Friday, May 23, 2014

Shutting Us Up For Our Own Good

You can't claim that liberals and other statists aren’t industrious. They are tirelessly diligent in their quest to find more ways to infringe upon or abridge our freedoms.

Many of our freedoms are embodied in the Bill of Rights, and have been regularly targeted for amendment or excision, from gun ownership, to freedom of assembly (or association), to freedom of speech vis-à-vis criticizing Islam and campaign finance law restrictions. No right today is sacrosanct or beyond the government's wish to curtail or abolish.

Only just recently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), in the wake of his defeat at the Cliven Bundy Ranch in Nevada, introduced a bill to abridge political speech. Breitbart's Big Government reported on May 18th:

On May 15, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on June 3 on amending the U.S. Constitution to limit political speech. If ultimately adopted, it would mark the first time in American history that a constitutional amendment rescinded a freedom listed as among the fundamental rights of the American people.

The proposed amendment was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-CO) as S.J.R. 19 and if ratified would become the Twenty-Eighth Amendment. It provides in part that “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect [to] the Federal elections … [and] State elections.” The proposed amendment includes a provision that “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.” So Breitbart News, The New York Times, and the mainstream media would be able to say whatever they want, but citizens and citizen groups such as the National Rifle Association could not.

It seems like Harry Reid and his cronies have been reading retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens's book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, which I reviewed in "Justice Stevens's Liberty-Destroying Amendments," in three parts, the relevant Part here. Stevens recommended adding another amendment that would accomplish Reid's purposes and vitiate any freedom of speech protections. I wrote:

Stevens writes that there is nothing to fear from his proposed amendment:

"A constitutional amendment authorizing Congress and the states to place "reasonable" limitations on campaign expenditures would allow corporations to make public announcements of their views but would prohibit them from engaging in the kind of repetitive and excessive advocacy that the candidates typically employ. It would also repudiate both the holding and the reasoning in the Citizens United case, giving corporations an unlimited right to spend their shareholders' money in election campaigns." (p. 78)

Do the shareholders want a corporation to spend their money advocating issues? To Stevens, their wishes are irrelevant. Do individuals who encounter "repetitive and excessive" advocacy mind such encounters? That's irrelevant, too. Of course, those on the opposite side of an issue might mind it, but, like Muslims who object to critical things being said and written about Islam, they can just ignore it. Speech, written, oral, or visually, after all, is not a form of physical aggression or force. But Stevens doesn’t want the champions of big government and incremental socialism to be subjected to limitations on "hate speech" that he wishes to impose on financed counter-arguments. Democrats should be free to repeat their "excessive" and "repetitive" messages over and over again. It's the other guy who must  be shut up.  Stevens's suggested amendment, which requires force or the threat of force, reads:

"Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns." (p. 79)

The second half of Reid's proposed amendment to the First Amendment is virtually identical in wording to Stevens's proposed new amendment.

Who will define what is "reasonable" and what is not? Is there an infallible mathematical formula that would define "reasonableness"? It would be okay, by Stevens, to abridge the scope of the First Amendment and thus eviscerate its essential, fundamental meaning, just a little bit, to silence those wealthy, anti-big-government people. vitiate.

How was Reid's proposed gutting of the First Amendment received by the press? With an obfuscating sigh of relief. Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, in his May 15th article, "Reid calls for constitutional amendment on campaign cash," selectively omits mentioning that the Democrats are as guilty of all the charges that Reid levies against the Republicans, that "money is speech and speech is money," that freshets of special interest money "flood our democracy," that only "billionaire oil barons" will initiate a "hostile takeover" of the country. One must ask oneself what level of depraved repression would lead an alleged "journalist" to handily forget which political party has made corruption, election rigging, and living the high life on other people's money a time-honored tradition – a party that has more wealthy donors and supporters than the Republican Party ever had.

