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This ‘Endangered Species’ Case Finally Ended in Defeat for the Government

Wed, 2019-07-10 10:35

Last week saw a major victory for property rights and an end to another Endangered Species Act horror story.

The saga began in 2012 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 1,544 acres of land in Louisiana was “critical habitat” for an endangered species known as the dusky gopher frog. 

As a result of this designation, the federal government was considering a ban on the development of the property, depriving the private property owners of $33.9 million.

The federal government continued to pursue this action even though the dusky gopher frog has not been seen in Louisiana in over 50 years.

The frog couldn’t even survive on the property. The only way the area could support the frog is if the private property owners make major and costly changes to the property—changes they have said they have no inclination to make nor can they be forced to make.

As the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Mark Miller, who represented the property owners, recently stated, “The feds may as well have labeled this Louisiana property critical habitat for a polar bear. It would have done just as much good.”

Unfortunately, in 2016, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the government’s actions were permissible. The implications of allowing such an area to be designated “critical habitat” would be sweeping. Judge Priscilla Owen in her dissent argued:

If the Endangered Species Act permitted the actions taken by the government in this case, then vast portions of the United States could be designated as ‘critical habitat’ because it is theoretically possible, even if not probable, that land could be modified to sustain the introduction or reintroduction of an endangered species.

In a unanimous 2018 decision (Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not participate), the Supreme Court rejected the 5th Circuit’s opinion, but didn’t actually answer the question about whether the area was “critical habitat.” Instead, it sent the case back to the 5th Circuit for its review, consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.

This included ensuring that the area is “habitat” for the dusky gopher frog before getting into whether it is “critical habitat,” and reviewing whether the federal government’s failure to exclude the area as “critical habitat” was permissible. The Supreme Court held that such exclusions are subject to judicial review.

For the property owners in Louisiana, though, the issue was still very much alive. 

But last week, maybe because the “writing was on the wall,” the Fish and Wildlife Service and the property owners settled the case, with the federal government dropping its efforts to designate the land as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog.

This entire saga provides yet another example of how the Endangered Species Act and its implementation fail to conserve species while simultaneously hurting property owners.

The federal government wasted resources and attention to achieve an outcome that never would have helped the dusky gopher frog because the habitat wasn’t suitable for its survival. This entire misguided attack on property rights certainly appears more about restricting development than conserving the dusky gopher frog.

After 45 years, it shouldn’t be surprising that lessons have been learned regarding how to modernize and improve the Endangered Species Act and its implementation. Those lessons should be applied, not rejected, in order to save every word of a flawed statute and every misguided interpretation of the law.

This dusky gopher frog saga should serve as one of these important lessons.

The post This ‘Endangered Species’ Case Finally Ended in Defeat for the Government appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

USDA Is Funneling ‘Trade Aid’ to the Agriculture Sector. It’s Old-Fashioned Corporate Welfare.

Wed, 2019-07-10 10:32

There is renewed hope for trade talks with China—a welcome development for the American economy. But the damage caused by the fight continues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is using the situation as an excuse to funnel more taxpayer money to the agricultural industry. It is spending $16 billion on trade aid for farmers affected by the trade fight with China.

This is on top of the $12 billion in allegedly “one-time” aid provided to farmers last year in response to trade disputes with various countries, including China.

If this wasn’t bad enough, it now appears the Department of Agriculture plans to use trade aid money to help farmers deal with nontrade-related issues.

Specifically, some farmers who have been unable to plant their cash crops because of inclement weather may be eligible for crop insurance assistance that helps farmers when they are prevented from planting crops. But this does not and should not qualify them for trade aid.

Enter the “cover crop.” As opposed to primary cash crops (crops sold for the market) such as corn, wheat, and soybeans, farmers use cover crops for secondary purposes such as soil health, livestock forage, or as a backup in case of bad weather.

The Department of Agriculture has informed farmers who were prevented from planting cash crops, due to the weather, that they still could get some trade aid if they plant cover crops.

The agency is not only transferring trade assistance money to help with weather-related harm, but it is also influencing planting decisions by encouraging farmers to plant crops they otherwise may not have grown.

This diversion of trade aid to nontrade-related matters only exacerbates the flawed policy of providing trade aid to farmers in the first place.

U.S. tariffs imposed on China have inevitably led to retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, including agricultural products. American families are hurt through higher prices and taxpayers are hurt through paying for the special trade aid for farmers.

Many industries, not just agriculture, are hurt through higher costs of imports and lost market opportunities in China. Yet, the agricultural industry receives preferential treatment even though farmers already receive billions of dollars per year in existing crop subsidies.

Even worse, this special agriculture trade aid also can create a justification for maintaining and even expanding tariffs, instead of opening up trade opportunities. In fact, that appears to be happening now.

With the federal government running enormous annual deficits that are partially financed by Chinese purchases of U.S. debt, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, correctly noted that “[w]e are borrowing money from China to pay our farmers to not sell their crops to China.”

Ultimately, the solution is to end the tariffs and commit to promoting freedom to trade. Until that can be achieved, the Department of Agriculture should stop trade aid and certainly not funnel money to farmers for nontrade-related issues.

Trade is truly about the freedom of individuals and businesses, including farmers, to voluntarily exchange goods and services with customers.

As the U.S. works through trade challenges with China, this principle of freedom to trade should be front and center.

The post USDA Is Funneling ‘Trade Aid’ to the Agriculture Sector. It’s Old-Fashioned Corporate Welfare. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Our Free Speech Crisis

Wed, 2019-07-10 03:02

The First Amendment to our Constitution was proposed by the 1788 Virginia Ratification Convention during its narrow 89-to-79 vote to ratify the Constitution.

Virginia’s resolution held that the free exercise of religion, right to assembly, and free speech could not be canceled, abridged, or restrained. These Madisonian principles were eventually ratified by the states on March 1, 1792.

Gettysburg College professor Allen C. Guelzo, in his article “Free Speech and Its Present Crisis,” appearing in the autumn 2018 edition of City Journal, explores the trials and tribulations associated with the First Amendment.

The early attempts to suppress free speech were signed into law by President John Adams and became known as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

Later attempts to suppress free speech came during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln and his generals attacked newspapers and suspended habeas corpus.

It wasn’t until 1919, in the case of Abrams v. United States, when the U.S. Supreme Court finally and unambiguously prohibited any kind of censorship.

Today, there is growing contempt for free speech, most of which is found on the nation’s college and university campuses.

Guelzo cites the free speech vision of Princeton University professor Carolyn Rouse, who is chairperson of the department of anthropology.

Rouse shared her vision on speech during last year’s Constitution Day lecture. She called free speech a political illusion, a baseless ruse to enable people to “say whatever they want, in any context, with no social, economic, legal or political repercussions.”

As an example, she says that a climate change skeptic has no right to make “claims about climate change, as if all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant.”

Rouse is by no means unique in her contempt for our First Amendment rights.

Faculty leaders of the University of California consider certain statements racist microaggressions: “America is a melting pot”; “America is the land of opportunity”; “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough”; and “There is only one race, the human race.” The latter statement is seen as denying the individual as a racial/cultural being.

Then there’s “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” That’s “racist” speech because it gives the impression that “people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race.”

Other seemingly innocuous statements deemed unacceptable are: “When I look at you, I don’t see color,” or “Affirmative action is racist.” Perhaps worst of all is, “Where are you from, or where were you born?”

We should reject any restriction on free speech. We might ask ourselves, “What’s the true test of one’s commitment to free speech?”

It does not come when people permit others to say or publish ideas with which they agree. The true test of one’s commitment to free speech comes when others are permitted to say and publish ideas they deem offensive.

The test for one’s commitment to freedom of association is similar. Christian Americans have been hounded for their refusal to cater same-sex weddings.

For those who support such attacks, we might ask them whether they would seek prosecution of the owner of a Jewish delicatessen who refused to provide services for a neo-Nazi affair.

Should a black catering company be forced to cater a Ku Klux Klan affair? Should the NAACP be forced to open its membership to racist skinheads? Should the Congressional Black Caucus be forced to open its membership to white members of Congress?

The true test of a person’s commitment to freedom of association does not come when he permits people to associate in ways he finds acceptable. It comes when he permits people to voluntarily associate in ways he deems offensive.

I am afraid that too many of my fellow Americans are hostile to the principles of liberty. Most people want liberty for themselves. I differ. I want liberty for me and liberty for my fellow man.


The post Our Free Speech Crisis appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

As Iran Inches Closer to Nuclear Weapon, What US Can Do

Wed, 2019-07-10 03:01

Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear program, and that’s creating more uncertainty in the Middle East. So what’s the best way to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons? Today Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation has some ideas. Read the transcript, posted below, or listen on the podcast:

We also cover these stories:

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Daniel Davis: Iran continues to ramp up its uranium enrichment despite warnings from the U.S. and Europe.

Joining us now to unpack where Iran’s nuke program is going is Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies here at The Heritage Foundation.

Luke, thanks for being back on.

Luke Coffey: Yeah, it’s great to be back. Thank you.

Davis: Luke, Iran has been quite open in recent weeks about ramping up its uranium enrichment kind of on the path toward a nuclear weapon. They’ve done that past the point that was agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal.

Should we be worried about a possible uranium nuke in the coming years or even months?

Coffey: Certainly in the coming years, without a doubt. I wouldn’t say in the coming months.

Under the JCPOA, which is the fancy acronym for the Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action … they’re allowed to enrich uranium at, I think it’s just under 4%. It’s 3.67% and now they’re saying they’re going to enrich to 5%.

To have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, it needs to be at 90%. We’re pretty far off from that, but as they increase the level of enrichment, it becomes faster as it gets higher. So that’s one reason to be concerned.

But … why I think they’re doing this is for two reasons. I think firstly, they want to use this as a way to put more pressure on the Europeans, to then put pressure on the Trump administration.

Secondly, they’re doing this at what is still relatively a low level of enrichment, so they probably have something that they can give up when or if they do have negotiations again with President Trump.

Davis: Is that basically their calculus here that they’re just doing this to try to strike a new deal to get rid of sanctions?

