Archive for July, 2010

First Amendment? We don’t need no stinkin’ First Amendment!

It gets harder all the time for me to have any respect for the chuckleheads in the senate. At least the U.S. senate. Today’s issue is the DISCLOSE Act. Seldom has any bill been put forward that has engendered opposition from so diverse a spectrum. The ACLU and the Heritage Foundation both oppose it, as does about 75 percent of the voters. Dozens of left-leaning groups representing millions of Americans have signed a letter opposing the DISCLOSE Act. Signers include the Alliance for Justice, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The only leftists not signing were Castro and Che. Groups on the right are equally vehement in opposition, although sometimes for different reasons.

The first thing I noticed was the name. “Democracy Is Strengthened…” As many of you know, I absolutely detest it when our system of government is referred to as a democracy. As we all learned in high school, or before, America is a republic. Not a democracy, a democratic republic, or even a constitutional republic. Just a plain old republic. Hell, if it was good enough for Franklin and Jefferson, it’s good enough for me. That some large number of senators are more impressed with acronymal ability than accuracy and facts is just plain abominable.

The second thing I noticed was the complete lack of compatibility with the U.S. Constitution. For those of you who aren’t up to date on that document, let me refresh you. The first amendment to the constitution says, in part, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” And yet, here they are, making a law that abridges the freedom of speech. I know that lawyers and judges have made things needlessly complex sometimes, but the first amendment is brilliantly simple and clear. Even senators should be able to grasp its essence. But here’s where they struggle.

The House Rules Committee met 6/23/10 to set the rules for debate on the DISCLOSE Act. The committee kept the public out of a hearing about a bill intended to promote “transparency” in elections. According to the Center for Competitive Politics, they sent one of their staffers to attend the hearing, but she was barred from entry. Apparently, as CCP pointedly said, “their version of democracy wasn’t strong enough to allow regular folks to attend their rubber-stamp hearing for the bill.”

The Rules Committee decided to allow only one hour of debate before a vote, which will probably occur either Thursday or Friday. All GOP motions, including one to extend the debate to four hours, were rejected. Apparently, the Democrats believe that only one hour of free speech is needed before voting on a bill that will severely restrict free speech.

The Democrats will only allow floor votes on five amendments. One would prohibit any company with leases on the outer continental shelf from making campaign-related expenditures. In other words, Congress would silence companies that are in favor of oil and gas drilling, but not the critics of offshore drilling. One could not find a clearer example of how this bill is intended to silence those whose political views the liberals don’t like.

Another amendment would force disclaimers on advertisements to include the city and state of the funder’s residence or principle office. This will lengthen the required disclaimers even more — even the ACLU says that these new disclaimer requirements are so burdensome that “they would either drown out the intended message or discourage groups from speaking out at all.”

Carved out of the act were the NRA, AARP and a couple of other large groups. Not surprisingly, organized labor, which notably was the single largest political spender in the 2008 election, some $420 million, is out of the bill. There’s no real effect on them, no real disclosure, no real reporting requirements. Considering that organized labor just declared their intention to spend $150 million minimally in this election to protect “incumbency,’”to quote them, I’m not surprised.

Also interesting is the provision for judicial review. A quick review of the lawbooks tells me that every other bipartisan campaign reform dating back to 1943 has contained a provision requiring an expedited Supreme Court review. There is usually a desire to allow the court to weigh in on the legislation, to ensure that it passes constitutional muster. This legislation attempts to force a litigant through two levels of review before reaching the Supreme Court. It also, interestingly enough, demands that congress be given a copy of the complaint(the lawsuit). It also takes effect thirty days after it’s signed, leaving a bare two months to try to obtain judicial review. A naked attempt to try to protect the dwindling democratic chances in November? Or am I just a cynic?

Reid, Pelosi, et. al., need a lesson in civics, if not civility. If they believe that America really needs this bill, they would be a little more transparent about both the subject matter and the process. The fact is, though, this bill is an attempt to silence dissent, and allow only the state-approved views to reach the masses.

Categories: Uncategorized

Free to Choose? Not So Much.

