Monday, January 31, 2011

Another Federal Judge Rules Against Obamacare - Tosses Out Entire Law

Another Federal Judge Rules Against Obamacare - Tosses Out Entire Law
Guy Benson

All Posts By Blogger Reports are surfacing that federal judge Roger Vinson has issued a ruling that declares at least one element of Obamacare to be unconstitutional. The full ruling is expected to be released within the hour. This suit challenging the new law was brought by 26 states:

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson's ruling will be the biggest judicial decision to come down the pike since groups began filing lawsuits against the bill passed by Congress last March. Twenty-six states are parties to the suit, which claims a mandate to insist Americans purchase a product is unconstitutional.

In October, Vinson dismissed four of the six counts in the suit led by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. But he allowed two counts, including one challenging the law's controversial requirement that Americans buy health insurance, to proceed. Arguments were heard in December.

In his earlier ruling, Vinson said that a government report called the requirement to buy insurance legally unprecedented and worth examining in court.

This news comes on the heels of a blockbuster December 13 decision by federal judge Henry Hudson, who struck down the individual mandate while leaving the rest of the law largely intact. As we discussed at the time, there is no severability clause in Obamacare, and in mounting a legal defense of its new policy, the White House has conceded that the individual mandate represents the tent pole of the entire enterprise, and cannot be compartmentalized from its other provisions. In other words, if the individual mandate bites the dust (and it seems increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately weigh that question), Obamacare implodes.

UPDATE - Judge Vinson tossed out Obamacare in its totality: "Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."(Emphasis mine).

UPDATE II - On Fox News, Shepard Smith declares that "a lot of people love" Obamacare, suggesting that "a majority" now approves of the law. Not so much.

Most voters continue to favor repeal of the national health care law, but now that the Republican-run House has voted to repeal and sent it on to the Democratic-controlled Senate for action, confidence that the law ultimately will be repealed has fallen to its lowest level in four months.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of Likely Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law, including 47% who Strongly Favor repeal. Thirty-eight percent (38%) oppose repeal, with 29% who are Strongly Opposed.

UPDATE III - Here's the ruling.

UPDATE IV - Via a Senate Republican source, a reminder that Rasmussen isn't the only polling firm showing plurality/majority support for Obamacare repeal. The individual mandate -- again, the linchpin of the entire law -- is wildly unpopular.

UPDATE V - Vinson seems almost apologetic in his ruling, calling it "difficult" and "hard," while acknowledging a near unanimous consensus on the need for (constitutional) reform:

Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

As unpleasant as it may have been for the judge, he did his job anyway. Politically, his stated reluctance to invalidate Obamacare will complicate the Left's inevitable effort to paint Vinson, a Reagan appointee, as an ideologue.

UPDATE VI - In what the MSM is already derisively calling a shout-out to the modern Tea Party movement, Vinson references the events that led to the 1773 Boston Tea Party in his decision:

It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.

Anyone who has a problem with that analogy is likely already suffering from Tea Party Derangement Syndrome.

UPDATE VII - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell applauds the ruling:

“This ruling confirms what Americans have been saying for months: The health spending bill is a massive overreach and Democrats ‘exceeded the bounds’ of Congressional authority under the Constitution in passing the law with the individual mandate. Rather than penalizing Americans if they don’t buy a particular product that Washington decides is best, we should repeal this health spending bill and replace it with commonsense reforms that will actually lower costs, prevent unsustainable entitlement promises and make it easier for employers to start hiring again.”

UPDATE VIII - In case you were curious, the 26 state plaintiffs that were party to the successful Obamacare suit were: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

UPDATE IX - Meanwhile, on the legislative repeal track, Sen. Jim DeMint tweets that all 47 Republican Senators have co-sponsored S. 192, the upper chamber's repeal bill. Sen. Mitch McConnell has promised to "repeatedly" force votes on the measure. People who claim that there are not significant differences between our two major parties are dead wrong.

UPDATE X - No shock. The White House says it will appeal this ruling to the US Appeals Court. As several people have tweeted, we should just cut out all the unnecessary drama and paperwork and just ask Anthony Kennedy to rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare.

UPDATE XI (this will be my final update to this post) - Via Allahpundit, a fun reminder that Congressional Democrats flat-out forgot to include a severability clause in the final legislative language of Obamacare. Hey, when you're ramming through an unpopular bill by striking unsavory deals and making the rules up as you go along, "oversights" tend to occur.

Obama Administration Posturing All Over the Place on Egyptian Standoff

Obama Administration Posturing All Over the Place on Egyptian Standoff
By Rachel Alexander

The Obama administration’s reaction to the massive demonstrations and government crackdown in Egypt has been inconsistent, awkwardly changing from day to day. Instead of supporting the protesters and their pleas for democracy and reform, the administration staked out a position last week supporting the existing hard-line regime. Five days later, the administration completely reversed itself. This kind of leadership makes the U.S. appear weak and vacillating, and is all too characteristic of liberal Democrats who lack strong principles when it comes to freedom and democracy.

The protests were precipitated by the dictatorial actions of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak. In the weeks leading up to last November’s elections, Mubarak’s National Democratic Party restricted the press and jailed dozens of opposition members. Mubarak’s reelection was widely regarded as rigged. The Obama administration barely said a word. Pro-reform activists planned a protest to begin on January 25, 2011, “Freedom Revolution Day,” organizing tens of thousands of Egyptians to rally in the streets until the 82-year old Mubarak agreed to resign his 30-year rule and give in to their demands for freedom, rights and justice.

Mubarak responded to the protesters by shutting down internet access and limiting cell phone access. He ordered the military onto the streets with tanks, and implemented a curfew, but it has been ignored. The protesters have stood firm, setting fire to police stations and offices of the National Democratic Party. Over 100 people have been killed and thousands injured.

Two days after the clash started, Vice President Joe Biden sided with Mubarak’s crushing of human rights, declaring that Mubarak is not a dictator and should not step down. Outraged, conservatives and human rights activists demanded that the administration cut aid to Egypt until Mubarak stopped the crackdown. Backing down, the Obama administration said it would “review” current assistance. Then the administration distanced itself even further from Mubarak, calling for the regime to unblock internet access. Hillary Clinton asked Mubarak to embrace political reform and democracy. Most recently, Obama called on other world leaders to discuss supporting an “orderly transition” to a new regime.

The Obama administration changed its position because it realized Mubarak will not likely withstand the protests. Soldiers are siding with the protesters and not enforcing the curfew. The military noticeably protected buildings like the Egyptian Museum, but not the NDP headquarters. In past nonviolent revolutions, the willingness of the military and police to fire upon protesters has played a pivotal role in determining the success of the protests.

Mubarak fired his cabinet and named the intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as his vice president, and the former air force chief and minister of aviation, Ahmed Shafiq, as prime minister. The moves are widely seen as futile, merely shuffling around all too familiar players. Suleiman is fiercely loyal to Mubarak.

The U.S. considered Egypt a friendly regime under Mubarak, providing it with billions of dollars of aid over the past 30 years. Last year the U.S. gave the regime $1.3 billion, and this year the Obama administration is requesting $1.5 billion in aid. U.S. F-16s and tanks are being used by the government in the crackdown. The protesters are concerned that U.S. aid is preventing them from toppling the regime. Crowds chanted, "Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, both of you are agents of the Americans." However, other protesters carried posters that said, “America, we don’t want to hurt you,” making a distinction between the U.S. and Mubarak’s regime.

If Mubarak steps down, there is some concern that he would be replaced with a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship, merely trading a secular dictatorship for an Islamic one. The economic failure of a country can leave it susceptible to radical Islamist extremists taking over. The Muslim Brotherhood is supporting Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei for president. A recent Pew poll of Egyptians found that 59 percent prefer “Islamists” and only 27 percent prefer “modernizers.” 20 percent said they like al Qaeda, 30 percent like Hezbollah, and 49 percent like Hamas. Many believe, however erroneously, that the Brotherhood would increase freedom rather than limit it.

The Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, although members have been elected to parliament as independents. The Brotherhood denounces al Qaeda and violent Islamic extremism. However, if the Brotherhood ends up in power, it could erode the 30 years of stability brought about by the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Mubarak has taken a moderate approach towards Israel, which has served to restrain other Arab states. For these reasons, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ambivalent about whether a regime change in Egypt at this time would be in Israel’s best interests.

