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New Yorker Fact Checkers Strike (i.e., Go On Strike) Again



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The New Yorker’s Lee Siegel manages to make a hash of an article you’d expect would be impossible to mess up: a report on the friendship between Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot.

Siegel is writing a “short critical biography” of Groucho, and while I’m happy to see any new material on this major figure of 20th century American culture, Siegel inspires no confidence by getting two things way wrong — one of them a straightup error of fact — in just two consecutive clauses. He describes Eliot as “the confident product of St. Louis Wasp gentry, and an elliptical Catholic royalist.”

A Missourian who becomes a British subject, declares himself a royalist, and (per the recordings I’ve heard of him) fakes an English accent is anything but “confident” — unless Madonna’s English accent was a sign of the material girl’s confidence. Eliot maybe was less socially maladjusted than he gets credit for, but his complete lack of confidence is what made him interesting. Don’t take my word for it. Eliot is still in most anthologies. Read his work (of which I am a fan) and see if your first reaction is, “Wow, I love this guy’s confidence!”

And Eliot was never a Catholic at all. He was born into Unitarianism and was baptized (or baptised, as that son of St. Looey would say) in the Church of England as a grownup.

Siegel makes much of the ill-will that he believes underlay the pen-pal relationship (they met once for an underwhelming dinner) between the modernist poet and the titan of mid-century comedy. You can judge for yourself whether Siegel’s bracketed insertions in Marx and Eliot’s exchanges make a persuasive case that the two were trying to “reduce” each other’s “individuality.” I find Siegel’s claims preposterous and the evidence completely at odds with his theories. People who don’t like each other don’t express their hatred in witty subtexts. They stop communicating.

But Siegel also drags in National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. for some flagrant misrepresentation:

When Groucho appeared on an episode of William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” in 1967, an enmity sprang up between the two men almost immediately, with Groucho characteristically going on the attack the minute he perceived Buckley’s air of privilege and authority. At one point, as Buckley was trying to expose Groucho as a hypocrite for not voting for F.D.R. in 1944, Groucho turned suddenly to the moderator and said, of Buckley, “Do you know that he blushes? And he’s constantly blushing. He’s like a young girl. This is a permanent blush, I think.” The Marxes’ preternatural vulnerability to power and authority made them reach for their genitals the moment they ran up against the slightest impediment to their freedom.

Buckley was certainly a major player in American conservatism, but if you think an author, magazine editor and TV personality is a figure of “power and authority,” you need to spend a night in police custody to learn what those words mean. More to the point, video excerpts of the Firing Line episode, including the moment Siegel describes, don’t show any “enmity” at all. The show’s set-up was combative by design. Groucho, while not precisely an insult comic, made a routine out of needling people. (The whole format of You Bet Your Life was to have hapless heartland morlocks come up and get subjected to Groucho’s ungentle mockery.) And Buckley’s public persona (I never met him personally) was famously dry and mordant. Here they both are getting along just fine for the cameras:

Here is the dustup Siegel describes:

Maybe we need Siegel to insert some subtitles to explain the real meaning of what appear to the casual observer to be trading of quips and even (on Buckley’s part) some hearty laughter. I just hope Siegel isn’t working on a book about Gore Vidal.

Tags: Media Jackassery

Plastic Numbers



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Debra Saunders:

Forget all those warnings about the million tons of plastic debris floating in the ocean. Ignore the photos that you think show the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Andrés Cózar of theUniversity of Cadiz in Spain is the man who once extrapolated the 1 million-ton estimate. Since then, however, he has led research that collected samples at 141 ocean sites. Cózar’s new estimate: 7,000 to 35,000 tons of plastic are floating in the ocean.

That doesn’t sound especially good either, but it’s always better to have better numbers.

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In Re My ‘Sexual Tumult’



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Katie McDonough is vexed about my column on the Hobby Lobby case in a way that only a Salon writer dedicated to the issues of gender, sexuality and reproductive justice” can be.

