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Hobson's Choice

Paul Ryan's decision not to quickly endorse presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will inevitably leave a substantial number of Republicans unhappy. He may yet do so, but the person to blame for Ryan's reluctance is Trump.

This week alone the Trump camp has made two disastrous decisions that imperil the GOP. First, Trump surrogate Sarah Palin threatened she'd work to unseat Ryan in his home district, where Ryan faces a primary challenge. Talk about loose cannons and collateral damage. Then Trump announced that he is not going to release his tax returns anytime soon, despite previous pledges to do so.
The latter decision should be a warning to everyone that Trump has something to hide. Mitt Romney mused, "There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: There is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size."

Trump's entire success in this campaign has been to claim he is a self-made billionaire whose business acumen will "Make America Great Again," a phrase he's gone to the trouble to trademark. But his tax returns are probably the nearest we will ever come to knowing how successful he has actually been. Many analysts who've looked into his finances claim he's far less rich than he lets on.
Trump claims he's worth over $10 billion (that's more than a billion higher than he claimed earlier in the campaign), but many experts who have looked at his financial disclosures assume it is far less, some even claiming he may only be worth a billion or two -- not exactly chump change but not the huge fortune Trump brags about.

If Trump is worth what he says, most Americans would assume he pays hefty taxes and his rates exceed those of the throngs who attend his rallies. But that may be the problem Trump is hiding. The folks waiting in line to see their hero might not appreciate it if they find out he pays little or no taxes while he flies around in a private 757-200 and lives in gilded Trump Towers and Mar-a-Lago.
No law requires Trump to release his taxes, but every candidate in recent memory has done so -- and the sooner the better. Frankly, it's amazing that he has not been forced by public opinion and media hounding to do so before virtually locking up the nomination. No doubt he thinks he can stonewall through the election. But that is a very dangerous path for the American public.

What happens if Trump actually gets elected? The vast wealth he claims could present enormous conflicts of interest. Will he put all his holdings in a truly blind trust and turn over complete control of his companies to disinterested parties? He's suggested that his children will run his businesses, as they are doing during the campaign, but that is hardly an ethical decision if he becomes president. How could we ever know that Ivanka or Donald Jr. or Eric weren't taking directions from Dad? Eric recently claimed on "The Kelly File" on Fox News that he and his siblings were his father's most trusted advisers. Would they be kept out of the Oval Office in order to ensure no conflicts arise?

Appointees to high-level offices are vetted far more thoroughly than the presidential candidates. Most turn over extensive financial filings, which are examined by forensic accountants for discrepancies and to insure that they have paid all taxes -- federal, state and local, as well as withholding taxes on employees. The FBI does a thorough search through the nominee's background, going back to childhood; even the nominee's family undergoes scrutiny. On penalty of perjury, nominees must swear that everything they tell investigators is true. Former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about payments he'd made to a woman with whom he was having an affair and had to resign his post, as well as pay a fine.

Imagine what such an investigation would turn up on Trump, whose many scandals have been tabloid fodder for decades.

Speaker Ryan is right to say he has to get to know Trump better before jumping on his bandwagon. Would that the voters got to know more about him as well -- but nothing so far in this crazy campaign has suggested it matters to his most ardent supporters.

Republicans Must Defeat Trump in November

Donald Trump is now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party. I could not have imagined writing that sentence even a few short weeks ago, and it fills me with despair. How have we come to this point, and how do we move forward?

I have said it often enough, but it bears repeating: I will not vote for Donald Trump for president. There are millions like me. We fully understand the consequences -- another four years of a Democrat in the White House -- even if we do not like them.

Though I can only speak for myself, I think my sentiments are widely shared. I am an American first, a conservative second and a Republican a distant third. If Donald Trump is the face of the Republican Party, I want no part of it.

This goes beyond policy differences. Trump's positions on trade, immigration, health care, entitlements and foreign policy (muddled and confusing as they are) are mostly anathema to me. But it is the man's character, first and foremost, that makes it impossible for me to put aside my differences.

