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Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

DOJ: AR-15s are not “weapons of war”

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2018

The Department of Justice has agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation. As Billll notes:

The DOJ has thrown in the towel in a lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed which opens up a lot of doors and windows.

The settlement acknowledges that Defense Distributed has a First Amendment right to publish 3-D printer files for making firearms and related information, and DOJ agreed to pay “a significant portion” of the plaintiff’s legal fees. But perhaps most importantly, as SAF notes in their statement, it destroys a key argument of the gun control crowd:

Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military.

“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” noted SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort.

In today’s climate, I’m willing to celebrate that as something of a victory. But I’m compelled to point out that a true understanding of the Second Amendment leads to the conclusion that it’s the right to possess military arms, “weapons of war,” that our founding fathers wanted to protect.

“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”
– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28, January 10, 1788

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OMG! Conservatives have “weaponized” the First Amendment!!

Posted by Richard on July 7, 2018

I’m old enough to remember the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. But anyone who’s been paying attention knows that we’re far removed from the time when the left argued that the right of free speech was absolute and applied especially to speech that some people found offensive or disturbing. (Of course, they argued that in the context of defending speech about how racist and imperialistic the US was, so there may never have been much principled consistency to their stand, just a self-serving posture.)

For some time now, the left, and especially the academic left (and thus a good 90% of academia), has argued exactly the opposite: that there is no right to say anything that offends or disturbs anyone (at least, anyone on the left). Just take a look at the battles that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been fighting for almost 20 years. Or look at the scores of times that leftist professors and students have used violence or the threat of violence to silence or prevent the appearance of “fascist” speakers on campuses across the country (“fascist,” in their usage, means anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton).

For a look at where the left stands now with regard to free speech (with the apparent approval of the New York Times), see this Ben Shapiro column.

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a front-page, 2,000-word report on how “conservatives weaponized the First Amendment.” Now, you might ask yourself why the most famous press institution in American history is questioning the wisdom of the First Amendment. You might also ask yourself how conservatives could have weaponized a freedom. This is sort of like saying that law-abiding citizens weaponized the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. But according to the Times’ Adam Liptak, conservatives have twisted the definition of free speech to enhance their own political goals.

“Twisted the definition of free speech” apparently means “applied it equally to those we disagree with.”

Shapiro unpacks Liptak’s summary of the current leftist argument against a content-neutral application of the First Amendment:

… Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict.

This is inane, of course. As soon as we subvert the commitment to free speech in favor of curbing the harms attendant on free speech, free speech is no longer a right. This view of the First Amendment is anti-Constitutional; the founders believed that rights pre-existed government, not that the government created rights. But if you believe the government created and gives you rights, then anything the government deems to be bad can countermand such rights. That’s the perspective of Democrats these days: conservative speech is bad for the country, and thus ought to be curbed, while Leftist speech ought to be promoted.

Liptak further states that “Some liberals now say that free speech disproportionately protects the powerful and the status quo” (note: when a journalist writes “some … say,” it’s safe to conclude that what follows is what the journalist believes). Let’s apply “some liberals'” thinking to other rights, shall we? It would follow that only socialists, minorities, and the poor should:

  • be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • have the right to a trial by jury and to not incriminate themselves.
  • be able to keep and bear arms.
  • be free from cruel or unusual punishment.
  • be able to peaceably assemble.

You get the picture. The left’s view is (and always has been; they’ve just become more open about it) that there are no rights; there are only privileges that ought to be granted to those of whom the left approves and denied to those of whom it disapproves (e.g., white males and the owners of corporations).

Read the whole thing. Note especially how the contemptible law professor Catharine MacKinnon characterizes the First Amendment as a “shield” when used to the benefit of those she approves of, but a “sword” when used to the benefit of the deplorables.

This, as Shapiro notes, is how we got Trump.

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Here’s how a “living constitution” works

Posted by Richard on February 17, 2016

When it comes to protecting the rights of individuals, it doesn’t. Case in point: Great Britain. The British don’t have a written constitution, with fixed language and a Bill of Rights that explicitly denies the government the power to infringe on individual rights. Instead, they have what’s called an “uncodified constitution,” and its primary purpose seems to be to protect the “rights” of the nation’s legislators:

After the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the bedrock of the legislative British constitution has been described as the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, according to which the statutes passed by Parliament are the UK’s supreme and final source of law.[3] It follows that Parliament can change the constitution simply by passing new Acts of Parliament.

