Thursday, July 16, 2009
A U.S. army officer, Major Cook, rejected his deployment to Afghanistan on the grounds that Obama was not born in the USA and hence ineligible to be Commander in Chief. He was ready to go to court over it. Rather than go to court, the army backed down and cancelled his deployment order. See the backdown here. Obama is clearly desperate to avoid this matter going to court, and the affair is receiving a fair bit of press coverage. Is this the beginning of the end? The lengths that Obama has gone to in order to avoid producing his original birth certificate are quite extraordinary.
America's travesty of democracy
Lawmakes who don't read what they vote for
by Jeff Jacoby
SAY, DID YOU HEAR THE ONE about the congressman who was asked to do his job? Talk about funny -- this'll crack you up! Well, maybe it won't. But Steny Hoyer thought it was hilarious.
Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, is the majority leader in the US House of Representatives. At a news conference last week, he was talking about the health-care overhaul now being drafted on Capitol Hill, and a reporter asked whether he would support a pledge committing members of Congress to read the bill before voting on it, and to make the full text of the legislation available to the public online for 72 hours before the vote takes place.
That, reported CNSNews, gave Hoyer the giggles:
The majority leader "found the idea of the pledge humorous, laughing as he responded to the question. 'I'm laughing because . . . I don't know how long this bill is going to be, but it's going to be a very long bill,' he said."
Then came one of those classic Washington gaffes that Michael Kinsley famously defined as "when a politician tells the truth." Hoyer conceded that if lawmakers had to carefully study the bill ahead of time, they'd never vote for it. "If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn't read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes," he said.
Hoyer's words can be given two interpretations, both of which are probably accurate: One is that the health-care "reform" will be such a noisome mess that anyone who really digs into its details will be more likely to oppose it. The second is that so few members of Congress will bother to read the bill that if reading it became a prerequisite for voting on it, almost no one would qualify. Either way, the majority leader was declaring it more important for Congress to pass the bill than to understand it.
"Transparency" is a popular buzzword in good-government circles, and politicians are forever promising more of it. On his first day in the White House, for example, President Obama vowed to make his administration "the most open and transparent in history." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has boasted of the "great openness and transparency" that her leadership has brought to Congress.
But as Hoyer's mirth suggests, when it comes to the legislative process, transparency is a joke. Congress frequently votes on huge and complex bills that few if any members of the House or Senate have read through. They couldn't read them even if they wanted to, since it is not unusual for legislation to be put to a vote just hours after the text is made available to lawmakers. Congress passed the gigantic, $787 billion "stimulus" bill in February -- the largest spending bill in history -- after having had only 13 hours to master its 1,100 pages. A 300-page amendment was added to Waxman-Markey, the mammoth cap-and-trade energy bill, at 3 A.M. on the day the bill was taken up by the House. And that wasn't the worst of it, as law professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University noted in National Review Online:
"When Waxman-Markey finally hit the floor, there was no actual bill. Not one single copy of the full legislation that would, hours later, be subject to a final vote was available to members of the House. The text made available to some members of Congress still had "placeholders" -- blank provisions to be filled in by subsequent language. . . . Even the House Clerk's office lacked a complete copy of the legislation, and was forced to place a copy of the 1,200-page draft side by side with the 300-page amendments."
Ramming legislation through Congress so quickly that neither lawmakers nor voters have time to read and digest it is a bipartisan crime; Republicans have been as guilty of it as Democrats. The 341-page Patriot Act, to mention just one notorious example, was introduced in the Republican-controlled House on Oct. 23, 2001, brought to a vote on Oct. 24, adopted by the Democratic-controlled Senate on Oct. 25, and signed into law by President George W. Bush on Oct. 26.
Such efficiency is no virtue when it comes to lawmaking, which is why every member of Congress should be pressed to sign the pledge Hoyer was asked about. It is sponsored by a grassroots conservative group, Let Freedom Ring, and is readily accessible online. Equally worthy of support is ReadTheBill.org, which is backed by a coalition of liberal organizations. Still another push comes from the libertarian group Downsize DC, which urges Congress to pass its proposed Read The Bills Act.
Senators and representatives who vote on bills they haven't read and don't understand betray their constituents' trust. It is no answer to say that Congress would get much less done if every member took the time to read every bill. Fewer and shorter laws more carefully thought through would be a vast improvement over today's massive bills, which are assembled in the dark and enacted in haste. Steny Hoyer chortles at the thought of asking members of Congress to do their job properly. It's up to voters to wipe the grin off his face.
Kabuki and Sonia Sotomayor
by Jeff Jacoby
THE NOMINATION of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has generated controversy, but its outcome is not in doubt. "Unless you have a complete meltdown, you will be confirmed," South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told the nominee when the Judiciary Committee hearings opened on Monday. It would be hard to find anyone who disagrees.
