Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Validation of Ukrainian Allegations of Russian Complicity in the Eastern Ukrainian Rebellion

One week ago, I posted that United States intelligence had confirmed Ukrainian government allegations that the Russian Federation was arming pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.  The shootdown of an unarmed Malaysian Airlines civilian passenger jet Thursday in Ukrainian airspace by the Russophile rebels with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile proves Ukrainian and American allegations that not only did Russia supply the separatists with anti-aircraft artillery, as well as the training and personnel necessary to operate the equipment, but other weapons, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, despite the Russian Federation’s denials of complicity in the rebellion in Eastern Ukraine. 

The incident also suggests that much of the rebellion has been fomented by agents and propaganda from the Russian Federation’s authoritarian regime that is led by former Soviet Communist K.G.B. officer Vladimir Putin.  The Russian government later admitted that it had lied when it had denied similar involvement in fomenting the rebellion in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which Russia subsequently annexed.  Putin has been intent openly on regaining the Soviet Empire, including former Soviet Republics like Ukraine and Georgia, both of which Russia has invaded.

The U.S. and the European Union had expanded sanctions and restrictions to a number of individual Russians and Russian businesses, as well as Eastern Ukrainian Russian separatists.  Significant additional punishments must be imposed if Russia is unwilling to establish a cease-fire in Ukraine, the laying down of arms by the separatists and a dialogue between them and the Ukrainian government.  The Ukrainian government has already promised to guarantee minority rights, including in regard to the Russian language, concern for which was the Russian Federation’s discredited excuse for trying to grab power after the popular rebellion against a corrupt, authoritarian pro-Russian government in Ukraine and its replacement with one that has established trade relations with the European Union and seeks integration into Europe and good relations with the West, without any hostile intent toward Russia.  Meanwhile, the U.S. and E.U. should continue to boost their support of the Ukrainian government.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Governor Tom Corbett Signs Pennsylvania’s Budget, Vetoes Legislative Spending and Demands the Legislature Resolve the State’s Pension Crisis

           Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, recently signed the Commonwealth’s 2014-2015 budget and associated fiscal enabling legislation, but vetoed certain line items.   

The $27 billion budget was approved by the General Assembly shortly before the June 30 constitutional deadline.  Despite a projected revenue shortfall, it met the constitutional requirement of being balanced.  It reduced overall expenditures while boosting spending on education beyond its current record level, did not raise taxes and even revived the phase-out of the capital stock and franchise tax, which is a tax on property that businesses must pay in addition to the corporate income tax.  However, the budget failed to address Corbett’s priority: pension reform.    

The Commonwealth’s rainy day fund had been drained under Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat.  In this year’s budget, various other reserve funds were tapped, with the exception of the legislature’s own fund balance.  Governor Corbett, disappointed at the General Assembly’s failure to address Pennsylvania’s pension crisis, vetoed $65 million of the legislative fund balance, as well as over $7 million in legislative earmarks.  He is urging lawmakers to address the crisis that threatens not only state finances, but, because teachers are included in the pension fund, the finances of all 500 School Districts in Pennsylvania.  The pension crisis is threatening the Commonwealth’s long-term fiscal health and its current credit rating.  Additionally, it is forcing up school real estate taxes.  There is a pension-reform bill in the General Assembly which Corbett supports that would shift new state employees onto defined contribution plans from defined benefit plans.  Another bill would at least shift the legislators themselves, as well as judges and statewide elected members of the executive branch, onto such plans.  The Commonwealth must also make up for previous state pension funding shortfalls.

Another gubernatorial priority left unaddressed by the General Assembly is liquor privatization.  As I have posted previously, the House of Representatives passed a plan to eliminate the Commonwealth’s wholesale and retail monopoly.  See my post from March of 2013, the Pennsylvania House Passes Liquor Privatization,  There remains support in the House for liquor privatization, but the Senate prefers limited reforms that, at most, would curtail the state retail monopoly on wine and liquor, but retain its wholesale monopoly while keeping its system of retail stores.  Liquor privatization would generate not only one-time revenue through the selling of retail licenses, but ongoing revenue through the continued collection of state taxes on alcohol and fees from the renewal of licenses.  Regardless, resolving the pension crisis is a more significant and urgent priority. 

