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Author Topic: The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, Religion, & Assembly  (Read 72418 times)
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Posts: 42482

« on: May 14, 2007, 08:35:34 AM »


The McCain-Feingold law makes me seething angry.  I am utterly baffled that the Supreme Court could have affirmed its constitutionality.

The camel has gotten his nose in the tent and now he seeks to stick his head in.

Cutting the Grass
Congressional Democrats prepare another assault on the First Amendment.

Monday, May 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows 6 in 10 Americans think the Democratic Congress "hasn't brought much change." Eager to change this impression, the Democrats are frantically trying to pass legislation before Memorial Day. First on the agenda is a bill restricting lobbying, which is heading for the House floor with lightning speed. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to pass it tomorrow, sending it to the full House for a final vote next Tuesday or Wednesday.

When a bill moves that quickly, you can bet an someone will try to make some last-minute mischief. Hardly anyone objects to the legislation's requirement that former lawmakers wait two years instead of one before lobbying Congress. Ditto with bans on lobbying by congressional spouses and restrictions on sitting members of Congress negotiating contracts with private entities for future employment.

But the legislation may be amended on the floor to restrict grassroots groups that encourage citizens to contact members of Congress. The amendment, pushed by Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, would require groups that organize such grassroots campaigns to register as "lobbyists" and file detailed quarterly reports on their donors and activities. The law would apply to any group that took in at least $100,000 in any given quarter for "paid communications campaigns" aimed at mobilizing the public.

The same groups that backed the McCain-Feingold law, limiting political speech in advance of an election, are behind this latest effort to curb political speech. Common Cause and Democracy 21 say special-interest entities hide behind current law to conceal the identities of their donors, whom they would have to reveal if they were lobbying Congress directly. "These Astroturf campaigns are just direct lobbying by another name," says Rep. Meehan, who is resigning from the House this summer and views his bill as his last hurrah in Congress.
But the First Amendment specifically prohibits Congress from abridging "the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for redress of grievances." The Supreme Court twice ruled in the 1950s that grassroots communication isn't "lobbying activity," and is fully protected by the First Amendment. Among the groups that believe the Meehan proposal would trample on the First Amendment are the National Right to Life Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union. The idea goes too far even for Sen. John McCain, who voted to strip a similar provision from a Senate lobbying reform bill last January.

The possible outcomes are disturbing. For example, Oprah Winfrey operates a website dedicated to urging people to contact Congress to demand intervention in Darfur. If her Web master took in over $100,000 in revenue from Ms. Winfrey and similar clients in a single quarter, he might be forced to make disclosures under the law.

"It's huge," Jay Sekulow of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, told The Hill newspaper. "It's the most significant restriction on grassroots activity in recent history. I'd put it up there with the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act"--the formal name for McCain-Feingold.

McCain-Feingold itself is riddled with loopholes, producing a slew of unintended consequences. Its provisions allowing candidates who compete against wealthy opponents who spend their own money to accept larger-than-normal legal contributions in order to compete inexplicably don't apply to the race for president. That means Mitt Romney and John Edwards, both of whom are independently wealthy, have a clear advantage should they run low on cash and need to inject funds into their campaigns quickly.

"Judged by the most visible results on promises like getting big money out of politics or cleaning up politics, campaign finance reform has been, to put it mildly, a disappointment," admits Mark Schmitt, a supporter of such reforms who has written a thoughtful essay in the journal Democracy. He urges reformers to now focus on expanding the "range of choices and voices in the system" and to take seriously the worries of those who fear that McCain-Feingold's restrictions on "election communication" have the potential to squelch important political speech. The Supreme Court is set to rule next month on a case addressing precisely that issue, and Justice Samuel Alito may be more inclined to view McCain-Feingold skeptically than was Sandra Day O'Connor, who was part of a 5-4 majority upholding the law.
Given the checkered history of campaign finance reform, its frequent use by one side of a political debate to hobble opponents, and the prospect that courts may yet find portions of McCain-Feingold unconstitutional, it would be a travesty for a Congress desperate for a quick-fix legislative accomplishment to circumscribe the First Amendment with little debate and even less understanding of what the consequences will be.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2012, 03:56:16 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2007, 11:57:31 PM »

'Honk for peace' case tests limits on free speech
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, May 14, 2007

When one of Deborah Mayer's elementary school students asked her on the eve of the Iraq war whether she would ever take part in a peace march, the veteran teacher recalls answering, "I honk for peace."

Soon afterward, Mayer lost her job and her home in Indiana. She was out of work for nearly three years. And when she complained to federal courts that her free-speech rights had been violated, the courts replied, essentially, that as a public school teacher she didn't have any.

As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher's speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary." The Bloomington, Ind., school district had just as much right to fire Mayer, the court said, as it would have if she were a creationist who refused to teach evolution.

The ruling was legally significant. Eight months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had decided in a case involving the Los Angeles district attorney's office that government employees were not protected by the First Amendment when they faced discipline for speaking at work about controversies related to their jobs. The Chicago appeals court was the first to apply the same rationale to the classroom, an issue that the Supreme Court expressly left unresolved.

But legal analysts said the Mayer ruling was probably less important as a precedent than as a stark reminder that the law provides little protection for schoolteachers who express their beliefs.

As far as the courts are concerned, "public education is inherently a situation where the government is the speaker, and ... its employees are the mouthpieces of the government," said Vikram Amar, a professor at UC's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Whatever academic freedom exists for college teachers is "much, much less" in public schools, he said.

A recent case from a Los Angeles charter school offers more evidence of the limits teachers face in choosing curricula or seeking redress of grievances. The school's administrators forbade seventh-graders from reading aloud at a February assembly the award-winning poem "A Wreath for Emmett Till," about a black teenager beaten to death by white men in 1955.

In an online guide to teaching the poem in grades seven and up, publisher Houghton Mifflin recommends telling students that it will be disturbing; administrators said they feared it would be too much for the kindergartners in the audience and then explained that Till's alleged whistle at a white woman was inappropriate. When social studies teacher Marisol Alba and a colleague signed letters of protest written by students at the largely African American school, both teachers were fired.

The Mayer ruling was disappointing but not surprising, said Michael Simpson, assistant general counsel of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union. For the last decade, he said, federal courts "have not been receptive to arguments that teachers, both K-12 and higher education, have free-speech rights in the classroom."

That's unacceptable, said Mayer, 57, who now teaches seventh-graders in Haines City, Fla. She said she's scraped up enough money, by selling her car, to appeal her case to the Supreme Court, though she doubts the justices will review it.

"If a teacher can be fired for saying those four little words -- 'I honk for peace' -- who's going to want to teach?" she asked. "They're taking away free speech at school. ... You might just as well get a big television and set it in front of the children and have them watch, (using) the curriculum the school board has."

On the other hand, said Francisco Negrón, lawyer for the National School Boards Association, if teachers were free to express their viewpoints in class, school boards would be less able to do their job of determining the curriculum and complying with government demands for accountability.

"Teachers bring their creativity, their energy, their skill in teaching the curriculum, but ... a teacher in K-12 is really not at liberty to design a curriculum," said Negrón, who filed arguments with the court in Mayer's case supporting the Bloomington school district. "That's the function of the school board."

The incident occurred in January 2003, when Mayer was teaching a class of fourth- through sixth-graders at Clear Creek Elementary School. As Mayer recalled it later, the question about peace marches arose during a discussion of an article in the children's edition of Time magazine, part of the school-approved curriculum, about protests against U.S. preparations for war in Iraq.

When the student asked the question about taking part in demonstrations, Mayer said, she replied that there were peace marches in Bloomington, that she blew her horn whenever she saw a "Honk for Peace" sign, and that people should seek peaceful solutions before going to war.

A student complained to her father, who complained to the principal, who canceled the school's annual "Peace Month" observance and told Mayer never to discuss the war or her political views in class.

Mayer, who had been hired after the semester started and had received a good job evaluation before the incident, was dismissed at the end of the school year. The school said it was for poor performance, but the appeals court assumed that she had been fired for her comments and said the school had acted legally.

"Teachers hire out their own speech and must provide the service for which employers are willing to pay," a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 24. "The Constitution does not entitle teachers to present personal views to captive audiences against the instructions of elected officials."

Mayer, the court said, was told by her bosses that she could teach about the war "as long as she kept her opinions to herself." Like the Los Angeles district attorney's employee whose demotion led to the Supreme Court's 2006 ruling, the appellate panel said, Mayer had no constitutional right to say anything on the job that conflicted with her employer's policy.

Mayer's lawyer asked for a rehearing, saying the evidence was clear that the school had no such policy when Mayer answered the student's question. The court denied reconsideration in March without comment.

Mayer, who had taught for more than 20 years, couldn't afford to keep her Indiana home after being fired and left the state. She got another teaching job in Florida, but lost it after disclosing her previous dismissal, and didn't get another position until last fall.

As all parties to Mayer's case recognize, her statements would have been constitutionally protected and beyond the government's power to suppress if she had been speaking on a street corner or at a public hearing.

But in the classroom, as in the workplace, courts have upheld limits on speech. In both settings, past rulings have taken into account the institution's need to function efficiently and keep order, and the rights of co-workers and students not to be subjected to unwanted diatribes.

In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld a high school student's right to wear a black armband as a silent protest against the Vietnam War and barred schools from stifling student expression unless it was disruptive or interfered with education. The court retreated from that standard somewhat in a 1988 ruling upholding censorship of student newspapers, and will revisit the issue in a pending case involving an Alaskan student who was suspended for unfurling a banner outside the school grounds that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

The Supreme Court has never ruled on teachers' free speech. In lower courts, teachers have won cases by showing they were punished for violating policies that school officials never explained to them beforehand or invented after the fact. A federal appeals court in 2001 ruled in favor of a fifth-grade teacher in Kentucky who was fired for bringing actor Woody Harrelson to her class to discuss the benefits of industrial hemp, an appearance that school officials had approved.

But teachers who were on notice of school policies they transgressed have usually lost their cases. In one Bay Area case, in August 2005, a federal judge in San Jose rejected arguments by Cupertino elementary school teacher Stephen Williams that his principal had violated his freedom of speech by prohibiting him from using outside religious materials in history lessons.

Unless the Supreme Court takes up Mayer's case, its legal effect is limited to federal courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the three states in the Seventh Circuit. But Amar, the Hastings law professor, and others said the ruling could be influential elsewhere because there are few appellate decisions on the issue, and because the author, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, is a prominent conservative jurist.

"Very few schools are going to be that harsh in muzzling or silencing their teachers," but the ruling indicates they would be free to do so, Amar said.

Simpson, the National Education Association's lawyer, said the ruling, though within the legal mainstream, was bad for education because teachers are not "hired to read a script." The case might interest the Supreme Court, and the NEA will probably file a brief in support of Mayer's appeal should the justices take the case, he said.

Beverly Tucker, chief counsel of the NEA-affiliated California Teachers Association, said she doubts that federal courts in California would take as conservative a position as the court in Mayer's case. But she expects school districts to cite the ruling in the next case that arises.

"If I were a public school teacher, I would live in fear that some innocuous remark made in the classroom in response to a question from a pupil would lead to me being terminated" under such a ruling, Tucker said.

As for Mayer, she isn't sure what rankles her most -- the impact on her life, the stigma of being branded a rogue teacher, or the court's assertion that a teacher's speech is a commodity purchased by the government.

"My free speech," she said, "is not for sale at any price."

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2007, 10:57:09 AM »

Mistaking Words for Weapons
The day after the Virginia Tech massacre, we noted that an earlier shooting at a Virginia campus had been cut short when a student with a legal handgun helped subdue the killer. We suggested that perhaps Virginia Tech officials' decision to designate their campus "gun-free" was not the wisest choice.

Well, it's a good thing we aren't still in college, and not only because we're way too old. If we were, we might have gotten into trouble just for employing our First Amendment rights to defend others' Second Amendment rights. It happened to Troy Scheffler, a 31-year-old graduate student at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., as City Pages, a local weekly, reports:

In the aftermath [of Virginia Tech], officials at Hamline University sought to comfort their 4,000 students. David Stern, the vice president for academic and student affairs, sent a campus-wide email offering extra counseling sessions for those who needed help coping.

Scheffler had a different opinion of how the university should react. Using the email handle "Tough Guy Scheffler," Troy fired off his response: Counseling wouldn't make students feel safer, he argued. They needed protection. And the best way to provide it would be for the university to lift its recently implemented prohibition against concealed weapons.

"Ironically, according to a few VA Tech forums, there are plenty of students complaining that this wouldn't have happened if the school wouldn't have banned their permits a few months ago," Scheffler wrote. "I just don't understand why leftists don't understand that criminals don't care about laws; that is why they're criminals. Maybe this school will reconsider its repression of law-abiding citizens' rights." . . .

On April 23, Scheffler received a letter informing him he'd been placed on interim suspension. To be considered for readmittance, he'd have to pay for a psychological evaluation and undergo any treatment deemed necessary, then meet with the dean of students, who would ultimately decide whether Scheffler was fit to return to the university. . . .

Scheffler obeyed the campus ban and didn't go to class, but his classmate, Kenny Bucholz, told him a police officer was stationed outside the classroom. "He had a gun and everything," Bucholz says.

Hey, wait. Why would the policeman need a gun? Oh yeah, for protection!

Political Journal WSJ
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2007, 12:50:40 PM »

 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case limits student rights

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court ruled against a former high school student Monday in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner case -- a split decision that limits students' free speech rights.

Joseph Frederick was 18 when he unveiled the 14-foot paper sign on a public sidewalk outside his Juneau, Alaska, high school in 2002.

Principal Deborah Morse confiscated it and suspended Frederick. He sued, taking his case all the way to the nation's highest court.

The justices ruled 6-3 that Frederick's free speech rights were not violated by his suspension over what the majority's written opinion called a "sophomoric" banner.

"It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use-- and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority. (Opinionexternal link)

Roberts added that while the court has limited student free speech rights in the past, young people do not give up all their First Amendment rights when they enter a school.

Roberts was supported by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito. Breyer noted separately he would give Morse qualified immunity from the lawsuit, but did not sign onto the majority's broader free speech limits on students.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "This case began with a silly nonsensical banner, (and) ends with the court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message."

He was backed by Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

At issue was the discretion schools should be allowed to limit messages that appear to advocate illegal drug use. "Bong," as noted in the appeal filed with the justices, "is a slang term for drug paraphernalia."

The incident occurred in January 2002 just outside school grounds when the Olympic torch relay was moving through the Alaska capital on its way to the Salt Lake City, Utah, Winter Games.

Though he was standing on a public sidewalk, the school argued Frederick was part of a school-sanctioned event, because students were let out of classes and accompanied by their teachers.

Morse ordered the senior to take down the sign, but he refused. That led to a 10-day suspension for violating a school policy on promoting illegal drug use.

Frederick filed suit, saying his First Amendment rights were infringed. A federal appeals court in San Francisco agreed, concluding the school could not show Frederick had disrupted the school's educational mission by showing a banner off campus.

Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr argued for the principal that a school "must be able to fashion its educational mission" without undue hindsight from the courts.

Morse, who attended arguments in March, told CNN at the time: "I was empowered to enforce the school board's written policies at that time aimed at keeping illegal substances out of the school environment."

As for Frederick, he is halfway across the globe, teaching English to students in China.

