Friday, March 13, 2015

Free speech trumps racial sensitivity in UO case

As a lifelong advocate for civil rights and free speech for all, the immediate expulsion of two University of Oklahoma students poses a dilemma. Their facially offensive song sung in private, neither involved violence, nor advocated violence. It was not sung in the presence of the minority group it targeted. If the two students sue they are near certain to win re-instatement and possible compensation for arguably the rash actions of University president David Boren. He cited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in support of his expulsions, but Title VI involves "literal discrimination", not privately protected speech. While the University has a code of “rights and responsibilities” prohibiting “conduct that is sufficiently severe and pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, harassing or humiliating,” courts would likely rule Constitutionally protected free speech prevails over the code. Put a bug in the home of any respectable person and you'd likely hear the most terrible things. Nobody would be safe from swift and unjust, justice. That is why free speech protections are so vital in a democracy.

The incident should be used as a teachable moment to promote racial inclusiveness and understanding. One action might be requiring every fraternity, indeed, every university organization, to recruit minority members. SAE's racial exclusiveness, which it celebrated in its now self-destructive song, is what led two reckless teenagers to destroy their futures. If just one minority was on their bus that fateful day, songs like "There'll never be a ------ in SAE" would enter the dustbin of history.

Only fallout should be COD Board

College of DuPage officials said Thursday that they had hired a prominent public relations firm to help manage fallout from a series of recent financial scandals. The college declined to provide any details about its agreement with Chicago-based Res Publica Group, which has worked with Metra, the CTA and the Chicago Blackhawks, among others, but board Chair Erin Birt said the firm was hired to "ensure the public and media have the facts."

While not an expert on the workings of public relations firms, I'd bet Res Publica could earn their five figure bill for their services on Day One if they recommended that Chair Birt and her entire Board (save Kathy Hamilton) resigned forthwith.

Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Only 6 days for new traitorous GOP move on Iran

I truly thought one traitorous GOP action over the US-Iran nuclear negotiations would suffice. Apparently, the GOP House invite to Israeli President Netanyahu to speak of sabotaging the negotiations before Congress, against every decent tenant of a US bi-partisan foreign policy, didn't satisfy the GOP Senate. It took just 6 days for 47 GOP senators to one-up their House counterparts by sending a letter to the "Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran" designed to sabotage the negotiations directly, instead of through their Israeli intermediary. They told Iran that any deal with the Obama administration won't be approved by a Republican controlled Senate, and if a Republican is elected president next year, the whole deal could be abrogated with "the stroke of a pen."

Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif's sensible, measured response shamed the GOP warmongers' feeble attempt to put America at risk for another Middle East war with this smack down: "In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content."

Maybe these two disgraceful actions by the GOP are simply their version of a Six Day War against Obama.

Monday, March 09, 2015

When GOP celebrated wrong rights in the South

Much criticism has fallen on the 3 GOP House leaders, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise for skipping the 50th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday on Alabama's Edmund Pettis Bridge. It is understandable they stayed away. They'd be a tad uncomfortable as President Obama said this about Republican attempts to suppress the minority vote in the 21st century to roll back advances gained by civil rights pioneers of the 20th century:

"With effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor."

The GOP absence brings to mind a time, 35 years ago, when the GOP did come to celebrate rights in the South. Back on August 3, 1980, GOP presidential nominee Ronald Reagan kicked off his successful bid by communing with the white southern majority he needed to become president. His choice of location was grotesquely symbolic: Philadelphia, MS, where 3 civil rights workers were slain by county authorities during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Reagan didn't come down to Philadelphia to preach civil rights. He came to preach states rights which was the cornerstone of the Jim Crow society being dismantled by the force of strong federal action. In contrast to President Obama, here is what Reagan promoted:

"I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people. I believe in states' rights and I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment. I promise to restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them."

Some claim today's GOP is inclusive and promoting full political rights for all. I believe their efforts on behalf of people peaked when they came out against slavery during their founding in 1854.