Free Markets, Free People

Ethics


House Judiciary Committee to investigate DoJ issues surrounding New Black Panther voter intimidation case

Jennifer Rubin reports that the House Judiciary Committee under new Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has issued its first oversight letter to the Department of Justice.  Subject?  The New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case as race based enforcement guidelines within the DoJ.

To quote the letter:

"Allegations that the Civil Rights Division has engaged in a practice of race-biased enforcement of voting rights law must be investigated by the Committee."

Indeed.  He gives Holder and DoJ until the 21st to respond to a list of questions including whether Julie Fernandez of DoJ "explicitly or implicitly direct Voting Section staff not to enforce any section of any federal rights statute" or "not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act."   This question stems from the claim by J. Christian Adams that Fernandez  directed DoJ attorneys "not to bring cases against black defendants for the benefit of white victims."

With an all Democratic Congress, DoJ was able to weather the storm these revelations brought as Democrats successfully blocked any attempts to look into the matter officially.  That has obviously changed.

Rubin makes some observations about the letter:

The letter is noteworthy on a number of levels. First, administration flacks and liberal bloggers have insisted that the New Black Panther Party case is much to do about nothing. But as Smith has correctly discerned, the issue of enforcement or non-enforcement of civil rights laws based on a non-colorblind view of those laws is serious and a potentially explosive issue for this administration. Second, Holder’s strategy of stonewalling during the first two years of Obama’s term may have backfired. Had he been forthcoming while Democrats were in the majority, he might have been able to soften the blows; Smith is not about to pull his punches. And finally, Smith is demonstrating the sort of restraint and big-picture focus that is essential for the Republicans if they are to remain credible and demonstrate their capacity for governance.

Bingo on all three.  A worthy issue to investigate, a worthy reason to investigate and it will indeed play to the benefit of Republicans and detriment of Democrats – particularly Holder – but also those who tried to wave it away as “no big deal”.

~McQ


Wikileaks leaker’s legal docs leaked

I’m sorry but I find this both ironic and amusing:

LAWYERS for Julian Assange have expressed anger about an alleged smear campaign against the Australian WikiLeaks founder.

Incriminating police files were published in the British newspaper that has used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

They couldn’t be more outraged than the hundreds of Afghans who cooperated with the US were when their lives were put in jeopardy by this guy.

Yeah, I know, “two wrongs don’t make a right”, but there is a certain bit of satisfying shadenfreude in the scenario.  I’m sure I’ll eventually get over it.

~McQ


Murkowski – willing to sell her political soul to stay in power

The Alaska GOP Senate race has been fascinating to watch.  Primary voters sent a pretty strong message to Washington – “we’re tired of business as usual and, as such, we’re turning out one of the “ruling elite””

Except being one of the “ruling elite” is akin to being a crackhead, apparently.  Unsatisfied that the people don’t want her as their Senatorial representative anymore, Lisa Murkowski first approached the Libertarian party asking for their nomination (already filled by the way by an actual libertarian). As presumptuous (and outrageous) as that was, she seemed miffed with the LP didn’t jump at the chance.

So, instead of gracefully acknowledging that she’s yesterday’s news and no longer wanted by the party of which she was supposedly a member and the people she represented, she’s decided not to endorse their candidate of choice, Joe Miller, and instead run as a write in.

And what’s the first thing she and her campaign staff did prior to announcing a write-in bid?  A little “business as usual” – hit the lobbyists in DC up for money:

Karen Knutson, Murkowski’s chief of staff, emailed scores of top lobbyists in town and employees at some of the largest oil companies – including Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Marathon Oil – to ask them to join the senator on a conference call Saturday, according to a copy of the e-mail and a recipient list obtained by POLITICO.

“To my friends in D.C. – if you are so inclined, please join us for a conference call with Lisa Murkowski tomorrow at 2:30 D.C. time and 10:30 Alaska time,” wrote Knutson. “She would love to have the chance to talk with you and answer any questions you may have. Please let me know if you intend to call in.”

