Category Archives: Free Speech

Cato Presents: Cops on Camera

As cameras have become more available to individuals and government alike, viral videos of cops behaving badly have become quite pervasive on the internet. This short video by The Cato Institute provides a few recent examples of this relatively new phenomenon and explains why recording the actions of police and government officials for all the world to see is good for liberty. Its government that should be watched and its government that should fear the people, not the other way around.

Jon Stewart Has Earned My Respect

I used to think that Jon Stewart was another garden variety left winger but lately, I’ve found him to be perhaps the most reasonable political commentator anywhere. Whether the issue is the controversial South Park episode featuring the prophet Mohammed, Obama’s about face on civil liberties now that he is president, or this most recent ground zero mosque controversy, Jon Stewart, a comedian is the voice of reason as many other pundits take one extreme view or the other.

In this Daily Show segment below entitled “Extremist Makeover – Homeland Edition” Stewart does something that I’ve seen very few pundits do publicly: admit he was wrong. In observing the overreactions of this mosque controversy in which many on the right want to deny freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and property rights to a religious minority out of fear, Stewart realizes that he too overreacted in the wake of the Columbine Massacre when he and others on the left condemned the NRA for going ahead with their scheduled convention in Denver (near ground zero for this tragedy). From there, Stewart plays excerpts from then NRA President Charlton Heston and admits that Heston was right and he was wrong.

Stewart:

If you replace ‘NRA’ with ‘Muslim community’ and ‘Second Amendment’ with ‘First Amendment’ he [Heston] is still right.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover – Homeland Edition
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Jon Stewart has earned my respect for his intellectual honesty even as others (*cough* Wayne Allyn Root *cough*) have lost it.

Christopher Hitchens On The Campaign Against The “Ground Zero” Mosque

Christopher Hitchens may be battling cancer, but he hasn’t lost his talent for saying exactly the right thing in exactly the right way. Take, for example, his new Slate column regarding the ongoing and seemingly endless controversy over the “Ground Zero” mosque:

Take, for example, the widely publicized opinion of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Supporting those relatives of the 9/11 victims who have opposed Cordoba House, he drew a crass analogy with the Final Solution and said that, like Holocaust survivors, “their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.” This cracked tune has been taken up by Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who additionally claim to be ventriloquizing the emotions of millions of Americans who did not suffer bereavement. It has also infected the editorial pages of the normally tougher-minded Weekly Standard, which called on President Obama to denounce the Cordoba House on the grounds that a 3-to-1 majority of Americans allegedly find it “offensive.”

Where to start with this part-pathetic and part-sinister appeal to demagogy? To begin with, it borrows straight from the playbook of Muslim cultural blackmail. Claim that something is “offensive,” and it is as if the assertion itself has automatically become an argument. You are even allowed to admit, as does Foxman, that the ground for taking offense is “irrational and bigoted.” But, hey—why think when you can just feel? The supposed “feelings” of the 9/11 relatives have already deprived us all of the opportunity to see the real-time footage of the attacks—a huge concession to the general dulling of what ought to be a sober and continuous memory of genuine outrage. Now extra privileges have to be awarded to an instant opinion-poll majority. Not only that, the president is urged to use his high office to decide questions of religious architecture!

Nothing could be more foreign to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment or the principle of the “wall of separation.

Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, Hitchens hints that he’s not at all happy about the idea of this mosque being located so close to the site of the September 11th attacks. Unlike Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and all the others who have taken up the anti-mosque banner in this matter, though, Hitchens recognizes demagoguery when he sees it and, for an Englishman, has more respect for our First Amendment than many Americans do.

Hitchens ends up in about the same position that I am in this fight. I don’t necessarily favor the project, but these people own the building, they’ve complied with all applicable laws, and there doesn’t appear to be any legal means remaining to stop them. Those who want to use government force to stop them are nothing more than thieves motivated by religious bigotry rather than financial gain. The rest ? Well, they seem to think that having “feelings” and are “offended” means they have some special right to be heard. It’s really all rather sad and pathetic.

Point: The ACLU Is A Friend of Liberty

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my critique of the ACLU, click here.

The Left and Right political labels are pretty useless at a certain point, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the Left wing label in order to defend the ACLU.