She is very sure she is right about everything and that I am a “real tool-bag mush brain” for trotting out conservative “talking points.”

I don’t know what a tool-bag mush brain is, but I will take solace in the fact that I am not a fake one.

I’m not sure her screed deserves a response, but since she says my piece is “ kind of emblematic of the entire conservative enterprise of being super-wrong about employer health insurance” maybe it’s worth replying.

First let me just say that while she may be an expert on “reproductive justice” – whatever that is – her expertise on my interior life is quite limited. I won’t recount all of the idiotic ad hominem assertions she makes about my motives and worldview, but suffice it to say she literally has no idea what she’s talking about.

She doesn’t do much better on the facts of her own beat.

She writes:

First, Goldberg argues that “there is no Obamacare contraception mandate.” Well, there is a contraception requirement included in the new healthcare law. It may be increasingly easy to opt out of because it is filled with loopholes, but it exists. So that dispenses with that! Reality: 1; Goldberg: 0.

Her reading comprehension skills need work. My clear point is that the law — you know the legislation Congress debated and passed — does not have the contraception mandate taken up by the court. The law gave regulators the power to create one. The Court’s decision doesn’t touch the law, merely the actions the regulators took. Take that, “reality.”

McDonough then asserts:

In a funny way, Goldberg is right that Hobby Lobby never objected to covering birth control — that is, until it became a politically expedient way to strike a blow to the Affordable Care Act, grandstand about religious liberty and expand its power over its employees.

It seems she’s as bad at reading the minds of Hobby Lobby’s owners as she is at reading my own. Couldn’t it be that Hobby Lobby objected to the mandate because there was no need to object to the mandate before it existed? Couldn’t it also be that they were willing to incur huge costs and controversy because they actually hold their faith dear (it’s hardly as if there’s much evidence that Hobby Lobby was a rightwing pagan outfit that suddenly found Christ just to thwart Obamacare). It is true that Hobby Lobby’s old policy covered Plan B and other forms of birth control it now objects too. I can understand that this seems suspicious to folks on the reproductive justice beat, but I can think of more plausible reasons why they didn’t want to be compelled by the state to provide it, including the possibility they simply didn’t realize what they were paying for.  McDonough might do us all a service by doing some reporting on the question rather using her limited mind-reading skills.

As to whether some of these products can cause the death of a human embryo is hotly debated. Two points are worth making here. First, the evil Christianist sexist Obama administration conceded the point. Second, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, all that is required is for owners to sincerely object to these contraceptives. If McDonough doesn’t like the law – and obviously she doesn’t – that’s not my problem.

Another irrelevancy McDonough trots out as if it is a devastating rebuttal is the question of who is paying for the disputed contraceptives. It’s true that the employee pays for the coverage out of her compensation. But it’s also true that the employer is implicated in the purchase of these products as well. What the owners object to is being complicit in the purchase. It’s a fine distinction and in a funny way she’s right about the economics, but the economics are largely irrelevant to the issues in dispute.

She’s also right in a funny way that Hobby Lobby could simply opt out of providing health insurance at all. McDonough writes:

Goldberg also ignores the fact that if Hobby Lobby wanted to, it could stop providing insurance to employees and pay the costs associated with opting out of that coverage. But it didn’t want to do that, and instead fought for an à la carte approach to observing federal law. Now why would it do that? Oh, I guess maybe because the deduction for employer-provided coverage is the single largest tax expenditure in the federal budget and allows Hobby Lobby to remain competitive by offering benefits while shifting a sizable amount of this cost burden to the government. But sure, call it an act of benevolence if that suits you.

Of course, McDonough ignores the fact that “pay the costs associated with opting out of that coverage” is shorthand for paying steep fines. We are all presented with the choice of opting out of various government mandates. The question is whether such costs are right, just or lawful. Thomas More was presented with the choice of opting out or complying with a mandate. He chose to pay the costs.

