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.