An Open Letter to WI Assembly Tyrants

By Joe Vitte

Dear Bill Kramer,

On Tuesday, September 13, as the Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore, you condescendingly recited WI Assembly rules, emphasizing the prohibition against the use of cameras, to the Assembly “guests” – as if you were Moses delivering the Ten Commandments to the iniquitous Israelites.

Sorry Bill, but to follow the metaphor of the lawgiver, we do not follow you – but instead will continue to follow the laws of our state capitol’s namesake, James Madison.

Madison? Remember him? The author of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Maybe you read it Bill, before you became a tyrant.

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
Bill, I’m sure you’d like to hide behind your Tea Party dream of State’s Rights. But, sorry – you can’t. The US Supreme Court, in a famous freedom of the press case, Near v. Minnesota, 1931, incorporated First Amendment protections into the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

What does all that legal mumbo jumbo mean? It means the individual States have to follow the US Constitution. Even you, Bill, can’t legally deprive FitzWalkerstan citizens of their rights.

Madison’s 1st Amendment freedom of the press – a law so important, that Wisconsin included a version in its own Constitution:

“Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

Certainly those laws don’t include the unwashed heathens, “guests” as you referred to them, sitting in the gallery. Or do they?

Why don’t we refer to the expert? No, that wouldn’t be David Prosser. Again, it’s James Madison, on the subject of prior restraint.

England, the mother country, used to require that printers purchase a license, and get permission, before they were allowed to print, and publish, their newspapers. Madison, a small “d” democrat, disagreed with prior restraint, and wrote about government prohibitions on the press:

“The People, not the Government, possess the absolute sovereignty.”

And, writing about the 1st Amendment specifically, Madison continued:

“the article of amendment, instead of supposing in Congress a power that might be exercised over the press… was meant as a positive denial to Congress of any power whatever on the subject.

Did you get that Bill? It’s about the People – not the Legislature. For democracy to work, a free press must not be restrained by the Government.

Madison didn’t define the press as the “credentialed” press, like you, or your underlings, who have approved this legislatively defined breed, to sit and write, in the Assembly chamber. He talked about an unlicensed citizenry, free from prior rules, who are able to write, and publish, on any topic of their choosing.

Hold on Bill. I know that you want to talk about cameras. Don’t be silly. It doesn’t even matter that cameras and cell phones weren’t invented in the 18th century.

A camera is just another version of a quill pen.

And we are the People.

And you’re going to be seeing a lot more of yourself on YouTube.

Get used to it.

Analyzing the Brew-Ha-Ha at the Madison Capitol – The Progressive
Courtesy of 

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