McDonough no doubt hates that analogy. But not as much as she hates my Game of Thrones analogy, and maybe analogies in general. I wrote:

If I like to dress up as a character from Game of Thrones on weekends, pretending to fight snow zombies and treating my mutt like she’s a mystical direwolf, that’s none of my employer’s business. But if I ask my employer to pay for my trip to a Game of Thrones fan convention, I am asking him to make it his business. If my employer refuses, that may or may not be unfair, but it’s his right. If, in response, I go to the convention and have the government force my employer to pay for my travel, that only makes things worse. It not only makes my private pursuits my boss’s business, it makes them the business of taxpayers and a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington.

She goes on a very tiresome tear about this. I’ve gotten a lot of grief about this analogy on twitter as well. I’m starting to think that part of the rage over this analogy stems from the fact that untrammeled abortion rights are simply sacramental for some feminists and any language that doesn’t recognize the holiness of the sacrament is outrageous. That’s not my problem.

The fact remains, however, that my analogy is perfectly illustrative of my point; Hobby Lobby employees are free to spend their own money without implicating their employers in the process. I suppose I could have searched for something more reverential – a private religious ritual perhaps – but I see no reason why I should be obliged to. If McDonough thinks I honestly believe that going to a GOT convention is just like procuring abortifacients she’s even more clueless about my views than I gave her credit for. But being deliberately clueless about people she disagrees with seems to be part of the job description for reproductive justice reporters.

Web Briefing: July 25, 2014

Dem. Rep.: ‘Redskins’ Violates University’s Anti-Discrimination Policy, Shouldn’t Use Stadium



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The NFL season hasn’t started yet, but one Democratic congresswoman is already trying to score her first sack of an upcoming game.

Next season, the Minnesota Vikings will use the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium as a temporary home while their new stadium is built. But Betty McCollum of the state’s fourth congressional district is calling for the university administrators to bar the November 2 game against the Washington Redskins from taking place because she says the team’s name violates the school’s Board of Regents’ Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy.

McCollum, who co-chairs the Congressional Native American Caucus and has been vocal about her opposition to the name, recently penned a letter to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to notify him of the supposed violation of the policy, which states that the university will help create an environment “free from racism . . . and other forms of prejudice, intolerance or harassment.” She encouraged Wilf to take a stand against the team, including suggesting opting out of the NFL’s revenue-sharing system since some profits come from the “hateful slur” that is the mascot.

Several local and campus groups said they plan to protest the game.

The university has already responded to McCollum’s objections, saying that while they are “very sensitive” to opposition to the name, there is no way to relocate or cancel the game.

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Proofreading Goes Big-Time



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When proofreaders lie awake at night — searching their souls or, at National Review, waiting for the final edit of the big Arbor Day symposium — they sometimes wonder about their place in the universe. Does it really matter if we say al-Qaeda or Al Qaeda? Will a missing serial comma shake the foundations of our free society? Is proofreading truly that important?

Well, according to Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, N.J., proofreading can affect the fate of nations. While researching her new book about the Declaration of Independence, Allen (a former NR intern who sipped the Kool-Aid and spat it out) found evidence that the Declaration’s current canonical text contains a period that wasn’t in the original — and that this added period has changed the meaning in a subtle but significant way.

The period comes in what may be the Declaration’s most ringing passage:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Allen says the weight of evidence suggests that the period after “Happiness” was a mistaken interpolation, and that the passage should all be one long sentence. And that has important implications for the role of government:

“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen said. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”

I’ve met Danielle, and she’s every bit as sharp as you’d expect. So while I’m not sure I agree that the presence or absence of this particular period actually alters the meaning, I’ll happily accept her discovery as evidence that proofreaders perform a vitally important function. While that probably won’t get us a pay raise, it should at least help us sleep a little better.

Steve King: Obama Is Provoking ‘A Constitutional Crisis’



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Representative Steve King (R., Iowa), wants to alleviate the border crisis by allowing U.S. authorities to return to unaccompanied children to their home countries, something that current law bans except for cases of countries that share a border with the United States.

