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High Court Trims Whistleblower Rights 718

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the dark-times-ahead dept.
iminplaya writes "In yet another blow against free speech rights, the Supreme Court decided that government employees who report wrongdoing do not enjoy 1st Amendment rights while on the job. From the article 'The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote [...] The ruling was perhaps the clearest sign yet of the Supreme Court's shift with the departure of moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the arrival of Alito. [...] Stephen Kohn, chairman of the National Whistleblower Center, said: "The ruling is a victory for every crooked politician in the United States."'"
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High Court Trims Whistleblower Rights

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  • Unfortunate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:47AM (#15433130)
    Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays? It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

    If TJ was brought to the future, he'd hate the government as it stands in this point in time, but then again, he'd hate alot of other things with the government now too, like how damned big it is.
  • by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:47AM (#15433132)
    Bit by bit, it seems, that America is changing into something quite different than I was taught in school. Like the supreme court ruling that allows local governments to sieze your land for a better purpose as just one of many examples.

    Was it just that I was young and naive and believed in a good country that stuck to its principles? That principles meant something to this country?
  • The real shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sxltrex (198448) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:52AM (#15433152)
    The real shame of the Bush regime isn't all the crap he's pulled during his presidency. The real shame, as demonstrated by this latest attack on our "inalienable rights, " is that it's going to take us at least 20 years to undo the damage. I still can't believe we had the opportunity to say goodbye after the first four years but brought him back for four more.
  • by spirality (188417) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:53AM (#15433157) Homepage
    You would think it was the end of the world by the headline. From what I understood of the article government employees should behave like private sector employees. That is, if I shoot my mouth off at work I might get fired. This seems like a no brainer. The speech seems to directly relate to what is said at work, not what is said in public about work. Big difference.

    The thing about free speech is this. Your words have consequences, which might include you losing your job. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.
  • by spirality (188417) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:58AM (#15433172) Homepage
    Funny thing about the eminent domain rulings, in particular the New London case. The conservatives, i.e. Scalia and Thomas oppossed the ruling, but Ginsberg and the liberal cliche, including O'Conner, I believe, supported it. Exactly the opposite of this decision.

    On the surface this ruling might seem bad too, but I'm not so sure. From what I read it means that government employees can be fired for what they say at work. Just like me in my private sector job. This seems like a no brainer to me.
  • Freedom of speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:00AM (#15433178) Journal
    You can say whatever you like, unless the government really, really doesn't want you to say it.
  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason1729 (561790) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:00AM (#15433180)
    You have no idea what the word "communist" means. Why don't you go look it up?

    The US is moving towards a police state, which China, to a large degree, already is. The US is more capitalistc than ever (capitalism is the opposite of communism).
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:01AM (#15433183)
    From the article, stripping away the spin and leaving in what Kennedy actually said:


    "We reject, however, the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties," Kennedy said. ....
    Kennedy said if the superiors thought the memo was inflammatory, they had the authority to punish him.

    "Official communications have official consequences, creating a need for substantive consistency and clarity. Supervisors must ensure that their employees' official communications are accurate, demonstrate sound judgment, and promote the employer's mission," Kennedy wrote. .....
    Kennedy said that government workers "retain the prospect of constitutional protection for their contributions to the civic discourse." They do not, Kennedy said, have "a right to perform their jobs however they see fit."


    Should government workers really be able to pass around accusatory memos with no ability to be fired? I thought it was already enough of a joke that if you worked for the government you were in for life. Do we not want government employees to be accountable for what they say if it is false?

    Speech will still be protected if it is truly whistleblowing, and not just bitching.
  • by vijayiyer (728590) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:06AM (#15433198)
    The 1st amendment is a restriction preventing laws from being enacted which prevent freedom of speech. It does not, however, grant anybody a right to keep their jobs. It just means you won't be arrested after you're shown the door. The court ruling seems like common sense to me. It doesn't stop anybody from whistleblowing - but don't count on keeping your job if you do.
  • by grammar fascist (239789) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:09AM (#15433206) Homepage
    Can someone clarify this for me?

    The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote...

    So did the other eight vote, and then hold off for Alito, or what? How can you definitively say that Alito cast the deciding vote?

    This seems like anti-Alito flamebait to me.
  • by umbrellasd (876984) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:11AM (#15433211)
    There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.
    There are a whole bunch of other laws that say what kind of action can and cannot be taken, however.

    The quote from the article is:

    The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday.
    This is the beginning of the situation where a whole society sees a terrible wrongness and no one will say a word because they are terrified of reprisal. Eventually, even the people that have the job of punishing those that speak out are too terrified to not punish. And then you have a society of good people that are locked into a happy cycle of evil that they do not even want to be part of.

    Anyway, that's the reason some people are saying this is so wrong. Whether it's a big jump from this to what I described or not, I do not know. Usually bad things are not nearly as far away as we think. And usually that's because we try to keep those bad things as far from our thoughts as possible, :-).

  • by jmv (93421) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:13AM (#15433216) Homepage
    The thing about free speech is this. Your words have consequences, which might include you losing your job. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.

