Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Man Commits Suicide Over Racism Accusation
Political correctness does not just infect the United States. It affects our entire Western family. An extreme, though revealing story out of New Zealand today: Two friends, a white man and a black man, saw some immigration officers outside their office. The white man jokingly said to his friend, "You'd better hide." A trifle indelicate perhaps, but like most normal people, the black guy didn't care and interpreted this as a joke. Both men probably thought nothing of it.
However, one of those insufferable busybodies that constantly feel the need to police our words and thoughts reported this deeply serious matter to company higher-ups. Such is the world we live in that the white man was immediately suspended from his job. Devastated, Roy Amor, 61 years old, shot himself.
Who benefits from this system? Certainly, not the family of Mr. Amor, who leaves behind a wife and his grown-up son and daughter. Certainly, not the unidentified black man, who didn't care about the joke, attended Mr. Amor's funeral, and lost a friend. Certainly, not the company, which lost a good worker by all accounts and clearly someone who valued his job and held it to be an important part of his life. Has racial justice somehow been advanced by this incident? Is New Zealand somehow a better country because a this man was driven to such despair that he took his own life? Does anyone touched by this incident feel that political correctness somehow has made their country a better place?
Mr. Amor’s reaction was certainly extreme, and we have no way of knowing if there were other things in his life that drove him to take this terrible step. That said, it may have been sufficient in itself. The accusation of racism is the most serious charge that can be made in the Western world today. If you are a murderer, you will find plenty of people to explain away your conduct as the fault of society. They might even make a movie about you. Druggies and degenerates of all sorts are held either as innocent victims or perhaps even heroes, bravely transcending reactionary social norms. In the post-Christian West, where values are deconstructed with ease and all morality is held to be relative, racism is the only absolute sin and manifestation of true evil in the world. The ethnocentric white man takes over the position of Old Scratch.
Your friends and family can excuse any failing or misdeed, with that one terrible exception of racism. Regardless of the truth or falsity of the accusation, regardless of Mr. Amor’s probable protestations that it was just a joke, regardless that the “target” of the insensitive joke didn’t care, we can expect that Mr. Amor’s friends suddenly didn’t want to be associated with him, that colleagues didn’t return phone calls, that supervisors who valued his work suddenly regarded him as a liability. People who would have stood by him had he been drunk driving or addicted to heroin may have cut him off once the accusation of thoughtcrime was made, either out of self-righteousness or fear for their own careers. We don’t know all the reasons he did it, probably no one does except Mr. Amor himself. However, I am willing to bet that when Mr. Amor pulled the trigger, more than anything else, he must have felt totally abandoned and alone.
I extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Amor and his family and friends. I hope whoever reported that joke feels the tortures of the damned for the rest of their miserable lives. Why do we fight? Because a society that accepts this is fundamentally sick and should not be tolerated. We are going to change this world so that we never have to see horrifying stories like this ever again.
Citizens United we stand
March 24, 2009, was a turning point in the long-running battle to restrict political speech, aka "campaign finance reform." On that day, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the conservative activist group Citizens United challenged the provisions of the McCain-Feingold law that had prohibited it from airing a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, through video on demand within 30 days of any 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
In the course of the argument, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, an experienced Supreme Court litigator, argued that a 1990 precedent, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, gave the government the power to limit any political communication funded by a corporation, even a nonprofit such as Citizens United. Justice Samuel Alito asked Stewart if that power would extend to censoring political books published by corporations. Stewart responded -- consistent with the government's position at all stages of the case -- that yes, it would. There was an audible hush -- if such a thing is possible -- in the court. Then Justice Alito, appearing to speak for the room, merely said, "I find that pretty incredible."
Incredible or not, that was, and had been for many years, the position of the U.S. government. But until that moment, it seemed to have never quite sunken in with the justices. Americans are willing to accept far more abridgements of free speech than we sometimes like to believe, but the idea of banning books strikes an emotional chord that something described simply as "prohibitions and limits on campaign spending" does not. Americans may not always live up to the Bill of Rights, but Americans do not ban books. A stunned Court eventually asked the parties to reargue the case, to consider whether Austin should be overruled.
