Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cruising the Web

It was a very good day for the First Amendment protections of freedom of speech yesterday at the Supreme Court. Two decisions came down that were basically unanimous in protecting speech rights. The first one, Matal v. Tam, was a case that my AP Government and Politics class had used in a moot Supreme Court hearing. The case involves a rock group "The Slants" made up of Asian Americans. They'd chosen the name partly to dilute the racial impact of the ethnic slur. However, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) had denied them trademark privileges under part of the law from 1946 that banned the registration of a trademark that “may disparage … persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” The Court ruled that this disparagement clause violates the First Amendent. Justice Alito, joined by three other justices, wrote,
[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”
In a concurrence, also for four justices, Justice Kennedy wrote,
A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.
As Eugene Volokh summarizes, speech that is racially offensive is also afforded First Amendment protections.
And the justices made clear that speech that some view as racially offensive is protected not just against outright prohibition but also against lesser restrictions. In Matal, the government refused to register “The Slants” as a band’s trademark, on the ground that the name might be seen as demeaning to Asian Americans. The government wasn’t trying to forbid the band from using the mark; it was just denying it certain protections that trademarks get against unauthorized use by third parties. But even in this sort of program, the court held, viewpoint discrimination — including against allegedly racially offensive viewpoints — is unconstitutional. And this no-viewpoint-discrimination principle has long been seen as applying to exclusion of speakers from universities, denial of tax exemptions to nonprofits, and much more.
Take that, Snowflakes!

This decision should hold ramifications for the Redskins whose trademark had also been revoked by the PTO under the disparagement clause. This ruling should cancel out that ruling from the PTO and allow the football team to carry on with the trademark of its merchandise. The Redskins had submitted an amicus brief supporting the Slants. Their trademark was revoked in 2014 and they'd been appealing that decision. This case should mean that their trademark is restored. The team is already celebrating.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder said he was "thrilled" with the Supreme Court's ruling, and team attorney Lisa Blatt said the court's decision effectively resolves the Redskins' longstanding dispute with the government.

"The Supreme Court vindicated the Team's position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion," Blatt said in a statement.

When we did this case in my three classes, the rock group won each time; however, the decision was much closer. There were always a few of the students who were playing the justices who were persuaded by the arguments of the students representing the PTO. That is in accord my observation that students these days are much more willing to deny free speech protections to speech that they deem is offensive. Even when we cover what the Supreme Court has ruled about hate and threatening speech, there are still students who just feel that such speech just shouldn't be allowed and that the Constitution and Supreme Court are wrong. It's scary.

Another free speech case decided yesterday, Packingham v. North Carolina, unanimously struck down a North Carolina law that banned sex offenders from any social networking site that was open to minors. Jacob Sullum at Reason summarizes the case and decision.
The case was brought by Lester Packingham, who at the age of 21 had sex with a 13-year-old girl and was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a minor. Eight years later, Packingham beat a traffic ticket and expressed his pleasure on Facebook: "Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismiss the ticket before court even started. No fine, No court costs, no nothing spent….Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!" That burst of online exultation violated North Carolina's ban on social media use, which covers all registered sex offenders, regardless of whether their crimes involved minors or the internet.

Packingham argued that his conviction violated the First Amendment, and a state appeals court agreed. The North Carolina Supreme Court did not. Siding with Packingham today, the U.S. Supreme Court concludes that the law "burden[s] substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government's legitimate interests."

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy emphasizes the internet's vital importance to freedom of speech. "This case is one of the first this Court has taken to address the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet," he says. "As a result, the Court must exercise extreme caution before suggesting that the First Amendment provides scant protection for access to vast networks in that medium."

Kennedy says North Carolina's law "enacts a prohibition unprecedented in the scope of First Amendment speech it burdens," applying indiscriminately to many kinds of online activity, even when it has nothing to do with contacting minors. "By prohibiting sex offenders from using those websites, North Carolina with one broad stroke bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge," he writes. "These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard....To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights."

In a concurring opinion joined by John Roberts and Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito notes that the law's broad definition of "commercial social networking Web site" covers not only widely used social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter but also shopping sites such as Amazon and news sites such as The Washington Post. Alito says the law's "staggering reach...makes it a felony for a registered sex offender simply to visit a vast array of websites, including many that appear to provide no realistic opportunity for communications that could facilitate the abuse of children."

The Court's decision in Packingham v. North Carolina not only vindicates the First Amendment but provides a welcome dose of skepticism about sweeping, indiscriminate laws that are supposedly justified by the need to protect children from sexual predators. In this case, as in many others, the law went far beyond that goal, criminalizing a wide range of innocent actions by people classified as sex offenders, most of whom pose no real threat to children.
This is an example of a poorly crafted law ending up achieving the exact opposite result that the legislators intended when it is eventually struck down. North Carolina has been experiencing such losses in the courts over the past few years.

