on: October 21, 2014, 05:40:25 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Liberals attack First Amendment in Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas and Idaho
Published by: Dan Calabrese
Speech isn't free if politicians don't like it.
The Wall Street Journal has lately been performing a real public service by chronicling the efforts of Wisconsin lawmakers, prosecutors and some judges to basically obliterate the First Amendment as it pertains to political speech. No one has passed a law saying you can be arrested for what you say. The usurpation of liberty never works like that. Rather, a complicated web of bureaucracies and legal authorities have established regulations in the name of "fairness" or "good goverment" or "transparency" or what-have-you.
The real-life impact is set traps for advocacy groups who aren't trying to do anything but speak and be heard, and in the process are liable to find themselves in trouble with the law because they failed to follow a Byzantine set of rules and restrictions established by the very politicians who don't want them speaking too effectively - or spending too much of their own money to advocate things that might not be in these politicians' best interests.
The particular rules in play here concern "collaboration" between independent advocacy groups and political candidates. To a normal person, that's the simple exercise of your free-speech rights. To the political class, that's cause for a jailin':
It’s important to understand that this political attack on “coordination” is part of a larger liberal campaign. The Brennan Center—the George Soros-funded brains of the movement to restrict political speech—issued a report this month that urges regulators to police coordination between individuals and candidates as if it were a crime.
The report raises alarms that independent expenditures have exploded since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, as if trying to influence elections isn’t normal in a democracy. The political left wants to treat independent expenditures as a “contribution” to candidates limited under campaign-finance law to $2,600 per election. That would essentially ban independent issue advocacy, since you can’t buy much air time for $2,600.
Such regulation is also an assault on freedom of association. If like-minded people can’t pool resources to influence elections, they are essentially shut out of modern political debate.
All the more so if citizens who do join together can be harassed by regulators or prosecutors. That’s clearly the intention of the Brennan speech enforcers, who survey state efforts to regulate speech and urge others to pick up the truncheon.
By the way, lest you try to blame Gov. Scott Walker for this, be aware that his allies have been the fattest targets for Democrat prosecutors trying to use these regulations to control who can say what in Wisconsin.
But Wisconsin is far from the only state where politicians are trying this gambit. IllinoisPolicy.org reports that politicians in their state are taking direct aim at the First Amendment, under the guise of limiting evil corporate spending on political races:
On Thursday, the Illinois Senate’s Executive Committee passed a resolution by a vote of 11-4 that calls for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The Citizens United decision simply held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting anyone’s independent political speech. The court held that, although the government can place certain limits on campaign contributions, it cannot limit how much someone spends independently to speak (or write) about a candidate or political issues.
And that makes perfect sense. If the right to free speech means anything, it must mean that you are free to speak as much as you want, as long as you’re spending your own money.
Incumbent officeholders don’t like that, though, because they would rather not face unlimited criticism.
This sentiment is shared by party leaders on both sides of the aisle in Illinois. This week alone, Senate President John Cullerton co-sponsored the Senate resolution, while House Minority Leader Jim Durkin lashed out against independent groups and said they should face greater legal restrictions.
It’s not surprising that Cullerton and Durkin in particular would feel that way. Along with House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, they are the only people in the state who are legally allowed to direct as much money as they want to the political campaigns of their choosing, through the political parties and “legislative caucus committees” they control. Everyone else in Illinois is limited in how much they can give by the campaign-contribution caps the General Assembly passed in 2009.
Meanwhile, as we told you yesterday, Christian pastors in C'oeur D'Aline, Idaho are being threatened with fines and jail time unless they agree to perform gay "weddings." Once again, no one is going to pass a law outlawing Christianity. They know they can't get away with that. Instead, they impose requirements - ostensibly in opposition to "discrimination" or whatever - that threaten you with sanctions if you run your business in a way that actually adheres to your faith. The impact is the same. You have freedom to practice religion in theory, but in reality you can only practice it to the extent that the state deems acceptable.
