The Patriot Post Digest
“The Constitution … is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” –Thomas Jefferson
Government & Politics
ObamaCare Upheld, but Administration Abandons ‘Secret Shoppers’
This just in: ObamaCare will go before the Supreme Court. Actually, though the Supremes haven’t yet agreed to hear the challenge to the law, this week’s ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court virtually assures that it will. There are suits pending in the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits, as well, confirming what we knew all along — the Supreme Court will be the final arbiter of the constitutionality of the law.
A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit rejected an appeal by the Thomas More Law Center and a group of individuals who lost a challenge to the health care law at the district level last year. Judge Boyce F. Martin, appointed by Jimmy Carter, wrote for the majority, joined by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, appointed by George W. Bush. They asserted that Congress had the authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate the non-commerce of someone not buying health insurance. Judge James Graham, a Reagan appointee, dissented, writing, “If the exercise of power is allowed and the mandate upheld, it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress’ Commerce Clause authority would be. What aspect of human activity would escape federal power?” That is the question, isn’t it?
There is hope that the Sixth Circuit will be overturned. According to the Heritage Foundation, “In recent years, the Sixth Circuit has achieved a growing reputation for not just reversals, but summary reversals at the Supreme Court. In a summary reversal, the Supreme Court unanimously reverses a lower court decision without hearing argument or even having a full merits briefing — because the decision is so clearly wrong. It is a sure sign of an activist court misapplying the law.”
In other ObamaCare news, the White House has announced that it will not, after all, move forward with a “secret shopper” program to identify doctors reluctant to take on new Medicare and Medicaid patients. These so-called mystery shoppers were going to pose as patients in a $350,000 sting operation across nine states to learn whether physicians are taking on new patients with private insurance while turning away those in low-reimbursing government health care programs. The program was first announced two months ago, but the loyal media didn’t report it until just this past week when a number of doctors complained that the plan would further strain physicians’ resources in an already overstretched market.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) called upon the Department of Health and Human Services to release details on the program, though it predictably did not do so. Instead, HHS released a statement claiming, “After reviewing feedback received during the public comment period, we have determined that now is not the time to move forward with this research project.” In other words, this “research project,” which was meant to silently bully doctors into accepting ObamaCare patients at their own expense, is going back on the shelf — for now. Once the uproar dies down, it is likely to return. Next time, it probably won’t be announced at all.
News From the Swamp: Democrats Double Down
Debt reduction talks have stalled this week with Republicans standing firm on refusing to allow tax increases that Democrats claim are necessary to any agreement. However, Democrats, led by Barack Obama, are insisting on raising taxes. In other words, as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put it, “Democrats spent beyond their means, and now they expect a bailout from the taxpayers.”
GOP congressional leaders want a multi-trillion dollar debt reduction package that will focus on long-term budget cuts and spending reforms. Democrats want to scrap a series of tax credits for oil companies as well as raise taxes on hedge-fund managers and limit deductions for wealthier individuals in order to reach a $600 billion revenue target. Barack Obama went even further by calling for an end to a tax break on corporate jets, mentioning them not once but six times in his speech and press conference Wednesday. Ironically, that same tax break was introduced as part of his own $862 billion stimulus package in 2009.
Republicans want no part of any plan that will raise taxes on business in this fragile economy, because such a move will slow or reverse any meager economic gains made in the last several months. Democrats claim that they aren’t looking to raise taxes, only to close tax loopholes. Only leftists could believe that forcing corporations to pay more in taxes is not in fact a tax hike, but they continue to cling to their twisted logic even as Moody’s Investors Service announced that it might downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating if there is no significant progress in the debt-limit negotiations in the next couple of weeks.
There appears to be no end to the stalemate at this point, and the Senate has cancelled next week’s recess because of it. McConnell offered to meet with the president to hammer out some details, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that was “not a conversation worth having.” (Obama, who once infamously said that he’d meet murderous tyrants such as Castro, Chavez and Ahmadinejad “without precondition” apparently won’t sully the office by meeting for lunch with the Republican Senate Minority Leader.) In any case, McConnell should take Carney’s advice to heart: Any conversation with Obama isn’t worth having.
Finally, Treasury Secretary Tim “Tax Cheat” Geithner is considering stepping down after a debt-ceiling deal is reached. Geithner is Obama’s longest-serving economic adviser. Good riddance if the rumor is true.
