Crom Carmichael on Big Tech Censorship, Facebook, and the U.S. Supreme Court

Crom Carmichael on Big Tech Censorship, Facebook, and the U.S. Supreme Court

 

Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio to discuss Big Tech censorship as it relates to being a private company versus common carrier and what that means for federal regulations.

Leahy: Crom, you know, one of our guests here, you kind of liked his last name. Professor of law at Columbia Law School, Philip Hamburger.

Carmichael: Yes.

Leahy: He’s an expert on the rise of the deep state, the administrative state. And he’s a champion of pushing back against that and basing our actions on the Constitution. I note that he’s written an article with Claire Morel for The Wall Street Journal on Big Tech and censorship.

Carmichael: And that was July 31st. And when we interviewed him, which would have been a month – or a month ago,  we also interviewed Naomi Wolf. Now Naomi Wolf has – since we interviewed her – has actually even been canceled even more.

And so this is going to be a very interesting lawsuit. The article that Philip Hamburger and Claire Morel have written in The Wall Street Journal argues that Facebook and Twitter and all these giant tech companies are really more like common carriers. Because the common carrier, by the way, can be a private company.

In fact, they all are private companies, but they still are regulated by the federal government. For example, Verizon cannot cancel your phone service if they disagree with what they think you’re going to say on the phone. They can’t do that. That’s not allowed.

Leahy: That’s good because they would have canceled me a long time ago. (Chuckles)

Carmichael: So my point is they can’t.

Leahy: They’re not my carrier.

Carmichael: They can’t. I’m not sure. So you have these big tech companies that are essentially canceling their service to people based on their political opinions. And it isn’t based on whether or not they’re right or wrong. It is truly based on their political opinions. And that’s why when you heard Jen Psaki say that the administration is working with Facebook.

Leahy: Working with Facebook.

Carmichael: Yeah. On misinformation. Naomi Wolf has said that she has tried to put out the word on the facts about COVID and immigration, and they cancel that. Now, those are facts. That it isn’t incorrect or misinformation. The disinformation is incorrect. It’s false information. Misinformation is whatever I don’t like.

Leahy: Right.

Carmichael: And I think that Trump’s lawsuit and the other thing that he’s writing about, the Hamburger and Claire Morel are writing about, is the state laws.

This article is focused on the state laws that say that if you operate in our states, you cannot discriminate based on what people’s opinions are. It’ll be very interesting to see how those lawsuits work because Florida has already passed that law.

Leahy: But the courts have struck it down.

Carmichael: They hadn’t gotten to the Supreme Court yet. A court has struck it down.

Leahy: Let me follow up on that. Here’s what they said about that particular.

Carmichael: Sure.

Leahy: A district court struck it down. Here’s what Philip Hamburger has said about that. ‘The recent court dependent questioning the Florida anti-censorship statute noted that in censoring some speech the tech companies are choosing what speech they will convey. From this, the court concluded that the company’s platforms and services were more akin to newspapers than common carriers.

Unlike a newspaper, these platforms and services are offered to the public for the conveyance of their speech. Unlike a newspaper, they serve the function of a common carrier. What is more, they enjoy market dominance.

Carmichael: This is what Hamburger told us when he was on our call. That was before …

Leahy: Trump’s lawsuit.

Carmichael: And before Florida’s decision. And so this will work its way up in the courts, and we’ll find out. And I think ultimately it will end up in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court obviously takes very few cases.

Leahy: It’ll be the Supreme Court probably in the 2022 to 2023 session.

Carmichael: I think it’ll be sooner than that.

Leahy: Before the next 2021 or 2022.

Carmichael: Yes. I think it will be before the ’22 election.

Leahy: Okay. So here’s the problem. I’ll give you two words that are a problem. The first word is John. And the second word is Roberts.

Carmichael: No. This will be a very interesting court case. This will be an entire court case.

Leahy: Do you think Roberts will surprise us?

Carmichael: I think the whole Supreme Court might surprise us. But here’s the difference. A newspaper has its own opinions, and it controls everything in the newspaper, and everybody knows that. But in the case of Facebook, Facebook allows some people to express their opinions and disallows other people to express their opinions just because they don’t like the opinions.

Well, that’s not the same thing as a newspaper. I think the question will come down to, are these entities more like common carriers or more like newspapers? And if they are judged to be more like common carriers, then they will lose their ability to censor. And they are censoring.

Let’s be very clear about what they’re doing. They are censoring. If they were censoring all Black people from conveying their opinions, they would be guilty under the Civil Rights Act violation. There would be a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

So now the question is, can they discriminate against people based on their opinion? Can they discriminate against a Black person based on that person’s opinion? Like, could they cancel Ben Carson if he wrote an article about COVID?

He is an eminent physician and what he would – it would likely be entirely accurate, but it would be different from what the Biden administration would want. Would Facebook have the right to cancel him?

Leahy: Here’s what I think about this, Crom. I think you’re right. I think ultimately all of these Big Tech lawsuits, ultimately, in one version or another will go to the Supreme Court.

Carmichael: Yes.

