January 02, 2006

New Year's link-o-rama

Hope everyone is recovered from any Nuevo Año celebrations. For your feel-better perusal, we offer the following stories:

* Greg at Rhymes With Right details how Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has discovered $564,838 to renovate her offices. However, as Greg notes, "at the time of her decision, Blanco also was hinting at deep budget cuts to state programs and the possibility of laying off 20 percent of the state workforce." Typical.

* Via the NAS e-mail bag: A review of The Chosen, which details Ivy League school discrimination against Jews in the early part of the last century, and compares/contrasts it to the current debate over affirmative action for minorities. Reviewer Jonathan Kay notes:

One of his key findings is that, contrary to conservative myth, there never was a golden age for pure meritocracy. By the time widespread discrimination against Jews was eliminated in the 1960's, universities had already taken their first open steps toward the preferential admission of blacks, an infringement of the meritocratic ideal that persists to this day.

Nowhere in the book does [author Jerome] Karabel suggest he is bothered by this. He views merit not as an absolute but rather as a malleable concept defined according to the balance of power among competing constituencies. As seen through this lens, the fact that Jews profited by fighting discrimination and blacks now profit from its perpetuation is irrelevant. Both groups have simply succeeded in redefining merit to serve their own purposes.

There is, however, an enormous difference between the two cases - which is why no one thinks twice today about the decision to ease off on Jewish quotas in favor of merit while affirmative action (and, for that matter, legacy preferences) continue to grate heavily against the fundamental belief that individuals should be judged, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, "by the content of their character." (Emphasis mine.)

* Also via the NAS e-mail bag: A math professor at the University of Rhode Island saw an "opportunity" to vent his political beliefs in class:

In a recent article for the campus paper at URI, Ryan [Bilodeau] reported how Professor John Montgomery taught students in his class, Math 107, about Venn Diagrams, a mathematical tool for depicting subsets of a group:

W = all members of President Bush’s administration
S = all members who are stupid
I = all members who are incompetent
Y = all members who are “yes –men” (or women)

Describe and draw a Venn Diagram:
a) all incompetent “yes-men” who are not stupid
b) those who are stupid or incompetent, but not yes-men.

In a message responding to Ryan’s article appearing on a public campus message board, the professor admitted that he used partisan examples in the classroom, but claimed that his use of these examples did not constitute indoctrination:

"I never get to discuss politics or my worldview in class. The one-line statements that I use for examples (in symbolic logic) are never discussed because their truth or non-truth is irrelevant to the validity of a symbolic argument. In an attempt to keep the students awake, I try to make the statements provocative or entertaining. When I proposed the stereotype statement "No Republican cares for the poor," it was in the context of "how would you negate that" or "change that into an "if...then..." statement."

"I never get to discuss politics or my worldview in class." As it should be, especially in a MATH class! Consider:

Suppose the example was set up this way:

W = all members of Peace Movement
S = all members who are stupid
I = all members who are incompetent
Y = all members who are traitors

Does anyone in his right mind think that Professor Montgomery could get away with using this example and defend it by saying he was only trying to make it interesting?

Of course if he used this example, a delegation of leftist faculty would have appeared in his office (if he was lucky) and in the Administration’s office (if he was not). It is difficult to conceive a scenario where Professor Montgomery would not be forced to apologize and withdraw the example. Unfortunately – but typically – there are no conservatives to speak of on the liberal arts faculty of the University of Rhode Island to make such a protest. Consequently no such apology was forthcoming.

* Dana over at Delaware Watch discusses the case of Delaware Election Commissioner Frank Calio. Calio was forced to resign from his unpaid "job" as a columnist for two Sussex County weekly newspapers, the Laurel Star and Seaford Star after it was shown that it appears he violated state law by writing "advocacy" articles for the papers. The law in question states (emphasis mine):

§ 301. Appointment; term and compensation.

