Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Hooray! U.S. Supreme Court backs Christian baker who rebuffed gay couple

But how deplorable that it needed SCOTUS for the plain language of the constitution to be implemented.  What a disgrace the State courts are!

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory on narrow grounds to a Colorado baker who refused based on his Christian beliefs to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, stopping short of setting a major precedent allowing people to claim religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

The justices, in a 7-2 decision, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed an impermissible hostility toward religion when it found that baker Jack Phillips violated the state's anti-discrimination law by rebuffing gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012. The state law bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

The court concluded that the commission violated Phillips' religious rights under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

But the justices did not issue a definitive ruling on the circumstances under which people can seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on religion. The decision also did not address important claims raised in the case including whether baking a cake is a kind of expressive act protected by the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Two of the court's four liberals, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, joined the five conservative justices in the ruling authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who also wrote the landmark 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

The baker case became a cultural flashpoint in the United States, underscoring the tensions between gay rights proponents and conservative Christians.

Both sides claimed a measure of victory. The couple's supporters noted that the ruling embraced the importance of gay rights and made it clear that businesses open to the public must serve everyone. The baker's lawyers said the ruling emphasized that the government must respect religious beliefs.

"Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth," Kennedy wrote.

But Kennedy said the state commission's hostility toward religion "was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion."

In one exchange at a 2014 hearing before the commission cited by Kennedy, former commissioner Diann Rice said that "freedom of religion, and religion, has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust."

Kennedy said the commission ruled the opposite way in three cases brought against bakers in which the business owners refused to bake cakes containing messages that demeaned gay people or same-sex marriage.

Republican President Donald Trump's administration, which intervened in the case in support of Phillips, welcomed the ruling. "The First Amendment prohibits governments from discriminating against citizens on the basis of religious beliefs," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

The decision made it clear that even if the court ultimately rules in a future case that bakers or other businesses that sell creative products such as florists and wedding photographers can avoid punishment under anti-discrimination laws, most businesses open to the public would have no such defense.

Kennedy wrote that any ruling in favor of creative professionals must be "sufficiently constrained, lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying 'no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,' something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons."

Of the 50 states, 21 including Colorado have anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people.

The case marked a test for Kennedy, who has authored significant rulings that advanced gay rights but also is a strong advocate for free speech rights and religious freedom.

"The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market," Kennedy wrote.

Mullins and Craig were planning their wedding in Massachusetts in 2012 and wanted the cake for a reception in Colorado, where gay marriage was not yet legal. During a brief encounter at Phillips' Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, the baker politely but firmly refused, leaving the couple distraught. [The poor petals!]

They filed a successful complaint with the state commission, the first step in the six-year-old legal battle. State courts sided with the couple, prompting Phillips to appeal to the top U.S. court.

"Today's decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue," the couple, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are."

Mullins and Craig said Phillips was using his Christian faith as pretext for unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Phillips and others like him who believe that gay marriage is inconsistent with their Christian beliefs have said they should not be required to effectively endorse the practice.

"Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack's religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that," said lawyer Kristen Waggoner of the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Phillips.

Phillips himself was not available for comment.

The litigation, along with similar cases around the country, is part of a conservative Christian backlash to the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling.

The court will soon have the opportunity to signal its approach to handling similar cases. The justices on Thursday are set to consider whether to hear an appeal filed by a flower shop owner in Washington state who refused to create an arrangement to celebrate a gay wedding based on her Christian beliefs.



Globalization is political poison

Martin Hutchinson

Since 1991, globalization has been touted as the solution to all the world’s problems, that will pull emerging markets out of poverty while making rich countries more efficient and competitive. Yet in the last few years, public opinion has soured on it; whenever new measures of globalization are proposed, voters oppose them vehemently. There are good reasons for this.