Coffey: Well, President Trump is very clear he wants a new nuclear deal because the deal that was agreed under the Obama administration has some fatal flaws in it, namely the sunset clauses, which actually allow certain restrictions on uranium enrichment, for example, to end only after 10 or 15 years. The 24/7 international inspection regime that’s in place ends after just 25 years. Now, 25 years to us might seem like a long time but the Persian mindset has thousands of years of rich history and culture. Twenty-five years is a blink of the eye for them.

These are some of the main flaws with the Iran deal. And President Trump has made this very clear from the beginning even as a candidate and he wants to do what he can to get the Iranians back to the negotiating table to get a deal that he feels will better serve not only the U.S. but the region and the international community.

Kate Trinko: Israel is particularly concerned about this. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Iran. He is saying that Israeli F-35s can reach anywhere in the Middle East.

So, how does Israel play into this and are they potentially going to take action unilaterally?

Coffey: This is a very serious matter for not only Netanyahu but for Israel. They take this matter very seriously and they’ve shown a willingness in the past to do things that many people never thought they could do or would do.

That being said, we should not think that ending Iran’s nuclear program is a simple matter of a night of airstrikes.

It would probably require a sustained air campaign lasting weeks to fully destroy it and even that probably wouldn’t be able to get the job done.

It would certainly set it back without a doubt. But I think what Netanyahu is trying to do is support President Trump in pursuing this maximum pressure campaign against Iran, increasing economic sanctions, isolating Iran in the region even more while still keeping the threat of military force present.

Without a doubt, the Israeli military is very capable, the most capable in the region by far, but I don’t think we’re quite to that point where the Israelis would take preemptive military action, especially when it looks like there’s going to be another election very soon in Israel because Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition.

Davis: President Trump has also issued veiled threats saying Iran better be careful with their enrichment of uranium, but some people might wonder what reason does Iran have to not do that?

The U.S. is no longer party to the deal, so why should they feel bound to it? Was withdrawing from that deal, from the U.S. perspective, still a wise move?

Coffey: Yeah, absolutely. It was a terrible deal and there’s no reason why the U.S. should remain wedded to a deal that did not serve U.S. interests or the interests of our allies in the region.

Elections have consequences and we saw it with the election of President Trump that things can and have changed.

If you live by the executive order, you die by the executive order, and if President Obama was serious about this Iran deal, he should have submitted it to the U.S. Senate as a treaty and then it would’ve had more force, but he didn’t and now we are where we are.

I think on balance, President Trump was right to leave the deal.

Without a doubt, there are good arguments on both sides of this debate. But when you look at the bigger picture, when you look at the flaws of the Iran deal, when you look at the economic situation in Iran and the opportunity the U.S. has to put maximum pressure on the economy to try to bring the Iranians back to the negotiating table, I think it was certainly the right thing.

Trinko: In a speech Tuesday at the Christians United for Israel Summit, Sen. Ted Cruz said, “I think we need to revoke every single one of the civilian nuclear waivers.”

Could you please explain what those are and whether you agree that they should be revoked or not?

Coffey: Iran is a party to the Non-proliferation Treaty, and under the Non-proliferation Treaty, countries have a right to civilian nuclear power. They don’t have a right to a nuclear weapon, but they have a right to civilian use of nuclear power.

Because of Iran being part of NPT, the Non-proliferation Treaty, they’re getting certain waivers on their civilian nuclear program.

It’s a very complex issue. It involves Russia and some other countries. But nevertheless, I get these waivers and I know that it wasn’t just at that speech where Sen. Cruz has said this.

He also co-authored a letter, I think, with Sens. [Tom] Cotton and [Marco] Rubio to President Trump outlining a number of measures that they think the U.S. administration should take and this was one of them.

I think this is being discussed in the administration, but I think they also realize that this is a process and not an event.

If they overnight throw the kitchen sink at Iran and do everything, then they’re left ultimately with one final option and that’s the military option.

So, I think the Trump administration is being very deliberate and responsible how they’re approaching this situation and they’re doing it in an orderly fashion through phases, gradually increasing the pressure on Iran.

Trinko: But it does sound like, from what you’re saying and from that letter you mentioned last week, that there are ways beyond sanctions that they could make life for Iran hard.

Coffey: Yes, and we just saw that actually last week when an oil tanker was en route to Syria from Iran.

It couldn’t go through the Suez Canal, so it went all the way around Africa, 18th-century style before the canal was there, all the way around Cape of Good Hope, back up the western coast of Africa, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and as it just barely creeped into Gibraltar’s territorial waters—which are British territorial waters—British Royal Marines commandeered the ship because it was en route to Syria.

… Without a doubt, there was coordination with the U.S. on that. That’s another way that the U.S. can act against Iran’s influence in the region.

Davis: European nations are still party to the 2015 nuclear accord. Recently, foreign ministers of the U.K., France, and Germany, as well as a high-ranking E.U. foreign affairs official, issued a joint statement.

They said, “These compliance issues must be addressed within the framework of the JCPOA and a joint commission should be convened urgently.”

Do you see much hope for Europe by itself, without U.S. participation, being able to really do much to restrain Iran’s uranium enrichment?

Coffey: With Europe, they view the relations with Iran through an economic lens and an energy lens, especially Germany and France where trade with Iran, since the JCPOA was agreed, has dramatically increased.

However, that being said, in the past year, it has slightly decreased because the fear of the reach of U.S. sanctions.

People still want to do business in the U.S. Companies want to do business in the U.S. and they’re not going to choose Iran over doing business in the U.S., right?

But with Europe, I think we need to wait and see what happens in the coming months because as you might have known, in May they had European Union elections across Europe and those European elections voted in a new European Union Parliament.

And then that new European Union Parliament will be involved in appointing a new European Union Commission, and then that new European Union Commission will have someone appointed called the high representative, which is essentially the EU’s foreign minister.

So, the current high representative, she is intimately linked, almost emotionally attached to the current deal. She’ll keep it on life support at all costs.

When the new EU Commission is appointed and when the new high representative gets his or her job, then you might have a different mentality. It could offer the EU an opportunity to maybe align slightly more with the U.S.

I don’t think they’re going to ever align fully with the U.S. on this.

One wildcard to keep an eye on is the U.K. When the U.K. actually formally leaves the European Union, they’ll be freer to take more of an independent stance.

I suspect that if it’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and that’s how it’s looking, when they leave the EU, we’ll see Britain align more with the U.S. position on Iran because right now, the debate inside the U.K. about Iran is linked to their negotiations with the EU on leaving because of Brexit.

Trinko: You were recently at the, I don’t know, scene of the crime is probably not the right word but—

Coffey:  Not yet.

Trinko: … the Strait of Hormuz and tell us about why that matters to the region and the politics there, but also what you saw there firsthand.

Coffey: Yeah, it was a fascinating visit. It was actually a long-planned visit that the timing just coincided to work really well considering the news cycle.

I visited Oman, which is an important U.S. ally that doesn’t get much attention or focus in the U.S., but funnily enough, it was the first Arab country to recognize America’s independence, first Arab country we had a trade deal with in 1833.

It was the first Gulf state to allow a U.S. military base there in 1980, so it’s a country that we have very close relations with, but very quiet relations.

Oman sits on the Strait of Hormuz across from Iran, so I visited the very tip of the peninsula next to the strait and went out in a dowel, a local ship, a boat—Not even ship, a boat—out in to the strait. …

When you see it firsthand, … it’s a lot clearer on why it’s very important. You can look at it on a map and see but seeing it firsthand, seeing the oil tankers go through, you get a newfound understanding of the importance of this region.

Oman, of course, is very concerned by this because they’re one of the two countries that are on either side of the strait. Of course, the other being Iran. They’re concerned by any threat of war or hostility.

Davis: Is this game with Iran really ever going to be over in terms of nuclear program? Are these negotiations ever going to be over without ultimately seeing a regime change, a new regime that doesn’t want to act maliciously on the world stage?

Coffey: The official U.S. position is not one of regime change. It’s one of change in behavior of the regime, which could happen but it’ll take a very long time and the important thing is it would have to come from within.

Davis: Right.

Coffey: In America, we view our engagement with Iran with a starting point of 1979 when the Islamic Revolution happened. They took our diplomats hostage in the U.S. Embassy.

This is kind of where history starts for most policymakers today and it’s unfortunate because the U.S. and Iran has had a very rich and long relationship and history, going back many decades.

Before 1979, Iran was one of America’s top allies in the Middle East. Culturally, we have far more in common as a country with Persians, with Iranians than we do with other countries in the region. But it was when the Islamic Revolution hijacked the society and made it what it is today, the U.S. and Iran just cannot work together.

Nothing since 1979 has shown that Iran can be a credible or trustworthy partner for the U.S. So, it is in the long-term interest that there is change in Iran.

I think someday, Iran could give up its ambitions to get a nuclear weapon or at least they can be enticed to do so but I think that it’s a long road between now and then.

The Iranian regime will allow a lot of suffering to take place between now and then and it will be a bumpy road.

Trinko: Well, on that cheerful note, thanks for joining us, Luke.

Coffey: Thank you very much.

The post As Iran Inches Closer to Nuclear Weapon, What US Can Do appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

I’m Black and I Think US Flag Stands for Freedom, Not Racism

Wed, 2019-07-10 03:01

A new Gallup poll shines a spotlight on the deep political divide in America and surely points to what the upcoming presidential election will be about.

Gallup asked, “How proud are you to be an American?” 

Seventy-six percent of Republicans said “extremely proud,” compared with 22% of Democrats.

Broken down by age, 63% of those over 65 said “extremely proud,” and only 24% of those 18 to 29.

This tells us something about Nike’s recent move to pull its Betsy Ross flag sneakers from the marketplace, having taken guidance from its ex-football star anti-hero, now-Nike corporate spokesman, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick claims that America’s first flag is associated with the era of slavery.

Analysts say, according to The Wall Street Journal, that Nike’s “core customer base … starts with American males in their early teens.” And, “80% of the sneaker industry’s most committed enthusiasts are under the age of 35.”

Estimates are that Kaepernick’s net worth is $20 million, and his Nike deal will add millions of dollars a year. At age 31, it seems that Kaepernick is not doing badly in the USA.

Does this mean he shouldn’t speak out if he sees things that are wrong? Of course not. The issue is spin.

