Atheists Drop $1 Billion Church Suit

An atheist group has dropped its attempt to strip American pastors of their tax exemption for housing.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation will not appeal an appeals court decision that said the federal government is allowed to exempt priests, pastors, rabbis, and other religious instructors from paying taxes on the housing they receive, ending an eight-year legal battle. The suit threatened to cost clergymen $1 billion if successful, but Chicago’s Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the foundation argument that such a tax break violated the Constitution’s establishment clause. The three judge panel, citing previous Supreme Court rulings, found that, “Providing a tax exemption does not ‘connote sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity.'”

“Its principal effect is neither to endorse nor to inhibit religion, and it does not cause excessive government entanglement,” the court ruled unanimously in March.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation had until Thursday evening to appeal the suit to the Supreme Court, but allowed it to expire rather than challenge the ruling further. The foundation filed the suit after several officers attempted to have their own income exempted and argued they were discriminated against when they failed to qualify as a minister. Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon that the foundation stands by the merits of the suit. She blamed the make-up of the Supreme Court following President Trump’s appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh for the decision to not pursue the case further.

“We have full confidence in the legal merits of our challenge of the discriminatory pastoral housing allowance privileges,” Gaylor said. “We did not, however, have confidence in the current Supreme Court.”

The Appeals Court faulted the foundation for failing to provide historical evidence demonstrating that any tax break should be seen as a government endorsement of religion. State and local governments in the United States have been giving churches tax exemptions out of deference to their charitable missions, and the federal government began adopting such policies as early as 1802, according to the court.

“FFRF offers no evidence that provisions like § 107(2) were historically viewed as an establishment of religion,” the ruling said. “The government and intervenors, and amici curiae supporting their position, have provided substantial evidence of a lengthy tradition of tax exemptions for religion.”

Religious liberty groups were pleased to see the suit dropped. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a pro-bono law firm that joined the case on behalf of several churches, said the suit threatened to impose a $1 billion burden on clergymen. It would have particularly harmed small churches in low-income neighborhoods. Pastor Chris Butler of the predominantly African-American Chicago Embassy Church, who was represented by Becket, called the end of the case “a victory for all houses of worship.”

“This is a victory for all houses of worship that serve needy communities across the country,” Pastor Butler said in a release. “I am grateful that my church can still be a home for South Side Chicago’s at-risk youth, single mothers, unemployed, homeless, addicted, victims of gang violence and others on the streets.”

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, faulted the plaintiffs for ignoring the extensive carveouts in the tax code that benefit workers of all stripes and said it is misleading to claim only clergy enjoy special privileges granted by the IRS.

“The tax code has long exempted housing allowances for ministers under the same principle that it exempts housing for soldiers, diplomats, peace corps workers, prison wardens, nonprofit presidents, oil executives, school superintendents, teachers, nurses, fisherman, and many more,” Goodrich said. “The court rightly recognized that providing this kind of equal treatment to churches is perfectly constitutional, and churches should be allowed to serve the neediest members of their communities without the tax man breathing down their necks.”

Other religious liberty activists said they do not expect the fight to end with the Seventh Circuit. Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, welcomed the conclusion of the suit, but said he expects atheist groups to continue chasing religion from the public square.

“Church tax exemptions, including for housing allowances, have a long history in this country, and the argument that these are somehow unconstitutional is absurd,” Schilling said. “No doubt this will not stop the left from continuing to push the legal envelope in the future as they try to eradicate religion from the public square. But fortunately today, sanity has again prevailed.”

Gaylor said the group feared that its appeal would have been rejected by the Supreme Court or, if it were accepted, “put the kibosh on future challenges.” Gaylor, who led the suit, was “dismayed” to see it come to an end before reaching the High Court. She said she hopes to see a future attempt to bring an end to the exemption.

“We have (secular) faith that someday the Supreme Court composition will again favor the Establishment Clause and be willing to scrutinize this preferential code and declare it unconstitutional,” she said. “By leaving this at the Seventh Circuit level, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is making it possible for another challenge to be taken in the future, and we hope to be part of that.”

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Bolton: America Willing to Talk to Iran But Ready to Retaliate

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States is willing to talk to Iranian leaders to ease tensions but also is set for retaliatory action against Iranian military provocations.

Bolton revealed in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon that intelligence reports over the past month warned of covert attacks in the Middle East and South Asia by Iranian proxies, including the Quds Force, Iranian intelligence operatives, and other Tehran surrogates. The Quds Force is part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Tehran’s Islamic shock troops.

“It’s a very precarious situation,” Bolton said during a meeting in the White House West Wing when asked about the standoff with Iran.

