Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Honor and integrity take a back seat to politics in Austin, Texas

In April 2013 in Travis County, Texas, where the capital city of Austin is located, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving. Her blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit (.08 is the threshold, and her level was .23), and there was an open bottle of vodka in her car, in violation of the state’s open container law.

Dash cam and police station videos, which are available for viewing on YouTube, show Ms. Lehmberg failing sobriety testing and taunting arresting officers and even threatening them at the police station. One of the officers described action that took place off camera in which she kicked doors and acted violently. Her bad behavior also included rudeness, being uncooperative, and pointing her finger like a gun. And eventually she had to be placed in a restraining device. Reports say her behavior could have earned her a felony charge for assaulting a police officer.

Ms. Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunk driving and served about half of a 45-day sentence, but said she would not resign from her position of trust as DA.

Ms. Lehmberg has been battling alcoholism for some time, according to reports. Alcoholism does not automatically preclude a person from being a public servant, even a prosecutor. However, someone whose alcoholism leads to an arrest for driving drunk, a crime that too often ends in the death of innocent citizens, followed by the poor behavior demonstrated by Ms. Lehmberg, has proved himself or herself to be unsuitable for the role of prosecutor. Put in the best possible light, it both looks bad and smells bad: You simply cannot have a confessed drunk driver as a prosecutor.

Among those who think Ms. Lehmberg should have stepped down is Texas Governor Rick Perry, although he has no official authority over county DAs.

Following her refusal to step down, Gov. Perry said he would cut $7.5 million in state money from Ms. Lehmberg’s Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned, which he later did through a line item veto. By law, the governor has veto authority.

For acting in the best interest of the people of Travis County, a jury decided it was an abuse of his power, and indicted Gov. Perry on two felony counts.

An Austin attorney filed a lawsuit to remove Ms. Lehmberg from office, but last December a judge ruled that she could keep her job. That attorney has now filed an ethics complaint against her, citing alleged unreported campaign contributions Ms. Lehmberg used to defend herself in the removal lawsuit totaling $227,000.

As it turns out, the Public Integrity Unit has a history of politically motivated prosecutions that failed for lack of substance. Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson was indicted, but never tried, and Republican Congressman Tom Delay was indicted, tried, convicted and then had his conviction overturned on appeal for lack of him having actually committed a crime. It appears the Unit is more concerned with generating political results favoring the Democrat Party than it is with integrity. Sen. Hutchinson may run for governor, and Mr. Delay had earned the hatred of Democrats through his activities. It is not a stretch to use the term “corrupt” in describing at least some of the Unit’s actions.

It’s interesting that the source of the action against Republican Gov. Perry arises from the very office that he defunded because its head, the convicted and jailed drunk driver Rosemary Lehmberg, refused to do the right thing and resign. You see, Travis County, Texas, is heavily Democrat, and Ms. Lehmberg is a Democrat.

Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley had this to say about the indictment: “In this case, the special prosecutor [who answers to Ms. Lehmberg] seemed to pound hard to get these square facts into these round holes. A bit too hard for such a case.” And Democrat political advisor David Axelrod termed the indictment “sketchy.”

Mary Anne Wiley, General Counsel for Gov. Perry, said in a statement following the indictment: “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

The grand jury process is secret and entirely controlled by the prosecution, and the accused has no opportunity to argue charges made by the prosecution, and in fact is not even present during the process. Which is the reason for the now-famous observation that through the grand jury process you “can indict a ham sandwich.” It is instructive that the staunchest defenders of the grand jury system are prosecutors. Gov. Perry would no doubt prefer to replace the sour grapes on his ham sandwich with Swiss cheese.

During the arrest procedure, Ms. Lehmberg repeatedly accused police of ruining her career by arresting her for being three-times-the-legal-limit drunk behind the wheel. Then, her Public Integrity Unit goes after a sitting governor in a way that results in the Governor having an indictment and a mug shot on his record. Whose career was really damaged by a third party? And who benefits from this episode of gutter politics by Democrats?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Local schools increasingly under the thumb of the federal government

A video produced and distributed by Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE) contains information that should concern all of us. The organization focuses on local control of education, and highlights issues it finds objectionable. This video highlights a survey being given to 6th graders at St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana without parents’ knowledge or permission.

It features a mother, Brooke Falgout, who has pulled her daughters from St. Mary’s public schools after she learned of objectionable questions on a school survey one of her daughters had taken upon entering the 6th grade, which the daughter didn’t mention to her mother because she didn’t want to upset her. However, Mrs. Falgout became concerned when another mom told her about the survey.

She said the survey asked questions such as:
    •    Have you ever looked at porn? How did it make you feel?
    •    Would you ever take pictures of the girls in the locker room and put them on social media?
    •    Is your mom a good mom? Does she spend time with you?
    •    Do you get snacks after school?
    •    It asked personal questions about mom and dad, their family life and “how it goes.”

She thinks such questions are out of line, and suggested that a 6th grade boy who never thought about porn before, and didn’t know what porn was, has now been made aware of it and as a result may be interested in it.

