New York City’s Homeless Population Continues to Grow on de Blasio’s Watch

by Austin Yack

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign promise to curb homelessness across New York City has been a failure. When de Blasio entered office in 2014, there were 50,689 people sleeping in homeless shelters. But during his first year in office, the count increased by 15 percent, and now, less than two years later, there are nearly 60,000 people — that’s including 23,600 children.

Rather than admit that the city’s homelessness-prevention programs have failed to reverse this upward trend, the de Blasio administration opted to make excuses based on hypotheticals: If the programs weren’t implemented, city officials told the Wall Street Journal, there would have been 7,000 more people in homeless shelters.. By this metric, the 18 percent increase in homelessness under de Blasio’s watch somehow represents the success of the administration’s policies.

City officials still blame de Blasio’s predecessors for today’s crisis. “My frustration is that the kinds of common sense investments that we’ve made in prevention and rental assistance were not made 20 years ago when this trajectory began,” Steve Banks, New York City’s Human Resources Administration commissioner, said. New York City’s homelessness problem may have begun 20 years ago, but de Blasio’s comprehensive plan has done nothing but throw money at the problem, not fix it.

The annual homelessness budget is now $1.7 billion, and funds are being doled out in ways that, may just be encouraging homelessness. The city now pays for 4,000 motel rooms to house those in need, each room with an average cost of $161 per night (some cost up to $300 per night). De Blasio has substantially expanded this program; in January 2015, only 1,000 rooms were used for this purpose, which is a 400 percent increase in less than two years. If the homeless are given such desirable accommodations, there is little motivation for them to seek shelter independently — the root of the problem will remain as more and more people seek government-funded shelter.

The de Blasio administration also announced a $3 billion plan in November 2015 to fight homelessness by building 15,000 housing units, all with social services, over the course of 15 years.

De Blasio may have claimed that under his administration “we will never go back to those bad old days,” but it seems that as his days in office come and go, New York City’s homeless crisis has gone from bad to worse.

Caring Less

by Ramesh Ponnuru

During the last two presidential elections, pollsters have asked a variety of related questions to gauge whether Americans think the candidates care about them.

This month, for example, Quinnipiac asked likely voters whether they think Clinton and Trump care about “average Americans.” By a seven-point margin, they thought she does; and by an eleven-point margin, they thought he does not.

I haven’t been able to find a perfect comparison, but it looks like both Obama and Romney did better in 2012. In a CBS poll of likely voters in October 2012, Romney was even on “does [he] understand the needs and problems of people like yourself” while Obama was 21 points up.

My thanks to my AEI colleague Heather Sims for digging up several polls on these questions.

California Governor Signs Bill to Criminalize Whistleblowing

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Today, California governor Jerry Brown announced that he had signed Assembly Bill 1671, a measure criminalizing many forms of whistleblowing in the health-care industry. The law makes it an alternate felony-misdemeanor offense to intentionally distribute, or to aid and abet the distribution of, a confidential communication with a health-care provider that was obtained unlawfully.

As I reported previously at National Review Online, the bill was drafted with the assistance of Planned Parenthood in order to intimidate potential whistleblowers such as David Daleiden and his group, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which was responsible for a series of videos in summer 2015 depicting evidence of the abortion giant’s engagement in illegal fetal-tissue trafficking.

Just this week, a series of emails were accessed via a Public Records Act request, revealing that the office of California attorney general Kamala Harris collaborated with Planned Parenthood’s California affiliate to draft AB 1761. The emails show several drafts of the bill being sent from Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for California Planned Parenthood, and Jill Habig, who was serving as special counsel to Harris at the time.

Keep reading this post . . .

Safe, Legal, and Free Abortion Push

by Wesley J. Smith

Response To...

The Hyde Amendment Deserves To ...

Michael is absolutely correct to sound the alarm about the Democratic party’s threat to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal money being used to fund Medicaid abortions.

