Monday, August 10, 2009

Dissenters Are "Political Terrorists"

This is one of my longer posts, so settle in for a lengthy read as I connect the dots. This post will stay here several days as I have a busy week ahead.

(graphic courtesy of GM's Place - disseminate freely)

According to business columnist Steven Pearlstein, who wrote the following August 7, 2009 essay in the Washington Post:
Republicans Propagating Falsehoods in Attacks on Health-Care Reform

As a columnist who regularly dishes out sharp criticism, I try not to question the motives of people with whom I don't agree. Today, I'm going to step over that line.

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.


Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off. Republican leaders are eager to see us fail that test. We need to show them that no matter how many lies they tell or how many scare tactics they concoct, Americans will come together and get this done.

If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.
As one who always reads Pearlstein's columns, which typically often sound financial advice, I have to say that I'm astounded as the position he has taken in this essay.

Those with concerns about ObamaCare are "political terrorists"? Perhaps Pearlstein is a covert disciple of Cass Suntein and Zephyr Teachout.
On July 12, 2009, I posted the following about Cass Sunstein:

Based on his own words and statements of intent, Cass Sunstein, appointed to the shadowy post of White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, will likely have his eye on the Internet, particularly on us bloggers:
When it comes to the First Amendment, Team Obama believes in Global Chilling.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling, explicitly supports using the courts to impose a "chilling effect" on speech that might hurt someone's feelings. He thinks that the bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.


Sunstein questions the current libel standard - which requires proving "actual malice" against those who write about public figures, including celebrities. Mere "negligence" isn't libelous, but Sunstein wonders, "Is it so important to provide breathing space for damaging falsehoods about entertainers?" Celeb rags, get ready to hire more lawyers.

Sunstein also believes that - whether you're a blogger, The New York Times or a Web hosting service - you should be held responsible even for what your commenters say. Currently you're immune under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. "Reasonable people," he says, "might object that this is not the right rule," though he admits that imposing liability for commenters on service providers would be "a considerable burden."


"As we have seen," Sunstein writes, having shown us no such thing, "falsehoods can undermine democracy itself." What Sunstein means by that sentence is pretty clear: He doesn't like so-called false rumors about his longtime University of Chicago friend and colleague, Barack Obama.

He alludes on page 3 (and on page 13, and 14, and 45, and 54 - the book is only 87 pages) to the supposedly insidious lie that "Barack Obama pals around with terrorists." Since Sunstein intends to impose his Big Chill on such talk, I'd better get this in while I can. The "rumor," i.e., "fact," about the palsy-walsiness of Obama and unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers (Ayers referred to Obama as a "family friend" in a memoir) did not "undermine democracy," i.e., prevent Obama's election. The facts got out, voters weighed them and ruled that they weren't disqualifying.

Sunstein calls for a "notice and take down" law that would require bloggers and service providers to "take down falsehoods upon notice," even those made by commenters - but without apparent penalty.

Consider how well this nudge would work. You blog about Obama-Ayers. You get a letter claiming that your facts are wrong so you should remove your post. You refuse. If, after a court proceeding proves simply that you are wrong (but not that you committed libel, which when a public figure is the target is almost impossible), you lose, the penalty is . . . you must take down your post.
Such suppression of First Amendment rights would be challenged in courts of law, of course. However, the article points out the following disturbing reality:
How long would it take for a court to sort out the truth? Sasha and Malia will be running for president by then. Nobody will care anymore. But it will give politicians the ability to tie up their online critics in court....
Please take time to read the entire article.

If Suntein's proposal become reality, America as the beacon of freedom is finished!


Here is a some additional information about Cass Sunstein:

At the time of my July 2009 posting about Cass Suntein's plans, RaDena commented as follows:
They won't be able to do it, Always, because it will backfire on the far left. They spew more vitriol than anyone...They can't suppress only conservatives and as they can't do anything else except throw around insults they'd be affected by this much worse than you or I would. Americans are not going to tolerate that much of a double standard... at least I hope not!
Hmmmm.... And now we have the White House snitch program and all sorts of trouble at town halls (See recent posts at Gateway Pundit). How things have changed in less than a month from that posting about Sunstein! We shouldn't be surprised at change, of course: the video, which supposedly "debunked" the idea that Obama is pro single-payer, came of out the White House Office of Information, headed by Cass Sunstein. How many of the other videos and documents coming out of the White House bear the mark of Sunstein? A lot of them, I'm sure.

Now, about Zephyr Teachout.

Back on May 31, 2009, I published a post entitled "Are BHO and Company Keeping a List?" at Infidel Bloggers Alliance:

How long do we have before we lose the Internet?

I direct you to this column by George F. Will. Complete essay, which is quite long but important for us to discuss, I think:
End Run on Free Speech

By George F. Will
Sunday, May 24, 2009

For several decades, most of the ingenuity that liberal academics have invested in First Amendment analysis has aimed to justify limiting the core activity that the amendment was written to protect -- political speech. These analyses treat free speech as not an inherent good but as a merely instrumental good, something justified by serving other ends -- therefore something to be balanced against, and abridged to advance, other goods.

