Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cruising the Web

I'm not sure why, with all the problems facing some cities such as Chicago, declaring that their cities will not turn people who have committed crimes and who are in the country illegally over to federal officials is such a priority. It might be one thing to say that city officials are not going to actively search out and question people's immigration status, but once someone is arrested and it is determined that that person has a criminal record and is here illegally, why protect that person from ICE? Gregg Jarrett reminds us that that was the sanctuary policy in San Francisco that led to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle last year.
That is what led to the tragic shooting death of Kate Steinle in July of last year. Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez of Mexico was in the U.S. illegally. He had 7 felony convictions and was deported 5 times. He kept slipping back through our border, seeking refuge in the safe haven of San Francisco.

Sanchez was in the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff on drug charges when ICE issued a detainer for him requesting that he be held until the feds could pick him up. Instead of handing him over, the Sheriff followed the city’s sanctuary policy by ignoring immigration authorities. He opened the jail doors setting the prisoner free. Sanchez then shot Steinle to death as she was walking with her father on a San Francisco pier.
But now that Jeff Sessions has announced that he's going to actually enforce the law, a law signed by Bill Clinton, mayors of cities that proudly name themselves as sanctuary cities rushed to microphones to announce that they would defy the law. James Freeman comments,
Obeying federal laws, whether they were signed by Mr. Clinton or anyone else, might seem like a reasonable minimum requirement for those seeking support from federal taxpayers. But many consumers of these grants seem to have a different view.
Even the Obama administration favored enforcing the law.
In May of last year Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Obama Justice Department, reported on possible violations of this law by governments in various jurisdictions around the country. He quoted, for example, officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who reported that officials in Cook County, Illinois “won’t even talk to us.”

Based on his findings, the Obama inspector general recommended that the department “require grant applicants to provide certifications specifying the applicants’ compliance” with the Clinton law, “along with documentation sufficient to support the certification.”

The Obama Administration then issued new guidance in October clarifying that grant applicants must certify compliance with all applicable federal laws and that the Clinton law was among them. But now that the Obama policy has become the Trump policy, along comes wailing from city halls that enforcing a 1996 law is suddenly outside the realm of humane constitutional governance.

Allowing local cops to share information with federal immigration officials isn’t all that Mr. Sessions wants. He would also like local officials to honor federal requests to temporarily detain illegal immigrants who are criminal suspects or convicts and are due for release by local authorities. But he is not requiring such cooperation from those seeking grant money.

And many of the locals may not cooperate with the feds even when they have the clear legal obligation to do so. The $4.1 billion in annual grants at stake, spread across the country’s multiple layers of state and local government, hardly matters in most local budgets.

This column’s views on the value that immigrants bring to this country are closer to those of Ms. Mark-Viverito than of Mr. Sessions. But there is no serious argument for rewarding willful violations of law with federal grants, whether the money is coming from the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration, or any other.
Jarrett reminds us that the Attorney General has the law on his side. Just because President Obama ignored the law doesn't mean that the law isn't on the books.
President Obama refused to take action against cities like San Francisco that shield illegal immigrants even after arrests or criminal convictions. He deliberately ignored existing federal law. The Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996 requires states and municipalities to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration requests:

“A state or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict… sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” (8 U.S. Code, section 1373)

That same law allowed President Obama to withhold federal financial support from those cities that continue to thwart the law. Yet, he took no action. If he had, perhaps Kate Steinle would be alive today.

Even Obama’s own Justice Department seemed aghast at the then-president’s refusal to enforce the law. The DOJ’s Inspector General issued a report concluding that the policies and practices of sanctuary jurisdictions violate federal law and they are, therefore, ineligible for federal funds. The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives primacy to federal law over contrary state or local laws. Did any of that matter to President Obama? Obviously not.

Already, sanctuary cities are searching for a loophole in the specific wording of the statute. They claim that simply declining to honor ICE detainers is not the same thing as a refusal to “send or receive” information. Wrong. Detainers require a response from local law enforcement. Refusing or restricting a response is clearly covered in the statutory language.

