Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Did the Obama admin discriminate for job positions based on race or religion?

original article: LEAKED: Obama Team Kept List of Muslims For Top Jobs, Excluded Non-Muslims
October 24, 2016 by Justin Caruso

The newest batch of John Podesta’s hacked emails released by Wikileaks shows Obama’s transition team kept lists of Muslim and Asian candidates for jobs in the administration.

According to an email chain from 2008, John Podesta received lists of exclusively Muslims and Asians to be considered for jobs in the Obama administration. The email chain revealed that in this process, Middle Eastern Christians were purposefully excluded, or set aside in a separate list, with an aide writing,

In the candidates for top jobs, I excluded those with some Arab American background but who are not Muslim (e.g., George Mitchell). Many Lebanese Americans, for example, are Christian. In the last list (of outside boards/commissions), most who are listed appear to be Muslim American, except that a handful (where noted) may be Arab American but of uncertain religion (esp. Christian).

Also notable, there was concern that some of the Muslims suggested would not survive media scrutiny, with one aide writing, “High-profile Muslim Americans tend to be the subject of a fair amount of blogger criticism, and so the individuals on this list would need to be ESPECIALLY carefully vetted.”

She continues, “I suspect some of the people I list would not survive such a vet — but I do personally know, at least in part, virtually all of the candidates in the 1st two categories (but I know very few of those listed for outside boards/commissions).”

Within the lists themselves, candidates were further broken down, with every candidate labeled by their nationality and sometimes race.

This follows a pattern of the Obama Administration using race and religion to determine hiring, with other leaked emails showing potential political appointees being labeled with an F for female, B for black, H for Hispanic, and M for Muslim.

Another Wikileaks release showed the Obama transition team keeping extensive lists of non-white candidates for administration posts.

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Violent behavior is condoned—as long as the politics are correct

original article: There Really is Climate of Violence on Campuses
February 13, 2017 by WILLIAM M BRIGGS

Time for our News Quiz! How many were arrested and punished in Berkeley among those who rioted, vandalized and violently beat a man with shovels, almost killing him, when the right-wing comedian Milo was to visit that campus?

Hint: The total was the same as the number of student militants menacingly brandishing automatic weapons who violently occupied Cornell’s Willard Straight Hall in 1969 in protest of Cornell’s “racist attitudes” and “irrelevant curriculum.”

Still not sure? Then here, at the risk of being too generous, is another hint. The number of violent actors arrested at Berkeley is the same as the number punished for their violent storming of the stage at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to prevent mild-mannered Ben Shapiro from speaking on the subject of decency, an event at which “Campus police watched but did nothing to stop the interruptions.” Violent students also blocked Shapiro from UCLA.

If you still don’t have it, the number you’re looking for is the usual count of those arrested, expelled or otherwise punished for their use of violence to further political causes at colleges and universities all across this fair country. It is a number fewer than the fingers on your right hand to the left of your thumb.

No more clues. Unless you find the answer too distasteful to admit, you have at least an inkling of this circular figure.

The Violent in Charge

Now that we have finished the first question, it is time for our … Political Science Quiz! Ready?

What do we call those people in a society who are licensed or allowed to use violence?

No hints this time. We call these the people in charge.

Since the violent are in charge, and since folks regularly use violence on college campuses as a means of politics — violence that just as regularly goes unpunished or is countenanced — we can therefore say that there is an officially approved climate of violence many campuses in the United States.

It really is this simple. Violent students (and professors) are in charge, have been in charge, and will continue to be in charge as long as they are allowed to use violence.

Violence in and around universities is so commonplace that its presence is thought natural and necessary. Pepper sprayings, calls for muscle, assaults of speakers calling for free speech (another Berkeley incident), a brawl and students rushing the stage, students occupying by force various campus offices.

These violent actions are not only in protest of freedom and traditional morality. Sometimes plain old-fashioned greed is the excuse. As when students violently burst into and occupied various buildings at University of California at Davis to whine that tuition should not increase.

There isn’t any point in continuing the examples. The reports of violent behavior and temper tantrums of campus denizens appear in the news as often as storm reports, ever since the 1960s. Everybody knows this to be true. Everybody expects it. And except for noting these incidents, as I am doing now, few do anything about them.

Don’t Call Them Snowflakes

The mistake is to label violent, fit-throwing students as they crowd into “safe spaces,” fill their diapers and demand to be changed, with being “snowflakes.” Those who do so, says Anthony Esolen in his new book Out of the Ashes, “are wrong in their diagnosis and inaccurate in their criticism.”

It is also something of a mistake to point at the students and laugh at them for being weaklings. The students hold the hammer, and they know it … in our world of inversions, power is granted to people who claim that they have no power and who resent the greatness of their own forebears. They do not seek “safety.” They seek to destroy. The strong man is bound and gagged, and the pistol is pointed at his head — the seat of reason itself.

On paper, at least, university presidents, deans and trustees are in charge. Almost none of these people, duly accepting their office and possessing the right to administer punishment and keep order, fulfill their duties to maintain order and keep the peace. Sometime these officials share the political goals of the violent on campus, and so excuse the violence.

But often those purportedly in charge do not want the grief associated with doing the right thing. If a president expelled a violent student, the national media would be against him, a large part of his faculty would be against him, the student body would be against him, even the trustees buckling under the weight of publicity would be against him. It is easier to look the other way or issue a non-binding We-Love-Tolerance-And-Repudiate-Violence missive.

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15 cases where the courts raped the law in 2016

original article: The top 15 court cases that wreaked havoc on America’s core values in 2016
January 1, 2017 by Daniel Horowitz

One of the breakthrough aspects of Conservative Review in 2016 was our increased focus on judicial tyranny up and down the federal judiciary. I was proud to accompany the release of my book, “Stolen Sovereignty,” with dozens of columns about the federal judiciary, demonstrating conclusively that its entire modern construction is irremediably broken.

