Sunday, November 25, 2018

Farewell

I have been blogging since 2002. I started out just to link to funny and interesting stories that my students might enjoy reading. I quickly evolved into blogging about current events. I never thought I was adding anything all that special to all the online commentary that is out there, but I enjoyed doing it and thinking of visitors to my site finding something interesting to read in the stories, columns, and essays I linked to. I occasionally had something of my own from my knowledge of history or experiences as a teacher to add.

For the past few years, I've been finding blogging to be more of a burden than a fun hobby. It might be partly because of the news out there, but it is also that I just don't think that blogging is worth the time I'm giving up for other things like reading more on my own, doing my work for school, or just having some down time to do nothing at all of importance or value to anyone but myself. My daughters have been questioning me for a few years why I continue blogging if I was resenting the time it demanded and I really don't have any answer for that.

I used to worry that I would stop for a bit and then miss having an audience, but that I could never regain a readership once it was lost. I worried that I would eventually retire from teaching and wish that I still had the blog to fill my time. But I've come to realize that, if I want to point people to interesting stories, I could just use Twitter, so please feel free to follow me at @betsynewmark. Also, you might be interested in my husband's blog.

Thank you to all of those people who have been making my blog one of your stops during your time cruising around the internet. I have been honored and gratified that anyone would be interested in the musings of a middle-aged history and government teacher. Thank you and au revoir.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving celebrating with friends and family. I certainly am. It's a lovely time to reflect on how fortunate we are to be living at this time. Despite all the ugly divisions separating us, this is still a great time to be alive. I spend most of my time teaching students about other eras in history and there is no other era that any reasonable person would choose over today. It's good to remember that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cruising the Web

Note the difference in these two takes on the same story. Here is the Associated Press.
Many Central American migrants camped in Tijuana after crossing Mexico in a caravan said Monday that a protest over the weekend by residents demanding they leave frightened them and left them even more anxious while they try to get into the United States.

The angry protests have been fed by concerns raised by President Donald Trump’s month-long warnings that criminals and gang members are in the group and even terrorists, though there is no evidence of that.[Emphasis added]

Here is Fox News' coverage.
More than 500 criminals are traveling with the migrant caravan that’s massed on the other side of a San Diego border crossing, homeland security officials said Monday afternoon.

The revelation was made during a conference call with reporters, with officials asserting that "most of the caravan members are not women and children". They claimed the group is mostly made up of single adult or teen males and that the women and children have been pushed to the front of the line in a bid to garner sympathetic media coverage.
I guess the AP just figured that they don't have to buy into what the Department of Homeland Security says.

If you're wondering how DHS might know about who is in the migrant caravan, NBC reports that they have paid undercover informants in the caravan.
The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to two DHS officials.

The 4,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their journey to the California border, and DHS personnel have joined those groups to gather that information.

The intelligence gathering techniques are combined with reports from DHS personnel working in Mexico with the government there in an effort to keep tabs on the caravan's size, movements and any potential security threats.


Now here's a viable slogan for Beto O'Rourke, whom Politico tells us has blown up the 2020 Democratic primary. Operatives are impressed by his ability to raise money.
Mikal Watts, a San Antonio-based lawyer and major Democratic money bundler, said several donors and political operatives in Iowa, after hearing from other potential candidates in recent days, have called to ask whether O’Rourke is running, a sign of his impact in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“They’re not wanting to sign on to other presidential campaigns until they know whether Beto is going,” Watts said. “And if Beto is running, what good progressive Democrat wouldn’t want to work for Beto O’Rourke?”

....

“All the guy would have to do is send out an email to his fundraising base … and he raises $30 million,” the bundler said. “That has totally changed the landscape for the tier 1 guys, because now Bernie and Warren, now they have competition. It completely changes the game if Beto runs. And he should run. … He’s Barack Obama, but white.”
"Barack Obama, but white." How does that play in the intersectionality competition that the Democratic Party has become?

How much of his ability to raise vast amounts of money was because he was running against Ted Cruz and seemed to be the great, liberal hope to win a statewide contest in Texas?

Bill Scher also writes in Politico to apply a few brakes to Betomania. He points out that the Beto buzz is a result of his doing better than expected in a red state, but that Kyrsten Sinema actually did better than he did with Latinos in Arizona and had the same percentage among the under-45 vote. And she, you know, won. And actually, O'Rourke didn't do all that much better than Clinton.
If O’Rourke had made real inroads in Trump territory, then it would make perfect sense to dispatch him to similar territory across the country as the party’s standard-bearer. But he was crushed in Texas’ more rural, lightly populated counties by a 2-to-1 margin. Where O’Rourke was strong was the five most populous, urban-suburban counties, four of which Clinton and Barack Obama won in the past two presidential elections. O’Rourke improved upon Clinton’s performance in all five counties, including a narrow win in the Fort Worth area that Clinton and Obama had lost. But Clinton had improved upon Obama’s performance in all five counties as well, which suggests that O’Rourke benefited more from the continuation of a demographic shift in Texas than his own charm.

What about O’Rourke’s down-ballot coattails? Wasn’t he able to juice Democratic base turnout so much that Democrats flipped two U.S. House seats, two state Senate seats and 12 state House seats?

Let’s not be so quick to give Beto all the credit. All those red-to-blue wins were on urban-suburban turf, the same kind of turf that was fertile for Democrats nationwide. The two U.S. House seat flips in Texas were in districts that Clinton won, districts already primed to turn blue.

Outside Texas, other, less viral Democrats were able to win U.S. House seats in more challenging territory, such as Oklahoma’s 5th District and South Carolina’s 1st District. And Democrats flipped 380 state legislative seats nationwide, including 10 state House and six state Senate seats in North Carolina, and seven state House seats in Iowa—both swing states that went to Trump. No electrifying progressive superstar was at the top of the ticket in any of those four states.
Oh, come on. We shouldn't let actual facts get in the way of a candidate who skateboards and plays the air guitar.