Now 24, he told reporters in March that he displayed the banner in a deliberate attempt to provoke a response from principal Morse, by whom he had been disciplined previously. But Frederick claimed his message of free speech is very important to him, even if the wording of the infamous banner itself was not.

"I find it absurdly funny," he said. "I was not promoting drugs. ... I assumed most people would take it as a joke."
Posts: 12

« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2007, 07:02:34 AM »

In the world that the fuzzy wuzzies are twisting into something that indulges their soft lifestyle and weak spirit, freedom of speech only exists for those who have the backing of special interest groups.  Not only SHOULD you be able to voice your opinion, you CAN's only through years of PC indoctrination that peoples voices have been muted.  Oh yeah, and we're developing into a society that can't think for itself.  This goes hand in hand with the current growing crop of people believing, cause they haven't been told any different, that they have the right to happiness.  It's the PERSUIT of happiness folks.

Just my random thoughts.  I didn't assist in the decline of our civilization, but I refuse to be part of the problem.   angry

"Train hard, fight Easy."  --Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2008, 10:14:43 AM »

Conservative Group Challenges
Portions of Finance Law
March 8, 2008; Page A4

A new conservative group has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn some of the most basic parts of campaign-finance law.

The challenge, from a group calling itself, is the latest in a series of attempts to weaken the campaign finance system as money floods into politics in this campaign year.

The suit challenges laws that date back to the 1970s but also fits a pattern of blowback from the restrictions in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. "McCain-Feingold was kind of the last straw for a lot of people," said founder David Keating, a long-time advocate for conservative causes. "No one understands what the law is anymore."

First Amendment Focus

The challenge, which was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., zeroes in on a requirement that if two or more individuals work together to push for -- or against -- a candidate for federal office, they must submit paperwork to become a political committee and abide by contribution limits. The Supreme Court has said the requirement doesn't apply to individuals acting alone because preventing a person from purchasing airtime to express an opinion about candidates would violate free-speech protections. is charging that the restrictions on forming groups violate First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. The group's detractors say the contribution limits prevent corruption, but even some liberals are finding the case hard to discount completely.

"It's a significant constitutional challenge," said Bob Bauer, who heads the political law group for Perkins Coie LLP and a lawyer for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. "Especially with the courts we have now, the chances of success shouldn't be discounted."

In June, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision set aside federal restrictions on corporate- and union-funded broadcast ads that mentioned specific candidates in the weeks before an election. The Bush-appointed chief justice, John Roberts, gave heart to conservatives by saying that "enough is enough" and that the court "must give the benefit of any doubt to protecting rather than stifling speech."

Mr. Keating, who is moonlighting for while holding down a job as the director of the antitax advocacy group the Club for Growth, quickly found support for his new group from like-minded conservative Ed Crane, founder of the libertarian Cato Institute, and several rich donors.

One donor has even pledged more than $100,000 to, but the group hasn't been able to accept any donations beyond $1,000, the law's threshold for registering as a political committee.

With free legal help from two law organizations, the group is seeking an injunction in district court that would allow it to operate in the 2008 election.

A staff opinion of the Federal Election Commission said the group's plans were illegal under current law, and Wednesday, commission lawyers responded to the request for an injunction by writing that it wasn't warranted because the individuals could act independently.

If granted, the injunction would allow to produce and air attack advertisements against Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican and Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana. The scripts for the ads challenge them for supporting increased campaign-finance restrictions.

"Politicians like Mary Landrieu don't like free speech," a script reads. As a jail cell slams shut on screen, an announcer adds that the McCain-Feingold law can imprison violators. "Hey, Mary Landrieu. This is America, not Russia."

A Landrieu campaign spokesman said the senator voted with 59 others "because she believes power should be situated with voters like ordinary Louisianans instead of with millionaires and billionaires."

The Supreme Court has previously upheld contribution limits with the goal of preventing "corruption or the appearance of corruption."

An individual can spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for or against candidates because the court has said it is a violation of free speech to restrict expenditures for ads or other communications. But once two or more people get together and raise more than $1,000, they can each contribute only as much as $5,000 annually to their group.

In its case, contends that there is no way large donations to it could lead to corruption because the group can't give to, or coordinate with, candidates.

Fred Wertheimer, the president of a group that advocates for restrictions on money in politics, thinks that publicly disclosed donations could corrupt politicians because they would know who had helped them. Also, political-advocacy groups often share officers who come in and out of campaigns and the government, making it easy for politicians to reward people for their support.

"The contribution limits are constitutional," Mr. Wertheimer said, adding that most independent groups are funded by people who used to give to the political parties until those contributions were banned by a law that was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Wertheimer's group, Democracy 21, filed a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this week saying shouldn't be permitted to operate. In rejecting's request to prevent Democracy 21's filing, the court Thursday said that the free-speech group's brief to restrict opposition was filed "apparently without any sense of irony."
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Posts: 42482

« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2008, 09:32:44 PM »


Foreign Law and the First Amendment
April 30, 2008

Late in 1941, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion which, for the first time in our history, starkly distinguished American protection of speech from that of England.

Two union members had been convicted of assaulting nonunion truck drivers. The day before they were to be sentenced, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial urging the trial judge not to grant probation, but to punish the transgressors severely: "This community," the editorial asserted, "needs the example of their assignment to the jute mill."

Getty Images 
Contempt of court proceedings were brought against the newspaper. California law at the time, like that of other states, was rooted in English law, under which such commentary, aimed at a judge during a trial, constituted contempt. Under English law, both then and today, such speech is punishable by massive fines or even imprisonment.

In reversing the ruling of the California courts holding the newspaper in contempt, the Supreme Court set this country on a different course. "No purpose in ratifying the Bill of Rights was clearer," Justice Hugo Black wrote, "than of securing for the people of the United States much greater freedom of . . . expression . . . than the people of Great Britain had ever enjoyed."

Today, there are sharp distinctions between U.S. and English law. One difference is that under the First Amendment we provide far more protection for speech that is claimed to be libelous.

There is no need for democratic nations to agree upon such matters. The values of free speech and individual reputation are both significant, and it is not surprising that different nations would place different emphasis on each.

But a serious problem has surfaced. In recent years, English libel law has come to have a disturbing impact on the right of Americans to speak out.

England has become a choice venue for libel plaintiffs from around the world, including those who seek to intimidate critics whose works would be protected in the U.S. but might not in that country. That English libel law has increasingly been used to stifle speech about the subject of international terrorism raises the stakes still more.

The case against Rachel Ehrenfeld in England by Saudi banker Khalid Bin Mahfouz is illustrative. Her 2003 book "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Funded and How to Stop It" dealt at length with one of the most significant (and difficult and dangerous to research) topics – the funding of terrorism. The conduct of Mr. Bin Mahfouz as a possible funder of terrorism was one of the subjects discussed in the book, which was published in New York.

Twenty-three copies of the book were sold in England. On that slim basis, Mr. Bin Mahfouz sued there, claiming that his reputation had been gravely harmed.

Ms. Ehrenfeld (on the advice of English counsel) refused to appear before the English courts, and a judgment against her was entered in the amount of $225,000. At any time, Mr. Bin Mahfouz could seek to enforce that judgment. Whether or not he does, the harm to Ms. Enhrenfeld's reputation remains real.

She sought a declaratory judgment in New York determining that the English judgment was not enforceable here, and that her work was protected under American law. But the New York Court of Appeals determined that her suit could not be heard under state law. Any change in that law, the court concluded, was up to the New York legislature.

To the surprise of those who denigrate the ability of the New York legislature to act decisively, both the Assembly and its Senate have unanimously passed a bill that would give Ms. Ehrenfeld and other citizens who are sued for libel abroad the right to obtain a declaration here that their works are protected under American law.

Gov. David Paterson has until the end of today to decide whether or not he will sign the bill. Meanwhile, the Ehrenfeld saga has led Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) to propose federal legislation which would provide similar relief.

The need for such legislation has become very real – all the more so since English libel law is increasingly being used to limit public debate about terrorism. Mr. Bin Mahfouz has personally commenced or threatened to commence at least 30 law suits in England. This tactic has served him well in obtaining libel judgments that would be unthinkable as well as unconstitutional here. The danger is that other American writers and publishers will shy away from this crucial subject, out of fear of being sued far from home.

This is a reasonable concern as a good deal of litigation related to reporting on terrorism has been threatened or started in England by individuals who have limited contact with that nation, but who find its libel law congenial.

England should be free to choose its own libel law. But so should we. It is not too much to ask that American law should protect our people when they speak in precisely the "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" manner that the First Amendment was drafted to protect.

Mr. Abrams is a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and the author of "Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment" (Viking, 2005).
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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2008, 11:29:49 AM »

The Reformers Who Ruined Politics
May 6, 2008; Page A22
Nearly halfway to choosing the next President, voters are witnessing an amazing spectacle in addition to the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton scrum. All three of the contenders are avowed believers in ever more restrictive and convoluted campaign finance laws. They are also proving, with their every decision, why those laws have become a national farce.

With his fund raising headed for the stratosphere, Mr. Obama has transformed himself from earnest reformer to Senator Moneybags willing to renege on his pledge to accept public financing. Mrs. Clinton flirted initially with another donor scandal, and now her big givers are maxed out so even she has to scramble for cash for the later primaries. And John McCain, the caped crusader of reform for more than a decade, has taken to bending rules so he can remain competitive: His campaign pledged his eligibility for federal matching funds as collateral for a bank loan, then declined public funding and its spending limits for the primary season.

* * *
If you don't like how this looks, send your complaints to the three candidates. They were all proponents of fund-raising rules sold as a way to "cleanse" the system. Send your complaints as well to the good-government types who pledge allegiance to the idea that money is the root of political evil. They have had their way since the Watergate era, passing reform after reform.

George Soros
Yet in 2008 the role of money is more important than ever, only by means less accountable and transparent. To run for President nowadays means devoting a large share of your time to creating a fund-raising "machine." Scores of good potential candidates won't run because they can't stomach the endless wheedling required to raise campaign cash in $2,300 chunks.

If the goal was to make campaigning cheaper, that didn't work either. In the early 1990s, a respectable presidential primary campaign needed $20 million. Mr. Obama had raised more than $230 million by the end of March. He's to be congratulated for raising record numbers of small donations over the Internet. But the truth is that small donations still make up a minority of all contributions – 34% – according to the Campaign Finance Institute at George Washington University.

Not that we agree that the virtue of a donation is inversely related to its size. The stakes of a presidential race are high, and those with money and a motive cannot be kept on the sidelines in a free society (if it's to remain a free society). Whether as individuals or through unions or other organized groups, citizens have a First Amendment right to support their candidate – and they will find a way to do so.

Increasingly, they are turning to 527s and other independent political groups not covered under McCain-Feingold's 2002 restrictions. Between 2002 and 2004, spending by 527s more than doubled to $653 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. At least $177 million of that came from 52 individuals who donated more than $1 million each. Total spending by independent political groups is expected to approach $1 billion by the end of this election.

The King Canutes of reform are outraged. Their answer is to stack new regulations on top of the current malfunctioning regulations they said would solve everything. Fred Wertheimer at Democracy 21, the godfather of this mess going back to the 1970s, now denounces the 527s, which he says create "enormous inequities."

Maybe he's referring to George Soros, his billionaire ally and fellow supporter of McCain-Feingold. Today Mr. Soros and his friends conduct a fleet of liberal 527s so broad that it is nearly untrackable. The reforms that were sold in the name of minimizing the influence of "fat cats" has made one of America's richest men among the most powerful in politics. The very reforms championed by Mr. McCain could help Mr. Soros defeat the Arizonan this year.

Another unsavory result has been deterring nonprofessional candidates from giving political lifers a run for their money. No one can realistically contemplate running for office without a team of lawyers to navigate the campaign laws. This year, to complicate matters further for the benefit of incumbents and insiders, those insiders are politicizing the Federal Election Commission that is supposed to enforce all of these rules. The FEC has been left without a quorum indefinitely, thanks to a Democratic charade over one of President Bush's nominees.

Last year, Mr. Obama placed a hold on the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, on grounds that he had once supported a voter ID law in Georgia. Last week, a 6-to-3 Supreme Court majority agreed with Mr. von Spakovsky on voter ID. But don't expect that to sway Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who still refuses to confirm Mr. von Spakovsky as part of a traditional FEC nominee group of bipartisan pairs, or even to confirm two other FEC nominees without him. How convenient. Blocking an FEC quorum opens up maneuvering room for Democrats in a year when they have the financial advantage. They can count on their inventive campaign tactics receiving adjudication around, say, 2011.

* * *
The Founding Fathers would have had no trouble detecting the absurdity of having political actors determine what does or doesn't constitute free political speech. The First Amendment was written precisely to deny politicians such control. The Supreme Court has nonetheless upheld the idea of limiting campaign contributions on grounds that it would reduce "corruption." But after 30 years of contrary evidence, the Justices should revisit that fanciful notion. Money is required in modern America to amplify political speech. Attempting to limit or ban money merely gives the advantage to those best able to game the rules, or to the news media that can make nonfinancial "contributions" via endorsements.

If this campaign proves anything, it is that more reform on the post-Watergate model will only compound the McCain-Feingold-Clinton-Obama folly. The rules themselves are the scandal, empowering the powerful and making it harder for voters to judge the indebtedness of candidates to individuals or interest groups.

The better path is more simplicity and transparency, so office seekers can raise whatever amount they can from whomever they want so long as it is reported immediately on the Internet. It's time we reclaimed politics from the reformers who ruined it.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2008, 01:03:45 AM »

Justices for Free Speech
June 28, 2008; Page A10
It has been a splendid week for the Bill of Rights at the Supreme Court. In addition to their landmark gun rights ruling, the same five Justices took another whack at Congress's attempts to limit political speech via campaign-finance limits. John McCain, call your office.

In Davis v. FEC, a 5-4 majority overturned a portion of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law that exempted the political opponents of rich candidates from the usual fund-raising limits in order to "level the playing field." Known as the Millionaire's Amendment, the law saddled wealthy, self-financing candidates with burdens designed to help their opponents. Millionaires had to report expenditures within 24 hours, while their opponents were allowed greater coordination with political parties and could raise three times the usual $2,300 limit on individual contributions. Naturally, this idea came from Congressional incumbents who hate wealthy challengers.

The case was brought by Jack Davis, a New York Democrat who twice ran a self-financed campaign to oust Congressman Tom Reynolds. Mr. Davis's spending triggered the millionaire limits, despite Mr. Reynolds's well-stocked campaign bank accounts. Though he lost both times, Mr. Davis was fined by the Federal Election Commission for failing to report expenditures in the 24-hour window.

Reformers justify the special rules for millionaires by crying fairness – an argument that Justice Samuel Alito dispatched in his majority opinion. "The argument that a candidate's speech may be restricted in order to 'level electoral opportunities' has ominous implications," he wrote, and is "antithetical to the First Amendment."

If Congress can massage the rules to level the playing field for candidates of differing personal means, what's to stop Congress from doing it for other reasons and in other ways? Some candidates are celebrities, others have famous political names, and still others may be adored by the local newspaper. Should Congress level the field for their opponents too? No prior Court opinions, Justice Alito added, support the notion that reducing the "natural advantage" of rich candidates is a legitimate government objective.

The ruling puts in jeopardy similar attempts to favor some candidates over others in such states as Arizona and Maine. More important, it signals that five Justices on the current Court view campaign-finance limits with increasing skepticism.

