Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cruising the Web

The Supreme Court issued a large victory of religious liberty yesterday in their ruling on the case Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. Eugene Volokh has a good summary of what the decision says.
Say the government has decided to provide certain benefits to various applicants. For instance, it might give federal disaster recovery funds to people whose property was damaged in a terrorist attack. Or it might compensate property owners for mosquito abatement expenditures. Or it might — as in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, decided Monday by the Supreme Court — offer playground owners funds to cover their surfaces with a springy rubbery material (often made from recycled tires) instead of soil or gravel.

When that happens, may the government deliberately exclude churches and other religious institutions, precisely because they are religious institutions? The court has just said “generally no,” in an opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and joined by the other opinions plus Justice Elena Kagan. (Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas would have said, basically, “almost always no.”) Justice Stephen G. Breyer agreed as to health-and-safety programs. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented, arguing that the government often must exclude religious institutions from such programs.
David French comments,
While there are many threats to religious liberty, few are more consequential over the long term than the state’s ever-expanding role in private life. If the government is able to vacuum up tax dollars, create programs large and small for public benefit, and then exclude religious individuals or institutions from those programs, it has functionally created two tiers of citizenship. Secular individuals and institutions enjoy full access to the government they fund, while religious individuals and institutions find themselves funding a government that overtly discriminates against them....

The Court’s holding — secured by my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom — is significant for two reasons. First, it places another brick in a wall of precedent that stands for the proposition that once the state creates a neutral program — one designed neither to advance nor to inhibit religious practice — it can’t exclude citizens or institutions from that program merely because they’re religious. Under these precedents, churches are able to worship in government buildings, religious student groups may access student activity fees to fund their campus outreach, parents may send their children to religious schools with publicly funded vouchers, and hosts of religious organizations may participate in public/private partnerships to serve our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. So entrenched is this precedent that it would have been a legal earthquake had the Court ruled against the church.

Missouri had had a provision in their Constitution banning state money going to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation. Other states have similar provisions which are called Blaine Amendments since they were modeled on a 19th century proposed federal amendment supported by James G. Blaine ("the Continental Liar from the State of Maine") in order to prevent government aid going to Catholic schools. So it will be interesting to see if there is a future case challenging a state's Blaine amendment blocking government aid to religious school.

This is one of the two cases my students argued in a moot Supreme Court hearing. The vote was closer in one of my classes but the other two had results similar to the actual results.

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Gee, if only the Obama administration had had a clue, this might have been avoided.
ran’s massive funding of terrorist groups that endanger Israel was exposed in shocking detail by IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.- Gen. Hertzi Halevi on Wednesday.

Speaking at the IDC Herzliya Conference, Halevi revealed that Iran is funding Hezbollah to the tune of $75 million a year, while paying $50m. of Hamas’s budget and approximately $70m. to Islamic Jihad.
Who would have predicted that giving Iran over a billion dollars in Obama's deal with them would lead to money going to support terrorism?

This is the state of toleration on the left today as the organizers of the Chicago LGBTQ Pride march wouldn't let people march who were carrying a rainbow flag overlaid with the Star of David.
However, the Dyke March Collective also ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).

According to one of those individuals—A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurel Grauer—she and her friends were approached a number of times in the park because they were holding the flag.

"It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag," she told Windy City Times.

She added that she lost count of the number of people who harassed her.

One Dyke March collective member, asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags "made people feel unsafe," that the march was "anti-Zionist" and "pro-Palestinian."

"They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive," Grauer said. "Prior to this [march] I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me."

Another of those individuals asked to leave was an Iranian Jew Eleanor Shoshany-Anderson.

"I was here as a proud Jew in all of my identities," Shoshany-Anderson asserted. "The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional. I don't know why my identity is excluded from that. I fell that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here."

A statement from posted June 25 on Dyke March Chicago social media accounts read in part:

"Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer and trans solidarity was partly overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Dyke March Collective members."

"People asked me if I was a Zionist and I said 'yes, I do care about the state of Israel but I also believe in a two-state solution and an independent Palestine,'" Grauer said. "It's hard to swallow the idea of inclusion when you are excluding people from that. People are saying 'You can be gay but not in this way.' We do not feel welcomed. We do not feel included."

