Links for 6-5-2018

  • The Federalist published an article by Dr. Tom Coburn that says the only way to restore the U.S. Constitution is a convention of states.

  • Pessimistic takes on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission emerged today, including this one by Darel E. Paul:

    Jack Phillips and his lawyers leveled two distinct arguments in appealing his original conviction for violating the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. The first argument asserted his First Amendment right to free speech. Phillips claimed that the creation and design of custom wedding cakes is an act of artistic expression protected by the Constitution, so that to force him by law to provide such a service against his will constitutes government-compelled speech. The second argument asserted Phillips’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. Phillips claimed that his sincerely held religious beliefs forbade him from endorsing same-sex marriage, and that the creation and design of a custom wedding cake would amount to just such an endorsement.

    Contrary to the over-enthusiastic reactions of some cultural conservatives, the Court did not rule in favor of Phillips on either of these substantive grounds. Its opinion is based wholly on procedural wrongs committed by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, wrongs that went uncorrected by the Colorado Court of Appeals. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy notes several derogatory comments about religion made by certain Commissioners hearing Phillips’s case. Kennedy clearly states that what is being violated here is Phillips’s entitlement to “neutral and respectful consideration” of his argument and a judicial process defined by “fairness and impartiality.” Because of the Commission’s “hostility” to religion, which was never corrected by higher Colorado courts, the process is tainted and the decision against Phillips is vacated.

    John Daniel Davidson points to an ominous footnote in the decision:

    A footnote in Justice Elena Kagan’s separate concurring opinion, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, points to the reasoning the court might have employed if it had engaged this larger question—and it doesn’t bode well for advocates of free speech and freedom of religion.

    Later:

    In other words, Phillips’s religious beliefs about marriage—beliefs, by the way, which are orthodox teachings in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—are not to be taken seriously. Nor is the notion that a baker who is asked to make a specialty cake that celebrates what is, for the baker, a religious ceremony, might be engaging in protected speech by creating that cake, in much the same way a photographer or any other artist does.

    For Kagan, the law may be construed to achieve a desired outcome, so long as those enforcing it don’t betray their animus toward certain religious beliefs.

    Here’s Andrew McCarthy’s take:

    In essence, Phillips won because the oxymoronic Colorado Civil Rights Commission was mean to him. The Court does not say how the commission should have decided the matter; it merely admonishes that, in future hearings, the commissioners must avoid being so indecorous, so overt in their hostility to unreconstructed Christians. Silent, smiling contempt is de rigueur: In the next case, just patiently hear out the baker, politely rule against him, and move on — no more grandstanding about how much religion sucks.

  • Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz personally tried to shut down the investigation into House IT aide Imran Awan, despite evidence uncovered by the House Office of Inspector General that Awan made “unauthorized access” to House servers.

  • ZTE reportedly signed a deal with the Commerce Department that allows the company to resume buying parts from U.S. suppliers. ZTE has been shut down since the U.S. imposed sanctions on the company in April. As part of the deal ZTE will pay a $1 billion fine and put $400 million in escrow.

  • The Kurdish YPG are withdrawing from Manbij, Syria to placate Turkey. Turkey claims the YPG will give up their weapons as they leave the city, which seems unlikely.

  • The Trump administration is intent on selling F-35s to Turkey, which makes little sense to many people outside the Trump administration.

  • An undergrad student at Columbia wrote an extraordinarily brave essay about racial double standards:

    An even cleverer study asked participants whether they would sacrifice an innocent person’s life to save the lives of one hundred. The innocent victim was either named “Tyrone Payton” (a stereotypically black name) or “Chip Ellsworth III” (a stereotypically white name.) Right-wing participants were equally likely to kill the innocent victim regardless of their perceived race. Left-wing participants, however, preferred sacrificing Chip over Tyrone. What’s more, left-wing participants were completely unaware of their pro-black bias.

    But to call it a ‘pro-black bias’ slightly misses the mark. It is better described as a tacit acknowledgement that modern-day blacks must be seen through the filter of history—not as autonomous individuals living in the present, but as dominoes in a chain of causation that stretches back to the middle passage. Viewed through this historical filter, blacks cease to be agents, instead becoming “puppets at the end of a string…dangling there…waiting to be made whole,” as Brown University economist Glenn Loury has put it. Once one adopts this stance of patronage towards blacks, it makes perfect sense to admit the black applicant over the white one, and to think extra hard before sacrificing Tyrone.

    The site that published this essay, Quillette, has a Patreon account that you should consider supporting.

  • A rare virus called Nipah that normally lives in fruit bats has spread to humans in Kerala, India, and has killed 17 out of 18 people who have contracted it.