Introducing the First Amendment to College Administrators

As I’ve documented many times, speech codes on college campuses are a clear and present danger to free speech. Here’s a perfect example from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. Here’s how it started:

On September 12, 2011, Professor Miller posted on his office door an image of Nathan Fillion in Fireflyand a line from an episode: “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.” On September 16, UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter emailed Miller, notifying him that she had removed the poster and that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.”

Amazed that UWS could be so shockingly heavy-handed, Miller replied by email, “Respect liberty and respect my first amendment rights.” Walter responded that “the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed.” Walter also threatened Miller with criminal charges: “If you choose to repost the article or something similar to it, it will be removed and you could face charges of disorderly conduct.”

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Romney’s Disingenuous Anti-Intellectual Pandering

There are few more idiotic memes on the right than the denigration of intellect and learning, but it’s especially ridiculous coming from Mitt Romney. Here he is in a speech last month claiming that Obama is weak when dealing with dictators:

“That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge,” he said, “but it’s not what they know on the battlefield!”

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Why Guantanamo Matters

The two hikers finally freed from an Iranian prison demonstrate why the existence of Guantanamo matters:

“In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay,” he said. While the hikers don’t believe American policies “justify what has been done to us,” he said, “We do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.”

At the very least, it destroys our credibility when we criticize anyone else for it. What will we say when another nation tortures one of our soldiers captured in war? What could we possibly say?

Perry = Palin?

Kevin Drum says that Rick Perry has screwed up the debates because he hasn’t bothered to put in the work to get better:

But there was a bigger problem: Perry looked like he didn’t think he needed to even care about any of that stuff. He muffed his attack lines because he hadn’t bothered to study them. He wasn’t prepared for the tuition fight because he figured that he could just repeat the same old explanations and flash his thousand-watt smile at the audience. He didn’t know what to say about Pakistan because he figured any sort of good ol’ boy BS would do. It always has before, after all. So he’s apparently spent the past month doing….nothing.

That’s just way too Palinesque for the political pros. He looks like a guy who’s had such an easy time in Texas that he doesn’t really think he’s going to have to work for the nomination — or the presidency.

It may well be that his meteoric rise in the polls when he announced his nomination gave him a false confidence that told him he didn’t need to work at it. But it should have been obvious that the reason for that rise had far more to do with dissatisfaction among Republican voters for the candidates that had already announced. So when Perry announced he was greeted as a savior, as the candidate that can unite both factions of the party. Didn’t last long.

The Progress of Human Morality

Steven Pinker has an interesting essay in the Wall Street Journal arguing that violence has declined precipitously in the human race in recent decades and centuries. He recognizes that there is still far too much violence in the world and also that his claim will be greeted with skepticism, but he presents compelling arguments for why violence in modern nation-states is much lower than in earlier epochs:

Believe it or not, the world of the past was much worse. Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.

The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth. It has not brought violence down to zero, and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is a persistent historical development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.

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Roger Ebert’s Inspiring Courage

If you haven’t been inspired by how Roger Ebert has handled the tragic health problems that have beset him, you haven’t been paying attention. Thyroid cancer has resulted in the removal of part of his jaw and the loss of his ability to speak or to eat and drink and he now takes nourishment through a feeding tube. But he has shown remarkable dignity and grace during the whole thing. He has a new book out about life and death and an article on Salon that sums up his views. It is a model of how a non-believer should handle the prospect of death.
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Robert O’Brien Nominee: Larry Klayman

You can always count on Larry Klayman to bring the crazy:

As just one example, this time from the Democratic side of the aisle, our president, Barack Hussein Obama, Muslim under Islamic law as his father was Muslim and clearly Muslim in his heart, is in the process of orchestrating what Netanyahu branded “theatre of the absurd” with regard to Israel, a vital ally and one that is essential for U.S. national security in the oil-rich region of the Middle East.

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The Founding Fathers and Vaccination

The incredibly cool Lindsay Beyerstein writes at The Nation about Michele Bachmann’s anti-vaccination nonsense — and what the founding fathers she claims to revere so much might think about it.

