Important Free Speech Rules For College Students – PASS ON TO STUDENTS!

Unfortunately, we read too often about colleges trying to stifle free speech on campus, in particular when students dare to speak about controversial views. How sad that this is happening at colleges – the exact places which should be incubators of ideas – all ideas. Students should be pushed to free their minds during college years, listen to alternative views and participate in a marketplace of ideas.

Reason.com – a website with a libertarian point of view – provides outstanding coverage of free speech issues. Reason put together nine short videos on different free speech subjects. Since I have a son in college, I enjoyed reading “College and the First Amendment: Free Speech Views.” At this link you will find the post and video (just over 4 minutes):

College and the First Amendment: Free Speech Rules (Episode 7)

Please share this with any college students you know. It will certainly be an education for them on their free speech rights on campus. They will quickly learn they have substantial 1st Amendment rights if they attend a public college, although this is not true at private colleges. They will also learn that in the classroom, the professor is still in charge, and he or she can put limits on debate, challenge students and even cut them off.

Thanks,
Jim Maisano

Jim@JimMaisano.com

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)

 

 

 

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)

 

 

I can’t vote for Trump

I think of myself as a pro-freedom Republican. This means I seek to expand freedom and liberty in forming public policy positions. I support capitalism and wish to advance free markets and free trade; lower taxes, controlled government spending and reformed tax code that roots out corporate welfare; strong national defense and support of our military; protection of the personal liberties enshrined in the Constitution (in particular the First Amendment which is under assault); people living their lives free from discrimination; immigration reform that provides a path to legality or citizenship; healthy environment with clean air and clean water; and protection of private property rights (including opposing eminent domain abuse). I’m concerned about our privacy rights being trampled by government security efforts. Bernie Sanders is correct that the system is rigged for elites, but he’s incorrect on the cause – it’s the massive growth of the federal and some state governments (like New York) that lead to policies that greatly favor wealthy and powerful elites.

Because of these views, I cannot vote for Donald Trump in the primary or general election. On top of being rude and vulgar, Trump is wrong on immigration, civil rights, civil liberties, trade, economics, foreign policy, entitlement reform and other issues. His mean and dumb comments about people I respect like John McCain and Megyn Kelly are way beyond the acceptable give and take by candidates in campaigns.

To explain further, I will rely on the paragraph below (with excellent links) from a recent post on The Volokh Conspiracy blog by Ilya Somin entitled “Time to Unite Against Trump.”

“I will only highlight a few of The Donald’s lowlights. Trump openly advocates massacring innocent civilians. He wants to use bogus lawsuits and FCC censorship to suppress the speech of his critics, and recently pined for the “old days” when his supporters would have been allowed to beat protesters to the point where they have to [be] “carried out on a stretcher.” He has lobbied for the government to condemn a widow’s home so he could use it to build a casino parking lot. He has utter contempt for constitutional property rights, and other constitutional limitations on government power. He wants to deport millions of people to lives of Third World poverty and oppression, including hundreds of thousands of children born in the United States, who have never known any other home. And he would engage in massive discrimination on the basis of religion.”

The polls show I’m not alone, as a significant percent of Republicans will not vote for Trump in the general election. Because of Trump’s professed views and bullying personality, I can’t be part of helping him obtain the powers of the presidency – it’s a frightening proposition. I will be watching closely over the next few months to see if my fellow Republicans are wise enough to select a better candidate than Donald Trump (while watching Trump nemesis Megyn Kelly each night on Fox News).

