Free speech

Jan 242010

President Obama seems to be confused by the Supreme Court ruling.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Thursday strongly criticized a Supreme Court ruling removing limits on corporate donations for political campaigns, saying it was a major victory for banks and oil and health insurance companies.

Yes, it is a victory for those entities, but part of the President’s job is to look out for the legal rights of those entities. It’s a victory for those of us who aren’t banks and oil and health insurance companies, too. It’s a victory for all of us.

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” Obama said in a statement.

Which is as it should be. There are many special interests in this country, and all of them should have a right to spend their money to speak out and influence the political process. What’s bad is when no interests except governmental interests get the right to speak out, as happened in the takeover of GM and Chrysler.

“We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.”

I presume we shouldn’t take the President to have meant the term “forceful” to be taken literally. Given the way he has dealt with banks and automakers, it’s hard to say. But if by forceful he means legal and constitutional, that could be a good thing.

Now about that term “public interest,” I hope he realizes that there are and should be many public interests, many of them at odds with each other. There is not just one public interest. That’s why this ruling that ensures a voice for the many of the special interests in our society is a good thing.

Jan 162010

Google has to be feeling a lot of pressure from both sides of the issue of governmental censorship in China. Now would be an especially excellent time for Congress to pass the Global Online Freedom Act in order to support Google in its efforts not to be evil.

There are those who sneer at Google for waiting until now to act, after its business interests have been undermined by hackers. They say it’s profit more than heroism that’s motivating Google. But I argue that it’s good when the profit motive is aligned with the desire to do the right thing. We ought to have more of that.

There are those who say we should mind our own business and let China handle its affairs in its own way. Companies doing business in other countries need to obey the laws of those countries. But some laws are beyond the pale.

And it’s not a matter that concerns China alone. It creates some very bad corporate habits when American companies participate in oppression in other countries. When agents of our own government approach Google to spy on our own dissidents or to censor content, whether such approaches are made in underhanded ways or openly, it would be good for Google and all of us to recoil in horror. But if Google is already are in the bad habit of acceding to such requests in China, a lot of the moral energy to resist here in the U.S. will have been dissipated.

Pass the Global Online Freedom Act.

H/T to Kathryn Lopez

Jan 022010

I figure it’s the sound of somebody’s ox being gored.

But one commenter says that anytime he sees someone telling us to be civil, he grabs his copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

There’s no reason both couldn’t apply when the founder of Wikipedia starts lecturing on the topic in the WSJ: Keep a Civil Cybertongue: Rude and abusive online behavior should not be met with silence.

It figures. Wikipedia has become increasingly authoritarian and less democratic of late, but not necessarily more accurate.

And you’d be right if you’re guessing that the authors of the above article don’t say a word about the rude and abusive behavior that Wikipedia is accused of engaging in by James Delingpole in his article, Climategate: the corruption of Wikipedia.

Oct 302009

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Today is coffee day! Today the mail brought a freshly roasted supply from Great Northern Roasting Company in Traverse City. Usually I like single origin coffees, which I sometimes mix together on my own. But this time I tried Jack’s Breakfast Blend again. I tried it back in January, but it was not my favorite that time around. It’s a lighter roast than I usually prefer. But this time I noticed some good, brownish flavors that I had never before tasted. Excellent! I’ll try it again tomorrow morning.

That’s one of the good things about coffee. It’s an adventure. It’ll be a sad day when quality control reaches the point where it’s exactly the same each time. The beans may vary, the roast may vary, the brewing may vary, and the setting in which one drinks it may vary. All those factors contribute to making it a different experience each time. (This time we were watching a production of Doestoevsky’s Idiot on YouTube. I was almost concentrating too hard on the movie to notice what I was drinking, but the coffee was good enough to interrupt my concentration.)

By the way, I am not going to say whether or not Jack paid me to say nice things about his coffee. I dare the FTC to try to get that information out of me. The FTC move is just an opening to regulate speech — a plan to follow in the distant footsteps of Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez.

I once was offered a free product after having said something good about it in a blog. I ignored the offer on account of not wanting to compromise my independence. But if it happens again, I may just accept and not say anything about it, as a form of resistance to the FTC.

Besides, regulated reviews would make life too boring, whether or not I’m the one being regulated. We like to read the motel reviews when we travel on my Spokesrider outings. We’re always looking for cheap places to stay, which means we’re undertaking a little risk right from the start. It’s challenging to read through the reviews and sniff out the fluff pieces from paid shills, as well as those that whine about things that don’t matter, and separating them from the useful reviews. It’s a good survival technique to be able to read between the lines to know who to believe. I’d hate to have that taken from me.

Aug 082009

Usually when politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths, they don’t do both sides at the same time. But here’s what one of our country’s political leaders said in a campaign speech last Thursday, as reported by the AP. This must be what he meant when he said, “I have a gift, Harry.”

