American Elephants

At Last! A Grownup. I Hope It’s Catching. by The Elephant's Child

From Economist Mark Perry at AEI— the quotation of the day:

The University of Chicago’s Dean of Students has sent a letter to the Class of 2020 incoming students:

Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the College at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.

Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. This is captured in the University’s faculty report of freedom of expression. Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and  freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Perhaps a little publicity will help other universities to discover just what education is all about, and stop pandering to agitators.

The Bill of Rights Will Be 225 Years Old This Year, And Nobody seems to Understand it After All This Time! by The Elephant's Child

Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech,
or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably
to Assemble, and To Petition the Government
for a Redress of Grievances.

The Bill of Rights will be 225 years old this year, and remains as contentious as ever. In a way, it’s only natural. Nobody likes rude comments directed to them, or to someone or someone they favor. Depending on just how rude — you probably want them silenced. Certainly we have a current problem on college campuses where the students not only don’t want to be offended, but they don’t want any microaggressions, and want to be protected from having to hear anyone who might disagree with them.

Well so much for education. No one who needs protection from opinions different from their own has any interest in being educated. ‘Protection from’ and ‘education’ are antithetical. Parents, you’re wasting your money.

“December 17, 2015 ought henceforth to be a date which will live in infamy, as that was the day that some of the leading Democrats in the House of Representatives came out in favor of the destruction of the First Amendment. House Resolution 569 condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.”

That freedom of speech thing is all very well until it is your own ox being gored. How did we get to a place where understanding the meaning of free speech is so hard?

Here’s a short history of how the Bill of Rights came about. and follow that up with Wikipedia’s account of the Alien and Sedition Acts. What? You mean they can throw you in prison for criticizing the government?  That’s what Sedition is, and in many countries it is grounds for being arrested, thrown in prison, or even having your head chopped off. ISIS chops off heads of those who criticize the Caliphate or its leaders, or the prophet, or its rules. Iran does the same, and Saudi Arabia just executed 47 prisoners. You will find many countries where Sedition is against the law.

Jonathan Rauch wrote a splendid little book back in 1993 called “Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. The jacket flap says “Thou shall not hurt others with words. The commandment looks harmless even admirable. But it is neither. As Jonathan Rauch states in the groundbreaking book, “This moral principle is deadly—inherently deadly, not incidentally so—to intellectual freedom and to the productive and peaceful pursuit of knowledge.”

The most frightening thing of the year has been to discover that there are significant numbers of students who have been admitted to good colleges, even ivy league colleges, who have not the slightest idea of  the importance of free speech, nor of the blessings of living in a country that has such protections. American schools go to great lengths to inform us that they are teaching “critical thinking.” That is a lie, and a big one. They are teaching the art of being a victim. They are teaching “social justice,” unaware that there is only one kind of justice in this country—which is embodied in the Constitution, the laws of the nation, the states, and the courts.

A reading list might start with Kindly Inquisitors, include 1984, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Add to that Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag: an account of the 22 years author Armando Valladares spent as a prisoner of conscience under Fidel Castro. His only crime was upholding his Catholic faith by refusing to display Marxist propaganda on his work desk. He was kept up at night by the sound of Castro’s firing squads murdering innocent Cubans, brutally beaten, immersed in human feces, forced to watch guards abuse and even murder other prisoners. President Reagan read his memoir and appointed Valladares the U.S. ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

The pitiful “snowflakes” on our campuses, having been “organized” by former protesters from Ferguson and Baltimore, Acorn, and Obama’s Americorps, were protesting faux racial offenses, and nonexistent hate crimes. There was no excuse for administrators and faculty who forgot how to behave like adults, and pandered and resigned in disgrace.

Greg Lukianoff of the organization FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has been defending freedom of expression on campus since 1999. He wrote today at Cato, an essay titled “Campus Free Speech Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time.” FIRE is a splendid organization and his essay is worth your time. If we do not stand up for freedom of speech, we may end up with a new batch of Sedition laws. The Left is certainly of the opinion that freedom of speech should be curtailed.  Or do you not understand what the Citizens United case was all about? Our presidential candidates on the Left promise to get rid of the decision.