Throughout the year, we explored specific cases from the Supreme Court and especially from lower federal courts showing how their entire conception of constitutional interpretation is irretrievably broken. What is regarded by settled law as a federal power, the courts give to the states; what is a state power they give to the Feds. What is an inalienable right enshrined into the Constitution, they read out of it; what is antithetical to our founding values or not discussed in the Constitution they enshrine as a fundamental right.

Moreover, we have concluded that the entire public perception of the role of the courts as the sole and final arbiter of constitutional questions is fundamentally at odds with every tenet of our founding values as a democratic republic. Congress has the full array of constitutional tools at its disposal to rein in runaway courts. Also, the legislative branch, along with the executive branch and the states, can use their powers to check and mitigate the damage incurred from bad court decisions as it relates to the actual execution of those decisions as national precedent for broad political and social issues.

I look forward to doubling down on the focus of judicial reform from a legal, constitutional, historical, philosophical, and practical perspective in the coming year. This is the year I hope that conservatives in politics will finally wake up and smell the stench of the judicial tyranny. With Republicans in complete control of the federal government and most state governments, we will only be playing defense in the courts. The legal Left will successfully place every political decision in the courts and will likely succeed in most cases. Although Trump can make a small dent in the mess by immediately filling some vacancies, we have shown how in the long run that strategy will never work to stem the entrenched and irremediable post-constitutional precedent already observed even by conservative judges, aside from the rare Clarence Thomas.

It is my hope that the coming judicial onslaught — from destroying state sovereignty and religious liberty laws to mandating rights for illegal aliens and codifying transgenderism — will serve as the inspiration for conservatives to finally restore the proper balance of power between Congress, the states, and the federal judiciary. Concurrently, with control of 33 state legislative chambers, hopefully this is the year when we finally gain critical momentum in the push for an Article V Convention of the States to reform the judiciary and the entire broken political structure from outside Washington, D.C.

To that end, I give you a partial year in review from our archives to look back at some of the craziest court decisions of the year:

1. A constitutional right to unsafe abortion clinics

In the landmark SCOTUS ruling of the year, Anthony Kennedy wrote a 5-3 opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt asserting that states can’t require abortion clinics to meet the health standards for ambulatory surgical centers, or require doctors at the facilities to have admissions privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The decision opened the door for lower courts to assail every common sense regulation states have implemented to prevent a repeat of Kermit Gosnell horror stories in abortion clinics. With this decision, the Court expanded the concocted right to an abortion to the right to an unregulated abortion clinic.

2. A license to discriminate … on behalf of the RIGHT people

While Anthony Kennedy and his ilk bastardize the Fourteenth Amendment and concoct phony rights that prevent states from defining marriage, enacting common sense abortion regulations, enforcing immigration law, and maintaining basic state powers over election laws, they allow states to actually discriminate on behalf of “minorities.” In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Kennedy and the other liberals said that college affirmative action programs that blatantly discriminate against whites are constitutional as long as they are necessary to achieve “the educational benefits of diversity.” Thus, the one true violation of “Equal Protection” was blessed by the Court, even as they strike down our history and tradition based on false applications of the Fourteenth Amendment.

3. States can’t require photo ID at the polls

Every circuit court that has heard cases related to photo ID laws have “struck down” those common sense laws as violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. The most egregious was the Fourth Circuit ruling insinuating that black Americans are essentially incapable of obtaining photo ID, even when provided by the state of North Carolina for free. In addition, the Fourth Circuit mandated 17 days of early voting and all sorts of new constitutional rights, such as same-day registration, pre-registration of 16-year-olds, and out-of-precinct voting. Oh, and the court also said that North Carolina election maps were racist. The Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court decision, and only Justice Thomas would have overturned the ruling mandating that 16-year-olds be allowed to register to vote!

4. Court nullifies North Carolina elections and calls for new off-year elections

After originally “striking down” North Carolina’s state elections maps — an area of law over which states fully control — a federal district court mandated new state legislative elections to be held in 2017, in contravention to the state’s constitution. Together with many other rulings this year throughout the country, federal courts have crowned themselves king over state elections. They have effectively empowered themselves to create new election maps and even new elections, invariably benefiting Democrats.

5. Racist court rules blacks too dumb to use regular ballots in Michigan

Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations! District judge Gershwin Drain ruled that there is a Fourteenth Amendment right for voters to have the option of checking a party-line box on the ballot that automatically renders every vote down-ballot for the same party. The judge opined that simple “office by office ballots” are likely to increase voter confusion and miscast ballots in black neighborhoods because they evidently, in his estimation, can’t ascertain the Democrat candidate running for individual offices. The Sixth Circuit upheld his ruling.

6. Ohio can’t purge dead voters from its voter registration

According to the Sixth Circuit, states can’t even clean their voters rolls after employing a painstaking process of verification. In a 2-1 decision, which included a Republican-appointee, the Sixth Circuit forced the Ohio secretary of state to reinstate “voting rights” to 465,000 dead voters who were removed from the rolls through the very process required by the motor voter law. By misinterpreting congressional statutes to prevent states from fighting voter fraud, the courts are essentially abolishing free and fair elections, the underpinnings of our federal representative democracy.

7. Non-citizens voting is de facto law of the land

If dead Americans can vote, why can’t live foreign nationals vote in our elections? That is the conclusion we must draw from two court decisions this year. Both the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Tenth Circuit blocked states from requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration, even when the U.S. Election Assistance Commission explicitly gave them permission to do so. With thousands of non-citizens erroneously registering to vote through motor voter laws, the courts have now blocked the only practical way to prevent non-citizens from diluting the integrity of our elections.

8. Transgenderism is settled law

Earlier in the year, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the federal education code forces states and school districts to allow boys into female private dressing rooms. More recently, the Sixth Circuit ruled that transgenderism being enshrined into civil rights is already “settled law.” Earlier in the year, a federal judge in Colorado urged the State Department to adopt “gender neutral” passports. Thus, the most immutable laws of nature are now being settled by the courts as the very opposite of their nature. This coming year, the Supreme Court will rule on one of these cases, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, in what is likely to be Kennedy’s transgender equivalent of Obergefell.

