Category Archives: Freedom of the press

Religious Freedom Is What Makes America

We live in weird times. There is still plenty to criticize radical Islamists about, and we really should be wary of efforts to bring political Islam special favors and acceptability in the United States and elsewhere. These rational arguments, however, are doomed to be misunderstood thanks to the efforts of Newt Gingrich, Bill Kristol and other right-wingers. Thanks to them, anyone who critiques political Islam will be faced with the assumption that they’re a reactionary who wants to forbid Muslims the freedom to worship. Thanks alot, Newt.

Columnist Richard Cohen took Gingrich to task in a recent column:

Gingrich noted that there “are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” True enough. However, it is not the government of Saudi Arabia that seeks to open a mosque in Lower Manhattan, but a private group. In addition, and just for the record, Saudi Arabia does not represent all of Islam and, also just for the record, the al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, would gladly have added the vast Saudi royal family to the list of victims. In recompense, the Saudis would just as gladly apply some dull swords to the necks of al-Qaeda’s leaders. It is the way of the desert, or something like that.

The fact that Muslims can set up shop freely in America shows how different we are. Would conservatives rather we be more like Saudi Arabia? I honestly wonder, with their talk of “moral crusades” and other creepy religious window-dressing, if perhaps they should. It’s often said that people tend to hate those that are the most like them. In this regard, Islamic and Christian fundamentalists share a great deal in common.

Bill Kristol was equally incendiary:

Contemporary liberalism means building a mosque rather than a memorial at Ground Zero—and telling your fellow citizens to shut up about it.

Goodness gracious. The case of the NYC mosque is religious freedom on private property. If that’s not something conservatives support, then conservatism literally stands for nothing anymore apart from being ridiculous.

Additional: It looks like Hezbollah is more religiously pluralistic than our boy Newt:

Gingrich seems determined to drag Saudi intolerance into the debate over the Cordoba Center. I’ll bite. Three years ago, I was studying in Israel and took a trip to Beirut to see the city for myself. There I encountered the Magen Avraham Synogogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, a neighborhood that used to be the Jewish Quarter in Beirut. The synagogue was dilapidated and decrepit. Plants grew through the floor and the building looked as if it were about to fall apart.

Recently, with Hezbollah approval, what remains of the Lebanese Jewish community and several outside sources have begun a restoration project. You can read about the project here and here. You can follow it on facebook here. If even Hezbollah allows a synagogue to be built in Beirut, maybe Gingrich should lay off the mosque in lower Manhattan. Surely that’s not too high a standard.

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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.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

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.

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.

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.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Common Ground for the Left and the Right on the Bill of Rights

This is Government

According to the Iranian government, the person dying below was a terrorist. No doubt all the people walking around her in apparent unconcern for there were fellow terrorists, and the people she was terrorizing were outside camera range.

She is being called Neda. The person who uploaded the video to Youtube claims that he was nearly half a mile away from the demonstrations when a sharpshooter shot a teenage girl standing nearby with her father. Within a few seconds, she was dead, her eyes turn to the camera before being obscured by the pools blood that pour out of her mouth and nose.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

Many people are arguing that this is the sort of thing that democracy is supposed to prevent. Of course, democracies also shoot people opposed to the government’s policies.

Why? because government, at its heart, is an organization that uses force to get its way. It is incapable of limiting its violence to socially beneficial causes like apprehending murderers. At some point, it points a gun at a group of people and demands they submit, and anyone who refuses gets a bullet.

This is government. Over there or over here, it is the same; the few exploit the many, and they are ready to use beatings, kidnappings and murder to get their way.

So who are the real terrorists?

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Obama’s disdain for free speech

According to Drudge, President Obama plans to take a bigger step closer to totalitarianism regarding the separation of the media and the state.

On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care — a move that has ignited an ethical firestorm!

Highlights on the agenda:

ABCNEWS anchor Charlie Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House.

The network plans a primetime special — ‘Prescription for America’ — originating from the East Room, exclude opposing voices on the debate.

Of course, ABC promises to keep the coverage fair and balanced.

I sort of welcome this move, as it provides some the transparency Obama promised. If the mainstream media is to be Obama’s propaganda team, why not move their offices over to the White House?

However, Obama doesn’t treat the free speech rights of those he doesn’t like in the same manner.  Obama seems poised to sign a bill which will further erode the rights of tobacco companies to advertise:

The marketing and advertising restrictions in the tobacco law that Congress passed last week are likely to be challenged in court on free-speech grounds, but supporters of the legislation say they carefully drafted the law to comply with the First Amendment.