On reargument last September, Solicitor General Elena Kagan tried to control the damage, arguing that the government never actually had tried to censor books, even as she reaffirmed its claimed authority to do just that. She also stated that "pamphlets," unlike books, were clearly fair game for government censorship. (Former Federal Election Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky has noted that in fact the FEC has conducted lengthy investigations into whether certain books violated campaign finance laws, though it has not yet held that a book publisher violated the law through publication. And the FEC has attempted to penalize publishers of magazines and financial newsletters, only to be frustrated by the courts.) With the endgame of "campaign finance reform" finally laid out plainly, the Supreme Court's decision seemed a foregone conclusion. Sure enough, in January, the Court ruled that corporations, as associations of natural persons, have a right to spend funds from their general treasuries to support or oppose political candidates and causes -- including through the publication or distribution of books and movies.
Though this ruling is obviously a correct interpretation of the First Amendment, reaction to the Court's decision in Citizens United has been loud, often disingenuous, and in some cases nearly hysterical. President Obama used his State of the Union address to publicly scold the Court, in the process so mischaracterizing the Court's decision that he prompted Justice Alito's now famous, spontaneous rejoinder, "Not true."
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress and the states have been working overtime to come up with "fixes," ranging from the absurd (a Vermont legislator proposed forcing corporate sponsors to be identified every five seconds during any broadcast ad), to the merely pernicious (such as proposals that seek toimmobilize corporate speech by forcing corporations to hold a majority vote of shareholders before each and every expenditure). The fact that virtually all of these proposed "fixes" have been sponsored by Democrats, with the aim of silencing what they perceive to be the pro-Republican voices of the business community, merely illustrates once again the basic problem with campaign finance reform that Citizens United sought to alleviate: the desire to manipulate the law for partisan purposes.
CITIZENS UNITED IS AT ONCE both a potential game-changer and a decision whose "radicalism" has been wildly overstated. Why overstated? Well, to start, one would never guess from the left's hysteria that even prior to Citizens United, 28 states, representing roughly 60 percent of the U.S. population, already allowed corporations and unions to make expenditures promoting or opposing candidates for office in state elections; in 26 states, such corporate and union expenditures were unlimited. Moreover, while the first bans on corporate spending were enacted more than a century ago, prior to the 1990 Austin decision, the Supreme Court had never upheld a ban, or even a limitation, on independent expenditures supporting or opposing a political candidate. It was the misleading contention that the decision overturned "100 years of law and precedent," that appears to have evoked Justice Alito's "not true" response to the president's State of the Union comments.
The president also stated, again misleadingly, that the decision would open the door for foreign corporations to spend unlimited sums in American elections. In fact, another provision of federal law, not at issue in the case, already prohibits any foreign national, including foreign corporations, from spending money in any federal campaign. FEC regulations, which have the force of law, further prohibit any foreign national from playing any role in the political spending decisions of any U.S. corporation, political action committee, or association. And the Court specifically stated that Citizens United was not addressing these laws at all. So while some states may tweak their state rules in the wake of Citizens United to limit the ability of U.S. incorporated and head-quartered subsidiaries of foreign corporations to spend money in campaigns, the "foreign corporation" bogeyman is little more than leftist demagoguery.
What is much more alarming than the prospect of U.S. corporations with some foreign ownership participating in campaigns is the fact that the four most liberal justices on the Supreme Court would have upheld the Austin precedent, and with it the authority of the federal government to censor books and movies published, produced, or distributed by U.S. corporations. But by affirming the rights of citizens to speak out on political issues, even when organized through the corporate form, the Supreme Court quite rightly put political speech back at the core of the First Amendment.
After four decades in which the Court had given greater First Amendment protection to such activities as topless dancing, simulated child pornography, Internet porn, flag burning, and the transfer of stolen information than to political speech, Citizens United is a wonderful reaffirmation of the primacy of political speech in First Amendment jurisprudence. In that respect, the case has already been a constitutional game-changer. Future litigation is sure to follow, building on the success of Citizens United to free up the political system and strike down the still extensive web of regulation that envelops political speech.
Some of these challenges are already well under way. For example, under current federal law, an individual such as George Soros is free to spend $20 million to promote his favored candidates, but if two or more individuals get together to do the same thing, neither can contribute more than $5,000 to the effort. It is hard to see what anti-corruption purpose such a dichotomy serves, and in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January, plaintiffs argue that if it is not corrupting for one person to spend unlimited sums on independent expenditures, it is not corrupting if two or more people combine their resources to promote the candidates of their choice. A decision is expected soon. Expect, too, legal challenges to the federal prohibition on contributions by corporations directly to candidates -- if a $2,300 contribution from a corporate CEO or PAC is not corrupting, it is hard to see how a $2,300 contribution directly from a corporate treasury is corrupting.