The political Left has at its core both a democratic and an authoritarian side. George Orwell, Lionel Trilling and Christopher Hitchens are among some of the most prominent intellectuals to have split with the Left on occasion in order to speak out against tyranny. This dichotomy is one I like to call the “Napoleon-Snowball dichotomy,” after the characters from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleons don’t simply show up in third world countries like North Korea or Venezuela – they also have their place in the United States. Despite his coming to the mainstream fore speaking of the need to defend civil liberties, Barack Obama has accelerated the authority of the government to new heights. Obama has grabbed the authority to kill American citizens anywhere in the world. He has put closing Guantanamo on the back burner. Obama’s civil liberties problem was made clear as well by his firing of Shirley Sherrod on the grounds of a sloppy hit job by Andrew Breitbart. Any administration that would fire a public servant so quickly on such shaky grounds must have some sort of anxiety about its power.

For Obama’s Napoleonism, the ACLU has acted as a modern day Snowball, defending against the frightening precedent of a president being able to eliminate Americans by executive order.  In a suit filed against the government, the ACLU argued that the Obama administration had “asserted authority to use lethal force against US citizens located far from any battlefield without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

The ACLU is also victim to a lot of misinformation, including the urban legend that they had filed suit to have crosses removed from graveyards. In fact, in 1999, they did precisely the opposite:

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — In the first case to be filed under Florida’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida goes to trial today on behalf of seven families seeking to prevent the removal and destruction of religious symbols placed at the gravesites of their loved ones.

At issue is the City of Boca Raton’s threat to remove various vertical memorials, including Christian crosses, Stars of David and other religious symbols, from cemetery plots at the Boca Raton Community Cemetery. The ACLU will argue that under the new law, passed in 1998, removal of religious items from grave sites would constitute a substantial burden on religion.

The brilliance of the American constitution is not anarcho-libertarianism – it’s a balance of power through checks and balances. The ACLU is a great bulwart against granted authority becoming too powerful.

Quote of the Day: Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider on Al and Tipper Gore’s Marriage Woes

“Let’s cut to twenty-five years later, I’m still married – none of my kids have been busted for drug possession. Can Al and Tipper Gore say the same thing? I don’t think so – oh, snap!” — Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider

We’re not gonna take it,
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it
ANYMORE!!!!!!!

On Islam, A Fine Line Between Criticism and Xenophobia

There are serious concerns about radical Islam and political Islam as a movement. It’s something we should be seriously conscious of. I’ve written about this extensively here at TLP.

Given that, there is a very, very fine line between critiquing the retrograde nature of radical Islam and outright xenophobia. I honestly find it hard to discern this line myself, since I am fully ready to call out efforts by Christians, Muslims or any other group to insert religious dogma into politics. Wherever that line is, it is more than readily apparent that many who are protesting the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York have crossed it.

There’s a part of the constitution that I’m especially fond of. It’s called the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “free exercise thereof” doesn’t just mean free exercise of Roman Catholicism, the faith of mosque critic Newt Gingrich, or Lutheranism, the denomination of Michelle Bachmann, another critic. It counts for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus.

Activists Protest Proposed Church Next To NARAL Headquarters

July 22, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC — Picketers holding anti-Christian placards marched near NARAL headquarters in Washington today, denouncing plans to erect a right-wing Christian church within a block of the abortion rights group. Heated words were exchanged between supporters of the place of worship; luckily physical altercations were avoided in this escalating battle.

Tension has been brewing since late last year, when plans for the Lutheran-denomination church were unveiled in planning commission meetings. NARAL-friendly Councilwoman Diana Matthews had been quietly working to stall the plans, requesting additional information about the parking and infrastructure requirements of the planned structure, but the architect and engineer on the project quickly provided evidence that the demands of the new structure would not materially change from the property’s previous structure.

As the project has neared breaking ground, opponents and supporters have taken to the streets. “It’s an affront to the freedom that NARAL protects that these Christo-fascists would try to base their hate so close to our headquarters,” said Susan Colona, a NARAL employee. “It’s clear that they’re moving so close in order to threaten and intimidate the workers here at NARAL. It’s chilling, in the wake of the senseless murder of Dr. George Tiller, that they’re willing to escalate their actions.”

Protesters carrying signs with slogans such as “Go Back To Kansas” and “Keep Your God Out Of My Uterus” marched outside the headquarters. Supporters of the church countered nearby with opposing signs, “Abortion Is Murder — An Eye For An Eye” and “We Protect Those Who Can’t Protect Themselves.”

Pro-choice US Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) sides with NARAL. “The actions of the picketers in support of this church are a clear example of hate speech. We are a country that values freedom of religion, and I don’t believe we can legally stop this congregation from forming, but I am deeply saddened that the church would choose such a site for their home.”

