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Happy Dependence Day!

My how things change over the course of 200+ years.

Back at the beginning of this experiment, people rejected a large and intrusive government.  They’d been the victims of one and threw off that yoke.  They acclaimed freedom as their goal and chose liberty as their battle cry.

When they finally got around to forming their own government, they carefully wrote a document which I’m sure they figured was an iron-clad guarantee that this country’s future would never see the same sort of tyranny they’d suffered under.

I just wonder what they’d think of this sprawling, debt ridden and intrusive mess we have now?  I wonder what they’d think of over half the population getting some sort of compensation from government. 

I wonder what they’d think of a Supreme Court Chief Justice more worried about what they’ll say about him and the court on the cocktail circuit and in the media than he is about upholding the Constitution, his sworn duty.  I think I know.

And I’m pretty sure I know what they’d think of this:

Our nation’s current debt, nearing $16 trillion, and our annual budget deficit of $1.2 trillion, indicate that our government’s addiction to spending is nowhere near its limit.

Of that $16 trillion debt, the U.S. owes more than $5 trillion to foreign nations, an all-time high. So much for independence. We’re now a debtor nation, and unless we get our fiscal house in order, that debt will endanger our nation’s prospects for long-term growth.

If that sounds alarmist, consider this: In August 2011, Vice President Joe Biden visited China. This wasn’t just any diplomatic visit — it was the supplication of a debtor, in which Biden undertook to reassure our Chinese debtors that their investment is sound.

Biden assured his hosts that they had "nothing to worry about" when it comes to the U.S. honoring its obligations. It wasn’t the first time a high-ranking U.S. official has had to offer soothing words to our creditors, and at this rate it won’t be the last.

Let’s be clear.  This administration isn’t the cause of all that debt.  It’s just the latest (and the worst) to add to it, to the point that our debt now stands at more than our GDP.  We are indeed a debtor nation.

That’s not at all how this began is it?  Nor was that ever the plan.

I’m also pretty sure I know how they’d feel about the level of intrusion government now routinely practices (and increases) in this country.  For example:

IRS officials on background tell FOX Business the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health reform gives the IRS even more powers than previously understood.

The IRS now gets to know about a small business’s entire payroll, the level of their insurance coverage — and it gets to know the income of not just the primary breadwinner in your house, but your entire family’s income, in order to assess/collect the mandated tax.

Plus, it gets to share your personal info with all sorts of government agencies, insurance companies and employers.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. "We expect even more lien and levy powers," an IRS official says. Even the Taxpayer Advocate is deeply concerned.

As government takes more and more control of your lives, it intrudes deeper and deeper into them:

The TAO [Taxpayer Advocate Office] says that the “IRS will need to determine a taxpayer’s compliance with the individual [insurance] mandate and assess a penalty if coverage is inadequate.”

However, the penalty isn’t based on just your personal net income. The penalty will be based on an entirely different number that is more than just your paycheck earnings — your ‘household income.’

“This determination is based on a concept of ‘household income,’” TAO has said, adding, “this may differ from the income reported on the taxpayer’s return, because it is a composite of all of the income reported by members of a taxpayer’s household — information that may not be readily accessible to the IRS."

If the IRS finds you have fallen short of the law, it would hit you with a penalty tied to your household income (which may be that of an individual or several family members).

Under the new health law, the IRS penalty would be based on “modified adjusted gross income,” not adjusted gross income that you normally report at the bottom of the first page of your tax form 1040, before you take deductions or personal exemptions.

The modifications add back in things like non-taxable interest and excluded foreign income to this number.

Meaning:

Health reform’s insurance mandate says if you do not have “adequate” insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine as part of your tax return. If your business doesn’t provide “affordable” coverage,  that business may have to pay a fine to the IRS, too, as part of its tax return filings.

The TAO has noted Americans must now tell the IRS under the new law:

    *Insurance plan information, including who is covered under the plan and the dates of coverage;
    *The costs of your family’s health insurance plans;
    *Whether a taxpayer had an offer of employer-sponsored health insurance;
    *The cost of employer-sponsored insurance;
    *Whether a taxpayer received a premium tax credit; and
    *Whether a taxpayer has an exemption from the individual responsibility requirement.

The TAO has warned: “This is different from the type of information the IRS typically deals with, and some taxpayers may feel uncomfortable about sharing it with the IRS.”

In fact, it is incumbent upon you to prove to the IRS that you have “adequate coverage”, whatever that ends up meaning. And:

The TAO has also reported that “obtaining this new information will require the IRS to communicate with entities and government agencies that it may not deal with now,” including:

    *New state-run insurance exchanges;
    *Employers;
    *Insurance companies; and
    *Government insurance programs.

