Thursday, July 19, 2012
Dems' DISCLOSE Act Would Stifle Speech
Debra J. Saunders
D.C. Democrats are pushing the DISCLOSE Act again. "DISCLOSE" stands for "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections." The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Right to Life Committee oppose this bill because they fear it would chill free speech. As far as the anti-abortion group is concerned, "DISCLOSE" stands for "Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., frames this year's bill, which failed to win a floor vote in the Senate on Monday, as a reform made necessary by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision to allow independent expenditure campaigns to spend unlimited money from corporations, plutocrats and unions.
Problem: In the name of good government, DISCLOSE authors used every dirty trick in the dirty trick book. They deserved to fail before and deserved to fail Monday.
Whitehouse even dubbed his bill "DISCLOSE 2.0" in order to distance himself from the 2010 DISCLOSE bills. The 2010 Senate bill barred "electioneering communications" by corporations with federal contracts worth more than $10 million -- which suggested a mind frame more committed to censorship than transparency. The 2010 House version imposed restrictions on corporations but exempted labor unions. After powerful lobbies complained, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., exempted the National Rifle Association and the Sierra Club from their bills.
Also, the 2010 bills would have made DISCLOSE the law in 30 days -- in time to help Democrats before the 2010 elections.
Whitehouse wisely stripped down the bill. Gone are the NRA exemption, the too-soon starting date and the ban on contractor donations. Instead, Whitehouse's bill requires organizations that spend $10,000 or more during an election to identify big donors to the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, starting in 2013. It seems simple.
But it's not that simple. In a letter, the ACLU explained two big problems in the new bill: One, it strips donors to public advocacy groups of their anonymity, "subjecting them to harassment and potentially discouraging valuable participation in the political process."
Californians may recall that some donors to the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign, which banned same-sex marriage, were subject to harassment.
Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington doesn't buy the ACLU's argument. "There is no First Amendment right to be free of the consequences of what you say," Sloan said. "There's just the right to say it."
Two, Whitehouse's bill has intrusive reporting requirements, even for "pure nonpartisan issue advertising that happens to mention a presidential or vice presidential candidate."
David Keating, president for the Center for Competitive Politics, believes that the reporting requirements are onerous. As he sees it, the Whitehouse bill means that "if you want to say anything about the government, you have to register with the Federal Election Commission to do it."
Also, because Whitehouse lengthened the reporting period, the ACLU warned of "a chilling effect on public criticism of the president or vice president, including truly nonpartisan criticism on specific policy issues, during more than a fourth of a president's first term."
Mitt Romney may be president in 2013. So liberals shouldn't be too upset that the bill failed.
Why Are Race Riots not News?
When I first saw a book with the title, "White Girl Bleed A Lot" by Colin Flaherty, I instantly knew what it was about, even though I had not seen the book reviewed anywhere, and knew nothing about the author.
That is because I had encountered that phrase before, while doing research for the four new chapters on intellectuals and race that I added to the revised edition of my own book, "Intellectuals and Society," published this year.
That phrase was spoken by a member of a mob of young blacks who attacked whites at random at a Fourth of July celebration in Milwaukee last year. What I was appalled to learn, in the course of my research, was that such race riots have occurred in other cities across the United States in recent years -- and that the national mainstream media usually ignore these riots.
Where the violence is too widespread and too widely known locally to be ignored, both the local media and public officials often describe what happened as unspecified "young people" attacking unspecified victims for unspecified reasons. But videos of the attacks often reveal both the racial nature of these attacks and the racial hostility expressed by the attackers.
Are race riots not news?
Ignoring racial violence only guarantees that it will get worse. The Chicago Tribune has publicly rationalized its filtering out of any racial identification of attackers and their victims, even though the media do not hesitate to mention race when decrying statistical disparities in arrest or imprisonment rates.
Such mob attacks have become so frequent in Chicago that officials promoting conventions there have recently complained to the mayor that the city is going to lose business if such widespread violence is not brought under control.
