Archive for March, 2012
March 30th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
Too Big to Read May Make ObamaCare Fail

Remember in 2009 when conservatives in Congress presented an alternative to ObamaCare that would have guaranteed bipartisan support for some of the outcomes the Obama White House and its liberal allies wanted?  Had the liberals concentrated on targeted reforms instead of a gargantuan“comprehensive solution” not only would the ultimate bill have been much shorter, it would have been much easier to read and comprehend.

That’s a point worth considering since judging by the comments from the Supreme Court this week, passing health reform piecemeal would have been a far better strategy for those wanting to salvage the legislation.

Due to ObamaCare’s massive size, Byron York notes that none of the Justices actually admitted reading the entire law.  “I haven’t read every word of [the law], I promise,” said Justice Stephen Breyer on Wednesday.  Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments to an attorney defending the law were more pointed: “You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?”  “You really expect the court to do that?”

The problem for ObamaCare’s defenders is that the Justices’ refusal to read the entire law means that they are much less likely to rule the individual mandate unconstitutional and keep the rest.  Instead, they’ll just invalidate the whole thing and have Congress start over.

If that happens, the liberal mania for “comprehensive” solutions for everything from illegal immigration to financial transactions and health care will be dealt a much-deserved blow.  You can’t interpret what you can’t define.

If the Court strikes down ObamaCare in its entirety liberals will have only themselves to blame.  Had they listened to conservatives, some of the popular aspects of ObamaCare – guarantees of coverage and subsidies for premiums – would likely be in place with bipartisan support.  Now, they may have nothing to show for what could ultimately end up being a massive waste of time and money.

March 30th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
Washington, D.C.: Following Supreme Court’s Gun Ban Ruling, Fewest Murders Since 1963
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When the United States Supreme Court affirmed the Second Amendment’s individual right to keep and bear arms and overturned Washington, D.C.’s prohibition, Mayor Adrian Fenty predicted, “More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence.”  But that’s not what happened, which comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention to decades of real-world data.  In the famous words of Dr. John Lott, “More Guns, Less Crime.”

Today, The Wall Street Journal noted that the D.C. saw its fewest number of murders since 1963.  What’s more, the decline occurred even as its police force has declined:  “Washington, D.C., last year recorded 108 murders, its fewest since 1963, despite 230 fewer uniformed officers than in 2009.”  More stubborn facts to debunk strangely persistent anti-gun hysteria.

March 30th, 2012 at 1:24 pm
Being Joe Biden

How’s this for honesty from America’s Vice President:

Vice President Joe Biden offered a frank assessment of his career in remarks at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago last night, according to the Washington Examiner.

Said Biden: “I never had an interest in being a mayor ’cause that’s a real job. You have to produce. That’s why I was able to be a senator for 36 years.”

H/T: Political Wire

March 30th, 2012 at 11:45 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Hillyer:  Health Care Should Be an Ordinary Market
Lee:  Overturning ObamaCare Wouldn’t Constitute “Judicial Activism”
Senik:  Robert Bales, Trayvon Martin and the Cult of Involuntary Martyrdom
Ellis:  EPA’s New Rule Kills Coal, Makes Natural Gas King

Podcast:  How Government Policies Are Driving Up Energy Prices
Jester’s Courtroom:  iSuit

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

March 30th, 2012 at 9:36 am
Podcast: How Government Policies Are Driving Up Energy Prices
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CFIF Senior Fellow Quin Hillyer discusses how the Obama Administration’s anti-oil industry policies and practices are driving up gas prices and threatening American energy companies. 

Listen to the interview here.

March 29th, 2012 at 5:47 pm
The Price of Resisting Tyranny in Syria
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I’ve written in this space before about the human rights atrocities being committed by the Assad regime in Syria, which are limited only by the perverse imaginations of the state-employed sociopaths who are carrying them out. Unfortunately, media coverage of these injustices are few and far between given that Syria is a closed society and most victims never live to tell the tale. A report in the Jerusalem Post, however, has some new (and grisly) details:

Under investigation, detainees would be regularly beaten amid continued insults and threats to family members.

“They would threaten me to rape my sisters and wife if I didn’t cooperate. It was a true nightmare,” says Islam [a Syrian dissident], who detailed methods of torture practiced that included sleep deprivation and mysterious injections that cause anxiety.

London based Amnesty detailed in its report 31 types of torture, including ‘crucifixion’-type beatings, electric shocks, use of pincers on flesh, sexual assaults with broken bottles or metal skewers. The scale of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria has risen to a level not witnessed for years and is reminiscent of the dark era of the 1980s and 1990s, said Amnesty.

