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Equality, Inc.

TownHall Latest columns - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 19:01

Second Justin Fairfax accuser calls for public hearing into assault allegations

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 18:23
A woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her while they were undergraduates at Duke University nearly two decades ago called Monday for the state's general assembly to hold a public hearing into her allegations and those of another woman against the Democrat.

Trump declares 'socialism is dying' amid Venezuela 'catastrophe,' promises 'this will never happen to us'

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 17:37
President Donald Trump, speaking in a major foreign policy address in Miami, Fla. to members of the Venezeulan community, declared Monday that the embattled country's "current path toward democracy is irreversible," and issued a stark assessment that "socalism is dying" across the world.

Farrakhan tells 'sweetheart' Rep. Omar not to apologize for Israel comments

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 17:33
Notorious Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan defended Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., for implying on Twitter last week that the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC compensated lawmakers in exchange for supporting the Jewish state.

Virginia Democrat running for state legislature under fire for past anti-Semitic remarks

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 17:10
Virginia dentist Ibraheem Samirah, who is running for a state legislative seat, is under fire for old social media posts that compared giving aid to Israel to donating to the Ku Klux Klan.

Democrats press Trump to give Venezuelans in US reprieve from deportation

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 16:53
Democrats, seen as weak on Venezuela's socialst President Nicolas Maduro, are demanding that the U.S. give Venezuelans here a reprieve from deporation.

Kamala Harris gives awkward response when asked about Jussie Smollett claims

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 16:36
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris appeared to be caught off guard Monday when she was asked about the latest developments in the alleged attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

Hillary Clinton slams Trump's national emergency declaration in tweet

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 15:46
Hillary Clinton took to Twitter on Monday to slam President Trump for declaring a national emergency along the United States southern border.

Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 14:30
Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, said it’s a “lie” for critics to say the Green New Deal is too expensive to implement.

'Heartbeat' bills gaining momentum in several states, including Kentucky and Mississippi

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 14:04
Pro-life "heartbeat bills" are built on the simple premise that human life should be protected at the first detection of a heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks and as late as twelve weeks into a pregnancy.

California's gun seizure program hits hurdles

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 13:22
Authorities in California are struggling to enforce a state law that permits officials to seize firearms from people with previous criminal convictions or mental health issues – running into staffing and budgetary issues that have contributed to a massive backlog of guns marked for confiscation. 

Politicians who jumped on Jussie Smollett attack claim in awkward spot

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 11:48
Democratic politicians are backtracking from their initial comments about what was originally described as a hate crime against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, after a Chicago police spokesperson said over the weekend the "trajectory of the investigation" shifted and they no longer consider Smollett a victim in the case. 

North Carolina starts hearing on ballot fraud allegation in contested House race

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:30
North Carolina elections officials are conducting a hearing Monday focused on allegations that a political operative tampered with mail-in ballots for the 1026 congressional election.

L.A.'s Feel-Good Plan for Paid Leave Won’t Feel Nearly as Good When the Costs Pile Up

Cato Recent Op Eds - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 09:31

Shirley Svorny

City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Councilman David Ryu have introduced a motion to develop a paid parental leave plan for Los Angeles.

Already, California’s parental and family leave programs offer up to 18 weeks of paid leave, at up to 70% of one’s pay, capped at $1,252 per week. The state programs are funded through mandatory payroll deductions; all employees contribute, not just those who benefit.

Under the proposed city program, L.A. businesses would likely be asked to cover the difference between 70% and 100% of workers’ wages.

When benefits are mandated by governments, it can lead firms to cut back in other ways.

Ryu says this policy is “good for business.” Proponents say it raises productivity, reduces turnover and increases profits.

But if it were truly good for businesses, more of them would offer paid maternity leave without a government mandate. This initiative would put L.A. businesses at a competitive disadvantage, hindering economic development efforts.

Although proponents point to the benefits of having parents at home with newborns, they then brag that parental leave policies raise labor force participation rates. Not everyone would agree that it is a good thing to encourage new parents to stay in the labor force.

When Americans were polled by the Pew Research Center in 2017, they expressed support for paid leave and, it should come as no surprise, a preference that it be paid for by businesses. But that’s not how things work.

Mandated benefits raise the costs of hiring workers. Employers are aware of how much workers contribute to their bottom line. They won’t pay more than that.