    Sure, and think about it, your words have consequences, which might include you being jailed. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not jailing you because of your words.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:15AM (#15433224)
    Thing is, and I'm no expert on this, but there is a *process* defined by law for whistleblowing. It's not going to your local neighborhood journalist to get your 15 minutes of fame for blowing the whistle to the press. Why? Because in blowing the whistle on illegal activity, you might also compromise perfectly *legitimate* state secrets. There is a chain of command, and if you feel you need to go outside the chain of command, there's other legitimate authorities to blow the whistle to (I suspect if you don't think you can blow the whistle to anyone in the executive branch, then you could go to a senator/congressperson from the minority party, and blow the whistle to them - I think congresspersons have a pretty bulletproof shield for then turning around and bringing it to the public's attention if necessary, or at least to the appropriate congressional committees for investigation; honestly, I don't know what is and isn't allowed, but there *are* whistleblower protection laws, for people who go about it properly).

    If you really think the whole system top-to-bottom is so corrupt that *none* of the proper channels for internal government revue can be trusted, well, then I guess you have a choice to make. Practice civil disobedience (by going to the press) and (possibly) go to jail like a man, or not. See, people want to be all "I'm practicing civil disobedience" without *actually* breaking laws.

    People might think this sounds crass, but what I'm saying is, in most cases, whistleblowers *can* and *should* work within the system, the legal framework, for whistleblowing without going to jail. If that is not possible, then by going to trial and going to jail, you will be shining a big old spotlight on the problem, and that too can serve the public good. But, if we said that anybody who claims to be whistleblowing can leak anything to the press, then we will be inviting an ever escalating flood of leaks.
  • by pintomp3 (882811) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:15AM (#15433226)
    when i read "National Whistleblower Center", i just had to google it. sounded like an SNL sketch. i know some of you will argue that noone has a right to keep their job, but this opens the door to legally squash anyone who might uncover your wrongdoing. also, it's not the same as a private company firing someone giving out trade secrets. we have a right to know what's going on in OUR govt. this point seems to be lost, the govt should be accountable to the public, not the other way around.
  • Re:Congress (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt.lynx@bc@ca> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:18AM (#15433241) Journal
    In what way does it make any sense that an employee who has _legitimately_ reported the wrongdoings of his boss be fired for his trouble without even an iota of protection? All this will do is allow people that are doing something wrong to get away with it for a lot longer as employees stay hushed up for fear of losing their jobs.

    I understand that they brought this about to try and reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits, but this is really throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater here.

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:18AM (#15433244) Homepage
    Should government workers really be able to pass around accusatory memos...?

    Unless I'm mistaken, I thought we already had laws to prevent slander in the first place. The problem isn't that we don't laws already in place for issues such as this; the problem is that they aren't enforced.

    Gee, sounds like the whole immigration issue in regards to enforcing existing laws. I'm starting to see a trend here...
  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmv (93421) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:22AM (#15433259) Homepage
    Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays?

    Yes.

    It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

    No, the thing is that China is becoming more and more capitalistic (despite the communist talk), while the US is becoming more and more repressive. Therefore both are becoming capitalistic, repressive regimes.
  • by Vraeden (696461) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:22AM (#15433261) Journal
    Reading the slip opinion, this case does not seem to be about retaliation for whistleblowing. A government employee was fired because his superiors believed his performance was inadequate, perhaps sparked by an argument over a possibly bad warrant.

    All the Court seems to say here is that the memo that Ceballos wrote was not something he wrote as a civilian to "whistleblow," he wrote the memo as part of his job and could indeed be fired for it.

    It'd be like getting fired for writing bad software...programmers can't claim their software is a communication protected by the 1st Amendment and then claim they can't be fired for it!

    I suspect that one could still write "memos" and send them to journalists as a civilian and have those writings protected.
  • by nickmalthus (972450) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:23AM (#15433264)
    Government workers are public servants who in the end work for the people. If they believe there is something wrong in the government and wish to report it to their ultimate boss, the people, they should feel free to do so. This ruling basically gives appointed officals total control of public servants to appointed officals and taking it away from the people whom they are suppose to serve.
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:28AM (#15433275)
    That whistleblower protection has been abused by employees. It's not uncommon for an employee catching wind of an upcoming termination to either fabricate or amplify some alledged wrongdoing then invoke whistleblower protection to save his/her ass.

  • by vykor (700819) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:40AM (#15433313)
    To draw an analogy, if people abuse a fire alarm, they are punished with appropriate measures. We do not remove fire alarms from our buildings entirely just because they have the potential to be false. The danger that the fire alarm protects us from is of enough consequence that we must risk the false positives.
  • by SQL Error (16383) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:41AM (#15433320)
    The quote from the article is:
    The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday.

    Yes, that is the quote from the article. The article is only very loosely connected to the actual ruling.

    It's a newspaper. If you have ever read a newspaper article on a subject you are intimately familiar with, you would have found that they got most of the major facts wrong. The thing is, they do this to every story. Newspapers are just hopelessly inaccurate, not necessarily due to bias, but because reporters are incredibly lazy. And sub-editors - who have the job of creating the headlines - care about catching your attention, not about accurately summarising facts.

