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Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho ‘Ag-Gag Law’ (shadowproof.com)
281 points by chesterfield on Aug 4, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments



I'm mixed on this. For background, I'm from Idaho and the son of a dairyman in this state. I know the intimate details of how this law came about, I know the dairyman whose operation was filmed, and I've seen the film. From the viewpoint of the guys in ag, their concern is more about the lies that got spilled out over the initial film, and the death threats that came afterwards.

Couple of side facts: * some of the employees were rightfully jailed for animal cruelty. * the dairyman in question has been receiving death threats ever since, even tho he is not personally responsible for the actions films, and he fired the offending employees soon after. (note, this is not a small dairyman, he has +300 employees, you can't personally monitor everyone all of the time). * the film has been redubbed constantly to attack other operations -- even tho they weren't filmed. * Most of the dairymen in this state are sole operators, or family owned. If you say "corporate owned farm", you aren't talking about my region, or we have a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a corporation.

The Good: * it was a bad law, it needed to be revoked, even the dairymen in this state were uneasy about it. What got it passed quickly were all the death threats against the owner. Lawmakers were very concerned about that spreading.

The Bad: * The dairymen in the state aren't worried about filming, they are worried about lies coming from it. Some groups are actively hell-bent against them. I've seen them, I've talked with them. The worst have no problem saying anything, because there won't be repercussions. * As most of the dairies are really sole operators, they are very concerned about their reputation and having that get away from them. Often the dairymen see it as "someone else's lies against them in a world where no one is going to believe them".

I understand someone will see what I wrote and say I'm full of shit, oh well I guess. But understand, these people are my friends and family. I see and hear their struggles, and I watch them take care of their animals. Most actually do care for them, but at the same time, have to struggle with running a business that depends on those animals. You don't work with animals because you hate animals.


"he has +300 employees, you can't personally monitor everyone all of the time"

This is complete and utter bullshit. The whole animal cruelty issue has been in the news for years and to say you did nothing to investigate your own operations or do anything to monitor the activity is negligence. I saw the video too!

I have a friend in the Dairy business with around 150 employees. His entire operation is video monitored around the clock.

I just don't buy arguments like this. I see them as excuses. Your friend may be a good person and all but not doing more to prevent the bad apples is just no excuse in my book.

The sad thing is people need to be kept in check. For if the video never came out, this dairyman would probably have continue business as usual since he never bothered to do his own audits or install video surveillance.


Affordable, efficient, reliable and effective video surveillance tech hasn't really been around for very long, and argiculture isn't exactly silicon valley, the people in charge aren't always very enthusiastic about embracing new technologies. I find it quite easy to believe that an owner of a dairy business might do periodic in-person audits of employees and feel that that's sufficient.

Additionally, Idaho is known for its libertarian attitudes, and around-the-clock video surveillance of the entire premises is quite at odds with those ideals. I don't find it hard to imagine that an agricultural operation with video surveillance is meaningfully less attractive to employees.

And finally, how bad are the attrocities in these videos relative to the conditions that animals are normally kept in? They can get pretty bad, but I don't think there's an order of magnitude of difference. How much worse is it to be beaten when you already live your life in a cage sitting in your own filth? If you are utterly disgusted by the abuse revealed in these videos, can you really justify modern livestock farming at all? Either you accept that we should treat animals as objects, as we are evolutionarily prepared to do, or you can argue that because we now have the infrastructure available to us to treat animals with respect, we have the responsibility to do so. You can choose a position somewhere along that spectrum, but if you draw the line between imprisoning animals in unliveable conditions so unhealthy that they are fed antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease, and beating them, then I'd argue that the level of precision of your position on the animal rights spectrum is irrationally high, and that it cannot be based in logic.


> Affordable, efficient, reliable and effective video surveillance tech hasn't really been around for very long

Animal rights activists are happy to supply it and operate it.


Exactly. If +300 employees are too many to be effectively supervised by himself, he should consider hiring "supervisors" ...


My operations? I'm not a dairyman, those weren't my cows. I supposed I could stick a camera on my chicken coop.


"You" in that comment was probably intended to be the colloquial analogue of the third-person pronoun "one", rather than the second-person pronoun referring directly to you, the original commenter.


Well that's a nice way to conveniently just avoid addressing the obvious issues he's brought up with your original comment.


I'm a vegan (ergo completely opposed to your industry), but I get where you're coming from. It's your livelihood, and it's probably been your family's lively hood.

Here's the thing though, the vast majority of where the US gets it's milk from is less of a farm nowadays and more of a factory, that's why milk production efficiency has shot up in the past 100 years --because we started treated these animals more and more like objects using practices such as "rape racks" to keep cows constantly pregnant and producing peak amounts of milk.

We also bred them to produce so much milk their bodies are basically spent after 4 years (20% of their natural life span), and we kill them. We could quibble over minor differences in the numbers and terms but that's not my point, I'm pretty sure you can agree those are common practices on farms where the majority of US citizens get their milk. Capitalism has gotten right up in this farming eked every ounce of efficiency out of these animals so there's no space for any compassion.

There's so much broken there, and I don't want you and your friends jobless, I want you on better jobs not based on exploiting poor animals. Hell, we give billions of dollars in subsidies to dairy farmers, that money should be spent helping transition. That's just my take, I'm sure you get exposed to a lot of the vocal minority vegans, the vegans I know don't hate the people, just the system.


Couple good points in your comment, some not so good. But trust me, I appreciate your comments.

On milk factories and breeding, yes. That is part of the current game. But I would argue that selective breeding has been done for centuries, we've just gotten better at it. Capitalism has basically forced dairymen to become more efficient -- which is good and bad. My grandfather's cows gave 40-50 lbs of milk per day, my father's cows give 80 (some up to 120). There are consequences when that happens. How you get there is better breeding and better feed (feed has a lot to do with it).

On cow longevity, the lifespan of a dairy cow is actually a little longer than that, but the actual longevity it depends on the breed. Holsteins go for about 6 years (lets not kids ourselves, that is not a huge jump in longevity compared to your stated 4). As a comparison, the typical beef cow lives about 2 years. I would talk about veal....but even I don't eat veal. After 6 years the animal is "beefed", as kids we would called it "sold to McDonald's". My next door neighbor was a butcher, basically the only parts unused in a cow are the tail and the moo. Almost nothing goes to waist.

