BEN WEINGARTEN

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Tag: First Amendment (Page 1 of 2)

PragerU’s Free Speech Lawsuit Challenges Silicon Valley’s Anti-Conservative Bias

On the heels of my comprehensive Gatestone Institute analysis on Big Tech’s jihad against counterjihadist speech, PragerU, the purveyor of educational videos on topics ranging from national security to private property rights — which itself has seen its counterjihadist content censored — filed suit against Google/YouTube.

The charge? Alleged ideological discrimination in restricting/disadvantaging PragerU’s content on the basis of PragerU’s conservative bent, in violation of its First Amendment rights.

I analyze PragerU’s case, and argue that lawfare is but one tool among many we must be using to preserve free speech in cyberspace.

Read the whole thing here.

The Social Media Giants’ High-Tech Lynching of Counterjihadists

Apropos PragerU’s lawsuit against Google/YouTube on grounds of discrimination against and censorship of conservative speech, I recently prepared a comprehensive analysis, kindly published by the Gatestone Institute, on the ongoing war on counterjihadist speech by the social media giants.

In the piece, I extensively document the egregious efforts by Big Tech to snuff out and chill any content dissenting from the prevailing progressive orthodoxy regarding Islamic supremacism, while conversely aiding jihadists both directly and indirectly.

It is simply breathtaking both the kinds of messages social media companies will block, and the lengths to which the companies are willing to go to censor ideas they do not like on phony “hate speech” grounds. Absent pressure from the marketplace, i.e. all of us who use these services, things are going to get far worse.

Read the whole thing here.

On Big Tech’s Stifling of Counterjihadist Speech

When one thinks of the embodiment of “hate,” modern-day jihadists are perhaps without equal.

They murder those who refuse to submit to their totalitarian theopolitical belief system in the most vile and horrific ways, they revile and persecute non-believer “infidels” and engage in sex slaverymass rape and pillaging.

But when today’s sophist Left thinks of “hate,” it focuses its sights not on jihadists, but on those who forthrightly discuss the jihadist threat, among other advocates of non-leftist views.

That is the sad reality in light of the emerging story of the blacklisting of such individuals and organizations by major technology platforms, buoyed by purported civil rights organizations (largely funded by leftists) and journalistic institutions (largely composed of leftists) that in effect serve as fronts to legitimize attacks meant to destroy dissenting, largely conservative voices.

In my latest column at PJ Media, I focus on the narrower issue of the Left seeking to figuratively behead counterjihadists like Jihad Watch‘s Robert Spencer by threatening their ability to operate on the internet, whereby tech titans are unwittingly achieving the Islamic supremacists’ stated desire.

Read the whole thing here.

My In-Depth Interview With Hero Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Islam versus the West and Free Speech

Why Did Huma Abedin Feel the Need to Bring the Desecration of a Koran to Sec of State Clinton’s Attention?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was understandably kept abreast of all manner of news from all over the world during her tenure as Secretary of State.

But buried amidst the thousands of emails recently released by the State Department is one news report of particular interest sent from top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Here is Abedin’s note:

Unclassified email from Huma Abedin to Hillary Clinton dated September 12, 2010 and released August 31, 2015. Doc No. C05772407.

Unclassified email from Huma Abedin to Hillary Clinton dated September 12, 2010 and released August 31, 2015. Doc No. C05772407.

This email begs the question: Why did Huma Abedin feel the need to bring the desecration of a Koran in East Lansing, MI to the attention of the Secretary of State?

Did Abedin feel that Clinton might be concerned about the news “inciting” attacks in America or abroad?

Might she have felt that such a story could be leveraged politically?

Was it just something Abedin as a Muslim found personally reprehensible, that she felt her confidant ought to be made aware of?

Actions like Koran-burning presumably would have been important to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, given her stated support for suppressing such activity.

As I noted elsewhere:

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The Global Warming Jihadists Seek to Silence the Dissenters

“The world must not belong to those who slander the prophets of Global Warming, Climate Change, or Climate Disruption.”