This is the American leftists’ wet dream.

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 is merely a statute enacted by Parliament, and its protection of free expression extends only to speech within Parliament. Thus Britons express thoughts that are disapproved of by their government at their peril:

British police have promised not to tolerate any speech that could cause offence on social media regarding Syrian migrants, after arresting a man for Facebook comments made about recent arrivals on his small Scottish Island.

The tiny Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, which had a total population of just 6,498 in 2011, is expected to take in around 1,000 Syrian migrants, with 12 families already arriving since December last year (picture above).

However, commenting on the comparatively huge and sudden influx of Muslim immigrants online just became a very risky business for local residents.

Police have confirmed they have arrested a 41-year-old local man under the Communications Act, after receiving a report of a supposedly “offensive” comment made on Facebook regarding the migrants.

A police spokesman was unequivocal, that any harsh criticism of the Muslim influx would not be “tolerated”. …

Don’t feel too smugly superior to the Brits. Suppression of free speech is the norm on about half of American college campuses, and has been actively promoted by the Obama administration.

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R.I.P., Antonin Scalia. R.I.P., Liberty?

Posted by Richard on February 13, 2016

For lovers of liberty, 2016 had already become a consequential and concerning year. With the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Scalia, it has become ten-fold so. We were already looking with dismay at an election season in which an avowed socialist is threatening to best the more leftist and vicious of the Clintons, while she seeks desperately to demonstrate that she’s just as “progressive” as he is. In which a flawed contingent of GOP candidates is led by a bombastic, anti-intellectual demagogue with no particular political philosophy or principles.

If President Obama is able to appoint yet another Kagan or Sotomayor, the First and Second Amendments are likely to become dead letters. Property rights, already seriously weakened, could be much further eroded. The Supreme Court’s stay of the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” just this week will be merely a temporary delay in that lawless agency’s “complete restructuring of the energy sector.” Obama’s preference for “positive rights” (the unlimited power of government to bestow goods, services, and preferential treatment on some at the expense of others) over “negative rights” (limits on the power of government) will likely be enshrined for a generation. The left’s “living Constitution” (infinitely malleable by five collectivist justices) will rule this nation.

If you feel confident the the McConnell-led Senate Republicans will prevent that, I respectfully suggest that you haven’t been paying attention for the past seven years.

I fear for my country. I fear for our Constitution. I fear for our liberties.

Costa Rica looks nice.

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CO cyberbullying bill criminalizes protected speech

Posted by Richard on March 27, 2014

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh (of The Volokh Conspiracy) and Mike Kraus of the Independence Institute have called on the Colorado Senate (originally published in the Denver Post) to kill a cyberbullying bill that has passed the Colorado House:

On March 12, the Colorado House passed House Bill 1131, on “cyberbullying of a minor.”

While undoubtedly well-intended, the bill as written is an unconstitutional restriction on protected speech, and should be swiftly dispatched by the Colorado Senate.

The bill would criminalize using social media in a way intended to “cause the minor to suffer serious emotional distress, or makes a credible threat against a minor that the actor knows or reasonably should know will be communicated to or viewed by the minor, commits cyberbullying if the conduct results in serious emotional distress to the minor.”

Now the punishment for making credible threats seems quite sensible. Such threats are constitutionally unprotected, and should indeed be punished. But the ban on intentionally causing “serious emotional distress” to a minor is far broader, and runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Volokh and Kraus suggested several examples of speech that would be criminalized by this bill, but is protected by the First Amendment.

HB14-1131 (PDF) was introduced by Rep. Rhonda Fields, one of the legislature’s leading advocates of gun control. I can understand (but not excuse) her antipathy to guns; in 2005, her son and his fiancee were assassinated to prevent him from testifying against the murderer of his best friend. But Rep. Fields apparently is no more concerned with upholding the First Amendment than she is with the Second.

The examples given by Volokh and Kraus are of well-intentioned speech that would be criminalized. But even ill-intentioned, hateful speech — if it doesn’t involve making a credible threat — is protected by the First Amendment. Posting “everyone hates you,” “you’re disgusting,” and “why don’t you kill yourself” is not in the same category as posting “I’m going to kill you.”

