Chicago Sun-Times Columnist: SCOTUS Abortion Ruling Shows Women are ‘Second-Class Citizens’

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, reliably left-wing columnist Neil Steinberg is disgusted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling against “buffer zones” at abortion clinics, saying that the unanimous decision proves women in the country are “second-class citizens.”

Last week the Court unanimously rejected a Massachusetts law that mandated a 35-foot no-go zone from the street to the entrance of an abortion clinic, a zone where anti-abortion activists were prevented from approaching women attempting to enter.

The anti-abortion activists maintained that preventing them from approaching women entering such clinics was an illegal limit of their First Amendment right to free speech. Every single justice agreed, including all the liberal ones.

But the Sun-Times’ Steinberg feels he knows better than the justices and decided that this re-affirmation of free speech is actually just another way to “deny women their rights.”

Steinberg chose some odd comparisons to illustrate his June 29 article, too. He said that America would be against the SCOTUS decision if “only women got divorced” and anti-divorce activists could confront women at a law office. He also wondered how long America would put up with free speech if people “led bands of believers to try to persuade people not to buy cars” in front of car dealerships.

But his biggest problem was that he thinks the decision is a strike against the “truth” that anti-abortion activists are just like those Westboro wackos who wave signs that read “God Hates Fags” at our veterans’ funerals. He also thinks that anti-abortion activists are “religious fanatics.”

Anti-abortion activists are a “threat,” Steinberg insisted, and the SCOTUS ruling doesn’t take that into account.

The implicit threat, conveyed by tone, volume, proximity and past attacks, carries a burden that the law doesn’t see. Like Westboro, they carefully choose a moment of vulnerability. We are so accustomed to these encounters, so inured with their talk of notional babies, we forget that, stripped of dogma, these are groups trying to press their religious beliefs upon the unwilling.

Claiming that “the powerful always see to themselves,” Steinberg went on to employ some rhetoric about women that old-fashioned feminists might not appreciate. At the end of his piece, he calls women “powerless,” for instance, “particularly young women.” 

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.




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Sandra Fluke on Hobby Lobby: ‘A Woman’s Boss Should Not Have a Say’

Sandra Fluke, whose campaign for free contraception elevated her to national prominence while she was still a law student at Georgetown University, denounced to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case: “A woman’s boss should not have a say in her health care decisions,” Fluke stated on Twitter.

Fluke seems to have misunderstood–or miconstrued–the case. Hobby Lobby sued precisely because it did not want to have a say in, or be forced to pay for, the private contraceptive decisions of its employees. The company, which is run according to the owners’ religious principles, objected to contraceptives that act as abortifacients.

Similarly, CNN’s asked Hobby Lobby’s attorney, Lori Windham, why she wanted to “bring the employer into what should be a very private decision-making process between a woman and her doctor.” Windham’s response: “Hobby Lobby would love to stay out of this, and leave this decision to a woman and her doctor.”

Fluke had earlier said a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would be “a potential catastrophe for women’s rights,” adding: “Corporations are not people. Corporations cannot have religious views.” Fluke recently placed second in the primary for California’s 26th State Senate district, and will face fellow Democrat Ben Allen in the fall.




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Defending the Indefensible: Honour Killings and the Limits of Free Speech

On Tuesday 24 June, the Sydney Opera House announced the cancellation of a talk entitled “Honour Killings Are Morally Justified”, scheduled to be delivered at the annual Festival of Dangerous Ideas by Uthman Badar, a Sydney-based spokesman for the Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. The full statement read as follows:

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is intended to be a provocation to thought and discussion, rather than simply a provocation. It is always a matter of balance and judgement, and in this case a line has been crossed. Accordingly, we have decided not to proceed with the scheduled session with Uthman Badar. It is clear from the public reaction that the title has given the wrong impression of what Mr Badar intended to discuss. Neither Mr Badar, the St James Ethics Centre, nor Sydney Opera House in any way advocates honour killings or condones any form of violence against women.

Simon Longstaff, the executive director of the St. James Ethics Centre, which is organising and curating the Festival, then posted the following statement on twitter:

It is unclear from Longstaff’s use of the passive voice whether he reluctantly assented to the talk’s cancellation or whether it was a decision imposed upon him by the venue. Either way, he was clearly unhappy. But, like the venue, he conceded the title had been “a mistake” unreflective of Badar’s arguments.

The difficulty with this is that by Badar’s own account (which I have yet to see disputed by anyone connected with the event), the title of the session was not his idea, but was suggested by the St James Ethics Centre. He then wrote the talk to order. So if the title really does not match the content, it is because Badar did not deliver on his brief, which was the unambiguous defence of a barbaric practice. In a facebook post, published after the furore erupted but before the event was cancelled, Badar protested that this was indeed the case:

As for the content of my presentation, I wont [sic] be revealing much before the event itself. Surprise, surprise. I will, however, say that the suggestion that I would advocate for honour killings, as understand [sic] in the west, is ludicrous and something I would normally not deem worth of [sic] dignifying with a response. Rather, this is about discussing the issue at a deeper level, confronting accepted perceptions, assumptions and presumptions and seeing things from a different perspective. Is that too much to ask of the liberal mind?