Of course Knutson also wants them to have their checkbooks handy at the time of the call as well. 

And that wasn’t the only appeal the erstwhile “libertarian’s” campaign made:

Knutson also sent the invitation to Democratic superlobbyist Heather Podesta – a clue that Murkowski could seek bipartisan financial support in order to fund her write-in campaign. Federal Election Commission records show Podesta has been a consistent and generous Democratic political donor and has never given to Murkowski before.

Anyone want to bet she gets it this time?  After all, funding Murkowski’s effort only enhances the chances of the Democratic contender by helping split the Republican vote.  If Dems could snag that seat by helping Murkowski, it would be a coup.  And if Murkowski managed to pull of a write-in victory, she’d be beholden to those who financed her win. 

A win-win for Podesta and the Democrats, but certainly not the people of Alaska.  But more importantly it is an indication of addictive nature of the power certain personality types just can’t seem to give up gracefully.  And so they do things like Murkowski has committed too – unable to break their addiction to the power and perks of office.  They end up being willing to sacrifice their integrity, principles and dignity for another six year hit of their chosen drug – power.

They are definitely not the type person or personality any voter should be eager to return to office.  And every time one of them is identified, as is Murkowski, they should be summarily turned out and ignored.

~McQ


The folly of green protectionism

Here’s a formula for you to study:

Green groups want less forestry in the developing world. Industry wants green protectionism to cut the volume of competitive imports. Unions want green protectionism to stop imports to ensure they can keep workers in high-paying jobs.

So using the environment as an excuse, we have these three groups colluding to further their own agendas. Call it “green protectionism”.

In a recent case it has been to keep toilet paper made in foreign countries out of Australia.

That’s right, toilet paper.

Can anyone now figure, based on that formula, what the missing part of the equation might be? The part that is necessary to make such collusion pay off?

Yes, government. Certainly green groups can want less forestry in the developing world, and industry can wish for a way to cut the volume of competitive imports. And unions always hope to ensure high paying jobs.

But only one entity can actually make all those wishes, wants and hopes come true. If government becomes involved it has the power to fulfill the wishes and hopes of these three disparate special interest groups.

That’s what happened in 2008 when two Australian toilet paper manufacturers, Kimberly Clark Australia and SCA Hygiene as well as the Construction Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the World Wildlife Fund essentially colluded to keep foreign manufactured toilet paper, primarily from Indonesia and China out of the country. Their ostensible complaint was those countries were “dumping” their product in Australia.

For a short time they succeeded in getting imports restricted by the Australian Customs Service, until, it seems, the ACS did a study to determine the validity of the complaint. Their findings were significant. The Australian Customs Service report calculated that the potential downward pressure of imports could be as high as 42 percent of the price.

In other words, the collusion would cost consumers in Australia 42% more because the competitive pressure that kept prices low would have been removed. In addition, a recent report commissioned by the Australian government found that “illegally logged material” – one of the prime reasons these groups claimed Australia should ban imports of foreign wood products – only comprised 0.32 percent of the materials coming into Australia. In other words, the threat was insignificant.

That’s Australia, but what about here? Well, we’re hearing the same sorts of rumblings concerning “green protectionism”.

Sadly these campaigns appear to be part of a spreading green protectionist disease, where industry, unions and green groups work together. In the United States the disease was brought to life by the Lacey Act, which imposes extra regulation on imported wood and wood products to certify their origin and make them less competitive.

The Lacey Act is actually an update of a 1900 law that banned the import of illegally caught wildlife. It now includes wood products (2008). And that means, since extra steps and cost are incurred by foreign manufacturers, that consumers are stuck with the increased cost.

While the reasons for protectionism may sound good on the surface – save the forests, higher wages, less competition to ensure jobs – it isn’t a good thing. If freedom is defined by the variety of choices, what protectionism does is limit those choices and impose an unofficial tax on consumers. They end up paying the cost of collusive action between government and special interests.

