A “surprising” development:
For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army’s use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday’s army attack.
Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.
"When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen," said Monk Ava Bishoy. "Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest."
The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.
Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. "The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying ‘Lord have mercy’ without running away. This is what really upset them," he said. "As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Victory, Victory’."
He also added that the army prevented the monastery’s car from taking the injured to hospital.
Says the Army:
The Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that any attack took place on St. Bishoy Monastery in Wady el-Natroun, "Reflecting our belief in the freedom and chastity of places of worship of all Egyptians." The statement went on to say that the army just demolished some fences built on State property and that it has no intention of demolishing the monastery itself (video of army shooting at Monastery).
Heh … yeah the spring of peace, love and moon ponies the gullible expected to come out of all of this is off to a roaring start, no? Fence demolition, Egyptian style – done with RPGs, machine guns and tanks all while pumping sunshine up your posterior and denying what is on video.
Sounds like a "new day" in Egypt to me … you?
The mantra amongst the warmist community is that if we don’t curb our carbon emissions drastically, the planet will warm severely and wreak all sorts of havoc. While the actual science doesn’t support that notion, the levers of power around the world are encouraged to heed the warmists’ warnings by curbing freedom and subsidizing things like the “green economy.” The London suburb community known as Muswell Hill took some initiative in that regard and built The Living Ark:
The LivingARK is a zero-carbon cabin designed to facilitate education on low carbon building technologies and raise awareness of climate change. It will be used to showcase sustainability not only to Muswell Hill Primary School pupils but to other local schools, community groups and residents. There are educational information boards both inside and outside the ARK which will explain the concept of a zero-carbon building and will also cover wider ranging topics such as sustainable transport, food-growing and an explanation of climate change.
Presumably, it’s called an Ark in reference to the massive flooding that’s supposed to happen thanks to Anthropogenic Global Warming. Ironically, its designed to prevent such a catastrophe from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, the designers forgot that England doesn’t get a whole lot of sun:
Eco-campaigners who built a classroom powered by the sun believed they were paving the way for the future.
Instead they have been taught a valuable lesson – there is not enough sun in North London to sufficiently heat their building.
It boasts laudable green credentials and is made from sustainable wood, sheep’s wool and soil. The roof is made of mud and grass and it has its own ‘rain pod’ and solar panels.
But there is snag – its solar panels only provide enough energy to power a few lightbulbs.
As a result the classroom is bitterly cold and uninhabitable for lessons.
Oops. And at a cost of just over $40,000, and rather expensive “oops.”
Local councillors, at Labour run Haringey council, who were behind the initiative, opened it with great fanfare in December as a beacon of their climate change policy.
But today a local parent at the 419-pupil school said teachers weren’t allowing pupils into the classroom because it was too cold.
‘What is the point of a classroom that can’t be used when it’s a bit cold outside? My kids have been told it’s too cold for them to use as nobody can figure out how to heat it,’ said the parent, who did not want to be named.
‘This is just an expensive piece of hollowed out wood and no use to anyone. We are living in Britain, not the Caribbean.’
The ‘waste’ of money comes as councils across the country are facing a severe shortage of school places.
By 2018 they will need to find an additional 500,000 primary places due to a population surge.
Once again cold, hard reality smacks down attempts to wish a fantasy world into existence. Maybe they, and the rest of the warmist cult, should pay a little more attention to that science stuff that nanny-staters are always claiming to be so fond of.
I’m sympathetic with the argument – even in this era of austerity – that DoD made a mistake by stopping the production of the F-22 Raptor. It is the premier air superiority fighter in the world (5th generation stealth). It was designed to keep our edge in air superiority/air dominance that we’ve enjoyed for 56 years or since the Korean war (no soldier or Marine on the ground has been killed in that time frame by enemy air).
But in a recent WSJ article (subscription), Michael Auslin attempts to make the case that F-22 production ought to be revived (I agree) and paid for by cutting F-35s (I disagree). Yes, I think we need more F-22s. We’ve manufactured about 180 to replace a fleet of 4th generation air superiority fighters than number 800. Not exactly a number that is able to give us the flexibility we need to do all the missions those 800 allowed us.
So Auslin’s arguments that we need more F-22s make sense.
