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Yes, Roberts Switched Sides on Obamacare Decision: CBS

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

CBS News is reporting that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his position on the Court’s Affordable Health Care vote, after initially siding with conservatives.

The reason for the switch? Roberts was feeling the pressure from liberal publications and other experts who saw striking down Obamacare as a blow to the legitimacy of the Court:

There were countless news articles in May warning of damage to the Court – and to Roberts’ reputation – if the Court were to strike down the mandate. Leading politicians, including the President himself, had expressed confidence the mandate would be upheld.

Some even suggested that if Roberts struck down the mandate, it would prove he had been deceitful during his confirmation hearings, when he explained a philosophy of judicial restraint.

It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, “wobbly,” the sources said.

It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law. At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.

Some informed observers outside the Court flatly reject the idea that Roberts buckled to liberal pressure, or was stared down by the President. They instead believe that Roberts realized the historical consequences of a ruling striking down the landmark health care law. There was no doctrinal background for the Court to fall back on – nothing in prior Supreme Court cases – to say the individual mandate crossed a constitutional line.

The case raised entirely new issues of power. Never before had Congress tried to force Americans to buy a private product; as a result, never before had the Court ruled Congress lacked that power. It was completely uncharted waters.

To strike down the mandate as exceeding the Commerce Clause, the Court would have to craft a new theory, which could have opened it up to criticism that it reached out to declare the President’ health care law unconstitutional.

Roberts was willing to draw that line, but in a way that decided future cases, and not the massive health care case.

Moreover, there are passages in Roberts’ opinion that are consistent with his views that unelected judges have assumed too much power over American life, and that courts generally should take a back seat to elected officials, who are closer to the people and can be voted out of office if the people don’t like what they’re doing.

So yes, Roberts caved not on the basis of law, but on political grounds; i.e., he didn’t want to be known as the justice who struck down Obamacare — that mean old conservative.

Read the linked article for the reaction from conservative justices. The contempt in which they hold Roberts for what I’m sure they see as a betrayal is amazing.

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Half Life of UN-Inspired Peace Deal for Syria

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Claudia Rosett

Well, that was quick…

June 30, 2012:

July 1, 2012:

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Will Congress Act to Prevent U.S. from Going Over ‘Fiscal Cliff’?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

This seems so gigantically irresponsible that I can’t believe either side is contemplating it.

At the turn of the new year, a slew of tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration will expire while at the same time, sequestration will occur and $1.2 trillion in spending will be cut. There will also be a need to raise the debt ceiling.

Congress can avoid this disaster by working toward a compromise. Alas, observers from both sides of the debate think this will be too hard to accomplish and there appears to be a chance that the lame duck session following the November election will avoid the issues altogether.

Reuters:

Neither Democrats nor Republicans claim this is their preferred option, as it could rattle global financial markets badly and anger their constituents.

But as they circle each other in an ever-more partisan atmosphere they see little prospect for a settlement acceptable to both parties in the lame duck session of Congress after the November 6 election.

That is when they confront the wave of fiscal cliff decisions including how to handle expiration of temporary tax cuts that originated during the presidency of George W. Bush, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts and the need to raise the debt ceiling again.

Some members and partisan strategists are concluding that they might be better off doing nothing.

They would come back in January with a new Congress relatively flush with cash – at least on paper – from the impact of the tax hikes; hit reset and start over to structure a new series of tax cuts. Call them the “Obama tax cuts” or “Romney tax cuts,” depending on the victor in the November election.

The risk of shaking the markets is always there. But they could mitigate that by telegraphing to voters and Wall Street in advance that they definitely intend to write some new tax cuts into law. It could take a couple months, or maybe even all of 2013 and beyond, but they promise they will do it and they promise they will make the tax cuts retroactive to January 1, 2013.

“My preference would not be to accept a lesser solution than you could get in February and March just to say that you got it done before the end of the year,” Senator Roy Blunt, a member of Republican leadership and congressional liaison to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, told the 2012 Washington Reuters Summit last week.

Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, said that if Republicans continue to demand a tax plan with breaks for the wealthy, Democrats should “take the question to the American people” in January by allowing historically low rates from the Bush years to expire.

So, because both sides are unable to play in the same sandbox without tearing each other apart, taxpayers, the economy, the markets, and the country take a gigantic whop upside the head.

