Three University of Florida professors have been barred from assisting plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn the state’s new law restricting voting rights, lawyers said in a federal court filing on Friday. The ban is an extraordinary limit on speech that raises questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights.
University officials told the three that because the school was a state institution, participating in a lawsuit against the state “is adverse to U.F.’s interests” and could not be permitted. In their filing, the lawyers sought to question Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, on whether he was involved in the decision.
Mr. DeSantis has resisted questioning, arguing that all of his communications about the law are protected from disclosure because discussions about legislation are privileged. In their filing on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the federal questions in the case — including whether the law discriminates against minority groups — override any state protections.
Two university representatives said they could not comment on pending litigation. Mr. DeSantis’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The university’s refusal to allow the professors to testify was a marked turnabout for the University of Florida. Like schools nationwide, the university has routinely allowed academic experts to offer expert testimony in lawsuits, even when they oppose the interests of the political party in power.
Leading experts on academic freedom said they knew of no similar restrictions on professors’ speech and testimony and said the action was probably unconstitutional.
One of the professors in the latest filing, Daniel A. Smith, testified with the University of Florida’s permission in two voting rights lawsuits against Florida’s Republican-led government in 2018. One suit forced the state to provide Spanish-language ballots for Hispanic voters. The other overturned a state-imposed ban on early-voting polling places on Florida university campuses.
But university officials reversed course after a coalition of advocacy and voting rights groups sued in May to block restrictions on voting enacted this year by the Republican-controlled State Legislature. Among other provisions, the new law sharply limits the use of ballot drop boxes, makes it harder to obtain absentee ballots and places new requirements on voter registration drives.
Among other claims, the plaintiffs argue that the law disproportionately limits the ability of Black and Hispanic voters to cast ballots.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs sought to hire three University of Florida political scientists as expert witnesses: Dr. Smith, the chair of the university’s political science department; Michael McDonald, a nationally recognized elections scholar; and Sharon Wright Austin, who studies African American political behavior.
In rejecting Dr. Smith’s request, the dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences, David E. Richardson, wrote that “outside activities that may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the state of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida.” A university vice president overseeing conflicts of interest issued the other two rejections.
One lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, Kira Romero-Craft, said that reasoning “goes against the core of what the University of Florida should stand for in terms of academic freedom.”
“It seems reasonable for us to understand whether the executive office of the governor had any role in participating in that decision,” she said.
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Last Call For Actually Being Silenced
That's The Sound Of...No Police?
As supporters of then-President Donald Trump surrounded and harassed a Joe Biden campaign bus on a Central Texas highway last year, San Marcos police officials and 911 dispatchers fielded multiple requests for assistance from Democratic campaigners and bus passengers who said they feared for their safety from a pack of motorists, known as a “Trump Train,” allegedly driving in dangerously aggressive ways.
“San Marcos refused to help,” an amended federal lawsuit over the 2020 freeway skirmish claims.
Transcribed 911 audio recordings and documents that reveal behind-the-scenes communications among law enforcement and dispatchers were included in the amended lawsuit, filed late Friday.
The transcribed recordings were filed in an attempt to show that San Marcos law enforcement leaders chose not to provide the bus with a police escort multiple times, even though police departments in other nearby cities did. In one transcribed recording, Matthew Daenzer, a San Marcos police corporal on duty the day of the incident, refused to provide an escort when recommended by another jurisdiction.
“No, we’re not going to do it,” Daenzer told a 911 dispatcher, according to the amended filing. “We will ‘close patrol’ that, but we’re not going to escort a bus.”
The amended filing also states that in those audio recordings, law enforcement officers “privately laughed” and “joked about the victims and their distress.”
Former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who was running for Congress at the time, is among the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The new complaint also expands the number of people and entities being sued to include Daenzer, San Marcos assistant police chief Brandon Winkenwerder and the city itself. A spokesperson for the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday. Daenzer and Winkenwerder could not immediately be reached.
And without the police escort, the bus was attacked and nearly forced off the highway. I don't expect Texas courts to do much of anything, but remember, if 911 dispatchers and police can openly refuse to serve you because of your political affiliation, you live in an authoritarian state.
