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Parents say school ‘bomb shelter’ assignment promotes racism

Liberty Unyielding - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:35am

A controversial high school assignment is getting some attention from parents, who are calling it inappropriate and say it promotes racism.

One parent posted the assignment on Facebook, writing that it came from his son’s history class at Olympic High School.

The assignment is called the “Bomb Shelter Activity.” The scenario is that the President of the United States issues a warning of a nuclear attack, and the student’s family has access to a bomb shelter. The student can pick four strangers to go into the bomb shelter for safety.

The assignment has the student decide between different ethnic groups.

According to the Facebook post, the choices are a “35 year old White male construction worker who is a racist,” a “40 year old Black female doctor who is a lesbian,” a “50 year old White male who is a Catholic Priest,” a “25 year old Hispanic male who is a lawyer and is wheelchair bound,” a “30 year old Korean-American female who is a former college athlete,” and a “20 year old White female who is pregnant, has a two year old son and is on welfare.”

“If you care about people it shouldn’t matter,” parent Mia Hatten said.

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Neil Gorsuch is more liberal than Merrick Garland

Liberty Unyielding - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:29am

Democrats are understandably bitter about the Republican intransigence that ultimately allowed Neil Gorsuch to take a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court this week. But for Democrats who care about civil liberties, Gorsuch is a better choice than Merrick Garland, the nominee Republican senators refused to consider after he was nominated by President Obama last year.

Garland, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit since 1997, was frequently described as a “moderate” after Obama picked him to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Garland earned that label mainly by siding with the government, sometimes in cases where conservatives liked the result and sometimes in cases where liberals did.

Despite his reputation on the left as an authoritarian, Scalia defended the rights of the accused more consistently than some of his purportedly more liberal colleagues. And as SCOTUSBlog publisher Tom Goldstein noted, Garland is “to the right of Scalia on criminal justice issues.”

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Duke U. approves ‘safe space’ for illegal immigrants

Liberty Unyielding - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:26am

The Duke University Student Senate has unanimously passed a resolution demanding “sanctuary campus” policies which would create a “safe space” for illegal immigrants, shielding them from federal immigration law.

Following the election of President-Elect Donald Trump who has proposed strict immigration laws and tough border security, left-leaning universities around the country have demanded such action, with Duke being the latest to follow, according to the Duke Chronicle.

The sanctuary campus policy, pushed by Duke student Elizabeth Barahon, will withhold illegal immigrant students’ status from federal immigration officials unless they have a court subpoena.

The policy will also mandate that officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be barred from the Duke University campus unless a warrant is given.

Under the policy, illegal immigrant students who cannot find work due to laws such as E-verify, which Trump has promised to enforce, will have their university expenses paid for.

Duke student Senator Olivia Simpson proudly touted the sanctuary campus policy as one that riffed off sanctuary city policies, which shield illegal immigrants from being turned over to federal immigration officials even after they’re suspected of committing a crime.

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Student gov’t at this college votes to give blacks free tuition as ‘reparations’

Liberty Unyielding - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:23am

The Student Government Association [at Western Kentucky University] passed resolutions to support reparations for black students, causing varied response from senators and students.

Resolution to Support Reparations 

The resolution aims to send a message to the university that it should acknowledge slavery is “a debt that will never be paid.” The resolution also called for a special task force to be established by WKU to research test-optional admissions and geographically-weighted admissions and for all black people to have full and free access to WKU, including free tuition.

“This is something that I think is more importantly about sending a clear message than it is about actually trying to strive for the institution to actually give out free tuition to everybody,” said one author of the bill, Senator Brian Anderson.

The other author of the bill, Senator Andrea Ambam, said universities like to claim diversity without acknowledging the negative effects of slavery and segregation on black students. Ambam said past racial disparity has evolved into economic disparity in today’s society, making it difficult for black youth to attend college.

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Male BuzzFeed reporter says Sarah Palin ‘dressed like an a**hole’

Liberty Unyielding - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:19am

A senior reporter for BuzzFeed — which is known to run articles like “22 Terribly Sexist Comments Women Have Heard At Work” or “13 times women scientists shut down sexist comments” — publicly trashed former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s clothing on Thursday.

President Donald Trump hosted Palin, and musicians Kid Rock and Ted Nugent at the White House for dinner on Wednesday.

“So many questions,” BuzzFeed senior reporter Mike Hayes said of the dinner. “First one: Why is Palin dressed like an asshole?” Hayes deleted the tweet after being criticized for it on Twitter, but it can still be seen in screenshot form.