With Mubarak’s resignation likelier than not, it is imperative that the Obama administration come out strongly on the side of the protesters advocating for democracy and reform. The U.S. must send a message to Egypt that it supports democracy and objects to the suppression of freedom, whether by secular or theocratic regimes.

To read another article by Rachel Alexander, click here.

School Reform Advocates Champion Choice

School Reform Advocates Champion Choice
By Guy Benson

SKOKIE, IL – Hundreds of Chicagoland residents flocked to a townhall meeting on education reform last week, as school choice advocates continued a nationwide push to highlight the issue during National School Choice Week. The program, which was co-sponsored by local conservative talk station AM 560 WIND, featured a panel discussion among syndicated talker Michael Medved, political strategist and author Dick Morris, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The trio traded ideas on how to improve America’s schools and attempted to diagnose a number of the system’s key flaws in a discussion moderated by John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute.

“Our current system is wrong. Competition is the bedrock of America, and it’s time that education reaches the market economy,” Hastert asserted, prompting nods of agreement from his co-panelists. “It come down to a core American value: equal opportunity,” Medved added. “Conservatives don’t believe in equal outcomes. But from the time of founding, part of what this country is about is everybody gets a shot. That’s what we’re affirming here tonight,” he said. Morris suggested that by injecting greater competition into the system, individual schools and districts could serve as educational laboratories. “We’ve tried testing, standards, and funding increases. The only remaining option is opening up the status quo to experiments,” he said, arguing that outcomes should dictate future priorities. “Let’s find out what works, and let the money go with the kids. At that point, when people ask which schools to close, the answer is the empty ones.”

During the wide-ranging discussion, the panel explored a number of potential experimental programs, from inner city public boarding schools, to significantly shortening summer break, to reinstituting trade schools as a viable and respected option for students.

“We have this idea in the US that every child is the same. We also have this idea that every single American child should go to college. That’s not a good idea. College prep work sets up a huge number of children for guaranteed failure. It’s perfectly possible to make a great living and be a wonderful citizen without being a college prep student,” Medved said.

The applause turned to boos and jeers at any mention of teacher’s unions -- although panelists were quick to draw a distinction between what they called the corrupt practices of unions and individual teachers. At one point, public school teachers in the crowd were asked to raise their hands. They were greeted with a prolonged ovation. “Good teachers transform lives, but not every teacher is equal, unless you’re talking to the unions,” Morris said, echoing a sentiment featured in a short film trailer that played during the event.

Medved added a word of caution: “Let’s not just make the teacher’s unions the big bad enemy,” he implored the audience, citing his own mother’s publicly-funded health benefits that helped her afford medical treatment after suffering a stroke. “Teachers making a respectable living and receiving good benefits is not something to oppose. If we do, we’ll lose that argument. The problem is the corruption of unions who protect the worst teachers who have no business being in a classroom. We are not on the side of bad, lazy teachers,” he said.

Each speaker praised innovative steps that have already been taken by some jurisdictions, including tying driver’s licenses to school attendance for teens. Ultimately, though, government policies can only go so far, Hastert contended. “It’s not just money or policy that leads to success. Parents need to care. Then, teachers will care because parents care. We can’t legislate that, but we should encourage it,” he said. “Home schooling is the epitome of that idea, and the people involved in that movement are very vocal. I take my hat off to them.”

Many of the audience questions dealt with breaking the disproportionate strength of the unions, which led to an extended discussion of Governor Chris Christie’s ongoing battle with the New Jersey Education Association. “Christie has started to do what people say can’t be done. He is changing the psyche of the public. But for us to do here [in Illinois] what he’s doing out in New Jersey, we need a different governor,” he said to loud applause. Democrat Pat Quinn was elected to his first full term as Governor of Illinois in November.

To read another article by Guy Benson, click here.


By Rich Galen

On December 17, 2010 a 26 year-old fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest at his treatment by the local authorities in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid.

That act led to massive demonstrations which led to the government of Tunisia being toppled which led to even more massive demonstrations in Egypt which led to President Hosni Mubarak firing his cabinet and may well end up with Mubarak, himself, having to pull up stakes and head for Switzerland or wherever he has stashed his money.

The troubles in Egypt are serious troubles for everyone.

If the demonstrators - or just plain bad guys - disable the Suez Canal it will mean huge problems. Egypt straddles the Suez Canal which connects the Red and Mediterranean Seas. Without the Suez Canal oil tankers (and every other ship) will have to travel an additional 10,000 miles around Africa to get to Europe.

About 50 ships per day travel through the Suez Canal according to

Egypt has a population of 80.5 million. Israel has a population of just over 7 million. The only thing separating Egypt from Israel is an imaginary line in the Sinai/Negev Desert. Different, but still imaginary, lines in the sand separate Israel from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan to which this civil unrest could easily spread like an outbreak of political Ebola.

Southwest of Egypt is Nigeria. If the riots spread there (and to Angola and Algeria) disruption of oil production would have a massive impact on the U.S. economy. Why? Because we import about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day from those three countries.

And, if the riots spread east to the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that could disrupt another 1.3 million barrels per day.

Together those five countries provide 2.8 million of the 10 million barrels of oil we import every day. Cut oil imports by 28 percent and it will make the $4.00 per gallon price spike of 2008 look like the good old days.

We know from painful experience how fragile civilization is in Iraq and we would prefer not to have to militarily re-litigate that situation.

Countries like Bahrain, Qatar, the U.A.E. and Oman (whose border with Yemen is a blurry line in the desert) might be targets for Iranian agents provocateurs to use the underlying Shi'ite/Sunni unpleasantness to destabilize those governments as well.

It is true that this could spread to Iran which has seen public unrest all on its own in recent years, but regime change in Iran at the cost of instability in every other country in the region might be too high a price to pay.

It is not likely that any new government will be composed of Western-facing officials. Over the weekend protesters in Egypt began chanting against the U.S. and Israel. No surprise to anyone.

The U.S. provides about $1.5 billion per year in direct assistance to Egypt. According to Forbes magazine about $1.3 billion is for "peace and security" meaning you and I are paying for those tanks which rolled out in Cairo Friday afternoon.

President Obama's remarks on Friday evening were so weak they made dishwater in your grandma's sink seem like battery acid.

The Administration sent Hillary Clinton out to try and make its position clear, but according to the Washington Post's analysis of the Secretary of State's world tour of Sunday shows yesterday:

The Administration has sought to adapt to the rapidly shifting landscape, at times offering contradictory messages.

Vice President Joe Biden last week said he did not believe Mubarak should step down, while Clinton described the Egyptian government as stable. On Sunday, Clinton declined to reiterate either position.

No one can tell where this will all end, but it is already clear that President Obama, who was so eager to re-set America's relationships with the rest of the world is finding out that (a) it is tougher to be President than to run for President and (b) Bush's policies made more sense than Obama thought they did.

It would be better if, when the history of Africa and the Middle East is written 100 years from now, Mohammed Bouazizi is not the functional equivalent of the Archduke Ferdinand.

To read a story about The Muslim Brotherhood, click here.

A Lenny Skutnik Sputnik Moment

A Lenny Skutnik Sputnik Moment
By Jed Babbin on 1.31.11 @ 6:08AM

The rousing finish to President Obama's State of the Union speech proclaimed America as the nation that does "big things." And we do, or at least we used to.

We invented the light bulb, the airplane, and the telephone. We perfected the car and while the Brits were manufacturing the MGB (which was fun to drive on the infrequent moments it wasn't sitting by the side of the road broken down), we were making the Corvette and the Mustang. In the half-century of the Cold War, we put a man on the moon and people such as the late great Kelly Johnson -- creator of the supersecret Lockheed "Skunk Works" -- made us believe that enormous technological breakthroughs were our birthright.

So why is it that our capital city can't even deal with minor snow storms?

I'm not talking about last year's "snowmageddon." Last Wednesday, Washington was paralyzed by a storm which, for the East Coast, was a routine winter event. About six inches of snow fell beginning in the early afternoon. By 4 p.m., the region was entirely gridlocked. Hundreds spent up to thirteen hours stranded on the otherwise scenic George Washington Parkway in suburban Virginia. About seventy Metrobuses broke down, turning nearby Maryland suburbs into honking nightmares. A half-dozen jackknifed tractor-trailers brought the 64-mile Washington Beltway to a halt.

And, three days later, thousands of Maryland and Virginia residents were still without electricity, so they hunkered down around their gas fireplaces and ate sushi.