But remember the sales pitch – government will make health care simpler, more cost effective and better.

Congratulations to all the simpletons out there who bought into this scam and ended up foisting this intrusive monstrosity on the rest of us.  In fact, thanks to all, who through out the 200 years it has taken us to to get to this point, worked so hard to achieve it “for the common good”.  </sarc>  Nice mess you’ve given us.

As for the rest of you, happy Dependence day!

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


ObamaCare: The fallout

I’ve read all the pundits and listened to all the talking head elite tell us how incredibly nuanced and subtle the Chief Justice was by approving the law as a tax.  In fact one described him as “"a chess master, a statesman, a Burkean minimalist, a battle-loser but war-winner, a Daniel Webster for our times."

I say “BS”.  He sold out.  He ended up being more worried about the perception of the court and his legacy than upholding the Constitution of the United States.  And I’m not the only one who feels that way.  The Wall Street Journal also throws a punch or two at Roberts:

His ruling, with its multiple contradictions and inconsistencies, reads if it were written by someone affronted by the government’s core constitutional claims but who wanted to uphold the law anyway to avoid political blowback and thus found a pretext for doing so in the taxing power.

If this understanding is correct, then Chief Justice Roberts behaved like a politician, which is more corrosive to the rule of law and the Court’s legitimacy than any abuse it would have taken from a ruling that President Obama disliked. The irony is that the Chief Justice’s cheering section is praising his political skills, not his reasoning. Judges are not supposed to invent political compromises.

"It is not our job," the Chief Justice writes, "to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." But the Court’s most important role is to protect liberty when the political branches exceed the Constitution’s bounds, not to bless their excesses in the interests of political or personal expediency or both. On one of the most consequential cases he will ever hear, Chief Justice Roberts failed this most basic responsibility.

Precisely.  And Roberts caved.  From the lecture the court got from Obama during a State of the Union address till now, he became a cautious old lady more concerned with his reputation in perpetuity than serving the people and the Constitution he swore to uphold. 

That, as the WSJ says, is “more corrosive to the rule of law and the Court’s legitimacy” than anything he could have done.  He didn’t have the spine to take the heat from a controversial but proper decision so he took the easy way out.  He threw away his integrity for popularity and peace.   A judicial Chamberlin if you will.

Jacob Sullum at Reason gives you the rest of the bad news:

The Journal notes that the tax power endorsed by Roberts is no less sweeping and dangerous to liberty than the Commerce Clause argument he rejected. "From now on," it says, "Congress can simply regulate interstate commerce by imposing ‘taxes’ whenever someone does or does not do something contrary to its desires." Worse, as I pointed out last week, the tax trick allows Congress to dispense with claims about interstate commerce altogether. As long as a mandate is disguised as a tax (and as long as it does not violate explicit limits on federal power such as those listed in the Bill of Rights), "because we said so" is reason enough.

Mandates “disguised as a tax” give Congress almost limitless power to control your life.  That is the power Roberts handed our elected officials. 

Oh, but the apologists say, that will never happen.  They’d never abuse that power.  Yeah, a little lesson in history.   When the Constitutional amendment for the income tax was being debated some wanted to put a 2% limit on it. “Don’t do that,” the others said, “it will encourage Congress to immediately go that high.”

And here we are.

The Congress no longer need wrestle with intrusion in your life via the Commerce clause.  Justice Roberts just gave them an infinitely easier route that doesn’t require a Constitutional check.  He effectively removed the Court from its role in protecting you from increasing government intrusion.

And clever politicians will find a way to use that power he handed them when necessary.  Don’t you ever doubt that.

As for Roberts.  I have little or no use for a man who sits on the bench of the Supreme Court and puts politics in front of the Constitution he’s sworn to uphold.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


ObamaCare ruling: Silver lining or whistling past the graveyard?

George Will has a column out today declaring that conservatism won “a substantial victory” yesterday:

Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate — Congress’s rationale — that was pregnant with rampant statism.

The case challenged the court to fashion a judicially administrable principle that limits Congress’s power to act on the mere pretense of regulating interstate commerce. At least Roberts got the court to embrace emphatic language rejecting the Commerce Clause rationale for penalizing the inactivity of not buying insurance:

“The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. . . . The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. . . . Allowing Congress to justify federal regulation by pointing to the effect of inaction on commerce would bring countless decisions an individual could potentially make within the scope of federal regulation, and — under the government’s theory — empower Congress to make those decisions for him.”

If the mandate had been upheld under the Commerce Clause, the Supreme Court would have decisively construed this clause so permissively as to give Congress an essentially unlimited police power — the power to mandate, proscribe and regulate behavior for whatever Congress deems a public benefit. Instead, the court rejected the Obama administration’s Commerce Clause doctrine. The court remains clearly committed to this previous holding: “Under our written Constitution . . . the limitation of congressional authority is not solely a matter of legislative grace.”