Bachmann’s grasp of political science is as shaky as her grasp of medical science. As a Tea Party conservative, Bachmann styles herself as defender of original vision of the founding fathers for America. Ironically, several of the founding fathers were champions of inoculation against infectious disease. Some even played key roles in ushering in the vaccine age.

If it hadn’t been for mandatory smallpox inoculation, the Republic might never have survived. General George Washington ordered the Continental Army inoculated against smallpox in 1777, the first large scale inoculation of an army in history. Washington was supported in this effort by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence and the chair of the Continental Congress’ Medical Department.

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Romney’s Attempt to Otherize Obama

One of the most persistent memes on the right since the rise of Barack Obama is the attempt to otherize him, turn him into not just a non-American but an anti-American. That’s the root of Birtherism and all that nonsensical talk about American exceptionalism. And it’s the whole purpose of the relentless claim by Mitt Romney and others that Obama went on an “apology tour” around the world.

As Romney said, once again, at last week’s debate, “The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America.” Steve Benen responds:
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The Finality of the Death Penalty

Balko links to this article by an attorney named Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry about the death penalty. He calls the Troy Davis execution “an unconscionable miscarriage of justice,” yet he still comes out in favor of the death penalty. He examines many of the arguments for and against it, admitting that it has no deterrent value for instance, and says that he is “ultimately and reluctantly” in favor of the death penalty because “most of the arguments against the death penalty are bunk.”

I would suggest that arguments like this could cause one to doubt his reasoning ability in this regard:
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Scalia and Catholic Morality

Justice Antonin Scalia gave a talk at Duquesne University Law School recently, a Catholic school, and made some rather odd claims.

“I hope this place will not yield, as some Catholic institutions have, to this politically correct insistence upon suppressing moral judgment, to this distorted view of what diversity in America means.” …

A devout Catholic who came from humble beginnings in New Jersey to graduate with honors from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, Justice Scalia said faith and morals are vital complements to an educational environment.

“This has nothing to do with making students better lawyers, but everything to do with making them better men and women,” he said. “Moral formation is a respectable goal for any educational institution, even a law school.”

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Repeal Obamacare or Die!

That’s the actual headline on the latest bit of stupid from Roger Hedgecock and the Worldnutdaily. It begins with this:

My uncle once told me in a low voice, “Never let them take you to a hospital. You’ll never come out.” In his 90s and near death, he was rushed to a hospital and died. Now comes a study documenting that hospital privacy curtains are full of bacteria, including the antibiotic resistant strains. Hospitals full of sick people are where the germs are.

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Obama Bans Guns. By Not Banning Guns.

You can’t fool Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, he’ll see right through you. And he’s figured out President Obama’s devious plan to take away our guns by not taking away our guns.

“[The Obama campaign] will say gun owners — they’ll say they left them alone,” LaPierre told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. “In public, he’ll remind us that he’s put off calls from his party to renew the Clinton [assault weapons] ban, he hasn’t pushed for new gun control laws… The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he’s actually been good for the Second Amendment.”

“But it’s a big fat stinking lie!” the NRA leader exclaimed. “It’s all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the Second Amendment in our country.”

And Obama would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids.

Florida’s Lt. Gov. Turns Preacher

Jennifer Carroll, the Lt. Governor of Florida, gave a speech at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering last week and appeared to be auditioning to be Pat Robertson’s next co-host on the 700 Club. She says crazy things like this:

You know the Bible says faith is believing in what is not seen, today unfortunately many in the media would like nothing better to ridicule Christians: they promote ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ they place doubt in the public’s mind that Christ was not risen and they condemn the ‘Passion of Christ,’ yet they sensationalize stories that call for the end of prayer in school and removing the name of God from our country’s pledge. Ladies and gentlemen, these are very sad times when we allow the minority to poison the minds of the majority. This is exactly what dictators and socialist rulers did.

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Religion and the Death Penalty

In the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, Christopher Hitchens ties America’s use of the death penalty to the continuing influence of religion:

The reason why the United States is alone among comparable countries in its commitment to doing this is that it is the most religious of those countries. (Take away only China, which is run by a very nervous oligarchy, and the remaining death-penalty states in the world will generally be noticeable as theocratic ones.)

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