Is Kaepernick—and Nike—delivering a message to young men, particularly young black men, that will make their lives better?

Is a football star worth tens of millions helping our youth by telling them that they live in a nation that is inherently racist?

The operative question is whether it’s true.

One of today’s headlines is immigration. There are millions who want to come here. There is no country in the world where more aspire to be than the USA. Yet only 24% of those 18 to 29 who were born here feel “extremely proud” of their country? What gives?

Freedom is not about being born into a perfect world. Freedom is about being born into a world where you have the power to fix things.

America has a painful history on race.

But America is comprised of many individual Americans, and in a free country, everyone cannot be painted with the same brush.

Betsy Ross, the seamstress who made America’s first flag, was born into a family of Quakers and was educated in Quaker schools. The Quakers were the first group in America to formally protest slavery and the slave trade.

In 1775, they were leaders in forming the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

On Feb. 12, 1790, a petition arrived to the very first session of the U.S House of Representatives from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society urging measures “for promoting the abolition of slavery and … discouraging every species of traffick in the persons of our fellow men.”

The petition argued that slavery and the slave trade were incompatible with the values that drove the American Revolution. 

The petition arrived under the signature of Benjamin Franklin, a signatory of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

The floor debate that followed was the first public debate in Congress on slavery. 

As we know, the issue pushed on. More than 700,000 died in a civil war over it some 70 years later.

The American flag made by Ross and the one we have today stand for this struggle and for the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence that Franklin signed. 

The truth and power of those principles of freedom is what made us and makes us great, despite the presence of evil.

Let’s not make the grave error of thinking that what needs to be eliminated are the principles rather than the evil.

Technology and the internet give us unprecedented power to seek truth. America’s youth should be using these tools to look for it, to use their own power to think for themselves, not be seduced by the distortions of confused demagogues.


The post I’m Black and I Think US Flag Stands for Freedom, Not Racism appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

This Gay Dad Lost Custody of His Own Kids. His Case Matters for All Children.

Tue, 2019-07-09 18:20

Last month, I submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of twin nine-year-olds who had been separated from their dad, Frank. 

Frank is gay. He lived in New York with his partner, Joseph, for four years. During that time, Frank had twin children conceived through in vitro fertilization, and Joseph’s sister carried them to term. 

While Joseph’s sister is the biological mother, she never wanted a parental relationship with the children and surrendered her parental rights after the children were born. Frank is their biological father and was their primary caregiver and only legal parent until the twins were almost seven years old.

The problem arose three years after Frank and Joseph separated. A court chose to remove the kids from Frank and give them to Joseph, even though he is not the biological father and had no legal relationship to the kids.

How could that happen, you ask?

It all stems from a court case that has redefined what it means to be a parent.  

In 2016, the New York State Court of Appeals expanded the definition of parenthood in a case involving two gay partners. The court ruled that a partner who has no biological or legal relationship with a child can, nonetheless, sue for custody or visitation rights if he or she clearly demonstrated an “intent to parent” when the child was conceived.

In other words, biology and legal status are no longer necessary factors in becoming a “parent.” Neither does an adult need to undergo the vetting and screening of an adoption process. All you need is to show that you intended to co-parent a child at the time he or she was conceived.

What’s telling is the way the court reached this conclusion: It cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which redefined marriage as based on mere consent between adults, regardless of sex and the needs of children. The New York court reasoned that if marriage is no longer based on the needs of children, then neither is the definition of “parent.”

Fast forward to Frank’s case

Joseph was not a parent by biology or adoption, which historically were the only two legal criteria for parenthood in New York. So under those standards, Frank was the children’s only parent. Frank decided to move to Florida with his kids in 2014.

Two years later, New York courts began applying the new, expanded definition of parenthood. That’s when Joseph and the biological mother sued Frank for “taking” the kids to Florida, claiming that Joseph was entitled to equal parental rights because he intended to parent at the time of their birth.

The court bought their argument. It subsequently penalized Frank and removed the kids from his custody and deemed Joseph the sole custodian of the children. The court reasoned that Frank was “unfit to be the custodial parent” for taking his own kids to Florida—something he was legally allowed to do up until the 2016 ruling that expanded the definition of parenthood.  

When all was said and done, the very redefinition of parenthood that was intended to benefit the gay community was used to strip a gay man of his own children.

Why This Notion of Parenthood Is Flawed

The root problem with New York’s expanded notion of parenthood is that it grounds parenthood in the consent of adults, not in the natural rights of children. 

As noted above, this flows from the Supreme Court’s logic in Obergefell, which sees marriage as a vehicle for adult fulfillment that has nothing to do with the natural rights of children. 

This was a departure from the traditional idea that marriage is rooted in male-female complementarity and the unique benefits such a relationship offers children.

Of course, gay and straight couples can both love one another and share a mutual commitment to each other. That’s not in question here. What’s at issue is that there is a stark, undeniable difference between what gay and straight couples offer children.

Consider the unique benefits kids get when raised by their married, opposite sex-parents. They get to enjoy a daily relationship with the two people they are biologically related to. Statistically, their parents are the most likely to be attached to, protective of, and invested in them. They receive the distinct, complementary kinds of love that issue from a man and woman, which benefit the child’s development. And, the opposite-sex couple grants children something that they crave: their biological identity.  

Things are different for kids in same-sex-headed households. No matter how loving the two adults are, they will be raised at best by only one biological parent, and sometimes by no biological parent. They will likely suffer mother-hunger or father-hunger, and when they look in the mirror they will wonder who gave them their unique eyes, nose, mouth, and hair.

The children are not getting equal treatment in these two kinds of households. But the new definition of parenthood isn’t interested in what kids need.

In the name of non-discrimination, courts like the one in New York are only interested in what adults have access to. New York law now demands that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, which are not equally ideal for kids, be treated equally in matters of parenthood. Other states have taken a similar path.

Frank’s Plea

Frank is obviously not part of an opposite-sex couple, but clearly, he still has a natural and legal right to raise his own children. That right has been violated, and he’s now taking his case to the Supreme Court. 

But there’s another right that the justices should consider, one even more foundational to this case: the right of Frank’s children, and every child, to be known and loved by their biological parents whenever possible. 

Frank’s children cannot file their own petition nor lodge an appeal. Yet they are the most important party in this legal triad between the state, the adults, and themselves. It was on their behalf that my non-profit, Them Before Us, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court last week. 

I’ve never met Frank’s kids. I’ve never even had a conversation with them. But I can hazard an educated guess at what they’d say about this case because I am steeped in the research on family structure

I participate in Facebook groups where adoptees and donor-conceived children are seeking out their lost parents. I have recorded the stories of now-grown children who were raised in similar situations—those whose parents broke up, who were conceived via a sperm or egg donor, and who have LGBT parents.  

If Frank’s nine-year-old twins could speak to the nine justices of the Supreme Court, they wouldn’t lay out a compelling legal argument (though we make one in our brief). They wouldn’t reference authorities on family structure (though we cite them in our brief). And they may not know other children who have suffered in the same way they have (though we quote them in our brief).  

They would simply say, “Our dad matters to us in a way that no one else does. We need him and we miss him and we want him.”

What will happen if the Supreme Court takes this case, rules against Frank, and “intent to parent” becomes an acceptable basis for parenthood across the land?  

First, parental rights will be threatened as the state will gain power to override the claims of parents to their children. Second, and even more terrifying, children will be considered commodities to be awarded to whichever adult has the money and means to acquire them—their rights, identity, and safety be damned.  

It’s my hope that the Supreme Court will see the error of this new definition of parenthood and prioritize the rights of children over the “intent” of adults.

The post This Gay Dad Lost Custody of His Own Kids. His Case Matters for All Children. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

This Christian Student Group Was Discriminated Against. They Could Soon Be Vindicated.

Tue, 2019-07-09 18:13

A Christian student group at Wayne State University will ask a federal court on Wednesday to require public universities to treat religious student groups equally to other campus groups.

This particular case, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship v. Wayne State University, demonstrates the many ways progressives twist the concept of discrimination to serve their own purposes.

In 2017, Wayne State University revoked InterVarsity’s status as a student organization because the group expressly required its leaders to embrace the Christian faith in alignment with the group’s purpose. Up to that point, the group had been operating alongside dozens of other student groups for 75 years.

No matter. The university said InterVarsity’s leadership requirements violated school policy—that they were, in essence, discriminatory.

To the ordinary observer, it would seem obvious for Christians to require Christian leadership in a Christian group. That’s hardly discriminatory, but in fact a normal standard, just as sororities requiring members to be women isn’t discriminatory—it’s just a requirement.

But that’s not the stance Wayne State chose to take in 2017. The school’s shift prompted InterVarsity, along with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, to seek intervention through the legal system, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

As the case proceeded, InterVarsity learned that Wayne State allows at least 90 student groups to make their own rules for leaders—groups ranging from fraternities to the Quidditch Club. All of these student groups select their own criteria for membership and are still free to meet as a group anywhere on campus.

In the spring of 2018, Becket filed a motion for partial summary judgment, hoping to force Wayne to allow InterVarsity to host events on campus permanently. Earlier this year, Wayne filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that while the group could continue their on-campus activities, they wouldn’t officially recognize InterVarsity if they continued to “discriminate,” by requiring group leaders to be Christians.

In the motion, Wayne State said InterVarsity was seeking their “approval—and the privileges that come with it—to enforce an openly discriminatory leadership requirement in clear violation of the school’s non-discrimination policy.” Wayne State also blasted InterVarsity’s faith requirements as somehow treating non-Christian students as “second-class citizens.”

In light of the lawsuit, the school briefly decided it would allow the student group back on campus, but that didn’t last. On Wednesday, Becket will ask for a permanent federal ruling to ensure InterVarsity receives equal treatment under the law.

Wayne State’s claim of discrimination simply doesn’t hold water for any reasonable person. It seems more like an attempt to twist a popular buzz word to excuse the university’s own bigotry against a Christian group.

Unfortunately, discrimination of religious groups on college campuses is increasingly common.

Last year, for instance, a Christian student group at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs brought a lawsuit because the school refused to grant it registered status for the same reason: It required its leadership to hold Christian beliefs. The university ultimately agreed to make policy changes that included granting Ratio Christi registered status and allowing student clubs to require their leadership to promote the club’s purposes and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission.

