March 4th, 2014
March 3rd, 2014
U.S. Senator Bob Corker has an extraordinary piece about efforts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to silence public officials who dare to share their views about the benefits or disadvantages of union organization for workers in their states. According to Senator Corker, the UAW has filed an objection with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that “elected officials like me should not be allowed to make public comments expressing our opinion and sharing information with our constituents.”
I guess it’s not enough to silence conservative, pro-business groups by abusing the power of the IRS. Now the Professional Left wants to muzzle pro-business elected officials! Of course, the UAW had no complaint when President Obama loudly proclaimed his support for the unionization of Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga during the same voting period when Senator Corker spoke out. As Senator Corker correctly notes, upholding the UAW’s objection would be “an unprecedented assault on free speech.” Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie before.
February 27th, 2014
It’s hard to believe, but there’s actually a bigger scandal at the IRS than the explicit targeting of conservative groups in an attempt to silence them and block their participation in the 2012 elections. That scandal is the ongoing attempt by the IRS to rewrite the laws to grant themselves the specific authority to regulate political speech by making it more difficult for organizations to qualify as nonprofits under the tax code. But as National Review points out in an editorial today:
“The agency has no competence in the matter of regulating political speech, and no statutory authority to define away the right of 501c(4) groups to engage in political activities, something to which they are explicitly entitled under law. Congress has the authority to rewrite the rules about who qualifies as a tax-exempt nonprofit, should it choose to do so, but the IRS plainly does not have the power to regulate away political speech where it is explicitly authorized.”
The power to determine whether 501c(4) groups are improperly engaging in direct political advocacy rests with the Federal Election Commission, not the IRS. Congress needs to stop the IRS’s end run around the First Amendment and restrict its power to collect tax revenue, not regulating political speech.
February 27th, 2014
The Church of the Left does not suffer deviation from established dogma. Or so columnist Charles Krauthammer found out last week when he questioned President Obama’s assertion that the debate over global warming is “settled” by pointing out that “nothing is more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge.” Instead of burning its heretics at the stake, today’s Torquemadas just try to silence unorthodox speech. Within a few hours of publishing Krauthammer’s column, the Washington Post was hit with demands from what one speech suppressor claimed was 110,000 virtual demonstrators, all demanding the paper “stop publishing climate lies.” As Krauthammer wryly observed:
“ … they don’t even hide it anymore. Now they proudly want certain arguments banished from discourse. The next step is book burning. So the question of the day is: Can you light a Kindle?”
February 24th, 2014
Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith has a must-read op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal that connects all the dots in the IRS’s campaign to silence conservative, pro-business groups leading up to the 2012 election.
President Obama maintains the ludicrous claim that a few rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati were responsible for this scandal – and a compliant press corps falls in line as if only a direct order from the White House demonstrates culpability. But as Smith points out, Obama set the scandal in motion in the most public way possible – in front of the entire nation during his 2010 State of the Union address where he dressed down members of the Supreme Court sitting 20 feet away and called on Congress to “correct” the ruling in Citizens United, which upheld the First Amendment rights of corporations and other groups to participate in the political process.
When the queen bee sends her signals, the drones all fall in line – which, as Smith shows in sharp detail, is exactly what happened in the IRS scandal. Within two weeks, Senator Chuck Schumer had introduced legislation to force more disclosure rules on non-profits advocacy groups. The idea, according to Schumer, was to “embarrass companies” out of exercising their First Amendment rights, using disclosure as a “deterrent effect.” Other drones also picked up the signal, including over a half-dozen Senators who peppered the IRS with demands to investigate conservative and pro-business groups. As Smith points out, the IRS hardly needed a direct order from the White House to understand the signals sent by the president and his Democratic allies in the Senate.
The IRS is now trying to codify its scandalous actions through new proposed rules aimed at keeping conservative, pro-business groups on the sidelines in the 2014 elections. The rules are so onerous that even some liberal groups are crying foul – perhaps recognizing that empowering the federal government to silence groups and restrict speech politicians find inconvenient won’t be such a good deal when Republicans are back in charge some day.
February 24th, 2014
Minnesota District Court Judge Thomas G. McCarthy took to the op-ed pages recently to announce he’s retiring early in order to ensure that Minnesota voters will have no say in who replaces him.
According to Judge McCarthy, in Minnesota it is “extraordinarily difficult [for citizens] to cast an intelligent vote for judicial candidates.” “In a perfect world,” Judge McCarthy allows, “an educated electorate” can be “an effective arbiter” of judicial qualifications. To Judge McCarthy’s chagrin, it seems Minnesota’s voters are far from perfect.
For one thing, he writes, voters “may not be aware” of how judicial candidates “measure up” when it comes to judicial temperament, integrity, legal knowledge, and that well-known predictor of judicial excellence, community service. In fact, “voters are under no obligation to consider any of the attributes” Judge McCarthy seems to believe qualifies someone for a black robe. Even worse, ordinary citizens are easily swayed by advertising Judge McCarthy finds distasteful.
By resigning early rather than serving out his full term, Judge McCarthy ensures that his successor will be chosen by the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection. Of the Commission’s 49 members, 9 are “appointed at large” to fill vacancies at the district court level. At least 3 of the 9 must be non-lawyers, which basically guarantees that lawyers serve as the gatekeepers to Minnesota’s courts. In other words, Judge McCarthy believes it’s far better to keep judicial selection inside the legal family.
This notion that only fellow attorneys can evaluate judicial candidates and that ordinary people are either too gullible or too stupid to cast an “intelligent vote” is one of the more unpleasant conceits of today’s legal elite. Can anyone imagine any other public servant suggesting that the people are unqualified to pass judgment on his/her qualifications for office?
