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Thursday April 24th 2014

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Rants & Raves 11.11

AVOID CONTACT I read your recent interview with Sheriff Morgan (Independent News, “The Buzz: Sheriff and Jury Pools,” Nov. 4). His contact with prospective jurors may affect verdicts one way or the other, or none at all. The point is that this contact presents an unacceptable risk of impermissible factors coming in to play. Lawyers are instructed to avoid contact with prospective jurors. The sheriff’s contact with prospective jurors is a variable in the process that just doesn’t need to be there.
—Gene Mitchell, Pensacola

ENDORSEMENT SCORECARD Was Wiggins the only candidate you recommended who actually won? Why not do an article on why your other endorsements (including statewide) lost?

Even though I’ve moved away to Phenix City, Ala., I still enjoy following your blog through Google Reader. I find myself disagreeing with your opinions much of the time, but still challenged by your thoughts and hard work in your research. Thanks for listening!
—Ernie Conner, Phenix City, Ala.

Editor’s note: Our endorsements weren’t based on who we believed would win the races. However, for the record, our endorsees lost one race on the local level, one on the regional level and four on the state level for a 15-6 record.

IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP When we didn’t stop negative ads when they started, we condoned them. When you’ve condoned negative ads as long as we have, it will be impossible to stop them. Besides, they serve an important purpose. They prevent honest people from seeking office to actually serve us. The scum of the earth only have to do battle with each other and sling as much mud as possible…winner-take-all. Then they can line their pockets. Sad.
—Richard Walker, Pensacola

FLAMES OF OUR REVOLUTION I hate negative ads, too, (Independent News, “Outtakes: Ban Negative Ads,” Nov. 4) but they are not only part of our political culture and stoked the flames of the American Revolution, but they are also protected by the First Amendment. For example, weren’t the “Don’t Tread on Me” items which depicted King George as a venomous snake a tad “negative”?

The way to combat the truly odious ads, of which there were so many this cycle by all of the “independent” groups fueled with unlimited money, is to require disclosure of who is funding the ads, and who prepared them. And that disclosure has to be very nearly real time—both the identity of the “donor,” or perhaps “investor” is more appropriate, and the amount of the donation.

For example, if the ad agency or the director of the ad was required to be disclosed by name in the “credits” somehow, I expect we would see fewer.

The identity of a speaker is not protected by the First Amendment. It is the speech itself that is protected.  It is perfectly reasonable to expect the “speakers” to identify themselves (or to be able to figure out who they are).

On the other side of the coin, if untrue items are being published, that is in part the role of why freedom of the press is protected, so that intrepid journalists can call “BS” on the claims of the outrageous negative ads—or refuse to publish or run them in the first place. Freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee a right to buy an ad to say something that is untrue.

Good editorial, but it’s a thorny issue, and as “offensive” as some political speech may be, it’s precisely why the First Amendment was the FIRST amendment added to the Constitution.

Of course, with the result of this election, and the effectiveness of the unlimited funds flowing to the “independent” groups, don’t expect any reform on that front for at least 2 years…
—Bruce Partington, Pensacola

WHY DO THEY WORK? Amen to your piece on negative ads. To me, the core of this issue is “Why do they work?” It is not rocket science in recognizing them, so that is not an excuse. Do we humans like ugly? This last cycle did me in. Can there be a rule for ads that only allows the candidate to state his/her plan, stand, etc., and that is it? Would this step on the First Amendment’s toes? The whole thing is a mystery to me. Thanks for addressing it.
—M. A. Fabbro, Pensacola

PESKY FIRST AMENDMENT Banning negative ads sounds well and good, but I suspect that the First Amendment would prevent you from doing that. The second point is who decides if they are negative or just true?
—Richard Coffey, Pensacola

TIP TO PREVENT DOG BITES In light of the tragic mauling death of a four-day-old Jacksonville, Fla. infant, I urge readers to proactively prevent other children from being bitten by dogs by following these tips:

—Always spay or neuter dogs. Unaltered dogs of any breed tend to be more territorial and more aggressive, which makes them three times more likely to bite. For the nearest low-cost spay/neuter clinics, call 1-800-248-SPAY.

—Never chain or cage dogs. The lack of socialization and inability to escape perceived threats makes chained dogs nearly three times more likely to attack than dogs that are not tethered.

—Report cruelty to animals immediately. Dogfighters and people using dogs as “guard dogs” often beat, starve, and taunt dogs to make them aggressive—and more likely to attack.

—Never leave animals and children unattended together. Both animals and children can be unpredictable, and even the most docile dog may bite if a child pulls the animal’s tail or startles the dog while he or she is sleeping.

To learn more, visit peta.org.

—Lindsay Pollard-Post, Research Specialist, The PETA Foundation, Norfolk, Va.