I was fully prepared to support Ted Cruz, whose position on immigration I vehemently disagree with and whose style I found off-putting. But Trump is unfit in every way to be president. He has neither the intellect nor the discipline to learn what is necessary to occupy the office. More importantly, his temperament is all wrong. He's vindictive, mean-spirited, vain and unpredictable. He will never put the interests of the country before his own.

He wraps himself in red, white and blue and slogans of making America great again, but what has he ever done for this country? While young men of his generation were fighting and dying, and, as in the case of John McCain, being tortured for their country, Donald Trump was bedding down as many women as he could despite his fear of contracting a venereal disease. "It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier," he told shock jock Howard Stern, explaining that he made sure the women he had sex with were checked out by his own personal doctor. And this is the man who had the nerve to say John McCain was no hero!

On the very day he tied up the nomination by winning all of Indiana's 57 delegates, Trump was on the campaign stump spreading vicious, unsubstantiated, libelous allegations against Ted Cruz's father, suggesting Rafael Cruz was an associate of John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. He's insulted women, Hispanics, blacks, Jews, even his own supporters. Remember his "I love the poorly educated" line? There is no limit to his depredations.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the GOP, now wants Republicans to fall in line and support Trump. But doing so will doom the Republican Party -- and worse, the country. Thankfully, not all GOP leaders are falling in line, most notably Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Thursday he was not yet ready to endorse Trump.

I don't think Trump can win the election, but I am not nearly as confident as I once was in that prediction. The best way to ensure it doesn't happen is for those of us who think Trump is unfit to be president to withhold support from him. That means not donating to the Republican National Committee as well as leaving the top of the ticket blank when we go into the polling booth in November.

There are plenty of good Republican candidates worthy of support. Give to their campaigns directly -- so long as they don't tie themselves to Trump too closely.

If the Republican Party is to regain its soul, it is important that Donald Trump be defeated resoundingly. This should be a landslide repudiation, not a tepid one. When the votes are tallied in each state, it is important that Trump's totals are lower than the totals of other Republicans on the ticket, not simply to save the Senate and House and other down-ticket Republican candidates but to send a clear message: Hillary Clinton did not defeat Donald Trump; Republicans refused to vote for him.

Silliness at the White House Science Fair

The White House had its annual science fair last week, but every week is political correctness week at the White House, so the president warned that we must

work through some of the structural biases that exist in science.  Some of them — a lot of them are unconscious.  But the fact is, is that we’ve got to get more of our young women and minorities into science and technology, engineering and math, and computer science.  I’ve been really pleased to see the number of young women who have gotten more and more involved in our science fairs over the course of these last several years.

And as I said to a group that I had a chance to meet with outside, we’re not going to succeed if we got half the team on the bench, especially when it’s the smarter half of the team.  (Laughter.)  Our diversity is a strength.  And we’ve got to leverage all of our talent in order to make ourselves as creative and solve as many problems as we can.

Now, as I discussed years ago, it’s fine to make sure that no one discounts a STEM career because of his or her race, ethnicity, or sex, and maybe it’s even okay for the president to encourage more students to think about STEM careers if we think that for some reason our country needs that. But all the currently fashionable talk about “structural” and “unconscious” bias is just that — fashionable talk — and what’s more, I conclude, “whether we want to save someone from a missed opportunity for the student’s sake or the country’s or both, the relevance of race, ethnicity, and sex is limited at best. A missed career opportunity is a shame for anyone, and if the country faces a shortfall in profession X, then we shouldn’t care about the color or plumbing of those filling the breach.”

As for the president’s joke about girls being smarter than boys, can you just imagine what would happen if he or anyone else made such a joke at the expense of women?  Why, he’d be pilloried before you could say, “Larry Summers.” 

Can You Say, “Quota”? – There is an article on Inside Higher Ed this week, “Diversifying the Humanities,” that discusses growth in the number of degrees in the humanities awarded to minority students at the undergraduate level, but worries that the growth is “uneven,” since “[m]ost of the gains are attributable to Latino students.”  What’s more, there are “declines — with the exception of philosophy — in the number of doctoral degrees in the humanities awarded to minority students” (emphasis added).

