“Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules.” –Thomas Jefferson
Seven years ago, Congress mandated building 700 miles of fence along the border, though it watered down the requirement a year later. Today, according to The Washington Times, “The border now has 651 miles of barriers, but only 36 miles are at least double-tier fencing. Another 316 miles are single-tier pedestrian fencing, and the rest — 299 miles — are vehicle barriers that still allow wildlife, and people, to cross.” No wonder John McCain ran a pandering 2010 senatorial ad growling that we need to “complete the danged fence.”
The current Senate — with faux border hawk McCain’s help — rejected several amendments to the Gang of Eight legislation aimed to tighten control of the border. Sen. Tom Cornyn (R-TX) proposed an amendment that failed last week, and two offered by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Rand Paul (R-KY) likewise failed this week. All three amendments sought to re-establish the border fence or make other security measures preconditions to granting legal status to illegal aliens.
Another amendment by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Bob Corker (R-TN) may gain enough support for passage by replacing enforcement “triggers” and benchmarks for legalization with 20,000 more Border Patrol agents (doubling the current number), more high-tech surveillance equipment, full implementation of E-Verify and completing the “danged fence.” The bottom line, however, is that no serious enforcement benchmarks are going to fly in a Democrat-controlled Senate, and Gang members want to reach 70 votes — a threshold that will necessitate watering down the bill or loading it with security provisions that won’t be enforced. And after the bait-and-switch history of the 1986 immigration reform, why should we believe their promises now?
Then again, illegal immigration has slowed since the last time the issue boiled over — the Border Patrol says illegal entry is at a 40-year low. Some of that is due to better (not satisfactory) enforcement, but most is a result of the abysmal Obama economy. No jobs means few immigrants. Don’t complain that Obama never solved anything.
The House is another matter, too. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he won’t bring a bill to the floor that doesn’t have majority Republican support. Whatever the Senate bill may be it doesn’t meet that standard, so we’ll see if Boehner is true to his word.
In related news, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that the Senate bill will (a) reduce the flow of illegals by just 25 percent, (b) allow for 46 million legal immigrants in the next 20 years, (c) cause wages to decline and unemployment to rise in the next few years, (d) expand ObamaCare spending by $112 billion over the next decade, and yet (e) reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion in the first decade and $700 billion in the following decade. First, we proffer the disclaimer “garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, CBO’s analyses reflects only the information members of Congress give it. And this fantastic deficit reduction calls to mind similar projections for ObamaCare, which were nowhere close to reality.
It is plausible that more tax revenue from newly legalized workers would benefit deficit numbers in the short term, but expanding the bottom of the Ponzi pyramid is not a permanent solution to our fiscal problems. The bill for these workers’ Social Security, for example, would erase any near-term gain. Furthermore, Congress is perfectly adept at spending new revenue quickly. It wasn’t that long ago that the Heritage Foundation estimated the cost of the Senate bill could be $6.3 trillion, and — call us crazy — we’re inclined to trust Heritage more than Congress.
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Government and Politics
Lost in Translation: SCOTUS Sends the Wrong Message on Voter Fraud
In a 7-2 decision rendered this week by none other than the “Sage of the Court,” Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supremes tossed election integrity under the bus, effectively ruling as unconstitutional Arizona’s requirement for potential voters to prove U.S. citizenship to be eligible to vote. While normally we hold the Supreme Court Sensei in high esteem, on this decision, Scalia — along with the usual suspects (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Kennedy and Roberts) — simply got it wrong.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 — the so-called “Motor Voter” law — was passed by a Democrat-controlled federal legislature during the Clinton administration’s attempt to stack the voting deck against conservatives through lax voter-ID requirements. The statute establishes a federal election agency — the “Election Assistance Commission” (EAC) — and directs the use of a federal voting form drafted by that agency with each form containing state-specific instructions vetted through it.
Reflecting the will of its voters via Proposition 200, Arizona petitioned the EAC to insert an identification requirement in its version of the federal form. The provision, designed solely to prevent known voter fraud, required prospective voters to present proof of U.S. citizenship through any of several means (a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, etc.) to be eligible to vote. The EAC rejected Arizona’s petition, and the case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc., climbed all the way to the Supreme Court.
Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia concluded that federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.” He further noted, however, that “Arizona is correct that the Elections Clause [of the U.S. Constitution] empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them. The latter is the province of the States. It would raise serious constitutional doubts if a federal statute precluded a State from obtaining the information necessary to enforce its voter qualifications.” Ironically, this is exactly what the Court did by striking down Arizona’s requirement.
Two dissenting opinions brought sanity to the otherwise ill-decided case. Justice Clarence Thomas reasoned that while Arizona must “accept and use” the federal form, it can levy a requirement for whatever additional information is needed to determine the qualifications of a voter as implicitly acknowledged by the Constitution. Justice Samuel Alito rightly argued that the Motor Voter statute is itself ambiguous and interferes with the right of states to determine voter qualifications.
The real problem, however, is twofold: First, while it is true that state law does not “trump” federal law in areas where the two conflict, neither does federal law trump the Constitution, which unambiguously gives states the right to set eligibility criteria for voting. Were the Constitution not to recognize this power to determine voter eligibility by the states, it never would have been ratified, as evidenced by myriad records of state ratification conventions. Second, why should states have to vet their constitutionally granted rights through the EAC in the first place? Rather states should be able to tell the EAC what to include on their version of the federal form, reflecting their own voter eligibility requirements as long as those requirements do not violate the Constitution.
Sadly, in this case the Supreme Court has crushed Arizona’s reasonable attempt to protect its citizens from known, rampant voter fraud. Worse, the Court reaffirmed through this decision that states have become little more than vassals of the ever-growing, freedom-smothering national government.
News From the Swamp: Rewards for IRS
Holly Paz, a former top IRS deputy, revealed this week that the Washington, DC, office was indeed involved in analyzing some of the requests for tax-exempt status by conservative groups. She didn’t offer any evidence of explicit direction by the IRS leadership or the White House for these activities, but her congressional testimony does prove that there was a concerted effort by the agency to single out certain political groups for increased scrutiny. Paz claimed innocence, insisting that she thought the term “Tea Party” was a generic phrase meant to encompass all politically active groups seeking tax-exempt status. Right, and we have oceanfront property in East Tennessee.
But Paz’s former colleagues must be doing a bang-up job because, per an agreement with their union, they’re on the list to receive $70 million in employee bonuses. Not bad for an agency under investigation for illegal activity — and an agency that’s supposedly short on funds thanks to the Obama Sequester.
Second Amendment: Gun Control Fight Isn’t Over
Since January, Barack Obama has issued a number of executive orders focused on gun control, and a recent White House report states that progress is being made on these initiatives. Fortunately, Senate Democrats failed in April to pass restrictive legislation on gun ownership and use, but the president’s 23 separate actions are designed to supplement what Congress wouldn’t. Obama is never one to let the Constitution stand in his way, and this latest attempt to gut the Second Amendment by fiat is no different. The orders include broadening government access to gun records and stricter background checks. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are patiently waiting in the wings for the next high-profile shooting so they can re-introduce their unconstitutional legislation.
New and Notable Legislation
This week, the House passed a bill that bans abortions of babies at more than 20 weeks of gestation. The vote was 228-196, with six Democrats joining all but six Republicans in support. The bill is the most pro-life legislation to come out of Congress in a decade and was spurred by the recent trial of Philadelphia’s monstrous abortion “doctor” Kermit Gosnell. Unfortunately, the bill has little chance in the Senate, and the White House issued a predictable veto threat. After all, Obama has a long track record of refusing to defend babies outside the womb. Furthermore, the Democrats’ religion demands unwavering fealty to the sacrament of abortion. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) even had the gall to call it “sacred ground,” while grotesquely using her “Catholic faith” as a crutch. Obviously, she understands neither sacred ground nor Catholicism.
Leftists repeatedly invoked their “If it saves one life” maxim to promote gun-grabbing legislation, but when it comes to protecting the life of an unborn baby, the mantra is, “If it inconveniences one woman…” Thus, in the world of the “progressive,” imaginary constitutional rights trump life, but rights that are actually enumerated do not.