“This is a constitutional crisis,” King said while discussing Obama’s decision not to enforce immigration laws for children who would have qualified for citizenship had Congress passed the DREAM Act. “This is a president who doesn’t believe he is restrained by the Constitution. He is, to some degree, restrained by public opinion, which has significantly turned against him.”

King plans to introduce legislation U.S. law allows officials to send unaccompanied children back to their home countries, if those countries share a border with the United States; if their country of origin does not share a border, such as Guatemala, then they go through a different process.

That’s a “legitimate” legal constraint on President Obama as he responds to the current influx of kids, according to King, who says that Obama has a broader goal of “turning America into a sanctuary nation” — an allusion to the sanctuary cities that bar local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The provision of law that allows for children from contiguous countries to be sent home was championed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in 2008, according to King, giving him hope that the language will pass into law.

 

“That’s the basis for what we’re writing,” King said, referring to the Pelosi-Feinstein legislation. The children would not be returned if their was danger of their being trafficked or persecuted in their home country, among other things. When they are returned, under the current process for children from contiguous countries, the process is “designed to protect children from severe forms of trafficking in persons.”

The law states that “no child shall be returned to the child’s country of nationality or of last habitual residence unless returned to appropriate employees or officials, including child welfare officials where available, of the accepting country’s government” and “no child shall be returned to the child’s country of nationality or of last habitual residence outside of reasonable business hours.”

That process is in place for children from Mexico, but not Guatemala. “That’s what we’re amending,” King said.

If Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) block legislative remedies, then “only the American people can stop him,” King said.

“We don’t have provisions in the Constitution to handle a president like this,” he said. “The final decision is going to be decided by the people, either in ballot box or in the streets.”

Algerian National Soccer Team Reportedly Donating Entire World Cup Winnings to Gaza



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Upon returning home from their loss in the World Cup’s round of 16, Algeria’s star striker reportedly announced that the whole team will give its estimated $9 million earned in the tournament to Gaza, in what would be a politicized move during tumultuous times in the Middle East.

Islam Slimani, one of the team’s leading players, told fans at a welcoming ceremony in Algiers on Wednesday that the Palestinian people “need [the money] more than us,” according to the Independent; whether the team will make the donation remains unconfirmed.

If so, for many of the players who are on club teams in more financially strapped leagues in Africa and Europe, the decision would be a sizeable sacrifice.

Algerian support for Palestine has been apparent throughout the Desert Foxes’ — the team’s nickname — impressive run, in which it beat out Russia to advance to the knock-out round, where it lost to Germany 2–1. During Wednesday’s parade, the team’s bus was draped with a Palestinian flag.

Additionally, during the game against Germany, Algerian fans held up a Palestinian flag in front of a fan waving an Israeli one.

The reported announcement comes as tensions between Israel and the Palestinians escalated after the murder of three Israeli teenagers was followed by the murder of a Palestinian teen, in what some consider a retaliation attack.

The Gender Pay Gap at the White House



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Will it make Obama less sanctimonious on the topic of equal pay? That’s the question I ask at Bloomberg today. (Spoiler: No.)

Is America a Source of Pride, as Americans Have Long Believed … or Shame, as Liberals Insist?



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P  R  O  M  O  T  E  D     C  O  N  T  E  N  T

New York Times bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza and Schindler’s List producer Gerald Molen share alarm at how these destructive accusations are taught in schools, preached by Hollywood, and are setting policy in today’s baffling, confused White House. Obama sees Americans as “greedy, selfish, materialistic” — needing to be punished and subdued.

No, Americans are the most wonderful, moral people in the world, says D’Souza — and history proves his passion, which he celebrates in this astonishing, entertaining movie, America: Imagine a World without Her.

Obama: Republicans Need More ‘Economic Patriotism’



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House Republicans need more “economic patriotism,” President Obama suggested while making another call for Congress to pass his preferred policy initiatives.