So, each time your government announces that it is doing you the favor of limiting the imports of this commodity or that, based on “green” concerns, hold on to your wallet. Whatever the government is protecting you from, you can rest assured that the price of the domestic variety is headed up, since the other product of government intrusion is limiting competition. Rule of thumb: restricting free trade is rarely a good thing. And the only entity that can do so is government. “Green” is just the newest color in an old and costly game – protectionism.


Obama doesn’t "get" America, but neither does the media

Peter Kirsanow thinks that Barack Obama somehow doesn’t "get" America and that his flip-flopping on the mosque at Ground Zero is emblematic of that.

He launches into a litany of examples of things and situations which support this claim.  Notice who he holds complicit in all of this.

As Dorothy Rabinowitz has noted, Obama’s alienation from the citizenry is just beginning to be more broadly revealed, but has been on display since the 2008 campaign. The media either failed to report it or chastised anyone who dared notice. When some remarked about Obama’s refusal to do something as simple as wear a flag lapel pin, they were pronounced unsophisticated and jingoistic. Obama’s casual stance during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” was declared a triviality. When Reverend Wright was caught shouting ” G–damn America!” those who wondered whether Obama’s 20 years in Wright’s pews might suggest ideological concurrence were dismissed as alarmist. When some expressed concern that Obama might agree with his wife that America is a “downright mean country” and that perhaps he, too,  for the first time in his adult life, was proud of his country, they were told to grow up.

Then Obama’s association with Bill Ayers emerged and the mainstream media closed ranks and refused, as long as they could, to even report it. And when Obama expressed unalloyed contempt for Midwesterners who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment,” a phalanx formed to assure the public of his pure intentions.

There were other instances throughout the campaign and first months in office suggesting that for Obama, multiculturalism trumps national unity and moral relativism supersedes cultural confidence. His serial apologies for America, embrace of  America-hating Hugo Chávez, and supplication to foreign thugs are consistent with a “blame America first” mentality that may be unremarkable for a political science professor but is toxic for the leader of the greatest nation in history.

By the way, you have to love the last line – proof of which we here at QandO are treated too almost daily in the comment section.

But to the point – the media was absolutely complicit in hiding, not covering or spinning the stories noted.  If Obama had an agenda – and he did – so did the media. Totally unqualified for the job, Obama still got their support because he looked good, he sounded great, he was the dream “diversity” pick and wasn’t a Republican.  And sticking with what they believed to be their arrogant right as journalists to decide what was or wasn’t news, they refused to do what was necessary to qualify the candidate.

In fact, they did nothing, really, to vet the man.  As Kirsanow notes, they actually did all they could to hide these facts and their implications and to chastise those who thought they were important (and they were important).

Someone once said that in a political campaign having the media on your side is worth 5 to 10 points on election day.  Never before, in my lifetime, have I seen that more true than in 2008.  Hopefully, that day is coming to an end with this past election used as an example of what you are likely to get when the media doesn’t do their job.  And for the media, this is a perfect example of why your profession now ranks down there with used car salesmen and Congressmen – and frankly, I’d trust a used car salesman well before I’d trust most in the journalism profession.

That said, I agree with Kirsanow’s thesis.  I don’t think Barack Obama gets America, understands its exceptionalism or is particularly proud of his country.  In fact, Obama, as indicated in his Berlin speech, claims he’s a “citizen of the world”.  While that’s fine, again, in the faculty lounge at any cow college in the land, it’s not exactly something that indicates an understanding of one’s country’s place or role in the world or the job of president.

We elect a president to represent us, not the world.  We want someone who understands the country, it’s founding principles and its exceptional role.  We want someone who is proud to be an American, because that means they have an appreciation and a love of country that should guide them in their governance.  Obama displays none of these traits.  In fact, as noted, he seems almost apologetic about the country and his job when on the world stage.

When 2013 rolls around, it will be time to unload this “mistake” elected through media hype and false promises.  And I only hope that America will have learned a valuable but incredibly expensive lesson in the time being.  Politics isn’t theater and treating it like a beauty contest gets you presidents like this one.  And – believe only half of what you see from journalists and none of what you read.  They pitched any shred of credibility they had in the dust bin in 2008, and there’s no reason to believe they’ve taken it out, dusted it off and are now wearing it again – if ever they were before.

