Saturday, April 02, 2022

Remember "Defund the Police?"

 Biden’s Budget Raises Funding to Fight Violent Crime

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Facebook has broad First Amendment rights to suppress online speech.

 The First Amendment is a restraint against government action, not private action.

by Noah Peters, Law and Liberty, MARCH 9, 2022 - In the wake of heated efforts to deplatform Joe Rogan and ban fundraising for the Canadian trucker convoy, combatting “cancel culture” has emerged as the foremost issue for the modern conservative movement. The ability of well-funded left-wing activists to prevent conservatives from speaking publicly—right down to blacklisting payment processors, service providers, and entire social media platforms—poses an existential threat to free and open political discourse. 

In this fight, the First Amendment would seem like a natural ally. No less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court has declared, “A fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more.” And the High Court has said that the “proudest boast” of the First Amendment is that it protects all speech, including “ideas that offend.”

To be sure, the First Amendment performs an important function in preventing the outright criminalization of so-called “hate speech” and disinformation. In practice, however, broad interpretations of the First Amendment function to prevent governments and victims alike from fighting back against cancel culture in any meaningful way. Fundamentally, that is because the First Amendment is a restraint against government action, not private action. And, given that most cancel culture efforts are undertaken by private entities without state involvement, expansive interpretations of the First Amendment very often—and quite perversely—restrict legislative and judicial efforts to protect free speech.

Thus, proponents of free speech should see the First Amendment as a limited ally, potentially helping in those instances when the cancellation comes from a state actor like a university. But we cannot expect it to solve the broader threats to free and open discourse in the modern age, which increasingly come from well-funded private actors. In fact, a very broad reading can protect the cancellers.

Take social media deplatforming. The ability of large tech platforms to ban individual users from public forums, up to and including the sitting President of the United States, lies at the very heart of cancel culture. One might think that governments would have a particularly compelling interest in ensuring that the channels for public debate remain open to all, regardless of viewpoint. After all, this interest lies at the heart of the First Amendment. 

In 2021, both Texas and Florida passed bills to combat social media deplatforming. Texas’s law prohibited any viewpoint discrimination by a large tech company; Florida’s limited its reach to deplatforming or shadow-banning candidates for public office.

Ultimately, the differences did not matter. Both laws were swiftly struck down by two different federal courts as violating the First Amendment. In both cases (NetChoice v. Paxton and NetChoice v. Moody), the courts saw the relevant First Amendment interests as belonging solely to the censorious tech platforms—not individuals censored or deplatformed. In the view of both courts, the tech giants had broad First Amendment rights to suppress online speech. Individual users, by contrast, had no comparable rights to be free from being forcibly silenced. Both cases rejected out of hand the notion that giant social media platforms were common carriers that passively transmit the messages of individual users. That move was important, because “common carrier” status under common law traditionally subjects common carriers to broader regulations that protect open access.  Instead, the judges rather dubiously analogized large social media platforms to newspapers that individually curate what articles to publish—even though, of course, the whole point of these platforms is that they allow individual users to self-publish their own thoughts without any prior approval.

The courts squarely rejected arguments that states had a compelling interest in protecting individual users from viewpoint discrimination—“not even close,” said the judge in Moody. And both rejected the idea that the state had a general interest in allowing the free and open exchange of ideas on large social media platforms. Indeed, the courts suggested that these statutes were unlawful precisely because they were prompted by a desire to prevent discrimination against conservatives. In acting to counter the platforms’ liberal biases, that is, the states acted based on an illicit, retaliatory motive.

Quite ironically, present interpretations of the First Amendment function to prop up cancel culture against any legislative or tort-law effort to redress it.

The two NetChoice decisions, if upheld on appeal, threaten to torpedo any legislative response to cancel culture—at least insofar as the cancellations are carried out by private companies. Indeed, their reasoning could have significant implications for any attempt to prevent private employers or providers of public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of political affiliation. Recall that the anti-deplatforming laws in Texas and Florida did not differentiate based on the political ideology of either the speaker or the platform. Nonetheless, the courts both cited the subjective intent of the legislatures that passed the laws, who specifically expressed concern about the tech companies’ liberal biases, as proof that the laws were in fact motivated by viewpoint discrimination.  Under the broad reasoning of the NetChoice cases, then, any legislative effort to redress viewpoint discrimination, even if phrased neutrally, could be struck down as an act of First Amendment retaliation against “liberal” companies.