When she asked school officials about the survey, Mrs. Falgout said they told her that the kids really didn’t have to answer the questions. But she said they were given the survey and most likely did read it, and may not have realized they shouldn’t answer the questions.

Mrs. Falgout said that the school caused a breach between her and her daughter, evidenced by the fact that her daughter was reluctant to even discuss the survey with her mom.

Information presented at the end of the video explains that these surveys “are normally given to satisfy federal data collection for the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools and also an FCC Internet ‘safety’ requirement.”

The ROPE video advises parents to tell their children to refuse to take these surveys, and that “parents have the right to educate their children in the way they see fit. Public schools cannot force children to do anything against the wishes of the parent.”

There are competing perspectives on this particular issue and others of similar nature. The important question is, which topics are genuinely the proper business of school officials, and which are clear invasions of the privacy of individuals living in a free society?

The public schools operated by the individual states are increasingly under the thumb of the federal government, as the statement in the video demonstrates.

Another example of unwarranted and unwelcomed intrusions comes from the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which took effect July 1. This law makes illegal “any foods and beverages sold to students on school grounds that are not part of the Agriculture Department’s school meal programs.”

Prior to this law taking effect, the USDA only controlled food in school cafeterias, but the new law expands federal control to food anywhere on campus during the school day. While it hasn’t yet banned school bake sales for fund raising, Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, indicates that eventually it will, and also will eventually control food sold at school sporting events any time, at any location.

Given the abundant evidence of federal over-reaching, it is not beyond comprehension that some day if you have forbidden food products in your glove compartment or trunk on school property, you might have violated a federal law.

The federal government believes it can dictate to schools owned and operated by the individual states what food they may or may not serve, among other things. Is there any limit to the government’s hunger to control everything? Apparently not as long as federal money is involved, and schools do rely heavily on federal funding.

It gets worse: A Richmond, Virginia pre-school sent a message home to parents, part of which said: “I have received word from Federal Programs Preschool pertaining to lunches from home. Parents are to be informed that students can only bring lunches from home if there is a medical condition requiring a specific diet, along with a physicians note to that regard.”

Just how the federal government regards the freedom for Americans to make basic decisions about life is revealed in an argument government attorneys put forth defending the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on the interstate sale of raw milk: “There is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds … Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish."

That statement is breathtaking in its ignorance of our history and values, and in demonstrating the boundless arrogance of the federal government.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What to do about lawlessness: Impeach? Sue? Explain away? Celebrate?

The governmental system of the United States of America was carefully designed to prevent the sort of oppression that the colonists had fought and died to escape in the Revolutionary War from arising under the new government. The Framers reacted to an intolerable system where the people were totally at the mercy of the king and the parliament, without a real voice of their own.

Toward that end, the Framers created a tri-partite government with a legislative branch, an executive branch and a judicial branch, each with its specific and limited powers, and each with abilities to limit the power of the other two branches through a system of checks and balances.

In this system, the Congress, and only the Congress, makes law. The executive branch is charged with implementing and enforcing the laws that Congress makes and with operating the government efficiently. The judiciary, through the Supreme Court and other federal courts, has the sole power to interpret the law, determine the constitutionality of laws, and apply the law to individual cases.

This system of government is by design inefficient, with separated powers and checks and balances to prevent a tyrannical majority from running roughshod over the minority.

But even this well-thought-out system isn’t perfect, and the Democrat Party demonstrated that in 2009 and early 2010 when the 111th Congress with Democrat majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Affordable Care Act with no Republican input in the bill’s creation, and no Republicans voting for it, and a Democrat president signed it into law.

It seemed not to bother the Democrats that by their action they had thwarted the integrity of the constitutional system the Framers had so diligently and prudently created, despite their having sworn an oath to uphold it. To the contrary, they celebrated their dubious victory.

Add to that a president who uses his position to take actions the Constitution does not authorize him to take, and in fact specifically precludes him from taking by granting exclusive law-making authority to the Congress. Congress, in fact, or at least some members of Congress, seems content to allow the president to do this, even though by him taking these actions and by Congress allowing it, the executive branch renders the legislative branch a purposeless relic.

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution begins: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”

And from the horses mouth, so to speak, proclaims: “The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress ...”

The president’s job is to implement and enforce laws. He is not authorized to unilaterally decide which laws to enforce, or to change the provisions of laws. Congress makes laws and amends laws.

While the president has latitude and flexibility in operating the government, any action he takes contrary to written law or constitutional intent may be challenged as unconstitutional.

Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writing in Commentary magazine online, comments: “Examples include (but are not limited to) unilaterally delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, issuing health-care edicts that undermine the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, making unconstitutional ‘recess appointments’ to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, refusing to enforce current immigration laws related to illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children, and waving welfare work requirements.”

“I suppose the temptation to act as a potentate is understandable; but it also happens to be illegal. The president, after all, has the constitutional duty to “’take care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’” Mr. Wehner added, referencing Article 2, Section 3.