Pastor Elijah Williams, who would be heading the proposed church, doesn’t understand the fight. “While we as a church are generally against the practice of abortion, many within the ELCA are willing to make exceptions for circumstances such as rape and the health of the mother. In fact, Dr. George Tiller was a member of the ELCA, and we have publicly condemned Scott Roeder for his unconscionable actions. We are a peaceful church, and chose the site of our church because we thought it was the best place for our home, not because of its proximity to NARAL.”

Pastor Williams even suggested that the extremist protestors antagonizing NARAL were not from the ELCA, but rather sent by the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization known for sending protestors to funerals of US Servicemen killed in combat.

The fight doesn’t appear to be waning. NARAL has been searching for legal ways to fight the church, including potentially having the entire block declared a historic landmark due to its age. Stephen Simpson, a lawyer who had previously advised the ELCA on other matters, doesn’t see this as cause for hope. “What should have been a very simple process of building a home for a budding congretation is now likely to be derailed. Once national politics and the legal system become involved, this will become a circus. I hope the church and NARAL can come to some agreement to avoid this outcome.”

Given the contention between the parties, though, this appears unlikely at this time.

Howard Zinn was the Worst the Left has to offer

Howard Zinn passed at the beginning of this year, and I will admit part of me was saddened at his passing. My mother owned his People’s History of the United States, and my fellow students at college seemed to adore his work. My best friend is a Zinn fanatic, bringing him up nearly every time politics comes up.

Now that months have passed since he died, the second-hand positive notions are gone and the real nature of Zinn’s career can be assessed. Reason wrote an appropriate article following his passing, concluding that Zinn was “a master of agitprop, not history.”

The absolute worst of Zinn came on his deplorable misinformation regarding the totalitarian state in Cuba and the rise of political Islam, both of which placed Zinn on the wrong side of history. That Zinn’s nonsense is regularly repeated by fairly intelligent people is sad phenomenon, indeed. From Reason:

Just how poor is Zinn’s history? After hearing of his death, I opened one of his books to a random page (Failure to Quit, p. 118) and was informed that there was “no evidence” that Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya was behind the 1986 bombing of La Belle Discotheque in Berlin. Whatever one thinks of the Reagan administration’s response, it is flat wrong, bordering on dishonest, to argue that the plot wasn’t masterminded in Tripoli. Nor is it correct to write that the American government, which funded the Afghan mujahadeen in the 1980s, “train[ed] Osama bin Laden,” a myth conclusively debunked by Washington Post correspondent Steve Coll in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Ghost Wars.

Of Cuba, the reader of A People’s History is told that upon taking power, “Castro moved to set up a nationwide system of education, of housing, of land distribution to landless peasants.” Castro’s vast network of gulags and the spasm of “revolutionary justice” that sent thousands to prison or the executioners wall is left unmentioned. This is unsurprising, I suppose, when one considers that Zinn recently told an interviewer “you have to admire Cuba for being undaunted by this colossus of the North and holding fast to its ideals and to Socialism….Cuba is one of those places in the world where we can see hope for the future. With its very meager resources Cuba gives free health care and free education to everybody. Cuba supports culture, supports dance and music and theatre.”

Zinn’s movement leftism never gained nuance, even on his deathbed. His very last interview was with Playboy, in which he talked about America’s economy:

PLAYBOY: So what can the average American do?

ZINN: Not much alone, individually. The only time citizens can do anything is if they organize, if they create a movement, if they act collectively, if they join their strengths. The trade union movement, of course, is an example of that. The trade union movement is weak, and the trade union movement needs to become stronger. Citizens need to organize in such a way that they can present the members of Congress with demands and say, “We are going to vote for you if you listen to us,” or “We’re not going to vote for you if you don’t listen to us.” In other words, people have to organize to create a citizens movement. We have to think about the 1930s as a model; people organized in the face of economic crisis—organized into tenants’ movements and unemployment councils and of course they organized a new trade union movement, the CIO. So we need people to organize. Of course, this is not easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Because it’s not easy the tendency is to throw up your hands and not do anything, but we have to start at some point, and the starting point is people getting together with other people and creating organizations. For instance, people can get together to stop evictions. Neighbors can get together. This is something that can be done at a local level. This was done in the 1930s when neighbors got together to stop the evictions of people who weren’t able to pay their rent and the 1930s were full of such incidents. Tenants’ councils had been formed and when people were evicted from their tenements, their neighbors gathered and put their furniture back in the house.