In their statement, Dyke March Collective organizers singled out Grauer's organization A Wider Bridge for what they called "provocative actions at other LGBTQ events [and] for using Israel's supposed 'LGBTQ tolerance' to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine."

Social media posts in support of the Dyke March Collective also claimed that a rainbow flag with a Star of David is a form of pink washing (a belief that Israeli support of LGBTQ communities is designed to detract attention from civil and human rights abuses of Palestinian people).

Supporters added that American flags were similarly not welcome as they too are considered signs of oppression. However, flags from other nations were present.
So toleration extends only so far. Israel and the U.S. are not included. And Jews who support Israel and gays are simply not welcome. I just wonder if these people have any idea how gays are treated in Israel compared to all the other countries in the Middle East.

James Kirchick writes at Tablet,
There was nothing “Zionist” about the allegedly threatening flag (other than its containing the Star of David, which also appears on the Israeli flag). What made these people “feel unsafe” was the presence of Jews. Censoring this Jewish symbol, meanwhile, organizers were perfectly content to let participants wave the flag of Palestine, a political entity where LGBT people are routinely harassed and murdered.

The mainstream gay rights movement has always been pro-American, appealing to foundational American values and ideals in making the moral case for LGBT equality. Gays advocated for the right to marriage and military service because they love their country and want to be equal citizens of it. Let there be no mistake: This current crop of gay activists despises America. The only other flag to be banned at Chicago’s Dyke March was the American one, deemed a “sign of oppression,” putting the exiled Jews in good company. Indeed, one cannot help but notice how often those people who hate America tend to hate Jews, and vice versa.

Last weekend’s outrage in Chicago is but the latest example of Jews being written out of progressive movements. Whether Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party or Linda Sarsour’s #Resistance, Jews are not only being made to feel unwelcome in left-leaning spaces, but anti-Semitism—masked as anti-Zionism—is becoming a marker of virtue. These episodes of ostracism are almost always undertaken to appease Muslims, which makes no sense under any circumstances, least of all for the LGBT community, which is welcomed and celebrated in the world’s only Jewish country and subject to state-sponsored harassment, imprisonment, and murder in nearly every Muslim-majority one.

....Watching this American LGBT movement infighting must seem strange to those from the many parts of the world where gay communities are fighting just for the basic right to exist. The notion of banning fellow gays from inclusion based solely upon their religious-ethnic identity must seem so preposterous, so strategically self-defeating that it could only be the work of a community too comfortable to realize its own good fortune. That, as well as the product of a commitment to a rancid political dogma known as “intersectionality,” which mandates one group of people, Jews, be stigmatized as the price of adherence to a victim hierarchy that imparts varying levels of virtue to individuals based upon their identity, with Muslims ranking highest.

“I was here as a proud Jew in all of my identities,” an Iranian Jewish lesbian told the Windy City Times about being forced to leave the festival. “The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional. I don’t know why my identity is excluded from that. I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.” This is, alas, the ineluctable logic of intersectionality as defined by contemporary progressives: Judenrein gay pride parades.

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Byron York lays out the timeline from the investigation into Russia and the election. James Comey told Trump in January that he wasn't under investigation. In early March he told the Gang of Eight - the leaders in both houses as well as the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence and then the Judiciary committees the same thing. So, as York summarizes, by March 15, the leadership in both parties knew that Trump wasn't under investigation. However, when Comey testified in public, he refused to answer whether or not Trump was under investigation even though he'd told the leaders that Trump wasn't. So the public impression was that Trump was indeed under investigation since Comey refused to answer that question in public. But Chuck Schumer decided to take advantage of these circumstances to demand that Gorsuch not be confirmed while Trump was under investigation. That was quite perfidious given that Schumer knew that Trump wasn't under investigation. The Republicans who were briefed were under the constraints of keeping private what Comey had told them while Schumer went out and misled the public. And Senator Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee is not happy with Schumer's sliminess. It's a good thing to have that brought to the public's attention so people know how Schumer happily deceived the public about something that he knew wasn't true.

It seems that some of the people who have gone full-in with the Russia story are now stepping back a little. Some Democrats are urging their leadership to take a chill pill on the story.
Frustrated Democrats hoping to elevate their election fortunes have a resounding message for party leaders: Stop talking so much about Russia.

Democratic leaders have been beating the drum this year over te ongoing probes into the Trump administration’s potential ties to Moscow, taking every opportunity to highlight the saga and forcing floor votes designed to uncover any business dealings the president might have with Russian figures.

