Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thoughts on the Supreme Court: Same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act

Following the American Revolution when the new nation realized it needed a new controlling document, it replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution, under which the states had significant independence from the federal government. The new government had a brilliant and unique design that included three co-equal branches, each with its own specific duties, limited authority and a system of checks and balances so that no one branch could become dictatorial.

Mentioned first, the Legislative Branch is the rule-maker, the single branch authorized to make laws. Next, the Executive Branch is charged with administering and enforcing the laws that Congress passes; and the Judicial Branch was to be the referee that made sure that the actions of the Legislative and Executive Branches comported with the dictates of the Constitution, as Alexander Hamilton said, to determine whether laws passed by the legislature were consistent with the fundamental and superior law of the Constitution. And Chief Justice John Marshall, in weighing the validity of a provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789, declared “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

Today we see that the Judiciary has become politicized, putting Constitutional concerns on the back burner, as demonstrated by two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

First, the Court turned plain language and constitutional law on its head, for the second time, to deny challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And then it redefined what marriage has been for centuries.

The purpose here is not to argue against same-sex marriage or against whatever few good things may have resulted from the ACA, but to argue for proper judicial behavior in regard to interpreting Congressional acts.

Contrary to the popular notion that the Constitution is a “living document,” the meaning of which changes in response to the prevailing winds of popular societal notions, the Constitution set forth principles envisioned by the Framers as valid for the ages, and which ought to be interpreted as such. Otherwise, what means one thing in 1795 could mean something totally opposite in 1895, and then completely different from either meaning in 1995; the law being blown about on an ever-changing sea.

In the first case last week, Chief Justice John Roberts, voting with the majority, opined: “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax.” Had he not redefined a “penalty” as a “tax,” the ACA would have overstepped its power in regulating interstate commerce. Last week, the Chief Justice again voted to correct flaws in the law by deciding that words don’t really mean what we thought they meant, saving the law’s constitutionality for a second time.

In his scathing dissent of that most recent ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “The Court holds that when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says ‘Exchange established by the State’ it [actually] means ‘Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government.’ That is of course quite absurd, and the Court’s 21 pages of explanation make it no less so.” “Words no longer have meaning,’” he wrote.

Further, the Constitution does not provide for the Supreme Court to correct errors in Congressional acts so that they pass constitutional muster. Congress must fix its own mistakes.

Chief Justice Roberts is thought to have been more concerned with trying to protect the Court’s reputation by not overturning a piece of popular legislation, rather than observing his duty to uphold constitutional law.

And last week the Court also voted to redefine what marriage is, with Justice Roberts returning to proper judicial conservatism, voting with the minority this time.

Nothing in the Constitution requires or allows the Supreme Court to redefine marriage. Marriage is a social/cultural construction that has stabilized the family as a bulwark social institution for thousands of years. The court imposed its judgment about a policy matter that should be decided by the American people through their elected state representatives, as provided for by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. The definition of marriage had already been broadened by 34 states, which is proper. If some states decide not to change that definition, so be it.

Chief Justice Roberts, who twice abandoned constitutional requirements in finding the ACA to be legal, noted the following in dissent about the same-sex marriage ruling: “If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

The Chief Justice properly noted the absence of constitutional authority in the same-sex marriage case, but somehow did not understand that the separation of powers prevents the Court from repairing the work of the Congress, which behaved horribly in creating the Affordable Care Act.

If the people can no longer rely on the Supreme Court to objectively evaluate acts of Congress and the Executive, we are doomed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The U.S. in the 21st Century: Compassion takes a back seat to politics

The ink was barely dry on newspapers reporting the murder of nine people attending a Bible study Wednesday night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, when it started.

Amid the understandable outrage and feelings of grief and compassion, there arose the clatter of political demagoguery, as the vehicles were gassed up and engines were started to rush and join the forming parade.

Since the participants of this parade formed it not to provide aid and comfort to those in need, but to avail themselves of a convenient opportunity – as former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised, “Never let a good crisis go to waste” – reason and honesty were banned from the event.

Thursday morning Faheem Younus, who identifies himself as “Muslimerican,” and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland, posted on Twitter: “This terrorist #CharlestonShooting is predictably White, called a ‘gunman’ by the media and has no mention of his faith.” It was most important to him to imply that had the murderer been a Muslim, that point would have been made abundantly clear.

And no leftist demagogic rant would be complete without taking a shot at Fox News. “The ideology of racism promoted by the @FoxNewsandCo. breeds the terrorists who commit #CharlestonShooting,” he tweeted.

