Monday, June 10, 2019

New York Times smears Transportation Secretary Chao with innuendo and not so subtle racism

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement blasting a New York Times hit piece on Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao:

“Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is an effective conservative member of the Trump Administration and this is why she is under attack by the New York Times under the guise of investigative journalism.  Here is the truth.  Secretary Chao was born in Taipei, Taiwan after her family fled communist China following the communist takeover. As a seven-year-old, Elaine Chao came to America with her mom and siblings to join her father who arrived in 1953 to establish himself before sending for his family. She spoke no English when she arrived but after just two years in America, she was elected president of her class.

“Secretary Chao is one of the hardest working Cabinet Secretaries focused like a laser beam on accomplishing President Trump’s agenda.  Her efforts to mitigate the Obama administration’s regulatory attempt to end the internal combustion engine in vehicles through unattainable federal government mandated fuel efficiency standards is just one example of the Secretary tackling the hard issues of fixing and balancing the former administration’s regulatory excesses creating a sound economic future for transportation in America.

“As someone who worked for Secretary Chao in the Labor Department during President George W. Bush’ administration, I can personally attest that she is an aggressive conservative seeking ways to roll back government and reduce overall spending.  And these attacks are clearly motivated by those with a desire to thwart her through innuendo and sometimes not so subtle racism.

“The fact is that Secretary Chao was appointed to head the Transportation Department after serving not only as Labor Secretary for eight years, but also as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation under President George Herbert Walker Bush and the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. Having received about three dozen honorary degrees from around the globe, to infer that any of these honorary degrees somehow taints her is patently absurd.

“This attempt to smear Elaine Chao is clearly rooted in fear.  Secretary Chao is an effective conservative working to transform the transportation policy, working against the bureaucrat resisters and former Obama officials who are so often quoted by liberal outlets like the New York Times as if they were objective non-partisans. Among her recent actions which have drawn the ire of the professional left, Chao ended funding for the California high-speed rail and started an inquiry on whether the San Antonio and Buffalo airports religious discrimination against the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain ran afoul of federal law.

“It is no surprise that by carrying out President Trump’s mandate at the Department of Transportation, that Secretary Chao is being subjected to this type of scurrilous attack, and I, for one, am sick of this type of political assassination of someone who has dedicated her life to reining in the administrative state.”


The lawful exercise of your Second Amendment rights does not make you a second-class citizen

State supreme court ... could 'find no justification for the notion that a police officer may infer criminal activity merely from an individual's possession of a concealed firearm in public.'

Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered a message that the United States Supreme Court desperately needs to hear: The lawful exercise of your Second Amendment rights does not make you a second-class citizen.

Here’s the context. For the last two years, federal courts — including, sadly, the Supreme Court — have endorsed a legal regime where police can use even the lawful exercise of gun rights as a pretext for the violation of other constitutional rights, principally our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

For example, in 2017, the Eleventh Circuit held that a police officer enjoyed immunity from suit when he pounded on the door of the wrong apartment late at night, failed to announce himself, and then shot dead a young man when he lawfully answered the door, armed. The existence of the gun granted the officer the right to shoot with absolute legal impunity.

Two months later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of police officers who, without a warrant, entered the modest dwelling (a one-room shack) of a man named Angel Mendez and opened fire when he pointed a BB gun at them. Mendez lost his leg. His girlfriend was also injured. SCOTUS then used this case as an occasion to reverse a Ninth Circuit use-of-force rule that would impose liability when police “provoke” a violent confrontation through an “independent Fourth Amendment violation.”

But perhaps the best expression of gun owners as second-class citizens under the Bill of Rights came from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that police could frisk a person if they believed that the person carried a firearm, even if he possessed a concealed-carry permit. According to the court, “the danger justifying a protective frisk arises from the combination of a forced police encounter and the presence of a weapon, not from any illegality of the weapon’s possession” (emphasis added).

In a concurring opinion, a federal circuit-court judge actually typed these words:

The majority decision today necessarily leads to the conclusion that individuals who elect to carry firearms forego other constitutional rights, like the Fourth Amendment right to have law enforcement officers “knock-and-announce” before forcibly entering homes. . . . Likewise, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that individuals who choose to carry firearms necessarily face greater restriction on their concurrent exercise of other constitutional rights, like those protected by the First Amendment.

In plain English, this means gun owners must choose: carry their weapon and lose the full protections of the rest of the Bill of Rights, or never pick it up and enjoy your other rights. For people who live in high-crime areas, people who are often poor and sometimes nonwhite, this presents a wholly unacceptable dilemma. The people who have the most urgent need for self-defense find themselves facing the greater risk of the loss of their liberties.