The court held that the mandate is constitutional only because Congress could have identified its enforcement penalty as a tax. The court thereby guaranteed that the argument ignited by the mandate will continue as the principal fault line in our polity.

I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling it.  What part of the “tax” isn’t “pregnant with rampant statism”?  Why did John Roberts feel compelled to save the mandate by helping the administration identify it as a tax?

And more importantly, since when did taxation go from simply being a means for funding the functions of government to a means of incentivizing/controlling behavior?  To me that’s what approving the mandate as a tax has sanctioned.  We make fun of the nannies who want to control what we do, eat, say, etc.  This precedent just sanctioned a method of doing so.  It says it is okay to coerce desired behavior through taxation.indmandate

Perhaps, as Will opines, it will limit the Commerce clause which is already insanely overstretched in application.  Maybe it finally does draw a much brighter line around the clause, at least marginally.

However, the downside is worse than any upside.  The ruling essentially sanctioned the state’s requirement to purchase health insurance and gave it the okay to “tax” those who don’t comply.  I’m sorry, you may want to play the word game with them and call it a tax, but it is clearly identifiable to me as a penalty. 

That’s just wrong. 

One of the more interesting ironies is that within the same ruling the Court found that the Federal government was being coercive toward the states by requiring they comply with the new Medicaid mandates or lose their current Medicaid funding.

How is that anymore coercive than the “tax” required to be paid if an individual decides not to purchase health care insurance?

Taxation as a mechanism of control and/or enforcement of desired behavior is as coercive as the part on Medicaid which was struck down by the court.  At least in my opinion.

There may indeed be a silver lining in the ruling as Will outlines.  But a “substantial victory”?  It sounds like David Axlerod trying to spin the Wisconsin results as a huge win for Obama and trouble for Romney, doesn’t it?  If this was a “substantial victory”, then so was Pearl Harbor.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Is the fate of our liberty being decided today?

Just some random thoughts as we await the Supreme Court ruling on healthcare. 

I can’t help thinking the title is precisely what is on the line today.  Given the implications of upholding that odious law, I can’t help but feel this is indeed the most momentous decision in my lifetime.  Oh, certainly, there have been many other important ones, to be sure, but never one that had the potential, at least as I see it, to give government carte blanc to expand and intrude into my life.

I’ve said it often, liberty (freedom) equals choice.  Today’s decision will either uphold our ability to make individual choices (to include not having health insurance for whatever reason) in our lives or limit them – severely.

You know, when I was a kid I had to read the Constitution.  I didn’t find it either difficult to read or understand.  Yet since then, we’ve seen veritable oceans of words telling us what we read and the common understanding of what those words in the Constitution mean isn’t what they really mean.   And the way the Constitution is treated by our politicians is simply shameful (and that applies to both sides).

It has also been ironic to me to see the “living Constitution” crowd whine and complain that the SCOTUS may be overturning “years of precedent”.  That’s a true traditionalist argument.  In fact, though, if it does strike down the mandate, then it will be a traditionalist ruling.

I’m not sure how the left will reconcile that without their heads exploding.

I’m also convinced that even if overturned, either partially or completely, this is only the beginning of the fight to have government take over health care.  Next step?  Single payer.

In fact, there are probably many on the left who actually hope this monstrosity will be overturned so they can proceed to what has always been the extreme left’s dream – single payer, government run health care.  And, of course, Medicare provides precedence for that, doesn’t it.

So as we sit here waiting and hoping, it might behoove us to consider that even if the decision goes as we hope it will go, spiking the ball will be premature.

A ruling against the law won’t signal the end of this fight.  I’m afraid it will only signal the end of round 1 of a multi-round championship fight.

Whatever the ruling, I worry for our country.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Supreme Court strikes down most of AZ immigration law, Homeland Security strikes down the rest

I won’t belabor you with a full detailing of how the court ruled yesterday on Arizona’s immigration laws except to say most of it was struck down with the Court supporting the “supremacy clause” as its basis for doing so.

However, it did find for AZ in one part of the law – the requirement to produce identification, if asked, proving citizenship if law enforcement is has a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.

Note the last word.

Illegally”.

You see, that’s the word that is often left off when discussing immigration, as in “the right is anti-immigration”.  Of course that’s a totally inaccurate assertion.  The vast majority of the right is against illegal immigration.  Legal immigrants are both wanted and welcome.

That said, we all know that our immigration system is flat out broken.  It sucks.  It is terrible.   And in this day and time, given advances in the speed and efficiency of communications, there is absolutely no reason that should be the case.  Upgrading and speeding up the system should be a priority.