At least they weren't stuck in the New Orleans Superdome for three days without water, food or functioning bathrooms. Overflowing commuters reportedly functioned as necessary among the stuck cars.

It's not enough to blame the D.C. government. Anyone who has lived here for more than two weeks knows that the only thing the D.C. government does competently is hand out parking tickets. And it's not enough to blame the dysfunctional multi-jurisdictional region for the failure of the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia to cooperate, which they don't and won't as long as none are willing to share responsibilities. In truth, this is another reminder about the vulnerability of Washington to "man-caused disasters," Secretary Janet Incompetano's euphemism for terrorist attacks.

To be fair, Our Lady of Homeland Security has a problem that isn't exactly new. On January 14, 1982 an Air Florida airliner grazed the 14th Street Bridge in a snowstorm and crashed into the Potomac. What few remember is that there was a Metro subway accident at the same time, and traffic was so tied up that many of us took one look at the streets and decided to walk to a local bar rather than drive home.

On the morning of 9-11, when the Pentagon was burning, across the river in D.C. panicked commuters had clogged the streets and the subway to a standstill. I sat in my office, about two blocks from the White House, waiting for the fourth aircraft to crash into the president's house. There was no alternative other than trying to walk through the traffic to get home, then about seven miles away because I was as unprepared as the government.

Disaster preparedness is a serious business, and it's time we became serious about it. That, of course, requires states, cities and private citizens to do it themselves because our Department of Homeland Security is institutionally incapable of doing what is necessary. (See, e.g., border security.)

Americans aren't -- and shouldn't be -- a regimented people. We're not going to take numbers and line up in order to march out of a disaster area chanting "danger is safety" or whatever other Orwellian phrase the DOHS dolts prescribe. And, in cases such as 9-11 where one city has been hit and another expects to be, panic will ensue. So what can be done?

First are the first-responders. Our police and firemen will always respond heroically, but can they do so effectively? The Department of Homeland Security has spent hundreds of millions of dollars studying this issue in states, cities, and towns across the nation, but there is little to show for the expense other than a lot of paperwork that no one reads far less acts upon.

The answer to that part of the problem is found in the interstate compact mechanism conveniently provided in Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution. A few states already have agreements by which they share police, fire, and rescue assets in emergencies. Those agreements should commit the states to sufficient expense and planning to deal with disasters effectively for at least 24 hours without waiting for whatever massive help the federal government may provide later.

More states and cities should have such agreements, and those who already have them should review and revise them to better effect disaster preparedness. If Virginia lacked the equipment to clear the George Washington Parkway of stuck cars, nearby Maryland should have pitched in (and if, as I suspect, both defaulted to the U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction over that road, both should prepare to intervene whenever the Park Police doesn't clear the road quickly enough to prevent an inconvenience from turning into a 13-hour life-threatening disaster).

Second, people have to do more to help themselves. This isn't a "Sputnik moment": call it a "Lenny Skutnik moment."

Mr. Skutnik was the hero of the Air Florida crash. Seeing survivors flailing helplessly in the nearly-frozen Potomac, he dove in to rescue them. He fit the definition of a hero: someone who acts to save others in disregard of the danger to himself. Not all of us are heroes and still fewer will be called upon to act heroically. But we can all do something that will help train and prepare ourselves to do what is necessary in an emergency and avoid increasing the burdens of our first-responders.

Panic is an emotional reaction to helplessness. The tool you need to avoid panic is a backpack. You should keep it at home, in the trunk of your car or in your office if you commute by train, bus or carpool. Think of it as a wearable version of Douglas Adam's fictional "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which had "Don't Panic" emblazoned on the cover.

In your backpack, you should have the following confidence-instilling materials:

• A highly-detailed map of your area and a compass. You may think you know your way around, but the streets you know may be blocked. A map and compass will guide you around those obstacles. Any Boy Scout can show you how to orient the compass to the map and follow it to where you need to go. Don't rely on cell phone GPS systems which, in a big enough emergency, may not function.

• Waterproof hiking boots, two pairs of socks, lightweight rain gear and a sweater or polar-fleece pullover to stay warm.

• Six or eight protein bars and two liters of water, enough to keep your energy up and keep you hydrated on your hike.

• Two dust-proof painter's masks which may reduce the effect of a biological or chemical attack.

• A small flashlight and first-aid kit including a stretchable cloth bandage to brace sprains.

• A multi-purpose "leatherman" tool and a 20-foot length of clothesline.

• If your home is more than ten miles from your place of work, you need a poncho or space blanket to hunker down in overnight; and

• If you can carry it legally, a weapon of your choice be it a can of pepper spray or a pistol. (Don't leave that unsecured in any office even during the day.)

This is what we call a "go bag": the ready-to-go kit you grab while rushing out to escape danger, or which can enable you to stay right where you are to wait out a crisis. It'll be the lightest 20-pound burden you've ever carried.

Think about what you'll do, prepare for it, and you won't be one of those who die on the side of a road waiting for Janet Incompetano to rescue you.

Egyptian Intransigence Ominous

Egyptian Intransigence Ominous
By Hal G.P. Colebatch on 1.31.11 @ 6:05AM

No one knows how the present rioting in Egypt is going to turn out, though it is a safe bet that, in the endess dusty jerry-built tower-blocks ringing Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood is watching and waiting to seize its chance.

British journalist Peter Hitchens wrote recently: "The most potent [Egyptian] opposition movement is the Muslim Brotherhood, and the most popular cause is enraged hatred of the neighbouring State of Israel." Actually, I think the most popular cause amongst ordinary Egyptians is continuing to get their U.S.-subsidized daily bread. But it's not ordinary Egyptians who tend to sway events there. If I were a tourist I'd keep well away at the moment.

As in all Muslim countries, the religious and the political can hardly be separated in Egypt. Given this, it is highly significant that, when the Pope spoke out following the latest massacre of Coptic Christians, not only did the Egyptian Government recall its Ambassador to the Vatican, but in addition top Muslim academics stated that they have suspended all dialogue with it.

This decision was announced by Ahmed el-Tayeh, president of al-Azhar University in Cairo and members of the Islamic Research Authority. The news was reported on the website Ahram Online, which is dedicated to covering news of interest to Muslims in the Middle East. A Vatican spokesman said in response that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was "collecting the information needed to adequately understand the situation."

The news came about a month before a scheduled annual meeting of the joint committee of the Pontifical Council for Dialogue and the Permanent committee of al-Azhar for dialogue Amongst the Monotheistic Religions, established in 1998.

Even before considering the possible outcomes of the political turmoil in Egypt, this story is important because it illustrates the enormity of the gap between Muslim and Christian ways of thinking in the 21st Century -- and Egypt is a relatively Westernized country with a modern economy of 80 million people and a history of European contact stretching back to the dawn of European history. The re-opening of the great library at Alexandria has been a conscious effort to provide the world with a showcase of its age-long scholarship and culture. Its governing regime, though unlovely enough, is a U.S. client, and as the experience of Iran indicates, is a good deal better for Western interests than some all-too-possible alternatives, all the more so because it shares borders with Israel and Gaza.

The Pope's comments were, as might be expected, couched in the most polite and diplomatic language. They could not, by any sane standard, be taken as aggressive or inflammatory. In the wake of the massacre of Copts in Cairo and elsewhere he simply asked governments in the region to adopt effective measures for the protection of religions minorities. The Pope commands no military force and has no Earthly tool but moral persuasion. There is no doubt that a good deal of thought went into the phrasing of the statement so as to neither make the lot of the Copts worse nor to give the appearance of abandoning them -- or, for that matter, of abandoning a beleaguered Christianity.

It is impossible to imagine how either a government seeking normal relations with the West or the senior Muslim academics of Egypt could argue with this. And in fact they did not argue: there is an almost refreshingly unambiguous simplicity in their reaction.

The Muslim academics in effect delivered an ultimatum to the Vatican: they would condescend to speak with its representatives only so long as no protest against the killing of Christians was made, that is, so long as the Vatican, as the world's leading Christian institution and the leading international expression of Christianity, gave up all moral ground.

Plainly, it seems that any suggestion that they might be concerned as to what the rest of the world thinks about this might as well be couched in Martian.

Further, of course, there is a possibility that any overly strong protests by the Vatican will result in further reprisals against the Copts, a whole community of hostages. There is an echo here of the issues raised by the martyrdom of Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Catholic nun and distinguished theologian. When the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940 Edith Stein was sheltering in a Carmelite convent. When the Dutch bishops made a statement condemning Nazi persecution of Jews, the Nazis in retaliation seized Edith Stein and all other Jewish converts to Christianity in Holland. She perished in an extermination camp.