    Tomorrow morning all the law-professor blogs will have picked the ruling apart line by line, and then you'll be able to see what it actually means. Or, as the parent poster did, you could read it yourself. But if you are going to announce the end of the world based on one line from an AP wire article, don't be surprised if everyone ignores you.
  • by btarval (874919) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:59AM (#15433372)
    Saw this quote posted over at a certain other site, and it's the best synopsis of what we're doing to ourselves (Credit goes to technopundit there):

    "We're legislating ourselves into becoming a third world nation."

    Sadly, this applies far beyond this particular case, or even the original discussion on chemistry discussion at the other site.

  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vengie (533896) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:03AM (#15433383)
    For another take on ID, check out:

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/alumni/bulletin/2006/sp ring/ask.php [harvard.edu]

    (An Evangelical Christian sounding off about the ID/evolution debate and the problems for evangelicals)
  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by strider44 (650833) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:06AM (#15433390)
    Wow, I'm struggling to remember the last time I've seen someone get so close to getting a joke yet be so far away. I think the answer to your last line would be to laugh for the moment at least.
  • Re:mod parent up! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ooze (307871) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:09AM (#15433397)
    Wrong. Since police state is also about the measure of fascism ... which is defined by the nationalistic intermingling of corporate business and the rich elite and the gouvernment with a strong reliance on and glorification of the military. And fighting against this is pretty much the premise of communism, long before even the word fascism existed.
    That all so called communist states where police states too is pretty much a result of "to fight a monster, you have to become one". This is no excuse of course, but rather a sign that they were't really communist in the first place.
    And oh ... if you are short of examples of fascist states in the last 100 years: Mussolini Italy, Hitler Germany, Franco Spain, Pinochet Chile, Peron Argentinia, Bush America. No shortage of that, and also no shortage of atrocities committed there.
  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:10AM (#15433399) Homepage
    America needs to have FEWER, not MORE, lawsuits.

    I totally agree, which is why I asked the question in the first place. Call my a cynic, but all the politicos in office just keep writing more and more laws/bills just to justify their own existence and/or legacy.

    Our government is becoming bloated with virtually an unmanageable codebase in that laws are to civilization as source code is to a program.
  • by Symbiosis (39537) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:12AM (#15433403) Homepage
    It doesn't really prevent people from whistleblowing. It just says that a statement you make under the official capacity of your job is considered part of your job, not free speech, and is thus under the same restrictions/scrutiny of any other aspects of your work.

    Does it make it a little harder to define something as legitimate "whisteblowing"? Probably. Is it the end of the world and the begining of an American police state? Probably not.
  • by Espressoman (8032) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:19AM (#15433426)
    As much as we in New Zealand make regular fun of the United States and it's people (and the monkey in charge), and as much as we feel disgust and anger over the war-mongering and bullying tactics of your corrupt government, I am beginning to feel genuinely afraid for the welfare of the American people. This is a tradgedy, to see decline of the land of the free, and the birth of this new and frightening empire.

    I truly hope the economic and political abomination which is now emerging falls much faster than Rome. I have little hope that the American people will do anything, or will even try. They are too sucked in by the corporate happy-face, too poorly educated in the true nature of the world, and too overwhelmed with fear at the hand of the war-maker's spin.

    There was a time when I aspired to live in the United States. A land of opportunity as they used to say. Now it's the land of the spied upon, the land of continual corporate, military and religious conquest, the land of the un-free, the land of delusions.
  • Re:The real shame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:20AM (#15433430) Homepage Journal
    I still can't believe we had the opportunity to say goodbye after the first four years but brought him back for four more.

    I'm a two time Bush voter. Even with his shorcomings(and he does have many), the other candidate in the general election was even more unpalatable to me.

    LK
  • Re:The real shame (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:35AM (#15433468)
    He has nominated in awful lot of judges.
  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:35AM (#15433469)
    When I said pseudo-communism, I meant the type of fake communism employed by the now-gone USSR and the still-existent PRC. I thought it was painfully obvious from the types of references I made.

    Neither country listed above employs communism in any form. Look at marxist theory and you can see that neither the USSR nor China were anywhere near a communist state (except maybe china during the days immediately after the revolution.
    China ended up as more of a capitalist/faschist hybrid state posing as a communist nation. That's almost where we are headed now.
  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:45AM (#15433500) Homepage Journal
    They sure are. 9/11 was the wake up call. The problem is I was awakened to the Bush corporation. Seeing them in action I've never felt more depressed about human nature than I do today.
  • by leehwtsohg (618675) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:49AM (#15433506)
    Tell this to 40,000 iraqi civilians, and uncounted number of iraqi soldiers that were killed as a result of his actions. Tell this to 2700 american and coalition soldiers dead, to 1000 dead in New Orleans, and to the families of those who died.

    Some of the "crap he's pulled" can not be undone, not even in 20 years. Please don't underestimate Bush's crap, even with the damage to the "inalienable rights".

