This image released by the United States Postal Service shows a postage stamp featuring Fred Rogers from the PBS children’s television series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” with his King Friday XIII puppet. The U.S. Postal Service plans to issue a new stamp on March 23 in the same Pittsburgh public television station where the program was produced.
Last week the House of Representatives, by a margin of more than 10 to 1, approved a completely gratuitous, blatantly unconstitutional bill that would make assaulting a police officer a federal crime. The lopsided vote was a bipartisan portrait in cowardice that vividly showed how readily politicians forsake their oaths of office to keep their hold on power.
The Protect and Serve Act prescribes a prison sentence of up to 10 years for anyone who “knowingly assaults a law enforcement officer,” thereby “causing serious bodily injury,” or “attempts to do so.” Such conduct is, of course, already illegal in all 50 states, and there is no reason to think local law enforcement agencies are reluctant to arrest and prosecute people guilty of it.
Nor does the problem addressed by the bill seem to be on the rise, notwithstanding all the overheated talk of a “war on cops.” The number of law enforcement officers who are feloniously killed each year is small and volatile, but according to the FBI it dropped by 30 percent last year, and the average for the last 15 years (51) is lower than the average for the previous 15 (65).
In any event, the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to fight local crime, and the interstate angles mentioned by the bill are so oblique that they could justify federal prosecution of pretty much any assault (or attempted assault) on a cop. If the alleged assailant drove on an interstate highway or used a weapon produced in another state, for instance, that would be enough to make a federal case out of it.
“A tenuous connection to economic activity cannot transform a criminal law that has nothing to do with economic activity—and that is explicitly for the purpose of public safety—into a regulation of interstate commerce,” the House Liberty Caucus noted before the vote. “If it could, the Commerce Clause would destroy the Constitution’s design for a very limited federal role in criminal law enforcement, covering only a few crimes that are clearly federal in nature.”
The Protect and Serve Act explicitly allows federal prosecution of someone who is acquitted in state court, or who is convicted but receives a penalty the Justice Department deems too light. According to the Supreme Court’s “dual sovereignty” doctrine, such serial prosecutions do not violate the Fifth Amendment’s ban on double jeopardy, but they clearly offend the principle of fairness embodied in that rule.
These issues should be familiar to anyone who has followed the debate over federal prosecution of hate crimes, which occur when the victim is picked “because of” his “actual or perceived” membership in a protected group. The Senate version of the Protect and Serve Act takes that analogy and runs with it, targeting assaults and attempted assaults committed “because of the actual or perceived status of the [victim] as a law enforcement officer.”
Under that bill, someone who takes a swing at a guy he mistakenly thinks is a cop has committed a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison—even if he misses. This approach, which takes a page from the “Blue Lives Matter” laws that at least four states have adopted in recent years, effectively punishes people not just for their conduct but for their anti-cop attitudes, just as hate crime statutes effectively punish people for their bigoted beliefs.
In addition to these problems, the possibility of federal felony charges based on garden-variety tussles between cops and people they detain, on top of state charges for assault and resisting arrest, gives police more leeway to abuse their powers. The Protect and Serve Act would protect and serve cops who hassle innocent people or use excessive force, giving them a new legal threat to use against their victims.
With 35 brave exceptions, these objections did not faze the House, where “Defend the Constitution” was no match for “Stand With the Blue.”
“Was there a part of you that was like, this isn’t real, this would not happen in my school?” A ghoulish ABC television reporter asked a Santa Fe High School student this, expecting a stock answer that would fit the conventional wisdom.
“No there wasn’t,” she replied coolly. “It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too. So, I don’t know. I wasn’t surprised. I was just scared.”
Against our will, we are getting used to the carnage. This time, a spurned fatty given to black Goth-ish clothing and video games fatally shot 10 students and teachers and injured 13 others near Houston. “Surprise!” he shouted, as he jumped from the closet into a classroom, mowing down classmates and a would-be girlfriend.
On national television last weekend, National Rifle Association president-elect Oliver North tried to move public soul-searching towards prescribed drugs and the “culture of violence,” spinning what happened at Santa Fe away from mounting pressure for more gun restrictions. But what does this inadequate phrase even mean? Does North understand what he’s talking about?
“We are getting used to a lot of behavior that is not good for us,” said Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Harvard professor of education and sociology and then U.S. senator, in his celebrated 1993 American Scholar essay “Defining Deviancy Down.” The nation had been “redefining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard,” Moynihan wrote.
Altruism was one broad public response to deepening social pathology, marked by denial, kindness, pity, or guilt, he noted, using as an example the closing of mental hospitals and rise of the homeless. Opportunism, he continued, was a second response, anticipating the advancement of government programs and vast, often lucrative social service, therapy, and diversity franchises, all of which would be “jeopardized if any serious effort were made to reduce the deviancy in question.”
This self-interest led to “assorted strategies for redefining the behavior in question as not all that deviant, really,” and to a third response, normalization, adapting to crime and violence, getting used to widespread coarseness and nihilism.
Moynihan wrote his essay 25 years ago. The insane and wayward—increasingly freed from stigma and shame—today terrify functional America even more so than in his time, on account of their shamelessness as well as increasing prevalence.
Homicidal gun violence is to a large degree a ghetto affair. Illegal and unlicensed handguns are the nation’s major killing machine. School menace is embodied in the angry lout in the suburban high school parking lot and seething introvert in the darkened bedroom. His ear buds are on, and his smartphone is turned up full-blast to hate rap.
