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Ruth King

Of Gays and Wedding Cakes Sifting through the arguments. Bruce Bawer

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case known as Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., and Jack C. Phillips v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Charlie Craig, and David Mullins. Phillips is the Lakewood, Colorado, baker who, citing religious reasons, refused in 2012 to make a wedding cake for Craig and Mullins, a same-sex couple.

So far, Craig and Mullins have been winning. When they took their case to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, it ruled that when a baker refuses to sell a wedding cake to a couple because they’re gay, it amounts to an illegal refusal of service by a public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation. Phillips, an evangelical Christian, took the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which in 2015 unanimously affirmed the commission’s ruling. This June, after the Colorado Supreme Court chose not to review the case, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear it, apparently because of one detail of Phillip’s defense: he said that his refusal was not an act of discrimination – he would’ve been glad to bake, say, a birthday cake for the couple – but he didn’t want to bake a wedding cake for them, because that would have felt to him like an implicit endorsement of something he found morally objectionable.

The most commonly heard argument for Phillips is that the First Amendment, by guaranteeing his freedom of religion, also guarantees his right to turn down any job that would involve him in an activity that is at odds with his religious beliefs. This argument doesn’t work for me, because my first reaction to it is to picture a devout Muslim doctor presented with the case of a gay or Jew or Muslim apostate who’s on the verge of death and whose life he, the doctor, is in a position to save. Let’s say the doctor, aware that Islam commands him to kill such people, not save them, allows the patient to die. Does he have First Amendment religious protections on his side?

Twenty-one years ago I edited an influential book of essays entitled Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy, which sought to stake out alternatives to the lockstep far-left positions on various subjects – marriage, religion, family, etc. – that dominated the gay-rights movement at the time. Many of the conservatives, moderates, libertarians, and classical liberals who contributed to Beyond Queer were early proponents of same-sex marriage at a time when the queer left regarded the very idea as a vile capitulation to straight, conservative values. Only later, when they realized that most gays wanted the right to marry, did the gay left change its tune. Now it’s the same gay left, which once despised gay marriage, that is out gunning for those, like Jack Phillips, who have moral misgivings about it.

Several of my old BQ confrères have weighed in on the cake case. They’re split. BQ contributor Dale Carpenter, who teaches law at SMU, has joined with Eugene Volokh (a heterosexual UCLA prof whom I know only by reputation) in writing a brief supporting Craig and Mullins. While acknowledging that a “freelance writer cannot be punished for refusing to write press releases for the Church of Scientology” and “a photographer…should not be punished for choosing not to create photographs celebrating a same-sex wedding,” Carpenter and Volokh distinguish between these actions and cake-making. Writing a press release, they contend, is a speech act; making a cake is not. “A chef, however brilliant, cannot claim a Free Speech clause right not to serve certain people at his restaurant, even if his dishes look stunning,” they write. “The same is true for bakers.”

Revisiting the EPA Endangerment Finding Obama’s EPA used semantic tricks to avoid rigorous scientific evaluation. Is Trump’s EPA more honest? By Ross McKitrick

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt is mulling over how, or whether, to respond to demands from climate skeptics that he reexamine the science that obligates the EPA to issue costly carbon-emission regulations. While he has recently acknowledged that agency staff short-circuited the science review early in the regulatory process, he may not realize that the EPA inspector general’s office flagged this problem years ago, and the agency staff blew him off by means of a preposterous legal fiction that has long been in need of correction.

In 2009 the EPA issued the Endangerment Finding, which created a statutory obligation to regulate carbon emissions. In the lead-up to this decision the EPA had published its Technical Support Document. Numerous petitions for reconsideration were subsequently filed with the administrator citing evidence of bias and cherry-picking in this report, but all of them fell on deaf ears.

In April 2010, Senator James Inhofe (R., Okla.) asked the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General to review the adequacy of the peer-review process behind the Technical Support Document. The EPA was not happy with what he unearthed.