    I sometimes wonder "how they sleep at night". Is it easy to tell yourself that the thousands of people killed where all for the best, and it all had to be done? I guess the world has known far greater evil, and they all slept well.
  • Re:The real shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:50AM (#15433512) Homepage Journal
    It's always refreshing to see someone who blatantly admits that money is much more important than human rights, free speech and privacy.
  • Re:The real shame (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:51AM (#15433517)
    Not saying this is how you decided, but...

    When most of the electorate quits deciding which person to vote for based on their rather limited knowledge of how much fun it'd be to have the guy over for a BBQ and beer the country will be a lot better off. This is how many people decide who they'd vote for. There are, of course, also the people who voted for Bush because "he's Christian" -- without any elaboration on why that should make someone an inherently more competent and effective chief executive, nor why an outward peacock like cloak of piety makes him better than his Christian challenger at anything other than looking pious. And finally there were a few people voted for him because they figured he'd make them rich beyond their wildest mortal dreams. Fortunately the second two groups are smaller, so it's the first set that are the real problem. Now they're getting what they deserve as their government rapes them, and they're making the rest of us endure it as well.

    It is extremely difficult for me to imagine how almost any challenger in either presidential race could have possibly been even a fraction as incompetent, insulated, intellectually dull, ineffective, reckless, corrupt, or expensive as this one has been, is, and will continue to be as its walking-dead legacy lumbers on, zombie-like, for the next several decades.
  • by Just Another Poster (894286) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:59AM (#15433539)
    Please, what a lot of fearmongering and nonsense. Communist governments spend vast sums of nonexistant money, they tend to create an elite "politburo" class of elite rich while everyone else remains poor,

    By comparing the savage inequalities of power and wealth in communist nations such as Cuba and North Korea with "income inequality" non-issues of freer nations, I can only conclude that you're mentally ill.

    they begin wars and conquor countries to control resources they otherwise wouldn't have and couldn't afford,

    Iraq sure doesn't look very "conquored" to me.

    Where's all the oil we have supposedly "stolen"?

  • by nick this (22998) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:02AM (#15433546) Journal
    Bullshit.

    You don't have to be young and inexperienced to be idealistic. Having high ideals and living up to them is harder when you are grown up and experience the real world, but it can be done. Only lazy and intellectually dishonest people do things that are morally/ethically/idealistically wrong and blame it on "the real world".

    To let America slide from a beacon of hope in the world to a distrusted mad dog because it's too hard to do the right thing is frankly disgusting.

    Or so I believe.
  • Re:The real shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Emetophobe (878584) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:19AM (#15433582)
    I can and will only vote for candidates who are both pro life and pro second amendment.
    Someone who is truely pro-life wouldn't start or go to war. Nor would they allow guns to be freely sold to the mass public.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:30AM (#15433604)
    Umm.. err. Do you really think the government is just another corporation? This is the fatal flaw that you seem to completely miss. I seem to recall the phrase "of the people, by the people" somewhere when referring to democracy. This ruling could, and probbably will silence very important people who work for the government like say scientists who work for the FDA, anyone who studies global warming, etc. It's kind of scary that you think the government should just shut people up that work for them when they report things the government doesn't like.
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:45AM (#15433644)
    Was it just that I was young and naive and believed in a good country that stuck to its principles?
    Yes, because you assumed the principles believed in were the ones they said they did. Americans don't really believe in freedom pe se, not past the freedom to shop at Wal-Mart and watch TV. Well, and go to church and talk about Jesus. Freedom cannot and will not survive in a population that just doesn't care about it. Now, when Clinton was in office, a lot of people were writing pretty good stuff about how a good citizen is supposed to question their government, that we should never be blindly obedient, etc, but 2.4 picoseconds after getting a Republican president, all of those perfectly accurate arguments were shown to be insincere, well, strike that, all-out lies. These same people are, for the most part, the very ones saying that you're a traitor if you disagree with Pres. Bush.

    There are still a few, like James Bovard, who are talking about "out of control government" the same way they were under Clinton, but the rest were just using a philosphy they didn't believe in (conservatism) as a weapon against the Democratic party. Anyway, sorry for the digression, but I made the mistake of wandering onto the military.com forums again and have had my fill of accusations of treason, "you hate americuh," etc. Those forums scare the hell out of me, and that tends to color my posts elsewhere.

  • by BoneFlower (107640) <george.worroll@gmail . c om> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:48AM (#15433651) Journal
    This only restricts the exercise of free speech *in the performance of duty*. If employers could not restrict what employees said in the performance of duties, you could have "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" going out as an official government memo, and there would be little that could be done about it. Employers need to be able to restrict the speech of their employees while in an official capacity.

    Even apart from enshrining racist forgeries as official government memos, not being able to restrict official speech makes it virtually impossible to enforce any sort of protocol. Without established, enforced, and respected protocol the entire chain of command, unity, and general discipline will break down and the organization will founder. The ability to restrict official speech is critical to this.