Forgive me for not panicking.  Indeed, I worry less about the bean-count than I worry about the bean-counters.  Here’s my posted response:

Two points. First, whether the identified shortfalls are a problem or not depends on why there is a shortfall. Is it because of discrimination? Is it because of some other lack of opportunity that can or should be addressed? Or is it because of a lack of interest in one field compared to more interest in another?

In all events, these passages [in the article] are disturbing: “These declines could complicate the efforts of colleges that have pledged to make set percentages of their new hires or faculties as a whole come from minority groups.” And “This could create particular problems for departments under pressure to be sure that offerings in literature, history and other fields are taught by diverse professors.” Can you say, “Quota”? Recruiting, hiring, and promoting with an eye on skin color and national origin is illegal.

Harvard vs. Freedom of Association -- That’s how Harvey A. Silverglate and Timothy C. Moore see the latest chapter in the sexual-assaults-on-campus saga, which involves the school’s all-male clubs.  Naomi Schaefer Riley is equally dismissive. 

Dealing with Student Protestors – Over at Inside Higher Ed, there is a piece on “Quelling Racial Tensions,” calling for the application of conflict-resolution principles in campus racial protests.  My posted response:

I have to say that most of this seems to me to be better addressed to the typical protestor than to the typical dean. Similarly, the central point in this piece is that “dealing with racial conflict is a problem of affirming the dignity of the other” — and what dean denies the dignity of the other? And perhaps I missed it, but it’s interesting that IHE has so far failed to cover the way student protestors were handled recently at Ohio State.  The administrator there certainly was respectful, but he made it clear that those who break campus rules will be punished. Period. As Abraham Lincoln told the Lyceum, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.”

And, if your time is limited, don’t waste it on reading the IHE article; instead read the post regarding the Ohio State matter, to which I link in my comment above.

Euphemism of the Year?

Once upon a time, “juvenile delinquent” was a nice way to say “young criminal.”  As often happens, however, eventually even the euphemism is thought to be too harsh, and so a better one has to be found.  And so one has:  This Obama-administration press release last week talked a lot about “justice-involved youth.” 

Then, to top itself, the administration broadened the euphemism to include criminals of all ages, with Attorney General Lynch referring to “justice-involved individuals.”   

And then, after that, it continued still further in this vein last week, referring to “justice-involved Veterans.”  

After my noting it, the Washington Times picked up on this in an editorial this week, and other conservative sites have now noted it, too.

Law and Loyalty -- Last week the White House also released presidential proclamations for Law Day and Loyalty Day, each observed on May 1.  They are exactly what you would expect from this administration. 

The latter proclamation is not about loyalty at all, and the former is all about one of the Warren Court’s signature decisions, Miranda v. Arizona.  (For a different perspective on the Warren Court’s criminal justice jurisprudence in general, and the Miranda decision in particular, view this clip.)

The Bigger Problem -- In a New York Times op-ed over the weekend, the author asserts that Donald Trump’s “candidacy has brought prejudice into the open, and I’m glad” since it proves that racism is alive and well in America.  My response:

The fact is that there are racists out there, and the fact is that there are people out there who exaggerate the number of racists we have. No serious person thinks that racism has vanished from our country, and only a delusional person denies that the amount of racism in our country has declined dramatically in the past 50 years. The fact that there are some racists does not vindicate the claims of those who would like to believe that we suffer from "systemic racism," just as the fact that we have a black president doesn't prove that there is no longer any racism.

So how do we continue to make progress? We've made discrimination illegal in just about any activity, and racism is not socially acceptable in most circles, and that's all to the good. But the persistence of the racial disparities faced by African Americans is more a result of culture -- and particularly the catastrophic (71 percent) out-of-wedlock birthrate -- than of discrimination, and that has to be acknowledged and addressed, too.