9. States MUST fund Planned Parenthood

Almost every district and federal court that has heard cases filed by Planned Parenthood this year have ruled in the group’s favor, forcing states to fund them. Evidently, private abortion groups under criminal investigation for trafficking baby organs now have an inalienable right to taxpayer funds — out of reach of the state legislature to regulate. The Tenth Circuit ruled that Planned Parenthood has a First and Fourteenth Amendment right to taxpayer funding! Judge Michael R. Barrett, a Bush-appointed federal judge in Ohio, ruled that the state cannot cut off funding because the butcherhood “will suffer a continuing irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law.” This has now dissuaded weak governors like John Kasich from even signing pro-life legislation into law.

10. The Bill of Rights prohibits the Ten Commandment monument!

A GOP-appointed judge wrote an opinion for the Tenth Circuit completely rewriting the First Amendment, essentially declaring secularism the national religion. They gave standing to a group of pagan polytheists to sue against a privately funded replica of the Ten Commandments placed on the city hall lawn in Bloomfield, New Mexico. How did they demonstrate injury-in-fact to successfully obtain standing against the monument? With a straight face, the judge opined that the plaintiffs suffer “irreparable injury” because they have to pass by the monument while paying their water bill! Meanwhile, states and law enforcement can’t obtain standing to sue when their suffer security and economic problems as a result of Obama violating immigration laws.

11. States cannot protect religious liberty

While a private abortion organization evidently has the right to taxpayer funding — even if it is violating the conscience of half the taxpayers funding it — a private business does not have the right to merely mind its own business and run its organization according to its conscience.  In July, Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the Mississippi legislature from enforcing HB 1523, a law protecting private organizations from being forced to service the homosexual or transgender agenda when it interferes with their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The Fifth Circuit, including a GOP-appointed judge, refused to stay the district judge’s ruling. Thus, the most sacred rights of conscience and property are shredded by the same courts that create rights to taxpayer-funded abortions.

12. Stolen Sovereignty: Judge turns 6 states into sanctuaries

By now you are seeing the pattern of how the courts have denuded states of any long-held powers. Yet, when it comes to the one legitimate federal power — immigration enforcement — the courts are siding with sanctuary cities that thwart federal immigration officials. On September 30, Judge John Lee of the Northern District of Illinois codified sanctuary cities into law by ruling that localities in six states may not cooperate with federal authorities to detain illegal aliens unless ICE can somehow prove that each random individual is a known flight risk. This is part of a troubling trend of courts overturning settled law and granting illegal aliens standing to sue for avenues to remain in the country against the national will. If nothing is done to block such meddling in congressional power over immigration, the courts will likely thwart every effective immigration enforcement measures conservatives are encouraging Trump to implement.

13. Driver’s licenses for illegal aliens

The Ninth Circuit codified Obama’s illegal executive amnesty by ruling that Arizona could not follow congressional immigration statutes and must instead grant driver’s licenses to those amnestied by Obama. The court ruled that illegals have a Fourteenth Amendment write to affirmative state benefits and that Arizona doesn’t even have a public interest other than “animus” to prohibit them from obtaining driver’s licenses, despite the rash of drunk driving incidents. Meanwhile, this same court refuses to recognize a true right for Americans, the Second Amendment. A few months later, a federal judge in Texas gave standing to illegal aliens to sue the state of Texas to grant their children birth certificates simply by showing Mexican ID cards, thereby stealing the birthright and sovereignty of American citizens.

14. SCOTUS opens door for retroactive release of thousands of violent criminals

The courts were responsible for the crime wave of the ‘70s. If nothing is done to stop them, they will spawn a new crime wave in the coming years. In Welch v. United States, with Justice Thomas as the lone dissenter, the Supreme Court retroactively invalidated a major statute which created a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence for those who had three prior convictions for a “violent felony.” Consequently, thousands of the worst criminals in federal prison are flooding liberal district courts with petitions to reopen their cases for potential early release.

15. Courts force pharmacies to carry every form of contraception

In a case where silence is deafening, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from a family-owned grocery and pharmacy store in Washington state that was forced by the lower courts to stock their shelves with Plan B morning-after pills. Justice Alito wrote a scathing dissent noting that the high court’s refusal to overturn lower court tyranny was an ominous sign that there are now five justices on the court who won’t even recognize the most foundational of inalienable rights. Even if Scalia’s seat is filled with a rock star constitutionalist, Anthony Kennedy has jumped the shark on religious liberty.

Indeed, we have a judicial emergency to contend with in 2017!

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When the shoe is on the other foot in politics

original article: God Bless Harry Reid
February 2, 2017 by CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER

Senate Democrats have Reid to thank for being powerless to block Gorsuch’s nomination.

There are many people to thank for the coming accession of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Donald Trump for winning the election. Hillary Clinton for losing it. Mitch McConnell for holding open the High Court seat through 2016, resolute and immovable against furious (and hypocritical) opposition from Democrats and media. And, of course, Harry Reid.

God bless Harry Reid. It’s because of him that Gorsuch is guaranteed elevation to the Court. In 2013, as then–Senate majority leader, Reid blew up the joint. He abolished the filibuster for federal appointments both executive (such as cabinet) and judicial, for all district- and circuit-court judgeships (excluding only the Supreme Court). Thus unencumbered, the Democratic-controlled Senate packed the lower courts with Obama nominees.

Reid was warned that the day would come when Republicans would be in the majority and would exploit the new rules to equal and opposite effect. That day is here. The result is striking.

Trump’s cabinet appointments are essentially unstoppable because Republicans need only 51 votes and they have 52. They have no need to reach 60, the number required to overcome a filibuster. Democrats are powerless to stop anyone on their own.

And equally powerless to stop Gorsuch. But isn’t the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees still standing? Yes, but if the Democrats dare try it, everyone knows that Majority Leader McConnell will do exactly what Reid did and invoke the nuclear option — filibuster abolition — for the Supreme Court, too.