What doesn’t make sense are his arguments that F-35s should be cut to do so. He gives three reasons why the F-22 should be funded via cuts in F-35s:
• The emergence of foreign challengers. Russia and China are steadily developing heavy, twin- engine aircraft with stealth capabilities. Based on their size and potential capabilities, the smaller, single-engine F-35 probably will not have the speed or power to compete.
The Chinese ostentatiously first test-flew their J-20 prototype last month during Mr. Gates’s visit to Beijing. Western analysts are still debating the plane’s capabilities. Some believe it will serve as a supersonic fighter-bomber, given its large size (more than 20% bigger than the F-22 itself). Whatever the ultimate capabilities of the J-20 or the Russian PAK-FA turn out to be, we can expect more surprises in their development. The U.S. government apparently did not know about two new Chinese nuclear submarine models until they were revealed on the Internet several years ago.
Here’s a dirty little secret – speed and power aren’t what will determine who wins future battles between 5th generation fighters. As missile and radar technology have advanced over the years, those type fights have taken place at longer and longer range – to include over the horizon attacks. What will determine who will win those type fights is the range, reliability and speed of the missiles and the ability of the radar systems on board to detect the enemy before he detects you.
It really doesn’t matter how many engines an aircraft has or how fast it can go, a manned aircraft cannot outrun a missile. If the F-35 has the better missiles and the better and longer range detection capability, it should do just fine.
• Sophisticated air defenses are a growing threat to American fighters. Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, among others, are developing and fielding integrated air-defense systems, including interlinked radar sites and advanced surface-to-air missiles such as the S-400. The lower operational ceiling of the F-35 (around 40,000 feet) and its subsonic cruising speed means it will be at much higher risk in attempting to penetrate such heavily defended airspace.
The F-22 was designed precisely to fight and survive in such environments—as attested by its 60,000-foot operational ceiling and supercruise (cruising at plus-mach speeds without afterburners) ability.
This is simply not accurate. Air superiority fighters do not take out enemy air defenses and the operational ceiling or speed has little if anything to do with any ability to accomplish that mission. The military has a doctrine which is called Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) which requires strikes on enemy air defense sites before we introduce air superiority platforms such as the F-22 into the conflicted air space.
Aircraft of choice? Multi-role fighters. Presently the Airforce uses the F-16, a multi-role single engine fighter with HARM missiles. The Navy and Marine Corps use the F/A 18, a multi-role fighter. The F-35 is perfect for the role … not the F-22.
• F-35 delays and cost overruns. The JSF program has run into numerous delays and cost increases, with the unit price of each plane nearing $100 million. In early January, Mr. Gates put the F-35B program on hold for two years, as its vertical take-off-and-landing capabilities ran into significant development problems. Many industry observers question whether the F-35 will reach initial operating capability before the end of this decade. And given the rising costs of the plane, the likelihood of further procurement cuts is very real, putting the F-35 potentially on the same death-spiral as the F-22.
Again, not really accurate. The F-35 is well on its way to reaching "initial operating capability" before the end of the decade. The A and C variants (The Airforce and Navy) are on target and ahead in their flight testing programs. The B variant (the STVOL Marine Corps version) is the one that has given the most problems, but it appears the problems are known, understood and not show stoppers.
Look, the F-35 is a developmental aircraft. That means they’re taking something from concept to reality based on capabilities the customer (in this case DoD) has asked for. That means you design, test, refine, retest, fix and finally deploy the product. It’s a long and laborious process that, as you might imagine, costs money. However, the F-35 cost model is based on consistent and predictable increases in production rates to maintain program affordability. If the current production projections are maintained, the average unit cost of the Conventional Take Off and Landing variant (the Airforce model) will be about $65M (in 2010 dollars). That’s about the same cost as a fully mission equipped 4th generation F-16 costs today.
What Auslin wants to do is cut the production rate of F-35s (in favor of more F-22s) which would make the cost problem he quotes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
I think Auslin is right about needing more F-22s. I don’t disagree in the least. Even in these days of austerity, I think closing down the production line for these aircraft is a strategic mistake. We many not need 800 of them, but we need more than the number we’ve now produced.
However, I think doing so at the expense of the F-35 would be a bigger mistake. Both aircraft are vital to our ability to dominate the battlefield of the future, both in the air and on the ground. Like it or not, our potential enemies are going to build and field 5th generation fighters that we may meet someday in combat. Both of these aircraft will be vital to our effort then. What we don’t need is cannibalizing capability on one side to pay for it on the other. We can be sure those building rival 5th generation fighter aircraft certainly won’t.