Music is a leading indicator of the “culture of violence.” Primer 55’s Introduction to Mayhem, for example, produced in 2000, is a heavy metal classic from the Island Def Jam Music Group, standard teenage boy fare. The cuts include “Dose,” “The Big Fuck You,” “Violence,” “Hate,” “Tripinthehead,” “Loose,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “Supa Freak Love,” “Chaos,” “Pigs,” “Stain,” and “Revolution.”
The “culture of violence” is box office. And if Island Def Jam has been selling socio-cultural poison like this for two decades, isn’t legendary record producer and Malibu guru Rick Rubin, 55, who is worth an estimated $250 million, worthy of at least disgrace, not Hollywood and public adulation?
Violent music, video games, and depraved entertainment are cash machines. Electronic tools provide America’s youth—and their parents—with easy, possibly irresistible portals to the dark side. The weakening of families and religion-based communities contribute to the void. So do social media and porn. Unstable adolescents, if they are identified and treated, get medicated on the chance that anti-depressants or uppers will do their mood magic. Drugs—legal and illegal and everything in between—are palliatives for Americans of all ages.
Sometimes there’s official neglect or bad local policy, as with Parkland student Nicholas Cruz. But most educators are doing their best. The really damaged kids, the heartbreakers and the throwaways, the deranged and the dangerous, are given over to social workers, foster parents, or the police, but under the circumstances no one expects much to come from the interventions.
I wasn’t surprised, the Santa Fe High School student said. I was just scared. And, really, shouldn’t we all be feeling the same way?
The think tank New America has a new report out on Americans’ perceptions of higher education. Researchers Ernest Ezeugo, Rachel Fishman, and Sophie Nguyen conducted a survey of American adults in partnership with polling firm Ipsos that solicited respondents’ views on the value and purpose of college. The report broke down survey results by political party, providing some fascinating insights at a time of high political polarization.
On many issues, Republicans and Democrats are in agreement. But on at least one point—how and why higher education should be funded—a big gulf exists between the two parties.
The New America survey asked respondents to choose which of two alternative views more closely aligned with their own. Most Democrats (76%) indicated that “the government should fund higher education because it is good for society,” while a slight majority of Republicans (52%) said that “students should fund their own education because it is a personal benefit.”
The disparity in opinions between the two parties reveals a fundamental disagreement about the point of higher education. Democrats seem to believe that more people going to college generates large benefits even for those who don’t enroll. These social benefits dwarf individual students’ returns. Therefore, the government should step in to make sure there’s sufficient investment in higher education—perhaps even bearing the full cost.
Republicans, by contrast, seem to believe that most of the benefit of college is private, reflected in the earnings premium graduates enjoy over their less-educated peers. Graduates who owe their high earnings to education should shoulder the cost. After all, why should taxpayers who don’t have college degrees pay to support the high wages of people who do?
Interestingly, people with and without college degrees barely differed on this question. Among both college graduates and people with a high school degree or less, roughly six in ten respondents viewed higher education as a social good to be funded by taxpayers. (Roughly three in ten respondents in both groups took the opposite view.) Other demographic breakdowns such as race and income produced just moderate divides on the issue. Nothing predicts your views on the point of higher education quite as well as your political party.
Both Democrats and Republicans can claim research on their side; separate economic studies have found that higher education creates both social benefits and individual returns. Of course, there are arguments against both positions as well. More higher education may create negative externalities such as degree inflation that cancel out the social benefits. In addition, high private returns to college may not be sustainable over the long term; increases in the supply of college graduates may eventually push down their wages.
The wording of New America’s survey question nudged respondents to pick a side, but it’s likely that many respondents of both parties believe that higher education generates both social and individual returns. In that case, the appropriate funding structure would require students to pay tuition, but defray it with partial government subsidies. That happens to be exactly the system we have now.
A new film is being produced to tell the story of the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News exposed in recent years, and Charlize Theron will play Megyn Kelly in the clip.
The movie will reportedly track Kelly’s rise at the network from legal correspondent to her highly-acclaimed show, The Kelly File.
Former Fox hosts Gretchen Carlson, Greta Van Susteren, and Bill O’Reilly will also be depicted, along with the late Roger Ailes.
Fox became embroiled in a series of scandals starting in 2016 that resulted in the departure of a succession of high-profile hosts, along with the former and departed Chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Television stations, Roger Ailes.
In July of 2016, Gretchen Carlson filed suit against Mr. Ailes, claiming that she was terminated by the network for refusing his sexual advances. During an investigation of the claims, Kelly disclosed that she, too, had been harassed by Ailes ten years prior.
Kelly was reportedly asked to come to Ailes’ defense, and refused. She later explained in her book that the former CEO’s discussions toward her over the years always encompassed a combination of good advice but sexual innuendo, with the latter eventually escalating to a level that was indefensible. She also disclosed that his advances became physical in nature.
Ailes eventually resigned but more women continued to come forward with allegations of abuse against him and other high-profile Fox News employees — namely Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling and Charles Payne.
One of the accusers, Andrea Tantaros said, “Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”
In the meantime, the network has been making changes.
Last month, Fox News announced the appointment of their first female Chief Executive, Suzanne Scott, who has been with the company since its inception 22 years ago. She has been placed in the former post of Mr. Ailes, and is the only woman who heads a major cable network.
Scott was behind placing Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham in top spots for Fox News evening shows on the network.
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