Sooner or later, they are likely to run up against the Court's own original sin in this area, Buckley v. Valeo, which in 1976 first allowed fund-raising limits. They should also revisit McConnell v. FEC, which in 2003 upheld most of McCain-Feingold. The arrival of Justice Alito has clearly changed the Court's approach to these cases, and there may now be a majority to reassert the Court's obligation to protect political speech in a democracy.

As for Mr. McCain, we assume his campaign-finance travails this year have been educational. He became a media fave by embracing fund-raising limits as a cause, only to watch as the media now drops him for Barack Obama, who refuses to adhere to the same limits and so will vastly outspend the Republican in the fall. Such are the rewards of pursuing liberal admiration.
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« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2008, 09:25:47 AM »

The Erosion of Free Speech   
By Janet Levy | Friday, July 04, 2008

Although the headline of the June 8th article in the Daily Times of Pakistan read “Pakistan to ask EU to amend laws on freedom of expression,” the request from high-level government officials was in reality a threat. The six-person Pakistani delegation was set to deliver a warning that unless blasphemy against Islam stopped, terrorist attacks against European assets could escalate. Their cited example was the suicide bomb attack this June 2 on the Danish Embassy in Pakistan in which eight people died and 27 were injured as a result of possible renewed backlash to the 2005 publication of 12 editorial cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

Islamabad informed the European Union countries that the backlash to perceived insults to the “religion of peace” could jeopardize “inter-religious harmony” and result in uncontrollable attacks on other diplomatic missions abroad.  A high-level delegation representing the Pakistani government was to travel to Brussels to further warn EU officials of the liabilities of free expression.

This apocryphal grandstanding, in which Islamabad seeks to eradicate free speech and reclassify it as an offensive hate crime, is part and parcel of the insidious Islamic effort to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate under shariah law.  Paradoxically, in most of the Muslim world, the right of free speech is nonexistent. Verbal and physical attacks on non-Muslims are rampant, as is death for apostates, terrorism training for youth, hate indoctrination of non-Muslims in mosques and schools and the oppression of Christians, Hindus and Jews. But Muslims feel free to use democratic precepts in the service of their own radical ideology to, ultimately, overthrow liberty, eliminate individual rights and destroy freedoms in Western societies.  They seek prohibitions on free expression to strengthen Islam, pave the way toward Islamization and keep the Western public ill informed and unaware of potential threats to the democratic way of life.  By couching this effort as merely the elimination of offensive speech, they conceal their true goal of undermining the laws of Western societies, specifically the very foundation of democracy – free speech.

This goal was dramatically illustrated in March of 2008, when the 57 Muslim states that make up the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) struck a blow against free speech by successfully forcing through the United Nation’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) an amendment to a resolution on Freedom of Expression.  The amendment, requiring extensive changes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, officially characterizes as abuse and an act of religious discrimination any criticism of Islam. It also calls for the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to report any individuals and news media issuing negative comments about Islam.

In June, this limitation on free speech was further underscored when representatives of two non-governmental organizations sought to address stonings, honor killings and female genital mutilation sanctioned under shariah law.  As part of the effort to mute criticism of Islam, the Egyptian UNHRC delegate demanded that the speakers be silenced, proclaiming, “Islam will not be crucified in this Council.”

Thus, banned from UNHRC sessions is criticism of shariah laws that oppress women, condemn homosexuals and threaten converts and non-Muslims. Also banned are statements against Islamic law-sanctioned child marriage, honor killings, the hanging of homosexuals and the murder of apostates.

The United Nations is not the only front where Islamic gag orders are in place. Canada’s Human Rights Act, which defines hate speech as any speech “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt,” was used against Ezra Levant, the former publisher of The Western Standard, who was charged by the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission with offending Muslims by reprinting in 2006 the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Thus, Canada is increasingly regulating opinion and making it a crime to hurt someone’s feelings.  The right of free speech is being replaced by the right not to be offended.

Also in Canada, author Mark Steyn and MacLean’s magazine were charged by the Canadian Human Rights Commission of “spreading hatred and contempt” for Muslims by publishing in 2006 an excerpt from Steyn’s book, “America Alone.”  The Canadian Islamic Congress filed a complaint with the commission, seeking to ban opinions such as Steyn’s that they deem “Islamophobic.”  Steyn was charged with hate speech for using the term “Mohammedan” to describe Muslims and for failing to incorporate differing points of view in his writing.  Although charges were dismissed in June this year, if they had been found guilty, financial penalties could have been assessed against MacLean’s, which would dampened opinion journalism throughout Canada.  Yet, a Canadian investigator in the Steyn/MacLean’s case, when asked about the importance of free speech in his considerations, remarked, “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”

In the United Kingdom, two Christian clerics were recently prohibited from preaching and handing out biblical tracts in a “Muslim area.”  In an ironic twist, a Muslim police officer charged with upholding British law accused the ministers, technically agents of the Church of England, of perpetuating a hate crime by proselytizing. Thus, an officer charged with maintaining law and order in England prevented the preaching of the doctrine of the established faith of England.  Curiously, this event occurred at a time in which the UK is accelerating the hiring of British police officers in Muslim areas in order to “build bridges” with the Islamic community.

Last month, when the Bishop of Rochester warned that Britain was developing “no-go zones” that are the exclusive province of Muslims, he was denounced as Islamophobic. His fellow bishops and government ministers denied the existence of such Muslim-only areas.  The Bishop and his family were placed under police protection after receiving death threats at home warning that he would not “live long” if he continued to criticize Islam.

Yet, “no-go” zones do exist and are apparently being preserved by agents of the British state. They are areas where it is dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, as demonstrated in 2006, when former Home Secretary John Reid was heckled by Islamist Abu Izzadeen who cried, “How dare you come to a Muslim area.”

In January, 2007, the UK government again ignored its illustrious heritage of freedom of expression and undertook an investigation of a television broadcast of the documentary, “Undercover Mosque.”  The program contained footage of radical imams in British mosques spewing hatred of Christians and Jews, advocating the subjugation and beating of women and praising Osama Bin Laden. Other footage included a Taliban who had killed a British soldier and Muslim clerics advocating Islamic supremacy, suggesting that homosexuals should be killed, calling for jihad and justifying the July 7th London bombings.

Instead of scrutinizing the mosques and calling for an end to such hateful and inflammatory rhetoric, British authorities, bowing to pressure from terrorist-sympathizing groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, the Muslim Council of Britain and others, denounced the program as “Islamophobic.” Local police solicited the services of the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS), which launched an extensive investigation of the network, scrutinizing 56 hours of media footage for possible prosecution under the Public Order Act of 1986: showing inflammatory material likely to stir racial hatred. 

Eventually, the investigation concluded that, although the CPS believed that the editing process had “completely distorted” the sermons of the Muslim clerics, the police were advised to drop their criminal investigation due to insufficient evidence to substantiate charges of incitement.

Essentially, “Undercover Mosque” was an important story to potentially alert the British public to the threat of a fundamentalist ideology endemic throughout the British Islamic community.  Unfortunately, it was discredited by the police who, in a misguided attempt to prevent Muslim backlash in the community, were placed in the untenable position of supporting radical Islamists and opposing British free speech.

Thus, as Islamic calls to prayer ring loudly throughout England from an ever-increasing number of imposing mosques, Christianity, individual freedom and the British identity are being marginalized while Islam is permitted free rein to fill the void.

Within the United States, important dialogue about the threat of radical Islam was silenced by the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department which issued a memo in May instructing bureaucrats on how to talk about the “war on terror.” The memo called for restrictions on terrorist-defining nomenclature in accordance with recommendations from American Muslims.  Thus, definitive and descriptive words such as “jihad,” mujahadeen,” “Islamic terrorist,” “Islamist,” or “holy warrior” were to be avoided, even though Muslims and Muslim media worldwide use this very terminology.

The government memo also advised that the war on terror be renamed a “global struggle for security and progress.”  This change, undertaken to avoid glamorizing the appeal of Islamist ideology and reduce terrorist recruitment, came about after the Secretary of Homeland Security solicited assistance from American Muslims.  These newly proposed “speech codes” were advanced with the intent of eliminating the appeal of the virulent ideology of Islamism.  Thus, the State Department and the DHS advanced the idea that terminology used by the government could fan the flames of radicalism, yet totally ignored the impact of violent rhetoric common in mosques across the country and on the Internet. Instead, the government focused on curtailing the speech of public servants charged with preserving our national security and accommodated the demands of Muslims. Lost was the opportunity for effective communication to inform and alert the American public of the Islamist threat.   

Another instance of DHS curtailment and accommodation of Muslims, occurred when Muhammad Rana, a Pakistani Muslim and new DHS hire was being trained as an adjudication officer at the agency’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Rana participated in a seven week training course in which he claimed to have faced discrimination based on his religion and national origin.  In a March 2005 complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Rana said the instructional content of his classes contained “disparaging and factually inaccurate information about the Islamic faith and the Arabic people.”  His in-class protests apparently prompted an instructor to recommend that Rana be investigated for possible terrorist ties.  An administrative law judge ruling found that Rana had been subject to a hostile work environment and ordered $50,000 in compensatory damages, $6,195 in missed overtime, reimbursement for medical and prescription medication costs incurred as a result of the hostile work environment and, most significantly, the removal and destruction of and DHS memoranda regarding Rana’s potential ties to terrorist organizations.  Ultimately, the course in question was discontinued by the DHS.

In these ways, our constitutional right to freedom of expression is being eroded and our democratic principles are being used against us to silence our concerns.  With increasing frequency, free speech is being regulated, banned or categorized as a hate crime through intimidation tactics and apocryphal human rights concerns. We have come to the point where publishers have volunteered to pulp or alter the text of books to avoid lawsuits. Major newspapers freely chose not to publish the controversial Mohammed cartoons. Some organizations that have weathered costly slander lawsuits designed to silence them, have become cautious about weathering other suits that could cost them their insurance coverage.

None of this is coincidental. It is explained in “The Project,” a strategic planning document of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) written in 1982 but captured in a raid in Switzerland in 2001. It describes a long-term plan to take over the West, a roadmap to defeating the West through propaganda, infiltration and jihad using intimidation, subterfuge and influence operations.  The MB master plan calls for Muslims to take advantage of constitutional freedoms and societal openness and seek employment in every sector of American society, including sensitive civil institutions, law enforcement, politics, the media and others. In addition to individual Muslims, many seemingly mainstream and “respected” U.S. Muslim organizations, some active in America since the 1960’s, are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and are actively involved in carrying out its mission of “destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house so that Allah’s religion is victorious over all other religions.”

Thus, the very nature of our republic is being challenged by a redefinition of our First Amendment to appease the demands of Islamists seeking to destroy us.  Sadly, as we accommodate the Islamists, we are capitulating to their violent ideology and discriminatory religious practices and losing our precious rights and freedoms. In this way, we become partners in our own demise and hasten the downfall of the free societies we profess to cherish in the West.

Janet Levy is the founder of ESG Consulting, an organization that offers project management, fundraising, promotion, event organizing and planning services for conservative political causes and issues related to terrorism and national security.
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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2008, 07:18:48 AM »

Islamists' Catch-22   
By Frank J. Gaffney Jr. | Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Try a little thought experiment.  What would have happened in this country during the Cold War if the Soviet Union successfully neutralized anti-communists opposed to the Kremlin’s plans for world domination?
Of course, Moscow strove to discredit those in America and elsewhere who opposed its totalitarian agenda – especially after Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s excesses made it fashionable to vilify patriots by accusing them of believing communists were “under every bed.”

But what if the USSR and its ideological soul-mates in places like China, North Korea, Cuba, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa had been able to criminalize efforts to oppose their quest for the triumph of world communism?  What if it had been an internationally prosecutable offense even to talk about the dangers inherent in communist rule and the need to resist it?

The short answer is that history might very well have come out differently.  Had courageous anti-communists been unable accurately and forcefully to describe the nature of that time’s enemy – and to work against the danger posed by its repressive, seditious program, the Cold War might well have been lost.

Flash forward to today.  At the moment, another totalitarian ideology characterized by techniques and global ambitions strikingly similar to those of yesteryear’s communists is on the march.  It goes by varying names: “Islamofascism,” “Islamism,” “jihadism” or “radical,” “extremist” or “political Islam.”  Unlike the communists, however, adherents to this ideology are making extraordinary strides in Western societies toward criminalizing those who dare oppose the Islamist end-state – the imposition of brutal Shariah Law on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Consider but a few indicators of this ominous progress:

--In March, the 57 Muslim-state Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) prevailed upon the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution requiring the effective evisceration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Henceforth, the guaranteed right of free expression will not extend to any criticism of Islam, on the grounds that it amounts to an abusive act of religious discrimination. A UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression has been charged with documenting instances in which individuals and media organizations engage in what the Islamists call “Islamophobia.”  Not to be outdone, the OIC has its own “ten-year program of action” which will monitor closely all Islamophobic incidents and defamatory statements around the world.

--Monitoring is just the first step. Jordan’s Prosecutor General has recently brought charges against Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. According to a lawsuit, “Fitna” – Wilders’ short documentary film that ties certain Koranic passages to Islamist terrorism – is said to have slandered and insulted the Prophet Mohammed, demeaned Islam and offended the feelings of Muslims in violation of the Jordanian penal code.  Mr. Wilders has been summoned to Amman to stand trial and, if he fails to appear voluntarily, international warrants for his arrest will be issued.

Zakaria Al-Sheikh, head of the “Messenger of Allah Unites Us Campaign” which is the plaintiff in the Jordanian suit, reportedly has “confirmed that the [prosecutor’s action] is the first step towards setting in place an international law criminalizing anyone who insults Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.”  In the meantime, his campaign is trying to penalize the nations that have spawned “Islamophobes” like Wilders and the Danish cartoonists by boycotting their exports – unless the producers publicly denounce the perpetrators both in Jordan and in their home media.

--Unfortunately, it is not just some companies that are submitting to this sort of coercion – a status known in Islam as “dhimmitude.”  Western officials and governmental entities appear increasingly disposed to go along with such efforts to mutate warnings about Shariah law and its adherents from “politically incorrect” to “criminally punishable” activity.   

For example, in Britain, Canada and even the United States, the authorities are declining to describe the true threat posed by Shariah Law and are using various techniques to discourage – and in some cases, prosecute – those who do.  We are witnessing the spectacle of authors’ books being burned, ministers prosecuted, documentary film-makers investigated and journalists hauled before so-called “Human Rights Councils” on charges of offending Muslims, slandering Islam or other “Islamophobic” conduct.  Jurists on both sides of the Atlantic are acceding to the insinuation of Shariah law in their courts.  And Wall Street is increasingly joining other Western capital markets in succumbing to the seductive Trojan Horse of “Shariah-Compliant Finance.”

Let’s be clear: The Islamists are trying to establish a kind of Catch-22: If you point out that they seek to impose a barbaric, repressive and seditious Shariah Law, you are insulting their faith and engaging in unwarranted, racist and bigoted fear-mongering.  On the other hand, pursuant to Shariah, you must submit to that theo-political-legal program.  If you don’t, you can legitimately be killed. It is not an irrational fear to find that prospect unappealing. And it is not racist or bigoted to decry and oppose Islamist efforts to bring it about – ask the anti-Islamist Muslims who are frequently accused of being Islamophobes!