It turns out that the federal government has rules in place governing how the scientific basis for regulations should be reviewed. Guidelines from the Office of Management and Budget issued under the Information Quality Act impose varying requirements depending on the uses to which a scientific assessment will be put. The most rigorous process is for so-called Highly Influential Scientific Assessments (HISA). These are scientific assessments that will, among other things, lead to rules that have an annual economic impact exceeding $500 million.

The inspector general issued a lengthy report in 2011 concluding (pp. 15–22) that the EPA’s science assessment for the Endangerment Finding was highly influential, but the peer-review process fell short of the required standard. It even violated internal EPA guidelines, by failing to publicly report the review results and cutting corners in ways that potentially hindered the work of reviewers.

The EPA argued back, rather brazenly, that their report was not an assessment at all, merely a summary of previous findings by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Climate Assessment, and other reports, and these documents — not any original research by the EPA — underpinned the Endangerment Finding.

Yes, Investigate the Investigators By The Editors

The Department of Justice and the FBI are developing a credibility problem. The last two weeks have brought a blizzard of revelations about the anti-Trump political predilections of top FBI officials and prosecutors in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, perhaps none more eye-popping than a just-revealed text from Peter Strzok, a top FBI intelligence agent.

In August 2016, Strzok, who played a lead-investigator role in the Hillary Clinton–emails investigation, flatly stated that the FBI could not “take that risk,” referring to the possibility that Donald Trump might be elected president. He made the statement in a message to Lisa Page, a bureau lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Strzok referred to an alternative FBI “path” regarding Trump’s “unlikely” election that Page had proposed during a meeting they’d attended in “Andy’s office” — meaning deputy director Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s number-two official, second only to then-director James Comey.

While more context is necessary to understand the meaning of the text and what transpired in the meeting in McCabe’s office, the message raises the possibility that top bureau officials were infecting investigations with their personal political views. This would be a concern in any circumstance, but especially in this one. The FBI’s Clinton-email and Trump-Russia investigations have been extremely fraught politically — with the latter morphing into Mueller’s Russia probe, which conceivably could result in an impeachment referral.

Around the time of Strzok’s message, the FBI and the Obama Justice Department had come into possession of the anti-Trump “dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. The dossier was opposition research commissioned by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through their lawyers. They had retained a research company, Fusion GPS, which hired Steele, who evidently paid Russian sources for what appears to be dodgy information.

Too Many Americans Are Going to College An economist makes a powerful case against education. By Kyle Smith

Suppose you always wanted to date tall and good-looking people, and believe yourself to be tall and good-looking too. There’s a club in your city called Lucky’s where all the tall and good-looking people go, so you show up there. But you can’t get in. The bouncer stops you.

“Only tall and good-looking people are allowed in.”

“I’m tall and good-looking, though.”

“Only tall and good-looking people with the proper credentials.” At this point, as he’s letting in another batch of the long and luscious, you notice that most of them are presenting the bouncer with a fancy piece of paper that says, “100% certified tall and good-looking.”

Aha, you say. I need that fancy paper. You go to the marketplace and find a confusing system of stalls and shops selling various kinds of fancy paper. Some of them won’t even look at you. Finally you notice a guy beckoning from an alley: “Psst. Tall-and-good-looking credentials right here.”

“How much?” you say.

“Only $60,000,” he says. “Plus four years of your life. Deal?”

You smell something fishy. And yet you go ahead with it. You take out loans. You spend four years of your life doing baffling chores. And you get your tall-and-good-looking credential. But when you take it back to the club, the bouncer just sneers at you. “We don’t accept credentials from this place.”

At this point you catch a glimpse of your reflection in someone’s car window. And you realize you’re 4′11″ and look like the Joker after he fell into a vat of acid. The guy you owe $60,000 is laughing.

That’s pretty much how college works. Want to join the lucky ones in Club Upper Middle Class? Be smart and/or hard-working. And if you’re neither smart nor hard-working, the fact that most of the people who make it to the upper middle class did indeed obtain a college degree identifying them as smart and/or hard-working should be irrelevant to you. All the credentials in the world aren’t going to fool the bouncers who guard the doorway of the club. These bouncers are employers. And they don’t care about your feelings. Just as bouncers want people who will pretty up the place, employers want people who will add value to their company. If you can’t provide it, they’ll tell you to take a hike.

