Tag Archives: First Amendment

The Neo-Nazi Music Festival

The Southern Poverty Law Center says this is a photo of music loving neo-Nazis. Terrifying.

White nationalists were planning on having a music festival meet-and-greet at the Joppatowne, Maryland Memorial VFW Post 5838 on St Patrick’s Day.  The 11th annual event (yes, there are Nazi music festivals…) was announced on Stormfront.org, and coordinated by Baltimore area far-right record label Label 56, which distributes  skinhead music, CDs, videos, and other white supremacy merchandise.  More about the record label:

Label 56 is the music outlet for a violent neo-Nazi gang called Maryland State “Skinheads” (MDS). MDS head Jason Tankersley, while more involved with their Mixed Martial Arts arm has some organizational input over Label 56 as well. A link for Label 56 appears on the homepages of several other Northeastern racist skinhead groups, including the Keystone State Skinheads, American Thule Society, and the Vinlanders Social Club. Maryland State Skinheads, Keystone United and Supreme White Alliance members are regular attendees.

It’s Going Down ( or IGD) describes itself  as

a media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist, and autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. We publish original content alongside anonymous submissions and repost articles from other websites which share our perspectives. We do not and have not called for events. Our news network is made up of friends and comrades across so-called North America whose mission is to uplift and build capacity for a wide range of social struggles by providing news and analysis of when it goes down: riots, strikes, sabotage, occupations, expropriations, rebellion, revolt, insurrection. Whether together or alone – we support liberatory revolt.”

(Liberatory?)

It sent out an alert titled “Shut Down Neo-Nazi Music Fest at VFW Hall”:

This event is indicative of the rise of white supremacism and the growing organizational capacity of the far-Right nationally. The Ku Klux Klan, and specifically the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, have been distributing flyers locally in Ellicott City, Towson, and Bel Air, and as far away as North Carolina. It is important to oppose the increasing Neo-Nazi presence together. Time is of the essence. The Mid-Atlantic General Defense Committee (GDC) is monitoring developments in Maryland and working with at-risk communities to respond as they emerge. The GDC encourages everyone to get involved in taking an active stance now.

The complaints and threats from IGD and other allied groups were successful in getting the VFW to cancel the event. Continue reading

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Unethical Presidential Tweet Of The Month

Ugh.

Hip hop artist Snoop Dogg is desperate for some publicity, I guess, so why not troll President Trump?  He’s issued a music video of the song  “Lavender,” in which a Trump-imitating actor in clown makeup is sort of assassinated by the singer. This is art. It poses no threat to the President. Tasteless? Ugly? Provocative? You decide. Whatever you decide, however, the President’s tweet is factually wrong. Ken White explains at Faultlines:

This is all nonsense…First Amendment analysis isn’t mathematics, but it’s not philosophy, either. The rules, and how they have generally been applied, are knowable. The rules for whether a statement can be taken as a criminal threat against the President have been clear for 47 years, since Vernon Watts talked about putting LBJ in the sights of a hypothetical rifle. The rules governing claims of “incitement” are even clearer. Unless Snoop Dogg’s video was intended to produce, and likely to produce, imminent lawless action, or was intended as and objectively understandable as a sincere expression of intent to do Trump harm, it’s not criminal. Period. This is not a close or ambiguous call.

Correct. Now, as regular readers here know, I have an abundance of tolerance for the President’s tweeting. It’s not dignified, and it undermines his authority and dignity, and it embarrasses the government and degrades the office. Most of the tweets, however, are just stupid.

This one, however, misstates the law, and, as White points out, the President is sworn to protect the laws of the United States. You don’t protect them by misrepresenting them, or by miseducating citizens who are just as ignorant of the law as the President is.

This can’t be put off any longer: if he is going to keep tweeting, the President’s tweets have to be vetted by a lawyer.

NOT this one, though.

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

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“The state has a reason? Yeah, it does. Does it limit free speech? Dramatically. Are there other, less restrictive ways of doing it? We’re not sure, but we think probably. . . . Okay. End of case, right?”

