Patterico's Pontifications


The Interesting Internal Squabble at Vox

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:15 pm

[guest post by JVW]

I know that so many of you hate Twitter. I kind of hate it too, though I confess that I just can’t quit it. While it is indeed chock-full of dumb, reactionary, mean-spirited ripostes — including 2,443 of them from yours truly — it does give us a voyeur’s window into the internal politics of certain media organizations which otherwise we would have to learn from the rumor mill.

Yesterday, Dana (with an addendum from Patterico) did a great job in outlining the curious dustup regarding the open letter supporting free speech and opposing cancel culture signed by many practicing leftists, which in turn led a Vox editor to decry the fact that fellow Voxxer Matt Yglesias had signed on to the letter, claiming that it makes her, as a trans-woman, “feel less safe.” This predictable contention, subject to ridicule though it was, seems to have laid bare some internal tensions within the Vox office (Voxxice? Voffice?). It began with Vox founder and head honcho Ezra Klein apparently asking Mr. Yglesias to avoid engaging this matter directly or with subtweets, which for the happily uninitiated are tweets that appear on their face to be generalized in nature but are in fact clearly intended for the attention of specific unnamed people. It started yesterday, when the Vox editor published her criticism of Mr. Yglesias and many voices on the right took to the his defense. This didn’t seem to sit well with our hero, who started digging up old tweets of some of the same defenders criticizing his past work:

Yglesias slagged

After settling those old scores in disdain of his newfound allies, he later pledged to change his strategy, perhaps after conferring with his friend Mr. Klein:

Yglesias promise

Then this morning Mr. Klein perhaps sent a message as to where Vox stands on free speech by retweeting Zach Beauchamp:

Klein retweets Beauchamp

He then followed it up with a tweet of his own, with a point regarding free speech and intersectionality that he claims wasn’t necessarily intended for Mr. Yglesias and the leftist signers of the open letter, but can hardly be read otherwise:

Klein tweets free speech and power

Mr. Yglesias clearly saw this as a subtweet to himself, and he responded somewhat caustically with a tweet that he appears to have then quickly deleted:

Yglesias responds to Klein

When Yascha Mounk of Persuasion called out Mr. Klein on the subtweet, the Vox founder was forced to begin backtracking:

Mounk and Klein

And ultimately realizing how dysfunctional this petty squabble was making his employer and his own brand appear, Mr. Yglesias sued for peace:

Yglesias surrenders

Thus ends the Battle of the Cancel Culture Open Letter at the Vox Offices, but the War for Free Speech rages on. Would you feel comfortable working for Ezra Klein, seeing his avowed commitment to the open exchange of ideas compromised by his insistence on paying homage to the more dopey notions of intersectionality and power structures? What if you weren’t Mr. Klein’s “co-founder and oldest friend in journalism,” but some lowly cub reporter?

Cheers to Matt Yglesias for taking a stand in favor of free speech, then not (thus far) backing down when the woke mob starting coming for him. Boos to Ezra Klein for being so wishy-washy on this issue which really ought to be central to his profession. He should take some time to work all of this out in his mind and come up with a principled and consistent position going forward, because one day the woke mob will almost certainly come for him.


Supreme Court Affirms Latitude for Religious Schools in Teacher Employment Matters

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:33 pm

[guest post by JVW]

The U.S. Supreme Court declared today that the First Amendment limits the ability of courts to intervene in employment matters at private religious schools when the employee can be determined to have a ministerial aspect to his or her employment. The case, Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs. Morrisey-Berru, built upon an earlier decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC eight years ago in which the Court unanimously ruled that “it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers” by applying that “ministerial exception” from Hosannah-Tabor to teachers who are expected to incorporate religious instruction in the classroom:

A variety of factors may be important in determining whether a particular position falls within the ministerial exception. The circumstances that informed the Court’s decision in Hosanna-Tabor were relevant because of their relationship to Perich’s “role in conveying the Church’s message and carrying out its mission.” But the recognition of the significance of those factors in Perich’s case did not mean that they must be met in all other cases. What matters is what an employee does. Implicit in the Hosanna-Tabor decision was a recognition that educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of a private religious school’s mission.