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The Democrats are calling for Devin Nunes to step aside from the House Intelligence Committee's investigation of Russia's involvement in the election. The WSJ acknowledges that Nunes did blunder with his actions rushing to the White House to brief the President before he briefed the members of his committee. However, if Nunes is going to have to resign, so should the Democratic ranking member, Adam Schiff.
Devin Nunes is refusing Democratic calls to resign as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and rightly so. If Mr. Nunes is going to step down for speaking out of school to the White House about his probe, then ranking Democrat Adam Schiff should also resign for spreading innuendo without evidence across the airwaves....

Which brings us to Mr. Schiff, who while posing as a truth-teller is becoming more partisan by the hour. The California Democrat started out telling everyone that there is “circumstantial evidence of collusion” between Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. He later escalated to claiming “there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” without providing any such evidence. If Mr. Schiff is so confident of the Russia-Trump connection, why not wait for the evidence to come out?

Meanwhile, Mr. Schiff evinces no interest in discussing, or even investigating, what happened to Mr. Flynn and why. Maybe he’s shouting so much about Mr. Nunes because he doesn’t want to know the answers to the questions the Republican is asking.

One question to ask about the eavesdropping on Mr. Flynn is whether there was “reverse targeting”—that is, whether a FISA order was put on the Russian ambassador Mr. Flynn spoke with in order to listen to Trump officials. We ask because reverse targeting was a big concern among Democrats like Senator Ron Wyden when surveillance legislation was last debated.

There’s plenty of partisanship on both sides of House Intelligence, and we wish they behaved better. But the larger goal is to find out, and tell the public, what happened, and that’s what they ought to focus on.
A pox on both of them.

Jonah Goldberg explains why it would be so difficult for Trump to appeal to Democrats to pass any sort of compromise legislation.
It is in the political interests of the Democrats to oppose Trump on everything, for the reasons Rich suggests.

But there’s another factor that is not Trump’s fault, but Obama’s. Where are these supposed moderate Democrats ripe for the plucking that people keep talking about? Let’s get their pictures on milk cartons ASAP.

The truth is that Obama hollowed out the Democratic party of any significant bloc of moderates. Support for Obamacare killed off a slew of more centrist Democrats, particularly in the Senate. What’s left is a far more ideologically committed urban and blue-state party. That means doing anything that attracts a Democrat will likely repulse at least an equal number of Republicans. As Ramesh said to me this morning, it’s not like it never occurred to John Boehner to find 30 Democrats to make up for losses among the conservative diehards, it’s just that such Democrats weren’t to be found (at least not without costing more Republican defections). The days of the Reagan Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats (and Gypsie Moth Republicans) are largely behind us.

That means if Trump is really determined to get Democratic support, he will have to move much further left to do so. And that will create a real crisis for a lot of Republicans, not just the House Freedom Caucus.

The Washingtonian has a lovely portrait of Mary Katharine Ham and her cheerful demeanor has made her a successful conservative pundit. I've listened to her podcasts at The Federalist and I always enjoy the humorous approach she takes toward the news. This is an approach that other media personalities would be wise to emulate.
All the same, the Trump presidency marks a tenuous moment for many conservatives—those who, while likely registered Republicans, now feel detached from the party label over things such as the White House’s pro-Russia stance. Ham says she’s still trying to figure out her role as a commentator. “It feels like you can’t really win,” she says. “You’re either accused of shilling for Trump or not being pro-Trump enough.” She does, however, criticize Republicans and others who “approach Trump like a buffet,” taking one piece of news and allowing it to confirm every bias that they have of him.

“I want to be a straight shooter about what policies I think are good, what policies I think are bad,” she says. “But I also think it’s important to remember that not every crisis has to be an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Right now, the media doesn’t allow anyone to figure out what the important things are. Sometimes a crisis is just a 3. That’s what I want to communicate to people.”
If only every talking head had that attitude.

The Washington Post has a long story bemoaning the fact that Melania Trump has been so elusive for the paparazzi and for regular reporters. She's just quietly living her life and not searching out the spotlight. And the media don't like that. They just can't figure out what is going on with her and her marriage. But that doesn't stop them from speculating. If they don't have actual fact, why not talk to other people who don't know anything and report their uninformed opinions?
Melania Trump is a Rorschach test in Louboutins, inspiring praise from those who see in her inscrutable gaze an elegant, dutiful mother charting a new role for the first lady; compassion from those imagining her as the president’s unhappy captive, her penthouse-turned-prison costing taxpayers ungodly sums to secure; and contempt from those rendering her as her husband’s chief enabler, abiding his sexist and anti-immigrant bluster, and echoing at one time his baseless questioning of President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

“Melania Trump is as ugly on the inside as she is pretty on the outside” was how Dan Savage, the sex columnist and gay activist, put it in a recent podcast. He flayed “folks on the left” who “view her as some sort of sympathetic figure — the pretty princess in the tower locked up by the orange ogre with the bad comb-over.”

