Category Archives: The Bill Of Rights

Online Freedom of Speech Act — Delayed?

I posted about how important of a vote this was on Wednesday, in anticipation of it happening yesterday. Looks like the vote didn’t happen, and the House isn’t in session today. According to the schedule, this should be the first order of business on Monday.

Now, there are two possible explanations. It looks as though they were following the schedule, and that they may have simply run out of time. On the other hand, they could be stalling for a chance to let the lobbyists come in, so they can do some backroom negotiating between HR 4900 and HR 1606. It’s unclear which is occurring, but the added time gives our Congress the option of doing the latter, even if that was not the cause of the delay.

What’s the difference between the two? HR 1606 says the internet will be free from regulation under BCRA. HR 4900 says that the government has the legitimate purpose of regulating the internet, but tries to set the limits of regulation such that it won’t affect most individuals. As I do not recognize their right to limit freedom of speech in this area, I choose HR 1606. As I know that regulations have a tendency to widen over time, I also choose HR 1606, because I know that narrow regulations today will be wide regulations in the future. It’s time to make sure our Congresspeople know where we stand.

A Tale of Two Bills

Using the near-impossibility that any bill entitled “ethics reform” will be rebuked, House members have proposed campaign finance restrictions be rolled into ethics reform:

House Republicans launched an election-year drive Wednesday to rein in political groups that operate with looser restraints than candidates and their parties, an attempt to blunt the activities of liberals such as billionaire George Soros.

Wealthy supporters, who make donations of $1 million or more to such groups, could contribute no more than $30,000 under the legislation, according to Republican officials. The organizations would be subject to more frequent disclosure requirements.

House Republicans indicated late last year that they wanted to limit the activities of loosely regulated political organizations, trying unsuccessfully to attach legislation to a must-pass bill setting overall policy for the military. They retreated under bipartisan fire.

At the time, the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee said the effort was designed to close “a loophole that is allowing big donor money into the process.”

How did freedom of speech become a “loophole”? Is that similar to how when they give us a tax cut, they count that as an “expenditure”? It used to be that individual rights were something inherent, and which were not to be infringed by the government. Now they’ve taken the stance that they’re the arbiters of all that exists, and they’ll parcel out to us those rights which they think we’re worthy of being granted.

The Bipartisan Incumbent Protection Act of 2003 is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to keep the message in the hands of people that don’t want to rock the boat. But as with anything, when there is that much power at stake, people will find a way to be heard, and 527 organizations fit the bill. Yet from a government standpoint, it was at least an improvement. While they couldn’t silence everyone, they were able to make sure all except the very powerful remained quiet. The powerful have an incentive to keep the status quo, lest they lose their power.

But some voices are bucking the trend. George Soros* has an established fortune (i.e. little fear of losing it, being fired, etc), and an agenda. To our government, Soros is simply too unpredictable and uncontrollable to be allowed to continue operating. They are desperately trying to continue their ability to control the message, and will take down the “whales” of political donations if necessary.

When you see that, you wonder whether our Congressman really want any part of the Online Freedom of Speech Act, set to come up for a vote tomorrow:

Redstate: We’ve been working for a long time on HR 1606 – The Online Freedom of Speech Act. It will come up for a vote on the floor of the House TOMORROW but as you read this – the campaign regulation community is hard at work – working the halls of Congress, lying about not only our bill – but “their” bill as well. And as far as their intentions go – well, I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to THEM bragging about protecting free speech – they are not to be trusted.

Of all the work you’ve done on this issue – no day is more important that today. Start with this list. Call the Republicans that wobbled last time 1606 was on the floor. And don’t stop there.

Congress doesn’t want bloggers speaking freely. They accept us grudgingly, although I’ll bet some of the lesser known folks on the hard-right, hard-left, or libertarian ends of the spectrum giving them assistance (as I think the blogosphere tends to be populated by ends of the spectrum, rather than the middle). But the vast majority see us as a threat. They saw the Patterico Pledge, and they understand the power of the press, even if it is simply online self-publishing.