Jayson Blair, Call Your Office  -- From the Washington Post:

"News industry leaders are forever proclaiming that diversity is an organizational priority. Such pronouncements usually come paired with apologies for having failed on this front in the past, along with vague plans to do better.

"New York Times Chief Executive Mark Thompson defied this tradition yesterday in a presentation before a gathering of managers on the business and news sides of the newspaper. He identified three areas toward which diversity efforts must be channeled: recruitment, hiring and promotion.

“Supervisors who fail to meet upper management's requirements in recruiting and hiring minority candidates or who fail to seek out minority candidates for promotions face some stern consequences: They'll be either encouraged to leave or be fired."

I commented:  "It's illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in recruiting, hiring, and promotion. Oh, and it's also unfair, divisive, inefficient, and immoral."  And:  "Oh, and remember Jayson Blair?"

Onion or Not? -- Well, yes, it’s an Onion article that’s titled, “College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea / Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint.”  But you have to admit that it’s hard to distinguish parodies from straight reporting on the higher ed beat.

Thank You Sperry Much -- Many thanks to Paul Sperry, for his recent New York Post op-ed titled, “You're now a racist if you say schools need to be safer.”  In it, he illuminates the Obama administration’s insane application of a “disparate impact” theory to school discipline. 

If a suspension policy does not consider a student’s race, is adopted with no racial intent, and is applied evenhandedly, then it’s not racial discrimination.  Period.  The “disparate impact” approach ignores this and is wrongheaded in all contexts, including this one.

The fact that a school has more suspensions for members of some racial groups than others is not racial discrimination:  It simply reflects the reality that some demographic have more members at some point in time who present discipline problems.  This, in turn, is because of disparities in culture and out-of-wedlock birthrates — again, not because of discrimination.

Finally, kudos to Mr. Sperry for blowing the whistle on those U.S. Senators who would increase the federal funding for this nonsense! 

The Republican Candidates and “Affirmative Action” – Finally, just a brief scorecard on the three remaining Republican candidates and their respective views on racial preferences.  Despite his anti-p.c. reputation, Donald Trump is on record this campaign as saying that he is “fine with affirmative action,” and he criticized Justice Scalia when the late justice raised the “mismatch” point at oral argument in the Fisher v. University of Texas case.  Likewise, last August, there were a number of news stories in which Ohio governor (and presidential hopeful) John Kasich crowed that the state’s minority contracting goal (read “quota”) had at long last been achieved.   But Ted Cruz said earlier this year in this context that the focus should be on merit, not race.  Just saying.

Follow the Rules

As a Colorado Republican, I'm not thrilled with the way my state party participates in the presidential nominating process. There is no GOP primary in which I can voice my preference for a presidential nominee, as there was in both Virginia and Maryland, where I lived previously.

I thought about running for delegate to the Republican National Convention so that I could play a real role in picking the nominee. But when I checked out the process, I realized it is long and laborious and key dates conflicted with my travel schedule, so I gave up on that plan.

Am I a "disenfranchised" voter, as Donald Trump suggests? Hardly.

Neither party picks its nominee in a strictly democratic fashion. We don't have a national primary in which voters directly select the nominees of the parties. And even if we did, how exactly would we determine who got on the ballot? Either some winnowing system would have to take place at some stage or elections would become free-for-alls.

Trump has benefited from the current system, earning only about 35 percent of the votes cast so far but 42 percent of the delegates. He may well fall short of the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination in the end, but he has as good a chance -- more of a chance, actually -- than anyone else running to earn them.

While other candidates have had to devote time, money and energy into introducing themselves to voters and organizing delegates, Trump has been able to get billions of dollars in free exposure from a fawning media hoping to boost ratings. Now he's whining that the system is rigged against him.

Really? The rules for selecting delegates have been set for months. Trump claims to be the master of detail -- so what happened? I managed to find the necessary information on Colorado's system back in February. I Googled it, found where my precinct's caucus was taking place and realized I'd be out of town -- but urged my husband to attend, even if I couldn't. So Trump, who claims to be a brilliant manager, couldn't manage to get his delegates to run and win at local and county caucuses and, ultimately, at the Colorado state convention and now cries foul?

