Monday, January 31, 2011

Update: Another Federal Judge Rules the Individual Mandate to Purchase Health Insurance Unconstitutional

     Federal Judge Roger Vinson of Florida has ruled in favor of the 26 States that sued the Obama Administration for its federalization of health insurance.  The judge not only struck down the individual mandate to purchase health insurance as unconstitutional, but the entire health insurance act.  Unlike Judge Hudson in Virginia's lawsuit, Judge Vinson ruled the mandate to be not severable from the rest of the act.

     The suit was originally filed by Florida.  Two judges have now ruled in favor of the States, who have argued, among other things, that their constitutional rights would be violated by mandating their citizens purchase health insurance as a condition of residence in the United States.  They argue that the federal goverment has only the power to regulate interstate commerce, not non-activity such as not participating in commerce, lest there be no barrier to the absolute regulatory power of the federal government over all behavior.  Two other cases that were ruled in favor of the Administration did not include States.  The Obama Administration is expected to appeal the rulings in favor of the States.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Analysis of the Egyptian Revolution

     Egyptians are revolting against the regime of dictator Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak, who had been Vice President, became President of Egypt after the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981 by Islamists, during which Mubarak was wounded.

     Mubarak’s rule is a continuation of the dictatorial regime founded when Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the king nearly six decades ago. Nasser was more tyrannical than Mubarak, Sadat less. Mubarak has long feared that if he loosened authority, the Islamists would assassinate him like they did Sadat, or that he would lose power to the Islamists like the Shah of Iran did in 1979 after the Americans had urged him to liberalize his country.

     A number of factors have combined to threaten Mubarak’s regime. Egyptians, understandably, have grown intolerant of nearly thirty years of oppression and resented his apparent grooming of his son to succeed him, as if he were a pharaoh. The rise of the internet has increased the Egyptian people’s contact with foreigners and allowed the opposition to collaborate. But the recent overthrow of Tunisia’s leader is what precipitated the Egypt revolution and the anti-government protests elsewhere in the Arab world, as Arabs have demanded freedom and democratization, such as they have observed around the world, including even in Iraq, the recent authoritarian trend notwithstanding.

     The geopolitical stakes are high. Egypt, the most populous Arab state, has been an ally of the United States in fighting international terrorism and keeping peace with Israel. It was the first Arab state to recognize Israel in 1979 and has blocked arms shipments to Hamas-controlled Gaza across the Egyptian border. Egypt is also of strategic importance because of the Suez Canal. It is a large recipient of U.S. military aid. However, Mubarak is a dictator whom the U.S. has been encouraging under its last two Administrations to liberalize.

     The fear among some Egyptians and many in the West is that the Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition organization, will seize power if Mubarak does not liberalize sufficiently to mollify the populace. The Brotherhood, which wants to implement Islamic law, inspired the Hamas and al-Qaeada terrorist organizations.

     It is noteworthy that there has been oppression in particular toward the Coptic Christians, who represent about 10% of Egypt’s population, as well as attacks by Islamists. The Coptic Pope discouraged Copts from participating in the revolution, out of an understandable fear of a worse outcome, but some of them are seizing the opportunity to overthrow the dictatorship, according to the Catholic News Agency. They hope to claim a stake in power by not allowing the Islamists all the credit for the overthrow.

     The best outcome for Egypt is either an immediate resignation by Mubarak or an announcement by him that he will not seek reelection in the elections scheduled for September, which he will finally allow to be free and fair, in contrast to the rigged ones held previously, and that the Islamists do not seize power. The Egyptian dictator recently named a Vice President for the first time. The Vice President or the military might be preferable new leaders, or even Muhammad al-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace Prize-winner who has made himself the leader of the opposition. The Americans are right to urge an orderly transition.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Economy Is Irrelevant to the State of the Union

     In my post from January of 2010, State of the Union vs. State of the Country, I noted how recent United States presidents regard the American Union as equivalent to the territory of the States that belong to it, which leads these presidents to address constitutionally irrelevant issues, as if the federal government is usurping the States.