That sort of nonsense about collective action being the only means of change is just that: nonsense. George Orwell alienated many of his friends on the left, who he made in his criticism of colonialism and fascism, by taking on Stalinism in Animal Farm and 1984. Malcolm X was murdered by his former friends at the Nation of Islam when he revealed the hypocrisy of its leader, Elijah Mohammed, and renounced extremism in favor of racial reconciliation. Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews by employing within his own factories. The list goes on, as does the list of those who were manipulated due to their unwavering allegiance to a collective of any kind. Fresh-behind-the-ears college students who take Zinn’s words to be the truth run the risk of becoming exactly what Zinn was: a tool of propaganda.

Supreme Court To Decide If California Can Ban Sale Of “Violent” Video Games To Minors

Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a California law that made it illegal to sell “violent” video games to minors. Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the State of California’s appeal in that case:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will decide whether free speech rights are more important than helping parents keep violent material away from children.

The justices agreed Monday to consider reinstating California’s ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, a law the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out last year on grounds that it violated minors’ constitutional rights.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the law in 2005, said he was pleased the high court would review the appeals court decision. He said, ”We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies.”

However, the judge who wrote the decision overturning the law said at the time that there was no research showing a connection between violent video games and psychological harm to young people.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case comes only a week after the high court voted overwhelmingly to strike down a federal law banning videos showing animal cruelty. The California case poses similar free speech concerns, although the state law is aimed at protecting children, raising an additional issue

Yes, yes, it’s a familiar argument:

Of course, there already is someone thinking of the children, their parents:

Video games already are labeled with a rating system that lets parents decide what games their children can purchase and play.

Isn’t this a job for the parents, not the state ?

Given the lopsided outcome in the animal cruelty case, it seems that the law would have an uphill battle before the Justices, although its proponents don’t seem to think so:

Leland Yee, the California state senator who wrote the video game ban, said the Supreme Court obviously doesn’t think the animal cruelty video ban and the violent video game ban are comparable. If the justices thought that, he said, they would not be reviewing the 9th Circuit’s decision to throw out the video game ban.

”Clearly, the justices want to look specifically at our narrowly tailored law that simply limits sales of ultra-violent games to kids without prohibiting speech,” said Yee, a San Francisco Democrat.

Maybe, maybe not. Since it only takes four justices to agree to hear a case, that one fact is no indication of how the Court might rule on a case.

Personally, I am hoping they vote to sustain the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

The First Amendment Protects Ann Coulter, William Ayers, And The Westboro Baptist Church

This morning brings the news that a speech by former Weather Underground leader William Ayers at the University of Wyoming has been canceled:

The University of Wyoming announced Tuesday that a public lecture by William “Bill” Ayers, a former 1970s radical antiwar protestor who is now a university professor, has been canceled.

Ayers, 65, a distinguished professor of education and senior scholar at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), had been scheduled to give a public lecture from 4-6 p.m. Monday in the UW Education Auditorium.

The public lecture had been sponsored by the UW Social Justice Research Center, which is a privately endowed center that studies problems of oppression and inequalities among different social groups.

Titled “Trudge Toward Freedom: Educational Research in the Public Interest,” the talk would have focused on what makes education in a democracy different from other societies, as well as the importance of teachers seeing their students are more than just students, but whole human beings.

UW released a statement on its Web site on Tuesday afternoon explaining why the Social Justice Research Center had decided to cancel Ayers’ visit.

In the statement, the director of the center, UW Educational Studies chair Francisco Rios, apologized to the university community for any harm that may have come to it, and cited personal and professional reasons — including safety concerns — for the cancellation.

This is pretty much the same reason that the University of Ottawa used when it canceled Ann Coulter’s speech there a week or so back.

And it’s bogus.

First of all, it’s worth noting that the University of Wyoming is a public institution so the First Amendment applies. The fact that Ayers is controversial, or that he’ll say things that might offend people, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to say it. In fact, as I noted some four years when I first discussed the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, offensive speech is perhaps the most important speech to protect:

Over the past several weeks, several states have taken steps to prevent protesters from picketing at funerals, a move propelled by the fact that an objectively offensive group of extreme Christians have been staging protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq claiming that the deaths America is experiencing in Iraq are God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuality. Offensive ? Absolutely ? Should they have the right to be offensive ? I can’t see any reason why not.

Freedom of speech means that, sometimes, we will hear some truly offensive things. When government starts regulating speech based on the fact that it may offend, though, it diminishes freedom for everyone.

Exactly. I despise the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, I think Ann Coulter is mostly an idiot, and really don’t care what a tired old leftist like Bill Ayers has to say. Nonetheless, they all have a right to say it.