Hayes later offered an apology on Twitter. “Deleted a previous tweet of the photo of POTUS, Kid Rock, Palin and Nugent. Remarks were uncouth,” he wrote. “Apologies.”

Report: Trump, Congress save $60B in reg. costs; leverage Obama’s shady implementation practices

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:11pm

[Ed. – We wrote about this in January.  The beauty of rolling back regulations with the Congressional Review Act (CRA) is that it can be done without new legislation, if it’s within a certain window after the proposed regs have been submitted by federal agencies for public comment.  But Obama’s agencies stopped submitting a lot of their regs for comment in the last two years of his tenure.  So the CRA clock didn’t start on those regs until Trump took office.  Not all of the regs being rolled back fall into that category, of course.  But hoist-on-his-own-petard-wise, this one’s hard to beat.]

President Donald Trump and Congress have saved an additional $60 billion in regulatory costs by rolling back Obama administration rules, according to a new report.

The American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, released a report Tuesday documenting the most recent ways the administration and Congress have used the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations.

The report found the recent repeal and delay of regulations could lead to $86 billion in net fiscal effects for taxpayers from deregulation. …

Reversing the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” rule, the sweeping Environmental Protection Agency move that would have subjected lakes and ponds to federal government regulation, could produce $16 million in taxpayer savings alone.

Rolling back just five regulations could save taxpayers billions. The report examined spending implications of regulations repealed through the Congressional Review Act and those delayed formally by the administration.

“Combined, five regulations would have cost more than $86 billion in federal funds,” the report said. “Easily the largest rule was the Department of Education’s ‘Accountability and State Plans‘ final measure, implementing the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act.'”

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Fabio, latest celebrity victim of home burglary, is getting a gun

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:47pm

[Ed. – What, he didn’t already have one?  Disappointing.]

Speaking to Access Hollywood, Fabio said, “I came home and I saw one of the windows [broken]. I knew right away [that] something [had] happened.” He said he had trained rottweilers, but had left them outside that day; the only day that the burglars could have entered the home without facing the security dogs. …

Fabio said he has so many friends who say they were walking down the street and “got mugged” or they describe how someone just walked up and snatched their computer. He said, “The system is a total failure. And I’ve said this before, coming from Europe it’s like a movie, I already saw the freaking movie.”

He added, “It’s a real mess. California’s a mess.” …

He added, “The police right now [are] demoralized. They are like, ‘Why should I stop some criminal and risk my life, and then maybe get into trouble with the law because now the law is on the side of the criminal.’”

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The folly of being kind to violent criminals

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:26pm

For those inclined to make excuses for violent criminals, age is always an excuse for a short sentence. If the thug is young, they say, his sentence should be shortened because young people are impulsive and their brains haven’t finished developing.  (See, e.g., Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 1455 (2011) (5-to-4 Supreme Court decision overturning mandatory life without parole for 17-year-olds who commit murder)).

But if the thug is older, they say his sentence should be shortened because crime rates go down after people’s brains finish developing and they get less impulsive, meaning that a thug will “age out of crime” before too many years pass. For example, a federal judge in Chicago recently claimed there is a “need to curtail imprisonment of violent offenders,” since “many violent offenders … age out of crime, often as early as their mid- to late-twenties — ‘by the time a person in his 30s has generated a long criminal history suggesting that he poses a continuing risk, he is likely to have started ‘aging out’ of crime, violent behavior in particular.'” (See United States v. Moore, 851 F.3d 666, 676 (7th Cir. 2017) (Posner, J., dissenting) (quoting the claims of Fordham Law Professor John Pfaff)).

This line of thinking completely ignores the need to deter crime in the first place. The purpose of the criminal justice system is not primarily to rehabilitate offenders (which can never be done with any assurance, since many “model” prisoners return to crime after being released). Its primary purpose is to protect the innocent, by deterring criminals from committing crimes in the first place, regardless of whether they are rehabilitated later. This is something that soft-on-crime judges simply ignore.

A penalty that does nothing to rehabilitate a criminal can nevertheless be justified because it saves many lives. Consider the death penalty. A number of researchers have concluded that the death penalty saves lives by deterring murder more effectively than mere imprisonment. As the Associated Press noted in 2007, “Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).” Additional studies are described by David Mulhausen of the Heritage Foundation at this link. For example, he notes that “two studies by Paul R. Zimmerman, a Federal Communications Commission economist, also support the deterrent effect of capital punishment…. [E]ach additional execution, on average, results in 14 fewer murders.”