“[W]e can make even more progress if Congress is willing to work with my administration and to set politics aside, at least occasionally, which I know is what the American people are urgently looking for,” Obama said Thursday at 1776. “It’s a sort of economic patriotism where you say to yourself, how is it that we can start rebuilding this country to make sure that all of the young people who are here but their kids and their grandkids are going to be able to enjoy the same incredible opportunities that this country offers as we have.  That’s our job.  That’s what we should be focused on.  And it’s worth remembering as we go into Independence Day.”

House Speaker John Boehner’s office has pointed out that the Republicans are doing things — 40 things, currently pending in the Senate — they just aren’t passing the bills that Obama wants.

“It’s clear President Obama is hopelessly out of touch – claiming House Republicans are ‘not doing anything’ just doesn’t fit reality,” Matt Wolking wrote at Boehner’s website. ”Surely by now he’s heard about our jobs bills ‘on the news’? After all, dozens of them are sitting in the Senate, being blocked by Democrats like Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).”

 

Tags: Barack Obama , House Republicans

‘Obama’s Border Crisis’



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In my Politico column today, I write about the border crisis:

It’s hard to imagine a more apt summation of the lunatic state of the nation’s immigration debate than this week’s split screen.

In Washington, most respectable opinion lined up, yet again, to condemn Republicans for not passing an amnesty under the guise of defunct-for-now “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Meanwhile, the crisis on the Southern border continued. A massive influx of people — largely driven by Central Americans, many of them children — drawn here in the expectation of lax immigration enforcement is overwhelming border officials and facilities.

A Wall Street Journal story about the White House reaction to the crisis was headlined, “Obama Plans Executive Action to Bolster Border Security,” which has a man-bites-dog feel to it after all of the administration’s executive actions to undermine immigration enforcement.

The border crisis is of a piece with a broad unraveling of the president’s policy over the past year. His erstwhile spiritual mentor might have put it under the category of “chickens coming home to roost.”

Are Christians in the Midst of a ‘Social Secession?’



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As a Christian lawyer — even when I was engaged in the “commercial” practice of law rather than the nonprofit, constitutional work I do now — I always drew moral lines around my representations decisions. I was not going to use whatever meager talents God gave me to advance or celebrate causes or principles I knew to be wrong. In other words, I discriminated. But not on the basis of race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, but rather on the basis of the action or legal principle the case would advance. I’d happily represent anyone, gay or straight, in a commercial contract dispute. I would not represent anyone, gay or straight, who wanted to sue to make divorce easier or broaden the definition of marriage beyond the union of one man and one woman. I’d represent an adulterous cad if the state violated his rights to free speech, but I wouldn’t lift a finger to help him divorce his wife.

This distinction, between status and acts, or between and among different acts themselves, used to be a matter of common sense. And it certainly still is amongst lawyers. No one (yet) is telling me that to maintain my law license I have to represent anyone who asks for help, no matter the case or cause. But if I have artistic talent, now the rule is different: My talents are the community’s talents, or I’m “seceding” from society. So the Christian baker, who’s more than willing to bake a cake for anyone, gay or straight, man or woman, black or white, for — say — a birthday party or an office celebration, is now seceding from society if they’re unwilling to help celebrate a gay wedding. 

That’s the contention of Jonathan Rauch, a guy I’ve long respected and whose book, The Kindly Inquisitors, is a must-read for anyone who questions the value of free speech in a pluralistic society. Unfortunately, his latest essay in The Atlantic, gets things exactly backwards. Accusing Christians of a “great secession,” of “walling themselves off from secular society,” he says this:

Culturally conservative Christians are taking a pronounced turn toward social secession: asserting both the right and the intent to sequester themselves from secular culture and norms, including the norm of nondiscrimination. This is not a good idea. When religion isolates itself from secular society, both sides lose, but religion loses more.

I’d counter with a different construct: Ideologically aggressive government and its cultural allies are taking a pronounced turn toward social aggression: expanding the reach of government into decisions that American culture and norms have traditionally left to the private sphere. That is not a good idea. When government power intrudes upon Christian conscience, both sides lose, but government ultimately loses more.