Also, according to Reid and accepted uncritically by Sargent (and most liberals):

The argument is that electing Republican lawmakers would do nothing to change this economic status quo, because the GOP continues to be organized around the protection of the interests of their very wealthy backers, whose influence over the process must be broken before any serious policy response to inequality and stalled economic opportunity and mobility can happen.

After all, that recently-revealed Americans for Prosperity memo spelled out that the real goal of all those millions in anti-Obamacare ads is to persuade swing voters that the answer to their economic problems is as little government as possible. As the New York Times detailed recently, this vision of what is good for America would also benefit the Koch brothers’ bottom line to an untold degree. Reid will reference that memo today.

I guess Democrats have no "very wealthy backs," neither in Hollywood, nor in the tech industry, nor in the insurance industry, nor on Wall Street. However, Nicole Flatow of the George Soros-funded Think Progress in her May 15th article, "Why the Senate's Top Leader Came Out for a Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United," confirmed the link between the wording of Reid's proposed amendment and Justice John Paul Stevens's proposed new amendment, and also the collusion between the two men.

Reid told BuzzFeed that former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens persuaded him to join the effort, after Stevens called for the amendment earlier this year in his new book. Reid, who decides what votes get called as majority leader, said he will now hold hearings on the amendment proposed by Sen. Udall, as well as call a vote on the House floor.

Reid has not been alone in proposing to gag corporations and non-Democratic non-profits over the amounts of money they spend on issues during election periods. Flatow wrote:

Since 2010, movements to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC have gained significant ground, with a number of states passing resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment. As one California legislator put it who introduced the bill that passed his state: “No one is underestimating how difficult it is, and justifiably so, to amend the Constitution. But being silent is worse.” And a number of top Democratic senators have proposed amendments in Congress for several years now, including Tom Udall (NM), Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Harkin (IA), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Jeff Merkely (OR).

Many of the usual suspects., non sunt?

To Democrats and other power-lusting politicians, the Constitution has served as an impediment to "real social change."  And that Constitutional requirement of needing either two-thirds of both houses of Congress, or passage by legislatures in three-fourths of states, to enact an amendment, is just another disdained, antiquated obstacle to "voicing the people's will" and empowering the democratic mobs controlled and manipulated by the Democrats.

The premier opponent of those Constitutional impediments – at least, the one in the brightest limelight – is President Barack Obama. He, Reid, and all the other suspects are on the same page. Paul Roderick Gregory in his September 23rd, 2012 Forbes article, "Why The Fuss? Obama Has Long Been On Record In Favor of Redistribution":

In 2001, then state senator and University of Chicago law lecturer, Barack Obama, sat down for a public radio interview. At the time, he did not anticipate a near-term run for the presidency. He spoke candidly and deliberately about how to “break free” of Constitutional constraints against redistribution to provide “economic justice.” In the course of his interview, Obama laid out the electoral strategy of cobbling together the “power coalitions” that have been the hallmark of his 2012 re-election campaign.

Among other things he said during that interview, Obama opined:

First: “We still suffer from not having a Constitution that guarantees its citizens economic rights.” By positive economic rights, Obama means government protection against individual economic failures, such as low incomes, unemployment, poverty, lack of health care, and the like. Obama characterizes the Constitution as “a charter of negative liberties,” which “says what the states can’t do to you (and) what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf.”

Second, Obama regrets that the Constitution places “essential constraints” on the government’s ability to provide positive economic rights and that “we have not broken free” of these Constitutional impediments.

Third, Obama concludes that we cannot use the courts to break free of the limited-government constraints of the Founders. The courts are too tradition and precedent bound “to bring about significant redistributional change.”

Fourth, Obama argues that economic rights that the state must supply are ultimately to be established at the ballot box. Those who favor redistribution must gain legislative control through an “actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.” The electoral task of a redistributive President is therefore to craft coalitions of those who stand to benefit from government largess. The legislature, not the courts, must do this “reparative economic work.”