But that doesn’t change the fact that people who go around that antiquated system and take it upon themselves to enter the US illegally are lawbreakers.

So, to yesterday’s ruling:  Arizona’s law was a result of the federal government’s refusal to enforce existing immigration law.  It was a law born of frustration.  Arizona is a border state.  Non-enforcement was causing strains on the state that for the most part, non-border states didn’t have to deal with.   And, after numerous appeals to the federal government to enforce the laws of the land, the state took the drastic step of passing its own laws that mirrored the federal statutes.

Yesterday the Supreme Court struck most of them down.  I understand and don’t necessarily disagree with the basis of the ruling. I understand the importance of the “supremacy clause”.  But I also understand when it is improperly used – in this case to not enforce existing law.  That is not a choice made by an administration dedicated to the rule of law.   That’s the choice made by one which is driven by an ideological agenda.

To make the point, yesterday after the ruling, Homeland Security, the executive agency that ICE falls under, made it clear that it would not cooperate on section 2 (b) of the AZ law, the section the Supreme Court upheld, effectively nullifying it:

The Obama administration said Monday it is suspending existing agreements with Arizona police over enforcement of federal immigration laws, and said it has issued a directive telling federal authorities to decline many of the calls reporting illegal immigrants that the Homeland Security Department may get from Arizona police.

Administration officials, speaking on condition they not be named, told reporters they expect to see an increase in the number of calls they get from Arizona police — but that won’t change President Obama’s decision to limit whom the government actually tries to detain and deport…

Federal officials said they’ll still perform the checks as required by law but will respond only when someone has a felony conviction on his or her record. Absent that, ICE will tell the local police to release the person

On Monday the administration officials also said they are ending the seven 287(g) task force agreements with Arizona law enforcement officials, which proactively had granted some local police the powers to enforce immigration laws.

Or, more simply, the President has directed his agencies not to enforce the law of the land, a clear violation of his oath of office, but in full compliance with his recent enactment of the “DREAM act” by fiat.

By the way, that raging righty, Mickey Kaus updates us on what the real results of Obama’s decision concerning a certain type of illegal really means:

The maddening details of Obama’s DREAM Decree are becoming clearer. As this CIS report notes, 1) The decree doesn’t just apply to illegal immigrants who were “brought to this country by their parents.” It also would give work permits to those who snuck across the border by themselves as teenagers. “Through no fault of their own” is a talking point for DREAM proselytizers, not an actual legal requirement. 2) The same goes for the phrase “and know only this country as home.” That’s a highly imaginative riff on the decree’s actual requirement, which is for 5 years “continuous residence.”  It turns out “continuous residence” doesn’t mean what you think it means. “Immigration attorneys have been successful in getting immigration courts to whittle this down to a point where it is almost meaningless,” says CIS’s Jon Feere. As an illegal immigrant you can go back home abroad for multiple 6-month stints during those five years–but, if precedent holds, in Janet Napolitano’s eyes you will still “know only this country as home.” …

He has a couple of updates that are worth the read as well that show this for the broad attempt at amnesty it really is.

Look … this may indeed be how it all ends up, but this isn’t how it should be done.  There’s a clear, legal and Constitutional path for changing laws we don’t like or think need to be changed … that is if we are a nation of laws. 

Barack Obama seemed to think that was important once:

I believe that we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

Now?  Not so much.

So here we have the nation’s chief law enforcement officer refusing to enforce the law.

His excuse is he’s frustrated with the lack of movement in Congress (of course he’s exerted no leadership or effort to resolve the issue)?

Hey, wait, wasn’t that the same sort frustration Arizona expressed about the administration’s refusal to enforce the law of the land?

So why is Obama’s refusal to enforce the law rewarded while Arizona’s attempt to enforce it isn’t?

Because George Orwell is alive and well and renaming his book “2012”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


With the options available, why did Obama choose to invoke executive privilege?

That, at least to me, is the pregnant question.  He had a number of other options but  4 months from a critical election, chose the most controversial and potentially damaging one.

Why?

Let’s begin with a quote from  a former White House counsel from a Powerline post:

Even with his fawning press, [President Obama] will pay a price for this one. He knows this, meaning that the documents now to be withheld must be dynamite. They have to show either that Holder knew what was going on with Fast and Furious and approved it, or that he directly committed perjury in his Congressional testimony, or both. I just can’t see any other explanation for such a risky move.

Wasn’t the Washington Post just covering big time the 40th anniversary of Watergate? I wonder how much coverage this one will get.

That’s the result of the move – speculation that the documents being withheld point to perjury by Holder or the President, or both.