~McQ

 

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Is the "Bush card" the new "get out of jail free" card

It sure seems to me to be how many Democrats view it. If in trouble, ethically challenged, or just doing a miserable job, blame Bush. It has become the all purpose, "get out of jail free" card for Democrats, or so they seem to think.

The latest example?  Why the Democratic Representative from Los Angeles, Maxine Waters.  Instead of answering direct questions concerning her role is obtaining TARP funds for a bank in which her husband had an interest and sat on the board of directors, we got this:

 

Embattled Rep. Maxine Waters on Friday blamed the Bush administration for her ethics problems — saying she had to intervene with the Treasury Department on behalf of minority-owned banks seeking federal bailout funds — including one tied to her husband — because the Treasury Department wouldn’t schedule its own appointments.

[…]

"The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson, but why I had to," she said. "The question at this point should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis."

Actually those aren’t the questions that should be asked.  Instead they should be asking, “why didn’t you disclose the fact that your husband had a position in one of these banks when you came begging for money?”   Or, “if you did nothing ethically wrong, then why is it this information wasn’t volunteered initially when you contacted Sec. Paulson?”   And finally, “would you have contacted the Secretary if a bank in which your husband had an interest hadn’t been part of that association”?

I mean there were plenty of banks in trouble at the time – why that particular association?  Why that particular bank?

This finger pointing and blame-shifting is getting old.  When the meeting Waters demanded took place -surprise, surprise- the officers of only one bank showed up – OneUnited, her husband’s bank.  Payoff (or ripoff if you prefer)?  50 million of your dollars.

Yet somehow it is the Bush administration’s fault.  In fact, everything that is wrong in America isn’t the fault of the Democrats.  Oh no.  They – the masters of victimhood – are the victims of that awful and scurrilous George W. Bush.

*sigh*

Even a third-grader would have learned by now that trying to shift blame on someone else for something you’ve done rarely if ever works.  Democrats have yet to come to that realization.  But, as we’ve often noted here, the pubic certainly has, and for the most part are sick and tired of the whining, crying and attempts to duck responsibility for their actions.

~McQ

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Apparently things were just too darn transparent

So the solution, of course, is to make things a bit more opaque while still pretending to be “transparent”.  And how does one do that?  By kicking the guy dedicated to that job – the so-called “ethics czar” – upstairs, and shifting those responsiblities elsewhere.  Like to someone who is known not to favor transparency at all.

Obama transferred "ethics czar" Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic to serve as U.S. ambassador. Some of Eisen’s duties will be handed to Domestic Policy Council member Steven Croley, but most of them, it appears, will shift over to the already-full docket of White House Counsel Bob Bauer.

Bauer is an insider’s insider.  And in his own words and actions, doesn’t at all favor disclosure of public affairs, at least not like President Transparency promised:

Bauer’s own words — gathered by the diligent folks at the Sunlight Foundation — show disdain for openness and far greater belief in the good intentions of those in power than of those trying to check the powerful. In December 2006, when the Federal Election Commission proposed more precise disclosure requirements for parties, Bauer took aim at the practice of muckraking enabled by such disclosure.

On his blog, Bauer derided the notion "that politicians and parties are pictured as forever trying to get away with something," saying this was an idea for which "there is a market, its product cheaply manufactured and cheaply sold." In other words — we keep too close an eye on our leaders.

And there’s more:

In August 2006 Bauer blogged, "disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned." This is the man the White House has put in charge of making this the most open White House ever.

Most telling might have been Bauer’s statements about proposed regulations of 527 organizations: "If it’s not done with 527 activity as we have seen, it will be done in other ways," he told the Senate rules committee.

"There are other directions, to be sure, that people are actively considering as we speak. Without tipping my hand or those of others who are professionally creative, the money will find an outlet."

So there you go, another political promise from the man who gave us “hope” and “change” quietly changed so that it still conform with the letter of the promise – i.e. there’s still someone in charge of “transparency” – but not its spirit.

