Archive for August, 2010

Judge’s ruling in gay-marriage case was shrewdly calculated

Vaughn Walker, the U.S. District Court judge who ruled California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, seems to be a wily sort.

As the New York Times observes:

“The ultimate outcome of the California case cannot be predicted, but appeals court judges and the justices at the highest court in the land could find themselves boxed in by the careful logic and structure of Judge Vaughn R. Walker opinion, legal experts said.

…Andrew Koppelman, a professor at Northwestern Law School, said “if the Supreme Court does not want to uphold same-sex marriage, its job has been made harder by this decision.”

The reason, he said, is that while appeals courts often overturn lower-court judges on their findings of law — such as the proper level of scrutiny to apply to Proposition 8 — findings of fact are traditionally given greater deference.

“They are supposed to take as true facts found by the district court, unless they are clearly erroneous,” he said. “This opinion shows why district …

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APS scandal contradicts Hall’s message of accountability

NOTE: This post has been updated as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“We can’t yet say that there was pervasive cheating,” Atlanta Schools Superintendent told WABE’s Denis O’Hayer in an interview this week.

That statement, and others like it, are stunning, particularly since they come after release of a new report on the cheating scandal, this one commissioned by the district itself. Among other things, the new report puts the odds of a natural explanation for widespread changes in standardized test results in Atlanta schools at roughly one in 10 million.

But rather than accept responsibility, Hall and her supporters direct our attention to the part of the report that clears the superintendent and her staff of involvement.

“The investigative team did not find any data or other evidence, nor were there qualified allegations made, that there was any district-wide or centrally coordinated effort to manipulate the 2009 CRCT scores and outcomes of students in the 58 APS schools,” it …

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The mosque game, explained

From conservative Conor Friedersdorf:

Candidates like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin aren’t going to alienate the corporate interests that bankroll so many GOP campaigns, even if certain anti-corporate stances would be popular among Tea Partiers. In order to compensate, they’re going to earn their populist credentials by setting themselves up in opposition to an unpopular religious minority and railing against the mainstream media. Put another way, they’re going to garner the kind of support that won’t require them to actually act against entrenched interests should they be elected. Anyone on the right upset by “politics as usual” should wise up and understand that the candidate who most adeptly exploits culture war issues is going to continue doing so once elected. Can’t we find someone capable of directing ire at unsustainable entitlements instead of Muslim Americans?

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GAO report offers a hint of what school vouchers would do

Advocates of school-voucher programs often wax eloquent about the benefits of the free market, explaining how in an open market, private for-profit schools will compete to provide the best education at the lowest cost. Some even argue against regulation of such schools, believing that market forces should be sufficient to drive out those that perform badly.

As it happens, we’ve been running a rather large experiment involving just that kind of arrangement. In 2009, 1.8 million students were enrolled in for-profit colleges around the country, up from just 365,000 just a few years ago. Most of those students are armed with what amounts to a government-funded voucher, in the form of federal student loans or Pell grants. Last year alone, students at for-profit colleges received more than $4 billion in Pell Grants and more than $20 billion in federal loans.

The Government Accountability Office has been investigating how well that money is being used. It sent undercover applicants …

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NYC’s Bloomberg reminds a nation of its true greatness

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop, stood with leaders of various faiths Tuesday to show support for the construction of an Islamic center two blocks from the devastation of Sept. 11, 2001. The entire text is below, and requires no further comment.

But I do want to say this much: Eat your heart out, Newt Gingrich. This is not some sniveling appeal to the fearful and the faint-hearted; it is not a surrender. This is America at her best, brave enough to live by the principles it claims to uphold.

“We’ve come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever, this is the freest city in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

“Our …

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Until GOP stops believing in magic, adult discussion is impossible

A college buddy of mine used to work closely with Alan Greenspan, back when Greenspan was still serving as Fed chair. Sometimes, I’m told, they would tease Greenspan in private about his ability to talk without really saying anything, a trick he often employed when testifying before Congress. Sufficiently prodded, Greenspan would then launch into that schtick for a few minutes, using it as a parlor trick to amuse his listeners.

These days, a chastened Greenspan is much more to the point, as he was last weekend on “Meet The Press”:

“Look, I’m very much in favor of tax cuts, but not with borrowed money. And the problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day, that proves disastrous.”

Tax cuts, he told David Gregory point blank, do not pay for themselves.

That’s a critically salient point. When we increase government spending, we finance it by borrowing more money. Everyone gets that …

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Sharron Angle tells an inconvenient truth of her own

Sharron Angle, the GOP candidate trying to defeat Harry Reid in Nevada, explaining on Fox News why she only agrees to be interviewed  on places such as Fox News:

My favorite reaction so far comes from the conservative National Review, where an incredulous Elizabeth Crum asks:

“Did she really say this out loud?”

Yup. Loud and proud.

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State leaders eye tax shift onto middle, working class

If Georgia’s Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness gets its way, somebody’s taxes will be going up soon. And somebody else’s will be going down. And even though the 11-member panel has just begun its work and won’t issue a final report until January, it’s already possible to predict the likely winners and losers:

If you are middle class or working class, the council is going to propose that you pay more in state taxes. If you are affluent, the council will suggest that your taxes go down.

If you own a business or make a lot of money through investments, the council wants to make you feel welcome in Georgia by cutting your taxes.

But if your income depends on working for a paycheck, the council will suggest that you’ve been slacking off in your contributions to Georgia and that you need to pay more.

Of course, they won’t exactly put it like that. But that’s going to be the net effect.

How are such predictions possible, with five months of public hearings and debate still …

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Legal challenge to ObamaCare clears first procedural hurdle

From the Christian Science Monitor:

A federal judge in Richmond, Va, refused on Monday to throw out a lawsuit filed by the Virginia attorney general challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care reform law.

The ruling is the first decision in what may be years of litigation over the question of whether Congress has the power to regulate – and tax – a citizen’s decision not to buy health insurance.

US District Judge Henry Hudson said that neither the US Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals had squarely addressed that question. Existing legal precedents are inconclusive, he said.

“Given the presence of some authority arguably supporting the theory underlying each side’s position, this court cannot conclude at this stage that the complaint fails to state a cause of action,” Judge Hudson wrote in a 32-page opinion.”

Hudson’s ruling is available here. Having read it, I’d say that his sympathy with Virginia’s argument is pretty clear, and …

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In Iraq, the best we can expect from a very bad mistake

“As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. I made it clear that by August 31, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule.”

– President Barack Obama, in a speech
before the Disabled Veterans of America here in Atlanta.

By the end of this month, U.S. forces in Iraq will have drawn down to roughly 50,000 troops, and those remaining will no longer take part in combat missions.  “The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” Obama said in his speech today. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing — from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”

While that’s a step worth noting — and certainly worth taking — any suggestion that we have achieved victory in Iraq would be an exaggeration.  We have reduced the level of violence in that country at least temporarily and have given the …

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