At least in the midst of his mis-focused, cheap-shot tweets, the learned professor did brush up against the main truth: This attack was a racist act.

On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton used the shooting to advantage in her self-promotion. First, she suggested that “inflammatory things about Mexicans,” uttered by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, may have “triggered” the incident, and then turned to liberalism’s favorite boogeyman, gun control.

But at least President Barack Obama started out on the right path: “We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others gathered in prayer and fellowship, was murdered last night,” he said. “And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn't say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.”

But then: “We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” he continued, finally getting to his main point.

No one argues that some people should not have guns. The argument begins with the method people like Mr. Obama prefer. The same people who use guns for violence would also use knives, TNT, poison, an automobile, hijacked air liners, or whatever tool they could find to commit violence against others, a point the anti-gun faction seems immune to understanding.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries … with this kind of frequency,” Mr. Obama said. “It is in our power to do something about it.”

Mr. Obama must have found some study showing that the U.S. leads the world’s advanced countries in mass shooting casualties. The Rampage Shooting Index, in fact, shows that among 12 countries, from 2009 to 2013, the U.S. had 227 such deaths. Norway had 77, Germany had 25, the UK had 13, and Israel had 11. The US had 38 such incidents and the nations previously mentioned had only 1 to 3.

That is pretty damning evidence. But as usual in these sorts of campaigns, there is more.

The Index clearly shows that when population is taken into account, the results are far different. Per 1 million population Norway had 15.3 fatalities and .19 incidents per 1 million people; Germany - .31 fatalities, .04 incidents; the UK - .019 fatalities, .02 incidents; Israel - 1.38 fatalities, .25 incidents. The U.S. had .72 fatalities in .12 incidents, and fewer fatalities and incidents per 1 million than Norway and Israel. Furthermore, of the five countries discussed, all but the U.S. are said to have “Restrictive” gun policies.

Also, of the 12 nations in this study, when population is a factor the U.S. drops from first in mass shootings to seventh.

Mr. Obama was wrong. Again.

If you feel so strongly that a higher degree of gun control is a viable policy, why use faulty data to try to sell the idea to the people? If your cause is just, you needn’t lie or deceive to gain support.

Laying aside the distasteful efforts to politicize this issue, the real issue is not guns, it is the impulse to harm or kill innocent people, and how to protect against those impulses.

This was a racist act perpetrated by a white guy who used a gun. Dylann Roof had a drug arrest and conviction on his record, and had a recent history of racially charged comments. Reportedly, his father gave him a pistol for his 21st birthday in April.

What gun law would have prevented Dylann Roof from killing those nine people?

When you are caught using faulty data, you tell the world that you really have a goal other than the stated goal in mind.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It’s been a troubling time recently for President Barack Obama

Policy problems, legal challenges, failures to make progress on important international issues, being abandoned by Congressional Democrats on an important legislative measure, President Barack Obama’s recent problems mount daily, it seems.

He told the graduating class at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy: “And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today – one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers – and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.” Not the importance of guarding the shoreline and responding to emergencies and other events there. No, the threat he chose to include in his address was climate change, that much-debated theory that is losing credibility even faster than Mr. Obama is accumulating problems.

Last August, Mr. Obama said his administration was still devising a way to fight ISIS, and last week at the G7 conference in Germany he said, “We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis." After ten months with little or no progress on an Iraq policy, one may legitimately wonder whether Mr. Obama is really serious about, or prepared to adequately address this problem. Remember he called ISIS the “JV team.” And more recently the Pentagon claimed that ISIS “is no longer the dominant force in roughly 25 to 30 percent of the populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once had complete freedom of movement.” However, that statement has been shown to be “misleading and incomplete,” according to Raymond Ibrahim, writing in Human Events.

The Affordable Care Act, affectionately known as Obamacare, did succeed in bringing down the rate of uninsured Americans to the lowest levels so far, but continues to show major weaknesses that challenge its positive accomplishment.

Among those weaknesses, as reported in the Washington Free Beacon, are that many Americans still cannot afford health coverage and are delaying medical treatment; that despite Mr. Obama’s promises that “if you like your plan you can keep your plan,” more than five million people in 35 states have lost their health insurance plans; and that Obamacare will add up to $1 trillion in new taxes. Further, the law strengthens government control over healthcare, thus weakening the control of doctors over their practices and of patients over their healthcare, and the law also is reducing choices for patients.

And now a legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court may deal a serious blow to the Affordable Care Act. The Court is expected to announce its decision later this month in the King v. Burwell lawsuit, challenging the legality of the government to give tax credits to health insurers in more than thirty states that use the federal health insurance exchange. Should the Court rule for King, Obamacare policies in those states would become unaffordable, and would relieve more than 11 million people of the individual mandate.