—-Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, during oral argument in the case Packingham v. North Carolina, describing how state laws are traditionally seen by the Court as infringing on freedom of speech.

Lester Packingham was registered as a sex offender in 2002 after pleading guilty to statutory rape with a 13-year-old girl (he was 21). He served his time and probation, and then, in  2010, Packingham posted on Facebook to thank the Lord for a recently dismissed parking ticket, writing, “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? . . . Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!”

Jesus, however, did not stop him from being prosecuted for that message under a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from accessing social media, on the theory that it gives them access to minors.

Packingham appealed the resulting conviction, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court accepted the case, which could  determine whether access to social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, and others are a fundamental right.

In oral argument this week, observers got the distinct impression that this is where the Court is headed. At least five justices, a majority of the temporarily reduced court, suggested during argument that they would rule against North Carolina and for Packingham , whose lawyer says that more than 1,000 people have been prosecuted under the law.

Reading various reports of what was said, I am stunned by how out of touch everyone involved sounds. The Washington Post story describes Justice Kagan like she’s a web-head because she’s “only” 59.  “So whether it’s political community, whether it’s religious community, I mean, these sites have become embedded in our culture as ways to communicate and ways to exercise our constitutional rights, haven’t they?” Kagan asked North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending the law.

Do we really have to ask that question today? The law was passed in 2008, which in technology and social media terms makes it archaic. Legislators can be forgiven for not understanding the central role of social media in American life nine years ago, but in 2017, when we have a President tweeting his every lucid thought (and many not so lucid), how can anyone defend the argument that blocking a citizen from social media isn’t an extreme government restriction on free speech? Laws related to technology should all have sunset provisions of a couple years (a couple months?) to ensure that they haven’t been rendered obsolete by the evolving societal use of and dependency on  the web, the internet, and new devices. Continue reading

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Breaking Ethics Thoughts: The White House Bars The NYT And Others From Its Press Briefing

accessdeniedWASHINGTON (CBS SF/AP) — The Trump administration ramped up its war against the press Friday, blocking several major outlets from a scheduled White House press briefing.The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were among the news organizations excluded from the meeting, reportedly an untelevised gathering with the press instead of the usual on-camera briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

I am not aware of the specific reasons for the action, but:

1.  I read the New York Times daily. It is routinely making every effort to present the actions of the Trump Administration in a negative light, often engaging in outright deceit to do it. It is behaving, as it has for years, as a Democratic Party organ.

2. CNN simply teems with anti-Trump hostility, in the tone of panel discussions, in the framing of the news, in the sneers and body language of its talking heads. This is not ethical journalism.

3. Politico is left-biased, but I haven’t followed it closely. The LA Times has conditions for use that I can’t meet. I’m not sure how biased they have been.

4. There is nothing per se unethical about a Presidential administration deciding that a news source it considers untrustworthy, unreliable and allied with groups that want to literally bring it down should be treated accordingly. Competent, unbiased, fair and ethical journalism is not an excessive requirement.

5. The response to Trump’s very clear warning to the news media last week was, “You can’t stop us, and we will be as hateful as we please.” This is his response to that. Hubris has its consequences. After MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host Mika Brzezinski ‘s comment this week, some attitude adjustment seems to be mandatory. She said of the President,

“He is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.”

No, Mika, actually leaders always  lead, which always means trying to persuade the public.  That is their job. You job is to keep the public informed without telling them what to think, since as this statement proves, you don’t think all that well. At all.

6.  I am surprised that the Washington Post wasn’t shut out as well, especially after a slime job like this story.

7. Would I recommend this action by Trump? No. But it is a defensible response to a real threat to his ability to govern, and an informed democracy. It may not be a responsible or prudent response.

8. The best response would be for journalists to start doing their real job, and report the news fairly and competently without aligning themselves with political agendas.

____________________________

Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!