Leahy: There’s no question about that. What makes me nervous about that is the tendency of the chief justice to make political rather than legal decisions. That’s what makes me nervous.

Carmichael: I think the opinion may be a bit watered down, but I would be astounded if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of censorship because that would be what they would be ruling in favor of. They would be ruling in favor of censorship.

Leahy: I was astounded in 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obamacare.

Carmichael: But you have three different justices on there now.

Leahy: And I am disappointed in all three of them.

Carmichael: I am more optimistic, perhaps realistic, maybe. We don’t know.

(Inaudible crosstalk)

Carmichael: I think it will work its way up through the courts. Philip Hamburger’s article is a very interesting one. And poor Naomi Wolf. She was a leftist, and she’s going to be in our camp now.

Leahy: She’s a realist now. (Chuckles)

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Akiva Cohen Weighs in on the Probable Outcome of Donald Trump’s Big Tech Lawsuit

Akiva Cohen Weighs in on the Probable Outcome of Donald Trump’s Big Tech Lawsuit

 

Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed New York City attorney Akiva Cohen to the newsmakers line to explain why Trump’s Big Tech lawsuit may not have jurisdiction in Florida due to state action as outlined in Facebook’s contractual agreement.

Leahy: We are delighted to welcome to our newsmaker line our good friend Akiva Cohen. He is an attorney who specializes in First Amendment, media, and Big Tech issues. Welcome, Akiva Cohen.

Cohen: Good to be back, Michael. How have you been?

Leahy: I’ve been great. I’ve been great. So I want to get your opinion. We were at Donald Trump’s news conference with America First Institute in Bedford, New Jersey, when he announced this lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google and their CEOs.

Now, our friend Vivek Ramaswamy, the very successful billionaire who lives in Cincinnati, has written an article in The Wall Street Journal.

I’m guessing you may not agree with this headline, but I’ll read the headline and get your response. Headline: Trump Can Win His Case Against Tech Giants. There’s ample precedent for calling it state action. But what is your reaction to that?

Cohen: Yes, I do disagree with it. There are a couple of things. Number one, procedurally that’s going to happen first, right out of the gate.

Each of these companies has terms of service that say, if you’re going to sue us over something that happens with your account, you’ve got to do it in the Northern District of California and not in Florida, which is where the former President Trump filed these things.

And that’s important because the Northern District of California, just a week and a half ago or so, actually addressed this exact issue.

There was a vaccination information group called Child Health Defense that had filed a lawsuit against Facebook for taking their page down on the exact same theory that Section 230 and the sort of comments of public officials made Facebook’s decision to take them down a state action.

And what the courts said just a week and a half ago was, no, that’s not a state action. The fact that the government may have a regulatory interest in a particular area doesn’t transform private action into state action.

So President Trump’s lawsuit has a real big problem, just from a recent precedent that it’s going to have to deal with because it’s going to get moved to California on the basis of those terms of service and the contracts that everybody who signed up for it agreed to.

And there was a judge in that district who just decided this issue in a way that’s not good for him. I think it’s unlikely that it’s going to have a different outcome in this case.

Leahy: Akiva, Crom Carmichael is our all-star panelist, has a question for you.

Cohen: Sure.

Carmichael: Akiva,  I think what you said is Trump filed his lawsuit in the state of Florida. So it will go before a court in Florida, will it not? I mean, to begin with? In other words, will the first hearing be in Florida, or will the first hearing be in California?

Cohen: It depends on what you mean by first hearing. So he filed in federal court in Florida. The very first thing that Facebook and Twitter and Google will do is they’re going to file what’s known as a motion to transfer.

And they’re going to say, look, before we get into the merits of all of this, there’s a contract governing it. The contract that everybody signed when they joined our website says, if you’re going to sue us, you have to sue us in the Northern District of California.

Those clauses are enforceable and they’re routinely enforced, and you should move it to California. Now, I don’t frankly know if President Trump’s lawyers are going to put up any sort of fight in response to that for the simple reason that there really isn’t anything to fight about.

Courts enforce clauses like this all the time. Fighting against it will be a losing move.

But if he does fight it, then the very first hearing will be if the Florida judge feels like he needs a real argument, which I think would be unlikely, would be in Florida about whether or not the case has to go to California. A Florida judge would not be looking at the substance.

Carmichael: When you say judges do this ‘all the time’, do you mean regularly and most of the time? Or do you really mean truly all the time?

Cohen: No. Truly, truly all the time. If you have a contract that says we are going to litigate this and any disputes between us in a particular location, judges will not get into the substance unless you’re going to argue that you were somehow defrauded into agreeing to that particular choice of venue.

If you’re alleging that somehow somebody lied to you, you didn’t actually sign the contract, and your signature is forged, that they’ll decide.

But if you agree, yes, this is a contract that I signed that had this provision, there is a chance that any judge will say that’s not enforceable.

It happens every time. Literally, every time this issue comes up. If there’s a venue clause and one of the parties files in a different place and the other party tries to enforce it, that’s not to say there isn’t some crazy judge out there who might do something different on some random occasion.