Well, what about tort law? After all, many instances of cancel culture are motivated at root by economic or personal rivalries. Think of the campaigns supported by rival media outlets to cancel Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan, or the spiteful personal feuds that blossom into full-bore cancellation efforts. The torts of intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, or defamation would seem to be available vehicles for fighting against organized cancellation campaigns designed to pressure private companies into firing, dropping, or otherwise boycotting certain individuals or companies. 

But the First Amendment throws up major obstacles to any attempt to use tort law to combat cancellation efforts as well. The Supreme Court’s 1965 New York Times v. Sullivan decision, based on the First Amendment, greatly restricts the ability of “public figures” to sue for libel and slander. The concept of a “public figure” includes not just celebrities, but also “limited purpose public figures,” ordinary people who happen to become the subject of widespread negative media coverage. The Supreme Court in Sullivan relied on the notion that libel suits could chill “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” But it makes less sense to hold that citizens who have the bad fortune to get caught up in a news cycle should be without recourse when they are subjected to “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks” by media outlets based on nothing more than falsehoods. 

Take the case of Nicholas Sandmann, the Kentucky teenager who was falsely accused by multiple media outlets (especially the Washington Post) of threatening and taunting a Native American activist during the 2019 March for Life rally. Despite the clear falsity of the media coverage about him, Sandmann’s suit against the Post was initially thrown out by a federal judge. Concluding that the entire incident involved a “matter of public concern” because it took place at a political protest, the judge found as a matter of law that the Post’s false claims that Sandmann mocked, jeered, and confronted the activist were protected by the First Amendment. While the judge later granted limited discovery after Sandmann filed an amended complaint, the judge never formally approved the suit and indicated he might toss it at the summary judgment stage. The suit’s initial dismissal—and the likelihood that the case would have ultimately been dismissed at summary judgment—probably played a big role in convincing Sandmann to settle. 

A lesser-known Supreme Court decision, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, provides broad First Amendment protection against tort and antitrust claims deriving from coordinated boycott and protest efforts, such as those led by activist groups like Sleeping Giants. Between the two cases, Sullivan and Claiborne Hardware give nearly unlimited protection for activists to wage coordinated pressure campaigns against individuals and groups, urging advertiser boycotts, hurling false accusations, and implicitly threatening those who do not comply with activist demands. 

Of late, many conservative-leaning judges have praised the First Amendment as a bulwark against cancel culture. But, quite ironically, present interpretations of the First Amendment function to prop up cancel culture against any legislative or tort-law effort to redress it. Current First Amendment doctrine, if pressed forward, threatens to intensify cultural battles and force further fragmentation—into separate communications platforms, workplaces, and service providers. Cancel culture will no longer be a problem that can be contained by legislative or judicial means, but an ever-escalating battle of warring political tribes. We should carefully consider whether our already-polarized nation can survive that outcome.

Rod's Comment. 

I am dismayed to see Republicans become the party attempting to subvert the Constitution, as we are witnessing with current legislation working its way through the State legislature that would prohibit Facebook and other social media from discriminating against conservative speech. It has been my observation that it has always been conservatives who understood the importance of our constitutional liberties. Unfortunately, many conservatives have abandoned their fealty to the Constitution. Instead of really believing the Constitution established firm principles and guarantees our rights, they see the Constitution as a fluid document that can mean whatever they want it to mean if in doing so it advances their preferred policy outcome. Many who call themselves conservatives have abandoned principles and are only concerned with winning. Also, I suspect many do not even understand that there is a difference between freedom of expression and First Amendment rights. 