Never heard of a "rape rack", I had to look it up. I know a lot of AI breeders as well, that isn't how it is done on the dairies I've seen. From what I've seen it is not necessary, it is pretty easy to get the job done. But, lets talk female cows...ok, lets bring in biology here, female herbivores of almost any herd species (cows, buffalo, goats, sheep, etc) don't have many periods if there are functioning males around. If those animals are ovulating, the males notice -- even the females notice and tell the males about them.

On subsidies: most subsidies are "floors". No one gets money from the government unless the price of their product drops consistently below a set point. This happened for a brief period in 2009, and even then a lot of operations went out of business (which is by design actually). This isn't like farmers being paid to not farm (that happens -- ugg). But you also can't say the government is completely out of it either, because the government does buy a lot of milk product, usually powdered milk protein, which is often sent as aid to other countries.

Finally, I don't know if I would say a that everything is broken, but lets agree that things could be better. Somewhere between the ideals and where we are now is probably a workable solution that is good for the cows and keeps people's livelihoods.


You don't seem to directly reject any of my points, you haven't heard of rape racks, yet artificial insemination (AI) accounts for 75% of all animal agriculture pregnancies[1]. And sure, government subsidies specifically for the dairy industry may be floors as you say, but farm subsidies help ensure milk stays at close to half the cost it would be otherwise somehow[2].

As for selective breeding, I sure am impressed by the three fold increase in milk production! Sure, it's selective breeding, but that takes a huge toll on the animal, we don't consider its effect on the animal beyond its ability to live to give us that milk. Once again, we treat them as objects rather than animals that should have their own considerations. *One only needs to look as far as dog breeding to see an example of how much selective breeding can screw with an animal.

It's strange though, your post brings me close to my initial thoughts that lead me to veganism... where is a workable solution in a capitalist system where the only thing we value out of these animals is the quantity of flesh and milk we get out of them? There aren't any laws protecting them which aren't self enforced (the Animal Welfare Act explicitly excludes farm animals). I cannot agree that there is a workable solution except moving past this system, thanks for your thoughts and reply.

I've seen many posts from dairy farmers turning away from the industry and going vegan, becoming champions for the cause, you seem like a nice and reasonable person, hope someday to see you in the tofu aisle!

[1] http://polyland.calpoly.edu/topics/agriculture/studentsites/...

[2] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2013/1206/Milk-for-7-a....


...where is a workable solution in a capitalist system where the only thing we value out of these animals is the quantity of flesh and milk we get out of them?

The whole debate will be moot as soon as synthetic meat and dairy tech comes online. People will say it's a revolting idea at first, but it will rapidly become socially unacceptable to harvest live animals once there's a viable alternative.

I actually expect this trend to be pushed by the meat industry, not fought by it. Nobody wants to be in the animal-husbandry business less than the factory farms, because animals are expensive and inconvenient to deal with. It's going to make for a fascinating socioeconomic transition.


Yep, that is a great workable solution without animal agriculture. I will be happy the day that "tissue" agriculture blows up, really hope they don't use that name though....

I think farms will see it as too much of a threat, and there isn't really applicable skills for going from a factory farm to vats or whatever the tissue is grown in.

content edit:

Ruminating on it a bit more, I see how you could be right for larger animal ag company. A dairy producer owns "So Delicious" coconut based yogurt and dairy alternatives, they could see it as a good way to diversify.


There are rather real questions around whether synthetic meat and dairy are going to be cheaper than the real thing, particularly when you factor in externalities like energy consumption. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you can do it economically, and so far nobody's demonstrated that in this case (unless I missed a very recent development). If it can't be, the meat industry (and consumers) are unlikely to accept such a transition without a serious fight.


Have you looked at how much food, water, energy, equipment, and space it takes to raise livestock? It's insane.


I'm well aware of how insane livestock costs are. Unfortunately, synthetic food costs are even more insane (and last time I checked, most depend on existing animal products anyway: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_meat#Challenges--take a look at the existing culture medium candidates, keeping in mind that fetal bovine serum is made from cattle blood): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_meat#Economic. Note that the person saying that it will be cost-competitive in ten years has a pretty vested interest in that being the case.

I'd be particularly wary of anyone citing vertical farms as being a cost saver: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming#Problems.

To be clear, it's possible that these problems are surmountable. But frankly, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper (both economically and from an environmental standpoint) to change our dietary habits; meat with every meal is going to be costly no matter what.


What is your idealistic outcome? All of these cows are released into the wild and are killed within one to two generations by wolves or mountain lions?

The cows that exist now are essentially useless without farmers. If you are ethically bound with them, how do you come to terms with the terror they will live through until they die?


What do you think cows are, mindless? There is are wild populations of cows that do just fine, here's one[1]. Sure we helped guide their evolution a bit so they are kinder to us and have more desirable traits from our perspective, but they still have all the instincts and intelligence to do alright in the wild, not that I think they should be.

My ideal solution would be a steep decline in dairy production with a coinciding decrease in the breeding of dairy cows until they are gone and hopefully many moved to farm sanctuaries. Each life born into that industry is a short life of suffering.

This would help save many wild species as animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction and ocean dead zones[2].

Veganism isn't some simple "every life must live no matter what" it's that if we don't have to harm an animal we shouldn't. If we're ethically bound with them, how do we deal with the terror they CURRENTLY live through until they die?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleutian_wild_cattle

[2] http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm


You linked to cows on an island that have no predators. That's meaningless in the context of cows from Idaho (the context of this thread) where they have to deal with the predators.

Your assertion that their life in a farm is worse than a life in fear of predators is largely unfounded and seems to be based on "no humans = humane" doublethink.


I didn't say they should be all let free immediately, you created some false dichotomy to aid in your construction of a straw-man to argue with. I answered your question and told you what I thought was my ideal, steep reduction in production until it's gone.

We choose to put all these cows into the world (even though we don't need them) and give them shitty conditions. The onus is on us just stop the cycle and let them drastically decrease in numbers and die out so we don't keep on bringing million more into existence.

Are you considering what your arguing? You think that life trapped in a container where you're forced to become impregnated every year and have your baby stolen within a few days after it's born is better than living free for a time with your herd? That view is divorced from reality. Mountain lions may rip your throat out, but they don't enslave your species and put you in such confined controlled environments that the only meaningful decision you can make is which way to turn your head.

Cows are herbivores, but just like us the extent of their desire doesn't end at getting food and sleeping. They're social creatures who care for their young and live in groups. Us putting them in cages and forcing them to produce milk 24 / 7 in not how they want to be.