I don’t know every case in the country, but it would be a massive shock to everybody if it did not.

Carmichael: Let’s assume that it gets moved to California and then it gets tried in California and the courts out there rule in favor of Big Tech. It will get appealed. At that point, it gets appealed to a higher court…

Leahy: The Ninth Circuit.

Carmichael: The Ninth Circuit. And let’s just say the ninth Circuit sides with Big Tech. If the U.S. Supreme Court takes it, then the decision is not being made by what I would describe as a liberal-leaning court – meaning the district court in San Francisco and the Ninth Circuit. It would be then decided at the Supreme Court level.

And there is a precedent at the Supreme Court level for claiming that companies that are benefited. And that’s what the other gentleman from Cincinnati said. He listed two cases.

Leahy: Norwood v. Harrison 1973 was one of those cases. And then Railway Employees’ Department v. Hanson in 1956 were the cases that he referenced. And I guess Crom’s question to you is, Akiva, are you buying that?

Cohen: And the answer is no. And the court in California actually just recently analyzed all of that. And frankly, it was persuasive.

It’s worth reading the Children’s Health Defense versus Facebook. And there are a couple of issues here, right? So, number one:

If anything that gets a government benefit and anything that they do is state action, then frankly, every corporation that exists is bound by the First Amendment because the corporate form is itself a government benefit.

We have laws that say you can incorporate and you get limited liability as a result of it. And so this is a benefit that’s created by the government. It doesn’t exist other than, as a matter of law. Every corporation would be bound.

Carmichael: Now wait. Not every corporation is covered by Section 230 and has the protections of Section 230.

Cohen: Correct. If the theory, Crom, is that just getting a benefit from the government – meaning you got some special benefit from the government, therefore, anything you do is government action – If that’s the case, there’s no reason why the benefit of Section 230 would be any more special or triggering of that rule to the benefit of the corporate form in the first place.

Carmichael: Well, then did the two core cases that were cited in the other article, why did they go the way they did?

Cohen: Those cases were not Section 230 cases.

Carmichael: I know that. But they were still on the greater question that you’re trying to raise. You’re trying to say Section 230 isn’t the dispositive question here. You’re trying to say that if the government helps anybody, then it helps everybody, and therefore Section 230 doesn’t matter. But these other two cases were not about Section 230, but they did argue that because the government helped those particular companies that the judges ruled differently than the way that you’re arguing.

Cohen: I don’t believe that’s accurate. And it’s been a little bit since I looked at those cases. But if I remember correctly, those cases weren’t about the government giving somebody a benefit.

It was about the level of government control of the specific action. So, for example, in the railway case. If I’m remembering correctly, what it was was the government said that rail companies were required to conduct alcohol testing if I’m remembering correctly, on employees and crashes.

And what the Supreme Court said was, look, people have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. They have rights, First Amendment rights.

And if the state couldn’t have its police force do this because of people’s constitutional rights, it can’t pass a law that says you private company need to do this because that’s the same thing.

And the problem here with applying that theory to Section 230 – there are two major problems. Number one is just in general. If you look at Section 230, it doesn’t mandate any specific content or any specific content rules. You could have a site that says I want to ban all discussion.

Leahy: Hey, Akiva. We’re running a little bit of time here. But what a great discussion. By the way, Akiva, let me just say this one thing. If I’m ever in trouble in New York State, I am hiring you as my attorney. (Carmichael laughs)

Cohen: I appreciate that. Thanks for having me, guys. (Carmichael laughs)

Leahy: All right. Thanks, Akiva.

Listen to the third hour here:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Akiva Cohen” by Kamerman, Uncyk, Soniker & Klein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former Trump Legal Aide and Visiting Fellow of IWF Law Center May Davis Talks Background and Big Tech

Former Trump Legal Aide and Visiting Fellow of IWF Law Center May Davis Talks Background and Big Tech

 

Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed May Davis, former legal advisor to President Donald Trump and visiting fellow with the independent women’s form to the newsmakers line to discuss her background working with the Trump administration, Big Tech platforms, and the First Amendment.

Leahy: We are delighted to our newsmaker line, May Davis. She’s a former legal adviser to President Donald Trump. And she’s a visiting fellow with the Independent Women’s Law Center. Good morning, May.

Davis: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Leahy: Well, we’re delighted to have you here. You have a great background. You are a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. That’s the Lawrence campus right?

Davis: That is.

Leahy: It’s a beautiful campus by the way.

Davis: Thank you. And you know, it’s a great basketball school, but it’s a good school, too.

Leahy: Are you a Jayhawk?

Scooter: Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Leahy: Rock Chalk Jayhawk. Does that resonate with you May?

Davis: Yes, it does. And so sometimes when you say rock chalk to someone, they have to say rock chalk back. But sometimes if you say rock chalk, they have to say Jayhawk back. And you just kind of have to look at them and decide which they’re looking for.

Leahy: (Laughs) That’s very good. So are you a native of Kansas?

Davis: I am a native, actually, New Orleans, Louisiana. But I grew up mostly in Kansas. So I claim Kansas now.