Another essay worth your time is “Campus Turmoil Begins in High School” by Jonathan Haidt. The kids are heading back to school after Christmas vacation. We’ll see if the holidays (or their parents) have mellowed the returning students at all. We can only hope.

Searching Your Facebook and Twitter Accounts For Signs of Terrorist Activity by The Elephant's Child

1849720506_694ed23d32The totalitarians are after your social media use. If the federal authorities have their way, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites will be forced to report users’ activities under a new provision of the 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act.

This is a tricky business. ISIS is clearly using social media as a recruiting tool, and quite successfully, though if you want to see a useless search, ask Google about ISIS recruit numbers. It is clear that many young Muslims are being radicalized through social media. The glamor of going to the Middle East to chop off heads or shoot people for entertainment escapes me, but it is a real problem.

According to the legislation sent to the Senate floor, any online service provider that “obtains actual knowledge of any terrorist activity…shall provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity.” The companies would have to report tweets, videos, posts or other content exchanged online by users.

If you read the ordinary comments on online posts, the language is increasingly crude, comments often designed more to insult than provide intelligent discussion. Everybody’s angry. However, people who are anxious about privacy aren’t going to go for this. But the problem is real, and the dangers real. Someone will have to decide whether a communication is wholly protected political speech, only commentary on current events or — something that should be reported to the government.

Unfortunately, the government’s constant drive for more control and more regulations on the one hand, and more secrecy and lies on the other — means a significant loss of confidence on the part of the public. You won’t find totalitarian governments that are beloved by their people. It ‘s a conundrum. There are still people out there who think Edward Snowden is some kind of hero.

Democrat Attempt to End Freedom of Speech Failed. by The Elephant's Child

The Democrats attempt to rewrite the Constitution and amend the First Amendment to curtail the rights of Americans to free political speech has died in the Senate. It needed 60 votes to advance. Free political speech is the very essence of liberty, and the envy of the world.

Fifty-four Senate Democrats actually voted to give Congress the power to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” Think through what that would mean.

Some, such as Senator Bernie Sanders (S-VT) said the amendment would allow Democrats to enact more of their preferred legislation. Exactly. Democrats want to be completely in charge, without any interference from those pesky Republicans. They just want Republicans gone — so they can rule.

This bunch rejects 223 years of liberty and political freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights since it was ratified in 1791 — because they want their own way. No arguments. No questioning our policies. No criticism. No unpleasant speech. Can they win elections without cheating?

Somebody remarked that there used to be a “Sandinista wing” of the Democrat Party. Not anymore, it’s entirely Sandinista now.

More Incidents on the Free Speech Front by The Elephant's Child

—Jeff Olson is a 40-year-old man who was being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on the sidewalk in water-soluble chalk faced a 13 year sentence. A judge had barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during the trial. The San Diego Reader reported that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from”mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.”

Olson faced 13 counts of vandalism. In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson would also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left in washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the federal government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent in the financial crisis.

Olson was a former staffer for a Washington State senator, and involved himself in political activism inspired by the Occupy Wall Street  protest regarding debit card fees. He scribbled slogans such as “Stop Big Banks” and “Stop Bank” One Bank of America branch claimed it had cost $6,000 to clean up the washable chalk.

Darrell Freeman, Vice President of Bank of America’s Global Corporate Security, and a former police officer, decided to take Olson and his friend on.  He threatened them with “running a business outside of the bank,”and when that didn’t work pressured members of San Diego’s Gang Unit on behalf of Bank of America, until the matter was forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office.

Olson did not deny that he scrawled anti-bank messages and artwork outside the banks last year, such as “No thanks, big banks” and Shame on Bank of America.”

His attorney argued that vandalism law required jurors to find something was “maliciously defaced.” He added, “His purpose was not malicious. His purpose was to inform.

The mayor condemned the City Attorney’s Office, calling it a waste of time. Defense attorney Tom Tosdal said it was an “enormous waste of public resources.” He said bank officials demanded the prosecution because they didn’t like his client’s message. The jury agreed and  acquitted Olson.