Since Congressional Democrats seem to subscribe to the “ends justifies the means” school of thought, they are perfectly content with the president’s lawlessness, and the media has done a good job of demonizing Republicans for opposing that lawlessness.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), notes that the House has passed 356 bills that have piled up on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) desk awaiting Senate action. She told TheBlaze that 98 percent of those bills were passed with bipartisan support. Two hundred of them were passed with unanimous support from the entire House chamber and more than 100 were passed with 75 percent support of House Democrats. Yet the Democrat controlled Senate ignores them.

And, before the government shutdown, House Republicans passed bills to avoid the shutdown that the Senate never acted on by, and there was no effort at compromise. And still the media, the president, and Democrats in Congress keep telling us that Republicans aren’t doing anything.

If Democrats in Congress won’t stand up to the president’s over-reaching, honor their oath of office and protect Congress’ constitutional authority, and continue to oppose legal action and impeachment, by their inaction they will have abetted the evolution of an imperial presidency, returning to United States the tyranny that existed before the Revolution.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Does stopping corporate inversions require a stick, or a carrot?

The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress have recently focused on corporate “inversion” as something needing quick attention. In an inversion, a US company starts or buys into another company in a country with a lower corporate tax rate and then calls the new country home, enabling it to avoid some taxes in the US. Although US companies still pay the same rates on US income, the lower rates apply to income earned abroad.

The Congressional Research Service reports that there have been 47 inversions in the last decade, and Business Week online identified 14 since 2011. The administration brought the issue to the fore with a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew saying that inversions ‘’hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base.”

The issue has both practical and political importance, highlighting the lower amount of corporate taxes collected, and also providing politicians who may be or become candidates for office a populist issue to exploit, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., considered a potential presidential candidate.

Leaders of both political parties on the Senate Finance Committee – chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah – agree that the tax code needs major reform, however, the two parties have different approaches on exactly how to accomplish that goal.

Peter Merrill, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, testified before the Finance Committee and discussed how US corporate taxation rules compare to those of other countries. He named two areas of the US tax system that “fall far outside international norms: the high corporate rate, and the worldwide system of taxation,” both of which he said make it more difficult for US companies to compete in global markets. Citing increasing competition from other nations, he said in the last 15 years the number of US companies on the Forbes Global Top 500 list has dropped by a third, from 200 to 135, and noted that the US corporate tax system contributes to this decrease.

The US corporate tax rate is the highest among major economies, Dr. Merrill said, more than 14 points above the average for the other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and nearly 10 points higher than the average for the other G7 countries. And he noted that while other countries have substantially lowered their tax rates since 1986, the US raised its rate to 35 percent in 1993.

President Barack Obama wants Congress to enact corrective legislation that is retroactive to May, arguing that the proposal will stop companies from rushing into deals to avoid lower taxes. And he accuses these corporations of being economically unpatriotic.

Reuters reported that Mr. Obama said in remarks at Los Angeles Technical College: "Even as corporate profits are higher than ever, there’s a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.” And he added, "They’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship, they’re declaring their base someplace else even though most of their operations are here. You know some people are calling these companies 'corporate deserters.'”

Other prominent Democrats echoed that sentiment. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., quoted in The Wall Street Journal, characterized these companies as "deserting the U.S. in order to dodge their obligations to the country and American taxpayers."

Senate Finance chairman Wyden wants to make it harder for U.S. companies to move their headquarters abroad, and commented, "… corporations must understand that they won't profit from abandoning the US." Secretary Lew joined that view, calling for a "new sense of economic patriotism."

Attacking companies as “unpatriotic” because the US tax system is punitive and encourages them to move overseas to lower costs is both hypocritical and dumb. They are legally operating within the complex and confounding framework government provides for them, and are trying to maintain profitability in an increasingly competitive global market.

Democrats want action taken now to limit inversions, but there are sound arguments that this will make things worse. Putting duct tape on the tax code instead of rewriting it and making it comprehensible and sensible is why things are such a mess. Comprehensive tax reform is the best solution.

It’s not for nothing that the Democrat Party has been tagged “the tax and spend party.” They go happily along championing high taxes to fund politically popular programs without any apparent clue that their policies frequently do more harm than good.

“Comprehensive tax reform would reduce deductions and lower tax rates for everyone," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The way to encourage businesses to stay in the US and expand, or relocate to the US is to make it desirable for them to do so, and have a tax code that says “we want you here.” That means slashing tax rates to competitive world levels, stop taxing foreign income and eliminating some deductions.

Businesses provide goods and services that people want and need. They also provide jobs that enable people to afford things they want and need, and they pay taxes that support governments at all levels.

Business is the goose that lays the golden egg. Democrats need to understand that instead of beating the goose, they need to nourish it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Israel continues to survive irrational hatred and violent attacks

Christians and Jews know from studying religious texts that the Hebrews lived in what is now Israel roughly 3,000 years ago, and many independent sources confirm their occupation of that land three millennia ago.

Even the Quran, the Islamic equivalent of the Bible, notes: “Sura 17, The Children of Israel (Banî Israel)” in the Khalifa translation, and perhaps others, as well.