I abhor cancel culture and Facebook and Twitter's suppression of conservative speech.  However, private companies and individuals have a First Amendment right to suppress speech. The First Amendment is a restriction on government, not private action. Conservatives are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The emphasis in the above article is mine. To learn more about Law and Liberty, follow the link. For more on this topic, see the following:

'It’s a bit of a stretch to see the commonality between a common carrier," says Rep. Patsy Hazlewood as legislature advances a bill to subvert the First Amendment.

Tennessee legislature considers legislation to subvert the First Amendment.

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Friday, April 01, 2022

Tennessee sued over residency bill that would disqualify Trump-backed candidate

Morgan Ortagus
by Rod Williams, April 1, 2022- Yesterday, March 31st, three Tennesseans filed a lawsuit in federal court in Nashville naming Tennessee and Secretary of State Trey Hargett as defendants. The lawsuit was filed just hours after the State legislature passed a bill that would impose a three-year residency requirement for candidates running in a party primary for the US House of Representatives in Tennesee.  The lawsuit aims to ban that law from taking effect. The Plaintiffs allege the bill would violate the Constitution, which outlines less stringent qualifications to qualify for the U.S. House of Representatives. They say this bill would prohibit them from voting for their preferred candidate, Morgan Ortagus. Governor Lee has not yet signed the bill. He has ten days to either sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. 

The qualifying deadline to run in the primary is April 7. If Governor Lee waits until after the seventh to sign the bill or just allows it to become law without his signature, then the bill will not be law on the seventh and Ortagus could run.

When the bill was being discussed in the legislature several lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the bill but proponents argued that the bill establishes who could run in a primary, not who could run for the seat in the general election.  A candidate ineligible to run in a primary could still run as an independent in the general election. A lawsuit to overturn the bill, which is not yet law, was expected. A Washington D.C news outlet reported that a well-funded super PAC called The Tennessee Conservatives PAC was expected to support a lawsuit over the bill once it was passed. 

I do not know if Morgan Ortagus, the Trump-backed candidate who is the target of this bill, is considering a run as an independent candidate or not should the bill become law, but she could do so.  I have heard no such chatter on social media and have been out of circulation recently so have not had my ear to the ground, but one news outlet raised that as a possibility.  I hope that does not happen.  Should Ortagus run as an independent, the likely outcome is that the conservative vote would be split with enough Trumpinistas voting for Ortagus to deny the Republican nominee a victory and the 5th Congressional District would remain in Democrat's hands. 

While I share the resentment of many Republicans who see Ms Ortagus as a "carpetbagger" with no roots in Tennessee and little knowledge of the district, I think it was a mistake to pass this bill and try to deny her a chance to run. Republican voters can evaluate the importance of those issues themselves.  I think the wisest course of action at this point is for Governor Lee to veto the bill, or simply allow it to become law without his signature thus making it not applicable to this upcoming election. 

For source material for this article and more information see link, link, and link

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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

More weird Republicans: Rep. Madison Cawthorn. He alleges lawmakers invited him to orgies and openly snorted coke.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn
by Rod Williams, March 30, 2022- If you thought Marjorie Taylor Green was an embarrassment to Republicans, you need to meet Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Cawthorn has called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyg a thug and says he is pushing “misinformation on America.”  

Cawthorn has been one of the most bombastic and adamant spreaders of the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen and and warned that there could be “bloodshed” over any future rigged elections. “The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn’t matter if our votes don’t count,” he said at a Macon County Republican Party headquarters in Franklin, North Carolina. “Because, you know, if our election systems continue to be rigged, and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place, and it’s bloodshed.” (link)

Recently he charged that some of his colleagues had invited him to orgies and snorted lines of cocaine in front of him. He described some of those he allegedly saw snorting coke as leaders of the national anti-addiction efforts. 

This is what the Washington Post reported:

In an interview last week with the “Warrior Poet Society” podcast, Cawthorn was asked whether the hit television show “House of Cards” was an accurate reflection of life in the nation’s capital. Cawthorn responded by talking about the “sexual perversion that goes on in Washington” and suggested that he had been invited to an “orgy” by an unnamed lawmaker.