February 3rd, 2014
Following the decisive vote by Volkswagen workers in Tennessee against organizing under the United Auto Workers (UAW) union’s banner, UAW leadership is considering asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to challenge the outcome due to “outside interference” from, among others, Tennessee’s U.S. Senator Bob Corker. Senator Corker, it seems, had the temerity to suggest that allowing the UAW to do for VW’s U.S. operations what it has done for U.S. automakers liked GM and Chrysler – namely drive them into bankruptcy – might not be such a good idea for Tennessee workers.
Regardless of your views on unionization, the UAW’s reaction highlights the dangerous and depressing inclination by today’s Professional Left to mobilize the power of government to harass, bully and (it hopes) shut down the voices of those holding contrary views. Like Senator Corker. As George Will put it in his column last week:
“Nowadays, however, liberalism responds to its unpersuasiveness by trying to get government to silence (as with the Internal Revenue Service) or punish (it is the National Labor Relations Board’s turn) speech by liberalism’s critics. So the UAW may ask the NLRB to overturn the vote because of unfair labor practices, which supposedly amount to the fact that the UAW was not the only speaker during the debate before the vote.”
The notion that a U.S. Senator cannot freely express his views on an issue of critical importance to the people of his state is certainly a novel interpretation of the First Amendment. It’s also a sign of the Left’s increasing contempt for debating public policy issues on their merits.
February 3rd, 2014
Count Oklahoma among the states increasingly fed up with “merit” selection and the unaccountable, imperial judges it produces. After the state Supreme Court tossed aside Oklahoma’s tort reform statutes, Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon is pushing a series of reforms in the state’s judicial selection process. Why would the Court block common sense tort reform – an issue Shannon calls “essential to the future opportunity and prosperity of the people of our great state?” According to Shannon:
“Here is the problem: a substantial portion of the commission is made up of trial attorneys handpicked by the Oklahoma Bar Association. At our judicial reform study, several non-lawyer members of the commission said the opinions of the lawyers are relied upon.”
Shannon has introduced a set of reforms that would establish a mandatory retirement age of 75; establish 12-year term limits for some judges; and revise the nominating commissions to reduce the power of legal special interest groups. Even these modest proposals are being attacked by the gavel grabbers and Oklahoma’s legal establishment.
One Oklahoma attorney accuses Shannon of “not appreciate[ing] the separation of powers and checks and balances system so critical to our constitutional democracy” and suggests the “brilliant framers of the U.S. Constitution, upon which our Oklahoma Constitution is based, understood we have to have an independent judiciary.”
I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t remember the section in the U.S. Constitution where a single special interest group (lawyers) are raised above the people and their elected representatives and given a privileged place when it comes to choosing judges. The president does not have to choose a handpicked crony of the American Bar Association or any other special interest.
Yes, the framers wanted the judiciary to be independent, but they also wanted it to be accountable by having judges nominated and confirmed by representatives of the people. When you have independence without accountability you get judicial supremacy. That’s what we’re seeing in Oklahoma today and it’s why Speaker Shannon is right to push judicial reform.
January 31st, 2014
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo caused a kerfuffle last month when he suggested conservatives who, among other things, support traditional marriage “have no place in the state of New York.” Regardless of your views on the issue of marriage, Governor Cuomo’s comments “revealed rather more about the philosophy and attitudes of modern liberalism than he intended,” according to Peter Wehner’s article in the Weekly Standard. As Wehner puts it:
“What was on display was another example of the tendency, compulsively indulged in by the president (and the rest of today’s professional left), to characterize the views of one’s opponents as so extreme and benighted that they are unworthy of refuting….[Opponents’] views not only don’t need to be refuted; they should be treated as indecent and illegitimate. (my additions)
This attempt to shut down political speech it finds disagreeable has become the hallmark of today’s Professional Left. It’s the common threat that runs through the IRS’s political targeting of conservative groups and the phony disclosure campaign aimed at generating “enemies lists” of individuals and companies who can be publicly vilified. It’s also the sign of a movement that doesn’t even believe it’s own arguments anymore.
January 30th, 2014
From Washington, DC attorney Cleta Mitchell on the IRS’s continuing campaign to regulate political speech:
They’re supposed to be collecting revenues, not snooping and trampling on the First Amendment rights of citizens. We are not subjects of a king, we are permitted to engage in First Amendment activities without reporting these activities to the IRS.
The Professional Left’s strategy of attempting to bully and silence political opponents – mainly any individual or group that promotes free market or pro-business policies – has been a consistent theme in recent months (see the IRS scandals, the phony “disclosure” campaign and rabid attacks on wealthy Americans who have the nerve to participate in the political process). So, it should come as no surprise that America’s colleges and universities – those hotbeds of liberalism, tolerance and free speech – are leading the charge against the First Amendment.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) published a new report which found that 60 percent of college campuses “substantially abridged the First Amendment rights of faculty and students,” according to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial. FIRE found 250 speech codes that are “facially unconstitutional” – many of them centered on speech that someone or other might find “offensive.” Of course, many liberals find conservative speech “offensive” which has resulted in the shunning of professors, speakers and others whom liberal academics find extreme. In fact, the net is so wide and capricious that virtually anyone can run afoul of the speech censors.
Liberalism used to stand for robust public debate over issues essential to the freedom and liberty of our nation. It’s a sad sign of liberalism’s crack-up that it’s become a force for the censorship and punishment of speech the left finds disagreeable or inconvenient.
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