    This ruling strikes a good balance. Makes it clear that you can't simply say anything *in an official capacity*, where you should be representing the interests of those who hired you, while leaving your rights to speak as your own person untouched.
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:01AM (#15433687)
    I agree completely. This is one of the darkest periods of American history, probably the darkest since Jim Crow. We have the President waffling on the definition of torture, claiming the authority to imprison an American citizen indefinitely without charges, claiming the authority to nullify any law he wants, repudiating the separation of powers/checks and balances system, etc. We have secret US-run prisons scattered around the world, into which people are "disappeared" off the street, tortured, and even if they are released later, no raparations are made of any kind. We have the declaration of permanent war (but without the declaration of war demanded by the Constitution), the suspension of the rule of law, and once again, a government (and largely a population) that is condoning what would obviously be called torture if we weren't the ones doing it. We won't just "bounce back" from this like we might repair the economy, and even that is looking doubtful with the skyrocketing national debt. This is pretty damned horrible.

    And no, I'm not blaming Bush exclusively--he's just one man. The Americans as a whole let this crap happen because they're too freaking stupid to realize that an omnipotent government isn't a safe thing to have. They're too caught up in the fist-pumping "kick-ass!" feeling they get from watching Fox news that they're just pouring our hard-won freedom down the drain. I don't think what drove them to this was 100% fear--people weren't scared so much as pissed off that anyone would have the nerve to do this to us. Considering we have the attention span of gnats and the analytic ability of same, I'm not surprised that we attacked the wrong freaking country and got ourselves eyeballs-deep into this. We're making MORE terrorists, not fewer. Christ!

    Even aside from gutting civil liberties, abandoning the rule of law, the balkanization of public discourse, sanctioning and practice of torture, a skyrocketing national debt, we're making the terrorism situation worse! It's making sense why Iran endorsed President Bush in his re-election campaign. By destabilizing the entire region he has helped the Islamicists. Taliban for everyone! Wonderful. I'm so proud.

  • by PhysSurfer (872187) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:19AM (#15433734) Homepage
    Do we not want government employees to be accountable for what they say if it is false?

    Wow, you're either being extremely disingenuous or simple minded here. You think that this ruling will help with governmental accountability? It will do the opposite.

    Imagine a governmental employee sees something shady, but isn't positive of their interpretation of the event, so they send an email to a coworker discussing the incident. Under this ruling, they could be fired for the email!

    Yes I'm assuming that email can be counted as an official communication. I'm sure that an attorney could successfully argue the case that an email sent from a governmental account, or even from any account during working hours could count as an official communication.

    My point is that if employees are unable to discuss such matters with their coworkers to clarify things without fear of losing thier jobs, then they are much less likely to bring their concerns public. This ruling will decrease governmental accountability, not increase it as you seem to argue.
  • Re:The real shame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yndrd1984 (730475) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:03AM (#15433854)
    Murderers who are executed can't murder anyone else.

    Neither can fetuses that get aborted!

    But seriously, anyone being executed has already been isolated from the rest of society for a long time, with little danger to the public, so life in prison is clearly an option. You can't really call yourself a "pro-life" person if you chose death over life when you have a real choice.

  • FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FredThompson (183335) <`fredthompson' `at' `mindspring.com'> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:17AM (#15433884)
    SFGate? You've got to be kidding. Use a real source like Oyez: http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1833/ [oyez.org]

    Garcetti v. Ceballos
    Docket Number: 04-473
    Abstract

    Argued:

    October 12, 2005
    Facts of the Case

    Richard Ceballos, an employee of the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, found that a sheriff misrepresented facts in a search warrant affidavit. Ceballos notified the attorneys prosecuting the case stemming from that arrest and all agreed that the affidavit was questionable, but the D.A.'s office refused to dismiss the case. Ceballos then told the defense he believed the affidavit contained false statements, and defense counsel subpoenaed him to testify. Seeking damages in federal district court, Ceballos alleged that D.A.s in the office retaliated against him for his cooperation with the defense, which he argued was protected by the First Amendment. The district court ruled that the district attorneys were protected by qualified immunity, but the Ninth Circuit reversed and ruled for Ceballos, holding that qualified immunity was not available to the defendants because Ceballos had been engaged in speech that addressed matters of public concern and was thus protected by the First Amendment.
    Question Presented

    1. Should a public employee's purely job-related speech, expressed strictly pursuant to the duties of employment, be protected by the First Amendment simply because it touched on a matter of public concern, or must the speech also be engaged in "as a citizen?" 2. Was immediate review by the Supreme Court necessary to address the growing inter-circuit conflict on the question of whether a public employee's purely job-related speech is constitutionally protected, especially where the lack of uniformity dramatically impacted the ability of all public employers to effectively manage their respective agencies?
    It sure seems like this guy was reprimanded for crossing the line between responsibility and advocacy. It is very common that a "situation" looks different at one level than another. This person was an employee of the DA's office and actively subverted that office. It's not his role or perogative to take this type of action. Had he quit his job and then pursued support of the defense, it would have been legal.

    This guy's action would be very similar to tipping off drug dealers about impending raids if the guy thought hte drug in question should be legal.

    There's no surprise here and the SFGate article is monstrously misleading.

