Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review react to 90 percent of American Indians not finding the name “Redskins” disrespectful. They also shake their heads at Donald Trump’s speech to the National Rifle Association. And they bang their heads against the table as one the people #NeverTrump tried to run against Trump and Clinton says he would consider being a running mate with either Trump or Clinton.
Archives for May 2016
Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Barbara Franklin says free trade is good for the United States and for job creation, but she says anemic economic growth and the failure to provide for workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals need to be addressed immediately.
Trade is becoming a much bigger issue in 2016 than in most presidential campaign years. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump frequently criticizes America’s existing trade arrangements with the likes of China, Japan and Mexico and vows to renegotiate them. Independent-turned-Democrat candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is often very critical of free trade in general. Even Hillary Clinton, who has long been a free trade advocate, now opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
But what is the view from someone who has been in high-level trade talks? Franklin says trade policy may need improving but she insists it’s only part of the overall economic problem.
“I think it’s not one simple thing here,” said Franklin, who served as U.S. Commerce Secretary from 1992-1993 in the final year of the George H.W. Bush administration.
“I think it’s a mix of things. It’s trade, but it’s economic growth. It’s whether we have too much regulation. We have a tax code that’s outdated. We’ve got a bunch of things here that I really think need to be looked at afresh,” said Franklin.
She says weak economic expansion is a major hindrance to job creation.
“Part of the problem when you come to job loss has to do with our economy and the fact that it has been growing quite sluggishly,” said Franklin. “We really do need stronger growth in the U.S., at least three percent GDP growth and hopefully more. We’re not getting it and I think some of that reflects governmental policies or lack of policies that would be meant to stimulate economic growth.”
While free trade has taken some hard punches in this campaign, Franklin says trade is still a big positive for the U.S.
“I’m very concerned that trade has got such a black eye in this campaign and that we have just lost the idea that started centuries ago that blossoming trade really does help economic growth,” said Franklin.
But she fully acknowledges the frustration that voters are expressing over trade.
“What we’re hearing now has to do with job loss and that’s the part of this I think we really need to address,” said Franklin.
She says the government is supposed to be there for people whose jobs are eliminated by free trade deals.
“So what do we do about the jobs issue? There are trade assistance programs that are typically federally funded but administered by the state that are meant to help those who are dislocated by trade,” said Franklin.
However, she says multiple problems with those programs need to be resolved, starting with where exactly people ought to go for assistance.
“For those who have been dislocated by trade and have lost a job, they’ve first got to find the right place in the state bureaucracy to go and make the claim,” said Franklin.
But was the job lost directly as a result of trade?
“I think it’s hard to tell whether the trade agreements did actually lose all of the jobs that those candidates are talking about,” said Franklin.
She says that is often a stumbling block for those suddenly out of work.
“What is happening here is that those programs that were meant to help those who have lost jobs because of a trade agreement just aren’t working. That’s my bottom line here,” said Franklin.
Franklin hopes the next president takes the time to focus on people impacted negatively by trade deals and cleans up the system. She also says the next president has the opportunity to take a different approach to trade policy. She says that will really be determined by presidential appointees, who will do the real work of establishing trade policy.
Will they be able to renegotiate some of the high-profile deals that Trump often mentions?
“I would have a question as to whether we could go back and renegotiate that and whether the other countries in the mix would agree with that. I don’t know. I suppose the new president might want to do that. I don’t know what the answer would be,” said Franklin.
She says the answer to that question from our key trading partners may determine many things.
“If the answer is no and we really can’t renegotiate, then I think [TPP] should be passed by our Congress. We should think ahead to what might be the next such agreement and make sure that if we’re changing our mindset, and we want to be a little stiffer in one place or another, that those messages are handled by our negotiators,” said Franklin, who notes that a major deal with European nations, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is also being negotiated right now.
One idea Franklin rejects outright is Trump’s suggestion that tariffs be applied against nations taking advantage of the U.S. on trade policy.
“There would just be confusion and concern and I just don’t think that’s a very practical thing to be doing and I’m hopeful that the rhetoric about doing things like that will quiet down,” said Franklin.