This is worse than gridlock which, an argument can be made, is not all bad. It borders on negligence. What are we paying these people for if they’re not going to do their jobs?

Perhaps we should withhold their pay — “retroactive to January, 2013″ of course.

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Ryan: Roberts ‘Contorted Logic and Reason’ for ObamaCare Ruling

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on ABC’s “This Week” that Chief Justice John Roberts had to “contort logic and reason” to come up with his ruling on ObamaCare.

“So one man decided against the dissenting opinion, against what I, you know, thought were his principles and judicial jurisprudence, he decided to leave this up to the American people,” Ryan said. “So now the stakes of this election could not be higher, George.”

Stephanopolous asked Ryan about Mitt Romney’s past statements that Roberts is a model for the kind of justices he would appoint to the Supreme Court.

“Well, I don’t agree with his ruling. I agree with the dissenting judges. I think they basically had to rewrite the statute in order to call this a tax,” Ryan said. “He did have some good principles, which is the Commerce Clause and necessary and proper clause, meaning there is a limit to what Congress can do to affect people’s behavior. But if you call it a tax, you can tax anybody to do anything you want from government, apparently. That to me is a disturbing ruling. That to me is rewriting this law.”

Ryan looked forward to the week when the House returns from the July 4 recess, and an expected July 11 vote to repeal ObamaCare.

“And what’s frustrating about this is, when Obamacare was being deliberated, we were offering patient-centered solutions,” he said. “I’ll just say this. We can have a health care system in America where everybody has affordable access to health insurance, including people with pre-existing conditions, without a government takeover.”

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Kennedy’s Widow Says Senator Wouldn’t Have Been Surprised at Roberts’ Vote

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) widow said on ABC’s “This Week” that her husband wouldn’t have been surprised at Chief Justice John Roberts siding with liberals on the court in the ObamaCare ruling.

“I think he felt very strongly in health care reform. He had studied this issue for more than 40 years,” Vicki Kennedy told George Stephanopolous this morning. “He believed in it. He believed in its constitutionality. He had looked at it in every way. And I think he would have been pleased, but not surprised.”

She talked about the “lovely, lovely call” she received from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was speaker of the House when healthcare reform passed.

“She fought valiantly for health care,” Kennedy said. “She led the House of Representatives beautifully in fighting and championing health care for all Americans. She’s — really was a real, real heroine in this battle.”

Kennedy dismissed polls reflecting ObamaCare’s unpopularity, saying that “when people look at each individual provision, it’s wildly popular.”

“As people know more and more about these, as they reap these benefits, they embrace them, and it’s a very, very exciting day in America,” she said.

Kennedy said she would mark the 20th anniversary of her marriage to Kennedy this week “privately.”

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Austin Provides Good Lesson for Gun Owners

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Howard Nemerov

The Austin Statesman reports that Austin’s taxing entities increased property taxes 38% over the past decade (2000-2010), with the average tax bill reaching $5,590 in 2010. Austin Community College led the way with a 184% increase (nearly tripled).

The Statesman claimed the reason ACC ran up the tab “was largely in response to a growing civic emphasis on educating the area’s workforce, particularly those who did not attend a four-year college or needed new skills to keep pace with a changing world.”

Only 5% of Austin Community College students graduate within six years (page 8). While the Statesman theory on educating those “who did not attend a four-year college” feels good, the truth is that Austin Community College’s performance is questionable, especially when previous research showed that the average community college graduated 20% of its students.

Austin Community College carries $726.4 Million in debt. Two years ago, its debt load was $444.6 Million. The college is 63% further in debt, yet increased its graduation rate only one percentage  point (they graduated 4% in 2008).

In DeShaney v. Winnebago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government entities aren’t required to provide the services that taxpayers must pay for. Austin Community College, via its legislative territorial grant, proves this truth once again.

The Statesman noted that while property taxes increased 38%, “the median income remained stagnant.”

In plain English, this means that while taxing authorities grew the government — creating more buildings, bureaucracies and government jobs — the real work force that pays for all this became poorer, since their discretionary income was consumed by more taxes.

This means that with all the feel-good but unproductive tax-and-spend, more Austin residents are faced with choosing between feeding their family or buying ammunition and practicing their shooting skills.