I don't know what's worse, Trump the megalomaniac or Trump the crybaby.

One of the reasons the parties have in place a lengthy, complicated system for selecting nominees is that it tests their mettle. We don't live in a direct democracy; we are a republic. We choose others to represent us at every stage of the political process. It isn't about accumulating the most raw votes; it's about understanding and working the complicated system each step of the way. Trump isn't trying out for "American Idol"; he's supposed to be auditioning for commander in chief.

Trump has been able to rely on his celebrity status to draw large crowds at his events for months. He's been able to turn those supporters into voters in states that have held primaries, and he's done especially well in states with late or same-day registration and open primaries, in which party affiliation doesn't bar his Democratic and independent supporters from casting Republican ballots. What he hasn't done well is establish grass-roots political operations in caucus states or in primaries in which only Republicans can vote.

Trump hasn't even been able to organize his own family to vote for him in New York's upcoming primary. His daughter Ivanka, who has been a high-profile part of his campaign from nearly day one, didn't change her registration as an independent voter in time to be able to cast her vote Tuesday for her father.

And Trump's son Eric apparently wasn't registered at all, yet he's out there telling others to vote for his dad. Any other candidate would be embarrassed by this negligence, but Trump blames New York's GOP for setting rules that don't allow last-minute registration or party crashing.

Grousing about the system has taken Trump about as far as he can go. But it won't get him to the White House. It's fashionable to complain about career politicians these days, but a little professionalism is necessary in politics. Picking a president shouldn't be a beauty or popularity contest. We expect candidates to learn the rules and play by them. If a candidate can't bother to do so, why should we believe he'd follow the rule book of the Constitution once in office?

Trump's 'America First' Movement

Indiana's upcoming primary may well determine the fate of not only the GOP presidential nomination but the party itself. Donald Trump's sweeping victories in the five primaries last Tuesday was a sober wake-up call that the party of Ronald Reagan is no more. If Trump wins a majority in Indiana, as well, it will be nearly impossible to stop him from winning the Republican nomination. Already, major "mainstream" Republicans are jumping on his bandwagon, including two House chairmen this week: Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. But Trump's winning the Republican nomination will doom the party as we've known it for much of the past 40 years.

Trump represents a repudiation of the Republican Party's commitment to smaller government, free trade and an internationalist foreign policy. On the latter, Trump gave his first major policy address this week in Washington. Though it was short on specifics, vacuous and self-contradictory, the overall theme of his speech made clear where his instincts lie. He is first and foremost a nationalist, one who would fit in comfortably with Marine Le Pen's National Front in France, the Danish People's Party or the Freedom Party of Austria -- all populist, anti-immigrant, nationalist movements.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to his campaign thus far. His strategy, articulated in every speech from his presidential announcement to his latest rally, has been to appeal to whites who feel left behind economically and overwhelmed culturally and demographically. "Make America Great Again" means keeping foreigners out, reserving American jobs for the American-born, punishing our more "cunning" trading partners -- especially Mexico and China -- building walls and withdrawing from foreign alliances and wars.

This brand of American nationalism is not new. Trump's "America First" slogan is a throwback to the pre-World War II movement against U.S. entry into the war. The America First Committee, whose most famous member was aviator and Adolf Hitler admirer Charles Lindbergh, argued that the United States should build an impregnable defense but stay out of the war in Europe -- a position that was, in the late 1930s, highly popular with the American people. By the time the America First Committee officially formed in September 1940, Nazi Germany had already swallowed Austria, invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and France and launched an air war against Britain.

Most commentators have assumed that Trump's "America First" theme was accidental, that he didn't know its origins. Maybe. He is, after all, the least literate presidential aspirant in recent memory. But it doesn't really matter if he knows what the America First Committee was. Trump's speeches, including the prepared text he read at The National Interest this week, sound eerily similar to, if less articulate than, a speech Lindbergh delivered in New York in April 1941.