Instead, she wants to hear how the remaining candidates plan to revitalize our economy.
“Some of the job creation issue comes right back to economic growth. How would those candidates work to accelerate economic growth so that there would be the opportunity for more job creation,” said Franklin.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and David French of National Review applaud Judge Andrew Hanen for excoriating Justice Department lawyers for repeatedly lying to the court about Pres. Obama’s executive immigration actions. They also slam NBC’s Andrea Mitchell for saying Juanita Broaddrick’s rape allegation against Bill Clinton has been “discredited.” And we shake our heads as a North Carolina school district plans to eliminate valedictorian and salutatorian honors because it creates “unhealthy competition.”
Congress appears unlikely to require women to register with Selective Service as part of new defense legislation, but the idea is quickly gaining in popularity in both parties and a retired female U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant says it’s because lawmakers and policy don’t know what they’re talking about.
Late last year, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced all ground combat roles in the military were open to women. Multiple service chiefs subsequently stated they believe the new policy ought to require women to register with Selective Service, meaning they could be conscripted into ground combat roles if the U.S. ever brought back the draft.
To the surprise of many, multiple Republican presidential candidates indicated they would back the the idea. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., then proposed an amendment to the current defense bill. The amendment passed, even though Hunter opposed it. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., then added the provision to the Senate defense bill. The issue was put on the back burner, however, when the House Rules Committee stripped the Hunter amendment from the final version.
But the momentum of the idea of requiring women to register for the draft is unmistakable. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he supports the idea.
“We’re talking here about registration for Selective Service, should we ever go back to a draft. And given where we are today, with women in the military performing virtually all kinds of functions, I personally think it would be appropriate for them to register just like men do,” McConnell stated on May 17.
McConnell was quick to add he does not think the draft needs to be re-instated.
The fact Congress came so close to the new requirement is appalling to retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jessie Jane Duff, who is now a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. She says lawmakers failed to oversee the Obama administration’s policy move.
“I actually don’t think Republicans even understand the issue. There was a nine-month study done by the Marine Corps and the study results were not even reviewed by the [Senate] or House. They were not even reviewed by Congress,” said Duff.
She says there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to people in power who dropped the ball.
“The letter from Gen. (Joseph) Dunford that actually stated the key points of why they were seeking an exemption from putting women in ground forces was ignored by Sec. Ash Carter, was ignored by the Secretary of the Navy. And the House and Senate never challenged the Pentagon for changing the policy,” said Duff.
Duff says while few in Washington failed to protest the Obama administration decision, the public was left in the dark.
“Meanwhile, the American public was sitting at home eating dinner, not even realizing that their daughters, who are on active duty right now can now involuntarily be assigned to the infantry,” said Duff.
She says politicians are more concerned about appearances of equality than remembering the purpose of ground combat.
“They’re looking at it as, ‘Oh, women are so capable. They’re performing in all jobs. What they’re failing to understand is that the draft is to replace combat roles, not support roles. It is to replace your infantry and ground units. And the whole purpose of our infantry and our ground units is to literally cut the throats or shoot the heads off of your enemy,” said Duff.
“Women overall are not capable of performing to the same levels as men are. It’s been proven time and time again,” said Duff. “We obviously, genetically are designed completely differently. We have roughly 40-45 percent less muscle mass. We have 20 percent less lung capacity,” said Duff.
Duff stresses that only women who have been anywhere close to front line combat can assess whether women should be in those roles at the “tip of the spear,” rejecting support for women in combat from the likes of female veterans Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, R-Ill., who served in the air.
“I did go on the humps with the men. I did do the marches. I did wear those packs. I understand that over long, sustained periods of time, the female body breaks down faster,” said Duff. “Why would you want your daughters, your sisters, your mothers in hand-to-hand combat with ISIS? That’s what it’s going to boil down to,” said Duff.
“Why are you setting women up for failure instead of success. Women like me will become obsolete,” added Duff.
Duff uses athletics as an example of why this is a terrible policy, pointing out that colleges have both men’s and women’s teams in most sports. She says there’s also a reason there are no women in the major professional sports.