The case of Edith Stein -- and it was by no means unique -- reminds one of the appalling difficulties and dilemmas the Vatican faces in attempting to protect or at least speak out for Christians at the mercy of savagely anti-Christian regimes. The strategy that Western Christianity is confronting does not seem particularly hard to understand. To speak out seems bad. To remain silent may be in the long run infinitely worse -- that way lies the spiritual and perhaps ultimately the physical death of the West.

And in the meantime, what is President Obama doing about it? With a worse-case situation of much of North Africa going up in smoke, and with British defence forces on the scrap-heap and France looking determinedly after France alone, it appears that any salvation may have to come from the US (Already the British Daily Telegraph is claiming "Egypt is not our business" -- they may soon be taught better) . Handling this one may not be easy, and it would put the cleverest, most capable, and most courageous of U.S. Presidents to the test.

Egypt and the Realpolitik of Violence and Freedom
By Daniel Oliver on 1.31.11 @ 6:08AM

President Barack Obama's Friday evening statement on the situation in Egypt reminds us of George Orwell's comment that sloppy writing leads to dangerous political thinking.

"Good evening," said the president (ritually, if, under the circumstances, inaccurately). "As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life." Our first concern?

Egypt has been our most important ally in the Arab-speaking world. The United States gives $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt annually, and has given $28 billion in economic aid since 1975. We've done that for a reason. The Middle East is a metaphorical salad of dominoes waiting to fall and a powder keg waiting to blow. Islamist extremists plot, and live to plot, the end of the Great Satan and its consequence, chaos. Egypt has been a realpolitik force in opposition to that plotting.

But according to the president, our first concern is preventing injury (sprained ankles?) and loss of life. Maybe that's just a sop to the vegans and animal rights folks (the 2012 election looms). But a president facing the prospects of Armageddon starting, and in the nature of Armageddon, ending, on his watch might nudge other concerns into first place.

The president called on the Egyptian authorities "to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters." The mind reels. What could the president have meant? Had he not seen the coverage of the riots in Cairo? How do you have a peaceful riot? How do you have a peaceful riot in the Middle East? These folks are not the Women's Christian Temperance Union -- and come to think of it, there was nothing peaceful about the WCTU or its most famous member, hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation.

"At the same time," continued the president, "those protesting in the streets have the responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek." A few minutes later, the president said, "Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people." The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, had sounded the theme earlier in the day: "There's no situation that -- this is certainly not a situation that will be solved by violence."

Where to begin? Either the protesters will succeed, however success is defined, and therefore will have succeeded by resorting to violence. Or the Mubarak regime will survive, however that is defined, because its violence was more violent than the violence of the protesters.

Whether the situation is "solved" depends on where you're throwing your bombs from. Whoever wins this struggle will have succeeded through the use of more or better targeted violence.

"Now ultimately," said the president, "the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people." What did he mean by that? "Should be determined by the Egyptian people?" Maybe. But "will be"? It hasn't been for decades -- if ever. Ultimately, as Keynes remarked, we're all dead. And for a lot of Egyptians this week, "ultimately" may come rather sooner than they had expected.

What should the president have said? There were two options. One is: nothing. Never underestimate the advisability of saying nothing. The United States has few good options in this situation. Keeping quiet may preserve whatever our best option is.

The second option would have been to teach -- but the president is not good at teaching, as he demonstrated in his State of the Union speech. And teach whom? He could have outlined, for the American people, the dilemma: realpolitik vs. idealism. Kissinger vs. Bush. Perhaps Kissinger vs. Bush for Dummies. But how likely is it that that lecture would help the United States win the hearts and minds of whoever wins the tanks and guns in Egypt?

Besides, the president may not have thought through that dilemma (after all, his State Department took the wrong side in Honduras!), so he's coasting on liberal shibboleths. Violence is bad. Violence is counterproductive. Floss after every meal. But that is dangerous thinking, which, pace George Orwell, can proceed to, as well as from, sloppy writing.

To think that violence is always bad is not to know, as American soldiers know, along with the millions of people in far off lands that their bravery has liberated down through the years, that violence can be the handmaiden of freedom.

Freedom for the Egyptians, however, is still years away, as it is for millions of their pitiful fellow Arabs, whatever is midwifed by the current violence. And however great the interest of the Egyptian people is in their own freedom and human rights, it is eclipsed, even if they don't realize it, by the national security interest of the United States.

Everybody Loves Reagan

Everybody Loves Reagan
By Ryan L. Cole on 1.31.11 @ 6:06AM

The arrival of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday will be accompanied by a chorus of fond reminiscences and misty-eyed appreciations.

In fact, the tributes are already underway. And, they are not just coming from Dutch's ideological descendants. President Barack Obama, writing in USA Today, gushed about the 40th president's fondness for change and compromise.

There was a time when a love letter from a liberal leader to Reagan would be surprising. No longer. Death, the hindsight of history, a sympathetic public, and a handful of dedicated historians and opportunistic politicians have turned this once divisive and controversial leader into a bipartisan reminder of our better angels.

This may cause Reaganites to rejoice, but as Gipper-appreciation goes mainstream there is a real risk that his accomplishments, beliefs, and importance will be obscured. And, perhaps worse, appropriated.

The growing consensus on Reagan's greatness, the direct result of the fall of the Soviet Union and the lifting of the national funk brought on by the painful sequence of Vietnam, Watergate, and Jimmy Carter, is warranted.

And his apotheosis, seen in the proliferation of Ronald Reagan fields, streets, boulevards, turnpikes, peace gardens, bridges, and even a bust in a McDonald's in Alabama, should be welcomed.

Formerly an amiable dunce, he has become a transcendent visionary lauded by Republicans and Democrats alike.

It's a not a singular transformation.

Abraham Lincoln, once the "Ape Baboon of the Prairie," is now the Great Emancipator; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so-called traitor to his class, is credited with carrying us through the Great Depression; Harry Truman, the former "senator from Pendergast," is now every would-be president's beau ideal of a statesman.

The problem with this type of posthumous approbation is that it inevitably shears the prickly partisan edges from the object of adoration and turns them into an all-purpose folk hero, open to subjective interpretations.

Obama for example, constantly searching for a grand political figure to define himself by, seems to have set his sights on Reagan. A lengthy feature in Time laid out the President's Reaganesque blueprint for the remainder of his term -- which of course immodestly replaces the immodest Lincolnesque, and then Rooseveltian ambitions he has already digressed through -- while pointing out the (tenuous) similarities between the two men.

Obama's choice of Reagan as a role model is nothing new. During the 2008 campaign he professed that it was Reagan, rather then Bill Clinton, who matched his transformative vision. Around this time, other Democrats were retrenching as well.

John Kerry and Al Gore positioned Reagan as a foil to the detested George W. Bush by praising his diplomacy and newly-discovered environmental record.Rahm Emanuel confessed to Politico "I never thought I'd say this, but I long for the pragmatism of Ronald Reagan." Harry Reid told the same publication "[Reagan's] kind of leadership is missing today. That's what the American people want back."

This new, warm and cuddly (and generally non-idelogical) Reagan is not just the exclusive property of politicians. In Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History, the late historian John Patrick Diggins's postulated that Reagan was not even a conservative. According to Diggins, "Far from being a conservative, Reagan was the great liberating spirit of modern American history.… Reagan's relation to liberalism may illuminate modern America more than his relation to conservatism…"

In these new narratives, Reagan is a hero and a great president, but the emphasis is on his pragmatism, diplomacy, and generally unconservative behavior. It's increasingly difficult to find the conservative who generated histrionic levels of disgust from Democrats.

Arthur Schlesinger wrote, "A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today."

That was not a voice in the wilderness. It spoke for the majority on the left. And it was wrong.

Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and told the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall. It no longer stands. He predicted communism would end up on the ash heap of history. Thanks to his efforts, it did. And, in Edmund Morris's words, ever the old lifeguard, he rescued America from "a time of despair and… 'carried her breastward out of peril.'"

Naturally Reagan, like any successful president, was not allergic to compromise in pursuit of his objectives. And he was a far more complicated figure than many of his admirers admit. But his triumphs were caused by his conservatism, not in spite of it. And they were always underpinned by his belief in the American people's ability to govern themselves, the danger inherent in Washington's attempts to remedy all of society's ills, and of course, his country's predestined greatness.

