Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cruising the Web

Jason Riley writes that, while Betsy DeVos is busy getting rid of pernicious Obama administration rules, he has another suggestion for her. He is talking about the requirements that the Obama Education Department put on public schools to keep records of the race of students who are suspended and expelled.
Two years later, the department issued a “Dear Colleague” letter warning school districts to address this racial imbalance, or else. The letter said that even if a disciplinary policy “is neutral on its face—meaning that the policy itself does not mention race—and is administered in an evenhanded manner” the district still could face a federal civil-rights investigation if the policy “has a disparate impact, i.e., a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.”

The threat worked. Fending off charges of discrimination can be expensive and embarrassing, so spooked school districts chose instead to discipline fewer students in deference to Washington. The Obama guidance didn’t start the trend—suspensions were down nearly 20% between 2011 and 2014—but the letter almost certainly hastened it. The effects are being felt in schools across the country, leaving black and Hispanic students, the policy’s theoretical beneficiaries, worse off.

After the Los Angeles school district, where more than 82% of students are Latino or black, ended suspensions for nonviolent offenses, the district reported that the number of students who said they felt safe in school dropped to 60% from 72%. When Chicago curbed suspensions, students and teachers felt the increased disorder. And following New York City’s reforms making it more difficult to keep disruptive kids out of the classroom, the schools that showed increased fighting, gang activity and drug use tended to be those with the highest percentages of minority students.

Somehow racial balance in the rates of suspension and expulsion has become more important than school safety.
Any teacher could have predicted those results. As soon as students sense that there will not be a disciplinary consequence for bad behavior, they lose any compunction to control their behavior. They know that the teachers and administrators will let them get away with disrupting the school. And most probably, the students who will suffer the most will be their classmates who will be less safe and have to endure constant disruptions in class. And chances are that many of those classmates will be minorities themselves.
Yet civil-rights activists, liberal academics, policy makers and others calling for fewer suspensions—come what may—insist that what explains imbalances in school discipline is racism, not varying rates of misbehavior. Never mind that these disparities persist in schools with black and Hispanic principals, teachers and administrators, who would have no reason to single out minorities for punishment unless the behavior warranted it.
Riley also cites evidence refuting the theory that suspensions increase the likelihood that students will drop out of school.
There’s plenty of evidence that someone who gets suspended is more likely to drop out of school, but there’s little evidence that the suspension caused the dropping out. In fact, a March paper posted by the University of Arkansas found that students who had been suspended were doing better in math and reading after one year. Suspensions were correlated with improved academic outcomes—the opposite of the chain of negative effects that opponents predicted.

That means the 2014 guidance, which is wreaking havoc on schools, was justified with what Mr. Eden described to me as “old and limited evidence,” now called into question by “new and more robust evidence.” Mrs. DeVos can’t fix this mess soon enough.

William McGurn reminds us how Barack Obama was, by his own standards, "cruel" towards children brought here illegally.
ruth is, no man has done more to poison the possibilities for fixing America’s broken immigration system than our 44th president.

Mr. Obama’s double-dealing begins with his time as junior senator from Illinois, when he helped sabotage a bipartisan immigration package supported by George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy. Mr. Obama’s dissembling continued during the first two years of his own presidency, when he had the votes to pass an immigration bill if he had chosen to push one. It was all topped off by his decision, late in his first term, to institute the policy on DACA that he himself had previously admitted was beyond his constitutional powers....

But once again, here’s the point about Mr. Obama: For all his big talk about how much he’s wanted an immigration bill, whenever he’s had the opportunity to back one, he’s either declined or actively worked to scuttle it.

Start with 2007, when a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators came up with a bill that also enjoyed the support of the Bush White House. It wasn’t perfect, but it extracted compromises from each side—e.g., enhancements for border security, a guest-worker program, and the inclusion of the entire Dream Act, the legislation for children who’d been brought here illegally that Mr. Obama claims he has always wanted.

Sen. Obama opted to back 11th-hour amendments that Kennedy rightly complained were really intended as deal-breakers. At a critical point, Kennedy urged that President Bush ask then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep the Senate in session to get the last few votes the bill needed. Mr. Reid opted for the Obama approach: Concluding he’d rather have the political issue than actual reform, he adjourned the Senate for the July 4 recess.

A year later Mr. Obama was running for president. Before the National Council of La Raza, he vowed: “I will make [comprehensive immigration reform] a top priority in my first year as president.” Yet notwithstanding the lopsided Democratic majorities he enjoyed in Congress his first two years, he didn’t push for immigration legislation, which makes his promise to La Raza rank right up there with “if you like your health care plan you can keep it.”
So we shouldn't be at all impressed with Obama's criticisms of Trump's ending DACA and referring the issue to Congress.

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The WSJ recommends
that the Senate do away with the blue slip rules that allow a single senator to block a vote on a judicial nominee. Senator Al Franken is misusing the privilege and shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.
The Senate comedian is also aiming to establish a new standard for what counts as disqualifying for the judiciary. Judge Stras is held in high esteem across Minnesota legal circles, has earned the highest rating from the liberal American Bar Association, and was elected with greater margins to his court seat than was Mr. Franken to the Senate. Judge Stras was on Mr. Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court, and even Mr. Franken’s minions have been unable to gin up a flaw in his legal record.

