Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

s11_4787Republican state Sen. Alan Hays really really liked the film “America.” So much so that he wants to make viewing the film by conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza required viewing for all students. Hays seems entirely unaware of the inherent conflict in responding to what he views as the dangerous influence of liberal views by seeking the mandatory viewing of conservative views.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.17.22 AMThere is an interesting twist this morning on the controversy over the Halbig decision that we have previously discussed. As I have stated in testimony before Congress and columns, I do not view the law as ambiguous and agree with the conclusion in Halbig as a matter of statutory interpretation, even though I think that the change ordered by the Obama Administration makes sense. Nevertheless, the White House and various supporters have insisted that the key language in the law linking tax credits to exchanges “established by a State” was a typo and nothing more. One of those voices has been Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who played a major role in the drafting of the law and was paid almost half of a million dollars to consult with the Administration on the law. He told MSNBC recently that “It is unambiguous this is a typo. Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states.” However, a libertarian group just uncovered a video showing Gruber saying quite clearly after the passage of the law that this provision was a quid pro quo device: state exchanges for tax credits. Conservative sites have lit up over the video below showing Gruber essentially describing the very tradeoff identified in Halbig.

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23ARIZONA-now-master180We previously discussed the botched execution in Oklahoma and the questions that it raised about our methods of execution. Now we have another horrific execution story to report. In Arizona, it took almost two hours for the prison to execute Joseph R. Wood III. The execution took so long that his counsel had time to file emergency papers with the federal court saying “He is still alive.”
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250px-Bed_bug,_Cimex_lectularius220px-US_Capitol_Building_at_night_Jan_2006The halls of Congress have been crawling for years with lobbyists and influence peddlers seeking to cash in on government largess. However, one creature proved too much this year in the Senate. The Architect of the Capitol rolled out yellow police tape and sealed off a bathroom in the Dirksen Senate Office Building after a woman was spotted crawling with bed bugs while waiting to attend a Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

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230px-CPR_training-04190px-Falk,_Benjamin_J._(1853-1925)_-_Eugen_Sandow_(1867-1925)Below is my column today in the Chicago Tribune on the rivaling rulings in the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit over a critical provision under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). As an academic interesting in statutory interpretation and legisprudence, the opinions are fascinating and capture two different but well-argued views of the role of both courts and agencies in dealing with legislative language.

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Patch_of_the_San_Diego_Police_DepartmentThirty women who work at two strip clubs, Cheetahs and Expose, are suing the city of San Diego and police Chief Shelley Zimmerman for what they allege were “license inspections” that were really photo ops for officers who snapped pictures of dancers in dressing rooms during a raid on July 15, 2013. (No, those are not supposed to look like two stripper poles on the police patch).

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US-CourtOfAppeals-4thCircuit-SealPresident_Barack_ObamaSoon after the D.C. Circuit delivered a major loss to the Administration in rejecting its statutory interpretation under the ACA in Halbig v. Burwell, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has delivered an equally important victory on the very same issue in King v. Burwell. This tale of two circuits only increases the likelihood of a Supreme Court review and perhaps the case for expedited appeals.

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US-CourtOfAppeals-DCCircuit-SealPresident_Barack_ObamaAs I have written about in columns and testimony, the most significant challenge to Obamacare was never Hobby Lobby but Halbig vs. Burwell that has been pending in the D.C. Circuit. I described Halbig in my testimony as a live torpedo in the water for Obamacare. Well, that torpedo just hit. The D.C. Circuit has found that the Obama Administration effectively rewrote the law on a critical provision dealing with tax credits and state exchanges. It is another major blow against the Administration and more importantly another judicial finding that President Obama exceeded his authority in his effort to “go it alone” in ordering such changes to federal laws.