Hyde is one of the few areas of national comity in the abortion wars. Now, in a cultural aggression, Hillary Clinton wants to shatter that comity. She is vocally running against the Hyde Amendment. If she succeeds, we will become closer than ever to being a pro-abortion nation.

I would also expect a Hillary Clinton administration to find a way to force abortion coverage under Obamacare.

And don’t be surprised if the Dickey-Wicker Amendment also is scrapped if Hillary becomes POTUS. Like Hyde, DW is passed annually as part of the budgetary process. It prevents federal funding for creating embryos for destructive research purposes. Because of it, the NIH can’t, as just one example, fund human cloning research.

The Democrats used to talk about abortion being “safe, legal, and rare.” Their national leaders now want it to be “safe, legal, and free.”

Yet Another Way the Justice Department Favors Abortion Access over Religious Freedom

by Alexandra DeSanctis

According to senators Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Ted Cruz (R., Texas), the Department of Justice has long been favoring abortion clinics in its enforcement of accessibility laws, while declining to enforce said laws to protect houses of worship. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) prohibits the use of force or obstruction to prevent someone from obtaining “reproductive services,” but the same law also prohibits the obstruction of a place of religious worship.

The Justice Department has used FACE to pursue a number of cases involving abortion access, but, by its own admission, has not enforced the law in religious-freedom cases where individuals were harassed or attacked while attempting to attend a religious service. In response to an inquiry from Cruz and Lee earlier this year, the department claimed that its failure to pursue such cases was because other statutes “broader in scope” than FACE — such as statute 18 U.S.C. § 247 — exist to protect houses of worship.

But Lee and Cruz’s new letter, sent to the department this Tuesday, dismantles that argument, providing three reasons why FACE offers stronger and more effective protections for religious liberty than § 247. First, FACE creates a civil cause of action, meaning that citizens who are threatened or harassed while attempting to attend religious services are able to bring their own civil action for legal relief. Furthermore, under FACE, the government can bring a civil suit on behalf of such a citizen, a fact that Lee and Cruz say “greatly enhances the protection for those exercising their right to worship.”

In addition, the criminal provisions of FACE are broader than those of § 247, which criminalizes only violence and intimidation motivated by a specific animus toward the religion of a location or individual. Meanwhile, FACE criminalizes all intentional acts, regardless of the animus associated with them. Finally, FACE has a much lower prosecutorial bar than § 247, meaning that criminal cases can be pursued under FACE even when the Department of Justice doesn’t deem such a case strictly necessary for “substantial justice,” as § 247 requires.

As a result of these facts about FACE and § 247, Lee and Cruz assert that the Justice Department’s rationale for neglecting to pursue religious-freedom cases is fundamentally flawed. Even aside from the merits of FACE’s provisions, however, the senators note that the department does not have the authority to decide when and if a certain law merits enforcement. “If protection is extended to abortion clinics under FACE, then it ought to be extended to houses of worship suffering FACE violations as well,” they write.

Cruz and Lee cite the example of the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which in 2008 was blocked by over a thousand protestors, intimidating and harassing the Mormon individuals for their support of California’s Proposition 8, a measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Justice Department told the senators that it did not enforce FACE against the protestors because it was unaware of the situation, but this seems unlikely given the national-news coverage the protests garnered.

Both senators had voiced these concerns earlier this year, but felt that the department had not adequately addressed them. They also have included in their letter a list of additional demands, including a request for records providing the date, location, organizations, discussions, conferences, and meetings related to either an abortion-access case or a religious-freedom case. With this information, Cruz and Lee hope to further substantiate their claim that the Justice Department favors abortion clinics over houses of worship.

On ‘Hillary-Hatred Derangement Syndrome’

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dorothy Rabinowitz has written a broadside against those Americans so benighted that they refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the election. She has somehow divined that we are not moved by anything as weighty as deep disagreement with her about important issues. We are instead putting our “exquisite sensibilities” over the needs of the country. We are suffering from “Hillary-Hatred Derangement Syndrome,” as the headline reasonably summarizes her argument.