The brave dissidents of Syria are, as ever, deserving of our thoughts and prayers. Their tormentors are deserving of the devil’s lash. And the whole nation is deserving of a regime change that will bring this evil epoch to an end.

March 28th, 2012 at 7:26 pm
Taking the Candidates Out of Context

All the candidates have been victimized, and it’s really bad for republican (small ‘r’) government. I explain it here.

March 28th, 2012 at 5:20 pm
Cautionary Tale: Duke Lacrosse Team Suspended This Day in 2006
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Six years ago today, Duke University suspended its lacrosse team following allegations of rape by stripper Crystal Mangum that were subsequently disproven.  As noted by the History Channel’s recitation, “The case raised issues of class and race because the accuser was a poor, black, single mother from the Durham area and the three lacrosse players were out-of-staters from affluent backgrounds.”  Approximately one year later, the case was dropped due to emerging evidence, and Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was not only disbarred but also convicted of criminal contempt for lying to a judge.

Something to keep in mind as some undertake a similar emotionalized rush to judgment in another racially-charged case today.

March 28th, 2012 at 1:46 pm
Obama’s World Bank Nominee Not Fond of Economic Growth
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Last week, President Obama made the surprising announcement that Dartmouth University President Jim Yong Kim — a relatively obscure figure — was his nominee to become the next President of the World Bank, the international organization that works to spur economic development throughout the world. Thanks to some careful digging by the NYU Development Research Institute, we’re now learning a bit more about Jim’s views — and the details are a little startling. The Ivy League executive seems to think of economic growth as a zero-sum game — and one in which the developed world has been consistently sticking it to the little guys. A few excerpts from his writing:

… the quest for growth in GDP and corporate profits has in fact worsened the lives of millions of women and men.

Using Cuba as an example, Chapter Thirteen makes the case that when leaders prioritize social equity and the fundamental right of all citizens to health care, even economically strapped governments can achieve improved and more equitable health outcomes.

… [G]rowth – the market-led economic growth sought by governments, the growth in profits celebrated by businesses, and the growth in power and influence of transnational financial and corporate interests – often comes at the expense of the disenfranchised and vulnerable…  As the imperatives of growth at any cost increasingly determine economic and social policy and the behavior of global corporations, more people join the ranks of the poor and greater numbers suffer and die.

And if this isn’t bad enough, the final passage cited by the NYU group finds Jim quoting Noam Chomsky.

Dinesh D’Souza caught a lot of flak for positing in his book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” that the president’s ideology could be traced largely to the Kenyan anti-colonialism of his father. While I think that D’Souza overstated the case rather severely, instances like this one remind us of the germ of truth to his argument.

Whether Obama is decrying a world where international negotiations were “just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy” or picking a new World Bank President who seems to find the very practice of capitalism predatory, there seems to be a consistent suspicion that someone somewhere is being victimized. Should Jim Yong Kim become the head of the World Bank, it will be the people of the developing world — caught in the downward economic spiral that always accompanies attempts at implementing “social justice” — who will be the victims.

March 27th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
Mainstream Alternatives to Electric Cars

It looks like Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s 2008 musings about manipulating gas prices so people would be forced to buy electric cars was bad politics and bad economics.  The statement was bad politics because it confirms that liberals like Chu are willing to distort energy prices – Keystone XL, anyone? – to serve the environmental left’s ideological agenda.  It turns out to be bad economics because consumers have several more options available than purchasing a Toyota Prius.

In a hyper-link-heavy post, Time reporter Brad Tuttle – who makes no reference to Chu – explains that as the national average for gasoline has risen to $4 a gallon, Americans are responding by buying small inexpensive fuel-powered cars like the Ford Fiesta (40 mpg) and Chevy Cruze (36 mpg); hanging onto old cars longer by delaying non-essential repairs; and in the case of the 21-34 age group, preferring ride-sharing and public transit to car purchases.

Of course, none of these Econ 101 responses to rising prices will convince Secretary Chu and President Barack Obama to stop meddling in the market.  The White House is pushing an increase in the tax incentive to buy hybrids like the Prius, Chevy Volt, and Nissan Leaf from $7,000 to $10,000.  But this incentive disproportionately benefits hybrid buyers.  As Troy has noted, Volt owners average $170,000 in annual income; not exactly the people needing tax incentives to help make car purchases.

Still, it’s nice to see that no matter how much the experts in Washington twist policy into an endless barrage of mandates and tax breaks, consumers in a (relatively) free market are able to make their own decisions.