The hashtag #FreeMelania is now a pillar of Twitter-speak, while questions about the Trumps’ marriage inspire headlines such as “Melania’s Struggle,” an Us Weekly yarn that claimed the 46-year-old first lady is “secretly miserable.” The article included an interview with a “family friend” who later acknowledged that his insights may be compromised by not having spoken to her in several years.

The Post compares her unfavorably to other first ladies who, despite having young children, were very public. But Melania seems to like her solitude and the media don't feel that that is acceptable. Even the paparazzi have given up on following her and Barron. How can a public figure like her privacy so much that the paparazzi don't bother staking her out? It's just not in the way of things.

I personally am quite happy not to see the First Lady all over the news. She wasn't elected. If she prefers her privacy and wants to spend time with her son without the cameras in the ways, that's great for her. Jazz Shaw ridicules the Post's fixation on her lack of newsworthiness.
Allow me to chime in with the same complaint I inevitably have about most of the First Ladies. Nobody voted for them. They have no official position in the government. They are not supposed to be setting policy or conducting the work of the people in any fashion. The reason for this is that if the people ever found them delinquent in their “job” we would have no constitutional method of removing them. We can’t force the President to get a divorce.

So quite frankly, if all Melania Trump wants to do is host the occasional dinner, read some books to children and spend the rest of her time back home taking care of her son… I have zero problem with that. At least she’s not trying to destroy the school lunch program with a bunch of leaves and twigs that the kids won’t eat. She didn’t run for any office or volunteer for any duty. We have no right to expect anything of her. And if she’s failing to provide bored reporters with grist for another column, that’s on them, not her.

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Jason Riley writes on how the Obama Education Department's "Dear Colleague" letter to school districts telling them to make sure that they don't suspend black students at a higher rate than white students. If schools have a disparity in discipline efforts, they could be investigated for violating students' civil rights. The result was just what anyone with any sense could predict. Schools enacted policies to reduce suspensions and schools suffered increasing problems with violent behavior.
The title alone of a new report on the fallout, “School Discipline Reform and Disorder,” might tell you all you need to know. The author, Max Eden of the Manhattan Institute, notes that 27 states and more than 50 of the country’s largest school districts have moved to reduce suspensions in recent years, often to the dismay of those on the front lines. A Chicago teacher said her school became “lawless” after the new discipline policy was implemented. A teacher in Oklahoma City said “we were told that referrals would not require suspension unless there was blood.” A Buffalo teacher who was kicked in the head by a student said his charges are well aware of the new policy. “The kids walk around and say ‘We can’t get suspended—we don’t care what you say.’ ”

Mr. Eden’s report isn’t just a collection of anecdotes. It also includes plenty of empirical data that point to a change for the worse in school order. In New York City, home to the nation’s largest school system, suspensions rose steadily between 2002 and 2011 under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose policies targeted disruptive students in the most violent schools. But Mr. Bloomberg softened his position somewhat in 2012 for first-time offenders, and his successor, Bill de Blasio, who assumed office in 2014, has made it much more difficult to suspend even those students who’ve committed repeated infractions.

Following the implementation of these reforms, school suspensions in New York fell by nearly 50%, but survey data of students, teachers and parents show that the learning climate in many schools has suffered. Moreover, the effects of the new policies haven’t been evenly distributed, especially under the current mayor, writes Mr. Eden. “Under de Blasio’s discipline reform, of schools that serve 90+% minority students, nearly 60% saw a deterioration in mutual student respect, about 50% saw a deterioration in student-reported physical fighting, more than 40% saw a deterioration in teacher-reported order and discipline, and nearly 40% saw an increase in student-reported drug and alcohol use and gang activity.” Overall, fighting, gang activity and drug use worsened at three times as many schools as saw an improvement.

