Why Barack Obama offered up some weaksauce support for free speech.

(H/T: Instapundit) I decline to follow this suggestion: “Give President Obama some credit — when he was asked to comment on the wave of protests sweeping colleges across the country, he didn’t fully capitulate.”  And I have three reasons for doing so: Continue reading Why Barack Obama offered up some weaksauce support for free speech.

How the GOP used social media to outsmart anti-free speech laws.

Looks like the NRCC was on the ball this cycle.

Republicans and outside groups used anonymous Twitter accounts to share internal polling data ahead of the midterm elections, CNN has learned, a practice that raises questions about whether they violated campaign finance laws that prohibit coordination.

Translation: they probably didn’t, which CNN will concede later. Moving on…

…The groups behind the operation had a sense of humor about what they were doing. One Twitter account was named after Bruno Gianelli, a fictional character in The West Wing who pressed his colleagues to use ethically questionable “soft money” to fund campaigns.

A typical tweet read: “CA-40/43-44/49-44/44-50/36-44/49-10/16/14-52–>49/476-10s.” The source said posts like that — which would look like gibberish to most people — represented polling data for various House races.

Continue reading How the GOP used social media to outsmart anti-free speech laws.

On the difference between ‘must’ and ‘should’ when it comes to free speech.

This is a good point.

As I noted when Chris Kluwe called on people to steal (or perhaps borrow) Ender’s Game because purchasing the book would put a few pennies in the pocket of a person he disagreed with, no one’s saying you don’t have the right to engage in a boycott. No one’s saying you should be forced to do anything you want to do and no one’s saying that your refusal to purchase a copy of a book is a violation of an author’s First Amendment rights. What I am saying is that your politicization of every facet of the public sphere makes you kind of a dick and leads to a coarsening of society.

Continue reading On the difference between ‘must’ and ‘should’ when it comes to free speech.

The funniest Supreme Court amicus curiae submission you’re likely to read today.

I’m not going to go overmuch into the background: you should instead read the amicus curiae.  Which, given that it was clearly written by PJ O’Rourke and the Cato Institute on the virtues of humor and satire in free speech, will be no burden:
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.
Read, as they say, the whole thing. And yes, that was submitted to the US Supreme Court.

James Taranto wrote a far-too-good-to-excerpt piece…

here about the free speech brawl that he got into while in college. Short version: James Taranto exercised it while working at a student paper; a certain faculty advisor/mentor/publisher went ripsh*t over that; Taranto got suspended; he sued; he won.

Just… read the whole thing, OK? It’s fascinating.  And more than a little sad, and I do mean ‘sorrowful.’ Let me pull out this Kipling quote again: Continue reading James Taranto wrote a far-too-good-to-excerpt piece…

#rsrh Dancing Bear Watch: New York Times on Citizens United.

There’s something fascinating about this article from the New York Times on the Citizens United case.  The author (Adam Liptak) noticed that the decision removed certain onerous restrictions on political speech, yet left current mandates on disclosure of funding largely intact.  ‘Resolving’ the two led Liptak to this:

The two parts of Citizens United are not hard to harmonize. Citizens United takes the libertarian view that people may be trusted to evaluate the messages they hear and need not be sheltered from the responsibility of critical thinking. The theory is as applicable to the marketing of soda and cigarettes as it is to that of political candidates.


The five-justice majority in Citizens United said that speech about politics is at the core of what the First Amendment protects, that more speech is better than less and that the government has no business deciding who can speak or how much.

It is a small step from that reasoning to saying, as eight justices did, that it helps to know who is advancing the ideas you are evaluating.

Continue reading #rsrh Dancing Bear Watch: New York Times on Citizens United.

Since when is Twitter public property?

As I understand this stalking case, the guy’s facing criminal charges for cyberstalking, which in this case seems to be somewhere between ‘being a relentless jerk’ and ‘there may be actual worms in his head.’  I understand free-speech concerns, but Twitter isn’t actually public space: it’s a private forum where people are permitted to register and participate without paying a fee.  And I’m not being pedantic, here: it’s that distinction that allows site moderators to moderate sites*.

Which is not to say that, say, Eugene Volokh is wrong to question the law itself.  The defendant seems to have avoided sufficiently explicit and credible threats of violence, at least from a legal point of view (warning: I am not a lawyer); and I favor a high bar for that sort of thing.  But I think that it makes more sense for Twitter to seek legal redress against somebody who is deliberately abusing their communications network to harass other people.  For that matter, isn’t this sort of thing more properly a case for the civil court system anyway?

Moe Lane

*This is, as I can attest personally, a distinction that is lost on a lot of ‘libertarians.’

#rsrh Free speech victory in Virginia.

A federal court has come to the fairly common sense realization that when the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” it kind of means it:

A federal court in Alexandria, Va. on Thursday struck down a federal ban on corporate campaign contributions, in a case with potentially dramatic ramifications for a campaign finance regulatory system under siege by legal and regulatory attacks.

The short version: this case draws on the landmark US Supreme Court free speech case Citizens United, which partially revoked the odious McCain-Feingold Act, which was easily one of the most blatantly unconstitutional laws that Congress has passed in recent memory.  Since CU ruled that you couldn’t muzzle a group under the cynical guise of ‘campaign finance reformed,’ the judge in the case has determined that a group may make the same kind of contributions to a specific candidate as a group that an individual can.  That effectively means that, say, the AFL-CIO can give Barack Obama five grand directly next year (half for the primary, half for the general), perfectly legally*.

This will be appealed, of course: the usual suspects are already making noise about how this case violates the last Supreme Court decision-but-one on the matter.  Of course, it’s the ‘but-one’ that’s the kicker…

Moe Lane

*Mind you, that particular group plans to give that particular candidate considerably more, ideally (for them) in a form that will not result in actual convictions for money-laundering.  Frankly, I think that it’d be easier all around if we had less restrictions on maximum contributions and more requirements on transparency.

John Brennan’s a little… touchy for his position, no? #rsrh

I was looking for fodder for a couple of light and fluffy posts, but I probably shouldn’t let this pass by without comment.

In an oped in USA Today, John Brennan — Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism — responds to critics of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies by saying “Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda.”

The title of the op-ed is “We need no lectures” – which, given the fact that this administration rather stupidly read a foreign terrorist his Miranda rights, and has been trying to wiggle out of the consequences of it ever since, is self-evidently not true – is ably enough pushed back on here and here by AoSHQ, so I’ll just repeat something that I’ve written before.  The oddity of the current administration is that it’s as if the Democrats went out and found somebody who was just like what they thought George W Bush was – only, in this case?

It’s all true.


Moe Lane

The best sentence that I’ve seen on the Citizens’ United case.

Comes from Matt Welch over at Reason (although he wrote it for CNN), and it should serve as a useful answer for everybody who wants to play “Let’s try to scare the right-wing by talking about scaaaaaaary foreign corporations:”

“Let’s boil it down to the essential words: Political documentary, banned, government.”

You can safely assume that anybody not taking the point is probably not going to. One way, or the other.

Crossposted to RedState.