But rank-and-file Democrats say the Russia-Trump narrative is simply a non-issue with district voters, who are much more worried about bread-and-butter economic concerns like jobs, wages and the cost of education and healthcare.

In the wake of a string of special-election defeats, an increasing number of Democrats are calling for an adjustment in party messaging, one that swings the focus from Russia to the economy. The outcome of the 2018 elections, they say, hinges on how well the Democrats manage that shift.

And now CNN, after having run a story alleging that a member of the Trump transition team, Anthony Scaramucci, had met with a Russian investment CEO and then deleting and finally having had to retract the story, the network is having second thoughts about how determined they've been in their focus on the Russia-Trump story.
The now-deleted story, by investigative reporter Thomas Frank, was published Thursday and cited a single, unnamed source who claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee was looking into a "$10-billion Russian investment fund whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump's transition team four days before Trump's inauguration."

But by Friday evening, the story had vanished from CNN's website. It was not immediately clear when the story was removed, but a tweet linking to the story, from CNN's Politics account, was also deleted sometime Friday evening.

After noticing the story's disappearance, BuzzFeed News contacted CNN. More than an hour later, an editor's note appeared on CNN's website. A company representative sent BuzzFeed News a link to the note, but did not answer other questions about why the story was removed.

"The story did not meet CNN's editorial standards and has been retracted," the editor's note said. It did not say which parts of the story failed to meet the company's standards. The note also apologized to Anthony Scaramucci, a member of Trump's transition team and an adviser to his presidential campaign, who was named in the report.

A source close to the network, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, told BuzzFeed News the story was a "massive, massive fuck up and people will be disciplined." The person said CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker and the head of the company's human resources department are "directly involved" in an internal investigation examining how the story was handled.
It makes one wonder if their lead was bad or if the leak was deliberately made to generate a negative story. I have been wondering that a lot as we see all sorts of stories that both make Trump look bad or good in the media. Do these reporters ever have suspicion about their sources or do they just report whatever makes a good story?

And now CNN has decided to exercise stricter editorial control over all stories having to do with Russia and the Trump team. Now all stories have to go through the CNNMoney executive editor of the VP.

Monica Showalter says that this episode is "why CNN can't have nice things."
But oh, what an embarrassing thing to get out in the journalism world! Not just the order to clear it with the adults, the leaked memo, too.

The thing is, it signals that CNN's reporters and writers don't have sufficient news judgment to report on this topic without adult supervision. Apparently word has gotten around on the left that pretty much any old thing can be made up and any innuendo leaked with impunity to CNN. Imagine the newsroom atmosphere were ever reporter has suddenly allowed himself to be used as flypaper - for scurrilous, made-up, cooked up, invented lies.

Ed Morrissey comments,
In part, though, this happens because of the hyperbolic and hyper-competitive environment in which the national media now operates on the Trump administration, and especially the Russia angles. There seems to be almost a desperation to provide grist for that particular mill, as no real evidence has emerged of any collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence, despite several months of focus on it by Congress, the FBI, and national media outlets. So far at least it’s a dry hole, and yet media outlets insist on pumping it continuously — and that need to provide new reporting on a weak narrative seems like a pretty good incentive to lower standards on reporting in order to get something fresh to put in front of readers and viewers. If that is what happened in this case — we don’t know that for sure yet, of course — it would be an utterly predictable outcome.

And now three of the reporters and editors responsible for that story have resigned.

Perhaps this might provide a lesson to other outlets about this particular story. It’s one that will in all likelihood get ignored.
It's funny that it was BuzzFeed that first caught this CNN story. They're the ones who published that whole dossier story on Trump and it's turned out that that whole thing was very, very sketchy.
A secretive Washington firm that commissioned the dubious intelligence dossier on Donald Trump is stonewalling congressional investigators trying to learn more about its connections to the Democratic Party.

The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.

What is the company hiding? Fusion GPS describes itself as a “research and strategic intelligence firm” founded by “three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters.” But congressional sources say it’s actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary Clinton, anti-Trump agenda.

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The winner of the Ugliest Dog contest isn't even that ugly. She looks like that breed of dog should look, though I wouldn't be thrilled by the doggie drool and gas she is known to produce. I'd vote for the dog that took third place.