So let’s break this down a bit.  If it was all about Holder, why would the president risk this sort of a controversial move this close to an election.  It’s not like he’s never thrown anyone under the bus.  In fact James Carville is on record advising Obama to dump Holder.

Obama had the option, then, of letting Holder face contempt charges (not much happens as we’ve seen in the past, to those who are served with contempt of Congress charges) and drag out the document release until after the election.

With the election season gearing up, it is likely that while the controversy would have been an issue, it wouldn’t have been a major issue.   Now it certainly is.

He could have asked Holder to resign.  He could have then used the opportunity to appear as a statesman, a leader and bi-partisan all in one fell swoop.  Depending on how he handled that it could actually have been a positive for him heading into an election.  In the meantime, an acting AG could continue to delay on providing documents.

But he did neither of those things.  For some unknown reason (at least to this point) he chose to do the least likely and most politically damaging thing – invoke executive privilege.  As the lawyer quoted has said, those documents must be “dynamite” to have the president make this move.

And, unsaid by the lawyer is the speculation that the documents show the involvement of the White House to a degree that is damaging – apparently more damaging than the speculation and attention this move by the President has brought.

David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy gives you a great history of the controversy.  As for the documents Kopel notes:

According to Attorney General Holder, the DOJ has 140,000 documents related to Fast & Furious. Fewer than 8,000 have been provided to Congress pursuant to subpoenas. The contempt vote has been narrowed to 1,300 documents. In refusing to comply with the House subpoenas, the DOJ has refused to create a privilege log–which would identify withheld documents, and the legal reason for their being withheld.

Matthew Boyle at the DC caller points out that Holder has retracted two previous statements he made to Congress where he gave them inaccurate information in an attempt to blame previous AGs or administrations.  It seems that’s a standard operating procedure with all parts of this administration.  So Holder is left holding the bag all by himself on this one, or so it seemed, at least, to the point that executive privilege was invoked.

That brings us to these 4 point by Todd Gaziano at the Heritage Foundation about the use of executive privilege:

First, the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that Nixon’s purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason. There is reason to suspect that this might be the case in the Fast and Furious cover-up and stonewalling effort. Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more.

Second, even the “deliberative process” species of executive privilege, which is reasonably broad, does not shield the ultimate decisions from congressional inquiry. Congress is entitled to at least some documents and other information that indicate who the ultimate decision maker was for this disastrous program and why these decisions were made. That information is among the most important documents that are being withheld.

Third, the Supreme Court in the Nixon case also held that even a proper invocation must yield to other branches’ need for information in some cases. So even a proper invocation of executive privilege regarding particular documents is not final.

And lastly, the President is required when invoking executive privilege to try to accommodate the other branches’ legitimate information needs in some other way. For example, it does not harm executive power for the President to selectively waive executive privilege in most instances, even if it hurts him politically by exposing a terrible policy failure or wrongdoing among his staff. The history of executive–congressional relations is filled with accommodations and waivers of privilege. In contrast to voluntary waivers of privilege, Watergate demonstrates that wrongful invocations of privilege can seriously damage the office of the presidency when Congress and the courts impose new constraints on the President’s discretion or power (some rightful and some not).

The key point, of course, is executive privilege cannot be used to “shield wrongdoing”.  While it is speculative, it appears highly likely – given the other options available – that executive privilege is being used for precisely that reason in this case.

Additionally, given the choices available to the President, it is not at all out of bounds to speculate that the most transparent administration in history is trying desperately to hide something even more terrible than the political fallout from this choice.

The White House cites internal discussions and ongoing investigations are the reason for its denial and claims the investigations would be jeopardized with the release of the documents.  But, as Gaziano points out, accommodations can be made in that regard.  The total number of documents requested is 1,300.  The White House is simply refusing to cooperate or accommodate.

Why?

We’re still left with that question.  

And the answer, given the  actions to date, lead to some logical speculation – what is contained in those documents is much more damaging politically than the damage done by the decision.  Additionally, Obama can’t afford to let Holder go because if he does there’s the potential that Holder will then spill the beans.

Oh, and finally, this move has suddenly brought Fast and Furious to page one and the top of the newscast like nothing else could.  The majority of the country, which was mostly ignorant of this scandal are now in the loop.

As the cited former White House counsel said, “the documents now to be withheld must be dynamite.”  In fact, they must be so explosive that the White House is desperate enough to try to weather this self-inflicted political storm in lieu of exposing them.

That says a lot.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama allows Holder to “hide behind” executive privilege

I’m sure no one is surprised that the most transparent administration in history has chosen to invoke executive privilege in the Fast and Furious investigation being conducted by Congress and deny that institution it’s ability to conduct its oversight responsibility.