Reid never fully appreciated the magnitude of his crime against the Senate. As I wrote at the time, the offense was not abolishing the filibuster — you can argue that issue either way — but that he did it by simple majority. In a serious body, a serious rule change requires a serious supermajority. (Amending the U.S. Constitution, for example, requires two-thirds of both houses plus three-quarters of all the states.) Otherwise you have rendered the place lawless. If in any given session you can summon up the day’s majority to change the institution’s fundamental rules, there are no rules.

McConnell can at any moment finish Reid’s work by extending filibuster abolition to the Supreme Court. But he hasn’t. He has neither invoked the nuclear option nor even threatened to. And he’s been asked often enough. His simple and unwavering response is that Gorsuch will be confirmed. Translation: If necessary, he will drop the big one.

It’s obvious that he prefers not to. No one wants to again devalue and destabilize the Senate by changing a major norm by simple majority vote. But Reid set the precedent.

Note that the issue is not the filibuster itself. There’s nothing sacred about it. Its routine use is a modern development — with effects both contradictory and unpredictable. The need for 60 votes can contribute to moderation and compromise because to achieve a supermajority you need to get a buy-in from at least some of the opposition. On the other hand, in a hyper-partisan atmosphere (like today’s), a 60-vote threshold can ensure that everything gets stopped and nothing gets done.

Filibuster abolition is good for conservatives today. It will be good for liberals tomorrow when they have regained power. There’s no great principle at stake, though as a practical matter, in this era of widespread frustration with congressional gridlock, the new norm may be salutary.

What is not salutary is the Reid precedent of changing the old norm using something so transient and capricious as the majority of the day. As I argued in 2015, eventually the two parties will need to work out a permanent arrangement under which major rule changes will require a supermajority (say, of two-thirds) to ensure substantial bipartisan support.

There are conflicting schools of thought as to whether even such a grand bargain could not itself be overturned by some future Congress — by simple majority led by the next Harry Reid. Nonetheless, even a problematic entente is better than the free-for-all that governs today.

The operative word, however, is “eventually.” Such an agreement is for the future. Not yet, not today. Republicans are no fools. They are not about to forfeit the advantage bequeathed to them by Harry Reid’s shortsighted willfulness. They will zealously retain the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees through the current Republican tenure of Congress and the presidency.

After which, they should be ready to parlay and press the reset button. But only then. As the young Augustine famously beseeched the Lord, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.”

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Does Pelosi think it’s okay to use religion as a guide for public policy?

original article: Pelosi: Democrats Do ‘the Lord’s Work,’ Republicans ‘Dishonor God’
January 24, 2017 by TYLER O’NEIL

In yet another example of moral narcissism and the liberal inability to understand conservative positions on faith, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that her party, the Democratic Party, does the will of God while Republicans dishonor their Creator.

Of Republicans, the Democrat congresswoman from California declared, “They pray in church on Sunday and they prey on people the rest of the week. And while we’re doing the Lord’s work, ministering to the needs of God’s creation, they are ignoring those needs which is to dishonor the God who made them.”

Perhaps emboldened by Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, Pelosi thus equated the climate alarmism and draconian regulations pushed by her party with a godly care for the environment. In doing so, she failed to understand that there are good reasons to doubt the “scientific consensus” on man-made global warming. She also failed to note that God’s care for “the least of these” can justify cutting regulations, which will unleash economic growth which helps the poor as well as the rich.

This is why Pelosi’s declaration that Republicans “prey on people” was important. By falsely equating free market policies with the kind of crony capitalism that leads to monopoly, Democrats argue that the Republican agenda enables the rich to harm the poor.

read full article

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If voter fraud isn’t real, please explain this

original article: Voter Fraud Is Real. Here’s The Proof
October 13, 2016 by John Gibbs

Data suggests millions of voter registrations are fraudulent or invalid. That’s enough to tip an election, easily.

This week, liberals have been repeating their frequent claim that voter fraud doesn’t exist. A recent Salon article argues that “voter fraud just isn’t a problem in Pennsylvania,” despite evidence to the contrary. Another article argues that voter fraud is entirely in the imagination of those who use voter ID laws to deny minorities the right to vote.

Yet as the election approaches, more and more cases of voter fraud are beginning to surface. In Colorado, multiple instances were found of dead people attempting to vote. Stunningly, “a woman named Sara Sosa who died in 2009 cast ballots in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.” In Virginia, it was found that nearly 20 voter applications were turned in under the names of dead people.

In Texas, authorities are investigating criminals who are using the technique of “vote harvesting” to illegally procure votes for their candidates. “Harvesting” is the practice of illegally obtaining the signatures of valid voters in order to vote in their name without their consent for the candidate(s) the criminal supports.

These are just some instances of voter fraud we know about. It would be silly to assume cases that have been discovered are the only cases of fraud. Indeed according to a Pew Charitable Trust report from February 2012, one in eight voter registrations are “significantly inaccurate or no longer valid.” Since there are 146 million Americans registered to vote, this translates to a stunning 18 million invalid voter registrations on the books. Further, “More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters, and approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.” Numbers of this scale obviously provide ripe opportunity for fraud.

Don’t Let Data Contradict My Narrative

Yet in spite of all this, a report by the Brennan Center at New York University claims voter fraud is a myth. It argues that North Carolina, which passed comprehensive measures to prevent voter fraud, “failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” However, this faulty reasoning does not point to the lack of in-person voter fraud, but rather to lack of enforcement mechanisms to identify and prosecute in-person voter fraud.

The science of criminal justice tells us that many crimes go unreported, and the more “victimless” the crime, the more this happens. The fact is, a person attempting to commit voter fraud is very unlikely to be caught, which increases the incentive to commit the crime.

