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The Madera Tribune

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webmaster | 05/15/13

As far as I know, the Justice Department hasn’t subpoenaed any of The Madera Tribune’s phone records, but one never knows. As you probably have heard, it did go after the phone records of some Associated Press journalists, and I want to tell you right now the people at the Justice Department may be in for a very dull time. Journalists’ phone conversations aren’t all that interesting. Listening to almonds grow would have equal interest.

The Justice Department apparently is trying to find out who leaked sensitive information to the AP. If Justice finds out who it is, the leaker no doubt will get a good bawling out, even though (the last time I looked) the 1st Amendment of the Constitution gives us freedom of speech. That is, unless one gives away his or her right to free speech when he goes to work for certain government agencies. Maybe the leaker will be hung up by his or her thumbs, and feathers will be used to tickle his or her armpits as punishment.

The people who govern us seem to believe secrecy is important, even on the local level. The Madera County Board of Supervisors, for example, has secret meetings, which are scheduled as part of its regular meeting agendas. The same is true of the Madera City Council and the Madera Unified School District Board of Trustees. The Ralph M. Brown Act allows this. Everything else that goes on in government meetings in California is supposed to be public. But meetings can be secret if the topics being discussed are real estate deals, legal matters or personnel issues. No trading of recipes or talking about how the Giants did.

People who participate in these meetings aren’t supposed to spill the beans about them to the press, but sometimes they do. I'm not sure what happens to those leakers. Maybe in the next secret meeting the other members take turns kicking them. Or, maybe they don't get any cookies.

One wonders, though, whether that secrecy can go on, especially in this day of tweets, texts and emails. Secrecy hardly exists anymore.

But getting back to The Madera Tribune’s telephone calls: If you listen to very many of them, you will nod off to sleep. That’s probably why the Justice Department is keeping its distance — it doesn’t want its employees to start taking naps on taxpayer time.


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