Lindbergh claimed, "The America First Committee has been formed to give voice to the people who have no newspaper or newsreel or radio station at their command, to the people who must do the paying and the fighting and the dying if this country enters the war." Lindbergh promised, "There is a policy open to this nation that will lead to success -- a policy that leaves us free to follow our own way of life and to develop our own civilization." He said he spoke for "the citizens who ... had to work too hard at their daily jobs to organize political meetings." He argued: "We must turn our eyes and our faith back to our own country before it is too late. And when we do this, a different vista opens before us."

The America First movement collapsed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The United States joined the war against the Axis, sent troops, ships and planes to Europe, as well as to the Pacific, and defeated Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito.

The United States emerged from the war as a superpower that would lead the economic and political transformation of much of Western Europe and parts of Asia.

Now Donald Trump wants to channel Charles Lindbergh to build walls around a fortress America, whose civilization he promises to protect from "criminals, drug dealers (and) rapists" from Mexico and elsewhere. This is not a recipe to make America great again but its opposite. And if he succeeds in capturing the Republican nomination, he will turn the GOP into a fringe nationalist movement that will polarize American politics unlike anything we have seen before.

Trade Benefits America

"Trade" has become a dirty word in this year's presidential race, with candidates of both parties bemoaning the American jobs supposedly lost to foreign competition because of our trade policies. Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened a trade war with our most important trading partners, who, he claims, are "killing us." But Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton all fret about the issue and vow to take a harder stance, as well, if elected. Obviously, the message is resonating with the electorate, which makes it more dangerous still. Is there anything that can be done to reverse this sudden anti-free trade frenzy?

Education on the issue is sorely lacking. Most people see trade as a zero-sum game. If China sells us more than we sell China, it results in a trade deficit -- which must be bad, right? If products that used to be produced in the U.S. by American workers are suddenly being built in Mexico by Mexican workers, that's bad for us, isn't it? Try convincing a guy who used to build auto parts in Michigan that he's better off overall because those parts are now being manufactured in Mexico. It's a hard sell. But the fact is that all of us benefit from the availability of products imported from lower-wage countries; we're a lot better off, as it happens.

Trump says he would raise tariffs on Chinese and Mexican goods; he's thrown around the figure 45 percent for China and 35 percent for Mexico. He seems to believe that if he did so, China would stop manipulating its currency and Mexico would crack down on illegal immigration. But think, for a moment, about what raising tariffs on these countries' goods would mean for the average American, even if Trump were successful in making this move unilaterally with no retaliation against American goods from the governments he'd be punishing (a fantasy).

Most people want to pay as little as possible for goods, provided that the goods meet their expectations for quality. Americans buy Chinese-made clothing -- and increasingly clothing from other, cheaper sources, such as Malaysia and Vietnam -- because they see value in paying less, even if the quality isn't quite the same. You don't expect a Chinese-made silk blouse to be the same as an Italian-made silk blouse, but you pay a lot less on average for the former. It's the same with electronic goods, toys, furniture, lighting and a host of other Chinese imports.

The United States is the biggest importer in the world precisely because Americans crave goods that other countries can produce at cheaper prices than we can at home. If we were to invoke tariffs, American consumers would end up paying them in higher prices, not the Chinese or Mexican government, or else doing without the products altogether.

Like your smartphone? If so, you'd better hope that Trump's trade fantasies don't become a reality. Several countries contribute to the making of an iPhone. It begins with engineers in the United States, but many of them are foreign-born. Rare minerals from Mongolia go into chips and other components. The gyroscopes come from Italy and France, and the microchips are manufactured in South Korea and Taiwan. Assembly mostly happens in China. The gadgets aren't cheap, but they would cost a whole lot more if every part had to be manufactured and assembled in the United States.

International trade is so interwoven into modern life that it is difficult to see how we could do what Trump and others promise, namely bring back American jobs. Though it is true we have far fewer manufacturing jobs than we did a generation ago, much of the reason has to do with gains in productivity in the manufacturing sector, not jobs being shipped overseas. Again, those gains, which sometimes put individuals out of work, benefit everyone at the cash register.