None of this is likely to sway liberals who believe that racism explains all racial disparities, but Mr. Eden has performed a public service. The left’s decision to place the welfare of the bullies and thugs above the welfare of kids who are in school to learn is counterproductive. Thanks to liberal opposition to school choice—Mr. de Blasio is opposed to opening more charter schools in a city where more than 40,000 students are on charter waiting lists—a disproportionate number of black kids wallow in dropout factories with the least experienced teachers. How does making these schools more violent and disordered help matters?
How long do you think that teachers will want to teach in such an environment? Riley asks a question of those who think race determines everything.
And before we conclude that racist policies or teachers or administrators are to blame for these outcomes, we need to explain why white students are suspended at higher rates than their Asians counterparts. Is the system antiwhite as well, or do rates of discipline reflect different behavior among different groups?

On the same subject, Katherine Kersten reports on what happened when St. Paul schools adopted the sorts of policies that Obama's Education Department was advocating. It's an amazing story and should be a warning for other liberal school officials and politicians thinking of following this course.
The public schools of St. Paul, Minnesota, are ahead of the curve in the racial-equity crusade. The violence and chaos that racial-equity policies have produced there should sound alarms across the nation about what can be expected by pursuing this course.

Valeria Silva, who became superintendent of the St. Paul Public Schools in December 2009, was an early and impassioned proponent of racial-equity ideology. In 2011, she made the equity agenda a centerpiece of her Strong Schools, Strong Communities initiative. The district’s website lauded the program as “the most revolutionary change in achievement, alignment, and sustainability within SPPS in the last 40 years.”

Demographically, the St. Paul schools are about 32 percent Asian, 30 percent black, 22 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent Native American. In 2009–10, 15 percent of the district’s black students were suspended at least once—five times more than white students and about 15 times more than Asian students. In Silva’s view, equity required that the black student population be excluded from school at no more than twice the rate of Asian-Americans, the group with the lowest rate of suspensions.
The superintendent blamed the disparity on discipline on teachers' sense of white privilege so she required that every single employee in the St. Paul schools take "white privilege" training. And then set about dismantling discipline in the schools.
After implementing “white privilege” training, Silva moved to eliminate what she called the “punishment mentality” undergirding the district’s discipline model. In an effort to cut black discipline referrals, she lowered behavior expectations and dropped meaningful penalties for student misconduct. In 2012, the district removed “continual willful disobedience” as a suspendable offense. In addition, to close the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Silva adopted a new protocol on interactions between schools and the police. The protocol ranked student offenses on five levels and required schools to report only the worst—including arson, aggravated assault, and firearm possession—to police. School officials were strongly encouraged to handle other serious offenses—such as assault, sexual violence, and drug possession—on their own. For a time, the district administration actually tied principals’ bonuses to their track record on reducing black discipline referrals.
So there were fewer discipline referrals since that was now district policy. Instead of discipline, students meet with behavior specialists.
The “overwhelming majority” of behavior specialists are black, and “it’s not clear to me what their qualifications are,” wrote Aaron Benner—a former fourth-grade teacher who is black himself—in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2015. Some specialists “even reward disruptive students by taking them to the gym to play basketball,” he added. “There is no limit to the number of times a disruptive student will be returned to your class.”

PEG-trained “cultural specialists” reinforced the administration’s “blame-the-teacher” approach. They advised that if kids cussed teachers out, those teachers should investigate how their own inability to earn students’ trust had triggered the misconduct.
But that's not all this superintendent did to ruin the district's schools.
In 2013, Silva made a final policy change. In the name of equity, she sent thousands of special-education students with “emotional and behavioral disorders”—disproportionately black—into mainstream classrooms. Teachers received no extra support to deal with this unprecedented challenge.
Anyone who has ever worked with children would be able to predict the results.
We have a segment of kids who consider themselves untouchable,” said one veteran teacher as the 2015–16 school year began. At the city’s high schools, teachers stood by helplessly as rowdy packs of kids—who came to school for free breakfast, lunch, and WiFi—rampaged through the hallways. “Classroom invasions” by students settling private quarrels or taking revenge for drug deals gone bad became routine. “Students who tire of lectures simply stand up and leave,” reported City Pages. “They hammer into rooms where they don’t belong, inflicting mischief and malice on their peers.” The first few months of the school year witnessed riots or brawls at Como Park, Central, Humboldt, and Harding High Schools—including six fights in three days at Como Park. Police had to use chemical irritants to disperse battling students.