Why the Populist Surge Has Missed Canada A decentralized federal government and a consensual culture have kept the lid on social tensions—so far. Mario Polèse

Much has been written and said about the antiestablishment, antiglobalization populist surge sweeping the West over the last several years. The most prominent manifestation of this phenomenon, of course, came in November 2016, when Donald Trump won the presidency, the most stunning electoral feat in American history; earlier in 2016, Trump’s victory was foreshadowed by Britain’s “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union, an outcome pushed for years by the country’s nationalist U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). But the United States and Britain are far from alone. Seemingly every major Western nation now has a populist movement and an anointed leader: Marine Le Pen and the Front National in France; Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, which has become the main opposition party in parliament; Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), founded by nostalgic ex-Nazi officers, which missed electing the country’s president by a whisker; and Italy’s Five Star Movement, led, literally, by a clown, Beppe Grillo, suitably called the clown prince. Even in Denmark, the model of a tolerant liberal democracy, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is now the second party in parliament. Farther east, Hungary and Poland are today governed by openly nationalist governments.

National differences notwithstanding, election results show that support for and opposition to populist parties break along similar lines. Supporters tend to be older, less educated, blue-collar, white, male, and living predominantly in small towns or rural areas. Everywhere, the voting geography reveals a split between big cities and the rest of the nation. Manhattan voted massively against Trump, London against Brexit, Vienna against the FPÖ, and Paris against Le Pen; the small-town heartland in each case voted for them. It does not require a sociologist to understand that a similar social divide and mix of concerns are driving populism on both sides of the Atlantic.

One major outlier exists in this Western dynamic, though: Canada. A Western nation by any measure, a child of Britain and France, Canada has so far produced no evident equivalent of Trump, Wilders, or Le Pen, or of the political parties that back them. The revived Conservative Party of Canada, though it has its share of anti-immigrant supporters, has not veered into the kind of angry nativist oratory heard elsewhere. Political discourse in Canada has remained civilized, on the whole.

Jerusalem, Israel’s Capital: Watch the Masks Fall by Najat AlSaied

When the actual announcement came, nothing happened. Those who were exploiting sensitivities related to Jerusalem — especially political Islamists, such as Hamas and Hezbollah — come mainly from the axis of resistance, led by Iran.

While mainstream media shows the oppressor to be Israel and the oppressed to be the Palestinians, the polls tell a different story.

The US Department of State is no less culpable than the mainstream media in failing to play a more vital role in revealing these realities, which could also mitigate the anger and hatred felt towards the US. This Department needs to be reformed from top to bottom to ensure that all diplomats are truly working for US interests. I am sure that it is the Department of State itself that will be the most reluctant to move its embassy to Jerusalem. It is not an exaggeration to say that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is the best decision that has been taken by any American President because it lays bare a rotten reality.

Many analysts say that US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a campaign promise to evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters, but there is another way of looking at it. Trump’s recognition might be a golden opportunity for two-faced opportunists to be unmasked — a shot of reality that might eventually help the peace process and solve this long-lasting conflict.

Since the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, many Arab observers, intellectuals and academics have started to question the veracity of those jihadists who claim they are sacrificing themselves to defend Jerusalem, because when the actual announcement came — nothing happened. Those who were exploiting sensitivities related to Jerusalem — especially political Islamists, such as Hamas and Hezbollah — come mainly from the axis of resistance, led by Iran.

Other opportunists are the two-faced countries in the region, such as Qatar and Turkey. While publicly hostile towards Israel, behind closed doors they support it. Further opportunists are the Western and Arab media, who for decades have been promoting the idea that the problem is the Israeli occupation, but never mention the Palestinian Authority corruption.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has also revealed the shortcomings of the US Department of State. It has not played any role in clarifying the above-mentioned points and, by this negativity and bureaucracy, only generated further hatred towards the US.