Mr. Franken claims instead that Judge Stras is unfit by virtue of his role models. The Senator is offended that the judge early in his career “worked as a law clerk for Justice [ Clarence ] Thomas,” and that he even once described that Supreme Court Justice as a “mentor.” Judge Stras also dared to speak at a Federalist Society event, where he “talked about how the jurisprudence of Justice [Antonin] Scalia helped to shape his own views.” Shocking stuff.

Under this Franken Role Model Standard, Democrats are justified in opposing any nominee who admires any widely esteemed Senate-confirmed Supreme Court Justice that he doesn’t like. Perhaps he thinks the late Justice Scalia wrote too well and was too intelligent to be Mr. Franken’s idea of a judicial model.

Blue slips were once reserved for nominees with ethical baggage, but Mr. Franken wants to use them for the crime of admiring the wrong people. Mr. Trump was elected in part on an explicit promise to appoint judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia, so the Franken standard pre-emptively disqualifies any Trump nominee.
As the WSJ points out, other Judiciary Chairmen has reserved the right to ignore blue slips. Given how ridiculous Franken's reasons are, Senator Grassley, the present Judiciary Committee Chairman should suspend Franken's blue slip.
Democrats blew up the filibuster for judicial nominees in 2013 to pack the D.C. Circuit, and it boomeranged on them with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. That might make them desperate, but it doesn’t give them the right to block a President’s nominees merely because a left-wing Senator thinks someone admires the wrong Justices.

Kevin Williamson highlights a lie misleading statement that Trump has been making about the U.S. tax system.
Trump on the stump insists that the United States is the highest-taxed nation in the world. That is . . . not exactly true, or close to true, or within the realm of things that might be true if you squint a bit and turn your head sideways. It is, in fact, false.

The United States is actually on the lower end among economically advanced countries when it comes to tax rates. We pay an average of around 26 percent of GDP in taxes, while our European friends pay about 10 points more — and some of them, including the tax-happy Nordics, pay about twice that.

We do have an extraordinarily high top corporate-tax rate — on paper, anyway. Our statutory top corporate rate is among the highest in the world, but the corporate tax code is a welfare program. You know how basically every president at every State of the Union address announces a special plan to encourage U.S. manufacturing or green energy or something like that? Those end up as exemptions and deductions in the corporate tax code, which, along with other tax-code favoritism, is why companies such as General Electric sometimes pay no taxes even in years in which they seem to be making a great deal of money. The effective corporate tax rate — what corporations actually pay — in the United States is not especially high, and it’s low if you have the right friends in Washington. The fact that corporate taxes vary so much from company to company and industry to industry is not an accident — the code is designed that way on purpose. It gives big powerful market incumbents a way to disadvantage potential competitors while giving power-brokers in Washington the power to make or break entire industries.

That’s a dumb way to run a tax code, but that’s how we do it.
As Williamson points out, the real goal of those on the Left is to have much higher tax rates such as some European countries have in order to provide much more social welfare. But they don't want to say that publicly so they just pretend that they can get the funds for their programs by simply taxing the rich.
The Left insists that something, somewhere — somebody rich, preferably in a Republican-voting state — is getting over on us, that the rich are not paying “their fair share.” It is true that the highest-income Americans do make a great deal more money than do the poor and the middle class — that’s what it means to be high-income — but they already pay an even more disproportionate share of the taxes. The top 20 percent takes in about 55 percent of all income but pays about 70 percent of all federal taxes as Curtis Dubay, formerly of the Heritage Foundation, runs the numbers. Other analysts have come to similar conclusions. That’s what you’d expect: We have a progressive tax code, after all.

Bari Weiss, a NYT staff writer, analyzes what is really happening as Berkeley "braces" itself for a speech by Ben Shapiro. The response by leftist groups and by the university itself has been to cast Shapiro as some sort of fascist, when he is really just a conservative. But now these groups have convinced tender snowflake students and their fearful administrators that conservative speech is somehow a threat to their psyches and physical well-being instead of focusing on the those creating the actual threat of violence.
Ben Shapiro is a 33-year-old who supports small government, religious liberty and free-market economics and opposes identity politics, abortion and Donald Trump. He is, in other words, that wildly exotic creature: a political conservative.

You’d think that the cosmopolitan denizens of the San Francisco Bay Area would have encountered a few, if not in the form of an uncle at Thanksgiving, then perhaps in, I don’t know, a field trip down to Orange County. But to judge from the pre-emptive reaction to Mr. Shapiro’s speech scheduled for this Thursday at the University of California, Berkeley, you’d be mistaken.

Last week Paul Alivisatos, the university’s executive vice chancellor and provost, sent out a grave letter to students and faculty members. “We are deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging,” he wrote, encouraging his readers to avail themselves of campus counseling services. “No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe.”