     My recent historical research confirms my point. The earliest States of the Union addresses read precisely like reports from the chairman of an organization, which is fitting because the president is, indeed, like a chairman of an organization, unlike the governor of a state who presides not only over state government, but must be concerned for the welfare of its citizens. The President presides over the Union of the States under the Constitution, for which his address is a report, while he is supposed to leave internal matters to the States, except only those powers granted the federal government by the Constitution. Indeed, the earlier Presidents sometimes even refer to the federal government as “our organization” because they recognized that they presided over a Union, not a geographic territory. They understood the importance of limited government, the federalist system created by the Framers of the Constitution whereby power was shared by the States and the Union they formed by that document.

     Such matters as the economy or health care or insurance, therefore, are not directly relevant to the Union and ought not to be addressed in the annual presidential address to Congress on the state of the Union. Conservatives should call upon presidents to focus only on federal matters and to respect the rights of the States and the people, which would help to restore federalism by educating the electorate and by encouraging the federal government to perform its duty, which is to protect our rights, under those powers delegated to it by the Constitution.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sargent Shriver, Rest in Peace

     Sargent Shriver passed away last week at the age of 95.  The husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he was most famous for being appointed the first head of the Peace Corps by United States President John Kennedy, his brother-in-law, as well as being the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1972.

     As I posted about his wife, the foundress of the Special Olympics, upon her death (See my post from April of 2009, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Rest in Peace), Shriver, a devout Catholic, was an unwavering and outspoken supporter of the right to life, one of the few remaining pro-life liberals in the Democratic Party who considered loving the most helpless human beings a matter of moral and ideological consistency. 

     May the example of the Shrivers inspire liberals and Democrats to unite with conservatives and Republicans in building a culture of life in America where the liberty of all human beings is protected.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Update: 27 States Are Now Parties to Lawsuits against the Federalization of Health Insurance

     Six more American States have joined Florida's lawsuit against the Obama Administration's federalization of health insurance, making a total of 26 in that civil action.  They are suing the federal government over its individual mandate to purchase health insurance and over the unfunded federal mandate on states to pay for the significant expansion of Medicaid.

     Florida's lawsuit is separate from Virginia's, which won on a motion for summary judgment that declared the federal mandate unconstitutional, as I had posted last month.  All together, then, there are 27 states suing the federal government over the law that federalized health insurance for violating states rights'.  The extraordinary fact that a majority of states are objecting to a federal law on constitutional grounds ought to be weighed carefully by the federal courts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Commentary on Liberal Democrats and Congress

     I posted this month on the Lame Duck session, but did not find it necessary to post an analysis of the entire 111th Liberal Democratic Congress, as I had posted over its two-year term on its actions as the most spendthrift Congress in American history and as taking over more and more of the free market at the expense of liberty.

     The attempt by liberals to blame the attempted assassination of a Democratic member of the United States Congress on conservatives is an attempt to silence criticism. The fact that the would-be assassin, who also killed a Republican-appointed federal judge among other innocent victims, is obviously insane and influenced by irrational far-left wing conspiracy theories, will not deter them from attempting to take political advantage of the opportunity not only to demean conservatives, but to intimidate them from exercising their freedom of expression. This crass liberal attempt reflects their view that there are no evil people in the world, except conservatives. Liberals will also renew their knee-jerk reactions against the right to keep and bear arms, which will distract from a discussion about whether their unsafe policy of no longer institutionalizing insane people is appropriate. Meanwhile, we should all be grateful for the failure of the assassination attempt, as it was an attack on representative government, and continue to pray for the victims and their families. Let us also pray for the failure of the left’s attack on representative government by intimidating their critics.

     The discomfort of liberals with the reading of the Constitution in the U.S. House of Representatives by the new Republican majority suggests their lack of reverence for the founding document. It is appropriate that the document that created Congress and provides its authority to act be read before the beginning of every term. As usual, liberals complain that because the Constitution did not immediately free everyone totally, it is so imperfect as not to be revered. They fail to recognize the progress of its federal guarantees of liberty to all persons, including even slaves (which it refers to as “persons”), and its various anti-slavery provisions, while blaming the Founding Fathers for not overruling the states that formed the federal Union. Indeed, liberals confuse one anti-slavery provision, the Three Fifths Rule, with racism. See my post from April of 2009, Two Big Myths about the Founding Fathers: The Myth About the Three Fifths Rule and the Myth that Washington Warned against “Entangling Alliances.” Another odd argument liberals have been advancing again, as they did the last time Republicans won the Congressional majority, is that the Republican proposals for various constitutional amendments is evidence of an anti-Constitutional ideology. Leaving aside the fact that liberals are responsible for many of the Amendments that have been adopted within the last century, in addition to others that they proposed, the amendments proposed by Republicans, are not based upon contempt for the Constitution, but represent the use of its amendment process in order to prevent abuses. Conservatives, unlike liberals, respect that democratic process, instead of overriding it by appointing activists judges who substitute their own whim for constitutional principles.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Follow-Up on the Rise of Authoritarianism