Leahy: My brother was a teacher in Kansas for many, many, many years. Where in Kansas did you grow up?

Davis: So I lived in two cities. One is Goodland, Kansas. No one will have heard of it unless you are in desperate need of a rest stop on I70. So that’s on the border of Colorado. And then  Kansas, which is kind of close to K State.

Leahy: So what did your folks do there?

Davis: So my dad is a doctor and my mom is also a teacher. And I was a teacher for a few years in Kansas City as well.

Leahy: You were a teacher. Did you teach in a public school or a private school?

Davis: So it’s a charter school in Kansas City and it’s very interesting. They’ve got a couple of charter schools, but their public school system is actually not accredited, meaning a college doesn’t actually have to recognize your Kansas City public school diploma.

I mean, they do, but they don’t have to. So I taught a charter school that actually underperformed, underperformed. t the Kansas City public school system. So it was an interesting two years.

Leahy: It sounds like it was quite a challenge for you. (Davis chuckles) You know, who was at a time, I think he was for a while and he’ll be on our program later today. You probably know him. He has something in common with you, I think. And that is Kris Kobach, who was a professor of law at the University of Missouri, Kansas, for a period of time.

Davis: Yes. A very familiar Kansan.

Leahy: And he’s got a high profile on some of his litigation. Now you went from teaching at a charter school in Kansas City to Harvard Law School. What was that transition like?

Davis: I think it’s intimidating for a lot of people in the Midwest to just go to Harvard and say like can I read and write the same way that all these other people? It is a scary thing. And it turns out you can.

It was a really wonderful experience. And less so as time goes on when you first get there was what I would consider true diversity. Everyone had a different background, a different life story. And you got to sort of learn like that.

And then by the time my third year had rolled around and there were a lot of riots because of the Ferguson, Missouri, the shooting happened then it became less so. I feel sorry, I think, for the Harvard law students now, especially after the pandemic where they really can’t experience their classmates in the way that I originally could. But I truly loved it.

Leahy: She may not have been on faculty at that time. Did you ever have Elizabeth Warren as an instructor?

Davis: So funny enough, we had her husband and she had just left. But she would have been my contract Professor in my section if I was there one year earlier.

Leahy: Missed her by this much! (Laughter) Tell us how you came to become a legal adviser to President Donald Trump.

Davis: After law school, I did what law students do. And I clerked for a federal judge, moved to Denver, Colorado. And I was just content to be in Denver. In case Hillary won, I wasn’t wanting to live in Hillary Clinton’s, D.C.

I did not think that that would be a very fun experience. And I stayed in Denver. But Trump won. The miracle happened. And I got a phone call from some friends who, for one reason or another, we’re not able to work in the administration.

And they thought that I’d be good. And so they gave me a call and I worked all four years. I was there from day one to the last day. It was an incredible experience.

Leahy: Where did you work in the White House? For the chief of staff and some other parts of the White House?

Davis: So I worked in several offices. One is an office that very few people have heard of. It’s called the Staff Secretary’s office. Fascinating office. And you travel around with the president and basically help organize both the president and the White House.

So you create memos, briefings, and help run meetings. It’s a lawyer job. So the Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh had that job for President Bush. Then after that, I worked for the deputy chief of staff. But basically the chief of staff, John Kelly, for a few years.

And then at the end, I worked in the White House counsel’s office, Pat Sipalone. And actually, while everyone was doing impeachment, I helped more with the policy side. Is this legal? Can we do this?

How can we do this? I want to get that done. It’s a fascinating place to be a lawyer because your problem-solving. Like, can we do something? And you can’t just Google it. There’s no answer. You have to, you know, figure it out uniquely.

Leahy: How exhausting were those four years?

Davis: Well, my skin is definitely better now than it was then. It was very exhausting, especially at first. The first 100 days, only teaching can compare to the amount of work that that is. And then as it gets further on, it becomes manageable.

I don’t know whether that’s because you’re just so used to the lifestyle or whether at some point you’ve tried those things. And so if somebody asks you a question, can I do this? Oh, you asked me that two years ago. I know the answer to that. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: Did you come across a friend of mine? And now once and once again, colleague at Breitbart, where I also write, an attorney and good friend by the name of Ken Klukowski?

Davis: That name is definitely familiar, but we did not work closely with each other, unfortunately. There’s a couple of other Breitbart people that I don’t think went back, but I didn’t work with Ken that closely.

Leahy: Tell us about the style of working closely with President Donald Trump.

Davis: I think the one big thing that was surprising to people when I tell them this is how much he listened to women. This is somebody that when he took office, oh you know, he doesn’t respect women. That was one of at the time.

Now everything he’s Russian agents like people lost their mind. But at the time, everyone’s big complaint was sort of a women’s thing. But whenever I was in the room, he would scan the room for whose eyes seemed like they wanted to say something, and he would call on them.

And so there’s a lot of research that men speak up when they’re 20 percent confident in their answer. And women speak up when they’re 80 percent confident here.