Obama’s assault on the economy continues, with news this week of a couple of new bills he signed into law. The first bill is, when not frightening, somewhat amusing. Let’s look at the amusing parts first.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., is intended to give Obama and the dems some talking points to use during the November elections. It’s ostensible goal is to reduce bad payments by the government, which last year reached 110 billion. These bad payments include things like fraud, wrong people paid, wrong amounts paid, etc. Obama wants to reduce that number to 50 billion by 2012. Apparently, Obama doesn’t mind waste, just any more waste than 50 billion. When one runs a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit, I suppose saving 60 billion is a worthwhile goal, regardless of what it does to the constitution.

The amusing parts include a requirement for more agencies to report waste and produce corrective action plans with targets to reduce errors and a requirement for agencies to conduct audits on their programs. Neither requirement, by the way, requires anybody to do anything; the bill just requires agencies to make plans to eventually do things.

The scary part, and the part that may very well be unconstitutional, also gives agency heads authority to use any recovered money for purposes not currently allowed, including improving their financial management, supporting the agency’s inspector general or for the original intent of the funding. There are concerns that this provision might violate the constitutional requirement that all spending bills originate in the House. Currently, any money not spent on the purposes for which it was budgeted must be returned to the treasury. This didn’t stop Obama, however, when he managed to create a rotating slush fund under TARP.

Then there was the unemployment payment extension bill. Disregarding the fact that there was no way to pay for it included in the bill, Obama is expected to sign the $34 billion, six-month renewal of unemployment insurance for the chronically jobless. Which is, I suppose, sadly ironic given almost 10 percent unemployment that shows no signs of improving. Democrats tout the economy-boosting effect of unemployment checks since most beneficiaries spend them immediately, and they say paying for them with cuts to other programs dilutes the stimulative effect. “Extending unemployment insurance isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do for our economy,” said Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. One is almost rendered speechless by the cognitive dissonance embodied in Brown’s statement.

If Pelosi et al., are right that unemployment benefits are a boost to the economy and are a “smart thing,” then why are they on the defensive about 10 percent unemployment? Surely there is a number, that economists could deduce, that would represent the optimum number of unemployed people. Maybe, since unemployment benefits, according to Pelosi, “create(s) jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name,” we should be shooting for 100 percent unemployment. That way, we’d be sure to create all the jobs we need!

Then, there is the 2000 page whopper of a financial regulatory bill. When I was in law school, we used to joke that the Americans with Disabilities Act should be called the “Full Employment for Lawyers Act.” Between the Obamacare bill and this bill, perhaps this administration should be called the full employment for lawyers administration. The list of powers that feds grab in this bill is staggering. Let’s look at a few of them.

• A council of regulators will identify threats to the system. The Treasury secretary will lead the council. The council will have authority to review both banks and nonbank companies, such as insurers and credit unions. Onsite supervision by Federal Reserve regulators is required.

• The law provides a way for the council to close big companies. Companies the council feels could eventually pose a threat must write a “funeral plan.” If regulators decide a company is endangering the system, they could dismantle it and sell off the pieces. This applies to private companies. The idea is to prevent panic from spreading. The Treasury would pay the company’s obligations. Treasury would be repaid with industry fees and money raised from the failed company’s shareholders, bondholders and asset sales. But taxpayers could end up on the hook, the Congressional Budget Office says.

• Regulators decide how much capital banks must have to cover unexpected big losses. The law instructs regulators to raise these standards, but they’ll have broad discretion.

• A new office at Treasury will monitor the insurance industry and help decide if an insurer is big enough to warrant tighter oversight. Today, insurers are regulated by the insurance commissions of each state in which they operate.

• A new agency will oversee consumer products and services, from mortgages to check cashing. It will regulate many nonbank companies, such as payday lenders.

• The regulator will police companies that dominate consumer finance, such as credit card companies and the biggest banks. The agency will write rules and ban products it deems unsafe.

So we get a few new agencies, and slew of new regulators, and no guarantee of success. The regulators themselves are unpoliced, except by any particular administration. There exists still a possibility that we will continue to be taxed for future bailouts. But Obama will be able to claim something accomplished, no matter how ineffective or nebulous.

Oddly enough, the bill doesn’t include a fix for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those two companies are at the heart of the mortgage finance system. They buy mortgages from lenders and resell them to investors. When their investments lost money, the government had to intervene. The bailouts have cost taxpayers $145 billion so far. As was previously discussed in this blog, could there be a reason these two economic giants failed to be included? Or is that just my cynical mind detecting the smell of something rotten?