And of course, in Houston, the city is attempting to subpoena the sermons of local pastorslest they find they criticized the lesbian mayor or a "human rights ordinance" the mayor favored. This is ostensibly about enforcing election laws in relation to churches' tax exemptions, but that's a crock. It's about outlawing speech politicians don't like.
All of this is the inevitable result of a government that grows in scope and influence because a majority of the electorate expects it to solve every problem that ever existed, even if the problems only affect politicians.
If politicians don't like others spending money to criticize them, too bad. If a Christian wedding chapel doesn't want to perform a gay "wedding," then the homosexuals need to go ask someone else. (And the same applies to bakers, florists, photographers, etc.) We don't need a system in which they react to such a rebuke by complaining to authorities. If pastors encourage people to vote in a certain way, then they do. No one needs to do anything about it.
Of course, the tax code becomes an issue here. The tax code is so onerous that organizations like churches can't hope to survive unless they get an exemption, and applying for the exemption gives the IRS de facto control over how they operate. The solution is not to change the rules governing exemptions. It's to throw out the entire tax code and adopt a new, simple, non-oppressive one that doesn't require anyone to get an exemption.
The bottom line is this: A government so big that it can provide you with everything puts you in a position where you need things from government, and then you're at the mercy of your provider to set rules you can live with. A government that thinks it's responsible for solving every problem will go ahead and "solve" the "problem" presented by your exercise of your rights.
It used to be that liberals claimed to love the First Amendment, but that was before it threatened their power. People of faith especially threaten their power because we answer to a power higher than them, so they try to use their rule-making authority to bring us under control.
If the First Amendment is a casualty, well, that was only valuable to them when it was useful to them. And when you think about it, the same is true of you.
You know, you just might like Dan's books too! Go here to get his series of Christian spiritual thrillers - Powers and Principalities, Pharmakeia and Dark Matter - in print or e-book form, or read his teaching on spiritual matters. You can follow all of Dan's work by liking his page on Facebook.
on: October 21, 2014, 05:22:35 PM
Started by DougMacG - Last post by ccp
House of Representatives
Supreme Court allows Texas to enforce new voter ID law, sparking mixed reaction
Published October 18, 2014·
Feb. 26, 2014: An election official checks a voter's photo identification at an early voting polling site in Austin, Texas (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas' new voter-ID law can remain in effect for the November election, sparking mixed reaction.
In a rare weekend announcement, a majority of the high court’s justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit Texas from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo ID to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.
The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold.
The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.
"We are pleased the Supreme Court has agreed that Texas' voter ID law should remain in effect,” the state’s Attorney General’s Office said. “The state will continue to defend the voter ID law and remains confident that the district court's misguided ruling will be overturned on the merits.”
The high court’s order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.
"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters," Ginsburg wrote in dissent.
The law sets out seven forms of approved ID -- a list that includes concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, which are accepted in other states with similar measures.
"Hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in Texas will (now) be unable to participate in November's election because Texas has erected an obstacle course designed to discourage voting,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and counsel for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. “A federal court has found that the obstacles erected by Texas were designed to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. This is an affront to our democracy. "
The 143-page opinion from U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an "unconstitutional burden on the right to vote" and the equivalent of a poll tax in finding that the Republican-led Texas Legislature purposely discriminated against minority voters in Texas.
Texas had urged the Supreme Court to let the state enforce voter ID at the polls in a court filing that took aim at the ruling by Ramos, an appointee of President Obama. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who's favored in the gubernatorial race, called Ramos' findings "preposterous" and accused the judge of ignoring evidence favorable to the state.
The defense fund, which is separate from the NAACP, presented testimony and oral arguments in the lower court trial.
“This battle isn’t yet over, said Natasha Korgaonkar, a lawyer for the group’s political arm.
Two years ago, the group and Justice Department joined other organizations in blocking the implementation of a photo-ID law in Texas.
The court had intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access. In Wisconsin, the justices blocked a voter ID law from being used in November. In North Carolina and Ohio, the justices allowed limits on same-day registration, early voting and provisional ballots to take or remain in effect.
Ginsburg said the Texas case was different from the clashes in North Carolina and Ohio because a federal judge held a full trial on the Texas election procedures and developed "an extensive record" finding the process discriminated against ballot access.