In another case, Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, had been sharing his faith with his peers by handing out religious literature on campus. A couple of campus employees informed him he had to stop because he was outside the speech zone.

When he tried to reserve the speech zone, however, students complained, and the campus stopped him again, informing him that his speech was “disorderly conduct.” Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom have filed a lawsuit, but there hasn’t yet been a resolution.

This is a concerning trend on college campuses. The irony at is that if anyone is doing the discrimination at Wayne State, it’s the university, which is discriminating against InterVarsity for its religious values. As a student group, they, too, have a right to free speech and free exercise under the First Amendment, just like every other student group.

Wayne State must not be allowed to discriminate.

The post This Christian Student Group Was Discriminated Against. They Could Soon Be Vindicated. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

San Francisco School Board Votes to Paint Over George Washington Mural

Tue, 2019-07-09 18:12

The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted last month in favor of painting over a George Washington mural series on a school wall depicting Washington standing over a Native American’s corpse and another in the company of slaves on his Mount Vernon estate.

“This is reparations,” education commissioner Mark Sanchez said in a KQED report when asked about the estimated $600,000 price tag for its removal. It could reportedly take a year to complete.  

The 1,600 square-foot mural series titled “Life of Washington” was painted on San Francisco’s George Washington High School in 1936 by a Russian-American artist and Stanford University art professor Victor Arnautoff. It was funded by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and shows a variety of scenes from Washington’s life. 

School district spokeswoman Laura Dudnick confirmed that although only two mural pieces stand out as offensive to members of the community, the board’s decision would apply to all 13 panels of the mural. 

School board members had to decide whether to cover and preserve the painting using panels or textile, or completely erase it by painting over it. Buckling under pressure from those who find the images offensive to certain members of the school community, the board decided to paint over it. 

Advocates for removing the mural included local high school students, George Washington high school graduates, and Native Americans. During a public comment portion of the June 25 meeting, Paloma Flores, program coordinator for the district’s Indian Education Program, said, per KQED, “It’s not a matter of offense, it’s a matter of the right to learn without a hostile environment.”

“Intent does not negate lived experience,” she added. According to KQED, mural critics in the community “believe the artist’s intentions are irrelevant in light of the harm to young people of color daily confronted by images of their ancestors debased.”

Native American Barbara Mumby-Huerta, who staffs the San Francisco Art Commission, challenged statements on historical accuracy, says that the mural is ignorant of inigenous people. “To portray a Native person face down, dead, you are trapping their soul so that they can not move on,” she said, per KQED.

One mural supporter says he plans to legally challenge the move to paint over the mural. Lope Yap Jr., vice president of the school’s alumni group, vowed to “use every tactic available” for litigation, according to KQED. 

Before the school board meeting, the San Francisco Chronicle polled art leaders in the Bay Area about the controversy. 

“I am deeply sensitive to the pain that this situation is causing the student body and Washington High School community,” said Neal Benezra, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“A decision to paint over the mural is irreversible,” he added. “The option to cover the artwork with panels to allow future educational research keeps open that opportunity.”

Jarrett Stepman of The Daily Signal wrote about the removal of the mural, citing a historian’s account of Arnautoff, “a man of the left in his own time,”  and his intention of making Washington “less glamorized” by painting images of the slaves he owned or the price paid with Native Americans’ blood during westward expansion.

In his interview with historian Fergus M. Bordewich, Bordewich explains:

[Arnautoff] included those images not to glorify Washington, but rather to provoke a nuanced evaluation of his legacy. The scene with the dead Native American, for instance, calls attention to the price of ‘manifest destiny.’ Arnautoff’s murals also portray the slaves with humanity and the several live Indians as vigorous and manly.

Those who condemn the murals have misunderstood it, seeing only what they sought to find. They’ve also got their history seriously wrong. Washington did own slaves—124 men, women and children—and oversaw many more who belonged to his wife’s family. But by his later years he had evolved into a proto-abolitionist, a remarkable ethical journey for a man of his time, place, and class.

The removal of the mural is expected to take at least a year, according to district staff. Before proceeding with painting over the mural, its historical significance requires an environmental review.

In the case that the painting takes more time than expected, the district could cover it with panels. Three years, Sanchez said, would be considered “undue delay.”

The post San Francisco School Board Votes to Paint Over George Washington Mural appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Illinois Politicians Are to Blame for Tax Hikes, Not Washington

Tue, 2019-07-09 18:04

Illinois lawmakers recently moved one step closer to raising state income taxes. It’s the last thing Illinois needs—residents and businesses are already leaving the state in droves due, in large part, to the inhospitable tax climate.

The irony is that the same politicians who are about to pass these tax hikes have been howling for more than a year about the 2017 federal tax cuts, which they say raised taxes on the state.

But that’s hardly true. More Illinoisans actually got a tax cut than taxpayers in 21 other states. The much-decried state and local tax deduction cap—which Congress adjusted in order to treat states more equitably—didn’t change the fact that the average Illinoisan received a tax cut. 

Yet now, it’s the state’s own politicians who are trying to jack up residents’ taxes with a progressive income tax. Such a proposal could more than reverse taxpayers’ gains from the federal tax cuts.

Thanks to those tax cuts, workers across Illinois last year kept, on average, $1,265 more of their hard-earned money—the 12th largest tax savings among all states. Families of four benefited even more, with average tax cuts of $2,381 in 2018.

The fact that the vast majority of Illinois taxpayers benefited hasn’t stopped politicians from claiming otherwise—and to their own political success. Newly elected Reps. Sean Casten, D-Ill., and Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., campaigned on the issue in 2018 and defeated Republican incumbents.

Both decried the new $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction, claiming that it harmed wealthy taxpayers in Illinois. They have even backed legislation in Congress to raise the cap.

But the numbers paint a different picture. Taxpayers in Casten and Underwood’s districts received average tax cuts of $2,054 and $1,659, respectively, according to Heritage Foundation calculations using IRS data. Taxpayers made out so well because the state and local tax deduction  cap was more than offset by a doubled standard deduction, lowered tax rates on all income, and a higher exclusion for the personal alternative minimum tax.

The latter provision actually increased the state and local tax deduction for 5 million Americans.

But facts aside, politicians continue to spread misinformation about the tax cuts. Last year, Illinois state legislators tried to pass a workaround to the state and local cap by establishing a sham “charity” that allowed residents to claim a federal charitable tax deduction in lieu of the state and local deduction if they paid their property taxes to the state charity. That effort ended when the IRS shut it down.

The reason lawmakers in Illinois and other high-tax states liked the old, unlimited state and local tax deduction is that it masked the damage caused by their own high tax burdens. It allowed taxpayers to write off local tax increases on their federal income taxes. So, when Springfield raised taxes, Illinoisans could write it off on their federal income taxes and be shielded from the effects of bad Illinois policy.

Of course, this made it easier for state lawmakers to keep raising taxes without feeling the political blow back they should naturally receive.

The Democrats’ laser focus on the state and local cap might lead one to think Illinois politicians have finally realized that their residents are overtaxed. But that would be mistaken.

This past May, the Illinois State House voted to amend the State Constitution to move from a flat tax to a progressive income tax. The proposal is now set to appear on the 2020 ballot. If approved by 60% of voters, it will become law—and likely expedite the mass exodus from Illinois.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker claimed that 97% of taxpayers would see no tax increase under the proposal, but Illinois voters know better by now than to trust the promises of their politicians. It’s impossible for Pritzker to even make that claim, since the ballot initiative doesn’t include official tax rates or brackets. It may come back to bite many who didn’t expect to be hit by it.

Even if Pritzker’s promise was trustworthy, a tax hike of any kind is the last thing Illinois needs.

In 2011, Illinois lawmakers voted to “temporarily” raise the state income tax from 3%  to 5% to pay off the state’s backlog of bills. Low and behold, the rate is now permanently set at 4.95%. In addition, the state is running a deficit of more than $3 billion, and still has at least $134 billion in pension debt—one of the worst pension crises in the nation.

Meanwhile, other states like Kentucky and North Carolina are becoming more taxpayer-friendly by moving to a flat income tax. This is the wave of the future. In fact, Connecticut is the only other state in the last 30 years to have moved in the other direction and implement a progressive income tax.

Connecticut residents have learned how the progressive income tax removes any last protection against tax hikes—politicians are free to tinker with brackets and raise rates as they see fit—and that it does not guarantee financial stability. After embracing the progressive tax, the average income tax burden in Connecticut increased by 13%. Other taxes also increased, yet the state remains burdened with debt.

With massive unfunded pension liabilities and a tax base shrinking due to unprecedented population loss, it’s all but certain Illinois taxpayers will be shelling out more and more in state taxes unless Springfield cuts its spending habits.

One thing should be clear: The 2017 tax cuts are not forcing Illinois taxpayers to pay more to in taxes to Washington. The feds cut taxes for almost everyone. It is the state’s own politicians who want to raise taxes through a new progressive income tax.

Rather than pushing more tax-and-spend policies, which will never dig the state out of its crisis, Illinois lawmakers should work to put the state on a path toward fiscal solvency through spending cuts and pension reform.

The post Illinois Politicians Are to Blame for Tax Hikes, Not Washington appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Labor Secretary Feeling Heat as He Defends Plea Deal in 2008 Epstein Prosecution

Tue, 2019-07-09 17:15

Amid Democratic congressional leaders demanding his ouster, and a leading Senate Republican suggesting the need for hearings, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta addressed the plea agreement he made as a federal prosecutor in 2008 with billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump called Acosta a “great” labor secretary, but said his administration will “look at [the matter] very carefully.”

Acosta said in the first of a series of tweets Tuesday, “The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.”

The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.

— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019

Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.

— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019

“With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender, and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator,” Acosta wrote. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

On Monday, federal prosecutors in New York charged Epstein, a billionaire financier, with the sex trafficking of dozens of young girls, some as young as 14 years old. 

In 2008, Acosta was serving as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. 

Epstein reached a deal that year with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution in a case involving multiple charges of sexual abuse, in exchange for pleading guilty in a lower Florida state court to charges of procuring a minor for prostitution and felony solicitation. 