The national security adviser spoke two days before Iran’s latest military provocation on Thursday—sea mine attacks against two tankers transiting the Gulf of Oman near Iran’s coast.

The United States earlier had dispatched the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln and also deployed bombers to the region—clear signs of the danger and steps designed to deter Iranian action as well as retaliate for attacks.

“The National Security Strategy lists Iran as one of the four top threats, and we just need to be sure we’ve got the capability to deter them from these kinds of activities, threatening American lives and facilities, threatening the international oil market,” Bolton said of the deployment of military forces. Additional forces could be dispatched in the coming days.

On Iranian provocations, Bolton issued a blunt warning: “They would be making a big mistake if they doubted the president’s resolve on this.”

“We’re very concerned about the dangers of the Quds Force and Iranian intelligence operatives and others through surrogates—Shia militia groups in Iraq, the Houthi in Yemen posing threats to commerce in the Red Sea, targets in Saudi Arabia, American personnel and facilities in Iraq, the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and in Afghanistan,” he said.

The intelligence indicates the Quds Force and Iranian intelligence are planning attacks on these targets carried out in “deniable” ways designed to mask Tehran as the source, he said.

The Iranians are “acting as if it’s the Obama administration and that they don’t really fear American capabilities,” Bolton said. “And they are in deep economic trouble in Iran as a result of the president’s termination of the nuclear deal and the reimposition of sanctions.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Iran was behind two mine attacks, including a Japanese ship that was left with a large hole in the side by the mine blast.

The attack came as Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Tehran to convey an offer from President Trump for talks.

On Sunday, Pompeo said a range of response options, including military retaliation, are being studied. “We’ve briefed the president a couple of times. We’ll continue to keep him updated. We are confident we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence, which is our mission set,” he said on CBS.

Video released by the Central Command showed what officials said is an IRGC patrol boat removing an exploded magnetic mine from the hull of a damaged Japanese tanker, the Kokuka Courageous.

The command, in charge of military forces in the Middle East, said in a statement the two ships were damaged in a “limpet mine attack” in the Gulf of Oman. Several Iranian vessels were near the attacks including a Hendijan-class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast-attack craft, CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement.

The vessel seen removing the mine was described as “an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat.”

“Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce,” Urban said, adding a warning: “The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.”

Bolton said the president has stated since the 2016 campaign that he is ready to meet Iran’s leader for talks and would be ready to work on a deal with Tehran “assuming they give up nuclear weapons and stop the other malicious activity that they’re engaged in.”

“That doesn’t mean he’s compromising his substantive position. It means, as with North Korea, he’s prepared to talk about what the future will be once they give up their nuclear and other unacceptable activities,” Bolton said.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that he appreciated Abe’s meeting with Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini, but added: “I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!”

Bolton said the threat of Iranian-backed attacks “very definitely” is continuing.

“A lot of preparations for the threat continue,” he said, noting mine attacks, an attack on a Saudi pipeline, and a rocket attack near a U.S. embassy that appeared linked to Iran.

The latest tensions with Iran began after Trump pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year over concerns Iran will continue developing nuclear weapons in secret under the agreement.

The Trump administration also has reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.

Bolton said Iran did not anticipate the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and thought that other signatories to the Obama-era deal would provide economic benefits despite the U.S. pullout.

That has not been the case. According to Bolton, Iran is now threatening to exceed several key provisions of the nuclear deal including limits on uranium enrichment and heavy water storage.

A recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency stated that Iran has violated the deal by using highly sophisticated centrifuges that are not permitted under the deal, he said.

Bolton said the IAEA board of governors was meeting soon “and there’s no doubt in the minds of IAEA that uranium enrichment has increased.”

“It’s not just the more sophisticated centrifuges but the pace of production, the pace of enrichment has picked up, and so it threatens the various limits in the JCPOA that the Iranians have said they’ll violate, they’ll exceed beginning July the 8th,” he said.

Iran announced May 8 that it would exceed JCPOA limits in 60 days unless the Europeans provided them with tangible economic benefits.

“So we’re more than halfway through that period and again because of the effectiveness of the Trump administration sanctions, there are not going to be tangible economic benefits,” he said.

Trump said Friday the IRGC vessel seen near the damaged ship is proof “Iran did do it” and that removing the mine was an attempt to hide Iran’s role in the attack.

The president criticized the Iran deal as “an outrage” made by President Barack Obama that he said would allow Iran in five or six years to “be allowed to make nuclear weapons.”

“They cannot have nuclear weapons. They understand they are not going to have nuclear weapons,” the president said on Fox News Channel.

