Archive for the ‘First Amendment’ Category

It isn’t difficult to find a liberal who’s willing to betray his principles, at least when it comes to campaign finance. Russ Feingold is that type of progressive. He’s definitely a do-as-I-say-no-as-I-do progressive. This time, the lesser known half of McCain-Feingold, the bill written by politicians to protect incumbents under the guise of preventing corruption, held a fundraiser in Washington, DC, the US capitol of corruption according to progressives like Feingold.

According to the article, the “fundraiser took place Tuesday night at 201 Bar’s Executive Lounge located just a short walking distance from the Capitol. The dimly lit basement-level bar was reserved by the Russ for Wisconsin campaign.” The reason that’s a big deal is because Feingold said it’s a big deal. According to Feingold, “During a panel at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2012, the former 18-year senator singled out the exact location of Tuesday’s fundraiser as a venue where lobbyists buy influence and lawmakers circumvent rules when asked by an audience member to comment on the amount of money lobbyists donate to individuals and political campaigns.”

Joining with John McCain, they crusaded for rooting out the corruption in DC by limiting political speech. In McCain’s and Feingold’s definition, corruption was found anywhere in Washington, DC where people contributed money to politicians.

This is obviously part of the issue. It’s not that lobbyist themselves give huge campaign contributions it’s that they become conduits for collecting large contributions,” Feingold said. “So in Washington typically a member of the House or Senate will be having, quote, a ‘fundraiser’, and the lobbyist will bring in a few people and a bunch of checks, and this, you know, this is the same lobbyist who is arranging to have meetings to talk to this guy about policy in his office the next day—hopefully they’re not doing the same thing in the office because that’s illegal—but I mean, it’s across the street. You know, at the 201 Club or the Monocle.

Feingold is a fossil. Also, he’s bought into the DC theory that the people can’t be trusted to make decisions. He’s repeatedly proven that he doesn’t like the First Amendment.

Donald Trump’s anti-constitutional bias is showing. While it’s likely that his supporters will love Trump’s brashness, it’s almost certain that Constitution-loving people will reject Mr. Trump’s foolishness. What type of idiot would say it’s ok to shut down mosques, then not expect a future president to shut down a Christian church or Jewish synagogue while citing the Trump precedent?

If the Constitution doesn’t protect everyone’s constitutionally-protected rights, it doesn’t protect anyone’s constitutionally-protected rights.

What type of thinking goes into making a statement that a President Trump would shut down a mosque? Shutting down any church, synagogue or mosque would clearly be an impeachable offense since it’d violate one of the most important parts of the Constitution, which presidents swear an oath to protect. Appearing on Sean Hannity’s show last night, Trump said things are “happening a lot faster than anybody understands. There’s absolutely no choice. Some really bad things are happening and they’re happening fast.”

Is Mr. Trump getting intelligence briefings that tell him that entire mosques are getting taken over by ISIS jihadists? Or is he just playing into people’s fears of terrorists? It’s a reactionary reaction that doesn’t deal with a specific problem. Most worrisome is that Mr. Trump insists that things are “happening a lot faster than anybody understands.” What’s Mr. Trump’s proof? Is he just venting? How would shutting down a series of mosques solve our terrorist problem? Would shutting down a series of mosques be a gift to the jihadists?

If things are “happening a lot faster than anybody understands”, then it’s imperative that multiple mosques be shut. This isn’t a crisis if only one mosque is radicalized.

Here’s some questions to Mr. Trump’s supporters:

  1. Would you support a candidate that wanted to shut down churches or synagogues?
  2. Is it ok for a presidential candidate to make statements without proof to support their radical proposals
  3. Does Mr. Trump’s diatribe solve any problems or does it just make you feel good that someone’s making outrageous statements?

If you’re just tickled pink because Trump’s diatribes make you feel good, then you’re settling for things. That’s what liberals do. Conservatives strive for something higher. We strive for constitutionally-supported solutions, especially to this nation’s biggest problems.