He was placed on the sex-offender registry and sentenced to one year in county jail. Epstein was allowed to leave daily for work release, according to the Miami Herald. 

The Herald revisited the 2008 decision last November, insinuating the deal was inappropriate in a series of articles labeled “Perversion of Justice”:

Beginning as far back as 2001, Epstein lured a steady stream of underage girls to his Palm Beach mansion to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and intercourse, court and police records show. … Epstein would pay the girls for massages and offer them further money to bring him new girls every time he was at his home in Palm Beach, according to police reports.

In 2007, the FBI had prepared a 53-page federal indictment charging Epstein with sex crimes that could have put him in federal prison for life. But then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta signed off on a non-prosecution agreement, which was negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes. The indictment was shelved, never to be seen again.

Epstein instead pleaded guilty to lesser charges in state court, and was required to register as a sex offender.

Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called in tweets Tuesday for Acosta to resign or be fired. 

.@SecretaryAcosta must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet. #AcostaResign

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 9, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein should have been behind bars years ago as a serial sex trafficker of children.

But unfortunately as a U.S. Attorney in Florida in 2008, @SecretaryAcosta chose to let Epstein off easy.

Acosta must resign. If he refuses, @realDonaldTrump should fire him.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 9, 2019

Trump defended his Cabinet official in an Oval Office press pool gaggle, but also said the administration is reviewing the matter. 

“I feel very badly, actually, for Secretary Acosta, because I’ve known him as someone who works so hard and has done such a good job. I feel very badly about that whole situation,” Trump told reporters. “But we are going to be looking at that and looking at it very closely.”

The president added: 

For 2-1/2 years, he’s been an excellent secretary of labor. He’s done a fantastic job. Part of it is that our economy is so good. Our unemployment numbers are at record lows. Part of it is that he’s been a very good secretary of labor. 

What happened 12 or 15 years ago with respect to when he was a U.S. attorney in Miami, when you go and look at everybody else’s decisions, whether it’s a U.S. attorney or assistant U.S. attorney or a judge, you go back 12 or 15 or 20 years ago and look at past decisions, I would think that maybe they wished they had done it a different way. 

I do hear there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him. I can only say this, from what I know, he has been a great, really great secretary of labor. The rest of it, we’ll have to look at. We’ll have to look at it very carefully. 

You’re talking about a long time ago. It was a decision made, I think, not by him, but by a lot of people. We’ll be looking at that very carefully.

The president downplayed his own association with Epstein. 

“I knew him, like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan,” Trump said.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee still could review the matter, said the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“If this plea deal doesn’t withstand scrutiny, then it would be the job of the Judiciary Committee to find out how it got off the rails,” Graham said Tuesday, adding: 

What kind of checks and balances do we have to make sure that complaints involving minor children are adequately investigated? 

This is an area of the law where the tie goes to the kids.

If we think somebody’s out there abusing children, no matter how hard the case may be, you want to bring it forward, simply to get these people deterred, if nothing else. 

The post Labor Secretary Feeling Heat as He Defends Plea Deal in 2008 Epstein Prosecution appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Organizations for Journalists Largely Quiet on Andy Ngo Attack

Tue, 2019-07-09 17:06

Multiple organizations that aim to protect freedom of the press and journalists have not released statements on the Andy Ngo attack in Portland, Oregon, more than a week ago.

The Voice of America (VOA), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and The Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press (RCFP) have yet to publish press statements or articles on their respective websites for the Ngo attack, which happened on June 29 and left Ngo with a reported brain hemorrhage.

These organizations are designed to protect journalists’ freedom of speech and report on safety issues.

Multiple organizations have reported on the violence against Ngo, including Fox NewsCNNThe Hill and more. 2020 Democratic candidates Andrew Yang and former Vice President Joe Biden condemned the violence against Ngo. Eric Swalwell, who announced his departure from the race Monday, also condemned the attack.

VOA says that it is ‘uncertain if or how we might approach it’

VOA launched its “Press Freedom” initiative earlier this year in an effort to tell the stories of journalists “facing threats or other repercussions” as they reports the news, according to the VOA website. VOA has yet to publish a press release or article about the attack on Ngo.

“I’m familiar with the story; uncertain if or how we might approach it. Sort of lost the ‘news’ angle with time,” Doug Bernard, VOA press freedom editor, told the Daily Caller News Foundation when asked if a statement had been released on the attack.

“Hands more than full today with new report targeting dozens of Turkish journalists and groups, including BBC and VOA,” Bernard continued. He did not respond to further questions asking to clarify why no report was issued on Ngo’s assault.

VOA and CPJ have been active in reporting freedom of the press issues that involve President Donald Trump. One week after the attack on Ngo, VOA ran a report stating that Trump’s comment at the G-20 economic summit about getting “rid” of journalists is “no laughing matter,” according to Courtney Radsch, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ advocacy director.

Trump joked to Russian President Vladimir Putin about getting rid of journalists during their meeting in Japan last month. This joke came at a time of tense relations between the U.S. and Russia.

“Lobbing terms like fake news at journalists is no laughing matter, and it is deeply concerning to hear both President Trump and Putin yet again wielding this dangerous rhetoric,” Radsch said, according to the VOA article.

VOA is 100% taxpayer-funded, and the organization is a multimedia agency that “exemplifies the principles of a free press,” according to its website. John Lansing, the chief executive of VOA, was appointed in 2015 by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

CPJ sent the DCNF a link to an article from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, but has not published an article on its own website

CPJ said it “condemn[s] the attack on Ngo” and it is “unacceptable,” according to two statements issued to the DCNF. The CPJ linked to an articledescribing the attack on Ngo published July 1 by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

“Unfortunately these types of attacks on journalists are all too common in the U.S., which is why we created the U.S. press freedom tracker, to ensure that there was systematic documentation of such attacks,” the CPJ told the DCNF. “The tracker has documented 97 instances of journalists being physically assaulted.”

“We condemn the attack on Ngo. We have relied on the tracker to carry out the documentation, as we have in many similar cases.”

CPJ posted a previous article about a past attack on Ngo, saying that he “identifies as an independent journalist and photographer.” The previous article did not directly condemn the attack on Ngo.

Ngo is currently an editor for Quillette.

CPJ on freedom of the press issues regarding Trump

CPJ has issued multiple statements on its own website condemning Trump’s relationship with the press.

“It’s outrageous that a journalist was attacked while covering a presidential speech,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck, CPJ’s North America program coordinator in a February 2019 article about a journalist attacked at a Trump rally. “We call on President Trump to moderate his rhetoric against the press and to state clearly that physically attacking media personnel is not acceptable.”

“Through his words and actions, Trump has consistently demonstrated a contempt for the role of the press beyond offering publicity to him and advancing his interests,” said Sandra Mims Rowe, CPJ chairman, according to a statement published in 2016.

“For this reason CPJ is taking the unprecedented step of speaking out now. This is not about picking sides in an election. This is recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.”

Many of the statements from CPJ were published within 24 hours of the attacks on the respective journalists.

CPJ’s North America program has also formed a database that tracks Trump’s tweets, compiling those in which the media and journalists are written about in a negative way. The database is available to the public.

RCFP did not respond to multiple requests for comment but has published a “guide” for journalists reporting on potentially violent protests.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post Organizations for Journalists Largely Quiet on Andy Ngo Attack appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

A Year After the Supreme Court Rules Against Unions, What’s Changed

Tue, 2019-07-09 16:57

Pick a state, any state where rank-and-file public employees differ with the political agenda of their union leadership and can make a clean break from the union if they choose.

That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that nonunion government workers can’t be compelled to pay dues or other fees to support a union. A year after that decision, attorneys and policy analysts who spoke with The Daily Signal say they find that too many Americans remain unaware of their First Amendment rights in the workforce. 

They also express concern that union operatives and their allies in government are pushing legislation to undermine the high court’s 5-4 decision on June 27, 2018, in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

In one response, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free market think tank in Michigan, set up a website that enables employees to start the process of opting out of their union. Those interested go to the “My Pay. My Say.” website, enter some personal information, and name their employer and union association.

Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2013 after then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed into law a measure prohibiting new contracts that require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. 

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling a year ago, Michigan’s right-to-work law carved out an exception for police officers and firefighters. But in Janus v. AFSCME, the justices overturned a 1977 decision that said public sector employees may be required to pay “fair share” fees, also known as agency fees, if they decline to join a union.

>>> Related: Supreme Court Strikes Down Mandatory Union Fees for Government Employees

The Janus ruling affects about 5 million government employees in 22 states who no longer are required either to join a union or pay union fees as a condition of employment. 

The states most affected by the decision were not already right-to-work states. On the West Coast, this list includes California, Oregon, Montana, and Washington. On the East Coast, the list includes Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

“Public employees across the country now have a right to choose whether or not the union is doing a good job and whether they want to support the union and the union’s political agenda,” Vinnie Vernuccio, a senior fellow with Mackinac Center, told The Daily Signal in an interview. 

“You have websites like ours, and others, informing public employees about their rights, which the unions are trying to hide from them,” Vernuccio said. “But on the flip side, you have some state legislators trying to do whatever they can to trap public employees into staying in the union. That’s why you now see lawsuits across the country filed against these states that are thumbing their nose at the Supreme Court ruling.”

Oregon, Washington Target Janus Ruling

Oregon and Washington passed laws that some free market policy analysts and attorneys view as unconstitutional assaults on the Janus ruling.

Aaron Withe, the Oregon director of the Freedom Foundation, a free market think tank, describes the state’s House Bill 2016 as a “union wish list.” 

Withe said provisions of the legislation would “require public employees to pay union shop stewards,” “require the state to turn over personal employee information periodically to the union,” “permit unions to authorize dues deduction via telephone,” and “allow unions to decide how someone can cancel their dues deductions.” 

“Unions know that when employees have a choice about whether or not they want to financially support the union’s political agenda or keep their hard-earned dollars for themselves and their families, these workers will leave the union,” Withe said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “So it’s not surprising to see the unions lean on their allies in government after the Janus ruling to try and unwind the decision any way they can. But we will do everything we can to support worker freedom and to challenge this law.”