This is of course the mirror image of the case made by some Trump supporters, who indiscriminately accuse those of us who are not planning to vote for him of “moral preening.” In both cases, the assumption is that we are facing an election of earth-shattering importance in which every vote has great moral weight. But it’s not so important that we should expend any effort to figure out why our fellow citizens disagree with us and then engage with them so as to sway their votes. What this historical moment really demands of us is that we insult everyone who does not take our view of the election and implicitly congratulate ourselves for having the right sensibilities. Mission accomplished.

Soldiers and Sailors Should Salute the Flag or Face Discipline

by David French

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the social justice warrior of the day — Petty Officer 2nd Class Janaye Ervin. Petty Officer Ervin refused to salute during morning colors, the Navy is investigating, and now there’s a Change.org petition circulating demanding that no “adverse action” be taken against her.

Ervin explains herself with classic SJW incoherence:

“I have been proudly serving in the US Navy Reserve Force since November 2008,” she wrote, according to Military.com. “I have pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to spread freedom and democracy around the world. I will never waver from that pledge. I feel like a hypocrite singing about the ‘land of the free’ when I know that only applies to some Americans. I will gladly stand again, when ALL AMERICANS are afforded the same freedom.”

Perhaps in the new, fundamentally transformed military, soldiers and sailors should go ahead and provide superior officers with complete lists of orders they won’t obey for the sake of social justice. What if a sailor knows an officer supports Donald Trump, can they refuse to salute when he passes? We all know that when there’s an injustice anywhere, justice is imperiled everywhere, so let’s all take a knee at the next anthem. And the next time you’re ordered to war — to your possible death — on a ship flying the flag you scorn? Well, that’s optional too. The cause has to meet your standards for “just.”

There are some people who believe that service in the military is little more than a government job in uniform. Then there are some people who understand the meaning of the flag to the military and the power of the national flag in combat — people like the men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first African-American units in the Civil War and a unit that paid a terrible price in clashes like the Battle of Fort Wagner:

A mounted general and his staff rode up before the assembled ranks. The officer was handsome and smartly dressed, and grasped the reins of his prancing gray steed with white-gloved hands. Brigadier General George C. Strong pointed down the stretch of sand to the sinister hump of a Confederate earthwork that loomed amidst the roiling smoke and spitting fire of the guns. Loudly, Strong asked, ‘Is there a man here who thinks himself unable to sleep in that fort tonight?’ ‘No!’ shouted the 54th.

The general called out the bearer of the national colors, and grasped the flag. ‘If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry it on?’ After the briefest of pauses, Shaw stepped forward, and taking a cigar from between his teeth responded, ‘I will.’ The colonel’s pledge elicited what Adjutant Garth Wilkinson James later described as ‘the deafening cheers of this mighty host of men, about to plunge themselves into the fiery vortex of hell.’

That was just the beginning:

With men falling on all sides, the 54th surged over the sharpened wooden stakes that ringed the fort and through the water-filled ditch. In some places, shelling had filled the moat with sand, while elsewhere the water was knee- to-waist-deep. Hallowell and James were among those who fell wounded before gaining the ramparts, but Shaw kept his feet, clambering up the sandy slope with a knot of determined survivors. As he crested the flaming parapet, Shaw waved his sword, shouted ‘Forward, 54th!’ and then pitched headlong into the sand with three fatal wounds.

Sergeant William Carney was sprinting through the chaos when he saw the man bearing the American flag stumble and fall. Carney threw away his musket, raised the flag, and scrambled up the bullet-swept slope of the fort. A shower of hand grenades leveled the ranks around him, but Carney gained the crest, where it seemed he was the only man left standing. He knelt and gathered the folds of the flag, while the battle raged on all sides.

