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Grass Roots and Public Discourse:

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: October 20, 1998
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Grass Roots Project in Support of Net Privacy
European Concern Over Privacy in Data Collection

On-Line Project for Public Discourse: Impeachment?
Critical Thinking: Looking at Other Perspectives
Moderate View Conservative View Liberal View

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Grass Roots Project on Net Privacy

The Net is beginning to see a number of grass roots projects. For us, this means that forums are increasing. People are trying to connect and to set up rules by which we can live comfortably. They are looking for a Web we can all trust. That's quite a task, and will need a healthy measure of Habermasian discourse if we are to protect free speech, protect corporate privacy and individual privacy, and give each voice a chance to be heard in good faith.

TRUSTe organization is responsible for the pages to which I link you here. Such organizations are going to proliferate, for they are selling their services. Note that carefully. That doesn't mean reject them. Look at the list of their sponsors: Microsoft and Netscape and Yahoo and Excite and on and on. Corporations are considered citizens under the law. They, too, are entitled to a voice in expressing their validity claims. Corporations, like individuals, perform services for our community that are essential to our infrastructure, to our community.

Privacy is a very real and very complex issue. Follow these links, and evaluate the efectiveness of the source.

Advice to Users on Privacy Issues

Links to Other Sites on Privacy Issues

Here's a link to the TRUSTe site:

TRUSTe says "We can't do it without you. Whether you want to learn more about privacy on the Internet, or you have a Web site you want to enroll, we welcome you to join the Privacy Partnership."

"The Privacy Partnership is a grass-roots initiative, open to all, that is intended to educate the Internet community about this important issue. During the month of October, you'll see the Privacy Partnership announced, discussed, and linked to from many of your favorite Web sites."

"We believe that, working together, we can build trust and awareness in this new medium. With your help, we can keep the Internet a place you can believe in."


America Online, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Microsoft, Netscape, Snap, Yahoo! and TRUSTe.

The Privacy Partnership is an ad-hoc, grass-roots campaign to raise awareness about privacy issues on the Internet. . . ."

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European Concern Over Privacy in Data Collection

With global markets concern for the security of data collection by electronic means becomes increasingly a universal concern. For the European perspective, visit the Brookings Review:

Avoiding a Showdown Over EU Privacy Laws By Peter P. Swire and Robert E. Litan, Policy Brief No. 29, February 1998.

On-Line Project for Public Discourse: Impeachment?

As reported in the New York Times on Thursday, September 24, 1998, Joan Blades and wes Boyd, founders of Berkeley Systems, which brings you After Dark Screen Savers, have created a web site designed to serve as a catalyst to public discourse on ending the Clinton-Lewinsky sordidness. The site takes no political position other than disgust with this country's being mired in scandal at a time when real issues need to be brought to the discourse table. Both liberals and conservatives have been invited to participate in the site, and have begun to do so.

This site offers a valuable exercise in determining the extent to which the Net can play a real role in our lives, one not wholly dependent on the present number of users, since people are encouraged to take the message out to their friends. Here is an opportunity for the average citizen to have a voice in governmental affairs. Let's track the results. The site is at:

Visit it often. Track the progress. Habermas just might be right. Discourse in good faith may be one approach to an answer.

Other Perspectives of the Impeachment Crisis

by Jeanne

This site reflects the perspective of its editors. We cannot help but have a perspective, and we see the opposing arguments from that perspective. Jeanne's view is liberal. Bear that in mind, and inspect the sources from your own perspective. That doesn't mean that reviews of current events by Jeanne will always be liberal. You have to allow for confusison, misunderstanding, and inconsistency in human nature. Just because I think I'm liberal doesn't mean I always am, or that I'm always persistent or correct in my views. Like everyone else, without meaning to, I privilege my subjectivity. But I tell you to beware, so that doesn't count as a wicked little unstated assumption. I state it. That gives you a better resource for making your own critical decisions.

The pointers I give you here to the conservative, moderate, and liberal positions are not meant to represent those positions with any specific authority. Others would and will differ with me. but, at the very least, I want you always to remain aware that there is always a spectrum of positions, never just one, never just the two extremes.

A Moderate View of the Impeachment Crisis, as I Understand It

by Jeanne

The editorial in the New York Times of Tuesday, October 6, 1998, expresses well what I consider to be the moderate position: that this may have been "Presidential foolishness," "but the rule of law is too important for this country to grant an exemption for Presidential foolishness." (At p. A30) That's the position that the Censure and Move On grass roots group took. That's the position that former President Gerald ford proposed.