“Why aren’t women in the NFL? Because we want to win. If anyone thinks that running around with 120 pounds of gear in ground combat for six to seven months at a time because they’re doing forward operations, long-term operations on the ground, kicking down doors, seeking out the enemy,” said Duff.
“Do we want an NFL team that wins or do we want to start having quotas for the most important measures of our life – our national security, combat readiness. This is not an equal opportunity issue. This is a combat readiness issue,” said Duff.
She says the Marine Corps, the only branch to oppose the move to insert women into direct ground combat roles, is also the only branch to research the issue.
“Four hundred women went through infantry training on the enlisted side. Only 35 percent of them graduated, whereas 98 percent of the males graduated. What happened to that other 65 percent. Women get injured at a six to ten times higher rate more than men,” said Duff.
Other service leaders, including Navy Sec. Ray Mabus, dismissed the study as flawed and supported the Obama administration move.
“People tried to say these studies are flawed. Then show me the evidence that they can do it. We have no substantiating evidence that demonstrates that the women can sustain themselves with those packs, with that gear, with those weapons. We have none,” said Duff.
So why were the Marines the only branch to oppose the change?
“The Marines are the least of the politically correct people and not afraid to tell you what reality is,” said Duff.
Duff says 92.5 percent of women currently in uniform do not want to be engaged on the front line. And she says she would have a very difficult time urging any young woman to join the military now.
“Honestly, how could I look a young lady in the eye and say, ‘Go in the Marines or Go in the Army now,’ because she could, if she’s one of those top physical performers, could be assigned involuntarily to one of these units,” said Duff.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and David French of National Review welcome Donald Trump’s list of prospective Supreme Court nominees but groan as he is already suggesting his nominee might still be someone else. They also note the end of Mitt Romney’s quest to find someone to run against Trump and Clinton. And they dissect New York City’s law insisting people address each other by names and titles of their preferred gender identity – the fines for refusing are immense.
Two Christian artists are launching a preemptive challenge to a Phoenix, Arizona, ordinance, requiring all expressive businesses to service same-sex weddings and refrain from publicizing any beliefs that could be deemed offensive to protected classes of people.
Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka own Brush & Nib, a business that specializes in hand-painting, hand-lettering and calligraphy. The business provides wedding services ranging from invitations to all sorts of wedding day decor, along with services for many other special events. But as a result of their Christian beliefs, Koski and Duka will not accept work for same-sex weddings.
As a result, the women fear they will soon be cited by Phoenix authorities under § 18.4(B) of the city code.
The ordinance, as admitted in Koski and Duka’s motion, “bars public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability and from making any communication implying people will be discriminated against or are objectionable because of these protected traits.”
“That basically means because our clients create art for opposite-sex wedding ceremonies, they have to do so for same-sex wedding ceremonies, so really compelling them to create artwork that is against their artistic and religious beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel John Scruggs, who is directly involved in this case.
Beyond that, Scruggs says the city interpretation won’t even allow expressive professionals from explaining their beliefs due to the possibility of someone in a protected class could construe the message as discrimination.
“[The ordinance] says that any business cannot issue ‘any communication that implies someone is unwelcome or objectionable or not solicited.’ If our clients wanted to express their religious beliefs about one-man, one-woman marriage, that could certainly imply that someone who is seeking a same-sex marriage is objectionable,” said Scruggs.
He says the penalties for violating the ordinance are very severe.
“If our clients violate the law, they could suffer up to $2,500 (in fines) for each day they violate the law and also six months in jail for each day they violate the law,” said Scruggs.
The City of Phoenix has not cited Brush & Nib for violating the ordinance, so Koski and Duka are filing a ‘pre-enforcement’ suit against the city.
“The city has not attempted to force a lawsuit against us yet. But it clearly does apply to our clients. In fact, the city has already interpreted and essentially enforced the law against similar entities,” said Scruggs.
So why go to court when he city hasn’t pointed the finger at Brush & Nib? Scruggs says Koski and Duka don’t want to be looking over their shoulders every day to see if the government is after them.