The good for which Zephyr Teachout would regulate speech is combating corruption, which, as she understands it, encompasses most of contemporary politics. A visiting law professor at Duke, writing in the Cornell Law Review ("The Anti-Corruption Principle"), she makes an astonishingly far-reaching argument for emancipating government from First Amendment restrictions on its powers to regulate political speech -- speech about the government's composition and conduct.

Hitherto, most arguments for such emancipation -- for McCain-Feingold and other measures regulating the quantity, content and timing of political speech -- have rested on the supposed need to curb corruption or the "appearance" thereof, with corruption understood as quid pro quo transactions, political favors exchanged for financial favors. But bribery has long been criminalized, and courts are wary about allowing the criminalizing of the constant transactions of mutual support between politicians and factions.

Teachout's capacious definition of corruption includes even an unseemly "attitude" of citizens as well as officeholders "toward public service." She says that the Framers thought limiting corruption was their "primary task." Therefore the "anti-corruption principle" should have "as much weight" as the First Amendment, giving Congress considerable "leeway" to regulate the political "process," which is mostly speech. What Teachout disparagingly calls "the apotheosis of speech" and "the sanctified meme of 'free speech' " is, she says, "a serious problem" requiring a rethinking of "the proper relationship of speech to self-serving public actors."

She advocates, as proponents of an elastic Constitution often do, an "evolving standard," this time a standard about how we define, measure and condemn "self-serving" behavior, aka corruption. This standard might license Congress to restrict speech in order to combat:

"Unequal access" to the political process; "unfair deployment of wealth"; "undue influence" by this or that group; speech that is "distorting" or lacks "proportionality" or results in "drowned voices" or a "passive" or "dispirited" public or that causes a "loss of political integrity" or creates "moral failings for members of Congress." Such speech might not be constitutionally protected if we properly "refine the meaning of the privilege of political speech."

So, political speech is not a right but a privilege, something granted by government
when government deems it consistent with what Teachout calls the "equally important" anti-corruption principle. Imagine the "self-serving" uses incumbent legislators might have for the terms in the paragraph above as reasons for restricting political speech.

The word "corruption" or some permutation of it occurs 58 times in the 85 essays that are the Federalist Papers. James Madison wrote not only many of the papers but also this: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." He saw no conflict between that proscription and efforts to minimize corruption. He and other Framers considered corruption a vice requiring constant vigilance precisely because it is inextricably entwined with a virtue, America's vast scope -- constitutionally protected scope -- for self-interested behavior, including political speech.

Congressional Democrats want to kill a small voucher program that gave some mostly poor and minority students alternatives to the District of Columbia's failing public schools, and the Obama administration spent additional billions to avoid a declaration of bankruptcy by General Motors. Some people think both decisions represented disinterested assessments of the public good. Others think the decisions represented obeisance by Democrats to the teachers and autoworkers unions, respectively. If the decisions were such obeisance, they were, by Teachout's standards, corrupt.

If corruption is as ubiquitous as Teachout's standard ("self-serving" behavior) says, then reasons for restricting political speech also are ubiquitous. Under today's regulatory and redistributionist government, which is busily allocating wealth and opportunity, politics frequently "appears" to many people "self-serving." It will not, however, be prettified by regulating speech.

If Teachout considers the politics produced by today's gargantuan government unlovely, she should not try to further enlarge the government by empowering it to comprehensively regulate speech about government. Instead, she should join the movement to restrain government's incessant regulating and redistributing transactions on behalf of myriad factions -- transactions that create more and more clamorous factions. The movement is called conservatism.
If political speech becomes a privilege, we are doomed!


Are you connecting the dots in the same way that I am?

Right now, with union thugs moving in on town hall meetings, we are seeing political speech becoming a privilege.

Right now, the Democratic Party and the mainstream media are painting constituents voicing questions and dissent as "extremists." Watch a few broadcasts on MSNBC to get the drift, but be sure to take your antacids or a stiff drink first. We even have Nancy Pelosi saying that dissenters to ObamaCare are carrying swastikas and deceptive photos circulating. How long before we hear that portrayal as "Angry town hall attendees are political terrorists"? And remember the ideology which drives this administration; Sunstein and Teachout make that ideology clear even though we don't hear their names front and center.

Losing our freedom of speech and even our ability to freely communicate with our elected public servants can't happen in America? Think again.

After all, who would have said a year ago that we'd be seeing these town halls, overt and covert, erupting as they have?

And could you get away with putting this sign in your yard and have your home still remain safe? Could you put this bumper-sticker version on your car and not have your car vandalized? I think that we've already lost those freedoms.

I submit that WE THE PEOPLE are being terrorized by this arrogant, power-grabbing administration and its maniacal devotees, who want us to become WE THE SHEEPLE:

Of course, not all the people are willing to be sheeple (hat tip to Reliapundit of THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS):

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posted by Always On Watch @ 8/10/2009 04:00:00 AM