I’m increasingly leery of the worth of the information put out by the CBO simply because in many cases it seems to fit the definition of GIGO. This would be one of those instances. CBO now claims that the $821 billion “stimulus” money saved or create “between 1.4 million and 3.5 million” jobs.
Really? Can’t narrow it down any closer than that? Well no, because:
This estimate seeks to state the net impact the stimulus had on the number of people employed in the United States as a result of the stimulus, taking into account not only the new jobs believed to be created and the existing jobs believed to be killed by the stimulus, but also the existing jobs that were saved that otherwise would have been lost.
It is all about estimates based on some sort of criteria that isn’t clear to anyone apparently. And it certainly isn’t centered on hard data – not with a range like that.
Here’s how I look at it. The administration said that if we didn’t pass the stimulus, the unemployment rate would hit 8%. If we did, it promised that the unemployment rate would stay below 8%. The stimulus was passed, the money supposedly spent and the unemployment rate went to 10%.
That, in my way of thinking, is stimulus FAIL.
Now they want to argue about how it could have been worse? That it was prudent to spend at least $228,055 per job they believe (because they’re obviously not sure) they may have created or saved?
Yeah, I’m sticking with “stimulus FAIL” and a total waste of borrowed money.
Right now, in Libya, there are hundreds of Americans waiting for evacuation … by ferry.
Seriously. The State Department has chartered a ferry to take the hundreds of waiting Americans to Malta. But rough seas have delayed the ferry’s departure until Friday.
So where is our military and why aren’t they involved in the evacuation of Americans threatened by the violence in Libya?
Well there’s actually a simple answer to that:
So far the State Department has not requested the U.S. military to assist in the evacuation of civilians from Libya, something it would specifically have to request. Several U.S. officials have confirmed to CNN there is a vigorous debate inside the administration about whether to involve the military because of concern it could cause further provocations by the Libyan regime.
Ah … fear and intimidation. Assume the worst and … do nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean “nothing”. Per POLITICO’s Morning Defense newsletter:
THERE IS NO U.S. MILITARY ROLE IN LIBYA FOR NOW, officials across Washington said Wednesday. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t explicitly reject calls by McCain, Lieberman and others for a no-fly zone above the country, but that seemed unlikely for the present. Gates told The Weekly Standard the U.S. hasn’t talked with NATO about doing anything. Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Wednesday the Pentagon had received no requests to stand up a no-fly zone or use its ships or aircraft to help evacuate Americans.
Nothing. That’s not to say that the military isn’t trying to at least be prepared should someone decide to call them and ask that they help look out for the safety and security of Americans in an apparent war zone:
In the first indication the crisis with Libya could take on a military dimension, the Pentagon is looking at "all options" it can offer President Barack Obama in dealing with the Libyan crisis a senior U.S. military official tells CNN.
The official declined to be identified because of the extremely sensitive nature of the situation but he has direct knowledge of the current military planning effort.
"Our job is to give options from the military side and that is what we are thinking about now," he said. "We will provide the president with options should he need them."
While all true, we’re in the 10th day of this blowup … 10th day! And apparently the military, on its own initiative, is trying to provide options to the national governing authority that it has just as apparently not requested. Notice the wording in the very last sentence above. “Will provide” and “should he need them”. That says to me he hasn’t requested them and the military is trying to get ahead of the game without any guidance.
It took the President 9 days to speak out about the situation there and then his remarks were anything but forceful. Even Chris Matthews found them wanting saying they “lacked dignity”. Essentially we got the “unacceptable” line and a promise to send the Secretary of State to … Geneva? Well yes, that’s where she’ll repeat how “unacceptable” all of this is – in 5 days from now, of course.
So in sum, we find out that our government has no plans, other than a ferry – which I’m sure isn’t big enough to carry the full number of Americans from Libya who might need to be evacuated, but, because of violence, haven’t been able to make it to that particular evacuation point – to evacuate the thousands of American citizens there. No military plan. No orders to ships such as the Kearsarge group (which is the closest) or the Enterprise group off Pakistan to redeploy to the coast of Libya to aid in the evacuation of Americans.