MUCH LESS CLEAR is whether Citizens United will be a game-changer in electoral politics. The general consensus is that Citizens United favors Republicans, based on the widely held perception that corporations are more likely to support Republicans than Democrats. But this perception may not be true. Even before Citizens United, the federal government and most states also allowed corporations to operate political action committees (PACs), which could then solicit the corporation's managers and shareholders for voluntary contributions to the PAC, which in turn could contribute limited amounts to candidates or make independent expenditures to support candidates. But whereas corporate PACs typically gave about two-thirds of their contributions to Republicans during the 1990s and the first part of the last decade, peaking in the 2004 cycle at nearly 10 to 1 for the GOP, over the past three years corporate PACs have devoted a slim majority of their contributions to Democrats.
More importantly, there is good reason to doubt that Fortune 500 companies are going to start making large expenditures in political campaigns. As noted, even before Citizens United, 28 states allowed corporate and union spending on state and local political races, yet large-scale corporate spending was very rare in those states. Another sign that corporations are not eager to jump headfirst into political spending comes from the relatively low level of activity by corporate PACs. Among the Fortune 500 -- huge corporations that are all heavily regulated by the government -- only about 60 percent actually maintained PACs.
These PACs are subject to extensive regulation, which runs up operating costs to the point that the operating costs of PACs often total more than half of their total revenue. Corporations can, however, pay these operating costs directly from their corporate treasuries. Yet roughly half of these PACs' operating expenses were paid not by the corporations that established them, but out of funds donated to the PACs. In other words, even before Citizens United, corporate America could have roughly doubled the amount of money available in their PACs to use for political expenditures simply by paying the administrative and legal costs of operating the PAC from their general treasuries. Yet they did not. And only about 10 percent of PACs contributed the maximum legal amount in any election. All this suggests a lack of interest in political participation.
The truth is, the Fortune 500 prefer lobbying to campaigning. Even prior to McCain-Feingold, when corporations could support parties with "soft money," the Fortune 500 spent roughly 10 times as much money on lobbying as on political expenditures. As Edward Kangas, former chairman of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and of the Committee for Economic Development, said in the New York Times, explaining his support for McCain-Feingold, "We have lobbyists."
A Pyrrhic victory for free speech in Canada
A nation now afraid
"In the end, the system worked." That is the refrain still echoing across the corridors of progressive academia after hate complaints against Ezra Levant’s now-defunct Western Standard and Maclean’s, Canada’s flagship magazine, were finally tossed out.
Levant's speech transgression was to republish some of the infamous Muhammad cartoons that had ignited Muslim rioting world wide. Maclean's close encounter with Canada's hate speech sentinels followed its excerpted publication of New York Times bestselling author Mark Steyn's thoughts on the dangers of radical Islam.
So, did the system work? That depends on how you measure success, or failure. Should we rejoice that two wrongs were finally righted? Or bemoan that they were pursued, in the first place, instead?
Long ago, in Dombrowski vs. Pfister, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan popularized the phrase "chilling effects" to describe the situation where people with controversial but legitimate things to say, self-censor themselves rather than risk running afoul of laws prohibiting certain speech. Brennan's insight, it turns out, holds the key to our answer.
Levant's and Steyn's ordeals have, for now, ended. But Canadian democracy's are only beginning. Theirs was a pyrrhic victory for public discourse.
Levant's legal vindication found him potentially answering to several human rights bodies for his alleged transgression, his good name officially sullied as a purveyor of hate, his mind legally threatened with official re-education for insensitivity and his publication finally bankrupted for crushing defence costs.
As Justice Brennan would say, the club of silencing had done its "chilling" job, without the need for a finding of guilt.
Maclean's, more mainstream and better-resourced than the niche Western Standard, survived its accusers. But to see any of this as a victory misses the point. If such wrongful accusations can be legally levelled to harass, hound and hurt even established media and renowned authors, can anyone really feel safe from rapacious censors, who may think to challenge popular wisdom or powerful censorship interests defending it?
What message is sent to malicious, or simply misguided, thought-accusers who think to silence them?
Thought persecution, not legal vindication, is the point. Legal vindication is evidence not of the absence of public harm from wrongful hate-speech complaints, but proof of its existence.