Charles Krauthammer provided context in The Weekly Standard in 1998, commenting that “Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.”

The land occupied by modern Israel is small, about the size of Wales or half the size of Costa Rica, and is located roughly on the site of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, except that these ancient kingdoms also included what is now the West Bank.

Israel is 263 miles long and varies from 9 miles wide at the narrowest point to 70 miles wide at the widest point. It is a little larger than Connecticut and a little smaller than New Jersey, and is home to approximately 8 million Israelis, 5.5 million of whom are Jews.

Israel is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, and its contiguous neighbors are Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran not far away.

Israel is smaller than any of its neighbors, both in geographic size and population. The nations that surround it don’t like Israel or Jewish people. “Death to Israel” is in fact a common sentiment among those nations and their people. This sentiment is reflected in a BBC poll last year showing Israel as the fourth least popular nation on the planet, behind Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea.

This perception is based largely on the fact that there are more voices in the region where Israel and its enemies reside demeaning Israel – those would be the voices of the “Death to Israel” crowd – than there are Israeli voices telling the other side of the story. It is not so different than going to Boston and asking which American League team residents think is the most unpopular, and finding most named the New York Yankees, not the Red Sox.

As the saying goes, the more you tell a lie, the more it is believed, and with the help of dishonest reporting, the lie spreads far and wide.

In fact, while the enemies scream “Death to Israel,” Israel only asks for peace, and has made numerous concessions towards that goal, only to be slapped in the face with violent attacks.

The current fighting follows an unprovoked attack on Israel by Hamas. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Hamas “is the largest and most influential Palestinian militant movement … [and] is a Sunni Islamist group and a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization violently opposed to the state of Israel.”

The murders of three Israeli boys and the murder of one Palestinian boy initially stirred tensions, and Hamas unleashed a barrage of rockets on Israel to kick-start the conflict.

The differences in how the two sides operate could not be starker: Hamas fires rockets aimed at civilian-occupied areas; Israel targets Hamas compounds, militant command centers, weapons storage facilities and tunnels into Israel and Egypt.

Thus far, more casualties have occurred on the Palestinian side of the conflict, due in part to the Israeli Iron Dome defense system used to protect their citizens by intercepting rockets aimed at population centers. Hamas, however, is said to store rockets in homes and schools, and reportedly uses civilians as shields against attacks on the storage areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the two philosophies: “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles."

Such tactics help explain the greater number of casualties among Palestinians, and Hamas turns this into anti-Israel propaganda, helping to propagate Israel negative image worldwide.

Steven P. Bucci, who served America for three decades as an Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official, writes that “before the Israelis strike a building, every home in it gets a call on its landline phone, as do all the cell phones associated with the inhabitants of the building — the cells additionally get text messages — telling them that in a few minutes the building will be targeted. Finally, to make sure everyone gets the message, Israel drops a dud bomb—one containing no explosives—onto the roof of the structure. … There is no instance in modern military history where a force has taken greater measures to give the innocents as much chance to get out of the way.”

The broad hatred of Israel and love for its enemies is irrational. Despite this, Israel behaves honorably in defending itself against repeated attacks, holds its own against the haters, and survives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Illegal immigration problem is largely a federal government creation

As a result of inadequate security measures along the southern border, the Obama administration’s leniency toward illegal entry into the country, and the idea of amnesty for illegal immigrants, the long-standing border security problem is now at crisis level due to the recent tsunami of Central American young people arriving in the US.

These kids left their homes in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of horrible conditions in those countries, entered Mexico and traversed the length of the country in an arduous journey frequently highlighted by unspeakable abuse, and crossed the border into the US.

That so many thousands could accomplish this ought to be more than a casual curiosity. Don’t you wonder how these young people can get into Mexico and travel more than a thousand miles through the country to the US border without being arrested and imprisoned? This question is particularly curious considering what happened to the US Marine war veteran Andrew Tahmooressi, who merely made a wrong turn at a confusing intersection on the border, accidentally ended up in Mexico, was arrested and has been in a Mexican jail for nearly four months. How do thousands of these kids who willfully enter Mexico illegally avoid arrest when an innocent wrong turn and a few minutes in Mexico gets Sgt. Tahmooressi put in jail?

However they manage it, when they cross the Rio Grande, the youthful illegals follow instructions to the Border Patrol station and turn themselves in. "They know that once they get to the station, we are going to give them paperwork and we are going to set them free into the United States," said Chris Cabrera, a leader of the local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, a labor union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents.

"Most of the time, they're getting released to relatives in the U.S.," he said. "There's nowhere to put them, so they're released on their own recognizance and have a pending court date. I'd say between 95 and 97 percent of adults or youths don't show up for court."

So, due to a “soft on deportation” government attitude that serves as an invitation to people in Central America, and a fatally flawed US border policy that allows illegal aliens to easily enter the country by the thousands, they illegally cross the border and shortly thereafter disappear into the ether.

