Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick Hits - March 28, 2012

Today is the third and final day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States regarding Obamacare.  In today's split session, the first hour will be spent in oral arguments on the severability of the individual mandate from the rest of the bill.  The second hour will focus on arguments over the Medicaid expansion and whether the federal government may rely on its spending power to force / coerce states to do what the federal government asks.  The other issue related is from the viewpoint of the states and if the expansion of the Medicaid program (a joint Federal / State program) forces the states to carry out federal imperatives without an ability to opt out.

As this post is being written, the first session has been completed.  SCOTUSblog notes in their quick summary of the session....
The Court is really struggling with severability. Generally speaking, the more conservative the member the more likely they were to believe that more would have to be invalidated. Justice Scalia would strike down the entire Act. Most likely would be guarantee issue, community rating and some other pieces essential to keeping insurance prices low. Tea leaves suggested that Justice Kennedy would vote to invalidate the mandate but nothing super-clear.
During the questioning process, even the liberal justices had significant questions regarding the determination of which parts of the 2700 page bill should / could be kept in place in the event the individual mandate failed the constitutionality test.  This was an extremely complex bill that was pretty much unread when it was passed, punted many levels of regulatory authority to the HHS to determine and define, and something that was noted would be next to impossible for the justices to try to define the real intent of the Congress - or if it should given how it was passed without any bipartisan support and by the minimum number of votes needed.

Another major point that raised questions towards trying to maintain part of the bill was Congressional findings warning about a potential financial death spiral for insurers that would result from the bill's provisions that barred excluding pre-existing conditions or adverse risk pricing.  Without a sufficiently sized risk pool - those with pre-existing conditions would bankrupt insurers.

But most interesting were the comments by some of the pundits - in particular CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin who yesterday called the arguments around the individual mandate a 'train wreck for the Obama Administration.  Hat tip to Hot Air for this video / transcript....

CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin: “This still looks like a train wreck for the Obama Administration, and it may also be a plane wreck. This entire law is now in serious trouble. It also seems that the individual mandate is doomed. I mean, Anthony Kennedy spent much of this morning talking about if we strike down the individual mandate, how should we handle the rest of the law? Now, it is less clear that they are going to strike down the whole law. There does seem to be some controversy in the court about that. Certainly there are some members of the court, Antonin Scalia, Justice Alito, who want to strike down the entire law, but it seemed almost a foregone conclusion today that they were going to strike down the individual mandate, and the only question is does the whole law go out the window with it?”

Whitfield: “Oh, my goodness. Okay, so I have got about 20 seconds or so left. How might this impact arguments later on this afternoon, Jeff?”

Toobin: “Well, it’s hard to imagine how things could be going much worse for the Obama Administration, but now they’re going to be dealing with the Medicaid portion, and they may decide to get rid of that as well.”

From train wreck to plane wreck...and this from a liberal commentator who has been a cheerleader for the President and his agenda from the start on a network that has been a cheerleader for the President and his agenda from the start.

The Bench Memo Blog on National Review Online looks back at yesterday's oral arguments (as Toobin defined it - a 'train wreck') and the commentary / observations regarding the performance of Solicitor General Donal Verrilli who struggled significantly.  In particular, many of the left leaning media elements are focusing on the poor job done by the Solicitor General in their summaries of yesterday's argument - noting that some of the liberal justices on the court had to come to his assistance to help defend the individual mandate.

It's very possible that the Solicitor General did have a bad or off day - but was the challenges around yesterday's oral arguments less related to the performance of the SG and more related to the individual mandate and its constitutionality?  The challenges to defend something as being constitutional when it clearly runs against the concept of limited government power as established by the US Constitution have to be daunting particularly if the viewpoint is based on the US Constitution and not a progressive ideological vision.

While Justice Kennedy remains the swing vote on the key decision point of the individual mandate, I am more confident that the mandate will be found unconstitutional because of the way it fundamentally readjusts the relationship between the people and the federal government / limited government as defined by the Constitution.  I would be very surprised if he found that the health insurance market was so unique that it would require a step like the individual mandate to be taken - and that would really open a slippery slope

My take on this mornings argument is that if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, the SCOTUS will basically toss the entire bill and have Congress take another run at addressing the challenges we face regarding healthcare

Wisconsin is not the only major battleground between the need to reform education combined with establishing fiscal reforms in order to repair the damage being done by greedy and out of control public sector unions.  Wisconsin is one of the main fronts as the progressive left Democrats and their public sector union allies (Teachers Union / SEIU / etc) have forced a recall election of Governor Walker and several leading Republican officials to undo the legislation Wisconsin passed which reduced the power of those public sector unions and eliminated their ability to soak the taxpayer.  Since the legislation many school districts in Wisconsin that were in dire financial straits have been able to reverse from deficits to surpluses - at the expense of not teachers or students - but at the expense of union coffers.