This Week’s ‘Keen Sense of the Obvious’ Award
“We’ve spent a lot of money that we don’t have. And we’ve made a lot of commitments that are going to be hard to keep if we do nothing. And like families all across America, government has to live within its means.” –Barack Obama at a fundraiser in Philadelphia
The Truth Hurts
“I wanted to characterize how I thought the president behaved [at his press conference Wednesday]. I thought he was kind of a [Weiner].” –TIME magazine’s Mark Halperin on MSNBC, who has been suspended indefinitely for telling the truth
In other TV news, Fox News host Glenn Beck aired his final show with the network yesterday. Beck has been instrumental in rallying many Patriots to the Tea Party front and will take his show to his own network.
Support Liberty Today
“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, ‘What should be the reward of such sacrifices?’” –Samuel Adams
We have all enjoyed the fruits of prosperity that our forefathers purchased at great sacrifice, many with their lives. With the current unprecedented assault upon Liberty, each and every one of us is called to make our own great sacrifices, now and throughout the remainder of 2011. Our posterity deserve no less.
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More Ethics Problems for Democrats
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) is the subject of a congressional ethics investigation into accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances on a female staffer in 2010. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is currently reviewing the charges brought in a lawsuit by Judicial Watch on behalf of the staffer. Hastings denies any wrongdoing, but we should take that denial with a grain of salt: In 1988, Hastings, then a federal judge, was impeached by the House of Representatives on bribery and perjury charges. It may take up to three months for the OCE to make any recommendations based on its findings. While this review takes place, perhaps the House Ethics Committee might want to take a look at the charges.
Same Old Illinois Story: Blagojevich Convicted on 17 Corruption Counts
For the fourth time since 1973, an Illinois governor will be going to prison. Former Democrat Gov. Rod Blagojevich was uncharacteristically silent as guilty verdicts were read on 17 of 20 counts against him in federal court, with the most damning being attempted extortion and conspiracy to solicit bribes. These charges stemmed in part from his attempted “sale” of the U.S. Senate seat that Barack Obama previously held, although that was merely the topper of a lengthy investigation. Among the things that sealed his fate was a recording of him stating, “I’ve got this thing [Obama's Senate seat] and it’s f—ing golden, and I’m not going to give it up for f—ing nothing.”
Still, the jury took nine days to hash out its verdicts, in part because the former governor charmed them. Blagojevich was first elected as governor in 2002 and was in the midst of his second term when he was impeached and removed from office in January 2009. He now faces up to 300 years in prison, although he’s likely to receive far less.
In contrast to the initial federal trial, in which Blagojevich was convicted on just one count, he testified on his own behalf this time. Prosecutors were easily able to use Blago’s own words against him on cross-examination, leading the disgraced former governor to quip afterward that he needs “to talk a little bit less.” Unless his legal team can get a retrial by July 25, it’s likely we won’t be hearing much of what Blago says for a long, long time.
Immigration Front: Administration Enacts DREAM Act — Without Congress
To true Patriots anticipating Independence Day, the immigration battle offers fresh evidence that the Obama regime is little more than a lawless dictatorship. Obama has bypassed the legislative branch numerous times, most recently with Libya, and it now appears that he will skirt Congress and implement his DREAM Act by executive diktat. The DREAM Act would have provided “conditional residency” — read amnesty — to illegal alien students who met various criteria. The bill never passed Congress even when Democrats were in charge. Obama is now going to ignore that inconvenient fact and have Immigration and Customs Enforcement effectively put DREAM into action.
In a memo, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton instructs ICE officials to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” — that is, no deportation — for illegal aliens who would have benefited from the DREAM Act. Morton blames a lack of resources for this move, but in reality, this is nothing more than Obama once again trampling on the Constitution.
Yet as Congress has abdicated responsibility and Obama has usurped control, the states are asserting themselves. South Carolina has joined Arizona, Georgia, and other states in passing a new law that sets strict guidelines for illegals and allows police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect may be here illegally. It also requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check an applicant’s citizenship status. Unlike the other states, however, a $1.3 million enforcement unit within the state’s public safety department with 12 full-time officers gives this state law some teeth.
South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley gave a strong and pointed defense of the new law, saying, “We are a country of laws, and when we give up enforcing laws, we give up everything this country was founded on.” She should know; her parents emigrated from India. Sadly, this law will likely be shot down by the despotic branch.