If this isn’t a Rahmbo (Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) move, I don’t know what is. It has his fingerprints all over it.

I know – big surprise.

~McQ

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John Kerry "swift boats" himself

You may have figured out by now that I think we pay much too much to government in taxes and that I’m usually all in favor of anyone who figures out how to dodge them legally.

However, there are exceptions to that rule, and all politicians are one of them. If they’re going to make tax law, pass tax law and stick it to all of the "little people", then they should strictly abide by those laws at all levels and not seek to dodge taxes. Especially if they’re the type who have never met a tax they didn’t like.

Call it part of the price they must pay – literally and figuratively – for that power.

John Kerry, or as Jules Critenden calls him, Thurston Howell III (from Gilligan’s Island) has apparently decided that taxes are strictly for the little people and, by the way, job opportunities aren’t his responsibility.

Mr. Howell, er Kerry (who, it is rumored, once served in Vietnam), recently purchased a luxury yacht. The Senator from Massachusetts, however, won’t be docking the yacht there. Instead Rhode Island is his port of choice:

News that Kerry was docking the 76-foot custom-built sloop in Newport, R.I., was first reported in the Herald Friday. Sources told the Herald the yacht cost $7 million, meaning Kerry would owe the state more than $500,000 in excise and sales taxes.

Tsk, tsk – is that a good example to set, sir?  And that’s not all that’s rankled the good folks of Massachusetts (who, by the way, with Romneycare, have the highest insurance premiums in the US).  The yacht was foreign made, while ship builders in Massachusetts claim that it could have just as easily been built there:

With the nation enduring a nasty economy, painful joblessness and extreme belt-tightening, word of the luxury yacht’s foreign construction – as Americans yearn for work – could create a political tempest for Kerry.

“The message is, ‘The American boat builders aren’t good enough, and the Massachusetts people aren’t good enough to maintain it.’ It’s just a bad message all around,” said Connecticut boater Steve Potter, who docks in Charlestown.

Mr. Kerry’s reaction?  Why the great and powerful Oz works in mysterious ways:

When asked to respond to criticism of Kerry’s decision not to buy American, his state director, Drew O’Brien, said: “When it comes to creating and preserving jobs and economic opportunity in Massachusetts, no one has worked harder in Washington than John Kerry. Sen. Kerry is using smarts, clout and good old-fashioned hard work to make the Massachusetts economy grow and prosper.”

Yeah, it’s really hopping, isn’t it?  With an unemployment rate over 9%, I guess that’s good enough that the additional jobs "created and preserved” by having the yacht built in his  home state just didn’t qualify as “smarts”.

Great example set there, Mr. Kerry.  If this is an example of the “smarts” you employ, everyone should be on their knees thanking the deity of their choice for the fact that you lost the presidential election and didn’t get anywhere near the Oval Office.

~McQ

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Journolist – conspiracy, colloboration and propaganda on the left

Conspiracy may be a loaded word in this case, but it certainly has a hint of it.

If you’re not familiar with Journolist, it’s a email listserv that serves a collection of lefty journalists. Up until recently, what goes on on Journolist has stayed on Journolist.

But among allegations that journalists on "journolist" actively conspired and collaborated in an attempt to dampen criticism of Obama and to change the subject or attack those criticizing him obviously would create interest in seeing proof.

Enter the Daily Caller. The DC has apparently gotten its hands on some of the list’s archives from that time and, unsurprisingly, was able to make rumor into fact.

For instance, the list apparently had a discussion of questions asked of Obama during a debate hosted by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Specifically questions about Rev. Wright. Reaction on the list was swift and, well, you can decide for yourself:

Thomas Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun as well as a political science professor, upped the ante from there. In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.

Coordination, collaboration, conspiracy  – certainly not illegal, but definitely ethically questionable.  But then the left has always seen politics as a war where the right has mostly seen it as a process.  And, as the old saying goes, “all’s fair in love and war”, and that apparently includes ethically questionable ethics by leftist journalists.