C/P: Below The Beltway

Federal Court Gives Freedom Of Speech Another Victory Over McCain-Feingold

A Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C. put another nail into the coffin of the monstrosity that is the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law:

A federal appeals court on Friday handed another victory to conservative opponents of campaign-finance restrictions, striking down limits on individual contributions to independent groups who want to use the money for or against candidates in federal elections.

But in its unanimous decision, the nine-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also said that a conservative group called SpeechNow.org must disclose its donors and other details of its finances to the Federal Election Commission, a requirement that the group had sought to overturn.

Steve Simpson, an attorney who argued the case on behalf of SpeechNow.org, called the decision voiding contribution limits “a tremendous victory for free speech” and said it “ensures that all Americans can band together to make their voices heard during elections.” At the same time, the group decried the decision on disclosure and signaled that it would appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The ruling also amounts to a mixed bag for beleagured advocates of campaign-finance restrictions, who are relieved by the disclosure requirements but angered by the court’s decision to strike down limits on contributions to independent political groups. The decision follows from the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in January in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which found that corporations are akin to individuals when it comes to political speech and are free to spend as much as they like for or against candidates.

The libertarian Institute for Justice represented the Plaintiffs in this case and had this to say in a press release issued today:

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Bert Gall said, “Critics of the Citizens United ruling should applaud the decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, which guarantees individuals and unincorporated groups the same First Amendment right to fund effective speech that Citizens United guaranteed for corporations and unions.”

Unfortunately, although the court’s ruling frees SpeechNow.org to raise money and speak, the court upheld other burdensome requirements identical to those struck down in Citizens United. Gall said, “Laws that are unconstitutionally burdensome for General Motors and the AFL-CIO have to be unconstitutional when applied to a volunteer group like SpeechNow.org. The court’s ruling that SpeechNow.org must comply with political committee regulations is just flat wrong.”

Bradley A. Smith, CCP’s chairman and a former FEC chairman, added, “It’s unfortunate that the court did not recognize how political committee status regulation by the FEC places restrictive burdens on grassroots political groups. The court’s decision means that the FEC regulatory regime will continue to favor large, established special interests over ad hoc groups of like-minded citizens who gather together to enhance their voices in politics.”

Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, said, “With this ruling, the D.C. Circuit has moved us one step closer to ending this nation’s failed 35-year-old experiment with campaign finance ‘reform’ and restoring the First Amendment to its proper place. The era when incumbent politicians could tinker with freedom of speech to insulate themselves from public criticism is coming to an end.”

And, when that day comes, it will be good for all of us.

Opening the floodgates…

From tonight’s State of the Union address:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

In the video, Justice Samuel Alito can be seen visibly disagreeing with this sentiment. First, I’m glad someone can stand up against a President who respects the independence of the judiciary so little that he calls them out in the State of the Union. Such moves reek of political hackery that should be far beneath the President. Second, Obama’s assertion is flatly wrong.

Obama contends that the floodgates have been suddenly opened for corporations to have undue influence over candidates and politicians simply because campaign spending limits have been lifted. How, in a country where a single mother can be ordered to pay $1.92 million for sharing music because of a law bought and paid for by the recording industry, can it be claimed that the influence of corporate interests is at all inhibited?

In the recent health care debates, WalMart was on the front lines of the cheering, hoping that they could dupe Democrats into using the law to skewer their smaller competitors. In the same debate, the SEIU managed to secure a sweetheart deal for unions where the “Cadillac” tax would not be borne if the gold-plated health care plan was a result of collective bargaining (read: union strong-arming).

The history of the last half-century in Washington is one where incumbents and party-anointed successors enter into perpetual quid pro quo relationships with special interests. Legislators get things from special interests in return for political and legislative favors. We all know that this is the way things work. We all hope that when we send “our guy” to Washington that he’ll be the one to change it.

In real life, there is no Mr. Smith. Even when someone like Jeff Flake comes to Washington and tries to fight for the people he is rebuffed. The self-styled ruling class in Washington depends on having a monopoly on the influence of big business and special interests.

It is not the thought of special interests influencing politics that scares the ruling class. It is the thought of special interests influencing politics without them that does.

Influence peddling and vote buying are expected in the halls of power. Interests are allowed nearly unlimited access as long as they come in as supplicants to the ruling class. Once the same interests attempt to take their message from K Street to Main Street, the law is brought down upon them as they are accused of trying to corrupt the political process.