EDIT:

Your argument about there being no natural predators is really pointless. I never said they should immediately be set free, that's a juvenile perspective. I do want you to understand you need to try and support your claims and do research, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Feral_cattle.


You're anthropomorphizing cows with no basis in reality. It's difficult to argue against someone who thinks cows have the same capacity for thought and emotions as humans.

Mountain lions toy with prey and cause very violent deaths that can orphan calves leading them to starve. I fail to see how that is a better outcome.


You keep on trying to put words in my mouth... I didn't say they had the same capacity for emotions as humans, I said they had feelings and enjoyed being around eachother. Look up sentience, it's largely agreed all mammals are, which is why we have medical boards to review if an experiment is ethical to do on an animal.

I wasn't kidding about looking stuff up, you're the one arguing based on your gut feel of what you think the world is rather than trying to support your claims.


Your argument about lifespan doesn't seem to make sense. Every species has some lifespan. Many are shorter than dairy cows. How do you decide what the "proper" lifespan is? Is it the lifespan of its ancestors? How many generations back do you go? Go too far and it may become shorter again. At the end of the day, a cow doesn't worry "oh I'm only going to live 4 years instead of the 20 that those lucky wild cows used to have".

I think you're invoking a human emotion about dying and having a short life which is entirely meaningless in the context of cows.


The problem with these ages is that the cow's maximum productivity is reached around the sixth year. If she is culled before that, it's because of a medical issue which is not economically treatable.

If that happens all the time, then very probably these issues could be avoided by proper care. Breeding has a lot to do with it, also.


  > rape racks
Is consent possible within the scope of bestiality?


Yes, nonverbal consent is definitely possible, although it is considered a weaker standard than verbal consent, which is why humans often advocate for that.

There is a difference between leaving a creature in open space with a herd around them, teeth and hooves available for "speech", and locking a creature to a rack where they are alone and powerless to dissuade penetration.


I don't know how you can apply human attitudes toward sex and consent to other animals so biologically distinct. I'm not going to argue that cows are naturally "consent" to sex at any time in any form, but there's an argument (see below) to be made that supports that extreme more strongly than the idea that human sexuality is applicable to cows. I'm not entirely sure how to research this, but it needs actual research before any meaningful statements can be made.

Cattle is low on the food chain, while humans are at the top. It makes sense for animals at the top of the food chain to be more selective with regard to sex because it's important for their offspring to be highly fit. Lower on the food chain, having the most fit offspring isn't as important, unless they can reliably be fit enough to always evade predators. Since illness and injury can always happen, it's more important to have many offspring than it is to have especially fit ones. Ergo more sex, and less selectivity with regard to partners.

Anyway, I'm not a biologist, and I haven't heard of any research on this topic. For all I know, what I just said is complete bullshit, but it seems to me to hold more water than blindly applying human morality to non-human animals.


You're describing K-strategists vs R-strategists, which I don't think has quite that relationship to position on the food chain, but there still are species that do more of one that the other. Your point does make sense to me that those concerned more with quantity would be less emotionally harmed by unwanted sex. Not a biologist either.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory


>Yes, nonverbal consent is definitely possible

If a cow doesn't struggle in a 'rape rack', how is that not consent then?

>There is a difference between leaving a creature in open space with a herd around them, teeth and hooves available for "speech"

If that argument were valid, anyone that didn't resist during a gang rape because of fear of repercussion would be 'consenting'.

Also, there are plenty of species where sex is straight up violent. Projecting human sexual standards onto other animals is idiotic at best.


She was asking for it, all dressed up in leather like that.


Just like with police abuses, the fix for the problem is to shine as bright a light as possible on it until it's understood and can be addressed. For many people, at least, a clear understanding that not all cops are bad actors — that, in fact, the bad actors constitute an overwhelming minority of the population. (But also, unfortunately, that the problem in that case is exacerbated by the "thin blue line".)

Blocking people from talking about it — you know, "prior restraint" — is emphatically not the solution.


> that, in fact, the bad actors constitute an overwhelming minority of the population

This survey contradicts that assertion: http://www.aele.org/loscode2000.html

From the survey:

`In response to “Please describe the first time you witnessed misconduct by another employee but took no action,” 46 percent (532) advised they had witnessed misconduct by another employee, but concealed what they knew.`

If we can trust the survey results, methodology, etc, the minority of which you speak is 46%.


I'm specifically making a distinction between the bad actors — people who commit an overtly abusive act — and the "thin blue line", which is cops who are aware of the abuses, but conceal or misrepresent what they've seen.

The 46% you cite numbers among the latter. For all you know, though, the people those 46% are talking about having seen committing "misconduct" are the same folks over and over.

I'm not downplaying police abuses, and I'm not excusing the people who don't speak up and call it out when it occurs, but I think it remains useful to make a distinction between them.


I tend to agree with you and I understand the distinction you're making.

And yet:

> but conceal or misrepresent what they've seen.

That's lying. They're accomplices to the abuse and worse, perpetual enablers of it.

Apologies for veering the thread off-topic. I'm just bothered by the notion of "it's just a few bad apples."


Part of the value of making the distinction, IMO, is that the "accomplices", as you call them, are probably an easier and more effective place to attack the problem. Get people who aren't bad actors to speak out about (or even against) the bad actors, and the latter will have to modify their behavior, or will leave the force one way or another.


One would need to know what the misconduct consisted of, in order to judge what this means. Is the misconduct accepting free coffee at the 7-11, or is it beating a prisoner?


"On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with."

- from http://www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8661977/race-police-officer

So if K.L. Williams, "who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force", is right, the 15% bad actors (your "overwhelming minority") turns into 85%. That is consistent with not just the survey troym links to, but the experiences described by those people victimized by police injustice. I doubt many HN readers are in that population.


When I was teaching English in China, one student got locked out of his apartment. Apparently, the city has authorized locksmiths you can call to open your apartment after proving that it's you. So he called one and was shocked at how quickly the locksmith could open the door.

The locksmith said to him "Locks aren't for people like me. If someone wants to break in, a lock isn't going to stop them. 15% of people will try to steal no matter what you do. 15% will never take anything even if you leave your door while open. Locks are for that 70% in the middle that will steal if the opportunity is right."


I'd really like to see some citations for that assertion. Pending that, I'm going to file his claim under "73.6% of statistics are made up on the spot."