The judge forbade any mention of freedom of speech or the First Amendment? Wow.

—In West Virginia, a 14-year-old student wore a National Rifle Association tee shirt to school. Uh Oh! His teacher demanded that he remove it, and he refused. Jared Marcum, 14, was charged with obstruction following the April 18 incident after police were called to Logan Middle School. Police said he wouldn’t stop talking. After he was charged, Marcum faced up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.

Ben White, the Marcum family attorney, claimed the demand that he remove the NRA shirt violated his right to freedom of speech. Logan County Circuit Court Judge Eric O’Briant signed an order dismissing the charge.

After Marcum was arrested, students throughout Logan County wore similar NRA shirts in a show of solidarity. Prosecutors sought to have a gag order imposed on Marcum and his family. After reviewing statements from the arresting officer and the school principal, White said he and a prosecutor agreed that creating a criminal record for the 14-year-old boy was not a good idea. Annoying a prosecutor is apparently not a good idea.

—The BBC headline ran “U.S. Bloggers Banned From Entering the UK.” “Bloggers” Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were denied entry to the country that gave the world the Magna Charta. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are both prominent critics of Islamism — the strand of militant Islam that attempts to spread the intolerant ideology of Islam throughout the West through the imposition of sharia.

What Geller and Spencer do is speak. They give lectures, they write books. They were traveling to Britain to participate in a commemorative ceremony for Drummer Lee Rigby, the young soldier who was returning to his barracks when two Muslims ran him down with a car, then stabbed and hacked him to death with knives and a cleaver. Rigby had to be identified with dental records.

Geller and Spencer speak about the intolerance of Islam and the requirements of sharia. A government spokesman said individuals whose presence “is not conducive to the public good” may be denied entry by the Home Secretary. He explained: “We condemn all those whose behaviors and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.” We’re trying to be very tolerant, don’t be disagreeing with us or disturbing our fantasies.

Another few incidents in today’s world where freedom of speech means being very, very careful what you say. How did we get here?

The Bill of Rights Was Ratified 222 Years Ago. How Come They Still Don’t Get It? by The Elephant's Child

“I was expelled from Syracuse University for comments that I posted on Facebook.”

Syracuse University School of Education graduate student Matthew Werenczak was just trying to finish his masters degree early when he decided to take a summer course that involved tutoring at a local middle school. But after a comment he posted on Facebook about an experience he had at the school caught the attention of the Syracuse administration, Werenczak would be lucky if he graduated at all.

On the first day of Werenczak’s tutoring program at Danforth Middle School, he and another Syracuse student were introduced to their students by a member of the Concerned Citizens Action Program (CCAP). They happened to be the only two white people in the room. Shortly after the introduction, in the presence of Werenczak and the other white student teacher, the CCAP member, who is black, said that he thought that the city schools should hire more teachers from historically black colleges.

“This [comment] offended me, as well as the other student teacher in the room,” says Werenczak in FIRE’s latest video. “It just seemed inappropriate considering that the two student teachers happened to be from Syracuse and a not a historically black college.”

So Werenczak took to Facebook to write about the incident.

“Just making sure we’re okay with racism,” wrote Werenczak. “It’s not enough I’m … tutoring in the worst school in the city, I suppose I oughta be black or stay in my own side of town.”

“I was kind of trying to see if my friends or other peers, classmates would have a similar reaction to what I had,” says Werenczak about the reason for his posting the comment.

One reaction Werenczak didn’t see coming was an expulsion from the School of Education for the Facebook comments, which the school described as “unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive.” The school told Werenczak he could avoid expulsion by voluntarily withdrawing, or he could fulfill several requirements in order to gain a chance of “re-admittance.”

When Werenczak fulfilled the requirements and was still not readmitted to the school, he contacted FIRE for help.

“Hours after FIRE took the case public, Syracuse University backed down and I was brought back [into the program] and later graduated.”

Why is it always the educators in our universities that don’ t grasp freedom of speech. Our colleges and universities are  hotbeds of attempting to censor speech that they don’t like. Thank goodness for FIRE.