The Pennsylvania General Assembly must come back from its summer recess and enact meaningful pension reform as soon as possible that heals the Commonwealth’s fiscal ills and lifts the heavy burden on its School Districts.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

More Evidence of Russian Federation Provocations in Georgia and Ukraine

Russian Federation sympathizers, and their liberal and isolationist allies in the West, vilify every state into which Russia comes into conflict and blame everything on them, while denying or justifying every transgression, no matter how severe, committed by the Russian Federation’s authoritarian regime.  However, evidence always emerges, both at the time and afterward, of Russian culpability.  Recent reports from both Georgia and Ukraine have added to the growing body of evidence of provocations by the Russian regime.

            The European Court of Human Rights found the authoritarian Russian government abused the human rights of Georgians with a coordinated campaign of arrests and expulsions that particularly targeted Georgian Nationals residing in Russia, beginning in 2006 and the subsequently held them in poor conditions.  The Russian Federation invaded Georgia in 2008. 

            American intelligence suggests the Russian government, despite its denials, is aiding the pro-Russian separatist rebels, which corroborates Ukrainian charges against the Russian Federation.  As I have posted previously, Russian military forces had also secretly infiltrated Ukraine prior to the pro-Russian takeover of Crimea, which they later admitted after having repeatedly denying involvement.  The Russian aggression resulted in the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation

           Meanwhile, as the Ukrainian military liberates more parts of Eastern Ukraine from the Russophiles, reports are emerging of human rights abuses committed by the pro-Russian separatists against ethnic Ukrainians and others.

Another Admission by the Obama Administration of Deception about the Benghazi Attack

           In its indictment against a suspect it recently captured, the Obama Administration admits the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 was a conspiracy by al-Qaeda, not a spontaneous response to a video, as it had falsely claimed for a long time after the attack, during the presidential election campaign.  President Barack Obama, who was eager to focus in domestic issues, had claimed during the campaign that al-Qaeda was diminished, as if to minimize the seriousness of the continued threat from this determined foe.  As I have posted previously, the Administration knew from the beginning that the sophisticated attack on the September 11 anniversary was coordinated by Islamists, meaning that its subsequent statements claiming otherwise were not accidentally misleading, but intentionally deceptive.  The indictment represents the Administration’s fullest admission that the video had nothing to do with the attack.  

Iraq Was Not the True Cause of the Veterans Administration Scandal

           In order to excuse the Obama Administration and blame the Administration of President George W. Bush, liberal Democrats particularly blame the recent Veterans Administration scandal of delays in the scheduling appointments for veterans who critically needed care on the increased caseload of veterans on the returning from the Liberation of Iraq of many American soldiers, in addition to the other campaign in the global War on Terrorism, the Afghan War.  However, no American soldiers have been returning from the war in Iraq since the end of 2011, when the United States withdrew. 

            The liberals also contradict themselves repeatedly in this regard, as they do in many aspects of the Liberation of Iraq.  They first criticized President Bush for not having enough soldiers for the war, then criticized him for his troop surge in his second term, and then claimed the surge strategy was not responsible for the subsequent success in Iraq they did not expect, which means necessarily that the success had to have come from the prior strategy for which they claimed there were not enough troops.  The General whose expertise they relied upon was Eric Shinseki, who argued that far more troops were needed to occupy Iraq – the same man who resigned as Secretary of the Veterans Administration because of the scandal.  Surely, the liberals would have criticized the Bush Administration for having too many troops in Iraq and thereby having too large a footprint and being too overbearing of an occupying force had Bush heeded Shinseki’s advice because their only consistency in regard to Iraq has been to disagree with every decision Bush made, no matter how contradictory and regardless of all the facts. 

