Cal Berkeley & Another Loss for Free Speech

I’m disappointed that Ann Coulter’s speech is now canceled at Cal Berkeley. I’m not a fan of Coulter, but I’m a fan of the 1st Amendment, and this trend in our country where anti-freedom thugs are allowed to threaten or cause violence to shut down conservative speakers on college campuses is a black mark for our country. I would write the same post if liberal speakers were being shut down. All those who believe in true freedom from left to right must band together and fight to fully protect free speech in our nation. There is only one way to defeat speech you disagree with in a free society and that is to offer better and more thoughtful speech in rebuttal.

Here’s a thoughtful post on free speech at colleges from ACLU:

We All Need to Defend Speech We Hate

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

Shout-out to Bernie Sanders!

We applaud Senator Bernie Sanders for supporting free speech. He said the following in The Huffington Post about the Ann Coulter speaking at Berkeley fiasco:

“I don’t like this. I don’t like it,” Sanders told The Huffington Post after speaking at a rally . . .  “Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.” . . .

“To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness,” he said. “If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?”

“What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions,” he concluded. “Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.”

We all need to stand up for free speech on college campuses. We must demand that all universities, especially public universities, truly embrace diversity of thought and academic freedom. If students believe their views are correct and other views are wrong, they need to test their views in the marketplace of ideas. The growing totalitarianism of thought on college campuses is a black mark for our country and must be confronted by all Americans that believe in freedom from the left to the right.

Thanks Bernie Sanders for supporting free speech!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

Yiannopoulos May Be A Clown But Free Speech Matters More!

We’re unimpressed with Milo Yiannopoulos and the so-called Alt-Right movement. We will not attend any of his speeches. He’s looking to provoke and say hateful things. His latest attempt to speak at a college was shut down at University of California-Davis this past Friday – see links:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/us/milo-yiannopoulos-uc-davis-speech-canceled/

http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/14/censorship-uc-davis-student-protesters-s

However, the students who shut down his appearances on campuses are making a mistake. Censorship is never the answer. The student protesters are actually helping to prove one of Yiannopoulos’ points – that American colleges are now completely controlled by leftist administrators and professors who are denying intellectual freedom and free speech to conservative students. If free speech is to be protected anywhere; it should certainly be protected at public universities. We believe that free speech works best as a marketplace of ideas. Let Yiannopoulos speak and listeners will quickly realize how ridiculous his radical right-wing views really are. The protesters are keeping Yiannopoulos in the news and actually ensuring he gets invited to even more colleges. Without the protests, some students would attend his events, he would not gain many followers and probably disappear from public debate rather quickly.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

 

 

 

Donald Trump’s GOP Is Built On Sand

By William F. B. O’Reilly

This column can be found on Newsday website dated July 20, 2016

It’s bizarre watching the Republican National Convention on TV and rooting for the podium to break free of its moorings or for the lights to go out or — can you imagine? — for a speaker to get caught plagiarizing in a prime-time address.

Typically in a presidential year, I’d be on the convention floor working. I’d be the guy knuckling back tears at the veterans’ speeches, nodding at talk of “one America” and listening for perspicacious new themes to take home to clients.

Thursday night, I’ll be praying for Donald Trump to go off teleprompter, to start talking about his hands again — about bosoms or germs or Vladimir Putin — anything to remind Americans how unfit he is to be president.

It won’t happen. Trump will give an expertly crafted populist speech that will likely put him ahead in the battleground states.

The speech writes itself: Defense of police officers, Islamic terrorism, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, greedy Washington insiders and the forgotten working-class American. A hundred bucks says it includes Benghazi and Clinton’s 2008 “3 a.m.” TV spot, as it should.

Unless Trump completely breaks character — he hasn’t in 30 years — there will be no humility and no contrition. Not even for his belittling of Sen. John McCain being shot down over Hanoi.

It stings to see faces at the convention who should know better than to be there. But there is solace in the rows of empty chairs. In them lies hope for eventual Republican Party renewal and survival. I see a future leader in every vacant seat.

This new GOP doesn’t see it that way. There are murmurs of a party purge.

Ivanka Trump told ABC News that no-shows “don’t want to be part of the future.” Trump, 34, couldn’t vote for her father in April’s New York primary. She wasn’t a registered Republican.

It’s excruciating to listen to the intermingling in Cleveland of sound conservative principles with the shifting sands of populism. They are being carelessly mixed in a bucket as the foundation of a new party that cannot last.

“A man’s house which is built on a foundation of rock will endure, but a man’s house which is built on a foundation of sand will be destroyed,” Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount. Even then it was a reminder.