Texas has enforced its tough voter ID in elections since the Supreme Court in June 2013 effectively eliminated the heart of the Voting Rights Act, which had prevented Texas and eight other states with histories of discrimination from changing election laws without permission. Critics of the Texas measure, though, said the new ID requirement has not been used for an election for Congress and the Senate, or a high-turnout statewide election like the race for governor.
Ramos' issued her ruling on October 9. Five days later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans put her decision on hold and cited a 2006 Supreme Court opinion that warned judges not to change the rules too close to Election Day.
The challengers in Texas said that the last time the Supreme Court allowed a voting law to be used in a subsequent election after it had been found to be unconstitutional was in 1982. That case from Georgia involved an at-large election system that had been in existence since 1911.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
on: October 21, 2014, 01:18:14 PM
Started by captainccs - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Kurdish People's Protection Units and Free Syrian Army forces continue to battle Islamic State fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The United States announced Oct. 19 that U.S. Air Force C-130 transport aircraft dropped containers of weapons, ammunition and medical aid to the town’s defenders. Washington reportedly informed Turkey of the move in advance. Now, Ankara has said it will allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross Turkish borders and move into Kobani to bolster the town's defenses.
Given Turkey’s previous reluctance to support Kurdish fighters, Ankara appears to be altering its approach following considerable pressure from Washington and other allies. Turkey is keen to maintain strong ties with the United States and is willing to make compromises, which will also help preserve the integrity of its alliances in Europe and the Middle East. Despite this shift, however, Ankara remains wary of directly aiding the People's Protection Units, commonly viewed by the government as terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK. Regardless, allowing Kurdish fighters to cross the border will only make it harder and costlier for the Islamic State to take Kobani.
The Islamic State arguably accomplished its objectives in Kobani weeks ago when it seized virtually all of the area except for the town itself. This allowed Islamic State fighters to shorten the route between the captured border crossing towns of Jarabulus and Tal Abyad by not having to circumvent Kobani. Stratfor previously noted that Kobani is of very little strategic or even operational value to the Islamic State, and the taking of the town will have extremely little effect on the direction of the conflict in Syria. Numerous Islamic State fighters apparently recognized this fact early on and reportedly sought to prioritize other battlefronts, but were overruled by top Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nevertheless, it is clear by now that the Islamic State -- perhaps for symbolic reasons or because of operational momentum -- has greatly prioritized the seizure of Kobani and has devoted significant resources and manpower to the effort.
Kobani's Fatal Lure
Click to Enlarge
Echoing Germany's disastrous obsession with Stalingrad in 1942, despite having already isolated and reduced the city, the Islamic State's leaders have elected to continue pouring hundreds of fighters into Kobani. They now face a difficult urban battle against determined fighters who are entrenched in prepared positions and supported by coalition air power. By assembling large numbers of fighters and equipment, the Islamic State has created a target-rich environment for the U.S.-led coalition. From the start of the battle, weeks ago, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights have progressively improved the coalition's situational awareness, leading to airstrikes of more damaging accuracy and intensity. Over the last four days alone the United States and its Arab allies executed more than 60 airstrikes in Kobani.
The strikes have been disastrous for the Islamic State, which has lost hundreds of experienced fighters. Reports indicate that the group is doubling down on its flawed strategy by sending further reinforcements from its bastions of Raqaa and Tabqa to continue the assault. Ankara's decision to open a route for Kurdish reinforcements into Kobani further hinders the Islamic State's mission, but it is not as damning for the extremists as a Turkish committal of ground forces. Such a move appears unlikely for the time being. Although Turkey has significant amounts of men and materiel amassed on the border, there is no political will to become embroiled in the Syrian conflict. Ankara will make limited concessions, stopping short of full engagement against the Islamic State. With a coalition willing to maintain air operations and facilitate training for select rebels, Turkey can afford to bide its time for now while dealing with more pressing domestic issues.