Leahy: If you’re a talk radio host, you speak up when they are five percent confident. But keep going. (Laughter)

Davis: There probably are a lot of times in meetings where a woman is unlikely to just offer random advice to the President of the United States. But the president can look around and he can tell, he can sense that there’s something that’s left unsaid, and he will ask it.

And there’s just something about being a woman who has a voice that hasn’t been expressed yet in that room. He will quiet the room and he will listen to you. And so that’s why some of the closest advisors, Kellanne Conway and Hope Hicks were women.

And so I thought that that and every time I was in the room with him, if I wanted to say something and if I had to say something, I felt like I was able to say it. And that was incredible.

And it’s tough because he does take advice from so many people from so many sources. It was my job to kind of trying to organize him and manage him, like how the information was received. It’s an impossible job. You can’t do it. (Leahy chuckles)

There were so many things that we tried to do to make that better. And so it is both a blessing and it made my job very difficult. But I think in general, you do want the president to be able to and for people to be able to speak up.

So that was something that I found very, very helpful. But also, if you have a president like George Bush, you just had to be very regimented. And he only received this information from approved sources. It makes that organization piece a bazillion times easier. It prevents good ideas from reaching.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: May, You have a terrific article at Townhall. Headline, Crack Down on Social Media Censorship Exposes Conservative Fault Lines. And your conclusion is we’ve now seen a state generally in favor of light regulation on personal freedoms. Choose heavy regulation for the Internet.

That may well be a policy our friends in Florida, the Sunshine State, live to regret, or live to love. But the question is whether it’s a policy they can lawfully choose. Can you elaborate on that for us May?

Davis: Yes. Social media regulation is, I think, a topic you almost can’t learn about, because what are you going to do? Google it?

Leahy: Hold it. That is a great line. That is a great line. Scooter, we’re going to have to record that and keep it. That’s one of the best lines I’ve heard in some time, May.

Davis: (Chuckles) Thank you. Starting from the White House when we were thinking about these issues and even now, if you Google Florida’s social media law, it’s just negative, negative, negative, negative.

But when you think about it, when you Google abortion, what are you going to see? When you Google anything, you see what Google wants you to see. And that’s the same way it is on Twitter. And it’s the same way it is on Facebook.

You see what these companies want you to see. Now Florida says no, you should be able to opt-out of that. So the Florida law does a lot of things. I think they’ve gotten a lot of press on you can’t de-platform political candidates.

And people are, I guess, referencing Donald Trump. It’s not just about that. They say that they have to publish their standards on how they censor you and how they do platform you. And then they have to apply those standards fairly.

So they can’t just say because you’ve said the word, transgender. Now I’m going to watch you a little bit closer. There has to be something that they apply fairly. Alright. Well, then people who are transgender and say that then you get banned and blocked too.

It’s burdensome. It’s a lot. But it’s interesting. And so it’s not one of those issues where everyone said, oh, well, DeSantis is doing this just for political gains. It’s not a clear political winner.

There are a lot of conservatives who do not like the government telling people how to run their business. And at the end of the day, these are social media companies running their business.

And this is Florida telling them how to do that. And people like the Internet. It’s one of the few things in this country that works. It’s not an airline. It’s pretty great. And every day there’s a new cool thing on the Internet.

So you’ve got that side of conservatives who really are kind of free marketing. And they like the freedom of the Internet, even if it means you can’t see the Hunter Biden laptop story. That’s a negative. But there are so many positives.

Then you’ve got another group of people that are like this is the hill worth dying on because the social media companies run the way that we think. They control access to information. And unless they’re regulated or at least threatened with regulation, they’ll take over the culture.

There will be things you can’t say. It will be the 1984 lifestyle. People bring up three big legal problems with Florida law. And that’s what my article really gets into. And actually, yesterday a judge ruled preliminarily on these.

Leahy: What was your ruling? Was it in federal district court?

Davis: It was in federal district court. And it was a Clinton-appointed judge in Florida who ruled that Florida’s law is both unconstitutional and many provisions conflict with federal law. Florida has already said that they’re going to appeal that.

They’ll get three judges on the appellate court to look at it. But the legal challenges are basically this. One, there’s a First Amendment right that Facebook and Google saying that they have is you can’t tell me what to say.

And they resulted to that. And of course, the judge didn’t buy it. So we’re not telling you what to say. And no one would ever think that Twitter, that Jack believes what Donald Trump says on his own Twitter.

So no one by hosting a candidate you’re not saying now Twitter, you speak. They are two different things. Twitter is a platform. And California has a law that says shopping malls have to allow some amount of speech on their private property.

And the shopping malls in the 80s said, no, no, no. I don’t want to do that. I have the right to speak for myself. And the Supreme Court said, no, you’re not speaking. You’re just hosting people. And it’s the same here.

Twitter, when Donald Trump speaks, and whoever that they disagree with speaks, it’s not Twitter speaking. They’re hosting people. So I think the First Amendment is a little more wiggly than at least the judge in Florida would say. But it’s a tough challenge.

Leahy: May Davis, thanks so much. We are out of time. Can you come back again? And by the way, nothing is intellectually more interesting than the concept of a wiggly First Amendment. I like that phrase, too.