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is a sophisticated, comprehensive effort to catalog “the number and types of crimes not reported to law enforcement authorities.” However, it tends to deal mostly in violent crimes. As complex as the NCVS is, gathering accurate data for unreported victimless crimes such as voter fraud is even harder, since 1) outside of the criminal, no one may know a crime has taken place, and 2) there is no direct victim to report the crime in the first place. Yet we are expected to believe that, unlike violent crime, voter fraud is limited only to the cases that are actually reported and prosecuted? This is a senseless position.

Further, the Brennan Center report argues that because prosecutor Kris Kobach’s review of 84 million votes cast in 22 states found only 14 instances of fraud referred for prosecution (which amounts to a 0.00000017 percent fraud rate), voter fraud is so statistically small that it’s a non-issue. Let’s follow this logic. Does the fact that 109 people were cited for jaywalking in Seattle in 2009 mean that only 109 people jaywalked in Seattle that year? Does the fact that 103,733 people were cited for driving without a seatbelt in Tennessee in 2015 mean that only that many people were driving without seatbelt in Tennessee in 2015?

Absolutely not. This can be proven easily because in 2014, the previous year, only 29,470 people were cited. The disparity is largely due to increased enforcement efforts in 2015. In other words, increasing enforcement of the crime revealed a much larger number of people committing the crime.

The exact same is true for voter fraud. We have no reason to believe that the low number of prosecutions means only that exact amount of voter fraud is happening. Rather, it could mean a lack of enforcement is failing to reveal the bulk of the violations that are occurring. Thus, as with many types of crimes, especially victimless crimes, the real number of cases is likely significantly higher than the number reported.

How to Effectively Target Voter Fraud

So now that we know voter fraud is a serious issue, what are some solutions to this problem? States like Michigan have Poll Challenger programs, where observers from both parties may be present at voter check-in tables at precincts. They check each voter’s ID against a database of registered voters for that precinct to ensure the person attempting to vote is actually legally qualified to vote in that precinct. If there’s a discrepancy, the poll challenger may officially challenge the ballot. Other states should implement similar programs.

States should sponsor initiatives to remove dead voters and correct the registrations of people registered in multiple states (make them choose just one state). Since many local jurisdictions are reluctant to clean their voter rolls, federal or state oversight with teeth may be necessary.

Further, voter ID laws, such as the one implemented by North Carolina, but (wrongly) struck down by three liberal judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit— one appointed by Bill Clinton and the other two appointed by President Obama—are needed to ensure there’s no cheating with votes. States should continue to press the issue regardless of recent setbacks by liberal activist judges.

Finally, some have claimed that strong voter ID laws are racist, because they disproportionately impact minorities and would prevent minorities from voting. As a black person, I’m naturally interested in this claim. Thankfully, it turns out to be false. The Heritage Foundation has shown that black voter turnout actually increased after North Carolina passed its voter ID law.

Not only was the claimed negative outcome false, but the reasoning was faulty as well. The fact that the law disproportionately impacts minorities does not mean that it is discriminatory. It means, unfortunately, that fewer minorities are in compliance with common-sense safeguards to protect the integrity of our elections (i.e., having a driver’s license or photo ID).

To mitigate this concern, states can offer a service that will take people without valid ID to their local government office to apply for proper ID, free of charge. Users could schedule the pickup with their smartphone or a phone call. That way there will be as few barriers as possible to those who want to vote and are capable of obtaining a valid ID, but cannot due to transportation concerns (a reason often given by those who claim voter ID laws hurt minorities).

So let us not believe false claims that voter fraud doesn’t exist. It’s real, and we must work to stop it, while making sure those who are eligible to vote but without proper ID are accommodated fairly.


When voter fraud doesn’t count as fraud (because the perpetrators say so)

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Billion$ spent to fix failing schools; fail

original article: Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work
January 19, 2017 by Emma Brown

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said in 2009.

Duncan often said that the administration’s school-improvement efforts did not get the attention they deserved, overshadowed by more-controversial efforts to encourage states to adopt new standards and teacher evaluations tied to tests.

The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

He and other administration officials sought to highlight individual schools that made dramatic improvements after receiving the money. But the new study released this week shows that, as a large-scale effort, School Improvement Grants failed.

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

“This outcome reminds us that turning around our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest, most complex work in education and that we don’t yet have solid evidence on effective, replicable, comprehensive school improvement strategies,” said Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman.

Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and is a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Filed under: bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Where culture, politics, and religion meet in America

original article: Tocqueville and Democracy’s Fall in America
January 19, 2017 by Samuel Gregg

For Alexis de Tocqueville, American democracy’s passion for equality was a potentially fatal flaw—one that religion could help address. But what happens when religion also becomes preoccupied with equality?

Over the past year, lots of people, I suspect, have been reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840) as they ask themselves how the United States could have found itself having to choose in 2016 between two of the most unpopular candidates ever to face off for the office of president.

Historical factors contributed to America reaching this political point. These range from profound inner divisions characterizing American conservatism to deep frustration with the political class, as well as preexisting philosophical, cultural, and economic problems that have become more acute.

Tocqueville, however, recognized that such problems are often symptoms of subterranean currents that, once in place, are hard to reverse. A champion of liberty, Tocqueville was no determinist. He nevertheless understood that once particular habits become widespread in elite and popular culture, the consequences are difficult to avoid. In the case of democracy—perhaps especially American democracy—Tocqueville wondered whether its emphasis on equality might not eventually make the whole thing come undone.

The Passion for Equality

When Democracy in America’s second volume appeared in 1840, many reviewers noted that it was more critical of democracy than the first volume. In more recent times, Tocqueville’s warnings about democracy’s capacity to generate its own forms of despotism have been portrayed as prefiguring a political dynamic associated with the welfare state: i.e., people voting for politicians who promise to give them more things in return for which voters voluntarily surrender more and more of their freedom.

This very real problem, however, has distracted attention from Tocqueville’s interest in the deeper dynamic at work. This concerns how democracy encourages a focus on an equality of conditions. For Tocqueville, democratic societies’ dominant feature is the craving for equality—not liberty. Throughout Democracy in America, equality of conditions is described as “generative.” By this, Tocqueville meant that a concern for equalization becomes the driving force shaping everything: politics, economics, family life . . . even religion.