We just ended a news cycle when the Left and its allies in the federal government (and the front-runner in the next presidential race) had an absolutely hysterical over-reaction to the news that a Christian family business couldn’t be forced to pay for pills that could kill children. The fact that this same Christian family will provide, free of charge, 16 different contraceptives to its female employees was apparently immaterial. Christians were “hurting” women. Rather than viewing the undemocratic expansion of Obamacare (remember, the HHS mandate was regulatory, not statutory) as an aggressive government action, the alleged aggressors were Christians who weren’t willing to sacrifice their liberty and their conscience. But here’s Rauch on the Christian desire to be left alone:

Still, the desire to be left alone takes on a pretty aggressive cast when it involves slamming the door of a commercial enterprise on people you don’t approve of. The idea that serving as a vendor for, say, a gay commitment ceremony is tantamount to “endorsing” homosexuality, as the new religious-liberty advocates now assert, is a far-reaching proposition, one with few apparent outer boundaries in a densely interwoven mercantile society. It suggests a hair-trigger defensiveness about religious identity that would have seemed odd just a few years ago. As far as I know, during the divorce revolution it never occurred to, say, Catholic bakers to tell remarrying customers, “Your so-called second marriage is a lie, so take your business elsewhere.” That would have seemed not so much principled as bizarre.

I’d respectfully suggest that Rauch doesn’t quite know what he’s talking about here. Down in the Evangelical South, where I grew up, and in the Evangelical culture where I’ve lived my entire life, we’ve got a long tradition of refusing to participate in immoral acts. I can’t count the number of times I’ve talked to Christian business owners who’ve drawn lines around their businesses, but none of those events made news because they didn’t involve a legally or culturally favored identity-group. 

A prime example of this phenomenon is the academic world’s treatment of Christian student groups. For generation after generation Christian groups have taken disciplinary action against leaders who engage in heterosexual sin. Whether they’re “hooking up” or cohabiting, Christian student groups have long asked straight students to step down from leadership when they’ve crossed moral lines, especially when they’re unrepentant. They operated for decades on campus without controversy. But now they’re exposed to a massive assault on their most basic rights of free association, about to face expulsion from the entire Cal State system, for example, unless they allow their leaders to engage in homosexual sexual activity.

There is no “hair trigger defensiveness” from Christians. There is no desire to “secede” — unless our democracy has devolved so much that the quest to maintain historically-protected religious liberty rights is now “secession.” In his closing, Rauch declares the following:

This much I can guarantee: the First Church of Discrimination will find few adherents in 21st-century America. Polls find that, year by year, Americans are growing more secular. The trend is particularly pronounced among the young, many of whom have come to equate religion with intolerance. Social secession will only exacerbate that trend.

I’d respond with my own guarantee. The best way to destroy a faith is to abandon it. Just ask mainline Protestants. They’re no longer recognizably Christian, they’re prone (like the PCUSA) to embrace vile evils like abortion and anti-Semitism, and they conform to the culture and lose adherents by the hundreds of thousands. After all, why go to church when you can get the same sermon from the Sunday New York Times?

Rauch may be correct in the short term that orthodox Christians may find themselves further isolated. But we’re not seceding. Far from it. In fact, we’re embracing the nation’s founding principles — principles designed from the beginning to protect minority viewpoints. When it comes to determining which values are more fundamentally American, more consistent with our history and culture, I’ll take the First Amendment over a university diversity policy. In fact, I’d say that if anyone is “seceding” from the Land of Liberty, it’s those who would use the power of government to deny citizens their “unalienable rights” — even if the oppressors believe their cause is just and their intentions are pure.