Louisiana is a new battleground for this fight to reign in the greedy teachers unions - and those union workers and officials are seeking to do the same in that state as they've done in Wisconsin - recall Governor Bobby Jindal over his support for real education reform.  In response to legislation being pushed in Louisiana's legislature to undertake real education reform with a focus on improving education and the learning of students, Louisiana's teachers union and teachers marched on Baton Rouge. Hot Air's Tina Korbe summarizes this very well...
Louisiana teachers took the day off today to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform plan, which would make changes to teacher tenure, restructure teacher compensation to reward performance and enable low-income students to use vouchers to leave underperforming schools to attend private or charter schools.

It was a cornily themed protest: Teachers declared it “the funeral for real education reform” and even toted along a mock coffin. Intimidating. They hoped for “real reform,” they wrote in a release, “but the policies proposed and the legislative process thus far is proving fatal.”

At least they’re out in the open about their flagrant disregard for the legislative process. Their proposed alternative to it? An election to recall the governor! Have they not seen what a catalyst for cross-country conservative activism Scott Walker has become? Eh, well, if they want to grow the conservative movement, I’m cool with that.

But the children. No, seriously, what about the children? This is the second time this month that Louisiana teachers have canceled class to attempt to, er, put the nail in the coffin of the legislative process.
As in virtually every other state, the interests of the Teachers unions are not focused on their students - but on their own power, wealth, and greed.  To them, as we saw in Wisconsin, the children are only props to be used to promote their own power, wealth, and greed.

The family of Treyvon Martin met yesterday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Capital Hill.  Unsurprisingly, this turned into just another circus around race baiting.   The commentary from the various members of the CBC were all along the same vein - that racial profiling / the racism of George Zimmerman and lax gun laws directly contributed to the death last month of Treyvon Martin - and demanding Zimmerman's immediate arrest.

Left unsaid by these race baiters is any real interest towards letting the investigative and judicial process continue - particularly as witnesses are substantiating much of Zimmerman's statement to the police after the incident as also do the injuries that Zimmerman suffered when attacked by Martin.

Reports are coming out that the 6 foot 2 inch Treyvon Martin has had some run-ins with his school (multiple suspensions) and questions about possible criminal behavior in his past.  The response of the race baiters and family members is to try to call this fact finding an effort to denigrate Martin's reputation and immaterial to his death - but with witnesses and the injuries suffered by Zimmerman seem to support that Martin attacked Zimmerman as opposed to Zimmerman 'hunting' Martin down...

Fundamentally, one would think that the Congressional Black Caucus would be more focused on the not only the black on black crimes that take place in far greater numbers than white on black crime (or black on white crime for that matter) but also on the conditions that have been created and fostered within the black community resulting from the liberal progressive policies that they regularly advocate.  Racism did make Detroit broke - neither did billions of dollars it's received from the federal or state government. 

The actions of these members of the CBC, and other race baiters like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Spike Lee are doing far more to promote racism and the racial divide than eliminate it.  Oh, and while I am at it, let's not give the majority of the mainstream media a pass for their irresponsible actions - like using old pictures of both Martin / Zimmerman to promote their meme or repeating the same mistakes they made in the Duke lacrosse case.

Speaking of Spike Lee - this pinhead reportedly retweets the 'home address' of George Zimmerman in an effort to increase the pressure on him (promoting vigilantism?) over the Treyvon Martin tragedy.  However, it's not the correct address - and an elderly couple living at that address has been forced to flee their home.  Nice guy, eh?

Gasoline prices are continuing to soar across the United States with the national average price now over $3.90 per gallon.  A dozen states have their average price over $4 per gallon - including here in California were we are paying $4.50 locally and over $5 in Los Angeles.  Fed Chair Ben Bernanke says that gas prices are likely to go up at least through July in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

I fully expect to see $5 per gallon prices by Independence Day locally - caused by not only the Obama Administration's anti-fossil fuel agenda, but also the weak US dollar and inflation we are experiencing due to the feckless fiscal policies of the Obama Administration.

The campaign rhetoric of Barack Obama also is doing little to address the challenges around the soaring prices either.  The rhetoric, 180 degrees from that promoted by the President and his Administration over much of the last 3 / 4 years (including the 2008 campaign), offers nothing more than lies designed to obfuscate the culpability of the Administration with the increase in prices from $1.84 per gallon on inauguration day to today's level of $3.90 per gallon.