A Risky Strategy
The Islamic State has mired itself in a foolhardy frontal assault against a marginal objective, and in doing so it has failed to address ominous developments in more vital Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria. In particular, Syrian forces have capitalized on a weak extremist presence in the critical and far larger city of Deir el-Zour, launching attacks against a reduced enemy. These attacks have enjoyed considerable success, driving Islamic State fighters from several neighborhoods in the city and destroying a number of bridges critical to the jihadists' logistical operations.
The Islamic State continues to make gains in Iraq's Anbar province, mainly because of its superior tactical skill and operational acumen against Iraq's security forces. Had the Islamic State elected to send hundreds or thousands of fighters to Anbar instead of exposing them to the concentrated attacks in Kobani, it is highly likely that the jihadist organization would have been able to achieve considerably more success in a far more vital region.
The battle for Kobani is not yet over, and there remains the possibility that the Islamic State could prevail and seize the town. Were that to happen, however, the damaging truth is that the Islamic State’s obsession with Kobani has already set the group back considerably. With world media focused on the defensive Kurdish and Free Syrian Army fighters holding out against repeated Islamic State attacks, the extremists are handing a propaganda victory to their enemies. Even when the Islamic State does take ground, any success turns into a rallying cry for its opponents. Most important, replacing the severe losses it has already suffered will be difficult for the Islamic State. By devoting disproportionate resources and personnel to seize a town of marginal importance, the Islamic State has distracted itself from more pressing issues in Syria, thereby missing opportunities to achieve further success in Iraq.
Read more: Kobani Ensnares the Islamic State | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
on: October 21, 2014, 12:37:19 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Click here to watch: Netanyahu Furious over Jerusalem Anarchy, Demands Crackdown
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has spelled out his plan for restoring order to neighborhoods in Jerusalem where Arab attacks on Jews have become daily occurrences, and said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also forcefully demanded action by the security forces in a recent high-level discussion. Barkat enumerated the neighborhoods currently under attack – from Armon Hanatziv, Har Homa, and Gilo in southern Jerusalem, through the Mount of Olives area, Issawiya and Silwan, northward to Shuafat and Beit Hanina, where the Light Rail has repeatedly come under brutal attack. He commended Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who he said took very seriously the letter Barkat sent him earlier this month, demanding action against the riots in Jerusalem. Netanyahu gathered the Public Security Minister and top police commanders, he said, for a discussion immediately after Yom Kippur. "I have to tell you,” Barkat said, “that I saw the prime minister banging angrily on the table, and committed to make the necessary change, so that the residents of Jerusalem and visitors to Jerusalem, in the seam line neighborhoods, including the Arab neighborhoods, will feel safer than they do at the moment.” In an interview on Galei Yisrael Radio, Barkat said police special forces units in Jerusalem need to be “doubled” in size – at one point, he said 100 Yassam policemen need to be added to the force – and to adopt a more aggressive posture. Instead of waiting inside the Jewish neighborhoods for Arabs to attack – the forces should enter the Arab neighborhoods and use their intelligence gathering abilities to nip attacks in the bud, he explained
Drones and balloons will start to be used by police in Jerusalem for intelligence gathering against the rioters in the coming days, he revealed. In order for the steps to be effective, however, punishment also needs to be made more severe, according to the mayor. Barkat admitted in an interview with Kalman Libeskind that municipal vehicles no longer enter certain neighborhoods because doing so requires a police escort and such escorts are not available. He denied that the Jerusalem Municipality is trying to cover up the seriousness of the attacks on the Light Rail, and the security situation in Jerusalem in general. However, the mayor appears to have made an about face on this matter from his earlier position, which blamed the Light Rail for reporting attacks against it to the press, and preferred to hush-up the "silent intifada" because the reports about it were bad for business. Barkat accused Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovich of laxness in the face of the challenge in Jerusalem. "Unfortunately,” Barkat wrote in his letter to Netanyahu, “the Public Security Minister isn't providing Jerusalem police with the needed means so that it can defeat the rioters." Barkat said he had seen a video shot recently by residents of Armon Hanatziv, showing them being attacked brazenly by Arab youths who appeared to control the streets, and who were hurling rocks at the residents' homes.