This huge influx has secondary effects that are potentially much more problematic: their presence forces border agents to be transferred away from the border so they can handle the kid tsunami, making it even easier for others to come in, such as members of drug cartels, members of MS-13 gangs, human sex traffickers, and people from the Middle East, China and Russia. Who knows what horrors these people may intend to unleash on our country?

Despite this disgraceful reality, the website tells us: “… today border security is stronger than it has ever been."

We are also told that deportation of illegals is at record levels, but Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted before the House Appropriations Committee that “a very large fraction” of deportations aren’t really deportations, but instead are “turn-backs” at the border. Categorizing “turn-backs” as “deportations” paints a rosy but inaccurate picture: actual deportations are down sharply.

Let’s be honest: With his pen and his phone Barack Obama takes care of the things he thinks are important, like trying to lessen the damage of the Affordable Care Act, even if doing so is not legal or constitutional. Everything else he tosses aside with simplistic denials, or third grade humor, like "Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat."

He could have fixed the porous southern border and stemmed the influx of illegal aliens entering the country, but instead his actions made the situation worse, because fixing this dangerous problem is not important to him.

Mr. Obama wants nearly $4 billion in “emergency spending” to take care of these youthful illegals, but the situation does not qualify for emergency spending. The border crisis isn’t “sudden, unforeseen and temporary,” as the law requires.

Even so, the plan as outlined puts precious little of the funds toward securing the border, and lacks details on how the program would work, and how the money will be spent.

This situation has to be remedied as soon as possible. Some laws must be changed so that illegals from Central America aren’t treated more liberally than those from Mexico and Canada. Then secure the border.

Building a wall on the border, like a fence around your property, helps you control who comes in; it is an act of sovereignty, of common sense. Support it with agents and observation methods, and a second fence, if needed.

Instead of inviting people to come here illegally with a message that they won’t be sent back, send a message that will discourage people from seeking to illegally enter the country.

Americans are compassionate people who truly desire to help those in need, but we cannot do so at our own peril, as is the case with promises of amnesty and reckless border policies.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

SCOTUS Hobby Lobby ruling sends the left into Never Never Land

The daunting effects on individual freedom of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are legion, despite the Herculean efforts of statist advocates and the agenda media to ignore them or explain them away. One element of the law that created a storm of opposition is the requirement that employers provide 20 different forms of contraception to their female employees who have company-provided health coverage.

That element of the ACA prompted a legal challenge from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, two closely held for-profit businesses owned by people who oppose abortion on religious grounds, and challenged the requirement to provide free access to four of the twenty required items on the list that are regarded as “abortifacients,” or abortion-causing drugs.

The United States Supreme Court upheld that challenge by a narrow 5-4 majority, allowing the plaintiff companies to refuse to provide the offending drugs that interrupt the fetal development process after conception, and thus are abortifacients.

While relieving the two employers of the requirement to provide coverage forbidden by their religious beliefs, the ruling did not affect the requirement to provide 16 other contraceptive items.

Nevertheless, the businesses have been accused of waging a “War on Women.” And, the case has unleashed a flurry of ill considered, factually deficient, and inane comments from those who want to persuade others that there actually is a “War on Women.”

To wit: “It’s very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception,” said Hillary Clinton last week.

There are several problems with this statement, not the least of which is that Ms. Clinton has no idea what she is talking about. Given the facts of the ruling, the assertion that the employer thinks people shouldn’t use contraception is plainly absurd. It is likely true that these business owners probably do think women should use contraceptives to avoid the “need” for abortions, which violate their religious beliefs. And, women may “want” contraceptives, but they don’t “need” them.

Social justice attorney and California State Senate candidate Sandra Fluke on MSNBC’s “Hardball”: “What this is really about at its base is trying to figure out as many ways as possible to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare.” If you oppose 20 percent of required “contraceptives” – the challenged items aren’t really contraceptives at all – you are trying to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare? Seriously?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the decision “an outrageous step against the rights of America’s women.”  Of course, not wanting to provide abortion drugs for women is tantamount to attacking all women’s rights.

Senator Patty Murray said it is “a dangerous precedent and takes us closer to a time in history when women had no choice and no voice.”  She apparently forgot that she, a woman, was elected to the US Senate, and that women have held and currently hold many high positions in government and the private sector.

Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “It is no surprise that Republicans have sided against women on this issue as they have consistently opposed a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.” Has she discovered a Republican bill now being drafted to appoint male health agents to make healthcare decisions for all women?

Massachussetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Can’t believe we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big [corporations] deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.” The First Amendment protection of religious beliefs is “vague”?

Perhaps the first reaction to comments like these is, “Do these people really believe what they are saying?” And then you realize that they either do or they don’t, and either possibility represents a serious problem. Worse, all of these people are in or are seeking positions of influence and power.

How about the idea that women somehow have a right to contraception, as well as the right for it to be paid for by their employer? A quick search of the Bill of Rights, however, found no such guarantee. But there is a very prominent guarantee of religious liberty, the right to believe as one chooses, a belief that is free from control by and interference from government.