Mr. Alivisatos wasn’t referring to the various threats against Mr. Shapiro that you might imagine would be his chief concern.
No the provost's letter is not about those creating the violence, but the threat that students might feel hearing opinions with which they disagree. Sure, Shapiro can be bombastic and employs a sharp tongue in ridiculing those with whom he disagrees, including both students fearful of different ideas and Donald Trump. He is also a devout, Orthodox Jew who has been attacked by those on the alt-right in the most disgusting fashion. As Weiss points out, the ruckus over Shapiro's speech has served to conflate in the eyes of the media the views of a rather standard conservative with those of the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville. They are not the same, but the effort is to make all conservative views seem like fascism. What better way to negate the views of your ideological opponents than to convice people that those views are a physical and psychological threat? And this is going on elsewhere and not just for Shapiro.
What happened at the Unite the Right protest in Charlottesville was the real article: a gathering of proud white supremacists, neo-Nazis and fellow travelers brandishing torches and flags and a Dodge Challenger in order to terrify residents, kill a counterprotester and injure 19 others.

Later in August, however, there were long-planned free-speech protests across the country that had nothing to do with that ugly demonstration. Liberty Weekend in the Bay Area was one of them.

The demonstration was organized by the leader of a right-wing group Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson, who advertised the event this way: “No extremists will be allowed in. No Nazis, Communist, K.K.K., Antifa, white supremacist, I.E., or white nationalists. This is an opportunity for moderate Americans to come in with opposing views. We will not allow the extremists to tear apart this country. Specifically, Richard Spencer and Nathan Damigo will not be welcome.”

Perhaps one of the reasons Mr. Gibson had to make his intentions so explicit is that in the past his events have attracted just the kind of people who are fans of anti-Semites and racists like Mr. Spencer: the “Western-chauvinist” Proud Boys; the alt-right group Identity Evropa, or I.E., which was founded last year by Mr. Damigo; plus fans of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.

Mr. Gibson had also assembled a list of speakers that included, according to the group’s Facebook page, only one white male. The others were Hispanic, black, Asian, Samoan and Muslim; two were women. Mr. Gibson himself is half-Japanese.

You wouldn’t have known any of this though, if you’d listened to news reports or politicians, as Matt Labash pointed out in his must-read essay about the event in The Weekly Standard.

Representative Nancy Pelosi called the event “a white supremacist rally” and criticized the National Park Service for giving Patriot Prayer a permit to gather in Crissy Field, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge: “They’re going to give it as a venue to Nazis and white nationalists.”
All sorts of other Democrats condemned the gathering.
In the end, however, the violence didn’t emanate from Mr. Gibson’s camp, but from antifa groups that showed up to kick some fascist butt. Meantime, Mr. Gibson said things like “moderates have to come together.” Strange words for an accused fascist. But when mainstream politicians are engaging in Reductio ad Hitlerum, should Mr. Gibson’s branding as such come as any surprise?

Meanwhile, the White House Press Secretary does no one any good by calling Jemele Hill's Twitter comments on Trump as a white supremacist a "fireable offense." Conservatives don't like it when liberals hound people out of their job simply for expressing their views as happened to James Damore at Google or Brendan Eich having to resign at Mozilla for donating to Prop 8, the gay-marriage ban in California. Government officials should especially not speak out about firing a person for her views. If ESPN wants to have a host of their 6 pm program who strongly opposes the president, that is their decision. Viewers can make their own decision about whom they want to watch talk about sports. Even if conservatives know that an ESPN host had spouted off in support of Trump or any other non-favored conservative beliefs, their position at ESPN would be much more problematic. That is ESPN's private decision about what kind of business they are running. Someone in the government such as the White House spokeswoman should leave it to them and to their viewers to decide. As David French writes,
There is something especially troubling about Sanders’s statement, however. Let’s not forget that she’s an agent of the state, a representative of the president. Public officials should not be calling for the termination of private critics, period.

Finally, it’s no answer to claim that the Trump administration is merely “fighting fire with fire.” That’s not the role of the president or of anyone in his office. His role is to protect the Constitution and model its values. Sanders can and should rebut Hill’s argument, but she should immediately retract her declaration that Hill’s tweets were a fireable offense. Snowflake Republicans are no better than snowflake progressives. Respect free speech. It’s not that hard.

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At least recently retired Judge Richard Posner is honest enough to say that he has just been basically imposing his personal opinions in his decisions.
Recently retired federal appeals court Judge Richard Posner said he rarely looked to legal rules when deciding cases and often sought to skirt Supreme Court precedent.

"I pay very little attention to legal rules, statutes, constitutional provisions," Posner told the New York Times in an interview published Monday. "A case is just a dispute. The first thing you do is ask yourself — forget about the law — what is a sensible resolution of this dispute?"

When confronting a case with some form of legal obstacle in the way, the former 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge said he would look to circumvent whatever prevented him from reaching his desired result.

"When you have a Supreme Court case or something similar, they're often extremely easy to get around," Posner said.