I was reading an LA Times article about how both sides of the political spectrum were upset. A balanced article, I thought? I must read this.
And that’s when I read the part that frustrated me.
Now, just to be clear, I’ve never been a big fan of the Berkeley campus. The atmosphere is extremely liberal, and often just too liberal for the good of education, IMHO. A few years ago, they had a guy living in the trees next to the football stadium as a protest that Cal was going to build a new stadium and cut down those trees. A tree hugger living on campus, halting construction – for months – because he had “a right to protest.”
I agree with that right, but I think such a right expires after the legal process concludes that construction is justified and can commence. I’m a lover of trees myself. But enforcing my will over the will of others because I don’t like a sport that’s receiving needed capital investment? Not so much.
A few days ago, the campus erupted because a student organization of Republicans had booked an appearance by a writer for the Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopoulos. This journalist toured other campuses recently, and definitely spews an alt-right stew of anti-feminism (“a cancer”), anti-Black Lives Matter (“divisive”) and much, much more. He is, without a doubt, a provocateur. He was even banned by Twitter last year when he got into a contretemps over his review of the latest “Ghostbusters” movie, and his thoughts inspired harassment of one of the stars. He supported that harassment at first, then was banned, then withdrew his support for the actual harassment.
He’s still banned by Twitter … which he’s apparently OK with. He said it made him famous.
So this is not a guy that I’d like to share a meal with. I certainly wouldn’t cross the street to hear him give a speech. But, free speech is just that: free speech. The Berkley administration worked with their student group so that the speech could happen, and apparently brought in some extra security.
Just not enough.
Over 100 anarchists wearing black clothing and using “paramilitary tactics” overwhelmed the security element. Windows were smashed, a fire was started … and the campus administration canceled the speech by Yiannopoulos due to the violent atmosphere. That prompted President Trump to react on Twitter, and threaten Cal with the loss of federal funding:
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?
- President Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), February 2, 2017
That, of course, got the Cal faculty in an uproar, as a substantial part of the University’s budget comes from the federal government. The Times covered that uproar, including this statement that illustrates part of the problem, I believe:
Stuart Russell, a computer scientist at UC Berkeley and founding director of the Center for Human-Compatible AI, argued that Trump was unfairly targeting the campus since outsiders may have committed the violence. He said Berkeley’s federally funded research was critically important to U.S. industries and national defense.
“For Trump to threaten … our funding in a completely extrajudicial and extralegal way [because of things] that he doesn’t like, seems like the act of a dictator,” he said.
Mr. Russell is throwing language around much too loosely for my taste (“extrajudicial,” indeed). And by blaming Trump’s not liking the situation instead of blaming the violence on campus as the root problem, Mr. Russell shows he’s not willing to support free speech.
I mean, who does like a violent outbreak on a university campus? Anytime, anywhere? If taking exception to the violence as well as disliking the suppression of free speech that resulted is the act of a dictator, then we have a problem in this country.
And we do.
A “dictator” defending the right to free speech is wrong? Violence on campus is OK if it suppresses opinions that some don’t like?
Bottom line for me is that Milo Yiannopoulos has some provocative opinions, and he’s not afraid to use them. I disagree – profoundly disagree – with many of his public statements. However, he has a right to those opinions, of course, and has the right to speak about them (that is what free speech is). Some of those on the Berkeley campus believes he has no right to express his opinions in any place at any time.
That is a sobering statement from parts of a university community that takes pride in its place as a seminal force in our country’s free speech movement over the last several decades.
And, they’re at it again.
This movement for California to secede from the United States is not the first for a state, and it’s not the first for California. However, it got a lot of press in the last few days, emphatically linked to frustration with our new President. Much of the press coverage was poorly researched, flamboyantly titled click bait that wasn’t worth the click.
But that didn’t stop a host of people on the fringe from trumpeting the boldness, the rightness, the goodness of the idea of secession.
Those people must have forgotten about the states that tried to secede over 150 years ago … and it didn’t end well for them.
I am not entertained. I am flabbergasted that people can discuss this idea with a straight face.
It’s a horrible idea for all of America. And, it will never, ever happen.
For starters, many headlines screamed that California would vote to secede later this year. That is a barefaced lie.
Here’s what actually did happen: a public initiative has been accepted by California’s Office of the Attorney General as a possible ballot proposition for the fall of 2018, if the promoters can gather the required 585,407 “wet” signatures of registered voters in California. These signatures must be done in ink … hence the term “wet” signatures. Online petitions or other social media exploits do not work for this process. Most initiatives hire paid signature gatherers for this task; the “Yes California” committee says they have thousands of volunteers (variously reported as 9,000 to 13,000+) that will gather the signatures. That low budget, volunteer strategy rarely works for such efforts. In any event, they have until July 25 to submit the signatures, at which point the state will evaluate the signatures for validity, and either certify the proposition for the fall 2018 ballot, or, more likely, end the effort at that point.
However, if the committee succeeds in gathering enough signatures, then the first vote will take place. Voters will be asked to approve a proposition that the California state constitution be revised twice: 1) to delete a reference to California being inseparable from the US, and further, 2) delete a sentence stating that the US Constitution is the supreme law of California. If that proposition passes with over 50% of the vote, THEN…
A special election is called for March 2019, when California voters will vote on whether or not they want California to secede from the United States. IF 50% of the voters do vote, and IF 55% of the voters vote YES, then the Governor is instructed to petition the UN for California to join as a member nation … and California would then seek to find a way to legally secede from the US.
And experts say there is no constitutional path to do so. In fact, experts think that the only way a state could secede is if a constitutional amendment were passed … which requires 38 states and 2/3 of the House and Senate to approve. That’s an unlikely event on any topic these days. An alternative solution would be for 2/3 of the states to hold a constitutional convention, which is something that has never happened in our history. Experts even disagree if the convention could be limited to a single topic, and many believe that any amendment could be suggested at such a constitutional convention. After the convention, IF a constitutional amendment that’s on point were passed, THEN 38 of the states would have to approve the amendment before California could Calexit.
As of today, there have been 33 constitutional amendments submitted to the states for approval. Of those, 27 have been passed. Could Calexit make it 28? I sincerely hope not.
Here’s the text of the initiative that’s been approved by the Attorney General’s office for the signature gathering effort. Note that “tens of millions of dollars of one-time state and local elections costs” would result from the approval of this proposition … and THEN we only have to amend the US Constitution for this to have any impact.
For the record, I won’t be signing, and I hope you will not as well.
And just for a little added spice … did you hear that Russia’s involved? The man behind this initiative, Louis J. Marinelli, is a US citizen that lives in Russia with his Russian wife, and works as a school teacher. He’s met with a group that allegedly has ties to the Kremlin. The Yes California website, however, emphatically states that Russia is not funding this effort.
So if you believe Russia influenced the US election, then ….
And publications as illustrious as the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times are taking this seriously?
Journalism, I mourn for thee.