Obama’s Scandal of Murderous Proportions, and It’s No Big Deal? by The Elephant's Child

Benghazi is the worst scandal in memory, and the compliant media — the PR arm of the Obama campaign — is ready to brush it aside as if it were “just a bump in the road.” the president’s own callous designation for four murdered Americans. The administration story clearly departed from what was known and when it was known. Brett Baier has compiled a timeline of events.

It has been confusing, as the administration tried valiantly to insist that it was a spontaneous mob reaction to a 14 minute YouTube video critical of Islam that apparently no one had seen, which resulted in mob violence and attacks on embassies in 20 countries. The administration knew within 24 hours of the 9/11 attack that it was a planned attack by terrorists. Secretary of State Clinton announced on the 13th that she found the anti-Muslim movie trailer that sparked violent attacks on American embassies across the Middle east “disgusting and reprehensible.” President Obama said there were going to be “a few bumps in the road,” and headed off to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

Nakoula Basili Nakoula who made the You Tube video was ‘coincidentally’ picked up on the 13th for questioning about a probation violation of using a computer. He was judged a “flight risk” and sentenced to solitary confinement for at least a couple of weeks.

To push the video story on September 16, UN Ambassador Susan Rice was dispatched to the Sunday shows, where she obediently, 5 days after the attack said it was a spontaneous uprising in reaction to the video

“We had a substantial security presence with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically, two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them.”

That wasn’t true either. The “consulate” was an unsecured building, the Libyan security ran away, and the two former SEALS were not there to protect the ambassador or the facility, but lost their lives when they stepped forward to try to help.

So a week after the attack Obama and his administration were still trying to push the video story. Or to rephrase it — they have been deliberately lying to the American public. And eventually they gave up that story and started lying about lying about it.

Mr. Obama has had a great deal invested in his brag about killing bin Laden, and decimating the bin Laden terrorist group. After considerable (a year) hesitation, he agreed to the raid, which any president would have done. The organization is still alive and well.

For clarification I turned to the DiploMad, a former State Department official who reported from Banda Aceh on the 2004 Indonesian tsunami rescue efforts. He said:

The attack on the US facility in Benghazi is a scandal of–literally–murderous proportions. The lack of concern for even basic security procedures, the mishandling of intelligence information, the willful blindness towards the causes of the attack, and the outrageous and outright lying to cover up the incompetence by Carney, Rice, Clinton, Obama, and now Clapper is breath-taking.

The late Ambassador Stevens, I am sorry to say, has a share of the blame for the failure to use common sense and to behave in a manner that would have protected him and his people. This failure  cost him his life and those of three other Americans, and apparently produced a catastrophe for US interests.

I will be criticized for criticizing a murdered Ambassador, but he was the man in charge. His greatest apparent shortcoming, and I would gladly retract this and apologize if the evidence points elsewhere, was allowing that facility, which apparently played a key role in our intel efforts in the region, to operate with nothing that approximated even basic security standards. In addition, he drew attention to the facility by announcing that he would go to Benghazi, and that he would inaugurate an “American Corner” there. He did this although, apparently, he had concerns about the security of the facility in Benghazi, as well as his own safety,

Read the whole thing. It strikes me as straightforward common sense from someone who knows the ropes.

This is a cover-up, a deliberate attempt to hide the truth by an administration that claimed it wanted to be the most transparent in history. It involves the murder of four Americans, one our ambassador, and involves our national security. The attack on the Benghazi safe-house indicates that it was well known to the terrorists, and more than 15 days later the FBI has not been to Benghazi to secure the premises. What documents were taken is still unknown. Why was there an unsecured ‘consulate’ in the first place. We’ve learned that the Administration actually deleted damning State Department memos from the Internet, in which State expressed the view that it had “no credible information to suggest that al-Qaeda or any terrorist group is plotting any kind of attack overseas to coincide with the upcoming anniversary of September 11.”

Congressional Democrats have actually demanded some detailed information. Obama is still out on the campaign trail. Appearances on Letterman, and shamefully on the View were fine, but the President was too busy to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. This seems to be just another occasion where Obama’s self-concern is larger than the national interest. It is still all about him.



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