Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

With word that Trump has revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post for appearing in an official capacity at any of his events, and criticism of that from the usual quarters, I couldn’t help but recall what I learned perhaps only about five to six years ago, about “America’s greatest President,” Abraham Lincoln, arresting critical newspaper editors.

In fact, here’s Lincoln’s official Executive Order on the matter (emphasis mine):

Whereas there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning in the New York World and New York Journal of Commerce, newspapers printed and published in the city of New York, a false and spurious proclamation purporting to be signed by the President and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and to the rebels now at war against the Government and their aiders and abettors, you are therefore hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command the editors, proprietors, and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy; and you will hold the persons so arrested in close custody until they can be brought to trial before a military commission for their offense. You will also take possession by military force of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce, and hold the same until further orders, and prohibit any further publication therefrom.

And before that, America’s second president, John Adams, signed the blatantly unconstitutional “Alien and Sedition Acts,” which made it a punishable crime to be critical of the federal government.

Unlike Adams and Lincoln, Trump is still a private citizen. When he’s President, then starts banning various press agencies, then let’s put things in historical perspective and judge what a violator of the First Amendment he truly is, and decide on the appropriate remedy.

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English: Canadian Flag

Reporters without Borders has released their 2011/2012 Press Freedom Index, and Canada came in 10th place, while its only neighbour, the United States, came in 47th place.

Now, certainly, there is an element of subjectivity to the ratings, and they can even be politically motivated, but the gap between the two suggests that it’s outside the bounds of those two explanations alone.

It’s no surprise to me that France came ahead of the United States, as a friend once told me: if you really want to know what’s going on in American politics, read the French newspapers.

The fact that a former Soviet republic — Lithuania — came out ahead of the U.S. is very telling.

Canada can thank Quebecers for some of their better press freedom than the United States, since French-language media are by their very nature, not completely establishment, and some are sufficiently anti-establishment.

Ironically, Canadians can also thank their strong public broadcaster, the CBC, and Ontario provincial broadcaster, TVO, for increasing press freedom, since they allow for discussion you won’t find to the same degree in the private sector.

But, so that Canadians don’t get full of themselves with feelings of moral superiority, the fact is that Canada’s media is less of an attractive target for control than the American media, and that factor has contributed to Canada’s press being more free.

While the First Amendment was intended to only apply to Congress not being permitted to abridge an individual’s natural right to freedom of speech, it was later applied to the States, and the courts imposed restrictions on speech, such as understandably not being allowed to cry “fire!” in a crowded theatre.

But it was the unqualified First Amendment right to freedom of speech vis-a-vis Congressional interference that Canada itself never embraced, with no explicit recognition of the freedom of speech outside of the interference from either the federal or provincial governments in its original Constitution of 1867.

When an explicit recognition was made with Canada’s patrioted Constitution of 1982, it was made subject to limitations by the judiciary and a complete suppression by a simple majority vote in Parliament or any of the provincial assemblies, through the “notwithstanding” clause.

Those who continue to wax on about how superior the American form of government is to all others, without tempering it with talk of the current reality, are definitely missing the mark.

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My email to Dr. Stan Monteith of Radio Liberty about a controversial church-state separation matter, with added links:

I listened to your show last night where you criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for not hearing an appeal of the lower court decision ordering Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove the Ten Commandments display he had put up.

While the Founding Fathers intended the Bill of Rights to apply to the federal government and not the States, and while the First Amendment specifically refers to Congress and not the state legislatures, and while some states had an official religion at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights;

As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court has since incorporated parts of the Bill of Rights to apply to the States, including the First Amendment.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has an engraving of Moses with the Ten Commandments in its main chamber, that’s in the context of a series of lawgivers, and the first judge who heard the case against Moore said it would have been a very different matter if Moore’s Ten Commandments display was in a similar context.

I don’t think it was constitutional for the U.S. Supreme Court to incorporate the First Amendment to apply to the States, since, unlike the others, it explicitly mentions Congress. However, given the current state of jurisprudence, I think that their decision not to hear the case was a reflection that the lower federal courts had appropriate jurisdiction and a valid argument for their decision, though they didn’t necessarily endorse it.