The Vax Of Life, Con't
The latest Gallup COVID-19 tracking survey finds 36% of U.S. employees saying their employer is requiring all its workers without a medical exemption to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The percentage has steadily increased each of the last three months, rising from 9% in July.
In addition to those saying their employer is mandating vaccination, the Oct. 18-24 survey finds 39% of U.S. workers saying their employer is encouraging but not requiring them. This percentage has declined from 62% in July as those who say their employer requires vaccines has risen.
Meanwhile, 25% of U.S. workers say their employer has not indicated a vaccine policy, a proportion that has been relatively steady since Gallup first asked the question in May.
More U.S. employees say they favor mandates (56%) than are opposed to them (37%). The percentage in favor has grown from 46% in May, while there has been little change in the percentage opposed. Fewer today than in May (7% vs. 15%, respectively) say they neither favor nor oppose vaccination requirements.
Most U.S. workers hold strong opinions on vaccination requirements. A combined 75% either strongly favor (45%) or strongly oppose (30%) them. In May, 60% of workers had strong opinions in either direction. Back then, those with strong opinions were equally likely to favor as to oppose vaccine requirements, 29% to 30%. The growth since May, then, has come in the percentage who are strongly in favor.
A key concern for employers is whether vaccine requirements will cause employees to leave their organization to find a job with a COVID-19 vaccination policy that matches their personal preferences.
Nearly one in three U.S. workers are poised to look for a new job if their employer sets a policy on COVID-19 vaccinations with which they disagree. This includes 16% who are strongly opposed to vaccination requirements and 15% who are strongly in favor of them, determined as follows:
Thirty percent of all U.S. workers are strongly opposed to employer vaccine requirements, and of these, 52% -- equivalent to 16% of all U.S. workers -- say they would be "extremely likely" to look for a job with a different organization if they disagreed with their employer's policy on vaccine mandates.
Forty-five percent of U.S. workers strongly favor employer vaccine requirements, and 33% of this group says they are extremely likely to look for a different job over disagreements about employer vaccine policy. That translates to 15% of all U.S. workers.
Those figures are likely upper bounds of potential job losses tied to COVID-19 vaccine policy, as many will find themselves in sync with their employers' stance -- or not follow through and leave their job even if they disagree. For example, some workers strongly opposed to vaccination requirements may ultimately decide to get vaccinated in order to keep their job. Also, some workers concerned about COVID-19 transmission at work may decide to stay at their job even if their employer does not mandate vaccinations for all workers there.
As more and more of the unvaccinated get sick and die though, we're seeing more surviving Americans become more sold on vaccines and mandates for them as a good idea.
Still, 70-75% vaccinated is most likely the best we'll get as a nation right now.
Finally, the vaccine is better than "natural immunity" and significantly so.
Earlier this month, the conservative radio host Dennis Prager announced he had contracted the coronavirus. This was, as far as he was concerned, good news. The unvaccinated Prager had hoped to protect himself against COVID-19 the old-fashioned way: by getting sick.
“It is infinitely preferable to have natural immunity than vaccine immunity,” Prager said, echoing an anti-vaccine argument echoed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other pro-Trump figures who have turned coronavirus vaccination into a culture war that, public health officials say, could prolong the pandemic for everyone.
Prager is wrong, suggests a new study published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that finds that natural immunity offers far weaker protection than does a vaccine. The new study finds that people who had natural immunity from having recently fought off COVID-19 and who were not vaccinated were 5.49 times more likely to experience another COVID-19 infection than were vaccinated people who had not previously been infected.
“The data demonstrate that vaccination can provide a higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity to protect people from hospitalization for COVID-19 than infection alone for at least 6 months,” a CDC press release said.
Five and a half times less likely to contract COVID again, but my idiot GOP Congressman continues to lie to his constituents about this.
Massie of course staunchly refuses the vaccine and is spreading disinformation on purpose while Kentuckians die from the virus.
But that's what he wants: dead constituents don't use federal government resources, and he hates that more than anything.