As POLITICO’s Morning Defense reminds us:
The Navy and Marines evacuated some 15,000 Americans from Lebanon in 2006, but that was a major undertaking that required several ships.
Well, yes, of course … and we should have had “several ships” moving toward Libya 10 days ago when this thing blew up — that’s what a prudent administration concerned with its citizens abroad would have done in order to try to ensure that the lives of those citizens in Libya were protected.
Instead, 11 days later those citizens get … a ferry?
Since the tragedy in Arizona, where nineteen people were shot (including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and six murdered, talk of “civility” has been plentiful. The right side of the political spectrum was called to the mat for using such horrible words as “target” and “socialism” and having the temerity to employ Hitler/Nazism comparisons in protest signage (that, the truth be told, they weren’t even carrying). Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement were specifically denigrated for employing uncivil “eliminationist” rhetoric that was directly responsible for Mr. Jared Lee Loughner pulling the trigger in that awful event on January 8, 2011.
The gross mendacity (and unintentional preterition) of these charges against the right generally, and the Tea Partiers specifically, is bad enough. That they are leveled with abject hypocrisy is even worse. But politics is not a sport well-played in a tit-for-tat fashion. Everyone is guilty of hyperbole and hypocrisy at some point, regardless of political afflialiation.
What’s truly galling is the way that “civility” is suddenly determined by the language an opponent employs. Civility has nothing to do with words, but instead, everything to do with action. On that score, Democrats are behaving in as uncivil a manner as is possible.
A civilized nation conducts itself according to a defined, written, universally applicable and executable set of laws. Adherence to such laws are the immutable backbone of any society capable of survival. Wanton disregard of such laws inexorably leads to chaos and tyranny. Ergo, “civility” does not depend on people speaking nicely about one another, but upon everyone playing by the same rules.
The current flouting of the legal process in Wisconsin and now Indiana, (and what previously occurred in Texas), is the true definition of uncivil. Ignoring and actively undermining the electoral process is the epitome of “uncivil” action. Whatever harsh words may or may not have been spoken before, civility is still entirely dependent upon the process for determining the course of action in pursuit of public goals. Running away in avoidance of legislative duties smacks of cowardice and worse. It uproots the civil process.
A common observation of the democracy holds that voting is simply a proxy for violence. Fleshed out a bit, the process of electoral action is made in lieu of battle. We could decide the course of society based on bloody battle alone, and let might make right. Instead, civil societies have chosen to allow the consent of the governed to rule, the best of which societies have done so through a responsive and accountable republic. When the governors cease to heed to will of the governed, however, civil society becomes endangered and trouble is inevitable.
No less than Thomas Jefferson warned of the dangers in pursuing “uncivil” means of governance in the “shot across the bow” leading to the American Revolution, entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (emphasis added):
And this his majesty will think we have reason to expect when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendance …
To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as to them shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of Europe, had possessed themselves of the island of Britain then less charged with inhabitants, and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of that country … Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold …
But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable crimes against their people brought on them afterwards the exertion of those sacred and sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on that side the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly that country which had been acquired by the lives, the labors and the fortunes of individual adventurers, was by these princes at several times parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of their fortunes; and by an assumed right of the crown alone were erected into distinct and independent governments
Jefferson later simplified his empirical understanding of how societies work with the infamous quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Another way of comprehending the principle is that a nation of laws only survives as long as the laws are adhered to. Every sovereign, whether composed of one or many, can only retain the authority entrusted to it by the people for as long as it respects that trust. Once it strays, enough to undermine the confidence of the governed, those “sacred and sovereign rights of punishment” will come into play. While such an extreme consequence may be remote at this time, there is no good that can come from enacting the foundations for its execution.
When the basis of a democratic republic — i.e. the electoral process — is entirely ignored and, worse, evaded as a politically inconvenient nuisance to the preferred outcomes of the very people entrusted with the public duty to uphold the republic, is there any doubt that it will fall?
Civility in our political language is certainly useful and desirable, if not actually attainable. In contrast, civility — i.e. respect for the process and outcomes thereof — is the sine qua non of our democratic institutions. While we may prefer the former, we really must insist on the latter.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is again pitching its slanted quarterly “Intelligence Report” in which it shockingly (/sarc) finds over “1,000 hate groups” on the right.