But deterrence is not the only way the death penalty saves innocent life. It also prevents murderers from being able to commit more murders or other crimes while in prison. A 2016 Washington Post article gave the example of a serial killer who “killed two senior citizens, got locked up,” killed his cellmate, and then “tried to extort money” from an elderly woman:

Alone in his prison cell, Darren Witmer pulled out a piece of paper and tried a new way to steal someone’s money.

“May this letter reach your hands with a welcoming comfort,” he wrote last year to a 75-year-old woman living by herself north of Washington.

Witmer, 45, figured he had nothing to lose.

He was serving three life sentences in Maryland for killing three people. In 1994, Witmer broke into the Frederick, Md., apartment of an 83-year-old veteran and beat him to death for $300. Days later, he forced a 78-year-old man in the same town to write a check for $1,000 before he killed him with a small ice chipper. In prison, Witmer strangled his cellmate.

Now, writing his letter — to a stranger whose address he’d swiped from his dead cellmate’s records — Witmer got to his point.

He had “people in position” ready to slip into the woman’s home, carry her to the trunk of a car, take her to a river and kill her. “Trust me,” Witmer wrote, “you won’t even see it coming.”

But for $700 sent to his prison account, Witmer said, she could avoid death.

The woman called the police. Officers paid Witmer a visit. He was charged with extortion. And in a Rockville courtroom Friday, six years were added atop his life sentences.

These crimes are due to the lack of an effective death penalty. If Witmer had been executed for his first two murders, rather than merely imprisoned, he could not have “strangled his cellmate.” He paid no real penalty for strangling his cellmate, since he was already serving a life sentence for killing two other people, so the life sentence he got for killing his cellmate added nothing to his existing life sentence.  And since he is already serving a life sentence, he had “nothing to lose” in seeking to extort money from his elderly victim.

As Ernest van den Haag notes in “Capital Punishment Saves Innocent Lives,” merely sentencing murderers to prison does not prevent them from killing again: “incarcerated murderers can escape, be released on furlough, or kill other prisoners or prison staff.”

Given how much suffering to the innocents is prevented by punishing violent criminals with harsh sentences, it is apt to say, as a wise federal judge once did, that “He who is kind to the cruel is cruel to the kind.”

DHS Sec. Kelly to Congress: Change the law or ‘shut up’

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:15pm

[Ed. – Fair enough.  That goes for both parties, too.]

“If lawmakers do not like the laws that we enforce, that we are charged to enforce, that we are sworn to enforce, then they should have the courage and the skill to change those laws,” Kelly told a gathering at George Washington University on Tuesday.

“Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

He was interrupted by applause, then continued:

My people — my people have been discouraged from doing their jobs for nearly a decade, disabled by pointless bureaucracy and political meddling and suffered disrespect and contempt by public officials who have no idea what it means to serve.

During my confirmation process and in hearings, members of Congress, the press, and other public officials frequently asked me about the morale problems the department has experienced over the last few years.

My response has simply been, when you discourage, when you disable, when you unjustly criticize and default to believing the initial reports as opposed to defaulting to believing the stories told by my professionals — when you do all of those things and show disrespect to the individual who’s risking his or her life to defend the country — when you do those things, what do you expect?

All of this stopped on January 20. It stopped with President Trump and it stopped with me.

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Crowdfunding campaign would send anti-Trump filmmaker to Afghanistan to hug ISIS

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 7:24pm

[Ed. – If Gasland maker Josh Fox won’t go on the trip, the sponsors will donate the money to the Wounded Warrior Project.]

Filmmaker Josh Fox, who is behind the anti-fracking films Gasland I and Gasland II, was just one progressive who decided to speak out against the bombing [with the MOAB in Afghanistan. – Ed.] and offer terrible foreign policy advice. On Twitter, Fox suggested that “#love stops hate, and bombings only create more #ISIS.”

He also referred to President Trump as a “mass murderer.” …

Filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, who have long trolled Fox for his climate change activism, want to help Fox be a part of the peace process he seeks. The duo has started a crowdfunding campaign entitled, “Send Josh Fox to Hug ISIS.” Should they reach their $2,500 goal, the filmmakers will have enough to pay for Fox’s airfare to Afghanistan, two nights in a hotel, “and a dozen roses so Fox can show ISIS how much he really loves them.”

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Jeff Sessions: Judges shouldn’t ‘psychoanalyze Trump’ to see if his orders are lawful

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 7:08pm

[Ed. – All Sessions’ points are fair.]

Sessions made the comments in an interview with “The Mark Levin Show” Tuesday evening that was put online Wednesday.