A far better way to deal with the downside of international trade is to help retrain workers whose jobs have disappeared. That way, they can learn the skills still in demand in the United States. We already provide relief to workers whose jobs have been adversely affected by trade agreements -- including wage supplements for certain workers, health benefits and training -- but the programs are bureaucratic and depend on individuals to take the initiative to find new fields of employment and secure needed training.

Politicians' exploiting American workers' fears and anxieties about trade is nothing new, but we should not change policies that benefit the great majority of Americans with lower prices, access to more goods and opportunities for American companies to excel at what they do best, innovating and providing leading-edge products that are the envy of the world.

Toilets and the Politics of Gender

The name Curt Schilling wasn't familiar to me before ESPN decided to fire the sports commentator and former Major League Baseball pitcher for making allegedly "transphobic" comments on Facebook. For the record, I believe an employer has the right to restrict an employee's public speech if the employer believes that it reflects badly on the company. The First Amendment restricts only the power of the government to impose certain limits on free speech, and last I checked, ESPN was a private corporation.

That being said, the Schilling incident raises important questions. Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them -- namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?

Schilling's offense was to comment on a crude, disgusting photograph posted on Facebook showing a supposedly transgender female with this caption: "Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you're a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!" In response, Schilling posted, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don't care what they are, who they sleep with, men's room was designed for the penis, women's not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic."

The incident only amplifies the furor raised when North Carolina enacted a law restricting public restroom and locker room use to individuals based on their birth sex. The state now faces boycotts by entertainers, sports franchises and state governments.

Let's remember that what is at issue here is public behavior, not private, but behavior that also involves an individual's right to privacy in some of the most intimate acts he or she undertakes.

When I go to the gym, do I have the right to expect that I will only see other female bodies showering and dressing and that only other biological females will see me doing those things? If a man is standing at a public urinal, does he have the right to expect that everyone who enters has the same biology? Isn't there an implicit expectation of privacy in these settings?

At my local YMCA, a sign outside the women's dressing room cautions that boys older than 6 are excluded, and I have never seen an adult male take a female child of any age into the men's dressing room. A family dressing room is available, which presumably offers privacy for those who can't meet the parameters. A similar accommodation could be made for transgender individuals, but the LGBT community has rejected this compromise.

No doubt many Americans' aversion to sharing toilet facilities with people of the opposite sex is cultural. The first time I went to Paris as a young woman, I was astounded when I discovered that men and women shared the same bathroom, albeit with stalls that provided maximum privacy. It was awkward for me as an American woman to stand next to a male stranger while washing my hands after answering nature's call. And most American restrooms aren't set up like unisex European facilities, with only stalls or single toilet rooms and full doors.

It doesn't make anyone a bigot not to want to share bathroom and dressing functions with those who are not of the same sex. The LGBT community insists that "gender" is different from sex and that individuals have the right to choose how they wish to identify in terms of gender. But hormone treatments and plastic surgery do not, in fact, change men into women or women into men.

Transgender individuals should be treated with dignity, as all human beings should. They should be accorded the right to call themselves whatever they wish, and politeness requires that the rest of us should accord them the courtesy of complying. But when their right to self-identification comes up against others' right to privacy, we need to find a resolution that accommodates both interests in the public square.

We can honor the needs of a minority -- a very small one indeed -- without trampling the privacy rights of the great majority. A few unisex bathrooms and private dressing rooms in big institutions would solve the problem without much fuss. But this is not about problem-solving; it's about abandoning nature in favor of the politics of gender.

Some Funny Anti-PC Items

The Washington Post Magazine’s end-page is always a column by humorist Gene Weingarten, who’s very funny but extremely liberal.  His column this week, however, makes fun of Bowdoin College’s political correctness, which I recently wrote about, in the sombrero scandal

Mr. Weingarten’s column is styled a plea for forgiveness and addressed to the Bowdoin student government; he wants forgiveness for his daughter having dressed up as an Indian (complete with feather, horrors!) many years ago. It’s very funny, and if even a big liberal like Gene Weingarten agrees things have gotten out of hand, then maybe there’s hope.