So said Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a fatwa issued in the Washington Post.

Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) delivers a speech on the Senate floor on May 18, 2015. (Image Source: YouTube screengrab)

OK — perhaps that was not what he said verbatim, but it might as well have been.

Whitehouse intimated that racketeering charges be considered regarding Big Oil’s support of research challenging the supposed climate change consensus.

Without a hint of irony given the nature and activities of the climate change movement, Whitehouse compared the oil industry – which after the American people will be most harmed by regulations putatively relating to climate — to the RICO-violating tobacco business:

The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

In a point almost beyond parody, Whitehouse relies on a report by a Drexel University professor whose “environmental justice” work has been funded by federal grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A nakedly partisan voice, the “Culture and Communication” department professor lists as areas of research and teaching “Critical Theory,” “Social Movements” and “Social Change,” to go along with the more relevant “Environmental Sociology.”

The professor writes that the “climate denial network”

span[s] a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.

None of these activities are illegal, or even unethical – though if Whitehouse gets his way the thought crime of challenging global warming may soon be.

Continue reading at TheBlaze…

Hillary Clinton’s Hypocritical and Totalitarian War on Free Speech

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has suggested that a key litmus test in evaluating prospective Supreme Court appointees would be their willingness to challenge “the right of billionaires to buy elections.”

Presumably, a suitable judge would indicate a desire to overturn the Citizens United decision that struck down a ban on political expenditures by corporations and unions ruled to violate the First Amendment protection of free speech – a case coincidentally centered on Citizen United’s attempt to advertise for and air a film critical of none other than Clinton.

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the reporters at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Clinton conceded that she should have used a government email to conduct business as secretary of state, saying her decision was simply a matter of "convenience." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the reporters at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In light of recent allegations swirling around the presidential favorite, Clinton’s support of such a position is highly ironic.

For while the former secretary of State may oppose the rights of the wealthy to spend money on politics, she seems to have no such concern with the wealthy spending money on the Clinton Foundation and her husband Bill – all while Hillary served in the Obama administration.

Would Clinton seek a Supreme Court justice who would protect the rights of the likes of Carlos Slim and James Murdoch to contribute to the favored cause of a politician and shower the politician’s spouse with millions for speaking engagements?

If so, this apparent hypocrisy can be read in one of two ways:

  1. Clinton believes that money does not have a corrupting influence so long as it is funneled through “indirect” channels
  2. Clinton believes that the wealthy and powerful ought to bypass funding elections and simply pay politicians outright.

Appearances of impropriety aside, there are a few substantive questions around political speech that Clinton should be required to address.

Why does Clinton believe that the government has a compelling interest in stifling the political speech of any American, rich or poor?

How does Clinton square her supposed advocacy of human rights with her belief in inhibiting the right to free speech — which facilitates the robust and vigorous debate essential to a liberal society?

More generally, given a system in which millions of dollars are spent on losing causes each election cycle on both the left and right, what have Americans to fear about spending so long as laws are enforced equally and impartially regarding “pay-to-play” schemes and other politically corrupt activity?

Continue reading at TheBlaze…

An interview with the man who literally wrote the book on impeaching President Obama, former fed prosecutor Andrew McCarthy

We conducted an interview with former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, author of the new book, “Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment,” in which we covered a number of controversial issues, including the case for impeaching President Obama, the Bowe Bergdahl terrorist exchange, Benghazi and Hillary Clinton, and the government’s efforts to chill free speech.

The below reflects a transcript of the interview, conducted via phone, which is slightly modified for clarity and links.

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Who is “Faithless Execution” intended for, and why should both President Obama’s critics and proponents pick it up?