House conservatives sent the $940 billion “farm” bill to a 195-234 defeat Thursday, objecting to the massive size of the pork-laden bill. The White House had threatened to veto the House version because it cut too much money out of the food stamp program, which makes up the bulk of the bill. “They’re taking food out of the mouths of babies!” shrieked Nancy Pelosi. The Senate version “cuts” a laughable $400 million per year out of the $80 billion (and growing) program, but the House would have shaved $2 billion per year — still only a fraction of the growth on Obama’s watch. That was just too much for Obama to cut from a core constituency. The cost of the food stamp program has doubled in just five years, despite administration claims that our economy is on the mend.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Leaving Afghanistan
Barack Obama moved toward fulfilling his campaign promise to cease and desist in Afghanistan by officially handing over security leadership to the Afghan government. The U.S. also announced plans to renew “peace talks” with the Taliban in Qatar but were forced to scrub the meeting after strong objections from Afghan president Hamid Karzai and other officials. No word yet on whether the exchange will be rescheduled, but don’t expect Obama to stop trying.
This isn’t the first time Obama has reached out to the al-Qa’ida-linked group. In fact, this administration has sought for years to “end the war” through direct talks with the terrorist group. The obvious question is: to what purpose? The Taliban is responsible for many of the issues plaguing Afghanistan today. They clearly have no interest in fostering peace — they’ve been fighting to regain control of the country since the war began more than a decade ago, and they will continue to use the war-torn country as a breeding ground for Islamist terrorism. Moreover, they continue to hold U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl captive and have indicated that any negotiation for his release is subject to an exchange for several high-profile Guantanamo prisoners who will promptly return to the fight against the West. Despite this, Obama defies logic by giving credence to these jihadis.
In the end, we’re leaving behind a very unstable country that’s wholly unprepared to deal with terrorism (witness the high number of “insider attacks” on U.S. forces). But Obama’s claim of “victory” since he’s withdrawing just like he promised in the campaign is utterly at odds with the reality on the ground.
This Week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ Award
Barack “Snoop” Obama assures us that the NSA’s phone data collection and its email reading through PRISM “is not a situation in which we are rifling through, you know, the ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else [but rather] a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people. As a consequence, we’ve saved lives. … We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information.” In another instance, he insisted, “It is transparent,” which is of course a lie given that it’s classified.
It may be that 50 attacks were thwarted with help from this (ahem) “transparent” intel, but, Mr. President, if the war on terror is supposedly over, as you’re now so fond of reciting, why is the NSA program even necessary?
In related news, during Obama’s speech in Germany before the Brandenburg Gate, he declared, “[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.” Indeed, he added, “Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Unilaterally disarming our nation is not in any way going to discourage the madmen in Iran or North Korea, and it’s time the commander in chief reset his priorities.
As an aside, some 200,000 people came to hear the American “messiah” make his 2008 Brandenburg speech. This time, only 4,500 or so true believers came to hear the tired refrain of Hope ‘n’ Change. More people showed up for the Tea Party rally in DC on the same day.
We suppose it’s a good thing, too, given his trouble with the teleprompters. MSNBC’s chief Obama sycophant, Chris Matthews, explained, “I think a lot of the problem he had today was the late afternoon sun in Berlin ruined his use of the teleprompter and so his usual dramatic windup was ruined. I think he was really struggling with the text there.” No tingling up the leg this time, Chris?
“Anyone know if President Obama intends to perform background checks on the Syrian rebels before providing them weapons?” –Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Profiles of Valor: U.S Army Sgt. Hansen
On March 15, 2007, U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Hansen was hit by a ninth improvised explosive device, but before losing consciousness, he rushed to aid the wounded truck commander. Hansen served in Iraq as a team leader for 2nd Platoon, Company A of the U.S. Army’s 321st Engineers. Their job was to clear routes of IEDs for other troops to secure Al Anbar Province, which included Ramadi and Fallujah. After that ninth blast, however, Hansen was no longer able to continue serving in the Army. The 42-year-old husband and father still suffers from the effects of eight concussions, deals with back and neck injuries and wears hearing aids.