When benefits are mandated by governments, it can lead firms to cut back in other ways. Over time, costs imposed on employers by mandated leave will result in reductions in other benefits, such as sick days or dental benefits. We can also expect slower growth in wages.

Finally, higher labor costs could encourage businesses in some sectors of the economy to consider investing in labor-saving technologies, thus leading to a decline in the demand for employees.

These adverse effects won’t be obvious right away, and, by the time they occur, because so many other things are going on, it will be hard to connect any specific negative impacts to the mandated benefit.

To the extent that the initiative discourages businesses from locating in the city, we can expect the city’s tax revenues to fall faster or grow slower than they would otherwise. In some cases, higher business costs are likely to lead to higher consumer prices over time.

Moreover, employers may discriminate against individuals likely to qualify for the benefits. This will make it harder for potential parents to secure employment. And because of the business costs, a proposed exemption for small businesses and nonprofits could exclude about 40% of workers in the city.

Martinez and Ryu say their main concern is about low-income families who choose not to take paid leave because they are not getting full pay. But many programs already exist to assist such households.

State residents are eligible for both the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit, a renters tax credit, subsidized health insurance, CalFresh (food) and CalWorks (public assistance). The Pew survey found that, of low-income workers nationwide who did not receive full pay while on leave, nearly half reported taking advantage of public assistance.

Of the low-income individuals who are eligible but chose not to take paid leave, some expressed a connection to their jobs and viewed their continued presence at work as the key to promotions and long-run financial stability for their families. They may have extended families who assist in child care. This policy initiative will not change that dynamic.

All in all, this is a feel-good policy. If Angelenos were aware of all the costs of this plan, they would see that it is not in the city’s interest.

Shirley Svorny is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. Previously she was a professor of economics at California State University.

The Creeping Liberalism in American Islam

Cato Recent Op Eds - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 09:26

Mustafa Akyol

Since 9/11, a recurrent theme in the far-right circles of America has been “creeping Shariah.” It reflects the fear that Islamic law will silently spread through the land of freedom to ultimately overtake it — to put all women in burqas and all adulterers to death. In this scenario, American Muslims, who make up only 1 percent of the population, will pursue this grand scheme because they are here not for freedom and opportunity, but to form a fifth column in it, as Steve Bannon seriously claimed in 2016.

Those with deeper knowledge of American Muslims, a minority that is much better integrated than some of their counterparts in Europe, can easily see such sordid fantasy as paranoia. Those with some knowledge of American history can also see that this new calumny about Islam has precedents, in the McCarthyism of the Cold War era and the anti-Catholicism of the 19th century.

But here is something even more ironic: When you examine the internal discussions among conservative Muslim leaders or pundits in America today, they don’t come across as concocting some “Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.” Instead of cheering for any creeping Shariah, they seem worried about a creeping liberalism within American Islam.

Far from spreading Shariah, as Islamophobes have suggested, America’s Muslim clerics are focusing on a more familiar trend: youngsters blending into American life.

Read Mikaeel Ahmed Smith, for example. He’s an imam in Virginia who has titled an internet article “A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims, Making Them Gods Above God.” His criticism targets a new genre of Muslim bloggers and writers who he says “challenge or outright reject the traditionally normative Islamic view on social issues and Muslim life.” These young people care less about traditional religious texts, the imam warns, because of “a rejection of any authority other than one’s own intellect.”

Or read Butheina Hamdah, an academic, who sees alarming signs of “liberal individualism” among American Muslim women. She thinks the hijab (the Islamic head scarf) is becoming a mere “cultural marker of identity” while losing its “deeper theological dimensions.” That is why “trendy” or “sexy” versions of the hijab are emerging, she argues, while young Muslim women embrace feminist notions of “bodily autonomy” and “individual choice.”

Perhaps nothing marks this liberal trend more than the skyrocketing acceptance of gay marriage, which, as a 2017 poll showed, is now stronger among American Muslims than among white evangelical Christians. It is also reflected in the pro-L.G.B.T.Q. stance of two new Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. (This month, Ms. Omar took a lesson in how to integrate into America’s pluralist politics when she apologized, after heavy criticism from her own Democratic Party’s leaders, for a tweet that insinuated that American support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she said almost immediately, adding, “I unequivocally apologize.”)