McCarthy: The book is intended for the public broadly, because I really thought and continue to think that there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding generally about what the standards are for removal of a president from power, what the wages are of having a lawless president, and what the arsenal is that Congress has to respond to it. It seems that there’s a lot of frustration on the part of people with the fact that the president doesn’t seem to be bound by the law, or certainly doesn’t take himself to be bound by the law, and people seem very frustrated that there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about it. And point of fact, there’s a lot that can be done about it, but there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation out there about what the remedies are. So, what I hope the book will be is a corrective for people in general about what ways presidential lawlessness threatens the Republic, and what responses the Framers put in place that we could use to combat it.

The central point of your book hinges on the notion that impeachment is both a legal but more importantly political remedy. Thus, despite the merits of the case against President Obama, all is moot without their being broad political support for such proceedings. Can you expand on the thesis, explain why impeachment is primarily a political remedy, and provide a little bit of the history behind impeachment itself? 

McCarthy: Impeachment has two components. There’s a legal component to it in the sense that the Constitution has a threshold or a standard that applies to presidential malfeasance or maladministration – I guess maladministration is a better term because the Framers weren’t just concerned about corrupt behavior – they were concerned about a president who was in over his head so gross ineptitude even if it was well-meaning was something they were very concerned about simply because the presidency that they created was so powerful, and had so much potential to harm the republic that they were concerned about having someone who was unsuited in that position – whether it was unsuited because of corruption or simply because of reasons of incompetence. They had a straightforward legal test for what would be required to remove a president. Treason and bribery are straightforward enough – they’re actual crimes that have a lot of history and people understand them. The thing that people generally have some confusion about are high crimes and misdemeanors, and maybe it’s because of the phrase itself because it mentions “crimes and misdemeanors,” so people naturally think of penal statutes where Congress has enacted laws that qualify as felony criminal offenses or misdemeanor offenses. And that’s not what high crimes and misdemeanors is really about at all.

What the framers discussed when they adopted this standard — and it was very much on their mind because they were all men of the world, they were all men who followed current events, many of them were steeped in British law — at the time the Constitution was being debated in the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings was ongoing in England, where Edmund Burke had led the effort in Parliament to have him impeached on the basis of high crimes and misdemeanors, so it was a phrase, and a term that was very well known to the Framers. And what it really means is, as Hamilton put it, political wrongs, or the offenses of public officials in whom high public trust is vested. So, it doesn’t have to be statutory offenses, and in many ways it’s easier to understand it in terms of the military justice system rather than the civilian penal justice system because it embraces concepts like dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming of an officer, and the like. It really is about a breach of trust and there is no more trust in our system than what’s reposed in the president, who by the way is the only one in the government who constitutionally is required to take an oath of office of the kind that’s spelled out in the constitution, which requires him to swear to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. The failure to do that, more than any statutory offense, was something the Framers were much more concerned about.

So the legal test of high crimes and misdemeanors is pretty straightforward. If you have situations where the president violates the trust of the American people by undermining our system and its checks and balances, those would qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors. A president who is dishonest with the public or dishonest in reporting important matters of foreign affairs to Congress and the like would be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. A president who is derelict in his duties as commander-in-chief is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors even though there is no penal offense in the federal code that would match up with that. But the Framers were also very concerned that impeachment not be the result of partisan hackery, trivial offenses, or matters of factions (so the president’s part of one faction, Congress is controlled by another, and they can impeach him just for those political and power reasons).

Read more at TheBlaze…

 

Mark Steyn speaks with TheBlaze on his new book, and everything from global warming to Common Core to the First Amendment

We spoke with best-selling author and columnist Mark Steyn in connection with the release of a newly updated version of his entertaining and insightful book of obituaries and appreciations, “Mark Steyn’s Passing Parade.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Steyn spoke with TheBlaze Books on his newly updated book, the fate of America, and issues ranging from gay marriage to global warming to free speech to education and Common Core. The interview, which we conducted in-person, is transcribed below with edits for clarity and links.