That is the argument I heard from many of the dairyman in this state. Unfortunately, most are already dealing with the point of "you are guilty until we say you aren't -- which will be never". You can't win arguments against anonymous opponents.


I can understand that they are worried about lies being told, but the solution to malicious liars is not to stifle free speech in general.

The fact is, sadly, that in any free society freedom of speech will be misused by some people.

And the fact remains that in this particular space, we do need people to be able to blow the whistle if something wrong is being done. We know that bad things do happen, and when they do, they can be horrifying. The animals have basically no defense but the conscience of the owner, and, should that fail, a whistleblower.


There are some echoes here, I think, of Sarah Jeong's thesis in The Internet of Garbage about how copyright laws aren't anti-harassment or privacy laws, how they make terrible anti-harassment or privacy laws, and how victims feel like they're the only option, which is just bad for everyone.

Your friends need better support from society. Some of that support may be from the laws (against death threats, slander, etc.). Some of that support needs to come from outside the laws, in the form of more speech countering the incorrect speech, as well as in the form of norms on civilized behavior. Some of that needs to come from a greater willingness to talk about where the food we eat comes from, how it doesn't just show up magically on grocery store shelves.

But bad laws won't help them in the long run, nor will they help society.


I'm from eastern WA myself and I know what you mean, but seriously:

> The dairymen in the state aren't worried about filming, they are worried about lies coming from it.

Libel laws already exist. We don't ban people from speaking because they might say something they could be held civilly liable for. I know suing people for libel is a pain in the ass (and apparently in Idaho it's much easier to just have your state legislature pass a law), but that's the price you pay to live in a free society.


This might sound odd, but I don't think death threats are actually that serious. This is actually pretty routine if you post any remotely controversial video on Youtube or make any statements against any group. People seem to use these random threats to bolster their cause or use it to their advantage.


Law and politics don't handle cultural change well. Politics could but doesn't; the law can't really -- the whole point of the law is stability.


The single best way for these farmers, any farmers, to refute any / all concerns like this is to set up publicly-viewable, always on video feeds of their entire farm operations. Problem solved; assuming there isnt actually bad behavior. This is not expensive.


Consider the documentaries about the livestock industry that present these operations as they are supposed to operate, and the disgust that they evoke in viewers. Now consider if that footage was much more available. I see two possible outcomes. Either people see that and realise where their meat is coming from, and elect to eat less/no meat, or people become desensitized to the conditions, and the leaked PETA-style footage becomes less apalling. The former possibility makes this idea unrealistic in practice, and the latter doesn't seem very good either.


A public broadcasting webcam or three might go a long way towards making it clear what's real and what's fantasy. For example, it would be simple to say "go to webcam.myfarm.com and you will see that the images in that movie don't even depict my farm."


> the film has been redubbed constantly to attack other operations -- even tho they weren't filmed.

But.. filming the others was made illegal.


Can someone elucidate why existing defamation laws don't cover this already?


You can only sue for defamation if know who the culprit is. On the internet it is relatively easy to remain anonymous.

Case in point: the dairy abuse video that was shot (let agree, it was bad). I've seen it rework and targeted at a milk creamery in Oregon (all via YouTube and Facebook). The video state that this was how the Oregon creamery treated its cows. Couple problems: the dairy wasn't in Oregon, it was in Idaho. The dairy in Idaho doesn't sell to the creamery in Oregon. And the creamery in Oregon DOESN'T OWN ANY COWS. They contract their milk from dairymen in Oregon.


Wouldn't surprise me if someone making videos and submitting to YouTube slipped up and identifying info was available. Did the dairy in question pursue this case or assume it was too hard to identify someone?


Does the filmmaker have enough money to cover the farmer's losses? And does the farmer have enough money to hold out until they get paid?


So, are you suggesting we should eliminate or limit 1st amendment rights in cases where the parties involved in defamation wouldn't have the money to cover the defamed's losses?

If the film is popular (and therefore does more damage), the filmmaker will probably have the means to adequately compensate the farmer. If it isn't popular, it probably won't do much damage to the farmer.

Limiting free speech isn't a good solution.


I withdraw my suggestion.


While the problems you mention are serious, the law doesn't seem to do anything to address them. It just tries to prevent the only good thing that happened here: addressing the actual abuses that happened.

Of course if a dairymen are worried about abuses coming to light and hurting their reputation, the right response would be for them to prevent those abuses in the first place, to bring them to light themselves, and to report employees who violate the rules. Nobody has access to the facility like the owner. If an undercover investigator can do it, then so can the dairyman.

Claiming to care about the animals doesn't mean much when the animals you claim to care about are being mistreated. Plenty of people who work with animals mistreat them, and that's something that needs to stop.


Video monitoring works both ways, if you have it in place then you can use it to support your claims of no abuse ocurring, it can also assist in ensuring employees guilty of abuse can be caught and fired. It is like wanting the police to wear body cameras, it helps promotoe good behaviour and assists in catching bad behaviour.

This was a crappy law i agree, however it really was not doen to support small farmers (and you pretty much agree that they didnt like the law). There are already laws to deal with death threats, as for the reputation the farmers can monitor their own premises and use this to refute any BS claims.


You do know the judge in this case grew up on a dairy farm, right. http://blogs.idahostatesman.com/otters-blast-at-judge-winmil...


Screw you man. You have zero idea on what you're actually talking about. As you say; you're full of shit. Lets leave it at that. You think anyone cares for a bunch of people, versus the countless cruel acts done against animals in the conditions that they're being done in?


Thank you, Judge B. Lynn Winmill, of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. Let your name be repeated and known as someone that does away with laws bordering on absurdism and pure corporate protectionism.

That this even needed to be reviewed because it passed state legislatures is insane. That it's a law mimicked by many states is very seriously disturbing. It means that there are hundreds or more of elected representatives that will gladly put corporate greed above constituent health and well being.


"The remedy for misleading speech, or speech we do not like, is more speech, not enforced silence," Winmill declared.

Very well said.


I found it interesting that Judge Winmill grew up on a dairy farm.

Source: http://blogs.idahostatesman.com/otters-blast-at-judge-winmil...


While I strongly support the decision, in a place like Idaho, these laws aren't about corporate greed, although they certainly benefit corporations. Agriculture in these states is politically untouchable. In Idaho, agriculture and food processing is directly responsible for 6% of jobs and 7% of GDP. Accounting for service jobs supporting that sector doubles or triples that number. And in the rural counties that carry a disproportionate share of the vote, that number doubles again.