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator)

Cruz Robocall Reaches New Low

confed flagThere’s been shameful moments for candidates from both parties in the presidential campaign, but Thursday night’s Ted Cruz robocall attacking Donald Trump & Gov. Nikki Haley for taking down the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina is a disgrace. We can expect that Cruz campaign hacks will say they can’t control their friendly Super PACs, but that’s hard to believe. This incident proves that Cruz is not president material. Let’s be clear – South Carolina elected officials debated this sensitive issue and decided to take down the flag in a democratic and legislative manner. The issue is resolved. With Cruz making it an issue again, it just proves once again how divisive and extremist he truly is. The Cruz campaign is now manipulating the racial aspects of this issue and should be ashamed. See link on more about robocall.  http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/pro-cruz-robocall-attacks-trump-over-south-carolina-confederate-flag-n522131

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator)

Hypocrisy & Supreme Court Nominations

Hypocrisy is unattractive in politics. There’s certainly an argument to be made that the US Senate should review and vote on who the president nominates for Supreme Court this year, but that argument cannot be credibly made by President Obama and Senator Schumer, who are both all over the news doing exactly that. Based on their prior actions, they are both hypocrites. Obama was part of a filibuster against Justice Alito nomination in 2006, and here’s what Schumer said in 2007 – at the end of Bush Presidency:
“Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee.”
 
Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator)

Continue reading

It’s Election Day – Please Vote – Let Your Voice Be Heard!

ballotboxI’m always shocked at how few voters show up at the polls on Election Day in odd years. In today’s elections here in New York, it’s doubtful whether 30% of the registered voters will turnout. In my county, we’ll be electing county legislators and elected officials for cities, towns and villages. We’re electing the representatives who are closest to the people. They will decide important matters like annual budgets, tax increases, zoning, economic development and services like road repairs, garbage pickup and leaf removal. These local officials regularly make real decisions that affect our everyday lives, but sadly, a large majority of voters just don’t seem to care. And on top of the low voting rate, there will be many voters today that have not studied the candidates and are not informed about the issues they are debating, so they will just vote the party line. There are places in my county where only one party has won every election for every position for decades (usually the Democrats). If we don’t all play an active and informed role in picking our leaders, we will have governments that are less responsive to our needs and hopes for what our communities can and should be.

We started this blog with the hope of increasing voter information through nonpartisan posts about the issues. While we hoped to post more regularly, we’re pleased about our “hits” and more than 4,000 Twitter followers (Link: https://twitter.com/FreeVoterBlog). We recognize that our little blog cannot fix the voting problems discussed above, but we’re going to keep trying.

Most importantly, please vote today, and beginning tomorrow, try to become more informed about the issues being debated in our local, county, state and federal governments. Our communities will be better served by a genuine participatory democracy.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator)

Is Your Kid Graduating College With A Marketable Degree?

Unemployed-College-GradsEarlier this year, I noticed a brief article, Look to Smartphones for Unemployment Solutions, in the New York Post business section, and it has popped back into my mind several times since then, so I thought it should be shared:

http://nypost.com/2015/01/31/look-to-smartphones-for-unemployment-solutions/

The premise of the article is that about half the students graduating college are unemployed, despite the fact that many companies cannot find adequate job candidates with the necessary technical skills for the modern marketplace. I find this remarkable – why don’t young people leaving college have marketable degrees, especially ones that reflect the education necessary to perform available technical jobs? What are these “hot” technical jobs with nice starting salaries? The article cites mobile data engineers, wireless network engineers and mobile app developers for tablets and smartphones. According to the article, 3.5 million technical jobs go unfilled. A tech executive stated that once promising technical candidates are identified, firms “need to hire quickly and be prepared to extend compensations and benefits packages that beat what competing firms are willing to offer.”

It certainly troubles me that kids are graduating with massive debt, in particular from private colleges with huge tuitions, and yet, they leave college with degrees that don’t allow them to qualify for the actual jobs available. Why aren’t colleges training kids properly for real world jobs? What an incredible disconnect between colleges and economic realities. I’m glad my son is only in eighth grade – we have time for research to ensure his major lands him a good job when he graduates college in 2023!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator).