The BIG Lie
“When I look around this room, I see America’s future. Our doctors, our teachers, our nurses, our engineers, our scientists, our soldiers, our congressman, our senators and maybe our president.” –Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to illegal aliens at a Senate committee hearing
Warfront With Jihadistan: Tidbits From the Fronts
The House last week denied authorization for U.S. military action in Libya but also declined to take away funding. On Tuesday, however, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing military action. It will go to the full Senate next week. The administration’s “time-limited, scope-limited” military action in Libya began more than three months ago and has morphed from being U.S.-led to being U.S.-backed (though our aircraft are still flying hundreds of strike missions over the North African nation), and from merely protecting Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi’s regime to the stated goal of ousting the 40-year dictator. Also this week, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an indictment of Gadhafi, as well as his son Seif al-Islam and Libyan Intelligence chief Abdullah Sanoussi. This will hardly have any effect on Gadhafi other than to induce laughter.
Meanwhile, the French revealed that they had armed Libyan rebels, the first such admission by a NATO country. According to The Washington Post, “France dropped light armaments, including guns and rocket-propelled grenades, in the Nafusa Mountains in western Libya in early June to help rebel forces.” No word on whether they also dropped white surrender flags for the Libyan rebels to wave.
In other news from the Middle East, U.S. drones attacked a Somali organization tied to al-Qa’ida and wounded two leaders. Somalia is now the sixth nation in which the U.S. is conducting drone strikes against al-Qa’ida. Of course, given that Osama bin Laden wasn’t running the show after all and al-Qa’ida’s leadership is either deteriorating or detonating, the battered and scattered group is in trouble.
Finally, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) maintains a list of “specially designated countries” that “have shown a tendency to promote, produce or protect terrorist organizations or their members.” Visitors to the U.S. from these nations receive special consideration upon entry. Oddly enough, one of the 36 nations on the list as of May is our ally Israel. North Korea, however, is not on the list. And Obama wonders why we question his commitment to Israel.
Iran Conducts Missile Tests, Readies Nuclear Plant
Iran launched a nationwide missile exercise on Monday, showcasing its missile forces and unveiling missile silos. Iranian media showed the mass launch of various missiles and provided a guided tour inside one silo at an undisclosed location. Revolutionary Guard Corps officials, not known for their nuance, claimed that in the event of a conflict, Iran’s missiles could hit 32 American bases in the Middle East. The officials also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if Iran were attacked. The exercise, called Great Prophet 6, will reportedly last 10 days and involve attacks on naval targets. Iran’s Navy announced on Wednesday that it too will soon hold a large maneuver.
The current and future exercises might have something to do with Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant approaching its initial operational period. Started in 1975 and delayed by a succession of problems, wars and incompetence, the plant will finally begin operating in August, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. The Russians ought to know, as they have worked hard over the last decade to complete the plant and shield it from UN Security Council sanctions. Whether Iran can operate a nuclear reactor safely remains to be seen.
Saudi Arabia warned this week that it will pursue nuclear weapons if Iran develops them. “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that,” said an official.
Nebraska Nuclear Plant ‘Safe’ Despite Flooding
It lies two feet under the swollen Missouri River, but federal officials who visited the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant outside Blair, Nebraska, say the plant remains safe. Yet rumors continue to swirl about a meltdown similar to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, also caused in part by flooding. However, in Nebraska there was time to prepare as water advanced slowly on the plant. The Fukushima plant was hit by a sudden tsunami after an obviously unexpected offshore earthquake. Even the failure of a temporary berm holding back the Missouri River hasn’t adversely affected the plant, which has several varied and redundant power sources to cool its reactor.
While workers must traverse a temporary catwalk to access the plant, and they need waders and life jackets to conduct exterior operations, flood barriers and pumps are keeping the inside of the complex dry. Moreover, the plant was shut down in April for routine refueling, so no cooling of nuclear material is needed. As Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said, “The risk is really low” of any Fukushima-style event occurring. Workers will have to put up with the catwalk and waders for a while longer, though, as the Missouri River may not fully recede until August.
Business & Economy
Income Redistribution: ‘Investing’ in Advanced Manufacturing
Building on the “fundamental transformation” of his stimulus, bailout and Summer of Recovery 2.0, Barack Obama has launched yet another initiative that will doubtless leave Americans hoping for no more change. Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) will “invest more than $500 million” in “emerging technologies” through public-private partnerships with 11 major corporations and six universities. (Predictably, the White House did not say how these “partners” were chosen.) The biggest bulk of initial spending will be $300 million that the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce, along with other agencies, will “co-invest with industry in innovative technologies that will jumpstart domestic manufacturing capability” and “promote the long-term economic viability of critical U.S. industries.” Given that “invest” is Obama-speak for “massive federal spending,” his plan is quite disconcerting.