Applying this understanding of the Religion Clauses here, it is apparent that Morrissey-Berru and Biel qualify for the exception recognized in Hosanna-Tabor. There is abundant record evidence that they both performed vital religious duties, such as educating their students in the Catholic faith and guiding their students to live their lives in accordance with that faith. Their titles did not include the term “minister” and they had less formal religious training than Perich, but their core responsibilities were essentially the same. And their schools expressly saw them as playing a vital role in carrying out the church’s mission. A religious institution’s explanation of the role of its employees in the life of the religion in question is important. [Citations removed from original text.]

I had an interest in this case because Our Lady of Guadalupe is a parish in Hermosa Beach, just a couple of miles from where I live, and that case had been combined with a similar case, St. James School vs. Biel, which is the school attached to my own home parish. In what might be considered a pleasant surprise, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined with the Court majority to deliver a 7-2 decision. Justice Clarence Thomas concurred, but went a bit further than the majority in reiterating “my view that the Religion Clauses require civil courts to defer to religious organizations’ good-faith claims that a certain employee’s position is ‘ministerial,’” apparently being unwilling to leave it to the courts to determine what defines a ministry. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguing that the terms “minister” and “ministerial” should be applied far more narrowly and generally reserved to those who exercise a leadership role within the actual church, not just at a church school.

Religious freedom issues are now three-for-three in this court term, with today’s decision coming on the heels of last month’s decision in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue in which the Court ruled (5-4, conservatives vs. progressives) that the state could not prevent a taxpayer-funded scholarship intended for private school tuition from being used at religious schools. Also announced today was a decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Sts. Peter and Paul Home vs. Pennsylvania, a continuation of the battle the Little Sisters of the Poor has waged against a post-Obamacare mandate that religious employers’ health plans cover contraception usage by lay employees. Pennsylvania, joined by New Jersey, argued that the Trump Administration’s exemption of all religious organizations’ work from the contraceptive mandate was not allowable under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, and that it had not properly been formulated through administrative channels. The Court again decided by a 7-2 margin (same lineup as the Our Lady case) that the exemption was proper and legal, though the majority opinion, written by Justice Thomas, refused to go so far as to declare that the Little Sisters have a First Amendment right to forever refuse to pay for contraception coverage. This of course leaves the entire issue of whether a religious exemption ought to exist up to future administrations. Justice Alito made note of this in his concurring opinion, joined by Justice Gorsuch, and predicted that Pennsylvania and New Jersey would soon be back in the lower courts raising yet another objection to the ruling that would keep the Little Sisters busy defending their religious freedom.

A hallmark of the Roberts Court has been its careful — a critic might say timid — narrowing of the scope of the Court’s rulings. This term we have established that taxpayer-funded scholarships can’t be denied to religious school students, but the Court has been unwilling to categorically strike down Blaine Amendments in state constitutions. The Court has expanded the ministerial exception to include teachers at religious schools, but only if the school explicitly outlines the expectations it has for the teachers in advance, rejecting Justice Thomas’s belief that religious schools be granted “good-faith” deference. And they have continued to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from requirements that they violate the dictates of their conscience, yet they frustratingly refuse to expand the ruling in Hobby Lobby and declare that religious orders do not have to fund contraception for lay employees. There is certainly some virtue in the Supreme Court refusing to act as a supra-legislature (except when it wants to), but at some point it would be nice if they would stand up for the Constitution.


Sunshine State: Covid Rates Spike, Disney World To Reopen, GOP Convention Set For Jacksonville

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:57 am

[guest post by Dana]

In three days, Disney World Orlando will reopen:

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., will welcome back visitors on Saturday even as coronavirus cases in Florida remain high. In doing so Disney is stepping into a politicized debate surrounding the virus and efforts to keep people safe, where even the wearing of masks has become a point of contention.

On Wednesday, Florida reported more than 9,900 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 223,775 cases over the course of the pandemic.

Visiting Disney World will be different: Parades, fireworks and most indoor shows have been suspended. There will be no opportunities to hug any costumed characters. Fingerprint scanners will not be used at park entrances.

“Covid is here,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman, said. “We have a responsibility to figure out the best approach to safely operate in this new normal.”

Would you feel safe enough to go?