Mr. Obama, perhaps having been tipped off by a Court insider that the Justices likely will rule against the administration, has taken to criticizing and chastising the Court for considering a lawsuit against the Obamacare. Some have interpreted his comments as trying to intimidate the Court.

"Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” he said at the G7 meeting. “And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step."

Perhaps the president needs a refresher course in American government. The Judicial Branch, led by the Supreme Court, is a co-equal branch of our government with the Executive and the Legislative Branches; none of them is subservient to either of the other two. This separation of powers is expressly designed to prevent any single branch from becoming dictatorial, which likely is Mr. Obama’s reason for complaint.

Judicial review, which is to rule on the constitutionality of legislative and executive acts, is a legitimate function of the Supreme Court, and judicial activism is lawmaking by the courts, which is not a legitimate function. Judicial activism is a primary tool of the political left, seeking to change the constitutional order of things.

Not content merely to take over the health care system, drag his feet on the Iraq and Iran situations, and intimidate the Supreme Court, Mr. Obama now proposes to inject the federal government into influencing or controlling who lives where in the United States, with a plan to diversify neighborhoods.

To be administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, critics say it will force municipalities to change their zoning policies, while supporters say it is an effort “to create opportunity for all.”

Whichever it is, it is not the job of the President of the United States.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Scientists demonstrate more fallacies of “manmade global warming”

It seems that every few weeks we hear or see some scientific data that seriously challenges the politically correct notion that the activities of man, burning fossil fuels for energy, are irreversibly and catastrophically damaging the Earth’s atmosphere and causing global temperatures to rise to dangerous levels.

There are two competing ideas about the last two decades of global temperatures: One says temperatures have plateaued for the last 18 years, but the other that says the rising temperature trend has continued through that period.

According to a CNS News story Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at the University of Alabama/Huntsville, argues that there has been no global warming for at least the last 18 years, and bases that position on actual raw temperature data he and fellow University of Alabama/Huntsville professor and NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer collected from 14 instruments aboard various weather satellites.

However, in a story in The Washington Post, a group of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that based upon their analysis of new surface temperature data and corrections to old data that NOAA knew were imperfect, there has been no break in global warming.

Some questions arise from these diametrically opposed opinions.
    •    Which of the two methods of measuring global temperature – surface temperatures, used by the NOAA team, or satellite observations, used by Drs. Christy and Spencer – is the most accurate? Or is some combination of the two, or some other method, more accurate?
    •    If trained scientists do not, cannot or will not agree on what the truth is about whether temperatures are rising or not, how can the rest of us understand climate changes?
    •    Since the outcome of its analysis confirmed NOAA’s previously held idea about global temperatures increasing, and in light of previous manipulation of data by some well-known scientists, should we be concerned about NOAA “correcting” data it “knew were imperfect?”

Just last month The Daily Caller reported on a paper stating that the global temperature change observed over the last hundred years or so is well within the natural variability of the last 8,000 years.

What this means is that even if the global temperature has risen as the global warming faction says, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern, since global temperatures have been in the current range before, and long before man started doing the things the global warming gang thinks are responsible for the increase.

The paper was written by Dr. Philip Lloyd, a South Africa-based physicist and climate researcher, who examined ice core-based temperature data going back 8 millennia. Dr. Lloyd is a former lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), the body that is perhaps the most honored authority for climate opinion, and an organization that supports manmade global warming.

The work of Dr. Lloyd, Dr. Christy and Dr. Spencer is out of the mainstream of climate opinion, a mainstream that is shrinking, as more of its members question the “settled science” of rising global temperatures due to the burning of fossil fuels, and recognize the failure of dozens of flawed climate models that predict warming that many scientists argue hasn’t occurred. More and more, this line of thinking appears more political than scientific.

One danger of politically influenced science is that some ideologically motivated government agency will use it as an excuse to impose draconian measures to achieve political goals, some of which are unachievable, and others that are dangerous to our economic system and well-being. Enter the Environmental Protection Agency, arguably the most harmful of the abundant federal bureaucracies that increasingly control our every word, thought and deed.

In its headlong effort to crush the economies of coal mining states and destroy businesses that rely in whole or in part on coal, the EPA has overdriven its headlights with a scheme that depends upon faking science.

The EPA attempted to impose a rule that mandates the use of so-called carbon capture and storage, where CO2 from burning coal would be injected underground instead of being released into the air. The agency was quite content to put this rule into effect, despite knowing that the method does not work.