Any idiot can throw a hissy fit. Gov. Dayton and Mr. Trump are proof of that. It requires intelligence, temperament and discipline to solve complex problems like ISIS. Thus far, Trump hasn’t shown he has any of those qualities.

Finally, it’s painfully obvious that he never will have the qualities required of presidents.

Southwest Minnesota State University, aka SMSU, has been ‘recognized’ as being unique, though that doesn’t mean it’s a positive thing. SMSU has ‘won’ the honor of being FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month. According to FIRE’s Samantha Harris, SMSU’s Prohibited Code of Conduct for students bans “cultural intolerance,” which is defined as any “verbal or physical contact directed at an individual or group such as racial slurs, jokes, or other behaviors that demean or belittle a person’s race, color, gender preference, national origin, culture, history or disability, is prohibited.”

Ms. Harris is right in saying that if “students’ free speech rights exist only at the mercy of the most sensitive members of the university community, then meaningful debate becomes impossible.” Ms. Harris adds that under “SMSU’s policy, any speech or expression that another student subjectively finds “demeaning” or “belittling” is subject to punishment. And on today’s college campus, where students increasingly demand the right to emotional comfort, that often includes a tremendous amount of speech, including the expression of unpopular views on political and social issues.”

The question frequently comes back to who the final determiner is of what’s acceptable or what’s offensive. Frankly, I don’t trust anyone to be the determiner of those sorts of things.

According to this highly unscientific poll, Donald Trump won CNBC’s GOP debate quite handily. According to the online poll, Trump dominates with 48% of the vote, followed by Ted Cruz with 19.12% and Marco Rubio with 14.28%.

Finding out that Donald Trump won the troll poll immediately following a debate isn’t surprising. It’s like finding out that Rand Paul won the CPAC Straw Poll. It’s as surprising as finding out that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett made money last week.

Honestly, Donald Trump had a decent performance, with one high profile weak spot and one low profile weak spot. Mr. Trump’s high profile weak spot came when he insisted that he hadn’t criticized Mark Zuckerberg about H1B visas. The only thing weaker than his answer was that CNBC moderator Becky Quick apologized even though she got it right. Mr. Trump did criticize Mr. Zuckerberg about H1B visas. It’s even posted on Mr. Trump’s campaign website on his immigration issues page.

The other weak spot for Mr. Trump came when he started talking about how he isn’t being influenced by super PACs. From there, he pivoted to rail against super PACs, saying “Super PACs are a disaster, they’re a scam, they cause dishonesty, and you’d better get rid of them because they are causing a lot of bad decisions to be made by some very good people.”

Trump will get hit on this in the coming days, especially by columnists like George Will, who will excoriate him for hating the protections that the First Amendment provides.

The consensus from last night’s debate was that Rubio won it going away, that Cruz helped himself by ridiculing the CNBC moderators for asking gotcha questions and that it was terrible night for Jeb! The truth is that Mr. Trump was fairly subdued (perhaps sedated? LOL) last night. He didn’t have his swagger going, either, which meant he just bided his time before getting out of town ASAP.

That’s hardly the description of a candidate who won the debate handily.

Laurence Tribe’s op-ed about the King v. Burwell ruling is typical progressivism. It’s all about rationalizing a terrible, wrong-headed decision. Tribe made some statements that deserve rebutting. This is one of those statements:

The Supreme Court correctly applied standard interpretive methods in holding that, despite the apparent clarity of those four words, the law makes subsidies available on all exchanges, state and federal. Looking to the overall purpose, structure, and context of the Act, the court asked with incredulity why Congress would risk total implosion of the ACA just to encourage states to create their own exchanges especially when Congress itself provided the federal backstop.

When the words are clear, which they are, the test that Tribe mentioned isn’t applied. Typically, that test is only applied if the words are ambiguous. Chief Justice Roberts said that the 4 words were “inartful drafting.” Justice Scalia’s response was that it wasn’t likely that that inartful drafting would appear in the ACA’s language 7 different times.

