Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Eloquence in Defense of Liberty

Mike Adams

On January 27, 2012, the 6th Circuit issued a landmark opinion in Ward v. Wilbanks. It is the biggest federal court victory for campus First Amendment rights since my own victory before the 4th Circuit last April. What is striking about the Ward opinion is the thread of common sense running through every aspect of its analysis. Even more striking is the eloquence of the 6th Circuit as it defends fundamental religious freedom against a full-frontal assault from the LGBT community.

Julea Ward was one of many counseling students being coerced into affirming homosexuality by a state-run institution. She did not seek to force homosexuals to change their conduct through religious-based corrective therapy. She simply sought to refer homosexual clients to other counselors when those clients demanded affirmation of their conduct. Eastern Michigan University sought to force Julea into a cruel trilemma by accepting one of the following options:

1. Lie to clients by telling them she approved of their conduct, or

2. Abandon her religious beliefs regarding sexuality, or

3. Leave the counseling profession altogether.

Julea’s preference was pretty simple: refer homosexual (and some heterosexual) clients to others more willing to affirm their conduct. For this she was expelled from the counseling program. Then the trial court granted summary judgment preventing Julea from having her day in court.

Julea Ward appealed to the 6th Circuit and won a unanimous reversal. The judges concluded that a reasonable jury could have found that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of their own personal hostility toward her speech and faith, rather than a policy against referrals. In other words, that was simply a pretext to punish her for her beliefs.

The 6th Circuit judges wondered out loud just what Julea Ward did wrong. She was willing to work with all clients and to respect the school’s affirmation directives in the process. That is precisely why she asked to refer gay and lesbian clients (and some heterosexual clients) – but only if the conversation required her to affirm their sexual practices. After noting her compliance with the rule, the 6th Circuit raised interesting hypothetical questions. For example, would the ban on discrimination against clients based on their religion require a Muslim counselor to tell a Jewish client that his religious beliefs are correct? Would it require an atheist counselor to tell a person of faith that there is a God?

After suggesting that the answer to both of those hypotheticals would be “no,” the 6th Circuit delivered a line certain to irreparably damage the self-esteem of the Eastern Michigan diversity crowd: “Tolerance is a two-way street. Otherwise, the rule mandates orthodoxy, not anti-discrimination.” In other words, the 6th Circuit accused the institution of promoting intolerance – the very thing it said it was committed to eradicating. Ouch.

The 6th Circuit also noted that many of the faculty members’ statements to Ward raise a similar concern about religious discrimination. They noted that a reasonable jury could find that the university dismissed Ward from its counseling program because of her faith-based speech, not because of any legitimate professional or educational objective. They added, “A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.” Government taxation and regulation of religious beliefs is a serious accusation. Now, the issue will go to a jury.

One interesting aspect of the case is that the university did not even argue that its actions could withstand strict scrutiny. The 6th Circuit agreed adding “Whatever interest the university served by expelling Ward, it falls short of compelling. Allowing a referral would be in the best interest of Ward (who could counsel someone she is better able to assist) and the client (who would receive treatment from a counselor better suited to discuss his relationship issues).”

This is all just plain common sense. Everyone was fine except for a handful of professors with too much time on their hands and too little tolerance for the idea that someone, somewhere, somehow did not share their claimed commitment to moral relativism. Or course, Julea Ward’s professors really do not believe in moral relativism. They believe they are morally superior to Julea and have the authority to levy taxes on her “inferior” belief system.

For years, homosexuals have opposed the idea that they are sick, in need of change, and somehow capable of being cured by the counseling profession. Today, homosexuals promote the idea that Christians are sick, in need of change, and somehow capable of being cured by the counseling profession. Fortunately, the 6th Circuit is Warding off their sanctimonious hypocrisy and narrow-minded assault on intellectual diversity.



Government by Ignoramuses

Abetted by a media that is not much better

The country’s problems, although very serious, aren’t that tough to solve. For anyone with a heartbeat and a healthy does of realism, our biggest problem is government intervention.