Enter the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In Commonwealth v. Hicks, police responded to a citizen call after Hicks was spotted showing his handgun to another person outside a convenience store. He did not rob the store. He did not do anything illegal. He was a concealed-carry holder in lawful possession of his gun. “Numerous” police officers responded to the call, stopped the vehicle, restrained him, and conducted a search. They smelled alcohol and found a small bag of marijuana. They then arrested him for driving under the influence and disorderly conduct.

Hicks challenged the legality of his arrest, and while the trial court dismissed the disorderly-conduct charge, it upheld the legality of the initial search. The court ruled that “possession of a concealed weapon in public creates a reasonable suspicion justifying an investigatory stop in order to investigate whether the person is properly licensed.”

Thus any concealed-carry holder could be subject to search simply because he chose to carry his weapon, to exercise rights guaranteed by state law and buttressed by the Bill of Rights.

The state supreme court disagreed, holding that it could “find no justification for the notion that a police officer may infer criminal activity merely from an individual’s possession of a concealed firearm in public.” It continued:

Unless a police officer has prior knowledge that a specific individual is not permitted to carry a concealed firearm, and absent articulable facts supporting reasonable suspicion that a firearm is being used or intended to be used in a criminal manner, there simply is no justification for the conclusion that the mere possession of a firearm, where it lawfully may be carried, is alone suggestive of criminal activity.

This is exactly correct, and it’s buttressed by the plain constitutional truth that there exists “a first principle that lies at the heart of the Fourth Amendment — that the government may not target and seize specific individuals without any particular suspicion of wrongdoing, then force them to prove that they are not committing crimes.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court notes that SCOTUS has not addressed the specific legal questions at issue. When the right case arises, it must. And when it does, it should note once and for all that gun possession — by itself — does not compromise the protections of any other constitutional right.


Democrats keeping house prices high in Boston

They like to keep the poor out of their neighborhoods.  It's called compassion -- for themselves

Thanks to a thicket of zoning rules, the suburban communities of Greater Boston have lots of ways to make it difficult to build apartments and other multifamily housing that many of their residents don't want.

Now housing advocates are cataloging those ways, and looking for new approaches to getting more homes built.

A coalition of major housing industry and advocacy groups on Tuesday is releasing a study billed as the first comprehensive review of zoning laws in Eastern Massachusetts in more than a decade. The groups hope to highlight the local rules that slow or block development and keep the growing region in the grip of a housing crisis that shows few signs of easing.

"These rules may be logical for each community," said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, one of the groups behind the study. "But they become negative for the region as a whole."

In a state where land use decisions are almost entirely a local affair, zoning laws at the city and town level have a huge influence on what gets built. Yet no one comprehensively tracks these regulations. So the groups - including trade organizations for home builders and real estate agents as well as affordable-housing advocates - hired a public policy researcher, Amy Dain, to study the zoning codes and housing plans of 100 Eastern Massachusetts municipalities. Two years and countless site visits later, she produced a 123-page report highlighting how they relegate new housing to certain spots, at certain sizes, or discourage it altogether.

"Basically, we were trying to come up with what is the aggregate, de facto plan for building multifamily housing across Greater Boston," Dain said. "Everyone talks about it. But we don't talk about what we're actually allowing, and where."

Much of the report examines what Dain calls "the paper wall," the maze of regulations - lot size requirements, parking minimums, age restrictions - that often serve to block multifamily housing, even when it is nominally permitted by zoning.

The Town of Dover, for instance, technically allows apartment buildings but requires that 25 percent of units in a new building be affordable, that 40 percent be set aside for senior citizens, and that the project contain no more than four units per acre - a density more common to single-family homes with yards. No project has ever been permitted in Dover under those rules, Dain noted.

When cities and towns do approve large-scale housing, they often do so through so-called special permits - and usually through Town Meeting votes - a lengthy process that can drive up costs and introduce lots of political complexity.

It's a process that should be simplified, said Andre Leroux, executive director of the Smart Growth Alliance.

"Communities love their special permits. They want to have discretion over development," he said. "Fine. But let's at least make it easier for communities to approve special permits."

And that's where this study, two years in the making, plays into the debate of the month on Beacon Hill. Governor Charlie Baker is pushing hard for a vote on his long-stalled Housing Choice bill, which would lower the threshold that's needed to approve many zoning changes from the two-thirds majority of a City Council or Town Meeting currently needed to 50 percent plus one.

It's a small tweak that could unlock thousands of new units of housing that have local support but not a supermajority, Baker has said.

All the groups behind Tuesday's study agree, but some say Housing Choice should be just a first step to broader reforms.

"Once that passes, we've got to seriously talk about other things we need to do," Draisen said. "There are plenty. This is a major crisis."

One of the solutions may be a more regional approach to planning.