Asked if Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz through which handles up to 30 percent of the world’s oil, Trump said: “Well, they are not going to be closing it. If it’s closed it’s not going to being closed for long and they know it, and they have been told in very strong terms and we want to get them back to the table if they want to go back. I am ready when they are but whenever they are ready it is okay. In the meantime I am in no rush.”

Asked to comment on the statement from Khamenei that the president was not “worthy” of meeting for talks, Trump said wryly, “I’m glad he likes me so much.”

Trump said the American pressure campaign on Iran had caused Tehran to pull back in the region. “I’m not looking to hurt that country but they can’t have a nuclear weapon,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

Bolton was asked about an apparent pro-Iran influence campaign seeking to portray him as differing from the president and seeking to lead the United States into a conflict with Iran. The U.S. media, he said, has been assisting in the disinformation campaign on several fronts.

“It’s probably not surprising but we’ve seen real evidence that it’s not just Iran, it’s Venezuela and North Korea that have adopted this strategy of trying to separate the president’s advisers from the president,” he said. “And not surprisingly the stenographers in the American media pick that up and run with it as if it’s a real story.”

Inside the administration, the disinformation is not having any effect but the mainstream media are continuing to echo Iran’s propaganda. “You know, they get a new tweet from the foreign minister of Iran and that’s another news cycle for them,” he said.

On Venezuela, Bolton said the administration is continuing to pressure the Marxist-backed regime of Nicolas Maduro while increasing pressure on Cuba, which is providing support to the Maduro regime.

“The opposition in Venezuela came very close on April 30 to overthrowing the regime,” he said. “It was a disappointment for them and the over 50 governments that support Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president.”

Bolton said he is confident the Maduro regime will eventually be toppled. Senior regime figures are “like scorpions in a bottle,” he said.

“They don’t trust each other,” he said. “It’s just not going to be in power for a sustained period of time. The opposition continues to talk to people. They continue to show how they can have a peaceful transition of power. Life within the country is suffering after 20 years of total misrule, and conditions continue to worsen. So the importance of getting a peaceful transition of power is actually greater now than before to ease the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

The administration’s strategy seeks to force the estimated 15,000 Cuban military and security personnel out of Venezuela. The administration recently tightened sanctions against travel to Cuba in a bid to pressure Havana.

“If by magic we could make them disappear and go back to Cuba immediately it would be a very short period of time before Maduro fell,” Bolton said. “And that’s what’s so ironic here. You’ve got an imperial power, Cuba, in effect ruling Venezuela. And what’s the benefit, what’s the reason Cuba does this? They get their oil at substantially below global market prices from Venezuela.”

The people of Venezuela, by contrast, receive no benefit from the Cubans, he said.

The administration is studying several other additional measures aimed at pressuring Cuba.

“There are additional designations of individuals in Venezuela and Cuba,” he said. “We’re going to do more to prevent the transfer of oil from Venezuela to Cuba. Obviously, every time we put sanctions in place, the Maduro regime tries to evade them, so we’re looking at new ways to prevent that.”

Bolton said that while it has become clear that the Maduro regime will eventually be ousted, it is possible another player in that regime could take over. “But once the rocks start rolling downhill, the regime itself is unsustainable,” he said.

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Josh Hawley Versus the Machine

If you were looking for a David to the multi-billion-dollar, big-tech Goliath, you could do worse than Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.).

Since arriving to the Senate in January, Hawley has made a name for himself as a Silicon Valley skeptic. In March, he attracted attention for his heated cross-examination of Google executives. And in May, he delivered a provocative speech at the Hoover Institution in which he called “the entire social media economy” a “source of peril” for America.

Hawley has also put his legislation where his mouth is. He has floated four separate bills meant to regulate tech: an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal Do Not Track right, a limit on how video sites serve content containing children, and a ban on “loot boxes” in video games marketed to kids.

This last bill, in particular, has attracted derisive attention from critics, who dismiss it as of a kind with the craze for video-game regulation in the 1990s. Video games, social media—is it really fair to bring so much rhetorical and legislative pressure to bear on toys and sites for chatting with your friends?

But, as he explained in a wide-ranging conversation with the Washington Free Beacon, Hawley views his legislative work as part of a deeper critique of how tech firms, often heralded as the future of America, have designed a profit model driven more by addiction than innovation.

“One motivation [of the loot box bill] is to protect children from exploitative practices that are targeted directly at them,” Hawley said. “And I think it gets to a broader question about what video game companies, social media companies, are doing employing exploitative practices, addictive practices, in their business model, often aimed at kids, in order to make money. Is this really something that we want to countenance?”