    There is no such thing as First Amendment protection for government employees on their job or related to knowledge they've gained on the job. There never has been. Ask anyone who has been in the military.

    "Whistleblower" is a very specific case of protected speech. This guy wasn't a whistleblower. He didn't follow the proper channels and actively helped the opposition of the office where he was employeed.
  • Re:Feudalism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bri2000 (931484) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:14AM (#15434148)
    We were, perhaps, in the 80s and early 90s - which were the glory days of the EU competition (anti-trust, if you must) directorate attacking state monopolies and imposing (and enforcing) serious fines against member states for illegal state aid. I would argue that, post Maastricht and the eastern enlargement, the priority shifted towards a "social" Europe (whatever that is supposed to mean) with competition and free movement of goods taking a back seat (notwithstanding that these elements of the Treaty of Rome, and their enforcment, were, I believe, the EU's most important contribution to Europe's post-war posterity).

    As the recent events in France show, the European population still believe the state is obliged to take care of them and no European politicians have the guts to stand up and explain that this simply is not possible.

  • Let me just play devil's advocate for a second. Mind you I'm a liberal. But while Clinton was in office, China was threatening Taiwan with nuclear missles and practicing transmigration (a small step removed from Genocide). The UN was up in arms. China was also pirating billions of dollars of American IP. Businesses were up in arms. Both demanded action.

    Clinton went over to China, lessened tariffs and gave them favored trading partner status, which hurt our economy. He also took campaign money from Chinese officials which was against the law, and then a Chinese official was found buried in Arlington National Cemetary. The guy sold out our country to one of the worst regimes on the planet.

    That was a direct decision on Clinton's behalf. Under Bush's presidency, some soldiers attempting to gather information that may be necessary to save lives humiliated Muslim men by interrogating them nude in front of women.

    Is that torture? Were they permanently injured? Are scare tactics truly torture? Where do you draw the line? How would you interrogate people and obtain information if lives were on the line?

    Which is the worse situation?

    We exist in a land of hyperbole. Everyone swears the world is ending. Every civil right is gone. These are the darkest days.

    As a fellow liberal, I say bullshit. Read about the reconstruction of the South sometime. Have you seen how Russia responded to terroism? Do you want to talk about rolling back the clock on civil rights? In England, they shoot innocent civilians on the street because they ran from the cops. No evidence, no problem. We're not talking about holding prisoners, they shoot people just for running and Blair said it was okay. He said national security trumps everything, and if the cops have to carry guns and shoot potential suspects, then so be it.

    The truth is that our civil rights haven't greatly been rolled back. This particular decision in the article is sad to see. But let me ask you, what damage to our civil rights actually occurred over the past few years? Do you know, or are you regurgitating media hype?
  • by Ded Bob (67043) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:58AM (#15434274) Homepage
    That is why I am beginning to think there should exist a cap on the number of existing laws. You want to make a new law? You need to remove one along with the new one. This is especially nice for taxes. I would also start the cap at a number well below the current number (infinity?) of laws.

    Also, why can they not consolidate laws? For example, would people want one law against murder that listed all the punishments or would they prefer many laws with one for each type of punishment? Lawyers/politicians seem to prefer a greater number unfortunately. Of course the cap I mentioned would at least force consolidation.

    To prevent them from combining non-related laws together, public stonings (non-California style :)) would be required. :)
  • Odd. Clinton bombed 4 countries and didn't form a single alliance.

    Serbia, Iraq, Syria, and Aghanistan. You can look it up.

    The countries that are at odds with the US have been for a long time. Many people just didn't realize it. Americans are so self-centered it barely occured to them that people might resent our power, wealth and politics.

    If you think people in the Middle East only started to hate the US recently, then perhaps you can explain the past 30 years of terrorist attacks, or the people who spend millions to fund terrorist camps.

    You still stated that we are currently living in the darkest days since Jim Crow laws. I'm just playing devil's advocate. Clinton intentionally turned his back on China's human rights violations, which include ACTUAL torture and transmigration (killing off the male population, colonizing and breeding a people out of existence).

    But stripping a guy down in front of a woman trumps that in your book.

    The primary motivator behind much of the Muslim/American conflicts stems over Israel, which isn't exactly a new issue.

    You're not biased or partisan in the least.
  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:32AM (#15434412)
    Mind you, this decision was dissented on by Scalia, one of the conservative judges.
  • by mungtor (306258) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @09:11AM (#15434593)

    Yes, because you assumed the principles believed in were the ones they said they did.

    I think this is exactly right. Things aren't so much different than they were 20, 30, or even 50 years ago now. The fundemental failing of this administration is their inability to hide it. Their mistakes, miscues, and lame attempts at misdirection have been so poorly managed that the corruption inherent in the system is now obvious. And it is so obvious that the "government" has lost even plausible deniability.

  • by plague3106 (71849) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @09:20AM (#15434637)
    The court ruling seems like common sense to me. It doesn't stop anybody from whistleblowing - but don't count on keeping your job if you do.