Gregory, writing before the national election of 2012, which gave Obama a second destructive term to achieve the Progressive, "redistributional" agenda, warned:

An Obama electoral victory based on “power coalitions” unconstrained by “negative rights” would fulfill the Founders’ dread of an “overbearing majority.” As James Madison warned in 1787:  “Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.…. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.”

The Constitution’s framers used the separation of powers and the Bill of Rights (most importantly the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment) to render “the overbearing majority …unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.” It is these “negative rights” that Obama proposes to eliminate. With them disappear restraints on limited government, and anything goes.

And everything has gone. The restraints on Congressional, executive, and federal power now are little more than strings of gossamer, thanks also to a Supreme Court that has lost sight of its purpose. Our rights are no more secure than they would have been in Nazi Germany or Soviet (or Putin's) Russia.

But, there are back-door ways to quash freedom of speech without having to resort to anything as formal as a proposed constitutional amendment. The 2002 McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act, which dictates what and when one may speak about candidates for office, ought to have been struck down by the Supreme Court the moment the first suit about its constitutionality was filed. Instead, the Court has simply crippled it with the Citizens United v. FEC case.

Dinish D'Souza, a prominent conservative writer and filmmaker, and unabashed critic of Obama and his policies, was charged with violating the Federal Election Commission's rules on donor limits. Paul Bond, in his Hollywood Reporter article of May 20th, "Dinesh D'Souza Pleads Guilty to Making Illegal Campaign Contribution," wrote:

In exchange for D'Souza's plea, prosecutors are expected to drop the more serious charge of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

D'Souza was indicted in January for asking some friends to donate money to the campaign of Wendy Long, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in New York in 2012, and allegedly promising to reimburse them for their donations.

Bond noted:

From the beginning, attorney Benjamin Brafman characterized his client’s alleged transgression as “an act of misguided friendship,” and he and others have said federal authorities were engaging in payback for D’Souza’s movie 2016: Obama’s America, a hit documentary that portrayed President Barack Obama in a negative light. “

It’s a remarkably selective prosecution, considering Obama raised millions of dollars under similar circumstances and donors merely faced civil fines while D’Souza is charged with felony violation of federal law,” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told The Hollywood Reporter in February.

If D'Souza had not pleaded guilty, a trial would have been necessary, and on the "illegal" contribution charge alone, if found guilty, he could have been sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison.

In 1957, Ayn Rand's prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged, was published. It featured, in one chapter, the nature of laws such as the Campaign Finance law. In that chapter, a federal bureaucratic villain, Dr. Floyd Ferris, is trying to blackmail an industrialist into "donating" his new metal to the nation as a "gift." The industrialist is "guilty" of buying more copper than federal law allowed, and also for refusing to honor a federal purchase order for his product. He tells the industrialist:

"Did you think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against – then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kinds of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of lawbreakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."*

And that is the nature of the Campaign Finance law, a law created to shut us up and to punish us if we don’t shut up, even if that takes the form of a scream of pain. That is the purpose of Justice Stevens's and Harry Reid's constitutional amendments, to silence the Dinesh D'Souza's of this country. The proposed amendments are not targeted at individuals who "collude" with other individuals to cobble together more than the "allowed" minimum to any organization or candidate. The existing law, together with the proposed amendments, are specifically targeted at prominent individuals such as D'Souza, to make an example of them, so everyone with lesser means will tremble in fear, and fall into line.

The purpose? To preserve and expand the political power of the Democrats, of all the statists in and out of government, by silencing their critics. And that issue is aside from the White House siccing the IRS on conservative groups for not shutting up.

The Progressives, the Left, and the Democrats want to shut us up – warning that if we know what's good for us – such as federal agents not hounding us and taking us to court, or refraining from a plan bash on our skulls – we'll shut up.

Try me.

*P. 436. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand (1957). New York: Dutton/Penguin Books, 1992. 1168 pp.

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