I don't understand your distinction.


Referencing "pure corporate protectionism" and "corporate greed" understates how much responsibility the electorate bears for these laws. It paints an easy but misleading narrative: that the problem is just some big agricultural corps throwing around lobbying dollars, when in reality you're talking about a very broad cross-section of the population whose livelihood is tied up with those corporate interests and who support such laws.


Ag in the US gets huge subsides even on exports which are vastly beyond its economic impact (~1% GDP). The reason for this is because it's focused in low population states which have massively disproportionate political power due to the way the house and senate are setup.


Unfortunately, this decision did not abolish those subsidies. You seem to be talking about completely different problems.


Indeed. Lobbying isn't the fault of the lobbyists or the politicians. It's the fault of the voters. Ultimately the blame for consistently bad laws lies at the feet of the people in the electorate. If we focussed more on individual responsibility instead of blaming someone else (politician, "corporations", etc.) we might start to see progress. Or we might just get in a big fight having our voting decisions challenged.


Laws like this are a fantastic example of people trying to avoid a moral argument.

Whether or not chickens are of moral consequence is an argument that can be had; it is perfectly reasonable to for the owners of these factory farms to either argue that chickens are not of moral consequence and deserve no more protection or consideration than the rocks in a quarry or that the methods they use are moral and do not constitute an unreasonable mistreatment of the chickens.

But they prefer not to have that argument; this is not unlike many other industries who prefer to avoid moral arguments by hiding or denying the facts.


I can sympathize with the farmers because it's really hard to have a rational conversation in the face of strong emotional reactions to graphic imagery. People feel empathy for many things they shouldn't, such as robots[1], and the feeling of empathy is not a reliable way to determine something's moral status. Nevertheless, the natural way people make decisions on moral issues like this is to accept their emotional reaction and then rationalize their decision after the fact[2][3][4].

I wonder how much of the shift in public opinion on animal rights is a result of people not being exposed to farm animals anymore. The vast majority of people these days, myself included, meets only pets (and occasionally wild animals). If the only examples of animals you have in your personal life are companions, it's natural to want to treat animals well.

[1] E.g. How Anthropomorphism Affects Empathy Toward Robots http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~pr10/publications/hri09.pdf [2] The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment http://www3.nd.edu/~wcarbona/Haidt%202001.pdf [3] The Status of Moral Emotions in Consequentialist Moral Reasoning http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/Intellectual_Life/Fran... [4] The Secret Joke of Kant's Soul http://www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/~lchang/material/Evolutionary/Dev...


Battery cages do constitute animal cruelty in most senses of the word. The natural behavior of the hens is widely modified, injuries from the equipment/cage are the norm rather than the exception, and you could go on and on.

So, "empathy" towards chickens in these systems isn't just anthropomorphism or oversensitivity.

A lot of the same reasoning applies to dairy farms, but there the issues get more complicated.


There are a surprising number of people in the world who know what they're doing looks terrible, and usually is terrible. Like Vedanta Resources operating a mine in Zambia that causes horrific pollution to the local area, to pick just the most recent example that comes to mind.

It's important to consider every issue carefully, but if you're looking for good intentions or honest arguments, you will very frequently be disappointed.


> The recent passage of North Carolina’s sweeping ag-gag laws, which is so broad it includes those who expose abuse at daycares and nursing homes, clearly cannot withstand scrutiny, either.

Trying to start a poultry farm here can quickly lead to modern-day indentured servitude with punishments for trying to find recourse. John Oliver's "Chickens" [0] documents this well.

Extending the ag-gag law beyond animals to children and elderly sickens me, but is not surprising considering the state legislature's high level of what I consider traditional conservatism (think Old South).

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9wHzt6gBgI


>Extending the ag-gag law beyond animals to children and elderly sickens me, but is not surprising considering the state legislature's high level of what I consider traditional conservatism (think Old South).

yep, in Grand Scheme of Things it is just typical reaction of conservatives to progress (in this case to 2 specific pieces of progress - in technology and in moral - ubiquitous cameras and increased empathy toward and recognition of at least some animal rights). While such reaction is ultimately doomed, in the [pretty long] meantime it will serve as a significant drag on the progress and cause a lot loss and suffering, to the society as whole, to individual people and animals affected.


As usual, this traces back to ALEC http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-animal-and-ecologi...

Browse through their catalogue for some additional ideological templates such as * Capital Gains Tax Elimination * Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment * "Freedom" from forcing utilities to use renewable sources * Flat tax * Law preventing towns from requiring food health labeling * "Free Contract in Financing Act" repeals usury laws * "Intrastate Coal and Use Act" exempts states from EPA regulation * the "Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act" no explanation necessary * "Pre-emption of Local Agriculture Laws Act"

and hundreds more!


As an Idaho resident, I'm very grateful that this was struck down. It's a terrible idea. Too bad Butch (governor) can't tell the difference between right and wrong when his corporate sponsors are involved (which is always).


Maybe if you guys elected that biker who debated in a leather jacket things would have been different. Or at least more interesting. ;)


Wait, you're telling me that a guy named "Butch" isn't the leather-jacket biker guy?

How can you be named "Butch" and not be a biker? Idahoans, explain yourselves!


There is no explanation for us.

Also, not only is "Butch" not the biker in question, but the biker in question was not even the weirdest candidate for office. The televised gubernatorial debate was so bizarre it made Colbert. Enjoy.

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/sk5fyk/idaho-s-bizarre...


Even better, his name is Harley (Brown)!


Idahoan here: I don't think anyone said he wasn't a biker...but it seems he really likes his horses better. Dude tries really hard to keep his cowboy persona fresh.


Hah! That guy stole my heart with his comments on accepting gay marriage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYntFCsukNk (really gets going at 0:40)


Wouldn't the guy in the leather jacket want to continue having cheap leather? Cheap leather comes from factory farming. The same farms that support Ag-Gag laws.


Also an Idaho resident. I, too, am very grateful this got struck down. Just like I was glad when same-sex marriage was legalized with Butch being so against it. I absolutely love Idaho, but I very much dislike our Governor. Unfortunately he rarely does what the people want, and only makes decisions based on his own beliefs and sponsors, as you mentioned.


As another Idaho resident, it will never stop being hilarious that the governor's name is "Butch" Otter. Doing his best to reinforce the redneck Idaho stereotypes.