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The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet

trump-tweet-enemies

Part I in this series began with a random choice of a New York Times anti-President hit piece of the day. This is the one of truths that the mainstream media wants to pretend  doesn’t exist: the intentionally, relentlessly negative, innuendo-filled reporting regarding the Trump administration, with the goal of alarming the public, undermining its trust in the government, weakening his Presidency, or bringing it down entirely. Just to be up to date, let’s look at today’s front page…and what do we find? “A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates.”  The article includes a prominent graphic titled “Donald Trump’s Connections in the Ukraine.” But the article itself, and any research into the individuals shown in the graphic, show no association between Donald Trump and the Ukraine whatsoever. We see…

Andrii V. Artemenko: Ukrainian politician with a peace plan for Ukraine and a file alleging that its president is corrupt.

Felix H. Sater: Russian-American businessman with longstanding ties to the Trump Organization.

Michael D. Cohen: Trump’s personal attorney, under scrutiny from F.B.I. over links with Russia.

Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign manager with pro-Russian political ties in Ukraine now under investigation by the F.B.I.

There is no evidence or even allegation that Artemenko has even spoken to Trump. Sater was involved in helping businessman Trump seek deals in Russia, and that is all the article tells us about him. Cohen is Trump’s lawyer, and a lawyer’s clients are not “linked” to other clients, unless you think Patty Hearst was “linked” to O.J. Simpson through their mutual lawyer, F. Lee Bailey.

Then there is Manafort, who is not  in the Trump Administration, and was fired from the campaign before the election. Back when he was the campaign manager, Politifact did a “check” on him, and found that he had done political consulting work for Ukrainian politicians. Among the international clients Clinton consultant James Carville lists on his website are politicians in Argentina (lots), Columbia, Bolivia,  and yes, the Ukraine, that’s just “some” of the them, meaning that some of the others either don’t want to be known or wouldn’t make Carville look good if they were known. Was Hillary Clinton “associated” with everyone on Carville’s client list? (Also a Carville client: the late Senator Ted Kennedy, serial pussy-grabber and un-prosecuted negligent homicide suspect). Of course not, but that’s the degree of “association” with the Ukraine that the Times article pins on the President, once you get past the front page headline and graphic. The photo over the online version of the article even shows President Trump, who is barely mentioned in the substance of the piece at all, except in such references as “Mr. Trump’s lawyer.”

Might all of these “associations”—this use of guilt by association would be too attenuated even for Joe McCarthy–eventually add up to something sinister, and a scandal that involves the Trump administration? Sure, anything is possible. THAT would be news. THAT would belong on the front page. THIS story, however, is a dog’s breakfast of innuendo, speculation, “hmmmm..” and nothing. It is fake news…not fraudulent in its facts, fraudulent  in its presentation, placement in the paper and intentional suggestion that what is known justifies suspicion of the President. The defenders of the ongoing journalist attacks on the President continue to argue that fact-based smears and rumor-mongering stories published in major news sources are not “fake news,” and after a story like this, I have to wonder about their honesty too. There is only one way this kind of smoky article makes a front page above the fold.

Now on to the Tweet Heard ‘Round The World. As discussed in Part II, the President was performing  a public service when he told the newsmedia to its reporters’ smug  faces that they were biased, hateful, incompetent and dishonest. Somebody had to do it. Their supposed “watchdogs” like CNN’s Brian Stelter won’t do it, because he is too busy bashing the President himself while defending his pals.

It would be much better if someone in academia, or a prominent journalist pointed out how terrible a biased and untrustworthy news media is for the nation, but this is the Left’s attempted coup, after all. Try finding an objective authority in academia or journalism. So the leader of the nation, on national television, has to tell the self-congratulatory journalists that they are failing their duty to the nation, which is to inform the public. They see their duty as bringing down a President their Progressive Masters hate.  In other words, the President is saying, essentially..