“I mean, being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 or 70 — you know, I look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve always looked up to through my life, always paid attention to politics, guys that, you know. Then all of the sudden you get invited to, like, ‘Oh hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come,’ ” Cawthorn said in the interview, which was reported Sunday by Business Insider. “And I’m like, ‘What? What did you just ask me to come to?’ And then you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy.”

Since making the charges he has reportedly told Republican House leader Keven McCarthy that he exaggerated. 

Democrats may have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and  Ilhan Omar but as long as we have Marjorie Taylor Green and Madison Cawthorn, we don't have much room to criticize. It is time responsible Republicans stand up to the crazies in our party. He should be denied the right to run as a Republican and if elected the House should not allow him to caucus as a Republican. The nut-jobs need to be shunned, purged, and marginalized. 

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Breakfast Club meets April 2nd. Special guest Natisha Brooks 5th Congressional candidate.

 From Lonnie Spivak:

Greetings Breakfast Club Members,

Welcome to Spring. Things are really beginning to heat up in TN05, and this month we bring you another fantastic candidate, Natisha Brooks. Ms Brooks attended Prarie View A&M University, and currently operates The Brooks Academy, a home-schooling institution.

Natisha Brooks

Natisha is one of the many well-qualified candidates competing to represent the fifth congressional district. Website.

As always, we will meet at the Plantation Pub, Saturday, April 2nd, at 8329 Sawyer Brown Rd., Nashville 37221. Doors open at approximately 8:30am and we will begin around 8:45 am.

Additionally, I am hoping to organize some voter registration drives at gas stations in and around the Bellevue area. Please let me know if you have the capacity to help either man a booth or find locations for the drives.

Please plan to attend. I'm sure this will be another fantastic meeting.


Breakfast Club

8329 Sawyer Brown Rd

nashville, TN 37221

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Dr. Gentry should do the right thing and resign

Jim Garrett, Chair, Davidson County Republican Party -We’ve seen some pretty extreme things coming from the Democrats and School Board in the last few years, but this one takes the cake. We utterly condemn this disgraceful behavior from Dr. Gentry, and she should do the right thing and resign her seat for the sake of setting an example for the school system she supposedly represents.

One thing is very clear – in Davidson County, these are no longer the sensible and patriotic Democrats many of our parent’s generation used to vote for. Locals will be taking note and we challenge the rest of the MNPS School Board and Democrat Party to now officially condemn Dr. Gentry’s remarks, too.

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Candidate List for Davidson County May 3, 2022, County Primary Election

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Tennessee residency requirement for congressional primaries heads to Lee's desk. Would bar Trump endorsed candidate Morgan Ortagus from running in GOP primary.

Morgan Ortagus
 By Jon Styf | The Center Square, Mar 29, 2022 - A bill that would require a candidate to live in Tennessee for three years in order to run in a Republican or Democrat primary election for Congress is headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.

The bill would go into effect immediately upon Lee's signature, meaning Republican Morgan Ortagus would be blocked from running in the Republican primary for Tennessee’s newly drawn 5th Congressional District.

Ortagus, backed by former President Donald Trump, is the former spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State.

The 5th Congressional District seat is opening up after current U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, said he will not run in the newly drawn district.

Senate Bill 2616 passed with different amendments in the Tennessee Senate and House. The House approved an amendment to make the bill valid after this fall’s general election.

The House reconsidered that amendment, however, late Monday and withdrew its amendment.

“We would require three-year residency in the state of Tennessee to be on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate,” sponsoring Rep. Dave Wright, R-Corryton, said.

Wright had verbally opposed the House amendment when it originally passed but had voted to advance the bill.

Candidates have picked up petitions but have not reached the filing deadline for primary races, which is noon April 7. If the bill is signed, Ortagus could run for the 5th Congressional seat as an independent but not in a primary.

During Senate State and Local Government Committee discussion, the constitutionality of imposing limitations on running for federal seats was discussed. Sponsoring Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said in committee he believes having the bill focused on primary nominations will prevent that from being an issue before the Aug. 4 primary.