“Obviously, when you hear, ‘If you violate this law, you’re going to go to jail for a long time and you’re going to suffer these severe financial penalties,’ (this is) the only sane thing a person would do in that situation. They wouldn’t violate the law. They wouldn’t wait around to go to jail. They would challenge the law and ask the court to declare this unconstitutional,” said Scruggs.
Scruggs says the Constitution is clearly on the side of his clients.
“The government makes a bad art critic. It really infringes on artists’ rights and the rights of all citizens,” said Scruggs.
“It’s really an egregious form of regulation on speech and that’s why it’s really important to stress this case is really about artistic freedom: the freedom of artists to create in accordance with their beliefs and to express and explain their art on their website,” added Scruggs.
Scruggs points out Koski and Duka are not opposed to welcoming gay and lesbian customers, it’s attaching their abilities to a particular event that troubles their consciences.
“Our clients willingly will serve people of all different sexual orientations, races, religions, whatever. It’s not about the person, it’s about the message that their art is promoting,” said Scruggs. “That shows this isn’t about discrimination. It’s about creating art that only promotes certain beliefs.”
Phoenix officials have yet to respond to Koski and Duka’s challenge but vow to do so. Scruggs expects this all to be handled by the court within the next few weeks, and he is looking forward to the fight.
“We welcome that challenge. We want to get before a court as soon as we can to make our legal arguments. We feel very confident that the right of free speech prevents the government from telling artists what they should and shouldn’t create,” said Scruggs.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are pleased to see Donald Trump is not a drag on Kelly Ayotte thus far in New Hampshire. They also slam Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans for wanting to require women to register with Selective Service. And as Trump says he would speak with Kim Jong-Un, we preview what that meeting might look like.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warns air travelers to prepare for much longer than usual airport security lines, but a Transportation Security Administration watchdog says this mess is simply a matter of the government failing to manage its resources responsibly.
On Monday, Johnson stood at Ronald Reagan National Airport just outside Washington and told passengers to expect longer than expected wait times as the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, expedites hundreds of new personnel into service to speed up the security process. In Chicago, passengers were told to arrive three hours prior to departure,
The TSA claims that congressional action has led to the elimination of some 4,500 personnel over the past few years and the agency simply doesn’t have the manpower to keep up, but that’s just spin according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute. He also run Cato’s “Downsizing Government” blog.
Edwards says the TSA is littered with problems, starting with its existing personnel.
“Annual surveys of federal government employees find that the TSA and the broader Homeland Security Department have some of the poorest morale in the federal government. The TSA has a high turnover rate for their screeners, which is not good for morale and is not good for security,” said Edwards.
But perhaps even worse is TSA’s penchant for directing its ever-increasing budget into the wrong areas.
“TSA has spent many billions of dollars on things that don’t work. As a result, they’ve starved their budget from hiring more screeners to reduce congestion,” said Edwards.
He says the most glaring example is one of TSA’s most controversial projects.
“Remember those full-body scanning machines that were in airports for years that essentially showed nude pictures of passengers as they got screened?” asked Edwards.
“Those things were eventually withdrawn because of civil liberties concerns. People didn’t want to see their nude bodies when they went to the airport. But those things have been found to not really work at all. It’s fairly easy to slip guns and plastic explosives through those machines,” said Edwards.
Another major problem, says Edwards, is the inability of such a large bureaucracy to adapt to differing needs at different airports.
“As a government bureaucracy, the TSA has a very inflexible workforce. Unlike a private company, where if they saw one of their facilities or one of their cities get a lot more business and a lot more demand, they’d move workers over there. They’d hire more part-time workers to fill surges in demand. Government bureaucracies don’t do that. They have fixed numbers of people at these airports and they don’t adjust them like any normal private business would,” said Edwards.
He says airports do have the option to boot the TSA and go with private security. He says only 15-20 airports do that and actually perform better when secret tests are conducted to see whether weapons or explosive materials get past security.
“Airports are allowed to opt out of TSA screening and some of them have been looking at that recently because of the huge congestion at the airports,” said Edwards.
He says things work much more smoothly north of the border.
“In Canada, all major airports have private screening. There’s a number of different expert companies that specialize in airport screening. They get three-year contracts to do particular airports. If they don’t do a good job, if they don’t have high security, they get fired. The next time around, a different company gets the contract,” said Edwards.