Virginia’s Ride-Share Ban Lyfted



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Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and his administration are backtracking on the “cease and desist” order they imposed on Uber and Lyft, digital car-sharing and tax services, just a month after issuing the order.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which opposed the ban, first announced that Virginia had reversed on the ride-share apps, even before the official release, according to InTheCapital. The organization thanked McAuliffe for changing course on the issue on the issue, which has seen established car services and taxi unions argue for regulation of companies like Uber and Lyft.

“We are encouraged by reports that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is taking steps to allow innovative transportation network providers Uber and Lyft to operate in the Commonwealth,” said CEA head Gary Shapiro. “As we noted from the moment the DMV issued a ‘cease-and-desist’ order to these companies, denying them the ability to operate in Virginia is anti-consumer, anti-jobs and directly at odds with Virginia’s reputation as a pro-business state.”

Shapiro added that he hopes the state legislature will come up with a solution to allow these ride-share services to continue operating in the future.

Meriam Ibrahim Still Isn’t Free



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Meriam Ibrahim thought her nightmare — sentenced to death by the Sudanese government for her conversion to Christianity — was over, but she may be stuck in the country for some time now, following new charges.

In May, while she was pregnant, Ibrahim was sentenced to death for allegedly converting to Christianity and marrying a Christian man. A higher court overturned that sentence last week and freed her, but when she tried to leave the country, Ibrahim and her family were stopped for using forged documents, which were provided to her upon her release by the American and South Sudanese embassies. (Her husband is a South Sudanese native and holds American citizenship.)

Ibrahim and her attorneys raised suspicions about the accusations and suspect they were intentionally given false documents. (Read Joel Gerhke’s reporting for NRO on how the State Department is handling these allegations.)

In the meantime, Ibrahim’s half-brother Al Samani Al Hadi is trying to charge her again with violating Sudanese law by not keeping to the Islamic faith.

He has filed new apostasy charges, and a trial date is set for Thursday, according to Fox News. If the court rules in his favor, Al Hadi will have some legal rights over Ibrahim, according to her attorney.

Ibrahim also fears that her newborn daughter, who was born while Ibrahim was in prison, may be disabled as a result of her experience.

“I gave birth chained,” she told CNN. “Not cuffs but chains on my legs. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table.”

“I don’t know in the future whether she’ll need support to walk or not,” Ibrahim said, and doctors have expressed similar concerns about the infant.

Ibrahim and her family are currently residing at the United States embassy in Khartoum.​

Goldberg: Idea that Obama Is in Position of Strength Is ‘Utterly Otherworldly and Bizarre’



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New Berkeley Law Will Require Free Weed for Low-Income, Homeless Patients



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Berkeley, Calif., will now require medical-marijuana dispensaries to give away free cannabis to very low-income patients, CBS reports. 

The city council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that mandates the dispensaries hand over 2 percent of their total inventory to low-income folks and homeless people. They won’t get away with giving out their leftovers, either, as the ordinance requires that the pot must be good quality. The ordinance reads: ”Medical cannabis provided under this section shall be the same quality on average” as marijuana “dispensed to other members.”

“Basically, the city council wants to make sure that low-income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine,” Berkeley City Council member Darryl Moore told CBS. “We think this is the responsible thing to do for those less fortunate in our community.”

The Berkeley Patients Group, which is one of the city’s marijuana dispensaries, has already been giving out free marijuana to the poor for the past 15 years. Sean Luse, a spokesperson for the group, explained, “We’ve found out over the years that one of the cruel realities is that when you do get sick and you have a serious illness is that it’s often hard to keep a job, can be hard to keep your income up, so those people really need the help the most.”

The measure will receive final approval next week. 
 

McCarthy: Terrorism Conviction Treated as a ‘PhD in Social Justice’



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Nice Try, OFA



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Organizing for Action, the Obama-campaign offshoot, is trying its best to spin this week’s Hobby Lobby ruling:

In the spirit of #ThrowbackThursday, to paraphrase Tim Carney, remember all the way back to 2012 when employers could simply just pay their employees in cash rather than offer benefits that violate their consciences?

Remember Those Dire Warnings About Extended Benefits?