If you appreciate this interview, be sure to follow Blaze Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Give us a brief synopsis of your newly updated book, “Passing Parade: Obituaries & Appreciations.“

Steyn: Well my big books in recent years have been on the big geopolitical, socio-economic picture. A lot of statistics, lot of numbers, lot of big picture stuff. “America Alone” is essentially a book about demography – I mean I got a best-selling book about demography which doesn’t happen very often, but it’s about fertility rates, really. “After America” in some ways is about debt – it’s about multi-trillion dollar numbers. And they’re all big picture things, but for me the real pleasure is writing about people, and reminding yourself…that it’s not all fertility rates and debt/GDP ratios, but that at the right moment of history, one individual can make a difference. And the people in this book are people who made a difference. That can be in the sense of winning the Cold War like Ronald Reagan did, or it can be in the sense of William Mitchell, who’s the guy who invented Cool Whip…I like writing obituaries. The only thing I would say is that it’s hard to write about people you…you can’t be entirely negative or hateful about people. There’s gotta be something in there [within the person] that you respond to.

And it’s interesting – even someone like Romano Mussolini, who is the Mussolini’s son – Il Duche – the big-time fascist dictator of Italy…Romano Mussolini was a jazz pianist of all things, and I met him once when he came to play in London. His group was called the “Romano Mussolini All Stars.” And after the war in Italy, his dad had been hung from a lamppost, the bottom had dropped out of the dictating business, but Romano got to be the jazz pianist that he’d always wanted to be. But he thought the Mussolini name wouldn’t go well, so he changed his name to the equivalent of “Romano Smith and His Trio.” And nobody came to see him. And then he discovered that actually, the Romano Mussolini All Stars, that that was actually quite a draw with the jazz crowd. But there’s even in that – as I said, Mussolini wound up hanging from a lamppost when they caught up with him with his mistress, but even…the final anecdote about that is that the last time Romano saw his dad, when his time had almost run out, and everybody was catching up with him, and his dad came in effectively to say “Goodbye…” he didn’t know it would be the last time he saw him and he asked him to play some music from Franz Lehár, from The Merry Widow. And just that, even in the…just that little vignette is like a very poignant, human moment, in the life of someone who a couple weeks later was hanging from that lamppost.

I think you always have to if you’re writing – even if you’re writing about – whoever it is, there’s gotta be some little way into the story that makes them human.

And you know as bad as things are – when I think back to that time for example, and I think when Neville Chamberlain was forced out of the prime ministership in the spring of 1940, if the Tory party had picked Lord Halifax instead of Winston Churchill, the entire history of the 20th century would have been different. And so the lesson you draw…we’re in New York City…Winston Churchill was almost hit by a car crossing 5th Avenue in 1932 or whatever it was – if that taxicab had actually left the tread marks over Winston Churchill — again the entire history of the second half of the 20th century would have been different. And so the lesson you draw from that is that yes the debt numbers are bad, yes the demographic numbers are bad, yes all the big picture stuff, the trends, the macroeconomic stuff is all bad, but even so, one man, the right man at the right moment can make all the difference…extraordinary people can make all the difference.

One of the obituaries that I thought interesting was Strom Thurmond’s. Give some readers insight into the story in which you were stuck in an elevator between Barbara Boxer and Strom Thurmond.

Steyn: I was covering the impeachment trial of President Clinton, which was the first time I’d been exposed close up to the United States Senate, which is not a lovely site. And one of the few interesting things as that trial wore on was actually Strom Thurmond because he – Clinton had the sort of two sexpot lady lawyers – and Strom Thurmond used to bring candy for them each day, and then press them with his 112-year old lizard-like hands into their fingers. And you could see the women were like, fatally taken aback by this, but at a certain level they understood that this was what it was gonna take to prevent their guy from being removed from office. And in the end, Strom did not vote to remove Clinton from office, in part I do believe because he had the hots for those lawyers.

But yea, there was one moment at the end of the day where we were sort of pressed in a crush – me, Barbara Boxer, Strom Thurmond, and a ton of other people. And I suddenly noticed what I thought was this like incredible-sized lizard on the sleeve of my coat. And I was listening to – I think Barbara Boxer was talking – so you look down in horror as this thing is moving down your arm, and then I realize that as it then reached down and began to stroke my hand that it was the incredibly wizened fingers of Strom Thurmond who I think had been meaning to reach over and stroke Barbara Boxer’s hand, but had fallen a little short, and ended up stroking mine.