Scher has the ultimate insulting comparison. Beto might not be Obama. He might be John Edwards. Ooh, that's bad.
Obama’s moment came together because he was not only a charismatic campaigner who could build a powerful multiracial coalition, but also because he was on the right side of the 2008 campaign’s dominant issue: the Iraq War. When all the other top-tier Democratic candidates voted for George W. Bush’s war resolution, the then-state Senator Obama was predicting it would be a “dumb war.” And he was able to speak cogently enough about a wide range of foreign and domestic policy issues to beat back arguments that he was a paper-thin, single-issue candidate.

O’Rourke wouldn’t come into the 2020 campaign with a signature issue that would distinguish himself among the sprawling Democratic pack and define his candidacy. The main argument for a Beto campaign comes down to little more than, well, he’s Beto, and people really like Beto. But a successful presidential campaign needs a lot more than that to survive the presidential primary marathon. While it’s possible O’Rourke has what it takes to be Obama 2.0, the risk remains he could be Edwards 2.0.

If this was truly O’Rourke’s only moment to become president, the logical choice would be to seize the moment. But he has another, more promising path: Stay in Texas first and finish the job of turning it blue....

O’Rourke would have to survive a cage match with about 20 other Democrats if he is to be the 2020 presidential nominee. But the 2020 Senate nomination to run against incumbent Senator John Cornyn is his for the taking. He could literally announce today, immediately clear the Democratic field, and focus like a laser on Cornyn for the next two years.

And Cornyn appears ripe for the plucking. Dr. James Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas-Austin, recently noted Cornyn is “one of the least popular top-tier statewide officials in Texas,” with an approval rating among Texans that’s 28 points lower than Cruz’s. In turn, Henson concluded, “Cornyn’s relatively soft support among the GOP base, coupled with presidential year turnout among Democrats, makes Cornyn appear less formidable in 2020 than Cruz in 2018.”

Democrats will not be lacking in choices in their presidential primary. There will be candidates old and new, left and center, heartland and big city. O’Rourke is not needed there. But in Texas, there is only one Beto.


White House journalists who are irritated with Jim Acosta's grandstanding and stealing time from their own questions now have another reason to be ticked at Acosta. One result of CNN getting a court order preventing the White House from denying him a hard pass is that they can now set up procedures to deny a hard pass not only to Acosta, but to other journalists. Byron York explains,
[Judge] Kelly declared that the White House could not eject Acosta without first providing him due process — specifically, notice of the revocation of his press pass, a chance for Acosta to respond, and a written decision.

In short, the judge said to the White House: You can't throw out a reporter without going through a process. But if you go through a process — which you, the White House, can design — then you can throw the reporter out. In the end, it could be that Kelly's ruling will make it easier for the White House to oust reporters in the future — and to make the decision stick.

Throughout the court session, Kelly referred to the only real precedent in the Acosta matter, a 1977 case from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called Sherrill v. Knight. In that case, the court ruled that the White House — specifically the Secret Service — could not deny a press pass to a "bona fide journalist" without due process. The court defined due process as "procedures whereby an applicant is given notice of the evidence upon which the Secret Service proposes to base its denial, [and] the journalist is afforded an opportunity to rebut or explain this evidence, and the Secret Service issues a final written decision specifying the reasons for its refusal to grant a press pass."

In court, Kelly told lawyers for CNN and the government that he would use Sherrill as a guide in the Acosta matter. In his view, the due process arrangement outlined in Sherrill should apply to the Trump White House's treatment of Acosta or any other White House reporter. "The court in Sherrill held that this process must include notice, an opportunity to rebut the government's reasons, and a written decision," Kelly said.

The judge's clear implication was that if the White House takes those actions, if it jumps through those hoops in the future, it can expel a reporter without raising due process concerns.
Journalists might want to say, "Thanks, Acosta."


How stupid is Cindy Hyde-Smith
, the Republican woman running in the runoff for Mississippi senator?
Walmart withdrew its support for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on Tuesday, requesting that her campaign refund all its donations after the Mississippi lawmaker made a racially charged comment and supported suppressing Democratic votes.

Hyde-Smith, appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this year to fill the seat vacated by retired Sen. Thad Cochran, is facing a contentious runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy to serve the remaining two years of Cochran's term.

Not only did Hyde-Smith say she would sit in "the front row" of a public hanging if asked by a supporter — a comment that drew outrage because of public lynching of black men in the Southern state's past, video surfaced of the senator suggesting she would support measures to prevent "liberal folks" from voting.
There is no excuse for talking like that and anyone involved in politics should have more of a filter when talking. I can't imagine why she would have talked like that. No wonder GOP internal polls are showing her up by only five points. This is Mississippi!! The Republicans are facing another Alabama situation where the GOP throw away an eminently winnable seat because their candidate is an idiot. Allahpundit comments,
The Democratic strategy is simple as can be: Mississippi is a longshot for them even under the best circumstances but to have any chance they need massive turnout from black voters. Hyde-Smith’s gaffes have been a godsend on that score, handing the Dems material — on video, no less — which they can air to get those voters fired up to go to the polls in what otherwise many might dismiss as a hopeless cause.

Espy himself is black and other black Democrats with a national profile have visited the state in the past few days to rally voters for him. Cory Booker was there yesterday, as was Kamala Harris. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Obama make a cameo this week; normally O would stay far away, not wanting to fire up Mississippi’s anti-Obama Republican majority, but having the first black president visit under the current circumstances may do his party more good than harm.