If we go along with our enemies’ demands to criminalize Islamophobia, we will mutate Western laws, traditions, values and societies beyond recognition.  Ultimately, today’s totalitarian ideologues will triumph where their predecessors were defeated.

To avoid such a fate, those who love freedom must oppose the seditious program the Islamists call Shariah – and all efforts to impose its 1st Amendment-violating blasphemy, slander and libel laws on us in the guise of preventing Western Islamophobia.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the founder, president, and CEO of The Center for Security Policy. During the Reagan administration, Gaffney was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, and a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John Tower (R-Texas). He is a columnist for The Washington Times, Jewish World Review, and and has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2008, 08:09:19 PM »

Why do Congressional Democrats fear free speech?

Efforts in both chambers of Congress have Republicans wondering why Democrats seem to fear free speech.  Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) has proposed limitations on how Representatives can post information to the Internet in a time when we should be demanding more transparency, not less.  According to a source in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein has begun her own campaign to force Senators to seek permission before communicating over the Internet.

Soren Dayton at The Next Right has the story from the House:

In typical fashion, House Democrats are trying to pass rules that stifle debate and require regulation. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) sent a letter to the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration Robert Brady (D-PA). The letter is a response to a debate about whether the House should allow members to use YouTube, first raised by Rep. Kevin McCarthy back in April. …

Well, Capuano’s proposal is a disaster. It creates a list of sites, maintained by the Committee on House Administration that members are allowed to post material. Except, those sites have a caveat:

To the maximum extent possible, official content should not be posted on a website or page where it may appear with commercial or political information or any other information not in compliance with the House’s content guidelines.

In the Senate, the problem gets even worse.  Feinstein (D-CA) would have the Rules Committee act as a censor board, forcing members to get approval for the act of communicating on external websites.  Further, it would appear that the Feinstein proposal would attempt to exercise editorial control over these sites, at least indirectly.

As my source put it, these are the key issues:

Under their scheme, the Senate Rules Committee would become the Internet speech police for everyone in the Senate.
It will be up to the committee to “sanction” which websites and forms of communication they deem appropriate.
The Rules Committee thus gets to pick winners and losers among various websites in terms of which are appropriate for use.
The Rules Committee would get to regulate communication through any site not ending in “,” which would include sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Further, this could jeopardize guest posts at sites like RedState and Townhall.
The Rules Committee would require senators to moderate “any public commentary” which would likely mean regulating comments on guest posts and YouTube videos, among other things.
It also raises a number of questions:

Would this rule extend beyond comments to posts on the site?
Would it affect Slatecard & BlogAds?
How about something like The Ed Morrissey Show, which has a live chatroom? Would that have to be moderated?
The Rules Committee would get to act as the “Content KGB” since it can require the removal of content in violation of Senate Rules. And who determines what’s in violation? The Rules Committee.
There are no similar controls on any other form of communication with the public, such as publishing op-eds in newspapers or appearing on radio or television.
The sudden interest in silencing Congress goes right along with the brand-new 9% approval rating the Democratic leadership has earned Congress.  Imagine how much worse it will get when they gag their members and force an end to communication through policy sites, blogs, and Internet media.

Want to ask Feinstein what she’s thinking?  Be sure to e-mail her through her website or call the Senate Rules Committee at 202-224-6352 to express your support for free speech and transparency.  Ask them what they have to hide that the 9% of Americans who still support them shouldn’t find out.

Update: And let’s not forget Feinstein’s other policy goal — re-establishment of the Fairness Doctrine.  Hmmmm.  Can we detect a pattern here?

Update II: Soren had the identity of the House Administration Committee chair.  It’s Robert Brady, not Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas.  I’ve updated the reference in the quoted material.
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2008, 07:38:24 PM »

 I really hope they loose their tax exempt status

Ban on Political Endorsements by Pastors Targeted

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 8, 2008; A03

CHICAGO -- Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

"For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church," ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. "It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It's not for the government to mandate the role of church in society."

Yet an opposing collection of Christian and Jewish clergy will petition the IRS today to stop the protest before it starts, calling the ADF's "Pulpit Initiative" an assault on the rule of law and the separation of church and state.

Backed by three former top IRS officials, the group also wants the IRS to determine whether the nonprofit ADF is risking its own tax-exempt status by organizing an "inappropriate, unethical and illegal" series of political endorsements.

"As religious leaders, we have grave concerns about the ethical implications of soliciting and organizing churches to violate core principles of our society," the clergy wrote in an advance copy of their claim obtained by The Washington Post.

The battle over the clergy's privileges, rights and responsibilities in the political world is not new. Politicians of all stripes court the support -- explicit or otherwise -- of religious leaders. Allegations surface every political season of a preacher crossing the line.

What is different is the Alliance Defense Fund's direct challenge to the rules that govern tax-exempt organizations. Rather than wait for the IRS to investigate an alleged violation, the organization intends to create dozens of violations and take the U.S. government to court on First Amendment grounds.

"We're looking for churches that are serious-minded about this, churches that understand both the risks and the benefits," Stanley said, referring to the chance that they could lose their coveted tax-exempt status or could set a precedent.

Stanley said three dozen church leaders from more than 20 states have agreed to deliver a political sermon, naming political names.

"The sermon will be an evaluation of conditions for office in light of scripture and doctrine. They will make a specific recommendation from the pulpit about how the congregation would vote," he said.

"They could oppose a candidate. They could oppose both candidates. They could endorse a candidate. They could focus on a federal, state or local election."

Such endorsements are prohibited by a 1954 amendment to the Internal Revenue Code that says nonprofit, tax-exempt entities may not "participate in, or intervene in . . . any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office."

In a Sept. 3 letter to two United Church of Christ pastors in Ohio who are organizing the challenge to the ADF, Stanley appealed to them, "as one Christian brother to another," to abandon their criticism. He asserted a "constitutional right to speak freely from the pulpit" and said IRS rules "stifle religious expression."

Former IRS lawyer Marcus S. Owens, however, opposes the ADF's strategy and its legal reasoning. Working with the Ohio-based clergy, he contends that the Supreme Court would be unlikely to overturn appellate court rulings on the issue or a related precedent of its own.

Owens also criticizes ADF and its lawyers for "actively advising churches and pastors that they should violate the tax law and offering to explain how to do that. The tax system would be shut down if you allowed attorneys to counsel people on how to violate the tax law."

Owens, a former director of the IRS office that regulates tax-exempt organizations, will ask the tax agency to investigate ADF lawyers for "this flagrant disregard of the ethical rules." He is joined by former IRS commissioner Mortimer M. Caplin and Cono R. Namorato, who headed the office of professional responsibility at the IRS until 2006.

The two Ohio pastors, the Rev. Eric Williams and the Rev. Robert F. Molsberry, have called for hundreds of clergy to preach on Sept. 21 about the value of the separation of church and state.

Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, calls "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" a "stunt" that is part of an effort by the religious right to build a church network that will "put their candidates into office. It's part of the overall game plan."

"This is an extraordinarily reckless scheme that they are promoting," Conn said. "The federal tax law is clear. Churches are charitable institutions that exist to do charitable things. That does not include politics. Political groups do politics."

The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal consortium that considers itself the antithesis of the American Civil Liberties Union. It spends more than $20 million a year to underwrite legal battles and train lawyers to push the country in socially conservative directions.

Founded in 1994 by Christian conservatives including James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family and William R. Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, the ADF has challenged same-sex marriage initiatives, stem cell research and rules that limit the distance protesters must keep from abortion patients. It helped the Boy Scouts ban gay Scout leaders.

Defining its latest mission, the ADF declared that pastors have "too long feared" the loss of tax exemptions.

"We're not encouraging any congregation to violate the law," Stanley said. "What we're encouraging them to do is exercise their constitutional right in the face of an unconstitutional law."

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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2008, 11:06:21 PM »

"I really hope they loose (sic) their tax exempt status".

Although I can understand their emotion, I agree with you that tax money should not be used.
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« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2008, 11:08:12 PM »

Does Obama's church lose it's tax exempt status for "God damn America!" and other political sermons?
« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2008, 09:54:56 AM »


If you endorse a candidate from the pulpit you should loose your tax-exempt status.

However I don’t think you should loose your tax-exempt status for either praying for or damning your country and its leaders.   Why is praying for your country and its leaders less political than damning it.    I do the morality of those two options to be very different.  Did Obama’s former church ever endorse a politician from the pulpit.  Abortion issues are political issues should religious organizations not be able to talk about them either? 

I wouldn’t particular be sad if Obama’s  former church lost its tax exempt status

In fact I could see value in changing the law so that  all religious organizations loose their tax-exempt status even though I personally get a nice tax deduction for my contributions to my synagogue.   Huge mega-church compounds having tax exempt status bothers me.   
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« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2008, 10:07:36 AM »

I note that Obama's church had him and Louis Farrakhan on the cover of the church's magazine multiple times. That sure seems like political advocacy to me.

Imagine the army of IRS employees it would take to monitor the nation's religious institutions for signs of political advocacy.....
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2008, 07:32:51 AM »

Schumer’s Fairness Doctrine fatuity
Published by Briggs at 6:37 am under Philosophy, Politics

First listen to the appalling Chuck Schumer responding to a question about the proposed Fairness Doctrine (link from Unfair Doctrine):

Let’s summarize. He said:

I think we should all try to be fair and balanced, don’t you?
[Radio broadcasts]: It’s not like printing a broadside…Do you think we should allow people to put pornography on the air? Absolutely not.
The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine, want the FCC to limit pornography on the air.
But you can’t say “Government, Hands off” in one area to a commercial enterprise, “But you’re allowed to intervene in another.” That’s not consistent.
Schumer is treasure trove to people like me who are always on the lookout for examples of appallingly bad reasoning to use for teaching students logic. Almost any Schumer speech can be milked for at least one lesson—you could probably get half a semester from this bare minute.

Now, nobody knows what any new Fairness Doctrine might be since it is now in its “trial balloon” phase. But we can look to an earlier, abandoned incarnation of it for some clues. We can also glean hints from Schumer’s words.

Schumer thinks we should try to be “Fair & Balanced.” A fine thing, but not something that can be mandated. This is not a question of opinion or morality. For example, supposed on some matter the truth is A (where this is some argument or proposition about a decision we have to make). I set up a newspaper to tout A. Another group, unhappy with the reality of A, says “B is better because it shows we care.” But since A is true, it is absurd for me to publish anything else. It is even more absurd for the government to threaten me with criminal liability for my refusal to explain the merits of B.

Of course, we don’t often know the truth of some thing, but we can make a rational guess. It might be, conditional on some evidence, that A is nearly true, or more than likely true, and that every other alternative to A is less likely to be true. Again, it is absurd for me to publish anything else, and equally or more absurd for the government to intervene.

Can the government ban certain opinions from being published? The answer is yes. In certain circumstances, it is rational to proscribe behavior. Some examples: calls for armed insurrection, pleas for murder or other crimes, for sedition and so on. It is not only right the government should ban these, but it is its duty to do so. The exact limits of opinion that can and should be banned are, of course, unknown, and will be, in some cases, flexibly defined. But in no case does it make sense for the government to say, “Ok, make your plea for murdering the president, but you also have to allow Mr X 5 minutes to offer his counter opinion.” The ludicrousness of any such an argument is apparent. In short, either an idea is banned or it is allowable (a trivial tautology, but one that bears mentioning).

It does not follow that because the vast majority of Americans want to ban or limit pornography from being broadcast, that the government can ban, limit, or regulate any other opinion. Whether or not it is right to ban or limit certain opinions, or what constitutes the definition of those opinions, it does not follow—it is idiotic to propose—that the government should allow airing of the controversial opinion but then require the broadcaster provide time for counter opinions. If that were the case, then we could have a station air Deep Throat followed by a plea for proper dental hygiene.

Proper dental hygiene? Why not “The evils of pornography”? Why not, indeed. Now comes the easiest refutation of any implementation of a Fairness Doctrine. Suppose I say “A is true!” The government wants to say, “You may say A is true, but I mandate that you allow fair time for opponents of A. You shall also bear the expense of this.” Who are the legitimate opponents of A? Those that say B? C?, D, E, F…?

This is the meat of it, friends. Pay attention. In order to enforce any “Fairness” Doctrine, the government will be forced to define the opposite of A. Because, for any matter that is uncertain, there are an infinite or certainly an enormously huge number of alternatives to A. You cannot, in finite time, broadcast every alternative to A even if you wanted to. The only way to mandate broadcasting alternatives to A is by the government dictating—and dictating requires a dictator—what those alternatives are.

For example, in the earlier incarnation of this naked power grab, a prominent person who was “attacked” on the air was to be allowed time to offer his defense. What defines an “attack”? Does any negative opinion about the Great Leader in power constitute an “attack”? The Great Leader proposes a tax increase, and a broadcaster says, “This will negatively effect credit and so make it more difficult to get home loans.” Is this an “attack”? Who can say? The government wants to say. In fact, it must say.

There is no way around this fact: the government must get into the business of defining what an “attack” is, what are its limits, and so on. There is no alternative if you require a Fairness Doctrine. There must come into an existence an office to administer Fairness (I propose “Ministry of Truth”).

Of course, many, like Schumer, would like nothing better than to be in the business of defining what are the limits of opinion on political matters. The reason for this is obvious as it is odious.

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.

It is impossible for any Fairness Doctrine to be consonant with those words. It is not a debatable point: it is logically impossible. Unless, as Schumer and other advocates of the “living constitution” want to do, you change the meaning of the plain-English words “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of the press.” They must interpret this to mean “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of the press unless that law allows us to respond to people who hurt our feelings or otherwise pick on us, or that the speech printed or broadcast is hateful.” This is so absurd that I am shocked that anybody but an academic could ever think it.

Well, that’s enough. I’m already sick of this. There are no subtleties involved in this argument, not anywhere. To see these power-hungry politicians licking their chops over the possibilities due to them because of their recent electoral victory is truly frightening.

Sigh. I didn’t even get to the obvious logical absurdity in Schumer’s phrase “But you can’t say…” I’ll leave that for homework.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 09:27:39 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2008, 09:29:38 AM »

Schumer is an anus par excellence.

Looking at the bright side, if the Dems go for reimposing the FD, I think it is a really good issue for the Republicans , , , as long as we win on it.  Losing on the FD would be bad, very bad.
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« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2008, 09:38:17 AM »

Most all of the bad decisions from the dems are problems, but survivable. The FD seriously threatens our core freedoms.
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« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2008, 09:40:36 PM »

The expression 'putting the toothpaste back into the tube' applies mostly to the difficulty of ending liberal programs (IMO) but I think it applies perfectly to reimposing 'the fairness doctrine'.  I can't imagine that the most liberal of voters would now think they need to curtail the expression of dissenting views after such a big political win.  Besides, it wouldn't work unless the internet was regulated as well.  I think it would only raise their public importance if voices like Rush L. were banned from the airwaves to make room for elevator music and breaking news on the home and garden front.
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« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2008, 10:53:26 PM »

I would expect the net to be regulated as well.
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« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2008, 11:59:55 PM »

Is that even possible?
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2008, 07:48:01 AM »

China tries to do so with a degree of success (think Olympics and protest coverage), but it's a losing game over the long term. It'd be like the war on drugs 2.0: you criminalize a large portion of your population and drop a lot of your wealth into enforcement efforts. Not saying it couldn't happen, but the US would have to take the Orwellian turn the UK is flirting with and then widely deploy a lot of nanny state software and hardware.
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« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2008, 08:49:36 AM »

- Pajamas Media - -

Media Freedom to Suffer Under Dems
Posted By Bernard Chapin On November 3, 2008 @ 12:30 am In . Positioning, Blogosphere, Computers, Elections 2008, Free Speech, Internet, Media, Politics, Science & Technology, US News | 61 Comments

The main question in light of the coming election is “what will Barack Obama do?” Should he become president, great — and totally undesirable — change awaits America. Brian Anderson and co-author Adam Thierer in their newly released book, [1] A Manifesto for Media Freedom, answer this question. The authors elucidate the impact a Democrat-dominated government will have on our personal freedoms. The portrait they paint is reminiscent of Titian’s [2] Salome with the Head of John the Baptist — except the head of conservatism appears in John’s place. They warn that the damage to free speech arising from leftist domination of our government will be both severe and oppressive. Thankfully, Mr. Anderson found time to answer a few queries about our haunted future. Mr. Anderson is the editor of [3] City Journal, which is among the most insightful and generative of conservative publications. Previously, he wrote [4] Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents and [5] South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias.

