Monday, January 31, 2011

Florida Federal Judge says Health Reform Law Unconstitutional

A Federal Judge in Florida has, apparently with some reluctance, has declared the Health Care Reform bill unconstitutional.

To quote Federal Judge Roger Vinson:

"... I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here.

Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."
In other words you can't force someone to buy Health Insurance.

This is an interesting twist. States force individuals to buy auto insurance if they wish to drive. Of course not having auto insurance doesn't keep people from driving. Guess who ends up paying if they have an accident and injure someone? The other insured drivers do. That's you and me. A part of our insurance payments establish a fund to cover accidents caused by uninsured drivers.

Now unless uninsured people who get sick are denied medical attention, us, the insured folks, will end up paying for that as well.

I'm not seriously proposing we deny uninsured people medical care so I guess that's the way it will have to be. I'm not about to instruct a Federal Judge on the law either. Undoubtedly the Obama Administration will appeal. I find it hard to believe they will prevail now that two judges have declared the individual mandate unconstitutional.

There comes a time in every game when the right move is to drop back 15 and punt. That time may have come for the current Health Care Reform legislation.

Egyptian Protests Still Going

Clearly Egyptian President Mubarak has become a man under siege. Some sources have reported that he is on the verge of giving up and resigning as President.Certainly nothing he has tried appears to have mollified the protesters. This could be big trouble.

Egypt is arguably the most religious country in the world. Open and free elections there could quite well turn the country over to the Muslim Brotherhood which is a fundamentalist Islamic group.

Democracy is not for everyone. As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to think that it’s not for anyone. I’m leaning toward an oligarchy of sorts where the right to vote is a privilege that needs to be earned rather than a right to which any idiot that happens to be born within the borders is entitled. And no, I’m not proposing a Star Troopers kind of requirement; I was thinking more along the lines of verifying basic knowledge on civics, history and how the government works.

But I digress.

Back to Egypt. Clearly Mubarak’s regime is teetering on the edge. Earlier I said that I didn’t think he was going anywhere and he is certainly fighting tooth and nail, but for every hole in plugs, two more appear to open. I still don’t think the end is a foregone conclusion but he better come up with something soon.

In the meantime I see that the under 80 IQ trailer park set, also known as the Republican Base, is blaming Obama for this. Blaming? Isn't Democracy a good thing? Oh well, never expect consistency from either a moron or a conservative. Oh, wait a minute, moron and conservative are redundant aren't they?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Arizona Law on Birth Rights

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

This amendment was passed in order to guarantee that freed slaves and their offspring would be American Citizens. It’s unlikely that at the time anyone considered the question of the offspring of illegal immigrants.

Historically the phrase as been interpreted to simply mean that, other than under a few exceptions, if you are born within the territory of the United States, then you are an American citizen. Republicans in Arizona are preparing to challenge that interpretation.

Several bills have been introduced in the state legislature to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. Today, they would automatically be granted citizenship based upon the simple fact of being born here. Under the Arizona bills they would not.

How can they do this? Isn’t this in violation of the 14th Amendment and therefore the U.S. Constitution? Well, perhaps. What the Arizona legislators are really doing is setting up a challenge to the traditional interpretation in the Supreme Court and they are basing that challenge on the phrase “…and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

What exactly does that phrase mean? Well, suppose a visiting pregnant monarch gave birth prematurely? It might be a little awkward to say that the monarch’s child, and perhaps heir to a foreign throne, is a citizen of the United States.

The issue of course is that the visiting monarch is not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” of the United States and neither are diplomats. In the landmark case “U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark” in 1898 the Supreme Court decided that the 14th Amendment must be interpreted based upon English Common Law and included all native-born children except for those who were: (1) born to foreign rulers or diplomats, (2) born on foreign public ships, or (3) born to enemy forces engaged in hostile occupation of the country's territory.

Unfortunately, if one goes back to the actual debates related to the 14th Amendment in 1866 one can make the case that the phrase is actually synonymous with the phrase “not subject to any foreign power.” This was precisely the phrase used in the Civil Rights act Of 1866 passed by the same Congress as the 14th Amendment. The Civil Rights act declared a citizen to be “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power.”

So, if that’s what they meant, why isn’t that what they said?

Possibly because there was an intent to change the citizenship definition by expanding it. What about the children of legal immigrants? Many countries maintain the principle that children born to their citizens are likewise citizens and subject to their jurisdiction. Would they be excluded from American citizenship if their parents had immigrated here and not yet taken out American citizenship?

What about an American with a foreign bride (which happens with some regularity given our military adventures abroad)? Any child born to such a union could be claimed by the brides home nation. Would the child then be “subject to a foreign power” and not entitled to natural born citizenship?