Had the talk’s title been framed as a question rather than an assertion, this would be an acceptable defence. But it wasn’t, so it’s simply an admission by Badar that he had failed to defend the pre-agreed proposition. That this failure is now being used to berate his critics is both an amusing irony and indicative of his lack of integrity.

Read the full article here.


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Why I Can’t Be Both an Economist and a Liberal

In today’s America, I can’t be both an economist and a liberal.

Economists should be bound by facts and reason. And I can’t do that and embrace liberal positions on the minimum wage, climate change, and gender discrimination.

Raising prices for most anything reduces purchases. Simply, if beef or a plumbers’ visit gets too high, folks eat more chicken and fix their own faucets.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as President Obama proposes, would eliminate 500,000 to 1,000,000 jobs. Businesses would be forced to raise prices, lose customers, and lay off employees. Fast food restaurants will use more machines similar to automated checkout devices at drug stores and supermarkets.

Past increases in the federal minimum wage did not have large impacts on employment, because those were in line with inflation, and businesses adopted strategies expecting such periodic adjustments. The minimum wage was last reset in 2009 and raising it one dollar to $8.25 to preserve purchasing power would not cost many jobs.

Jumping it to $10.10 an hour, however, would fundamentally redefine the tradeoffs businesses face regarding unskilled labor and automation. The workers left standing would have more spending power but overall, increasing unemployment by at least 500,000 would take a bite out of GDP and growth from an already anemic economic recovery

Economists, fancying themselves liberal and advocates of the working poor, deny the lessons of hundreds of years of economic theory and history. Most act out of expediency to win favor with the media and powerful politicians.

The erosion of the Antarctic ice shelf and glaciers elsewhere should confirm to even casual observers that global temperatures are rising. Scientists arguing CO2 emissions contribute are not quacks but their prescriptions, and those of the president, have a naïve quality bordering on willful and malicious ignorance.

The new abundance of natural gas and market forces are already rapidly driving down U.S. CO2 emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities. A forced acceleration imposed by the EPA would cost billions of dollars and make economic and environmental problems worse.

With an economy half the size of the United States, China emits almost twice as much CO2. Raising costs for U.S. manufactures through the president’s program will only send jobs to China where production is dirtier and increase global emissions.

Liberals argue by setting a good example the United States can bring China along.

Nonsense! American diplomats have not been able to get Beijing to respond on its undervalued currency or protectionism generally, abandon the use of force to settle territorial disputes in the China seas, or anything else the Chinese Communist Party sees as impairing economic growth or its quest to wrest leadership from the United States on global economic and security issues.

Universities are under constant pressure to ensure wider opportunities for women and as a matter of policy have programs to encourage enrollment, hiring,and promotion of women that discriminate against men.

All the data indicates that boys and young men are not doing as well in high school and are obtaining many fewer college degrees than women.

It seems to me that if American universities must discriminate against men to bring female faculty representation to parity with males—no matter their performance on the basis of objective criteria—it is only reasonable that universities be held accountable for not granting men as many degrees as women.

That has about as much chance of happening as I have to succeed Derek Jeter as shortstop for the New York Yankees. That would make about as much sense as liberal positions on the minimum wage, climate change, and gender discrimination at universities.

Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, national columnist and five-time winner of the MarketWatch best forecaster award. He tweets @pmorici1




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The Rise and Fall of David Cameron’s ‘Boy Genius’ Tech Guru

A former rising star of the Tories’ tech strategy, Rohan Silva was considered the future of the U.K. technology industry. But the Whitehall high flyer’s career has stalled: he’s now an office manager in Shoreditch. His promised “ed tech” startup failed to materialise and questions are being asked about how much he really achieved at Number 10. What went wrong?

“Ro,” 33, who raised royal eyebrows earlier this month when he showed up for a reception with the Queen wearing a pair of Converse sneakers, was one of the darlings of Tech City—the Government’s name for a cluster of technology businesses in east London, of which Silva claims in interviews to have been chief architect.

But, as the dust settles after the failure and mothballing of the Tech City quango, local businesses are scratching their heads, wondering how their cheerleader-in-chief ended up renting out desk space, instead of transforming the future of education, as he so noisily claimed he would when he abruptly left the government.

Silva’s track record in government was impressive, if you believe what you read in the papers, the tech blogs and on his own assiduously maintained social media profiles. And with his tousled hair and natty dress sense, it’s easy to imagine why a man who looks more like a Shoreditch barfly than a traditional senior policy advisor might have impressed the suits in Westminster and the blazers in Mayfair.

Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, the son of Sri Lankan immigrant parents who came to the U.K. in the 1960s, his life before 2004 has been scrubbed from the internet. We only know what he tells the papers: for example, that his wife Kate McTiernan is an architect who specialises in designing mosques.

But he has, in his short career, been showered with honorifics from afar: Massachusetts Institute of Technology granted him research affiliate status last year, and he was made a policy fellow at Cambridge University in 2011, a position which lasted until 2013.