The business models of many tech companies do differ radically from those of traditional firms. When we interact with real-world businesses, we usually trade money for whatever they sell, whether it is a hamburger or repairs to your house. But many popular tech products, like Facebook and YouTube, provide their content to users for free and make their profit off collecting data and then serving personalized ads. Video games increasingly work in much the same way, providing a “free-to-play” experience that users can really only compete in if they buy in-game content.

Hawley’s view is that this profit model naturally lends itself to practices that encourage addictive behavior. Thus loot boxes: cheap in-game items that cost money to open, which randomly spit out an item, usually worthless but sometimes rare. The concept, which encourages users to buy many boxes to get a sought-after in-game prize, is reminiscent of casino slot machines. The result, as tech site the Verge recently documented, is that players can spend thousands of dollars on games that are nominally “free.”

Hawley is not the only one concerned about this dynamic. His loot box bill is co-sponsored by two Democrats, Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.). Sen. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) told the Verge that she is also interested in more regulation. And overseas, fifteen members of the Gambling Regulators European Forum signed a letter in September saying they fear the risks of “blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming.”

Most of Hawley’s proposals are specifically aimed at restricting tech firms from reaching children. As he put it, he wants to stop firms from “exploiting children by putting little casinos on their phones…to make a buck,” emphasizing that “we don’t allow casinos to target children and minors.” Kids have been known to spend thousands of dollars (or pounds) of their parents’ money on in-game purchases.

But risks to children are only one part of a bigger picture for Hawley. After all, social media’s profit model is not so dissimilar from the harmful dynamics he has identified in video games. The whole business is built on selling personalized ads to users (kids and adults). To do this, and to collect the data needed to personalize ads, social sites need to keep users clicking.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'” Facebook co-founder Sean Parker told Axios in a 2017 interview. “[Features like likes and comments are] exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“When it comes to social media companies,” Hawley said, “they make sure that they’re getting the maximum attention of kids—and adults, too—getting them to spend as much time as possible on their platforms, so that they can extract as much personal information as possible, monetize that, and of course have a wide audience for their ads. This is the model that they’ve developed and we need to do better.”

This model is enormously profitable, to the tune of $100 billion dollars in 2018. But it’s also seen big tech mired in controversy, most recently when New York Times reporting discovered that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was helping pedophiles identify videos of children. (As mentioned, Hawley has a bill to fix that.) But even for normal people, algorithms designed to keep you clicking will inevitably reward compulsive behavior.

This is especially problematic because of social media’s ubiquity. The Pew Research Center found that at least 75 percent of Americans use social media; majorities report checking sites like Facebook and Snapchat “several times a day”—the most frequent usage option Pew asked about. When 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone, tech firms are, as Hawley put it, “omnipresent in American life.”

This enormous reach, and massively profitable business model, has allowed large tech firms to accrue a great deal of financial power. And they are mobilizing to convert that into political power: As the New York Times recently reported, just four firms—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—spent a combined $55 million on lobbying last year alone.

With this “lobbying army” will come arguments that tech firms are this century’s exemplars of American innovation. And that is the heart of what has Hawley up in arms.

“Big tech has held itself out as the model of the American future, and as the model of the future economy. So I think we need to ask some hard questions there about what future it is that they are presenting to us,” Hawley said. “Is it a future built around an addiction economy? Is the great innovation that we’ve promised for all these years really just souped-up ad-based platform?”

“Is that going to be the great innovation of the 21st century?” he asked. “I certainly hope not.”

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Ocasio-Cortez: Biden’s Answers on Touching Haven’t ‘Convinced All Women’

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Sunday questioned the Democratic old guard’s credibility on gender issues, citing former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden.

On ABC’s This Week, the freshman Democrat took issue with Clinton getting a “pass” on his sexual misconduct and Biden causing women “discomfort” with how he touched them. She told anchor Jonathan Karl that Biden not being suspected of serious sexual misconduct doesn’t mean he’s “sufficiently answered” accusations from women of inappropriate touching.

“I think that is an issue where there is a struggle, I’ll be completely honest. I don’t think he has—I wouldn’t say it’s an incredibly severe—like I don’t think voters think that he’s necessarily guilty of sexual misconduct or anything like that,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I do think that there may be some discomfort, especially seeing some clips this week and, you know the week before, telling a 13-year-old, telling her brothers to watch out for her, and I think there are some things with female voters that it’s just not quite locked down.”

She went on to talk about how there’s a “cultural evolution” going on in the United States and she doesn’t believe it’s about “being punitive” in these situations, prompting Karl to ask whether she believes Biden has conveyed his feelings about this yet.