The Supreme Court decision made it simple. Other than the three exceptions noted, if you’re born here, you’re an American citizen, and a natural born citizen at that, eligible one day to sit in the Oval Office as President.

Now I’m sure Conservatives will claim that this is an egregious case of Judicial Activism and the court creating law rather than interpreting it. Perhaps, but if the law isn’t allowed to grow with the times, it ceases to provide justice; if it ceases to provide justice, then it is bad law and unworthy of being considered what the Constitution says.

To my mind the Arizona legislators are wrong and, hopefully, the current Supreme Court will agree with the court of 1898 and see it that way as well.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Of Tunisia and Egypt

Tunisia’s dictator has been toppled thanks to the Army’s refusal to put down protesters and now similar demonstrations have broken out in Egypt.

On the surface this is reminiscent of the domino effect in the Eastern European countries in the 1980s but I wouldn’t get too excited. I doubt Mubarak is going anywhere and the jury is still out on whether Tunisia can manage to become the first Arab democracy.

The whole concept of democracy sort of runs counter to the Islamic culture of unquestioned divine authority. Still, stranger things have happened. We shall see what we shall see.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Super Bowl

Oh boy, 2-0 for the Championship games and 8-2 overall for the play-offs. If I didn’t know better, I’d start to think I actually know what I’m talking about.

The reality of the situation is given the “parity” that the NFL has come pretty close to achieving, every game is probably not much better than a 55-45 breakdown and in the play-offs it probably drops pretty close to a 50-50 proposition.

Still, it feels good to finally get the better of my pet goat Frankie in predicting the NFL. He’s been sulking out back ever since Roethlisberger completed that 4th quarter pass which clinched it for the Steelers.

One word about Jay Cutler, personally I would never question a player's assessment as to whether he’s too injured to play. If Jay says he couldn’t play, I believe him, and that should be the end of the discussion. I’d like to get some of the blog wusses that are complaining about him out on the field for about 15 minutes. That would be more than enough time to shut them up. Let's not forget that we're talking about the man's livlihood here and there are many more games yet to be played.

So now, ta-da, on to the Super Bowl.

The Packers are the early favorite, not because Las Vegas believes they’re the better team, but simply because of the betting patterns up until now.

To my mind Aaron Rodgers looked like a much cooled off Quarterback against the Bears defense. Roethlisberger on the other hand did what needed to be done when it needed to be done.

As for the running game, two words, Rashard Mendenhall. He gives the Steelers the balance that I think is going to desert the Packers. Yes, their running game has been better than expected during the play-offs, but I think the Steelers will shut it down.

There’s no question that Rodgers and his talented receiver corps are capable of carrying the game without much of a running attack against most teams, but I don’t think they can do it against the Steelers.

Remember the old saying, "Experience and treachery will win out over youth and talent when all the chips are on the line." Well, all the chips are on the line. The Steelers will manage just enough offense to win. Let's call it 24-20 in favor of big Ben and the Steelers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The NFL Championship Games

I was riding high there for a while last weekend. There I was going into the Jets-Patriots game 3-0 for the Divisional Play-offs and 6-1 overall basking in the confident glow that Tom Brady and company were going to put away the Jets as I had predicted.

Ooops! Well, I guess 6-2 isn’t that bad.

Hey, I’ve got one more right than I had through the Super Bowl last year and there are still three games to go. Unfortunately I’m quite capable of getting all three of them wrong. So, let’s get to the Championship Games shall we?

AFC Championship Game
Jets at Steelers

Hmmm, what to do here? The Jets beat the Steelers during the regular season and just managed to beat Payton Manning and Tom Brady on consecutive weekends. They seem to have the Golden glow this season. Things just seem to go right for them. On the other side, the Steelers seem a bit worn around the edges. I should go with the Golden Boy Jets, but I’m not. I’m staying on the dark side. Ben and the Steelers send the Jets home.

NFC Championship Game
Packers at Bears
I’ve never seen a quarterback as hot as Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have built up an incredible head of steam and I think they’re going to flatten the Bears. When in doubt, go with the best quarterback and I’ll take Rodgers over Cutler any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’m going with the Packers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Divisional Play-offs

Hey, hey, hey, I got 3 out of 4. Of course the one I got wrong was the one I had the most confidence in. Go figure. Anyway, my pet goat Frankie is sulking because I finally out predicted him, but he's vowed revenge this week.

Ok, enough stalling. Let's get to it shall we?

AFC Divisional Play-offs
Ravens at Steelers
I haven't got the faintest idea! This is a tough one but I think I'm going to go with the Steelers at home.

Jets at Patriots
I'll take the Patriots. Brady and company are on a roll and I think the Jets left too much on the field in Indianapolis.