A party founded on the principle of equal rights under the law cannot bind with a nativist movement and survive.

A party that claims to believe in economic freedom, personal responsibility and constitutional limits on power cannot long sustain a standard-bearer who thinks nothing of walking away from debts, who favors trade barriers and who boasts that he’ll make U.S. military leaders commit crimes.

That’s what I’ll be reminding myself of during Thursday’s balloon drop. It’s why I won’t be taking home a balloon for my youngest daughter this year.

Republicans and conservatives who refuse to rationalize Trump’s candidacy are a lonely lot right now. But wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it, as Tolstoy put it. And two wrongs still don’t make a right. The looming and disagreeable prospect of a President Hillary Clinton makes Trump no less reckless and unfit for the presidency.

Millions of Americans can no more bear the prospect of voting for Clinton than they can of pulling the lever for Trump. They aren’t wrong. Neither candidate feels right for the presidency because neither candidate is right for the presidency.

That presents a giant opening for former governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, the Libertarian Party candidates for president and vice president.

It’s a place where millions of us can go after the conventions, and not hate ourselves in the morning.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.

 

Love This Op-Ed On What Really Makes The U.S. Great!

Here’s an op-ed I noticed in the New York Post by John Podhoretz with a very important message to Americans – a message too many people fail to understand – but the perfect message during this week we celebrate our independence. This column gives me hope at a time we are forced to watch a negative and embarrassing presidential campaign that troubles millions of Americans – from Democrats to Republicans – as we ask, “Aren’t we better than this?”

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

It’s not our leaders who make America great

New York Post – July 3, 2016

President Gerald Ford sat aboard the USS Forrestal as the watercraft paraded before him along with more than half a million people.

And everywhere you looked, there was an American flag.

This was no small thing. It is almost unimaginable today, but in 1976 in many quarters, the flag had gone out of fashion except as an ironic fashion statement — something you sewed onto the rear pocket of your jeans, so that it was sat upon.

At my tony Manhattan private school, the bicentennial was celebrated with a day-long symposium titled “The American Dream: Has It Turned Into a Nightmare?”

The country was in a bad mood for good reason. Fifty-eight thousand Americans died in a war that ended with our countrymen scurrying onto helicopters from the roof of the Saigon embassy as the city fell to the Communists.

A president re-elected with 61 percent of the vote was compelled to resign because he and his people tried to bug the rival party’s headquarters.

Crime and inflation were on the rise everywhere. Arab potentates forced us into endless gas lines through an illegal embargo — an act of economic warfare — and we did nothing about it.

New York City, the world’s financial capital, went broke.

America felt like it was in decline because it was in decline. America felt bad about itself because the leading figures of its culture and its politics had lost confidence in the American experiment of its culture and its politics, and there was no one speaking up for it.

But our collective self-abasement in the 1970s did not reflect the deeper truth about the United States, even with the United States at a low ebb. On that day of the tall ships, we saw our country again as it was and is — the shining city on a hill, the last best hope of Earth.

On the cusp of Independence Day 2016, America remains what it has always been — the greatest and most far-reaching political experiment in human history. But as it enters its 241st year, there are few of us who really feel it.

The spirit of the left was captured over the past year by Bernie Sanders, who has almost nothing good to say about the current condition of the United States and claims the country is being destroyed by inequality.

The spirit of the anti-left has been captured by Donald Trump, who claims the country is no longer great and needs him to make it great again. The Republican Party has spent the years of Barack Obama’s presidency characterizing them as a cataclysm from which we may never recover.

In so doing, they followed the Democrats, who spent the Bush years characterizing them as a cataclysm from which we would never recover.

Obama came into office belittling the idea of American “exceptionalism,” but now would wish people thought the country great because he’s led it for the past 7½ years.

Hillary Clinton wants people to think America was great when her husband was president, stopped being great when he stopped being president, got pretty great when her party took over again, but still needs her either to restore Clintonian greatness or reach new greatness or whatever you want just so long as she can be in the White House again.

The point here is that America has been getting it from all sides for the past 15 years. At different times and for different reasons, everyone has had an interest in painting things black.

And it’s an enormous wrong that’s being done here, an offense against the truth.

America is not great because of its leaders, who change, or because of the ideology they espouse, because that changes too as the views of the electorate change. America’s greatness has to do with the way it is organized. The central figure in the United States is the person. The central figure in the United States is you.