Democracy’s emphasis on equality helps to break down many unjust forms of discrimination and inequality. Women gradually cease, for instance, to be regarded as inherently inferior. Likewise, the fundamental injustice of slavery becomes harder and harder to rationalize.

At the same time, as Tocqueville scholar Pierre Manent has observed, democracies gravitate toward a fascination with producing total equality. Democracy requires everyone to relate to each other through the medium of democratic equality. We consequently start seeing and disliking any disparity contradicting this equality of conditions. Equality turns out to be very antagonistic to difference per se, even when differences are genetic (such as between men and women) or merited (some are wealthier because they freely assume more risks). But it’s also ambivalent about something that any society needs to inculcate among its members: virtue.

The idea of virtue implies that there are choices whose object is always good and others that are wrong in themselves. Courage is always better than recklessness and cowardice. But language such as “better than,” or “superior to” is intolerable to egalitarianism of the leveling kind. That’s one reason why many people in democratic societies prefer to speak of “values.” Such language implies that (1) all values are basically equal, and (2) there’s something impolite if not downright wrong with suggesting that some purportedly ethical commitments are irrational and wrong.

But in such a world, who am I to judge that some of the values espoused by, say, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, or any other political figure for that matter, might reflect seriously defective evaluations of right and wrong? All that would matter is that “they have values.” The truth, however, is that democracies don’t need “people with values.” They require virtuous people: individuals and communities whose habits of the heart shape what Tocqueville called the “whole mental and intellectual state” of a people as they associate together, pursue their economic self-interest, make laws, and vote.

The Religion of Egalitarian Sentimentalism

At the best of times, living a virtuous life is difficult. This is especially true when a fixation with equality makes many people reluctant to distinguish between baseness and honor, beauty and ugliness, rationality and feelings-talk, truth and falsehood. Much of Democracy in America consequently seeks to show how democratic societies could contain their equalizing inclinations.

Some of Tocqueville’s recommendations focus on constitutional restraints on government power. He understood that the political regime’s nature matters. But Tocqueville also believed that the main forces that promoted virtue, and that limited the leveling egalitarianism that relativizes moral choices, lay beyond politics. In America’s case, he observed, religion played an important role in moderating fixations with equality-as-sameness.

Tocqueville didn’t have just any religion in mind. He was specifically concerned with Christianity. For all the important doctrinal differences marking the Christian confessions scattered across America in Tocqueville’s time, few held to relativistic accounts of morality. Words like “virtue,” “vice,” “good,” and “evil” were used consistently and had concrete meaning.

Christianity did underscore a commitment to equality insofar as everyone was made as imago Dei and was thus owed equality before the law. This conviction helped to secure slavery’s eventual abolition. Nevertheless Christianity in America also emphasized another quintessentially Christian theme: freedom—political, economic, and religious. In the United States, the word “liberty” wasn’t associated with the anti-Christian violence instinctively linked by European Christians with the French Revolution.

Religions, however, aren’t immune to the cultures in which they exist. So what happens if a religion starts succumbing to the hunger for equalization that Tocqueville associated with democratic ways? Most often, such religions begin abandoning their distinctiveness, as self-evidently false propositions such as “all religions are the same” take hold. Truth claims and reasoned debate about religious and moral truth are relegated to the periphery. Why? Because trying to resolve them would mean affirming that certain religious and moral claims are false and thus unequal to those that are true.

When Christians go down this path, the inevitable theological void is filled by a sentimentalism that arises naturally from egalitarianism. God is condensed to the Great Non-Judge in the Sky: a nice, harmless deity who’s just like us. Likewise, such Christians increasingly take their moral cues from democratic culture. The consequent emphasis on equality-as-sameness doesn’t just mean that liturgy and doctrine are reduced to inoffensive banalities. The horizons of Christian conceptions of justice also shrink to the abolition of difference. The truth that many forms of inequality are just, including in the economic realm, is thus rendered incomprehensible. In the end, Christian confessions that embrace such positions collapse into pale facsimiles of secular egalitarianism and social justice activism.

A Fatal Combination?

These religions are incapable of performing the role that Tocqueville thought was played by many religious communities in the America he surveyed in the early 1830s. Of course, the object of religion isn’t to provide social lubrication. Religion is concerned with the truth about the divine, and living our lives in accordance with the truth about such matters. However, if religion ceases to be about truth, its capacity to resist (let alone correct) errors and half-truths such as “values-talk,” or justice’s reduction to equality-as-sameness, is diminished.

There’s no shortage of evidence of just how far large segments of American religious opinion have drifted in this direction. We have political operatives demanding, for example, “a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church”—as if the dogmatic and doctrinal truths proclaimed by a 2000-year-old universal church should be subordinated to a twentieth-first-century progressive American conception of equality. Plenty of older Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox clergy offer political commentaries that owe more to John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice than to C.S. Lewis, Aquinas, the Church Fathers, or Christ. For many American Jews, Jewish faith and identity is the pursuit of progressive politics. Such religions cannot speak seriously about virtue (or much else) in the face of the relentless drive for equalization in democracy that so worried Tocqueville.

Politics is clearly shaped by culture. Yet at any culture’s heart is the dominant cultus. America’s ability to resist democratic equalization’s deadening effects on freedom requires religions that are not consumed by the obsession with equality that Tocqueville thought might be democracy’s fatal flaw. For Tocqueville, part of America’s genius was that religion and liberty went hand in hand. In the next few years, America is going to discover whether that’s still true.

culture, freedom, government, history, politics, religion, unintended consequences

Filed under: culture, freedom, government, history, politics, religion, unintended consequences

My 96-percent increase in premiums is a useful, unvarnished look at Obamacare’s effects

original article: My Defective Obamacare Health Insurance Product Just Blew Up
October 27, 2016 by Mary Katharine Ham

Like many other Americans, I got a letter last week. This letter is becoming an annual tradition, arriving on my doorstep in October to inform me of my Obamacare insurance premium hike.