The simple optimism of Thomas Friedman’s 2005 “The World is Flat” suggested that over time, modern communications would iron out the political differences and economic inequalities between societies, making a harmonious world that was both more equal and richer. Even back then, it was clear that low-skill workers in rich countries would suffer relatively, but it was believed that global growth would be sufficiently rapid to handle the problem. After all, if the best brains of China and India were now able to play a role in driving innovation, surely innovation must speed up enormously from its previous level, with corresponding benefit to global productivity and growth rates.

This has not happened, mainly because the world’s governors have added several other policies into the mix that have nothing to do with classical Ricardian liberalism, the motive-force behind globalization. These policies have turned the fairly marginal benefits available from globalization into gigantic costs, at least as far as the majority of rich countries’ populations is concerned.

The most damaging policy error that globalist governments have made is to over-regulate, using new international bodies to impose regulations from which businesses can’t escape. Before regulation was global, companies that wanted cheap labor or which had an unpleasant manufacturing process could simply locate in an emerging market whose inhabitants would be glad of the jobs. Now that is no longer possible; global environmentalist and labor regulators, and their NGO enforcers chase all over the world, harassing businesses wherever they operate. Only anti-globalist “rogue regimes” are exempt, one reason why popular support for such regimes is growing.

Over-regulation, whether environmental or otherwise, has a doubly damaging effect on the victims of globalization. It slows overall global growth, so that the benefits of globalization may no longer be sufficient to protect the loving standards of the low-skilled in wealth countries. Further, regulations are generally differential in their application, so rich country manufacturers can escape some of the more foolish domestic regulations by relocating manufacturing to the Third World – thereby hollowing out the good blue-collar jobs that the rich country labor force needs.

A second downside of globalization is crony capitalism. In a non-globalized world, companies from all over the world compete, and have competitive advantages only in their own countries. However, as the world globalizes, the major multinationals can buy up or drive out local competitors. Once this happens, the multinationals’ innovation and resulting productivity growth is slowed by their gigantic behemoth size and inefficiency. However, as governments have grown larger and regulations more complex, the multinationals have been able to ally with host governments all over the world to draft regulations that favor them and keep out upstart competitors. Even in the high-tech sector, the symbiotic relationship of Facebook and Google, not with their domestic regulators but with EU regulators, is able to ensure that their global oligopoly is preserved for all time, and not subject to erosion by pesky new competitors. Again, globalization makes cronyism inevitable, and with cronyism comes bloated bureaucracy and sluggish innovation.

A third accompaniment of globalization has been ultra-low interest rates, already set below the optimum level by Fed chairman Alan Greenspan in 1995 and lowered further worldwide with each economic hiccup. On a global scale, these have narrowed the capital cost differential between rich and poor countries, artificially speeding the relocation of rich county industries, since new factories can be erected artificially cheaply in emerging markets. Then, within economies, these low interest rates have encouraged tsunamis of misdirected investment, whether on companies that should have been allowed to die or on over-priced real estate. Millennials now cannot afford urban housing; ultra-low interest rates, in many cases negative in real terms, have driven house prices to artificial and unsustainable levels. By misdirecting capital, low interest rates have also lowered productivity growth, the only means by which living standards can be improved. In general, low interest rates have enriched those with connections, at the expense of everybody else; with globalization, there has been no escape from them.

A moderate amount of high-skill immigration is necessary in a globalized world; you must attract the skills that are not available locally. However, globalization’s proponents have widened this to include massive low-skill immigration, whether on guest-worker contracts or simply illegal, as well as endless floods of refugees. This kind of immigration lowers domestic wages and strains welfare systems, depressing living standards (and indeed quality of life) throughout the economy.

Finally, globalization has been accompanied by a bloating of government spending worldwide. To some extent, governments bloat spending because they can. If interest rates are ultra-low, even negative in real terms, there is no incentive to stop wasting money on boondoggles that may attract votes. However, apart from the unsustainability of most current budget deficits, by bloating government, resources are diverted from their most productive uses to the utterly unproductive public sector. Thereby, real productivity (which may differ from that in GDP accounting, which takes all government activity as beneficial) is once again caused to decline.