“We submitted comments for the record explaining that EPA had made a mockery of the interagency review process, ignoring the government's own experts in order to push an ideological agenda,” the Energy and Environment Legal Institute’s Chris Horner said. Mr. Horner’s organization has forced the EPA to back down on imposing the rule, but a report by Inside EPA says that the White House may force the EPA to go to court and defend a process that it had to admit doesn’t work and is thereby legally indefensible.

Here is a multiple-choice question: Why would a federal agency attempt to impose a process on coal burning facilities that it knows doesn’t work?
   A. It believes it has unlimited power
   B. It cares little about the repercussions of its actions
   C. Its employees serve ideological and political masters instead of the American people
   D. All of the above

The EPA is upside-down.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Important bedrock fundamentals of the American culture are dying

Liberals/progressives may be celebrating the results of a new Gallup poll. The culture upon which America was founded and which allowed it to thrive for nearly 200 years has been seriously weakened over the last few decades. Social strictures are falling by the wayside, as responsible behavior takes a back seat to personal pleasure and convenience in some important areas.

When asked to describe themselves on social issues, the Gallup poll of more than a thousand participants reflected the following:
** 5 percent are very conservative
** 26 percent are conservative in general
** 33 percent are moderate
** 21 percent are liberal
** 10 percent are very liberal
** 4 percent can’t decide

Conservatives, moderates and liberals are virtually equally represented, and that is the first time since 1999 that conservatives have not outnumbered liberals.

The growth of Americans who self-describe themselves as social liberals parallels the transformation from a society where nearly every child was born into a family with a mother and a father into a formless mess where millions of children have a mother and a male biological parent, but no father in the home, where men commonly have multiple past and present sexual partners and offspring, but no wives or children.

The poll showed that a majority increasingly cares little for preserving the stability of the nuclear family, or of marriage before parenthood, with 61 percent saying having a baby outside of marriage is acceptable, up from 45 percent in 2002 and 54 percent in 2012.

Gallup says, “Nearly every major demographic or attitudinal subgroup has shown a significant increase since 2004 in their belief that out-of-wedlock births are morally acceptable.” The exception is Americans whose views on social issues are conservative. Their views on out-of-wedlock births “have changed little over the past 14 years. Between 2002 and 2004, an average of 35 percent of social conservatives said having a baby outside of marriage was morally acceptable. Currently, 38 percent hold this view.”

This development has a substantial negative impact, Gallup says, because “babies born to unmarried parents are much more likely to grow up in poverty than those born to married parents.” The report goes on to say “a growing body of research indicates that … children in two-parent households tend to have better academic and emotional outcomes later in life than those born in single-parent households.”

Gallup also reports the following changes from 2001 to 2015:

** The rate of approval of sex between unmarried men and women rose from 53 percent to 68 percent, while approval of divorce rose from 59 percent to 71 percent.
** The proportion of people approving abortion rose to 50 percent for the first time, with pro-lifers constituting only 44 percent. At the same time, those approving of the death penalty for the most vicious criminals dropped from 63 percent to 60 percent.
** One fairly positive finding is that while there are high levels of approval for out-of-wedlock sex and divorce, only a relative few approve of married people having affairs, although the number did rise from 7 percent to 8 percent.

Accompanying the discarding of past culturally stabilizing standards of behavior is the rise of acute hypersensitivity, a condition where the most important activity is that of searching diligently to find something to be offended by.

A metal sculpture on a university campus is the subject of much wailing and gnashing of teeth among feminists after a woman visiting the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio saw the sculpture and snapped a photo of it. The sculpture outraged the woman and her female friend, and the friend tweeted the photo, setting loose pandemonium across the land.

The offending sculpture, titled “Friends,” shows a female student sitting on one end of a bench with a book on her lap, and looking up at a male student standing at the other end of the bench with one foot resting on the seat of the bench.

While normal folks see this as an inoffensive rendering of common friendly student interaction on campus, these two women saw something sinister and deserving of outrage. What was really going on, you see, was “mansplaining,” an offense rivaling murder, to them.

“Mansplaining” is when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing manner. It is apparently never appropriate for a man to speak to a woman when she is sitting and he is standing. Either they both must be sitting or standing, or the man may be sitting while the woman stands, thereby eliminating the male superior position.

Being offended is a natural part of life, not a reason to get special treatment. This hypersensitivity takes our attention off really important matters, like the slowest recovery in a century and the 93 million Americans forced out of the workforce, the growing number of Americans driven to poverty by liberal policies, a foreign policy that has weakened the nation in the eyes of the world, and illegals entering the country by the millions, creating a substantial threat to the nation’s stability and security.