Appealing across party lines, Obama told the Democratic audience that leaders must listen to their opponents and disagree with civility. He pointed to Virginia’s two most recent governors, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the former now a senator and the latter Obama’s hand-picked Democratic National Committee chairman.

“We want to make sure that we listen to other people’s ideas. We’re going to bring labor and business together,” he said….

He pointed to massive financial challenges and an exploding deficit he said he inherited from Republican President George W. Bush.

“That was gift-wrapped and waiting for me,” Obama said. “I don’t want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”

Last I heard, there was a bit of disagreement on just who created the mess and how. But it’s not clear whether that part of that disagreement is one where we want to listen to other peoples’ ideas or where we want them to shut up and not do a lot of talking.

Jul 202009

After reading “So Three Cows Walk into Court…” in The Weekly Standard, I decided it was time for a blog article about the wacko-extremists in the Obama administration. First there is the guy who advocates censoring the Internet, now there is this one who thinks animals should have standings to sue in court. Could Obama have been elected if he had made known such people would grace his payroll?

Then I realized: These two guys are one and the same wacko. His name is Cass Sunstein. He’s described as a Harvard professor (nothing unusual there) and a close friend of the president.

Y’know, it’s not so bad that the president has pals in the terrorism business (Bill Ayers), or hate-mongering preacher-friends like Jeremiah Wright, or even an anti-liberal, leftwing fascist friend like this Cass Sunstein appears to be. There are other politicians who could benefit from knowing some of the more unbalanced, extreme elements in our society. It’s not even so bad that he put one of them on the payroll, though I am absolutely against my tax dollars being used for something like that.

The bad thing is that President Obama didn’t have any time left to learn any history, especially history about freedom vs security, about human aspirations, and about the uses and abuses of power. He seems to have the level of education of your stereotypical college sophomore — intoxicated with a few novel ideas that are popular among his clique, and completely lacking in perspective.

Jun 132009

When the subject of hate-crime legislation comes up, there are always advocates who say, No, it’s not going to outlaw hate speech or hate thought.

If that’s true, then we should expect those people who advocate hate-crime laws to do the following:

  • Condemn the existence of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the legislation under which it operates, which explicitly does try to regulate hate speech, as can be seen in this non-debate debate on CTV. (And by the way, what about those people who criticized George W. Bush for paying no attention to other countries, and those who advocate the use of other country’s legal decisions as precedents for our own? Why aren’t they complaining about the lack of news coverage of this issue in Canada?)
  • Propose legislation that affirms that hate speech is a cherished and protected right under our Constitution.
Nov 072008

The government of Finland says “Little House on the Prairie” shouldn’t be shown publicly to children.

That would be a show of good judgment if it had been based on the content of the program. I’ve long said that if we’re going to have censorship of television, that should be the first program to go. The producers took good literature and ruined it. Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose had given us some interestingly drawn characters in their books. In the TV series they were turned into typical Hollywood ninnies.

But, alas, it’s only that the government hasn’t reviewed the series. Universal Studies decided not to ask for the Nihil Obstat or the Imprimatur

Nov 022008

So Obama doesn’t support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine.

That’s good, I guess, considering his chilling statement that he wants to “clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.” But will he go to the mat for the First Amendment? As far as I can tell, he has had absolutely no experience in bucking the wishes of the Democrat establishment. Why would he start now?

Oct 312008

Conservative Republicans for years have had to put up with hostile questions from LeftDemocrat reporters. It comes with the territory. There is a certain amount of whining and complaining about it from people like myself, but the politicians generally learn to take it in stride. Take, for example, Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric. (I didn’t watch it, but I read a transcript.)

Now Joseph Biden got a small taste of it himself when Barbara West of WFTV asked some hostile questions. She asked her questions in a polite, respectful manner, and Joseph Biden handled them well. He challenged the questioner at a few points — nothing at all wrong with that. His answers were less slimy than the usual political answers — and even revealed a bit of the truth: There will be no Obama tax cuts. There will instead be tax “credits.”

Obama should have been pleased at the way his VP handled himself, but he acts as though Biden is a delicate flower who will wilt when he gets too close to anyone who doesn’t genuflect before the Obama image. Instead of praising the process of give and take, he blacklisted WFTV.

That is not at all an improvement over the George W. Bush’s hostile relationship with the press, and is certainly not behavior worthy of someone who is supposed to be a defender of our First Amendment freedoms.

How is Obama going to handle negotiations with hostile foreign leaders if he can’t handle hostile U.S. news reporters?

In related news:

I suppose we can take comfort in the fact that Obama appears to be doing no more than riding the wave of repression that’s sweeping the globe.