“We’ve got cases moving in the very, very liberal Ninth Circuit, who, they’ve been hostile to the order,” Sessions said. “We won a case in Virginia recently that was a nicely-written order that just demolished, I thought, all the arguments that some of the other people have been making. We are confident that the President will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit. … I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.” …

“The judges don’t get to psychoanalyze the President to see if the order he issues is lawful. It’s either lawful or it’s not. I think that it will be real important for America to have judges in the model of Judge (Neil) Gorsuch and (the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin) Scalia, people who serve under the law, under the Constitution, not above it, and they are faithful to the law.”

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Reagan economy v. Obama’s: First rule, don’t listen to CBO projections

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 6:55pm

[Ed. – The authors, Phil Gramm and Michael Solon, point out that the CBO got it wrong every time, consistently failing to predict how well Reagan’s policies would perform, and how poorly Obama’s would perform.]

The economic policies implemented by Presidents Reagan and Obama were the polar extremes of postwar policies. The economic consequences of those policies defined the highs and lows of America’s postwar experience. These extremes help define what might be expected if this administration and Congress are successful in reversing the Obama program and moving toward a more Reagan-type policy of tax reform and regulatory relief.

Mr. Obama implemented policies dramatically different from the postwar norm. Marginal tax rates soared; federal spending spiraled with a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus; Social Security Disability and food-stamp qualifications were eased; work requirements in welfare programs were suspended; Medicare and Medicaid were expanded and ObamaCare created. Federal debt doubled, and public and private debt held by the Federal Reserve quadrupled. New legislation, an unprecedented number of new regulations, and a torrent of executive orders transformed the role of government in American life.

Dramatically different policies were followed by dramatically different economic results. Economic growth during the Obama years averaged an astonishingly low 1.47%, as compared with the 3.4% average throughout all the postwar booms and busts before 2009. The extraordinary economic failure of the Obama era is not found in the recession that ended six months into his presidency but in the subsequent failed recovery, where real growth in gross domestic product averaged 2.1% per year, less than half the 4.5% average during previous postwar recoveries of similar duration.

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Venezuela seizes GM factory; company halts operations

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 6:44pm

General Motors has stopped doing business in Venezuela after authorities took control of a factory in what GM called an illegal judicial seizure of its assets.

The plant was confiscated on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with authorities in a country that is roiling in economic troubles such as food shortages and triple-digit inflation.

The Detroit automaker said in a statement Thursday that other assets such as vehicles were taken from the plant, causing irreparable damage to the company.

GM says the plant was taken in disregard of its right to due process. The company says it will defend itself legally and that it’s confident that justice eventually will prevail.

GM has about 2,700 workers in the troubled country, where it’s been the market leader for over 35 years. It also has 79 dealers that employ 3,900 people, and its parts suppliers make up more than half of Venezuela’s auto parts market, the company said.

If the government permits it, workers will get separation benefits “arising from the termination of employment relationships due to causes beyond the parties’ control,” the GM statement said.

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Paris: Known ISIS terrorist attacks with AK-47 on Champs Elysees; kills 1, injures 2

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 6:32pm

[Ed. – A second suspect is still on the loose.]

A policeman was shot dead while two others were seriously injured by a Kalashnikov-wielding gunman on the Champs Elysees in central Paris – just three days before the French presidential election.

French police said the attack was probably a ‘terrorist act’ and the world famous avenue was on lockdown by 9pm.

Dramatic video footage captured the moment police shot dead the ISIS terrorist – who was known to security services – and had been flagged as an ‘extremist’.

Police have now launched a desperate manhunt for a second suspect after heavily armed officers flooded the area in the heart of the French capital.

Officers are searching the home of the shooter in east Paris and the attacker had previously mentioned on social media that he ‘wanted to kill police’, according to BFM TV.

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ISIS now starving civilians in Iraq to force them into fighting for the caliphate

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 3:32pm

The Islamic State is withholding food and water from citizens in Mosul in an effort to force them into joining the terrorist organization, according to an Iraqi non-profit.

The beleaguered ISIS has suffered personnel and territory losses since the U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Forces began operations to retake Mosul in October. Combat operations in Mosul have led to intense, street-to-street fighting in the city’s western area. ISIS is now forcibly conscripting the thousands of locals who remain by withholding food and water, according to a report by the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights.

“An infant and its sister died last week in Uruba neighborhood due to lack of food,” the report stated. “Now their mother is facing the same fate as she is in a very bad health condition.”

Some local civilians have given into ISIS to survive.

A single hospital in Mosul has seen hundreds of cases of malnourished and dehydrated people, mostly children, a representative told the Observatory.

To make matters worse, heavy rain has flooded the city in recent days, making it more difficult to send supplies to the eastern half of the city and the western neighborhoods that have more recently been liberated.