I had considered using this case for one of our class moot Supreme Court hearings because I thought the students would be interested in the subject and because it was a North Carolina case. But after reading about it, I decided it was just too obviously wrong and wasn't worth arguing. So, in addition to Matal v. Tam, we did Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, a freedom of religion case. If this gets decided as it was in my classes, the church should win this one.

Tools and Home Improvement

Today’s Deals

Fashion Sales and Deals

From what we know now about the attack in London, this time with a man driving a van into a crowd of worshippers near a London mosque while screaming "I'm going to kill all Muslims," this seems to be the logical result of the tit-for-tat escalation of hateful responses. Jim Geraghty writes on this theme,
Perhaps this is relevant in our current moment here in the United States. We’ve been living in an era of escalating political and cultural animosity and provocation. Quite a few politically-active Americans are starting to think, “because the other side has done X; at the very least, they deserve X done to them in response and perhaps even an escalation to Y.”

Radical Islamists have committed several attacks using vans and other vehicles and hitting pedestrians; this hate-filled maniac decided to do the same to Muslims coming out of a mosque. In his mind, it didn’t matter that these were old men and women with no known connection to terrorism or extremism of any kind; all that mattered is that they were a group of “those people.”

He became, quite literally, what he thought he was fighting, the kind of murderous lunatic who tries to kill as many people as possible in the name of a cause.
This sounds as if France was lucky in avoiding a truly murderous attack.
French police evacuated the Champs-Elysees in central Paris Monday after an armed man crashed a car packed with explosives into a police van.

The driver was knocked unconscious by the crash and later died from his injuries. No civilians or law enforcement were hurt. Police closed the street but said the situation was under control. Interior Minister GĂ©rard Collomb called it an “attack aimed at our security forces” in a tweet from the scene.

These are those peaceful Palestinians whom some useful idiots in the West think could be partners for peace.
The Palestinian Authority has named a public square after the mastermind of the Ma'alot massacre, Palestinian Media Watch reported.

The PA named the square in Jenin after arch-terrorist Khaled Nazzal, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and commander of its military branch.

Nazzal was responsible for planning the 1974 Ma'alot massacre, in which Arab terrorists entered a school in the northern town of Ma'alot and took dozens of children and teachers hostage. 22 children and 4 adults were murdered in the attack.

Nazzal was also responsible for the planning of many other deadly terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including the murder of 4 hostages in Beit Shean and a grenade attack in Jerusalem.

The "Martyr Khaled Nazzal Square" was inaugurated at a rally in which PA officials participated "under the auspices of the Jenin District and the [Jenin] municipality." Participants included the Deputy District Governor of the Jenin District, and the DFLP in Jenin.

Deputy Mayor of Jenin Mahmoud Abu Mweis spoke at the the inauguration and said that the event "emphasized that our leadership and our people will continue on the path of the Martyrs."
When a people and government celebrate someone who murdered children how can anyone rational regard them as worthy partners for peace?

This is an excellent idea. I hope the Congressional leaders do indeed go forward with this.
Alarmed by the stalemate on healthcare reform, lack of progress on tax reform and appropriations bills that are far behind schedule, Republican lawmakers across Congress are increasingly willing to consider canceling the month-long August recess.

Senate Republican negotiators reported that they are not close to a deal on healthcare reform and that scheduling a vote by July 4, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pushed, is likely unrealistic.

That impasse has held up work on a budget resolution, which is necessary to move tax reform and the annual appropriations bills.

Once Republicans vote on a budget resolution for 2018, it will wipe out the special vehicle they plan to use to pass healthcare reform with a simple majority vote — a vehicle that was set up by the budget resolution for 2017.

Lawmakers calculate there are only 45 legislative days until the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30.

With the party still sharply divided on healthcare and tax reform, it looks increasingly possible that Republican lawmakers will leave town in July for a monthlong break without any major accomplishments under their belts.
It would be a terrible choice to leave on vacation without making progress on any of these tasks. That's their job; they shouldn't get a summer vacation when they can't get their work done. If the Republicans can't agree to do that, the President should call them back into session.

Deals in Jewelry - under $80

Deals and Coupons in Beauty

Luggage and Travel Deals

If you had had hopes that the Kumbaya spirit immediately after the shooting on GOP congressmen would lead to a new environment in Washington, well, don't hold your breath. The Democrats said all the appropriate things and then soon Nancy Pelosi was jumping in to blame the Republicans.
When Pelosi was asked by a reporter if she believed the coarsening political dialogue was afflicting both sides of the political aisle, Pelosi said no.