Washington state’s House Bill 1575, which became law, includes language making it easier for unions to deduct dues from public employees and making it more difficult for those same employees to cancel the deductions, according to a press release from Freedom Foundation.

The Daily Signal sought comment from state lawmakers who supported the bills, but none had responded at publication time. 

Tom McCabe, CEO of Freedom Foundation, suggests in a written statement that “by spending millions of other people’s dues dollars on lawsuits, lobbying, and bullying tactics intended to keep the workers in the fold,” leaders of government unions are acknowledging that their members are dissatisfied.

“If government unions can’t compete in a free market for the loyalty of public employees, why should consumers be forced to buy their inferior product?” McCabe asked, adding:

Nothing in Janus makes joining a union impossible or even more difficult. It simply acknowledges that public employees have the same First Amendment rights as every other American citizen, and those rights can’t be sacrificed to the greed of a well-connected special interest.

California’s Special Case

Freedom Foundation, headquartered in Olympia, Washington, also took up the case of California public schoolteachers who allege that unions continue to deduct dues from their paychecks in violation of the Janus decision. 

The teachers’ class action suit names the California Teachers Association, the National Education Association, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, local school districts, and local unions as defendants.

In anticipation of losing the Janus v. AFSCME case at the Supreme Court, the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, set up a website directed against what it calls “greedy CEOs and special interests,” to spur government workers to express support for their unions.

“It is telling that the CTA’s response to teachers wanting to leave the union is not to reconsider the policies and activities that made the teachers want to leave in the first place,” Karen Sweigart, a lawyer with Freedom Foundation, said in an email to The Daily Signal about the California Teachers Association. “Instead, the CTA is content to further alienate teachers by continuing to take money from nonmembers against their will.”

>>> Related: Unions Keep Deducting Dues Without Consent, Teachers Say

Frank Wells, a communications official with the California Teachers Association, has been dismissive of the Freedom Foundation lawsuit. Wells described the new court case to The Daily Signal as an “attack on public education and public employees.”

But Rebecca Friedrichs, an elementary school teacher who worked for 28 years in the Savanna school district in Anaheim, California, told The Daily Signal that the problem for teachers in California is that unions at the state and national levels have become immersed in politics.

“Locals do all the work and teachers like their local unions,”  Friedrichs said. “They don’t know most of their money is going to the state and national union. Teachers want to teach, and they don’t want to be involved in politics.”

Friedrichs was the lead plaintiff in a 2016 case before the Supreme Court that raised the same First Amendment argument against mandatory union fees as the Janus case did.

Friedrichs had joined nine other teachers and the Christian Educators Association International to sue the California Teachers Association, several local teachers unions, and the National Education Association.

However, with Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death a month after oral arguments in the Friedrichs case on Jan. 11, 2016, the Supreme Court wound up deadlocking, 4-4. That left a lower court ruling in place that upheld California’s “agency shop” law until the high court’s Janus ruling outlawed mandatory union dues.

Unions are supposed to unite and protect teachers and give them one voice,” Friedrichs  told The Daily Signal, adding:

But instead they divide teachers and attack teachers who ask for accountability. Unions have become what they used to fight. They are not really unions in the traditional sense. The teachers unions have infiltrated our profession to fulfill a social and political agenda. Very little about what they do is about representing us as teachers.

Tens of Thousands Leave Union Rolls

One year after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus case, supporters have good reason to be concerned about “anti-Janus” legislation at the state level, the Mackinac Center’s Vernuccio said. 

But, Vernuccio said, right-to-work advocates also have good reason to be encouraged about the long-term prospects for employee freedom because the ruling explicitly says government employees should be permitted to “opt in” and offer “affirmative consent” before union dues or fees are deducted from their paychecks, rather than having to “jump through hoops” to opt out.

“A critical part of the Janus ruling says that everything the union does is political,” Vernuccio told The Daily Signal. “That’s why the ‘opt in’ question is so important, and I think it’s the next major battle.”

Vernuccio said he sees signs that “outreach efforts” organized through Mackinac Center and allied organizations aimed at educating government employees is beginning to pay off.

On the other side of the country, in the smallest state in the union, Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, has implemented his own version of online outreach.

In a press release, the former pro baseball player said: “After hearing last summer from dozens of workers, frustrated that their unions were not adequately informing them of their rights following the Janus decision, our center quickly launched, with little funding, our MyPayMySay campaign, in conjunction with our national partner, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.”

Stenhouse cites numbers showing that since the education campaign began, 26 percent of the staff at the University of Rhode Island left their NEA affiliate and the percentage of state workers who decided against joining a union doubled, from 3% to 6%.

Back on the West Coast, the Freedom Foundation, with its own website devoted to “opt out” initiatives, marked the one-year anniversary of Janus by releasing figures showing the foundation assisted more than 50,000 government workers—concentrated mostly in Oregon, Washington, and California—who had left their unions.

“An important goal is to remove union influence from politics,” Withe, the group’s Oregon director, said. “They are taking dues from public employees to fund liberal candidates, to raise taxes on the private sector, and to grow the size of government.”

The post A Year After the Supreme Court Rules Against Unions, What’s Changed appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump Campaign Consulted Justice Kennedy About Supreme Court Picks, Book Reveals

Tue, 2019-07-09 13:52

Lawyers associated with the Trump campaign consulted retired Justice Anthony Kennedy while compiling a list of prospective Supreme Court nominees during the 2016 presidential campaign, portions of a new book obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation reveal.

Kennedy, who was then serving on the Supreme Court, served as a reference for several candidates the campaign vetted for its list, authors Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino report in the book, “Justice on Trial.”

“The team talked to judges for whom candidates had clerked and to those who had clerked with them. McGahn was particularly interested in what candidates had been like in their mid-twenties, the stage of life when he believed most people’s views solidified,” the authors wrote. “Justice Kennedy was eager to help, offering the names of at least six former clerks who were in his ‘top five.’ Kavanaugh was one of them.”

“While Kennedy called his other clerks good or excellent, he tended to describe Kavanaugh as brilliant,” the authors add.

Hemingway and Severino elsewhere report that Kennedy shared his retirement plans with the White House via an intermediary in the Department of Justice. In cloak-and-dagger style, the justice slipped away from a tour of the National Gallery of Art to meet at a nearby cafe with Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, who clerked for Kennedy during the high court’s 2001-2002 term. Engel relayed Kennedy’s intentions to the White House counsel’s office, which set a private meeting between Kennedy and President Donald Trump for June 27, 2018.

Clerks are generally recent law school graduates in their mid- to late-20s who serve in a judge’s chambers for one year. In that capacity, they provide counsel and administrative assistance for their judge. The campaign, eager to avoid the so-called “stealth nominees” that plagued past Republican presidents, sought individuals who could speak to that period of a candidate’s professional development, believing it is especially probative of a person’s substantive legal views.

The campaign solicited input from several figures in the conservative legal movement as it compiled its list, the authors report. Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, furnished names for Trump advisors, as did the Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm. Don McGahn, then a lawyer in private practice at Jones Day, vetted contenders with his law firm colleague James Burnham.

Jones Day represented the Trump presidential campaign and sent at least dozen lawyers into senior administration positions. McGahn would go on to shepherd two Supreme Court nominations as White House counsel, while Burnham leads the federal programs section at the Department of Justice.

The list began to take definitive form in March 2016, when McGahn brokered a summit with Trump and movement conservative leaders in the Washington offices of Jones Day. Leo arrived at the meeting with a preliminary list of names, which he shared with Trump during a private consultation which followed the meeting. Malcolm produced a list of eight names March 30.

The campaign published a list featuring 11 names at President Donald Trump’s urging May 18, 2016. Another 10 candidates were added to the list in October 2016. Trump promised to pick his first Supreme Court nominee from that “definitive” list of candidates.

Another Kennedy clerk who appeared on the Trump campaign’s list was Justice Neil Gorsuch, who succeeded the late Justice Antonin Scalia in April 2017.

Hemingway and Severino interviewed more than 100 people for the book, including the president, seniors members of the administration, justices of the Supreme Court and members of Congress.

Justice Kennedy declined to comment through the Supreme Court Public Information Office.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post Trump Campaign Consulted Justice Kennedy About Supreme Court Picks, Book Reveals appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

California Implements Extreme New Sex Ed Curriculum

Tue, 2019-07-09 13:48

The California Board of Education implemented progressive sex and gender education curriculum in public schools across the state, regardless, in some cases, of parental knowledge or consent.

Progressive groups, including Planned Parenthood, collaborated on AB-329 in 2016 and the recently introduced Health Education Framework in May as highlighted by a video created by the conservative group Our Watch.

Both these pieces of education legislation mandate that school districts require sex ed and encourage students to question their parents on sexual topics—topics explored in the kindergarten through 12th grade sex education curricula implemented in California schools.

Lawmakers Create the California Healthy Youth Act, a Bill Mandating K-12 Sex Ed

AB-329, otherwise known as the California Healthy Youth Act, was created in 2016 and has several aimed purposes.

The bill aims to teach K-12 students how to ward off HIV and other STDs; to teach “healthy attitudes” toward sexual orientation, gender, and relationships; and to “promote understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development.”

The bill also promises to “provide educators with clear tools and guidance to accomplish that end.”

AB-329 allows for parents to opt their children out of sexual education. However, the bill prohibits parents from opting their children out of materials that discuss gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

The law also prohibits abstinence-only education and prohibits any discussion of religious doctrine, according to an ACLU handout.

The handout adds that beginning in seventh grade, children must be taught “all FDA-approved methods preventing pregnancy and transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (including condoms, contraceptives, and antiretroviral treatment) and abstinence.”

Educators Must ‘Affirmatively Recognize Different Sexual Orientations and Be Inclusive’

The California Board of Education introduced the Health Education Framework in May—a curriculum on sex education that some California parents found troubling, as the Christian Post reported in May.

The Health Education Framework affirms language in AB-329 and included books and supplemental materials such as the Amazon bestseller “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties,” a book that describes sexual activity and gender theory.

The California Board of Education removed this book and several others from the curriculum after outrage from Californian families, as reported by the Christian Post and reflected in the Health Education Framework.

