Sunday, September 14, 2014

Last Call For Freedom Of Screech

Conservatives should be smarter than this, but then again they're being paid good money by the corporate interests that own them to howl about Democrats wanting campaign finance reform and calling it "repealing the First Amendment".

Free speech just won an important victory in a federal courtroom, though it is shameful that the case ever even had to go to court. Ohio had enacted a plainly unconstitutional law that empowered a government panel to determine whether criticisms offered in political advertisements were sufficiently true to be permitted in the public discourse. Those who have followed the IRS scandal, the Travis County, Texas, prosecutorial scandals, or Harry Reid’s recent effort to repeal the First Amendment will not be surprised that this measure was used as a political weapon against a conservative group, in this case the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. SBA List criticized a Democratic House member for having voted for the so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA), noting that the law will implicate American taxpayers in the funding of abortions, an entanglement previously minimized through measures such as the Hyde Amendment. Despite the fact that the ACA regime would, among other things, permit federal subsidies for abortion-funding insurance plans, the Ohio Inquisition ruled the ad impermissible, and banned it.So much for free speech.

Fortunately, an Obama appointee whose ability to read the letter of the law had not been utterly drummed out of him ruled that the Ohio Inquisition obviously violated longstanding free-speech protections, the First Amendment notable among them. Last week, a similar case in Minnesota came to a similar conclusion.

Which is why Harry Reid wants to repeal the First Amendment.

Democrats pushing the measure to repeal free speech pretend that it is a campaign-finance measure, but the only criteria it establishes for Congress to ban an advertisement — or a book, or a film, or a television show, or a magazine — is that money is expended in an attempt to influence a political outcome. Under those rules, the Ohio Inquisition’s successful move to ban billboards critical of an embattled Democratic congressman would have been totally acceptable under the provisions of a gutted First Amendment.

To recap here, an amendment to the Constitution that would enshrine limits on endless corporate cash used to buy our elections and our politicians is somehow an assault on free speech, because conservatives realize that without hundreds of billions used to buy voters, they'd lose every single election, state, local, and national.

These guys are all in on the Constitution somehow giving you the right to spend as much money buying an election's outcome as you have, as if that somehow was what the drafters meant 235 plus years ago.

So we get long, sputtering diatribes like this from Kevin Williamson and his buddy Assrocket who with a straight face says this:

Why have the Democrats pushed the Udall amendment, knowing that it can’t possibly pass? They are playing a long game, I think. Historically, the idea of repealing the First Amendment would have been unthinkable. The purpose of the Udall amendment, I believe, is to mainstream what has always, until now, been inconceivable. The public is being accustomed to the idea that the First Amendment might be repealed–not flag burning and nude dancing, but the innermost core of the amendment, supporting and opposing candidates in elections–and if the Democrats ever have the votes, it will be.

It's funny that the first thing these clown come up with is using legislation to destroy the opposing political party.  If you want to know what Republicans are planning the next time they get into power, look what they are accusing the Democrats of doing next.

By the way, this is what an assault on free speech and silencing of dissent actually looks like, just in case you're confused.

Hitting Putin Where It Hurts

The newest US economic sanctions against Russia are ones that Vladimir Putin is finally going to notice, as they directly target the Russian oil and gas industry.

New U.S. sanctions handed down on Friday are designed to effectively "shut off" Russian oil conglomerates from oil exploration projects, U.S. officials said, in a move aimed squarely at Russia's $425 billion-a-year petroleum industry.

The measures are "designed to effectively shut down this type of oil exploration and production activity by depriving these Russian companies of the goods, technology, and services that they need to do this work," a senior Obama administration official said Friday.

The official added the intention of the new sanctions was to ensure that "we have effectively shut off the capacity" of Russian oil companies to draw on U.S. expertise for deepwater, Arctic offshore, and/or shale oil exploration projects. The official stressed this was an important step because Russia's companies did not possess the kind of technology needed to undertake the operations.

The new sanctions prohibit U.S. companies from exporting goods, services, or technology to support five Russian energy companies in exploration or production for Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects that have the potential to produce oil. The U.S. Treasury Department said companies have until Sept. 26 to wind down existing transactions affected by the new sanctions.

The Russian energy companies hit by the sanctions include Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft. European companies will have similar prohibitions, under mirroring sanctions handed down by the European Union.

Let's stop and think.  US companies can no longer partner with Russia for oil exploration in the Arctic and offshore.  But I thought Obama was in the pocket of Big Energy?

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on previous sanctions leveled against countries like Iran, told Business Insider it was a smart escalation in sanctions.

"The new sanctions are smart and targeted and will impact Russia's access to Western technology and services that are needed to develop Moscow's medium to long-term oil exploration and production capacity," Dubowitz said.

"There will be winners and losers, including companies like Exxon and BP, but Western companies will adjust as they have to past energy sanctions against countries like Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and others. The real pain will be borne by Moscow, for whom energy is their economic lifeblood."

 It's going to hurt Moscow, definitely.  But it's going to hurt the big US oil giants too.  I'm all for that, frankly.

Well played, Mr. Obama.

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is What Again, Exactly?

I understand that President Obama feels he is taking the least awful option in Iraq and Syria for dealing with ISIS.  But as the NY Times editorial board points out, arming one side of a civil war (the "moderate" Syrian rebels) to defeat two different sides that we're against (ISIS and the Asaad regime) is not exactly a foolproof plan.

During the three-year-long Syrian civil war, Mr. Obama has been rightly reluctant to provide significant weapons and military assistance to the Syrian rebels. From the beginning, it was nearly impossible to determine the makeup and character of the rebel groups, of which there are about 1,500, according to James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

Groups identified by Western intelligence agencies as the moderate opposition — those that might support democracy and respect human rights — have been weak, divided and without coherent plans or sustained command structures capable of toppling the Assad regime. Today, those so-called moderates are even weaker and more divided; in some cases, their best fighters are hard-line Islamists.

In ruling out sending American combat troops into yet another Muslim country, Mr. Obama’s plan relies on these rebels to serve as ground forces to defend and seize territory after American airstrikes in Syria, for which he needs to seek congressional approval. But training and equipping them will be complicated and risky, and will take months, if not longer. ISIS, which the C.I.A. said Thursday has as many as 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria, is already well-equipped and has proved to be stunningly skillful at waging war and seizing territory in both Iraq and Syria.

Despite efforts by the United States and others to persuade the insurgent groups to unify under a common political and military command structure, there is still no shared leadership. In fact, these groups may be close to defeat in Aleppo, where they are fighting both the Assad forces and ISIS.

And let's be honest here:  we're getting involved in Syria's civil war and the Sunni/Shi'a divide at the same time.  ISIS is hardcore, extremist Sunni, and the reason they've been able to take territory in Iraq and Syria is because both governments have been oppressing Sunni minorities for the last several years.  Sunnis in Iraq and Syria are happily helping ISIS, in fact many of ISIS's top military commanders are ex-Iraqi and Syria military who were relieved of their jobs by Asaad's secular government and Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'a-backed government.

Iraq has a new government now led by Haider al-Abadi that's literally about a week old, but he's Shi'a as well and nobody knows if they will start going after Sunnis again.  Certainly after all these years the Sunnis in the area don't trust the Iraqi government.  Why should they they trust the Shi'a?

And of course the biggest Shi'a player on the board is Iran.  And hey, let's remind ourselves that arming Middle East rebels has not exactly been the greatest idea in US military history over the long-term.

Look, I support President Obama and always will, but if this is the best choice we have, the situation in Iraq and Syria is pretty much a stone's throw from totally screwed.
Related Posts with Thumbnails