Corporate donors have also begun running away from Hyde-Smith in the aftermath of the “hanging” comment, most notably Wal-Mart. The irony of her landing in hot water for incendiary soundbites is that she was considered the safe establishment choice in the primary. It was populist Chris McDaniel who McConnell and the NRSC were worried about, fearing that if he finished ahead of Hyde-Smith two weeks ago and made the runoff, Espy and the Dems would label him a “neo-Confederate” or whatever and run this same strategy against him. McConnell got his wish — Hyde-Smith made the runoff. And now … she’s the one being accused of winking at lynchings and voter suppression. That’s where the obvious comparison to the Alabama special election last year breaks down. Yes, Mississippi’s a deeply red, deep southern state, but Republicans there actually did choose the “electable” candidate in their primary. And look what that got them.

The divide between the Hyde-Smith segment of the party and the McDaniel segment makes the racial controversy here especially dangerous for the GOP. Even a highly motivated Democratic Party probably doesn’t have the numbers in Mississippi to flip a Senate seat if if if the Republican majority is united behind its nominee. But what if it isn’t? What if populists who backed McDaniel in the primary have decided that the establishment favorite Hyde-Smith (who was a Democrat herself until a few years ago) can dig herself out of this hole next Tuesday when the polls open without their help? And what if the Times is right in speculating that Hyde-Smith’s comments might alienate more upscale whites? Huge turnout from black Democrats plus tepid turnout from the centrist *and* right wings of the GOP would mean very bad vibes for Hyde-Smith and McConnell.


You might have heard the story that went viral this past weekend about the Minnesota Chipotle where the manager was fired after a video showing black customers, apparently, being told that they had to pay ahead of having their food prepared. Chipotle has now rehired the manager after crowdsourcing on found the social media comments of some of the guy who posted the original video where he bragged about how he and his friends enjoy dine-and-dash.
ast-food giant Chipotle rehired a manager of one of its Minnesota franchises it had fired after she was recorded in a series of viral cellphone videos refusing to serve a group of young black men unless they paid first.

The restaurant chain said in a statement Monday that it reversed it's decision after it "spent the last few days reviewing the evidence available to us regarding the incident."

The company had earlier said it was aware that one of the alleged victims who claimed that he and his friends were racially profiled had previously boasted on Twitter about dine-and-dash incidents specifically targeting Chipotle.

"Based on our review, we have offered our manager her job back," Laurie Schalow, chief communications officer for Chipotle, said in a statement to ABC News Monday afternoon. "While our normal protocol was not followed serving these customers, we publicly apologize to our manager for being put in this position. We will work to continue to ensure that we support a respectful workplace for our employees and our customers alike."

The incident occurred on Thursday at a Chipotle on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, when five young black men walked in about 4 p.m. and asked to be served.

In a video posted on Twitter Friday by one of the men, Masud Ali, 21, which garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets, an unidentified female manager tells the group, "You gotta pay because you never have money when you come here."

The group begins yelling at the manager and other staffers that they are being "stereotyped." They continued to berate the manager and a staffer who asked them to calm down when a white customer who came in after them was served without being asked to pay up front.

"We're not going to make food unless you guys actually have money," a server said in the video.

After the video went viral on Twitter, Chipotle announced on Saturday that it had fired the manager and made the staff of the restaurant undergo "re-training to prevent this incident from happening again."

....Twitter users came to the manager's defense, alerting Chipotle of the previous tweets allegedly posted by Ali in which he joked about dine-and-dash incidents at St. Paul restaurants, including Chipotle.
Perhaps corporations will learn to take a few days to investigate rather than giving into ginned up online outrage.


The efforts to protect college students from anything that might make them stressed continues with this memo from Leeds Trinity University in the UK.
Lecturers have been banned from using capital letters when assigning work to students because it might upset them.

Staff at Leeds Trinity’s journalism department have been told writing to students using capital letters could ‘scare them into failure’ and instead suggested using a ‘friendly tone’ and avoiding the use of negative language.

Critics have since slammed the memo, saying it is just aiding to the ‘snowflake’ generation being overindulged throughout their education – following incidents in Manchester and Kent.
q
The memo said: ‘Despite our best attempts to explain assessment tasks, any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all.’

The Express reports that it goes on to say writing words in capital letters could make the assignment appear ‘more difficult’ – adding to anxieties.

But one staff member said capitals helped ensure students didn’t misunderstand their instructions.

They added: ‘We are not doing our students any favours with this kind of nonsense.’

A spokesperson for Leeds Trinity said the memo was guidance on how to explain tasks to students so they achieve their full potential.

The move is the latest in a string of incidents which have seen universities criticised for pandering to students.

The University of Manchester’s students’ union replaced applause with ‘jazz hands’ at one event to alleviate stress among the anxious and people with sensory issues.
Oh, geez! If capital letters are stressing people out, they just need to get over themselves. Usually, when I have a question on a multiple choice test in which I think that the students might miss something by reading too quickly, I'll put the key word in all caps. For example, if a question is "All of the following are correct except...." I'll write it as EXCEPT so the kids don't miss it. What is more stressful, missing the key word or having to read all caps?


Meanwhile, Greg Lukianoff and JOnathan Haidt explain how all this "safetyism" is actually making students weaker and less safe.
Taken literally, Nietzsche's famous aphorism—"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger"—is not entirely correct. Some things that don't kill you can still leave you permanently damaged and diminished.

Yet in recent years, far too many parents, teachers, school administrators, and students themselves have become taken with the opposite idea—that what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. They have bought into a myth that students and children are inherently fragile. For the most part, this represents an understandable desire to protect children from emotional trauma. But overwhelming evidence suggests that this approach makes kids less psychologically stable. By over-sheltering kids, we end up exposing them to more serious harm.
They give the example of protecting children from any exposure to nuts because of fears of allergies. We've consequently seen a more than tripling of the number of children out of 1000 who have peanut allergies. Schools became so worried about exposing kids to a dangerous allergen that they just banned all nuts.
Why not? What's the harm, other than some inconvenience to parents preparing lunches?

