Monthly Archives: June 2015

Today’s version of “Spot the missing party label”!

The mainstream media is notorious for failing to mention the party of a politician implicated in a scandal if said politician is a Democrat.*

Today’s Los Angeles Times puts a new twist on the practice in an article entitled “Mississippi in limbo over high-court’s same-sex marriage ruling”:  “Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood, declared that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right would not be observed in the Magnolia State” until the Fifth Circuit “gives gay weddings the go-ahead.”

It’s unclear in what form, or whether, this legal housekeeping will take place, and the article doesn’t hesitate to cite the state’s religious leanings, shameful historical record on everything, etc.

But it never mentions that Attorney General Hood is . . . a Democrat.

The phrasing “in limbo” suggests a sympathy to the legal conundrum.  On the other hand, we don’t need much of an imagination to speculate that if Hood were a Republican, the headline would read something like “Republican A.G. defies Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.”  We have plenty of examples in MSM outlets, including the Los Angeles Times itself, that prominently identify such rogue state and local officials as Republicans, usually in the first sentence.

*We can actually defend this practice to some extent.  When a Democrat politician is corrupt, it’s sort of a “dog bites man” story, so perhaps the party of the crook can go without saying.  On the other hand, we see the identity of a dirty pol as Republican as legitimately newsworthy.  Tu quoque, MSM?


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How long will it be before the Fourteenth Amendment is deemed to prohibit “hate speech”?

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges finding a Constitutional right to gay marriage doesn’t really bother to cite a legal justification, instead relying on florid exaltations of “love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” and an aw-shucks conclusion that laws against gay marriage “burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality.”  His nominal Constitutional reference point is the Fourteenth Amendment, that contemporary cannon in which all manner of federally-provided goodies are loaded and splayed about the populace.

Suppose a future Congress were to pass a law criminalizing “hate speech.”  Such a law would, contrary to the willful understanding of much of our popular culture, be unconstitutional, at least as of June 25, 2015.  However, if a respondent (say, a future Democratic Solicitor General) defending such a law were to assert that “hate speech” uttered by a hateful hater effectively prevented the victim from enjoying her civil rights, or from fully participating in society—which is the position of many universities, the NAACP, and plenty of others on the mainstream left—then couldn’t the Supreme Court uphold the law under the same principles as the Obergefell decision?

If the First Amendment to the Constitution protects hate speech, Justice Kennedy might hold, then the First Amendment itself “burdens the liberty of minorities subjected to hate speech, and it must be further acknowledged that it abridges central precepts of equality.”

Consider another passage from the Obergefell decision:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

Unlike in the case of the desire among gay people to get married, our founders did understand the concept of speech that would offend people and explicitly decided that the value of free speech outweighs the consequences of hurt feelings.  First Amendment rights in the U.S. are generally not subject to the left’s beloved concept of “balancing tests” (issues related to national security are an exception), but Kennedy’s fuzzy language leaves much to the imagination as to how a future Court might decide to construe liberty.

Other countries that have historically cherished free speech have carved out exceptions, such as the criminalization of “racism” in the U.K. or of denial of the Holocaust in France.  The fact that America’s democratically-elected representatives have attempted many abridgments of free speech over the years certainly proves that there exist ongoing differences of opinion on “the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions.”

Now that the Supreme Court has again interpreted “a claim to liberty” as the right to receive benefits from the government as a married gay couple—as opposed to the founders’ notions of liberty as freedom from coercion by the government—it does not seem too much of a stretch to think that a future Court acting on this precedent would discover that an American in a protected class demanding protection from hateful speech is entitled to rectification of a similar “claim to liberty” that must be balanced with free speech rights.

Such a purported victim need only claim that his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and/or Equal Protection rights have been violated in some vague manner to assert the primacy of that Amendment over the speaker’s rights to free speech.  After all, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed subsequently to the First, so there is no reason why the former could not be deemed to supersede the latter.

Justice Thomas notes in his dissent, “inversion of the original meaning of liberty will likely cause collateral damage to other aspects of our constitutional order that protect liberty.”

By the way, it is not that difficult to imagine extending the same argument to require a balancing of Fourteenth Amendment rights with those protected by the Second Amendment.  E.J. Dionne, writing presciently in the Washington Post on June 24, wants a new campaign “protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.”  One wonders if he had dinner with Justice Kennedy a couple of weeks ago to trade notes?

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This is how things work in the government

From an article in today’s Washington Free Beacon, “Clinton Aide Worked on UAE Project While at State Department,” we see an amusing account of government bureaucracy in action.  (We don’t feel the need to add to the well-covered, much more important substance of the article—the obvious conflicts of interest and corruption in Hillary Clinton’s State Department.)

We refer to the process in the department for “vetting” (under heavens-knows-what-criteria) paid speeches given by then-Secretary Clinton’s husband:  “On February 17, 2009, Thessin sent a memo to Bill Clinton’s scheduler, recommending ‘To expedite these [conflict of interest assessment] requests in the future, you may wish to forward the request directly to me, with a copy to Waldo (Chip) Brooks, my Senior Ethics counsel … his deputy, Violanda Botet … and Cheryl Mills.'”  (Mills was Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff.)

So apparently there was a process by which James Thessin, the deputy legal advisor at State, had to approve, or at least comment on, such outside engagements.  In any normal organization, the principal’s representative would send a request to the person responsible for taking the action.  But here, Thessin is requesting copies to “his” subordinate (senior ethics counsel to the deputy legal advisor?) as well as his subordinate’s subordinate (deputy senior ethics counsel to the deputy legal advisor?).  (Apparently the legal advisor himself is out of the loop, though we can presume that, as a presidential appointee and the person ultimately accountable, that individual would have to sign off on the deputy legal advisor’s work.)

It strikes us as odd to copy three levels of hierarchy on a request.  Who is ultimately responsible?  In our work in the public and private sectors, it has struck us that this paperwork-volleying is much more the norm in the public sector, where naturally anyone who has a job has a deputy, and it’s unclear who is actually responsible for what.  It’s unclear how work actually gets performed and delegated and with what instructions.  Copy my deputy and my deputy’s deputy, since they’re eventually going to get assigned it anyway and Copy my boss and my boss’s boss so they can track it (or not) without having to rely on progress reports from me are classic bureaucratic tactics that serve quite well to obscure actual responsibilities, inflate the manager’s importance, add exponentially more e-mails to the BlackBerry queue, tee up excuses for delays, and spend extra resources to complete a task.

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Out of the mouths of babes. . . Touching stories of Somali integration

In Lewiston, Me., of all places, the concept of free-market economics is illustrated nicely:  “Many Somalis originally came as refugees to larger cities, Atlanta in particular, but then moved to Maine after hearing that it had a wider array of subsidized housing available and also was easier to get on the welfare rolls.”

From the same article:  “‘People were thinking, to be a police officer, you have to be born in the U.S. … you have to be white,’ Libah [a recent Somali arrival] told the news agency. ‘They never thought they could be a police officer.'”

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