While U.S. airports do have the ability to ditch the TSA and hire private security, Edwards says the Obama administration is making it much tougher to do that.
“Congress has had to slap down the administration a few times to get them to allow airports to go private. In the original legislation that created TSA, House Republicans slipped in this provision that airports could petition the Department of Transportation to go private, but the Obama administration has made that very difficult,” said Edwards.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review discuss the financial collapse of Burlington College thanks to Bernie Sanders’ wife. They also react to Marco Rubio’s Twitter mockery of Washington Post stories quoting sources supposedly close to Rubio. And they enjoy watching Democrats worry that the chaos in Nevada over the weekend could spill over to the national convention.
The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 on Monday that it is sending the legal cases involving religious organizations and the Obamacare contraception mandate back to lower courts for resolution, a decision that an attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor calls a “win-win.”
The case, Zubik v. Burwell, is a legal battle over whether the government can force religious organizations to provide contraception coverage in their health plans if that coverage violates sincerely-held beliefs.
The justices ruled they would not be ruling on the merits of the case at this time.
“In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest,” the court stated in an opinion that was not ascribed to a specific justice.
While the Obama administration says it is “gratified” by the decision, most court watchers summarized the ruling as the justices punting the issue back to the lower courts. But the Little Sisters don’t see it that way at all.
“To the extent that this is a punt, this is a punt that gives the Little Sisters great field position,” said Daniel Blomberg, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters. “It puts them in a place that we can get to a solution that frankly isn’t a win-loss, it’s a win- win.”
“Today was a big win. It was the unanimous decision that we’ve been hoping for and it protects the Little Sisters of the Poor from having to violate their religious beliefs or pay massive fines,” said Blomberg.
While the court did not rule on the merits, Blomberg says its actions demonstrate the justices are not okay with with groups like the Little Sisters being in the government’s cross hairs.
“Several lower court decisions had gone the wrong way and they were forcing the Little Sisters to choose between their faith and fines and they were massive, crushing fines. The Supreme Court today said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to send this back down to get reconsidered because the government has admitted it has other ways of accomplishing its mission without forcing the sisters to violate their beliefs,” said Blomberg.
Blomberg says the court also played a pivotal role in the early stages on this case.
“[The Little Sisters] had to run to the Supreme Court because the government was so aggressively pursuing them and requiring them to violate their faith or pay massive fines. Justice (Sonia) Sotomayor issued an opinion saying, ‘No, let’s put the brakes on this. Let’s give more time to think about it.’ Then the full court said you can’t fine them while this case is proceeding,” said Blomberg.
Despite its recent reputation, Bloomberg says the Supreme Court has ruled on the side of liberty on this issue several times in recent years.
“We’ve had several other decisions since that time and they’ve all gone the same way. They’ve all rejected the government’s arguments and they’ve all provided protection for the Little Sisters and other religious ministries,” said Blomberg.
So why is the White House welcoming this decision?
“Of course the government’s spinning,” said Blomberg. “You can read the clear text of the Supreme Court’s order yourself. It says you don’t get to fine the sisters to make them do what you want. It does say that you have to find a solution that actually accommodates their religious beliefs,” said Blomberg.
He also says the Obama administration is constantly changing it’s position in this case.
“The administration hasn’t changed its views in this matter just once, not just twice, not just three times and not just four times. They have changed their position ten times in the course of this litigation. Every time they’ve changed their position, they’ve still managed to say, ‘Whatever else we do, we want to force the sisters to pay millions of dollars in fines if they don’t do what we want,'” said Blomberg.
But given the lower courts siding with the government most of the time, why is Blomberg so confident the decisions would be different this time around?
“Every one of those decisions have been erased. They’re gone. The court sent a very clear signal that those decisions were going down the wrong path,” said Blomberg, who points out the government also confessed to the justices that it could apply the mandate without impacting the Little Sisters.
While the legal battle continues, Blomberg says he remains deeply impressed by the Little Sisters themselves.
“They are amazing human beings. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with them. We’ve gotten to know them on a personal level and . They couldn’t be more sincere,” said Blomberg.