Michigan Politician Proposes Bill To Regulate Journalists So He Can Tell You Which Reporters To Trust

from the let-me-introduce-you-to-my-friend,-the-first-amendment dept

Romenesko points us to the news of a Michigan state senator, who has proposed a bill that would regulate the press. The bill would require people who want to be considered the press to pay a registration fee and submit writing samples to get registered. Also, you would need to have a journalism degree, three years of experience and a letter of recommendation from someone else in the club of "registered reporters." That old First Amendment makes this one a non-starter, of course. In response to that point, the Senator who proposed it, Bruce Patterson, claims he never expected the bill to pass:
"I mainly just wanted to stimulate discussion," he told me. "I didn't think the bill would be likely to pass, but I thought I'd put it out there and if there was any support from your profession, we'd move forward. Heck, I thought it might be helpful to legitimate journalists," he said.

Indeed, he made some valid points. "There are fewer legitimate reporters who cover the legislature all the time. I see stuff being written by people I never heard of, and I don't know whether they have any credentials.

"You have bloggers and editorial writers who write about what we are doing who never come up here and have no idea what's going on. If I need a plumber, I want one who has credentials and who is licensed by the state."
Of course, that's misleading in the extreme. First of all, it's his opinion as to whether or not there are "legitimate journalists" covering the legislature. Just because he doesn't like a journalist doesn't make him or her illegitimate. As for other regulated professions, such as plumbers, that's a totally different situation (and, of course, there are strong economic arguments for why regulating industries like plumbing are actually bad for consumers as well). Finding someone to fix your sink is not the same thing as reading someone's take on what happened in the news.

It is also important to note that the senator is not proposing preventing anyone who is not a "Michigan Registered Reporter" from writing or broadcasting the news.

"I just thought it might be helpful in terms of helping figure out whose reporting you can trust," he said. And creating a government sanctioned body, that will almost certainly be highly politicized is the best way to do that? Why not recognize that your constituents aren't idiots, and there are all sorts of methods by which they can figure out whom to trust. If there's really a strong demand for filtering out trustworthy journalists, then let a private organization give journalists a stamp of approval, rather than having the government license journalists. But, the real issue is that trust is fluid. People build up trust through their writing and reporting, and the nice thing about the online world today is that if you report stuff that is consistently inaccurate, others can call you on it and you can lose the trust of people. You don't need the government to step in and help.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 6:48am

    State run media?

    The media is practically state run as it is, this would just make it official.

     

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  2.  
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    Tek'a R (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 6:48am

    I am not always up-to-date on the various wastes of money that lawmakers cause, but this has to be pretty far up there.

    There is no provision for "starting a bill just to create discussion" as far as i know, no "just joking guys" motion to veto. This is a lawmaker burning public funds on a dead-end bill just to use it as a personal soapbox and an excuse to give out interviews and press conferences.

    Lets hope the people of Michigan inform the senator of what they think about waste when election time comes around.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 6:55am

    the funny part is that the law likely would pass the first amendment, if looked at closely. in a sense, it would define a report in the same narrow sort of way that the laws currently define marriage.

     

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  4.  
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    Jaws4the, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:00am

    Re: State run media?

    "The state is practically media run as it is..."

    TFTFY

     

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  5.  
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    Schmoo, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:29am

    The closest we have to this is still pretty good, IMHO - just look for citations/attributions and the liberal replacement of assertions with questions. If you see that lot, you're looking at the output of a legitimate journalist.

     

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  6.  
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    Danny, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:30am

    Bad analogy

    ""You have bloggers and editorial writers who write about what we are doing who never come up here and have no idea what's going on. If I need a plumber, I want one who has credentials and who is licensed by the state.""

    Yeah that is certainly not the same thing. A more accurate analogy would be if he were looking for an estimate on getting the plumbing in his house redone. He could get an estimate from a certified plumber with a long list of credentials or he could get an estimate from a person that has no credentials but has plenty of actual work experience on plumbing.

    From there there are pros and cons of each.

    Sure the certified plumber has longer history of credentials to check out (like so called "legitimate journalists") but there is a chance that they are more concnered with making money then getting the job done. In which case you may end up with a plumber that is there to serve him/herself and not you (similar to journalists who rather then give straight facts try to put their own spin on the story in order to sway you in a certain direction).

    On the other hand you can go with the person who has of actual experience but no street cred (aka a blogger). They may not be vetted by "the right sources" but at the same time they may try to help you in ways the certified plumber won't. Instead of trying to feed you a party line they may just tell you the straight facts so that you can form your own opinion.

