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)

 

 

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)

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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).

Defeating The Growing ISIS Threat

Mideast Syria Al-Qaida Baghdadi

The ISIS threat is continuing to grow and spread still without a plan or strategy from the United States or world community to confront it.  This organization and the radicals who are bastardizing and distorting a religion as a justification for their barbarism must be stopped and destroyed.  It is an attack not just on our values, but on the civilized world as a whole.  As more and more nations are directly affected by this, they are looking to the United States for support and leadership.  President Obama must step up and provide this with the support of Congress and the international organizations willing to join.  Making statements acknowledging that there have been Christians in the past (more than 700 years ago) who used their religion as a justification for war does nothing towards providing this leadership and will only embolden the radicals we are fighting.  Appeasement will only lead to the continued growth and spread of radicals of the Muslim faith.  The entire civilized world community, including Muslim nations, are looking to the United States for support and leadership.  The United States, more than any other nation, has a responsibility to do this.  The values of freedom and democracy are what defines us as a nation.  The leadership which has been provided during the past century by the United States in securing and spreading these values is still needed.  The sacrifices made by those who gave their lives fighting for these values would be for naught if we fail to confront and defeat the evil of ISIS and radicalism which we are now facing.  More than 40 nations have agreed to join a coalition that will be led by the United States against ISIS.  The world is waiting for the United States to lead.

BG@FreeVoter.com

This Week in Lake Wobegon

transparency

It’s been a week since a story broken by a local media outlet here in New Rochelle went national. According to a video posted, New Rochelle Police approached and drew their firearms on black teens having a snowball fight. We have since learned that the police were responding to a 911 call about someone brandishing a gun. In a week’s time, that’s about all we know.

This has become an all too familiar story unfortunately. What’s also become all too familiar are the responses to stories like this. There are the knee-jerk liberals who immediately decry police brutality and knee-jerk conservatives who blindly support law enforcement. Facebook as usual devolved into either name calling, veering off to non-relevant topics, or both.

To me, there are too many outstanding questions to come to any conclusion. They include:

  • What did the person who posted the video know about the situation and what was the purpose of posting?
  • Why hasn’t the police released the 911 call or provide its transcript?
  • Why was the mayor calling for a further investigation while the city manager said no further investigation was necessary?

As responsible citizens, we must advocate for full transparency, leadership from elected officials, demand of our fellow citizens that conclusions shouldn’t be made until the facts come out. As a black American, I’m concerned that we don’t jump on every perceived slight because then we can become the boy that cried wolf. There are the intransigent members of society that will never see any issue. They are not in my radar, it’s those that would be supportive when cases that merit our outrage actually occur. No need to go down rabbit holes.

On the other side, despite contrary belief, the police are not under siege. What we are asking for is accountability. It does our society no good if law enforcement operates with impunity. All aspects of our government should be questioned.

Join me in asking for transparency from our elected officials while denouncing those that what to relegate any discussion into name calling.

Jeffrey Hastie
jeffrey@freevoter.com
@jhastie963

Disheartening

Disheartening is about the only word I can think of to describe my feelings from the events of the past two weeks. One of my first posts on this site was about whether we were in a post racial society. It’s clear we are not judging by the reaction to the decisions.

In two weeks we’ve seen two police officers who have caused the death of two African-American males not be indicted for murder or a lessor charge. Each is problematic in its own right.

So much has been discussed about both these cases that there is nothing new I can add. However, freevoter.com is about sharing independent thoughts and ideas and I think this is a perfect forum to talk about what we can learn from both of these cases.

Ferguson

What’s disheartening about this case is not the lack of indictment but the response from the community. Rioting and looting serves no purpose and only feeds into the stereotypes some have of the African-American community. Social media was no help in the matter. I have friends, like most I hope, that span a wide political spectrum. Most were thoughtful, engaging, and truly inquisitive. Some unfortunately used it as an opportunity to spew the vile that only surfaces at times like these. To be clear, I’m talking about those on both sides.

In every race & ethnicity there are those that feel that they have to defend every member no matter what they do. While I empathize with the plight of the citizens of Ferguson, destroying the neighborhood only deepens the gulf between them and those who do not care about their future. If we truly care, actions and discussions would focus more on the future than wrongs of today or the past.

On the flip side, those that ignore that a community that has been neglected, at best, would react in such a dramatic and self destructive manner has never understood what true despair is. Chants of ‘thugs’ and ‘get a job’ show no regard for the situation in which folks in places like Ferguson find themselves.

Staten Island

What’s disheartening about this case IS the lack of indictment. First there is video record that clearly shows that Mr. Garner had his hands up. Second, unlike Ferguson, there were five cops there to subdue the suspect. Third, the hold placed on Mr. Garner was classified as illegal by the officer’s own police force. Lastly, the medical examiner classified Mr. Garner’s death as a homicide.

The response in New York in contrast to Ferguson was civilized. This is due in large part to the economic opportunities afforded to all in NYC and to the work by NYPD in building relationships with those they police (and the police being more representative of the city demographics).

Grand Jury

It’s clear that we have a broken judicial system. The purpose of the grand jury is to be a check on the prosecutor in bringing charges at will on alleged perpetrators. In brining matters to a grand jury, the prosecutor relies on evidence gathered by the police. So when it’s time to convene a grand jury for a police shooting, police cooperation is not a factor. But pursuing an indictment against a police officer won’t help the prosecutor in future cases where their help will be needed.

In addition, a grand jury’s sole job is to determine whether there is a enough evidence to justify a trial, not to determine guilt or innocence. As an outsider who hasn’t seen what was presented to the grand juries in either case, it seems that the jury was focused on whether a conviction was possible. And it appears both prosecutors metaphorically had their thumbs on the scale. In Ferguson, there was enough inconsistencies in witness statements to justify a no indictment decision. However, I would suggest that shooting 18 rounds, 12 of which connect, would appear excessive. That would be enough for me to allow the case to proceed to trial.  Lack of indictment in Staten Island is absurd and doesn’t merit further conversation.

We need an independent prosecutor to specifically bring cases involving the police. As long as we continue with the system in place, we will never be able to hold the police (most of whom do the right thing), accountable.

And by the way, those body cameras, meaningless. Refer to the Staten Island case.

Happy Halloween & Thanks from the Free Voter Blog

Snoopy HalloweenIt’s Halloween night and we’re sure your busy with family and trick or treating. The Free Voter Blog just wants to say Happy Halloween and thanks for our good news today – we cleared 2,000 hits on our blog that was created just three weeks ago. We are working hard to create quality posts that remain true to our goal of promoting an independent review of the issues we face. Thanks for your support and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!

Jim Maisano

Jim@FreeVoter.com