“The battle in western Mosul is very different than in the east – it’s much tougher. There are more trauma injuries, homes are being destroyed, food stocks are dwindling quickly and families are at serious risk because there isn’t enough drinking water,” said Lise Grande, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, in a statement Monday.

Those who were fortunate enough to flee Mosul have not fared much better. Nearly half a million people have left the city since operations began in October, and relief agencies are finding it difficult to care for them.

The progress in retaking western Mosul has been slowed by ISIS’s continued use of suicide attacks, human shields and car bombs.

“This is the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen, Stephen Townshend, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in late March. “It is tough and brutal.”

Relief for Mosul’s civilian population will have to wait, as the prolonged battle for Iraq’s second largest city will likely carry on for some time. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, warned at the battle’s outset that a quick victory was unlikely and could take longer than a year.

This report, by Russ Read, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Maxine Waters on illegal immigrants: ‘This is their country’

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 3:14pm

[Ed. – In case you thought she was ever right about anything.]

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) told an audience on Tuesday that the United States is the country of undocumented immigrants.

[…]

In her speech, Waters discussed young undocumented immigrants often referred to as “dreamers,” who are protected from deportation by former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order.

Waters said that the United States is their country.

“These are people who have hope. These are people who have gone to school. These are young people who want careers. These are people who are contributing to our society,” Waters said. “And all of sudden, they are thought to be folks who don’t deserve to be here and would be sent back to places they’ve never been. People they don’t know. Systems they don’t understand. This is their country.”

Waters also brought up the inaccurate story being reported this week of the Trump administration deporting a dreamer.

“And today they arrested one of the dreamers, first dreamer,” Waters said. Twenty-three years old, was brought here when he was 9 years old. Went to school, graduated, all of that. Was stopped by one of the ICE officers.”

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Education Department launches investigation of Richmond Public Schools over racial disparities

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:42pm

The Education Department has launched “a civil rights probe of Richmond Public Schools at the request of advocacy groups who say the district’s disciplinary policies discriminate against black students and students with disabilities.” The probe was announced in an April 12 letter from the District of Columbia regional office of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The groups that filed the complaint, the Legal Aid Justice Center and the ACLU of Virginia, cite data showing “Black students with disabilities were nearly 13 times more likely than white students without disabilities to receive short-term suspension.” Comparing blacks with disabilities to whites without disabilities seems like an odd, apples-to-oranges comparison, since students with emotional or behavioral disabilities may be more likely to act out in class, or attack their classmates or teachers, due to emotional problems — and thus have higher suspension rates than those without disabilities for legitimate non-discriminatory reasons (even though the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act makes it harder to suspend students with disabilities than it is to suspend students without disabilities).

Perhaps realizing that they had no evidence of actual racism, the groups base their discrimination complaint on “disparate impact” — the idea that even colorblind policies amount to discrimination when they impact more minorities than whites. The Richmond Public Schools have lots of black teachers and staff, so suggesting that these suspensions are due to racism or ill-will towards black people would stretch the bounds of credulity. The complaint seeks to compel the Richmond Public Schools to make discipline laxer by reducing suspensions and using “restorative justice,” and by curbing what they view as overly subjective policies regarding suspensions. This push will backfire on students, most of all on black students. And it will likely lead to lawsuits against the Richmond Public Schools by teachers and students who have to put up with abuse from students who are no longer suspended, but left in the classroom.

Black students are suspended at higher rates than white students in Richmond. But that hardly is a sign of racism. As one commenter put it, “the system is 90% black. There are hardly enough white kids to make a valid comparison. The white kids who are there are from high earning homes concentrated around Fox and Mary Munford.” The appeals court in Richmond has rejected the idea that racial disparities in suspension rates show discrimination. Faced with “statistics [that] show that of the 13,206 students disciplined” in a North Carolina school district “from 1996–98, sixty-six percent were African–American,” it said, this “‘disparity does not, by itself, constitute discrimination,’” and was “no evidence” that the school district “targets African–American students for discipline.” (See Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 269 F.3d 305, 332 (4th Cir. 2001) (en banc)).

