Bill of Rights

Time, Place, and Free Speech

You would think the First Amendment is a relatively easy legal precept to grasp, and that the idea of free speech is an equally easy general concept to comprehend. Naturally, this being 21st century America, that just isn’t so.

Take this example from the Arizona Daily Star, this Tuesday:

Northern Arizona University students who were passing out American flags Friday in remembrance of 9/11 got a bigger response than they expected.

No fewer than four university officials and a police officer descended on the group, accusing them of hindering foot traffic and lacking an advance permit.

“9/11 is very important to me,” said student Stephanee Freer. “That’s why I do the event. Every year, I do something for 9/11 and it’s never been disrupted like this.”

University spokesman Tom Bauer said it had nothing to do with what they were saying and everything to do with keeping traffic moving.

“I don’t think that this is a freedom of speech issue. We were not asking them to be quiet. We were not asking them to leave,” he said. “We were asking them to move to a different location within the same area. This is basically clearing the walkways.”

Freer said she meant to pass out flags all weekend but canceled the rest of her plans after the dust-up.

Read the rest of the story. Read the arguments of both sides; the students basically say “First Amendment! Free speech!” while the school officials just say “time, place, and manner.”

“Clearing the walkways,” uh-huh.

The Real Tragedies of 9/11

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.

I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:

  • 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
  • 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
  • 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
  • 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
  • 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
  • 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
  • 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
  • 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
  • 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
  • 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties

Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?

America’s Greatness Lies in Knowledge Diffused

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” - Thomas Jefferson, 1816, Letter to Thomas Yancey

Our nation, for several years now, has been in extended crisis mode. By the end of the Bush administration, we’d reached a point of complacency. We had wars raging on two fronts, but rather than being something the entire nation was focused on and engaged in, it was little more than partisan fodder to be used against Bush and the Republicans in the newspapers and on the nightly news (as evidenced by the fact that the constant front-page stories of soldier death counts miraculously disappeared once Obama took office).

Then came the financial collapse, which effectively ended John McCain’s chances at the presidency and ushered in Barack Obama, a political neophyte who campaigned not on specific policy positions and political philosophies, but on his claim to being “not Bush”, ushering in an era of “hope and change”. Unfortunately, while Obama has certainly achieved “change”, in doing so he has all but destroyed hope in America, at least until he leaves office.

These past two weeks we’ve seen the stock market rising and falling more often than a Kennedy after a night of partying. The dollar continues to be weakened, America’s credit rating is downgraded for the first time in history, unemployment remains high, and the prospects for improvement seem bleak in the short term. We are largely dependent on our enemies for our energy consumption, mainly because we refuse to access the vast reserves of energy we have on our own soil and in the oceans surrounding us. The waves of bad news crashing over us seem endless right now.

The Strategy of Hating One

The following was submitted by Nick Nottleman, a reader and concerned American.

The 2000 Presidential Election pitted George W. Bush against then Vice President Al Gore.  Ralph Nader from the Green Party received 2.74 % of the popular vote and no other candidate received more than .5% of the popular vote.  But the two main characters in this play were George W. Bush and Al Gore.  Or were they?

While the Internet bubble was definitely bursting, the country was for the most part in decent shape.  The military had been downsized considerably and for the first time in many years, there was a surplus in the Federal Budget.  The Story’s villain was “The Clinton” and his sidekick, the “Blue Gobbler.” There to report it all, the likes of Rush Limbaugh and several reporters at Fox News.

In the 2012 election, the same strategy seems to be being deployed.  An article at the Daily Caller quotes a Rasmussen poll:

A generic Republican presidential candidate would beat Barack Obama by a five-point margin if the election were held today, according to a poll released Tuesday by Rasmussen.

The as-yet-unnamed Republican candidate leads Obama 47 percent to 42 percent. This is the fourth consecutive week that Rasmussen’s polling has found a generic Republican candidate with a lead.

And Rasmussen is not alone.

Wait a second… you mean to say anyone with an (R) behind their name beats President Obama?

OK…. WHY?

Because the general consensus being built is that any Republican would be a better president.  On a semi-sane day, I might actually agree with that premise, but I prefer life out on the fringe.  You know, where things like realizing THAT IS EXACTLY HOW WE ENDED UP WITH George W. Bush happens!

Should libertarians join the NRA?

Someone recently sent an email asking for a post on whether folks should join the NRA.  Jason, probably knowing how much of a gun guy I am, asked me if I was interested in expressing my thoughts.  Being the shy, unassuming person who never shares his opinions with a living soul…oh wait, that’s not me at all.  Of course I jumped at it.

The National Rifle Association is a group I’ve been pretty critical of for some time.  Their compromises gave us background checks for firearm purchases, among other things.  Over the years, they have tried to compromise rather than digging in their heals for our Second Amendment rights, so there’s plenty to be critical of.  However, that was the past.  What about the now?

To me, all the questions about the NRA can be summed up with their argument against Senator Rand Paul’s proposed amendment that would restrict law enforcement’s ability to look at firearm purchase records.  While the NRA was correct that district attorney’s could get grand juries to subpena the records in question, what was missed is that the grand jury is a form of judicial oversight.

Instead, the NRA pretend that law enforcement being able to demand access to records is preferable to a panel of American citizens deciding if there is probably cause to access those records.  Anyone purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer has to fill out this paperwork, and the NRA’s position turns this paperwork into a de facto form of registration.

Way to go NRA.  No suggestions on how to tweak it to make it more acceptable, just cover for allegedly pro-gun members of Congress to vote against the amendment in question without being labeled as anti-gun.