But neither these officials nor the mayor nor most of the media use that four-letter word, "race." It would not be politically correct or politically convenient in an election year.
Reading Colin Flaherty's book made painfully clear to me that the magnitude of this problem is even greater than I had discovered from my own research. He documents both the race riots and the media and political evasions in dozens of cities across America.
Flaherty's previous writings have won him praise and awards, but this book has been met largely with silence or abuse. However much ignoring the ugly realities that his book reveals may serve the interests of the media or politicians, a cover-up is a huge disservice to everyone else -- whether black, white or whatever.
Even the young hoodlums who launch these mass attacks on strangers would be better off to be stopped now, rather than continue on a path of escalating violence that can lead to a lifetime behind bars or to the execution chamber.
The dangers to the nation as a whole are an even bigger problem. The truth has a way of eventually coming out, in spite of media silence and politicians' spin. If the truth becomes widely known, and a white backlash follows, turning one-way race riots into two-way race riots, then a cycle of revenge and counter-revenge can spiral out of control, as has already happened in too many other countries around the world.
Most blacks and most whites in the United States today get along with each other. But what is chilling is how often in history racial or ethnic groups that co-existed peacefully for generations -- often as neighbors -- have suddenly turned on each other with lethal violence.
In the middle of the 20th century, Sri Lanka had a level of mutual respect and even friendship between its majority and minority communities that was rightly held up to the world as a model. Yet this situation degenerated over the years into polarization and violence that escalated into a civil war that lasted for decades, with unspeakable atrocities on both sides.
All it took were clever demagogues and gullible followers. We already have both. What it will take to nip in the bud the small but widely spreading race riots will be some serious leadership in many quarters and that rarest of all things in politics, honesty.
Race hustlers and mob inciters like Al Sharpton represent such polarizing forces in America today. Yet Sharpton has become a White House adviser, and Attorney General Eric Holder has been photographed literally embracing him.
Fourteen British government hospital groups broke the law on abortion by faking consent forms
Doctors carrying out abortions in hospitals have been routinely breaking the law by faking consent forms. The Care Quality Commission found 14 NHS trusts were letting medics sign off documents without knowing anything about the women terminating their pregnancies.
Although such practice is illegal, the watchdog insists patients were not put in any danger.
By law, a woman wanting an abortion must fill out a consent form which has to include the signatures of two doctors.
They do not need to have seen her but must have a thorough understanding of her circumstances and the reasons for ending the pregnancy.
But the CQC said some doctors did not realise it was illegal to ‘pre-sign’ batches of forms, which is done in an attempt to save time and minimise stress for patients waiting for signatures.
Ministers ordered the watchdog to inspect 250 abortion clinics, run by both the NHS and private firms, earlier this year over concerns of illegal practice.
It followed revelations doctors had been breaching the 1967 Abortion Act by carrying out terminations because babies were the wrong sex.
Inspectors found most clinics were being run properly and only 14, just over 5 per cent, were breaking the rules. However they were all NHS clinics, with those run by private firms such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes International operating legally.
Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘The swift action means we have been able to stamp out poor practice and sends a clear message we will act in cases where the law is not being followed carefully in this sensitive area. We want to ensure women always receive the best possible care.’
The health secretary ordered the CQC to investigate abortion clinics at very short notice.
At the time the watchdog warned that it would have to cancel 580 crucial inspections of hospitals and care homes to ensure patients were not at risk.
And yesterday Labour seized on the findings that abortion clinics were not putting women in danger as evidence that ministers were putting politics before patients.
Diane Abbott MP, shadow public health minister said: ‘This report shows that Andrew Lansley has yet again put political interests ahead of British patient care.
'CQC has blown Andrew Lansley’s weak justifications out of the water by confirming that no women had poor outcomes of care at any of the clinics that he personally ordered raids on.'