But in today’s upside-down America, business owners who honor their religious beliefs opposing abortion are called “enemies of women.” These businesses hire women, Hobby Lobby started all employees at $13 an hour before the ruling, they probably have women in management positions, may have women owners, make health insurance available to all employees, and somehow this means they are waging a “War on Women.”

But since facts and truth are not on their side, deceit and exaggeration are all they’ve got to work with, and these pathetic women are doing their best to create another class of victims to collect government largess.

But be forewarned: If you disagree with any aspect of a “progressive” cause, no matter how ridiculous that cause is, or how tiny your disagreement, you will be labeled a “woman-hater,” a “racist,” or something equally horrible.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Planned Parenthood president thinks when life begins isn’t relevant

Many of us living today remember when pregnancy was regarded as the beginning of a new life, was usually a welcome and celebrated event, and religious people often viewed pregnancy as a gift from God. There were baby showers where the mother was treated to gifts for use after the birth of her child, and a positive air about the “blessed event.”

Abortion was considered taboo by society and was illegal, and because of the social and legal strictures, it was rare. As a result, abortions were usually performed in secret by the woman or by some shady character. It was dangerous to the mother because of the unsanitary “back alley” conditions of the procedure. A physician rarely performed an abortion, unless the life of the mother was at stake, or some other unusual situation required it.

Back then, people accepted responsibility for their behavior and took great care to prevent pregnancy until they were ready for parenthood. In those comparatively rare times when an unwanted pregnancy occurred, the man and the woman most often became parents, or perhaps the mother gave the baby up for adoption. Unwed mothers were a rarity.

Through the decades unintended and unwanted pregnancies have increased from rare episodes of bad luck and careless behavior to epidemic proportions, and instead of being seen as a reason to make changes to accommodate the new life that had been created, unwanted pregnancy is viewed today as an intrusion on the woman’s freedom, an inconvenience that demands relief, not so different from a headache or a cold. And to accommodate many women’s preference not to have the baby they have created, abortion has evolved from a rare thing to a routine procedure performed thousands of times each year. Now, many view a woman deciding to end the life of the child developing inside her as a right she may exercise as freely as the right to speak her mind.

Today, half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about 40 percent are terminated by abortion. Twenty-one percent of all pregnancies, excluding miscarriages, end in abortion.

In 1981, world-renowned scientists and physicians testified before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that life begins at conception, which was the traditional view through the centuries. However, the question of when life begins is now being questioned by abortion advocates, and knowing the exact instant that life begins after conception and before the birth of a child is an important, if difficult to identify, piece of data to determine the point after which abortion becomes murder.

However, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards thinks when life begins is not important.

Appearing on Fusion TV's America with Jorge Ramos, she was asked, “For you, when does life start? When does a human being become a human being?”

“This is a question that I think will be debated through the centuries,” she said.

“But for you, what's that point?” Ramos asked.

"It is not something that I feel like is really part of this conversation,” she said. “I think every woman needs to make her own decision,” she finally said.

"But why would it be so controversial for you to say when do you think life starts?" Ramos pressed.

"I don't know that it's controversial. I don't know that it's really relevant to the conversation," she replied.

“I'm the mother of three children,” she finally said. “For me, life began when I delivered them,” adding that her children have “probably” been the most important thing in her life since their birth.

“But that was my own personal, that's my own personal decision,” she said.

The abortion industry certainly does not want to know the absolute point at which life begins, because then it would be clear that aborting a fetus is at some point killing a child. That would not be a good thing for those who perform abortions for money, for organizations like Planned Parenthood that get federal money for advising women on unwanted pregnancies, or for those who think women should have a right to end an inconvenient pregnancy at anytime.

From this less strict attitude about when life begins all sorts of horrors might evolve. And they have.

For example, some Planned Parenthood officials have gone so far as to advocate infanticide, giving women the right to end their child’s life after it has been born.

And only a little further down that slippery slope are the preposterous acts of Kermit Gosnell, the disgraced and imprisoned former physician who was in the habit of ending the lives of babies who were inconsiderate enough to survive his efforts to abort them by clipping their spinal cords after they were born alive. He is in prison for life after being convicted of murdering three babies.

An interesting sidebar to this story is that the baby-killer managed to spare himself a death sentence when he waived his right to appeal in return for a life sentence, an option millions of aborted babies never had.

It must be pointed out that all of those who support the unfettered right for women to abort their babies have already been born.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The United States of America: “a nation of laws, not a nation of men”

A primary element that has separated the United States of America from virtually every other nation in history is the concept of it being “a nation of laws, not a nation of men.”

“A nation of laws” means that laws, not people, rule. Everyone is to be governed by the same laws, regardless of their station; whether it is the most common American or Members of Congress, high-ranking bureaucrats or the President of the United States; all must be held to the just laws of America. No one is, or can be allowed to be, above the law.

This idea was paramount in the complex process of establishing the United States of America, a young nation whose brave leaders had put everything on the line to escape the tyranny and oppression of the British Crown, which at the time was a nation ruled by people, in the person of King George III.