Despite the recent protestations otherwise, these things remain anathema to Reagan's new-found fans.
Obama, for example, may think he sees Reagan's reflection in the mirror, but the 40th president rose to power on a promise to reverse the course of a government still running on the fumes of the New Deal and Great Society. The 44th, however, has staked his presidency on the endless paternalistic possibilities of an active and expanded federal government.

This last point is especially relevant as Americans pause to observe the coming centennial. The country is again at an ideological fork in the road. Reagan would recognize the choice at hand, and choose the road to the right.

Republicans need not always search for the next Reagan or insist that all future standard bearers be made in his image. But they should continue to remind themselves and the rest of the country that his legacy, rather than monument to bipartisan pragmatism, is a testament to the righteousness of American conservatism.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No More Debt Until Spending Is Cut

No More Debt Until Spending Is Cut
By Star Parker

The Republican take away from President Obama’s State of the Union address should be unwavering opposition to an unconditional increase in the U.S. debt limit.

The statutory debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion dollars will soon be reached. Republicans should oppose increasing it to permit more borrowing without meaningful spending cuts as part of the deal.

The vision that the president presented to the nation in his speech, that we need more government, a lot more, to address the challenges before us, shows he sees the world no differently than he did when he entered office two years ago.

He’s added a trillion dollars, almost a 40% increase, to federal government spending over this time. The federal government’s take from our economy has increased from one dollar out of every five to one dollar out of every four.

Aside from the point of principle that with every incremental increase in the scope of government there is a corresponding decrease in the freedom of every citizen, there is also no practical argument to justify this vast government takeover.

Unemployment has hardly budged and the economy, although recovering, remains sluggish.

This economic machine clearly needs an oil change and a different kind of fuel. The president clearly doesn’t see things this way. Republicans need to offer a clear alternative and let the American people choose.

If Republicans offer a bold alternative to seize control from politicians and bureaucrats and return power and freedom to citizens, they can bet on public support.

Only 31% of Americans in a recent Gallup poll say they are “satisfied” with the “size and power of the federal government.” That’s down ten points from just two years ago and down twenty points from ten years ago.

Certainly it’s true that when we get down to the details of what to cut, even many who know that government has gotten out of hand push back when programs they are used to are put on the block.

This is where leadership comes into the picture.

Just consider our last one term Democrat president Jimmy Carter. He became president at a time of economic crisis in the 1970’s and his presidency was defined by the vision that we needed more government to solve our problems.

Carter created two new departments – the Department of Energy in 1977 and the Department of Education in 1979.

The Energy Department was created in response to the so-called “energy crisis”. Its annual budget has consumed over $600 billion since it was created and none of this can be associated with production of one new barrel of oil, one new ton of coal, or one new cubic foot of natural gas.

Yet, a good portion of President Obama’s State of the Union focused on proposed new government energy programs. The Energy Department will spend about $40 billion in 2010, up 70% from 2009.

Since 1970, federal government education spending per student has tripled with hardly any impact on test scores.

Since inception, the Department of Education has spent almost a trillion dollars with negligible impact on improving our children’s education. It spent $100 billion in 2010, up 67% from 2009.

Yet, central to the President’s education message is more federal dollars.

Republicans must stand firm on their proposed minimum of $100 billion in spending cuts – a paltry 3% of the federal budget - before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. This could be easily pulled from the Energy and Education Departments alone.

We’ve got to decide if the center of gravity of our nation has shifted to government and bureaucrats or if we can get it back to individuals and families.

This is the choice Republicans need to make clear.

To read another article by Star Parker, click here.

Left State University

Left State University
By Mike Adams

William Irvine is a professor of philosophy at Wright State University. He is one of the most courageous and honest professors in the country. Recently, he wrote a column concerning Wright State’s decision to invite the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to speak on his campus. Although he disagrees with many of Reverend Wright’s views, he publicly welcomed him to the campus because he believes that a university should be a marketplace of ideas. That view alone makes Irvine exceptional among today’s professoriate.

Irvine calls out his university for being “curiously one-sided in the speakers it brings to campus.” He notes that liberal speakers are routinely invited and that ultra-liberal speakers including Wright and Angela Davis are occasionally invited. No one seems to think it strange that avowed communists and those with significant criminal backgrounds are paid to speak on campus at considerable expense to the taxpayer. But politically conservative speakers are scarce and in the case of John McCain and Sarah Palin pay for the privilege of using campus facilities.

William Irvine is the rare professor willing to confront his colleagues’ hypocrisy and to publicly quote their silly defenses of rigid ideological conformity. When he confronted another professor with the idea that the university should invite conservative speakers his colleague responded by asking “You mean someone like Glenn Beck?” This kind of reaction shows how off-center our universities have become. What educated person could consider Glen Beck to be more extreme than Angela Davis?

Another professor reacted to Irvine’s reasonable suggestion by saying that it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring any Holocaust deniers to campus. The statement is an odd one indeed. It suggests that most conservatives refuse to accept the Holocaust as fact. I think liberal supporters of abortion are today’s true Holocaust deniers.

Professor Irvine has discovered something I have also discovered about the liberal professoriate; namely, that they see no reason for debate. In their eyes, the debate is over on all the major issues of the day. Of course, in their eyes they won all the major debates. Now, the reward for winning these debates is that we can proceed into the implementation phase. Of course, professors rarely use the word “implantation.” They just mindlessly repeat the word “diversity” like catatonics in padded cells.

Professor Irvine has also discovered that suggestions of bringing people like Thomas Sowell to campus are met with one pretty serious problem: Most liberal professors have never heard of Thomas Sowell.

Many years ago I suggested that Sowell should be required reading for college students. The reaction was amazing. According to one of my left-leaning colleagues - one who actually knows who Thomas Sowell is - the students don’t need to read Sowell because they were raised in conservative homes where those ideas were regularly espoused.

Notice the intellectual sleight of hand my “liberal” colleague employed. His argument is against intellectual diversity. The $64,000 question: Why oppose intellectual diversity? The answer: Since parents do it for eighteen years it is only fair that professors be allowed to do it for four years.

Professor Irvine has accurately identified a big problem in saying that it is now possible for students to get a college “education” without ever encountering a conservative professor. But the problem is even bigger than that. Most professors now believe it is desirable for students to get a college “education” without ever encountering a conservative professor. Their idea of “liberal education” is nothing more than a poorly disguised war on conservatism. This anti-conservative mindset is so entrenched that one of my “liberal” colleagues wants to remove the entire Cameron School of Business from UNC-Wilmington (where I teach). He explicitly stated that a school of business has “no business at a liberal university.” Between his puerile and antiquated lectures on Marxism he denies the existence of any liberal bias. This is the personification of self-indulgence and anti-intellectualism.

Professor William Irvine says that we do not have a fair hearing of conservative views on campus but instead “liberal professors galore, who will be happy to tell you what they imagine the conservative viewpoint on various issues must be and why these viewpoints are wrongheaded.” This statement is bull’s-eye accurate. And his follow-up statement is brilliant: “This is a pale substitute for a genuine political debate, but it is, on many campuses, what students have to settle for.”

Good for him. This debate should remain focused on the shortchanged students. College is not becoming less expensive. But it is becoming less relevant.

The public challenge issued by Professor Irvine is one that every professor, conservative or liberal, should issue to his university. That challenge comes in two parts: 1) Hire at least a few conservative professors. (I’m open to this idea. What better way to remedy the historical oppression of conservatives!). 2) If you cannot stomach hiring conservative professors then at least hire some conservative speakers.

Of course, today’s “liberal” professor will agree to neither of those suggestions. He uses affirmative action to promote his self-esteem not to promote “a diversity of perspectives.” And he uses the word “diversity” only to hide his deep-seated intellectual insecurity.

Our universities are no longer committed to revealing the truth. They are committed to suppressing the truth. And among those truths is that tolerance is not the academy’s most enduring intellectual achievement. It is its most transparent moral weakness.

To read another article by Mike Adams, click here.

Hey, Chris Matthews: I Like Big Guns and I Cannot Lie

Hey, Chris Matthews: I Like Big Guns and I Cannot Lie
By Doug Giles

Chris Matthews told his two brothers, Larry Fine and Curly Howard—I mean Larry O’Donnell and Ed Schultz—on air last Tuesday night that BHO is queuing up with a special ‘Presidential Address’ in which he’s going to talk to us bitter, clingy patriots about “gun control.”