Idaho is like the Alaska of the south.


Are you trying to suggest that Idaho is part of the "south"? Or are you suggesting that Idaho is sufficiently-far north for southerners to be equivalent to Alaska?


No, I'm suggesting that the ridiculous things we hear from Alaska (think about it's relative location to the US) are sort of like the ridiculous things we hear from Idaho (comparing it's relative location to the South).


Ah, I see. Carry on, then; I was simply confused :)


I was thinking about this law during the recent Planned Parenthood undercover video stuff, as in why does the food industry get more protection than medical clinics. But what I still don't understand is how any of these undercover videos are legal under regular wiretapping laws. I always thought you have to get a party's consent to record them.



Does it depend on the state if you only record video (no audi)? I think that laws need updating to include video (at least in those states requiring consent for audio).


> I still don't understand is how any of these undercover videos are legal

IANAL but I thought it is legal as long as one of the parties consents to the recording. I could secretly tape a conversation with you without your knowledge since I consent to it. However, the police would need court approval to tape our conversation since neither of us consent.


> IANAL but I thought it is legal as long as one of the parties consents to the recording.

Laws on consent for recording vary from state to state, and all-party consent is required in some.


Because abortion clinics don't create a ton of jobs in rural states with disproportionate electoral representation.


I'm not expressing an opinion on abortion or agriculture.

Let's talk about "disproportionate" representation. Idaho is home to 1.6m people (http://www.census.gov/popest/data/state/totals/2014/tables/N...). It has 2 votes in the Senate, like every other state, or 2% of the total, and 2 votes in the House (http://www.house.gov/representatives/#state_id), or 0.46%. According to the Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/popclock/) the United States has a population of 321m. Therefore Idaho has 0.498% of the US population. Accordingly, it is underrepresented in the House and, like most states, overrepresented in the Senate. Overall, Idaho has 4 out of 535 votes in the legislature, or 0.748%, meaning that Idahoans have about 1.5 votes per person. That's a very small margin, especially considering both the underrepresentation in the House and the tiny overall representation. Just how disproportionate is this? Well, if you took away just one representative, the state would be underrepresented overall, as well as being grossly underrepresented in the House. Granularity works against us here; there is no way to fairly represent states with moderate populations like Idaho.

Perhaps this should be telling us that we really aren't one nation and shouldn't attempt to govern such a large number of diverse people with a single set of laws. Again... regardless of what I personally think about abortion or ag-gag laws.


1.5 votes per person is a huge margin when you're voting on national law that binds everyone.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that we should not try to govern such a huge diverse nation with one set of laws. But then we should get rid of the Commerce Clause. States should be able to erect trade barriers to keep other states from undermining their social policies with race to the bottom behavior.


This depends on what you mean by "trade barrier". Is a labeling law a trade barrier? I don't believe that it is. The Canadian objection to the US food labeling laws seems misguided to me, for the same reason that opposition to California's GMO labeling proposals seems misguided. My solution to this is to radically reduce federal power (basically back to what the founders intended). That would let the states decide whether they want ag-gag laws, and also whether they want to mandate "made in an ag-gag state" labeling. Seems fair to me. Apparently seems fair to you, too. So why are we commenting on a federal court decision?


I mean any sort of trade barrier. E.g. California can ban imports from Idaho unless Idaho repeals right to work laws. The problem with federalism as implemented in the U.S. is that the method of apportioning votes gives small rural states disproportionate influence while the Commerce Clause neuters the ability of large states to use their natural economic leverage to the benefit of thei citizens.

You should either have one nation, with everyone getting one vote, or a collection of nation states that can use their full range of natural advantages against other nation states.


The issue with your math is that you're incorrectly assuming that a vote in the House is equally powerful to one in the Senate. On the contrary, a seat in the Senate is far more powerful due to procedural differences, significantly longer terms, and the smaller size of the body.

When just looking at the representation in the Senate, Idaho has 4% of the votes but only 0.49% of the population... A factor of nearly 10.

The make-up of the US government was always intended as a way to balance equal representation by state (Senate) and population (House). The problem is that while the original 13 states were relatively uniform in size we have since created states with vastly different populations (Wyoming is 68x smaller than California!).


Idaho has 2% of the votes in the Senate, just like every other state. Not 4%.


Don't know where I've been but this is the first I've heard of ag-gag laws. Absolutely absurd, bordering on unbelievable. How has this crap been passed in multiple states?!


It can be a lot worse. There was a huge surveillance scandal in Poland last year. Someone wired particular restaurant used by politicians and recorded tons of incriminating conversations (Polish Central Bank governor giving support to ruling political party in next elections by fudging budget numbers and so on).

Results: -police, prosecutor and intelligence service raided headquarter of newspaper that broke the story, assaulting and beating editor-in-chief http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27945687 -prosecutor immediately opened investigations into illegal wiretapping -full two months later prosecutor was forced to open investigation into actual content of tapes, this investigation was naturally quickly killed off. -head of government and political party implicated in leaked tapes was punished by ... jokes, he was awarded presidency over whole fucking European Council -new law passed making audio recordings All-party consent, and outlawing using as evidence any and all recordings made without court order :-) instant immunity from further wiretaps.


Well, technically, if it wasn't a journalist, but a police investigator, who wired the restaurant without a warrant, people would have been outraged about the privacy breach, regardless of the success of the recordings...

So, in part, this pretty much the legislation privacy advocates call for, though passed with different intentions and motivations...


You start by deciding the First Amendment allows the government to ban certain speech, likely by picking something no one would be opposed to banning. You then take precedence and use it to ban speech you were targeting from the start.


Great move and perfect examples of the Court doing its job i.e. striking down Stupid laws that do not pass constitutional muster.

BUT The fact that this law WAS even on the books is blatant proof that Dollars buy Laws in the United states. I think this has gotten much more egregious since the citizens United Ruling. We are very much veering towards an Oligarchy.


Even in 1906 when Upton Sinclair's expose on the meat industry, The Jungle, leading to a storm of national controversy, heaps of legislation, and the founding of the FDA - at no point do I recall in that book Sinclair mentioning anyone actually fucking the animals.

Anyway, that law sounds incredibly unconstitutional. Maybe there would have been a different outcome for the law if it made investigative journalism illegal in all cases and not just when you're specifically investigating pigfucking.


What happens when a treaty such as the TPP or TTIP says that you can jail people for investigating animal abuse? I assume this kind of ruling would be irrelevant then?