Here is William Carney, recipient of the Medal of Honor:

If a sailor is ordered to salute the flag, that’s not only a lawful order, it’s one that connects that sailor to a long and vital martial tradition and helps maintain the good order and discipline of a military force comprised of individuals with vastly diverse religious and political beliefs. But that’s more explanation than Ervin’s “stand” merits. If you’re in the military and you’re ordered to salute the flag, then salute. Otherwise, face the punishment you so richly deserve.

Democrats Get Trump Envy

by Dan McLaughlin

In politics, imitation is the sincerest form of hatred. And with Donald Trump having pulled just close enough in the polls to make Democrats sweat, they seem to be lining up to imitate Trump’s style.

First up, former Vermont Governor, presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, accusing Trump of being on cocaine with no evidence at all, asking on Twitter: “Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?”

Dean doubled down on this to MSNBC the next day:

Dean, who is a physician, clarified that he was not actually assigning Trump a cocaine addiction diagnosis – “You can’t make a diagnosis over the television; I would never do that,” he said – but maintained that Trump’s sniffling, as seen at the debate, “is actually a signature of people who use cocaine.” Then he pivoted the discussion to argue that Trump should release his tax returns and more detailed medical records.

“He sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do,” Dean said, and then attributed a series of other characteristics to Trump that he said “accompanies that problem.” He has “grandiosity,” “delusions” and “trouble with pressured speech” and “couldn’t keep himself together” on Monday, Dean said. “I think it would be interesting to ask him and see if he ever had a problem with that.”

Only after having left the accusation hanging for several days did Dean kinda-sorta apologize, while effectively admitting he was sinking to Trump’s level:

“And so I apologize for using innuendo,” Dean told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle Friday morning. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to do. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. This entire campaign has been debased by innuendo.”

Next, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, trolling Trump about his weight: “The D women Senators have talked & we’re concerned about Donald’s weight. Campaign stress? We think a public daily weigh-in is called for.

Then we have the Democrats’ Senate Leader for the past decade, Harry Reid, with a classic Trumpism, throwing out a random potshot at Tim Tebow’s NFL career in the middle of a screed against Trump:

“Tim Tebow, I’m sure, is a fine man,” Reid said. “His college career was terrific. Heisman Award winner. His professional career was kind of—wasn’t so good. But everything I know about the man, he’s a good person.”

Now, admittedly, a lot of this stuff is not new territory for Democrats. Dean, back in 2003 when he was leading in Democratic presidential primary polls, speculated that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks:

Dean: There is a report which the president is suppressing evidence for which is a thorough investigation of 9/11.

Diane Rehm, WAMU (public) radio: Why do you think he’s suppressing that report?

Dean: I don’t know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can’t—think it can’t be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is that by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and then eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear, the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission.

And Reid has such a long rap sheet of Trump-ish rhetoric it would be futile to recount it all here. In 2012, he famously claimed without a shred of evidence that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for ten years, and his response when called on this in 2015 summarized the Trumpish attitude perfectly:  ”They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win did he?” He matched Trump’s ignorance of the basics of the American legal system with the bizarre claim that voters should sue Marco Rubio for missing some votes in the Senate. Over the years, his many insults have included calling Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment to the Supreme Court” whose “opinions are poorly written” (Reid ended up being unable to identify a single actual Thomas opinion), calling President Bush  “a loser” and “a liar” and telling him, “Your dog is fat,” calling General Peter Pace “a yes-man…what an incompetent man,” and Alan Greenspan “one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington,” and even complaining that tourists visiting DC smell bad: “You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell the visitors. The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and they sweat.”

So, part of what’s going on here is just Trump giving these guys permission to be themselves – Trump, a donor to Reid in the past, is as much an imitation of Reid as the other way around. But this much is clear: Democrats may decry the degradation of American political rhetoric that Trump represents, but they will be more than happy to follow him into the mud.