What a surprise.
Don’t forget, this has to do with whatever the SPLC decides constitutes “hate” and apparently that means pretty much whatever it decides fits its agenda of giving the left a pass and demonizing the right. The prefect example of that is how it treats the shooting in Tucson of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords:
That’s in addition to the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, an attack that left six dead that same month. The assailant appeared to be severely mentally ill, but he also seemed to have absorbed certain ideas from the radical right, including the notion that the federal government is evil.
Everyone but the SPLC seems to disagree with the notion that he was motivated by any particular ideology or a certain type of ideas. He was all over the place. Additionally, and inconveniently, the notion that the “federal government is evil” certainly isn’t an exclusive idea of the radical right if the weathermen, SDS, and any number of left-wing groups from the 60s and 70s are any indication. Ask Bill Ayers. Consult with the plethora of black liberation and black separatist movements.
The point, of course, is their treatment of Loughner’s attempt on Giffords is indicative of their ability to rationalize anything they wish too into “right-wing extremism” and thus “hate”. It plays perfectly into their desired theme of an alarming rise of right wing hate groups, whether true or not.
And that’s pretty much how their tagging of other right-wing and “extremist” groups (aka “hate groups”) goes as well. Here’s the key to the SPLC’s “findings”:
“Far-right extremists remain highly energized, even as politicians across the country co-opt many of the radical ideas and issues that are important to them,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report. “This success in having their voices heard in the political arena, where they have long occupied the fringe of conservative thought, might eventually take the wind out of their sails, but so far we’re not seeing any sign of that.
Some of the “radical ideas” the politicians across the country have “co-opt[ed]?” Well here’s a short list as I’ve observed them:
- Immigration laws should be followed and enforced
- Government should spend less
- Government should regulate less
- Government should be smaller
- Government should be less intrusive
- Politicians should be held accountable
Association with any group which might espouse such things (don’t worry, most of the Founding Fathers would fall into the SPLC’s definition of radical right-wing fanatics and members of “hate” groups) and is actively promoting them puts you in the "antigovernment Patriot movement“ whether you like it or not. And of course that makes you a member of a ‘conspiracy minded organization’ which sees the federal government as the "primary enemy".
Add “nativist groups” and plain old vanilla right-wing hate groups and you have an “alarming rise” in hate groups on the right.
The biggest rise among right-wing haters, per the SPLC, is a single “movement” that apparently most threatens the left. The SPLC dutifully takes them on and categorizes them as hate groups in order to demonize them:
But the most dramatic growth in the radical right came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. These conspiracy-minded organizations, which see the federal government as their primary enemy, grew by 61 percent over the previous year. Their numbers increased to 824 groups in 2010, from 512 groups a year earlier. Previously, the only higher count of Patriot groups came in 1996, during the movement’s heyday, when the SPLC found 858 groups. Militias, the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement, grew from 127 groups to 330 – a 160 percent increase.
Never mentioned by name, the obvious “growth” in the “radical right” came from Tea Party groups forming. And, as with much of the left, the SPLC attempts to lay “hate” at the foundation of the Tea Party’s formation:
The number of active hate groups in the United States topped 1,000 for the first time and the antigovernment “Patriot” movement expanded dramatically for the second straight year as the radical right showed continued explosive growth in 2010.
Several factors fueled the growth: resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the lagging economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the government.
I follow the news fairly closely, but I’ve seen no “mainstreaming of conspiracy theories”. “Obama is a Muslim” – mainstreamed? Ignored for the most part? Birthers? Same same. And the right isn’t exclusive in this area – just ask the truthers, a group and “conspiracy” completely ignored by the SPLC when it was at its peak (it still exists, btw).
Certainly “Patriot groups” have risen because of government profligacy, frustration over the economy (and government’s role in hurting it even further), but I’m at a loss to remember anything about that movement that seemed concerned with “changing racial demographics” and “demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities”, do you?
Government and government excess/intrusion has been the primary focus of those groups the SPLC has chosen to demonize by labeling them “hate groups”.
Are there fringe right-wing extremists? Of course. Just as there are fringe left-wing extremists. But they’re such a tiny portion of the population on each side of the ideological divide as to be negligible . Unless you’re the SPLC, that is, and your bread and butter is finding hate where none exists so you can denounce it, play to the paranoia of the left and get them to send you money.