Proposed Cap On Outside Income For NYS Legislators Is Misguided

NYS CapitolI’m all for ethics reform and understand how Sheldon Silver and others abuse power, but the recent proposal in the NY State Senate to cap outside income at $12,000 doesn’t make sense. They are missing the point. The NY State Legislature is a part-time job. They are only in session for six months each year and in some weeks they are only in Albany for two days. The system was designed for citizen-legislators. You are supposed to have outside income from a real job in the real world, and then bring that experience to your legislative duties. The salary is $79,500 and with a cap they can only make $91,500 (plus possible stipends). It’s hard to raise a family in Westchester, Nassau or Manhattan with that salary – try putting a few kids through college.

If this “reform” passes, who will run for State Senate or State Assembly? You can expect a lot of wealthy candidates who don’t need to work hard every day like the rest of us. It will close the door to middle class people and those in the private sector – the exact kind of people we need in our State Legislature. Unfortunately, we already have too many legislators in Albany who fail to grasp that New York is the highest taxed, least business friendly and most over-regulated state in the country. The actions of our state legislators have damaged job creation and economic opportunity and caused tens of millions of New Yorkers to flee our state in the past 20 years.

This “reform” is misguided, and we should hope it’s defeated, but let’s also hope they approve more thoughtful reforms that actually crack down on the corrupt schemes like those of Sheldon Silver or other legislators recently convicted of crimes.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator).

The Prosecution of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Sheldon SilverThe Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver – one of the most powerful politicians in New York State over the past two decades – was arrested today. Silver is being prosecuted for bribes and kickbacks for which he allegedly received about $4 to $5 million in payoffs for “no-show” legal positions. Here is a quick summary of the charges:

  1. Silver persuaded developers doing business with New York State to hire a real estate law firm run by a former aide, and the firm then paid Silver $700,000 in legal fees, despite the fact that he did no legal work for clients.
  2. Silver directed $500,000 in state money to a doctor, who then sent asbestos victims to law firms proving alleged legal positions to Silver. Silver enjoyed $1.4 million in salary and $3.9 million in referral fees at the firms, despite never performing any legal work whatsoever.

We remind our readers that Silver is innocent to proven guilty, but he faces a 35 page, detailed criminal complaint with five counts of violations of federal law. Here is the criminal complaint: Silver Criminal Complaint

The word from Albany today was it was like a “thunderbolt” crashed into the State Assembly. Questions like “will Silver resign” and “who will replace him as speaker” were the topics of every conversation. Silver will get his due process and wage a vigorous defense, so you can expect this prosecution to take some time. And remember Joe Bruno, the New York State Senate leader – he was charged with similar crimes, battled the prosecutors every step of the way and was eventually vindicated. The Silver prosecution will provide interesting legal and political theater in the months and probably years to come.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator).

We’re in a War to Defend Freedom of Speech

France RallyI just read a thoughtful post on the American Thinker website (LINK) that sparked me to offer some observations about freedom of speech and the executions in France of the Charlie Hebdo journalists. I’m as close to a First Amendment absolutist as you can get and fully support a wide interpretation of First Amendment rights. I do not believe any government is capable of fairly regulating freedom of expression. There should never be any modification to the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We must strongly promote the quote attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We must ensure that our society remains a diverse and open marketplace of ideas. Let’s get all views out on the table and have a honest debate about the issues we face. Censoring or suppressing beliefs and speech only makes them more dangerous. The beauty of the free speech doctrine is that it’s a two-way street. It’s not just the speaker and writer who enjoy freedom of speech – it’s also the listener and reader who have the same right to challenge or respond.

While I was in law school, a controversial professor came to speak at the University of Buffalo. His name was Leonard Jeffries, and he had a long record of making hateful and racist statements (link about Jeffries). I appeared with other students to protest outside the speech. I made up a flyer with all of Jeffries’ hateful public statements and tried to gave it to all those entering the speech. I fully supported his right to speak at the event, but believed it was equally important to meet his hateful speech with my own speech. A few people confronted me and asked why I did not support free speech. I quickly explained how they misunderstood what freedom of speech is all about – Leonard Jeffries should make his speech, and I was there with my responsive speech to educate the attendees that the speaker they came to hear was a proven racist and anti-Semite. I even appeared on the nightly TV news, which was exciting for a law student.