The law’s ban on outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds would effectively outlaw legal advertising in many cities, critics of the prohibition said. And restricting stores and many forms of print advertising to black-and-white text, as the law specifies, would interfere with legitimate communication to adults, tobacco companies and advertising groups said in letters to Congress. [snip]

Opponents of the new strictures, including the Association of National Advertisers and the American Civil Liberties Union, predict that federal courts will throw out the new marketing restrictions. They point to a 2001 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Massachusetts rule imposing a similar ban on advertising within 1,000 feet of schools.

“Anybody looking at this in a fair way would say the effort here is not just to protect kids, which is a substantial interest of the country, but to make it virtually impossible to communicate with anybody,” said Daniel Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers. “We think this creates very serious problems for the First Amendment.” [snip]

“The bill has been carefully drafted, and I am confident that the provisions will be upheld,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement Monday.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group that pushed for the law, said: “Frankly, the tobacco industry and the advertising industry have never heard of an advertising restriction that they thought was constitutional. In this case, great care was taken to permit black-and-white text advertising that permits them to communicate whatever truthful information they have.”

While Obama continues to destroy our economy, wreck the automobile industry and put our health care system on life support, he’s now taking swipes at the First Amendment.

The Limits of Campaign Finance Law Abridgement of the First Amendment Tested in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

During the 2008 presidential campaign, an organization called Citizens United produced an anti-Hillary documentary called “Hillary: the Movie.” The movie was available on pay-per-view cable channels until the FEC pulled the plug claiming that the broadcast violated campaign finance law. The case, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

During oral arguments, the government’s attorney revealed that campaign finance law as currently written could be interpreted to restrict not only documentaries such as “Hillary” but any other political speech “broadcast” during a campaign. A banned “broadcast” could include a store advertising the sale of candidate dolls, toys, or action figures. Even if the advertisement makes no direct endorsements nor advocates the defeat of a candidate, the mere mention of a candidate’s name or likeness would violate current election law.

But surely books would be safe…right?

Not if the book is “broadcast” on a device such as a Kindle, says the government’s attorney. While the FEC believes “dead tree editions” are currently safe from FEC regulation, former Chief of Staff and Council of the FEC Allison Hayward, says that such regulations could be imposed if congress brought such an interpretation into the law.

In the very beginning of the video below, Steve Simpson, Senior Attorney for the Institute for Justice says something which bears repeating here because he captures exactly the First Amendment problems found in current campaign finance law:

“The problem is not too much money in politics; the problem is too much power in government. Government regulates everything and of course, people want to affect the course of the government. So the campaign finance reformers ultimately what they want to prevent is that. It’s the ability to affect the course of our government; it’s the ability to affect which way people vote. That’s the dirty little secret of campaign finance law. They don’t just want to control money, they want to control speech.”

I would like to believe that free speech will ultimately prevail in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, but given SCOTUS’s history, ruling on the side of the Constitution is by no means sure thing. I also can’t help but wonder how an Obama appointed Justice would rule if this case was before him or her. Which side would receive the most “empathy,” the federal government or a private organization or individual citizen? We already know that such a judge would not be considering “abstract legal theories” such as entailed in the First Amendment.

Quote Of The Day

Over at Reason: Hit & Run, Nick Gillespie on the regulation of the internet:

One trend that’s making a comeback with the Obama ascendancy is the need for smart folks not to regulate the Net per se, but to, you know, come up with better rules that will help make sure that everything that’s so super-duper about cyberspace stays that way

A classic argument for regulation is when something in the structure of the market leads to negative consequences. In the case of the internet, that’s not a valid argument*, because the internet is extremely dynamic, quite popular, and constantly meeting new needs of its users.

So what’s the argument for regulating the Internet? “If we don’t regulate now, it could become a lot worse!” Oooh, scary! I happen to believe that if you regulate now, you’re guaranteed to make it worse.
» Read more

Che, Mao, and Pop Culture

One thing that disturbs me to no end is the way despotic Communist serial killers like Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Mao Zedong are iconic figures in American pop culture. When I see someone wearing Che’s ugly mug on his/her chest, I want to ask him/her: “Do you really have any idea who this man was or what he did?” I suspect that if I were to ask, I’d get a blank stare.

This short video below from reason.tv features interviews with two individuals who lived under the thumbs of Che and Mao. Neither are what you would call fans of these pop culture icons.