BC: Congratulations on the release of your new book, Mr. Anderson. It’s your second release in a year’s time. First off, what is the Fairness Doctrine and how close are we to its becoming viable?

Brian Anderson: Thanks, Bernard. The Fairness Doctrine was an old regulation of the Federal Communications Commission dating back in various forms to 1929 and officially codified in the late 40s. It would rule broadcast media until Ronald Reagan’s FCC got rid of it in 1987, seeing it as suppressing free speech. It required radio and later broadcast television stations to cover issues of interest to the community in which it could be heard or watched and to provide airtime to opposing viewpoints. Lack of compliance meant potential fines and ultimately loss of license.

When the Fairness Doctrine was gone, talk radio exploded — going from only 100 or so talk shows of any kind in the early 80s to the thousands that exist today and that draw big audiences. It turns out that the doctrine did suppress speech on the airwaves. Stations didn’t want the hassle of government regulators looking over their shoulder and so they shied away from controversial opinion. Adam Thierer and I show in the book how, from the outset, the Fairness Doctrine was used by politicians to harass their critics on radio and TV. It is a too-tempting power to abuse.

Its reintroduction — an idea supported enthusiastically by Democratic Party leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Al Gore — would destroy talk radio, the one medium that conservative and libertarian voices dominate. Obama claims not to want to restore it, but it is hard to imagine him vetoing a bill if Congress delivered him one. And the media reforms he does aggressively support, including imposing new local accountability measures on broadcasters, would amount to much the same thing. As sketched out by Democrats, stations would be subjected to renewing their license every two years, instead of eight, which is today the case, and would have to include in the re-licensing process the input of local community monitoring boards, which would swiftly be taken over by activists, since other people actually have to work.

BC: Is there a difference between the political left and the political right’s approach to free speech?

Brian Anderson: Conservatives have traditionally sought to suppress pornography and vulgarity, of course; the political left has done this too — one of the leading advocates of regulating the video game industry, for example, is Hillary Clinton — but it adds to that a scary desire to control political speech completely at odds with the ideals of the American Founders. Controlling political speech is to suppress criticism. A world in which conservative talk radio was a diminished presence would be a world in which liberals could enact their preferred legislation more easily, whether this was higher taxes, further restrictions on campaign finance — which John McCain has always promoted, but which the left has been the prime driver of — and on and on. A clampdown on talk radio would empower the unregulated print media, which leans left; there are many liberals today who long for the pristine time when all those nasty voices weren’t on the air and everyone got up and read their New York Times and had dinner with CBS News. There’s a play getting good reviews in New Jersey, Fair and Decent, which, believe it or not, is all about how the Fairness Doctrine was defeated, giving birth to what the playwright, Thomas Diggs, sees as a new dark era of Limbaughs and Hannitys.

BC: You’ve no doubt witnessed the tactics of the Obama campaign in relation to its foes. For example, they attempted to take Chicago talk show host Milt Rosenberg off the air when he dared to interview Obama critics David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz — not to mention its ongoing and fervent war against Dr. Jerome Corsi. Has his strategy on the election trail foreshadowed what he’ll do should he get into office?

Brian Anderson: I think it very much does. When the NRA released some ads in Pennsylvania taking Obama to task for his gun voting record, his campaign’s lawyer fired off letters to the stations that carried the ad charging that they had violated public interest obligations. When a 527 group, the American Issues Project, released a commercial linking Obama to Bill Ayers, the campaign unsuccessfully complained to the Justice Department that AIP had broken campaign finance laws — and it spooked several stations away from carrying the spots. You’ll see lots, lots more of this radiating out of an Obama/Democrat-controlled Washington.

BC: Net neutrality sounds like a fair concept, but what are its actual effects? Is it an attempt to fix a problem that does not exist?

Brian Anderson: Mandated neutrality, which the Democrats embrace, is a very bad idea. What it would amount to is giving government overseers at the FCC the power to force Internet providers to treat equally all the traffic that moves through their conduits — the fiber optic cable, the phone lines, the wireless connections, and so on. Thus the provider couldn’t slow down or speed up any traffic — slow down the bandwidth hog downloading huge movie files, say, so as to let email users check their emails quickly. The provider certainly couldn’t offer new super-fast services for a fee, just as FedEx accelerates delivery of a package for a fee, or other services that might treat Internet users unequally. No digital discrimination! This makes zero economic sense — it is a kind of infrastructure socialism — in that we’re telling the firms actually building the bandwidth capacity of the future that they can’t run their own cables as they see fit. But why should they keep building it then? If they don’t build it, however, the Internet in the U.S. will slow as more and more information surges online, including massive visual files.

But our deeper worry is that once the Federal Communications Commission starts mucking about, talking about digital discrimination and equality, we’ll see the first steps toward establishing a Fairness Doctrine for web opinion sites. The FCC commissioner Robert McDowell recently warned of this possibility; an advisor to the Democrats on regulatory issues, Cass Sunstein, has in the past argued in favor of such a measure; the EU has looked at implementing it. This isn’t a science fiction scenario, though implementing it would generate a firestorm.

BC: What’s been the impact of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act?

Brian Anderson: What we show in the book is how campaign finance restrictions are beginning to encroach on the media. One example we discuss: when a conservative group tried to counter Michael Moore’s anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 back in 2004, the Federal Election Commission ruled that they couldn’t show or advertise it anywhere close to the election, lest penalties apply. Moore’s film — equally political, of course — got a pass because the commission viewed him as a legitimate filmmaker, not an activist. This is just crazy — we begin approaching a world of completely regulated politics. That’s wildly un-American.

BC: Where will the war on political speech end? How much can the First Amendment be distorted before it has no meaning whatsoever? Will the political left eventually attempt to control conservative publishing houses and all of our publications?

Brian Anderson: I worry deeply about how far this will go. Killing or reducing the influence of talk radio would actually harm conservative publishing, since talk radio is the number one way right-of-center authors can get the word out about something they have written. Our First Amendment jurisprudence would be hard for the Founders to recognize — finding protections for virtual kiddie porn but eroding the political speech rights that the Framers viewed as essential to a flourishing free society.

BC: Thanks so much for your time, Mr. Anderson.

Article printed from Pajamas Media:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] A Manifesto for Media Freedom:

[2] Salome with the Head of John the Baptist:
[3] City Journal:
[4] Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents:
[5] South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias:
« Reply #25 on: November 13, 2008, 12:16:33 PM »

Mormon Outed by Campaign Finance Laws

Katherine Mangu-Ward | November 13, 2008, 12:35pm

When spoke with former FEC head Brad Smith earlier this year, he offered this through-the-looking-glass take on campaign finance requirements:

Imagine if George Bush were to announce here in the fading twilight of his presidency that in order to prevent terrorists from infiltrating American political parties and thus asserting control of American government, we needed to introduce the PATRIOT II Act. And the PATRIOT II Act would require citizens to report to the government their political activities. And the government would keep that in a database, which by the way they would then make available to private individuals like employers or maybe groups that might want to protest outside your home...

You know what, we have that law already, and it's called campaign finance, it's called the Federal Election Campaign Act. Which requires you to report to the government, or requires the campaigns to report to the government people who give them money and the government keeps that in a database, and they make that available, anybody can go online and look that stuff up on the Internet.

Ta Da! Meet Scott Eckern, the Mormon artistic director of the California Musical Theater (take a second to ponder that combo) was forced to resign yesterday after activists mining campaign donations publicized the fact that he had given money to the effort to ban gay marriage in California.

It is, of course, the perfect right of the theater to send him packing for any reason, and I personally think anyone who gives money to oppose gay marriage sucks nuts.

But the whole episode is pretty unsavory. Eckern, who seems to have a decent relationship with his sister (a lesbian), and good relationships with his theater colleagues (lots of gay), was probably not spewing anti-gay bile at work. If he had been, it's hard to imagine he would have lasted for seven years in his current position.

Instead, Eckern's private, personal donation to a legal political cause he believes in was forced into the public eye by government-mandated disclosure. It seems unlikely that Eckern wanted the donation to be made public—he may not have even known that it would be. Though I hesitate to make this comparison for obviously reasons, Eckern was essentially outed by the state for his privately-held views.

But wait, The New York Times says "the swift resignation was not met with cheers by those on either side." Whew. At least everyone realizes that this is a forced error, that everyone has been put into a terrible position by forces outside of their control.

Or not. Marc Shaiman, the Tony Award-winning composer, told the Times that the entire episode left him "'deeply troubled' because of the potential for backlash against gays who protested Mr. Eckern’s donation." [itals mine]

"It will not help our cause because we will be branded exactly as what we were trying to fight," said Mr. Shaiman, who is gay.

At worst, those who forced out Eckern are guilty of failing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps (as Shaiman can't quite bring himself to admit) a little hypocrisy. Imagine the situation reversed: A small non-profit that focuses on, say, education and happens to be culturally conservative, discovers that an employee has given money to protect gay marriage and fires him.

But the real culprit here is campaign finance laws. Not all political actions should be public actions, and this case illustrates why minorities of all kinds occasionally need privacy to be full participants in political life.
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« Reply #26 on: November 13, 2008, 12:41:27 PM »

Amongst those first to be thanked for this odious piece of legislation is Senator John McCain.
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« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2008, 11:45:44 AM »

Our new AG appointee: Not a big fan of the first or second amendments.
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« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2009, 10:47:55 AM »

Hillary Clinton had her silver screen moment in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, when the Justices heard a case that could determine the reach of campaign finance laws to control political advertising. The tone of the oral argument also hinted that five Justices on the Court may be increasingly leery of campaign-finance limits.

During the 2008 Presidential primaries, a nonprofit group called Citizens United produced a 90-minute documentary chronicling the exploits of then-Senator Clinton. Let's just say that "Hillary: the Movie" was not an endorsement. Because the film, and trailers for it, were scheduled to run in the heat of the race on cable TV, it ran afoul of campaign finance "reform" law.

Under the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act, also known as McCain-Feingold, electioneering communications paid by corporations or unions that "expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate" cannot run within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election. Citizens United filed suit against the Federal Election Commission to assert its right to distribute the film.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a federal district court agreed with the FEC that the ban on electioneering communications should just as reasonably apply to a 90-minute movie as to a two-minute advertisement. Writ large, that's scary news. According to Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, who argued the case, the government could theoretically regulate other forms of pre-election corporate speech as well, including books and the Internet.

"That's pretty incredible," said Justice Samuel Alito. "You think that if a book was published, a campaign biography that was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, that could be banned?" Yes, Mr. Stewart said, if a corporation or union were paying for it. It would be possible to "prohibit the publication of the book using the corporate treasury funds."

With Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito has previously taken a cautious, piecemeal approach to campaign finance law. But as the current case shows, McCain-Feingold is a blunt instrument that gives federal bureaucrats the power to decide what kind of campaign advertising is allowed during an election. If "Hillary: the Movie" isn't allowed, then Michael Moore's documentaries should be banned, and newspaper endorsements would also be suspect despite a specific carve-out in the law. If newspapers didn't have that carve-out, then maybe so many editors wouldn't cheerlead for this kind of law.

McCain-Feingold is a frontal assault on political speech, and President Bush's decision to sign it while claiming to dislike it was one of the worst moments of his eight years in office. Citizens United gives the Justices a new opportunity to chip away at this attack on the First Amendment, and even better if they use it to declare the whole thing unconstitutional.

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« Reply #29 on: April 30, 2009, 09:53:00 PM »
« Reply #30 on: April 30, 2009, 10:05:51 PM »


Think your first URL got truncated:
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« Reply #31 on: May 01, 2009, 08:09:23 AM »

Thanks for the save. smiley
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« Reply #32 on: May 29, 2009, 12:31:19 PM »

From NEWS10 San Diego:

Couple: County Trying To Stop Home Bible Studies
SAN DIEGO -- A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold Bible studies in their home, 10News reported.
Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"For churches and religious assemblies there's big parking concerns, there's environmental impact concerns when you have hundreds or thousands of people gathering. But this is a different situation, and we believe that the application of the religious assembly principles to this Bible study is certainly misplaced," said Broyles.

News of the case has rapidly spread across Internet blogs and has spurred various reactions.

Broyles said his clients have asked to stay anonymous until they give the county a demand letter that states by enforcing this regulation the county is violating their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion.

Broyles also said this case has broader implications.

"If the county thinks they can shut down groups of 10 or 15 Christians meeting in a home, what about people who meet regularly at home for poker night? What about people who meet for Tupperware parties? What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis and support the Chargers?" Broyles asked.

Broyles and his clients plan to give the County their demand letter this week.

If the County refuses to release the pastor and his wife from obtaining the permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court."

My whole beef about this whole thing is the way the city of San Diego is using intimidation on an otherwise innocent gathering. I don't like the idea of
the city or govt. being able to potentially curtail our rapidly diminishing right of lawful assembly by misapplying their powers like this. Have you had any interface
with your city concerning something similar like this? I know SOG met at PG Ed's backyard and from what i gather, the group had more than ten members. This
is, perhaps, more troubling to me because it was a bible study in a PRIVATE home, not in a park or street.
What ever happened to freedom of religion? In their mind it probably should read "freedom FROM religion.
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« Reply #33 on: May 29, 2009, 12:58:29 PM »


Texas Woman Told to Remove 'Offensive' American Flag From Office

Debbie McLucas comes from a patriotic family – her husband and both of her sons served in the U.S. military, and her daughter is currently deployed to Iraq on her second tour of duty as a combat medic.

So when McLucas arrived at work at a Texas hospital last Friday, she was stunned to be told that the Stars and Stripes she had hung in her office in advance of Memorial Day were offensive, and that the flag had been removed.

“I got into work, I was met by my supervisor and told that there had been multiple complaints, that people found the flag very offensive and it had been taken down," McLucas told

"I went to the office to retrieve it and found the flag wrapped around the pole, sitting in the corner on the ground. I was speechless."

McLucas, a supervisor at Kindred Hospital in Mansfield, Texas, had displayed the 3-by-5-foot flag in the office she shares with the hospital’s three other supervisors. McLucas said one of her colleagues, a woman who immigrated to the United States from Africa 14 years ago, complained about the flag to upper management, and the hospital decided to take down the flag.

"I was told that as long as my flag offended one person, it would be taken down," McLucas said.