I share this story because it’s always better to have controversial and hateful statements out in the marketplace of ideas. And that is exactly why we must stand with and defend the Charlie Hebdo magazine and all other controversial publications. The brave 2012 quote of Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier is important for the world to remember: “but I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees.” If you are truly dedicated to freedom and liberty, you must feel exactly the same way. While I personally would not engage in blasphemy against a religion, I would defend to the death the right for someone else to do so.

The radical Islamic terrorists like Al-Qaeda and ISIS are pleased to announce their goal of destroying freedom and liberty around the globe, and last week we learned just how serious they remain – we’re in a war to defend freedom of speech. There is no First Amendment in an Islamic dictatorship. The free world properly rallied around France over the past week, but we must be concerned there are too many nations that refuse to protect civil liberties. Our fight for real freedom and liberty cannot stop in France – we must remain vigilant until every nation in the world enshrines into law the civil liberties we enjoy in our great country.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator).

Who’s Running for President in 2016?

Believe it or not, now that we hit 2015, serious candidates for president in 2016 will need to get their campaigns rolling. Who’s running you ask? Well, since it’s an open seat, all I can say is a whole bunch of people. Thanks to the website www.politics1.com, below is a list of potential candidates for both parties with social media links.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator).

 

DEMOCRATIC PARTY:

Joe Biden Vice President Joe Biden (Delaware)
Government Site: Office of Vice President Joe Biden
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoeBiden
Twitter: www.twitter.com/JoeBiden

Hillary Clinton Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (New York)
Campaign Site: HillaryClinton.com
Independent PAC Site: ReadyForHillary.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/HillaryClinton

Joe Manchin US Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
Campaign Site: JoeManchinWV.com
Government Site: Office of US Senator Joe Manchin
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoeManchinIII
Twitter: www.twitter.com/JoeManchinWV

Martin O'Malley Governor Martin O’Malley (Maryland)
PAC Site: O’Say Can You See PAC
Government Site: Office of Governor Martin O’Malley
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MartinOMalley
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovernorOMalley

Bernie Sanders US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont)
Campaign Site: Bernie.org
Government Site: Office of US Senator Bernie Sanders
Facebook (Campaign): www.facebook.com/FriendsOfBernie
Facebook (Official): www.facebook.com/SenatorSanders
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenSanders

Elizabeth Warren US Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)
Campaign Site: ElizabethWarren.com
Government Site: Office of US Senator Elizabeth Warren
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ElizabethWarren
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ElizabethForMA

Jim Webb Former US Senator Jim Webb (Virginia)
Campaign Site: Webb2016.com
Official Site: JamesWebb.com
PAC Site: Born Fighting PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/IHeardMyCountryCalling
Twitter: www.twitter.com/JimWebbUSA

REPUBLICAN PARTY:

Marsha Blackburn Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee)
Campaign Site: MarshaBlackburn.com
Government Site: Office of Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MarshaBlackburnForCongress
Twitter: www.twitter.com/VoteMarsha

John Bolton Former UN Ambassador John Bolton (Maryland)
PAC Site: Bolton PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AmbBolton
Twitter: www.twitter.com/AmbJohnBolton

Jan Brewer Former Governor Jan Brewer (Arizona)
PAC Site: Jan PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GovJanBrewer
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovBrewer

Jeb Bush Former Governor Jeb Bush (Florida)
Organization: Foundation for Excellence in Education
Organization: Foundation for Florida’s Future
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JebBush
Twitter: www.twitter.com/JebBush

Ben Carson Dr. Ben Carson (Maryland)
Official Site: RealBenCarson.com
PAC Site: American Legacy PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DrBenjaminCarson
Twitter: www.twitter.com/RealBenCarson

Chris Christie Governor Chris Christie (New Jersey)
Government Site: Office of Governor Chris Christie
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GovChrisChristie
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovChristie

Bob Corker US Senator Bob Corker (Tennessee)
Political Site: BobCorker.com
Government Site: Office of US Senator Bob Corker
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BobCorker
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenBobCorker

Ted Cruz US Senator Ted Cruz (Texas)
Campaign Site: TedCruz.org
Government Site: Office of US Senator Ted Cruz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TedCruzPage
Twitter: www.twitter.com/TedCruz

Carly Fiorina Businesswoman Carly Fiorina (Virginia)
Official Site: CarlyFiorina.com
PAC Site: Unlocking Potential PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CarlyFiorina
Twitter: www.twitter.com/CarlyFiorina

Jim Gilmore Former Governor Jim Gilmore (Virginia)
PAC Site: Growth PAC
Think Tank: American Opportunity
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JimGilmore
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovernorGilmore

Lindsey Graham US Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
Political Site: LindseyGraham.com
Government Site: Office of US Senator Lindsey Graham
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LindseyGrahamSC
Twitter: www.twitter.com/LindseyGrahamSC

Mike Huckabee Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (Florida)
Official Site: MikeHuckabee.com
PAC Site: HuckPAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MikeHuckabee
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovMikeHuckabee

Bobby Jindal Governor Bobby Jindal (Louisiana)
Campaign Site: BobbyJindal.com
PAC Site: Stand Up To Washington PAC
Government Site: Office of Governor Bobby Jindal
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BobbyJindal
Twitter: www.twitter.com/BobbyJindal

John Kasich Governor John Kasich (Ohio)
Campaign Site: JohnKasich.com
Government Site: Office of Governor John Kasich
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JohnRKasich
Twitter: www.twitter.com/JohnKasich

Pete King Congressman Pete King (New York)
Campaign Site: PeteKing.com
PAC Site: American Leadership Now PAC
Government Site: Office of Congressman Pete King
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepPeteKing
Twitter: www.twitter.com/RepPeteKing

George Pataki Former Governor George Pataki (New York)
Think Tank: George Pataki Center
Business Site: Pataki-Cahill Group
Facebook: www.facebook.com/George.E.Pataki

Rand Paul US Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky)
Campaign Site: RandPaul2016.com
PAC Site: Rand PAC
Government Site: Office of US Senator Rand Paul
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorRandPaul
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenRandPaul

Mike Pence Governor Mike Pence (Indiana)
Campaign Site: MikePence.com
Government Site: Office of Governor Mike Pence
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MikePence
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovPenceIN

Rick Perry Governor Rick Perry (Texas)
Campaign Site: RickPerry.org
PAC Site: RickPAC
Government Site: Office of Governor Rick Perry
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GovernorPerry
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovernorPerry

Mitt Romney Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (California)
Campaign Site: MittRomney.com
PAC Site: Restore Our Future PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MittRomney
Twitter: www.twitter.com/MittRomney

Marco Rubio US Senator Marco Rubio (Florida)
Campaign Site: MarcoRubio.com
PAC Site: Reclaim America PAC
Government Site: Office of US Senator Marco Rubio
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MarcoRubio
Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarcoRubio

Paul Ryan Congressman Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)
Campaign Site: RyanForCongress.com
PAC Site: Prosperity PAC
Government Site: Office of Congressman Paul Ryan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Ryan4Congress
Twitter: www.twitter.com/PRyan

Rick Scott Governor Rick Scott (Florida)
Campaign Site: RickScottForFlorida.com
Government Site: Office of Governor Rick Scott
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScottForFlorida
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ScottforFlorida

Rick Santorum Former US Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania)
Campaign Site: RickSantorum.com
PAC Site: Patriot Voices PAC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RickSantorum
Twitter: www.twitter.com/RickSantorum

Rick Snyder Governor Rick Snyder (Michigan)
Campaign Site: RickForMichigan.com
Government Site: Office of Governor Rick Snyder
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GovernorRickSnyder
Twitter: www.twitter.com/OneToughNerd

Scott Walker Governor Scott Walker (Wisconsin)
Campaign Site: ScottWalker.org
Government Site: Office of Governor Scott Walker
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScottWalkerForGovernor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ScottKWalker