“It didn’t use to be this way. Somewhere in the 90s, Republicans decided on a politics of personal destruction as they went after the Clintons, and that is the provenance of it, and that is what has continued,” Pelosi said. Pelosi came to congress 29 years ago, so maybe she just wasn’t paying attention to her party’s treatment of Robert Bork one whole year prior but that somehow doesn’t explain her amnesia of her party’s treatment of Clarence Thomas two years later.
Then leftists on Twitter started attacking Steve Scalise while the guy was in the ICU and undergoing surgery. He was attacked for being a racist and homophobe as some chuckled at the supposed irony that the two Capitol Police who were the heroes who saved the congressmen under attack were both black and one of them, Crystal Griner, is a gay, black woman. Stephen Miller of Heat Street comments,
The point apparently lost on Fusion, Takei and Reid is that Scalise is such a bigoted homophobe that he entrusted his life and security for years to a homosexual black woman, and a black man. Indeed, Scalise’s trust paid off as they both stepped into the line of fire to not only save his life, but the lives of several other GOP congressmen practicing that day, from the actions of a man who was a proud supporter and believer in the same progressive ideals as Reid and Takei.
Guy Benson also comments on this use of identity politics to attack Scalise.
Let's set aside the facts that (a) the two wounded officers -- who both happen to be black -- are members of Scalise's detail and are reportedly close with his family, and (b) holding a traditional, mainstream political views on same-sex marriage does not automatically make someone a "bigot" or a "homophobe." (Also, a newly-resurrected anti-Scalise "white supremacy" is just that: A smear). The proper conclusion to Reid's loaded, "and yet..." clause is as follows: And yet, her race and sexual orientation were irrelevant non-factors as she performed her duty with extraordinary bravery and poise, saving multiple human beings' lives. Period. If anything, Officer Griner's actions represent a powerful statement against identity-based obsession: Distinctions like gender, racial heritage and sexual identity didn't matter at all when a moment of crisis suddenly arrived. What did matter were duty, honor, courage, and humanity. Unfortunately, that wasn't the point Takei and Reid et al were getting at. They were attacking Scalise -- the victim who was still fighting for his life and in critical condition at the time -- over his insufficiently 'woke' political views.

The implication was that it was somehow incongruous or even generous of Ms. Griner to have saved Scalise's life, in spite of his 'retrograde' ideology. This is an ugly strain of victim blaming. It's obviously insulting to the House Majority Whip, whose grievous "sins" include holding a view of marriage that is consistent with his church's teachings, voting to replace a failing healthcare law, and supporting the Second Amendment. (By the way, contra Reid's nasty little bill of indictment embedded in her tweet, there was never any sweeping ban on "semiautomatic weapons" in America). But this framing is also insulting to Griner, suggesting that considerations about her (assumed) politics could conceivably have interfered with her critical work in a life-and-death situation. In their rush to advertise their own surpassing contempt for conservatives, these leftists chose to exploit the work of an LGBT woman of color by clumsily applying their ever-present 'identity' lenses to this situation -- apparently unaware of, or unperturbed by, how their spin might reflect on the two people whose gunshot wounds are still healing. Curiously, despite drawing attention to his race, Ms. Reid seemed far less interested in the motivation of the assailant -- who, as she would surely point out if the shoe were on the other foot, was a big fan of her network.

If this weren't all so execrable, it would be quite sad. These people immediately contemplated the racial and sexual dynamics at play and determined that the available details lent themselves to an escalation of, rather than a rebuke to, identity politics. Fortunately, when the chips were down and lives were on the line, duty and shard humanity transcended all else, including ideology. Thank God Officer Griner evidently held a much healthier perspective on her professional and moral priorities than did the knee-jerk partisans who are callously misappropriating her heroism to advance their own agenda.
CBS's Scott Pelley mused whether the shooting was "to some degree self-inflicted?" Really? Now we're going to blame the victim. Would Pelley have the same attitude toward a rape victim wearing a mini-skirt?

Best in Video Games

Virtual Reality

Video Game Accessories

Finally some waste is being cut. It's amazing that it has taken so long.
Some 17 years after the doomsday Y2K scare about computers crashing when the calendar went from 1999 to 2000, the federal government still requires reports on the impact of the event which passed without a whisper of disaster.

That and 58 other outdated, redundant and unnecessary reporting requirements -- some dating to 1997 -- are among a long list of cuts the Office of Management and Budget targeted for elimination Thursday in a memo President Trump hopes other agencies will use as the model in his "War On Waste," according to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.

"Everybody knows we do crap like this," he told a media roundtable. "We do a lousy job of clearing out our closets," added the top Trump official in charge of the president's governmental reorganization effort.

Mulvaney issued a "War On Waste Fact Sheet" and 12-page memo today listing the 59 reporting requirements that will end today. One other outdated requirement: Reporting on the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill the Gulf of Mexico.

"It just clogs the operation of government," said Mulvaney of obsolete reporting rules.

Cutting the red tape past administration's have required will save thousands of dollars and eliminate hundreds of hours of staff work, said OMB Senior Advisor Linda Springer. She added that any new reporting requirements set by OMB will include a sunset provision.

The memo was just "phase one" of a stretched out effort by administration to cut costs by reorganizing the government, eliminating wasteful spending and redundant jobs.