March 27th, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Louisiana Teacher Unions Happy to Sell Out Kids for Political Gain
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Last week, Quin blogged about the progress being made on behalf of school choice in Louisiana, largely because of the leadership of Governor Bobby Jindal. This week, the teachers unions are striking back in the manner they know best: abandoning their students. From Southwest Louisiana’s American Press:

Calcasieu Parish Superintendent of Schools Wayne Savoy announced Monday morning that all public schools in the parish would be closed Tuesday due to “excessive employee absences.”

Teachers will be traveling to Baton Rouge to protest pending legislation regarding public education and express their opinions on the voucher system and tenure laws that was approved by the state House last week.

Here in California, the unions did the same thing during last year’s “state of emergency” protests, abandoning their classrooms to converge on Sacramento (and doing so the same week that important statewide tests were being administered, no less). I bring that up only to note that this is business as usual for organized labor throughout the country. They get paid by the taxpayers; But they serve only themselves.

The unions are fond of telling us “the children” are their first priority. Their actions tell us otherwise.

March 27th, 2012 at 10:28 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Saving Medicare
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

March 26th, 2012 at 4:55 pm
Then Again, Maybe I Was Right Before I Was Wrong

After reading the transcript of today’s oral argument, I thought the justices seemed extremely chilly to the idea that the Anti-Injunction Act should bar the court’s consideration of the ObamaCare “mandate” case until the mandate actually goes into effect — thus making my most recent post dead wrong (if my interpretation today is right), thank goodness. A few months ago, I had dismissed the AIA argument; last week, however, I wrote that Anthony Kennedy might find it a convenient dodge. But after today, it doesn’t look like anywhere near a court majority will do so. Judging from Lyle Denniston’s summary at Scotusblog, which I read after forming my opinion on the justices’ behavior today, it seems as if that eminent court-watcher agrees.

So, if this interpretation is correct, then we do get to move on to the most important question, which is the question on the merits of whether the mandate itself is constitutional. There are three different sorts of challenges to its constitutionality; the ultimate disposition of these challenges is very much up in the air — and there are millions of Americans who care deeply enough about this case that the tension of waiting for the court’s decision will be decidedly uncomfortable.

March 26th, 2012 at 1:53 pm
Etch-a-Sketch vs. More Flexibility

In just a few days two presidential campaigns may have coined the slogans we’ll all be hearing ad nauseum this fall.

Last week, a top Mitt Romney advisor likened his boss to an Etch-a-Sketch, able to be shaken and reset while moving from the primaries to the general election.  Over the weekend, President Barack Obama told his Russian counterpart that “This is my last election.  After my election I have more flexibility.”

Each statement betrays a fundamental suspicion about each candidate.  Romney has no core principles.  Obama’s will emerge only after he’s insulated from facing voters again.  The comments feed the narrative that both men will say anything to get elected.

If Romney is the GOP nominee, Jennifer Rubin already has proposed talking points attacking the ‘more flexibility’ president. (E.g. “He says he’ll only raise taxes on the rich, but after the election he’ll have ‘more flexibility.'”)

We can also assume more comments like Vice President Joe Biden’s that Romney won’t be allowed to be all things to all people.

Unless Rick Santorum can turn his 22 point win in last Saturday’s Louisiana caucuses into a Wisconsin win tomorrow, we may be in for an Etch-a-Sketch vs. More Flexibility campaign.

March 26th, 2012 at 1:39 pm
Meet Your Next Secretary of Education
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If the next Republican president has a brain in his head — and if the federal Department of Education must remain (it sadly seems as if we’re beyond a day when cabinet departments can disappear, their very existence now functioning as prima facie evidence of their worth) — he’ll pick Michelle Rhee to be his Secretary of Education.

Rhee spent three years as the chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools — one of the nation’s worst (and most expensive) educational systems — before resigning in the fall of 2010 with the election of a new mayor. During that time, Rhee was a game-changer, firing nearly 250 under-performing teachers in one blow, closing down failing schools, and devising an extraordinarily clever workaround for tenure reform.

These days, Rhee is running an education non-profit and living in Sacramento, where her husband, former NBA star Kevin Johnson, is the mayor. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend, she demonstrated why — in addition to her impressive record — she has the chops to be the next Secretary of Education; Because she not only has a strong grasp on first principles, but an artful way of presenting them:

Q: You are archenemy No. 1, according to the teachers unions. Do you see a way to work with them rather than wage war with them?

Rhee: First of all, we definitely did not wage war on the union. In fact, the union has very little to do with what we’re focused on really at all.

What we are focused on is a pro-kid agenda. And if we have to fight the existing district bureaucracy, state legislators, teachers, whoever is standing in the way of kids getting the education they deserve and trying to protect the status quo, and maintain the way things are, we’re going to be willing to fight against any of those.