The Health Education Framework notes that as AB-329 orders, teachers must “affirmatively recognize different sexual orientations and be inclusive of same-sex relationships in discussions,” and “teach about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and the harm of negative gender stereotypes.”

Board members for the Health Education Framework included school district representatives, teachers, and academics from across California as well as a school nurse. 

The director of community education and outreach at Planned Parenthood, Amy Streavel, was also on the board, according to the California Department of Education.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Education referred The Daily Caller News Foundation to the sections of the California Education code on a parents’ right to opt their child out of sex ed and the primary purposes of the California Healthy Youth Act when asked to comment. She did not respond when pressed for further comment.

Planned Parenthood did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Parents React to Positive Prevention Plus

California parent John Andrews of the Murrieta School District said that schools in his district are using Positive Prevention Plus Sex Ed Curriculum, a curriculum that contains explicit photos and drawings of sexual activity.

“They talk about anal and oral sex as an alternative to regular sex because you can’t get pregnant,” Andrews said in a June video posted June 26 by the conservative group Our Watch. The video generated no local or national media coverage until a tipster alerted The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“They talk about mutual masturbation,” he added.

“They discuss gender roles, the gender spectrum, and in the support materials … they take it even further. They discuss everything, topics like roleplaying for different genders, blood play, dental dams … fisting is mentioned. I mean, they mention it all.”

Screenshot of fifth grade materials included in Positive Prevention Plus provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation by Pastor Tim Thompson. Screenshot of fifth grade materials included in Positive Prevention Plus provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation by Pastor Tim Thompson.

“If I were to show that material to a child, I would be brought up on charges,” Andrew said. “But somehow our public schools are allowed to teach this to junior high and high school kids.”

Screenshot of fifth grade materials included in Positive Prevention Plus provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation by Pastor Tim Thompson.

The curriculum describes itself as “California’s best source for evidence-based instruction in Comprehensive Sexual Health Education and Teen Pregnancy Prevention.”

It also boasts full compliance with California and National Health Education Standards and California Education Code, including the “California Healthy Youth Act.”

Positive Prevention Plus was begun as early as 1993, according to the curriculum’s website, in order to develop an HIV and AIDS prevention curriculum.

But California Education codes instituted in 2004 began specifying “the content of teen pregnancy prevention education.”

Research findings included in the curriculum show that use of Positive Prevention Plus results in students’ higher use of “reproductive health care services,” more use of contraceptive services, and significant improvements in “the delay in the onset of sexual activity.”

Screenshot of Table of Contents for Teacher’s Use in Positive Prevention Plus curriculum.

The ACLU Trains Teachers to Bypass Parental Authority

The June Our Watch video shows a variety of factors involved in California’s progressive sex ed programs.

Pastor Tim Thompson told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he published the video through Our Watch to help make parents more aware of how progressive the California sex educational programs are.

“We knew parents had to see for themselves or else they weren’t going to believe it,” Thompson told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The video depicts ACLU staff attorney Ruth Dawson instructing teachers on how to help students obtain abortions without parental knowledge or consent.

“Regardless of how old a student is, they can walk into a doctor’s office and consent to these services without parental consent,” says Dawson, according to footage from the video, referring to abortion when she said “these services.” She was initially misidentified in the video.

The ACLU attorney notes that these services include pregnancy and prenatal care, contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion.

“And for these there is no parental notification.”

“I think a good way to think about all these services that California has decided are so important that we are going to allow minors to go into a doctor’s office and consent to these services,” Dawson added. “Because they are just that important and students need to be able to access them.”

The ACLU said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation that all statements made by ACLU representatives during the meeting are “in accord with California law” and claims the video was doctored.

However, when pressed on the matter, the ACLU did not comment on what aspects of the video were doctored.

Activists and Experts Weigh In

Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late” author, attorney, and Director of the Catholic Women’s Forum Mary Rice Hasson believes that most parents do not understand what their children are being exposed to—and often being exposed to without parental permission.

“The California sex and gender “health” curriculum shows kids explicit images, normalizes kinky and perverse sexual activity, and teaches kids that their basic identity—as male or female—is something fluid or changeable,” Hasson told The Daily Caller News Foundation, saying that schools see parents as “obstacles or barriers to their efforts to indoctrinate an entire generation.”

“Parents—especially religious parents—are portrayed as ignorant or untrustworthy when it comes to issues of sexual identity or activity—as if only the schools can be trusted to ‘protect’ kids and teach them all about,” Hasson said.

Parental Rights in Education Executive Director Suzanne Gallagher told The Daily Caller News Foundation that public schools in America are facilitating a national cultural crisis.

Gallagher’s organization seeks to keep families up to date on infringements of parental rights in public schools across the nation.

“There is a clear political agenda to destroy the traditional family in America,” Gallagher told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Until now, the American family was considered to be the foundation of civic life; the smallest form of government, where children are taught responsibility, respect for authority, and national pride.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Categories: Public Policy

Senate Resolution Cautions Against Federal Bailout of Fiscally Irresponsible States

Tue, 2019-07-09 12:15

Most of the public was outraged when, during the financial crisis of 2008, Congress provided a massive financial bailout, including $70 billion of taxpayers’ money to insurance giant AIG and $80 billion to U.S. automakers General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford.

Even most politicians who voted in favor of the bailouts did so begrudgingly, in part because they considered it a way to contain the damage from arguably unforeseen circumstances.

By contrast, state and local governments have accumulated many trillions of dollars in debt with clearly foreseeable consequences.

If states want to make good on their obligations, many will have to drastically increase taxes, severely cut services, or default on their debts and lose access to credit.

However, it’s only a matter of time before state policymakers, not wanting to face those consequences, seek a federal bailout.

That’s why Sen. Tom Cotton’s sense of the Senate resolution (S. Res. 268), expressing the position that the federal government should not bail out any state, is so important.

Considering that states cannot declare bankruptcy, many states’ failure to confront absolutely unsustainable pension and other obligations shows that they are counting on a federal bailout.

In fact, then-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn included a federal guarantee of Illinois pension bonds in his 2012 budget proposal.

Cotton’s succinct sense of the Senate resolution says that the federal government should not take any “action to redeem, assume, or guarantee any debt of a State” and that the secretary of the Treasury “should report to Congress any negotiations to engage in actions that would result in an outlay of Federal funds on behalf of creditors of a State.”

As the resolution points out, every state in the U.S. is a sovereign entity with its own authority to collect taxes and to issue debt, with a legal obligation to fully disclose its financial condition to investors.

Moreover, Congress has already rejected past requests for bailouts of defaulted state debt, and back in 1842, the Senate requested that the Treasury report any negotiations that discussed federal assumption of state debt “to ensure that promises of Federal Government support were not proffered.”

Although nonbinding, the resolution from Cotton, R-Ark., is important, because unless Congress takes a bailout off the table, lawmakers in fiscally irresponsible states will have the incentive to keep racking up more debt—and taxpayers in fiscally responsible states would pay the price.

While all states have sizable debt—primarily from unfunded pensions and other public-employee benefits—some have dramatically more than others.

Take states’ estimated $6 trillion in unfunded pension promises. That works out to about $18,300 for every man, woman, and child—or $73,200 for a family of four—in America.

The five states with the greatest unfunded pension obligations—Alaska, Connecticut, California, Illinois, and Oregon—have per-capita pension debts ranging from $28,000 to nearly $47,000. That’s two to five times as high as the five states’ with the lowest pension debts, which range from $8,500 to $10,000 per capita in Tennessee, Indiana, Nebraska, Florida, and Idaho.  

If Walmart were facing bankruptcy, Congress wouldn’t require Target to cover its payrolls. But that’s what a federal bailout would be like, by unfairly forcing taxpayers in states such as Tennessee and Florida to pay for pensions and other public-sector workers’ benefits in Illinois and California, even though they don’t live in, or receive any services from, those states.    

The fact that governments don’t face bottom lines is already problematic enough for workers, families, and businesses whose incomes seem like an open spigot for politicians to tax.

Expanding lawmakers’ reach into the pockets of people they do not represent would only exacerbate what economists call “moral hazard”—essentially, the consequence of removing personal responsibility.

States that want to protect their current and future residents by getting their fiscal houses in order have plenty of options.

For starters, they can look to the sensible pension reforms enacted in states such as Michigan and Oklahoma that significantly curbed costs and to fiscally responsible states such as Nebraska and Tennessee.

While the federal government had no role in state and local governments’ debts, it should make clear that it also has no role in paying for them.

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Categories: Public Policy

Ross Perot Dead at 89

Tue, 2019-07-09 12:05

Texas billionaire and two-time independent presidential candidate Ross Perot died Tuesday at 89 after a five-month battle with leukemia.

Perot is probably best known for his presidential runs in 1992 and 1996, reported the The Dallas Morning News. Perot garnered 19% of the popular vote but no Electoral College votes in 1992 and was viewed as a spoiler who helped then-candidate Bill Clinton defeat President George H.W. Bush.

Perot nearly died from an infection in March following his leukemia diagnosis, his family said. But he recovered and continued going into the office almost daily. He celebrated his 89th birthday in June with family, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Perot campaigned as a populist who stood against government waste. He turned his eye toward politics after becoming a self-made billionaire ranked as the 478th-richest person in the world by Forbes. His estimated net worth was $4.1 billion.

Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, in 1930 and went from paper boy to entrepreneur by age 32. He founded two pioneering computer services companies, Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Perot Systems Corp., according to The Dallas Morning News.

Perot will also be remembered for being endlessly quotable, both on politics and general success in life.

“The most successful people in the world aren’t usually the brightest. They are the ones who persevere,” he once said.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Categories: Public Policy

7th Circuit Court Reminds Purdue, Other Colleges That Due Process Matters

Tue, 2019-07-09 11:59

We forget things all the time—where we put our keys, whether we turned the oven off, anniversaries, our due-process rights. 

You know, little things.

Due-process rights were important 200-plus years ago, when the Framers drafted the Constitution and were worried about the unlimited power of England’s Star Chamber.

That court did whatever it wanted. It ignored exculpatory evidence, forced defendants to incriminate themselves, and invented crimes to punish the innocent. 

But we don’t have that problem today, do we? Actually, we do.