It turns out, though, that the harm was severe. It was later discovered that allergies were surging precisely because parents and teachers had started protecting children from exposure to peanuts back in the 1990s.

In February 2015, an authoritative report called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy was published. The study had looked at the hypothesis that "regular eating of peanut-containing products, when started during infancy, will elicit a protective immune response instead of an allergic immune reaction." The researchers recruited the parents of 640 babies four to 11 months old who, because they had severe eczema or had tested positive for another allergy, were at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. Half the parents were instructed to follow the standard advice for high-risk kids, which was to avoid all exposure to peanuts and peanut products. The other half were given a supply of a snack made from peanut butter and puffed corn and were told to give some to their child at least three times a week. The researchers followed all the families carefully, and when the children turned 5 years old, they were tested for an allergic reaction to peanuts.

The results were stunning. Among the children who had been "protected" from exposure, 17 percent had developed a peanut allergy. In the group that had been deliberately exposed to peanut products, the number was only 3 percent. As one of the researchers said in an interview, "For decades allergists have been recommending that young infants avoid consuming allergenic foods such as peanut to prevent food allergies. Our findings suggest that this advice was incorrect and may have contributed to the rise in the peanut and other food allergies."
That's fascinating. Every year parents have to fill out a form for their children at our school listing all medical conditions, including allergies. I heard a couple of years ago that, in a school with about 540 students, we had well over 100 students with allergies - basically about 20% of all students had some sort of allergy. I thought that was amazing at the time, but maybe this study helps to explain it.
The immune system is a miracle of evolutionary engineering. It can't possibly anticipate all the pathogens and parasites a child will encounter—especially in a mobile and omnivorous species such as ours—so it's "designed" to learn rapidly from early experience. As a complex, dynamic system that is able to adapt in and evolve with a changing environment, it requires exposure to a range of foods, bacteria, and even parasitic worms in order to develop its ability to mount an immune response to real threats, such as the bacterium that causes strep throat, while ignoring nonthreats such as peanut proteins.

This is the underlying rationale for what is called the hygiene hypothesis, the leading explanation for why allergy rates generally go up as countries get wealthier and cleaner. As developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik has observed, children today play outside less than they used to, which results in less exposure to microbes and weaker immune systems.
Haidt and Lukianoff then apply this reasoning to efforts to protect the emotional safety of all students, even those who are actually adults.
In 2014, Oberlin College posted guidelines for faculty, urging them to use "trigger warnings"—advance notice that certain kinds of ideas are likely to arise in a class—to "show students that you care about their safety." The rest of the memo makes it clear that what the college was really telling its faculty was: Show students that you care about their feelings.

You can see the conflation of safety and feelings in another part of the memo, which urged faculty to use students' preferred gender pronouns (for example, "zhe" or "they" for individuals who don't want to be referred to as "he" or "she"). The reason was not because this was respectful or appropriately sensitive, but because a professor who uses an incorrect pronoun "prevents or impairs [the student's] safety in a classroom."

If students have been told that they can request gender-neutral pronouns and then a professor fails to use those pronouns, they may well be disappointed or upset. But are these students unsafe? Are they in any danger in the classroom? Professors should indeed be mindful of their students' feelings, but how does it change the nature of class discussions—and students themselves—when the community is told repeatedly that speech should be judged in terms of safety and danger?

Why might an Oberlin administrator have chosen those particular words? In a 2016 article titled "Concept Creep: Psychology's Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology," the Australian psychologist Nick Haslam examined a variety of key concepts in clinical and social psychology—including abuse, bullying, trauma, and prejudice—to determine how their usage had changed since the 1980s. He found that their scope had expanded in two directions: The concepts had crept "downward," to apply to less severe situations, and "outward," to encompass new but conceptually related phenomena.
They then go on to look at some of the more egregious examples of college students expressing the outrage that arguments that they disagree with are not only wrong, but dangerous. Here is a typical example.
Few Americans had ever heard of a "safe space" in an academic sense until March 2015, when The New York Times published an essay by Judith Shulevitz about students at Brown University preparing for an event on campus. Two feminist authors, Wendy McElroy and Jessica Valenti, were scheduled to debate "rape culture," the idea that "prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse."

Proponents of the idea, such as Valenti, argue that misogyny is endemic to American culture, and that in such a world, sexual assault is considered less serious than other crimes. It's clear, especially in the #MeToo era, that sexual abuse is far too common. But does that make for a rape culture? It seemed an idea worthy of debate.

McElroy disputes the claim that America is a rape culture, and to illustrate her argument, she contrasts the United States with countries in which rape is truly tolerated. In parts of Afghanistan, for example, "women are married against their will, they are murdered for men's honor, they are raped. And when they are raped they are arrested for it, and they are shunned by their family afterward," she said at the debate. "Now that's a rape culture."

McElroy has firsthand experience of sexual violence: She told the audience at Brown that she was raped as a teenager, and that as an adult she was so badly beaten by a boyfriend that it left her blind in one eye. Nonetheless, she thinks it is untrue and unhelpful to tell American women that they live in a rape culture.

But what if some Brown students believe that they do? Should McElroy be allowed to challenge that belief, or would doing so put them in danger? "Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people's experiences," one Brown student told Shulevitz, and that could be "damaging."

The logic seems to be that some Brown students' belief in the existence of a rape culture in America is based, at least in part, on their own lived experience of sexual assault. If, during the debate, McElroy were to tell them that America is not a rape culture, she could be taken to be saying that their personal experiences are "invalid" as grounds for their assertion.