The follow-up tweet elaborated by specifying just how much of a betrayal this is, saying,

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

Look at this as the second slap. Better yet, look at it as the journalism version of Ronald Reagan slapping the Soviet Union with the well-deserved label, “The Evil Empire.”  Many commentators, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, traced the beginning of the unraveling of the Iron Curtain to Reagan’s brutal frankness. Continue reading

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Two Unethical And Unconstitutional Laws On Guns, One From The Right, One From the Left, Bite The Dust. Good.

guns4

I.

As last year’s flat-out demagoguery about banning gun ownership for citizens placed on the FBI’s no-fly list proved, Democrats will never let the Constitution get in the way of an emotion-based attack on gun rights. A rule  implemented by former President Obama after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting (“WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!!”) would have required the Social Security Administration to report the records of some mentally ill beneficiaries to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Those who have been deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs — roughly 75,000 people — would have then been prevented from owning guns.

The American Civil Liberties Union and advocates for the disabled opposed the restriction, which was so broadly drawn that an Asperger’s sufferer could have his Second amendment rights taken away. And what, exactly, is the link between not being able to handle one’s financial affairs and violence? Hell, I can barely handle my financial affairs.

By a 57-43 margin, the Republican-led Senate voted last week  to repeal the measure, and it now heads to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a leading Republican critic of the rule, said that it was filled with “vague characteristics that do not fit into the federal mentally defective standard” that could legally prohibit someone from buying or owning a gun. “If a specific individual is likely to be violent due to the nature of their mental illness, then the government should have to prove it,” Grassley said

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut where the Sandy Hook massacre occurred, and thus obligated to grandstand regardless of the fact that he’s on shaky 2nd Amendment, 5th  Amendment and also Equal Protection  ground, declaimed on the Senate floor,

“The [Congressional Review Act] we have before us today will make it harder for the federal government to do what we have told them to do for decades, which is to put dangerous people and people who are seriously mentally ill on the list of people who are prohibited from buying a gun….If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect that you’re going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm?”

Well, I guess nobody in Congress should own a gun either, right, Senator? Continue reading

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The Professor’s Blackface Salute: An Ethics Mess

oregon-blackface-mashup

Halloween costumes, political correctness, law, privacy, and the Niggardly Principles—this one has it all.

Last Halloween, University of Oregon law professor Nancy Shurtz dressed as Dr. Damon Tweedy, the author of Black Men In A White Coat , as an homage to the African American physician and author. She did this at a Halloween party in her own home. Nobody at the party appeared to misunderstand the gesture or the intent of the costume, in part because she could explain it on the spot, and because they knew that Shurtz was no racist. Shurtz had also told the students who were invited that she would be “going as a popular book title,” hence the blackface, Afro wig, white coat, and  stethoscope.The university report on the episode states that Shurtz “was inspired by this book and by the author, that she greatly admires [the author] and wanted to honor him, and that she dressed as the book because she finds it reprehensible that there is a shortage of racial diversity, and particularly of black men, in higher education.”

But as always happens now because there is no such thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy even in one’s own home, reports of Shurtz in costume and make-up got out into the campus at large, and inflamed the predictable outrage. The university launched an investigation that culminated in a critical report prepared by an attorney and the university’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.  Shurtz issued an apology—for her private conduct within her own home that was pounced upon by Political Correctness Furies, since she appears to be one herself-–on November 1. Some of her colleagues on the faculty and many students demanded that she resign, and she may have to yet. Shurtz has been censored and suspended, and is now on paid leave. It being claimed that her wearing the costume–within her own home as a gesture that all agreed was intended as benign and that nobody at the party either objected to or failed to understand— created “a hostile environment” at the school. This is apparently because

“as part of the uproar, students said things of which the administration disapproved: The report specifically notes that students used “other offensive racially-based terminology during class times in the context of discussing this event and broader racial issues.” It related that “some of the witnesses reported that the students’ reactions to the event were racially insensitive or divisive.” And it apparently viewed such statements as relevant to whether Shurtz’s own speech was properly punished.”

The report, meanwhile, concludes that the costume constituted “harassment,” and that her intentions are irrelevant.

Writes First Amendment expert Prof. Eugene Volokh: Continue reading

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