The Tennessee Star - ... If the legislation becomes enacted into law, TN-5’s Republican primary field will have a drastic shakeup. Carpetbaggers Morgan Ortagus and David Vitalli will be immediately ineligible to run, except as third-party candidates. California native Robby Starbuck would likely be ineligible as well. Starbuck had previously refused to address questions made by The Star about his residency claims.

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State Sen. Heidi Campbell, (D-Nashville), is Running for Congress to represent the newly redrawn 5th Congressional District

State Sen. Heidi Campbell
by STEPHEN ELLIOTT, The Scene, MAR 29, 2022 - ... On Tuesday, she filed papers with the FederalElection Commission establishing her candidacy in the 5th Congressional District. She is the first well-known Democrat to enter the race since incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) announced he would retire. More than a dozen Republicans have entered the race ... redistricting made the seat — once a Democratic stronghold — favorable to the GOP.  ... (link)

Personal Info: Married, two children, Non-denominational, Business Owner, B.A. Sarah Lawrence, M.B.A. Vanderbilt Owen School of Management (link)

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On the origins of Putin Republicans.

by Rod Williams, March 13, 2022 - I am appalled at the admiration on the part of some Republicans for Vladimir Putin and the way some Republicans justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The most influential American supporter of Putin is no doubt Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, but he is not the only one.

Moscow Carlson after briefly seeming to side with the democratic countries of the world and calling Russia’s invasion a tragedy and blaming Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine has reverted to arguing that the U.S. provoked the  Russian attack. Maybe for a moment, Tucker Carlson was offended by the Russian bombing of a kindergarten. The moment didn't last long.

Here is basically Carlson's position. It was summarized in a Vanity Fair piece.

You may not like the source Vanity Fair, but that is an accurate summation of the Carlson position as far as I can tell.  I only watch Tucker Carlson occasionally but that is my perception of his position. If you doubt it, follow the above links in the Vanity Fair piece and if still not convinced, do your own YouTube deep dive. I did. It is clear Tucker Carlson justifies Putin's aggression against Ukraine. 

Unfortunately, Carlson has influence. He is the most popular commentator in America and he is much more popular with Republicans than Democrats.  While pro-Putin Republicans are a small minority of all Republicans, there do exist.  In addition to Moscow Carlson, there are other conservative voices supporting Putin. There are a lot of small but influential bloggers spreading the same message as Carlson and those voices get amplified on social media. 

In the last week, I received two pro-Putin communications from people active in the local conservative community. I am refraining from naming them but if you are active in the Nashville conservative political community, you would know them.  One sends out a regular e-mail newsletter and the other has been active in various conservative organizations for many years. Since most people are not active, it doesn't take much activism to have an influence.  If it is happening in Nashville, then it is happening across the country.

I am appalled.  During the cold war, I got accustomed to Democrats supporting our enemies and would not be surprised if it were Democrats excusing an authoritarian government's aggression.  During the Vietnam conflict, many anti-war activists not only wanted us to abandon the effort to stop a Communist take over of Vietnam, but they also wanted a Communist victory. Anti-war protesters sometimes carried Viet Cong flags and chanted, "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh."  Not only were many Democrats opposed to winning the war in Vietnam, but they were also opposed to American efforts to resist Communism anywhere.  Remember Nicaragua? Remember Granada? Remember our support for the mujahadeen who defeated Russia in Afghanistan and the Democrat opposition? 

Many Democrats also supported policies that would weaken America's ability to counter the Communist threat anywhere, would have guaranteed our eventual subjugation by Russia, and would have given Russian advantages in the cold war. They opposed policies that eventually led to American victory in the cold war.  They wanted co-existence, not roll-back or victory.  Remember Democrat opposition to American superiority in the arms race and what was derided as "Star Wars?" Remember organizations like SANE that advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament? Remember Democrats being appalled by Reagan's call to "tear down this wall?"A sizeable portion of Democrats always opposed American's opposition to tyranny or policies to combat it and keep America safe and many actually sided with our enemies. 

