Read My Lips: No Heckler’s Veto

I sure wish those Faux News pundits who claim to revere the Constitution actually knew what was in it.

Evidently, Satanists in Oklahoma City are planning to hold a “black mass.” Whatever that is. Now, insofar as we can tell, these folks have been entirely peaceful–however much their views may offend  adherents of more traditional doctrines, the only “harm” they’ve inflicted has been to religious sensibilities.

Enter know-nothing Tucker Carlson.

Tucker Carlson opined that the Satanic leader “clearly just wants publicity.” He asked if “Christians are playing into his plan” by protesting. In response to whether Christian should ignore him, Fr. Morris said that everybody needs to do what they think is best, such as talking about it on Fox. He encouraged prayer for the Satanic leader’s soul. When Clayton Morris interjected that the city is standing on free speech, Fr. Morris asked “what about if I want to desecrate a Koran…and speak pro-Nazi stuff right in front of my church and get people all fired up on a public sidewalk.”  (The Satanic mass is not being held on the street). Despite his (and Fox’s) belief about limited government, he opined that “government has to step in and say you can’t incite violence in the name of free speech.” The chyron validated his point: “First Amendment Foul, City: Constitution Protects Right to Gather.”

This approach–oh, no, we can’t let [fill in the blank] speak, because what they have to say will anger people and spark civil unrest. We have to shut them down in order to preserve the public peace!–was the argument used across the American south to shut down people like Martin Luther King. It’s called the Heckler’s Veto, because it allows “hecklers”–people who disagree with what is being said–to veto the message.

The courts have consistently ruled that they can’t do that. The message from the bench has been clear: If the authorities are genuinely worried about breaches of the peace, they need to beef up security, not shut the speaker down.

Isn’t it interesting how many pompous frauds want the protections offered by the Bill of Rights for themselves–but don’t want those same rules applied to others?

I have news for Tucker Carlson: It’s only freedom when it applies to everyone. Even people you don’t like. If the government gets to pick and choose who gets to assert a right, it’s no longer a right. It’s a privilege.

And privileges can be revoked.

 

Mitch Evidently Started a Trend

According to Business Insider, Florida Governor Rick Scott has “pulled a Mitch” at Florida State University, appointing Trustees who then (what a coincidence!) appointed his campaign manager and crony as president.

According to The Times-Union, the state senator’s final interview with the FSU Board of Trustees Tuesday “came despite opposition to Thrasher from faculty and students expressing concern about the school’s reputation and the need for the next leader to have stellar academic credentials.”

Jennifer Proffitt, the president of the FSU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, told The Times-Union that “It’s clear [Thrasher] does not have the qualifications to lead a research university.”

Thrasher is a former Florida house speaker and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He graduated from FSU for both his undergraduate and law degrees.

The Times-Union reports that Thrasher had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of students and faculty last week at an open forum. Of the close to 700 responses collected after the talk, 11% gave Thrasher ‘good’ grades, while 87% gave him ‘not good’ or ‘below average’ marks,” according to The Times-Union.

Another criticism of Thrasher is his close connections to many of the FSU trustees — most were appointed by Florida governor Rick Scott, whose campaign for re-election is managed by Thrasher. (emphasis mine)

The justification for placing politicians in these positions is that they will be good fundraisers. It is evidently irrelevant that they do not share the values of the academy–or even understand the mission of a research university. They are spectacularly unfit for the job of protecting scholarly inquiry and academic freedom.

Sic transit intellectual integrity and institutional credibility.

 

 

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

The Washington Post recently ran a series of reports about civil asset forfeiture; in the wake of those articles, which were very critical, two of the lawyers who first proposed the approach, John Yoder and Brad Cates, penned a response. Rather than taking a defensive posture, however, they began with an admission that the program had failed.

Last week, The Post published a series of in-depth articles about the abuses spawned by the law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture. As two people who were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department in the 1980s, we find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.

The idea, they wrote, had seemed so simple: “Seize the ill-gotten gains of big-time drug dealers and remove the financial incentive for their criminality. After all, if a kingpin could earn $20 million and stash it away somewhere, even a decade in prison would have its rewards. Make that money disappear, and the calculus changes.”

But as they note, since that relatively modest beginning, the concept has been steadily expanded: first,  to include not only cash earned illegally but also purchases or investments made with that money. The property eligible for seizure now includes “instrumentalities” in the trafficking of drugs, such as cars or even jewelry. Eventually, more than 200 crimes beyond drugs came to be included in the forfeiture scheme.

Even at the outset, the use of seized property was an issue. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, for example, might see a suspected dealer in a car they wanted for undercover work and seize it. But if the car had an outstanding loan, the DEA could not keep it without paying the lien. This led to distorted enforcement decisions, with agents choosing whom to pursue based on irrelevant factors such as whether the target owed money on his car.

As time went on and states got into the forfeiture game, the uses became more personally rewarding for law enforcement. Maintaining an undercover identity was often no longer even part of the justification for seizures.

Law enforcement agents and prosecutors began using seized cash and property to fund their operations, supplanting general tax revenue, and this led to the most extreme abuses: law enforcement efforts based upon what cash and property they could seize to fund themselves…

Anyone who knows a criminal defense lawyer has heard horror stories about innocent people caught up in law enforcement behaviors that look more like extortion than policing. Worse, these behaviors are totally inconsistent with the constitution. As the authors say:

Our forfeiture laws turn our traditional concept of guilt upside down. Civil forfeiture laws presume someone’s personal property to be tainted, placing the burden of proving it “innocent” on the owner. What of the Fourth Amendment requirement that a warrant to seize or search requires the showing of probable cause of a specific violation?

When the folks who dreamed up these laws in the first place tell you they’ve outlived any usefulness they may once  have had, it’s probably time to get rid of them.

 

An Interesting ‘Factoid’

According to Wallet Hub, a personal finance site

When Barack Obama won Indiana’s electoral votes in 2008, it was an anomaly: Indiana, which went Republican in every presidential election from 1968-2004, is one of the most conservative states in the Midwest and is much more Republican than Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois or Michigan. Pundits have often said that when it comes to politics, Indiana is “more southern than the South.” But the disdain that Indiana Republicans often express for “big government” rings false because according to Wallet Hub, Indiana receives $2.01 from the federal government for every federal tax dollar it contributes and receives 33% of its funding from Uncle Sam. Indiana Republicans can hate coastal Democrats all they want, but without the federal tax revenue Democratic areas generate, Indiana would have a hard time functioning.

It reminded me of this exchange from The West Wing (a show that has to rank as one of the all-time greats), during a Presidential campaign debate:

Governor Robert Ritchie, R-FL: My view of this is simple: we don’t need a Federal Department of Education telling us our children have to learn Esperanto, they have to learn Eskimo poetry. Let the states decide, let the communities decide on health care, on education, on lower taxes, not higher taxes. Now, he’s going to throw a big word at you – “unfunded mandate.” He’s going to say if Washington lets the states do it, it’s an unfunded mandate. But what he doesn’t like is the federal government losing power. But I call it the ingenuity of the American people.

Moderator: President Bartlet, you have 60 seconds for a question and an answer.

President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet: Well, first of all, let’s clear up a couple of things. “Unfunded mandate” is two words, not one big word. There are times when we’re fifty states and there are times when we’re one country, and have national needs. And the way I know this is that Florida didn’t fight Germany in World War II or establish civil rights. You think states should do the governing wall-to-wall. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. But your state of Florida got $12.6 billion in federal money last year – from Nebraskans, and Virginians, and New Yorkers, and Alaskans, with their Eskimo poetry. 12.6 out of a state budget of $50 billion. I’m supposed to be using this time for a question, so here it is: Can we have it back, please?

If Hoosiers had to give back the excess funds we get from the Feds, we’d be up that proverbial creek without that equally proverbial paddle….

 

And Then There’s the Blowback….

So a few days ago, I posted about a new Evangelical organization supportive of same-sex marriage. Lest readers get too excited, there’s plenty of evidence that the more conservative churches won’t go down that road without a very substantial fight. According to Baptist Press, 

 FRESNO, Calif. (BP) — The California Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board voted Thursday (Sept. 11) to withdraw fellowship from a church whose pastor says he believes homosexual acts are not always sinful.

In a unanimous vote of the 35 members present (six were absent), the board voted to withdraw fellowship from New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., for holding beliefs contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message. Article XVIII of the BF&M defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” Article XV states, “Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”

If the Southern Baptists want to dictate proper sexual behavior to their members, they are of course entitled to do so.

I just wish they–and similar churches–would spend half as much time and energy preaching against predatory behaviors, exploitation of the poor and powerless, and moral smugness (what their bibles call, if I recall, “stiff-neckness”). Or–let me go out on a real limb here–how about “forms of immorality” like wife-beating and child abuse?

Maybe the Southern Baptist Convention has issued an official statement on the recent NFL scandals, but my quick google didn’t find one. The Convention did find Michael Sams’ on-camera kiss worthy of an official condemnation, however:

Be it resolved that we believe that it is inappropriate for children to be subjected to having to watch same-sex couples engage in public displays of affection while watching a sports-related event on allegedly family-friendly channels. We discourage any further televising of such events. While there is a missing airplane somewhere in the Far East, over 200 kidnapped girls from Nigeria, and high unemployment in America, we respectfully request the President of the United States to refrain from congratulating and extending well wishes to any future homosexual professional sports players, unless simultaneously he is going to make celebratory and well wishes calls to the likes of Tim Tebow, Prince Amukamara—the “Black Tim Tebow,” and AC Green, professional athletes committed to sexual purity.

Interesting moral priorities….