Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Last Call For Ten More Years Of This

Getting tired of Republicans going after Hillary all day?  No problem, just pace yourself.  We're in for a long, long game of derangement.

A leading Republican critic of Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday he wants the former secretary of state to testify about her controversial use of personal email for government work by April, timing that could coincide with her expected launch of a 2016 presidential campaign. 
"I would like to have it done by April," Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who chairs a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, said on Wednesday. 
He told MSNBC he wanted answers on the emails "sooner rather than later," and said other congressional panels could also take Clinton to task over her use of a private email address and a private server at her home in New York state for official emails, rather than using government systems. 
That could clash with Clinton's launch of her expected 2016 presidential bid. Democratic sources have said Clinton, who is the frontrunner among potential Democratic candidates, could formally announce her plans as early as April.

Her advisers were considering delaying the announcement until the summer, but many Democrats say the email controversy will force her to accelerate the timetable. A formal declaration that she is running would enable Clinton to hire a larger communications team and respond more readily to crises.

I know the plan is inflicting Clinton Burnout on the nation early so that people give up on her and don't vote, and frankly it's a good plan that has a more than small chance of working.  The problem is Republicans are incompetent and overconfident, always a combination guaranteed to backfire.

We'll see how far they get.  Yes, the emails may yet be a problem, but Republican are already overplaying their hand.

The Ferguson Report: Aftermath

The Justice Department's scathing report on Ferguson, Missouri's local government is getting results. First, the city's municipal judge has resigned over the report accusing him of running the court as a revenue machine for the city:

Judge Ronald Brockmeyer of Ferguson presided in Ferguson for more than a decade and is mentioned in the Justice Department's report about the city that criticized the court's use of sometimes excessive and unnecessary fees. 
That Justice Department review also found that Missouri's troubled Ferguson Police Department engaged in a broad pattern of racially biased enforcement that permeated the city's justice system, including the use of unreasonable force against African American suspects. The report criticized the city's municipal court system and included Brockmeyer's boasts about increasing the court fees. 
Citing a report from the finance director to city council, the Justice Department pointed out that Brockmeyer had been "successful in significantly increasing court collections over the years." 
The report also includes a list of what the judge did to help in the areas of court efficiency and revenue. That list that Brockmeyer drafted approvingly highlighted the creation of additional fees, many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful, according to the Justice Department. The city of Ferguson repealed some of the fees, including a "failure to appear fine," during the Justice Department's investigation.

But Judge Brockmeyer was far from the only problem.  Now the City Manager has resigned in disgrace as well over this scheme.

Ferguson's chief executive resigned Tuesday night, becoming the latest in a string of law enforcement officers and officials to leave their posts following the release of a scathing Department of Justice report.

John Shaw, 39, had served as Ferguson's city manager since 2007, according to the New York Times. The newspaper reported that Shaw's resignation was announced at a city council meeting where members of the Council unanimously approved a "mutual separation agreement." 
The DOJ report, which was released last week, found alleged racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department, municipal jail and court. The report named Shaw as having overseen Ferguson's operations while the city implemented policies to increase revenue that discriminated against black residents, according to the Times. 
Shaw denied in his resignation letter that his office had anything to do with implementing policies that discriminated against some Ferguson residents. 
"While I certainly respect the work that the D.O.J. recently performed in their investigation and report on the City of Ferguson, I must state clearly that my office has never instructed the Police Department to target African-Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor,” he wrote, as quoted by the newspaper. “Any inferences of that kind from the report are simply false.”

But you did nothing to stop it, did you Mr. Shaw.  Sorry to see you out of a job, I guess.  When the vast majority of black citizens in Ferguson had outstanding warrants over court fees, it's not hard to imagine the guy in charge of balancing the books looking the other way when the cops would go roll black residents and shake them down for cash, especially when the city got a cut.

To see this happening in 2015 isn't surprising, but it is disturbing.

Lowering The Boomer, Sooner

University of Oklahoma President David Boren has chosen to expel two of the students involved in this week's display of a campus fraternity's viral video of racism.  The question becomes "can a public, taxpayer funded university expel students over racist speech"?  Eugene Volokh says it's a clear violation of the First Amendment.

First, racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions — see here for some citations. The same, of course, is true for fraternity speech, racist or otherwise; see Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University (4th Cir. 1993). (I set aside the separate question of student speech that is evaluated as part of coursework or class participation, which necessarily must be evaluated based on its content; this speech clearly doesn’t qualify.)

UPDATE: The university president wrote that the students are being expelled for “your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.” But there is no First Amendment exception for racist speech, or exclusionary speech, or — as the cases I mentioned above — for speech by university students that “has created a hostile educational environment for others.”
Scott Lemieux agrees with Volokh on this question.

It’s a public university, racist speech in itself is protected speech, and I don’t know what exceptions would apply here.

It’s a moot point, but I’m less convinced that the university would be prevented from decertifying the fraternity (although I’m not saying Volokh is wrong about that either.) But it seems to me that expelling the students for this (absolutely indefensible and disgusting and racist) language violates the First Amendment. I can understand why Boren reacted so forcefully and he’s justified in harshly condemning the speech, but I don’t think this is the right remedy.

Completely not a lawyer (both Volokh and Lemieux are) but the Supreme Court made it pretty clear a few years ago that vile speech is protected under the First Amendment when the Westboro Baptist Church successfully sued for their right to protest military funerals in 2010.  The Roberts Court heard another case on vile speech, this time involving internet threats, back in November, and a decision on that is expected this spring.

I hate it but the Constitution and the courts have been very pointed on this.  The government can't stop you from being a racist asshole.  Private entities can surely level consequences against you, but the speech itself (and Boren makes it clear that it's the speech itself the students are being expelled for) is protected from government action.  These students have a compelling case, and I'd expect some hefty legal action against the University of Oklahoma that the courts will support.

There's another question of whether or not the fraternity can discriminate against black students, but again that's a separate battle and the courts have generally sided with universities that the action of discrimination by Greek organizations against students is wrong and that public universities don't have to tolerate it.  But the main issue is about free speech on a taxpayer-funded public university campus, and I don't see how the University of Oklahoma wins this one.

It was a stupid move, long-term.


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