Davis: (Laughs) Well, thanks for having me. And yes, I’d be happy to talk about the Internet anytime, because you can’t find this information. We will have you back on May, and we’re delighted to have you on. Thanks so much.

Davis: Thanks.

Listen to the first hour here:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “May Davis” by Independent Women’s Forum. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samantha Fillmore of the Heartland Institute Explains the ‘Asphyxiation of the American Economy’

Samantha Fillmore of the Heartland Institute Explains the ‘Asphyxiation of the American Economy’

 

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Samantha Fillmore who is the state government relations manager at the Heartland Institute to the newsmakers line to discuss the federal governments’ legislative policies that prevent people from wanting to work and stifling small businesses from hiring employees.

Leahy: We are delighted to welcome on our newsmaker line, Samantha Fillmore, the head of government relations for the Heartland Institute. Good morning, Samantha.

Fillmore: Good morning. How are you?

Leahy: Well, we’re delighted to have you on. We are aligned because at the Star News Network, where we own and operate seven state-based news sites, soon to be eight, because we’re moving to Arizona, too.

We’re going to open The Arizona Sun-Times next week. We focus on state and local government issues just like you do at the Heartland Institute. But you’ve been doing it a lot longer than we have.

Fillmore: That’s true. But yes, I am the state government relations manager with the Heartland Institute, which is working on 40 years of working in all states nationwide.

Leahy: 40 years!

Fillmore: We’re working on it.

Leahy: Wow! And we’ve only been up for four years. So you’re way ahead of us now. You have a terrific piece, I think it was at the Washington Examiner about federal unemployment bonus benefits. What’s your argument there?

Fillmore: Absolutely. Thank you for asking. In March 2020, as we know, Congress passed the two-point two-trillion Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the Cares Act.

Included in this federally subsidized additional unemployment benefits was known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program. And this program automatically provided an additional $300. per week and unemployment benefits for all individuals on top of their state-based unemployment benefits.

Some of the arguments from people who work in economics said as I do from the beginning, particularly from the right side, was that this was always going to end up de-incentivizing millions of Americans who eventually reentering the workforce because of the unemployment with these new bonus benefits, some individuals, in fact, money, we’re making more staying at home than they were at their previous job.

And so what was going to happen when God willing, at this time, we were hoping that there was an end of the tunnel for the Coronavirus Pandemic. What was going to happen when we needed more than ever to saturate the job market.

And now, unfortunately for many economists, our worst fear is coming true. And we’ve created a choking hazard in the labor market that could asphyxiate the economy.

Leahy: A choking hazard that could asphyxiate the economy. Now, for an economist, that is a very descriptive and colorful way to talk about the problem. Congratulations on being able to articulate an economic argument in ways that most people can clearly understand.

Fillmore: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I have a little bit of practice. I’ve been trying my best, but I am so passionate about this because this is why we see the unemployment level still very high despite the fact that businesses are struggling to fill vacancies and fill unemployment quotas.

I’ve talked to many business owners and they want to fully reopen to full capacity seven days a week and the full hours they had. And they just can’t because they cannot fill the quotas for a staff large enough to do that.

Leahy: Here’s sort of the other thought about this. This is an excellent example of the unintended consequences of government policies. Now let’s step back. Why did Congress pass all these additional bonuses and unemployment benefits?

Because state governments there shut down small businesses and were putting people into the unemployment line. This was the state government’s policy all across the country. So they harmed the ability of these workers to make money. So you can understand, oh, well, we’re going to have to compensate for that. Not so fast right?

If you’re a logical person and let’s say you work in service in the food industry, and Draconian government policy shuts you down and you lose your job and you’re making a certain amount of money, and then the federal government pays you a little bit more than that to sit on your you know what and do nothing, even when you can go back to your job, it’s illogical to go back if you’re going to make less money.

Fillmore: Absolutely. 100 percent. That is exactly the case. If I could make more money from staying at home, I certainly would. I’m not afraid to admit it. (Chuckles) I’d pick up hobbies.

Leahy: Let the government pay for your hobbies. (Laughs)

Fillmore: I’d get better and it would be great. (Chuckles) No, but that’s the argument. And that is the issue. It’s actually fascinating is according to the Business Insider, companies have begun offering signing bonuses and wage increases not limited to but including Target, Hobby Lobby, Starbucks, Wayfair, Costco, Walmart, Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Bank of America.

It is so apparent. And if you were to just drive, I’m sure, across Nashville or across Tennessee and certainly where I’m at here in Chicago, there are help wanted signs in every window.

 There is no shortage of the desire in the demand for labor. And yet we’re struggling. And it’s so clearly because of this. An analysis by an economist at the University of Chicago, the Tent School of Economics estimated that about 68 percent of unemployed workers for the bonus receiving payments greater than the earnings before. So that’s exactly what’s happening.

Leahy: Here’s the other thing, Samantha. If this would happen to me and we didn’t know what would happen, but I’ve got an easy job. All I have to do is talk here on the radio. And then write at The Tennessee Star and Breitbart, where I’m a columnist and a reporter there as well.