“I don’t think he’s necessarily convinced all women, but I also don’t think that he’s, you know—people tend to interpret these situations as completely one way or another,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Is he a bad person or is he a good person? I don’t think it’s about that.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she would support Biden if we won the nomination but didn’t appear to signal support for him compared to the other candidates. She said she’d prefer a Democratic nominee who is “exciting” to everyone regardless of their gender, race, or income bracket.

Karl also asked about Biden’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion. Ocasio-Cortez said supporting federal funds for abortion should be a baseline for all candidates, and she rolled out the novel argument that it is “not about abortion.”

“Well, I’m encouraged by the fact that [Biden] is now against the Hyde Amendment. I think it’s a very base level where all candidates need to be,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I’m excited to be introducing a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, via amendment—we’ll see where it goes—for incarcerated women and the maternal and reproductive health care of incarcerated women should be guaranteed as it is with all women in the United States.”

“The Hyde Amendment is not about abortion per se,” she added. “The Hyde Amendment is truly about equality of health care and health care access for low-income women and women of color and women that get caught in our mass incarceration system.”

Karl directly asked whether Democrats made a mistake in giving president Clinton a pass for almost two decades despite numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and his impeachment after lying under oath about a sexual relationship with a White House intern. Ocasio-Cortez said, “probably,” and then shifted the conversation to the gender pay gap, paid leave, and the treatment of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I think that when it comes to President Clinton—I think that it’s not just Democrats. I think that we have historically, from Anita Hill to the present day, I think that women have historically beared [sic] a lot of difficulty, adversity in the work place,” she said.

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Jackson Lee (D) Calls Conyers ‘Honorable’ Despite Resigning Over Sexual Misconduct

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas) on Saturday called the disgraced former congressman John Conyers (D., Mich.) “honorable” while she discussed his push for a commission on reparations.

Jackson Lee appeared on MSNBC’s PoliticsNation to discuss reparations when she made the comment about Conyers. Host Al Sharpton mentioned how Jackson Lee is the new sponsor of House Resolution 40, which was first proposed by Conyers in 1989 to study reparations.

“You are starting an inquiry in Congress. What will happen Wednesday and where do you want to see this go?” Sharpton asked.

“This commission—and I’m delighted to have this bill and to push it into a 21st century—was first introduced in 1989 by my friend and colleague, the honorable John Conyers,” Jackson Lee said.

She went on to say she wants the call for reparations to be a “constructive dialogue” on the issue of discrimination and the impact of slavery and its aftermath.

Conyers was pressured to resign in December 2017 after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including a $27,000 settlement Conyers reached with a former employee. He was one of various political figures felled by the MeToo movement to expose sexual misconduct by powerful people, such as former Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) and former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Initially, Jackson Lee dodged a question on whether Conyers should resign, saying the decision should be left up to him, calling him a “patriot.” She would later anger members of the Congressional Black Caucus after she persuaded Conyers not to announce retirement yet, causing the controversy to make headlines for another five days.

Jackson Lee was the one to announce Conyers’s resignation on the House floor. Later she praised his legacy and decision to resign rather than be a “distraction” for Democrats.

“I think the legacy of John Conyers will speak for itself,” Jackson Lee said. “His last words were that he didn’t want to be a distraction and that he will continue to fight for jobs, justice and peace.”

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Buttigieg Repeats Call for Northam, Fairfax to Resign

South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Saturday repeated his call for Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to resign.

A day after Buttigieg attended a fundraiser at the Alexandria, Va. home of  Northam’s deputy counsel, Jessica Killeen, he echoed his previous call for Northam to resign after it was revealed that his medical school yearbook featured a pair of people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb respectively. Buttigieg made the comments at the Black Economic Alliance Presidential Forum in Charleston, S.C.

CNN reporter Dan Merica mentioned how Buttigieg was headed to Richmond, Va. later Saturday night for the Blue Commonwealth Gala dinner and then asked him whether he still believed Northam and Fairfax needed to go.

“Who needs to step down?” Merica asked.

“My views on that haven’t changed since the last time I spoke out about that,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg was one of the first 2020 presidential candidates to call for Northam to resign. He would later call for Fairfax to resign after two women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault—once in 2000 at Duke University and another time in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. He called the allegations “extremely disturbing.”

Merica pressed later to clarify whether Fairfax was included in his call for resignation, prompting Buttigieg to say, “Yeah, I have nothing to add further from last time we talked about that.”

Northam and Fairfax were both absent from the Blue Commonwealth Gala on Saturday night, according to NBC reporter Gary Grumbach.

