Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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DECEMBER 13, 2010
AND NOW THE RULING – AT 7:49 P.M. ET: Part of Obamacare has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Virginia. Cautionary note: This is only one judge. They have others stored away. From The New York Times:
A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.
Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.
In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions.
COMMENT: This will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court, but it may take a few years. In the meantime, as the story says, it will add to the confusion and uncertainty over Obamacare.
By the way, the Times's report is emblematic of so much that is wrong with journalism today. The reporter didn't miss an opportunity to tell us all about the judge's Republican background and Republican sponsorship of opposition to Obamacare.
The opinion by Judge Hudson, who has a long history in Republican politics in northern Virginia, continued a partisan pattern in the health care cases. Thus far, judges appointed by Republican presidents have ruled consistently against the Obama administration while Democratic appointees have found for it.
That has reinforced the notion — fueled by the White House — that the lawsuits are as much a political assault as a constitutional one. The Richmond case was filed by Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican, and all but one of the 20 attorneys general and governors who filed a similar case in Pensacola, Fla., are Republicans. Other lawsuits have been filed by conservative law firms and interest groups.
Now, I have absolutely no problem with The Times giving us some of the political background of the case. It's the hypocrisy and inconsistency that worries me. The Times, and other papers, routinely refer to far-left operators as "peace activists," "human rights activists," and "progressives," sparing us any semblance of the whole truth. The only time detail is provided is when it's Republican detail.
Readers do indeed detect this, and it weakens credibility. Weren't there once editors?
BACK TO REALITY – AT 7:14 P.M. ET: We are reminded that there's a political world, a journalistic world, and a real world. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff notes developments in the real world. From Fox:
The top U.S. military officer said Monday that the danger of war or hostilities on the Korean peninsula is rising, as North Korea warned that cooperation between its southern neighbor and the United States could trigger a nuclear war.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told troops in Baghdad that North Korea has upped the ante in its aggression against South Korea -- a pattern he said is tied to preparations for Kim Jong Il to pass power to his son.
The latest example of bellicose rhetoric came with North Korea warning of nuclear war, as South Korea planned live-fire naval drills to run Monday through Friday. Those drills follow a North Korea artillery attack on front-line Yeonpyeong Island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.
The Nov. 23 artillery barrage, the North's first assault to target a civilian area since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, began after the North said South Korea first fired artillery toward its territorial waters. South Korea says it fired shells southward, not toward North Korea, as part of routine exercises.
COMMENT: Of course, one reason for the north's aggressiveness is the belief that it can get away with it. And why shouldn't they think this way? They have gotten away with it. There has been very little punishment for their nuclear weapons program, and no punishment to speak of for their sinking of a South Korean naval vessel earlier this year. And the recent North Korean barrage against a South Korean island has been met by a tap on the wrist with a feather.
We are going to have a heavy foreign policy year next year. We can only hope that Obama abandons the left wing of his party and starts defending American interests.
COULDN'T HAPPEN TO A MORE HUMBLE BUNCH OF GUYS – AT 9:32 A.M. ET: Everywhere George Soros goes, he spreads a little misery. There really should be a musical based on him, or at least a song, like "Georgie, the Red-thinking Money Trader." I love the tune already. I wish Perry Como were alive.
But now a Soros "gift" may cause real grief for the recipient, especially as that recipient is National Public Radio. Republicans have NPR in their sights, and I hope their sights are accurate. From The Politico:
National Public Radio is facing the most serious threat to the "public" part of its identity since Newt Gingrich’s days as speaker, thanks to a resurgent, tea-party-inspired Republican House with budget cuts on its mind and recent stumbles that have left the broadcaster vulnerable to its ideological critics on the right.
By far the greatest and most galvanizing of these issues was the firing of Juan Williams. But some Republicans also are seething over NPR’s announcement of a $1.8 million grant from the Open Society Foundations, founded by financier George Soros, just a few days before Williams was fired.
Republicans, such as Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Eric Cantor of Virginia — as well as conservative commentators, such as Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck — have cited the grant in their calls to strip federal funding from NPR.
Budget hawks like Cantor say the grant proves NPR doesn’t need to rely on government money. But the culture warriors, like DeMint and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), go much further — arguing that NPR’s acceptance of the grant is proof of a leftist agenda.
COMMENT: I am shocked, shocked, that anyone would think NPR has a leftist agenda. But it does. At a time of economic stress, there's a real question as to whether NPR should receive federal funds at all. Its acceptance of a gift from the agenda-driven Soros makes it clear that NPR has other means of financing. The federal government might consider availing itself of the opportunity to opt out. The money is better spent elsewhere.
'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY, AND, APPARENTLY, A LITTLE SILLY TOO – AT 9:01 A.M. ET: The WikiLeaks saga continues to fill news space at a time of year when editors and news directors sometimeshave trouble finding solid stories to tell.
I've heard more silliness about WikiLeaks than about any other subject recently. I think it's absurd for some people to argue that newspapers have a "right" to publish the material that got WikiLeaked, and yet that is the argument one hears from a number of journalists. The secrets of the United States government are not "news stories." They are the property of the American people, entrusted to elected leaders and their appointed officials. In my view, a newspaper does not have a "right" to them.