There’s more than one way to effect a gun ban. In America, taxation is the quickest.

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Governor Christie Orders NJ Legislature Back Into Session

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Not mincing any words, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called state legislators back from their 4th of July vacations and will tell them to pass 10% tax cut on state income taxes in a special session that he will address on Monday.

Christie claims the Democrat’s plan is holding “tax relief hostage” while referring to the Democratic budget committee chairman as “an arrogant SOB.”

Bloomberg:

“As governor you have two bits of leverage: whatever power or authority in the office you have and the bully pulpit,” Christie said in a June 29 interview in his office. “I’m going to use both of them to try and get that tax cut.”

The budget Christie proposed in February predicted revenue growth of 7.2 percent, the second-most rosy projection after California, according to the National Governors Association. Standard & Poor’s in February called New Jersey’s plan unbalanced and dependent on “optimistic” economic forecasts.State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, a Christie appointee, has since said revenue through June 2013 may be $700 million less than Christie’s target, while the Legislature’s chief budget analyst has said the gap may be almost twice that.

Lawmakers typically recess in July and August. New Jersey’s constitution allows governors to bring them back into session “whenever in his opinion the public interest shall require.” While Christie may convene the session, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, both Democrats, control the agenda, under state law.

Christie, during the Statehouse interview, said he will travel to “every corner of this state” in the coming months to prod Democrats into releasing $183 million set aside in the budget for tax credits.

Christie actually had a deal in place back in May with the senate president that would have given most taxpayers a refund while the poor would have been given a tax credit. But the deal fell through and Democrats decided to substitute their own tax credits that did not address the state income tax issue.

It’s an interesting gambit to interrupt legislators’ 4th of July Jersey Shore holidays by calling them back to work. One would imagine that Democrats are none too pleased with Christie so whether they would be amendable to a compromise on taxes at this point is open to question.

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Ridin’ the Storm Out at Ohio’s We the People Convention

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Tom Blumer

Late Friday afternoon, a powerful storm came through Central and Southern Ohio, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands in Metro Columbus. (Update: The storm has since moved on and caused horrible damage in other states.)

At Ohio’s second We The People Convention, those who lived in the local area who weren’t staying for dinner were advised to hang around for a half-hour or so after the last break-out sessions. Internet access also went away and didn’t return to the event’s Ohio Expo Center site before it ended.

I was able to draft this post late Saturday morning on WTP Director Tom Zawistowski’s Mac, which temporarily had Net access through his phone. I intensely appreciate him providing that access.

Friday afternoon, I went to James O’Keefe’s presentation on “How Online Video Is Changing the Political Landscape.” It was very nicely done, and the packed room enjoyed it immensely. I didn’t know that his first effort occurred while he was still a student at Rutgers, where he succeeded in getting Lucky Charms cereal banned from university cafeterias because the portrayal of the cartoon character on the box’s cover was offensive to Irish-Americans. The related video he showed was predictably hilarious.

Some attendees were asking him, “Can you investigate this for us?” The real answer (as O’Keefe politely noted) is that people need to be doing more of this themselves.

The final module I attended Friday was “Investigative Reporting Skills for Citizen Activists.” Trent Siebert, who runs a Texas Watchdog.org group, did an entertaining job of letting attendees know how much info is out there for those who have the patience to do the sifting, and digging out the nitty gritty detail at the local level is how things will change from the ground up.

The key speakers at Friday’s dinner were Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, who lots of Ohioans were hoping would run for U.S. Senate this year, and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who actually is. I’m happy to report that Mandel, about whom I have had concerns about youth, inexperience, and presentation, completely dispelled those worries last night, delivering an outstanding speech that fired up and motivated the crowd.

The Saturday morning modules I attended had an upper and a downer. The upper came from the True the Vote presenter. These folks will be a force in controlling election fraud in November. The downer came from Mark Lucas. His report on how out-of-control our immigration system is was a sobering reminder of how serious and hard-fought the effort to fix the system will be.

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Assad, Opposition Agree: Geneva UN Talks a Failure

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Congratulations to the UN meeting in Geneva for bringing the Syrian opposition and President Bashar Assad together. Both sides agree that the conference held in Geneva to work on a political transition plan for Syria is an abject failure.