She said the hospital told her that the American flag flying outside the building would have to suffice. "I was told, ‘There is a flag hanging out front, everyone can see that one. Is that not enough?’"

No, she said, that wasn't enough.

"It is more than I can even fathom, that you would find the American flag offensive, in America," McLucas said.

A Kindred Healthcare spokeswoman did not return calls for comment. Kindred issued a press release stating, “Kindred Hospital Mansfield has a great deal of appreciation for the service that many of our employees and their families have given to their country. We honor our veterans and active military through a variety of benefits and service programs. This was an isolated incident between two employees that we are working to resolve amicably.”

The statement went on to explain: “The disagreement was over the size of the flag and not what it symbolized. We have invited the employee to put the flag back up.”

And it will go back up and stay up, McLucas said.

"I do think they're trying to do the right thing. I have no reason to believe the flag won't remain there as long as I'm employed."
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« Reply #34 on: July 10, 2009, 08:26:45 PM »

Dispute over flag protest erupts in Wisc. village
By ROBERT IMRIE, Associated Press Writer Robert Imrie, Associated Press Writer – Fri Jul 10, 2:44 pm ET

WAUSAU, Wis. – An American flag flown upside down as a protest in a northern Wisconsin village was seized by police before a Fourth of July parade and the businessman who flew it — an Iraq war veteran — claims the officers trespassed and stole his property.

A day after the parade, police returned the flag and the man's protest — over a liquor license — continued.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is considering legal action against the village of Crivitz for violating Vito Congine Jr.'s' First Amendment rights, Executive Director Chris Ahmuty said.

"It is not often that you see something this blatant," Ahmuty said.

In mid-June, Congine, 46, began flying the flag upside down — an accepted way to signal distress — outside the restaurant he wants to open in Crivitz, a village of about 1,000 people some 65 miles north of Green Bay.

He said his distress is likely bankruptcy because the village board refused to grant him a liquor license after he spent nearly $200,000 to buy and remodel a downtown building for an Italian supper club.

Congine's upside-down-flag represents distress to him; to others in town, it represents disrespect of the flag.

Hours before a Fourth of July parade, four police officers went to Congine's property and removed the flag under the advice of Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey.

Neighbor Steven Klein watched in disbelief.

"I said, 'What are you doing?' Klein said. "They said, 'It is none of your business.'"

The next day, police returned the flag.

Brey declined comment Friday.

Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula said it was not illegal to fly the flag upside down but people were upset and it was the Fourth of July.

"It is illegal to cause a disruption," he said.

The parade went on without any problems, Kanikula said.

Village President John Deschane, 60, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said many people in town believe it's disrespectful to fly the flag upside down.

"If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it," Deschane said.

Congine, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq in 2004, said he intends to keep flying the flag upside down.

"It is pretty bad when I go and fight a tyrannical government somewhere else," Congine said, "and then I come home to find it right here at my front door."
Posts: 41

« Reply #35 on: September 17, 2009, 09:52:07 PM »

from FOX news 8:

High school officials vs. ACLU

"PACE, Fla. - Two Florida high school administrators accused of leading a prayer after a school luncheon appeared in court Thursday morning. Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman are accused of criminal contempt.

Reverend Joseph Rogers of Pace Assembly of God knows Lay and Freeman, and he is very familiar with the situation the men are in. He says he and the rest of the Pace community are behind them in their battle against the ACLU.

"They've been here for years and years and years as individuals that have been strong people in our community, and of course, strong influences, men of great character and integrity," said Reverend Joseph Rogers.

Reverend Rogers says Lay and Freeman are very sincere about their Christian beliefs, and those beliefs have helped shape Pace High School into what it is today.

"Because of their integrity and the way they've conducted themselves, Pace High School is a champion school, it's an A+ school," said Reverend Rogers.

Rogers said Lay and Freeman understand the law inspired by the ACLU, which required school officials in Santa Rosa County to stop promoting their personal religious beliefs in public schools.

He says the men had no intentions of violating that law.

"I think that what took place was just part of who they are, with no ill intent and no desire to violate the law. However, with the ACLU and all that that has taken place, it has drawn attention there and I don't think that it was necessary for it to have escalated to this point of a criminal lawsuit," said Reverend Rogers.

Reverend Rogers says it's time that Americans follow Lay and Freeman in standing up for our Constitutional rights.

"In the time we're living in, it's important for people to stand up and speak up concerning their individual constitutional rights. And these men, along with everyone else, have the right to be able to have free speech. If we are going to criminalize prayer, we should start all the way at the top, and that would be a horrible atrocity to the United States Constitution, in my opinion," said Reverend Rogers.

Reverend Rogers says Principal Lay and Athletic Director Freeman are looking forward to their day in court, in hopes that the court will be able to understand their position.

You can help Lay and Freeman pay for their defense funds. If you would like to make a donation, click here . The website is also selling t-shirts, which depict children praying on the front side and the message "Frank-ly against the ACLU" on the back side. So far, $43,000 has been raised between the website and a recent fundraiser."

Incidentally, there were no students present at the time.
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« Reply #36 on: May 19, 2010, 04:16:08 PM »

The subject matter of this thread will now be handled in the "Issues in the American Creed" thread on the SCH forum.
Power User
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« Reply #37 on: June 24, 2010, 03:51:40 PM »


Dear Marc,
This is URGENT!  Once again Congress is directly attacking our freedoms and liberties
by working to silence the voices of any who oppose them.  We must respond quickly
and stop the Disclose Act dead in its tracks. Please call Jane Harman and urge her
to vote NO on the Disclose Act ASAP.

D.C. Phone: 202-225-8220
El Segundo Phone: 310-643-3636


From the American Grassroots Coalition ...
Will the First Amendment Survive the DISCLOSE Act?

Free speech is under attack!  There is no time for rest, just as the summer is getting
started, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congress are trying to silence our free speech
 and trample our First Amendment liberties.

In an effort to protect incumbents and to silence tea party and grassroots activists
groups across the country, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced H.R.
5175 which is a direct response to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
- a First Amendment victory in which the Supreme Court overturned the prohibition
on corporations and unions using treasury funds for independent expenditures supporting
or opposing political candidates at any time of the year.
Simply put, this legislation is intended to make liberty loving organizations disclose
their donations and donors in an effort to overwhelm them, and thus silence them
 so they will not engage in the political process.  The Speaker and her Democratic
Congress are doing their best to make sure that this movement has no impact on the
November elections.
Once again, this is dirty politics, as usual!
Want more information?  You will find the exact language of H.R. 5175 here.
 You can watch a video that explains H.R. 5175 here
This legislation was supposed to be brought to the floor last week.  On Friday morning,
Politico reported that Speaker Pelosi pulled the bill because of strong opposition
by the Blue Dog Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus.
Politico reported, "The Blue Dogs are concerned that opposition from the Chamber,
National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Realtors and
other business groups will damage their reelection prospects in the fall.
The Congressional Black Caucus, on the other hand, was unhappy about an exemption
to the bill granted to the National Rifle Association agreed to by Van Hollen. While
the exemption was later extended to other groups, the CBC remained concerned about
the bill's potential impact on the NAACP and other progressive groups."

The bottom line is that this legislation is bad for everyone and we must do everything
we can to pressure all Members of the House of Representatives to stop this legislation

Join Our Mailing List []

Forward email

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« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2011, 11:37:23 PM »

I have just added the words "Free Speech" to the name of this thread to make it relevant not only to First Amendment issues (which also fit on the Constutitional Law thread on the SCH forum) but to the efforts to silence speech politically such as we now see coming out of the Left.

This is the thread for discussing such efforts.
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« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2011, 12:36:57 PM »

Accurately reporting what the left says=hate speech

The Second Time is Farce: Frances Fox Piven Calls for a new Cloward-Piven Strategy for Today
December 30, 2010 - by Ron Radosh

Writing in The Nation magazine on May 2, 1966, sociologists Richard Cloward and his wife Frances Fox Piven published what was to become in later years one of the most famous and influential of leftist articles. Titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” the two socialist intellectuals developed a new so-called “crisis strategy” — that of trying to use the existing welfare system to create chaos that would weaken the corporate capitalist state and eventually foment revolution. “Discover the Networks” has a good summary of their thesis.

The two became the ideologists of a group formed to implement their strategy, called “The National Welfare Rights Organization,” or NWRO. As Stanley Kurtz explains in Radical-in-Chief: “the idea was to flood state and local welfare systems with more applicants than they could possibly afford to carry. Cloward and Piven believed that this ‘break the bank’ strategy would force President [Lyndon B.] Johnson and a liberal Democratic Congress to bail out overburdened state welfare systems with a federally guaranteed annual income.” This experience of activism by the poor would create a new anti-capitalist sentiment, and would stoke the poors’ “sense of entitlement and rage.” Later, the group’s mission would be carried on by ACORN, whose leaders endorsed and built upon Cloward and Piven’s strategy.

The idea was to consciously create a fiscal crisis of the state. ACORN’s chief strategist, Peter Dreier, explained this in an article, “The Case for Transitional Reform,” which appeared in the journal Social Policy in February 1979. Dreier called for injecting “unmanageable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate an economic and/or political crisis,” producing a “revolution of rising entitlements” that “cannot be abandoned without undermining the legitimacy of the capitalist class.” Once a “fiscal crisis in the public sector” occurred, the movement could push for creation of “socialist norms” being advanced as the only possible solution.

A few decades have passed since this strategy was first announced. They had great hopes that when  Bill Clinton became president, they could implement their strategy. But the Clinton administration — once seen potentially by the Left as a vehicle for fulfillment of its dreams — worked with Republicans in Clinton’s second term to pass meaningful and successful welfare reform. This was precisely the opposite of what the Left wanted and hoped for.

Now, as President Barack Obama is beginning the mid-point of his first and possibly only term in office, the Left is again trying to advance a new form of the old strategy. And the author of the new program is none other than Frances Fox Piven, the co-author with her late husband of the original 1966 article.  Clearly, Piven looks back fondly with memories of what NWRO did in the 1970s. The New York Times reported on their tactics on September 22, 1970:

    There have been sit-ins in legislative chambers, including a United States Senate committee hearing, mass demonstrations of several thousand welfare recipients, school boycotts, picket lines, mounted police, tear gas, arrests — and, on occasion, rock-throwing, smashed glass doors, overturned desks, scattered papers and ripped-out phones.

My friend Sol Stern, now with City Journal and the Manhattan Institute,  explained how successful they were:

    The flooding succeeded beyond Wiley’s wildest dreams. From 1965 to 1974, the number of households on welfare soared from 4.3 million to 10.8 million, despite mostly flush economic times. By the early 1970s, one person was on the welfare rolls in New York City for every two working in the city’s private economy.

Under the liberal administration of Mayor John Lindsay, welfare spending more than doubled, from $400 million to $1 billion a year. Money for the poor was now 28 per cent of the city’s budget, and New York almost collapsed as a result — precisely the hope of Cloward, Piven and George Wiley.

Now, as our national economy and many state and city budgets again are at the breaking point, Frances Fox Piven has issued a new call to repeat and build upon the ruinous strategies that she and her late husband advanced decades ago. And as in 1966, her vehicle is The Nation, the flagship magazine of the Left which today has a huge circulation and much greater influence than it had in the 1960s.

Writing in the current issue, Piven  presents a clarion call for a new mass movement, one that the magazine publishes as an editorial statement representing its editors. (It is currently under the magazine’s firewall.)  She begins by noting that nothing is taking place to deal with ending what she claims is an unemployment rate of 15 million people. To regain the 5 percent rate of 2007, she estimates there would have to be 300,000 jobs created each month for several years, something that is next to impossible.

Thus Piven asks a question: “So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs?” In other words, the kind of action her protégé George Wiley fomented in the 70s with the NWRO. She admonishes the Left not to wait for “the end of the American empire and even the end of neoliberal capitalism,” but to up the ante at present to pressure for “big new [government] initiatives in infrastructure and green energy” that could “ward off the darkness.”   Her fear is that the new Congress, instead of moving in the direction she and the Left favors, will concentrate on “deficit reduction by means of tax cuts and spending cuts.” As for President Obama, she sees him as a new version of  Herbert Hoover, who foolishly meets with corporate executives and seeks to placate them.

What is needed, she suggests, are “mass protests” that might influence Obama and press “him hard from his base.” To do that, however, she notes that they have to get past the many obstructions to mobilize the unemployed. This is especially the case that the unions today “do little for their unemployed,” who don’t pay dues and “are likely to be malcontents.”

Piven argues that their task is harder than it was in the past, because the unemployed are diverse, are not in one area of the country and have no common institutional setting. It is hard to bring people together, even in welfare and unemployment centers, she complains, since often administrators try to avoid long lines and crowded waiting areas, where organizers could proselytize and inflame the dissatisfied applicants.

But most important, she writes, “they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant (my emphasis) …Losing a job is bruising; even when many other people are out of work, most people are still working. So, a kind of psychological transformation has to take place; the out-of-work have to stop blaming themselves for their hard times and turn their anger on the bosses, the bureaucrats or the politicians who are in fact responsible.”

They also need targets, which she sees as “the most difficult of the strategy problems.” Since she knows well that “local and state governments are strapped for funds,” the poor and the unemployed must demand “federal action.” It is, in other words, another “fiscal crisis of the state” that, as in the past, can be used to advance the radical goal. There first have to be local protests that have to “accumulate and spread,”  then “become more disruptive” (my emphasis) in order to pressure our national political leaders.  What does Piven mean when she calls for disruption? She is clear and up front about her intent:

    An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees. (my emphasis.)

What she is calling for is nothing less than the chaos and violence engulfing Europe. Disgruntled leftist unionists, students who expect an education without cost, and citizens of social-democratic states cannot accept that the old terms of the social contract they thought would last forever have worn out their welcome. The European welfare-state governments can no longer function with the kind of social programs that now far exceed their nation’s budgets and hence are moving their countries to the precipice of total collapse.

So Piven hopes that in our own country, “a loose and spontaneous movement of this sort could emerge,” spurred on, no doubt, by ideologues like Piven and the encouragement of the New York City leftists who run The Nation magazine. Perhaps on their next Carribbean cruise they can talk about it some more.  Hence Piven hopes that young workers and students, “who face a future of joblessness, just might become large enough and disruptive enough to have an impact in Washington.”

Will it happen here? There is no exact science of protest movements, she notes. But who, she asks, “expected the angry street mobs in Athens or the protests by British students?” Living in the past, she looks hopefully at the strikes in 1934, and the civil rights movement of the1960s. Clearly no student of history, Piven fails to comprehend the very different circumstances that made these social movements have legs. All she can do is issue her hope that another “American social movement from the bottom” will emerge, and then the organized Nation left can “join it.”
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« Reply #40 on: January 23, 2011, 12:39:28 PM »

More Ring Lardnerism

H/T to Powerline for this.

It seems Glenn Back, by accurately quoting Frances Fox Piven, has gored the Ruling Class ox again.  Professor Piven wrote, and The Nation published,  an article calling for violent, angry protest.  In her piece in The Nation, Piven calls for:

    An effective movement of the unemployed [that] will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union,[Emphasis mine.]

Beck and The Blaze have publicized the piece; Piven appears to have become something of a bête noire for Beck.  (And yes, there’s no doubt that Beck does obsess about things sometimes.) But he’s neither misattributing the piece, nor taking it out of context; Piven is urging violence as what will be necessary to achieve her ends.