Such disparities may not even amount to unintentional discrimination of the “disparate impact” variety. Even “disparate impact” complaints are supposed to be based on statistical findings that control “for various factors that one would expect to be relevant to the likelihood of disciplinary action.” (See Caridad v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co., 191 F.3d 283, 292-93 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Ward’s Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642 (1989)). Factors linked to student misbehavior and disciplinary action include, but are not limited to, living in poverty, or coming from a single-parent household, challenges that disproportionately confront black students. Student misconduct rates are much higher in schools where poverty is common, especially abuse aimed at teachers: verbal abuse aimed at teachers is five times higher in such schools. (See Rachel Dinkes, et al., Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007, pg. 26)). Misbehavior is also much more common among students from single-parent households. As the Brookings Institution has pointed out, “black students are also more likely to come from family backgrounds associated with school behavior problems; for example, children ages 12–17 that come from single-parent families are at least twice as likely to be suspended as children from two-parent families.” (See Tom Loveless, The 2017 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning? (Brookings Institution, March 2017, pages 30-31)).

As Katherine Kersten pointed out last year in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, black students’

discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more. In fact, a major 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that the racial gap in suspensions is “completely accounted for by a measure of the prior problem behavior of the student.” That problem behavior can manifest itself in other ways. Nationally, for example, young black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white[s]…Why such a gap? A primary reason is likely dramatic differences in family structure. Figures for St. Paul are not available, but nationally, 71 percent of black children are born out of wedlock…while the rate for whites is 29 percent. Research reveals that children from fatherless families are far more likely than others to engage in many kinds of antisocial behavior.

In its past investigations of school districts, though, the Office for Civil Rights has sometimes failed to control for any race-neutral factors, wrongly assuming that any difference in suspension rates between blacks and whites makes out a prima facie case of disparate impact. In addition to sometimes misapplying the disparate-impact concept, the Education Department may not even have the power to apply it to begin with. The Supreme Court has expressed skepticism about the validity of the Education Department’s disparate-impact regulations, since they were adopted pursuant to the Title VI statute, which the Supreme Court has ruled only bans intentional discrimination, not disparate impact. (See Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286 n.6 (2001) (calling the case for disparate-impact rules under Title VI “strange”)).

The curbs on suspensions that the Richmond complaint seeks will likely backfire on students, especially black students, and will lead to additional lawsuits. When New York City restricted principals’ ability to suspend students, and increased reliance on “restorative justice” approaches, there were increases in violence and gang activity in schools, with blacks suffering most from that. As the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden observed, “teachers report less order and discipline, and students report less mutual respect among their peers, as well as more violence, drug and alcohol use, and gang activity. There was also a significant differential racial impact: nonelementary schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst shift in school climate under the de Blasio reform.” (See School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public Schools, 2012-16 (Manhattan Institute, March 2017)).  University of Rochester professor Joshua Kinsler earlier discovered that “in public schools with discipline problems, it hurts those innocent African American children academically to keep disruptive students in the classroom,” and “cutting out-of-school suspensions in those schools widens the black-white academic achievement gap.”

Restorative justice approaches and other forms of lax discipline also lead to lawsuits against school districts by teachers and students who have to put up with abuse from students who are no longer suspended, but left in the classroom. In an April 19 column, the black economics professor Walter Williams gives an example of a teacher in a South Carolina school district who sued for racial and sexual harassment at the hands of students who were not removed from her classroom despite repeated verbal abuse: “a white Charleston, South Carolina, teacher frequently complained of black students calling her a white b——, white m——-f——-, white c—- and white ho. School officials told her that racially charged profanity was simply part of the students’ culture and that if she couldn’t handle it, she was in the wrong school. The teacher brought a harassment suit, and the school district settled out of court for $200,000.” Teachers assaulted by students have also brought lawsuits.

Laxer discipline does not, by itself, eliminate disparities in the suspension rate between blacks and whites. That’s because it cuts the suspension rate for both blacks and whites, rather than just cutting the black suspension rate. In fact, laxer discipline sometimes cuts the suspension rate even more for whites than for blacks, resulting in an even bigger ratio of suspended blacks to suspended whites, as the Washington lawyer and numbers-cruncher James Scanlan notes. Scanlan, who has degrees from Harvard Law School and the London School of Economics, points to examples from cities like Denver, Colorado, where the ratio of the black suspension rate to the white suspension rate went up from less than 4 to 5.5 after the schools began making discipline more lenient. In the San Francisco recorder, Scanlan argued that it is a mistaken assumption “that stringent discipline policies tend to cause large racial disparities in discipline rates. Exactly the opposite is the case. Stringent discipline policies tend to yield smaller racial differences in discipline rates than more lenient ones.”

