This is Sunshine Week, the week where we celebrate government transparency and our “right to know.” But over the last eight years the clouds have crept in, and they’re showing no sign of going anywhere.
Former President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise of being the “most transparent administration” ever, and ran up a bill in doing so.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Obama administration spent a record $36.2 million in its final year on legal costs related to refusals to turn over federal documents under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Not only is that fiscally absurd, it’s also a slap in the face to those who actually believed Obama would follow through on his transparency promises.
On top of running up the legal fees, the Obama administration also set a record for the number of denied FOIL requests. The administration also told journalists and citizens it couldn’t find the requested documents more times in 2016 than ever before.
The city of Philadelphia is pushing new rules to fight discrimination. Eleven bars in the Gayborhood, the city’s LGBT hotbed, will be required to participate in fair business practice training and implicit bias training. The bars will also be required to post fliers made by the city’s Human Relations Commission about the city’s fair practice ordinance.
These efforts come as a response to a report released by the city in January, which found that women, minorities and transgender people have been discriminated against in the Gayborhood for decades. The city’s heavy-handed approach, while well-meaning, adds yet another expense and burden to local businesses. Mandating these implicit bias trainings will take workers away from their actual productive duties and force the bars to pay employees to attend diversity training sessions that have largely been found to be ineffective.
Meanwhile, residents of Philadelphia are doing a better job of preventing discrimination than the city’s government. Individuals and the market have already acted to scale back the level of discrimination in the Gayborhood, before the government ever could.
Continue reading at Watchdog.
There once was a time when Donald Trump looked like he was going to be the presidential candidate to finally move the Republican Party away from senseless obsessions over culture war issues. He seldom discussed LGBT issues or the drug war on the campaign trail; his campaign message was almost entirely protectionist economics and building a border wall.
Then along came Jeff Sessions.
Trump won the GOP nomination as a very moderate candidate, socially speaking. He said Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower, he said he was “fine” with same-sex marriage and paid little attention to ramping up the war on drugs.
However, since taking office, it’s become clear that the social conservatives Trump has surrounded himself with are going to have a tremendous amount of pull with regard to where the administration goes on social issues.
Read the rest at The Libertarian Institute…
Donald Trump is going to wish he didn’t make alternative rock great again.
Throughout its existence, the alternative rock genre has been one of the ultimate checks on authority and abuses of power. Punk rockers like The Clash and The Sex Pistols mainstreamed ideas of anarchy and anti-authoritarianism in the 1970s and 1980s. As Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie argue in their book The Declaration of Independents, Vaclav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution against Czech communism in 1989, was inspired by the music of the Velvet Underground. During the administration of President George W. Bush, Green Day was one of the leading anti-war voices.
Sadly, over the last eight years, alternative rock lost some of its anti-authority edge while Barack Obama was in office. The band Muse is one of the few exceptions, releasing three albums during the Obama years, two of which —The Resistance in 2009 and Drones in 2015 — are remarkably anti-authority. Drones was a particularly strong album in its blasting of the military-industrial complex, but that’s commonplace from Muse regardless of who the world’s leaders are.
But Donald Trump’s candidacy prompted alternative rockers, such as the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, to release songs and music videos that blatantly call out Donald Trump and his penchant for illiberal authoritarianism.
Continue reading at FEE.
Saturday, January 7, marked two years since armed Islamic terrorists stormed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 11 people following the magazine’s feature of a drawing of the prophet Mohammed. Yet while the French people briefly rallied around the magazine with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie,” free speech remains under assault due to French hate speech laws.
In the aftermath of the attack, the PEN American Center, one of the world’s foremost free speech advocates, decided to award the French magazine its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. However, dozens of writers who were supposed to attend the gala withdrew, stating that they felt Charlie Hebdo promoted “cultural intolerance.”
That line of thinking is ever-growing and dangerous, and it is strengthened by systemic failings in France that allow such attacks to take place. France’s laws regarding hate speech, namely Section 24 of the Press Law of 1881 on preventing speech that “incites discrimination hatred, or violence on the basis of one’s origin or membership (or non-membership) in an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group,” are incredibly restrictive and essentially embolden and justify the attackers.
Continue reading at Townhall.