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On April 30, 2010, Dr. Stan Monteith of Radio Liberty interviewed Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Institute, and they analyzed the “10 Amendments For Freedom” proposal.

They are:

  • A balanced budget, repaying the national debt in 50 Years, government transparency, a line-item veto, term limits for Congress, controlling illegal immigration, formal declaration of being an English-speaking nation, no binding foreign laws, government restraint – no socialism, and an “In God We Trust” declaration.

The following concerns about a Constitutional Convention were raised, which I paraphrase here:

  • How likely are the same members of Congress who violated their constitutional oath of office by voting for unconstitutional legislation, such as the 2001 USA PATRIOT ACT and the 2006 Military Commissions Act, likely to respect new amendments to the Constitution?
  • The precedence of the 1787 Constitutional Convention that violated the existing Articles of Confederation, by adopting a new Constitution for the United States without the required ratification of every State, as required by the Articles. Despite requiring three-fourths of the States to ratify any proposed amendments under the existing Constitution, the ratification rules could once again be violated, citing this precedence.
  • The Speaker of the House, a partisan, would get to decide the rules for conducting the Convention, for those aspects that aren’t spelled out in Article V of the Constitution, which are numerous.
  • Phyllis Schafly, opponent of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, succeeded in her attempts to thwart the required three-fourths support of the States, in part, due to the roadblocks and legally questionable tactics employed by some state legislatures, including the rescission of previous ratification.
  • Bill Benson was given $100,000 to go to each of the State legislatures and determine whether a sufficient number of them ratified the 16th and 17th amendments, and he discovered they hadn’t. If the 16th and 17th amendments were never properly ratified, yet are being enforced by the nation’s courts, what will stop them from enforcing new amendment proposals that aren’t properly ratified?

Now, I’ll examine each of the proposed amendments in detail:

1. Balanced Budget
– Balanced budget legislation has been shelved by other countries, such as provincially in Canada, when their deficits skyrocketed, or when it was politically expedient to do so.

2. Repay National Debt in 50 Years
– Repaying the $14 trillion dollar debt in 50 years would take $280 billion a year in payments even at 0% interest over that time, requiring an additional $1.4 trillion in revenue for 2010 alone.

3. Government Transparency
– I argue that the best way to make government more transparent is to reduce its size and decentralize its power as much as possible without compromising its intended function of protecting rights.

4. Line-Item Veto
– For historical reference, a line item veto was made law in 1996, but was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court and the ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court.

5. Term Limits for Congress
– Terms limits were included in the Republican’s 1994 Contract With America, but never passed the House with the required two-thirds support.

6. Control Illegal Immigration
– There are existing laws to control illegal immigration that are being deliberately unenforced by both Democrats and Republicans, with the example of proposed amnesty legislation during the Bush and Obama administrations, after Democratic and Republican administrations following the latest amnesty by Reagan.

7. English-Speaking Nation
– I argue that English’s place in the United States is secure, by being the language of the Constitution — the supreme law of the land, which requires that all federal and state laws be in support of. Such an amendment could breach the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech.

8. No Foreign Laws Will Bind Us
– This would fix what I see as a problem with the Constitution not explicitly requiring that Treaties be in support of the Constitution, as it says about all laws. Given the Vienna Convention, which holds that where there is a difference between national laws and treaty provisions, treaty provisions can be held superior to any national and state laws.

9. Government Restraint – No Socialism
– Much of the socialist agenda being pushed at the federal level today is being carried out through the misapplication the commerce clause, which was clearly intended by the Founding Fathers, as outlined in the Federalist Papers, to apply to regulation of trade among the several States, and not permit unfettered socialism by controlling the means of production and distribution. An example of this is the regulation of CO2 emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. Without such a misapplication, the Tenth Amendment reserves such powers to the States or to the people.

10. In God We Trust
– Could breach the First Amendment protection of the freedom to practice no religion. Also, despite the religious character of many of the Founding Fathers, they intentionally made no direct reference to God in the Constitution, and, as such, such an amendment would be contrary to their intentions of discouraging the influence of religious sectarianism in such a religiously diverse country as the U.S. was even in 1787.

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