The complaint prudently doesn’t ask the Education Department to reduce the suspension rate of blacks to the suspension rate of whites, which would be illegal — although such demands have been made in past complaints, and the complaint does demand identification of the causes of “race and disability disparities” and “recommendations for reform.” In past settlements with the Office for Civil Rights, some school systems have agreed to “targeted reductions” in “suspensions for African American students,” to resolve discrimination complaints against them with the Education Department. But those are racial quotas all but name, and the appeals court in Richmond has taken a dim view of such racial quotas. In its ruling in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 269 F.3d 305, 332 (2001), the court rejected the idea that suspension rates should be made equal among all groups, declaring that the notion that a school system “should have a disciplinary quota is patently absurd.” Similarly, the appeals court in Chicago blocked a provision that forbade a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline unless the district purges all ‘subjective’ criteria from its disciplinary code,” because that constituted an illegal racial quota. (See People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 538 (7th Cir. 1997)).

One hopes that the Richmond Public Schools will not try to resolve this discrimination complaint by offering to adopt a racial quota in suspensions. That is something that could lead to reverse discrimination lawsuits against it by affected students and teachers. (See, e.g., Huckabay v. Moore, 142 F.3d 233 (1998) (white employee could sue for racial harassment); Parents Involved v. Seattle School District, 551 U.S. 701 (2007) (successful reverse discrimination lawsuit by mostly white parents)).

The desire of the Richmond complaint to eliminate “subjective” elements in discipline seems hopelessly impractical. As the appeals court in Chicago noted, some of the most important school rules are inherently “subjective,” but they cannot be discarded on that basis: for example, although rules against “disrupting classes” are to some extent “subjective,” they are nevertheless essential and cannot be sacrificed to achieve racial balance, since they serve “important disciplinary criteria.” (See People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 538 (7th Cir. 1997)). Moreover, there is no evidence that “subjectivity” is the cause of blacks being suspended at a higher rate than whites. Indeed, the appeals court in Philadelphia found to the contrary, noting that blacks had the highest suspension rates relative to whites for “very objective offenses.”  (See Coalition to Save Our Children v. State Board of Education, 90 F.3d 752, 775 (3d Cir. 1996)).

NYT editor admits ‘idiocy’ for story claiming more N.E. Patriots turned out for Obama than for Trump

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:08pm

Do you know how painful it is for a Jets fan to have to applaud the Patriots on a job well done? This could only have been worse if it was the Yankees. Or Derek Jeter tweeting from his personal account.

But fair is fair. Fake news…

Patriots’ turnout for President Obama in 2015 vs. Patriots’ turnout for President Trump today: https://t.co/OxMEOqZonI pic.twitter.com/pLmJWhOw1j

— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) April 19, 2017

…followed by the truth:

These photos lack context. Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs. In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn. https://t.co/iIYtV0hR6Y

— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017

The Pats posted their own photo of players and staff together with Trump and it looked like this:

Thanks @realDonaldTrump & @WhiteHouse for the gracious hospitality today honoring the Super Bowl Champion New England #Patriots! pic.twitter.com/7AU8XsA5Xk

— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017

Continue reading →

Bureaucrat Pensions and America’s Brazilian Future

Center for Freedom and Prosperity (CF&P) - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:05pm

When I write about poorly designed entitlement programs, I will warn about America’s Greek future. Simply stated, we will suffer the same chaos and disarray now plaguing Greece if we don’t engage in serious reform.

Ideally sooner rather than later.

But when I write about state governments, perhaps it would be more appropriate to warn about a Brazilian future. That’s because many American states have made unaffordable and unfunded promises to give lavish benefits to retired bureaucrats, a topic that I’ve addressed on numerous occasions.

And why does that mean a Brazilian future? Because as Greece is already suffering the inevitable consequences of a bloated welfare state, Brazil is already suffering the inevitable consequences of a pension system that treats bureaucrats as a protected and cossetted class. Here are some excerpts from a sobering report in the Wall Street Journal.

Twenty years before Michel Temer became president of Brazil, he did something millions of his compatriots do, at great cost to the country’s coffers: He retired at age 55 and started collecting a generous pension. Delaying that moment until age 65 is at the center of Mr. Temer’s proposed economic overhaul. …making that happen is seen as a make-or-break test of whether the government can get its arms around mounting economic problems like rising debt, low investment and a stubborn recession now entering its third year. New pension rules are considered central to fixing an insolvent system.

It’s easy to understand why the system is bankrupt when you read the details.

…some retirees receive pensions before age 50 and surviving spouses can receive full pensions of the deceased while still drawing their own. The generosity of Brazil’s pension system is legendary—and, economists say, troubling as the country’s fertility rate plummets and life expectancy climbs. João Mansur, a long-time state legislator in Paraná state, served as interim governor there for 39 days in 1973, a stint that qualified him to retire with a $8,000 monthly pension. …Other former public workers who retire not only reap nearly the same income they got while on the job, but also see their checks get bumped up whenever those still working in the same job category get raises. …Retirement outlays will eat up 43% of the $422-billion national budget this year. …Demographics are playing against a generous system created in great part to bridge Brazil’s infamous social gap. Official statistics say there are 11 retirees for every 100 working-age Brazilians; that will rise to 44 per 100 by 2060.

