Editorial: Don’t allow police to scan cellphones after wrecks

Textalyzer allows police to scan cellphone (NBC pix)

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

     — Fourth Amendment

 The urge to dictate how other people behave or misbehave apparently is irresistible.

There are already laws on the books prohibiting drivers from using cellphones while driving unless a hands-free system is employed. Now the Nevada Legislature is considering a bill, Assembly Bill 200, that would allow police at the scene of an accident to use an electronic device to determine whether a driver was, in fact, using such a device at the time of an accident. The bill would allow the suspension of one’s driver’s license for refusing to comply.

A company called Cellebrite says it has created something it calls a Textalyzer — like a breathalyzer, get it? — that will detect whether a phone was in use. The company says the device would only determine a user’s activity and what type of activity, such as hands-free or not, and would not reveal phone numbers or text messages.

Distracted driving is, well, distracted driving. The hair splitting over the type of distracted driving is irrelevant. One could be changing the radio, eating a sandwich, combing one’s hair or yelling at the screaming brat in the back seat.

The result is all the same, as well as the responsibility as shown by the evidence at the scene of the accident.

AB200, despite all the reassurances to the contrary, is unnecessary and poses too great a threat to the right to be secure in one’s person and personal effects without a properly issued search warrant.

“We can’t give the government the power to peer into everybody’s digital lives indiscriminately, because that might create a bigger problem than the one we’re trying to solve in the first place,” NBC News recently quoted Neil Richards, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who’s an expert in privacy and civil liberties, as saying about the use of such devices by police. “The way to do it is if the police suspect a case of distracting driving, they go and they get a warrant and they compel the records from the service provider.”

Who is to say what an officer might extract once the phone is handed over.

The Nevada American Civil Liberties Union has expressed opposition to AB200. “The ACLU of Nevada strongly opposes AB200 which would allow law enforcement to utilize experimental technology that would infringe on the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights of Nevadans without obtaining a warrant,” The Nevada Independent has quoted ACLU of Nevada Policy Director Holly Welborn as saying.

With all the guns, non-lethal arms, body cameras and other devices police are forced to lug around, there is no need to add an expensive and as-yet unproven cellphone scanning device.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Frankly, we thought Trump swore to uphold the Constitution

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should want to look into it,” President Trump complained to reporters recently, apparently in reaction to something reported by NBC.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Trump tweeted.

He followed this by tweeting, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”

Even false and fake news is protected from government interference. The public can decide for itself what to turn on and turn off.

Who is bamboozling whom?

Obama used the occasion of a speech before the Democratic National Committee today to brag about how his presidency has led to economic recovery and to ridicule Republicans for “trying to bamboozle folks.”

According to a CBS account, Obama bragged about job creation picking up, manufacturing rebounding, wages finally beginning to grow and deficits are falling. “None of this is an accident,” he boasted. “It’s because we believe in middle class economics.”

Now, who is bamboozling whom?

According to the National Association of Counties, only 2 percent of counties in the U.S. have fully recovered from the recession in terms of jobs, unemployment, economic output and home prices.

And this “recovery” has taken the longest of any since World War II:

That’s not something to brag about.

Congressman Paul Ryan said on NBC after Obama’s State of the Union speech, “The big beef I have with the president’s State of the Union … is he gave us a lot of happy talk about the economy as if it was a mission accomplished speech. It is not mission accomplished.”

While Ryan agreed economy is improving, he noted it is the slowest recovery since World War II. “Middle income wages are stagnating,” he said. “We’ve got to break out of this slog. And I do believe that there are things we can do hopefully in the next year to get this economy growing faster.”

Obama’s answer is always more regulation, more taxes, blocking development public land, threatening to veto a pipeline that would create jobs. These are the very things that have slowed the recovery.

How to irritate a rich, liberal television station owner without hardly trying

I met Tina Trenner at a luncheon meeting the other day. She was working the room, handing out fliers urging people to file complaints with the FCC about their local NBC affiliates for not operating in the “public interest.”

Tina Trenner

Now, my principled position on such matters is generally to oppose efforts to gag opposing viewpoints but rather engage them with more free speech and dialogue to reach a Miltonian outcome in which truth prevails. But I might have to make an exception in this case, since the endeavor is a surely a futile gesture, and because it appeals to a certain pleasure obtained by being nettlesome to the overly comfortable and self-assured.

The local NBC affiliate — KSNV-TV, Channel 3 — is Jim Rogers, a wealthy liberal who personally takes to the airwaves to editorialize when it suits his politics and pocketbook. He once did a 10-part editorial series on a news story the Review-Journal was covering though his station never did any news coverage. He also blasted newspapers for not paying sales taxes on ink and paper — the standard manufacturing exemption of materials that produce a final product — even though his family had lobbied for a tax exemption for television commercials.

Trenner argued that much of the news media today is little more than a propaganda arm of liberal politics. Her Battle Born PAC  hopes to at least get the attention of NBC affiliate owners like Rogers who must jump through hoops with the FCC when enough complaints are filed. Why, carrying Jon Ralston’s program alone amounts to an affront to common decency and fairness.

In arguing that NBC affiliates are not broadcasting in the “public interest,” Battle Born PAC states, “We here at Battle Born PAC do not believe NBC feeds its affiliate’s honest or accurate news every night on NBC’s Nightly News. Thereby NBC is causing each affiliate to circumvent the laws of broadcasting and to deliver erroneous, misleading and outright dishonest reports.  It is then impossible for each affiliate to live up to the mandate set forth by Congress. This cannot be in the public interest … to the contrary it is the exact opposite.”

On the website, the PAC points out that each of the approximately 200 NBC affiliates has to renew its license every five years. If they to operate in the “public interest, convenience and necessity,” as the law dictates, that license can be revoked. All complaints go into public files, which must be available for inspection.

The website has instructions for filing such a complaint.

So, if you are feeling nettlesome, procede.