So, I would not be shocked if there were pro-Putin Democrats.  I kind of accept that many, not most certainly, but a significant minority of Democrats do not value western values or believe the American way of life is worth defending.  They think America is so evil that we have no moral authority to see evil anywhere else. They think democracy has not delivered a perfect world and is not worth defending. They reason, that we are just as guilty of a violation of human rights as our enemy. They view, what they perceive as, denial of a women's right to choose, failure to fully normalize gender dysphoria and deviance, economic and racial inequality, and failure to rid the world of carbon fuels and save the planet as equally evil as genocide in some far off country. They can't be bothered with concern for evil elsewhere when we have failed to make the world perfect. 

I would not be shocked by liberals making the arguments that Moscow Carlson and other Putin Republicans make. I am shocked that conservatives are making these arguments. Where is this coming from?  I think I can identify some of the origins of thought that lead a conservative to become pro-Putin.

One source of the appeal of Putin for Putin Republicans is the attractiveness of strength and vitality. Putin has that macho image. Many people think that American and western nations and especially American and western men have become effeminate and lost all vigor.  The fit and handsome Putin seems like a "real man."  While Donald Trump is kind of pudgy and is not handsome necessarily, he has the persona of a winner. Many people like swagger, strength, and winners. They also like "genius" and "savvy." While, for the most part, people say they do not like bullies, bullies almost always have fans and followers.  Putin has sex appeal and charisma. That may be shallow, but I think there have always been shallow people who are ready to follow a strong man. This is true of the right and the left.  In this instance, since there are other reasons some Republicans can find Putin attractive, they do not inhibit their admiration for a man on horseback,

Another source of support for Putin among some Republicans is the traditional view that fortress America should stay out of foreign affairs. The term "entangling alliances" was coined by President Thomas Jefferson and used in his first inaugural address in 1801, calling for a cautious, isolationist foreign policy. 

Despite the world being much more connected now than it was in 1801, many still think that it is in America's best interest to just mind our own business and ignore the rest of the world.  I find this view terribly naive. It is, however, a view that circulates in Republican circles and from time to time gains traction with a sizeable segment of Republicans.  This is the view of most people who call themselves "libertarians,' and while small in number libertarians are sometimes Libertarians and sometimes Republicans. When they are Republicans their views spread to other Republicans.

The isolationist or non-interventionist position was prevalent prior to World War I and World War II and throughout the Cold War.  Prior to World War II, the America First view of isolationism was stronger among Republicans than Democrats.  There were of course many prominent Democrats who were also isolationist such as Joseph P. Kennedy, but isolationism was strongest among Republicans. It was primarily Republicans who opposed lend-lease and the occasional expression of admiration for Hitler or Mussolini was more likely to be heard from a Republican than Democrats. Prior to WWII, there was even a small movement of Americans opposing entry into the war who were Nazi fellow travelers. They worked with Nazi strategists and spies and were funded by Nazi money. These Nazi-friendly Americans were mostly Republicans while they never had the same degree of influence that the pro-Communist, Communist fellow travelers, useful idiots, and Marxist intelligentsia had among the Democrats they did exist.  This isolationist view never died out entirely in either party. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, isolationism made a return among Republicans.  In the former Yugoslavia, ethnic tension and rising nationalism led to genocide, war crimes, and a conflict that threatened to destabilize Europe. A reluctant President Bill Clinton who had been a passivist during the Vietnam War, exerted American leadership to bring an end to the conflict.  Those most vocal in opposition to American involvement in ending this conflict were Republicans. 

Republican isolationism was demonstrated in the candidacy of Pat Buchanan for President in the late 1990s. Buchanan had long been an important advocate of conservative values and had worked as a TV commentator, a print political commentator, an author, and had served in the Nixon White House.  In 1992, Buchanan challenged incumbent President George H.W. Bush for President in Republican primaries.  While Buchanan made an issue of Bush's violating his "read my lips," "no new taxes" pledge and while Buchanan ran on the social issue, he also ran a campaign advocating isolationism.  In the primary elections, Buchanan garnered three million total votes or 23% of the vote.  While not carrying the day, that is a significant number of Republicans who vote for someone advocating isolationism.