But that’s not the whole story. AMP’s development was inspired by the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the co-chair of which is John Holdren. In 1973, Holdren co-authored a book advocating the “de-development” of the United States to “brin[g] our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation.” In short, anti-development ecological crusading is behind this administration’s scheme to dole out your tax dollars to select “partners,” purportedly to create jobs and increase U.S. global competitiveness.
Consumer Confidence Needs Some Investing
Given the stellar economic competence demonstrated by this administration thus far, consumer confidence fell in June to a seven-month low, dipping to 58.5 from 61.7 in May, according to the Conference Board. Bloomberg reports, “Unemployment hovering around 9 percent, deterioration in the housing market and a drop in share prices may restrain Americans’ sentiment, raising the risk that the biggest part of the economy will stagnate.”
According to Wells Fargo Securities LLC Senior Economist Mark Vitner, “We have a fairly weak economy with little to no job growth. With consumers so worried about their job prospects, I’m not so sure that we can count on demand picking up. The housing market is dead in the water.” With its dismal showing, consumer confidence seems to be keeping company with the president’s tanking approval ratings.
Regulatory Commissars: Tougher CAFE Standards in the Future
With gasoline prices hitting $4 a gallon before receding in recent weeks, the market climate is favorable for small, fuel-efficient cars. However, the Obama administration is pushing automakers to accept even more stringent fuel-economy standards than the 39-miles-per-gallon fleet-wide already required by 2016. The administration is now shooting for a standard somewhere between 56 and 62 miles per gallon by 2025.
The bid has backing from a group of 18 U.S. senators, who in April sent a letter requesting consideration of an EPA “technical assessment” that claimed 62 miles per gallon by 2025 was feasible. (All 18 were Democrats except for Democrat-In-Elephant-Suit Olympia Snowe of Maine.)
Meanwhile, a study paid for by the Consumer Federation of America, an umbrella group of left-leaning organizations, claims 62 percent of Americans back a 60-mile-per-gallon standard by 2025. That support allegedly crosses party lines.
Yet the question asked by the group doesn’t mention the additional cost to meet this standard. EPA figures calculated last year pegged the toll to be $2,100 per vehicle. There would also be a degradation in safety, as lighter vehicles tend to perform poorly in accidents with larger vehicles.
It appears that environmentally ruinous electric vehicles are in our future, since they grade highest on fuel efficiency charts. Want them or not, only the government knows what’s good for us.
Around the Nation: California’s Budget
California this week passed a budget that closed the state’s $9.6 billion budget gap without raising taxes — well, almost, since there are plenty of Democrat gimmicks involved. Democrats made cuts to items such as education and local redevelopment that will help in actual deficit reduction, but the budget also assumes revenue that is questionable, including $5.2 billion more predicted by the state finance department in May. June provided a windfall in tax revenue, so lawmakers are banking on that to continue. If it doesn’t, though, it will trigger another $2 billion in education cuts (although reductions of that size to the state’s number-one budget item are extraordinarily unlikely).
One large problem with the budget is that Democrats assume an additional $200 million in tax revenue collected from Internet retailers. Beginning today, online merchants will be required to begin collecting sales taxes from shoppers. As always, however, taxes change behavior. Amazon promptly terminated affiliate partnerships with 25,000 California websites. Something tells us that $200 million estimate is a bit high.
Culture & Policy
Second Amendment: ATF Fires Whistleblower
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) appears to have retaliated against the agent who blew the whistle on Project Gunrunner. Agent Vince Cefalu, who has been with the agency for 24 years, was fired last week, and he says the move was politically motivated. “Aside from Jay Dobyns, I don’t know of anyone that’s been more vocal about ATF mismanagement than me,” said Cefalu, a senior special agent based in Dublin, California. “That’s why this is happening.” (Dobyns is an agent based in Tucson.) Cefalu can appeal his termination, but he remains on “paid administrative leave” during the process.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) released a report detailing that ATF agents say gun laws need to be tightened in response to this scandal. Apparently, Cummings believes that the answer to a bureaucracy run amok is to give that bureaucracy even greater power to go after law-abiding citizens. As we predicted, the Left is using this episode to push for further gun control.
