Wednesday, March 27, 2013
US Supreme Court to take up Michigan affirmative action case
At issue in the Michigan affirmative action case is whether a ballot initiative violated the rights of minority students to try to influence school officials to adopt race-conscious admissions plans.
The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine whether a 2006 ballot initiative banning affirmative action at public universities in Michigan violates the equal protection rights of minorities.
Fifty-eight percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment in college admissions based on race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.
Civil rights groups and minority students sued to block the measure, arguing that the constitutional amendment erected disadvantageous barriers to those advocating for the use of racial identity and ethnic background to grant preferential consideration to minority candidates by college admissions officers.
By targeting racial classifications in college admissions, proponents of the ban on racial classifications were themselves guilty of using such classifications, they argued.
A federal judge disagreed and upheld Proposal 2. A sharply divided Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, ruling 8 to 7 that the ban on affirmative action violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The central issue in the case is what the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection actually protects.
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It is well established that it protects against political obstructions that would hinder or undermine equal treatment of black students and white students.
But the question in the Michigan case is whether it also protects against political obstructions that make it more difficult for minority students to obtain preferential treatment in college admissions based on race or ethnicity.
“It is exceedingly odd to say that a statute which bars a state from discriminating on the basis of race violates the Equal Protection Clause because it discriminates on the basis of race and sex. Yet that is precisely what the [Sixth Circuit] majority held here,” Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch wrote in his brief to the high court.
“Until now, no court has ever held that, apart from remedying specific past discrimination, a government must engage in affirmative action,” Mr. Bursch said.
He said the case presented a question of "immense importance."
At issue is whether state governments are free to replace race-conscious affirmative action admissions plans with race-neutral alternatives as a means to achieve classroom diversity.
In addition to Michigan, seven other states have undertaken such efforts: Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.
This is all about saving the euro, not Cyprus
There is a glimmer of hope – and that is the Cypriots’ desire to reassert independence
By Nigel Farage
The brinkmanship that has been on display over the Cypriot financial crisis makes obvious to all but the wilfully blind the level of political determination in Brussels to save the euro at all costs. No amount of empirical economic evidence – or misery for ordinary people – matters when the dreams of the continent’s elite are threatened.
After the French and Dutch rejected the European Constitution in 2005, the then European Commissioner for Communications, Margot Wallström, put it perfectly. She and the other EU cheerleaders had invested “a lot of energy and political capital” in the project, she declared, and they were not going to give up on it. No matter what the people said, no matter what the economic realities were.
Five years later, this delusion in the face of brute reality has reached its apogee in Cyprus.
How can it be that the German parliament gets to vote on the wholesale theft of money from richer Cypriot depositors, while the Cypriot parliament has no such voice? Instead the theft is labelled “restructuring” – and as such there will be no Cypriot democratic oversight of the economic rape of their country. Be under no illusion: this is being done not to solve the Cypriot economy, but to save the euro. The crashing irony is that, in their February elections, the Cypriots threw out the Communists. One could ask why they bothered.
But at what cost is the euro being saved? What we can see here is an almost deliberate attempt to set the people of Cyprus against each other. By restricting the damage to those who have deposited 100,000 euros in the bank (rather than across the board, as was the previous suggestion) they will be undermining social cohesion, pitting those with against those without. It destroys any pretence that the EU has at its heart a belief in democracy, or in those warm words so often repeated about it being the guardian of essential “European” qualities. In truth it was only a fair-weather friend and its behaviour in this storm, as in others, is to drop these benevolent ideas like hot stones.
Worse still, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who heads the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, has made it clear that this is now the template for all eurozone countries. Think about that for a moment. These politicians really believe that all the money in the eurozone is actually theirs – as if people have it on sufferance, and not by rights. Since Dijsselbloem spoke, bank shares in Spain, France and Italy have collapsed: citizens of these countries not unreasonably fear the worst.
All this is done for the European elite’s devious ends. One of which is the so-called “Target 2”. This is the eurozone bank clearing system, by which private transfers of money from one member to another are cleared through the national central banks. If, for instance, 100 euros is moved from a Greek bank deposit to a German bank deposit, the Greek central bank ends up owing another 100 euros to the Bundesbank (through the European Central Bank).
At present, the Bundesbank is owed 600 billion euros thanks to Target 2, mainly as a result of capital flight from Mediterranean countries. But, unlike with normal debts, the debtor countries have no contract or understanding about how this should be repaid.
Cyprus has just been granted a 10 billion euro bail-out loan from the other eurozone countries. But the irony is that Cyprus is already in receipt of a bail-out worth 7.5 billion euros – this is the Target 2 debt of the central bank of Cyprus. And they are desperately trying to prevent this growing as a result of further capital flight.
Perhaps this is the most ominous result of the Cyprus debacle. While the details of the controls to prevent money leaving Cyprus are not yet known, they will quickly lead to euros in a bank account there being worth less than euros in bank accounts elsewhere.