In 2008 and 2012 Congressman Ron Paul ran for President as a Republican and got respectable numbers and raised a lot of money.  In several early primaries in 2012, he garnered votes in the 18% to 24% of the Republican primary voters  He opposed just about all international treaties and organizations. He advocated pulling the United States out of the United Nations and NATO. He advocated ending almost all foreign aid and abolishing the CIA. Isolationism is not new to Republicans.  As a political belief, it is as old as the Republic and there have always been isolationist Republicans. 

Another source of support for Putin among Republicans is the belief that the west is decadent and Russia is a source of Christain resistance to this decadence. Russia, they believe, will lead a resurgence of the Christian faith. Russia is not in fact a very Christian country and only 7% of Russians attend church or another religious meeting of other faiths as frequently as once a month. 

It is ironic that Putin presents himself and Russia as the defender of the Christian faith. Russia was officially an atheist country for 70 years and Christians were persecuted and Putin was head of the KGB under the Communist regime which persecuted Christians. It seems strange to me that this view as Russia leading a return to godliness can carry any weight in the West, but it does. There has not been a religious revival in Russia. What has happened is that Putin is using the Church to prop up his regime.

For centuries, old regimes used the Church and the Church used the regimes as a source of control. Unity of the social order was important and the faith of the King was most often mandated to be the faith of all of his subjects.  The ruler was viewed as ruler due to a mandate from God. And, we all know about the divine right of kings and all of that.  Instead of trying to stamp out religion and ban it, the Russian state is making the Russian Orthodox Church subject to the authority of the State and making it the defacto State religion. The Russian Orthodox church is supported by the State with public funds and competing faiths are still persecuted. Respect for freedom of religion by secular authorities has declined in Russia since the late 1990s.  

There is a segment of Republicans who would want to make America an officially Chastain county. For them, they don't value freedom of religion, they value a religious country more than they do freedom. And they admire Russia as a Christian nation. At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, held last month, Lauren Witzke, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Delaware, had praise for Putin and "his Christian nationalist nation" and made it clear that she supports Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. “Here’s the deal", she said, "Russia is a Christian nationalist nation. They’re actually Russian Orthodox. ... I identify more with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden." (1While this is a fringe view, it is not so fringe that it is denied a platform at the most important gathering of conservatives in America. 

Another source and the appeal of Putin and justification for his aggression is the same as the liberal justification for totalitarian and authoritarian regimes cited above in this essay. Some conservatives share with liberals the view that America is so evil that we have no business telling the world how to behave.  These conservatives see a completely different list of imperfections but reach the same conclusion. They are so unhappy with their country, they no longer love their country. They view America as an evil nation.  We are so imperfect we have no business meddling in other countries' affairs because we are no better than they are, they reason. 

I want the Republican Party to be a "big-tent," party.  I want to paper over disagreements rather than magnify them.  I like a spirited debate and want to see someone make the case for his vision. After the primary, however, I want the losers to pledge loyalty to what unites us rather than what divides us and I want to see all factions come together to beat the Democrats.  Having said that, however, I have utter contempt for Putin Republicans.  We can disagree about strategy but when you become an apologist for our enemy, that is where my tolerance for different points of view ends.  There are certain Republicans with whom I cannot hold hands and pretend we are on the same team.  There should be no room in the Republican Party for supporters of Vladimir Putin. 

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Monday, March 28, 2022

Citizen Lobby Training, March 29th


Click here for more information and to sign up.

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AIER’s Bastiat Society program in Nashville will host an event: Words and Numbers with James R. Harrigan and Antony Davies, March 31

The speakers look at current events through the eyes of an economist and a political scientist. The show is aimed at interested non-experts.

The Bastiat Society of Nashville’s speaker series is co-sponsored by The Beacon Center of Tennessee & The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) (affiliated with Middle Tennessee State University).