     I posted in December again about the global rise of authoritarianism.  Today, it was reported that Freedom House observed in its annual report a trend toward authoritarianism and away from freedom for a record-breaking fifth straight year, in terms of the number of states in the world regarded as free, partly free or not free.  What Freedom House found particularly disturbing was the apparent acceptance by free states of this trend  I always respect Freedom House's work on this subject and look forward to its report every year.  Up until the last five years, the report had observed great progress toward freedom.  Freedom House's report of the authoritarian trend should call attention to the growing menace to liberty. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Foreign Updates: Sudan; the European Union

     Southern Sudan is voting this week on its independence referendum, which I had posted about last year. So far, the only violence has been in the Abyei region, the status of which was supposed to be determined in a separate plebiscite, in which the inhabitants would choose whether to be in the north or south. The vote in Abyei, which, like Southern Sudan, is rich in oil, has been delayed indefinitely. The Arab Islamist northern Sudanese government appears resigned to lose the Christian and animist black south, in the hopes of gaining some international support and trade, and possibly the dropping by the United States of its designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. The independence referendum is the result of the mediation by the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush that ended the twenty-year long Sudanese Civil War that killed one to two million people that was characterized by atrocities against the south. This conflict is separate from the genocide being conducted by Arabs with northern Sudanese government backing against black Muslims in Darfur, the western part of Sudan, for which the northern Sudanese leader remains under a war crimes indictment that will not be withdrawn even if he accepts the outcome of the Southern Sudanese referendum. I am continuing to monitor the latest developments.

     Deeply divided Belgium’s inability to form a coalition government amidst a financial crisis has the potential to spread the contagion further around the European Union about which I have been posting. Belgium is a Dutch and French-speaking state that has failed to resolve its linguistic differences. King Albert will now have to decide whether to allow the caretaker government that has lost its parliamentary majority to continue in power. Meanwhile, Portugal is under increased pressure to accept a bailout, like Greece and Ireland.

January of 2011 Blog Report and Notes

     According to Statcounter, my blog has been visited for the 2,500th time since April 2, 2009 some time in December. As I noted in my last report, Blogger’s counter is picking up on a much larger number of visits, especially from Europe, although there are some that Statcounter captures that Blogger does not. As always, thank you for visiting my blog. 

     As you can see, Blogger now allows indentation in posts.

     In the meantime, I updated the blogs and links I have posted on my blog. Please take a look at them.

     In earlier posts, I cited the Bulletin, Philadelphia’s Family Newspaper, as the “Philadelphia Bulletin,” which was the name under which it operated since the mid 1800s. I still think of it under its old name, but just wanted to clarify the discrepancy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Survey of Candidates for Permanent Seats of the UN Security Council

I have been considering the question of the expansion of the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council since the issue arose several years ago. It came up again recently in the voting for the rotating membership of the Council. It arose again, on United States President Barak Obama’s trip to India, when he reiterated American support for that large state to be given a permanent seat at the Council.

The five Permanent Members have veto power, unlike the ten rotating members. The current Permanent Members are all great powers: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. They all have major economies (they rank first, fifth, sixth, twelfth and second, respectively in GDP), significant conventional military forces, and international influence. Additionally, all of the Permanent Members have significant nuclear weapons stockpiles and the ability to deliver them with ballistic missiles. It would be difficult to conceive of any modern state as a great power without nuclear weapons.

A survey of the usual candidates for additional permanent seats, as well as a few other candidates, plus the objections to their nominations would be illuminating:

Of all the candidates for permanent membership, India is the lone great power. It is an emergent economic power (with a GDP similar to Russia’s) that meets the other criteria to some degree, with a significant conventional force with strong participation in UN peacekeeping missions and some international prestige. It also has nuclear weapons. However, awarding it a permanent seat on the Security Council could appear to be rewarding India for its illicit acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Pakistan, India’s mortal enemy, and possibly other Muslim states would object to an Indian permanent seat.