This crisis has been brought on by federal intervention in various markets that inject liquidity into too few places that give a sustainable, positive return on investment. Let’s look at three areas where federal dollars dominate: college education; real estate and healthcare.

In college education, the federal government is the only player left. Last year, for the first time ever, student loan obligations exceeded credit card obligations. This year, according to both Heritage and USA Today student borrowing is expected to top $1 trillion.

“Tuition and fees continue to shoot through the roof, now exceeding $17,000 per year, rising on average 8.3 percent at public universities this year,” writes Heritage. “[C]ollege costs have increased 439 percent since 1985, despite a 475 percent increase in federal subsidies such as Pell Grants. In other words, more federal funding hasn’t decreased the cost of attending college.”

In fact, the college inflation rate probably has much to do with the amount of federal aid available to colleges. Colleges, like every other business, raise prices when more money for their products is available.

The cost of a college education is rising so fast that students can’t pay off loans, even with subsidized interest rates from the government. “A recent study by the Institute for Higher Education Policy found that for every borrower who defaults,” writes the New York Times, “at least two more fall behind in payments. The study found that only 37 percent of borrowers who started repaying their student loans in 2005 were able to pay them back fully and on time.”

The government’s solution to the problem of too much money in education is throwing more taxpayer dollars at colleges and universities.

Same is true for real estate. After three decades of subsidizing home ownership in the United States, the federal government helped fuel real estate prices to speculative levels and encouraged the least able to repay to borrow money with government guarantees.

4th quarter foreclosures rates rose again at the end of 2011. “Foreclosure starts…increased this quarter,” write the Mortgage Bankers Association, “the first increase in a year after declining for three straight quarters, and is now back up to the levels of the first quarter of 2011. This is largely driven by loans leaving the loss mitigation process and the ending of state remediation programs and foreclosure moratoria.”

In other words, now that the government has stopped interceding in the private contracts between mortgage holders and home owners, foreclosures are resuming the natural course that they could have taken five years ago. But instead the government has intervened and kept the real estate market and home owners sickly, affecting the whole economy.

According to the FDIC, “The government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the government mortgage insurance program Ginnie Mae together account for more than 95 percent of total MBS [mortgage-backed security] issuance since 2008.”

That hasn’t stopped Obama from proposing the Federal Housing Authority absorb bigger losses or pressuring private banks to make home loans easier to get in continuation of the failed policies of the past. These are the same banks that the federal government is suing for making loans to people who couldn’t afford to repay them.

Remember too big to fail? There are more toxic assets concentrated in fewer and fewer places, most held by the federal government, guaranteed by you and me. And these policies were deliberately crafted by the Obama administration.

The story for healthcare is much the same. The largest customer, insurer and payer for healthcare is the federal government.

And government money, combined with demographics have fueled rising costs for healthcare. “The new numbers are consistent with a trend that from August 2000 to August 2010 has seen healthcare inflation rise 48% while overall Consumer Price Index has risen 26% for the same period, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show,” writes HealthLeaders Media.

Again, Obama’s idea of reform is having the government be the only player in healthcare. You know? Because that worked so well for real estate and student loans.

But the most maddening part in the tale is that financial journalists won’t cover the story. Instead of writing about the deleterious effects of federal involvement in healthcare, real estate, student loans, energy and every other area of our economy that is suffering, they often pose as cheerleaders for the administration.

Covering the latest cooked books from Bureau of Labor Statistic regarding unemployment, Don Lee of the LA Times glosses over the fact that real unemployment is at 11.3 percent rather than 8.3 percent the administration claims. Instead he chooses to take issue with Newt Gingrich’s claim that if people hadn’t dropped out of the labor pool that the “unemployment rate would now be 12% or 13%.”

Well, yeah says Lee. Buuuuuut, “while Gingrich has a point that the latest jobless rate understates the pain among workers, the unemployment figure still wouldn't be as high as he says it would be if workers hadn't dropped out. Rather, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, estimates the unemployment rate today would be 11.3% if the labor force had grown at a ‘normal’ rate since the end of 2007.”

Sure. Gingrich has a point, but his over-estimation of unemployment by seven-tenths of one percent is somehow more dishonest than the administration’s undercounting of unemployment by three full points. You have to go to journalism school to be that intellectually bankrupt?