As for whether Congress “would risk total implosion of the ACA just to encourage states to create their own exchanges”, the answer is yes. That’s why the federal government didn’t start building their website right away. Their plan — their concerted plan — was to pressure states into creating their own exchanges. Further, the IRS didn’t write its rule extending subsidies to people who bought their insurance through until it was clear that a substantial number of states weren’t going to create state-run exchanges.

Isn’t it curious that that clarification wasn’t the first thing mentioned in the rules? The instructions to the IRS weren’t written until late in the process. Why wasn’t it the first rule written? If the ACA’s success hinged on the subsidies, shouldn’t that have been the first rule written?

The people also won because the Roberts Court has given them a solid basis for trusting that hard-won victories in Congress will remain intact when challenged in the court. When it decides constitutional cases, like the much-anticipated same-sex marriage cases, the court’s role is to serve as a check on the people, ensuring that legislative or popular majorities don’t act in violation of the Constitution. This is the sense in which the court has famously been described as “counter-majoritarian.”

The Constitution was built to restrict what government isn’t authorized to do. That’s insanity. The Fourth Amendment wasn’t written to tell people what they couldn’t do. It was written to tell government what it can’t do. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from conducting unreasonable searches against private citizens and publicly-traded companies.

The First Amendment prohibits Congress from writing laws that restrict people’s ability to speak out against politicians and government. It isn’t a check on people. It’s another check on government.

If Prof. Tribe can’t understand the most basic principles underpinning the Constitution, then his opinions on Supreme Court rulings is questionable.

When I’ve written about censorship on college campuses, it’s usually been because people have argued that they have the right to never be offended. Jon Stewart recently interviewed Judge Napolitano about the First Amendment, specifically citing the right to fly the Confederate Flag. Here’s the entire interview:

Here’s the heart of what Judge Napolitano told Stewart:

NAPOLITANO: I say you have the right to fly that flag on your private property. You have the right to any opinion or thought you want, even one manifested or animated by hate. And the government has no business regulating thought. If the First Amendment protects anything, it protects your absolute unfettered right to think what you want and say what you think.

Last week, I heard something simple, yet profound. Someone said that there’s no need to protect popular speech because nobody objects to it. The First Amendment is the most important part of the Bill of Rights because it tells the government that We The People will decide what’s said and that the government shall not have the right to tell us to shut up or restrict what we say.

Judge Napolitano quickly pointed out, however, that if he said something controversial, or even hateful, he doesn’t have the right to not hear from people who disagree with him. Napolitano said that nobody in the United States has “the right to not be offended.”

Apparently, the enlightened people on college campuses didn’t get that memo. Apparently, Cass Sunstein didn’t learn that in civics class either:

In recent months, universities have turned their attention to an important problem that should be included in our national effort to examine and root out bigotry. They have identified, and attempted to reduce, “microaggressions” — words or behavior that might stigmatize or humiliate women or members of minority groups, with particular emphasis on African-Americans, disabled people, and gays and lesbians. The effort has admirable goals, but there is a risk that schools will overshoot the mark.

University administrators don’t have the authority to ban words from campus. Further, administrators aren’t doing students a favor by limiting students’ exposure to repulsive language. Just like there’s no way to totally eliminate gun violence, there’s no way to stop people from saying disgusting things.

That’s because there will always be hate-filled, ill-tempered people.

The solution to this isn’t banning words or flags that trigger hurt feelings. The solution is criticizing people who say hurtful things. BTW, Hillary Clinton has called for banning certain types of flags.

I’d way rather live in a world that lives according to Judge Napolitano’s principles than a world living by Hillary’s principles. It isn’t even close.

In typical progressive do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do fashion, Russ Feingold has exposed himself as just another typical career politician:

According to a report earlier this week by the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice, Feingold’s political action committee, Progressives United PAC, bought 100 leather-bound copies of the ex-senator’s 2013 book, along with 1,000 hardcover copies. Feingold also received $77,000 in salary from both the PAC and its nonprofit companion.