Dain's report highlighted how many municipalities force denser development to their edges or to formerly industrial areas, to protect existing single-family neighborhoods. Those areas often border a neighboring town, but the neighbors are not necessarily collaborating with each other.

If they did collaborate, they could better plan new corridors of growth, Dain said, pointing to areas such as the north side of the Mystic River, where Medford, Malden, and Everett separately have permitted nearly 3,000 apartments in total over the last 20 years.

"That is like a dream area to prove how we can build on the edges of our cities and towns, in a connected way," Dain said, pointing to similar opportunities along Route 1A in Dedham and Westwood and along Route 128 in Newton, Needham, and Wellesley.

"How do we plan to knit zoning and infrastructure together in places like that?"


The morality of defending America: A letter to a young Googler

By Ash Carter

I’m often asked about the controversy over Google’s role in projects for the US Department of Defense. Concerned over an artificial intelligence effort called Project Maven, 5,000 of the firm’s employees declared in a letter last year to CEO Sundar Pichai that “Google should not be in the business of war.” Two months later, Google decided not to renew the contract. I did not agree with the protest letter, nor with management’s initial withdrawal. But I was pleased to hear Pichai tell Congress a few months later: “I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the [US] government to keep our country safe and secure.”

At a time when other tech companies are facing internal pressure over their work for the Defense Department — and when young engineers and computer scientists are sincerely grappling with these tough questions — I want to share with them my perspective as both a scientist and former secretary of defense.

Dear Googler,

As a scientist by background, I share your commitment to ensuring that technology is used for moral ends. You’re very much in the tradition of the Manhattan Project scientists who created that iconic “disruptive” technology: atomic weapons.

These physicists and public servants were proud of their invention because it saved lives by bringing a swift end to World War II. It then deterred another, even more destructive war between superpowers. But they also assumed responsibility for the terrible dangers of nuclear war. So they worked to reduce this risk by developing safety locks on bombs, effective command-and-control systems, arms control and nonproliferation regimes, and systems for missile defense and civil defense.

Several of these scientists became my mentors. Their example informed my earliest work in the Pentagon as a physicist helping to shape nuclear programs, and later leading the Nunn-Lugar effort that safely denuclearized the former Soviet states.

Unfortunately, the tech world and national defense often seem at odds today. This mistrust is understandable, but it’s not sustainable — and it’s not good for America. Let me share why I think your engagement with the DOD is important.

First, while national defense may not be the main work you do, it’s an inescapable necessity. Shouldn’t people like you, who combine expertise with commitment to moral values, shape this tough arena? AI is an increasingly important military tool. Will it be crude, indiscriminate, and needlessly destructive? Or will it be controlled, precise, and designed to follow US laws and international norms? Refusing to help design these systems means ceding the assignment to others who may not share your skill or moral center.

In 2012, I issued the Pentagon’s first policy regarding AI, which established rules for its ethical deployment. My regulations, which are still in force today, require human involvement in any decision to use lethal force.

You will appreciate the technical complexity this involves. It does not mandate a “person in the loop” in a literal sense, since this is infeasible even with today’s simple computer-aided weapons. A guided missile homes in on its target with rapid recalculations from flight data. A commander can’t check these calculations in real time. Instead, avoidance of error is designed into the weapon and checked during rigorous testing, and launch decisions are then made by trained personnel. Everyone is held responsible and accountable in a transparent investigation of any error.

The AI-aided weapons of the future will intensify this challenge, making it more complex to determine how and why a firing decision was made. A reasonable level of traceability — strong enough to satisfy the vital standard of human responsibility — must be designed into those algorithms. The integrity of the huge underlying data sets must also be checked. This is complex work, and it takes specialists like you to ensure it’s done right.

Second, remember that Google, like other global companies, works in and for adversarial nations such as China. It’s ironic that, shortly after the Project Maven decision, a leaked report revealed that Google had been secretly working on the Dragonfly project, a search engine compliant with China’s censorship. The company announced plans to end its involvement, but let’s not kid ourselves about the deeper issue: Working in and for China effectively means cooperating with the People’s Liberation Army. Are you really more morally concerned about working with DOD than with the PLA? A glance at China’s human rights record should make clear that strengthening Beijing’s hand is not a formula for making a better world.

Third, and perhaps most important, Google itself and most of your colleagues are American. Your way of life, the democratic institutions that empower you, the laws that enable the operations and profits of the corporation, and even your very survival rely on the protection of the United States. Surely you have a responsibility to contribute as best you can to the shared project of defending the country that has given Google so much.

I applaud you and your colleagues for taking seriously the moral aspect of your work. Now I urge you to think more broadly about it, and to get fully engaged in the work it takes to make our world safer, freer, and more peaceful. America’s military brings our values as well as our power to the battlefield. All of us must work to ensure that will always be the case.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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