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

Judge Andrew Napolitano Discusses the History of Civil Liberty Violations in America

Judge Andrew Napolitano gave a speech for Reason Magazine in Washington D.C. in October of last year on the history of Constitutional infidelity. Virtually every president from George Washington to George W. Bush has broken his oath of office to defend the Constitution. President John Adams, the nation’s second president, was the first president who tried (and succeeded for a time) in curtailing free speech rights with the Alien and Sedition Acts. These blatantly unconstitutional laws made it a crime for anyone to publicly criticize members of congress, the president, or his cabinet. Interestingly, there was no prohibition for criticizing the vice president, who happened to be Adams’ political rival – Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was adamantly opposed to the acts and allowed them to expire whenever he became president.

Since John Adams, there have been many, many other Constitutional violations from all three branches of government which continue to this day. Much has been said in recent years about how President George W. Bush has trampled on the Constitution by passing such laws as the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act. Of the 43 presidents of the U.S., where does George W. Bush rank when it comes to violating the Constitution?

Napolitano answers:

George W. Bush has shown less fidelity to the Constitution than any president since Abraham Lincoln.

Worse than Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, or Richard Nixon? Now that’s a bold statement! Whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, or Mike Huckabee as our next president, one thing seems to be certain: our civil liberties protected by our constitution will be further compromised. It’s really only a question of to what degree they will be compromised.

Nevada Judge Says NBC Must Include Dennis Kucinich

Late yesterday, a state court Judge in Nevada said that NBC must include Dennis Kucinich (D., Mars) in tonight’s Democratic debate:

A judge in Nevada has just ordered MSNBC to include Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Tuesday’s Democratic Party presidential debate in Las Vegas or he will cancel the forum.

Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson vowed to issue an injunction halting the nationally televised debate if MSNBC failed to comply. Kucinich had filed a lawsuit seeking to be included just this morning.

(…)

The judge ruled Monday it was a matter of fairness and Nevada voters would benefit from hearing from more than just Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama. Kucinich had been invited to participate in the 6 p.m. Pacific debate Tuesday, but that invitation was rescinded last week following the results of the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses that showed Kucinich trailing badly.

The problem with Judge Thompson’s ruling is that there is no such thing as a Constitution right to “fairness”, whatever that means. The Constitution, does however, have this to say:

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.

Where in there does it authorize the state to mandate who should be invited to a completely private affair ?

Yea, I don’t see it either.

Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have a “right” to be invited to tonight’s debate, it’s really just that simple. NBC has said that they would appeal the judge’s decision to Nevada’s Supreme Court. Here’s hoping that the justices restore some sanity to this situation.

Update @4:30pm: NBC has filed it’s appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court:

The NBC television network has asked Nevada’s Supreme Court to overturn a Clark County District Court judge’s decision that Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich must be allowed to participate in tonight’s debate for Democratic presidential candidates.

In documents filed at the court this morning, the network asserted that it decided on Jan. 10 to change its debate participation criteria, and require that candidates have finished in the top three in either the Iowa Caucus or the New Hampshire Primary.

(…)

“The revised criteria governing the January 15th debate are viewpoint neutral, and are in no way designed to exclude any particular candidate based on his or her views,” said NBC’s legal filing. “Instead, the revised criteria represent a good faith editorial choice of a privately-owned cable network to limit debate participants based on the status of their campaigns.”

NBC also questions whether Senior Judge J. Charles Thompson had jurisdiction in the case. It says the Constitution’s First Amendment protects its right to decide who will participate in a cable news debate and that its decision to rescind a prior invitation to Kucinich doesn’t constitute a breach of contract, as the candidate insists.

“If such an unprecedented theory is adopted here, it would mean that news organizations would be forbidden from making timely decisions about who or what to feature in their programming based on daily developments in news for fear that a previously invited guest could assert a breach of contract claim,” the network says in its filing. “Mr. Kucinich’s claim is nothing more than an illegitimate private cause of action designed to impose an equal access requirement that entirely undermines the wide journalistic freedoms enjoyed by news organizations under the First Amendment.”

Copies of NBC’s appeal filings are available in PDF format.

Update @ 8:15pm: The Nevada Supreme Court has reversed the trial judge’s ruling:

This just in from the state Supreme Court: NBC/MSNBC win, Kucinich loses. The congressman from Ohio won’t be on stage at the televised debate in 45 minutes.