When I was young (many years ago), every kid knew — and deployed whenever appropriate — the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” When I was young, the term “bullying” applied to physical acts of aggression or threats of aggression, not to mere hateful words.

Children today seem to be these fragile hot-house flowers that can’t deal with rejection, criticism, ridicule … all the negative aspects of interacting with others that one should learn to deal with growing up because they’re an inevitable part of life.

I think there’s something seriously wrong with what passes for parenting and educating children today.

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Defending ‘truthiness’ in political speech

Posted by Richard on March 5, 2014

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus is going before the Supreme Court. It’s a free speech case in which the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List challenges an Ohio campaign law criminalizing false statements about politicians. During the 2010 campaign, SBA List claimed that Rep. Steven Driehaus’ vote for Obamacare amounted to a vote for taxpayer-funded abortions. This was an illegal false statement according to Driehaus.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Some folks associated with the Cato Institute, including P.J. O’Rourke, have filed an amici curiae brief in the case (PDF). It provides by far the most entertaining reading the Supremes will encounter all year. Here’s a sample:

In modern times, “truthiness” — a “truth” asserted “from the gut” or because “it feels right,” without regard to evidence or logic — is also a key part of political discourse. It is difficult to imagine life without it, and our political discourse is weakened by Orwellian laws that try to prohibit it.

After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular-humanist professors of Chicano studies.

HT: Steven Hayward

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Rep. Earnest Smith: no right to make fun of anyone

Posted by Richard on February 17, 2013

Did you know that the First Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t apply to satirical photoshopping of legislators? Neither did I. But Georgia state Rep. Earnest Smith thinks so (emphasis added):

A Georgia state lawmaker with an unconventional grasp of the First Amendment is backing a bill that would make lewd photoshopping a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine.

Rep. Earnest Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a pornstar’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.

The Augusta-based legislator said he was not worried the bill would step on First Amendment rights.

“Everyone has a right to privacy,” he told “No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right.”

The lawmaker did not provide any specifics of the legislation when contacted by After being pressed to provide details, he said, “At this juncture, I am not at liberty to share anything with you. I don’t have to. If and when this bill passes we can revisit the issue and if I choose to give you details at that time I will, but until then I don’t have to tell you anything.”

Ah, the Pelosi argument: you can find out what’s in the bill after it passes.

Remember when Democrats defended the First Amendment against Republican attempts to limit it? Oh, OK … you’re not old enough to remember that. Well, take my word for it — the Democratic Party used to be the party of free speech. Really. I’m not making this up!

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Americans eat mor chikin

Posted by Richard on August 1, 2012

I wanted to go to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant for lunch today to participate in the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day buycott, but news of an hour-long wait dissuaded me. It’s not that I wanted to support traditional marriage; I’m in the same camp as Glenn Reynolds:

… as someone who supported gay marriage long before President Obama did (which is to say, long before a couple of months ago), I’m nonetheless gratified to see people standing up to the bullying that the left-political class has aimed at this honest business simply because its owners failed to change their views in synch with President Obama.

In fact, I’ll state it more forcefully: When government officials try to block a business from opening because they disapprove of its owner’s religious or political beliefs — well, if that isn’t fascism, I don’t know what is.

In case you’re not up-to-speed on the whole Chick-Fil-A story, Liberty News Network has a pretty good summary — and a petition you might want to sign if, like me, you weren’t able to join the large throngs of people crowding Chik-Fil-A restaurants around the country.

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Posted by Richard on February 8, 2012

Nick Cohen writing in Literary Review:

The grand posture of writers in liberal democracies is that they are the moral equivalents of dissidents in repressive regimes. Loud-mouthed newspaper columnists claim to ‘speak truth to power’. Novelists, artists, playwrights and comedians announce their willingness to transgress boundaries. Their publishers look for controversy like boozers look for brawls because they know that few marketing strategies beat the claim that a courageous iconoclast is challenging establishments and shattering taboos.

To maintain the illusion that they are part of some kind of radical underground, intellectuals must practise a deceit. They can never admit to their audience that fear of violent reprisals, ostracism or crippling financial penalties keeps them away from subjects that ought to concern them – and their fellow citizens.