Ticket Prices: $0 for Founding Members,  $10 for Annual Members, $20 for Non-Members, $0 for Actively enrolled university students who register with a .edu email address. 

More about the speaker:

James R. Harrigan is Senior Editor at AIER. He is also co-host of the Words & Numbers podcast. Dr. Harrigan was previously Dean of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani, and later served as Director of Academic Programs at the Institute of Humane Studies and Strata, where he was also a Senior Research Fellow. He has written extensively for the popular press with articles appearing in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, and a host of other outlets. He is also co-author of Cooperation & Coercion. His current work focuses on the intersections between political economy, public policy, and political philosophy.

Antony Davies is the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, and associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. He has authored Principles of Microeconomics (Cognella), Understanding Statistics (Cato Institute), and Cooperation and Coercion (ISI Books). He has written hundreds of op-eds appearing in, among others, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, New York Post, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, US News, and the Houston Chronicle. He also co-hosts the weekly podcast Words & Numbers. Davies was Chief Financial Officer at Parabon Computation, and founded several technology companies.

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Hot Mic at Metro Nashville Board of Education Meeting Catches Board Member Sharon Gentry Saying She Wants to Set Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Fire

Hot Mic at Metro Nashville Board of Education Meeting Catches Board Member Sharon Gentry Saying She Wants to Set Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Fire

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Sunday, March 27, 2022

'It’s a bit of a stretch to see the commonality between a common carrier," says Rep. Patsy Hazlewood as legislature advances a bill to subvert the First Amendment.

Rep. Patsy Hazlewood
By Jon Styf | The Center Square Mar 22, 2022 – A law to prevent social media companies’ ability to ban or shadow ban users advanced Tuesday in the Tennessee House.

The bill would require social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to register with the Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC) and be subject to fines if they are found to have banned or shadow banned users.

The bill is similar to social media bills in Florida and Texas that passed and courts have ruled against based on First Amendment arguments. Both cases are in federal appeals court.

Sponsoring Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, acknowledged similar laws have been thrown out by the courts, but he said in Tuesday's House Commerce Committee meeting that House Bill 2369 is different because it seeks to treat social media companies as common carriers, similar to phone service providers, which cannot restrict users from political speech but can ban obscene, lewd, excessively violent or harassing behavior.

“This is going to be model legislation,” Powers said, noting the common carrier argument comes from an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Biden v. Knight.

Florida also made the common carrier argument, according to NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo, who sued and won injunctions in Florida and Texas.

Szabo also pointed to a requirement in the legislation for TPUC to create rules for platforms to follow regarding banning users and removing content as a way that the law is creating more government interference in private business.

“I applaud your goal, I’m concerned about the process,” Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said to Powers. “... It’s a bit of a stretch to see the commonality between a common carrier.”

Powers noted the bill’s fiscal note moved from approximately $330,000 in annual enforcements costs to around $100,000, stating he hoped that when fines were included in the tally it would cover the cost.

Szabo, however, noted the potential cost for fighting the law in court would be significant. In the Florida and Texas cases, NetChoice has asked for his attorney’s fees to be covered by the states as well.

“What we’re seeing right now is lawmakers in the state of Tennessee following in the same failed legal footsteps of Florida and Texas,” Szabo told The Center Square. “And it’s ultimately not going to get them where they want to be, which is to able to police the internet. Fortunately, our Founding Fathers created the First Amendment to expressly forbid and preclude this type of state-compelled speech.”

If TPUC receives a complaint about a ban or shadow ban – which Powers described as moving items down in a search engine searches based on its content – and finds it in violation of the law, TPUC would notify the platform of the infraction and allow 60 days to correct. If that is not done, TPUC would hold a hearing.

If TPUC ruled in favor of the user, fines would begin for the social media platform at a rate of $100,000 a day if the user is a political candidate or public official or $25,000 a day for others.

“Are social media companies common carriers?” Rep. Eddie Mannis, R-Knoxville, asked. “They are publicly traded companies, but they are still private companies. We have said before that we cannot tell private companies what to do.”

The bill will next head to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee while its Senate companion bill has been assigned to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

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