Here’s President Obama as candidate Obama in 2007 talking about the use of executive privilege (btw, irony alert – note the CNN banner – the answer? No.):

 

 

That was then when it was the GOP’s fat in the fire. However, now that it is his and Eric Holder’s that’s being roasted, well that’s different.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) criticized the White House. "How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen?" Mr. Grassley said.

Details, details. 

At issue are Justice Department documents that Messrs. Issa and Grassley have sought and that the department resisted turning over in the congressional investigation into a botched gun-trafficking probe called Fast and Furious. The department said the documents reflected internal deliberation or were related to continuing criminal investigations and therefore weren’t subject to congressional subpoena.

Of course no one knows if any of that is true (or true of all the documents requested) since no one outside the Justice Department is able to inspect them.  And this was an operation that AG Holder characterized as a “low-level operation”.  Now, suddenly it needs executive protection?  Seems like a heck of a sudden escalation in “levels” doesn’t it?

Apparently the decision to invoke executive privilege came after a meeting between AG Holder and Rep. Issa:

Messrs. Issa and Holder met Tuesday for 20 minutes. From their accounts, it has become a game of chicken, with each side insisting the other act first to resolve the standoff.

Mr. Holder said Mr. Issa rejected his offer to provide documents because the lawmaker wouldn’t agree that they would fulfill a subpoena, effectively ending the contempt threat. Mr. Issa said the attorney general didn’t come prepared to provide documents and that the contempt threat can’t be removed until the documents are produced.

Holder then proceeded to take the documents off the table via the President and executive privilege.

Mr. Grassley said Tuesday night: "The attorney general wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today. He wants to turn over only what he wants to turn over and not give us any information about what he’s not turning over. That’s unacceptable. I’m not going to buy a pig in a poke. Chairman Issa is right to move forward to seek answers about a disastrous government operation."

Contempt of Congress should now move forward.  Frankly, Holder has been contemptuous of the law since the first day he took the office of the Attorney General.

And, for most folks, human nature says that those who have something they don’t want known have a tendency to try to hide it.  Whether true or not, that’s how it appears … just as it did in the example in the video when Obama spoke out against the use of what he invoked today.

Matt Burden came up with my favorite bit of irony today as concerns this burgeoning fiasco:

Okay, I want to know what freaking idiot leaks all kinds of classified operations putting military, civilian agents, and allies at risk but pulls EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE on Fast and Furious documents (that AG Holder said was a low level op)?!

Oh, wait…

Heh …

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Quote of the Day: McCain says more dumb things edition

In a recent rant about money in politics, a still bitter Sen. John McCain, had this to say about billionaire Sheldon Adleson’s 10 million dollar donation to the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future.

"Much of Mr. Adelson’s casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau, which says that obviously, maybe in a roundabout way foreign money is coming into an American political campaign," McCain said in an interview on PBS’s News Hour.

"That is a great deal of money, and we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization… that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and corporations are not people," he said.

That is one of the stupidest attempts to tie money to a foreign government I’ve yet seen.  And make no mistake, that’s precisely what McCain is trying to imply here.  There is no other reason to bring up the source.  It’s a bit like saying that if Adelson had casinos on the French Riviera that he would be funneling French money into the election.

Hey, McCain, he also owns half of Las Vegas.  Oh, and the “profits”  from “Macau”?  They come from people who have lost money there (and, btw, they’re not all Chinese).

McCain still can’t get over the fact that his attempt to stifle free speech was found to be unconstitutional. 

McCain called the decision "the most misguided, naïve, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st Century," and money would be playing a dominant role in American politics for the foreseeable future.

"There will be scandals, there’s just too much money washing around Washington today… I’m afraid we’re for a very bleak period in American politics," he said. "To somehow view money as not having a corrupting effect on elections flies in the face of reality."

His reasoning is a bit like the gun grabbers reasoning that it is guns that are the cause of violent crime, not people.  He believes that if the means of corruption is removed, there’ll be no corruption.

Really?  What is naïve, misguided and uniformed is thinking like that, not to mention repeated attempts to control political speech by this man. 

If there is a Tea Party in Arizona, please, do a Dick Lugar on this guy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Civil asset forfeiture: a legal scam

As I’ve mentioned before, this is one that burns me up about as much as anything that government/law enforcement does.  Again, I want to make it clear – this nonsense exists because of the drug war.

First an explanation:

Civil asset forfeiture is based on the premise that a piece of property — a car, a pile of cash, a house — can be guilty of a crime. Laws vary from state to state, but generally, law enforcement officials can seize property if they can show any connection between the property and illegal activity. It is then up to the owner of the property to prove in court that he owns it or earned it legitimately. It doesn’t require a property owner to actually be convicted of a crime. In fact, most people who lose property to civil asset forfeiture are never charged.