Independent editor Amol Rajan said last year that he was “destined for great things.” A fawning profile appeared in trade rag Tech City News in 2013. (It’s a gruesome read: you can almost see the writer’s erection beneath his gushing prose.) TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher similarly described him as “undoubtedly the prime architect of the U.K. government’s sea change in attitudes towards the tech startup entrepreneur community.”

Silva landed at job at the Treasury in 2004, on what his LinkedIn profile earnestly documents as the “Fast Stream.”

After then working under George Osborne, Silva ended up in David Cameron’s inner circle, alongside Andy Coulson and Patrick Rock. He quickly acquired a reputation as the Tory administration’s man in the know when it came to Britain’s digital economy. Seemingly, no one bothered to ask why Silva was so obsessed with consumer internet startups, the one segment of the technology industry the U.K. has never excelled at.

Silva was given broad license to suggest ideas to improve the conditions for internet startups—or, at least, to give the impression that Cameron’s government would care about the scrappy cluster of digital businesses in east London. (The Tories were anxious in opposition to underscore their entrepreneurial credentials, so Silva was charged with dreaming up eye-catching but inexpensive initiatives to remind the electorate that the Conservatives were the party of small business.)

After a great deal of vacillation and several protracted negotiations with potential employers stretching back as far as 2011, Silva eventually left the government. “Rohan’s too big for Number 10,” one of Cameron’s other advisors told the Independent at the time. Silva briefed several newspapers that he was departing to launch a tech startup that would change the face of education. 

But the startup never launched, and Silva found himself calling in favours at Index Ventures, whose cosy relationship with the Cameron administration had already yielded dividends, with partner Saul Klein appointed the U.K.’s “Tech Envoy” to Israel. Index threw him a bone, and Silva accepted an “entrepreneur-in-residence” position—considered a stopgap for aspiring entrepreneurs who have failed to come up with an idea, raise funding of their own or join a startup. That position lasted a year. 

Now, he runs Second Home, a co-working space in Shoreditch renting out desk space to startups, and is “Chair” of a website called Spacious that also advertises office space. It’s quite the comedown for the man celebrated ad nauseam in the tech press, though perhaps it’s fitting: after all, his crowning achievement, Tech City, has been a horrible failure, its operations quietly rolled into Boris Johnson’s development agency, London & Partners, last year. 

Tech City lost staff, funding and its national remit in the process, and now exists largely as a branding exercise within L&P. Its critics are bolder than ever before: barely a week goes by without an op ed criticising the outfit for inaction or for the negative consequences of its existence, such as prices going up around Old Street. 

Of course, Tech City was championed by an eccentric cast of characters, most hand-picked by Silva, in its short but checkered history. Original chief executive Eric van der Kleij jumped ship before the bad press began to accumulate—though not, of course, to start his own company, since van der Kleij is still the subject of an individual voluntary arrangement, an alternative to bankruptcy.

Silva has made a point of claiming credit for the appointment of Joanna Shields, a former female tech role model who bombed out of a promising career at Google and Facebook to do public relations for the London borough of Islington. She then rapidly distanced herself from her “CEO” title at Tech City and now styles herself “Chairman,” which better befits the reality that she has never been contactable by the public.

(Shields’ only communication with startups has been the unsolicited emails she sends to Tech City CEOs, which offer no option to unsubscribe. That’s against the law, and has earned her the nickname “Spam Queen” among some mean-spirited startup founders.)

Rohan Silva has a reasonable claim to other accomplishments in government besides Tech City, which is perhaps just as well. Yet just how much credit he can claim for policy innovations, and how effective those innovations have been, is the subject of debate. The “entrepreneur’s visa,” for example—useless outside the EU—appears to have been more of a team effort than Silva implies in his Index Ventures profile. 

Silva also claimed he would be “tough on red tape,” as though that were in any meaningful sense within his remit, but businesses say that, if anything, regulations have been increasing over the past few years, thanks to Brussels legislation over which the British government has no control.

Certainly, Silva can be said to have pioneered the science of ingratiating technology blowhards with government departments. Tens of millions of pounds have been spent on public relations since Tech City officially launched in 2011, but the beneficiaries have not been small businesses, who have only seen their rents go up: instead, careerists and vacuous motormouths have had their obeisance rewarded with lavish receptions at Buckingham Palace and press coverage foisted by the government upon credulous journalists.

In one newspaper profile last year, Silva went so far as to claim he “created” Tech City. That came as news to startups, which are the real, organic drivers of growth in the area. In fact it is difficult to establish what, precisely, has been achieved by the government, since its own metrics are so notoriously unreliable, where they exist. 

Numbers that have emerged from the government departments claiming to measure the success of the Tech City initiative, whether they relate to employment, investment or simply the number of companies started, have been plucked from thin air, with the inevitable consequence that no one believes a word anyone in the public sector says any more. 

This unnecessarily lost trust, a lack of credibility and the daily ridicule to which the Tech City project is now subjected, perhaps explain why its mastermind’s accomplishments after government have been so bitterly unprepossessing. But the greatest mystery is how Rohan Silva reduced an entire industry to giggling, infatuated schoolgirls—attracting the sort of praise normally reserved for religious deities—while achieving vanishingly little for businesses suffocated by over-regulation and tax. 




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