    Of course the reverse might be true (where the "legitimate journalist" is being fair and unbalanced and blogger isn't) so I say let them all report and let the readers decide who to go with.

    Trying to regulate who can report on the news is a bad idea.

     

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  7.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:35am

    Would be nice

    While I agree that this bill is horse manure I will say in today’s world, of constantly changing faces, lack of corporate editorial control* and such it is becoming harder and harder to find out who is truly an impartial (though maybe opinionated) reporter/commentator and who is getting basically getting paid (one way or another) to push an angle/product.

    The IPad is a prime example, the amount of pro ipad articles, both in the blogosphere and official media has been staggering, especially when you consider the fact that it’s just an oversized itouch/iPhone(without the phone). Nice if you want it (no one ‘needs’ it) but defiantly not revolutionary/game changing/must have that all the reporter’s/commentators would have us believe. And main reason they want us to believe this? Besides “perks” from apple, apple has managed to convince many of them that the ipad will bring them loads more customers and revenue streams. They want ipad to succeed because they see it benefiting themselves

    It would be nice if someone could come up with a nice way to force reporters/blogger/commentators to give disclosure whenever they might have a conflict of interest so we don’t have to spend ages investigating them

    *Yes newspapers/magazines can and generally are biased, but at least with them you quickly get to what their angle is and then it becomes safe to assume that every article in that paper no matter who writes it will be “following the party line”

     

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  8.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:36am

    Registered whatevers

    They should also require wannabe politicians and sitting ones as well to pass a knowledge of law test, have a political science degree, and pass a polygraph test under the influence of sodium pentothal to prove that they are "honest"... What a pinhead!

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:44am

    Unfortunately Unsurprising

    Taking into account this administration's stance in regards to wanting to dictate to journalists and commentators what they should or should not say. And this president going as far as suggesting which news publications people should be reading...unsurprising that this outrageous bill is proposed.

     

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  10.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:45am

    Re: Would be nice

    It would be nice if someone could come up with a nice way to force reporters/blogger/commentators to give disclosure whenever they might have a conflict of interest so we don’t have to spend ages investigating them

    To save ink/paper/bits better for them to disclose when they don't have a conflict of interest!

     

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  11.  
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    Comboman (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Nuisance Legislation

    "I mainly just wanted to stimulate discussion," he told me. "I didn't think the bill would be likely to pass,

    This idiot should be billed for the tax dollars he wasted proposing a law he knew could not pass. There should be laws prohibiting 'nuisance legislation' like the ones for 'nuisance lawsuits' (although those don't work very well, at least it's a start).

     

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  12.  
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    Dan (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:01am

    They don't like us paying attention

    The politicians don't like all the eyes watching and scrutinizing their every move. Thus, the first step to a government controlled press.

     

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  13.  
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    yoshi, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:10am

    Re: Would be nice

    The fact that you think the iPad is an "oversized iTouch" just show that you have no clue on the subject or an understanding of the consumer market. In other words - your comment is the the perfect example of misinformed idiotic that this politician was complaining about.

     

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  14.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:19am

    Actually...

    This guy's bill would perfectly solve what he's trying to solve. For example:

    "I just thought it might be helpful in terms of helping figure out whose reporting you can trust."

    With his caveat that he wouldn't stop others from reporting outside of the state licensed journalists, this solves the problem of finding out who to trust. State licensed? Don't trust them. Not state licensed? Kind of trust them.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:28am

    "You have bloggers and editorial writers who write about what we are doing who never come up here and have no idea what's going on."

    I have politicians commenting on blogs and have no idea what's going on.

    To say that someone has no idea what's going on just because they may disagree with you is nonsense. What, those you deem ignorant shouldn't be subject to free speech? And who are you to determine what constitutes someone who has no idea what's going on. Just because they disagree with you on something? What, you think that you are a better judge of which blogs are legitimate and which ones aren't than me or anyone else. and I bet those that agree with you and don't criticize you are the only ones that don't know what's going on, am I correct? Get lost, I hope you get voted out of office you evil tyrant.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Re:

    are the only ones that know what's going on *

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Right, so it would be sort of like a list of censored "news sources" who receive Journalistic protections as opposed to those who get crushed by the club of private litigation.

    It's interesting how the corporate agenda uses the sledge hammer of civil litigation to skirt the constitution. Three strikes, for example... I see a trend here.. sigh...