The reaction in the Times?  Why obviously, to accuse Beck of fomenting threats against Piven.  They quote in particular:

    In response, a liberal nonprofit group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote to the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, on Thursday to ask him to put a stop to Mr. Beck’s “false accusations” about Ms. Piven.

    “Mr. Beck is putting Professor Piven in actual physical danger of a violent response,” the group wrote.

Piven’s own response:

    That is not a call for violence,” Ms. Piven said Friday of the references to riots. “There is a kind of rhetorical trick that is always used to denounce movements of ordinary people, and that is to imply that the massing of people itself is violent.”

No one notes, apparently, that there’s no such thing as a “nonviolent riot” and the riots in Greece in particular have been deadly.

According to the Times, the Center for Constitutional Rights says (find their full web article here):

    t took exception to the sheer quantity of negative attention to Ms. Piven.

    “We are vigorous defenders of the First Amendment,” the center said in its letter to Fox. “However, there comes a point when constant intentional repetition of provocative, incendiary, emotional misinformation and falsehoods about a person can put that person in actual physical danger of a violent response.” Mr. Beck is at that point, they said.

The puzzle, of course, is that Beck is repeating and truthfully quoting Piven — or, appears to be, unless Piven asserts the article published under her name wasn’t actually hers. The central point or the CCR’s complaint seems to be that while they’re all in favor of free speech, they don’t want too much of it.

In other words…

    “Shut up he explained.”
Power User
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« Reply #41 on: January 24, 2011, 03:14:28 PM »

"So who’s inciting violence here?"
The Glenn Beck/Frances Fox Piven controversy.

ADDED: Do academics mean to have influence or not? Are we supposed to think of them as oversmart flakes who are tucked away in institutions where they won't screw up real life for the rest of us? Because that's the only way in which it makes sense to portray Glenn Beck as the villain. He took an academic seriously, as if she meant what she said and expected real people to hear and act.
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« Reply #42 on: January 25, 2011, 08:47:49 AM »

In the olden days, Frances Fox Piven was a cutting-edge social theorist of the hard left. In a 1977 book, she and her husband, Richard Cloward, argued "that the poor and unemployed are so isolated from the levers of power in America that their greatest potential impact is to withhold 'quiescence in civil life: they can riot,' " as Stanley Kurtz reports in National Review Online:

At the heart of the book, Cloward and Piven luxuriously describe instances of "mob looting," "rent riots," and similar disruptions, egged on especially by Communist-party organizers in the 1930s. Many of those violent protests resulted in injuries. A few led to deaths. The central argument of Poor People's Movements is that it was not formal democratic activity but violent disruptions inspired by leftist organizers that forced the first great expansion of the welfare state.
Toward the end of the book, when Cloward and Piven describe their own work with the National Welfare Rights Organization, they treat the violent urban rioting of the Sixties as a positive force behind that era's expansion of the welfare state
Piven is now in the autumn of life, 78 and widowed nearly a decade. But she still dreams of revolution, as evidenced by this article in the Jan. 10 issue of the soft-core hard-left periodical The Nation:

Before people can mobilize for collective action, they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant. . . .
An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.
The first paragraph of this passage could describe the Tea Party movement. But the Tea Party is nonviolent, and the second paragraph makes clear that is not what Piven has in mind. In fact, Piven has nothing but scorn for the Tea Party, which is the subject of a bigoted rant she delivered last month, which you can hear on Glenn Beck's site

These voters . . . are older. . . . They're white, they're all white. . . . These are the people in American society--and you know, they are always there. . . . For them, change is for the worse. After all, there's an African-American in the White House. That's sort of beyond their cultural experience. The American population is darkening. That's also beyond their experience. . . . And you know, I don't have any data on this, but I am absolutely sure that sex is very important in what is happening to older people.
No doubt the Tea Party's individualistic orientation also makes it anathema to the superannuated socialist. Piven has gained a degree of notoriety of late thanks to Beck, who has frequently and harshly criticized her ideas on his radio and TV shows. In a Saturday news story, the New York Times reported that "her name has become a kind of shorthand for 'enemy' on Mr. Beck's Fox News Channel program."

A three-part, 15-letter, five-syllable name is "shorthand" for a five-letter word? As we shall see, that isn't the only thing the Times got backward about this story.

This passage in the Times story sums up the Piven-Beck ruckus:

Her assertions that "an effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece," and that "protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones," led Mr. Beck to ask on Fox this week, "Is that not inciting violence? Is that not asking for violence?" Videos of fires in Greece played behind him.
"That is not a call for violence," Ms. Piven said Friday of the references to riots. "There is a kind of rhetorical trick that is always used to denounce movements of ordinary people, and that is to imply that the massing of people itself is violent."
It must be said that the answer to Beck's question is no. Piven is not inciting violence.

YouTube/"Democracy Now"
Piven: "Sex is very important."
.The legal standard for incitement was spelled out by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio. A local Ku Klux Klan leader was convicted of "criminal syndicalism" for "advocat[ing] . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform."

Brandenburg had been filmed at a KKK rally, where he said: "We're not a revengent organization, but if our president, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it's possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken." He also spoke of his desire to "return" blacks--to whom he referred by a now-unprintable six-letter slur--to Africa and Jews to Israel.

In a unanimous unsigned opinion, the justices overturned Brandenburg's conviction: "The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

There was no risk of imminent lawless action when Piven wrote her piece in The Nation. It is highly unlikely that the magazine's readers are numerous and energetic enough to stage an actual riot. Thus Piven, like Brandenburg, was merely advocating violence, not inciting it. She crossed no legal line.

She did, however, cross a moral line. In the past few weeks we've heard a lot, especially from the Times, about the dangers of violent rhetoric. Most examples of such "rhetoric" consist of innocuous metaphors: a political action committee's map of districts whose congressmen are targeted for defeat, or a representative's urging her constituents to be "armed" with information. Piven's statement that "protesters need targets," taken on its own, would fall into this category. But her endorsement of European-style riots constitutes actual violent rhetoric.

The Times, however, inverts the story. In the paper's telling, Piven, the advocate of violence, is the victim; Beck, her critic, is the villain. The headline reads: "Spotlight From Glenn Beck Brings a CUNY Professor Threats."

James Taranto on Piven and the Times.
.Piven claims to have received at least three threatening emails, which an editorial in The Nation quotes (warning: obscene language at link). None include a direct threat, but all are hostile and offensive, and two wish her dead. It is wrong to send such foul communications, and if police conclude that any of these are true threats, the senders should be prosecuted. Neither the Times nor The Nation reports that such a determination has been made.

Years ago, we covered a Ku Klux Klan rally in New York. The 16 Klansmen who showed up were vastly outnumbered by the scores of police on the scene to protect them from thousands of angry counterprotesters. The event must have cost the taxpayers a bundle, but that is the price we pay for freedom of speech, even morally repugnant speech. If Piven is genuinely under threat, the New York City Police Department should provide her with extra protection.

But the idea that Beck is to blame for these alleged threats is baseless. That is why the Times makes this accusation only indirectly, through insinuation and innuendo, consistent with its recent journalistic modus operandi. Indeed, what exactly is Beck supposed to have done wrong here? There is no allegation that anything he has said about Piven or her ideas is untrue, save for her denial in the Times that she has advocated violence, which is contradicted by her own quote in the previous paragraph.

Nor is there any claim that Beck has advocated threats against Piven. Quite the contrary, the Times reports that his website has suppressed them:

One such threat, published as an anonymous comment on The Blaze, read, "Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas ready and I'll give My life to take Our freedom back." (The spelling and capitalizing have not been changed.)
That comment and others that were direct threats were later deleted, but other comments remain that charge her with treasonous behavior.
Now, "treasonous behavior" is strong language, but it reminded us of something we read in 2009:

So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.
But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn't help thinking that I was watching a form of treason--treason against the planet.
That was Paul Krugman, star columnist of the New York Times. Glenn Beck's website enforces on its commenters a standard of civility comparable to the standard the Times imposes on staff columnists for its op-ed page. That may be an indictment of Beck, but it is not one that the Times can credibly hand up.

(We should note here that Beck's TV program appears on Fox News Channel, which, like The Wall Street Journal and this website, is owned by News Corp. His radio show and have no connection to News Corp.)

The Times story on the Beck-Piven conflict is in furtherance of a public relations campaign launched last week by a group styling itself the Center for Constitutional Rights. Its press release announcing the effort accomplishes a Times-like inversion in the very headline: "CCR Appeals to Fox News President for Help in Silencing Glenn Beck Misinformation Campaign Against Progressive Professor."

They may not agree with what you say, but they'll fight to the death for your right to remain silent.

And the New York Times will cheer them on in that fight. Why is a newspaper that has been posturing as the scourge of violent rhetoric now siding with a purveyor of such rhetoric, and blatantly slanting the news as it does so? Because her opponent is a prominent media figure from outside the old media establishment. Because Glenn Beck is a threat to the authority of the New York Times.

Don't Know Much About History
Last week was the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. It was also the 70th anniversary of FDR's third inaugural, the 30th anniversary of Reagan's first, and the 10th anniversary of George W. Bush's first. But the JFK myth still looms large, especially since people who were children at the time of his assassination are now at the peak of their influence, so it's not surprising that the media would focus on his semicentennial.

Nor is it surprising, two weeks after the attempted assassination of a politician, that media figures would draw unwarranted parallels between JFK and Gabrielle Giffords, between 1963 and 2011. It's an easy, lazy thing to do. criticizes ABC News's Christiane Amanpour for doing just that, but misses her worst howler, in a question to Jean Kennedy Smith, JFK's sister and only surviving sibling:

A family bound tightly together by power and later, grief. John F. Kennedy was assassinated less than three years after his inauguration, in November 1963. His brother, Bobby, in 1968. Two acts of political violence so traumatic that the country has never fully recovered. It's an episode eerily relevant today in the wake of the assassination attempt against Gabrielle Giffords less than two weeks ago. A congresswoman was targeted. No matter what the reason, how would you describe the atmosphere, the political atmosphere today in the country?
In truth, "the political atmosphere" in 1968--when Robert F. Kennedy became the last sitting member of Congress to be assassinated in the U.S.--was vastly different from that in 1963. The 4½ years between JFK's and RFK's assassinations had seen a series of momentous events: the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the rise of the New Right, Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat, the assassination of Malcolm X, the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, the creation of Medicare, the declaration of War on Poverty, the rise of the Black Power movement, the escalation of the Vietnam War, the rise of the antiwar movement, Lyndon B. Johnson's withdrawal from the 1968 presidential race, the assassination of Martin Luther King, race riots in various American cities.

No doubt this list is less than all-inclusive. Does Amanpour mean to suggest that the political climate today is similar to that in 1963 or 1968? That the distinction doesn't even seem to have occurred to her shows you just how lazy the parallel is.

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« Reply #43 on: January 27, 2011, 02:01:43 PM »

(Best of the tube tonight: We'll be on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" tonight as part of the "Great American Panel." The program starts at 9 p.m. ET, and we'll be on in the latter half hour. A repeat airs at midnight ET.)

America's liberal left is preoccupied with salacious fantasies of political violence. These take two forms: dreams of leftist insurrection, and nightmares of reactionary bloodshed. The "mainstream" media ignore or suppress the former type of fantasy and treat the latter as if it reflected reality. This produces a distorted narrative that further feeds the left's fantasies and disserves those who expect the media to provide truthful information.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, socialist author Barbara Ehrenreich defends socialist sociologist Frances Fox Piven, who has recently been criticized, most prominently by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck, for advocating violence in the service of left-wing aims.

Ehrenreich claims that Piven was merely urging "economically hard-pressed Americans" to "organize a protest at the local unemployment office." In fact, as we noted Monday, what Piven urged in the pages of The Nation was--these are her words--"something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece."

Glenn Reynolds has repeatedly reminded us what those Greek riots looked like, quoting a Wall Street Journal account from last May:

At the same time, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Athens in the largest and most violent protests since the country's budget crisis began last fall. Angry youths rampaged through the center of Athens, torching several businesses and vehicles and smashing shop windows. Protesters and police clashed in front of parliament and fought running street battles around the city.
Witnesses said hooded protesters smashed the front window of Marfin Bank in central Athens and hurled a Molotov cocktail inside. The three victims died from asphyxiation from smoke inhalation, the Athens coroner's office said. Four others were seriously injured there, fire department officials said.
Ehrenreich was writing for the L.A. Times's opinion page, and she is entitled to her opinion, but she is not entitled to her own facts. The heading "opinion" is not a license to tell outright lies.

The dishonesty of Ehrenreich's piece is shocking, but it isn't even the most bizarre thing about it. She begins by bemoaning the absence of grass-roots activism in America:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.
Ehrenreich's explanation is America has become "a tyranny of the heavily armed." Americans don't get politically involved because they're afraid of getting shot. The implication is that if only the government would take away Americans' guns, Americans would be able to grab their Molotov cocktails and rise up against the government, or for the government, or something.

But wait. How has it escaped Ehrenreich's notice that the past two years have seen the greatest flowering of grass-roots democracy in America since the civil rights movement? We refer, of course, to the Tea Party movement. To be sure, you won't see any Molotov cocktails at a Tea Party gathering. You may see some guns--a normal part of life in most of America--but they will be borne lawfully and not used violently.

Since the Tea Party advocates individualism and not socialism, we may assume that Ehrenreich strongly disapproves of it (as does her pal Piven). But to bemoan the dearth of grass-roots activism in America without even acknowledging the Tea Party's existence suggests a detachment from reality bordering on the clinical.

Even odder, many on the left have advanced a false narrative in which the Tea Party is violent. The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg did so in a column last week, in which he was still trying to justify the media's falsely blaming the right for the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Hertzberg claims that the shooting "took place amid a two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred, virtually all of it coming from people who call themselves conservatives," and that "these realities, and not the malevolence of liberal opportunists, were why, in the immediate aftermath of the crime, the 'national conversation' focussed on the nation's poisonous political and rhetorical climate."

This is bunk. The "two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred" is a media myth, promulgated in two primary ways:

Associated Press
Peace-loving Oregon leftists wish for Sarah Palin's death, April 24, 2010.
.The first is by seeking out the most extreme expressions by Tea Party activists and sympathetic politicians and portraying them as if they were typical. This is in sharp contrast to the way left-wing political rallies are covered. Extreme and violent rhetoric is at least as easy to find there if you look--Michael Bowers has put together a photo gallery of "Left-Wing Hatred"--but the mainstreamers seldom look. During the Bush years, "antiwar" rallies were routinely depicted as nothing more than forums for wholesome, patriotic dissent.

The second is by presenting innocuous rhetoric from the right as if it were something sinister or dangerous. The most famous example--cited by Hertzberg, naturally--is the SarahPAC map of targeted districts, including Giffords's, which many on the left hoped had incited the man who shot her. Palinoiacs denounced the map as "violent" when it first came out last March, notwithstanding that the visual metaphor of a target is about as common in political campaigns of both parties as cartoons on the pages of Hertzberg's magazine.

Similarly, as we noted Jan. 12, Paul Krugman, the New York Times's most dishonest columnist, characterized as "eliminationist rhetoric" Rep. Michele Bachmann's comment that she wanted her constituents to be "armed and dangerous." In context, it turned out that she wanted them to be "armed" with information--a poor choice of words, but no more eliminationst than Barack Obama's comment in June 2008: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." At the time, the New York Times characterized this part of "Mr. Obama's efforts to show he can do more than give a good speech."