And then there’s this – something the right has always assumed but was never able to point to factually.  Well now you can:

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

As most have assumed, calling someone a racist is the way some on the left choose to a) change the subject, b) deflect attention or c) end the debate/criticism.   It used to be a powerful charge.  Now, as you can see, it has merely become a political tool.  What is going on between the NAACP and the Tea Party is a perfect example.

Another gem:

Katha Pollitt – Hayes’s colleague at the Nation – didn’t disagree on principle, though she did sound weary of the propaganda. “I hear you. but I am really tired of defending the indefensible. The people who attacked Clinton on Monica were prissy and ridiculous, but let me tell you it was no fun, as a feminist and a woman, waving aside as politically irrelevant and part of the vast rightwing conspiracy Paula, Monica, Kathleen, Juanita,” Pollitt said.

Principle?  Hey she said it – just wave it aside politically when it is your side doing the violation of it, huh Ms. Pollitt.  Of course that particular incident was the death of leftist feminism because as Pollitt and her ilk were “waving aside” all of that, real people were noting the hypocrisy and waving the feminists aside as well – permanently.

As more and more comes out from the list archives, I’m sure we’ll find even more of our assumptions about leftist “journalists” confirmed.  And that, of course, makes it easier and easier to dismiss what they have to say as having any real heft or importance.

Hey, they did it to themselves.  Let them live with it while we wave them away as irrelevant.

~McQ

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Health insurance mandate – Obama administration now arguing it is a tax

Having made it up as they go, the Obama administration is now arguing that the mandate to buy insurance coverage under Obamacare is a perfectly legal tax.

That, of course, after the President denied it was a tax in order to sell it:

“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” the president said last September, in a spirited exchange with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “This Week.”

When Mr. Stephanopoulos said the penalty appeared to fit the dictionary definition of a tax, Mr. Obama replied, “I absolutely reject that notion.”

You can tell he was a constitutional expert when he taught, can’t you?

So much so that the Department of Justice, in a brief defending the law, claims it to be a "valid exercise of the Congressional power to impose taxes:

Congress can use its taxing power “even for purposes that would exceed its powers under other provisions” of the Constitution, the department said. For more than a century, it added, the Supreme Court has held that Congress can tax activities that it could not reach by using its power to regulate commerce.

Except Congress doesn’t argue that at all.  Instead it relies on the Commerce Clause as its justification for the mandate:

Congress anticipated a constitutional challenge to the individual mandate. Accordingly, the law includes 10 detailed findings meant to show that the mandate regulates commercial activity important to the nation’s economy. Nowhere does Congress cite its taxing power as a source of authority.

And then, per the White House, if any additional authority is needed – other than the power to define and then levy taxes (Congress) or the commerce clause, why just consult the General Welfare Clause.  They have more Constitutional ways to make you buy something you may not want than you can imagine:

“The Commerce Clause supplies sufficient authority for the shared-responsibility requirements in the new health reform law,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “To the extent that there is any question of additional authority — and we don’t believe there is — it would be available through the General Welfare Clause.”

One has to assume they just plan on overwhelming the Court with as many “viable alternatives” as it takes to get their way.

One Yale professor says the tax argument – the one Mr. Obama denied – is the strongest argument:

Jack M. Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School who supports the new law, said, “The tax argument is the strongest argument for upholding” the individual-coverage requirement.

Mr. Obama “has not been honest with the American people about the nature of this bill,” Mr. Balkin said last month at a meeting of the American Constitution Society, a progressive legal organization. “This bill is a tax. Because it’s a tax, it’s completely constitutional.”

Nice.

Smoke, mirrors, deceit and debt.  That’s what you get for trusting a snake-oil salesman with your health care.  Oh and this:

“This is the first time that Congress has ever ordered Americans to use their own money to purchase a particular good or service,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.

If this survives the court challenge, it won’t be the last – trust me on that.

The irony, of course, is the Constitution was written to limit government and keep it off our back.  Instead it is now being used to expand government and intrude more and more deeply in our lives.

~McQ

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