There are two distinct lines in this trend toward American values. One is a kind of anything-goes social liberalism, spearheaded by small groups like Muslims for Progressive Values. The other, larger line is a political liberalism that accepts a pluralist framework for society while preserving its own social and moral conservatism. Jonathan Brown, a convert to Islam and scholar of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, theorized the latter approach in a much-discussed article in which he accepted gay marriage of non-Muslims by making an analogy to traditional Muslim empires’ noninterference in what he called “incestuous Zoroastrian marriages.”

Of course, all this is happening within a political context, which Eboo Patel, an interfaith leader, explains in a chapter on “the American ummah” in his book “Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise.”In the wake of 9/11, and especially in the Trump era, Mr. Patel writes, worrying about Islamophobia has required the Muslim community to show that it really fits America. Hence, the center of gravity has shifted from “traditional Muslims,” whose authority derives from knowledge of religious sources, to a new group of media-savvy “social Muslims,” whose strength is interpreting the Muslim experience for the broader society. The interesting twist is that the progressive narrative of the “social Muslims” is having an impact on the whole American Muslim community. “Once you invoke diversity as a value,” Mr. Patel writes, it is hard to deny a place to “gay Muslims, Shia Muslims, non-hijabi female Muslims, less-observant-than-you Muslims.”

The conservatives are understandably worried that this may go too far. For example, Rashid Dar, a thoughtfully committed Muslim academic, fears the prospect of an irreversible transformation in his community. A life of “adhering to political liberalism in the public sphere but social conservatism at home or at the mosque very easily runs the risk of creating severe cognitive dissonance,” he told me. “I used to fear that this might lead to widespread ‘reform Islam’ movements. What I fear now is widespread nihilism and apathy toward faith.”

I think that while this concern is understandable, the opposite may also be true: Young generations may lose the faith if Islam remains too closed to rationality, individuality, tolerance and freedom.

For that reason, I find the American Muslim quandary fascinating — and promising. “Liberalism” as a framework for a free society is painfully lacking in large parts of the Muslim world today. If the Muslim community in the United States, what Mr. Patel called the “American ummah,” can embrace that by reinterpreting its traditions without losing itself, it could contribute to the broader ummah by offering new perspectives and a lived example.

Charles Taylor, one of the most prominent thinkers on religion today, reminds us of a historical precedent in an essay from 2011: In the 19th century, American Catholics were seen by the Protestant majority as “inassimilable to democratic mores, in ways very analogous to the suspicions that nag people over Islam today.” But, Mr. Taylor added, “American Catholicism evolved and, in the process, changed world Catholicism in significant ways.”

A similar transformation took place within American Judaism, as Steven R. Weisman shows in his recent book, “The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion.” Rabbinical authority waned, women became empowered, practices were modernized and Reform Judaism flourished.

To say that change would never happen in Islam would be a view too unfair to this third big Abrahamic religion. It would also underestimate America’s great potential to attract, and also transform, people of all faiths and races under a simple but rare principle — equal justice under the law. Shouldn’t some of those who call themselves “American nationalists” know this better than they seem to know these days?

Mustafa Akyol is a senior fellow on Islam and modernity at the Cato Institute and the author, most recently, of “The Islamic Jesus.”

Trump accuses Rosenstein, McCabe of pursuing ‘illegal and treasonous’ plot against presidency

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 08:02
President Trump on Monday accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe of pursuing an “illegal and treasonous” plot against him, after McCabe detailed private DOJ discussions about secretly recording and potentially ousting the president.

5 inconvenient truths about Che Guevara

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 07:06
Che Guevara's fans might not be aware of just what their idol did and said. Here’s a look back at the history.

NYT columnist blasts Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal

Fox News (Politics) - Mon, 02/18/2019 - 05:10
David Brooks, the center-right political columnist at The New York Times, on Sunday said that he could never support a candidate who backs the Green New Deal because it would concentrate power in the “hands of the Washington elite” at a level not seen since WWII.

Bill de Blasio corrects Ocasio-Cortez's claim about spending Amazon tax break money

Fox News (Politics) - Sun, 02/17/2019 - 22:01
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested on Sunday that critics of the potential Amazon campus New York City — such as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — got the facts wrong over the money behind the tax breaks.

Graham defends Trump's border security spending push, says Kentucky students better off

Fox News (Politics) - Sun, 02/17/2019 - 21:26
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., reiterated his support for President Trump's national emergency declaration at the southern border Sunday.

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