Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Michael Bahr's Disclosures Unjustly Compelled by the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has imposed new rules pertaining to bloggers (and others) that took effect December 1, 2009.  This post contains my disclosures as compelled by the rules.

As blogger Ari Armstrong ably explains in this blog post,
[T]he FTC has no legitimate authority to issue such rules, which defy the First Amendment and constitute censorship and the chilling of free speech. The rules are extremely broad, ranging from free review copies of books to Twitter posts. The rules are arbitrary and ambiguous, such that their precise requirements and penalties cannot be determined in advance. The rules thus open the door to political abuses. The rules are discriminatory in that they subject bloggers to different standards than print journalists.

Even though it is inherently impossible to confidently comply with the FTC's ambiguous rules, this document represents my best attempt to comply. I wish to stress that I believe the FTC's rules are illegitimate and a violation of rights, and that the FTC should be abolished and its rules rescinded.
That said, I have neither the time nor the budget to face the onslaught of our government's ability to nakedly assert power under these unjust rules, and thus I make the following disclosures:

1. I am a political appointee for the Arizona state government, working as a legal analyst, which means most of the time I develop and draft laws and regulations.  I will not be too specific here because I do not want anything I say or write to be construed as being under color of my official position.  My writing is my sole and individual opinion and does not represent the position or opinion of the State of Arizona in any way.

2. My wife Stephanie is an employee of the Arizona state government.  Nothing I say represents her opinion or that of her office either.  For anything she ever says, the same applies as though I said it.  This should all be obvious, but the FTC demands that I spell these things out for you, as though you were a child incapable of figuring it out for yourself.

3. I am honored to count myself a close friend of Richard Jason (RJ) Harris since 1998, and I have been an outspoken supporter, both verbally and financially, of his candidacy for the 2010 U.S. Congressional seat for Oklahoma's 4th district.  It is possible that I may serve on RJ's congressional staff if he is elected, given that I will bring to the table four years' experience and professional expertise in the development and drafting of laws and regulations, which are activities Congressmen dabble in from time to time (or so I've heard).  Even if RJ is not elected or if he does win but I never serve on his staff, you may expect that I will have good things to say about him and/or his political positions.  Accordingly, for future reference, the FTC would like you to know that I am an evil, fraudulent, paid astroturfer seeking a plush cronyist appointment and not just an experienced legal analyst who supports his long-time friend's political aspirations and already agreed with virtually all of his friend's political positions anyway.

4. I was awarded a Bartels Scholarship while a law student at Arizona State University.  This public interest law scholarship, for which I am very grateful to Professor Bartels and the scholarship committee, was enough to pay for my books for my final two semesters of law school.  This was very welcome assistance as the expense of law school had me pretty far down to the cloth during that time.  You can expect that I may have good things to say about Professor Bartels, his projects (such as the Innocence Project), the ASU College of Law, and related entities or endeavors.  Of course, there is a strong chance I would have spoken or written positively about those entities regardless, but the FTC doesn't give a lick about things like "respect" or "admiration" or "Sun Devil pride" -- to them, I am merely a paid shill, and must identify myself as such.

5. Amazon (and the Amazon affiliate program, such as Createspace.com) sells copies of my books, including books I have written under a pen name and do not wish to reveal for market reasons.  (The necessary proofs are easily established in the event of litigation).  I may have in the past, and may in the future, link to Amazon to promote my books or to promote books that I have read and wish to endorse.  At the time of this writing, no other author has provided me with any remuneration for reviewing or endorsing any books.  I do make money when my own books are sold to consumers, as you might imagine.  I may at some point be an Amazon affiliate myself and earn money through links to book sales offers.  Accordingly, the FTC would like you to know I am not only a paid shill but a dirty, evil capitalist.

6. I am an outspoken Objectivist and support Objectivist organizations and causes.  At the time of this writing, no Objectivist author, organization, or cause has provided me with any remuneration for any reason, including whatever I may have written about them or may write about them in the future.  The FTC would rather those organizations not exist at all, so you can imagine how they view my support of same.

7. Finally, my parents adopted me in 1974 with the help of Catholic Adoption Services, and this event basically defined the remainder of my life.  (It's difficult to put into words how important that assistance really was without sounding glib.)  I have since been a strong supporter of various adoption charities both verbally and financially.  While I advocate private voluntary charity as the best means to support such charities, my advocacy can at times take on a political tenor.  For future reference, the FTC would like you to know that any time I speak or write on adoption issues, I am a filthy paid astroturfing shill and not just a grateful adoptee who hopes to improve the lives of orphaned and disadvantaged children around the world.

I will conclude by borrowing once again from Ari Armstrong, his words expressing my sentiments exactly:

As should be obvious, the creation of this document, as well as the continuous need to attempt to comply with the FTC's ambiguous rules, is a complete waste of my time. I resent the FTC for forcing me to direct my valuable time away from essential projects to note distant, minor, or already-publicized financial connections to things I may on occasion speak well of.

I don't need the FTC to tell me when and how to note financial connections. Moreover, the FTC's presumption that my views are influenced by financial connections is ludicrous and insulting; the fact is that my financial connections are either unrelated to my views or a distant by-product of my views.

I also resent the FTC for forcing me to comply with ambiguous rules that may give my political opponents opportunities to lodge bogus complaints against me over alleged technical violations of the FTC's rules, threatening to waste yet more of my time.

I do not expect that the FTC's rules will be ambitiously enforced in the short-term. Many bad laws (and authorized rules) have no noticeable impact when they are first implemented. Often such laws and rules remain on the books for years before bureaucrats and prosecutors take advantage of them to actively violate people's rights. That does not make their existence more comforting.

Again I wish to stress that the FTC's rules are in blatant violation of the First Amendment, they constitute censorship, and for this the FTC richly deserves to be abolished.
Damned right, brother.