Last year, the letter said my Bronze plan, purchased on the marketplace formed by the, ahem, Affordable Care Act, would increase by almost 60 percent.

This year, my premium is going up 96 percent. Ninety-six percent. My monthly payment, which was the amount of a decent car payment, is now the size of a moderate mortgage. The president refers to these for thousands of citizens as “a few bugs” when to us it feels like a flameout.

For this astronomical payment, I get a plan with an astronomical deductible that my healthy family of three will likely never hit except in the most catastrophic of circumstances.

Let’s rewind to my pre-Obamacare health care situation. Throughout my life and career, I have had both employer-based coverage and significant periods during which I bought private insurance with high deductibles and low premiums. During the run-up to Obamacare, President Obama referred to these plans as “junk” plans, but my family and I received perfectly good care and service through them. We were responsible, healthy citizens consuming a small amount of health care, paying out of pocket for most of it, and making sure we weren’t deadbeats should something catastrophic come to pass. Our health insurance was a rational and responsible purchase.

The President’s Huge, Broken Promises

When President Obama sold Obamacare to the American people, he promised three things. 1) That we could keep our plans if we liked them. 2) That the new system would offer competition between great options through an Obamacare marketplace, and 3) That our premiums would go down. Not “go up slower” or “go up but eventually go down,” but go down— $2,500 was the figure.

The letter I got last week is a betrayal of every one of those promises. I did not get to keep the plan I liked. The new system does not offer competition between great options through an Obamacare marketplace. And my premiums have gone up more than 150 percent in two years.

This was all predictable and predicted, by many (including me!).

Hillary Clinton conceded this reality at the second debate in response to an audience question about the Affordable Care Act. She said, in effect, “It’s not affordable, but it does other stuff.”

“Well, I think Donald was about to say he’s going to solve it by repealing it and getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. And I’m going to fix it, because I agree with you. Premiums have gotten too high. Copays, deductibles, prescription drug costs, and I’ve laid out a series of actions that we can take to try to get those costs down.”

As most apologists for the law do, she listed the handful of things people like the sound of— more people insured, no pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits on out-of-pocket costs, stay on your parents’ insurance until you’re 26!

But those benefits came with added costs, mandates, and overhead, and we’re now seeing the fruits of the whole law in a 25-percent average rate increase. When congressional Democrats were constructing the worst legislative Jenga tower of all time, they called critics’ predictions “lies.”

But here we are with lower-than-expected participation in exchanges, extremely low numbers of healthy young people in the risk pools, and insurance companies jacking up rates or exiting the exchange entirely in an attempt to remain solvent under the weight of increasing benefits for increasingly older, sicker customers.

This in turn leads to less competition on the exchanges, which leads to fewer young and healthy people buying into these terrible and terribly expensive products. The Department of Health and Human Services determined one of every five people shopping on Obamacare’s exchange has only one insurer to choose. This is what the death spiral you may vaguely recall the president dismissing in 2009 looks like.

Buying Really Expensive Junk

I have many blessings, two of which are the means to pay for health insurance and the good fortune not to need much of it. As a result, in the post-Obamacare world, I am a prime gouging target. I’m seeing a 96 percent increase because I am healthy, unsubsidized, and getting fewer and fewer choices. My health care companyabandoned the lowest-tier Bronze option entirely in its attempt to stay solvent, funneling me into a Silver plan with higher levels of care I don’t need at a higher price I don’t want.

My individual deductible is more than two times the high deductible on my old “junk” plan. My family’s deductible is ten times what the IRS defines as a high deductible. I now pay a high premium for a high-deductible plan, while also paying co-pays and out-of-pocket costs, meaning my plan is both junkier and more expensive.

Two points follow from this, neither of which has anything to do with feeling bad for me. But my 96-percent increase in premiums is a useful, unvarnished look at Obamacare’s effects. One, if this is a hardship for me—if I’m sitting around thinking about all the lost opportunity and savings in that giant monthly sum— so are many others who have far less than I do. Even with subsidized premiums, many are finding they can’t afford their deductibles, making their “affordable” health insurance useless.

Mr. Fanning, the North Texan, said he and his wife had a policy with a monthly premium of about $500 and an annual deductible of about $10,000 after taking account of financial assistance. Their income is about $32,000 a year.

The Fannings dropped the policy in July after he had a one-night hospital stay and she had tests for kidney problems, and the bills started to roll in.

Josie Gibb of Albuquerque pays about $400 a month in premiums, after subsidies, for a silver-level insurance plan with a deductible of $6,000. ‘The deductible,’ she said, ‘is so high that I have to pay for everything all year — visits with a gynecologist, a dermatologist, all blood work, all tests. It’s really just a catastrophic policy.’

Further, the system simply funnels customers into far more expensive plans every year unless they go to the semi-functional exchange during November and December to look around for something else. How many miss the letter and open enrollment thanks to living their lives between Thanksgiving and Christmas and end up with a New Year’s present in the form of a new bill they can’t afford?

Punished For Rejecting Expensive Junk

Two, is it any wonder exchange enrollment isn’t what the Obama administration hoped and needed it to be? Putting aside the embarrassing launch debacle (also predictable and predicted by me!), the law has created products that aren’t worth buying. I’m a responsible citizen and single parent of two young children. Let’s think about the incentives this system presents.

It would make far more economic sense to pay the tax penalty for not having insurance, save the monthly payment, and squirrel it away for a catastrophic event that may never occur. Should a catastrophic event occur, work out a payment plan with doctors and hospitals, for which you’d use the squirreled away premiums until the next open enrollment period, at which point you just jump right back into a plan again because they can’t keep you out for preexisting conditions. Should a catastrophic event never occur, you’ve got no small part of a college education put away. My health insurance used to be a rational and responsible purchase. It’s beginning to feel like neither.