Another funny item is the Stanford Review’s demands for change.  Sample:  “WE DEMAND that Stanford recognizes that half-lives matter, and establishes a committee to fund the Chemistry and Physics Departments accordingly.”  It’s also very funny, and — I hope — also evidence that this shark has been jumped.

Alas, not all Stanford students are as enlightened as those on the Review.  But our friend and frequent ally Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, does a great job here of setting straight that campus’s students wildly indignant about nearly everything.  (Readers of a certain age will get the “s.w.i.n.e.” reference in the preceding sentence; others can look here.)

Better Thinking through Politically Correct “Diversity”? – Not so much, according to a spate of sources last week.  See our friend John Rosenberg (reporting on some recent social-science research on social-science research) here, some other researchers here, Jonathan Haidt’s interview with Tyler Cowen here, and even (sort of) Russell Jacoby here.

Hiring Discrimination at the University of Louisville – There’s an important article in the Spring 2016 issue of Academic Questions, giving chapter and verse on how affirmative action in faculty hiring works at the University of Louisville.  As I’ve noted before, the law is more hostile to such preferential selection in faculty hiring than it is to student admissions — there’s no “diversity” exception to the ban on discrimination, for example — but schools don’t seem to care. 

A Couple of We-Told-You-So’s –  One of my co-contributors at National Review Online is David French, and he noted last week that “The Cost of Radical Police ‘Reform’ Is Blood on Chicago’s Streets.”  And this week (in hard copy) the Washington Post — yes, again the Washington Post — has a story headlined, “Chicago grapples with a staggering rise in homicides amid police shake-up.”  Related to David’s article and the “Ferguson effect” is yet another recent Washington Post article, headlined, “Police are dying by gunfire at over twice last year’s rate.”

And in the run-up to the Supreme Court’s decision last year on whether “disparate impact” lawsuits may be brought under the Fair Housing Act, I warned that, if the Court said yes, then landlords would be pressured to stop excluding tenants based on their criminal records.  Well, the Court went the wrong way, and this week the New York Times has a story about the Obama administration’s expected “guidance” that will indeed limit the use that landlords make of tenants’ criminal records.

A Mixed Civil-Rights Bag in Congress – Just a quick update on recent civil-rights goings-on in Congress. 

The good:   Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), bless his heart, continues to harass the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this time by requiring it to play by the same rules it wants the companies it regulates to play by.   Also good:  There has been anti-disparate-impact legislation introduced by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ), and there’s more in the works

The bad:  The House (isn’t that supposedly controlled by the Republicans, by the way?) has passed some bad legislation with gender preferences in it. 

And the ugly:  Some Senators want to give arguably the worst agency in the federal government, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, more money to spend on policing campus sex.

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Finally, the New York Times this week published my response to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s disappointing op-ed:

“Representative Jim Sensenbrenner calls for the passage of his Voting Rights Act of 2015 to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. But no new legislation is needed.

“The Supreme Court struck down only one provision in the Voting Rights Act — which was indeed unconstitutional and was never a permanent part of the act anyway — and there are plenty of other voting rights laws available to ensure that the right to vote is not violated. And notwithstanding Mr. Sensenbrenner’s suggestion to the contrary, those provisions can be used to stop discriminatory voting practices before they affect any election.

“The bill that Mr. Sensenbrenner has drafted is not only unnecessary but also affirmatively bad. For example, it does not protect all races equally from discrimination; it includes dubious expansions of federal power that have nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision; and it itself violates the Constitution by prohibiting practices that are not actually racially discriminatory but only have racially disproportionate effects.

“The bill is not really bipartisan. It is intended to give a partisan advantage to the left, which is why nearly all its support comes from those across the aisle from Mr. Sensenbrenner.”