NFC Divisional Play-offs
Green Bay at Atlanta
Another tough one. To be honest with you I'm not all that familier with Atlanta. I don't think I've seen them play all year. Still, they are the #1 seed and they did beat Green Bay in the regular season, but I'm not all that impressed with their schedule. I'm going to stick with Green Bay.

Seattle at Chicago
I'll take Chicago. I don't believe that Seattle can win two play-off games.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Shootings in Arizona

The attack in Arizona that left nine people, including a 9 year old child, dead and Representative Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded was a tragedy of the first order.

To be honest with you, the alleged gunman, Jared Loughner, sounds to me like a total nut case. I don’t think he had a political motive. I’m not even sure he was targeting Giffords. The choice may well have been totally random because it was a good target for someone who was looking for a target.

But here’s the big but, the very fact that a lot of people immediately looked to the increasingly heated rhetoric of our current political climate as the possible cause indicates that the American public is uncomfortable with that rhetoric.

And it damn well should be. If it didn’t cause this violence, it’s only a matter of time before some under 80 IQ trailer part moron with a gun decides it’s time to vote with a bullet rather than a ballot.

You will excuse me but the rhetoric is not evenly violent. If Right Wing assholes like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh don’t have a monopoly on it, it’s pretty damn close.

I’d like to think that somehow this tragedy will change things but I’m not all that optimistic. Palin is already trying to paint herself as the victim by throwing around the term “blood-libel” and her conservative booby supporters are cheering her on.

Reasonable men can honestly disagree on things. It’s been my experience that compromise solutions tend to work out best. In most cases neither extreme is the right way to go. The problem with the current political climate is that too many issues seem to immediately get classified as non-negotiable and if you can’t compromise, what’s left but to fight? We’re not spending enough time identifying the common ground from which we can move forward and both the Left and the Right are guilty of that.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The NFL Play-offs

I know that the world is waiting with baited breath to learn whether or not I intend to make a fool of myself again by predicting the NFL Play-off results. My pet goat Frankie has already made his picks by choosing the winners randomly with his hoofs.

Frankie almost always does better than I do.

Last year I only managed a dismal 5-6 record through the Super Bowl and, if I want to avoid another humiliation, I should keep my mouth shut this year.

But what’s the fun in that? There isn’t any, so here we go again.

NFC Wild Card Games
Saints at Seahawks
– Absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Saints win this one.

Packers at Eagles – I’m going with the Packers. They are red hot and Philly is showing some wear and tear.

AFC Wild Card Games
Jets at Colts
– Again I’m going to take the Wild Card team and go with the Jets.

Ravens at Chiefs – It’s a clean sweep for the visitors in my opinion. I’m going with the Ravens over the Chiefs.

I find it hard to believe I’m going with all away teams on the first weekend but I just don’t think the Seahawks even deserve to be in the tournament and the AFC South has been weak as well. As for the Chiefs, I’m not a believer. The hardest game for me to pick was the Packers and Eagles. I was sorely tempted to choose the Eagles at home, but the Packers seem to be the hottest team in the league at the moment.

Ah well, we shall see how poorly I do this year.

The Pope Takes the Middle Ground

Pope Benedict XVI has decreed that "The universe is not the result of chance” and that God’s mind is behind the great scientific theories.

I say this is the middle ground because to the Right of the Pope are the Fundamentalist Christians that believe Genesis is a science text and that the universe was literally created in 6 days about 6,000 years ago. To the Left are the Atheists that claim that the hypothesis of God is no longer required and that all of existence is the result of natural processes.

So my question is whether or not this pronouncement is within the sphere of “Faith and Morals?” Because if it is, then according to Catholic doctrine, it is an infallible pronouncement that MUST be accepted by all Catholics. If they don’t accept the pronouncement, then they run the risk of committing the sin of disobedience.

This is a major difference between religion and the secular world. In the secular world there is no authority figure so powerful that all of his pronouncements must be accepted without question or criticism.

Are there people that one would be predisposed towards accepting what they say due to their recognized expertise? Of course there are, but none of them is immune to criticism or disagreement. No one has absolute authority.

In the religious world however God, the Prophets and some of the clergy, DO have absolute authority. If the Pope declares eating bagels dyed with green food coloring as an sinful act, then for all Catholics it becomes a sinful act. There are no if, ands or buts allowed.

For Protestant Christians this is a tad trickier since there is no central authority. Sola Scriptura rules. The problem with that idea is that while everyone may agree upon what the scripture SAYS, very often there is disagreement on what it MEANS.

This gets really dicey when one realizes that the arguments are taking place based upon texts that have been modified over time and may, or may not, accurately represent the originals in all cases.

As for me, like the Frenchman Pierre-Simon Laplace, when it comes to the question of God, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”