Meanwhile, President Trump’s re-election campaign moved the GOP convention to Florida after first-choice North Carolina’s governor made it clear that there would be social distancing protocols in place by only allowing “a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings.”

As a result, Jacksonville, Florida has been selected as the host city for the convention:

In a television interview with… Trump suggested the format for the Aug. 24-27 event would depend on the severity of the outbreak in the Sunshine State.

“Well, we’re always looking at different things,” the president said on Tuesday. “When we signed in Jacksonville, we wanted to be in North Carolina. That almost worked out, but the governor didn’t want to have people use the arena, essentially. And so I said, ‘Too bad for North Carolina.’”

Trump said that when the RNC announced it was changing venues, Florida “looked good.”

“It’s spiking up a little bit,” he told Van Susteren. “And that’s going to go down. It really depends on the timing. Look, we’re very flexible. We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible.”

Imagine, here we are in the middle of a pandemic where the infection rate is climbing, and not only does the President of the United States not want to hold a convention in a state because their priority is to keep people safe and try to limit the rate of transmission, but he backhands them for doing so!

Interestingly, Florida’s Gov. DeSantis now finds himself in a bit of a tight spot:

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, was forced to roll back the state’s reopening plans, imposing restrictions that include limiting the capacity of indoor facilities to 50 percent.

On Tuesday, DeSantis refused to say whether he would lift the mandate for the convention, which would limit it to 7,500 people. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who lobbied for the city to host the event, announced Tuesday that he and his family are in self-quarantine after he was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

The president has not yet commented on the protocols put in place by the Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee. These will include daily coronavirus tests and temperature checks for all attendees. Also, while Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry noted that “there is a statewide executive order that facilities can’t have over 50% capacity,” he said that the city will reassess that order when the convention dates draw near.

Note: Already there are five GOP senators who have said they will not attend the convention, with a few citing concerns about coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Florida hospitals are feeling the strain :

More than 40 Florida hospitals in multiple counties across the state have maxed out their ICU capacity or are close to running out of intensive care beds as the coronavirus outbreak across the Sunshine State worsens, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

As of Tuesday, more than 5,000 Florida patients were using roughly 83% of the state’s more than 6,000 ICU beds, according to Florida’s health agency, which is responsible for licensing the state’s health-care facilities. That leaves a little more than 1,000 free ICU beds, compared with nearly 1,400 available ICU beds less than three weeks ago, according to CBS’ local affiliate WTSP.

Overall, the state’s hospitals are now running at 78% capacity, according to AHCA. ICU beds are running out at several hospitals in some of the state’s most-populated counties, including Miami-Dade County, Orange County, Hillsborough County and Broward County, which are respectively home to Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Florida, which has more than 213,700 confirmed cases so far, is struggling with the third-worst outbreak in the country after New York and California.


San Francisco Supervisor Introduces CAREN Act Because “This Is The CAREN We Need”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:58 am

[guest post by Dana]

A San Francisco lawmaker has introduced the CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act) in an effort to deter any future so-called Karens from making false, racially biased 911 calls:

Calling 911 to report a fabricated, racially-biased emergency would be illegal in San Francisco under a new proposal called, appropriately enough, the CAREN Act.

“Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting,” San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton tweeted Tuesday. “This is the CAREN we need. Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies.”

The proposed San Francisco legislation would hold people liable for calling 911 to report something they know is false or exaggerated, and based on racial bias.

Fellow San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney co-authored the bill, and noted in a tweet: “Racist false reports put people in danger and waste resources.”

Obviously, the bill would apply to both men and women, but the supervisor is clearly pushing back on the recent spate of “Karens” who have filed police reports against black men.

While it is already illegal in California to make a false police report, the CAREN Act adds a hate crime designation based on the racial bias of a fabricated report.

California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta of neighboring Oakland, who introduced similar legislation in AB 1550, released a statement discussing why he believes there is a need for his bill:

Racism and discrimination of any form is morally repugnant. California must continue to reassert its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. But those principles are being undermined by the persistent and, often fatal, presence of systemic and institutionalized racism, personal prejudice, and implicit bias in our society. AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others. This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.