The judge ruled it unconstitutional. I don't believe that even the TPP can override such a ruling (assuming it is not ultimately overturned by a higher court).


Under these treaties it doesn't matter if a law is based on the constitution or not. If the trade courts rule that a country's law violates the treaty the country will be punished via trade protectionisms such as quotas or import taxes.


Actually, it does. The Supreme Court has held that all "acts of Congress" must be in accordance with the Constitution. Ratifying a treaty is an act of Congress. Thus, if Congress ratifies a treaty that imposes requirements on the US that violate the US Constitution, the court can hold that ratification to be invalid.

Thus far, no actual treaty has ever been invalidated; the closest is an executive agreement in Reid v. Covert: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_v._Covert


I think the point the parent was trying to make is that what's legal in the US doesn't make a whit of difference to how other countries treat us.

In other words, we can't force other countries to not all agree to raise tariffs on goods that they import from the US. The constitution doesn't matter, because they are foreign governments. Our laws have no bearing there.

If that wasn't the case then any country could use their laws to force people in other countries to do whatever. Certain activities would be both required and banned at the same time. Here in the US it's illegal to coerce a voter, and in Australia voting is mandatory. There's no way to reconcile those two laws.


"To boost the British economy I'd tax all foreigners living abroad."


That's BS, I have to say. Trade agreements can't bulldoze constitutional freedoms.


"Quotas". In English, we use a plain S to denote a plural.


Treaties actually become the 'supreme law of the land' but where and how they can override other things is a bit murky. I don't think they'll exactly let them sign away Consitutional rights via treaty, but sometimes I wonder. Anyhow, there's a good review of the (complicated) subject here: http://harvardlawreview.org/2014/01/limits-on-the-treaty-pow...

Honestly, I would think it more likely that private contracts, particularly NDAs, would be used to prevent undercover investigations. You can (more or less) sign away your First Amendment rights, after all.


That's not true, you can NEVER sign away your first amendment right. Your first amendment right protects you against government, not private action. If you violate an NDA, your employer has the right to fire you and to sue you for damages, but the government will NOT have the right to jail you. Though, in some circumstances people have been jailed for violating court order to not disclose information, but they are jailed for contempt of court, NOT the disclosure it self.


> Though, in some circumstances people have been jailed for violating court order to not disclose information, but they are jailed for contempt of court, NOT the disclosure it self.

So, if I understand this properly, you're saying that the government can't make you sign away your first amendment rights, but they can order you not to speak ('disclose information') and then jail you?


Join the military, then see how far your First Amendment rights extend.


But (if I understand correctly) in the military, you aren't subject to civilian law. You're subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and civilian law does not apply to you.


(Shrug) The assertion was that there is no way for a citizen to sign away their First Amendment rights. The UCMJ is a valid counterexample.


That's not exactly true, your freedom of speech rights are limited by UCMJ, especially under Articles 82, 88, and 134, but not eliminated. You still have a right to attend peaceful demonstrations and such. It is, however, shameful how we treat military men and women in this country. As far as I am concerned, they should have just as many rights as any one else.

Also, it's not really a counterexample, because you do not sign away your rights when you sign the enlistment papers, you loose some of your rights by simply being part of the military. People who where drafted back in the 60s also lost had their rights limited, even though they did not voluntarily sign any papers or agreed to anything.

Further, this is an act of the government, and not a civil contract. No CIVIL CONTRACT can take away ANY of your constitutional rights.


It's not that you lose them outright, but they can be deliberately waived in certain contexts. Here's an example:

http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/judge-nursing-student-wa...


> But (if I understand correctly) in the military, you aren't subject to civilian law. You're subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and civilian law does not apply to you.

Civilian law generally applies to active duty military personnel the same as to anyone else (though some laws have express exceptions or alternate provisions for military personnel), and the UCMJ even provides for the delivery of military personnel accused of violations of law by the civil authorities to be delivered to those authorities. [UCMJ Art. 14, 10 U.S.C. Sec. 814]

More to the point upthread, members of the military retain First Amendment rights, and military regulations have been struck down for violating the First Amendment.


There has been a few cases of military "whistleblowers" contacting their Congressional representative. Trying to restrict such contact I'm almost certain is a violation of the UCMJ. Contacting the Army/Navy/AF/DoD-OIG is another method of contact that is protected by Federal law.

Its not unheard of for senior officers' careers to be ended after a negative OIG report.


TPP or TTIP don't allow any jailing. It's just not their jurisdiction. In fact, both the European Union and the US have strict opinions on free speech, and it is unlikely that the EU would try to force US legislators to put away more of their own people (the US is already very good at that, thank you), even if it had any means to do so....


This is an interesting question. But do you have any source for the proposition that TPP or TTIP actually says this?

There is plenty of stuff in these treaties that I don't like, but this particular claim does not strike me as very plausible. But I could be wrong!


There's plenty of stuff rumored to be in TPP or TTIP which people don't like. Also there is a lot of confusion about initial/temporary negotiation positions and what's actually going to be in there.


Good. There is absolutely no excuse for a company trying to silence the people that work for it.


For an analysis of Judge Winmill's decision, see here: https://casetext.com/posts/idaho-ag-gag-law-found-unconstitu...


Yet another example of waking up in the morning (late night last night), opening HN, clicking on the article, and doing a spit-take of my morning tea. It's good that they overturned it, but it was LEGAL at some point to jail people for releasing truthful information about actual crimes taking place? In America? And it's still LEGAL in some states?

How about we pass another, federal law. Any politician who votes for or promotes any law that actively and intentionally seeks to violate the first amendment is guilty of treason.


Oh, it actually gets much worse than ID's law. WY, for example, has managed to class this sort of thing ("fraudulently" getting a job in a meat packing plant in order to surreptitiously film their operations for documentary purposes) as an act of terrorism, with all the legal implications that follow from that.

EDIT: Doing some fact-checking, I'm unable to substantiate this claim, beyond ALEC's "model law", written in 2002, called, the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act", and a number of proposed and sponsored bills in state legislatures, none of which appear to have passed with "terrorism" verbiage intact. Sorry for the noise.

Summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ag-gag


> Any politician who votes for or promotes any law that actively and intentionally seeks to violate the first amendment is guilty of treason.

Wow, that's going to be lots of fun. That would include every politician who voted for the campaign finance limits overturned by Citizens United. And every one who voted for the Affordable Care Act would have been on very thin ice, although the Hobby Lobby case ended up not being decided on 1st Amendment grounds.