Fairfax was ready to donate $2,500 from his political action committee to the Democratic Party of Virginia back in April for a table at the event, but the state party would not accept the donation, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“The Lt. Governor’s We Rise Together PAC was planning to have a group of African-American pastors and other supporters sit at his table. He is innocent and has passed two polygraphs and repeatedly called for an investigation,” Fairfax’s spokeswoman Lauren Burke said. “DPVA has assumed he is guilty of a violent criminal act with no investigation or even a conversation to ascertain his version of events.”

“This is beyond comprehension for a state party claiming dedication ‘to the preservation of all the rights enumerated in Article One of the Constitution of Virginia,” Burke said. “That Article, of course, provides for due process of law. If the Lt. Governor can’t receive due process from his own party how can we assume the average Virginian can?”

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Schakowsky Pushes Back on Omar Suggesting Critics Were ‘Weaponizing’ Anti-Semitism

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) on Saturday gave Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) some pushback after she suggested some critics were “weaponizing” anti-Semitism to silence her.

Both female Democrats appeared on CNN’s Van Jones Show together, where they had a dialogue about the dangers of anti-Semitism and bringing Muslims and Jews together.

“I want to say there are people who are genuinely interested in fighting anti-Semitism,” Omar said. “Then there are those who are interested in weaponizing anti-Semitism to shut down debate on whatever they might not agree on and vilify anybody that they may not want to have any kind of platform to have influence.”

Omar then attempted to give herself cover over previous anti-Semitic statements by saying she wrote an op-ed in her local newspaper shortly after she won her election about the importance of fighting anti-Semitism, adding that she believes there is “connection” between her “oppression” and the oppression of Jewish people.

Schakowsky then jumped into the conversation to push back against Omar’s “weaponizing” comment.

“Let me just say though—I think some of the people who were upset about what they heard as anti-Semitism keyed into the—[they] were not necessarily trying to weaponize them. This was a genuine feeling,” Schakowsky said.

“Not just some, a lot of the people,” Omar said, attempting to clarify.

Omar later interjected while Schakowsky was talking about their working relationship, adding there were “a lot of very loud people who might not have a genuine concern.” Schakowsky then continued with her statement.

“One of the motivations for me to be public along with Ilhan was to help those people to understand where I was coming from, but even more importantly where she is coming from,” Schakowsky said.

In addition to her AIPAC and “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” comments, Omar has a history of using anti-Semitic rhetoric and supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, as the Washington Free Beacon has reported:

Omar, after first wondering why Jewish Americans would be offended, recently said she used unfortunate language in a 2012 tweet where she wrote Israel had committed “evil” acts and “hypnotized the world.” She recently compared Israel to Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and said she was amused at the idea of the Jewish state being considered a democracy.

In addition, she and Tlaib support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS. The BDS movement has links to Palestinian terrorist organizations. The Anti-Defamation League has condemned it, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said BDS is anti-Semitism in action.

When asked by a CNN reporter last week why she supported BDS, Omar immediately walked away.

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Hickenlooper: All the Other 2020 Candidates Are Just Talk

Former Colorado governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper on Saturday took a shot at his Democratic opponents by saying he’s the only presidential candidate who has “done the things that everyone else is just talking about.”

Hickenlooper appeared on CNN’s Smerconish to discuss his presidential campaign and how he and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have taken shots at each other in their respective presidential campaigns. Hickenlooper publicly criticized Sanders’s embrace of socialism, and Sanders fired back on Twitter with a clip of former Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt going after his critics for how they oppose his programs, including Social Security.

After playing the clip, host Michael Smerconish told Hickenlooper he believes Sanders was trying to convey that Hickenlooper would have opposed Social Security during the era of the New Deal, prompting the former governor to say Sanders was comparing apples to oranges.

“I mean, the bottom line is Social Security—the worker paid a little. The employer paid a little. It wasn’t a massive expansion of government,” Hickenlooper said. “When he talks about universal health care coverage and Medicare for All, he’s expecting 160 to 180 million Americans to give up the private insurance that many of them want to keep. I mean, there’s no relationship.”

He then shifted to talk about how Roosevelt was also a governor before he became president and how he got things done in New York where he governed.

“I look at all the people running right now and I feel like I’m the only person who’s actually done the things that everyone else is just talking about,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper is one of three current or former Democratic governors running for president. Gov. Steve Bullock (Mont.) and Gov. Jay Inslee (Wash.) are still currently serving in their respective states.

The post Hickenlooper: All the Other 2020 Candidates Are Just Talk appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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This Father’s Day, Thank Dad for His Hard Work

Dads are sometimes labeled lazy, but they don’t deserve to be, a new research brief from the Institute for Family Studies argues.

In the past several years, both entertainment media and the think-piece-industrial complex have tended to paint a not-so-friendly pictures of dads. Moms are said to be suffering under “second-shift motherhood,” while the “working dad” commands less and less respect, thanks to the perception that he does not pull his weight.