Three Republican Senators are calling President Obama and his Administration officials on their energy lies and misrepresentations in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar which highlights the anti-fossil fuel agenda.

In addition, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has also posted on its website a complete run down between the 'myths' being advocated by President Obama, Secretary Salazar, and Secretary Chu with factual information correcting these 'myths'.
Myth: Regulatory costs are a minimal part of the price of gasoline.

Fact: The Environmental Protection Agency imposes two kinds of regulations impacting motor fuels – measures that seek to reduce emissions from refineries and those specifying the recipe for gasoline. Rather than trying to reduce the cost of existing regulations, EPA is considering adding more of them, such as New Source Performance Standards targeting greenhouse gas emissions from refineries and new Tier 3 regulations mandating ultra-low sulfur gasoline. The cost of current and anticipated future regulations has also contributed to several recent domestic refinery closures.

Myth: EPA’s fuel economy regulations for new cars and trucks are a solution to high gas prices.

Fact: These rules provide no relief until you buy a new vehicle, and are not a substitute for taking steps to reduce gas prices. Further, the higher sticker price resulting from these rules – up to $1,000 by 2016 and $3,000 by 2025 according to EPA, and higher according to outside estimates – raise questions about how many consumers will benefit from them.

Myth: Increased supplies will not bring down prices for years to come.

Fact: The price of oil is not just determined by current supply and demand indicators. It is also set by future expectations of supply. For example, the day President Bush lifted the executive moratorium on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, the price of oil dropped $9.26. And prices continued to decline when the Congressional moratorium was lifted. Changes in government policy have significant effects on price, but unfortunately, all signs coming from the Obama administration have assisted in driving up gasoline costs.

One of the main justifications by the Obama Administration towards their anti-fossil fuel policies is that this is needed to address climate change / global warming and specifically the greenhouse effect of CO2 that is being driven not by science but ideological interests which have subverted science to make the case that action is needed.

We are often being told that temperatures are at and rising at an unprecedented and dangerous level - with severe repercussions for everyone. But when others point out the data that the Medieval warming period had even warmer temperatures than we are seeing today - we're told that the information is inconclusive and at best just a short term localized condition.

Scientists have now determined that not only did the Medieval warming period did exist, but that it was global - not just in Europe.
A team of scientists led by geochemist Zunli Lu from Syracuse University in New York state, has found that contrary to the ‘consensus’, the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago wasn’t just confined to Europe.

In fact, it extended all the way down to Antarctica – which means that the Earth has already experience global warming without the aid of human CO2 emissions.

We've discussed in several of the last editions of QH the signs of desperation and implosion taking place in not only Newt Gingrich's GOP Presidential campaign, but also that of Rick Santorum's campaign.  This will not be getting any better for Rick Santorum as a recent poll in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania shows that his support is cratering.  In the last month, Santorum has seen his support fall 13 points - now placing him in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney.  He's also trailing Romney by double digits (10.5%) in the RealClearPolitics average in the other critical state - Wisconsin.

If Santorum loses both - he's done.
Some people seem surprised that despite the verbal acceptance of a UN peace plan for Syria that includes a commitment for a cease fire by the Assad regime, Syrian military units are continuing their use of heavy weapons (artillery, tanks, and helicopter gunships) against opposition areas in a number of towns and cities across Syria.  These 'opposition areas' are civilian neighborhoods in these towns and cities. Given the actions of the Assad regime in the past, why is this a surprise?  The regime is directly responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the last month (9,000 in the last year) - and their only interest is to maintain their power.

On This Day in History

1774 - The British Parliament adopts the last of the Coercive Acts - a series of acts intended to punish colonists in Boston, Massachusetts for their actions (including the Boston Tea Party) against the Crown, restore order in Massachusetts, and separate New England from the other colonies.  However, these acts served as stimulus to unify the colonial resistance to British rule without representation - as evidence by the move to create the first Continental Congress in September 1774.

1898 - The Supreme Court of the US ruled that a child born in the US to Chinese immigrants was a US citizen - and therefore not subject to deportation under the Chinese Exclusion Act.

1939 - The Republican defenders of the Spanish capital of Madrid surrendered the city to the Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco - ending the Spanish Civil War.

1979 - The worst accident in the history of the US nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close causing a massive coolant loss and the reactor core to dangerously overheat.  The reactor came within less than an hour of a complete meltdown - and over half of the reactor was destroyed by the partial meltdown.

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