Those idiot Republicans. Would it really kill Lee to admit that conservatives are r-r-r-r-right on this issue? Probably not. But it would kill something more important to him- his world view.

In fairness to journalists like Lee, they are hobbled by their post-modern desire to live in a world that conforms to their vision rather than having their vision conform to the realities of the world. It’s not their fault. They are just that dumb.



The Smallest Workforce Since Carter

The recent labor reports certainly have some encouraging news. New jobs in January estimated at 243,000 and a decline in unemployment to 8.3 percent suggests that the economy might be headed in the right direction. But, another key indicator that doesn’t get the attention of the jobs number or the unemployment rate shows that all is definitely not well.

As the following graph courtesy of the Labor Department demonstrates, the Labor Participation Rate (LPR) continues to decline. The LPR measures the number of people employed or looking for work compared to the total of age eligible population. As the graph indicates, the LPR has been on decline since the recession began, and it made another significant move downward to just 63.7 percent in January. That is the lowest since Carter era recession year of 1981.

The declining LPR is a clear indication that more Americans continue to give up on even finding employment as the failed economic policies of Barack Obama infect the market place with anxiety and uncertainty. A higher LPR indicates more people bringing home a paycheck and greater economic output. Until there is a sustained turnaround in the LPR, any talk of “recovery” is premature.

Source (See the original for links)


The steady decline of Pakistan

For 65 years Pakistanis have been conducting one of modern history’s great experiments: Can a nation conceived as Islamic be free and democratic-- the vision of Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah? Or will Pakistan’s identity be defined by “forces that want us to live in fear—fear of external and internal enemies."

The words quoted above were spoken by Husain Haqqani to the Wall Street Journal’s Mira Sethi. Until November, Haqqani was Pakistan's ambassador to Washington where he was a popular figure, a proud Pakistani patriot and a liberal-democratic Muslim intellectual tirelessly making the case that Pakistan should be seen as an important ally deserving of respect, moral support and material assistance.

Haqqani is now back in Pakistan – a guest in the home of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and, as Sethi phrases it, the “de facto prisoner of the Pakistani generals whose ire he has provoked.” Beyond the doors of Gilani’s Islamabad residence, Haqqani fears, assassins await.

This is not just about one man: If Pakistan has become a nation that can’t tolerate a Husain Haqqani, Pakistan has become an intolerant nation, a nation in danger of becoming what Haqqani’s wife, parliamentarian Farahnaz Ispahani, has called a “militarized Islamist state.” Certainly, it would be time to stop regarding Pakistan as a friend of the United States.

When I was last in Pakistan, two years ago, on a visit sponsored by the State Department, the U.S. Congress had just approved – thanks in large measure to Haqqani’s efforts – a $7.5 billion aid package. To my shock, this elicited little gratitude and much grumbling. Why? Because American envoys were to ensure that American taxpayer dollars would be spent to alleviate poverty and fight terrorists -- not for other purposes. People were angry with Haqqani for having accepted such “conditionality.”

I recall the U.S. ambassador getting grilled on a Pakistani television program and sounding apologetic. I told anyone who asked – and some who didn’t --- that aid is not an entitlement; that we Americans have every right to specify how our money should be spent; that Haqqani was correct not to complain about such commonsensical restrictions; and that if other Pakistanis disagree they can tear up our checks. No hard feelings....

During my last visit, however, Pakistan was different. Over the course of a single week, four terrorist attacks were carried out -- one of them targeting the Pakistani equivalent of the Pentagon where Taliban insurgents, armed with automatic weapons, grenades, and rocket launchers, fought for 22 hours. I expected such violence to outrage Pakistanis – to make them implacable foes of terrorism and the ideologies that drive it. But that was not necessarily the case.

A too-common view: The Taliban that attacks Pakistanis should be condemned but the Taliban that attacks Americans may be condoned. America, after all, had wronged Afghanistan by abandoning it after the Soviet defeat, and then had wronged it a second time by returning. The self-contradiction in these indictments generally went unrecognized.



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