In the United States, according to the astounding document that was signed in Philadelphia 240 years ago tomorrow, it is “self evident” that “all men are created equal,” and that they have “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The adjective “unalienable” has tripped up schoolchildren forever, but it is the core word of the United States of America. It means that these are rights that cannot be taken away. They are part of what it means to be human. Efforts to take them away or abuse them are acts of tyranny.

It is impossible to grasp just how radical an idea this was in 1776 — and how radical an idea it is now, in 2016. Indeed, it was so radical in 1776 that it could not be fully implemented, with African-Americans remaining enslaved for another 87 years and women remaining without the franchise until 1920.

And it remains so radical now that we continue to fight political battles daily over efforts by government to abridge our unalienable rights at home, while abroad billions still live without rudimentary versions of the freedoms we enjoy.

Perhaps the most important freedom we enjoy is to practice our faiths. Outside the US, Christians are facing near-systematic elimination in Muslim lands while in China, the world’s largest country, believers of all kinds (Tibetan Buddhists especially) “continue to face arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences and, in some cases, the closing or bulldozing of places of worship,” according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Because the United States is made up of human beings, and human beings are flawed, it is a flawed country and always has been. But due to another flaw in human nature — our strange desire to concentrate on the negative and avoid counting our blessings — American politics, culture and our education system have come to dwell on the dark side as much today as they did in 1976.

The history we teach our kids is a history of injustices and infamies — without the corresponding understanding that to a degree unknown anywhere in the world, America is self-correcting.

Indeed, self-correction is woven into its DNA. That is why the Constitution itself allows the amending of the constitution — to fix the document’s flaws and extend the nation’s blessings (and obligations) to those denied them at the time of the founding.

The preamble to the US Constitution explains its purpose is to “secure these blessings for ourselves and our posterity.” Since the Constitution is not fixed in amber and can be amended, the act of securing these blessings for ourselves and those who follow us has remained an obligation for every American from that day forward to this.

It’s not just the Constitution. We self-correct every year, through elections at the local, state and national levels that give us the power to change the country’s direction when that direction leads us so terribly astray. In 1976, four months after the tall ships, the country sought to purify its corrupted politics by electing Jimmy Carter, a former Georgia governor untainted by Washington scandals who promised, “I will never lie to you” as president.

When Carter proved to be alternately hapless and feckless in addressing the country’s financial and international ailments, we changed direction again four years later by electing Ronald Reagan, who vowed to attempt radically different cures for our ailments. Within a decade, the US economy had exploded and the Berlin Wall had fallen.

Our freedoms reside within us. That is the message of America. They are a part of us. Indeed, according to the philosophy that created this country, they reside within every living person on Earth.

But exercising our freedoms — now, that’s a different story. We have the precious gift in this country of exercising them pretty much at will. And that means too many of us have come to take them for granted.

We do so in part because we are human, and we are flawed. But we are also seduced into thinking our birthright as Americans is not what it truly is — the most precious gift any group of people has ever enjoyed. We are told that unless we get this, or get that, or get the other thing, the country is failing us.

We are seduced in this way by political and cultural leaders who seek either to harness our anger or generate it to use as a weapon against their rivals.

The luckiest people on Earth are the people who are born Americans, or who become Americans.

That’s what we all instinctively understood, 40 years ago, when we saw the masts of those tall ships sail into the harbor as they passed by Lady Liberty — her lamp lifted, as it has been since she was placed there in 1886, beside the golden door.

 

I’m Thankful That FIRE Is Fighting To Save Free Speech For College Students!

When I entered SUNY at Buffalo Law School in 1989, I was surprised that some of my professors (not all) deemed it their solemn duty to indoctrinate me and my classmates with a left-wing interpretation of the legal system. It was not difficult to tell the difference between “black letter” Torts law and what was taught in that class. As an older student, I was not intimidated by the professors and pleased that some of the moderate and conservative students did debate the “critical legal studies” professors, but unfortunately, most students either remained quiet or actually enjoyed being indoctrinated by professors. I greatly enjoyed debating the left-wing professors and never allowed them to curtail my First Amendment rights at my public law school (although a few professors and a dean did try). The debates we sparked were beneficial to every student at our law school because college is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, where all views are tested and challenged. We ensured that the views of our fellow students were more thoughtful and informed after they heard all sides of an issue. Freedom of speech should always be the backbone of intellectual life at every college, but sadly we cannot pick up a newspaper without reading evidence that this is not true at too many colleges.