The laws were created to go after the ill-gotten gains of big-time dealers, but critics say they’ve since become a way for police departments to generate revenue — often by targeting lower-level offenders.

In fact, in the case I’m about to relate, law enforcement has put together as much a “sure thing” as can be imagined.  Read this and be disgusted:

When the Brown County, Wis., Drug Task Force arrested her son Joel last February, Beverly Greer started piecing together his bail.

She used part of her disability payment and her tax return. Joel Greer’s wife also chipped in, as did his brother and two sisters. On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer’s bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. "The police specifically told us to bring cash," Greer says. "Not a cashier’s check or a credit card. They said cash."

So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she’d be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son.

Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers’ cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills — and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money.

"I told them the money had just come from the bank," Beverly Greer says. "We had just taken it out. If the money had drugs on it, then they should go seize all the money at the bank, too. I just don’t understand how they could do that."

The Greers had been subjected to civil asset forfeiture, a policy that lets police confiscate money and property even if they can only loosely connect them to drug activity. The cash, or revenue from the property seized, often goes back to the coffers of the police department that confiscated it. It’s a policy critics say is often abused, but experts told The HuffPost that the way the law is applied to bail money in Brown County is exceptionally unfair.

Indeed it was.  Why?  Because the county demanded cash, and, as Snopes tells us, about 80% of the cash in the US has traces of drugs on them (specifically cocaine):

In one 1985 study done by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on the money machines in a U.S. Federal Reserve district bank, random samples of $50 and $100 bills revealed that a third to a half of all currency tested bore traces of cocaine.  Moreover, the machines themselves were often found to test positive, meaning that subsequent batches of cash fed through them would also pick up cocaine residue.  Expert evidence given before a federal appeals court in 1995 showed that three out of four bills randomly examined in the Los Angeles area bore traces of the drug.  In a 1997 study conducted at Argonne National laboratory, nearly four out of five bills in Chicago suburbs were found to bear discernible traces of cocaine.  In another study, more than 135 bills from seven U.S. cities were tested and all but four were contaminated with traces of cocaine.  These bills had been collected from restaurants, stores and banks in cities from Milwaukee to Dallas.

A single bill used to snort cocaine or otherwise mingled with the drug can contaminate an entire cash drawer.  When counting and sorting machines (which fan the bills, and thus the cocaine) are factored in, it’s no wonder that so much of the currency now in circulation wouldn’t pass any purity tests.

Of course, you can bet Brown County law enforcement is completely aware of this little factoid, thus the cash requirement for bail and, for them, the profitable inevitable outcome.

That’s why I call it what it truly is – a scam to cheat people out of their money perpetrated by the very people whose job it is to protect you from scam artists.  You have law enforcement knowingly setting up a situation in which they’re sure they’ll be able to take bail money under this civil asset forfeiture travesty because it will test positive for drugs.

In this case, it didn’t turn out so well for the thieves at the sheriff’s office:

It took four months for Beverly Greer to get her family’s money back, and then only after attorney Andy Williams agreed to take their case. "The family produced the ATM receipts proving that had recently withdrawn the money," Williams says. "Beverly Greer had documentation for her disability check and her tax return. Even then, the police tried to keep their money."

In this case there’s a fairly simple way to stop this sort of blatant thievery.  More options for payment (cashier’s check) other than cash.

However, it is civil asset forfeiture that needs to go the way of the Dodo bird:

In 2010, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian law firm, rated the forfeiture laws in all 50 states, assigning higher grades to states with fairer policies. The firm gave Wisconsin a "C." When there’s less than $2,000 at stake, law enforcement agencies in the state get to keep 70 percent of what they take. If more than $2,000 is taken, departments can keep half.

But in all states, police agencies can contact the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), making the case federal, and under federal law, local police departments can keep up to 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds, with the rest going to the Department of Justice. The institute reports that between 2000 and 2008, police agencies in Wisconsin took in $50 million from this "equitable sharing" program with the federal government.

When provided such an incentive, what is the usual reaction?  As demonstrated by this particular case where they took bail money, it has nothing to do with the pursuit of “big-time dealers” does it?  Instead, they’re just after low hanging fruit, which in this case also happened to be low-income people who had to scrape and borrow just to raise the bail.

That’s “law enforcement”?

That’s scamming the public for profit.  And it is an inexcusable breach of trust between law enforcement and the public. 

If anyone should be in jail, it is those who’ve perpetrated this travesty and those who use it to cheat the public.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Another bad day at the Supreme Court for the Obama administration

When the oral arguments were being made for ObamaCare, I made the observation that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli sounded like a man trying to defend arguments he really didn’t believe in.  Add to that the fact that they were weak arguments and you have a man facing the Supreme Court who sounded like he was in over his head.