This week's hearings, then, are all that stand between Sotomayor and one of the most consequential jobs in American life. As a Supreme Court justice, she will be shaping national policy for years, perhaps decades, to come. Long after the president who nominated her has left the White House, Sotomayor will likely still be on the bench, wielding an influence on matters ranging from property rights to labor law to free speech to criminal procedure. With the other justices, she will exercise powers nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, yet by now accepted as the high court's prerogatives: to strike down state and federal laws, to bind other branches of government, to constitutionalize new rights, to have the last word on the meaning of terms like "due process of law" and "establishment of religion" -- and to do it all without being accountable to the American people or any elected official.
Before the Senate consents to investing Sotomayor with such sweeping authority, shouldn't it get some idea of how she would use it? As a matter of due diligence, don't senators have an obligation to learn Sotomayor's views on the legal and constitutional issues of the day? The stakes could hardly be greater, after all, or the public interest more intense. Would-be senators and presidents lay out their positions on current controversies, often in intricate detail. Shouldn't a Supreme Court nominee, who will never again have to submit to public scrutiny, be expected to share her thinking on important judicial and political questions? How else can the Senate, or the voters it represents, decide whether she belongs on the court?
Yet Sotomayor, like previous Supreme Court nominees, intends to tell the Judiciary Committee as little as possible about her views and intentions. In her testimony yesterday, she refused to express an opinion on contentious issues. "I come to every case with an open mind," she insisted. "Every case is new for me."
That isn't true, and everyone knows it -- just as everyone knew it when John Roberts and Samuel Alito were the nominees taking the "judicial Fifth" and politely declining to give straightforward answers when asked about their stands on key subjects. When Roberts was before the committee in 2005, then-Senator Joseph Biden voiced his frustration at "this kabuki dance we have in these hearings here," in which senators ask pointed questions and nominees give ultra-cautious replies, sidestepping any discussion of the convictions they would bring to the court.
Am I suggesting that nominees should telegraph how they would vote in any pending or probable case? Of course not. Should they make commitments to uphold or overrule specific previous Supreme Court decisions? No. But neither should they be allowed to turn the confirmation process into a grave and windy nullity on the grounds that that is what judicial impartiality requires.
The Supreme Court itself has said that such "impartiality" is illusory. "It is virtually impossible to find a judge who does not have preconceptions about the law," the court declared in a 2002 case. "Indeed, even if it were possible to select judges who did not have preconceived views on legal issues, it would hardly be desirable to do so."
Instead of artfully dodging them, Supreme Court nominees should be required to discuss those preconceptions, and to give substantive answers when asked about their legal worldview or their analysis of constitutional issues. In the Wall Street Journal the other day, Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett suggested some questions: "Does the Second Amendment protect an individual right to arms? . . . Does the Ninth Amendment protect judicially enforceable unenumerated rights? Does the Necessary and Proper Clause delegate unlimited discretion to Congress? Where in the text of the Constitution is the so-called Spending Power (by which Congress claims the power to spend tax revenue on anything it wants) and does it have any enforceable limits?"
It is the Senate's responsibility to check and balance the vast clout of the Supreme Court, and it abdicates that responsibility when confirmation hearings become merely an elaborate ritual for rubber-stamping judicial nominees. Too much is riding on every nomination not to demand serious answers to serious questions. Kabuki has its place, and it isn't a Judiciary Committee hearing room.
Sotomayor disavows 'wise Latina' remark: "Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor retreated from her praise of the "wise Latina," endorsed a privacy right to abortion in the Constitution and insisted she was not opposed to gun ownership during a day of questioning on a string of hot-button issues before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. In her first extended public exchanges since President Obama nominated her in May, Judge Sotomayor said her widely cited 2001 remark that a "wise Latina woman" would tend to make better judgments than a white man was a "failed rhetorical flourish that fell flat" - and not, as critics charge, evidence of racism. "The context of the words I said has created a misunderstanding," said Judge Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and the third woman nominated to the high court. "I want to state upfront, unequivocally, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judgment. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge," she said. Republicans appeared unconvinced."
A second stimulus package? Yikes! : “Investors understand that increased government spending diverts valuable resources away from the private sector and ends up imposing even more demoralizing taxes on labor and capital. A major study of 18 large economies by Alberto Alesina of Harvard and three colleagues appeared in the 2002 American Economic Review. This paper, ‘Fiscal Policy, Profits and Investment’ found that the surest way to make economies boom can be through deep cuts in government spending — the exact opposite of the ‘fiscal stimulus’ snake oil.”
Banks winning at expense of taxpayers : “Banks surged and stocks followed yesterday, mostly on the heels of high expectations for trading firm Goldman Sachs, which really is more of a hedge fund than a real bank. Last Thursday, I said banks are my favorite stock market sector. So I got it right one time in a row. With a steep upward Treasury curve, even a banker can make money borrowing at near-zero and lending at much higher rates.”
California nightmare: “California has so degraded itself into a laughably leftist socialist commie-think nightmare that it has, as all socialist commie-think countries always do, finally bankrupted itself. As Margaret Thatcher, erstwhile UK prime minister, once said, ‘The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.’ Hahaha! Exactly! And now California has run out of money! Exactly! Now, to demonstrate their complete worthlessness as thinking, rational beings, California has decided that it will not cut expenses overmuch, but will pay for things not with money, but with IOUs! Hahaha! IOUs! Hahahaha! There is Something Beyond Surreal (SMS) about all this.”
