An online article by the Associated Press reported on December 19th that the Iowa Republican Party is taking seriously the threat of disrupting the Iowa Caucuses. The article went on to say that the Republican Party is encouraging the use of paper ballots instead of show of hands, which has traditionally been the norm at many of the caucus sites.  This is for the purpose of reconstructing the results, if necessary. It also quoted Ryan Gough, who is in charge of coordinating the caucuses, as declining to release the specific details of the Iowa GOP's security plan in order not to make these details available to any hackers.

 

“It’s infuriating,” Bruce Schneier remarked. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this — and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”

Schneier could, of course, have been referring to any of dozens of government programs. In this case, however, he was speaking of the federal government’s post-9/11 airport security measures — measures that Schneier, a security expert, has dubbed “security theater,” defined as “actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job.”

 

A judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued a preliminary injunction on December 22 against key provisions of the South Carolina immigration statute. The plaintiffs in the case include a group of civil rights organizations and the United States Department of Justice.

Of the 20 sections of the South Carolina law, four of them were challenged and are now blocked from enforcement. These four include provisions which that state criminal sanctions for: “harboring and transporting of unlawfully present persons”; “failure to carry alien registration materials”; “the creation of fraudulent identification documents”; and the directive to state and local law enforcement officials to “determine the immigration status of certain persons encountered in routine traffic stops and other contacts in which there is a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person may be in the United States unlawfully.”
 
The civil rights groups challenging the law argue that enforcement of the law requires de facto racial profiling. The Justice Department argues that the Constitution places all power over the establishment of immigration policy in the hands of the federal government and that the legislature of South Carolina is thus preempted from passing legislation in that area of the law.

There have been some mentions of “education” in the Republican debates and by candidates in general. Some of the Republicans have even advocated getting rid of the Department of Education. That’s a good start, but virtually nothing has been said about the reading problem, or the deliberate dumbing down of our children. Nothing has been said about how our public schools are deliberately destroying the brain power of millions of young Americans.

 

The “birther” movement was dealt another blow to its efforts to unseat President Obama on December 22 when a federal appeals court dismissed a legal challenge from a group, including former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, ruling that none of them had sufficient standing to sue the President. Those in the birther movement claim that Obama was not born in the United States and thus is constitutionally unqualified to be President.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, none of the plaintiffs in the case “has the right to sue the president because none has suffered any injury that the court could heal with a ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in upholding a lower court’s dismissal of their lawsuit.”

The three-judge panel explained that even political candidates such as Keyes, who argue that they were injured by having an unqualified Obama enter the presidential race, would only have had standing to sue had they brought their case before the 2008 presidential election. “They cannot claim competitive standing because they were no longer candidates when they filed their complaint,” explained Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for the three-judge panel.

When R.S. Radford, a principal attorney for the public interest law firm Pacific Legal Foundation, learned about the ruling against a property owner suffering under New York City’s rent control laws, he appealed the case to the Supreme Court. At issue in the case, Harmon v. Markus, is whether James and Jeanne Harmon, the owners of a handsome brownstone near Central Park, are entitled to relief from the city’s onerous rent control laws that force them to accept lower-than-market rents from three of their renters.

Harmon filed the original lawsuit against the chair of the Rent Guidelines Board claiming that the rent control laws violated his Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution’s “taking” clause. (“No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”) When he was denied, he appealed, claiming that he had been denied the right of due process under the 14th Amendment. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed it out of hand, and that’s when Pacific Legal jumped in.

Radford explained why his firm was involved: “Jim Harmon and his wife own a building in New York City that has some rent controlled units that are occupied, apparently, by fairly affluent tenants, and he simply can’t use the property the way he would like to.” Harmon indicated that he would eventually like to pass the building on to his children and grandchildren but the regulations limit his rights as a property owner to do so.

On December 22 President Barack Obama released the following message through the White House’s Twitter account: "Thanks to all who shared #40dollars [sic] stories. Today's victory is yours. Keep making your voices heard — it makes all the difference. — bo"

This was in direct response to the Republican House of Representatives capitulating to the President and the Democratic Senate and allowing a shortened 2-month extension of the payroll tax cut, rather than forcing through the 1-year extension that the GOP was gunning for.

 

President Obama started off his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, on December 6 with a positive nod to free-market economics.  Referring to Theodore Roosevelt’s economic thoughts, Obama acknowledged that the free-market system has been the most successful system in history in delivering the highest standard of living to the greatest number of people: “He believed then what we know is true today, that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.”

But then Mr. Obama added a disclaimer, a large one. “But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whomever you can.”

That opens the door to more than putting Bernie Madoff in jail. Given the high degree of elasticity in their egalitarian and redistributive goals, it can give a free license to politicians to take whatever they can from whomever they can.

Mike Shedlock, who has been watching the Jefferson County, Alabama, municipal bond bankruptcy and default closely, has turned up some more fraud. It appears that the original bonds issued to pay for the county’s new sewage treatment plant weren’t bonds after all, but warrants. But they were sold as the same thing, backed by the “full faith and credit” of the county. In the event of bankruptcy investors holding the warrants were to be first in line to receive their interest payments, ahead of any other creditors. And if there isn’t enough money even for that, the investors were assured that the county would do whatever is necessary to redeem them, even if it meant raising taxes or fees on the citizens.

But a warrant isn’t a bond; instead, it is merely a right granted to its holder to purchase a bond in the future. The county board of commissioners decided against issuing bonds as that would have required a referendum by the taxpayers who, at the time, were already suffering from increased sewage rates — four increases over the past 10 years. The likelihood of approval was between slim and none.

The National Defense Authorization Act will be made law with the stroke of President Obama’s pen (perhaps autopen from Hawaii?). With the enactment of the NDAA, Americans suspected by the President of having committed a “belligerent act” may be apprehended by the military and detained without recitation of charges and without access to an attorney until such time as the President decides that the “War on Terror” is over.

Majorities in both chambers of Congress voted in favor of granting the President this autocratic authority. In the Senate, only 13 members of that body stood up to defend the constitutionally protected civil liberties of Americans. In the House of Representatives, 283 of the people’s representatives violated their oath of office and voted to pass this legislation.

One of those who was true to his vow to protect the Constituiton from all enemies, foreign and domestic, has now offered an amendment to the NDAA that would “clarify the language” of the measure so as to make it explicit that no American citizen could be detained under the provisions of that act without being provided the full panoply of due process protections.

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