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Jun 02 2018

Free Speech

I am quick to say that freedom of speech is not for the speech you like, but for the speech you hate. That said, not all speech is equal- some is misguided and ignorant, some is deliberate lies, and much of it is hilariously stupid.

Take, for instance, racism. Trump is a racist, that is why he will never condemn racist speech.

Which is not to say it should be tolerated. On the contrary it must be publicly denounced at every opportunity until people learn it is shameful, embarrassing, and unacceptable.

That’s what is meant by using good speech to drive out bad.

A lot of people take offense at Sam Bee using the word “feckless” to put down Ivanka. I’m surprised their virgin ears have heard such language, let alone understand it (for the record it means “ineffectual”). They are, of course, free to gin up their own sense of outrage in the hope of encouraging TBS to believe that Sam is bad for business.

Trump’s demand that TBS fire Samantha Bee may violate First Amendment
by Melanie Schmitz, Think Progress
Jun 1, 2018

On Wednesday night, in the opening monologue of her show, Full Frontal, Bee criticized Ivanka for posting a photo of herself with her son at the same time her father was implementing aggressive immigration policies that separated hundreds of thousands of children from their parents at the southern U.S. border.

“Ivanka Trump, who works at the White House, chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we’ve seen this week,” Bee said. “You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child. But let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c—t.”

Bee’s comments came one day after comedian Roseanne Barr was criticized for making racist remarks about former Obama administration senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Barr later issued an apology and claimed she was leaving Twitter, and ABC canceled her show, Roseanne, a short while later. The comedian quickly returned to the social media platform within the day and reverted to tweeting questionable content in the days that followed and suggested that the sleeping drug Ambien had caused her to write racist things.

Conservatives, including Trump, have since attempted to draw some sort of comparison between the two comedians, denouncing what they claim is a double standard among liberals and the media.

“Compare ABC’s reaction to Roseanne Barr’s tweet w TBS’s non-reaction to Samantha Bee and you’ll see a double-standard in action,” tweeted Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. “There’s no uprising against Bee. Why? Because she is liberal. Because the MSM protects Obama and his aides, but not Trump. The hypocrisy is sickening.”

The president’s suggestion that TBS fire Bee over her remark, however, may actually pose a threat to the First Amendment. In suggesting that certain language be banned from media and calling for Bee’s firing, Trump, an elected official, may arguably be attempting to infringe on Bee’s right to free speech.

“[The First Amendment] doesn’t apply to media companies punishing employees […],” Paste Magazine‘s Roger Sollenberger wrote Thursday. “The First Amendment (though it has several exceptions, such as defamation and incitement to violence) is our guarantee that the government will never step in to silence its critics. So it is a violation of the First Amendment for the White House to step in and advocate private citizens should be silenced for speaking their mind.”

Many have also pointed out that Trump himself enjoys using the word “c—t” several times in the past to describe women whom he dislikes.

As Scott Bixby of The Daily Beast notes, in his book, Fire and Fury, author Michael Wolff claims Trump described former acting attorney general Sally Yates as “‘such a c—t” when squaring off with her over the travel ban, which targeted people from several Muslim-majority nations. Trump later fired Yates for refusing to implement the ban.

Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jennifer Lin also claims that Trump called her a “c—t” during an angry phone call in 1988. Trump had reportedly phoned Lin to complain about a story she had written about his allegedly shady business practices in Atlantic City.

Jessica Leeds, who accused the president of groping her and allegedly attempting to reach up her skirt during a flight to New York in the 1980s, also claims the then-businessman called her a “c—t” after meeting her again at a gala years after the incident.

Trump also has made lewd remarks about groping women without their consent, admitted to making sexual advances on married women, and has made disparaging remarks about both the women who have accused him of sexual predation as well as the wives of his political rivals, specifically Heidi Cruz, wife of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries. Trump has also mocked his female political opponents for their looks.

I suspect most of them are not part of Ms. Bee’s target demographic anyway.

But free speech, I’ll defend to the death your right to be a humourless prick, even if you’re an official of the United States government provided you don’t act in your official capacity to encourage censorship. That would be a violation of the First Amendment.

On the other hand there is this thing called Conspiracy in Restraint of Trade which is illegal. No, it’s not the same thing as a boycott (which is free speech), it’s specifically a part of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and makes the practice of colluding to reduce competition, say for good NFL Quarterbacks, a criminal offense.

Trump may have violated federal law by urging NFL owners not to sign Kaepernick
by Lindsay Gibbs, Think Progress
Jun 2, 2018

Last month, the NFL announced a new policy for its players during the national anthem: Players are permitted to stay in the locker room during the anthem, but if they go out onto the field during it, they must stand. If any of the players takes a knee, the team will be fined.

Soon afterwards, a Wall Street Journal report confirmed what most have long suspected: That President Donald Trump’s public outrage about NFL players protesting police brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem at football games heavily influenced NFL owners to change the rule, and discouraged them from signing players who would protest.

It’s all terrible news for those in favor of free speech and peaceful protest, and for those against white nationalism and police brutality.

However, Mark Geragos, the lawyer representing Kaepernick in his collusion lawsuit against the NFL, sees the glass as being half full: He believes that both the anthem rule change and the information about Trump’s influence on NFL owners will go a long way towards helping him prove that the NFL and NFL owners colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the NFL, despite the fact that he had the talent to be a starting quarterback in the league.

A few revelations from the last couple of weeks strongly support Geragos’ case here, and it’s important to remember that Geragos knows much more about the case than we do — he has taken the depositions of more than a dozen NFL owners, while the public only knows about the depositions that have leaked.

But the WSJ article itself make(s) a pretty strong case against Trump. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross reportedly said that his opinion about players protesting during the national anthem changed last fall, after Trump called any player who took a knee during the national anthem a “son of a bitch” and told his supporters that NFL owners should take any player who protests during the anthem off the field immediately and fire him.

“I was totally supportive of [the players] until Trump made his statement,” Ross said. “I thought he changed the dialogue.”

Of course, influencing the private hiring decisions of a company isn’t the only part of U.S. Code 887 that needs to be proved; it would also have to be shown that Trump did it for partisan political purposes.

That sounds trickier to prove, but in this case, that’s not necessarily true.

First of all, Trump’s comments were made at a political rally supporting an Alabama Republican candidate for US Senate — an expressly partisan environment. And according to the WSJ, Trump told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in private conversations that the issue was a “winning” one for him.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump said on the phone to Jones, according to a sworn deposition given by Jones and reviewed by the WSJ. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”

If that’s not enough, after the NFL changed its anthem policy last month, media outlets such as CNN framed it as a “victory” for Trump. And, it just so happened that Vice President Mike Pence agreed.

Of course, the NFL’s official stance has always been that it’s up to each individual team who they sign and don’t sign, and that it’s just a coincidence that Kaepernick and his former teammate Eric Reid — a talented, unsigned safety who protested during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and also has a collusion lawsuit against the NFL — are currently unemployed.

But Geragos has implied there’s plenty of evidence to contradict that claim. This week on CNN, he said more information on collusion between the NFL and Trump to keep Kaepernick out of the league is coming.

“I would stay tuned because this case is about to take a dramatic turn,” he said, adding that “somebody has decided they were going to dime out the NFL for what they were doing.”

All of which goes to show that you ought to be careful before you get your panties in a bunch over “free speech”.

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