Although it is impossible to count the books authors have abandoned, radical Islam is probably the greatest cause of self-censorship in the West today. …

Read the whole thing. Cohen is mistaken in one respect, however. He states that:

… It is a mistake to think of repression as repression by the state alone. In much of the world it still is, but in Britain, America and most of continental Europe the age of globalisation has done its work, and it is privatised rather than state forces that threaten freedom of speech.

That may be true of the fear of having your throat slit by some random Islamofascist. But state forces are clearly at work in his other example, Britain’s egregious libel laws (which he correctly describes as “(c)ontrary to common law and natural justice”).

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School bans American flag

Posted by Richard on November 13, 2010

This sort of nonsense has been happening in our leftist education establishment for some time, but it seems to be more frequent now that we have a president who bows before foreign leaders, apologizes repeatedly for his country not being more like other nations, and scoffs at those who think America is special:

13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He says he does this to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his own grandfather, Robert. He's had the flag on his bike for two months but Monday, was told to take it down. 

A school official at Denair Middle School told Cody some students had been complaining about the flag and it was no longer allowed on school property.

"In this country we're supposed to be free," said Cody. "And I should be able to wave my flag wherever I want to. And they're telling me I can't." Cody had to take the flag off his bike and put it in his backpack, where he kept it all week.

Cody's grandfather says the school was concerned about racial tensions or uprisings because of the flag. He feels if there was really a problem it should have been brought up two months ago, not during Veterans week. And if it was an issue of safety, parents should have been contacted.

The school superintendent backed down after being contacted by KTXL Fox40, assuring the TV station that "he and the school are patriotic." Yeah, right. They just think the way to deal with potential anti-American thuggery is to avoid provoking it. Or maybe apologize to the thugs. 

But Denair residents have already planned a patriotic march from downtown to the school in support of Cody Alicea.

BTW, since the fear of "racial tensions or uprisings" seemed to be a factor in the central California school's flag ban, two questions occur to me: (1) What ethnic group did school officials fear would react violently to an American flag? (2) What ethnic heritage do you suppose the surname Alicea is from?

I'm betting that, ironically, the answer to both questions is the same. 

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Punishing Christian speech, embracing Sharia law

Posted by Richard on November 11, 2010

Publicly professing a belief in Christianity or inviting others to learn about it are punishable offenses in more places than you might think. But the severity of the punishment varies considerably.

In Pakistan, they sentence you to death. And sometimes just shoot you on the spot.

In Dearborn, Philadelphia, and Wichita, they just throw you in jail for a while. Don't count on the ACLU and other human rights organizations to help.

Any statement suggesting that Islam is not the one true religion or that Islamic law shouldn't govern everyone everywhere is considered either "blasphemy" or "defamation" by the Islamists, and they're waging a worldwide campaign to criminalize (or silence through intimidation) such statements. They have the UN on their side.

Last week, Oklahoma voters — 70% of them — adopted a constitutional amendment barring judges from relying on Sharia or international law for court rulings. They were perhaps motivated by the Islamists' war on free speech and the growing trend in Europe of bending to Sharia, as evidenced by:

  • court decisions in Italy and Germany acknowledging the right of Muslim men to beat their wives and daughters.
  • the establishment in Britain of a Sharia court system parallel to the English courts and supplanting them for members of the Muslim community.
  • the criminal prosecution of Geert Wilders (Netherlands), Elisabeth Sabaditsch Wolff (Austria), Jussi Halla-aho (Finland), and Brigitte Bardot (France), among others, for criticizing Islam. 

The will of Oklahoma voters has been thwarted for now by a restraining order granted to the Islamist group CAIR (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist funding case). Ironically, this ruling protecting the right of Muslim men to claim that Sharia law authorizes them to beat women — and to silence those who criticize them for that — was issued by a judge who was once a prominent women's rights advocate.

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Silencing dissent

Posted by Richard on October 30, 2010

Lisa Murkowski is a full-fledged member of the bipartisan ruling class that Angelo M. Codevilla described so well in his critically important American Spectator article. As such, she believes not only that she's entitled to rule, but that her subjects don't even have the right to make fun of her. Free speech be damned. 

Murkowski doesn't have access to SEIU goons to do her dirty work, so she relies on $1000/hr. lawyers to intimidate and silence her critics. On Friday, Sarah Palin told the tale on her Facebook page (emphasis added): 

Yesterday, Lisa Murkowski’s hired guns threatened radio host Dan Fagan, and more importantly, the station that airs Fagan’s show, with legal action for allegedly illegal “electioneering.” The station, unlike Murkowski, who is flush with millions of dollars from vested corporate interests, does not have a budget for a legal defense. So it did what any small market station would do when threatened by Beltway lawyers charging $500 to $1000 an hour – they pulled Dan Fagan off the air. 