When I heard Chris say that, I immediately opened up another tab on my Mac and logged onto and bought an additional case of ammo for every caliber and gauge that I own. Y’know, just in case there’s any validity to Matthews’ inside dope on the Hope & Change menu. Oh, in addition to more ammo, I also bought another gun … another elephant gun, to be exact.

Yep, Chris quipped last week that Barack has a special speech drafted in the wake of the Tucson mass murders that targets our firearms. Never let a good crisis go to waste, right Rahm? Can you say “target” anymore? It’s so hard keeping up with what we can and cannot say, do and not do, eat and not eat. These control freaks are acting like the Taliban.

Anyway, according to Chris, Obama didn’t want to table that topic during the State of the Union because that subject would have jolted everyone from the Stage 4 coma his speech plunged them into and would’ve alerted them to the not-so-subtle subtext in BHO’s discourse regarding the manifold ways he’s destroyed our economy and how he intends to screw us in the future. It’s best to let sleeping dawgs lie, right? Right.

Back to the validity of Matthews’ claims regarding a pending presidential diatribe concerning our right to lock-n-load: Did Matthews get the inside poop regarding a bad anti-gun move by Barack? I doubt it. Nobody tells MSNBC squat; they learn about news after Fox or Breitbart break it.

Indeed, why would Obama’s admin tell Chris diddly about what they’re going to do? What’s that, you say? It’s because of Matthews’ nonexistent audience and thus the certainty that his secret is safe with him and MSNBC? Okay, I’ll grant you that one. Given that one fact, MSNBC is not known for breaking any news. Propaganda, yes. Misinformation? Well of course. Remember ACORN?

Hey, speaking of ACORN, it appears as if these “friends of the poor” are back in business to help throw 2012 for BHO like they did in ‘08. Of course they’re flying under a different name like Project Vote or Operation Horse Crap or something, but they’re still around and ready to help steal an election.

And while we’re on the subject of stealing elections, Amy Busefink, that ACORN chick in Nevada who was found guilty for her part in 400,000 bogus ballots, just got a slap on the wrist for trying to rape our democratic process. Maybe Project Vote or Obama’s former ACORN boy, Patrick Gaspard, who is slated to chair the DNC for 2012, could help Miss Amy to work off some of her community service during the next election? How quaint. What a coincidence. But I digress.

Personally, I believe that after the debt BHO’s strangled us with, the future he has f-f-f-fouled up for our kids, and the overreach his government has had into the private sector that it would be plain silly and stupid for BHO to go there with our guns if … if … he wants to be re-elected, which I believe that he does. Thus I believe Matthews is full of swill.

That said, I would still like to remind my tens of thousands of readers of the bad, bad news that follows when governments enact a citizen gun grab. Check it out …

1. In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

2. In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

3. Germany established gun control in 1938, and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.

4. China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

5. Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

6. Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

7. Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

8. Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

As the old adage goes: “With guns, we are citizens. Without them, we are subjects.”

Have American Teachers Moved “To The Left” Of President Obama?

Have American Teachers Moved “To The Left” Of President Obama?
By Austin Hill

It seems like a strange time to “move to the left.”

But it seems to be happening nonetheless.

Since his self-confessed “shellacking” in last November’s election, much has been said about how President Obama’s rhetoric has shifted to the philosophical “right.” Gone are the pejorative remarks about how Americans must stop consuming more than their “fair share” of the earth’s resources, and the scolding of oil and pharmaceutical companies for earning “record profits” (the President would probably be thrilled if any American business were to set profit records today).

“In” are the kinds of comments that are typical of an American President. Mr. Obama recently announced that he wants to embrace “Thomas Edison’s principles,” and that he desires for Americans to “invent stuff” and “make stuff.” He has even stated that he wants to open-up more foreign markets so American companies can sell more of their products and services globally. Indeed, the past few weeks have seen a dramatic change in the President who spent two years bowing to foreign heads of state, and lamenting America’s superpower status.

But while the President and most of America have moved to the right, big labor doesn’t even seem willing to move the center. In fact, some unions that represent America’s public school teachers seem to have moved further towards the philosophical “left,” even as state and local governments struggle with debt and deficits, and in some cases, the threat of bankruptcy.

A disconnect between the President and the National Education Association is not new. Despite the undying allegiance of the NEA to the Democratic Party, Obama has still been a bit of an infidel for government school bureaucrats because of his support of charter schools.

It’s a concept that has become so popular with parents in recent years that presidential candidates can no longer politically afford to reject it. Still the concept of “charter schools” - schools that are publicly funded, yet managed by private sector individuals and organizations -creates market competition for conventional government-run schools and school districts, and the NEA rejects the idea outright. In fact, the NEA publicly denounced President Obama’s “Race To The Top” agenda at their annual convention last July, precisely because the agenda entailed support for charter schools.

Now, further evidence of a labor union moving starkly to the left of our President has emerged from the very “red” state of Idaho. While the Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction have embarked on a effort to completely revolutionize public education in their state, the Idaho Education Association (the statewide chapter of the NEA) seems to have been caught flat-footed, and some of its members seem to have succumbed to brazenly Marxist responses.

On January 10th, Idaho Governor Butch Otter delivered the annual “State of the State” address, and on education funding he promised “a fundamental shift in emphasis from the adults who oversee the process and administration to the best interests of our students.” Two days later on January 12th, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna addressed the state legislature announcing his “Students Come First” initiatives, a plan that would established what he refers to as “customer driven education.”

It’s an outrage that in the milieu of American public education, students often do not “come first” and that decisions are frequently made that serve the interests of employees and not the “customers.” Similarly, “success” is frequently defined by public education bureaucrats in terms of how much taxpayer money is spent (“per pupil spending” is the buzzword of choice), rather than by what is produced with those expenditures.

So in a state that is bound by its own constitution to balance its own budget, Superintendent Luna has vowed that public schools in Idaho will teach “more students at a higher level with limited resources.” To achieve this he proposes that school activity should “not be limited by walls, bell schedules, school calendars and geography,” but rather that students should be issued laptop computers with access to online, on-demand instructional content (Luna has already connected high school students this way with Idaho’s state colleges and universities). He also wants to incentivize more productivity from teachers by offering bonus pay opportunities and wants “full transparency” for how taxpayer money is spent (Luna has uncovered evidence of local school districts paying fulltime salaries to “teachers” who do nothing but organize union activity).

Responses from unionized teachers have been swift and visceral. Most noticeable is the opposition to the “bonus pay” proposals, with cries that it would simply be “unfair” if some received a bonus while others did not (note to teachers: Karl Marx would be thrilled with this “everybody deserves the same amount of everything” economic reasoning – but it’s not a “bonus” if everybody gets one). And while the private sector thrives in a world of online conferencing and “webinars” every day, some of Idaho’s public school teachers insist that such technology has no place in their profession.

It’s sad to see college-educated adult professionals clinging to such simplistic and selfish thinking, and it’s infuriating that children are held hostage to it. But for the moment it’s coming from “big labor” – and not so much from “big government.”

To read another article by Austin Hill, click here.

Where Judicial Activism Morphs into Disregard

Where Judicial Activism Morphs into Disregard
By Debra J. Saunders

Four times this month, the U.S. Supreme Court has slapped down the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Four times the Big Bench unanimously reversed Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decisions. Unanimous is a big deal. It means that there's no left-right political divide in the Big Bench's findings -- just right on the law and wrong on the law.

I take unanimous seriously. When the California Supreme Court issued a ruling last year that stayed a scheduled execution, I feared yet another over-reaching judicial fiat. But then I saw that all the justices were on board. The law had to be unambiguous.

In the instances of the three criminal reversals this month, the Big Bench clearly was sending a message to the Ninth Circuit -- particularly to Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who had written the opinions. And the message is: Show some respect for the law.

Followers of the Ninth Circuit are painfully aware of its reputation as an activist court that flouts laws it doesn't like and bulldozes rulings that defy its left-leaning politics. The San Francisco-based judicial district serves as a textbook example of how judges should not behave.

Start with Randy Moore's case. In a plea bargain, Moore pleaded "no contest" to the 1995 Oregon murder of Kenneth Rogers, whom Moore and two confederates had kidnapped and Moore had shot in the head. Moore was facing a possible death sentence. Thanks to the plea deal, he got 25 years and the possibility of parole.