Of course, Feingold’s act for years has been not having an act. As a champion of campaign finance reform, he has consistently condemned the pernicious effects of money in politics. But evidently his distaste for campaign cash wasn’t enough to keep him from bathing his cronies in greenbacks.

The PAC was created with the stated goal of “directly and indirectly supporting candidates who stand up for our progressive ideals.” But instead, it appears it existed almost solely to support salaries for Feingold loyalists who lost their jobs after his 2010 loss to businessman Ron Johnson. Bice calculated that nearly 90% of the $7.1 million raised between January of 2011 and March of 2015 went to fundraising or staff salaries, including $317,823 to Feingold’s former chief of staff, Mary Irvine. All told, Feingold, Irvine and eight former staffers drew salaries or consulting fees from the fund.

We’re talking about the same principles as the Clinton Foundation except on a significantly smaller scale. The Clinton Foundation was essentially a holding spot for Hillary’s campaign-in-waiting:

The media’s focus is on Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and whether she took official actions to benefit her family’s global charity. But the mistake is starting from the premise that the Clinton Foundation is a “charity.” What’s clear by now is that this family enterprise was set up as a global shakedown operation, designed to finance and nurture the Clintons’ continued political ambitions. It’s a Hillary super PAC that throws in the occasional good deed.

Other than in scale and the Foundation’s “occasional good deed”, how is Feigold’s PAC different than the Clinton Foundation?

This is a big deal. It isn’t that progressives will abandon Feingold. It’s that independents that thought of him as a straight shooter will abandon him. This will still be a featured race in 2016 but this Journal-Sentinel article will definitely hurt Feingold.

It’s clear that the DSCC will do everything possible to defeat Ron Johnson, (R-WI). Unfortunately for them, Russ Feingold is known for just one thing: the BCRA, aka McCain-Feingold. Russ Feingold is half of the dimwitted duo that wanted to restrict people’s ability to voice their worries about politicians during an election cycle. Let’s highlight that.

Russ Feingold thinks that government should have the right to restrict what citizens say and when they can say things. That’s because Russ Feingold is one of those politicians that think they know what’s best and that citizens have to be told what to do for their own benefit.

That’s the epitome of elitism. It’s breathtaking that elitists want to protect us uppity peasants from ourselves.

We need straight shooters like Ron Johnson in the Senate. Follow this link to contribute to Sen. Johnson’s campaign. Re-electing Sen. Johnson should be one of the Republicans’ highest priorities in 2016.

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When Wayne Lela and John McCartney wanted to distribute literature that contained their views on homosexuality and other sexual matters at Waubunsee Community College, the administration tried barring them from distributing their literature. Thankfully, Lela and McCartney fought back:

As FIRE reported last July, the pair filed their lawsuit after an administrator barred them from distributing literature on campus containing their views on homosexuality, religious liberty, and free speech rights because it was not “consistent with the philosophy, goals and mission of the college” and would be “disruptive of the college’s educational mission.” According to the complaint, a letter to Lela and McCartney from WCC’s attorney made clear that the literature’s criticism of homosexuality was the motivating factor behind the ban. Lela and McCartney are represented by the Rutherford Institute and Chicago attorneys Whitman Brisky and Noel Sterett of the law firm Mauck & Baker, LLC.

In January, my colleague Susan Kruth reported that U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman issued a preliminary injunction ordering WCC to cease its viewpoint-based censorship and allow Lela and McCartney to resume distributing literature on campus, noting that “provocative speech is entitled to the same protection as speech promoting popular notions.” Today, the Rutherford Institute and Mauck & Baker announced that the parties have settled, with WCC paying $132,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees and agreeing to allow Lela and McCartney to distribute their literature outside the doors to the student center without having to sit behind a table.

