

We could, without too much trouble have verifiable, and secure, elections.  We choose not to.  We rather have things like the mess in Ohio in 2004.

So yeah, it’s not voter fraud I’m worried about.

1 Comment

I think this guy misses the point too.

So,  Yaakov Rosenblatt decided he needed to tell Sarah Silverman what was wrong with her PSA about the laws being passed to make it harder to vote.

He says his complaint is about her using biblical language to make her point.  I think he was upset that she said (in some pretty colorful ways) that these laws were designed to fuck people over.  But that critique was lost, in his rant about what was really bothering him… she’s not at home rearing kids and cooking supper, like a good Jewish girl ought to be.  See, if she was fulfilled by having a husband, and kids, she wouldn’t be worrying her pretty little head about things like efforts to strip people of the ability to vote; in an admitted attempt to skew the odds of one party winning.

You stand out among comedians because your comedy is sharper than theirs. It is crude and clever, simple and punishing; your perception of the human condition is acute, which is why your punch lines bite deeper and hurt longer. You have a knack for finding faults and inconsistencies in people and blowing them wide open with carefully plotted language and cleverly nuanced pauses.

If I were to be gratuitous, I would say you mock what is imperfect because you know what perfect should look like and you seek the ultimate perfection.

But I won’t be so gratuitous. You are in show biz. I am in the rabbi biz. You entertain people. I serve people. I believe I have your number.

Nope, no passive aggressive bullshit there.  His argument really is that if she were trying to have kids she’d be happy, then she wouldn’t be so foul-mouthed, and politically active.

All I ask, respectfully, is that you not use traditional Jewish terminology in your efforts. Because doing so is a lie.

Nothing you say or stand for, Sarah, from your sickening sexual proposal to a Republican donor to your equally vulgar tweet to Mitt Romney, has the slightest thing to do with the most basic of tenets which Judaism has taught the world – that the monogamous relationship is the most meaningful one and that a happy marriage is the key to wholesomeness.

What twaddle. There is no respect there.  He’s got no real basis for telling her what to do.  He certainly doesn’t have exclusive license on the use of imagery from Exodus when speaking of people being denied rights.  It’s not a lie for her to use it. People used exactly that rthetoric to overturn the last instance of Jim Crow laws meant to suppress the vote.  It appropriate to use it now.

As you might imagine this has gotten some pushback.  Silveraman’s father wrote an open letter in reply, pointing out that among other things, it’s not just “Sarah Silverman, comedian”, but that her family is observant.    Yes, Rosenblatt’s orthodox, and wouldn’t recognise her sister’s smicha even if she were a man, but Silverman knew precisely what she was doing.

None of which is all that important. It was this response which caught my attention.

When Sarah Silverman, on video, propositions Sheldon Adelson, using her doggie in mock soft-porn as substitute for the elderly billionaire — that’s humor and acceptable.

When Rabbi Rosenblatt tells Sarah Silverman to get married and have children — that’s an expression of hatred and intolerance.

The question is, why?

I propose that many of the Jewish-American commenters got so upset because the Rabbi crossed a line. But the line he crossed was not about his views on motherhood, but rather his views on the role of the Rabbi and of Judaism.

Judaism, to some of those commenters, belongs locked in a box in a synagogue, and should never be allowed out to offer any moral observations, opinions or guidelines that disagree with the most permissive of Western cultural values.

Bullshit.  It’s not that the people who disagree think judaism should be locked in a box.  It’s that they don’t.  Rosenblatt was telling  Silverman he didn’t like the way she was taking Judaism out of the box.  Rosenblatt did cross a line.  He told another adult they had no right to speak in public because it offended his religious sensibilities.  Then he told her to go back to the kitchen and make a sandwich.

UPDATE:  I am not likely to say this often, but read the comments in response to the Open Letter.