Steyn and Levant signify only the visible tip of a much larger chilling iceberg of public self-censorship lurking unspoken and unheard beneath, for ordinary Canadians' fear of reliving what happened to them. The harm of hate speech is visible, audible and measurable. The harm of public self-censorship is not. But it is no less injurious to a working democracy, for it. On the contrary, it is more insidious precisely because it is invisible, inaudible, and immeasurable. The injuries to democracy a self-governing people know, it can act to correct. The injuries it knows not, it cannot even prepare for.
If to be wrongfully accused is bad, then to be rightly vindicated is better. But it is still bad. Less worse cannot be democracy's standard for freedom to speak. Vindicating public thoughts wrongfully accused is not the same for democracy as is vindicating public acts wrongfully prosecuted.
If even a prominent person can be wrongly accused of manslaughter you may be wary of careless, not just reckless, misuse of that butcher knife. If a successful business is erroneously charged with embezzlement of funds you may pay more attention to how you manage those monies entrusted to your care. If a renowned figure is mistakenly alleged to have committed assault, you may think twice about making those casual threats.
But even undue care in the use of knives, diligence in regard for other people's property and respect for the force of ideas rather than the idea of force, hardly does democratic self-government any harm.
In contrast, wrongful legal accusations of hate speech will make you think twice, or thrice, before saying anything controversial. And that does do democratic self-government harm. Self-government, ultimately, depends on an informed not un-offended citizenry, unafraid to freely and fully speak as they think and to think as they speak on all the great and controversial issues of the day.
Dictatorships live, and often die, at the hands of publics who speak not enough for they fear too much. Democracy cannot, and must not.
It is said all great historical tragedies began with words. So, too, did great historical progress -- none greater than the idea of freedom to speak itself. It is said words can wound, visibly. So, too, can enforced silence, invisibly. It is said that the Holocaust began with words. It also began with book-burning. Words can be answered, with words. Book-burning can only be answered with more book-burning.
Where the idea is of force, there is no place for the force of ideas. The defining test of an effective dictatorship is how many rightful speakers it has wrongfully fined, jailed, or forcibly "re-educated," enforcing the politically correct line. The defining measure of a faltering democracy is how many rightful speakers it has wrongfully chilled and unknowingly self-censored, for mistaking that there is a politically correct line. Struggling democracies vindicate public speakers wrongfully accused. Strong ones don't legally accuse them in the first place.
So, did the system work, by vindicating Levant and Steyn? Only if our measure of success is the absence of dictatorship, not the pre-eminence of democracy.
Your regulators will protect you (NOT)
Story from Australia
THE Medical Practitioners Board is set to be sued for millions of dollars over Victoria's hepatitis C scandal as it emerges there could up to 100 victims.
Investigators are expanding their search for alleged victims of a hepatitis C-carrying doctor from 18 months to four years, involving thousands of patients. Detectives have told one victim they believe 100 women may have contracted the highly infectious disease.
In an unprecedented action, the medical board is facing legal action because it allegedly failed to protect patients.
Dr James Latham Peters, an anaesthetist, had a drug problem in the years before he is alleged to have infected women with hepatitis C at Croydon Day Surgery, Victoria's only late-term abortion clinic. The board registered Dr Peters despite his history of drug abuse and a 1996 conviction for falsely obtaining pethidine.
The medical board placed Dr Peters on its program for drug-abusing doctors and forced him to do drug tests for a year. It also limited his access to certain drugs until it was convinced he was clean and renewed his registration.
But his licence was suspended on February 15 after the Department of Human Services found 12 patients had been infected with a strain of hepatitis C genetically matched to the same virus carried by Dr Peters. It has also been revealed the females exposed to the doctor included teenagers wearing school uniforms when they went to the Croydon abortion clinic.
Legal sources claim the women could seek damages of about $300,000 each and if the number infected reaches 100 it would mean a $15 million damages claim.
One victim, Suzanne, said when she contacted a board member they had no explanation why Dr Peters was registered. "I wanted them to hear from a victim that the board is responsible for this," Suzanne said. "You don't give pedophile school teachers a second chance to go back into the classroom, so why do this for a drug-addicted doctor?"
Law firm Slater & Gordon is acting on behalf of seven women - three of whom have not been identified by the Health Department, suggesting there are more unreported cases. It is also investigating an eighth case.
The firm's leading medical lawyer, Paula Shelton, said: "My clients have been betrayed at a time when they have placed their trust and their health in the hands of a health professional. "Unfortunately, I think even more infections will come to light once women are contacted and tested."
She said the medical board was a statutory authority created by an Act of Parliament and any legal claim would be based on its breach of statutory duty to protect the community.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.