But is every dad really a shiftless Homer Simpson? Not quite, according to new work by IFS research fellow Robert VerBruggen. In honor of Father’s Day, he looked at data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), a time diary study that tracks how Americans spend our days.

“Among married couples living together with kids, if anything, it’s dads who do more work in total—adding up paid work, housework, child care, and even shopping,” VerBruggen wrote. “Moms do work more in some specific circumstances, but the data acquit fathers as a group of the slacking charges so frequently leveled against them.”

To reach this conclusion, VerBruggen looked at the behaviors of respondents to the ATUS who were married, with kids, and living with their spouse. Combining data on how much time parents report spending at work, doing household chores, and caring for kids shows that in the aggregate men outpace women. Specifically, dads do about 59 hours of work per week, while moms do about 55.

Part of this finding is a function of difference between the two groups—if moms are more likely to stay home and work less, and dads go to the office, that could explain the gap. But VerBruggen compared working moms and dads apples-to-apples and found that in all but one configuration, dad put in more time.

The above chart shows that when mom and dad both work—even when they both work full-time—dad works slightly more. Only in one situation (to be discussed below) do dads do less work: when they are staying at home, while their wives work full-time.

It is worth emphasizing that VerBruggen looked only at married different-sex couples with kids. These data do not, for example, cover the one-third of children living with a single mother; they also do not cover same-sex couples, who represent a small fraction of all married couples but tend to divide responsibilities up differently.

That said, we can understand why married heterosexual men work more in toto by breaking down work activities. Using VerBruggen’s data (which he provided to the Free Beacon), we can look at three broad categories: employment, household chores, and childcare.

The underlying trend should be unsurprising: Men do less work at home, but more on the job, and so do more work overall. Some point to this as evidence of gender inequity, with women kept at home and men out in the workplace. But VerBruggen thinks that much of this gap is explained by preference, pointing to surveys finding that women generally prefer either no or only part-time work, and evidence that such disparities exist even in highly gender-equitable countries like Sweden. What is more, even if preferences do not adequately explain the gap (and systemic factors are at play), it would only be fair to call dads lazy if labor force work is less strenuous or valuable than household work, a claim few would agree with.

The gender labor gap has persisted even as the American labor/household division has become more gender-equitable. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of dual-income families has risen from 49 percent in 1970 to 66 percent in 2016 (VerBruggen’s previous research has explored the class composition of these new working moms).

But the gap has shrunk some: Pew found that dads today spend 2.5 times longer on housework and 3.2 times longer on childcare than they did in 1965. In other words, dads have taken on more household responsibilities while still doing the lion’s share of the job-market work, a reality which helps explain why they do the most work in total.

What about those men who stay at home? VerBruggen specifically isolated respondents to the ATUS who both did not work and were not disabled. His finding replicates the conclusions of political demographer Nicholas Eberstadt’s monograph Men Without Work, which finds that men out of the labor force spend substantially less time on childcare and household chores than their female counterparts. What is more, the number of these men has been steadily growing over the past several decades.

It is not clear why this is. As Eberstadt recently argued, we do not even really have the numbers needed to tell us. And there is an open debate about why those men have dropped out of the labor force, whether they can be induced back in, and why they seem so reticent to take up household labor.

But while this share of the population is growing, it still remains a distinct minority. Most dads—at least in married families—work, and in fact do the most work on average. So, VerBruggen concludes, “we should stop whining about dads as a group not doing their share of the work their families depend upon—because that’s not true.”

The post This Father’s Day, Thank Dad for His Hard Work appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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A Short but Shining Path

Beast Mode Omar reads the caption over the portrait of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) pasted to the electrical box on a street just outside Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. There are more like it posted throughout Adams Morgan, as well as portraits of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) with a similar message: Beast Mode AOC.

Across the street from the signs, a group of people is gathering in Rabaut Park around an elderly man wearing a faded Democratic Socialists of America t-shirt. This is Bill Mosley, an amateur historian who’s about to lead today’s DSA-sponsored event, “Radicals in the Hood,” a walking tour of socialist activity in D.C.’s most famous historically black neighborhood.

“This was the character of Adams Morgan: activism, taking charge of your own destiny,” he says as the last stragglers approach him. “There’s still some of that character today, even though all these neighborhoods are undergoing rapid gentrification.”

There are about 20 people circled around Mosely, and most look to be at least a generation younger than him. No wonder. Since the DSA ballooned in size following the 2016 election, it now boasts about 50,000 dues paying members, way up from the roughly 6,000 filling its ranks in 2015. And they’re young, too: The DSA’s median age was 33 in 2017, down from 68 in 2013. Long gone are the ’90s, when Mosely and some friends kept the fire burning at a “DSA commune” in a derelict apartment building across from Meridian Hill Park.