Verrilli had another such day yesterday, as John Hinderaker  at Powerline notes.  This time the court was hearing arguments about the Arizona immigration law.  Hinderaker reviewed the transcript of Verilli’s arguments and concluded, “the problem was not with Verrilli but rather with the quality of the arguments that he was required to make by his client, the Obama administration.”

Example:

JUSTICE KENNEDY: So you’re saying the government has a legitimate interest in not enforcing its laws?

GENERAL VERRILLI: No. We have a legitimate interest in enforcing the law, of course, but it needs to be — but these — this Court has said over and over again, has recognized that the — the balance of interest that has to be achieved in enforcing the — the immigration laws is exceedingly delicate and complex, and it involves consideration of foreign relations, it involves humanitarian concerns, and it also involves public order and public –

Hinderaker calls the response “incoherent”.  Scalia follows up:

JUSTICE SCALIA: So we have to — we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico. Is that what you’re saying?

GENERAL VERRILLI: No, Your Honor, but what — no, Your Honor, I’m not saying that –

JUSTICE SCALIA: Sounded like what you were saying.

That’s pretty pointed.  That also indicates that the argument isn’t resonating with the court.  Hinderaker summarizes the argument that Verrilli is being forced to defend:

Of course, what is going on here is that the Obama administration doesn’t want to enforce the immigration laws that Congress has enacted. The essence of its position in the Arizona case is that the federal government has the right to decide not to enforce the law, and if it so decides, then no state has the power, under the Constitution, to do anything that would tend to enforce those federal laws. So if the Obama administration decides that it will gain political advantage by ignoring federal laws against illegal immigration, states like Arizona just have to take the consequences without complaining.

That understanding is what is driving questions like those from Scalia and Kennedy.  It is indeed an indefensible position, especially in a nation that claims to be a nation of laws, not men.

How indefensible?  Even Justice Sotomayor isn’t buying:

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Can I get to a different question? I think even I or someone else cut you off when you said there were three reasons why — 2(B). Putting aside your argument that this — that a systematic cooperation is wrong — you can see it’s not selling very well — why don’t you try to come up with something else? Because I, frankly — as the chief has said to you, it’s not that it’s forcing you to change your enforcement priorities. You don’t have to take the person into custody. So what’s left of your argument?

Of course this sets up the inevitable “shock” on the left.  I’m sure they thought that, as in the case of ObamaCare, their arguments were Constitutionally ironclad.

While Verrilli may not be the smoothest SG we’ve ever had, he’s been consistently thrust before the court with abysmal arguments in which he is forced to defend laws or actions which are at best questionably constitutional.  At best.

When even a Obama appointed justice isn’t buying the administration’s argument, well, it must be a pretty lousy argument.  And, of course, claiming the right not to enforce the law and then claiming Constitutional cover to force states to have to live with the results of the federal government’s decision not to enforce the laws of the land is a pretty lousy argument.

But that’s what he’s stuck with.

Obviously none of this means the court will end up finding for Arizona.  But, as Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS blog points out, indications seem to point to some interest in the court in doing so:

In an oral argument that ran 20 minutes beyond the scheduled hour, the Justices focused tightly on the actual operation of the four specific provisions of the law at issue, and most of the Court seemed prepared to accept that Arizona police would act in measured ways as they arrest and detain individuals they think might be in the U.S. illegally.  And most of the Justices seemed somewhat skeptical that the federal government would have to change its own immigration priorities just because states were becoming more active.

At the end of the argument in Arizona v. United States (11-182), though, the question remained how a final opinion might be written to enlarge states’ power to deal with some 12 million foreign nationals without basing that authority upon the Scalia view that states have a free hand under the Constitution to craft their own immigration policies.   The other Justices who spoke up obviously did not want to turn states entirely loose in this field.  So perhaps not all of the four clauses would survive — especially vulnerable may be sections that created new state crimes as a way to enforce federal immigration restrictions.

As should be clear, there seems to be an interest in accommodating portions of the Arizona law that the court feels are “reasonable”.  That is contrary to what the left assured us would be the courts position on Arizona’s “draconian” immigration law.

In fact, should the court find for Arizona in some of the key provisions, I’m sure we’ll hear the left’s usual defense – judicial activism. 

The irony, of course, is that the Obama economy has been the best means of reversing the tide of illegal immigration.  According to reports we now have net illegal emigration taking place.

That seems like the perfect point to settle this.  The federal government, under the Constitution, has a legal obligation to enforce the laws passed by Congress.  It hasn’t been doing that.  And that’s the real point here.   It will be interesting to see how the court handles that particular point.  Meanwhile, it appears that key portions of the AZ bill may survive.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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