For his service and valor, Hansen received a Bronze Star this month. His commander, Eric Coulson, then an Army captain, recommended the medal, saying, “By willingly traveling on the most dangerous and IED-laden routes … Sgt. Hansen saved an untold amount of lives and military equipment. His loyalty, honor and personal courage kept his soldiers’ motivation high and fears low.”
Income Redistribution: Learning How to Enrich the Government
A Congressional Budget Office report, released in the wake of controversy over the July 1 student loan interest rate increase, projected that Uncle Sam will profit from existing loans by a cool $50 billion this year alone. Doubling the interest rate on certain loans, which has become a political football in recent weeks as the deadline looms, would add another $21 billion to the federal coffers — all at the expense of college graduates still struggling to find jobs to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
In this school year, the federal government is expected to hand out $133.5 billion in loans to 23 million borrowers. Next to home mortgages, student loans are the largest pool of debt in the country with over $1.1 trillion owed to various public and private lenders. In 2010, aggregate student loan debt exceeded total credit card debt for the first time.
Yet the vast pool of “free” taxpayer-subsidized money for colleges and universities gives schools no incentive to curtail costs, forcing students to borrow ever more money, which then increases costs — and the cycle continues. Moreover, the federal government has rigged the rules so that these loans can’t be discharged if the debtor files for bankruptcy. In addition, the government can place liens against future tax refunds until the debt is paid. Some reward for finishing that degree in Women’s Studies.
Regulatory Commissars: Cooking Up a Major Change
Not only is the Obama administration’s patented Friday afternoon document dump alive and well, but the degree of obfuscation is attaining heights hitherto unmatched. Buried in a boilerplate release about new standards for microwave ovens — for times when they aren’t in use — was this paragraph: “The regulatory impact analysis associated with the rule also incorporates an update to the interagency ‘social cost of carbon’ (SCC) values, based on the best available science, used to calculate the societal and health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as discussed in this year’s Economic Report of the President.” The administration raised the SCC by $14 to $38/metric ton beginning in 2015.
In other words, citing the “best available” science that’s not skeptical of anthropogenic climate change or the idea of a carbon tax, the so-called “costs” of environmentally incorrect projects like the Keystone XL pipeline just magically went up, as did the “benefits” of job-killing agenda items like CAFE standards.
By the new numbers, the net benefit of the microwave oven rules jumped from $4.2 billion to $4.6 billion over a 30-year period. And the even better news: The microwave oven rules are the first in a series of regulations set to “improve” electric motors, commercial refrigeration and power supplies. Perhaps the added “benefits” will hasten the adoption of these new rules before Congress finally decides to rein in this regulatory nightmare.
Around the Nation: America No Longer Home to Entrepreneurs?
If we can believe a recent report, the cycle of great risk-takers and innovators in America may be stuck in a lengthy trough. A new Barclays study, titled “Origins and Legacy: The Changing Order of Wealth Creation,” found that just 21 percent of American millionaires cited business sale or profit as their source of wealth. This compares quite unfavorably with rates around the rest of the world, which range from 41 percent in Europe to 68 percent in South Africa. Overall, two in five of the world’s millionaires made their fortune through business, while one in four inherited their wealth. By comparison, prosperous Americans tended to become wealthy through prudent investment and savings rather than entrepreneurship. Barclays cited these statistics as a product of a more mature, developed economy.
But other research postulates that we may be in a long-term decline in business creation. New business creation plunged to a five-year low in 2012, according to the Kauffman Foundation, while the Hudson Institute found that new businesses created just 2.34 million jobs in 2010, compared to a longstanding average of three million a year over the last 35 years.
Aside from the obvious headwinds of ObamaCare, a heavy corporate tax burden, and an overly regulatory business climate, perhaps this reluctance of exhibiting the American can-do spirit comes from the risk-averse upbringing of the last couple of generations. Living in a bubble of support is fine for a child, but those who live in their parents’ basement until they’re past 30 are unlikely to develop the entrepreneurial spirit that has always defined our nation.