Students at colleges around the county will tell you that star chambers are alive and well in universities’ sexual-assault tribunals.

Consider, for example, Purdue University’s Advisory Committee on Equity.  In a lawsuit that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit greenlighted, the plaintiff alleges that he was suspended for a year after a hearing that lacked even the most basic due-process procedures.

Even before the Committee on Equity heard his case, the student was suspended from the Navy ROTC, banned from all buildings where his accuser had classes, and barred from eating in his usual dining hall because his accuser also ate there.

He alleges that the Committee on Equity refused to show him the evidence against him gathered by the school’s Title IX investigators, refused to let him present exculpatory evidence or witnesses, and refused to let him cross-examine his accuser. 

In fact, the committee itself never questioned the accuser, never called her to testify, and never required her to give a sworn statement.

He goes on to allege that, at his hearing, two of the three committee members stated that they hadn’t even read the Title IX investigator’s summary of the evidence.  The one who did read it asked the student questions that assumed his guilt. But because he hadn’t seen the evidence against him, he couldn’t answer those questions. 

The student also alleges that he asked the committee to consider exculpatory evidence. It refused. He also asked for permission to present as a witness his roommate, who would testify that he was present at the time of the alleged assault and that the accusation was false.  The committee refused.

He further alleges that a week later, the dean of students (who was also the chairperson of the committee) sent him a perfunctory letter saying that he had been found guilty of sexual assault and was suspended for a year.

The student appealed to Purdue’s vice president for ethics and compliance, who ordered the dean to identify the factual basis for her judgment. All she wrote were two paragraphs summarizing the allegations made against the student and her conclusion that the accuser was credible, and the accused not credible.

In its opinion giving his lawsuit against the school a green light, a unanimous panel of the 7th Circuit held that if his allegations are true, he has more than adequately demonstrated a violation of his due-process rights.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who wrote the court’s opinion, explained that Purdue owes students “relatively formal procedures” in cases like this that carry such hefty punishment.  But the procedures that Purdue allegedly used to sentence the student to a yearlong suspension, she added, “fell short of what even a high school must provide to a student facing a days-long suspension.” 

Even just the committee’s refusal to share its evidence with the student was constitutionally unfair, to say nothing of all the other ways it denied him due process. 

That list of due-process violations suggested to the court that the Committee on Equity decided the student was guilty “based on the accusation rather than the evidence.” 

This lawsuit, and others like it, show that campus administrators have forgotten that justice is a two-sided coin. 

Investigating sexual assaults to find the truth and prevent harm to victims is serious business.  And so, too, is conducting these investigations and trials fairly to protect the due-process rights of students. 

Due process is important because it protects the innocent. Sometimes, we just need a reminder.

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Categories: Public Policy

Podcast: Her Think Tank Helped Forge the Texas Miracle

Tue, 2019-07-09 03:01

In the last 15 years, Texas has led the way among red states showing how small government is the path to prosperity. But the Texas economic miracle can’t be told without mentioning the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the leading conservative think tank in the Lone Star State. Brooke Rollins built that foundation up to become a policy powerhouse promoting freedom and limited government. She talks about her years in think tank leadership, and how they prepared her for her current role in the Trump administration. Plus: A new poll shows Americans rarely seek guidance from their clergy.

We also cover these stories:

  • Iran is officially in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • New York takes another step toward exposing President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
  • Trump isn’t happy with Britain or Prime Minister Theresa May, after the British ambassador’s unflattering comments about the Trump administration were leaked.

The Daily Signal podcast is available on Ricochet, iTunesSoundCloudGoogle Play, or Stitcher. All of our podcasts can be found at DailySignal.com/podcasts. If you like what you hear, please leave a review. You can also leave us a message at 202-608-6205 or write us at letters@dailysignal.com. Enjoy the show!

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Categories: Public Policy

Uzbekistan Is Making Healthy Strides Toward Good Governance

Mon, 2019-07-08 17:42

While some countries like Venezuela remain stuck with socialism, others are quietly transitioning from repression to openness.

Uzbekistan is one of those countries. Though it still has a very long way to go, it is now transitioning from a command-and-control economy to a market-based economy, propelled by a wide range of reforms.

To be clear, Uzbekistan still suffers from poverty, corruption, and oppression, and the state-run cotton trade still uses forced child labor, despite a recent presidential decree banning the practice.

With an area and population roughly the same as California, Uzbekistan is still classified as a “mostly unfree” economy by The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom, which tracks economic policy developments around the globe.

The country’s young, growing workforce desperately needs jobs, and Uzbekistan’s sluggish state-owned enterprises have not kept up with the country’s needs. Investors are afraid to invest. Businesses are expropriated.

Lots of ambitious Uzbeks have moved to neighboring countries in the Caspian region, draining the country of its best and brightest. There’s also a lingering threat of Islamic extremism among the disaffected youth who are searching for meaning.

But Uzbekistan is inching toward improvement. According to the Financial Times:

Under former dictator Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan used to rank alongside North Korea for its political rights and civil liberties. With strict currency controls and widespread corruption, it was off limits for most investors. But following Mr Karimov’s death in 2016, new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who had served under Mr Karimov as prime minister, shocked the international community by embarking on major reforms. Political prisoners have been released, exchange restrictions lifted and political debate encouraged.

Indeed, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his reform-minded team have mapped out a far-reaching roadmap to “promote good governance, judicial reform and rule of law, economic liberalization, social development, and an open and constructive foreign policy.”

They have also taken practical steps to attract greater foreign investment, such as loosening currency controls and transforming the Uzbek som into a fully convertible currency.

Early indicators are encouraging. Some forms of private property ownership were made legal for the first time in decades. A few months ago, Uzbekistan received its first-ever credit rating by two of the three main credit agencies and succeeded in issuing its first $1 billion Eurobond.

Tashkent’s relationship with Washington has entered into “a new era of strategic partnership” as well. During Mirziyoyev’s historic first visit to the White House in 2018, President Donald Trump pledged U.S. technical assistance to Uzbekistan, as the country has sought admission to the World Trade Organization and undertaken a reform agenda to liberalize its trade regime in line with its World Trade Organization obligations.

Also notable is that the U.S. has removed Uzbekistan from a list of countries with the worst religious tolerance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently commented, “In Uzbekistan, much work still remains to be done, but for the first time in 13 years, it is no longer designated as a country of particular concern.”

It is still too early to say if these ongoing positive changes will have a lasting impact on Uzbekistan, but these early indicators are encouraging signs for the future of the country.

The post Uzbekistan Is Making Healthy Strides Toward Good Governance appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

House Defense Bill Would Fail to Rebuild the Military

Mon, 2019-07-08 17:33

The House Armed Services Committee needs to do more if it’s serious about continuing to rebuild the military and meeting the challenges outlined in the president’s National Defense Strategy.

It all starts with the budget. Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., has proposed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act funding our nation’s defense at $733 billion—$17 billion short of the president’s budget request.

Last week, the Senate passed their version of the defense spending bill by an 86-8 margin. It would provide $746.4 billion for defense, a 4.2% increase over 2019 levels.

The House should strive to meet this level of funding and be on par with the president’s request.

The amount authorized by the House Armed Services Committee represents only a 2.4% increase over 2019, which is below the 3 to 5% above inflation growth that the bipartisan Commission on the National Defense Strategy deemed necessary.

One of the salient questions in rebuilding the military is what to do with our air power.

Both the Senate and the president have called for the production of eight initial F-15EX fighter aircraft. The House has authorized the production of two aircraft as prototypes. In order to get production beyond these initial two planes, the secretary of defense is required to submit a report to Congress detailing specific plans on how the Air Force will develop and field the new aircraft.

While it’s better choice than buying eight aircraft, but the purchase of any F-15EXs is a mistake.

As stated by John Venable, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, the aircraft will be inadequate against the advancing technology of surface-to-air missiles, and will be restricted to use only in the continental United States. The $941 million set to buy the F-15EXs should instead go toward fielding more F-35s, an aircraft much more capable of surviving today’s high-threat environment. 

On the Navy side, the House has agreed with the Senate to refuel the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The Navy has already bought two reactor cores for the ship at a price of $538 million, which would be wasted without the refueling.

The savings from retiring the ship midway through its life would be minuscule, and in fact contradict the Navy’s own force-structure analysis. It would further delay achieving a 355-ship force, and put more strain on the current fleet.

The Navy will also acquire 11 new battle force ships. This procurement puts the Navy on track to meet its goal of achieving a 355-ship Navy by 2034.

During the Cold War, the Navy maintained a force of 400 ships to deal with the strategic competitor of the Soviet Union. The Navy’s goal of 355 ships is a formidable force, but short of The Heritage Foundation’s recommendation of 400 that would be ideal for major regional conflicts. 

When it comes to space dominance, Heritage has recommended the creation of an Independent Space Force to protect our space assets and establish dominance. In the event of war with a major power, it will be essential for the United States to defend GPS, early warning systems, and other space assets that are crucial to the U.S. military.

The House’s bill did not initially contain the creation of a Space Force, but in the late hours of the committee’s markup on June 12, Chairman Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Ranking Member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee offered an amendment that established a new Space Corps.

Like the Senate’s Space Force, the House’s Space Corps would be an independent military service under the Department of the Air Force.

This would help organize the military’s 60 space organizations and would be an important first step toward securing space dominance. However, it only re-organizes the space assets currently under the Air Force, leaving other space organizations as they currently stand.

When it comes nuclear weapons, the House defense bill would prohibit funds for the deployment of the W76-2 warhead, a low-yield nuclear weapon for use on a submarine-launched ballistic missile. This is a misguided approach that would weaken our defense in the near term. Barring the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons would reduce the credibility of our nuclear deterrence, as Heritage Research Fellow Michaela Dodge has pointed out.

If Russia knows the United States has no credible response to their low-yield weapons, they will be more likely to strike first.

Low-yield weapons add more rungs to the escalation ladder. Absent a diversified arsenal that includes low-yield warheads, the United States’ only nuclear retaliatory option would be to use a high-yield, highly destructive weapon—an option that is not very credible for a government accountable to its people.

All in all, if the House is serious about rebuilding the military, it needs to give the men and women of the Armed Forces the resources they need to be successful.

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Categories: Public Policy