Careful what you wish for.


Well, that's where the "intentionally" part comes into play. People who voted for the campaign finance limits or the ACA, were not seeking to limit speech. Not every law that is eventually found to violate the first amendment right to free speech intended to do so. But laws like in the OP are specifically designed to silence speech. Any way, it was a half joking outrage at the state of our union, not a real proposal :)


> How about we pass another, federal law. Any politician who votes for or promotes any law that actively and intentionally seeks to violate the first amendment is guilty of treason.

Were Congress to pass a putative law which purported to do that, and were any effort made to enforce it, it would no doubt be quickly struck down by the federal courts for the cavalier way in which it flies directly in the face of U.S. Const., Art. III, Sec. 3, clause 1.


Would you not consider active and intentional erosion of the very cornerstone of the United States Constitution an act of War against the union. Couldn't one argue that by undermining the very definition of what makes America America, these people are directly giving aid to our enemies, what ever those might be?


Yeah, that's exactly the kind of "anything that I think harms the country is Treason" logic that the Constitutional definition of Treason was put into place to negate, the trend of defining new and creative forms of "treason" having been familiar to the founders.

Treason's not a hammer to beat your political opponents over the head with. Electoral accountability and separation of powers between the branches is the control on unconstitutional laws, not Treason prosecutions.

And, on a more practical level, if you don't have the federal executive and the judiciary on your side, your new federal "Treason" definition does you no good against politicians pushing laws that would violate the first amendment. But if you have the federal executive and judiciary on your side, all the laws violating the first amendment in the world that can be passed aren't going to have any effect. So, aside from its unconstitutionality and undesirability on a theoretical level, there are in practice no situations where your law would both (a) be needed, and (b) have any effect.


Fun fact: the Bill of Rights didn't even apply to the states until 1925. At the time of the founding when the Constitution was presumably still all American and whatnot, a law like this to protect the unique interests of an agricultural state would've been kosher. There might have been a state constitutional issue, but those are much easier to amend.

The idea of a federal court striking down a law duly enacted by a state legislature (by more than 2/3 of each house) on the basis of the federal constitution, as happened here, would have been very disquieting to the framers.


Federal courts were striking down state laws for violating the federal constitution while the founders were still politically active; most notably for intruding on Congress's Commerce clause authority.

They might have been disquieted by the kind of restrictions on the state that emerged later based on the civil war amendments, especially the 14th, but then, many modern Americans would be disquieted by the founders acceptance of slavery while speaking of equality popular sovereignty.

The founders weren't gods, but men taking some controversial--even among each other--steps forward for the political context of their day.


The idea of a federal court striking down a law duly enacted by a state legislature (by more than 2/3 of each house) on the basis of the federal constitution, as happened here, would have been very disquieting to the framers.

I very much doubt that's the case: if so, they were fairly stupid. Giving federal courts the ability to strike down state laws is necessary when we have the Commerce Clause. It's about balance: kill the Commerce Clause, and you can let the states sort it out (e.g. California could say, "ok, Idaho, you want to pass a law that unjustly jails people for reporting on agricultural criminal activity... fine, go for it, but we're going to ban imports of all your goods into our state"). Keep the Clause, and you need something to check potentially-abusive state power.


States have their own constitutions and their own courts to protect their own citizens. The original purpose of the federal courts was to ensure a neutral forum for the enforcement of federal laws, not to be a second level of oversight of how states treat their own citizens.

But I agree with you, the original design was stupid. I'm just saying that before people start frothing at the mouth about the spirit of the first amendment, they bear in mind it wasn't originally intended to be used the way it was here.


> The original purpose of the federal courts was to ensure a neutral forum for the enforcement of federal laws

The Constitution is a federal law; the enforcement of the Constitution -- including against State violations -- is included within the enforcement of federal law. This is fairly express in the Constitution, and it was clear in practice in the first couple decades the Constitution was in operation.

Now, the protections in the Bill of Rights didn't extend to the States under the original Constitution, so its true that enforcing the Bill of Rights against the States was not part of that -- but not because the original design didn't involve the federal judiciary enforcing the federal Constitution against the States, but because that part of the federal Constitution didn't apply to the States. (And, technically, it doesn't now, either, however the current understanding is that 14th Amendment due process applies protects fundamental rights -- many of which are coextensive with, or at least closely approximate, those protected against federal encroachment by the Bill of Rights -- against state encroachment.)


I'm with you on "votes for", but not on "promotes", since charging promoters of laws which violate the First Amendment with treason would in and of itself be a violation of the First Amendment.

(Note that I'm assuming "promote" to be defined as "communicate a desire for"; should other definitions be applicable, said definitions may be more or less subject to First Amendment protections)


Just remember that even the Supreme Court's opinion changes through the ages, so it's hard to say for sure that a law violates the Constitution.


No it's not hard to say what's Constitutional. It's just hard to say that the Supreme Court will uphold the Constitution. We can disagree on what we each think it means, but it's not clear that the Supreme Court really knows either.

And [1] is a sort of self-authority granted.

[1] Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)


Determining what a law means is an essential part of resolving controversies under that law, and Art. III expressly extends the judicial authority of the United States, vested in the Supreme Court and subordinate courts, to, among other things, all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution. "Judicial review" is simply resolving cases and controversies arising under the Constitution, and could not be more express of a power.


You're contradicting yourself. The idea of people disagreeing on the meaning of various bits of the Constitution is the very definition of it being hard to say what's Constitutional.


> but it was LEGAL at some point to jail people for releasing truthful information about actual crimes taking place? In America? And it's still LEGAL in some states?

Isn't this still legal under the various "wiretapping" laws prohibiting the recording of conversations without all parties' consent? Those are criminal laws.


It's still the law of record in some other countries to prevent all reporting about trials and defendants before a conviction.


What if these kinds of laws are passed via some kind of referendum? Grassroots initiative process based? These kinds of seemingly whacky laws aren't always pushed thru by conglomerates but by local support, like coal in west Virginia.


That doesn't seem to be the case with Ag-Gag laws.

"Ag-Gag laws are notoriously unsupported by the public. Nationwide thirty-two similar Ag-Gag measures have failed. Currently, seven states have Ag-Gag laws on the books. This Idaho decision is just the first step in defeating similar Ag-Gag laws across the country." http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/4001/idaho...


This sounds like an upcoming Netflix series




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