Of course, some growing pains have accompanied the DSA’s sudden success. Despite its flagship members of Congress—representatives Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Ocasio-Cortez—the organization still struggles to appeal to minorities and women.

“DSA is still a heavily white and heavily cis male organization, as have been most socialist groups in the history of the United States. That has not really improved,” Jared Abbott, a member of DSA’s national steering committee, told Vox in 2017. “We’re taking proactive steps to deal with it and do the kinds of work we need to be strong partners and work in solidarity with all underrepresented and oppressed communities. But we have real challenges here.”

Improvement has been slow. Purges, meltdowns, and general discontent have whiplashed DSA chapters around the country attempting to adapt to their newfound prominence in the era of pop socialism. Members in the Philadelphia chapter revolted in late 2018 when leadership suspended a book group focused on educating members in the identity politics of the Combahee River Collective, a black lesbian militant group. After several weeks of in-fighting (much of which played out publicly in the pages of Jacobin and long screeds on Medium), Philadelphia leadership made itself clear: Either ditch identity politics or leave the DSA.

Similarly, the group’s San Francisco East Bay chapter came under fire when it refused to support Cat Brooks, a black activist running for Oakland mayor, because she supported charter school initiatives. After she failed to receive the group’s endorsement, Brooks laid into the East Bay DSA, accusing its members in a speech of being nothing more than white “gentrifiers.” DSA National Political Committee member Jeremy Gong shot back in a Medium post, saying that Brooks was weaponizing the DSA with “race reductionism and liberal guilt politics.”

But internal strife is not the order of today. Mosely is of the DSA’s old guard, more concerned with holding onto the left’s glory days—when “white flight” hollowed out the cities in the late 1960s—than discussing how to unleash socialism onto the 21st century.

His audience is a bit different. In a word, gentrifiers. They’re mostly a group of well-dressed young men (although one wears a t-shirt proclaiming his support of Medicare-for-All). But it’s not entirely Bernie Bros. There are a number of women, and yes, even left-wing parents—pushing their two children in strollers. One of the kids wears a beret.

“But now Adams Morgan is becoming very gentrified,” Mosely says as he starts leading the group down the street. “Housing prices have really skyrocketed in the past few years.”

He pauses for questions. A woman standing directly behind him asks if he’ll be covering the #unmute D.C. crisis. She’s referring to a spat that occurred just south of Meridian Hill Park a few weeks ago. A resident living in a brand new apartment complex called the police after getting annoyed at black employees blasting go-go onto the street down at the local Metro PCS. For the newcomer, it was a disturbance. For the locals, this was a Friday night tradition. The next week, black activists staged a protest in the streets around Adams Morgan, playing go-go as loudly as possible in an anti-gentrification rallying cry.

Mosely tells her that sort of thing is not on the list for today: “We’re only going to take a slice of Adams Morgan,” he says. “We won’t go over the whole neighborhood, but we’re going to try to take a look at some of the more significant left monuments.”

Those monuments turn out to be a series of row houses in which anti-Vietnam protesters and Nixon-era anarchists shacked up. Mosely points out the temporary dacha of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, the first Roman Catholic priests to appear on the FBI’s “most wanted” list (they were Jesuits). He also invites his gaggle to reflect upon the apartment building, in which rests the room where Carl Bernstein lived while he was writing All the President’s Men. He then stands for a long time in front of the row house wherein the Mayday Tribe plotted the overthrow of the federal government in 1971.

As he walks toward the Mayday Tribe house, Mosely casts a sidelong glance at the Adam’s Inn bed and breakfast across the street.

“Another indication of the gentrification here: Take a look at the row houses over there. See that bed and breakfast, with all those flags,” he says. Some of the crew looks over at the house flying the American flag right alongside the TripAdvisor flag. It’s an old D.C. community fixture, serving Adams Morgan since the late 1980s. Mosely nearly steps in a pile of dog crap.

About a block later, a young man holding a baby walks down the street toward Mosely. He stops and addresses the group.

“That bed and breakfast has been there for over 30 years,” he says. “I heard you back there, and just thought you should know.”

“Thirty years?” Mosely says. “Well, I’ve never seen it before, not since I’ve lived here.”

“Just wanted you to know,” the man says.

“Huh, 30 years,” Mosely says as he turns back toward his audience. “Well, uh, thank you, I didn’t know that.”

And then Mosely’s off, further into Adams Morgan—mindful not to step in any more dog crap.

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