SLAPP Shot | Street Jazz

Monday, April 6, 2009


Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 11:10 AM

It’s hard to be an activist these days, let alone be critical of any company or corporation, especially in an age when so many of those same corporations are willing to take critics to court.

Such a case is happening with former Fayetteville City Council candidate Don Conner - - who spoke incorrectly last year, and accused the developers of the Ruskin Heights  project of being under federal indictment for fraud in Florida.

While not true that that they are under federal indictment, they are named in a civil  lawsuit of securities fraud for marketing a  failed development project in Florida as a "private offering."

While this may seem like splitting hairs to the average person, it is a define issue.

But Conner, who made the remark during the July 1 Fayetteville City Council meeting last year, during which the Ruskin Heights  development was being discussed, made the mistake of accusing  the developers of being under indictment in Florida.

Conner, who doesn’t deny making the statement, maintains that he simply made a mistake.

People screw up; it’s the manual, I think.

That’s when SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) rears its ugly head. This is move made popular in recent years by a number of developers and corporations to silence the public, by taking them to court if they have the temerity to “abuse” their First Amendment rights.

Arkansas is one of a handful of states with legislation  - -    to protect those who have been targeted by those with deep pockets. This case will make a good test case for that legislation. Let’s hope the good guys win this one.


One man’s trash is another man’s political action tool?

Hasn’t it already been decided  - -  that once you throw something away, that’s pretty much it? If you wanted to keep it, it wouldn’t be, oh, I don’t know, in the trash, right?

So if Don Conner was picking through these guys’ trash and retrieving their financial statements and then putting them in a packet for the City Council?

Hey, dudes, isn’t that what shredders are made for?


Quote of the Day

A good listener is a good talker with a sore throat. - journalist Katherine Whitehorn


Lies and Damned Lies: When Presidents Lie

Like all of us, presidents lie. Sometimes for what may seem like good reasons, and sometimes for reasons that make no sense at all. There are the stupid lies that Bill Clinton told, and the ugly lies that Richard Nixon - the anti-Christ of American politics - told on an almost hourly basis.

Some of the lies that our leaders tell have to do with matters that ultimately may be treated by historians as petty matters. But others have to do with affairs of state, and have dire and long-lasting consequences far beyond the life of the particular president or his administration. To
paraphrase the popular bumper sicker - when presidents lie, people die.

"When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences," by noted political writer Eric Alterman, offers an in-depth analysis of several key moments in recent American history.

"When Presidents Lie" goes behind the scenes and serves up details about FDR and the Yalta Conference, the Cuban Missile Conference, LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and Ronald Reagan and the mess that became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. He closes the book with a chapter entitled, "George W. Bush and the Post-Truth Presidency."

Alterman is not a naive man; he recognizes that often times diplomacy requires that absolute public disclosure - especially in the midst of dangerous negotiations - may be hazardous to a nation's health and well-being. But he also argues that there is also a point at which all the
cards must be laid on the table.

Governments lie long after they don't have to because they either are afraid of their own people, or they think they are too stupid to understand the issues at stake.

But it isn't only the American people who have been kept in the dark by various presidents. All too often, members of their own administrations have been deliberately kept out of the loop. The most tragic example recounted is the story of Lyndon Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin.

It is no secret that the Kennedys despised LBJ, and the feeling was more than returned. As a result, Johnson was pretty well shut out of the entire negotiation process during the Cuban Missile Crisis, no matter what he may later have claimed. Because of this, he had no idea that JFK had indeed made major concessions to the Soviet Union in order to avert World war III.

As far as Johnson and the rest of the world were concerned, as Dean Rusk claimed, "We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other guy just blinked."

Fast forward almost two years to August, 1964: Lyndon Johnson appears on national television to announce that he has sent in U.S. forces to bomb targets in North Vietnam - all over an incident that may or not have actually taken place. And it just went from bad to worse, as history records.

And every step of the way, Johnson felt the ghost of Kennedy breathing down his neck - John F. Kennedy, a man who refused to back down to Nikita Kruschev. Johnson felt he had no choice but to live up to the example led by Kennedy in dealing with the Soviets. Too bad - for all of us, the living and the dead - that both the example and image were fraudulent. It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

We are living in a time when citizens - historians, journalists or private citizens - are finding access to government documents increasingly denied. Some make the sweeping claim, "Well, we are at war." But not everything that is being hidden away from the public eye has much to do with national security. For those concerned with increasing levels of secrecy, and the public's inability to learn about their own government, Alterman has included a website address:

"When Presidents Lie" is not a partisan book; no party has a monopoly on the truth. And as Eric Alterman so well demonstrates, no party has a monopoly on dishonesty, either



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