Illustrating concept creep and the expansion of "safety" to include emotional comfort, the student quoted above and some classmates attempted to get McElroy disinvited from the debate in order to protect her peers. That effort failed, but Brown President Christina Paxson announced that she disagreed with McElroy and that at the same time as the debate, the college would hold a competing talk in which students could hear about how America is a rape culture without being confronted by different views.

The competing talk didn't entirely solve the problem, however. Because students could still be retraumatized by the presence of McElroy on campus, the person quoted above worked with other Brown students to create a "safe space" where anyone who felt "triggered" could recuperate and get help. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members purportedly trained to deal with trauma.
If you apply the same logic from the allergy studies to these coddled college students, we're raising a generation that will be less likely to cope with real life once they leave their protective college bubbles.
When children are raised in a culture of safetyism, which teaches them to stay "emotionally safe" while protecting them from every imaginable danger, it may set up a feedback loop: Kids become more fragile and less resilient, which signals to adults that they need additional protection, which makes them even more fragile and even less resilient. The result may be similar to what happened when we tried to keep kids safe from exposure to peanuts: a widespread backfiring effect in which the "cure" turns out to be a primary cause of the disease.
Maybe we can start acclimating them to the big, bad world by using capital letters and actual applause instead of jazz heads. Now, that would be walking on the wild side.






Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cruising the Web

The WSJ reports that lawyers preparing to testify before the Supreme Court are working on altering their approaches in arguing cases in order to try to win over John Roberts now that Anthony Kennedy is no longer on the Court.
The confirmation last month of Justice Kavanaugh created arguably the most conservative Supreme Court in recent history. In response, legal advocacy groups on both the left and right are shifting their legal strategies.

Some on the left say they will push for more incremental change, including by filing lawsuits in state courts in an attempt to make Supreme Court review less likely. Some groups on the right are emboldened to push new policy....

For groups on both sides, legal experts say the biggest shift comes from the new position of Chief Justice John Roberts, who is now perceived as the most moderate of the five conservative justices and the court’s swing vote. Chief Justice Roberts is viewed as considerably more conservative than Justice Anthony Kennedy, the previous swing vote, who had a libertarian streak and could at times be sympathetic to the left on social issues including gay rights and the death penalty.

Practically, this means pitching to Chief Justice Roberts’s particular legal perspective, including what observers see as his hesitancy to overturn precedent. Some lawyers said this could mean, in cases where a precedent might cut against one’s arguments, emphasizing to the chief justice that those prior cases are slightly different and therefore don’t apply.

Others said they would address the issue of precedent head on. “If you want Chief Justice Roberts to overrule precedent you would have to, one, pitch to him the lack of constitutional basis for the original decision, and two, address the consequences of overruling that precedent,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal organization that represented two Kentucky counties in a Supreme Court case about public displays of the Ten Commandments.
Gee, what a thought - arguing that a precedent lacked a constitutional basis! Shouldn't that always have been the approach? Does it mean that Kennedy didn't care about such things?

And this sounds like something all to the good.
In some cases, left-leaning groups said they would decline to appeal rulings that could result in unfavorable precedents.

Others said the new makeup of the court makes them inclined to pursue other venues, such as lobbying for legislative changes or filing lawsuits in state courts. State constitutional claims usually aren’t subject to review by the Supreme Court.
Isn't that what a lot of conservatives have long argued - make changes through legislatures or at the state level instead through five people on the Supreme Court? It's about time that those on the left thought about working through elected legislators instead of the judges.


Joel Kotkin makes the argument that, while choosing D.C. might have been the right choice for Amazon, New York City is more problematic.
Overall, the New York region’s percentage of people working in math and computers was actually below the national average as of 2017, and growing at one of the lowest rates in the country. Let’s stipulate, it’s no Silicon Valley or even Austin or Raleigh. Over the last two years, the urban leader in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) job growth was Orlando, at 8 percent, or three times the national average, while places like Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Salt Lake City and Tampa all grew a faster clip than New York, which is a player, like Los Angeles, largely by dint of size.

As for the “talent” already in New York, millennials and others have in fact been leaving the city at a faster clip in recent years as costs have soared. Many industries, notably finance, are moving jobs to less expensive locales. Last year Brooklyn, the epicenter of the urban gentrification, lost population, as young people look for more affordable places to live and older ones flee cold weather and high taxes. Due in large part to foreign investment and continued strong immigration, New York already has among the most exorbitant housing prices in the country and after Amazon’s announcement speculators—the prototypical New York opportunists—immediately focused on the Queens neighborhood the tech giant plans to occupy and where rents and housing prices are sure to shoot up.

This parallels the Seattle experience, where the median home price of $739,600 and median rent of $2,479 now make it now the third-most expensive—and second-most competitive—housing market in the country.

“The hardest thing is to unlearn the secrets of your past success,” the Japanese analyst Jiro Tokuyama used to tell me as he predicted Japan’s decline when many American pundits predicted the island nation would eclipse America. Although Amazon may maintain its dominance, it will likely find the new realities it has helped to create less comforting. Bezos started Amazon in the late 1990s, when Seattle prices were low, but the presence of Microsoft and Boeing guaranteed the presence of a talented workforce. Washington state has other advantages, such as no state income tax.
If Amazon was tired of the progressive attacks on Amazon in Seattle, just wait for New York.
The Gothamites are nearly as far to the left and not so easily intimidated by someone with a huge checkbook. After all, they can easily make the case that the billions—nearly $50,000 a job—in tax breaks for a company run by the world’s richest man should be more equitably shared in a city where more than one in five people lives below the poverty line.