I believe that the teachers unions are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They were designed to be professional organizations that protect the rights and privileges and pay of their members. … The problem is that we don’t have an organized national interest group with the same heft as the teachers union that’s advocating on behalf of children.

This, it seems to me, is a remarkably sober response to the ever-expanding influence of teacher unions on education policy: I will not decry you, I will simply defeat you. Game on, Madame Secretary.

March 24th, 2012 at 11:06 am
Mark Steyn: America About to Go Broke

Mark Steyn puts the federal government’s spending spree in a global perspective:

When you’re spending on the scale Washington does, what matters is the hard dollar numbers. Greece’s total debt is a few rinky-dink billions, a rounding error in the average Obama budget. Only America is spending trillions. The 2011 budget deficit, for example, is about the size of the entire Russian economy. By 2010, the Obama administration was issuing about a hundred billion dollars of Treasury bonds every month – or, to put it another way, Washington is dependent on the bond markets being willing to absorb an increase of U.S. debt equivalent to the GDP of Canada or India – every year. And those numbers don’t take into account the huge levels of personal debt run up by Americans. College debt alone is over a trillion dollars, or the equivalent of the entire South Korean economy – tied up just in one small boutique niche market of debt which barely exists in most other developed nations.

March 24th, 2012 at 8:52 am
More Solyndras in Energy Department Loan Scandal?

The Wall Street Journal reports that of the 32 loans made under the Energy Department’s renewable energy loan program, 10 have been put on an internal watch list for being “high risk investments”.  Though the Department redacted the identities of the companies on the list, at least one is Solyndra, the failed California solar panel company that went bankrupt last year, and left taxpayers with over $535 million in losses.

The Journal indicates that another member of the watch list may be Prologis Inc., a company approved for $1.4 billion in federal loans about six months ago.  Now, the firm says it won’t meet an upcoming deadline.

Here’s why:

Prologis originally intended to use Solyndra’s solar panels. Energy Secretary Steven Chu intervened last summer to help move the loan forward and called the Prologis project “remarkable” when it closed Sept. 30.

What’s remarkable is that Chu’s name isn’t on a White House watch list for seriously mismanaging billions in taxpayer money on failed ventures.

March 24th, 2012 at 8:43 am
Video: Eric Holder Opens Door to Voter Fraud
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s politically motivated campaign to block implementation of state Voter ID laws and how such laws are needed to secure the integrity of our elections.

March 23rd, 2012 at 2:32 pm
My Prediction on Obamacare Case

For what it’s worth, my prediction on the ultimate outcome of the ObamaCare case this term, even before oral arguments are made this coming Monday, is as follows:

Anthony Kennedy accepts his former law clerk Brett Kavanaugh’s ludicrous argument that the Anti-Injunction Act bars court jurisdiction on Obamacare until the mandate and its penalty are actually implemented. He does so while dropping rather clear, even if implicit rather than explicit, hints in his bare-majority opinion that if the case were able to reach the merits, he would find the mandate unconstitutional.

It might even be some sort of plurality opinion.

I know this contradicts my prediction from several months ago right here. There, I dismissed the argument on the Anti-Injunction Act. I still think it is eminently dismissable. But that doesn’t mean Kennedy won’t latch onto it. It provides a handy way to punt the issue away, which is why I think Kavanaugh provided it, knowing his former boss as well as he does. Kavanaugh’s logic was extremely tortured… but Kennedy delights in tortured logic. Alas.

March 23rd, 2012 at 12:43 pm
California Passes Blank Budgets, Fills in the Details Later

Remember when Nancy Pelosi said of ObamaCare that Congress would need to “pass the bill so [the public] can see what is in it”?  Two years ago, Pelosi & Co. refused to make the contents of ObamaCare public until just before voting was allowed on the bill.

Well, it looks like Pelosi’s fellow liberals in California state government are doing her one better.  From the Los Angeles Times:

In an annual quirk of California government, lawmakers approved 78 budget bills on Thursday — and they were all blank.

The bills function as shells. As negotiations continue and tax revenues are tallied, they will be amended with actual budget details, then quickly passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

Calling this practice a quirk obscures the fact that California’s big-spending liberals are deliberately perverting the legislative process to hide their intentions.  Just like ObamaCare, California’s majority Democrats negotiate with themselves behind closed doors and demand an up-or-down vote on budget bills within hours of making them public.

This kind of process-destroying behavior cannot be allowed to continue.  The public needs accurate information to judge policies and politicians, not shell games that cost billions.