Friday, November 02, 2012

The OFA Exception to Political Speech

Mike Adams

Two Fridays ago, I was busy preparing for a campus debate and finishing the final edits on my next book. It was a busy day and I simply did not have time to deal with a totalitarian college administrator posing as a genuine liberal. But these people never rest. So when the phone rang I should not have been surprised. And I knew I had a responsibility to help the distressed student, despite my busier than usual schedule.

The controversy in this case was pretty simple. The UNCW College Republicans (CRs) were hosting a political event. They put up posters on campus and all around Wilmington trying to draw people to the event. Then, one of the CR officers went to Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) to place political fliers on bulletin boards inside some of their publicly funded educational buildings.

Members of the taxpaying public should not have to ask for permission to put up political fliers on public campus bulletin boards. But the CR officer asked anyway. When she did, the CFCC administrator denied the request with this sweeping statement: CFCC does not allow political posters or fliers anywhere on campus.

I was proud of the CR officer for demanding that the administrator show her a copy of the policy that allows administrators to ban all printed political speech on a publicly funded college campus. I was unsurprised to hear that the administrator failed to produce evidence of the nonexistent policy. Nor was I surprised when she redirected the CR officer to two different administrators who were not present in their offices during the middle of the morning.

After being redirected to the two empty offices, the CR officer called me to explain the situation and seek my advice. I sent her back to the CFCC campus with her iPhone to complete a very simple research project: I asked her to take a walk across campus and take pictures of every single political poster she saw.

The results of our little study will not surprise you. Obama For America (OFA) posters were hanging in plain sight all across campus. So I called the administrator who had banned the Republican posters from the CFCC campus. When she picked up the phone, I said "Hi. My name is Mike Adams. I've called to ask some questions about one of your policies that restricts political speech on campus." Her reaction suggested that she may have heard of me before.

I did not get very far into my First Amendment lecture before that administrator transferred me to another office. The reception I got there was markedly more professional. I explained the illegality of a policy banning all printed political speech. I explained that it was irrelevant because the policy actually does not exist because the administrator simply made it up. Then, I arranged a time for the student to come back to seek approval with two things in her hand: 1. A stack of political posters advertising a Republican event. 2. An iPhone loaded with pictures of OFA posters hanging all over the CFCC campus.

By the end of the day, the posters were hanging on the campus. I went back to preparing for my debate and working on my book edits. When I finished those tasks I sat down to catch up on my column chronicles of the campus free speech wars. I wrote this specific column in order to illustrate the followings points:

1. Campus censorship, which began in the elite private schools and spread to the state universities has now reached our community college campuses.
<>2. All of these institutions are populated with armies of administrators who are, at best, indifferent to First Amendment principles.

3. Increasingly, many campus administrators, including those at small community colleges, are openly hostile toward the First Amendment.

4. Hostile administrators often invent campus policies in an effort to shut down the marketplace of ideas.

5. The goal of hostile administrators is to completely remove any semblance of conservative thought from the marketplace of ideas. Their goal is total domination of the ideological marketplace.

6. Administrators rely upon a combination of student apathy and student ignorance in their efforts to reduce intellectual diversity on campus.

7. When questioned by others in positions of authority, these administrators generally refuse to answer questions and try to pass responsibility on to other administrators.

8. When initially confronted, those other administrators claim ignorance of the facts concerning alleged constitutional violations.

9. When confronted again with explicit evidence and implicit threats of litigation, campus administrators often capitulate.

10. Even small free speech victories require substantial effort due to the size of the college administration and the ambiguity of its organizational structure.

There really is little wonder why some administrators at CFCC sought to keep OFA posters as the sole examples of political speech on campus. It really isn't political speech. It's just the way things ought to be. The OFA movement protects the administrative bureaucracy. The administrative bureaucracy protects the OFA movement. That is how these things move. Forward.

These days, the purpose of speech at government schools is to grow the government. It isn't about the students. It hasn't been that way since the 1960s.


Be wary when politicians promise the money’s going to education

Politicians, public employee unions and other supporters of big government have learned a simple lesson over the past thirty years — people don’t want to pay higher taxes to fund additional government services, except for police, fire or education.