Gotham will test Bezos’ political skills in ways he cannot even yet imagine, though he may have gotten just a hint in the furiously angry response to the Amazon announcement from local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer all the way up to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Queens’ new congressional star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

New York City, like cities across the country, is becoming more aware of the forces diminishing its middle class and stripping opportunity from the poor. Amazon is likely to make life for the average New Yorker worse before it even begins to get better, and New Yorkers just might return the favor.


You might ask why someone would attack Stan Lee after his death, but Bill Maher was up for the task. Apparently, Lee is responsible for Trump's election or something.
“The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess,” he wrote. “Someone on Reddit posted, “I'm so incredibly grateful I lived in a world that included Stan Lee.” Personally, I’m grateful I lived in a world that included oxygen and trees, but to each his own.”

Maher went on to chide comic book fans noting that, when he was young, it was understood that they were just for children and that people were supposed to grow up and move on to “big-boy books without the pictures.”

“But then twenty years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature. And because America has over 4,500 colleges – which means we need more professors than we have smart people – some dumb people got to be professors by writing theses with titles like Otherness and Heterodoxy in the Silver Surfer,” Maher wrote. “And now when adults are forced to do grown-up things like buy auto insurance, they call it 'adulting,' and act like it’s some giant struggle.”

The 62-year-old comedian concluded his blog post with a bit of a stretch, noting that the proliferation of comic book fans in America, in his view, led to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important,” Maher said.
Yeah, it's a huge stretch.


Thomas Sowell returns to column-writing
to wonder why Democrats are so opposed to charter schools.
What have the charter schools done to provoke such opposition?

Often located in low-income, minority neighborhoods, these schools have in many cases produced educational outcomes far better than the traditional public schools in such neighborhoods.

A Success Academy charter elementary school in Harlem had a higher proportion of the children in one of its classes pass the statewide math exam than in any other class at the same grade level, anywhere in the state of New York.

As a result of the charter schools' educational achievements, it is not uncommon for thousands of children to be on waiting lists to get into such schools — in New York City, tens of thousands.

Denying these children what can be their one chance in life is a new low, even for politicians.
But that is what Democrats do when they oppose charter schools. And they do so with dishonest arguments.
Political rhetoric can camouflage what is happening. But the arguments against charter schools are so phony that anyone with a decent education should be able to see right through them. Unfortunately, the very failure of many traditional public schools to provide a decent education enables their defenders to get away with arguments that could not survive any serious analysis.

Consider the incessantly repeated argument that charter schools are "taking money away from the public schools." Charter schools are themselves public schools, educating children who have a legal right to be educated with taxpayer money set aside for that purpose. When some fraction of children move from traditional public schools to charter schools, why should the same fraction of money not move with them?
Charter schools spend less per student and quite often achieve better results. Why oppose better results for less money when they're both public schools?

And you would think that Democrats would care about the minority students attending charter schools. But they care more about the teachers' unions that pour money into the Democrats' coffers.
If you want to make a comparison of educational results with comparable students, you can look at results among children living in the same neighborhood, at the same grade levels — and with both charter school children and children in a traditional school being educated in the very same building.

Such comparisons in New York City showed, almost every time, a majority of the students in the traditional public school scoring in the bottom half in both math and English, while the percentage of charter school students scoring in the top half was some multiple of the percentage of other students scoring that high.

This is what the teachers' unions and the politicians want to put a stop to. Who will speak up for those children?
Few Democrats, that's for sure. And sadly, Democratic victories at the state and local level in the elections mean that they will go after charter schools.


This is going to be irritating.
Democrats thinking about running for president in 2020 are dramatically changing the way the party talks about race in Donald Trump’s America: Get ready to hear a lot more about intersectionality, allyship, inclusivity and POC.
Oh, joy. Just what we need is more talk about intersectionality, but that's what the Democrats want to bring us.
After coasting to reelection this month in New York, Gillibrand declared in her victory speech that “it all started with the Women’s March — an intersectional moment when you could march with your sign — regardless of what it said — women’s reproductive rights, Black Lives Matter, clean air and clean water, LGBTQ equality.”

In a letter to her supporters, Gillibrand again nodded to intersectionality — a framework that considers overlapping prejudices people face — writing that “resistance is female, intersectional and powered by our belief in one another."
They blame Trump for talking like this.
The embrace of inclusivity-focused politics on the left has been growing for years with the rise of groups like Black Lives Matter and Dreamers. But Trump has pushed it to the forefront of the progressive movement, especially among younger voters.

“Intersectionality feels obvious to younger progressives in the way that LGBTQ rights do,” said Amanda Litman, co-founder and executive director of Run For Something, which recruited thousands of young progressives to run for local and state office in the aftermath of the 2016 election.

Many progressive grass-roots organizations are instituting new training and programs to improve their approach to race. Indivisible, the largest “resistance” group of the Trump era, recently held its first mandatory virtual training; more than 300 group leaders across the country tuned in. The topic: “Direct Voter Contact through a Racial Equity Lens.”


Jim Geraghty has an amazing story about Miriam Oliphant, the woman who preceded Brenda Snipes as the director of Broward Elections office. Boy, they sure know how to pick them down there.
Oliphant has an amazing tale. She was dismissed in part after the 2002 primary elections in Broward, when “23 polls failed to open by 7 a.m. and 32 polls failed to heed an executive order from the governor’s office to stay open past 7 p.m. so voters could cast a ballot in the problem-plagued election.” After getting dismissed as elections supervisor, the county hired her four years later as a high-school guidance counselor, over 55 other applicants, some who had decades of experience but didn’t even get an interview. Within a year, her salary had more than doubled. She only had a temporary teaching certificate, so she had to take state tests to get a permanent one . . . and she flunked the math test. Yes, the woman who once ran elections in Broward County failed the math test. She was dismissed from the school in 2011.