It’s a sad day when freedom of speech has become a battleground. But it’s a battle we cannot afford to lose. Liberty must constantly be guarded, as there are always forces ready to snatch it away. Let’s make sure that if it goes, it goes with a bang, not a whimper.

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Freedom Of Speech Means Freedom To Offend

Writing in today’s Washington Post, George Will uses the example of the recent prosecution of historian David Irving for the crime of denying the truth of the Holocaust to make the point that freedom of speech sometimes means letting some truly offensive people speak their minds.

In 1989, in two speeches in Austria, Irving said, among much else, that only 74,000 Jews died of natural causes in work camps and millions were spirited to Palestine after the war. An arrest warrant was issued. Last November Irving was arrested when he came to Austria to address some right-wing students. Last week, while Europe was lecturing Muslims about the virtue of tolerating free expression by Danish cartoonists, Irving was sentenced to three years in prison.

Is David Irving wrong ? We know without a doubt he is. Is he offensive ? To those whose family members died in Hitler’s gas chambers or died on the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from Nazi tyranny ? Absolutely. Should he have the right to say what he says ? Without question, yes.

What dangers do the likes of Irving pose? Holocaust denial is the occupation of cynics and lunatics who are always with us but are no reason for getting governments into the dangerous business of outlawing certain arguments. Laws criminalizing Holocaust denial open a moral pork barrel for politicians: Many groups can be pandered to with speech restrictions. Why not a law regulating speech about slavery? Or Stalin’s crimes?

Exactly. And what about the hypocrisy that Europe displays ? What right do they have to complain about the Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoons when they are putting a man in jail because he dares to right a history book that makes conclusions they don’t like ?

I am not a supporter of David Irving, but he has as much right to say what he says as Danish and French newspapers have to publish cartoons making fun of extremist Muslims.

Things are much better here in the United States right ? After all, we’ve got a First Amendment and no law against denying the truth of the Holocaust ? Don’t be so sure about it.

Just consider these examples:

For several decades in America, the aim of much of the jurisprudential thought about the First Amendment’s free-speech provision has been to justify contracting its protections. Freedom of speech is increasingly “balanced” against “competing values.”


On campuses, speech codes have abridged the right of free expression to protect the right — for such it has become — of certain preferred groups to not be offended. The NCAA is truncating the right of some schools to express their identity using mascots deemed “insensitive” to the feelings of this or that grievance group. Campaign finance laws ration the amount and control the timing and content of political speech.


To protect the fragile flower of womanhood, a judge has ruled that use of gender-based terms such as “foreman” or “draftsman” could create a “hostile environment” and hence constitute sexual harassment.

And then there’s an example that’s been in the news lately that Will does not cite. 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.

A funny thing happened on the way to the TV

So I’m getting ready to make dinner, and one of my favorite ’80s teen romps comes on, Summer School. It’s a pretty baaaad movie, but there were some great moments, mostly provided by the dialogue of one Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp, A.K.A. Dean Cameron.

Actually the movie has quite a lot of actors who actually had carreers, like Mark Harmon, Courtney Thorne Smith, Patrick Labyorteaux, and the aforementioned Cameron.

He’s also one of Sean Penns best friends; but I’ll try not to hold that against him too much; since he’s a hardcore libertarian, and has spoken at the last two national conventions (not a Big “L” libertarian here, but hey, it’s better than being a liberal).

So anyway, I do my normal thing and browse through the bios of the actors on IMDB, and I notice this: “Is the inventor of the Bill of Rights: Security Edition cards”

Huh… think I need to check these out… So I hit the website and see these:

What is the “Bill of Rights – Security Edition” ?

The Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments to the constitution of the United States printed on sturdy, pocket-sized, pieces of metal.

The next time you travel by air, take the Bill of Rights – Security Edition along with you. When asked to empty your pockets, proudly toss the Bill of Rights in the plastic bin.

You need to get used to offering up the bill of rights for inspection and government workers enforcing the USAPATRIOT ACT need to get used to deciding if you’ll be allowed to keep the Bill of Rights with you when you travel”

Flipping Brilliant!!!!

I bought the five pack, and I’m sending them to certain selected friends. Frequent travellers who can appreciate the sentiment, and dont mind pissing off the TSA.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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