Because of this understanding, every bad idea seems to be wrapped in a blanket that it will increase education funding with the millions of dollars of advertisements behind this claim to trick the people into approving something they ordinarily wouldn’t.

In California, where they have virtually ceded representative government for government by initiative and referendum, Proposition 30 is another of these tax increase schemes that boldly promises to raise money exclusively for education.

This California example is important to taxpayers nationally, because the tactics being used to promote a massive tax increase are the same that voters face whether they live in Arkansas, Maryland or anywhere else in the nation.

Should California voters pass Proposition 30, the sales tax would increase from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent for four years, and income taxes will increase significantly for golden stater’s who earn more than $250,000 a year.

Using the tried and true formula for tricking voters, Proposition 30 promises that all the increased monies raised will go toward education spending.

Yet, as Jon Coupal, president of the Los Angeles-based Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association warns, “If you thought Proposition 30 was for schools, think again.”

The actual ballot title of Proposition 30 which reads, “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education, Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding,” should be enough to tip off any voters who are sentient that perhaps the education funding line is nothing more than a political sales pitch.

If the money is all for education then how does it guarantee local public safety funding?  It cannot.

Here is how the bait and switch works.  The initiative, referenda or constitutional amendment promises to use monies raised exclusively for education funding.  What the proponents don’t tell you is that by designating funds directly for education, it allows the state legislature and governor to move funds that currently go to fund education to meet other “needs.”

This means that in virtually every case, the net spending for the designated good cause, actually does not go up, but is just funded through other means allowing the politicians to fund other pet projects.

Not simply a California phenomenon, Professor Bradley R. Gitz of Lyon College in Arkansas found in a study released earlier this year that dedicated taxes, “drives up overall government spending and tax burdens.”

Dr. Gitz examined the recent history of such “dedicated” tax increases over time in the state of Arkansas, with the goal of providing a basis for assessing their advantages and disadvantages, he finds that once established, dedicated taxes become unusually suspect to manipulation by legislators.    These manipulations include extending the sunsetting date of the study as well “repurposing” the tax and putting the money into other funds rather than keeping the original promise.

The study argues that these dedicated taxes have become “more attractive over time to elected officials because 1) they can be easily sold to the public; 2) they remove the need to make the kinds of difficult ‘trade-offs’ in funding decisions required by the use of general revenue; 3) their costs can be more effectively concealed from taxpayers; and 4) they can be easily increased, extended or ‘re-purposed’ to fund other government programs.”

Gitz cites work by George R. Crowley and Adam Hoffer,  whose research suggests that dedicated revenues are “largely ineffective for increasing expenditures toward which they are tied” but more effective “at increasing total government size,”  by masking increases in total government spending.

Whether voters are considering a “temporary” tax increase to fund education in California or a vote on a constitutional amendment (Measure 7 on the ballot in November) that allows the building of a new casino in Maryland, when the sales pitch is that the proposal will dedicate money to education or any other worthy cause, voters should look three times before approving it.

History shows that the sleight of hand artists in the state capitol have a trick up their sleeves, and it almost never means that those who support smaller government win.


UK academic union faces claims of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’

Severe anti-Israel bias ‘makes Jews feel uncomfortable and unwelcome,’ lecturer charges in landmark tribunal

The UK’s trade union for academics, the University and College Union, is “institutionally anti-Semitic,” a London employment tribunal heard Monday.

The claim was made on the opening day of a potentially landmark case, which partially revolves around UCU’s resolutions concerning an academic boycott of Israel.

The claimant, freelance mathematics lecturer Ronnie Fraser, is alleging that the union harassed him by creating a hostile environment for him as a Jew, which “derives from a culture and attitude which is informed by contemporary anti-Zionism.

Complaints about anti-Semitism are met with either bald denials or accusations that the complainant is attempting to stifle legitimate debate. As a result of the role which the State of Israel plays in contemporary Jewish identity, the hostile environment necessarily has an adverse impact on Jewish members of the union, making them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.”

He says that this contravenes the 2010 Equality Act, which prevents discrimination on grounds of race or religion.

Unusually for an employment tribunal, the case will take four weeks to be heard. Over 30 witnesses for the claimant include the Booker Prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson — who has submitted a witness statement but will not be cross-examined — as well as Jewish community officials and numerous academics, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The seven witnesses for the respondent are all UCU officials.