“We are seeing more violence and more serious violence,” warned Steve Linders, a St. Paul police spokesman. “Fights at schools that might have been between two individuals are growing into fights between several individuals or even melees involving up to 50 people.” In September, a massive brawl erupted at Como Park High School. Police had to call for backup, as “the scene became very chaotic with many people fighting,” Linders said. “These are not . . . a couple of individuals squaring off with the intent of solving their private dispute,” teacher Roy Magnuson told the Pioneer Press. “These are kids trying to outnumber and attack.”
The superintendent saw this violence and figured out that it was the adults' fault for how they reacted to disruptive students. And it wasn't just the high schools.

Meanwhile, at many elementary schools, anarchy reigned. Students routinely spewed obscenities, pummeled classmates, and raced screaming through the halls, Benner wrote in his 2015 Pioneer Press article. Elementary school teachers, like their high school counterparts, risked physical danger. Teacher Donna Wu was caught in a fight between two fifth-grade girls and knocked to the ground with a concussion. “I’ve been punched and kicked and spit on” and called “every cuss word you could possibly think of,” fourth-grade aide Sean Kelly told City Pages.

The teachers were fed up. Their physical safety was at risk in school.
December 4, 2015, marked a turning point. That day, at Central High School, a 16-year-old student body-slammed and choked a teacher, John Ekblad, who was attempting to defuse a cafeteria fight. Ekblad was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. In the same fracas, an assistant principal was punched repeatedly in the chest and left with a grapefruit-size bruise on his neck. At a press conference the next day, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi branded rising student-on-staff violence “a public health crisis.” Assaults on St. Paul school staff reported to his office tripled in 2015, compared with 2014, and were up 36 percent over the previous four-year average. Attacks on teachers continued unabated in the months that followed. In March, for example, a Como Park High teacher was assaulted during a classroom invasion over a drug deal, suffered a concussion, and required staples to close a head wound.

In 2014, Benner—a leader among teachers critical of the racial-equity policies—spoke forthrightly to the St. Paul school board. “I believe we are crippling our black children by not holding them to the same expectations as other students,” he told its members. St. Paul students, Benner wrote the following year, “are being used in some sort of social experiment where they are not being held accountable for their behavior.” Safety, not teaching, had become his “number one concern,” he said.

“There are those that believe that by suspending kids we are building a pipeline to prison,” said Harding High’s McQueen. “I think that by not [suspending], we are. I think we’re telling these kids, you don’t have to be on time for anything, we’re just going to talk to you. You can assault somebody, and we’re gonna let you come back here.”
The district officials responded by doubling down and trying to shut teachers up with their complaints. And complaining teachers would be accused of having a racist attitude. And administrators often neglected to follow up when students were referred for discipline so that they could keep the numbers down. It became up to the parents of injured students to report the incidents to the police because the administrators wouldn't do so.

And people are responding to the situation. Asian families are leaving the schools because their children don't feel safe at school and they're wondering why their race gets ignored when the administrators are supposedly concerned about race. Voters elected a new school board and the teachers union worked to elect the new board and get rid of Silva. Finally, they bought her out.

Kersten reports on a study that challenged the idea that disparities in school-discipline is a result of teachers' racial bias.
The deepest source of the racial-equity discipline gap is profound differences in family structure. Young people who grow up without fathers are far more likely than their peers to engage in antisocial behavior, according to voluminous social-science research. Disordered family life often promotes the lack of impulse control and socialization that can lead to school misconduct. The City of St. Paul does not make out-of-wedlock birth data public. However, Intellectual Takeout, a Minnesota-based public-policy institution, has determined through a FOIA request to the Minnesota Department of Health that 87 percent of births to black, U.S.-born mothers in St. Paul occur out of wedlock, compared with 30 percent of white births. Tragically, the problem we confront is not so much a school-to-prison pipeline as a home-to-prison pipeline.

Who pays the greatest price for misguided racial-equity discipline policies? The many poor and minority students who show up at school ready to learn. The breakdown of order that such policies promote is destined to make these children’s already-uphill struggle for a decent education even more daunting.
I hope that Betsy DeVos will act to rescind the Obama-era policy pressuring schools to avoid racial differences in disciplining. Read these reports from Kersten and Max Eden and see what such liberal racial tinkering with discipline have wrought.