I particularly appreciate this part of the judge’s opinion:

“provocative speech is entitled to the same protection as speech promoting popular notions.”

There’s no need to protect popular speech because nobody objects to it. The only speech that needs protection is controversial or upsetting speech. That’s the category of speech that people object to. This is what’s disappointing:

While we are pleased that WCC seems to have recognized the futility of continuing to seek the authority to censor views it disagrees with, it is unfortunate and unacceptable that it took nearly a year of litigation, a court order, and a $132,000 bill to get there. After decades of judicial opinions, it should not be news to any public college administrator that the First Amendment applies fully on campus. Sadly, as FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project proves, it appears that some administrators will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with the First Amendment.

FIRE has been kicking college administrators’ butts in court for quite a while. Universities’ attorneys know what the precedents are. They’re aware of the judges’ rulings. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

Early in this video, Alan Dershowitz lavishly praised Megyn Kelly’s opening monologue defending the First Amendment:

First, here’s a partial transcript of Megyn Kelly’s opening monologue:

MEGYN KELLY: Well, last night we had a thoughtful discussion about free speech and American values and why our commitment to liberty as a nation requires everyone to stand up for the rights of those speaking, even if they’re using the most offensive of words. It’s not about aligning ourselves with the words. It’s about defending a core American principle. First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh explained how, not only did the people organizing a “Draw Muhammad” event down in Texas have the right to do it, which some had questioned, but how what they did was actually important and of real value because it was an act of defiance. Defiance towards those radical Muslim fanatics who mean to impose their radical moral code on us, namely that certain figures may not be drawn or parodied upon pain of death. What happened in Texas is that a group said no, you don’t get to control speech in this country, even if a religion finds it offensive. Sure enough, the jihadis showed up with AK-47s and tried to murder everyone there. Now some suggest that the risk from the event is that some of our Muslim nation coalition allies might be less inclined to fight the jihad if they see some private group like this one hold a private event. So private citizens shouldn’t do things even behind closed doors now, lest they cause offense? Because our friends in Egypt might get ticked off. But the fact is we don’t compromise America’s bedrock principles just to make other nations like us more just as we don’t require them to change their values before we fight a common enemy. Otherwise, Egypt’s “We will kill you for leaving Islam” might be a deal-breaker. The bottom line here is that some in this country have been so busy trying how to figure out how to avoid causing any religion any offense, they have forgotten what is offensive to Americans, namely those who would trample on our core ideals. In America, we stand for liberty and freedom to offend, to provoke, to persuade and to defy.

Alan Dershowitz is a Harvard Law Professor Emeritus and author of the book “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.” Alan, let me start with you…

DERSHOWITZ: Let me start with you first and applaud your statement. It was fantastic. It is the paradigm for how Americans have to look at our freedoms and our First Amendment. Jefferson would have been proud of you.

That led Professor Dershowitz to make this important historical observation:

DERSHOWITZ: Now, look, everything that the critics of Geller have said could be said about Martin Luther King. Now, I don’t want to make any comparisons between the two of them morally but, from a constitutional law standpoint, there is no difference. Martin Luther King picked some of the cities he went to precisely to provoke and bring out the racists and show what type of violent people they are so the world could see what was wrong with Jim Crow. It’s part of the American tradition to provoke so the world can see.

Here’s one of the things I wrote in this post:

It’s worth noting, though, that radical adherents of Islam react violently when confronted with objectionable depictions of Muhammad but that the vilest representatives of Christianity, aka the Westboro Baptist Church, show up at funerals with disgusting signs. Another thing worth noting is that universities are told to establish “an inclusive and welcoming environment” for Muslims but aren’t told to establish that type of environment for Christians.

The event in Texas verified what I wrote here, namely, that Muslim terrorists react violently whereas the nastiest Christians get is they show up at funerals with disgusting signs.

Thanks to the event in Texas, it’s now clear that the vilest Christians react dramatically differently than Muslim terrorists.

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