With that in mind, let’s look at what the President really meant behind the doublespeak:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to speak directly to the people,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think that the course of American politics should be interfered with by the American people. It should be decided by the ruling class in cooperation with America’s most powerful interests, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

The Supreme Court had the temerity to undercut the system of influence carefully constructed by the Republicratic ruling class over the last century. Obama is leading the charge to restore the power that the Supreme Court, and the Constitution, has denied them.

May more Americans have the courage to challenge Obama and the ruling class on this.

Supreme Court Strikes A Blow For Free Speech

By driving a stake through the heart of McCain-Feingold:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on business efforts to influence federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said companies can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

(…)

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

As I’ve said many times before, the only campaign finance regulation that we need is full and complete disclosure.

Every candidate for Federal office should be required to disclose all contributions and disbursements and a regular basis (possibly even more frequently than the quarterly reports that are now the law), and that information should be easily available to the public so that people can know where a candidate’s money comes from and where it goes. After all, isn’t that what the First Amendment is really all about — let the information out and let the public decide what to think about it ?

Here’s the full opinion and dissent:

Citizens Opinion

Congressional Thug Tries To Silence Free Speech

Meet Congressman Alan Grayson, a punk ass bitch and wannabe thoughtpoliceman

Not everyone thinks imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando took such offense at a parody Web site aimed at unseating him that the freshman Democrat asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the Lake County activist who started it.

In his four-page complaint, Grayson accuses Republican Angie Langley of lying to federal elections officials. In particular, he writes, the Clermont resident lives outside his district but still uses the term “my” in her Web site, mycongressmanisnuts.com. The name mocks a Web site started by Grayson, congressmanwithguts.com.

“Ms. Langley has deliberately masqueraded as a constituent of mine, in order to try to create the false appearance that she speaks for constituents who don’t support me,” writes Grayson. “[She] has chosen a name for her committee that is utterly tasteless and juvenile.”

Grayson’s office confirmed he wrote the letter — including the request that Langley be fined and “imprisoned for five years” — and released a statement from Grayson saying, “Everyone has to obey the law, even rude, right-wing cranks.”

Langley, a former top Republican official in Lake County, said the letter initially “scared the heck out” of her but that she got angry after an attorney friend — who is acting as legal adviser — told her that the accusations were “groundless.”

“This man is nothing but a bully and an intimidator,” she said.

For those of you who don’t know Alan Grayson, he’s also the little punk who has described the GOP health care plan as dying quickly among other things. He’s basically the Sarah Palin or the Joe the Plumber of the left. Now this wannabe commissar is trying to jail a woman for expressing her opinion. Here’s a little obstacle to that:

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are no gulags in this country for those who speak against members of Congress, Representative Grayson. Hopefully his constituents will send this thug into retirement next year.

Related Link: Alan Grayson is Nuts

Edited on 12/20/2009 at 8:06PM to insert related before link

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Evil Doesn’t Need Warrantless Wiretaps — They Have Facebook

It’s not often when I come across something so bone-chillingly despicable that I want to post about it but can offer nothing to say beyond the mere actions taken… So look at what Iran is doing:

His first impulse was to dismiss the ominous email as a prank, says a young Iranian-American named Koosha. It warned the 29-year-old engineering student that his relatives in Tehran would be harmed if he didn’t stop criticizing Iran on Facebook.

Two days later, his mom called. Security agents had arrested his father in his home in Tehran and threatened him by saying his son could no longer safely return to Iran.

“When they arrested my father, I realized the email was no joke,” said Koosha, who asked that his full name not be used.

Tehran’s leadership faces its biggest crisis since it first came to power in 1979, as Iranians at home and abroad attack its legitimacy in the wake of June’s allegedly rigged presidential vote. An opposition effort, the “Green Movement,” is gaining a global following of regular Iranians who say they never previously considered themselves activists.

The regime has been cracking down hard at home. And now, a Wall Street Journal investigation shows, it is extending that crackdown to Iranians abroad as well.

In recent months, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassing and intimidating members of its diaspora world-wide — not just prominent dissidents — who criticize the regime, according to former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran’s elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard, with knowledge of the program.

That’s just the start of it. Working with several Iranian ex-pats (who left in the wake of the Revolution), I wonder exactly how much they must value the freedom of living in America. But most of them still have family back home, and while the regime can’t touch them here on our shore, they can still reach deep inside and threaten those who my coworkers most care about.

I don’t often throw out words like “evil.” But there is little else to describe trying to silence critics abroad by threatening their innocent families in their homeland.