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220px-AlfedPalmersmokestacksWhile the United States continues to spend billions on foreign wars above the $4 trillion spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, we continue to receive new studies showing how the country is failing behind in education, science, and other programs needed for future growth. The latest is the study of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which found that we have now dropped to 13th out of 16 major nations in energy efficiency — a key economic factor for future growth.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

I have been watching the water crisis in Detroit for some time now and I have been amazed that it is not a bigger story.  If you haven’t heard, the new city Administrator of the City of Detroit that was appointed by the Governor and his Water Department have been turning off the water of needy citizens in Detroit when their past due bills are as little as $150.00. In a city with over 20% unemployment and countless vacant buildings, it seems like Detroit is slowly being destroyed.  (more…)

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Customs and Border Protection Shoulder PatchCyrus Farivar, the senior business editor of Ars Technica, wrote of his experience of having made a Freedom of Information Act request for data held regarding his Passenger Name Records (PNR) provided to the government by airlines, travel agents, and online booking services in order to review what is being tracked in his prior international travels. According to Cyrus, the government initially only included basic information going back to 1994 but after he appealed the request and the government then returned a seventy six page document of data revealing extensive data collected from 2005 to 2013.

He discovered that airlines and these various companies routinely hand over extensive passenger information during each transaction with the customer, including: phone number; address; e-mail address; meal preference (could be used to determine religion); accommodation requests; (can reveal health conditions); changes of seating; credit card numbers; whether the passenger is travelling with others and who; IP address; language used; notes from call center workers and other data not readily apparent to a reader.

The documents reveal a window into what privacy advocates believe is a disturbing trend of the U.S. Government to collect all things on all persons. And, this will likely have other repercussions.

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

City of Moses Lake LogoA controversy developed in Moses Lake, Washington over a Fourth Congressional Candidate’s and his supporters’ placement of campaign signs on city owned property and rights of way in the city.

House hopeful Gavin Seim declined to agree to a required use permit in placement of his campaign signs calling the permitting and removal of his signs a violation of his free speech and his right to participate in government.

Moses Lake City Manager Joe Gavinski claims the policy somehow protects the public. The city’s government permits six campaign free speech zones within its jurisdiction.

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By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me, but the one who sent me.’ “

-Gospel of Mark, Ch. 9, verses 36-37, New American Bible (Thomas Nelson, 1989)

“If kids come in my backyard, I’ll shoot them.”

-unidentified Murietta, California resident protesting the sheltering of undocumented child immigrants (July 1, 2014)

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“Collective fear,” wrote Bertrand Russell, “stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” The ugliness in Murietta, California several weeks ago provided ample evidence, if any were needed, of the power of collective fear. But even more disturbing than the angry shouts at frightened children unable even to understand the words hurled at them has been the reaction of political leaders. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry demanded that the President dispatch National Guard troops to the border, for who knows what purpose. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R. Texas) has been even more vocal. Most of you may recall Rep. Gohmert’s rants several years ago about “anchor babies” born in the United States to be trained as terrorists. This time around he is claiming that the Administration is encouraging the influx of unaccompanied children as part of a plot to turn America “blue” and “ensure Republicans will never get elected again.” Of course, that will require that all of these tens of thousands of children survive the various diseases with which he also claims them to be infected and carrying over the border. Rep. Gohmert could be dismissed as another congressional crackpot but for the fact that he currently serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. (more…)

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225px-Richard_Durbin_offici300px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Iron_Dome_Intercepts_Rockets_from_the_Gaza_StripThe US Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee just approved the transfer of $351 million to Israel for the Iron Dome missile defense system — that will bring the appropriations this week for Israel to $621 million. There has been virtually no debate about such huge payments to another nation’s defense budget when cities and schools continue to cut back on programs for lack of fund. In Fairfax county, our kids are being placed in classes of over 30 kids with a single teacher because there is no money to hire more staff. Congress has cut historic programs and environmental projects for lack of a few million dollars but approves these transfers with little debate. It is not just Israel, as we have previously discussed, but the continuation of huge expenditures abroad in various countries from Pakistan to Iraq to Afghanistan to Egypt. It is not necessarily the ultimate appropriation decision as much as the lack of any discussion on such budgetary priorities and policies that is so striking.

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220px-The_ProcuressThe criminalization of prostitution has always been an anomaly in the law when compared to sex on camera for the adult entertainment industry. Libertarians question why consenting adults should not be able to agree to such arrangements since they can have as many lovers for free as a form of protected conduct. For those who have argued for legalization of prostitution, a recent study by Baylor University’s Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah of the University of California, Los Angeles may give them something of a boost. The study found that, for the years when prostitution was effectively legal in Rhode Island (but not street walking), both public health and public safety substantially improved with a drop in rape and a drop in the rate of gonorrhea among women.

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