Trump’s recognition has exposed the hypocrisy of the armed militia Hezbollah which always claims it will never disarm because of its fight against Israel. Now after the recognition of Jerusalem, many Arabs are questioning Hezbollah’s motivations regarding Israel. Lebanese and other Arabs are questioning why Hezbollah has not sent its armed militia to fight in Israel as it did in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Dr. Hadi El Amine, a Lebanese researcher in political science and governmental studies, tweeted, “The axis of resistance’s words are aimed against Israel, but their missiles are pointed at the Arabs.”

Adhwan Alahmari, a Saudi journalist based in London for Asharq al-Awsat also tweeted:

“The soldiers, rockets and suicide bombers of Hezbollah are at Israel’s borders yet they did not support Jerusalem after Trump’s declaration, instead supporting the Wilayat al-Faqih [Iranian Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist] to fight in Syria to displace and annihilate its people to protect the shrine.”

Think the Alabama result has derailed Donald Trump? Think again by John R. Bolton

Pundits are furiously assessing the broader consequences of the Democrats’ upset Senate victory in Alabama on Tuesday, but there is less there than meets the eye. True, the Republican Senate majority now hangs by a thread, forcing even harder fights for every legislative victory.

Nonetheless, Republican chances for major gains in November 2018, perhaps six or seven Senate seats, remain strong. Moreover, Democrat 
Al Franken is resigning his seat any day now because of sexual misconduct charges, bringing another totally unexpected Republican opportunity.

Of course, any statewide Democratic victory in Alabama is stunning, but there were also stunning reasons for it. Republican Roy Moore was a flawed candidate even before allegations of sexual misconduct emerged – and he still lost by just one percentage point.

The winner, Doug Jones, will likely be defeated at the next regular election in 2020. The stakes have unquestionably been raised, but President Trump and Republicans hold a strong hand.

At some point, Democrats will have to declare what they believe in. Just as Hillary Clinton, the “inevitable” 2016 victor, fell from grace when she revealed her beliefs, so too will legions of aspiring Democrats.

Trump is also demonstrating how a President can continue to command the national agenda, regardless of the comings and goings of domestic politics. For all these reasons, those who think Alabama marks the beginning of the end for Trump should think again. This is not even the end of the beginning.

There is no better proof of this than his foreign policy moves thus far.

They have not only shown him to be a dogged defender of American interests but an effective one too. Take his announcement that the US will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It is further unassailable evidence that he is not a status quo President.

Trump Hastens Media Meltdown By Eric Lendrum

Few things are better than watching the media weep in despair as President Trump continues to deliver on his promises. One of those things, however, is watching as the intellectually honest among them are forced to admit that he is winning.

And that is exactly what has been happening in recent weeks. Two of the largest and most biased media outlets, marching through vales of tears, admitted that President Trump, arguably, has kept more of his promises than any President in modern history.

The first of these delicious offerings is CNN’s “Donald Trump — Keeper of Promises.” Then, like an early Christmas present, came the second piece in the Huffington Post: “Sadly, Trump is Winning.”

Both articles highlight all of Trump’s major accomplishments and track how closely they line up to his promises on the campaign trail. And both delineate his accomplishments as occasion for lamentations which, of course, cannot ring as anything other than delightful music in the ears of Trump supporters.

CNN talks about how Trump has made good on his word to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris Agreement, while also swiftly moving to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and de-certify the Iran Deal. These were all bad deals for our country that Trump promised supporters he would renegotiate, and he is doing that. After fighting the courts for months, his travel ban has finally been fully implemented. Most recently, of course, he made the bold move of declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, much to the chagrin of the globalist elite and Islamists around the world. GDP growth has been soaring at levels of 3 percent or higher for the last several quarters, and the stock market continues to reach for the sky, with its latest milestone being 24,000.

