Are You Engaging in Interstate Commerce by Doing Nothing?
During Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings last summer, Sen. Tom Coburn asked her whether a law requiring Americans to eat their fruits and vegetables could be justified as an exercise of the federal government's constitutional authority to "regulate commerce ... among the several states." Kagan's stubborn resistance to answering Coburn's question suggested it was not as wacky as it may have seemed.
In fact, the Oklahoma Republican was merely applying President Obama's logic in defending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's requirement that Americans purchase government-approved health insurance. According to Obama, the federal government can make you do something if your failure to do it, combined with similar inaction by others, has a "substantial effect" on interstate commerce. By rejecting that premise on Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson took a stand for the principle that Congress may exercise only those powers that are specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
It's about time someone did. Over the years, the Supreme Court, acceding to the legislative branch's power grabs, has transformed a provision aimed at eliminating internal trade barriers into an all-purpose excuse for nearly anything Congress decides to do.
In 1942, for instance, the court ruled that the Commerce Clause authorized punishing a farmer for violating federal crop quotas by growing wheat for his own consumption. Although the grain never left his farm, let alone crossed state lines, the court reasoned that such self-sufficiency, writ large, had a "substantial economic effect" on interstate commerce in wheat. In 2005, the court used similar logic to uphold federal prosecution of patients who grow marijuana for their own medical use.
Thus was the power to regulate interstate commerce deemed to cover activities that were neither interstate nor commercial. But as broad as those rulings were, Hudson wrote in response to a lawsuit by the state of Virginia, both involved people who chose to do something (grow wheat or pot) that "placed the subject within the stream of commerce."
The health insurance requirement, by contrast, applies to anyone living in the United States. For Hudson, this lack of choice was decisive. "Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," he wrote. "At its core, the dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance -- or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage -- it's about an individual's right to choose to participate."
Hudson rejected the Obama administration's argument that the inactivity of people who don't buy medical coverage is illusory because they are de facto choosing to pay for their health care in some other way. "This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation and is unsupported by Commerce Clause jurisprudence," he wrote. "The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the (insurance mandate) would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers."
In Obama's view, the failure to buy medical coverage can be treated as a federal offense because that failure, aggregated across millions of people, has a substantial effect on the interstate market in health care. But the same thing can be said of the failure to exercise, the failure to get enough sleep, the failure to brush your teeth, the failure to wear a coat in cold weather and the failure to eat a proper diet.
Which brings us back to Coburn's question about a federal fruit-and-veggie mandate. Although he presented himself as a strict constructionist worried about Kagan's "expansive view of the Commerce Clause," Coburn brags about writing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Guess which provision of the Constitution supposedly justifies that egregious overextension of federal power. Like the medical marijuana case, this contradiction shows that a properly limited federal government is not necessarily something that conservatives welcome or that progressives should fear.
Why Do People Believe in Fantasies?
We human beings sure are gullible. Polls report that 27 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, and 25 percent in astrology. Others believe mediums, fortunetellers, faith healers and assorted magical phenomena.
I'd think the astrologers or the psychics or the ghost hunters would be eager to prove they were for real. Not only would they convince skeptics, they'd make a million dollars. That's what James Randi, the magician, author and debunker of bogus claims, will pay anyone who can prove he or she actually has an ability that can't be explained by science.
"All people have to do is make a claim, come to us, fill out the form, arrange a protocol, and then we have somebody else do the test," Randi says. He won't do the test himself, he says, because when psychics failed in the past, they claimed that Randi put out "evil vibrations" to thwart their powers.
Has anyone taken up the challenge? "We've done over 200 of them all over the world."
These days, TV is filled with commercials that claim that a bracelet will make people stronger. One shows people who are easily pulled over when they're not wearing the bracelet, but who withstand the pulling when wearing one.
I asked Randi the secret of this apparently sincere demonstration of the power of the bracelet. Apparently, when the subject wears the bracelet, the demonstrator covertly props him up. But even the test subject doesn't notice.
Why do so many people believe in such "magic"? "They want magic answers." Also, the media "promote interest and belief in these things because sponsors love it. It sells products."
It's good that Randi and occasional TV reporters expose the sellers of such "magic." But after I did that for 25 years, I concluded that the harm done by those hucksters is minor compared to the scams perpetuated by politicians.
They promise fiscal responsibility. Then they spend like drunken sailors. They promise to cure poverty. Then their programs make it worse. They promise to create jobs. But then they make life so complex and unpredictable that entrepreneurs are afraid to create jobs.
Almost none of their promises come true. But few people approach government with the skepticism it deserves.
Whether you believe in God -- or psychics, or global warming -- that's your business. I may think you're stupid, but if you waste your money on, say, a "strength" bracelet, you only harm yourself.
But being gullible about government hurts everyone. Government is force. When it sells us bunk, we have to pay even if we don't believe in or want it. If we don't pay up, men with guns will make sure we do. It's good to be skeptical. It's really good to be skeptical about government.
Walter E. Williams
Dr. Thomas Sowell, in "Dismantling America," said in reference to President Obama, "That such an administration could be elected in the first place, headed by a man whose only qualifications to be president of the United States at a dangerous time in the history of the world were rhetoric, style and symbolism -- and whose animus against the values and institutions of America had been demonstrated repeatedly over a period of decades beforehand -- speaks volumes about the inadequacies of our educational system and the degeneration of our culture."