He argued that the network offered, and then withdrew, an offer that he participate in the debate, and he protested. The court disagreed.

Finally, some sanity prevails.

Censors Want To Go After Videogames

Earlier this week, four United States Senators did not think that a new game, Manhunt 2, was not sufficiently rated high enough and may even be bought by the children. Those four Senators decided to write the Entertainment Software Rating Board, private agency set up by the video game makers to self-regulate their products.

The demands of the Senators are:

The senators would like to see more transparency from the ESRB: “What information is provided back to developers after receiving a rating? Why is information regarding rating changes or reasons for decisions unavailable, except for content descriptors, to the public?” reads the letter.

The letter also cites the leak of the AO-rated version by a Sony employee and subsequent unlocking of some of the AO-content on the PSP version, as well as the “realistic motions” used to kill characters in the game on the Nintendo Wii, as evidence that the ESRB should reevaluate its ratings process. “[W]e ask your consideration of whether it is time to review the robustness, reliability, and repeatability of your ratings process, particularly for this genre of ‘ultra-violent’ video games and the advances in game controllers,” concludes the letter.

I’m not sure how dense the Senators are, but usually the content description is usually enough to determine if a game is suitable or not suitable for children. If a game’s description says that there’s violence with blood splattering all over and if a parent doesn’t want their child exposed to that right now, the parent probably won’t buy that particular game. However, our wonderful Senators believe we are morons who need to be taken care of by the government. Also, although the letter did threaten the ESRB with government takeover implicitly but the letter itself is a statement that these Senators think that video game content is enough of an issue that they’re more than willing to take it over from the ESRB if they do not meet the prudish standards of our Senators.

Just which four Senators think this is such an important issue:

Signed by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

Of course “protecting” the children is not the issue for these four, it’s power and control over what you can and can’t see and play on your computer.

Finally, today is “Black Friday” so when you’re shopping, piss off a Senator today.

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.

Could Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Columbia University be a Good Thing?

NEW YORK – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced sharp criticism Monday about his opinions on women, gays, Israel, nuclear weapons and the Holocaust in an appearance at Columbia University, where protesters lined the streets bearing signs reading, “Hitler Lives.”

Inside a crowded lecture hall, the university president issued blistering introductory remarks. Ahmadinejad exhibits “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” declared Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who questioned the Iranian leader’s record on human rights and his statements that the Holocaust was a myth.

Ahmadinejad bristled at Bollinger’s comments, calling the introduction “an insult to the knowledge of the audience here.”

At first I was not that fond of the idea of such an evil man visiting an American college campus. Why should we give him the platform? We give him the platform for a couple of reasons: the American people and the free world hear his words and those words are challenged in a free society. In American soil, Ahmadinejad can only condemn Lee Bollinger and other dissenters with words rather than torture or death. On American soil, Ahmadinejad’s words can be challenged. When the despot says that there are no homosexuals in Iran, the audience can laugh and mock him and there isn’t one damn thing he can do about it!

The only one insulting the knowledge of the audience at Columbia University, the American people, and the free world is you, Ahmadinejad. You vile, cruel, evil, sick, man! I’m not afraid of your words. I laugh at them.

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Free speech is perhaps America’s greatest strength. One would only imagine what would have happened to Mr. Bollinger had he called the Iranian despot a “petty and cruel dictator” in Iran.

Contrast this with what is common in America. We criticize our leaders on a daily basis. Sometimes the criticism isn’t even particularly intelligent. Just the other day a student at Colorado State University wrote a particularly intelligent, concise, four-word editorial in the Rocky Mountain Collegian: “Taser this. FUCK BUSH.”

While it is true that the author of this brilliant opinion piece may be fired from the paper (the paper lost $30,000 in advertising within hours of the article’s publication), he does not have to worry about being thrown in prison or executed for criticizing the president. Rather than the government taking action the free market does the job.*

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University is a shining example to the world that we support free speech even if we despise the speech. Who knows, maybe the Iranian people who yearn for freedom will be emboldened by this?

Now as for the idea of this animal visiting ground zero…

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Why Ron Paul Faces An Uphill Battle

It’s hard to win with a campaign based on liberty, when so many Americans don’t seem to really believe in it:

WASHINGTON — Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released today by the First Amendment Center.