Now, this is a sore spot for me because I don't think courts should even consider the appeal of any plea bargain unless the defendant was severely mistreated. But Moore appealed, and the Ninth seized Moore's plea bargain as proof he was represented by ineffective counsel.

The court's logic was deficient. As Criminal Justice Legal Foundation President Michael Rushford observed, Moore "got a good deal."

But the court was flouting federal law. Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act precisely to prevent federal judges from issuing niggling orders that disregard court convictions and upend state appellate rulings.

In reversing Moore, Justice Anthony Kennedy had to remind the Ninth that its mandate is to follow the law.

Ditto the case of Joshua Richter, who was found guilty in a 1994 murder committed while he and an accomplice robbed a drug dealer. Once again, the Ninth found ineffective counsel.

In affirming the Richter conviction, Justice Kennedy wrote that the writ of habeas corpus stands as a safeguard against wrongful imprisonment. But the law is undermined "if there is judicial disregard for the sound and established principles that inform its proper issuance. That judicial disregard is inherent in" the Ninth's Richter decision.

Rushford found the unsigned "per-curiam" decision most damning because the Big Bench thought that the Ninth Circuit was so wrong that it "didn't even allow oral arguments."

Reinhardt and the majority had ordered the parole of Damon Cooke, who was convicted for attempted first-degree murder after he shot a friend in the head in 1991. The Ninth found that the parole board was wrong to consider the "cruel and callous" nature of the crime and wrong to ignore claims that Cooke was "an exemplary inmate."

The court also ordered the release of Elijah Clay, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1978, because then-Gov. Gray Davis' refusal to heed a parole board recommendation for release was unreasonable.

Again, the Supremes ruled that federal judges have no dog in this fight: "There is no right under the federal Constitution to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence, and the states are under no duty to offer parole to prisoners."

(In a fourth reversal, this one written by Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a ruling involving a banking regulation.)

Conservative court watcher John Elwood believes that Justice Kennedy has taken on the task of scolding the Ninth because, "as a Ninth Circuit alumnus," the justice takes the court's battered reputation "a little bit more to heart."

And well he should. There are judges in the Ninth who see the bench as a portfolio to overturn any policy they don't like -- and jurisdiction be damned.

In 2009, a three-judge (including Reinhardt) Ninth Circuit panel ordered the release of 40,000 California inmates. Not only did the trio seem to think they had authority reserved for state lawmakers, but also, they issued the pronouncement that the state could release 1 in 4 inmates "without a significant adverse impact on public safety." As if saying so makes it so.

Elwood told me he tries to presume good faith and see the Ninth's decision as part of a simple "disagreement about how you apply the law." I try to do the same, but the Ninth has crossed the line so many times, there's no ink left in that well.

It's odd. When there is an opening on the Supreme Court, the Senate examines in detail whether nominees have the proper respect for past Supreme Court rulings. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is quite particular on that score. But in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit doesn't seem to care what the U.S. Supreme Court writes. And it's OK.

Did Obama Forget About the Teachers Union?

Did Obama Forget About the Teachers Union?
By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

When Obama started to speak about the need to improve education, upgrade our schools and attract quality teachers, an elephant appeared in the living rooms of most Americans who were watching. Obama never mentioned the beast, but most of the country saw clearly the three letters on his back -- AFT. American Federation of Teachers -- the union that, along with its counterpart, the NEA, National Education Association, has destroyed public education in America.

How can we take seriously any proposal to improve schools that does not deal with the force that has dragged them down -- the teachers union?

Detroit is a great example of the damage they have wrought. Due to the costs imposed by the union, the public school system has already had to close 59 of its 200 schools, and another 70 are slated for closure. The result will be eighth-grade classes of 40 children and high school classes predicted to have more than 60 students.

Why is Detroit in such bad shape? The same reason its car companies are broke: the unions. Not only do they get high salaries and benefits, but their union has a monopoly on health insurance coverage for teachers and marks the coverage up a third higher than private insurance companies with no better benefits -- and it's all paid by the taxpayer. Detroit will actually now have to pay teachers more to compensate them for their bigger class sizes.

In New York, it is almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher. It took three years of litigation and $300,000 in legal fees to fire a teacher who sexually solicited a 16-year-old student.

Governors throughout the country are getting it, even if the president is not. Rick Scott in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Chris Christie of New Jersey have all proposed major new initiatives to promote school choice. (This week is National School Choice Week). They will promote private, parochial, charter, and virtual schools and home schooling, and provide vouchers and scholarships to permit the poor and middle class to afford them.

Over the next two years in these states, public schools will face real competition for students for the first time. Just as our colleges maintain standards of excellence in order to attract good students, so our lower schools will have to do the same.

As states grapple with intractable budget problems, the attractiveness of alternative schools that cost, on average, about one-third less than public schools will be irresistible. The teachers unions will run afoul of Margaret Thatcher's dictum that socialism cannot succeed because, sooner or later, "you run out of other people's money."

Missing from this list of innovative states, conspicuously, is New York state, where the state government is totally beholden to the teachers union. No experimentation, no opening of the system seems in the offing, and the Empire State appears to be content to continue its downward spiral. If they don't turn things around, they are headed for the same place as Detroit.

The real question is: Can our cities and states free themselves from the ropes with which the unions have bound them? The problem is that states cannot abrogate contracts. It's in the Constitution. But a federal bankruptcy court can. So to free ourselves of the ties that bind, we need Congress to create a procedure for federal Chapter 9 voluntary bankruptcy for states. When that initiative is coupled with the school-choice policies of the new Republican governors, the teachers union will have lost its power, and then we can have the kind of schools Obama professes to dream about. But not before.

To read another article by Dick Morris, click here.

Who's your dictator?

Who's your dictator?
By Paul Jacob

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”

In the century that followed, hundreds of thousands of American sons and daughters paid the ultimate price — and suffered other “expensive” consequences in blood and treasure and peace of mind — pursuing all manner of missions connected directly or ever-so-tenuously to this cause. Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan, my fellow citizens continue to fight and die to uphold that proclamation.

Too bad our leaders couldn’t tell democracy from tyranny if our lives depended on it.

Which, of course, they do.

What would any reasonable person call a leader who has held power for 30 years under an enforced state of emergency? Who wins sham elections wherein his challengers are arrested and opposition parties forcibly disbanded? Who has had his son waiting in the wings to snatch the reins of power as if “divine right” had returned in vogue?

“Dictator!” is the answer.

But what would our nation’s political leaders term this boss-for-life of a government so rife with corruption that his nation’s economy remains a stagnant sewer of structural double-digit unemployment, where friends of the leader get richer and everyone else gets poorer? Who imprisons bloggers daring to question his policies and now turns off the Internet and cell phone communications like we flip a light switch? Who stays in power by employing the various T’s of tyranny: The truncheon, thugs, torture, tanks and a general state of terror?

“Trusted ally.”

Which is it: Is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek a dictator or a trusted ally?

Asked days ago, if, finally, it wasn’t “time” for Mr. Mubarek to step down, Vice-President Joe Biden told the world, “No.” He went on to offer, “I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton originally pronounced Mubarek’s government “stable” and disingenuously said it was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

He may be a dictator, but he’s our dictator?

The American state funds the Mubarek regime, and has for decades. In the 2011 budget, President Omaha requests $1.5 billion in aid to the Egyptian government. That’s less than in 2006, when Mubarek took $1.8 billion.

The head honcho of the most populous country in North Africa ranks a respectable fourth on the list of world rulers graciously accepting the $58 billion in foreign aid fleeced annually from American taxpayers. (Would you be surprised to learn that taxpayers are sending $12.9 million annually in aid to China? Or $68.7 million to Russia? Or $20 million to Cuba?)

Now, as the protests swell and there’s more than a whiff of revolution, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton scramble to “look busy” and pontificate on the unfolding situation. Yesterday’s Washington Post played along, headlining one story “Obama warns against violence, urges Cairo to institute reforms.”

No call for the dictator to step down, mind you, but the Egyptian crowds facing water cannons, Billy-clubs, bullets and tear gas — with canisters labeled “Made in the USA” — are no doubt inspired by these rhetorical flourishes.

Soon, if evil finds its deserved comeuppance, Mubarek will be gone. And yet some Americans will claim surprise if the new Egyptian government sees the United States as an enemy.

Others Arab dictatorships funded and supported by the U.S. will and should fall. The sooner the better. And we are likely to have more enemies.

So in order to make the world safe for democracy, to see American interests prevail, shall we hope that the jackboot stamps down the voice of the blogger and the student for years to come . . . forever?