“These reforms are essential to help law enforcement to stop guns from getting into the hands of the world’s most dangerous criminals,” Cummings said. “Prosecutors and law enforcement agents should not have to bend over backward to imprison those who provide military-grade weapons to murderers.” Apparently, Cummings was absent through the entire hearing process. The whole scandal involved ATF agents facilitating the delivery of semiautomatic (not military-grade) weapons to drug cartels in Mexico. They were bending over backward all right, but to skirt the law, not enforce it.
Judicial Benchmarks: Court Strikes Down AZ Campaign Finance Law
Conservatives in Arizona were vindicated on Monday when the Supreme Court struck down a state campaign finance law that offers government subsidies to certain political candidates. The Citizens Clean Elections Act, which was enacted in 1998 to combat campaign corruption, is voluntary, but those who do participate must limit their solicitation of private funds. The Left championed the law as a means of “leveling the playing field” for candidates with less money.
Five politicians and two advocacy groups challenged the law, saying it infringes on the free speech of candidates who opt out of the program and then have to weigh their spending decisions — and possibly, limit their message — for fear of triggering the provision that will subsidize their opponent. The majority, which included Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, agreed. “Laws like Arizona’s,” wrote the Chief Justice, “that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand.”
The notoriously leftist and oft-overturned Ninth Circuit Court had previously upheld the law on the grounds that the plaintiffs couldn’t point to any specific decisions that were affected by it. The dissenters on the Supreme Court were predictable as well, with Elena Kagan leading the charge. She was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan claimed the Arizona law prevented “massive pools of private money from corrupting our political system.” Really? Someone should remind her that Barack Obama is already campaigning to raise $1 billion in evil private money for his re-election war chest. Should the government subsidize those running against him?
The decision is the latest in which the High Court has sided with conservatives on campaign finance. In January 2010, the majority struck down portions of the McCain-Feingold Act, also on First Amendment grounds.
Faith and Family: New York Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
Last week, New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, though it’s only the third to do so through legislation not forced by a court. Homosexual rights advocates hope the “trend-setting” vote will galvanize the movement around the country. However, they are buying into a failing (or self-limiting) situation.
As The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto points out, “Last August, to far less public attention, lawmakers in Albany enacted legislation making New York the final state to institute no-fault divorce, thereby abolishing even the pretense that marriage is a lifetime commitment under the law. Under this regime, marriage is a lifetime commitment only until one spouse decides otherwise.” The reasoning was “to reduce long, cutthroat court battles over who’s to blame when marriages fail.” This was a sign of societal change in “a culture in which divorce is commonplace and marriage for life is no longer the norm.”
This Week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ Award
“Government should not tell you what to do unless there’s a compelling public purpose.” –New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has no problem banning smoking, trans fats or salt, while welcoming the redefinition of marriage by the government
No Time for Reagan Thanks to Gaga
The former Eastern Bloc nation of Hungary unveiled a statue of President Ronald Reagan on June 29 in celebration of his 100th birthday and that country’s gratitude for his leadership in causing the fall of European communism. The seven-foot bronze likeness of the Gipper was erected in Freedom Square in Budapest, near the U.S. Embassy. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on hand to represent the U.S. at the unveiling.
While it was altogether appropriate for Ms. Rice to be there honoring her mentor, the official U.S. representative should have been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We don’t know what particular conflict prevented her attendance, but we do know that she bragged about having time to “work a deal” for Lady Gaga to perform at EuroPride, a homosexual-rights festival.
One was a leader who helped bring freedom to millions trapped behind the Iron Curtain; the other is a very disturbed young woman who seeks attention by dressing like a cartoon character. Quite a study in contrasts for the attention of the U.S. Secretary of State.
We leave you this weekend with these quotes regarding our nation’s “birthday.” We will not publish a Brief on Monday, but will return with our normal schedule Tuesday. Have a blessed and safe Independence Day! And be sure to take your kids to a Fourth of July parade. New research from Harvard says it helps make kids conservative.
“Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should. Happy Fourth of July.” –Ronald Reagan, Independence Day, 1981
“[T]he flames kindled on the Fourth of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.” –Thomas Jefferson, 1821
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
The Patriot Post Editorial Team
(Please pray for our Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families — especially families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who granted their lives in defense of American liberty.)
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