Archive

July 18th, 2016

Why Utah's Planned Parenthood ban couldn't stand

    A federal appeals court has ordered Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, R, to reinstate contracts with the state's Planned Parenthood chapter. Herbert had unilaterally suspended the funds after the release last summer of misleading videos that purported to show unrelated Planned Parenthood officers discussing the sale of fetal tissue. The court said Herbert had likely violated the Utah chapter's free association rights and the right to abortion itself.

    The decision, reversing a federal district court judge based in Utah, is a useful reminder of why regional appeals courts are so valuable. And it also serves as a primer for the important judicial doctrine known as unconstitutional conditions, which prohibits the government from making the provision of a benefit conditional on that non-exercise of basic constitutional rights such as those found in the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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They Were Never Close To Indicting Hillary

    Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear: specifically to September 1992, when Attorney General William P. Barr, top-ranking FBI officials, and -- believe it or not -- a Treasury Department functionary who actually sold "Presidential Bitch" T-shirts with Hillary Clinton's likeness from her government office, pressured the U.S. Attorney in Little Rock to open an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater investment.

    The Arkansas prosecutor was Charles "Chuck" Banks, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, and recently nominated to a Federal judgeship by President George H.W. Bush. It was definitely in Banks' interest to see Bush re-elected.

    The problem was that Banks knew all about Madison Guaranty S&L and its screwball proprietor, Jim McDougal. His office had unsuccessfully prosecuted the Clintons' Whitewater partner for bank fraud. He knew perfectly well that McDougal had deceived them about their investment, just as he'd fooled everybody in a frantic fiscal juggling act trying to save his doomed thrift.

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July 17th

Millennials need a new bubble in the housing market

    To understand the slow-motion trends in single-family housing, start by looking at the oil market: It took years of oil priced around $100 a barrel to spur the investments that drove higher production, leading to the current supply-driven glut and prices closer to $50 a barrel. The levers of supply and demand worked, but they worked slowly -- as is happening in the housing market.

    Every year since 2009 we've been running a housing deficit: More housing for sale has been absorbed than built. With a glut of housing left over from the housing bubble and the great recession, it's logical that construction of new supply was subdued for a few years. But vacant inventory for sale normalized in 2012, and currently stands at a 12-year low. So why aren't builders building more? The pace of construction remains far below the rate of household creation.

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There's a reason black Americans say racism persists: The cops

    "Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?" Zora Neale Hurston defiantly crowed in 1928. She sounds almost denialist today, even though no one could even begin to call Hurston - who dedicated her life to chronicling black America in all of its richness and who wrote these words during a time when lynching was both tolerated and common -- insufficiently black or co-opted by any establishment, white or otherwise.

    Nowadays, some might wonder why more African Americans don't process racism the way she did: In a recent Pew poll, 41 percent of white Americans thought race was discussed too much these days, vs. 22 percent of black Americans.

    But when social media brings us video of the shooting deaths, by police, of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile within days of each other, the answer is staring us in the face. More than anything else, the reason black Americans say racism persists is this: the cops. (It's a tough message to hear so soon after five police officers were unconscionably killed in Dallas. Still, it's true.)

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The Problem with ‘Blue Lives Matter’

    We’re not long into summer, but already we’re long on tragedy. Police shootings of black men in Minnesota, Louisiana, and beyond. A mass shooting of police officers in Dallas.

    Yet this surplus of tragedy seems to have created some confusion. So let’s clear things up.

    There’s a difference between cops killing unarmed black people and the horrific murder of cops that just occurred in Dallas.

    I don’t wish to diminish the losses in Dallas, or the loss suffered any time a cop is killed. That’s a tragedy beyond words. But it’s still different from the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many other black men and women who’ve lost their lives at the hands of the police.

    Here’s how.

    The cops who killed Sterling and Castile were employed to protect the public. Sterling and Castile, in other words, paid the salaries of their own killers with their tax dollars. The murderer in Dallas, on the other hand, was no public servant.