    Good job. Lets punish people for doing the right thing. We should also arrest the tipsters that let the police know where a known felon is.
  • by JaySSSS (859968) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @10:08AM (#15435042)
    fascism - A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

    1. We're not a dictatorship
    2. Bush certainly isn't forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism
    3. We're a capitalist society. The government doesn't control industry.
    4. Nationalism isn't necessarily bad, unless it goes to extremes, which we haven't
    5. I haven't seen any signs of racism in the current administration
  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @10:32AM (#15435293) Homepage Journal
    Ur so rite. Thx 4 teh leson in prpr english jackass. I gehss ths meens eye cn rite eny wey i, lyk and b rite. rite? therz no kneed 4 yuzing reeal wurdz eny mor is ther> thoz "new clear" eeleetists kn go 2 hel. know matur thet thair iznt ay wurd "nuculus" or "deoxyribonuCUleic acid". wut tha fuck doo thoz eeleetist azzwholes no enywey> thnx 4 enlitening mee to tha wayz of teh wurld. ur my fucking heerow.

    Ass
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @11:21AM (#15435751)
    So, according to this dumbass, America and Britian, during WWII, were facist states; no different than Nazi Germany or Italy.

    Points 1 - 10 are dead on for that period of time.

    11 and 12 pretty much describe the 1950s in America and the West.

    13...That's how the Democrats got all their money...Can we say Joe Kennedy?

    14...Well, that's the specialty of the Dems also. They invented election fraud in the modern era.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @11:57AM (#15436087) Homepage Journal
    >Is that torture? Were they permanently injured?

    "Is that torture?" [newyorker.com]
    Rape, according to a military investigation [findlaw.com]

    >How would you interrogate people and obtain information if lives were on the line?

    I'd try something that works. Look at what John McCain, a torture victim, has to say on that subject. Torture does not get you information to save lives, it gets you whatever you want to hear.

    Stop and think that a lot of police departments hire former MPs. These people maybe, the ones who weren't caught for sure, will be questioning Americans in a few years.

    >But let me ask you, what damage to our civil rights actually occurred

    USAPATRIOT section 215, searches without warrant, review, or opportuity to challenge after the fact. "Free speech zones" surrounded by barbed wire. Open ended detention of US citizens without legal counsel or court review. Not all under the current administration but all within the last few years.
  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:10PM (#15436198)
    And yet socialism has at it's base a belief in the right to restrict the financial contracts of others.

    Restricting some anti-social activities of individuals for the benefit of a group is called a "society". There is no way, under any conditions, to create a society without some restrictions and compromises that have to be enforced on its members in some way. Period.

    It may be limited by a responsible government, but it asserts that right and uses it. If allowed to grow unchecked, it will eventually become totalitarian in nature.

    True. But this is also true of any government, and thus of any society. Power corrupts. Governance requires power. Ergo, governance, of any kind, corrupts. That is why there is a need to create a system of checks and balances to control and restrict that power. The Grand United States Experiment, although pretty much completely failed by now, was very successful for a period of time, showing that such a system is possible, although Version 1.0 has clearly failed to withstand a concentrated assault of elements present in any society: those motivated by greed and lust for power (read: Evil) who always, since the dawn of history, seek to subjegate their respective societies for their own gain, quite irrespective of their political and economic structures at the time.

    The government eventually finds that it must monitor it's people in order to produce what it considers an ideal economy.

    Or "security". Or "moral values". Or "one and True Religion". Etc and so on. See above. All forms of governance, and thus all societies, are subject to the self-corrupting nature of that governance. The answer is to create a system where that governance is under control, not abandoning the governance and thus in effect the society itself. Anarchy is a state where the strongest wolves hunt the sheep and kill their competing wolf challengers with impunity. Anarchy is what all societies of the world have evolved to avoid, even at the cost of monarchies and tyrannies, as even those were empirically proven to be preferrable to Anarchy.

    Asserting that there is no link is as absurd as asserting that socialism always and inevitably leads to a police state, but not quite as abusurd as claiming that they are fundamentally incompatible.

    There is a link between any form of governance and thus any sort of enforcement of a particular economic model and a possibility of a tyrannical government. Simply, every government, and thus every society, carries with it its own seeds of tyranny, abuse and self-destruction. And they will carry those seeds indefintely into the future, as long as greedy and sociopathic individuals keep getting born. The trick is in not allowing those seeds to germinate.

  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:18PM (#15436291) Homepage
    The opposite of democracy is not communism. That's a meme pumped into our heads from 50 years of war with Russia. The opposite of democracy is totalitarianism, which is pretty much what Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales have built with the help of their wonderful new Supreme Court justices.

    We'd like to take a moment to thank the Democratic Party for knuckling under and refusing to fillibuster the nominees which have now shut down a citizen's right to report a crime. As Justice Steven says, there is no difference between professional and non-professional speech. What we have here is the the ability of an employer, the federal government AKA Bush, to imprison people who report crimes.

    We've now broken the fourth seal of totalitarianism. We cannot discuss governmental crimes with reporters. This will go along with not being able to assemble peaceably to redress grievances, to view the actions of the goverment and past governments, and the use of the free press to ferret out news from a government. Now we cannot speak, as well as not being able to hear.