Two of the three witnesses who testified during the opening session Monday discussed UCU’s decision to allow the international relations spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Bongani Masuku, to speak at a UK conference promoting boycott and divestment of Israel in December 2009. Just two days earlier, the South African Human Rights Commission had publicized its finding that Masuku was guilty of hate speech against the Jewish community of South Africa.

The statements, which were made at a student rally at the University of Witwatersrand the previous March, included threats to South African families with children in the IDF, as well as a promise to make the lives of Zionists in South Africa “hell.”

Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, a representative body, argued that UCU leaders were informed of the ruling the day after it was made public (and the day before the conference) and had ample time to ensure Masuku did not have a platform in the UK. She rejected the suggestion by UCU’s lawyer, Antony White QC, that since Masuku had announced his intention to make further representations to the SAHRC, there was at the time “the possibility of a range of views about what Masuku had done”.

“That range of views was brought to the Human Rights Commission, they had a finding that was communicated to the Union and to the people who had invited over Masuku,” she said.

She was repeatedly questioned about when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism and whether comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa were anti-Semitic.

“Whether Israel is or is not an apartheid state is academic discourse; it’s often discussed in the South African media,” she said. “When comments are made, ‘I came to the conclusion that Jews are arrogant’ or ‘Jews control the US’ — these comments are unacceptable, that’s when you go to the Human Rights Commission. When Jews are talked about as having blood dripping from their hands, that they should leave the country — that’s when you go to the Human Rights Commission.”

Political debate is “valid, to be admired,” Kahn later added. However, she said, “I have a problem with using the Israeli situation as an excuse for hate speech and making comments on fellow South Africans. Some of the comments drew on classic and modern anti-Semitic discourse.”

A second witness, retired University of Oxford biochemistry professor Michael Yudkin, had helped draft a motion in his local UCU branch disassociating members from “Masuku’s repugnant views,” which was passed 14:1. In May 2010, he proposed the motion at the UCU Annual Congress, but lost by “an overwhelming majority”. Yudkin subsequently resigned his UCU membership.

By the time Masuku was invited to the London conference, Yudkin  stated, “it was a matter of public record that he had made remarks at a public meeting several months earlier that were, to put it no more strongly, prima facie anti-Semitic. The most cursory search of Google in October or November 2009 would have revealed both that such remarks had been made by Masuku, and also that there had been official complaints about them. The fact that UCU nonetheless invited Masuku to the conference in London suggests either that the union was reckless in failing to scrutinise the background of its invitees or that it knew of Masuku’s anti-Semitic remarks and didn’t consider them a reason for rescinding the invitation.”

His motion, Yudkin said, “centered on the expression of anti-Semitic views by someone who had been invited by the union to the UK. It recited incontrovertible facts and it invited the union to dissociate itself from remarks that had been found by an authoritative body (the South African Human Rights Commission) to amount to hate speech. That the union was unwilling to do so indicates, in my opinion, that it regards the expression of anti-Semitic views as acceptable.”

When White suggested that some UCU members felt it was inappropriate to support the motion as COSATU had said it was going to make further representations on Masuku’s behalf and legal proceedings were still ongoing, Yudkin responded, “I’m struck by the overwhelming opposition to the motion, 10:1 [against]. I don’t think these niceties about whether COSATU supported the appeal can be used as an excuse for that degree of opposition — all the motion asked [members] to do was to disassociate themselves from Masuku’s racist remarks, and that they refused to do. The context was the last several years of anti-Israel resolutions. All added together made it clear that the union was run by those committed to disregarding the feelings of its Jewish members and thinking that the kind of behaviour in which it was indulging did not need an explanation. It was institutional antisemitism.”

Told that several of the speakers opposing the motion were Jewish, Yudkin responded, “The fact that they are Jews by birth or upbringing is not a sufficient reason to think people may not be guilty of disregarding what is important to the majority of Jews.”

The panel of three judges, led by AM Snelson, will spend Tuesday listening to audio recordings of the UCU debates on an Israel boycott and the claimant, Ronnie Fraser, will take the stand on Wednesday.


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