Does all this sound heavy handed? It is. It is an interference with Dan Fagan’s constitutional right to free speech. It is also a shocking indictment against Lisa Murkowski. How low will she go to hold onto power? First, she gets the Division of Elections to change its write-in process – a process that Judge Pfiffner correctly determined had been in place without change for 50 years. She is accepting financial support from federal contractors, an act that is highly questionable and now pending before the FEC. And today, she played her last card. She made it clear that if you disagree with her and encourage others to exercise their civic rights, she’ll take you off the air.  

The concept of “electioneering” involves several issues, but typically refers to campaigning at the polls, which is appropriately banned. Under federal law, it can also mean paying for advertising on broadcast media during a federal election cycle, and it requires disclosures if done by groups and corporations. Fagan used satire to mock Murkowski’s write-in efforts and encouraged Alaskans to run as write-in candidates. That is not illegal. That is free speech.

Individuals like Dan Fagan have a fundamental right to speak their minds without threats from the incumbent Senator from Alaska. It is hard to find a constitutional right Americans cherish more than the right to free speech. This was a right Joe Miller, as a decorated combat veteran – a tank commander tested in battle, was willing to die to defend. Dan Fagan has not always agreed with me, but I will gladly defend his right to speak freely on his radio show, which he has often used to criticize me. In fact, Fagan has actually used his radio show to attack and insult me, my husband, my children, and my family in just about every way possible. He was especially insulting to my son, who left for a war zone to defend Fagan’s right to attack our family. But when I was his governor, I never would have dreamed of threatening his right to free speech. I support him in this fight because this D.C. Beltway thuggery, as exemplified by Lisa Murkowski’s latest threat, is ruining our country. The powers that be want ordinary Americans to sit down and shut up and let the ruling class ride us right off the debt cliff we’re heading towards with Obama, Pelosi, and Reid steering the nation’s car. We can’t let them. Now is the time to put aside our past differences and stand up to the establishment powers.

This whole episode confirms again why we need to elect Joe Miller. Lisa, you can sue me if you want (you won’t be the first). But I will not be intimidated from speaking my mind. Your intimidation just empowered us liberty-loving Alaskans. Are you really that out of touch?

Fortunately, Murkowski's thugs in pinstripes were too late. With some help from Dan Riehl's post at Big Government (which tells the story of the shameful election law subversion that led to this effort) and various bloggers, Fagan's call for more write-in candidates had the desired effect before he could be silenced. Riehl has the complete Alaska Division of Elections list of candidates for Senate and the story of how it came to be so large in a matter of hours just before the deadline.

Murkowski may have succeeded in getting election workers to distribute a list of write-in candidates to voters, but her name will be one of 148 on that list. Heh, indeed. 

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Journalists and legal scholar agree: government should shut down Fox News

Posted by Richard on July 22, 2010

JournoList was a private email list of leftist news and opinion journalists started and run by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. Klein shut it down (ostensibly) after the Dave Weigel scandal. Leaked JournoList emails revealed that Washington Post reporter Weigel, who covered the conservative movement, loathed conservatives and used his reporting to undermine and discredit them at every opportunity.

In recent days, additional JournoList archives have been leaked to the Daily Caller, and they contain some eyebrow-raising revelations: journalists plotting to cover up the Jeremiah Wright story and take steps to protect candidate Obama from negative news, arguing in favor of smearing some right-wing pundit ("Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares") as a racist in order to "raise the cost on the right of going after the left," and wanting to watch Rush Limbaugh die of a heart attack because "he deserves it." 

Any number of commentators have weighed in on this ongoing story, like John Fund, James Taranto, Greg Gutfeld, and Alexander Marlow. The latter focused on the latest Daily Caller story's "far-from-shocking revelation" that the JournoList folks really hate Fox News. The discussion of how to control or shut down Fox News, which included people from Time magazine, the Guardian, and the New Republic, is interesting. But the part that really struck me was this: 

Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

Broadcasting permit?? Fox News is a cable network. It doesn't broadcast. So it doesn't have or need an FCC license (not permit). Even ABC, CBS, and NBC don't have FCC licenses, only their local affiliates do. Because the networks themselves don't broadcast over the "public airwaves," only their affiliates do. I'm stunned that an apparently respected professor at a purportedly prestigious law school doesn't know this.