Hat Tip: Coyote Blog

HHS Blocks Misleading Insurance Company Propoganda! [It Just Happens To Be True]

The Department of Health and Human Services isn’t pleased. You see, Humana has sent out a mailer (PDF) claiming that under the proposed health care legislation, Medicare Advantage benefits might be cut. HHS thinks this might be misleading, partly because Max Baucus (D-MT) says it won’t cut benefits and because they suggest it can be confused with an official Medicare communication (from the AP, via EconLog):

“The health care reform bill we released … strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits,” said Baucus. “From lower prescription drug costs, to free preventive care, to better treatment for chronic conditions, seniors have so much to gain from health reform — and I’m not going to let insurance company profits stand in the way of improving Medicare for seniors.”

Humana has about 1.4 million Medicare Advantage enrollees, and the program accounts for about half the company’s revenue, Noland said.

The Humana mailer focused squarely on the Medicare Advantage program.

“While these programs need to be made more efficient, if the proposed funding cut levels become law, millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable,” it said.

In a warning letter to Humana, HHS said the government is concerned that the mailer “is misleading and confusing” partly because the company’s lobbying campaign could be mistaken for an official communication about Medicare benefits.

HHS ordered the company to immediately halt any such mailings, and remove any related materials from its Web site. In the letter, the government also said it may take other action against Humana.

A PDF of the mailer is linked above. It certainly seems to me to be a “call your congressman” message, not an official Medicare communication.

So that leaves point #2. It could be misleading, false advertising. After all, Max Baucus says that Medicare Advantage won’t be cut, and he’s one of the main guys writing the bill. And he’s a Congressman, surely he can be trusted!

Or… Maybe not. At least, the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t think so (via QandO):

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.

Hmm. So Humana is under the gun for “misleading and confusing” communications.

But they’re just reporting the facts of what is going on in Congress! Oh, wait, I guess that’s pretty much misleading and confusing by definition…

Happy Constitution Day

Constitutionalconvention

Two Hundred Twenty Two years ago in Philadelphia, the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia completed it’s work.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic if you can keep it” responded Franklin.

222 years later, Mrs. Powell’s question, and Franklin’s response, remain undecided.

Do yourself a favor — read The Constitution, and then ask whether we’re still following it the way the Founders intended, and whether we’re going to be able to keep the Republic that Franklin was talking about.

Supreme Court Seems Poised To Overturn Campaign Finance Precedents

Based on the oral argument that occurred before the Supreme Court today, it seems pretty clear that the Court is prepared to strike down many restrictions on political advocacy that it had previously allowed:

WASHINGTON — There seemed little question after the argument in an important campaign finance case at the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the makers of a slashing political documentary about Hillary Rodham Clinton were poised to win. The only open question was how broad that victory would be.
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Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, all but said that a loss for the government would be acceptable, so long as it was on narrow grounds.

She suggested that the Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group that produced the documentary, “Hillary: The Movie,” may not be the sort of corporation to which campaign finance restrictions should apply. The group lost a lawsuit last year against the Federal Election Commission in which it had sought permission to distribute the film on a cable television service.

Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer for Citizens United, argued for a broad ruling that would reverse two precedents allowing the government to restrict the campaign speech of all sorts of corporations notwithstanding the First Amendment.

That prompted a question from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, her first as a Supreme Court justice. “Are you giving up on your earlier arguments that there are statutory interpretations that would avoid the constitutional question?” she asked Mr. Olson.

Indeed, it would not be hard for the court to rule in favor of Citizens United by interpreting or narrowing the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which bans the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election.

The law, as narrowed by a 2007 Supreme Court decision, applies to communications ”susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”

The court could say, for instance, that the law was not meant to address 90-minute documentaries like the one at issue. It could say that the way Citizens United wanted to distribute the documentary, on a cable video-on-demand service, was not covered by the law. Or it could, as Ms. Kagan suggested, carve out some kinds of corporations.

Mr. Olson indicated that he was prepared to accept any sort of victory but that the court would have to confront the larger question soon enough.

Arguing on behalf of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, Floyd Abrams reminded the court that it could have decided New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 decision that revolutionized the law of libel, on quite narrow grounds. When First Amendment rights are in danger, Mr. Abrams said, bold action is sometimes required.

Lyle Dennison agrees that at least two campaign finance precedents would seem to be in jeopardy:

If supporters of federal curbs on political campaign spending by corporations were counting on Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to hesitate to strike down such restrictions, they could take no comfort from the Supreme Court’s 93-minute hearing Wednesday on that historic question. Despite the best efforts of four other Justices to argue for ruling only very narrowly, the strongest impression was that they had not convinced the two members of the Court thought to be still open to that approach. At least the immediate prospect was for a sweeping declaration of independence in politics for companies and advocacy groups formed as corporations.