Don't let the prudes deprive us of the spice of sexual banter
IT'S been a red-hot month for sex therapist Marty Klein. The well-known Californian psychologist - soon to give a lecture tour in Australia - has spent more than 30 years writing about sexual issues, often attracting the blowtorch of indignation from the US's powerful conservative groups. But he's never experienced anything like the frothing-at-the-mouth nastiness he's experienced since commenting on a recent controversy over an unwanted sexual invitation.
It started when a woman, Elyse Anders, was speaking at a sceptics' conference. She was approached by a couple she'd had contact with through Facebook who presented her with a SwingLifeStyle card that included their names, phone number and a semi-naked photo of them. They then left.
Anders posted a seething blog on her website, ranting about how offensive this was, how it undermined her professionalism. "I do important work. The work I do saves lives. And yet I still have to worry about whether I'm worthy or if I'll ever be respected beyond my f---ability. And that's bullshit. I deserve better than that."
In his regular column in Psychology Today, Klein took up the issue, perhaps foolishly disguising some details of the case to present a more general scenario. But he made a powerful argument, suggesting the issue here isn't sexual harassment but rather unwanted sexual attention. He then described the legal, ethical and social differences between the two.
Klein argued that sexual-harassment law was never designed to protect women from merely feeling uncomfortable and that in a typical workday, for instance, both men and women face many sources of discomfort: the infertile face co-workers' desks with photos of their kids; fundamentalist Muslims and Jews face people dressed with arms and legs uncovered; atheists face people wearing crosses. Why do we privilege unwanted attention that happens to involve sexuality?
We all cope with unwanted attention every day, Klein said, coming up with some telling examples: overly personal stories from strangers on planes; awkward compliments from co-workers; grocery clerks sympathetically inquiring about the brace on your wrist; and "Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormon missionaries asking if they can talk with you for just a moment about their invisible friend in the sky".
Klein pointed out that he had fought hard against sexual coercion and sexual harassment but suggested the whole "Eek! An unwanted sexual invitation - gross! My day/week/year is ruined" is a bit precious. He concluded that surely we should be able to handle a friendly sexual invitation in a genuinely safe environment without losing our composure.
He makes a good point. It seems extraordinary that Anders got her knickers in a twist about simply being handed a piece of paper, with no pressure to make any further response.
Since Klein's article was published, Anders has responded with 5000 words of venomous blog, tearing him apart and nit-picking about his inaccuracies, but never discussing the important issues he raised. The article also led to hundreds of furious comments, blogs and threats to interfere with his regular writing assignments.
There's a very real issue at the heart of this silly controversy - namely, the notion that sex is peculiarly dangerous and the rules of normal adult interaction must be adjusted when the subject is sex so no one ever feels uncomfortable.
Look at the constant skirmishes now taking place in workplaces, where the wrong joke, comment or sexual reference risks accusations of sexual harassment. Yet, as even the feminist website ffeusa.org points out, there are women who make and enjoy sexual banter. As this site suggests: "Overbroad restrictions on sexual material infantilises women and shores up destructive Victorian stereotypes that women are (or should be) so pure that any expression about sexuality offends and demoralises them."
Sexual banter, the exchange of jokes and flirty comments can be the welcome spice of life for women, as well as men, and it's foolish to let the prudish in our midst determine what is appropriate behaviour.
Demonising sexuality inevitably distorts a proper perspective on sexual crimes, leading to politically inspired calls for absurdly longer sentences, misinformation about the likelihood of offenders to reoffend and exaggeration of the emotional damage to the victims of minor abuse. Our prurient interest in sex crimes often robs the perpetrator of any chance of redemption - as the sad death of cricket commentator Peter Roebuck bears witness. This is why allegations of child sexual abuse feature so regularly in fierce battles over child custody - the hint of sexual misbehaviour is a weapon like no other, leaving a lifelong taint on character.
The absurd overreaction from Anders and her colleagues to Klein's serious discussion of unwanted sexual attention makes the case that reason disappears when sex rears its head. Klein has spent his career arguing that sexuality deserves better treatment, and that's what he'll be talking about in Australia in October.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. 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.