William Voegeli writes in the Claremont Review of Books to examine how the left has redefined racism to mean something that is not really racism. He begins by looking at the new member of the NYT editorial board, Sarah Jeong, who had a history of writing a whole of statements against white people. If racism is insulting people based on their racism, her comments would certainly count as racism. But not when you're a liberal. She got away with it by claiming that she was just responding to racist comments that other people had made about her and her Korean heritage.
Journalist Nick Monroe catalogued much, much more in this vein, written from 2013 to 2017. In response to a sudden uproar over Jeong’s postings, she and the Times each issued a statement the day after her appointment was announced. The new editorial hire didn’t really mean the harsh things she had written, both declared. Other people had started it by goading her. Now older and wiser, she would express herself less acerbically in the future.

It wasn’t much of an alibi, but at least the employee and employer got their stories straight. “As a woman of color on the internet, I have faced torrents of online hate,” Jeong’s statement read. “I engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter-trolling. While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers.” She now understands “how hurtful these posts are out of context,” and would not write them again.

Monroe’s curation made clear, however, that Jeong’s flamethrower verbiage, read in context, rarely satirized or mimicked anyone in particular. Nevertheless, the paper’s statement took the same tack: “For a period of time,” Jeong responded to online harassment “by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and the Times does not condone it.” Furthermore, “She understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at the Times.”

The tone of disappointed forbearance with a misguided employee doesn’t allay the suspicion that the Times kinda does condone and accept Jeong’s rhetoric. The paper doesn’t equivocate or hesitate when it really can’t abide one of its employee’s social media posts. Earlier this year the Times, upon discovering that she had previously written racist and homophobic tweets, fired technology journalist Quinn Norton from its editorial page during her first day on the payroll. Norton’s claim that she had simply used the argot of the people she debated on Twitter—an excuse very similar to Jeong’s—didn’t save her job.
Voegeli goes on to look at a Times' writer's attacks on Josh Hader, the Brewers player who had written on social media saying he hates gay people and writing "White Power." According to Michael Powell, a sportswriter for the NYT, being 17 years old is no excuse for writing hateful stuff. But Jeong got a pass for what she wrote in her 20s after having completed law school. For those who, like the Democratic candidates for president, it's all about the intersectionality hierarchy which means that it's perfectly fine to say racist things about whites because they are at the top of the racial power pyramid.
take note of Sarah Jeong’s most vigorous defenders, who denounced the Times for conceding that she had written anything that merited apology or regret. They called it unfair, absurd even, to find Jeong’s greatest hits objectionable, or to criticize them by imagining how they would be received if the word “black,” for example, were substituted every time she had used “white.” Libby Watson of the news and opinion website Splinter wrote that the tweets “were not racist,” merely “jokes about white people.” She went on to insist that making identically worded jokes about “any other historically oppressed minority” would be hateful because whites in the U.S., unlike other groups targeted for discrimination, “have never been systematically oppressed on the basis of their race alone.” Similarly, Slate staff writer Inkoo Kang wrote: “When people of color rail against white people, that’s often shorthand for speaking out against the existing racial structure that serves to keep white people in power.”

The most expansive brief for Jeong was advanced by Vox’s Zach Beauchamp, who found it “unfathomable” that so many people equated “the expressive way antiracists and minorities talk about ‘white people’ with actual race-based hatred.” He went on to argue that the discourse of what he calls the “social justice left” employs the term “white people” to “capture the way that many whites still act in clueless and/or racist ways,” as well as to “point out [how] a power structure that favors white people continues to exist.” (James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal noted that Beauchamp was, in effect, calling on readers to take Jeong’s tweets seriously but not literally.)
All this relates to the left's new definition of racism.
As employed by Jeong and her defenders, “racism” condemns things that most people consider to be untainted by bigotry, while endorsing other things that strike most people as, well, racist.
One catchall definition of racist these days is if you voted for Donald Trump. And doubting that diversity is a desirable goal is, well, racist. Voegeli looks at the dictionary definition of racism and how close it is to Martin Luther King's definition.
In Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), Martin Luther King, Jr., described racism by relying on the same concept of intergroup animosity and disdain. He favorably cites one book’s definition: “the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to hereditary inferiority and another group is destined to hereditary superiority.” In his own voice, King was more polemical than clinical, but described racism similarly, as “the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission.” Such characterizations are fully congruent with the idea that the civil rights movement, of which King was the most prominent leader, was dedicated to purging racism from Americans’ political and social relations. In his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, for example, King called on America to “make real the promises of democracy” by granting blacks their “citizenship rights.” At the same time, he wanted to replace discord with “a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,” wherein “all of God’s children” will be able to “work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to work for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

By these standards, to assert that white people have no culture, or that the world could get along fine without them, is an expression of racism, reflecting antagonism against members of a particular racial group, which is held to be inferior to one’s own and others. By contrast, to question the proposition that diversity is always a national strength, to point out the countervailing benefits of mutual understanding, shared assumptions, and cohesion, is to commit no offense other than offering a contestable proposition. Doing so is very different, however, from expressing discrimination or prejudice against a racial or ethnic group.
But now the left looks at racism as existing only in terms of power. Since whites have all the power, one can't be racist against whites.
For social justice leftists indoctrinated in this viewpoint, it is now self-evident that racism has nothing to do with a person’s attitudes about racial groups, and everything to do with where one stands on questions of redistributive justice among such groups. The words of one blogger reflect the resultant bullying certitude: “Your first step is to accept that ‘a hatred or intolerance of another race’ is not the definition of racism. The dictionary is wrong. Get over it.” (“When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”) Sarah Jeong’s advocates accused the people who attacked her of “bad faith” and merely “feigned outrage,” in the belief that those calling her a racist would have to be “willfully ignorant” of what that term now connotes....