            There are two reasons for the increase in caseload at veterans’ hospitals, despite the rapid loss of veterans from the Second World War: 1) the advancing age of veterans of the Cold War (remember that many veterans during this time, which was the period of the draft, did not necessarily see combat, but sustained peacetime injuries or simply retired from service and thus earned post-retirement healthcare benefits), including the Korean and Vietnamese Wars, with many veterans of the latter campaign now becoming senior citizens, and 2) a shortage of healthcare workers, which is partly because of a lack of tort reform for medical liability and partly is exacerbated by the federalization of health insurance (“Obamacare”), which is causing some doctors to leave their practice, at a time of an increase in the number of patients because of free health insurance. 

           Whatever the reasons for the increase in the caseload, the cheating by bureaucrats at the Veterans Administration was selfish and inexcusable and the senior management was ineffective in discovering the problem and correcting quickly.  In fact, its strategy to diminish the caseload – however well-intentioned – by providing financial incentives, likely provided the temptation for the bureaucrats to cheat.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Widespread Duplicate Voter Registrations Demonstrate the Need for Voter Identification Laws

           Tens of thousands of individuals across several of the States of the American Union are registered to vote in more than one State, according to a series of news reports over the last few months both about individual States and a large group of States collectively. 

            In addition to concerns about ballot integrity, these duplicate registrations distort the voter turnout percentages that liberals often falsely claim are low in order to justify making registrations so easy as to make fraud even easier.  Also, they are costly to States that must mail unnecessary absentee ballots or make other contacts with these voters.

            Only a little over half of the States belong to an interstate consortium to cross-check voter registrations.  See my post, Pennsylvania Joins the Interstate Voter Registration Cross-Check Consortium, from August of 2013, Carolina was the latest to join, which revealed over 35,000 duplicate voter registrations in that State alone!  Several hundred voters registered in North Carolina are suspected of having voted both in that State and other States in recent elections.

California, the most populous State, is the only one that does not even have a statewide voter database to compare registrations from county to county, let alone with other States, according to a recent report from   In addition to California, the three next largest States also do not belong to the cross-check consortium: Texas, New York and Florida.  The problem of duplicate registrations is particularly acute in regard to residents of northeastern States that have winter residences in Florida.  Many of them illegally vote in both their home State and the Sunshine State in the same year.  In fact, the double voting by these snowbirds in the 2000 election for presidential Electors contributed to the closeness of that contest, as most of the individuals who voted twice were Democrats.  Also, when combined with the fact that in some States, absentee ballots, which tend to favor Republicans, are not counted if they would not change the outcome of the election, despite the liberal Democratic slogan that year of “Count every vote!” the claim that the Gore-Lieberman slate of electors won a plurality of the vote across the United States is questionable.  This double-counting is only one type of election fraud that added to the Democrats’ totals.  I have posted previously on voter impersonation that took place that year while I was on the ballot for Pennsylvania state representative, for example, in my posts advocating for a voter identification requirement in Commonwealth. 

            These duplicate voter registrations not only allow voters to vote twice, but allow an innocent elector who has moved from one State to another but whose name is not stricken from his original State’s voter registration roll to be impersonated by vote fraudsters.  This vulnerability to voter fraud by impersonation because of duplicate registrations from State to State is another justification for voter ID requirements.  I renew the call for a voter ID requirement, now that a state appellate court has struck down Pennsylvania’s law.  The voter ID laws of other states have withstood United States Supreme Court scrutiny as constitutional.  I call upon the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to pass a law that uses one of those other states’ laws as a model. 

           Meanwhile, conservatives and all those concerned about ballot integrity from other States should urge their state legislatures to join or form voter registration cross-check consortia and, if their State has no voter ID requirement, to pass one.    

Recommended Links for Liberty

           To celebrate Independence Day, I would like to recommended a few informative websites of outstanding organizations dedicated to promoting freedom by cataloging the violations of it or recording human suffering where liberty has been absent:

          Freedom House, a respected organization which ranks states around the world according to their levels of human rights, including economic liberty,;

           The United States Commission on Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan federal commission dedicated particularly to defending freedom of religion abroad,;

          Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an American non-profit foundation established by an Act of the United States Congress,

Conservative Commentary on the Recent United States Supreme Court Term, Part I

           There were five remarkable cases of interest to conservatives decided by the United States Supreme Court in its latest term, four of which protected liberty and one defended good government.  This Independence Day post is an analysis of each of the first four in the order in which they were announced since May.  I shall analyze the last case in Part II of this series of posts, the case about a religious exemption for closely-held corporations from the insurance mandate that includes abortifacients. 