What can you do? It’s not often…people are always saying your editors always want you to get up close and personal with these political figures, and I felt, if nothing else, I’d done some serious heavy petting with Strom Thurmond.

But, you know, we live in hyper-partisan times, and that’s fair enough. My view basically of the American situation — Mark Levin and I were actually talking about this one time, and Mark put it very well: it’s a 50/50 nation and one side has to win, and the other side has to lose. And I tend to agree with that. All that said though, when you’re being groped by Strom Thurmond, it’s important to be able to recognize the comedy in your own side too. I like to think I could always do that.

Read more at TheBlaze…

Climate Change Versus Free Speech

If you dare to challenge the scientific establishment generally, and its global warming adherents specifically, you better have deep pockets and plenty of time on your hands. That is the takeaway of the last 15 months, and soon to be more, of Mark Steyn’s life — one of the recent victims of the Left’s war on speech whose case has arguably been the least-covered but most deserving of your attention.

For those unfamiliar, Steyn, author and contributor for the “National Review,” along with Rand Simberg of the Competitive Enterprise Institute are embroiled in a defamation lawsuit with noted climate scientist Michael Mann. Mann is the famous originator of the so-called “Hockey Stick Graph” climate model.

Michael Mann (R) is suing Mark Steyn (L) for defamation. (Credit: Michelle Siu/National Post//Pennsylvania State University)

Dr. Mann filed suit against Steyn, Simberg and the “National Review” on Oct. 22, 2012. In his complaint he leveled varying libel charges against each of the defendants. Herein I focus on the allegations against Steyn in particular since his prospective hockey stick beheading as sacrifice to the scientific gods upon the altar of global warming is the most well-chronicled, and based on the least compelling evidence against the two individuals in the case.

Steyn has incurred literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees over the last 15 months defending himself against the following charge from Dr. Mann [emphasis and hyperlinks added]:

“Mr. Steyn’s statement, published by NRI on National Review Online, that Dr. Mann “was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey-stick’ graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus” is defamatory per se and tends to injure Dr. Mann in his profession because it falsely imputes to Dr. Mann academic corruption, fraud and deceit as well as the commission of a criminal offense, in a manner injurious to the reputation and esteem of Dr. Mann professionally, locally, nationally, and globally…In making the defamatory statement, NRI and Steyn acted intentionally, maliciously, willfully, and with the intent to injure Dr. Mann, or to benefit NRI and Steyn. Accordingly, NRI and Steyn are liable to Dr. Mann for punitive damages in an amount in accordance with proof at trial.”

Got that? Make fun of a climate scientist and be prepared to lawyer up.

Now before we proceed, we need not get into the science of global warming or climate change or whatever it’s being called this week, “Climategate” or Rand Simberg’s comments comparing Michael Mann to a fellow former Penn State employee Jerry Sandusky for “molested and tortured data.” Nor do we need to discuss the fact that Dr. Mann’s initial complaint had to be amended, reflecting the fact that while he originally declared himself in a legal document (and on Twitter per the below) as a Nobel laureate, he actually was not (speaking of misrepresentation).

And I do not intend to debate the merits of the case, however weak from a non-legalistic perspective I think Mann’s position may be, given that the couple of phrases that offended Mann look mild compared to the typical invectives hurled at people who stake out what Mann himself pejoratively calls the “climate denier” position; and however hard it is to believe that Mann has suffered at all, given that as he has argued as recently as two weeks ago in a “New York Times” article “the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening.”

While all of these topics are ripe for discussion, and I urge you to research them yourselves, what really matters is the fact that Steyn, Simberg and the “National Review” were forced to defend themselves in a court of law in the first place.

Continue reading at TheBlaze…

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