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The Post-Brexit US economy is doing just fine, thank you very much

    It's been less than two weeks since Britain voted to leave the United Kingdom, and the early results show some bad news for Britons and some good news for Americans: Predictions that the Brexit would hammer the British economy have proven true, but the dire warnings that it would also hurt the U.S. one haven't come to pass.

    In the run-up to the June 23 vote, President Barack Obama tried to persuade British voters to remain in the European Union so that London could be part of a massive trade deal between the U.S. and Europe. Minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's June meeting show that the central bank is reluctant to hike interest rates because it fears the UK's departure from the EU could negatively impact the American economy.

    It's too early to conclusively say whether the Brexit will have long-term repercussions outside the UK. In the short-term, though, the U.S. economy continues to chug along.

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Russia's hyperloop dream is undone by scandal

    President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials dream of a technological leap that could immediately close the gap between Russia and more advanced economies, as Sputnik did for the Soviet Union. The hyperloop, a kind of train in a tube that can reach speeds of up to 700 mph, fits that dream, and a well-connected Russian businessman has invested in it -- only to see the project become embroiled in a lawsuit involving a Silicon Valley startup's founders and claims of financial mismanagement.

    Elon Musk, Tesla's chief executive, proposed the hyperloop four years ago. This "fifth mode of transport" would involve a system of practically airless tubes through which magnetically levitated pods could carry passengers and cargo. Musk has not set up a company to bring the project to reality, but others have. For example, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, wants to build a system in Slovakia. Another, Hyperloop One, offered a public demonstration of some elements of its technology in May.

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Obama, Bush share a message in Dallas

    Along with President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush spoke at the memorial service for slain police officers in Dallas on Tuesday.

    Obama's words, whether intentionally provocative or scrupulously fair-minded, invariably end up as vehicles for others' purposes. Partisans hijack them, load them with their own baggage and speed away, often with an acute case of road rage.

    Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, for example, chastised Obama for "raising the specter of slavery and Jim Crow" and fueling the "grievance industry." (It's OK to discuss the fate of unarmed black men being shot by police. But it's unfair to provide historical or social context.)

    Few seem to have noticed Bush's remarks. Social media erupted with chuckles at the former president swaying to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" while grasping Michelle Obama's hand. But Bush's speech -- a more concise, equally eloquent version of Obama's -- deserved attention.

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Obama pulled a nation back together in Dallas

    But for one false note, President Barack Obama's stirring address at Tuesday's memorial service for the five slain Dallas police officers was perhaps one of the finest of his presidency. His remarks actually constituted four different speeches, uneasily knit together. Two of the four were excellent; one was necessary and important, but showed signs of swift and shaky drafting; and the fourth, although worthy, felt out of place.

    Let's consider each in turn.

    Speech 1 - The first and of course obligatory speech was the praise of the professionalism of the police. He noted, borrowing from Dallas Police Chief David Brown, that law enforcement officers do a dangerous job and are rarely thanked for it. In fact, they're often reviled. But, the president said, police are "deserving of our respect and not our scorn." He criticized those who deprecate law enforcement without recognizing the dangers of their job.

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No, 'Black Lives Matter' is not 'inherently racist'

    During an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation," former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said , "When you say black lives matter, that's inherently racist." Asked whether he agreed with Giuliani, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said , " A lot of people agree with that. A lot of people feel that it is inherently racist. And it's a very divisive term. Because all lives matter. It's a very, very divisive term."

    Folks, I've run out of things to say. The ignorance flowing out of the mouths of politicians has me reaching for words I've already written. So, let me restate some of them. The best way to understand the meaning of the phrase "Black Lives Matter" is to think of it as an incomplete sentence. To those African Americans and other Americans marching to protest lives extinguished by law enforcement, the unspoken finish to the phrase "Black Lives Matter" is "as much as anyone else's."

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