In Third World countries also, where controls on corruption are feeble, bloated government spending attracts the “best and brightest” into the public sector, where dodgy money can be made most quickly – the Malaysian 1MDB mess, aided and abetted by Goldman Sachs, is a prime example of this, which should now be punished to the fullest extent of available law. However, allowing democratic change to punish government malfeasance is not a sufficient solution to this problem; it will merely cause the crony globalist governments to rig the political system, as the EU is attempting to do in Italy and elsewhere, to prevent that change from happening.

In theory, globalization should enable poor countries to grow rich, while rich countries also benefit and innovation proceeds at a wildly accelerated pace – that’s what the Ricardian textbooks say. In practice, over-regulation, cronyism, artificially low interest rates, excessive immigration and government bloat have made globalization increasingly damaging to the living standards of ordinary people in both rich and poor countries. That damage to living standards is growing further day by day as the poorly controlled globalist economic system becomes more corrupt and inefficient.

To win an election, therefore, just get your opponents to advocate a thoroughly globalist, international platform (or, within the EU, EU-integration, which comes to the same thing). The voters have seen through the follies of globalization and will duly reward the party that opposes it most vehemently.



Roseanne and the double standard

Who knew we would look back at Roseanne Barr's crotch-grabbing massacre of the national anthem in 1990 and see a mere flesh wound on her career? She embarrassed herself, mocking America in front of America, but her hit show rolled along.

But one egregiously racist tweet destroyed the "Roseanne" reboot of 2018 in a Hollywood minute. Tweeting that former Barack Obama top aide Valerie Jarrett is a mixture of the Muslim Brotherhood and "Planet of the Apes" put an abrupt end to the top broadcast television program of the year.

ABC made the right decision — and the obvious business decision. You cannot compare blacks to monkeys. That is an old, dehumanizing trope. It is viciously mean-spirited to compare President Donald Trump to an orangutan, as many leftists have. But that is a mockery of one man's hair and intelligence, not the rhetorical equivalent of a burning cross.

In retrospect, everyone said ABC should have known this was going to happen. Barr has always been a loose cannon, and her politics have zigzagged from running on the presidential ticket of the nutty-left Green Party all the way over to backing Trump. But the network thrived with the original formula of "Roseanne," and it saw a win-win with a reboot: The show's old audience would tune in, and ABC could sell itself as reaching out to the red states after mysteriously dumping Tim Allen's hit show. The ratings were terrific. Then Roseanne drove the reboot over a cliff.

Dehumanizing tropes about black people don't always destroy careers ... when the black is a Republican. For example, Pat Oliphant didn't stop being the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world after he drew then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a parrot with large lips sitting on then-President George W. Bush's hand in 2008.

This was a trend. Christian Science Monitor cartoonist Jeff Danziger drew a barefoot Rice in a rocking chair saying, "I knows all about aluminum tubes! (Correction) I don't know nuthin' about aluminum tubes ..." In the radical fever swamps, cartoonist Ted Rall drew one with Rice saying, "I was Bush's beard! His house n——!" And a black male character replies, "Now hand over your hair straightener." He is wearing a T-shirt that says, "You're not white, stupid."

Even as "Roseanne" is canceled, let's not congratulate Disney CEO Bob Iger as the King of Televised Civility. This is the same company that dragged its feet for weeks after ABC co-host Joy Behar insulted millions on "The View" when she cracked that Christians like Vice President Mike Pence who act like "Jesus talks to you" have a "mental illness." We protested until Behar apologized on air, and she has since compared Trump to an orangutan, because it's just another day in the Resistance.

Days before the Barr debacle, Disney-owned ESPN rehired Keith Olbermann, fresh off a series of unhinged Trump-hating videos for GQ magazine and a book titled "Trump Is F—-ing Crazy (This Is Not a Joke)." He's also vicious on Twitter, like this tweet to the president and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio: "You and @Potus can go f—- yourselves, you racist Nazi f—-s!" In another tweet, he lectured Republicans with emphasis: "This is the creature you have unleashed



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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