Germany and Japan
These two states are economic great powers (with the second and fourth highest GDPs, respectively).

They both have relatively weak conventional forces and no nuclear weapons, however. More importantly, they both have constitutional restrictions on their combat roles that even limit their participation in peacekeeping. Italy objects to Germany's candidacy for permanent membership because of its relative lack of participation in international peacekeeping, especially compared to the Italians. Theoretically, the Italians would have to object to Japanese membership for the same reason. In addition, Japan remains hated in East Asia for its history of imperialism and what its neighbors regard as its failure to acknowledge its crimes. China and the Koreas would vehemently object to Japanese membership, even apart from Japan and South Korea's territorial dispute.

Italy is an economic great power (it has the seventh highest GDP), with a significant conventional military force and international influence. Indeed, it has been the leading power behind international peacekeeping (which are often UN missions), as well as participating significantly in both the Afghan and Iraqi battles in the War on Terrorism.

Italy, however, does not have nuclear weapons.

Australia is relatively similar to Italy in regard to sending its troops into peacekeeping or combat roles.

However, its economy is half the size of Italy’s, slightly behind India’s. Australia does not have nuclear weapons.

Like India, Brazil is an emergent economic power.

Brazil, however, does not meet the other criteria. The recent decision of its outgoing president not to extradite a suspected terrorist to Italy guarantees Italian opposition.

Although all of these candidate states have larger GDPs than Russia, given that the Security Council is tasked with security, an adequate degree of military power and diplomatic prestige would seem requisite, in addition to economic might. In conclusion, there is currently no ideal candidate for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, although India comes the closet. It would be difficult to nominate only one or two of them, and not most of the rest. The objections that would be raised against these candidates could cause a coalition to coalesce around opposition to any expansion in the number of permanent Council members, at least for now.

Conservative Analysis of the Congressional Lame Duck Session

United States President Barak Obama late last week signed the final piece of legislation approved by the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress. Now a complete analysis of its eventful lame duck session can be made. The session produced mixed results.

In a major victory for conservatives, income tax cuts were extended by the lame-duck Congress for all. Payroll taxes were also cut 1% for one year, although only for employees, not for employers. As part of the compromise with Obama, unemployment compensation was extended and not offset with spending cuts.

Congress approved the settlement of the Pigford class-action lawsuit, which was based upon alleged discrimination against black farmers, for billions of dollars, despite serious allegations of fraudulent claims that were not investigated.

In another major conservative victory, the massive omnibus spending bill the Obama Administration had proposed was defeated by the lame-duck Congress. Spending was continued at the lower 2010 levels temporarily, which allows the new Republican Congressional majority to pass a less fiscally irresponsible budget. One significant feature of the bill that was killed was funding to initiate Obama’s federalization of health insurance.

In another defeat for Obama, the lame-duck Congress barred funds to try terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay naval base in the U.S. It also approved aid for the September 11 rescue workers. Conservatives, led by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), paired down the bill by billions of dollars by rejecting excessive legal fees so that the all of the $2 billion it approved will go to the workers. A liberal immigration bill was defeated in the lame-duck session. It would not only have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to become citizens if they served in the military, but even if they attended college.

Liberals scored two major victories by allowing gays to serve openly in the military and ratifying the START Treaty with Russia. The strategic nuclear treaty was ratified by the Senate only after Obama promised the requisite funds to renew the aging American nuclear force. The Senate also approved a resolution reiterating the U.S. intent to maintain missile defense, notwithstanding the treaty’s preamble, which Russia considers a legal prohibition of American missile defense.

In short, despite some major liberal victories in the Congressional lame duck session, conservatives extended income tax cuts for all, put themselves in a better position to cut this year’s budget, killed a liberal immigration measure and won support for a renewal of the American nuclear force and continuing missile defense. Considering that the lame-duck Congress was controlled by liberal Democrats and that the President is also a liberal Democrat, it is significant that conservatives achieved any victories. The session suggests that the new Republican majority Congress will be able to win even more.