The Founders wrote restrictions into the Constitution against bills or laws of attainder, which are laws that do not apply equally to everyone, but target specific persons or groups in their enforcement, and are also known as “bills of pains and penalties.” In the hands of corrupt officials, these laws could be used as a weapon that would give an incumbent politician a major advantage over anyone else.

Can there be a better way for a nation to deal with its citizens than treating all of them equally under the law? About the only people who would disagree with this concept are those who are in a position, or want to be, to abuse the law and use their official positions unfairly, or those who benefit from that abuse.

Sadly, there are plenty of these un-American folks on the loose.

If laws are too numerous, abusive, designed to help or penalize one group at the expense of others, that nation is not a nation of laws.

A nation of laws will not permit or tolerate laws designed for reasons other than justice, and it will not permit or tolerate laws that are ignored or selectively enforced because of some official’s political whim.

"We're a nation of laws, not of men and women," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, talking about a Nevada rancher refusing to pay grazing fees on land he and his ancestors grazed for free, until recently. Someone needs to remind Sen. Reid that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. He condemns one of his constituents for not obeying the law, but himself failed to bring a federal budget before the Senate for years, as required by Article I of the US Constitution.  He has violated his oath of office and terms of the Constitution, and has done so without penalty.

Attorney General Eric Holder earned the wrath of a federal judge for directing prosecutors to pursue shorter prison sentences for drug crimes before new guidelines for sentencing had been approved. “The law provides the Executive no authority to establish national sentencing policies based on speculation about how [the U.S. Sentencing Commission] and Congress might vote on a proposed amendment,” Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. remarked. AG Holder also advised state Attorneys General that they do not have to enforce laws they disagree with, which essentially renders laws meaningless. Apparently, Mr. Holder thinks only those laws individual government officials believe in are important. He does not have authority create these policies.

And then there is the President of the United States, Barack Obama. He who rules by Executive Order is at the top of the list of those destroying the ideal of  “a nation of laws.”

It’s not about the good intentions of an Executive Order; it’s about process, and the fact that in the United States we have a detailed process for changing laws, and that process does not empower the president to do so unilaterally. Congress must amend a law, or the judiciary can strike down an unconstitutional law.

So, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that the president so strongly advocated came up far short of the miracle we were told it would be, Mr. Obama suspended parts of the law to mitigate the harm it would cause, but that is not allowed by the Constitution. It ought to strike everyone as dangerous when the president says things like if Congress won’t do what he wants, he’ll use his pen to do it through an Executive Order. Perhaps he does not understand that the executive branch is equal to the legislative branch; the president is not more powerful than the Congress.

Speaking of Congress, it’s habit of shirking its law-making duty by passing legislation that enables administrative agencies to create and implement rules with the force of law goes a long way toward undermining the “nation of laws” concept. The Founders made Congress the law-making branch of the government, and did not allow for Congress to pass that duty to the executive branch.

The sad truth is that the United States is not functioning as a nation of laws today. That status must be restored, and soon, or our very freedom is at risk.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More crazy stuff from the world of “You can’t make this stuff up!”

Everyone says something dumb once in a while, some more than others, of course, but some people in prominent positions have a real knack for it, and others seem to think they can say whatever they want to, and people will believe them. Worse, though, is that for some of these people, like politicians, there are millions of folks who do believe what they say, no matter how weird it may be, how unlikely to happen it is, or how simply unbelievable it is.

In the most recent example, you may remember that IRS official Lois Lerner was called to testify by three Congressional committees looking into the abuse of IRS power in the intimidation of conservative applicants for 501(c)(3) status, and after making a lengthy statement declaring her innocence then availed herself of the 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination, and then refused to answer any questions. She apparently forgot that as a hired government worker, she is accountable for her actions to the American people.

The committees had requested Ms. Lerner’s emails months ago, but, Shazam!, the IRS announced the other day that, darn the luck, those emails have just disappeared.

Adding considerable interest to this much-too-convenient occurrence is that Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified in March that Lois Lerner’s emails were archived.

Oh, well. Maybe the NSA or Edward Snowden has copies.

Just a couple of days earlier, Hillary Clinton, told the world that when hubby Bill finished his eight years as President of the United States they were broke and in debt.

That fails both the smell test and the laugh test. Is it possible? Yes, but doubtful.

The American taxpayers paid President Clinton $200,000 a year in wages, $1.6 million over his eight years in the White House. Presidents may have to pay for some of their normal expenses, like food, clothes, and such, but there are several expense accounts that enter into the picture, so it is difficult to imagine exhausting $1.6 million in only eight years with all the help presidents get through expense accounts.

On the other hand, given the liberal penchant for spending money they don’t have, it is entirely possible they really were broke and in debt, and if that is true, maybe we ought to remember that if Mrs. Clinton decides to seek the presidency.

Outlandish statements sometimes serve to cover up misdeeds of government employees and burnish the bona fides of politicos. Sometimes it’s difficult to make up things that are more ridiculous than what reality gives us, as we have just seen, while other times making stuff up is precisely what people do to mislead the public for some narrow political end, as the next example shows.