Judicial Benchmarks: SCOTUS on Trial by Jury
A significant Sixth Amendment case, Alleyne v. United States, was decided by the Supreme Court this week. What makes the case unusual is that the much-maligned conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority, in which the Court’s four leftist judges joined. The case arose out of an armed robbery committed by Allen Ryan Alleyne. Under federal law, anyone who “uses or carries a firearm” while committing a “crime of violence” is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison “if the firearm is brandished” and five years if it is not. While convicting Alleyne, the jury did not find that he “brandished” a weapon. Nevertheless, the trial judge still recommended a seven-year sentence.
Thomas held the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury was violated when the judge recommended a mandatory minimum sentence based on a fact not found by the jury. “When a finding of fact alters the legally prescribed punishment so as to aggravate it,” Thomas wrote, “the fact necessarily forms a constituent part of a new offense and must be submitted to the jury.” In a jury trial, the jury is the finder of fact and the judge is the finder of law. The judge, in applying the law, cannot go beyond the facts found by the jury. The Thomas opinion finds that the judge in Alleyne did just that.
Village Academic Curriculum: Schools and Guns
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, many teachers and school administrators across the country are taking up firearm classes as more states consider allowing teachers to arm themselves in the classroom. The extent of interest can be seen in Ohio: “Firearms Association, a gun rights PAC, has launched a program to educate teachers on how to take down a gunman,” CNN reports. “‘We were mocked when we first said we wanted to teach this class,’ Jim Irvine, president of Buckeye, said. ‘People doubted if we could fill the class.’ Yet more than 1,400 school staff members applied for the 24 spots first offered in late December, he said” (emphasis added). Some 30 states have introduced legislation that would allow more firearms on school campuses. And while many have failed to pass any reform, this program is a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, an eighth-grader arrested in April for wearing an NRA T-shirt is now facing up to one year in jail after being charged with obstructing an officer. The penalty is a $500 fine or 12 months in prison if found guilty. The insanity never ends for the PC police, who are now determined to make the young man pay for the graphic depiction … of a rifle. It’s not simply owning a gun, it’s the idea of a gun that infuriates these Leftists. We hope real sanity prevails and all charges will be dropped against the student.
From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File
During an event held by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the gun-grabbing gang headed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the group read a list of victims of gun violence. If you think that’s bad enough, the group included Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the list, as well as former Los Angeles police officer Chris Dorner, who killed himself in a standoff with police after a killing spree of his own. Dan Kois, an editor of the online magazine Slate, which compiled the list, explained that Tsarnaev was included because the list is a “pure accounting of deaths,” and that they specifically didn’t use the word “victim.”
After the ensuing outcry, Mayors Against [Any and All] Guns apologized for the insensitivity, but it’s a mark of their mindless political agenda that an apology was even necessary.
What Sesame Street Says About Culture
Proving that Hollywood would rather glorify evil than confront it, this week the Daytime Emmy awards bestowed three Emmys upon puppeteer, voice actor and accused sexual predator Kevin Clash. Clash, whose awards included Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series and whose characters have included Sesame Street’s Elmo, is facing multiple lawsuits for allegedly luring boys for sex. Apparently, Hollywood has no problem praising accused pedophilic predators.
Meanwhile, it might be a “sunny day” where “everything’s A-OK” on Sesame Street, but the Sesame Workshop’s newest character is a reflection that everything is not A-OK in our culture. To tackle the tragedy of children with an incarcerated parent, Sesame Workshop has created Alex, the first Muppet to have a dad in jail. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, one in 28 children now has a parent behind bars. While Alex won’t appear regularly on Sesame Street, he will be part of Sesame Workshop’s online tool kit, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration.” We have no problem with Sesame Street’s addressing an issue that affects so many children, but it’s tragic that it’s necessary. That’s hardly a reality that lends itself to “sweepin’ the clouds away.”
Organizers of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year only recently filed a police report for lost and stolen electronics. But that’s not the strange part. The items they claim are missing include a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop supposedly worth $75,537, an iPhone for $30,503 and a Blackberry for $54,250. All told, they claim that some 41 missing items came to a grand total of $465,142. Then again, these are the same math majors who sold ObamaCare as saving money.
In what we’re sure is totally unrelated news, undercover conservative reporter James O’Keefe captured video of two corporate distributors of free “Obama phones” giving away their fare to people asking if it would be all right to then sell the phone for heroin money. Then again, maybe these two stores are related…
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team
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