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At the end of 2013, the federal government’s latest extension of unemployment-insurance benefits expired. President Obama, virtually all Democrats in Congress, some Republicans in Congress, and (unfortunately) some conservative policy wonks warned that failing to cobble together another UI extension for 2014 would result in a mass exodus of discouraged workers from the civilian labor force. Most Republicans and conservatives, however, argued that extended benefits should be at best a temporary measure during the depths of a recession. Otherwise, the policy tends to discourage the jobless from accepting positions that may not be ideal in the short run but are better than remaining unemployed (for individual workers in the long run and for the economy as a whole). This effect, in turn, can result in lower job creation given that some employers find it impossible to bring current UI recipients back into employment at wages that are justified by the output the workers generate.

We’re now six months into an American labor market without extended UI benefits. What does it look like? Not much like the scenarios predicted by the Left.

According to the just-released household survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the standard U-3 unemployment rate fell from 6.7 percent in December to 6.1 percent in June. Contrary to the assertion that such a trend would reflect only discouraged workers ending their job search, not real gains in job acceptance and job creation, the country’s civilian labor force rose half a percentage point, the number of employed Americans rose 1.1 percent, and the number of unemployed Americans dropped 8.5 percent — all better rates of performance than the country experienced during the first six months of 2013. The nation’s employment-population ratio went up, not down. Switching to the establishment survey, the economy has added about 1.4 million payroll jobs so far in 2014, a rate of job creation higher than during the first six months of 2013.

In short, ending the extended-benefits program has coincided with stronger labor-market performance, not increases in worker disengagement from the labor force — which is particularly impressive given the economic head wind they call Obamacare. As a North Carolinian, I’m not at all surprised by these developments. Our state was the only one in the country that exited the extended-benefits program six months earlier, in July 2013. Check the Wall Street Journal on Saturday for a piece I wrote explaining what happened next in the Tar Heel State.

Tags: unemployment insurance

With the Jobs Report, Fireworks Come Early



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Looks like the labor market started its fireworks a little early. Payrolls grew 288,000 in June, the fifth straight month above 200,000. So far this year, payrolls have grown 231,000 per month, the fastest first half since 1999. 

The other good news was the decline in the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008. To put this in perspective, the Federal Reserve’s most recent economic forecast had the jobless rate at 6.1 percent near the end of the year, not the middle. The primary reason for the decline in the unemployment rate was a 407,000 gain in civilian employment, an alternative measure of jobs that includes small business start-ups.

One note of caution, however, is that the labor force only increased 81,000 in June and is down 128,000 from a year ago. As a result, the labor-force-participation rate remains mired at 62.8 percent, tied for the lowest since 1978.

The long-term downward trend in participation since 2000 is tied to the aging of the Baby Boom generation. But the end of extended unemployment insurance at the start of the year is also having an impact. Extended benefits kept some people from working and also kept others, who really didn’t intend to work, in the labor force (so they could keep getting benefits). The end of extended benefits should push down the jobless rate by both encouraging work among those who really want work and discouraging participation among those who really don’t. And, since the start of the year, we’ve had both faster payroll growth and a decline in the participation rate. Further supporting the case that ending extended benefits has helped: So far this year the median duration of unemployment has dropped to 13.1 weeks from 17.1 weeks, the steepest drop for any six months on record.

It’s hard to see the Fed not becoming more hawkish (or at least less dovish) after today’s report. The share of voluntary job leavers among the unemployed increased to 9 percent, the highest level since 2008. In the past, Fed chairman Janet Yellen has said a higher share of leavers shows confidence in the labor market.

Meanwhile, total hours worked and average hourly earnings were again up 0.2 percent each in June. Combined, this measure of total cash wages is up 4.1 percent in the past year, more than enough to fuel continued increases in consumer spending. In the past year nonfarm payrolls have grown at an average monthly rate of 208,000 while civilian employment is up 179,000 per month. Look for more solid jobs reports in the months ahead.

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