Why Rand Paul’s Recent “Loss” Was an Epic Win

During Rand Paul’s campaign to become Senator from Kentucky, he held a few positions that gave some of his father’s supporters pause. Specifically, his disagreement with Ron over the issue of criminal trials versus military tribunals was a point of contention making it difficult for some to back his candidacy without trepidation. Rand thought we should keep the tribunals while Ron was vehemently opposed to any trial that didn’t give the accused the best protection of his rights.

After this past week, It probably isn’t far fetched to say that any trepidation one may have had about Rand Paul’s commitment to the principles of freedom has vanished.

Paul managed to single-handedly take control of the Senate chambers in a heroic attempt to move the Senate to consider and debate the Patriot Act - something shockingly absent since it’s first passage. In fact, in 2001, when the Patriot Act was first introduced, a single Senator read the bill before casting a vote. The vote cast was a resounding “NO” by Russ Feingold, coincidentally, the only vote recorded in opposition to the bill.

Rand’s efforts were unsuccessful if you deem passage of the Act’s extension the sole measure of success. However, Rand did far more than capture the imagination and attention of the country for a suspenseful 36 hours, 7 of which were spent on the Senate floor.

Manifesto of a Right-Wing Extremist

Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate, was exposed this week for engaging in a coordinated effort to paint Republicans, and especially those with ties to the TEA Party movement, as “extremists”. Speaking to fellow Senate Democrats (and not realizing that the media had already been connected in on the conference call), Schumer explained that he “always use[s] the word extreme”, because “that is what the caucus instructed me to use this week”. This intentional attempt at character assassination comes because House Speaker Boehner is getting pressure from freshmen Republicans and the conservative base to do something more than offer lip service to fiscal responsibility.

Indeed, the problem is not that Republicans are too extreme. The problem is that they are not extreme enough; the $61 billion in budget cuts, from a $3.78 trillion dollar budget which increases the deficit by about a trillion and a half dollars, is little more than a rounding error. Much deeper cuts to spending are necessary if we are to get our fiscal house in order, and Republicans had better show some spine and get serious if they expect to keep the support of conservatives and the majority of independents come November 2012.

To be sure though, any Republican with an ounce of intelligence and awareness knew these attacks would come. After all, this is an administration who refuses to acknowledge the radical Islamic roots of the terrorist attacks on American soil over the last few years, yet whose Department of Homeland Security two years ago published a report entitled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment”. Obama himself has repeatedly refers to his political opposition as being extreme and dangerous.

Obama: Stupendous Man! and Lawgiver

My all time favorite comic strip is Calvin and Hobbes. It is about a young boy and his pet stuffed tiger, and the adventures they have jumping between real life and a world ruled by his imagination. He escapes the mundane tasks of life by escaping into his alternate reality, where he can be anything he wants to be, from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, to the Intrepid Spaceman Spiff, from Stupendous Man!, to the Supreme Ruler and Dictator for Life. Calvin always wins in the end because, it being his imagination, he controls the outcome. In a comic strip, this is great fun. In real life…not so much.

President Obama seems to have determined that he is the new Supreme Ruler and Dictator for Life. At least, this is a plausible conclusion based on his actions since taking office. Our first real glimpse at his unbridled narcissism came at a rally in June 2008. Having won the Democrat Party nomination for president, Obama proclaimed to the adoring throngs that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.” Goodness, now all he has to do is cure cancer and raise the dead and he can call it a day!

The problem with Obama’s view of himself as a messianic leader is that he seems to feel not only that he is above the law, but that he is the Supreme Lawgiver. He sees himself as the voice in the burning bush, giving utterance to his subjects which has force of law by virtue of his having spoken it, and we are all commanded to obey.

The Dangerous Philosophy of a Living Constitution

My more liberal friends often talk to me about the “living Constitution”, one that changes with the shifting moods of the electorate. They do so as if this was a good thing, something that should be lauded and encouraged. They also agree with the leftist elements of the judiciary who think we should show more deference to foreign law, and incorporate that into our own deliberations and rulings, in the process making us a more inclusive part of the global community. On the contrary, the strength of our nation lies in the fact that we are a nation of the rule of law, not the rule of man. It is the very foundation of our national structure. The concept of the highest law in our land being fluid depending on the temporary mood of the people is the equivalent of building a house on a shifting foundation. Inevitably that house will come crashing down.

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said in a speech that “Judges in the United States, after all, are free to consult all manner of commentary — Restatements, Treatises, what law professors or even law students write copiously in law reviews, and, in the internet age, any number of legal blogs. If we can consult those sources, why not the analysis of a question similar to the one we confront contained, for example, in an opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the German Constitutional Court, or the European Court of Human Rights?”

Indeed, the court has referenced external law in numerous cases over the last few years, including Lawrence v. Texas (ruling all anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional), Roper v. Simmons (ruling unconstitutional capital punishment for minors under age 18), Boumediene v. Bush and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (both dealing with the question of granting terrorist detainees the constitutional rights traditionally afforded to only U.S. citizens).

UN Wants to Eliminate the 1st Amendment

See Video

As Lou Dobbs notes, there is a movement, primarily among the Islamic member nations in the United Nations, to pass a binding resolution that would mandate national legislation in sovereign nations making it a crime to offend members of a religion.  On the surface, this appears to be a resolution promoting tolerance, but it is obvious that it is aimed squarely at the freedom of speech available in Western nations.  Dobbs is joined by Vanity Fair journalist, Christopher Hitchens, to discuss the totalitarian desires of the UN to control thought by eliminating free expression.


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