…If you are afraid of a black family barbecuing in the community park, a man dancing and doing his normal exercise routine in the bike lane, or someone who asks you to comply with dog leash laws in a park, and your immediate response is to call the police, the real problem is with your own personal prejudice.

Given that Bonta specifically included the woman in Central Park who called the police on the black birder because she felt threatened by him, he has already determined that, had she been in California, she would be in violation of AB 1550. Yet given the vigorous debate we have been having about whether said woman in Central Park was actually threatened or not, and whether she should have been charged, I don’t see this legislation as being much more than a sticky wicket for both the public and law enforcement. Bonta essentially decided that the only reason the woman in the park called the police was because the birder was black, and dismissed out of hand her belief that she was being threatened based on the words the birder said. With this new legislation, how would a legal determination be made about the viability of a threat, and whether the individual was justified in making a 911 call? Is anyone not concerned that, with the passage of this bill, there will be an increased likelihood that individuals, particularly white women who are actually being threatened by a black male, might be reluctant to make an emergency 911 call? At some point, a subjective determination would need to be made as to whether an individual who believed they were being threatened, was actually being threatened and how much of their perception was based on racial animus. While I understand the concerns of wasting precious time and resources on fabricated calls, and even more importantly, the emotional damage that occurs when a black male is falsely targeted, is this the most effective way to solve the problem? I don’t think so.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I thank Dana for writing this post and would like to amplify her concerns by noting that this bill flies in the face of longstanding public policy. In Walker v. Kiousis, a CHP officer brought suit against a motorist alleging that the motorist had fabricated allegations in a misconduct complaint. The officer submitted a tape recording of the encounter as proof.

Kiousis filed a citizen complaint against Walker with the CHP. Kiousis alleged that during the arrest Walker had used profanity in speaking to him, had threatened him with physical violence, and had threatened him with three days in jail if he did not take a blood test.

. . . .

The tape recording failed to show that either officer at any time (1) told Kiousis, “Put your fucking hands behind your head”; (2) said anything about Kiousis getting his “ass kicked”; or (3) told Kiousis he would be in jail for three days if he did not take a blood alcohol test.

The court ruled against the CHP officer on numerous grounds, but the one that interests me was the motorist’s absolute privilege extending to statements in an official proceeding, which include reports of suspected illegal activity. The court cited the case of Imig v. Ferrar for the proposition that “The importance of providing to citizens free and open access to governmental agencies for the reporting of suspected illegal activity outweighs the occasional harm that might befall a defamed individual. Thus the absolute privilege is essential.” Imig itself makes it clear that the privilege extends to all sorts of complaints:

In King, the absolute privilege was applied to a letter written to the state Real Estate Commissioner charging misconduct by a broker. Likewise in Martin the privilege was extended to a letter written by a parent to a high school principal alleging unfitness of a teacher. In Ascherman it was extended to an interview which was preliminary to a hearing before the hospital board. The policy underlying the privilege is to assure utmost freedom of communication between citizens and public authorities whose responsibility is to investigate and remedy wrongdoing. As stated in King v. Borges, supra, 28 Cal. App. 3d 27, 34, “It seems obvious that in order for the commissioner to be effective there must be an open channel of [70 Cal. App. 3d 56] communication by which citizens can call his attention to suspected wrongdoing. That channel would quickly close if its use subjected the user to a risk of liability for libel. A qualified privilege is inadequate protection under the circumstances. … [¶] The importance of providing to citizens free and open access to governmental agencies for the reporting of suspected illegal activity outweighs the occasional harm that might befall a defamed individual. Thus the absolute privilege is essential.”

In those cases, the misconduct or illegality being reported is of an official, unlike, say, the lady in Central Park, who was reporting conduct of a citizen. However, the “importance of providing to citizens free and open access to governmental agencies for the reporting of suspected illegal activity” extends not just to reporting misconduct of public officials but to the reporting of any suspected illegal activity. The same government that proposes this CAREN act tells you “if you see something, say something.” But if you say something, we might prosecute you?

I propose my own KAREN bill, to outlaw calling people “Karen” unless their name is Karen. (You come up with the acronym; I lack the “create stupid acronyms” gene and accordingly will never run for office.) As for this bill, how about no.

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