(e) The State Election Commissioner shall not directly or indirectly use or seek to use his or her authority or official influence to control or modify the political action of another person or at any time participate in any political activities or campaigns. (15 Del. C. 1953, § 302; 50 Del. Laws, c. 168, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 181, § 15; 58 Del. Laws, c. 215, § 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.)*

Dana's argument is that state laws such as this should not be able to trump 1st Amendment constitutional protections, i.e. Calio (not "Calico" as Dana uses throughout his post but got correct in his post title!) should be permitted to write whatever he wishes for whatever paper. It is a compelling argument, but does it stand up to legal scrutiny? Stromberg v. California (1931) appears to be a good precedent for Calio at first glance; the US Supreme Court has examined myriad free speech cases since.

Pickering v. Board of Education 391 U.S. 563 (1968) says "To receive protection, the speech must be on a matter of public concern, and the employee's interest in expressing herself on this matter must not be outweighed by any injury that the speech could cause to the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees." In Pickering's case -- he was a public school teacher -- the SCOTUS agreed that his 1st Amendment rights were violated when his school board dismissed him for writing a letter to the editor that was critical of his district's plans to seek additional tax revenue.

Further, Hyland v. Wonder determined that "Speech focused solely on internal policy and personnel grievances does not implicate the First Amendment." Calio, a DE state employee, wasn't writing about DE internal policies; indeed, he was opining on a macro scale -- matters of general national and international scope.

Following that example, Connick v. Myers determined the the use of the Pickering precedent was erroneous. Sheila Myers, an Assistant D.A. in New Orleans, was opposed to a position transfer she had to undertake. She disputed the methods by which transfers were done. She then circulated a questionnaire throughout her office regarding transfers. Myers was accused of creating a "mini-insurrection," and was subsequently fired. The SCOTUS upheld her dismissal because they saw little "public concern." This, also, appears to favor Calio in that, despite his position as Election Commissioner, his articles were indeed focused on matters of "public concern." Justice White, in Connick, noted:

"[Speech] concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government." Accordingly, the Court has frequently reaffirmed that speech on public issues occupies the 'highest rung of the heirarchy of First Amendment values,' and is entitled to special protection.

There are many more additional questions to consider, certainly. One, for example, is Rankin, where a deputy constable was terminated after she remarked immediately following President Reagan's assassination attempt, "If they go for him again, I hope they get him." She won when her case was heard by the SCOTUS, primarily because her speech addressed "a matter of public concern," didn't affect her job performance, and that her comments were directed to only one person.

For an excellent overview of whether government has violated the free speech of its employees, see this page.

At first, I was of the opinion that Frank Calio rightfully quit his "job" as a columnist because that "job" violated state statute. However, if he refused to stop writing his columns and was consequently terminated from his elections position, it appears [from what I discovered via research this morning] that any legal challenge he may decide to undertake would be successful.

Posted by Hube at January 2, 2006 10:59 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)


Good analysis. Thanks for pointing out my spelling error of Mr. Calio's name. I'll correct it.

Posted by: Dana Garrett at January 2, 2006 11:17 AM

Does the same law apply to NCCo employees under the Gordonberry regime who regularly called in to the Rick Jensen show (posing as ordinary citizens) in support of the administration and its policies?

Posted by: G Rex at January 2, 2006 11:26 AM

Oh, and how about a Venn diagram illustrating the following sets:

J = illiterates

A = left-wing bloggers

S = ignoramuses

O = Bush haters

N = disloyal commie pinkos

Posted by: G Rex at January 2, 2006 11:33 AM

Dana: I was wondering about the spelling of Frank's name myself. For instance, I swear that the WNJ had spelled it "Cario" when that initial article about him came out -- because I sent the article's author, Patrick Jackson, an e-mail asking for more information, and twice I had used "Cario" -- direct from the article. They must have subsequently corrected it (unless I was just plain cross-eyed in the first place!).

Rex: LOVE the Venn diagram example! Most appropriate! ;-)

Posted by: Hube at January 2, 2006 12:05 PM

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