Of course, that should never be an absolute position. There may be extreme circumstances in which a government is acting outrageously, corruptly, or dangerously. Then, a free press, after very sober consideration, might conclude that it has the obligation and right to make a secret public. There is plenty of precedent for that, and common-sense guidelines are available. Compare please with the illegitimate dumping of hundreds of thousands of documents on the open market.
Some commentators have, however, gotten it right when they say that the real villains are those who supplied the material to WikiLeaks, and it's hard to believe that the Army Pfc the government has in custody did the whole job himself. I am being strictly speculative here, but the extent of the leaks may tell us about the kind of people hired by the Obama administration, even for sensitive positions. We know that a number of profoundly leftist types have been recruited, people like the Marxist Van Jones, who was forced to leave the White House last year after his Kremlinesque views became known. Those views never, apparently, bothered Obama.
It will be a real test of this administration to conduct a thorough probe until the culprits are brought to justice. I wonder if they have the interest. The mainstream media certainly doesn't.
THANK GOODNESS THEY'RE EXTENDING THOSE JOBLESS BENEFITS – AT 8:45 A.M. ET: From AP:
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fired his foreign minister and named the nuclear chief to serve as the country's acting top diplomat.
In a brief statement on the president's website Monday, Ahmadinejad thanked Manouchehr Mottaki for his more than five years of service but gave no explanation for change.
Over the past year, Iranian media have reported that lawmakers were pushing for Mottaki to be dismissed if more U.N. Security Council sanctions were imposed in response to the country's nuclear program. According to the reports, the lawmakers argued that he was not a strong or persuasive enough advocate for Iran on the international stage.
COMMENT: It's so hard to get good help these days. The importance of this story is that it will give ammunition to those who believe the sanctions are hurting Iran, and that Ahmadinejad is trying to find scapegoats. The problem with that argument is that, even if some of the sanctions are biting, it does not logically flow that Iran will alter its nuclear program. There are no signs of that anywhere.
SWEDISH MEATBALLS – AT 8:27 A.M. ET: We are fascinated to watch Sweden reacting to a terrorist attack. Once considered a paradise by the meatball left, Sweden has run into a buzz saw of troubles, while continuing to lecture the U.S. and the rest of the world on our obligations.
Let's face the painful truth: The only time we notice Sweden is when IKEA runs out of spare door handles. So let's give a bit of time to see how they're handling the outrage. From The New York Times:
STOCKHOLM — A day after two explosions struck central Stockholm, killing the man suspected of being a suicide bomber and wounding two other people, investigators began to focus on the possibility that the person responsible was a disaffected Iraqi-born Swede who had attended college in Britain.
Disaffected in Sweden? Why, how could that be?
Reports in British and Swedish newspapers, citing government sources, identified the man as Taimour al-Abdaly, a 28-year-old Sunni Muslim whose family moved to Sweden from Baghdad in 1992. Attempts by The New York Times to confirm the reports independently were not immediately successful, and Swedish officials declined to comment, saying the bomber’s identity was part of the investigation.
Yikes. The Times used the M word. Does that mean they have to go before some multicultural crimes board?
But the suspect’s possible link to Britain was reinforced Sunday night when the Metropolitan Police in London said officers were searching a property at an address in Bedfordshire, the county in which Mr. Abdaly is believed to have attended college. A spokesman said the search was made “in connection with the incidents in Stockholm.”
Sweden’s prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, told reporters at a news conference that an investigation led by the Swedish intelligence agency Sapo was still working to establish links among the two explosions, the dead man found with blast wounds to his abdomen and the threatening messages sent to the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra shortly before the explosions.
Mr. Reinfeldt, leader of a center-right coalition, said the police were “treating this as a terrorist action,” but he appealed to Swedes not to jump to “the wrong conclusions” or allow preliminary reports about the explosions to stir fresh tensions over Sweden’s growing immigrant population, including about 450,000 Muslims. Sweden’s “openness is worth giving ourselves the time to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Same old pacifiers. We must not think bad thoughts. But plenty of Swedes have been thinking them for years, as a militant immigrant population refuses to integrate.
We hope that now the Swedish government will understand why others around the world take terrorism so seriously. Sweden might send some military and police people to the U.S. to learn the ropes.
QUESTIONS FROM THE LEFT – AT 11:50 P.M. ET: Although I disagree with them, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Howard Dean are raising some legitimate questions about part of the Obama tax plan negotiated with Republicans:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) are both raising doubts about an aspect of President Barack Obama's tax-cut deal that has not received much criticism: a one-year, two-percentage point cut in employees' share of the Social Security payroll tax. By contrast, a group which usually mounts staunch opposition to changes in the Social Security funding mechanism, AARP, has said it is not troubled by the proposed payroll tax holiday.
