Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

305px-USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl_ACU_CroppedThe Bergdahl case will raise some considerable challenges for the defense in what could be one of the most notable desertion cases in modern U.S. history. That is, if it goes to trial. This would seem a case where everyone may prefer a plea. The evidence is strong against Bergdahl, though there is clearly a great deal of evidence that has yet to be released. Cases always appear stronger for the government at the time of indictment. However, what we know is pretty bad for the defense. On the other side, the Obama Administration would clearly prefer a plea to a trial that would highlight Bergdahl’s actions and the possible loss of U.S. personnel looking for a deserter (who was later traded for five blood-soaked Taliban leaders with terrorist ties). Such issues would be obvious for prosecutors to raise when discussing the appropriate punishment, if Bergdahl is convicted. However, it could be an argument that the Administration would not want pursued by prosecutors. While such interference is prohibited as “command influence” on a military case, there have been allegations of such influence in past high-profile cases, including controversies in this Administration. In this case, the pressure is likely to be considerable for prosecutors to accept a plea, though such a plea could fuel previously accusations that the case was being manipulated to avoid embarrassment for the Administration.

Below is the longer version of my column that ran in print this morning in USA Today.
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220px-Modern_British_LED_Traffic_LightBelow is today’s column in USA Today. The column was actually written after I went to Chicago for Christmas and experienced firsthand the speed traps created by the city to trap drivers. My home town is a case study of the twisted logic that goes into fleecing citizens. Chicagoans are paying the highest cost for parking in the nation after outgoing mayor Richard Daley Jr. signed away a 99-year-lease to all city meters (and later accepted a job with the firm that negotiated the deal).

Illinois also has the second highest property tax rates in the country; the highest cell phone taxes in the country; and the highest restaurant taxes of any major city. Even if you try to flee the city taxes, you are hit with the nation’s highest airport parking fees in the country.
To put it simply, citizens are tapped out. Instead of raising taxes further, the city decided to find a way to generate revenue and actually blame the citizens. It installed a system of cameras that would make Kim Jong-Un blush combined with the shortest yellow lights in the nation.

Now Emanuel has backed down after years of his Administration dismissing complaints from citizens. His close reelection rather than decency appears the motivation. In the past, his government has defended the patchwork system of lights. Chicago officials insisted that other cities are also using the three-second light, including Boston and New York City. However, in New York, no red light camera tickets are issued until 0.3 seconds into the red light and Boston does not have red light cameras at all (and use the three-second yellows only downtown). However, Chicago is not alone in this perverse revenue grab.

The column is below:

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dXBsb2Fkcy9tYWdhemluZV9pbWFnZXMvMDdmZjQ2YWQxZTFiNjg1OTQ4NjY1M2U3NWVmODE4NGNiZDZjYmQ5YS5qcGc=.238.600.1.1.70I had the pleasure this month of writing a piece on free speech in the leading policy magazine in Switzerland, “Schweizer Monat.” The piece is published in German (Charlies falsche Freunde or Charlie’s False Friends), which is particularly cool for my son Benjamin who is taking German at McLean High School in Virginia. The German version can be found here. Germany is currently our fifth highest supplier of readers with Switzerland close behind. Ironically, Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein also wrote a piece in the same issue this month. The translated column is below:

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300px-Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peupleBelow is my column in the Sunday Washington Post on the free speech implications of the massacre in Paris and what it means to “stand with Charlie.” Rather the piece explores the status of free speech in France and The murders themselves are clearly the work of Islamic extremists who need little reason to kill innocent people in their twisted view of faith. However, the victims were journalists who had struggled with rising speech limitations and regulations in France as well as other European nations. (Indeed, at least one surviving journalist express contempt for those who now support free speech but remained silent in the face of past efforts to shut down the magazine). We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targets with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).

Liberte-egalite-fraterniteAs many on this blog know, I have a particular affection for France and its people. I was moved to see the protest spontaneously protest as thousands can out to defend liberty and French culture. It was a quintessential moment for the French. Indeed, it reminded many of us of how the French once voiced the “Rights of Man” and rallied around civil liberties at a defining moment for all of Western Civilization. We all felt victims of these attacks and most of us were moved to see our French counterparts joining together in one voice to support free speech. However, there needs to be some frank discussion of threat posed by increasing speech regulations and prosecutions. Ironically, while thousands have demonstrated against immigration as a threat to national identity, the real threat is not the immigrants themselves but the loss of national identity from these prosecutions. What is France if it is not its liberties and freedoms? France cannot simply be defined by brie and baguettes. Those who want to join Western countries must accept their core commitment to free speech as part of a social convenant not just with the government but with each other.

(The title of the piece is selected by the Post, not the author. (We usually learn of the titles when the reader does). The print version includes a title that the “threat” comes not terrorism but the French. Many may conclude that the piece somehow blames the French for these attacks which is obviously not true. Rather, with the rallies (including the huge rally today) in support of free speech, the column explores the primary cause of the erosion of free speech in France — and what can be done to restore it. Likewise, this article is not meant to suggest that any criticism of religion is no longer tolerated in France. After all, the magazine continued to publish despite efforts to prosecute the editors and journalists. Moreover, French courts have ruled in favor of free speech in some critical cases. However, while some efforts have been curtailed by the French courts, government censorship has been increasing, particularly when the challenged speech is directed at living individuals. Other restrictions are broader and the appetite for such regulation appears to be increasing. For example, a few years ago, when the government made the denial of the genocide of Armenians by Turkey a crime, the drafter of the law Senator Valerie Boyer dismissed the objections and said “That’s democracy.” Indeed, Boyer exemplified why John Adams warned that “ democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” The clash between democracy and free speech is growing as different groups demand that others be silenced in the name of pluralism and tolerance.

Here is the column:
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senate_large_seal200px-CIA.svgBelow is my column today in USA Today on the torture report. This is the slightly longer version that ran on the Internet.
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1408390089660_Image_galleryImage_Officer_DARREN_WILSON_picstlouis13n-14-webThe Grand Jury in Missouri appears to have rendered its decision in the shooting investigation Michael Brown. It is expected to be announced shortly. Below is my column in USA Today.

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holderericBelow is my column on the resignation of Eric Holder as United States Attorney General. For civil libertarians, Holder’s tenure as Attorney General under President Obama has been one of the most damaging periods in our history with a comprehensive attack on various constitutional rights and principles from free speech to the free press to international law. In recent polling by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, Holder was the second most unpopular government official after the positively radioactive Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As someone who previously called for Holder’s firing after the investigation of various journalists under national security powers, I am hardly one who can offer congratulatory sentiments for such a record. However, much like President Obama, one has to wonder what could have been if Holder had chosen a more principled and less political approach to his office. Holder is resigning the same week that a federal judge ordered the release of “Fast and Furious” documents after the Justice Department was accused of a pattern of delay and obstruction. Holder was previously held in contempt by Congress for his withholding documents and conflicting accounts to an oversight committee looking into the scandal. Indeed, Holder was looking at an even more aggressive period with the possible loss of the Senate and increased GOP seats in the House.

Ironically, Holder came into office trying to distinguish himself from such disastrous predecessors as Alberto Gonzales but proved no less political or blindly loyal to his own president. Indeed, both men fought aggressively to expand the powers of the presidency and national security laws over countervailing individual rights and separation of powers principles. It will be civil liberties and not civil rights that will be the lasting, and troubling, legacy of Eric Holder. The column is below:

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