The survey also found that 71% of Americans would limit the amount a corporation or union could contribute to a political campaign, with 64% favoring such a limit on individual contributions. Sixty-two percent would limit the amount a person could contribute to his or her own campaign. Support for such limits increased from the 2000 survey in all three areas: by nine percentage points in favor of limits on self-funding, by seven points concerning limits on individual contributions to someone else; and by three points on limits on corporations and unions.

The First Amendment Center has conducted the annual survey since 1997. This year’s survey, being released to mark both annual Constitution Day (Sept. 17) activities and the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also found:

  • Just 56% believe that the freedom to worship as one chooses extends to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme — down 16 points from 72% in 2000.
  • 58% of Americans would prevent protests during a funeral procession, even on public streets and sidewalks; and 74% would prevent public school students from wearing a T-shirt with a slogan that might offend others.
  • 34% (lowest since the survey first was done in 1997) think the press “has too much freedom,” but 60% of Americans disagree with the statement that the press tries to report the news without bias, and 62% believe the making up of stories is a widespread problem in the news media — down only slightly from 2006.
  • 25% said “the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” well below the 49% recorded in the 2002 survey that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but up from 18% in 2006.

Depressing, just utterly, utterly depressing.

H/T: Irish Trojan In Tennessee

One Man’s Freedom of Expression is Another Man’s Hate Crime

We seem to have strayed a long way from our valuing of free speech, perhaps best stated by Voltaire “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In this age of political correctness, both the Right and the Left has bastardized the idea of free speech to a more politically correct attitude: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it until someone else is offended.”

As I was driving in to work, I caught a couple of segments of The Mike Gallagher Show (a show I do not normally listen to). Gallagher brought up a case which happened at Pace University where a 23 year-old man by the name of Stanislav Shmulevich allegedly threw a Quran in a toilet on two separate occasions. The university originally reported the crime as an act of vandalism but later decided to report the act to the NYPD as a hate crime instead. I assumed that Gallagher would go on to criticize this as political correctness run amok but to my astonishment, he said that treating this act as a “hate crime” was completely appropriate. Gallagher went even further to say that certain acts such as desecrating a “holy book” (regardless of the faith), the American flag, or burning crosses should all be exempt from First Amendment protection. In his view, there are just some things which should be held sacred; those who commit “crimes” against what he or others consider “sacred” should be punished criminally.

Gallagher’s arguments got even weaker from there. Several callers challenged him on this notion and Gallagher would ask questions like (paraphrasing) “Should we consider it free speech when someone paints swastikas on a Jewish person’s home?” and “What about burning a cross in the lawn of an African American, is that free speech?” Perhaps his most absurd example was whether or not a person dressed in Nazi uniform goose stepping in a Jewish neighborhood should be protected by the First Amendment.

All of these questions can be easily answered if only we go back to the basic idea that each individual has the natural rights of life, liberty, and property (“your freedom ends where my nose begins”); nowhere in our Constitution is there a right to not be offended. Painting swastikas on a Jewish person’s home or burning a cross in an African American’s yard are both violations of these individuals’ right to property, and therefore, the perpetrator should be prosecuted on those grounds.

So, what about the racist bastard goose stepping in a Jewish neighborhood? Assuming the idiot does so on public property, s/he is protected by the First Amendment. Being an anti-Semitic moron, while infuriating to most sensible people, is not a crime nor should it be.

One could argue that these above acts would be acts of intimidation and could warrant criminal prosecution (certainly in the first two examples would be prosecutable without “hate crimes” laws, the last example would still be a bit of a stretch) but I fail to see how desecrating a book which some people deem as “holy” even rises to this standard. There’s no question that desecrating a holy book is offensive to a great majority of people, but a crime? Thomas Jefferson found fault with much of the Bible and therefore proceeded to physically cut and paste the portions of the Bible that he found to be authentic to create his own interpretation of the Bible and discarded the rest. References to the virgin birth, the resurrection, angels, and other miracles were all omitted from the Jefferson Bible. Clearly, if someone like Gallagher knew of someone doing something like this today, he would regard this person as a hate criminal.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to protect speech that can be and often is offensive to the sensibilities of a person, a group, or even a majority. Popular speech does not need to be protected nearly as much. I might not like it if someone chooses to burn an American flag, desecrate a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, or wishes to write terrible things about me on a post I have written but unless such an individual does these things without threatening my life, liberty, or property, I have to put up with these things. It’s the price I pay for living in a free society and a price I am quite willing to pay.

Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

Related Posts:
The First Amendment Explained: Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses (Part 1 of 2)
The First Amendment Explained: Free Speech (Part 2 of 2)

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