Schwarzenegger TV spot warns of hard line on California budget: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has hit the airwaves with a television commercial underscoring he is in no mood to compromise in talks on the state budget. The Republican governor said in the 60-second spot that he would not sign a budget that plugs a $US26.3 billion deficit if it includes higher taxes and excludes changes in state government he has said will prevent welfare fraud. "And I will not sign a budget that pushes our financial problems down the road, because the road stops here," Mr Schwarzenegger said in the commercial, which aired amid growing concerns on Wall Street about the state's finances, especially its cash account. The state government started its fiscal year on July 1, and without a balanced budget agreement it is quickly burning through its cash. That has forced finance officials, grappling with declining revenues because of the recession and rising unemployment, to issue IOUs in order to conserve cash, promising payment to taxpayers owed refunds and vendors owed money for goods and services for only the second time since the Great Depression. Mr Schwarzenegger's TV commercial came amid hope in the state capital of Sacramento that budget talks are nearing a successful conclusion after fits and starts in recent weeks. The governor and top legislators of the state's Democrat-led Legislature have essentially agreed they will balance the state's books with deep spending cuts."
Heavy reading -- but as relevant as ever: “Imagine a novel of more than a thousand pages, published half a century ago. The author doesn’t have a talk-radio show and has been dead for 27 years. As for the storyline, it is beyond dated … The prose itself is a disconcerting mixture of philosophy, industrial policy, and bodice-ripping … In short, you would think Atlas Shrugged might be long forgotten. Instead, Ayn Rand’s novel is remembered more than ever. This year the book is selling at a faster rate than last year. Last year, sales were about 200,000, higher than any year before that, including 1957, when the book was published. Atlas Shrugged is becoming a political ‘Harry Potter’ because Rand shone a spotlight on a problem that still exists: Not pre-1989 Soviet communism, but 2009-style state capitalism. Rand depicted government and companies colluding in the name of economic rescue at the expense of the entrepreneur. That entrepreneur is like the titan Atlas who carries the rest of the world on his shoulders — until he doesn’t.
Should Americans be humble? : "“After president Obama traveled abroad recently it became clear that he wanted to present himself and, indirectly, America as a nation, differently from how he believed President George W. Bush did this. In particular, Mr. Bush was generally seen by his critics as more of an ‘ugly American,’ following the character of the novel by that name, written half a century ago by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer (who exemplified the sort of American who tended to be insensitive to the rest of the world’s population, their customs and languages, etc.). Mr. Obama seems to want to change this by appearing to be less arrogant, swagger less than Mr. Bush. Instead Mr. Obama wants to be friends with virtually everyone, even those who have no interest it being friends with America and Americans, including him.”
The Left’s dismissal of individual rights: "For those of us who have escaped Draconian tyrannies and reached America, for a long time it may be difficult to adjust to the fact that American Leftists are every bit the fascists that some claim they are. As Susan Sontag said, ‘Communism is successful fascism.’ A little inspection of modern American liberalism will also bring this to light — just consider that it was Woodrow Wilson and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. who had no patience with opponents of various public policies governments forged during their time and sent those opposed to them to prison. (It was Warren Harding, that negligible right-winger, who eventually set these dissidents free!) Today the Left’s fascistic tendencies are still quite evident, although there is often a kind of sophistication about them (e. g., via the doctrine of Communitarianism). Anyone who reads The New York Review of Books can testify to this. No matter what public policy issues is being discussed in its pages, The Review always treats the wealth of the nation as collectively owned, rejecting that quintessentially American idea of the right to private property. No, everything belongs to us all and government is to allocate the resources in line with how the elite deems proper.”
Addiction is a choice : “I read a book recently called, ‘Addiction is a Choice,’ by Jeffrey Schaler. He suggests that addiction is not a disease, and that people actually choose to use drugs. He points to the fact that although people might have a genetic predisposition to becoming addicted, some people also have a genetic predisposition to blue eyes, and having blue eyes is certainly not a disease. Schaler says that no one has been able to find a cause of the addiction disease in autopsies or medical exams. He says that one of the only treatments for the disease of addiction is therapy in the form of talking to someone. The success rate for this treatment is not much different from those who stop using drugs on their own.”
Fishy politics may harm US consumers: “The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial today on one US industry’s latest attempt to secure some protection against foreign imports, which just may spark a trade war with an important target for American exports. This time, it’s the farmed fish industry, and the imports in question are catfish from Vietnam. ”
UK: Ireland passport proposal shelved: “The government has climbed down over plans to make people show passports for travel between Britain and Ireland. There are currently no passport controls for Irish and UK citizens travelling in the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the two islandsImmigration Minister Phil Woolas had said controls should be in place to tighten security. But the House of Lords voted to remove the clause during the passage of a borders bill.”
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray in full). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)