I have been saying this since the start of the latest chapter of the crisis: that the level of risk and the prospects of contagion are such that those who have deposits in other southern European countries should get them out as soon as possible. Don’t just take my word for it. The economist and journalist Anatole Kaletsky yesterday made his support for my comments utterly clear on Twitter: “Anyone with more than 100,000 euros in a French, Spanish or Italian bank is crazy if individual, or criminally negligent if a company director.”
There is, however, a silver lining to all of this – a small one, but possibly the most important aspect in the whole sorry debacle. Cyprus is different from Greece, different from Ireland and different from Spain and Italy. In Cyprus we have a population that would prefer to leave the eurozone than comply with the privations of Germany and Brussels. We have a parliament that has already voted down one scheme, and is thus barred from debating this one. We have a Cypriot archbishop who supports his people rather than the EU. They are not happy and they are pointing to a new reality.
That David Cameron is welcoming these plans shows how far the British political class is from any ideals of democracy, accountability and liberty. Instead the future to him is a technocratic, post-democratic world, run in the most part by unelected, fanatical and deluded power-mongers in Brussels and Frankfurt.
Airlines should charge 'fat tax' on obese travellers because their extra weight burns more fuel, says Professor
A pay-what-you-weigh airline pricing scheme should be introduced because heavier people cost more in fuel to fly, a professor has claimed.
Heavier passengers would pay more for their plane tickets and lighter ones less under plans put forward by Dr Bharat P Bhatta.
Writing in this month's Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management publication, Dr Bhatta said weight and space should be taken into account when airlines price their tickets.
Dr Bhatta, of the Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, said: 'Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services.
'As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets.'
Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management editor Dr Ian Yeoman said: 'For airlines, every extra kilogram means more expensive jet fuel must be burned, which leads to CO2 emissions and financial cost.
'As the airline industry is fraught with financial difficulties, marginally profitable and has seen exponential growth in the last decade, maybe they should be looking to introduce scales at the check-in.'
Dr Bhatta says the fare could be generated with a fixed rate for kilograms per passenger so that a person weighing 60kg pays half the airfare of a 120kg person.
Alternatively, airlines could have a 'base' fare with an additional charge for heavier passengers to cover the extra costs, as well as a discount for lighter flyers.
The proposals have detractors, such as Bob Atkinson of TravelSupermarket.com. He questioned whether passengers would be entitled to a discount if they lose weight between when they booked their tickets and when they arrive at the airport.
He told the Daily Express: 'Customers are already paying extra charges for their baggage, but actually making one for a person - I think that's a bit distasteful.'
English MPs could finally hold sway on England-only laws: Scots' power must be curbed says report
Laws that affect England alone should no longer be passed in the Commons without the consent of a majority of English MPs, an inquiry has concluded.
The changes are designed to end the problem of unpopular measures affecting England, but not Scotland, being approved only with the support of Scottish MPs.
In 2004, for example, Tony Blair pushed through tuition fees for England even though most English MPs voted against the policy.
It passed only because Scottish Labour MPs packed the lobbies in favour of the move – despite the fact tuition fees would not apply north of the border because the devolved executive there had rejected the plan.
An independent commission, led by former House of Commons clerk Sir William McKay, has said more needs to be done to ensure English MPs have better control.
The report was commissioned by the Cabinet Office last year, and ministers will now consider whether to implement its conclusions.
It calls for a compromise ‘double-lock’ system, under which laws that apply in England alone are approved first by English MPs before they go to a vote before the whole Commons, which comprises MPs of all four nations of the UK.
The report suggests any England-only laws should first be considered by a committee made up of MPs representing English constituencies.
Laws would not go forward unless they achieved the support of this committee, whose make-up should reflect the balance of parties in England.
The legislation would then be voted on by all MPs in the Commons – be they English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish.
This is to ensure that MPs from other countries are not relegated to ‘second class’ status.
So, in effect, every law would have to be supported by both a representative majority of English MPs and a majority of all of Britain’s MPs.
The new regime is designed to solve the so-called ‘West Lothian’ question, which asks why it is that Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish MPs have the same right to vote at Westminster as any English MP now that large areas of policy are devolved to national parliaments and assemblies.
Many Conservatives have called for purely ‘English votes for English laws’, with MPs from other nations barred from voting on such issues.
But Labour says to do that would undermine the Union. The party is also concerned that, because it often relies on Scottish MPs for a majority at Westminster, English votes for English laws could make governing impossible.
Now Sir William’s commission has unveiled a compromise which maintains the integrity of the UK but provides a greater English voice.
He said: ‘Surveys have shown that people in England are unhappy about the existing arrangements, and support change. There is a feeling that England is at a disadvantage, and that it’s not right that MPs representing the devolved nations should be able to vote on matters affecting England.
‘The status quo clearly cannot be sustained. Our proposals retain the right of a UK-wide majority to make the final decisions where they believe UK interests or those of a part of the UK other than England should prevail.’
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We will give the report very serious consideration before we respond.’
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.