Obama is by no means unique; his characteristics are shared by other Americans, but what is unique is that no other time in our history would such a person been elected president. That says a lot about the degeneration of our culture, values, thinking abilities and acceptance of what's no less than tyranny.
As Sowell says, "Barack Obama is unlike any other President of the United States in having come from a background of decades of associations and alliances with people who resent this country and its people." In 2008, Americans voted for Obama's change. Let's look at some of it.
Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius threatened that there would be "zero tolerance" for "misinformation" in response to an insurance company executive who said that ObamaCare would create costs that force up health insurance premiums. That's not only an attack on our constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights but an official threat against people who express views damaging to the administration.
Not to be outdone by his HHS secretary's attack on free speech, Obama wants full disclosure of the names of people who were backers of campaign commercials critical of his administration, saying that there has been a "flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests, using front groups with misleading names." Disclosure would leave administration critics open to government and mob retaliation.
Obama and his congressional and union allies have lectured us that socialized medicine is the cure for the nation's ills, but I have a question. If socialized medicine, Obamacare, is so great for the nation, why permit anyone to be exempted from it? It turns out that as of the end of November, Obama's Health and Human Services secretary has issued over 200 waivers to major labor unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union and Transport Workers Union of America and major companies such as McDonald's and Darden Restaurants, which operates Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Keep in mind that the power to grant waivers is also the power not to grant waivers. Such power can be used to reward administration friends and punish administration critics by saddling them with millions of dollars of health care costs.
Obama's heath care legislation contains deviousness that has become all too common in Washington. What was sold to the American people as health care reform legislation includes a provision that would more heavily regulate and tax gold coin and bullion transactions. Whether gold and bullion transactions should or should not be more heavily regulated and taxed is not the issue. The administration's devious inclusion of it as a part of health care reform is.
Fighting government intrusion into our lives is becoming increasingly difficult for at least two reasons. The first reason is that educators at the primary, secondary and university levels have been successful in teaching our youngsters to despise the values of our Constitution and the founders of our nation -- "those dead, old, racist white men." Their success in that arena might explain why educators have been unable to get our youngsters to read, write and compute on a level comparable with other developed nations; they are too busy proselytizing students.
The second reason is we've become a nation of thieves, accustomed to living at the expense of one another and to accommodate that we're obliged to support tyrannical and overreaching government. Adolf Hitler had it right when he said, "How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."
A German tourist was mauled to death by a shark off Egypt's Red Sea coast Sunday, but if popular rumors on the street are to be believed, it was the Israelis who did it.
The attack came days after authorities claimed they had hunted and killed a shark believed to have injured three foreign tourists in previous incidents.
The Egyptian government says that the attacks occurred because a trawler dumped dead sheep into the Red Sea which caused a feeding "frenzy". Marine biologists say overfishing may have forced the sharks to look in new waters for food.
While Egyptian media are treating the incidents as rare, perhaps in a bid to encourage the millions of foreign tourists who visit Sinai's coast every year that the area is safe, there have been several reports in the past decade of shark attacks.
That hasn't dampened the imagination of conspiracy theorists, however. A popular account has it that Israel is "dumping" hungry sharks in the Red Sea in a bid to weaken Egypt's thriving tourism industry.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, foreign visitors to Egypt poured nearly $11 billion into the economy, with growth forecast for 2011 and 2012 as European and North American economies rebound. The tourism sector is also a major source of employment.
One tourism company operator who owns a small fleet of mini-buses that cater to Cairo's tourist spots told me that Israel wants Egypt to lose one of its most vital economic resources so that it can toe the line on the Palestinians.
A waiter at a popular cafe went further and theorized that the deadly fires in Northern Israel were God's way of punishing the Israelis for orchestrating the shark attacks. "Look at how God has brought Israel to its knees as it asks the world - even Egypt - for help in putting out the fires," he said.
Democracy strong down under: "Australia is the sixth most democratic nation in the world, a new study shows. The British-based Economist Intelligence Unit has found that while Australia rose four positions since the last rankings two years ago, there had been a general decline in democracy across the globe. Norway has been ranked the world's most democratic nation followed by Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia. France, Italy, Greece and Slovenia dropped from the "full democracies" category and are now considered "flawed democracies." The report also put the United States and the United Kingdom both near the bottom of the list of full democracies. "In the US there has been an erosion of civil liberties in recent years related to the fight against terrorism," Mr Kekic said."
Iceland may ban MasterCard, Visa over WikiLeaks censorship: "Credit card companies that prevented card-holders from donating money to the secrets outlet WikiLeaks could have their operating licenses taken away in Iceland, according to members of the Icelandic Parliamentary General Committee. … The committee is seeking additional information from the credit card companies for proof that there was legal grounds for blocking the donations.”
Campaign against Wikileaks is lawless: "Anyone who values the First Amendment ought to oppose the campaign to ‘get’ Assange by any means necessary. In a free society, you can’t just ‘change the law’ to persecute someone you don’t like, and you can’t abuse your position to silence speech you oppose.”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)