Fixing this mess won’t be easy.

Brazil’s constitution must be amended to allow its pension system to be restructured… Mr. Temer has already been forced to make a series of major compromises, including exempting state and local government employees from the overhaul. …legislators have sought to further water down Mr. Temer’s proposals, by for instance maintaining the lower retirement ages for women and dragging out the transition from the old social-security regime to the new one.

In other words, Brazilian politicians are in the same position Greek politicians were in back in 2003. There’s a catastrophically bad fiscal forecast and the only issue is whether reforms will happen before a crisis actually begins. If you really want to be pessimistic, it’s even possible that Brazil has passed the tipping point of too much government dependency.

In any event, it appears that legislators prefer to kick the pension can down the road – even though that will make the problem harder to solve. Assuming they ever want to solve it.

Which is exactly what’s happening at the state level in America.

Consider these passages from a recent Bloomberg column.

Unfunded pension obligations have risen to $1.9 trillion from $292 billion since 2007. Credit rating firms have begun downgrading states and municipalities whose pensions risk overwhelming their budgets. New Jersey and the cities of Chicago, Houston and Dallas are some of the issuers in the crosshairs. …unlike their private peers, public pensions discount their liabilities using the rate of returns they assume their overall portfolio will generate. …Put differently, companies have been forced to set aside something closer to what it will really cost to service their obligations as opposed to the fantasy figures allowed among public pensions. …many cities and potentially states would buckle under the weight of more realistic assumed rates of return. By some estimates, unfunded liabilities would triple to upwards of $6 trillion if the prevailing yields on Treasuries were used.

But this looming disaster will not hit all states equally.

Here’s a map from the Tax Foundation which shows a tiny handful of states actually have funded their pensions (in other words, they may provide extravagant benefits, but at least they’ve set aside enough money to finance them). Most states, though, have big shortfalls.

The lighter the color, the bigger the financing gap.

To get a sense of the states that have a very good economic outlook, look for a combination of zero income taxes and small unfunded liabilities.

South Dakota (best tax system and negative pension liability!) gets the top marks, followed by Tennessee and Florida. Honorable mention for the state of Washington.

And is anyone surprised that Illinois is tied for last place? Or that Connecticut and New Jersey are near the bottom? Kentucky’s awful position, by contrast, is somewhat unexpected.

P.S. Brazil’s government may kick the can down the road on pension reform, but at least they added a spending cap to their constitution.

University professor creates painting of Trump’s severed head

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:57am

Welcome to the “resistance” to President Donald Trump, which is finding expression on college campuses throughout the country. As an example, a teacher at Fresno State recently declared that Trump “must hang.”

But pictures speak louder than words, as an assistant professor of painting at the University of Alaska Anchorage attempted to show with an original work that is on display as part a faculty art exhibition in the school’s Fine Arts building.

The painting, which appears below, shows a naked man (anatomically correct in the unblurred original) who for some reason holds aloft the severed head of the commander in chief in one hand. In the other he holds a sign that reads, “Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it.”

The artist, Thomas Chung, explained to CBS affiliate KTUU:

It’s an image of the actor who plays Captain America, and two eagles are sort of screaming into his ears, and he’s holding the severed head of Trump, and there’s a young Hillary Clinton clinging to his leg. I was reminded of those 80’s rock posters, where there’s a woman in tattered clothes clinging to a strong male hero’s leg.

His motivation for the painting was his disaffection over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election:

After Trump was elected, I spent days just weeping. And it was really surprising, because I’m not a political person. I am a social artist. I deal mostly in ideals of culture and global culture, but this election bled into that.

The article also quotes Paul Berger, a former adjunct professor at the university, who says he supports free speech but wonders whether the painting goes too far. He also notes:

Had the roles been reversed, and it was Obama’s head hanging there, I think the outrage would be fantastic.

Certainly, a far less controversial painting completed in 2010 by Jon McNaughton that depicted Obama standing on the Constitution while all his presidential predecessors looked on generated a snide reaction from the Wonkette blog:

Jon McNaughton, ‘The Forgotten Man’

Steven Godfrey, the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at UAA, is quoted as saying:

I guess the people who are upset about the work that’s being shown, if they were taking a class at the university and made art that was considered controversial no matter what their religious or political bent is, we would do our best to protect them and protect their rights.

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