"That’s another thing that I really disagree with the president on...this two percent cut in the payroll tax that goes to the Social Security trust fund. The last thing that we need to do is invade the Social Security trust fund to provide for things right now for people’s living," Harkin said in little-noted comments Wednesday on C'-SPAN's "Washington Journal." "They’re going to make up that by it taking out of the general fund, in other words: debt. They’re going to put debt on our kids head to pay for that. That bothers me. That bothers me a great deal."...
...Dean, who doesn't get a vote on the package, took a similar tack on CBS's "Face The Nation" Sunday. "The 2 percent payroll tax sounds great, but in fact they take it out of the Social Security trust fund. Now, here we are complaining about the Social Security trust fund going broke and we take $120...billion of revenue out and use it for a payroll tax mitigation," Dean said.
COMMENT: Well, fellas, welcome to the club. It's nice to see liberal Democrats, who generally write hot checks without giving it a thought, showing some wisdom.
On balance, though,I'd go with the president's plan. Yes, it sets a risky precedent in invading the Social Security fund, but it gives people a real cash break that will benefit the middle class most. We hope that money gets spent in the economy, and helps us out of the doldrums. But I wouldn't recommend doing this regularly.
These two Dems actually made sense. Maybe there's hope after all.
OBAMA SINKING AGAIN IN POLLS – AT 11:12 A.M. ET: We remind readers that a poll is a snapshot in time, and that counting Mr. Obama out for 2012 as a result of current polls would be foolishness defined. Still, current polls will influence the attitudes of other political players, foreign and domestic, toward Obama, and so we report them.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he'd lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
The biggest reason for Obama's fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November's midterm elections. At the same time, he's gained nothing among independents.
"He's having the worst of both worlds right now," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the national survey.
"As he moves to the center, he's not picking up support among independents and he's having some fall-off among his base. If his strategy is to gain independents and keep the Democrats in tow, it isn't working so far."
Overall, just 42 percent of registered voters approve of how he's doing his job, while 50 percent disapprove.
Obama's standing among Democrats dropped from a month ago, with his approval rating falling to 74 percent from 83 percent, and his disapproval rating almost doubling, from 11 percent to 21 percent.
COMMENT: I just love it. Apparently, the Democrats think they can get a president even further to the left, if they protest enough. President-elect Kucinich comes to mind.
Remember that it's only been a month since the election. If Obama moves to the center, convincingly, it will take time before the move shows up in polls of independents. It showed up decisively with Bill Clinton. Do not count Obama out.
RUSSIA AND VENEZUELA ECHOING USSR AND CUBA – AT 10:52 A.M. ET: There have been a numbe of worrisome reports about Russian arms transfers to the Chavez regime in Venezuela. This one raises particular concern in terms of American lives. From the Washington Post:
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - Russia delivered at least 1,800 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to Venezuela in 2009, U.N. arms control data show, despite vigorous U.S. efforts to stop President Hugo Chavez's stridently anti-American government from acquiring the weapons.
The United States feared that the missiles could be funneled to Marxist guerrillas fighting Colombia's pro-American government or Mexican drug cartels, concerns expressed in U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and first reported in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
It had been unclear how many of the Russian SA-24 missiles were delivered to Venezuela, though the transfer itself was not secret. Chavez showed off a few dozen at a military parade in April 2009, saying they could "deter whatever aerial aggression against our country." A high-level Russian delegation told American officials in Washington in July of that year that 100 of the missiles had been delivered in the first quarter of 2009.
COMMENT: One of the great worries of anti-terror officials is that a shoulder-launched missile system could be smuggled into the United States and used against an airliner taking off from an American airport. The shoulder systems are small and obviously portable. Getting one, or more, across the Mexican border shouldn't be too difficult, especially if the device was broken down into parts.
The idea that 1,800 of these shoulder units are in Venezuela is truly chilling. The missiles can bring down a plane flying as high as 19,000 feet. And it would be impossible to trace a unit specifically to Chavez.
If our enemies could get three units into this country, and use them on the same day...you do the casualty math.
We are facing a truly frightening threat, but I wonder how seriously it's being taken.
DEMS SOFTEN ON TAX COMPROMISE – AT 10:33 A.M. ET: Despite all the chest thumping, congressional Democrats seem resigned to going along with President Obama's tax-cut compromise, negotiated with Republican leaders. From The Politico:
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the incoming ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, admitted on Sunday that House Democrats won't hold up a deal to resolve the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.
Last week, frustrated lawmakers rejected a tax-cut extension package negotiated between President Barack Obama and Republicans. House Democrats said they were angry that they were left out of some of the deal-making, particularly the adjustment to the estate tax, which they consider to be a too generous.
“It was not central to the deal, so it’s a simple question," Van Hollen said on "Fox News Sunday," referring to the estate tax provision."We’re not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day, but we think this simple question should be put to the test."
And Van Hollen stressed, "There will be an opportunity for the House to work its will."
COMMENT: Republicans must proceed with caution. They have claimed that maintaining all the Bush-era tax cuts will help improve the economy. The proof will be in the numbers. If the numbers don't develop, the GOP will be on the defensive in the 2012 campaign, having championed "tax cuts for the rich." That provision was highly unpopular with the public to begin with. If the economy is still sour, or gets worse, it will become even more unpopular.
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of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
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