Hertzberg is saying no more than that liberal journalists like himself are justified in perpetuating the myth of conservative violence because they promulgated it in the first place.

Perhaps he is right that it is not the product of opportunism but rather of sincerely held prejudice. But would it be a defense of, say, Theodore Bilbo or Joseph McCarthy to say that they sincerely believed the prejudices and falsehoods they espoused? What's more, Bilbo and McCarthy were politicians. Why is it so hard for journalists to remember that their job is to tell the truth?

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« Reply #44 on: May 19, 2011, 11:47:30 AM »

Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert, like most of his friends and allies on the left, thinks that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is, literally, ridiculous. To make his case that the ruling invites "unlimited corporate money" to dominate politics, Mr. Colbert decided to set up a political action committee (PAC) of his own. So far, though, the joke's been on him.

The hilarity began last month, when Mr. Colbert began to have difficulty setting up his PAC, which is a group that can raise money to run political ads or make contributions to candidates. So he called in Trevor Potter, a former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairman who is now a high-powered Washington lawyer.

Mr. Potter delivered some unfunny news: Mr. Colbert couldn't set up his PAC because his show airs on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, and corporations like Viacom cannot make contributions to PACs that give money to candidates. As Mr. Potter pointed out, Mr. Colbert's on-air discussions of the candidates he supports might count as an illegal "in-kind" contribution from Viacom to Mr. Colbert's PAC.

All was not lost, however. As Mr. Potter explained, the comedian might still be able to set up a "Super PAC," a group that can raise unlimited sums of money as long as it spends it only on independent ads, without donating at all to candidates. Super PACs exist because of another case that proponents of campaign-finance law despise, v. FEC.

So the newly dubbed "Colbert Super PAC" was off to the races. Mr. Colbert could finally show us how amusing it is to raise unlimited corporate dollars and spend them on political ads.

View Full Image

Getty Images/FilmMagic
Stephen Colbert in Washington, D.C., last year.
.Or so it seemed. On May 11, Mr. Potter returned with more bad news: Viacom didn't like Mr. Colbert's plan because his on-air commentary might still amount to a contribution from Viacom to his Super PAC. It's difficult to place a dollar value on airtime, so a reporting mistake could put both Viacom and Mr. Colbert in legal hot water. Isn't campaign-finance law funny?

"Why does it get so complicated to do this? I mean, this is page after page of legalese," Mr. Colbert lamented. "All I'm trying to do is affect the 2012 election. It's not like I'm trying to install iTunes."

Well, that's pretty much what the nonprofit group Citizens United said to the Supreme Court in the case that Mr. Colbert is trying so hard to lampoon.

Campaign-finance laws are so complicated that few can navigate them successfully and speak during elections—which is what the First Amendment is supposed to protect. As the Supreme Court noted in Citizens United, federal laws have created "71 distinct entities" that "are subject to different rules for 33 different types of political speech." The FEC has adopted 568 pages of regulations and thousands of pages of explanations and opinions on what the laws mean. "Legalese" doesn't begin to describe this mess.

So what is someone who wants to speak during elections to do? If you're Stephen Colbert, the answer is to instruct high-priced attorneys to plead your case with the FEC: Last Friday, he filed a formal request with the FEC for a "media exemption" that would allow him to publicize his Super PAC on air without creating legal headaches for Viacom.

How's that for a punch line? Rich and successful television personality needs powerful corporate lawyers to convince the FEC to allow him to continue making fun of the Supreme Court. Hilarious.

Of course, there's nothing new about the argument Mr. Colbert's lawyers are making to the FEC. Media companies' exemption from campaign-finance laws has existed for decades. That was part of the Supreme Court's point in Citizens United: Media corporations are allowed to spend lots of money on campaign speech, so why not other corporations?

Whether Mr. Colbert understands that he has made the Supreme Court's point is anyone's guess. But there's nothing funny about what he has had to go through to set up a PAC, because real people who want to speak out during elections face these confounding laws all the time. And as his attempt at humor ironically demonstrates, the laws remain byzantine and often impossible to navigate, even after Citizens United.

There's a joke in here somewhere, but it isn't on the Supreme Court.

Messrs. Simpson and Sherman are attorneys at the Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiffs in v. FEC.

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« Reply #45 on: June 22, 2011, 08:50:01 AM »

Anti-Religious Speech Police in America

by Newt Gingrich

Can you imagine high school administrators being threatened with jail if their students said any of the following words? "Prayer," "stand," "bow your heads," or "amen"?

Can you imagine a graduation ceremony in which the word "invocation" was replaced with "opening remarks" and "benediction" was replaced with "closing remarks"—by order of a federal judge? Or a judge declaring that such an order would be "enforced by incarceration or other sanctions for contempt of Court if not obeyed?"

This sounds like a scenario that might occur under a dictatorship, but it happened earlier this month in the Medina Valley Independent School District near San Antonio, Texas. It is just one recent example of how anti-religious many on the Left have become.

It is bad enough that NBC revealed its anti-religious bias by editing out "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance last weekend.

It is bad enough that President Obama has skipped the phrase "our Creator" at least four times when citing the Declaration of Independence, even when the teleprompter read that we are "endowed by our Creator."

At least neither NBC nor President Obama threatened to put anyone in jail.

Federal District Judge Fred Biery issued the order to stop the school's valedictorian from saying a prayer as part of her graduation speech. He did so in the name of the First Amendment, which is supposed to prevent government prohibitions of the free exercise of religion and protect the freedom of speech.

Judge Biery's decision clearly is not about defending the Constitution. It is the anti-religious judicial speech police at work here in America.

It is time for Americans who are fed up with this kind of repression by an anti-religious judiciary to act decisively. Judge Biery’s decision is so outrageous that the American people should not accept his continued employment on the federal bench.

The Federalist Papers and
a Limited Judicial Branch

The Founders never intended for judges to have free reign to interpret the Constitution according to their own ideological purposes. In fact, Alexander Hamilton is quite clear in the Federalist No. 78 that judges who conduct themselves like Biery will have short tenures.

"The judiciary," Hamilton writes, "...will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution, because it will be least in capacity to annoy or injure them." Among the three co-equal branches of government (each of which is charged with interpreting and upholding the Constitution), he writes that the judiciary "can never attack with success either of the other two."

Hamilton's description of a judiciary subordinate in power to the president and the Congress is a long way from the modern doctrine of judicial supremacy, by which the judiciary has asserted itself as the supreme authority for Constitutional interpretation.

By Hamilton's standard, at least, Judge Biery has clearly failed to avoid the kind of offenses that should rightly provoke attacks by the legislative and executive branches.

In the Hamiltonian spirit, then, I would like to offer a simple solution to the problem.

Judge Biery, Meet Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson—who, together with his Secretary of State James Madison, knew more than a little about the Constitution—had a solution for dealing with out-of-control federal judges: he abolished the judgeships of 18 out of 35 of them.

That's right. In the Judiciary Act of 1802, Jefferson eliminated more than half the sitting federal judges.

As a first step toward reining in an out-of-control, anti-religious bigotry on the bench, let's start with this modest suggestion: Judge Biery's office should be abolished by Congress. He should go home.

The American people would be better off without a judge whose anti-religious extremism leads him to ban a high school valedictorian from saying even the word "prayer."

A Nation Like No Other

In my new book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters, I discuss the basis of Jefferson's concern about the judiciary, and especially about its claim to supremacy as "the ultimate arbiter of all constitutional questions." The idea that unelected and unaccountable judges would dictate to the people the meaning of the Constitution, he wrote in an 1820 letter to William Jarvis, was "a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."

Jefferson was adamant that the Constitution had not established a "single tribunal" to interpret its meaning specifically because the Founders understood that any group to whom alone that power was confided "would become despots."

Instead, the branches of government were created to be co-equal, each itself charged with interpreting the Constitution and "responsible to the people in [its] elective capacity."

"The exemption of the judges from that [accountability] is quite dangerous enough," Jefferson wrote. "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society, but the people themselves."

This challenge to judicial supremacy is intimately connected to the heart of what makes America exceptional. As I write in A Nation Like No Other, the final power in America lies not with judges or presidents or bureaucrats, but with the American people. We loan power to the government. And as Jefferson demonstrated dramatically when he abolished eighteen federal judgeships, we can take it back when it is abused.

Few things exhibit the danger of judicial abuse more clearly than when judges like Biery use their positions to advance agendas so far out of the mainstream that they end up dictating word choice at a local high school graduation.

In Biery's case, the order was so extreme that thankfully it was stayed by the appeals court just hours before the graduation.

The broader encroachment of the anti-religious judiciary, however, has taken place below the radar of most Americans. It has proceeded, as Jefferson wrote of the branch in another letter, "like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains...engulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them."

Thomas Jefferson was right. When judges are policing graduation speeches for religious content, the judiciary has clearly advanced too far.  It is time for the American people to reassert their authority.

They can start in the U.S. District Court for Western Texas.

Your Friend,

« Reply #46 on: June 22, 2011, 10:46:47 AM »

Feds crack down on campus flirting and sex jokes

By: Michael Barone | Senior Political Analyst Follow Him @MichaelBarone | 06/21/11 8:05 PM

When I was growing up it was widely believed that colleges and universities were the part of our society with the widest scope for free expression and free speech. In the conformist America of the 1950s, the thinking ran, few people dared to say anything that went beyond a broad consensus. But on campus anyone could say anything he liked.
Today we live in an America with enormous cultural variety in which very few things are considered universally verboten. But on campus it's different. There saying something considerably milder than some of the double entrendres you heard in cable news coverage of the Anthony Weiner scandal can get you into big trouble.

These reflections are inspired by a seemingly innocuous 19-page letter on April 4 from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to colleges and universities. The letter was given prominence by Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has done yeoman work opposing restrictive speech codes issued by colleges and universities.

OCR's letter carries great weight since there are few things a university president fears more than an OCR investigation, which can lead to loss of federal funds -- which amount to billions of dollars in some cases.

The OCR letter includes a requirement that universities adopt a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof for deciding cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In other words, in every case of alleged sexual harassment or sexual assault, a disciplinary board must decide on the basis of more likely than not.

That's far short of the requirement in criminal law that charges must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And these disciplinary proceedings sometimes involve charges that could also be criminal, as in cases of alleged rape.

But more often they involve alleged offenses defined in vague terms and depending often on subjective factors. Lukianoff notes that campus definitions of sexual harassment include "humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable" (University of California at Berkeley), "unwelcome sexual flirtations and inappropriate put-downs of individual persons or classes of people" (Iowa State University) or "elevator eyes" (Murray State University in Kentucky).

All of which means that just about any student can be hauled before a disciplinary committee. Jokes about sex will almost always make someone uncomfortable, after all, and usually you can't be sure if flirting will be welcome except after the fact. And how do you define "elevator eyes"?

Given the prevailing attitudes among faculty and university administrators, it's not hard to guess who will be the target of most such proceedings. You only have to remember how rapidly and readily top administrators and dozens of faculty members were ready to castigate as guilty of rape the Duke lacrosse players who, as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper concluded, were absolutely innocent.

What the seemingly misnamed Office of Civil Rights is doing here is demanding the setting up of kangaroo courts and the dispensing of what I would call marsupial justice against students who are disfavored by campus denizens because of their gender or race or political attitude. "Alice in Wonderland's" Red Queen would approve.

As Lukianoff points out, OCR had other options. The Supreme Court in a 1999 case defined sexual harassment as conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities." In other words, more than a couple of tasteless jokes or a moment of elevator eyes.

Lukianoff and FIRE have an admirable record of defending students' and faculty members' free speech regardless of their point of view, but anyone familiar with their work knows that the most frequent targets of campus disciplinary groups are male, conservative, religious or some combination thereof.

I wonder whether there is some connection between this and the dwindling percentage of men who enroll in and graduate from college. Are we allowing -- and encouraging -- our university administrators to create an atmosphere so unwelcoming and hostile to males that we are missing out on the contributions they could make with a college or graduate degree?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has shown an admirable openness to argument and intellectual debate. Perhaps someone will ask him whether he wants his department to be encouraging kangaroo courts and marsupial justice on campuses across the country.

Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at His column appears Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on
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« Reply #47 on: October 21, 2011, 09:52:35 AM »

I took Doug's repsonse from the cognitive dissonance of Republicans to this thread:

"Campaign finance reform was lambasted by the..." ... [first amendment]   

Without a law degree I will do my best to interpret the situation.   Campaign finance reform was brought to the Supreme court in a case suggesting that it would obstruct the free speech right of the Constitution.  The majority opinion of the  Justices was that it would so it was struck down.

Am I correct to assume that the issue before the Court was this "Constitutional" in that it does not interfere with the people's right to free speech?  If that is the situation the issue before the Court is to address this and not really any other.

I was reading an article from someone with both a law and medical degrees.  He claims that doctors think in systems taking into account all the issues involved while lawyers think in a linear fashion addressing only the more narrow question.

That said the Court would not have considered the issue of ethics or morality involved of wealthy people having unfair access to politicians and influencing their legislative decisions with the ability to provide money and other less overt benefits to their political campaigns.  Worse is the issue of the revolving door of government appointed and hired and elected officials have going in and out of the private sector.  Worse than that is the families and friends of these people who use their family and business ties to influence these others.  (Think the Pelosi mafia like mob).

Now GM will rightly point out that less wealthy people can band together and form conglomerates that together can raise money to compete with the bigger wealthier interests.

One could argue that evens the playing field.  To some degree it does though obviously no one would say it can be leveled without the help of big donors in most cases/circumstances.

In the end I can agree up to this point about it being logically acceptable albeit far from perfect situation.

But where it crosses the line in my thinking is that the influence the wealthy are having on elected officials either directly or through intermediaries (lobbyists of ex gov officials) (elected officials most of whom are lawyers and promptly go into the DC legal community becoming instant partner because of their contacts with legislators) is that their influence is to get legislators to spend not their personal money but publically taxes (people's money if you will).

This is where the line has to be drawn.  And this is what I think people from both the left and right political spectrums can agree that this is totally corrupt and illegitimate and got to stop.  This is the "establishment" both sides are sick of> 

You know what Joe Scarborough this may be how DC works, and yes I know there have been those who have many times campaigned on changing this only to later find out they are running up against interests that are just to powerful they cannot do what they wanted.  But Joe, this is exactly why people are frustrated and disgusted and from both left and right looking for someone different - not another good ole boy like Romney who simpoly knows how the system works.  The system is broken. 

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« Reply #48 on: October 21, 2011, 10:49:52 AM »

The smaller the federal gov't, the less the stakes and the lesser impact DC has on everyone. Now, when DC has a hand in every aspect of every American's life, like healthcare, then it's a diferent story, isn't it?

Rather than the attempts to cutail speech, which are immediately worked around anyway, would it not be better to return the federal gov't to it's constitutionally mandated duties alone and let the 10 Amd. work as was intended?
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« Reply #49 on: October 21, 2011, 11:34:00 AM »

"Rather than the attempts to cutail speech"

I don't buy that bribing our gov officials is free speech.  Yet it is the opinion of the Supreme Court because essentially that is what is happening.  They are ruling on a narrow line of thinking which is their job.  I am not saying they are wrong, but we still have a big problem.

I think what you are saying is that we can't stop bribery of government people so the best option is just limit their function overall?

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