There are plenty of young, healthy people the system needs who are finding the same.As the New York Times reported last year at this time:

Alexis C. Phillips, 29, of Houston, is the kind of consumer federal officials would like to enroll this fall. But after reviewing the available plans, she said, she concluded: ‘The deductibles are ridiculously high. I will never be able to go over the deductible unless something catastrophic happened to me. I’m better off not purchasing that insurance and saving the money in case something bad happens.’

Those who support the law during its meltdown suggest jacking up the cost of rejecting this terrible product to make it more painful than the cost of the terrible product. To them, we are but Westley in the Pit of Despair and they are the technocratic torturer at the switch puzzling just how much pain they can inflict without going full Humperdinck and killing the strapping, young patient.

That’s how the Affordable Care Act became neither affordable nor care. It’s almost as if you could have predicted it. Inconceivable!

bureaucracy, economy, government, health care, politics, public policy, reform, tragedy, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, economy, government, health care, politics, public policy, reform, tragedy, unintended consequences

Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong

original article: Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong
August 22, 2016 by Ryan T. Anderson

A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

Here are four of the report’s most important conclusions:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. Mayer is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

McHugh, whom the editor of The New Atlantis describes as “arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century,” is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

Implications for Policy

The report focuses exclusively on what scientific research shows and does not show. But this science can have implications for public policy.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that ‘only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.’

Take, for example, our nation’s recent debates over transgender policies in schools. One of the consistent themes of the report is that science does not support the claim that “gender identity” is a fixed property independent of biological sex, but rather that a combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely shape how individuals experience and express themselves when it comes to sex and gender.

The report also discusses the reality of neuroplasticity: that all of our brains can and do change throughout our lives (especially, but not only, in childhood) in response to our behavior and experiences. These changes in the brain can, in turn, influence future behavior.

This provides more reason for concern over the Obama administration’s recent transgender school policies. Beyond the privacy and safety concerns, there is thus also the potential that such policies will result in prolonged identification as transgender for students who otherwise would have naturally grown out of it.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that “only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

Beyond school policies, the report raises concerns about proposed medical intervention in children. Mayer and McHugh write: “We are disturbed and alarmed by the severity and irreversibility of some interventions being publicly discussed and employed for children.”

They continue: “We are concerned by the increasing tendency toward encouraging children with gender identity issues to transition to their preferred gender through medical and then surgical procedures.” But as they note, “There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents.”

Findings on Transgender Issues

The same goes for social or surgical gender transitions in general. Mayer and McHugh note that the “scientific evidence summarized suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to elevated mental health risks among the transgender population.” Even after sex reassignment surgery, patients with gender dysphoria still experience poor outcomes:

Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about five times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

Mayer and McHugh urge researchers and physicians to work to better “understand whatever factors may contribute to the high rates of suicide and other psychological and behavioral health problems among the transgender population, and to think more clearly about the treatment options that are available.” They continue:

In reviewing the scientific literature, we find that almost nothing is well understood when we seek biological explanations for what causes some individuals to state that their gender does not match their biological sex. … Better research is needed, both to identify ways by which we can help to lower the rates of poor mental health outcomes and to make possible more informed discussion about some of the nuances present in this field.

Policymakers should take these findings very seriously. For example, the Obama administration recently finalized a new Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires all health insurance plans under Obamacare to cover sex reassignment treatments and all relevant physicians to perform them. The regulations will force many physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to participate in sex reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if doing so violates their moral and religious beliefs or their best medical judgment.

Rather than respect the diversity of opinions on sensitive and controversial health care issues, the regulations endorse and enforce one highly contested and scientifically unsupported view. As Mayer and McHugh urge, more research is needed, and physicians need to be free to practice the best medicine.

Stigma, Prejudice Don’t Explain Tragic Outcomes

The report also highlights that people who identify as LGBT face higher risks of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, such as “depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and most alarmingly, suicide.” The report summarizes some of those findings:

Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.

Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41 percent, compared to under 5 percent in the overall U.S. population.

What accounts for these tragic outcomes? Mayer and McHugh investigate the leading theory—the “social stress model”—which proposes that “stressors like stigma and prejudice account for much of the additional suffering observed in these subpopulations.”

But they argue that the evidence suggests that this theory “does not seem to offer a complete explanation for the disparities in the outcomes.” It appears that social stigma and stress alone cannot account for the poor physical and mental health outcomes that LGBT-identified people face.

As a result, they conclude that “More research is needed to uncover the causes of the increased rates of mental health problems in the LGBT subpopulations.” And they call on all of us work to “alleviate suffering and promote human health and flourishing.”

Findings Contradict Claims in Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling

Finally, the report notes that scientific evidence does not support the claim that people are “born that way” with respect to sexual orientation. The narrative pushed by Lady Gaga and others is not supported by the science. A combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely account for an individual’s sexual attractions, desires, and identity, and “there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

Furthermore, the scientific research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than the media suggests. The report notes that “Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80 percent of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.”

These findings—that scientific research does not support the claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable—directly contradict claims made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in last year’s Obergefell ruling. Kennedy wrote, “their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment” and “in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”

But the science does not show this.

While the marriage debate was about the nature of what marriage is, incorrect scientific claims about sexual orientation were consistently used in the campaign to redefine marriage.

In the end, Mayer and McHugh observe that much about sexuality and gender remains unknown. They call for honest, rigorous, and dispassionate research to help better inform public discourse and, more importantly, sound medical practice.

As this research continues, it’s important that public policy not declare scientific debates over, or rush to legally enforce and impose contested scientific theories. As Mayer and McHugh note, “Everyone—scientists and physicians, parents and teachers, lawmakers and activists—deserves access to accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity.”

We all must work to foster a culture where such information can be rigorously pursued and everyone—whatever their convictions, and whatever their personal situation—is treated with the civility, respect, and generosity that each of us deserves.

biology, civil rights, culture, government, homosexuality, ideology, judiciary, justice, politics, science, sex, study

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