The Huffington Post piece makes clear, even in the title, that Trump’s success is an occasion for their mourning; yet even they can no longer deny that by Trump’s metrics, he is winning. HuffPo focuses on how Trump recently succeeded in having his OMB Director, Mick Mulvaney, take over the controversial, Obama-era Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), after its former director Richard Cordray resigned. Mulvaney quickly acted and removed many of the Obama-appointed CFPB personnel. Trump himself continues to fill up judicial vacancies with judges who, on average, are rather young and very conservative, from the same mold as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Most recently, the GOP’s tax cut bill advanced through the Senate, and now faces the last few hurdles in the conference committee as it appears fairly likely to head over to President Trump’s desk.

What if Jeff Sessions is not asleep, but instead playing possum? By Brian C. Joondeph

Conventional wisdom is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asleep at the wheel – from recusing himself unnecessarily from the Trump-Russia collusion investigation to doing nothing about the politicization and weaponization of the Department of Justice. He also gave free rein to his deputy A.G., Rod Rosenstein, who is in turn allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller unlimited time, money, and jurisdiction to investigate President Trump’s entire life.

Last summer, Trump expressed disappointment in Sessions, calling him “beleaguered,” wondering why Sessions wasn’t looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails and true election chicanery. Rudy Giuliani was floated as a possible replacement. Was Trump truly upset, or was this a calculated head fake?

In a recent blog posting, American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson, referencing Sundance from Conservative Treehouse, made the case that the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General is where the real action is taking place. Here was an explanation why Rosenstein gave evasive answers in recent congressional testimony and a suggestion that the OIG is laying out a case, slowly and methodically, with selective information release, before bringing the hammer down on the leakers and corruptocrats in the FBI and DOJ.

I want to take this a step farther, perhaps answering the question of where Jeff Sessions is and whether he is asleep, or just playing possum. Perhaps I can explain why he is acting not as a Trumpian pit bull, but instead like Mister Rogers ready for his afternoon nap.

Jeff Sessions is a political appointee, appointed by President Trump. The president, as we all know, is despised by Democrats, many establishment Republicans, and the media. Any actions Trump or Sessions take will be viewed through the lens of obstruction of justice. Firing Mueller or Rosenstein or shutting down the investigation would allow eager Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans to tut-tut over threats to the Constitution and to initiate impeachment proceedings.

The FBI’s Ship of Fools By Roger L Simon

Of the many astonishing revelations now emerging from the Russia investigation, not enough has been made of the fact that — that Zelig of the FBI who mysteriously appeared at every controversial moment — was second in command for counterintelligence.

That’s right, counterintelligence — that activity “designed to prevent or thwart spying, intelligence gathering, and sabotage by an enemy or other foreign entity.”

And yet that same Mr. Strzok was conducting a clandestine extra-marital affair with an FBI colleague over thousands of text messages that could be and likely were (more of that in a moment) intercepted by those same foreign intelligence agencies — or were, at the very least, recklessly exposed to them.

Now you don’t have to be James Jesus Angleton or even have read a novel by John le Carré to know one of the most important vulnerabilities in the intel world is just such dangerous liaisons, frequently used for blackmail of all sorts.

Yet, our second in command in counterintelligence conducted his in full digital view of anyone and did so replete with idiotically extreme comments about the president of the United States that would make our Peter a prime candidate for blackmail.

How exactly do you spell D-O-O-F-U-S?

Or, come to think of it, didn’t someone else do something just that dumb? Oh, yes, the very Mrs. Clinton who moved the entire email correspondence of the secretary of State onto a homebrew server stashed in a bathroom.

No wonder Strzok went easy on her and on her buddies Cheryl and Huma. It wasn’t just the extreme bias they all shared, it was the extreme cyber-stupidity they also shared. How could he call them “grossly negligent” when he was so “grossly negligent” himself? (He was also “grossly negligent” with his wife, but that’s another matter. Someone should get a good interview with her. She might have an interesting story to tell at this point.)

Which leads me back to the seemingly banal adverb likely or, more precisely, “reasonably likely.”

Newly released documents obtained by Fox News reveal that then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft statement on the Hillary Clinton email probe was edited numerous times before his public announcement, in ways that seemed to water down the bureau’s findings considerably. CONTINUE AT SITE