            I had already posted in April about a case from earlier in the term, The Supreme Court Ruling Expands Freedom of Expression by Striking Down the Overall Cap on Political Contributions,, which was another victory for liberty.  

The Court rules prayer at public meetings of government bodies is constitutional
            A municipality in New York was within its constitutional right to invite local clergy lead prayers at public municipal meetings, even if the prayers were expressly Christian and not non-sectarian, the Court ruled.  It ruled that a government body is not required to recruit non-Christians, such as, in the case in question, from beyond the county, even if many fellow citizens attended a synagogue over the county line. 

            The Court upheld a 1983 ruling that public prayer is part of the historical fabric of America.  It noted private individuals conduct the prayer.  The targets of the prayer are the public officials, not the general public, the Court observed.  The Court determined that public prayer that invokes God help or thanks Him is understood not as an attempt to evangelize anyone, let alone to establish or “endorse” any particular religion, as it does not diminish anyone’s liberty.  Public prayer reminds the officials of the American Creed, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that freedom comes from God, not government.  Even atheists’ freedom of conscience depends upon this belief. 

The Court strikes down President Barack Obama recess appointments as unconstitutional violations of the separation of powers doctrine
            The Court ruled that Obama violated the Constitution by usurping Congress’s role in confirming presidential nominations.  Obama had made “recess” appointments, which Presidents may do when the Congress is in recess, when the Senate was conducting pro forma sessions every three days, arguing they were essentially in recess.  The Court ruled the Senate is the judge of when it is in recess under the Constitution, not the President.  Because the Senate was not in recess, the President had no constitutional authority to make the appointments.

            The question was not particularly liberal or conservative, but of overstepping the bounds of office by the Chief Executive.  There has been encroachment on executive power since the Vietnamese War by the Legislative Branch, particularly in matters of defense, where the President is the Commander in Chief.  The appointments made by Obama, however, were unusually partisan because they were to boards that are required to be filled by appointees of both major political parties.  His appointees tended to be biased to the left to such a degree as to upset the bipartisan balance on those boards, which is why congressional confirmation was necessary for the presidential nominees and why Obama avoided obtaining it.  Obama’s abuse of his recent appointment authority is part of a pattern of overreach, such as declining to enforce certain laws, despite a constitutional requirement that the President take care to execute the laws faithfully, and to issue numerous executive orders that usurp the legislative authority, in violation of the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers.

            As the appointments were invalid, the decisions made by the boards with the votes of the invalid appointees should now also be deemed invalid, as they lacked a quorum.
The Court strikes down abortion clinic protest buffer zones as unconstitutional restrictions on free speech
            Buffer zones outside of abortion clinics unconstitutionally violated the freedom of speech of pro-life protestors, the Court ruled.  The protest buffer zones were targeted against only those individuals who hold a particular opinion – the pro-life opinion, at a time when pro-lifers have their most effective opportunity to express peacefully their political opinions and to counsel women against abortions.  The zones were thus prejudicial against pro-life protestors, who are as free as any other citizen to engage in the freedom of speech on the sidewalk. 

The Court rules home healthcare providers cannot be forced to pay dues to government worker labor unions
            The Court ruled individuals who receive state funds to provide healthcare to family members in their own homes are not employees of the state and thus are not subject to being forced to pay dues for a public sector collective bargaining unit. 

           The plaintiff was a woman in Illinois who received state Medicaid funds for caring for her son at home, which by state law made her an employee of the state.  She was an agent of the state or an independent contractor who did not receive the usual state employee benefits such as tax-free health insurance or a pension, not a state employee, and thus not subject to all the laws regarding employees.  Therefore, there are no issues over which to bargain collectively such as to necessitate the forced payment of union dues.  The Court’s decision was a victory of the freedom of association.