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:40am

    "a letter of recommendation from someone else in the club of "registered reporters.""

    So you want to legitimize journalism by requiring a letter of recommendation from someone in the most illegitimate and downright dishonest group of reporters ever, the mainstream media (and to the extent that they are accurate it's ONLY because the Internet forces them to be accurate against their will because Internet users and blogs will correct them otherwise, but they still censor tons of important information and are extremely bias. I remember a few years ago, even, they were extremely inaccurate, claiming all sorts of preposterous stuff like the Canadian income tax rate is 50 percent and whatnot to oppose healthcare, not that I support healthcare, and many more completely inaccurate reportings. These people are downright liars and you want a letter of recommendation from them? No thanks).

     

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  19.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:45am

    "If I need a plumber, I want one who has credentials and who is licensed by the state."

    I worked with a master plumber for close to 10 years. I can take your kitchen/bathroom down to wall studs, and back to a beautiful room using top notch materials.

    Because I am not "licensed" with the state of Pa; does that mean I am not qualified?

    "You have bloggers and editorial writers who write about what we are doing who never come up here and have no idea what's going on."
    Yeah, and obviously we have Senators who are "up there" and have no idea what's going on either.

     

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  20.  
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    SteelWolf (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:47am

    Re: Re: Would be nice

    Yoshi, it's okay for people to dislike the iPad.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:51am

    Re:

    depending on where you are, you may not legally be allowed to do the work, nor would you be able to get insurance without a license and qualifications. your ability is a question of if you can or not physically, a license or certification is "proof" that you can. remember, your master plumber was certified and insured, otherwise you wouldnt be doing the work.

     

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  22.  
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    Beefcake (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:56am

    Funny, I've occasionally and briefly considered how nice it would be if politicians were similarly certified so the voters would know whether or not they're competent to hold the office. Then you'd need to certify the voters to make sure they're competent enough to understand the politician certification process.

    Then I rejoin reality and laugh it off. If he wants to stimulate discussion, get a Twitter account or a blog. Legislation at any level is the final step, not the exploration.

     

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  23.  
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    Danny, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Would be nice

    While off topic I'd like to know why JackSombra's description of the iPad being an oversized iTouch is inaccurate.

     

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  24.  
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    WammerJammer (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:58am

    Who can you trust?

    Can you trust the politician to be legitimate? Is he/she a political science graduate?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:14am

    If the bill wouldn't substantively affect anyone's right to speak (i.e. you don't need to be a registered reporter to report on whatever the hell you want) then I'm not sure if it would violate the First Amendment.

    Doesn't make it a good idea.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:16am

    Re:

    "If the bill wouldn't substantively affect anyone's right to speak (i.e. you don't need to be a registered reporter to report on whatever the hell you want)"

    Then what's the point of the bill?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:21am

    Re: Unfortunately Unsurprising

    Except that this legislator is a Republican.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re:

    Well, apparently the sponsor said it was to "start discussion," but I could also see informing the public about a reporter's supposed "credentials" as a goal of such a bill.

    It may have other effects. Not sure.

    I'm just pointing out that it's not an *obvious* first amendment violation if it's essentially a labelling bill and not something that really affects one's right to speak/publish.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Freedom, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    >> I want one who has credentials and who is licensed by the state.

    The purpose of being licensed is two fold:

    1 - fees/money to the government

    2 - limit competition and artificially increase prices of the trade in question

    Sometimes this has the side effect of finding someone you can trust, but it is a side effect and not the main purpose.

    The best person is someone that is motivated and properly experienced for the job at hand. However, they don't have a license for that.

    As anyone in IT hiring can tell you, having a XYZ Certified Person doesn't mean anything. Experience and attitude are what matters. If given the choice, I'll take someone that has an interest in IT with the right attitude any day over pretty much anything else.

    Freedom

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Unfortunately Unsurprising

    So much for republicans being pro free market capitalist. Only when it serves big business.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:47am

    HITLER WOULD BE PROUD

    GO USA

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Beta, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:49am

    little gold star

    'It is also important to note that the senator is not proposing preventing anyone who is not a "Michigan Registered Reporter" from writing or broadcasting the news.'

    So this isn't a license, and it isn't regulation. It's getting your name on a list.

    I see no serious harm in this. If Michigan wants to maintain such a register, so that only some journalists can boast that they are "Michigan Registered", what's the problem? The readers can decide for themselves what it means. (Personally I think that if the state retains the power to refuse to register someone who meets the qualifications, then it's a list of reporters who won't criticize the government, and I wouldn't bother reading their columns.)