In the battle to save free speech on college campuses, there are some heroes like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Here’s its website: www.thefire.org and one of it’s founding members wrote an excellent op-ed in the New York Post this week that I recommend you read:

How US academia became an authoritarian petri dish

By Harvey Silvergate, May 10, 2016, New York Post

I have dedicated much of my career to a contest I consider immensely important to the future health of America: the effort to destroy the liberal arts-and-sciences university by replacing the quest for human knowledge with the indoctrination of students into truth as it is postulated by self-righteous post-modern fanatics.

This dangerous trend accelerated in the mid-1980s. On college campuses, definitions of “harassment” were adopted that were so vague and broad as to drastically escalate the number of disciplinary proceedings.

Speech codes popped up that sought to prevent students from insulting or “harassing” one another, but that in fact strangled the academic enterprise. Kangaroo courts were established to adjudicate violations.

Remember that we’re talking about liberal arts colleges, not prisons nor re-education camps!

The bottom line was that I saw that these major institutions had taken a turn toward practices that furnished a nutrient-laden petri dish for an experiment in authoritarianism.

University of Pennsylvania Professor Alan Charles Kors and I established The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in 1999, a year after we published our book, “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.”

That book followed Professor Kors’ representation, with some legal advice from me, of an undergraduate who had been hauled in front of a Penn disciplinary tribunal. The infamous “water buffalo” case involved a student who admonished a loud group of undergraduate women to “shut up, you water buffalo!” as he tried to write an English paper.

The women, who were black, considered this remark “racial harassment,” and student life administrators agreed. It turned out, actually, that in the offending student’s first language, Hebrew, the common term “behema” best translates to “water-buffalo” and refers in slang to a rowdy or thoughtless person.

Penn’s administrators, unaware of the student’s cultural background, assumed that the water buffalo was native to Africa (it’s not) and from this they extrapolated their hate speech theory. In the face of derisive worldwide publicity, triggered by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial titled, “Buffaloed at Penn,” the campus bureaucrats backed down, but it turned out to be merely a tactical retreat.

Sanity’s well-publicized victory in the water buffalo case triggered a flood of students seeking assistance from Professor Kors and me. These beleaguered individuals were suffering not only from unfair disciplinary proceedings, but also were being cheated of a genuine liberal-arts education.

The liberal arts are not readily compatible with censorship and mindless persecution. From the day students arrive as freshmen they are immediately subjected to tendentious sensitivity training engineered by burgeoning student life bureaucrats who intrude into their most intimate lives and thoughts.

I recognized that they were at the mercy of a new regime, something of a cross between Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Kafka’s “The Trial.”

Kors and I couldn’t handle the volume, and so FIRE was born out of sheer necessity. I at the time had assumed that surely the ludicrousness of the campus prosecutions would result in the phenomenon burning itself out within less than 10 years.

It was, I told myself, a momentary social panic. FIRE would be a temporary project. The burning of witches in Salem, after all, ended rather abruptly when the Massachusetts high court decided that enough was enough and put an end to the trials in 1693. The scourge had lasted only one year.

Well, FIRE is in its 17th year with no end in sight. We are in trench warfare for the time being, until we can figure out how to administer a knock-out blow to the illiberal forces that have overtaken the academy.

The bacteria in the authoritarian petri dish, then, are thriving. And so must our efforts to develop the legal, cultural and intellectual antibiotics necessary to stop them.

Excerpted from Harvey Silverglate’s acceptance speech upon his being awarded the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award May 9.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

More on War on Free Speech at Colleges

free-speech-feature-300x206I’m pleased to have come across this thoughtful piece I just read on The Atlantic website: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-glaring-evidence-that-free-speech-is-threatened-on-campus/471825/

The writer Conor Friedersdorf verifies the threat being waged against free speech principles on college campuses and the chilling effect it’s having on both students and professors.

My favorite part of the college experience was participating in robust free speech. In college and law school, I loved debating my fellow students and professors inside and outside the classroom. These debates taught me so much. By listening to counterpoints to my views, I improved my public policy positions and even changed a few when I realized the weakness in my arguments.

Throughout our society, too many people fail to understand the doctrine of freedom of speech. It’s always meant to be a two-way street. You say what you think and I can respond with counterpoints. The backbone of a free society is a marketplace of ideas with a full and substantive debate on the issues we face. Freedom of speech certainly doesn’t mean that you speak and no one can disagree with you.

The college students that want campuses to be “safe zones”  and administrators enforcing speech codes apparently fail to appreciate the tremendous value of free and open debate in the college environment – or maybe this is just another example of politically correct extremism practiced by zealots who don’t support the doctrine of free speech and seek to block the expression of ideas they disagree with.

Do you have a child attending college soon? If yes, visit the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where you can review the free speech ratings for most colleges in our country.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)