I don’t serve in a situation where the government could force me out of a job. But if the state government, in most cases, force me out of a job for no good reason, would be my thinking back in March of 2020, you know what? I’d be pretty angry about that.

And then my attitude would be, well, if you were stupid enough to force me out of my job when I wanted to work and if you’re stupid enough to pay me more than I paid when I was working I’m just going to sit here until you change your mind and I’m going to take your money. That’s I think, how most people think about it.

Fillmore: And that flow of logic would not be lost on me. And I understand that completely. Thankfully, to that point, many governors and state lawmakers have recognized that this is happening in the harmful nature of this program.

So right now, this federal bonus unemployment benefit is scheduled to end on September 6. Now it’s scheduled but that doesn’t mean that it will end on September sixth because we know the federal government loves to continue to roll out, especially under this administration printing money like it’s going out of style.

Will it actually end federally on September sixth? That remains to be seen. However, many governors have decided to opt out of this program before September.

Leahy: Our governor here, Governor Bill, is opting out, I think, in July. At a national level, I think you’ve argued that this could possibly turn into a frightful campaign for universal basic income as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The Squad, Andrew Yang, and all that crowd. What do you see there?

Fillmore: UBI’s have been so short. They’ve been proposed for a while. And the fear around many of what I do is that if this were ever to catch on if there was ever an ability for people to realize that Uncle Sam could subsidize the lifestyle without actually working, that it would do exactly what is happening now.

It would disincentivize employment and promote dependence on the federal government. And ultimately, it does what a lot of people on the left do, which is give the federal government even more power over individual liberties and individual lives than anyone I know would want.

Then that snowball into so many things. Not only would the federal government be subsidizing your income for living, but at what point does that stop? What other powers have we given away to them to allow them to get to that point?

And the coronavirus pandemic is a pure example of that. We were told what to do with our families and our friends and our bodies and our health care and our homes. And now our employment ultimately is this frightening and heroing image of totalitarian control.

And that’s something I definitely do not want. But now it’s going to be hard to get these people off. And I think it’s been a strong pitch for UBI’s.

Leahy: Absolutely on that. I look at this, and I think you’re up in Chicago, and there are all sorts of problems down in Chicago Samantha.

Fillmore: Yes.

Leahy: What a mess. Is there a bigger mess than Chicago?

Fillmore: That’s a wonderful question. (Laughs) Perhaps, no. I mean, maybe in New York but at least 16,000 senior citizens’ deaths weren’t swept up under the rug in Chicago. So maybe in New York or California.

But no, Chicago is definitely a liberal bastion. I guess I’m seeing the height of help wanted signs and people really contingent to lean onto the government here.

Listen to the first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Samantha Fillmore” by The Heartland Institute. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson Discusses the Last Few Weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Agenda

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson Discusses the Last Few Weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Agenda

 

Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson to the newsmakers line to talk about the lingering priorities of the Tennessee General Assembly before the close of session, revisiting Big Tech legislation, and woke corporations.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line, our very good friends, State Senator Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Good morning, Jack. How are you?

Johnson: I’m good, Michael. Good to be with you this morning.

Leahy: You are a hard-working man because it’s 5:33 a.m. and you are at work. You’re talking with me about the closing weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly. How much sleep do you get during the last few weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly Jack?

Johnson: Well, I try to get a good night’s sleep. If not, I start to get cranky, and I might start making bad decisions.

Leahy: I can relate.

Johnson: I’m an early riser so I do like to get up early. But I also try to go to bed early and think I’m going to bed with the fourth graders at nine o’clock.

Leahy: That’s a good way to go. What’s still on the docket for the Tennessee General Assembly? What additional business has to be done?

Johnson: As you know, Michael, we’ve talked about it before. We have one constitutional responsibility every year, and that is to pass a balanced budget. It’s the most important thing we do. And it typically is one of the last things we do. And it’s not because we’re procrastinating it’s because that budget must encompass and address any legislation that was filed that either generates money for the state or cost the state any money.

For example, as we are doing, we are increasing penalties on people who commit crimes with guns and extending those prison sentences. We have to pay for those additional prison beds. So this week and next week, we’ll be putting the finishing touches on the state budget and getting that passed. And we should be drawing to a close here in the next couple of weeks.

Leahy: Is there any business that you hoped the Tennessee General Assembly would have gotten to that you didn’t get to?

Johnson: No. And in fact, I probably tend to err on the side as some of my colleagues as well, to say sometimes the less we do, the better.

Leahy: (Chuckles) Now, that’s a good point.

Johnson: (Laughs) But I will say because people will say, how come you guys file so many bills? And we will typically file 1,500 to 2,000 bills. Maybe three or 400 of those will be acted upon and actually pass. But I always point out to people it takes a bill to take something out of the code. In other words, if it’s an unnecessary regulation or some type of law, you have to file a bill in order to get that out of the code.

And that’s what a lot of our legislation does. And then obviously, there are bills to address things that have come up that need to be addressed. So no, I think we’ve had a very good, productive legislative session. I’m very proud of the fact that we passed constitutional carry and permitless carry in the state of Tennessee, and that was the administration bill.