     

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  33.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Would be nice

    because you're not supposed to tell iLovers (people who do backflips and turn themselves inside out for anything apple tosses an 'i' in front of) that an iDevice is not really anything more than a dressed up and larger version of the same device they put out a year or two ago.


    it really makes them start drooling hyperventilating running around in circles and bashing their heads into rocks, walls, hammers, kittens, ice picks and handfuls of thumbtacks.

    not ALL mac people are like this, but all iLovers are.


    (in other words, its not an inaccurate description)

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:05am

    Re: little gold star

    'It is also important to note that the senator is not proposing preventing anyone who is not a "Michigan Registered Reporter" from writing or broadcasting the news.'

    That's because we already have the FCC to do that for us. You already can't broadcast the news, on public airwaves, without a license. The whole purpose is exactly to blindfold the public to the truth enabling the top one percent to scam us broke and, outside the Internet, it pretty much works. They just want to extend their scam to the Internet as well, that's all this is.

     

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  35.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Unfortunately Unsurprising

    sadly it appears that both sides have become bored of late and have been swapping ideology and talking points with the other side.

    a democratic president with perhaps the worst environmental record ever, republicans fighting tooth and nail FOR things to limit free market enterprises and both sides agreeing wholeheartedly that our individual rights pretty much mean nothing.

    time to ditch the two party system and go back to voting for people that actually have guts and a real idea that doesnt get spoon fed to them by consultants during campaign runs.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Re: little gold star

    and often times these licenses start out benign, just like with broadcasting licenses. They started out with only a few stations and were loosely enforced. But, over time, they keep on extending and extending them until, before you know it, you'll need a license to comment on a blog or a message board. That's the whole idea, but they can't start out like that, it's an incremental process. Just like taking over public airwaves and handing out all of the spectra to a small group of people was an incremental process, didn't happen all at once. At one point the FCC ensured that no one entity can monopolize too much at once (before that they only required licenses for certain spectra). But it eventually reached the point we have now where the very few have taken away all of our rights, but it's an incremental process. Doesn't happen all at once. Now almost everything needs a license, and the only things that don't (ie: wifi) aren't good at transmitting signals across long distances and the FCC sets intensity restrictions making with the intent of making it difficult to make a wireless Internet like communication structure. It's a scam, and this bill is a scam, but don't expect it to start out restricting all of our rights all at once. It takes times for these scams to fully control us.

     

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  37.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re:

    "a license or certification is "proof""
    OK...now I cant tell you how many "techs" have certifications that just studied questions and answers with no understanding of what or why. (A+, NET+, MCSA, etc)So they are "certified", but have no clue.

    "otherwise you wouldnt be doing the work."
    I made plenty of side money doing sinks, hot water heaters, etc. All that was needed back then was insurance, which I had. I explained to every client, that I was not certified as a master plumber, but carried 500k of insurance. After explaining my past history, and dropping some local names, I eventually made a good name for myself. I never had a dissatisfied client. My "proof" was my finished work.
    There is no certification requirement in Pa.
    http://phccweb.org/Contractor/content.cfm?ItemNumber=3528&token=13232&userID=7877&n avItemNumber=3531

     

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  38.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:23am

    MSM

    What it does do, is create a mechanism for the politicians and MSM to discredit anyone who is not on the list, or anyone they dont agree with. Most sheeple will buy into this. Now they have something that looks "official".


    Mike, it appears you are not a "real" journalist. Better pay up to get on the list.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Danny, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re:

    "your ability is a question of if you can or not physically, a license or certification is "proof" that you can"

    You might want to get out of the big city more often. I can't think of how many times my family has had all sorts of major work (from redoing the roof to replacing plumbing) done by someone that had no certification but was skilled enough for their name to come up on conversation, ("Hey I'm looking to get some ____ done" "Really? You should get _____. His/Her work is excellent.")


    "remember, your master plumber was certified and insured, otherwise you wouldnt be doing the work."
    Bear in mind that weneedhelp could have just as well learned plumbing skills on their own or from someone who doesn't have certification and/or insurance. Hell I work tech support for a bank and don't have a single degree or certification to my name. Yeah my job doesn't require such things but that doesn't mean having them or not is an indicator of skill.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:38pm

    Re: Re: little gold star

    time *

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Derek, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:10pm

    Another politician who doesn't understand The Constitution.

    Ignorance of our country's foundation seems to be a prerequisite for public office these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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