    This is serious. The curtain is coming down here and all across the world.
  • by jafac (1449) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:28PM (#15437014) Homepage
    Everyone I've asked seems convinced he created a situation to steal oil.

    Talk about hyperbole.

    This is just a smokescreen.

    Bush created a situation to REMOVE OIL PRODUCTION FROM THE MARKET.

    This drove up speculative investment, which, in turn, jacked up the price of oil from $20/bbl in 1999 to over $70/bbl today. Who profits? Exxon/Mobil sure as hell did. Nobody disputes that, it's in their SEC filings.

    Who suffered? The same idiots who bought H2 Hummers and slapped a yellow-ribbon magnet and a "kick their ass, steal their gas" bumper sticker on it.

    Did you know we've spent near $200 billion of our dollars on Iraq?

    Try $300 Billion.

    But Iraq, and Iraqis aren't getting this money. Crooked defense contractors, their bribery recipients, and CPA officials did. Are you aware that over $9 Billion went missing in Iraq in 2004, just plain lost - by sloppy CPA accounting practices. That money almost certainly went into somebody's pocket, and nobody is investigating it. That money was borrowed. The recent decline in the value of the US dollar is the result of this "Borrowing" - and all Americans, except those few with a net worth over a few hundred million, are going to suffer for it - yet they're happy, because they got their $300 tax-refund check.

    I also believe that arrogance in our military leaders prevented them from forseeing the outcome of the scenario.

    Then you are gullible.

    Our military leaders did forsee this, and did know that we would need 300-500 thousand troops to provide security in post-invasion Iraq. Those leaders were told to shut up, and being good soldiers, they shut up, or even publicly claimed that they agreed with Rumsfeld, because they were afraid of the consequences of dissent (suffered by Shinseki and others).

    The goal of this plan, was not to liberate Iraq, or protect the US from WMD, or fight terrorism, or even protect oil resources.

    The ONLY way that this war plan makes any sense, is if the intent was to generate a conflict, that destabilized the region, caused oil prices to spike, caused a political split that would prevent an organized government from ever arising in Iraq within the next century, and funnelled hundreds of billions of dollars from a strong American middle-class, to wealthy investors in the oil industry, defense industry, and precious metals, and provided a propaganda mill with plenty of material to propagate the meme in the minds of Americans that government is always bad, and can never solve problems, and is unredeemably corrupt.

    In the end, all this does is establish and strengthen a permanent American Aristocracy, and weaken the middle class, and undoes all the gains made since the New Deal. Which has pretty much been the goal of Neoconservativism since Hoover's time.

  • by sean.peters (568334) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:23PM (#15437567) Homepage
    But stripping a guy down in front of a woman trumps that in your book.

    Please. At least a dozen people were KILLED [salon.com] as a result of torture in Abu Ghraib. The pictures of our soldiers posing with the bodies were all over the internet. Do you really mean to tell me you didn't notice that?

    You still stated that we are currently living in the darkest days since Jim Crow laws. I'm just playing devil's advocate. Clinton intentionally turned his back on China's human rights violations, which include ACTUAL torture and transmigration (killing off the male population, colonizing and breeding a people out of existence).

    You have got to be fucking kidding me. The Chinese crimes were committed by... wait for it... that's right, CHINA. A country we have very little ability to influence. No matter how you twist it, Clinton is not to blame for what the Chinese government did. On the other hand, the crimes in Abu Ghraib were committed by, yes, that's right, agents of the US GOVERNMENT, who were acting on legal advice provided by the Secretary of Defense.

    So please spare me the argument that Clinton's trade liberalization with China is somehow morally equivalent to US Government-conducted torture of prisoners.

    Sean

  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:35PM (#15438779)
    Geez...you've completely missed the point - outside of the knowledge context, one cannot make any valid and intelligent judgments.

    It ain't politics when a group takes over a government by stealing at the very least two elections, the data on the Florida election is by now self-explanatory, while half the Ohio state elections board is under indictment.

    Duuuuuhhhh.....when they have rolled back workers' rights, human rights, women's rights, labor union rights, we's truly and totally screwed. They will continue to dissolve the socioeconomic middle-class until there is absolutely nothing left. This is called neofeudalism.

    Either you one of them are you are hopelessly clueless.....

  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @02:34AM (#15442506) Homepage
    If we compare that to the United States, we get the following:

    The United States clearly shows your signs 1, 3, and 7.
    The United States less clearly shows signs 2, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14
    The only signs I'd say that the United States isn't showing at all are 5, 8, and 11 - and the current president has tried really hard for 8.

  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Just Another Poster (894286) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @04:31AM (#15442919)
    Instead of Communist, I think you mean totalitarian. Back during the cold war it suited the US govt for people to think of the two as the same, so it's not suprising you are confused.

    Communism requires the destruction of private property rights in the means of production, which in turn requires unrelenting violence, constant terror and mass-murder, as was predicted [bastiat.org] in the 19th century, as was repeatedly demonstrated [hawaii.edu] throughout the 20th.

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