Strange that Mr. Obama hasn’t recognized this as a teachable moment. Now that we’re broke, shouldn’t we stop going deeper into debt to finance dictatorships of the right, left and in-between?

Some argue that Americans must support despots to block more serious threats. They forget that freedom and democracy must continually win the hearts and minds of the world’s people. To constantly wed our foreign policy to the thumb-screw can only breed enemies from people who should be our friends. Empowering the lesser of two apparent evils in every instance means that America’s face to the world can appear most clearly as one thing: Evil.

Talk about the wrong message, the wrong stance.

American entrepreneurs deserve enormous credit for the tools — the Internet, the cell phone and social media — by which Egyptians have been organizing their rebellion . . . that is, until the regime pulled the plug days ago. It’s too bad these free enterprise innovations are overshadowed by our official national policy of supporting dictatorship. May the Egyptian people be forgiving of the U.S. government role in their current suffering.

Let’s hope this is a revolution in Egypt. For their sake. And for our sake, we need a new and far less costly foreign policy of not aiding and abetting tyranny.

And we need political leaders with the eye-sight and courage to recognize a dictator when they see one.

To read another article by Paul Jacobs, click here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Waivers for Favors: Big Labor's Obamacare Escape Hatch

Waivers for Favors: Big Labor's Obamacare Escape Hatch
By Michelle Malkin

President Obama's storytellers recently launched a White House blog series called "Voices of Health Reform," where "readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law."

I propose a new White House series: "Voices of Health Reform Waivers," where taxpayers can meet all the politically connected unions benefiting from exclusive get-out-of-Obamacare passes -- after squandering millions of their workers' dues to lobby for the job-killing, private insurance-sabotaging law from which they are now exempt.

At the end of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services had granted some 222 temporary waivers to businesses small and large, insurers, labor and other organizations that offer affordable health insurance or prescription drug coverage with limited benefits. On Wednesday, the agency quietly updated its online list, which now reveals a whopping total of 729 Obamacare escapees -- in addition to four states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee -- who collectively cover about 2.1 million enrollees.

At least one eyebrow-raising waiver recipient -- the left-leaning, nationalized health care-promoting Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- has direct ties to the White House. Obama health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle sits on the foundation's board of trustees.

Most noteworthy: One-fourth of all the waivers (182) so far have gone to Big Labor groups across the country.

The Teamsters Union, which hailed Obama last March for "enacting historic health care reform, providing health insurance to millions of Americans who don't have it and controlling costs for millions more who do," obtained waivers for 17 different locals.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which celebrated the passage of Obamacare as "an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience," secured waivers for 28 different affiliates.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- which exulted after the health care law's passage that "finally, affordable and comprehensive health care coverage will be available for millions of working Americans" -- saw eight of its affiliates win shelter from the Obamacare wrecking ball.

The Communications Workers of America, which sent its workers to lobby for Obamacare on Capitol Hill as part of the left-wing billionaire George Soros-funded Health Care for America Now front group, snagged a waiver that will spare a hefty 19,000 of its members from the onerous federal mandate.

And the Service Employees International Union, which poured $60 million into Democratic/Obama coffers in 2008 and millions more into the campaign for the federal health care takeover, added four new affiliates to the waiver list: SEIU Local 2000 Health and Welfare Fund, representing 161 enrollees; SEIU 32BJ North Health Benefit Fund, representing 7,020 enrollees; SEIU Local 300, Civil Service Forum Employees Welfare Fund, representing 2,000 enrollees; and SEIU Health & Welfare Fund, representing 1,620 enrollees.

That's in addition to three other previous SEIU waiver winners: Local 25 SEIU in Chicago with 31,000 enrollees; Local 1199 SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund with 4,544 enrollees; and SEIU Local 1 Cleveland Welfare Fund with 520 enrollees. This brings the total number of Obamacare-promoting SEIU Obamacare refugees to an estimated 45,000 workers represented by seven SEIU locals.

Without the HHS-approved exemptions, these health providers would have been forced to drop low-cost coverage for seasonal, part-time and low-wage workers due to skyrocketing premiums. The only way they are keeping their health care is by successfully begging the feds to spare them from Obamacare.

The Democrats' law seeks to eliminate the low-cost plans (known as "mini-med" plans) under the guise of controlling insurer spending on executive salaries and marketing. The ultimate goal, as I've reported before: forcing a massive shift from private to public insurance designed by government-knows-best bureaucrats.

House and Senate Republicans plan separate investigations of the Obamacare waiver process. Who got one when and why? Who knew whom? Who didn't? HHS acknowledged Thursday that some 50 sanctuary-seekers had their waiver applications denied, but would not say more. Perhaps the White House storytellers, so eager to profile the "Voices of Health Reform," can enlighten us.

To read another article by Michelle Malkin, click here.

Obama Believes American Exceptionalism Begins With Government

Obama Believes American Exceptionalism Begins With Government
By David Limbaugh

Obama's latest watchword, "investments," is not, as I originally assumed, simply a euphemism for government spending. It captures his entire economic philosophy -- a philosophy that is permanently engrained in the core of his being and disastrous for America's "future."

President Bill Clinton shrewdly used the word as a more palatable substitute for income tax rate increases, saying taxpayers needed to "invest" more of their hard-earned dollars in America. But Obama's use of the term was different in two important ways. First, for him, "investments" would apply to the spending side of the fiscal equation. He would ask our support in his plan to "invest" more government money in infrastructure and education.

Secondly, and more significantly, Obama used the term to candy-coat his fundamental lack of confidence in the private sector and free market, as well as his commitment to faith in government as the primary engine for economic growth.

For all the analysis of Obama's speech, I don't think nearly enough has been made of this theme, which was interwoven throughout it. For it is the key to understanding that regardless of any promises he might make to move to the center, he will not do so willingly. It is also critical to comprehending why, despite the marked failure of his economic policies, he is virtually incapable of voluntarily changing course.

Obama's critics often say that it's important to pay more attention to his actions than his words. Though there is much validity in that, it's also true that we must not overlook his words, for he is not always careful to disguise his heartfelt views.

In his pre-speech teasers, Obama telegraphed that he would be emphasizing job creation. Indeed, he said that he saved the nation from economic collapse through his (atrociously wasteful and wholly ineffective trillion-dollar) "stimulus" bill. He insisted that he has succeeded in reigniting the economy but that the matter of job creation is an entirely separate process that will follow through his next round of magic.

He didn't bother acknowledging that he's played this same tune many times before (saying he wasn't focused enough on jobs but now he is) or that he specifically promised from the outset that job growth would result from his stimulus. But he did tell us multiple times in this speech how he envisions job growth finally coming about.

Yes, he rolled out the blame-Bush card again, but he also underscored the limitations of the free market to produce economic growth and employment. His entire "Sputnik" meme was based on this wrongheaded notion.

When the Soviet Union lurched ahead of us in the space race, America's leaders launched a national effort to surpass the Soviets. For Obama, by analogy, the federal government has to be the prime mover in leading and catalyzing America's comeback in education and in economic growth. We cannot understand Obama without recognizing that he believes the private sector can't create or innovate without paternalistic direction and googobs of money from the wiser beings in Washington.

"We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time," he said. "The first step ... is encouraging American innovation." Note that he didn't mean "encourage" in the sense of getting government off businesses' and people's backs. He means the federal government should proactively prod, direct and lead us into the promised land of economic growth.

He credited government for providing money for "basic research" and "cutting-edge scientists and inventors" throughout history, without which the hand of the free market would have been not only invisible but also impotent. As a result, he pledged from his command-control perch to "invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean energy technology" (that PC token can never be omitted) -- "an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people." So far, they've been "countless" indeed. This is just one example. Read the transcript and you'll see that throughout he betrays his blind faith in the indispensability of government action to job growth.

It would be bad enough if Obama's ideas merely retarded their stated goal of restoring job growth. But they necessarily involve Keynesian prescriptions of throwing obscene and budget-busting amounts of federal money at this ephemeral solution. Even if Obama wanted to reduce the deficit and debt, his economic philosophy would compel him always to spend more and would prevent fiscal responsibility.

If you listened to the speech and came away believing Obama is receptive to moving to the center, then you didn't hear or understand him. For the GOP to make headway on restoring fiscal sanity to this nation, it must first understand him. Then it must oppose and reverse him.

To read another article by David Limbaugh, click here.