“Since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been at least 74 school shootings in America.” So states the Website for “Everytown for Gun Safety,” which explains, “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.”

If you are wondering why you haven’t heard about 74 more Sandy Hooks or Newtowns, it’s because there haven’t been 74 of them. In fact, CNN investigated these claims, and found that only 15 percent of them – 11 incidents – involved “a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school.”

Politifact “quotes a former member of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit as stating ‘[t]here is an ocean of difference’ between what average people consider a school shooting and various episodes in the Everytown accounting.”

Stipulated: Even one shooting in a school is one too many. But the dishonest use of data to try to scare people is intolerable.

Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) shows that the annual number of school-associated violent deaths, and the annual number of homicides and suicides of students ages 5-18 at school, were lower during the 2010-2011 school year than at any time in the last 20 years. And, in fact, they had been reduced by almost half.

Five of the 74 incidents involved accidental non-fatal shootings; and two other incidents were apparent acts of self-defense. Again, any shooting at a school, other than in self-defense or to stop someone from hurting or killing people, is unacceptable. But that is a very different matter than when someone intentionally shoots and kills or wounds kids.

It appears the anti-gun fanatics will stop at nothing, even creating fairy tales to try to persuade people to their point of view. In doing so, however, they prove that their point of view is unworthy of public attention.

“Everytown” is the brainchild of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and unfortunately contains the same absurdities as Mr. Bloomberg’s other manias, like his war on sodas.

If making things illegal actually worked, we’d have no drug problems, robberies, murders or rapes. If limiting the right of law-abiding citizens to own weapons as powerful as those criminals possess made any sense, people would support it.

Does anything say, “Come on in” to a criminal more succinctly than posting a “No Guns Allowed” sign on the door?

Gun violence is the result of the desire to commit violence, not the gun.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Update from the classroom: Common Core is on the chopping block

With US secondary school students lagging behind many other nations in educational performance, combating this with a voluntary education initiative developed and operated by the states received much favorable attention.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative “seeks to establish consistent educational standards [in English Language Arts and Mathematics] across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce,” according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative Website.

At one point 45 of the 50 states had signed up. But as time passed and the program evolved, 17 states have seen things that have caused them to adopt the language standards but not the math standards, to question the program generally, or to drop out altogether.

The most recent to bail out is Oklahoma, following the lead of Indiana in March, followed just days before Oklahoma’s exit last week by South Carolina.

“We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core,” Governor Mary Fallin said in a statement released by her office. “Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards.”

She continued: “What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.” Oklahoma will return to the standards previously in place, and develop new standards aimed at meeting the needs of industry and academia.

In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley signed legislation that requires a committee to review and implement a new set of academic standards by the 2015-16 school year, and return to the former assessment tests by 2014-15.

In a letter supporting the legislation, Gov. Haley said the following: “South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges … that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them. Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states.”

As an early supporter of Common Core, Indiana’s recent rejection is seen as pivotal, perhaps encouraging other states to abandon the program, as well. What drove the Hoosiers away? Growing criticism over costs imposed by the program, and concerns that eventually it would evolve into a national education standard.

Stating Indiana’s thinking on the subject, Governor Mike Pence said, “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level. By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high, and I commend members of the General Assembly for their support.”

Missouri reportedly also has legislation to withdraw awaiting approval by governor Jay Nixon. And North Carolina is moving in that direction.

Complaints from North Carolina parents over the unfamiliar material and believing the standards to be an intrusion by the federal government prompted legislative action that would maintain state control over education standards. Both houses of the legislature have approved measures to replace Common Core standards with new ones to be created by an appointed commission.

These two measures must be reconciled and submitted to Governor Pat McCrory, who has expressed support for Common Core, before the withdrawal will be complete. The measures passed each house by margins that could override a veto. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia also are resisting the program.

This resistance actually began several years ago, just after the standards were developed in 2009. Five members of the 30-person Common Core validation committee refused to sign on to the standards, two of whom are experts in content: Stanford University’s James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics, and the University of Arkansas’ Sandra Stotsky, professor of education reform emerita and co-author of Massachusetts’ highly regarded ELA standards.

When 17 percent of the committee doesn’t support the standards the committee designed, that signals trouble in paradise.

These rejections reveal two important things. First, these 17 states recognize Common Core is something different than what they were led to believe it would be, and objections to some specific content and methods arose, convincing some states that they can do better. And, second, these states are resisting the statist, authoritarian federal government, and its “Washington knows best,” one-size-fits-all approach.

Back in the day, when the American education system was doing a great job of educating young people, state, county and local school systems bore responsibility for deciding what goals were important and how to achieve them. Somehow, without the central planning of the federal government, American high school graduates managed to be well prepared for the next step in their lives.

America does best when Americans are left to think for themselves and to make decisions and follow the course that best suit their purposes. It’s called “freedom,” and once was the hallmark of our nation.

That’s what built the country, and that is what will restore it.