(Of course, the situation could change if FCC chair Julius Genachowski's "net neutrality" scam becomes the camel's nose in the tent regarding FCC regulation of non-broadcast communications.)

I wondered how Prof. Zasloff came to be so incredibly ignorant. Well, according to UCLA Law School, this is how:

Jonathan M. Zasloff
Professor of Law
B.A. Yale, 1987
J.D. Yale, 1993
M.Phil. International Relations, Cambridge, 1988
M.A. History, Harvard, 1990
Ph.D. Harvard, 2000
UCLA Law faculty since 1998

Wow. I'm feeling smugly superior, and damned glad I was never intellectually crippled by an Ivy League education.

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A rare case of good bipartisanship

Posted by Richard on July 20, 2010

As a general principle, I assume that when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party embrace bipartisanship and work together on a bill, the result will be both stupid and evil. That's a useful, but over-broad generalization, and S.3518 is the exception that proves the rule. Jacob Sullum explained:

The SPEECH Act has all the earmarks of bad legislation, starting with the strained acronym in its name (which stands for "Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage"). Its chief sponsors in the Senate include Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Worst of all, it passed the Senate unanimously yesterday and is expected to win easy House approval within a few days. Has anything good ever emerged from such circumstances?

Well, now something has. The SPEECH Act, aimed at discouraging "libel tourism," would let Americans block enforcement of foreign defamation judgments on First Amendment grounds. The law was championed by Israeli-American criminologist Rachel Ehrenfeld, who faced a British lawsuit by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz over her 2003 book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It. …

The First Amendment Center has more about the Ehrenfeld case and New York's 2008 passage of the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, a.k.a. "Rachel's Law." It provided protection for journalists and authors at the state level similar to what will be afforded by the SPEECH Act. Within a year, Florida and Illinois had also adopted Rachel's Law, and it was introduced in several other states and the US Congress.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is president of the American Center for Democracy and on the advisory board of Brigitte Gabriel's American Congress for Truth. ACT's activist sister organization, Act! for America, has been instrumental in this fight, and has lots of information about it.

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Atheists defend Catholic professor

Posted by Richard on July 19, 2010

The University of Illinois has fired a Catholic professor of religion for letting it be known that he agrees with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Among those coming to his defense is an atheist and agnostic student group:

Faculty and students are rallying behind a University of Illinois professor whom they say was fired simply because of his religious beliefs.

Dr. Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism, was told recently that he could no longer teach in the university's Department of Religion. A student at the university accused Howell of engaging in hate speech when he stated in a class review session that he agreed with the Church's teaching that homosexual sex is immoral.

According to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the complaining student wasn't enrolled in Howell's class.

But Howell refused to leave without a fight, and now he has over 3,100 supporters fighting with him — via a Facebook group called "Save Dr. Ken."

"It's turning into a whole movement for freedom of speech in the classroom," said senior Tim Fox, a member of the group and former resident at the university's Catholic student Newman Center.


Students at the center are not the only ones protesting. The campus secularist group, Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers, has taken up Howell's cause. Howell had worked with the group in the past, helping organize a public debate between an atheist and a Catholic on "Does the Christian God Exist?" last February. Its president wrote a letter to the university chancellor, Robert Easter, saying, "[Howell] has shown a commitment to the questioning of all ideas. His loss is a profound blow to the University of Illinois and its purpose… Who will next be silenced?" 

Other students said Howell's dismissal was not just an issue of freedom of speech, but revealed a double standard at the university.

"Professor Howell didn't mean to insult homosexuals; he was just stating the Catholic position," said Mike Hamoy, a senior chemistry major who took Howell's class in fall 2009. "I've had multiple professors who have mocked how much Catholic families reproduce or who have implied to the class that God is a joke. Why aren't these professors fired for their open insults?"

The FIRE is intervening in the case, as it does countless times every year in defense of free speech on campus. It has a great record of success, but speech suppression and political correctness run amok are rampant on America's campuses, and there is no shortage of outrageous cases for them to address. The FIRE deserves your support.  

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