This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight…
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Happy 40th to the Staggers Rail Act, Which Deregulated and Saved the U.S. Rail Industry

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight rail and saved it from looming oblivion.

At the time of passage, the U.S. economy muddled along amid ongoing malaise, and our rail industry teetered due to decades of overly bureaucratic sclerosis.  Many other domestic U.S. industries had disappeared, and our railroads faced the same fate.  But by passing the Staggers Rail Act, Congress restored a deregulatory approach that in the 1980s allowed other U.S. industries to thrive.  No longer would government determine what services railroads could offer, their rates or their routes, instead restoring greater authority to the railroads themselves based upon cost-efficiency.

Today, U.S. rail flourishes even amid the coronavirus pandemic…[more]

October 13, 2020 • 11:09 PM

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Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
Public Universities Are Ignoring the First Amendment Print
By Ben Boychuk
Thursday, February 25 2016
The free exchange of ideas has truly become a sham virtue.

Many colleges and universities today are inhospitable to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of thought. It’s not an exaggeration or an over generalization, it’s simply a matter of fact.

From “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces” and “microaggessions” to campaigns to “disinvite” controversial speakers and even some successful drives to fire allegedly racist and sexist faculty members, U.S. campuses have become enclaves of illiberal learning and leftist orthodoxy.

Allowing students to indulge their censorious impulses is bad enough. It’s worse when faculty members get involved. But it’s beyond the pale when administrators begin playing the role of arbiter and censor.

Williams College President Adam Falk last week took what he admitted was the “extraordinary step” of canceling a speech by John Derbyshire, the author and former National Review writer who found himself banished from mainstream conservatism in 2012 when he published an article explaining why he discourages his children from interacting with black people. Among other things, he posited that black Americans are simply less intelligent than whites and far more prone to violence.

Derbyshire’s candidly racist views have made him a popular writer on the so-called “alternative right.” That association attracted the attention of a Williams student named Zach Wood, who runs a club called “Uncomfortable Learning.” The club sponsors a speakers series intended to puncture Williams’ “purple bubble” and foster a little more diversity of opinion.

Well, apparently some speakers are just too “uncomfortable” for Williams. “The college didn’t invite Derbyshire,” Falk said in a statement, “but I have made it clear to the students who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.”

Falk went on to say that although free speech is a “value” he holds “in extremely high regard,” his regard for certain points of view isn’t so high. “We have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it. We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it. Many of his expressions clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.”

Williams is a private college. Students pay $63,290 in tuition, room, and board for the privilege of having their tender sensibilities protected from opinions they may find disagreeable. If Adam Falk wants to ban speech he dislikes, nothing is stopping him.

It would be a much different story if Williams were a state college or university. The First Amendment doesn’t end where the campus begins. Everyone knows this.

Everyone except William Covino, evidently.

Covino is president of California State University, Los Angeles, a public university funded by taxpayers in the Golden State. Covino this week decided to cancel an appearance by conservative pundit and radio talk show host Ben Shapiro, who was scheduled to speak Thursday night on the vexing question of “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.”

Although Covino’s explanation was couched in far more diplomatic terms than Falk’s, his rationale was essentially the same.

“After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity,” Covino wrote in an email to the campus chapter of the right-leaning Young America’s Foundation, which invited Shapiro. “Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.”

Covino’s unilateral decision to postpone quickly became a cancellation after the university received a sternly worded letter from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit litigation group that specializes in the First Amendment. YAF and Shapiro vowed to hold the event on Thursday night anyway. It appears a lawsuit is in the making.

Covino’s actions are indefensible legally and morally. As it turns out, Covino has had no objection to liberal or left-wing speakers appearing at CSULA without assistance from others with “differing viewpoints.” Cornell West headlined a Pan-African Studies conference on campus in 2014 with nary a peep from Covino — at least as far as the record shows.

And he didn’t seem to think “multiple viewpoints” were necessary to enhance an event the day before Shapiro was supposed to appear to “discuss the U.S.’s uncritical embrace of individualism, myth of meritocracy, unchallenged white supremacy, and entrenched institutional inequity in our society.” That particular exercise in the free exchange of ideas featured a film starring former Communist Party USA vice presidential candidate Angela Davis and Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist and author. If “multiple viewpoints” were represented, they ranged from left to far left.   

The university also seems to believe its decision is justified on the basis of concern for students’ safety. CSULA students said the event would pose a “threat to their lives” and is “damaging to their mental health.” Campus officials had planned to charge YAF $621.50 for security, because “Mr. Shapiro’s topics and views are controversial, therefore university police will be assigned to this event.” ADF’s attorneys say the charge is unconstitutional because the added cost would essentially price out student groups from holding events featuring speakers with controversial or unpopular opinions. In short, it’s the heckler’s veto masquerading as a safety cordon.

The weight of precedent is against public university officials from taking such steps. If and when Cal State L.A.’s YAF chapter files suit against the school, the student organization will almost certainly win. But the fact that a lawsuit would even be necessary points to a profound disregard for the First Amendment that now prevails on campus. The free exchange of ideas has truly become a sham virtue. The students may win this battle, but the institution is winning the war.

 

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was the first 20th century presidential candidate to call for a Presidential Debate?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"In nominating Barrett to the Supreme Court, [President Trump] kept his promise by choosing an undaunted originalist -- someone who interprets the Constitution based on the understanding held by its ratifiers.Trump's most profound effect on the Constitution will come when she and the other Trump Justices apply that originalism to the questions of liberty and equality."Read entire article here.…[more]
 
 
—John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
— John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
 
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