In short, those people belonging to any non-white group cannot possibly be racist toward whites, while white Americans are unique in their capacity to be guilty of racism. But there’s more: whites are not only singularly capable of racism, but people unable, despite the most earnest, protracted efforts, to be innocent of it....

For this secular version of original sin, there is no incarnation, resurrection, and redemption, only life-long self-examination, atonement, and renunciation.
And where you are on the power hierarchy is not based on wealth or education, but solely on race.
A good place to begin evaluating the social justice Left’s redefinition of racism is to point out that power is far too variegated and complex to align so neatly with a simple racial hierarchy. By any measure, a Korean-American journalist with a J.D. from Harvard, who joins the editorial board of one of the world’s most influential media outlets, is a powerful person....

n unemployed factory worker in the Rust Belt, by contrast, is obliged by his vast white privilege to self-censor constantly, lest some unguarded remark betray his bigotry and fortify the power structure that victimizes non-whites. If he proves too obtuse to recognize this duty, or too hateful to discharge it, that’s only further proof of racism—his and America’s.
This convoluted hierarchy explains why the left has such trouble condemning the anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan.
It is a renunciation of intellectual honesty and responsibility to posit that someone’s words and beliefs should be evaluated, not according to whether they are factually accurate, logically sound, or morally admirable but, instead, on the basis of whether the person putting forward the idea is privileged or oppressed. The illogic of this position leads the social justice Left to demand that people ignore plain facts in front of them. It would seem, for example, that if the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is not an anti-Semite, then that term is meaningless. His public remarks, which include “Hitler was a very great man” and “You [the handful of Jews who control the United States] are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell” amount to game, set, and match in that particular tournament.

But if racism equals prejudice plus power, then does the same qualification apply to anti-Semitism? For activists Melissa Harris-Perry (formerly of MSNBC) and Linda Sarsour (co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March), it does. They contend that since Farrakhan has no particular power inimical to Jews, his attacks on them are, politically, a nothing-bagel....

Indeed, the social justice Left’s plus-power stipulation lends itself not only to neutrality about anti-Semitism, but solicitude for it. Many bigotries posit that the objects of their contempt are too intellectually limited or morally dissolute to flourish in the world. Anti-Semitism, by contrast, is one of those hatreds visited upon a group of people held to be suspiciously, inordinately successful. As such, the anti-Semite can readily believe himself to be furthering the social justice cause by bravely, satirically punching up against those possessing more power than he.
Go and read the rest of his essay. It is very perceptive, albeit quite depressing and demoralizing.


Speaking of depressing and demoralizing, there is our president who is so determined to swing back at anyone who criticizes him. That might be what people want these days, but when it comes to someone in the military, Trump can be extraordinarily offensive. Think of how he attacked the gold star parents at the Democratic convention or criticizing John McCain for having the bad judgment to be captured by the North Vietnamese and suffering captivity and torture for seven years even when he was offered early release. But did he have to attack Admiral McRaven, the head of the secret ops attack that killed Osama bin Laden, just because McRaven had attacked him as "perhaps the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime." Instead of giving a reasoned answer, Trump had to jump into attack mode and criticize the Navy SEAL for not having gotten bin Laden earlier. That's an insult to every member of the armed services who spent years risking their lives trying to find bin Laden. Does he really want to insinuate that the SEALS were lollygagging on the job of finding the head of al Qaeda? That is so very offensive and Trump makes himself even more of a clown. Let's not politicize the military, one of the last respected institutions in the United States.

Trump would do a lot better to see how the new GOP star of Congress, Dan Crenshaw, responded to a similar question about Trump being a threat to democracy.
“What democratic freedoms have been undermined?” Crenshaw (R-Texas) responded. “We just had an election where we switched power in the House, democracy is at work, people are voting in record numbers.” Crenshaw said whenever people make “this broad-brush criticism that the president is somehow undermining democracy,” he wants to hear examples of what they mean.

The entire panel erupted. Incoming freshman Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.) listed off “judiciary, CIA, FBI, the voting process” and “undermining the free press,” which Neguse echoed.

“How has he done that?” Crenshaw asked. “The Obama administration had many press members under investigation, Trump has not, so what is the difference here?”

Neguse then mentioned the White House’s revocation of Jim Acosta’s press credentials after Acosta swatted away a White House intern trying to retrieve his mic. He characterized it as CNN “having to go to court to essentially regain access to the [White House] press room.”

“That was one reporter, not the whole organization,” Crenshaw pointed out. “… Because he was disruptive.”

“I would argue that our president is consistently disruptive in those very same press conferences,” Houlahan interjected, “And I would argue that he treats them with disrespect.”

“But how is that an attack on the press though?” Crenshaw asked.

“Because it’s literally an attack on the press –” Houlahan began. Crenshaw interrupted: “I’ve been literally attacked, so let’s choose our words carefully.”

“His language is an attack,” said Houlahan.

“Okay, so why is he not allowed to use his own language and freedom of speech?” Crenshaw asked.

“Because it’s important that we lead by example, that we lead from the top,” responded Houlahan.

“I agree with you there. Style is one thing. If you want to criticize style, I’m with you,” Crenshaw said. “But to say it’s an attack on the freedom of the press, that is a very bold statement.”
Exactly. Trump could have pointed out that we just had an election in which his political opponents took over the House. A real threat to democracy would be if the President were to do something to block that from happening.

Criticizing Jim Acosta or CNN is not a threat to democracy. We have a partisan press like we had in the 18th and 19th centuries. Is it so unexpected that a politician would attack the partisan press? They can still print and broadcast. We aren't seeing the sorts of legal maneuvering of the law against the media that we saw in the Obama years.

But Trump can't keep such a sophisticated answer in his mind and instead attacks the SEALS. Way to go, Trump, way to go.