We should help the SPLC set up some better criteria for assessing hate, don’t you think?
Here, for the SPLC, is a check list of some things to look for among real hate groups provided by John Sexton (I’ve added the last one). I assume we’ll see this bunch in SPLC’s next sensationalized “Intelligence Report” denouncing them as left-wing “hate groups”, no?
- Violent rhetoric? Check. Double check.
- Unhinged political analogies? Check.
- Hilter signs? Check.
- Crosshairs on politicians. Check.
- Anger and cursing? Check. Double check.
- Shoving? Check.
- Racial overtones? Check.
- Astroturfing by national organizations? Check.
- Assault? Check.
Talk about chutzpah, check this out from our favorite little Holocaust denying, "wipe-Israel-from-the-map", "no gays in Iran", protest busting, protester murdering, election stealing, nuclear bomb building popinjay, er, "President" of Iran:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday urged Middle East leaders to listen to the voices of citizens who have taken to the streets in masses to demand a change in government — though such protests in his own country have been crushed with brute force.
Ahmadinejad "strongly recommended such leaders to let their peoples express their opinions," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
"He further urged those leaders of regional countries who respond to the demands of their nations and their revolutionary uprisings with hot bullets to join their peoples’ movements instead of creating blood baths."
What’s next – a lecture from Fidel on individual rights? Hugo Chavez waxing poetic on the virtues of capitalism?
Commerce clause idiocy– deciding not to act same as acting, thus can be regulated and action mandated (ObamaCare ruling)
Another federal judge has found for the Constitutionality of the individual mandate. But if ever you’ve wondered what tortured logic looks like (made in an effort to justify something that just doesn’t fit) then you’ll be amazed to read the following from the ruling:
As previous Commerce Clause cases have all involved physical activity, as opposed to mental activity, i.e. decision-making, there is little judicial guidance on whether the latter falls within Congress’s power….However, this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance. It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not “acting,” especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality. [emphasis added]
Our thoughts are now actions. There literally is nothing the federal government cannot regulate provided there is even a hypothetical connection to the economy, even if the connection at most is in the future.
Excuse me while I sit down and ponder all of that for a moment. Anytime you make a choice not to act you are "acting". Therefore, the court has now decided, any decision to not to act (related to commerce) is an act and you can be therefore required to do what the government says you must do.
Or, more succinctly, you have no real choice regardless of what you decide, so sayeth the court.
If I decide not to buy a car, I’m acting, and if the government wanted to require me to buy a car, under this ruling, it could.
That’s just absurd (but Government Motors will most likely be putting together a heck of a lobbying effort to carry this ruling out to its logical end).
Oh and borrowing again from Jacobson, a little reminder of where all this “legal thought” is supposedly grounded:
The Congress shall have power…. To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
There is a new opinion from U.S. District (DC) Judge Kessler ruling that the individual mandate imposed by ObamaCare is constitutional. The primary importance of the ruling is that it is squarely at odds with the Judge Vinson opinion from the District of Florida on one key issue: that deciding not to purchase something is an “activity” that can be regulated under the Commerce Clause. I’m still going through it, and will have more to say, but a few things really leaped out at me.
(1) Kessler places a lot of emphasis on the “free riders” who consume medical services but don’t pay for them. According to the judge, these free rider problems are illuminated by the congressional findings found in the Affordable Care Act (at pp. 39-40):
The findings on this subject could not be clearer: the great majority of the millions of Americans who remain uninsured consume medical services they cannot pay for, often resulting in personal bankruptcy. In fact, the ACA’s findings state that “62% of all personal bankruptcies are caused in part by medical expenses.” ACA § 1501(a)(2)(G), as amended by § 10106. Of even greater significance to the national economy is the fact that these uninsured individuals are, in fact, shifting the uncompensated costs of those services–which totaled $43 billion in 2008–onto other health care market participants, as well as federal and state governments and American taxpayers. See ACA §§ 1501(a)(2)(F), (G),as amended by § 10106; Thomas More Law Ctr., 720 F.Supp.2d at 894.