The issue, as identified in the editorial, is: "whether the President's behavior constituted events worthy of impeachment." Lying is lying is lying. But is it a "high crime?" And does it matter what you are lying about? As the editorial points out, no one is defending the President's behavior. David Schipers, "counsel for the Republican majority, said: "under his constitutional oath the president cannot pick those legal proceedings in which his word is good and give himself a license to lie in others." Shippers argues that it doesn't matter what he lies about. Abbe Lowell, the minority counsel, argues that "the President's testimony does not have the constitutional gravity that warrants impeachment or removal.

So, as I understand it, the moderate position acknowledges an offense which matters, but finds that offense of insufficient import to impeach because of the specific personal and familial nature of the transactions that produced the offense. It just wasn't about government and governing. To what extent does it nonetheless reflect on government and governing? The moderates seem to favor some formal recognition of the wrong-doing, but also object to the extreme response of impeachment.

Compare other perspectives.

A Conservative View of the Impeachment Crisis, as I Understand It

by Jeanne

One solid proponent of the conservative view in this crisis is David P. Schippers, "the chief investigative counsel for the republicans. In the "House Will Decide", by Alison Mitchell, p. 1, of the New York Times on October 6, 1998, p. 20, Schippers is quoted as saying: "The principle that every witness in every case must tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is the foundation of the American system of justice which is the envy of every civilized nation." This is the "truth is the truth is the truth" argument. Even though there are many nuances unstated in such a broad statement of the basis for our judicial system, the country is pretty much agreed on the fact that Mr. Clinton's denial of an affair is "not truth." The conservative view would hold us strictly to this recognition and not further investigate the narrative that supplies the context within which the truth and the "not truth" came face to face.

A Liberal View of the Impeachment Crisis, as I Understand It

by Jeanne

As I understand it, the liberal view recognizes fully the narrative context in which the entire transaction is set. This view does not excuse behavior that is generally not viewed as socially acceptable in this society, but it refocusses attention on the broad context. A good example is Anthony Lewis' column, "The Light and the Dark", on p. A 31 of the New York Times of October 6, 1998. Lewis resets the focus to this:

"We have before us today, in dramatic opposition, two views of what it means to be a conservative and a Republican.

One respects institutions, cares about fair means as well as ends, puts country before party. the other has no regard for institutions or fairness, believing that the end of winning justifies any means.

The first is Gerald Ford. The second is Kenneth Starr."

Please note. This may be my understanding of the liberal position. But it is not about Democrats and Republicans. It is about fairness and justice in all our transactions. The article goes on to praise ford's suggestion that resolution come with dignity and be "honest and above all cleansing." Consider issues we have discussed of forgiveness.

The article accuses Starr of violating issues of fairness. In particular, it states that Mr. Starr pleaded before the U.S. Court of Appeals that he wished to break the confidentiality of White House lawyers, even though the President would be entitled to such confidentiality if it were a matter of impeachment. On June 29, Mr. Starr told that Court that impeachment was "too remote a possibility to be considered by the court." Three days later he told another court that he needed secret grand jury material for "his planned impeachment report." Lewis calls this "sleazy" if not outright lying. Notice how "truth" as a concept can grow fuzzy within the complex narratives that make up the context.

Lewis cites further facts that he purports show that one of the lawyers that linked in peripheral ways to the Paula Jones case was a member of Starr's law firm, creating an arguable violation of the Independent Counsel Act.

This is why you must seek out information from as many perspectives as you have access to. All these "facts" occur within narrative situations. The narratives are complex, and so therefore, are the contexts. Habermas' appeal for listening in good faith makes sense in such a difficult context. Try it. It might work.

Yet another "liberal" aspect of this argument appears on p. A 31: "Let the Process Go Forward," by Lowell Weicker ("Republican Senator from Connecticutt from 1970 to 1988). He reminds us:

"Censure . . . has no constitutional basis. The threshold for passinga censure resolution is far lower than that required for impeachment. Legally it resembles any other nonbinding congressional resolution and therefore requires only a simple majority in one or both houses. The one time a President was censured - Andrew Jackson in 1834 - the resolution was passed by a vote of only 28 to 18. the vote had none of the authority of an impeachment vote. . .

"Censuring Mr. Clinton would be a [symbolic] gesture. . . What exactly would it mean? What sanctions would follow? What message would be sent?

There is no choice now but to push ahead with impeachment hearings. Anything less will result in government by free-for-all."

Notice how many perspectives there are to this issue. It's hard after a while to classify them all as liberal or moderate or conservative. Complexity deserves the respect of being treated as complexity. To reduce it to the simple, straightforward, clear as true or false is to trivialize the context. Because this is an issue which touches all our lives, read about it, think about it, and do so in good faith, in the interest of public discourse.

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