And I was proud to be the sponsor of that. We’ve continued to look at our business climate and economy to identify ways. And I think that the evidence is quite clear, businesses are wanting to come to Tennessee or expand in Tennessee. So we’ve created a great business climate as we continue to recover from the pandemic. I’m proud of the year we’ve had so far.

Leahy: Compared to other years and other sessions of the Tennessee General Assembly, would you say that in this session, the state Senate and the state House, the leadership because you’re part of the leadership in the state Senate, has it worked more smoothly or about the same as in the past? Because it seems to me that is working whatever the agenda is, there seems to be pretty good coordination between the state Senate and state House.

Johnson: There has been and in fact, really the only as a result of COVID when we first started, we had limited access to the Capitol. Whether it’s constituents that want to come to see you, groups, Chamber groups, and Rotary Club groups, and the Plumbers Club. And whatever the case might be, they all have their day on the Hill and will come and visit you in your office, which is wonderful.

We love to see people coming and petitioning their legislature and coming to the capitol and seeing us there. Obviously, when they first started back in January, that was restricted and it’s loosened up now as the numbers have come down. And so we’re starting to see more people come and visit the Capitol and the Cordell Hull Building, which is where our offices are.

And so I’m glad to see that. But while I was disappointed that a lot of those people did not come to see us, one of the benefits of that, I suppose, is that it did free up our schedules quite a bit. And so I think that has enabled us to work more on some of our legislative initiatives, and it has helped. But given the choice, I’d still much rather see Tennesseans coming to their capital, visiting their legislatures, and seeing the process and understanding of what we do. So I’m anxious to get back to normal.

Leahy: I had a couple of little pet bills, shall we say, our favorite bills, and I haven’t tracked their status. I wonder if you might be familiar with where they are. There was some talk of filing anti-Big Tech legislation along the lines of what a couple of other states have passed. Is that moving towards a possible vote in either Chamber or is it sort of stalled?

Johnson: It is still alive unless it has been moved to next year. And I’m glad you brought this up Michael because this is an incredibly important conversation to have because we are all very concerned, very annoyed with Big Tech and their censorship. The fact that they have some federal protections which, of course, we can’t do anything about it at the state level but yet they’re acting as editors and choosing what people see and censoring certain and things on their platforms.

And there also continues to be. And this is really unrelated to the election or COVID or anything else but there continue to be grave concerns about privacy issues related to those companies and how they use your data and your personal information when you utilize their platforms. Senator Mike Bell had filed legislation on that and truthfully, Michael, I’m not sure specifically where it is in the House in the Senate.

As you know, Governor DeSantis in Florida has done some things by executive order as well. And I don’t know if Governor Lee is contemplating that or not. You get into some very prickly issues relative to interstate commerce when you’re talking about some of these companies. But I think that what Florida has looked at and in other states have as well, is very innovative in terms of holding these companies accountable at the state level.

Leahy: Yes, we are trying to get Senator Bell on. I think we will at some point in the next week or so because it is a very interesting issue and one that I personally think ought to be something that states across the country and state legislatures really exercise their sovereign authority and push back against these usurpations of Big Tech. Speaking about usurpations, this is not directly on point with the current agenda, but what do you make of this trend of woke Fortune 500 companies and Major League Baseball trying to virtue signal based on ignorance about various laws passed by state legislatures?

Of course, I’m talking about the number one that comes to mind is a common-sense election reform bill in Georgia. Now, every time you turn around, there’s a Fortune 500 company deciding to pull business from a particular state as they’ve done in Georgia. It seems to me, Senator Johnson, that is a very, very dangerous trend.

Johnson: It’s a dangerous trend and you used a very important word in there, Michael, when you said ignorance because it was quite apparent to me and many others that when some of these companies came out and criticized the state of Georgia, they had no idea what they were talking about. They really had no idea even about what the legislation does.

And I will tell you that what Georgia passed, for the most part, Tennessee has been doing for many, many years. So Georgia did not pass anything radical or certainly anything that would infringe upon anyone’s right to vote. They passed good common-sense election reform. And dadgummit, they needed it right? They had all kinds of issues in Georgia.

So I’m very proud of the Georgia Republican-controlled legislature for taking action about that. Here’s how I approach that and I’m getting lots of calls and emails about it. I am elected, Michael, by the voters in my district. I’m not elected by anyone’s board of directors or anyone’s shareholders. And these businesses need to understand that.

Whether it’s Georgia, Tennessee, California, it doesn’t matter. The people who represent the people of a state or city or a county, or at the federal level, are elected by voters, not businesses. Now, businesses choose to weigh in, or maybe have thoughts, and certainly, there are business organizations who lobby us on business legislation and things.

And more times than not, their advice is good. And they can give us great feedback about the practical implications of legislation that we pass. But when a company like Coca-Cola or Delta Airlines starts sticking their nose into election reform then, in my view, the company has overstepped its bounds and, quite frankly, I’m proud of the backlash that they’re getting. And they are getting significant backlash.

Leahy: Absolutely.

Listen to the full first hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio