Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What are ya in for, kid? 

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W's where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean 'n' ugly 'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me and said, "Kid, whad'ya get?" I said, "I didn't get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage." He said, "What were you arrested for, kid?" And I said, "Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, "And creating a nuisance." And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing, father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the bench.
We come to find out that the city of St. Cloud is going to charge the fellow who put up the stupid posters. What is his crime?

A Waite Park man who posted anti-Muslim cartoons in several St. Cloud locations has been cited with violating a city ordinance that prohibits posting materials on fixtures.

Each of the two civil charges carry a maximum fine of $250.
This ordinance has kept St. Cloud safe from garage sale announcements and lost dog notices for many years now. Along with more than a few bits of graphic art including pictures of Abu Ghraib. (This one was on a junction box near North Junior High where I often take cigars for a walk.)

The thirst for justice has not been slaked:
Many speakers questioned local authorities' response to the incident, and asked why the man who has admitted to posting the cartoons doesn't face criminal charges. Others criticized city leaders for not doing enough to combat long-standing discrimination against Muslims and people of color.

Lam told city leaders she's been to plenty of "kumbaya meetings" about discrimination. This time, Lam wanted to know what will happen next.

"I've been here for four years, and I'm scared of this city," Lam said. "What are you going to do to show that you are going to protect all citizens of St. Cloud?"
In times of trouble, I often turn to Arlo Guthrie:
And everything was fine, we was smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, until the Sergeant came over, had some paper in his hand, held it up and said.

"Kids, this-piece-of-paper's-got-47-words-37-sentences-58-words-we-wanna-know-details-of-the-crime-time-of-the-crime-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-
officer's-name-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say", and talked for forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there, and I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:

Were the scribbler at the open house last night -- hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group with an excellent track record on free speech -- he might have gotten that form.

The city is trying to have it both ways. It recognizes that the poster, hateful and disgusting as it is, is nevertheless free speech protected by the First Amendment. The city attorney says criminal charges "wouldn't hold up in court." So rather than that, he uses a selectively-enforced ordinance against that person, and names the person in public. Will his picture next appear on those electronic billboards alongside the child molesters? How big a target does the city wish to paint on this person?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Sunshine Week! 

My interview with Marty Owings and Dave Aeikens on the Minnesota House press-supression is here. The St. Cloud Times weighed in yesterday with an editorial:
In an apparent effort to avoid being caught on candid camera, the House tried to limit audio and video recording and photography of public hearings in House Committee hearing rooms.

Yes, that�s right. They sought to prevent reporting to the public events at public hearings.

On the Senate side, local conservative radio personality Dan �The Ox� Ochsner had the DFL-led Senate deny him annual media credentials this session despite having held them several other sessions.

Capitol folks have tried to justify these actions on themes such as �not enough room,� �we�re updating our rules� and �they don�t regularly cover the Capitol.�

Sorry, but they are missing the point. Legislators are conducting the public�s business, not the media�s business. The only rules needed are those that embrace openness � no matter who is asking for it.
Amen to that. Gary Gross provides additional coverage.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Senate rules for press oligarchs 

On Saturday's Final Word we had KNSI program director and talk host Dan Ochsner, more often known around St. Cloud as simply The Ox. Dan had reported to me on Thursday last week that he had had his press credentials to the floor of the Minnesota State Senate revoked after holding them for many years. Here's a Google cache of the 2006 press booklet for the senate. It contains KNSI entries for Ox and for former news director Cory Kampschroer. The 2009 book, in contrast, has an entry for KNSI in its table of contents, but nobody from KNSI is listed. (I listed the Google cache just in case the other book is disappeared.) The new book was printed Feb. 5 according to the properties of the Adobe document, a month after the opening of the Senate. This was the same week, it appears, that Ox was denied access to the Senate. (Worth noting here: credentials are a hard plastic badge which are renewed. Ox reported sending in his request for renewal; no additional badge was expected.)

Dan has been an officer of professional radio organizations through the AP and held credentials for many years. His biography includes being past president, Minnesota Associated Press Broadcasters (2000-01) and a news or program director since 1999 in Detroit Lakes and St. Cloud.

It was not the Ox's first visit to St. Paul this year. He broadcast, it appears, from the Minnesota House on January 7. At that time nobody had informed him that his credentials to the senate were being pulled. He had, as usual gone to do a show at the opening of the legislature (as Gary reported) and had, among other things, discussed the amount of per diem money received by Senator Tarryl Clark.

Did this have anything to do with Ochsner's credentials being pulled? He reported on the air that he was told that the Senate had decided to focus their floor privileges to reporters who were more often at the capitol (Dan's show makes a monthly appearance, though he says he visits the capitol more often than that.) He was informed that this came from Clark and DFL Senate leader Larry Pogemiller. When Sen. Clark subsequently was interviewed on Ox's show, she was questioned about this. At one point she is reported to have said that she thought his listeners were not interested in this subject and that Ox should move on. Ox's response was that he knew his listeners, and that they were interested.

Readers are probably aware that in her successful special election campaign in December 2005, Senator Clark's opponent was none other than Ox. It's noteworthy that she continued to do his show even after the credential was pulled. The ostensible reason -- that there's too much traffic on the Senate floor, flies in the face of the evidence, insofar as a new organization that is not a radio, TV, or print outlet, The Uptake, holds five credentials. Is access for that group more important than for out-state news organizations? Does the Senate not respect the journalism of people who are outside the Twin Cities? (Notable silence from the one remaining St. Cloud journalist with full access.)

There is a particular issue, perhaps, between Ox and Clark. Perhaps; I'm not as interested in that. Later in the show Marty Owings, who probably agrees with nothing I blog here, called in to say his work as a journalist was equally hampered in the House. (Chris Stellar reports on this in MnIndy.) His story, that Rep. Tony Sertich had used a procedural trick to restrict access to online media, was the point where I decided this has to be discussed. (h/t on Marty goes to Mitch.) He appears in Hour 2 of the Final Word broadcast of 2/28.

The Society of Professional Journalists has spoken out in favor of online journalists, but not yet, as far as I can tell, for Ox.

If the Legislature is concerned about the conduct of individual reporters, existing rules and procedures can be utilized. If the problem is one of space, then the criteria for distributing media passes should be equitable for all journalists, not arbitrarily discriminatory based on an outlet�s medium.

The Minnesota Independent quotes House Rules Committee Chair Tony Sertich as saying a rule change to allow online media would open access to anybody. In fact, the change gives open access to everybody, which is the best and most credible means of government accountability in a democracy.

Indeed. Dear SPJ, let me take you to a page that I would say summarizes the problem here. This is the temporary rules of the Senate. Lines 10.8-10.16 state:
16.1 The Secretary shall provide space for news reporters on the Senate floor in limited numbers, and in the Senate gallery. Because of limited space on the floor, permanent space is limited to those news agencies that regularly cover the legislature, namely: The Associated Press, St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Paul Legal Ledger, Star Tribune, Duluth News-Tribune, The Forum, Rochester Post-Bulletin, St. Cloud Times, WCCO radio, KSTP radio, Minnesota Public Radio, and Minnesota News Network. The Secretary shall provide an additional two spaces to other reporters if space is available. One person from each named agency and one person from the Senate Publications Office may be present at the press table on the Senate floor at any time. Other news media personnel may occupy seats provided in the Senate gallery.
The italics are mine. By what right does the Senate get to restrict access to this oligarchic structure of media? Why are certain groups privileged? (And indeed, why are these called "press privileges"? A freedom is not a privilege.) Where are the First Amendment advocates? Who decides which of these agencies are named and which are not? If you favor open access for everybody, dear SPJ, strike this list.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Who Is John Galt? Atlas Shrugged 

A long time ago, I finally got through Atlas Shrugged, a masterpiece of writing by Ayn Rand. Basic story line: How America fell prey to the guilt and fear mongers, instituted government control under the guise of "social justice" and let the government take over everything. The book, as I recall, is about 1000 pages long. I had experienced a few false starts but I clearly remember getting past page 300 in my parents' kitchen, and did not put the book down until I finished it.

Turns out sales are soaring. 50+ years later, 200,000 copies were sold in 2008. Sales for the seven weeks of 2009 are up 300%. I'm guessing this increase will continue. If you don't have your copy, get it now.

Hat tip: The Jawa Report Best line:"if you don't think you're ready to dive into the world of Atlas Shrugged (whose portrayal of politicians and their various crimes committed in the name of "social concern" unfortunately reads more like nonfiction), it's time to stop putting it off."

If you visit this site, you can learn more about Ayn Rand and the center she founded. She was born in Russia, lived through the Bolshevik Revolution which she denounced. She watched the deterioration of freedom under the Communists, the stifling of creativity, the takeover of the university by Communist thugs. It was time for a creative writer to leave. At age 20 she managed to get a visa to visit relatives in the US with no intention of returning to Russia. Her masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged , published in 1957, is timeless since it addresses totalitarians of all stripes. Wonder why people are buying it today????????

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Monday, February 09, 2009

What does one say? What does one do? 

Click to enlarge. This was distributed this morning as an announcement to our campus. Your suggestions for how to respond are invited in comments. I support campus free speech. I also think the comparison drawn is outrageous and disgusting. Beyond saying so, what does one say or do?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kathy Kersten, the Strib and a Free Press 

Kathy's son and mine went to the same school for 7th and 8th grades. We got to know each other fairly well and have kept in touch ever since. The fact that the Strib is dropping her column says volumes about the bias in the paper. Yes, Nick Coleman is going, too - finally - but he's got an entire chorus behind him so his leftist view of the world will be perpetuated.

Kathy's view, is another issue. Her columns provide much needed fresh air and common sense. They covered issues too much of the mainstream media is either afraid to write about or is incapable of comprehending. If you wish to make your sentiments known, please contact the paper's editor, Nancy Barnes at: While I doubt Ms. Barnes will even consider hiring a conservative replacement, letting her know why releasing Ms. Kersten is a horrible mistake has a slight chance of making an impact.

When papers and media present only one side of an issue or ignore an issue in its entirety, they are cheating themselves and their audience. A press that engages in such self-censorship is no longer free - it has voluntarily given up its freedom - without a fight.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

If Buchanan is a 501(c)(3) violation... 

...would the administration of St. Kate's like to tell us how the activities of its Center for Women, Economic Justice and Social Policy fit under its "no political speech" definition? �Their fall semester program has included:
Prof. Jewell is on St. Kate's faculty, so he's fine. But the JRLC? �It appears that any event that promotes "social justice" is OK, but anything from off campus that doesn't fit its message control is not. �

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Friday, October 17, 2008

St. Kate's Bans Political Speech II 

In the comments to King's post below, Julie Michener tries to defend St. Kate's by saying
Because we are a 501(c)(3) organization, the College of St. Catherine has sought to avoid any appearance of partisanship during the 2008 political season.
Michener goes on to quote at length from a policy regarding political candidates and political debates. But Bay Buchanan is neither a candidate nor engaged in a campaign or debate for any candidate.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is one of the great organizations supporting free speech and academic freedom on campuses. Here is what FIRE had to say today about this topic, both on their website and at the Huffington Post:
True, both public and private universities do have legal duties related to their status as government instrumentalities (public schools) or 501(c)(3) non-profits (private schools) which prevents them from institutionally endorsing candidates (or even appearing to do so), lobbying for legislation or raising money for candidates. Therefore, university bans on administrators using university letterhead to endorse or shill for candidates, for example, are reasonable and required by law. But universities go off the deep end when they translate this common-sense duty into somehow meaning that no one is allowed to engage in partisan political speech on campus.
Read the whole thing. St. Kate's has gone off the deep end on this one.

Disclosure: King and I both sit on the Board of the Minnesota Association of Scholars.

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St. Kate's bans political speech 

From a Minnesota Association of Scholars press release (I am a member of its executive board):
The College of St. Catherine administration has barred CNN commentator Bay Buchanan from speaking on the St. Kate�s campus, according to Ken Doyle, president of the Minnesota Association of Scholars.

The St. Kate�s College Republicans, a student organization, was planning a tea and discussion with Ms. Buchanan, in conjunction with the speaker�s scheduled same-day lecture at the University of Minnesota. �The students were planning a really classy event,� said St. Kate�s physics professor Terry Flower, advisor to the group. �They�re all about intellectual diversity and the marketplace of ideas.�

�St. Kate�s administrators tell us that, because this is the election season, they�re banning all speakers with clear-cut party affiliation,� Doyle says. �My Jesuit philosophy teachers would call this a non sequitur; my sainted Irish grandmother would call it just plain goofy.�

�I smell a rat,� says Doyle.

Ms. Buchanan was treasurer of Ronald Reagan�s presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1984 and chairman of her brother Patrick�s unsuccessful bids for the presidency. She was the youngest person ever to hold the position of Treasurer of the United States. George magazine once recognized her as one of the top 20 political women in the country. A steadfast right-to-life champion, she co-anchored �Equal Time� on CNBC and MSNBC and worked as a political analyst for �Good Morning America.� Her lecture was to have focused on �Feminism and the 2008 Election.�

We honor a private college�s right to patrol its borders,� says Doyle. �At the same time we worry that limitations on free expression and debate aren�t good either for St. Kate�s students or for society in general. We urge St. Kate�s president Andrea Lee to reverse this decision and promote intellectual diversity and political awareness on her campus.�

Whatever St. Kate�s decides, Ms. Buchanan will speak at the University of Minnesota in the Coffman Memorial Union Theater, 300 Washington Avenue SE, Minneapolis, at 7:00pm Wednesday October 22, with a reception immediately afterwards. The event is free for students from any college or university � including St. Kate�s � and for members of the Minnesota Association of Scholars, $10 for the general public.
From the St. Kate's website, its student handbook indicates that their students are supposed to enjoy freedom of expression:
Learning and scholarship are at once individual and collective. Students enjoy the collective assurance and protection of free inquiry and open exchange of facts, ideas and openness. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment on debatable issues. This free exchange in no way diminishes the responsibility of the student for learning the content of a course.
And a review of their speakers policy does not indicate any restrictions during campaign seasons:
Whereas the College of St. Catherine provides an atmosphere of intellectual openness in which students can refine their abilities to evaluate alternatives faced in a pluralistic society;

And whereas the college, as a liberal arts college, upholds the academic principle of responsible inquiry and the constitutional right of free speech;

And whereas the College of St. Catherine, a Roman Catholic college, recognizes and respects the official teaching of the Church;

And whereas the college recognizes legitimate plurality of opinion in some areas of Church teaching;

Be it resolved that the college sees it as consistent with its mission to provide a forum for the free and responsible exchange of ideas. Be if further resolved that this policy will be implemented by the dean of students under the authority of the president of the college.

*As adopted by the Board of Trustees, 1980
These are from the campus' own website and are an indication of the kind of school students attending St. Kate's would be promised. Recently FIRE has put out a policy statement on political activity on campus:
Students and student groups at public colleges and universities enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment and must be free to engage in political activity, expression, and association on campus. Students and student groups at private colleges and universities are entitled to that degree of freedom of expression and association promised them in institutional handbooks, policies, and promotional materials. It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of private colleges and universities provide extensive promises of free speech in their materials, and therefore should be held to standards comparable to those required by the First Amendment.
Apparently St. Kate's disagrees.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

What if we threw a debate and nobody came? 

We keep hearing that people want to discuss the issues and get away from personal attacks. Fine, I thought, let's have a discussion of the Employee Free Choice Act (discussed early last summer here and here). So we invited the DFL, its chairman Brian Melendez, or any representative of Senate candidate Al Franken, to debate us. They filed a complaint instead; when it was marked incomplete, they filed another. It was returned as without merit. I had thought at that point, well, maybe they would debate us. Finally we decided we'd schedule a debate and hope someone showed up.

Drove down to St. Paul in crappy weather, and nobody showed up. (At least we have a gorgeous late afternoon back here in the Cloud!) I'd like to thank Congressional candidate Ed Matthews and a cameraman from WCCO for showing up. My comments focused on this as a free speech issue: the decision to unionize is too important to be left to a conversation that doesn't include both sides. This is recognized in the most recent Supreme Court case (Chamber of Commerce v Brown,) that "Congress struck a balance of protection, prohibition, and laissez-faire in respect to union organization, collective bargaining, and labor disputes.� (quoting Cox (1972)). Congress could of course choose to change that balance: that's what EFCA does. But unions currently win 57% of organizing elections when they choose to go to them. Doesn't that sound fair enough to you? Do you think they should win 75%? 90%? Why? That's the debate.

The issue matters. In his new stump speech featured today, Senator McCain reminds us the consequences of electing Senator Obama to the presidency:
We have 22 days to go. We're six points down. The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending � take away your right to vote by secret ballot and labor elections, and concede defeat in Iraq � and concede defeat in Iraq.
Emphasis mine. Donald Lambro has already pointed out Senator Obama's support for what was referred to as the Employee Forced Choice Act. I wonder if Senator McCain is planning on using this line of attack in Wednesday's debate? I'm pretty sure it did not come up in the first two.

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The best thing I read this weekend 

Today's liberals seem to be taking their marching orders from other quarters. Specifically, from the college and university campuses where administrators, armed with speech codes, have for years been disciplining and subjecting to sensitivity training any students who dare to utter thoughts that liberals find offensive. The campuses that used to pride themselves as zones of free expression are now the least free part of our society.

Obama supporters who found the campuses congenial and Obama himself, who has chosen to live all his adult life in university communities, seem to find it entirely natural to suppress speech that they don't like and seem utterly oblivious to claims that this violates the letter and spirit of the First Amendment. In this campaign, we have seen the coming of the Obama thugocracy, suppressing free speech, and we may see its flourishing in the four or eight years ahead.

Michael Barone. Here's their cue:Source. More coming in a bit...

UPDATE: �Ed weighs in:

The best solution for bad speech is more speech, not speech codes, mobs shouting down critics, and legislative control of political speech in the public square. Yet we�re inexorably moving in that direction, thanks to the so-called defenders of free speech who only can muster any passion for it when they see a political benefit for themselves and their allies. In a real sense, the thugocracy isn�t coming, it�s arrived after a generation of advent.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Toronto non? 

If you have been following the Mark Steyn trials in Canada -- where Steyn has faced legal sanctions for writing about demographic trends in the West and relative birth rates of Muslim immigrants versus native and other immigrant groups, in Steyn's witty and biting style -- you may be interested to read that some political scientists are asking the American Political Science Association to protect the free speech of its conventioneers when they meet in Toronto next year. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The political-science petition, whose initial signers include Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Harvey C. Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard University, warns that scholars visiting Toronto might face legal jeopardy if they made controversial statements. Scholars should be able to speak about �public policy concerning homosexuality or the character of and proper response to terrorist elements acting in the name of Islam, without fear of legal repercussions of any kind,� the petition reads.

The campaign has the flavor of a boycott. According to a report in the National Post, the petition�s authors plan to distribute buttons at this week�s conference that say �Toronto 2009? Non!�

But the petition itself makes a milder demand. It asks the association to solicit legal advice and to consult with the Canadian government to ensure that scholars� civil liberties will be protected. �Our petition is simply asking for clarification,� said one of its authors, James R. Stoner, a professor of political science at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, in an interview with The Chronicle today. �We�re asking the APSA to acknowledge that there�s some issue concerning this, and that we can presume that the customary standards of academic freedom will be assured.�

Aside the usual reaoons of low attendance, there are very good reasons to not hold an academic conference in a place like Venezuela -- the regime there might not like, say, a Latin Americanist who researches Hugo Chavez's crimes and discusses them from the podium in Caracas. It would be irresponsible for an organization to invite a speaker into that situation. Likewise, if the APSA cannot assure the academic freedom of speakers to an academic conference, it should make arrangements to either move the conference elsewhere or to make a public statement declaring it cannot provide protection. I would hope it could do the former.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Unfavorable deductions 

The hearing on the EFCA ads was held on my father's birthday, and I was in the Boston area at the time. I thought it would be hilarious if I was taken into custody the following Monday.
Other prisoner: What are you in for, son?
Me: Unfavorable deduction about Al Franken.
OP (sliding slowly away): You're his accountant?
(With apologies to Arlo Guthrie.)

As Michael posted yesterday, the complaint was dismissed (he's again posted the Order of Dismissal.) He notes the silence (also evidenced by the lack of posts on the subject found on the BlogNetNews aggregator for the state) of other bloggers who had accused others of lying.

What is "an unfavorable deduction"? The ad states that the Employee Free Choice Act would have eliminated a worker's right to a secret ballot. The defense has been that secret ballots could still happen. True, but as the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace notes yesterday in its press release announcing the dismissal:
Under EFCA, the NLRB must recognize the union without an election if a majority of workers sign an authorization card identifying who they are. Once the 50% threshold has been crossed, the statute is unequivocal in its command: "the [NLRB] shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or organization as the labor representative."
Could the organizers still seek a secret ballot? Yes they could ... but under what circumstances would we expect them to do so? If they can just get that 50%+1 for signatures, they can dispense with the ballot, and the costs of campaigning, and not ever face the counterarguments against unionization. The cost of proceeding past 30% -- the threshold at which you can seek the ballot -- is relatively small and the benefits large. If they don't think they can get 50%+1 votes, they won't ask for the ballot. If they can get the votes, they can also get the signatures. And there is the distinct possibility that one could get 50%+1 signatures in a card-check campaign without getting 50%+1 votes in a secret ballot. So I would argue that it is highly unlikely a union would ever seek the election option. Justin Wilson of the Employee Free Action Committee makes the same point.

That's what the administrative law judge calls "an unfavorable deduction." And that's what Brian Melendez was calling a lie, and what the DFL was saying should be prevented from the airwaves in a country that still has the First Amendment.

I am quite willing to still debate the analysis and facts of EFCA with Mr. Melendez at any place, at any time. I can come by the DFL booth at the State Fair, if he was of a mind to agree to that. I don't expect he will, though, and you can draw your own unfavorable deduction from that.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

"I protest your invitation" 

I've written twice before on the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act, which would make the heretofore voluntary agreement between workers and firms to use card-check systems (allowing a union to be recognized as sole bargaining agent for all workers if a majority of workers sign cards agreeing to be so represented) binding on firms who do not agree. Firms currently can request a vote to be administered by NLRB; those workers who do not wish to be unionized would have the opportunity, along with the firm, to argue why a union would not be in workers' best interest, and a vote would be held with workers' privacy protected by the NLRB. No such protections are provided under the proposed card-check program. Those who did not sign the card, or those who were not even approached by union organizers, would find themselves in a union, obligated to pay dues, without recourse, without a check or balance. The equivalent would be to imagine you waking one morning and reading in your newspaper that organizers had gone to other homes, had others sign a card that signified that they wanted King Banaian to be president of the United States, and that because they had enough cards signed, Banaian was now president without any further action required. You've never heard me talk, you don't know my views, but I now represent you on Pennsylvania Avenue. That'd be pretty bizarre, yes?

After the DFL accused the ad put out by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (the TV ad was put out by them alone) of falsehoods, I wrote a letter to DFL state party chair Brian Melendez to invite him to debate the issue. We had recorded Al Franken answers twice to be sure we understood his views on the bill, and by their own admission Franken supports EFCA. So we assumed the debate would be on the merits of the bill. A discussion of the issue, I thought, might be a refreshing change to thirty-second ads.

So imagine my surprise last night to find out that the DFL would rather file a complaint. They'd rather debate through lawyers than in the state capitol. We are, of course, happy to have this debate any place Chairman Melendez chooses, but isn't it interesting that he needs to employ lawyers to assist his side?

We appreciate the coverage by the news and bloggers (Andy's post has both of the TV ads; I bet he watches them on his iPhone.) And we don't intend to go away; a new ad is running from us today.

A statement put out by J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the Employee Freedom Action Committee, said in a prepared statement,
It appears that Mr. Melendez is complicit in the scheme to deceive the public and take away working Minnesotans� right to a private ballot vote. The irony of Mr. Melendez�s �complaint� is that he is the one who is misleading the people of Minnesota in order to advance a union boss� power grab that will generate millions in new forced dues dollars.

If Mr. Melendez truly cared about the best interests of working Minnesotans he would reject these absurd political games and agree to a substantive public debate on the private vote issue.
I reiterate that invitation, Chairman Melendez. I'm available almost any day in the month of August.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Empty holsters at SCSU 

This week many campuses are seeing students protesting their inability to carry a concealed weapon while at school. The protests consists of students going about their business while wearing an empty holster (and one that is clearly seen as being empty.) The group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus have organized themselves for a second such protest (the first occurred last October.)
The two purposes of an Empty Holster Protest are:

1. To represent to the public that students, faculty, and guests on college campuses are left defenseless or, metaphorically, with empty holsters.

2. To start a dialogue with students and faculty members who may not know the facts of the issue.
Last Friday, the campus communications office sent out a notice telling us that this was happening here, explaining the protest with the link I used at the top and this:
Participants will be wearing t-shirts and EMPTY holsters and handing out flyers. The national organization sponsoring the protest has made it clear that students are NOT to carry anything inside the holsters. Students will not carry signs or banners and have made a commitment to avoiding any disruptive behavior. Behavior outside the promised parameters may be reported to Public Safety...
I must say that last sentence worried me. I have no recollection of any notice on our campus letting people know to report "behavior outside the promised parameters". Those parameters are determined by the letter that the group is having all the campus chapters use. In short, they can wear the empty holsters and t-shirts (which are a little too expensive, so the students here have said they would eschew them) and can speak to people who ask about the holsters, but they would not approach any groups or hand out literature.

To its credit, the administration issued a statement Monday morning that clarified that the students' speech rights were to be respected, from President Earl Potter under an email titled "Peaceful Protest This Week":
I recognize that this protest comes at a time when our sensitivities to safety on campus have been heightened by recent events. Nevertheless, I need to remind us all that while individuals in a university community may disagree with the opinions expressed by the protesters, we have the responsibility to be tolerant of their views and must not retaliate against advocates for these views. We must remember that these students have the first amendment right to free speech and the right to protest within university guidelines which prohibit disruption or interference with classes or other university business.
The flow of campus email, which over the weekend had faculty and staff looking for ways to stop the protest turned to decrying the students' insistence that they be allowed to advocate for guns, because guns are bad, or that guns are only desired by people who wish to do us harm. (Of course, articles like Arthur Brooks' in last Saturday's WSJ fall on deaf ears. Mitch, by the way, has an excellent commentary on that today.)

Some of the early comments included (direct quotes):

These were before the President's letter, and all were thinking that somehow it could and should be stopped. Afterwards, the comments turned to:
I did not participate much in this discussion, as I realized how little I knew, but one would have to say that if the purpose of an Empty Holster Protest was to start a dialogue, they certainly got that. The question is, what happens after starting it?

Through students I knew on campus I was able to speak with two participants in this protest, Terrance McCloskey and Bill Jacobson. They agreed to meet me and another faculty member interested in First Amendment issues, Kathy Uradnik, in my office. McCloskey identified himself as a licensed firearms instructor, though so far he has taught only one class. Both came wearing empty holsters.
I placed the holster for my Treo alongside theirs; I then put my Treo in Bill's holster. It was a little small for the holster, but it was snug. As you can see from the picture, they are not obvious to anyone not looking closely, and any claim that they would be disruptive to the classroom seems a real stretch to me.

SCCC has advocated that each student group provide notification to the campus they are participating in the event. The SCSU students -- which they reported numbered "around 30" and included "a majority of the Student Government Association body" -- sent notices to Public Safety and to the student organizations group. They received a call about their "proposed" protest from administrative vice president Steve Ludwig, to whom they reported again that the holsters would be empty. They told me Ludwig expressed concern for negative emotional reactions to the holsters, which given the quotes above from faculty would seem well-founded. They also reported that they had a few students participate in the October protest as a test run. One student at that time had grabbed the holster Jacobson was wearing, "to check to see if it was empty." Other than that, there had been no reaction.

I asked if there was more reaction this time. Jacobson said that he had six people talk to him in the last two hours. McCloskey said he had not gotten any reactions today. They had had reported to them that one Public Safety sergeant had told a watch that they should be on the lookout and write up reports if any of the protesters got out of line, and one report was that a faculty member, well known to us, had started to approach them to talk but then backed away. Protesters are instructed not to approach anyone; I asked if they had literature to hand out if they were asked, but McCloskey replied that they had no money to print flyers.

We spent time reviewing other complaints and reactions. It is worth reminding people that the age at which one could get a permit is 21, so that some of the concerns of guns in the hands of "young people whose good judgment is not yet in full blossom" has been contemplated by the law already. We discussed restrictions on less-than-lethal alternatives like TASERs and pepper spray. Students can't carry TASERs either, Jacobson said, and the campus' student handbook extends the gun ban to "any other weapon."

Longtime readers of this blog know I do not own a gun. I haven't fired one since getting my rifle merit badge in Boy Scouts. I tried a handgun at that time, but not since. A couple of years ago Littlest wanted to learn about shooting a rifle, so we sent her to the classes and I went and watched her field class. She was 11. She was excited to try this, but she also was very respectful of a gun that day.

I share the fear many of my colleagues have of a handgun insofar as I am ignorant of their use. My conversation with McCloskey and Jacobson had one very strong impact on me: I was more aware afterwards of how little I know. I have no way of knowing, for example, how much a person trained to carry a concealed weapon would know about protecting the weapon from an attacker, the poise they have in dealing with intruders, the background checks one gets to be sure one is not a loony. I'm hopeful of changing that soon, to take advantage of one of my several invitations to learn how to handle and use a handgun. Not necessarily because I want a permit to conceal and carry -- how would I know if I wanted one? -- but in order to reduce my ignorance.

Which is why I got into this business anyway. Teaching in a university is supposed to put one in the ignorance reduction business. I suggest this as an antidote to the fear that the faculty above expressed: Yes, we should learn about campus safety and what we can do to increase it, but we should also overcome the fear that is borne of our ignorance about guns. We should practice what we teach.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What do we want? A public expression zone! 

It being after all the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and it being that I work on a college campus, I expected to see some campus protesters today. And sure enough they were there, marching about inside my building. "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" It was that typical nostalgia for the Sixties that the modern student learns (some dare call it "critical thinking".) Students and faculty alike mostly were annoyed by the loud chanting, which interrupted many classes. There were calls made to campus security, but I never saw an officer come over to our building. The students left within fifteen minutes at any rate.

As someone observed, we have on our campus public expression zones. When the fire-and-brimstone preacher comes to campus, he's required to stand in the zone. Nobody seems to want to hold these students to that standard. Why?

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