AFP

Both official media and an opposition group on Sunday branded as a failure a world powers deal on a transition plan for Syria a day after at least 120 people were reported killed in violence nationwide.

World powers meeting in Geneva on Saturday agreed a transition plan that could include current regime members, but the West did not see any role for President Bashar al-Assad in a new unity government.

Russia and China insisted that Syrians themselves must decide how the transition happens, rather than allow others to dictate their fate.

Moscow and Beijing, which have twice blocked UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, both signed up to the final agreement that did not make any explicit call for Assad to cede power.

Official Syrian media and the opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) group demonstrated rare agreement in slamming the outcome.

The meeting “failed,” trumpeted Al-Baath, newspaper of the ruling party.

The LCC, which organises protests on the ground in Syria, said the outcome showed once again the failure to adopt a common position.

It called the transition accord “just one version, different in form only, of the demands of Russian leaders allied to the Assad regime and who cover it militarily and politically in the face of international pressure.”

Burhan Ghalioun, a senior member and former head of the SNC, told pan-Arab television Al-Arabiya that “this is the worst international statement yet to emerge from talks on Syria.”

The opposition won’t talk to the Assad regime as long as the dictator is in power. Assad refuses to discuss any plan that includes his ouster. This standoff has apparently gone unrecognized by the UN who continue to formulate plans that have as much chance of being adopted by the two sides as there is a possibility that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this year.

As for Russia, they continue to run interference for the Syrian regime in the international arena while refusing to lift a finger to stop the bloodshed (800 Syrians died just this past week). They will get away with it because, while Assad isn’t winning the civil war, he isn’t losing it either. There is no pressure for them to alter their position as long as Assad survives, or looks like he can hang on.

We are far from a tipping point for that to happen.

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‘Worried’ Obama Begs for Cash from Donors

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Yesterday marked the last day of the fundraising quarter and President Obama admits he’s “falling behind” Mitt Romney.

In a highly unusual conference call from Air Force One, the president begged contributors to “max out” on their contributions as they did in 2008.

The Daily Beast:

President Obama sounded weary and maybe a tad worried late Friday during a rambling conference call with campaign donors whom he repeatedly begged to send money—and send it now.

“The majority on this call maxed out to my campaign last time. I really need you to do the same this time,” the president said in a highly unusual (and presumably legal) fundraising pitch from Air Force One on his way back to Washington from Colorado Springs, where he’d been assessing the terrible damage caused by uncontained wildfires. A special phone on the government aircraft is dedicated to political calls that are paid for by the campaign.

“I’m asking you to meet or exceed what you did in 2008,” the presidential pitchman continued, speaking to donors who were invited to dial in based on their contributions during the last election. “Because we’re going to have to deal with these super PACs in a serious way. And if we don’t, frankly I think the political [scene] is going to be changed permanently. Because the special interests that are financing my opponent’s campaign are just going to consolidate themselves. They’re gonna run Congress and the White House.”

The president’s 18-minute pleading—a recording of which was provided to The Daily Beast by an Obama contributor—hardly sounded like a man doing a victory lap after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act has come to be known. Or, for that matter, like a candidate who has been beating his Republican opponent in recent polls of key battleground states.

Rather, Obama sounded like a dog-tired idealist forced to grapple painfully with hard reality. “In 2008 everything was new and exciting about our campaign,” Obama said. “And now I’m the incumbent president. I’ve got gray hair. People have seen disappointment because folks had a vision of change happening immediately. And it turns out change is hard, especially when you’ve got an obstructionist Republican Congress.”

The “obstructionist” congress just passed his request for $120 billion in transportation spending through 2014, as well as agreeing to hold the line on student loan interest rates — at his request — and subsidize federal flood insurance.

But this is a fascinating view into the Obama campaign that is feeling the pressure from Romney’s fundraising juggernaut while waking up to the realization that decisions made during Obama’s presidency have put off many supporters from 2008:

“I just hope you guys haven’t become disillusioned. I hope all of you still understand what’s at stake and why this is so important … I still believe in you guys, and I hope you still believe in me and the possibilities of this campaign.”

That does not sound like a confident campaigner.

Expect fundraising totals for June to show Romney with another big month, surpassing the president’s efforts again.

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