Categories: Uncategorized

Obama the Mendacious

It’s good to be back. I just spent a week in Chuuk, followed by a week in the Philippines. Except for a few minor glitches, my vacation was wonderful. But now, it’s back to work. And there’s plenty of it.

Obama’s at it again. A while back, I criticized Elena Kagan for her deficiencies in moral reasoning. Now I can understand why he could nominate a person like Kagan to the Supreme Court, especially after looking at his recent actions. Kagan claimed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a moral question of the first order. Obama has no problem with that because he has no particular moral compass, either. Before you get all upset, remember that he has often stated that he disagrees with partisanship and ideologues. Ideologues and partisans are those with strong convictions, often of the moral variety.

Today, we’re going to talk about abortion. And before you get all upset about that, I’m not going to mention God once, other than that.

Three months ago, Obama signed an executive order banning federal funding for abortion, as he had promised to pro-life Democrats. The executive order was intended to ensure that current law limiting federal funding for abortion is maintained and it is supposed to extend the restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges. Under the current law, federal funds cannot go toward abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.

But, he lied. At least according to a report by the U.S. Agency for International Development which estimated that more than $23 million in U.S. taxpayer funds have been spent on Kenya’s referendum on a new constitution, which would legalize abortion in the country for the first time. This, by the way, after Biden told the Kenyan people in a recent speech, “Let me repeat, this is your decision, your decision alone. And the people of Kenya must make this choice — a choice for Kenya by Kenyans.” So, Obama breaks his own executive order to use your money to influence a foreign election, one that makes abortion legal.

Not only that, but the Obama administration appears to be offering incentives to Kenya to approve the controversial new constitution, promising that passage would “allow money to flow” into the nation’s coffers. This, even though the Siljander Amendment makes it illegal for the U.S. government to lobby on abortion in other countries.

Development Alternatives, a group that has received almost $3 million from the U.S. government, openly supports “advocating for efforts to eventually legalize abortion in Kenya.” Another group, The Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review in Kenya, changed the wording of the Kenyan constitution’s abortion clause to make abortion more widely accessible – and has received over $180,000 from the U.S. Nine of the more than 200 organizations in Kenya that received money from the U.S. have been suspended from receiving assistance, the U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Katya Thomas in Nairobi told the AP Friday.

So, once again, we have another example of what a prevaricator this guy is. But perhaps more troubling is that Obama has no idea when life begins. One might have expected more from such a highly praised genius, the smartest president ever, a Harvard-educated lawyer. But no, he doesn’t have a clue. In his own words:

“This is something that I have not come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.” (2008 Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College Apr 13, 2008)

But I do. It’s very simple. So simple that even a Harvard man should be able to grasp it. Marcus Aurelius was on the right track when he said, “look things in the face and know them for what they are.” The answer can be found by considering three simple questions.

The first: Is it alive? When a sperm cell unites with an egg, the result is a fertilized cell. When all goes well, this cell eats, evacuates, and grows. It multiplies and becomes a many-celled creature. This creature can be called many things, zygote, blastula, fetus, etc. But as it grows, it goes through these stages. It has all of the attributes of a life.

The second: Is it human? Well, let’s be direct. When a man and a woman procreate, the offspring can be nothing but. When a human egg and sperm combine, the result is never a dog, or fish, or kitchen table. It can only be human.

The final question: Is it a part of the mother? The answer here is very simple; no. If one were to remove a person’s appendix and DNA type it, it would match every other part of the body. Same with a big toe, or a lung. However, if one took a DNA sample from a fetus, and compared it to a DNA sample from the mother, they would be completely different. What does this tell us? It tells us that that fetus and the mother are two distinct and different creatures.

So, the creature is alive, human, and not a part of the mother. None of this is rocket science, although it is basic biology. A subject, apparently, that Obama is woefully ignorant about. And for those who would cavil, like Obama, by throwing the word “potential” into the mix, don’t. It only causes you more problems. Obama talks about potential life. What potential means is “could be, but not yet.” So when you say potential life, you mean dead. When you say potential human, you mean not a human. Which then begs the question, “If not human, what?” Dog, cat, cow? The word potential causes more problems than it fixes.

To sum up, it’s alive, it’s human, and it’s separate. That’s the functional definition of human being. Without some really good justification, it’s wrong to kill human beings. And it doesn’t take a Harvard education to see that.

Categories: Uncategorized
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