Because of this cost-shifting effect, the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage. According to Congress, the uncompensated costs of caring for the uninsured are passed on by health care providers to private insurers, which in turn pass on the cost to purchasers of health insurance. “This cost shifting increases family premiums by on average over $1,000 a year.” ACA §1501(a)(2)(F), as amended by § 10106. Thus, the aggregate effect on interstate commerce of the decisions of individuals to forgo insurance is very substantial.
There are many problems with these “findings” chief among which is an innumeracy problem. According to the first two quoted sentences, we are supposed to infer that 62% of all personal bankruptcies are made up of those “who remain uninsured” and “consume medical services they cannot pay for.” Indeed, according to Kessler’s understanding of the findings, the foregoing population is the “great majority of Americans who remain uninsured.” The only problem is, even if we assume that the 62% statistic is correct (which is a stretch), the number of personal bankruptcies every year does not even reach 2 million. Indeed, 2009 saw personal bankruptcies soar by 32% … to 1.41 million. Sixty-two percent of that is just 874,200, which is far, far fewer people than the “great majority of the millions of Americans who remain uninsured.”
(2) Another glaring issue is that the “cost-shifting” complained of is entirely the fault of the federal government, not “free riders,” thanks to Congress passing EMTALA in 1986, pursuant to which practically every hospital in the nation was forced to accept any and every patient who requested “emergency services.” In short, Congress created the free riders with this legislation.
Now let’s follow the logic here: (a) hospitals refuse to treat patients who can’t afford their medical services, therefore Congress must force hospitals to treat regardless of ability to pay (i.e. costs shifted to hospitals); (b) Patients who can’t afford the medical services, but who hospitals must treat, raise costs of medical services, which are mostly paid by insurers who raise their rates and pass them on to paying patients (i.e costs shifted to service-providers, then insurers, then paying patients); (c) insurance costs are entirely too high because uninsured patients, who can’t afford insurance or medical services, but whom hospitals must treat anyway, which drives up the costs of services and therefore the costs of insurance, and therefore Congress must force everyone to buy insurance (i.e. costs shifted from paying patients to those who can’t afford services or insurance); (d) because some people can’t afford insurance, they must be subsidized in their mandated purchase of insurance by taxpayers (i.e. costs re-shifted back to paying patients).
Putting it all together, according to Kessler’s opinion, Congress must be able to force individuals to purchase insurance because individuals who can’t afford insurance, but still consume health services (thanks to Congress), are causing the health insurance market to become distorted. (Oh, and by the way, those who can afford insurance are going to have to subsidize those who can’t and are therefore responsible for this whole mess in the first place.) Does that make any sense?
(3) The one other thing that really struck me as worrisome is Kessler’s emphasis on the infamous Wickard v. Filburn case (at p. 40):
In this case, the link [between the activity and the market being regulated] is strikingly similar to that described in Wickard: individuals are actively choosing to remain outside of a market for a particular commodity, and, as a result, Congress’s efforts to stabilize prices for that commodity are thwarted. As Wickard demonstrates, the effects of such market-distorting behavior are sufficiently related to interstate commerce to justify Congress’s efforts to stabilize the price of a commodity through its Commerce Clause power.
This is the reasoning underpinning Kessler’s holding (at p. 38) that “[b]oth the decision to purchase health insurance and its flip side–the decision not to purchase health insurance–therefore relate to the consumption of a commodity: a health insurance policy.” In this view, any decision made about an arguably economic subject, even the decision not to participate in a market concerning that economic subject, is subject to regulation by Congress.
Accordingly, should Congress decide to regulate the market for U.S automobiles, your decision to not purchase a vehicle can be regulated and even penalized by federal law. In fact, if Kessler’s view of the Constitution is correct, then Congress could require that you purchase a GM or Chrysler vehicle in order to stabilize the price of that commodity. Or perhaps, because of free rider problems, you can be penalized for choosing not to have children who would grow up, enter the labor force and pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes necessary to support you in your older years. If Kessler is correct, then the only limit on Congressional power is the inability to conjure up a market to be regulated, since any decision (participate/not participate) will have a substantial effect on that market when considered in the aggregate.
I would submit that this cannot be the correct view. The Commerce Clause power has already been distended far beyond what was intended when it written. If the Supreme Court adopts this decision, or something similar, the Congress would effectively have carte blanche to regulate whatever it desires.
In any event, those three things stood out to me. I’ll try to have some more on the opinion itself by tonight.[ad#Banner]