The Court probed deeply into Congress’ reasoning in its decades-long attempt to restrict corporate influence in campaigns for the Presidency and Congress, in a special sitting to hear a second time the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205). At issue was whether the Court was ready to overturn two of its precedents — one from 1990, the other from 2003 — upholding such limitations.

From all appearances, not one of the nine Justices — including the newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor — appeared to move away from what their positions had been expected in advance to be. In her first argument, Sotomayor fervently joined in the effort to keep any resulting decision narrow — seemingly, the minority position but one she had been assumed to hold.

Three Justices — Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — have explicitly urged the Court to overturn the two precedents that sustained congressional limits on campaign financing by corporations and labor unions. Kennedy and Thomas only seemed to reinforce that position on Wednesday; Thomas remained silent, but had given no indication earlier of a change of mind.

You can listen to the full audio of today’s oral argument here.

Supreme Court May Overturn Previous Rulings On Campaign Finance

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear re-argument in a case that could lead to a big change in campaign finance law:

The Supreme Court’s unusual hearing Wednesday on the role corporations can play in influencing elections carries the potential not only for rewriting the nation’s campaign finance laws but also for testing the willingness of the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to defy the decisions of Congress and to set aside its own precedents.

The court will consider whether the “proper disposition” of a case — pitting a conservative group’s scorching campaign film about Hillary Rodham Clinton against federal campaign finance laws — requires overturning two decisions that said government has an interest in restricting the political activities and speech of corporations.

(…)

Roberts’s instincts have been to move incrementally, Lazarus noted. But such a narrow and consistent chipping-away approach — Roberts and Alito have voted for every challenge to campaign finance laws since joining the court — may simply be a way to make more-sweeping decisions appear inevitable.

“I don’t think people should underestimate the chief justice’s ability to look down the road,” said Washington attorney David C. Frederick, who frequently argues before the court. “I think he’s got a larger constitutional vision. He’s relatively young and looking into the future.”

(…)

Roberts’s instincts have been to move incrementally, Lazarus noted. But such a narrow and consistent chipping-away approach — Roberts and Alito have voted for every challenge to campaign finance laws since joining the court — may simply be a way to make more-sweeping decisions appear inevitable.

“I don’t think people should underestimate the chief justice’s ability to look down the road,” said Washington attorney David C. Frederick, who frequently argues before the court. “I think he’s got a larger constitutional vision. He’s relatively young and looking into the future.”

The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has already been heard once by the Court. However, in June, the Court took the somewhat unusual step of asking the attorneys for both sides to re-brief and re-argue to address the question of “whether the court should overturn its earlier rulings on limiting corporate and union contributions in federal elections.”

As I said at the time, this seems to indicate that there’s at least some sentiment on the Court for revisiting previous ruling and, perhaps, putting a stake into the heart of one of the most invidious pieces of legislation of the past decade.

One can only hope so, at least.

Europeans Go On Strike; Americans Simply Defy

One of my personal bits of curiousity about the world is related to cultural “ways of thinking”. While I don’t believe that Americans are innately different than Europeans, or Chinese, or Russians, there are certainly differences in average thought borne of the different cultural histories of each place. Dale Franks at QandO recently posted about differences between Germans and Americans when faced with authority, and a new story out of Italy highlights another example of a difference:

Did you know that Italian bloggers are on strike? It’s true! Since July 14, Italy’s bloggers have been under self-imposed silence, in protest of a proposed law (called the Alfano decree) that would grant a right of reply to those who feel their reputations have been besmirched by something posted on the Web, writes the BBC.

A strike?? Oooh, I’m scared. I think that if American bloggers went on strike, our politicians and our newspapers would be dancing in the streets. The law proposed in Italy is a method for discouraging blogging, and here the Italian bloggers are playing right into their hands!

But when reading this, I was struck by something. Is a strike the only way Europeans know to respond to something like this? (French car-b-ques excepted, of course!)

I remember something similar here in the US. The FEC was considering regulations that would regulate bloggers’ opinions as campaign speech. Immediately thereafter, the response of the American blogosphere was a little different than a strike: we signed on to the Patterico Pledge:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

The Italians say “we do not like-a this law, please a-change it.” The Americans say “you can take this law and stick it where the sun don’t shine, ‘cuz we’re not gonna obey it.” The Italians would do well to learn that refusal to obey is a little more powerful than a complaint.

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