Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Nuclear Nightmare: Tokyo Fears Radiation

The latest blast at Japan's most crippled nuclear reactor is the worst yet, and raises the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe to uncomfortable levels, according to worried industry experts. The explosion, at the Fukushima Daiichi plant 150 miles from Tokyo, damaged the integrity of the reactor’s steel containment structure, and nearby radiation levels spiked after. Emergency workers were evacuated due to the threat of radiation exposure, meaning that they will not be around to help avert the possible nuclear meltdown.

Why is America the only FREE SOCIETY to have BLOODSUCKER HEALTH CARE?

The Supreme Court and the health-care mandate muddle

When the Supreme Court considers whether Congress has the constitutional power to compel individuals to buy health insurance, the argument supporting Congress may rest on a non sequitur and a semantic fiat. A judge’s recent ruling argues that the insurance mandate must be constitutional because Obamacare would collapse without it. A forthcoming law review article agrees with this and with the judge’s idea that, regarding commerce, being inactive is an activity.

Obamacare does indeed require the mandate: Because the law requires insurance companies to sell coverage to people regardless of their preexisting conditions, many people might delay buying insurance until they become sick. But is the fact that the mandate is crucial to the law’s functioning dispositive?

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s ruling that the mandate is constitutional conflates moral, policy and constitutional considerations. She says that people who choose “not to purchase health insurance will benefit greatly when they become ill, as they surely will, from the free health care which must be provided by emergency rooms and hospitals to the sick and dying who show up on their doorstep.” So “those who choose not to purchase health insurance will ultimately get a ‘free ride’ on the backs of those Americans who have made responsible choices to provide for the illness we all must face.”

Her disapproval is neither a legal argument nor pertinent to one. The question remains: Does Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce entitle it to create a health-care regime that requires the mandate?

Mark Hall of Wake Forest University, in an article for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, says there would be constitutional “uncertainty over the mandate in isolation.” But it is “inextricably intertwined” with Obamacare’s “other insurance regulations” — e.g., those pertaining to preexisting conditions — “which indisputably are constitutional.” So the “strongest defense” of Congress’s power to enact the mandate is “the acknowledged undesirability, if not impossibility” of the regulations regarding preexisting conditions, absent the mandate.

Hall says that the mandate “meets a high threshold of necessity to accomplish the overall reform scheme, clearly within congressional power, to create a market structure in which no one is ever again medically uninsurable.” But unless we postulate that Congress has whatever power is required to create such a market structure, this question remains: Does the fact that Congress has the constitutional power to do X — say, guarantee universal access to insurance — make Y constitutional merely because Y is necessary for doing X?

Congress has the constitutional power to combat political corruption, the “appearance” thereof and the “circumvention” of laws for this purpose. But suppose Congress, exercising this power by regulating campaign finances, decides that abridging freedom of speech is necessary for its anti-corruption measures. This necessity, defined by this preference, does not make such abridgement constitutional. The Supreme Court said as much concerning McCain-Feingold.

The mandate’s defenders note that the Constitution says Congress has the power to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” its enumerated powers, one of which is to regulate interstate commerce. “Necessary and proper.” An unconstitutional law is improper.

Does the mandate acquire derivative constitutionality merely by Congress making the mandate necessary for something Congress wants to do in the exercise of the enumerated power of regulating interstate commerce? If so, what would not acquire such constitutionality?

Madison’s constitutional architecture for limited government will be vitiated unless the court places some limits on what constitutes commerce eligible for regulation. So the question becomes: Is the inactivity of not buying insurance a commercial activity Congress can proscribe because it has economic consequences?

Hall says it is unclear what constitutes “pure inaction.” But virtually nothing qualifies as “pure” inactivity if, as he says, “the passivity of non-purchasing decisions does not rob them of their inherently economic nature.” Judge Kessler disdains the distinction between activity and inactivity as “of little significance.” Her Orwellian theory is that government can regulate the activity — the mental activity — of choosing not to participate in a commercial activity.

Hall perfunctorily says that “some limit” on Congress’s commerce power “is necessary” but then says “democratic electoral constraint” — trusting “the political process itself to set limits” — will suffice to restrain government.

The question about the mandate is, however, whether a political institution has traduced constitutional limits placed on it. Because the Framers prudently doubted the sufficiency of “democratic electoral constraint” — because they were wary about “the political process” policing itself — the Constitution was written.
George Will Washington Post

Conservative zealotry vs. economic reality

One thing about the current generation of conservatives: Getting mugged by reality hasn’t changed the way they look at the world. We’ve just come through a calamitous financial collapse — caused by reckless Wall Street gambling and toothless watchdogs — that triggered a Great Recession and doubled the U.S. national debt. The collapse is the greatest cause of large deficits, but conservatives act as if the deficits caused the collapse.

A recent stop in London revealed that this isn’t just a Tea Party phenomenon. There, the new Tory-dominated coalition led by David Cameron looks and sounds like a sprightlier offshoot of House Speaker John Boehner’s troops. Cameron has set out on a forced march for fiscal retrenchment, imposing deep and immediate spending cuts (and tax increases) to bring deficits down in Britain. This plan is sold with a jaunty recital of conservative gospel: The economy has begun to recover, and action on deficit reduction will boost the confidence of business and consumers. The resulting revival, it is argued, will generate more than enough private-sector jobs to make up for those lost in the public sector.
Yet the 2010 fourth-quarter economic numbers revealed that the British economy was declining, not growing. The government went from adding jobs to shedding them. And consumer confidence has collapsed since Cameron and his troops started chanting that the country “was broke.” Cameron dismissed the results, declared “war on the enemies of enterprise” and insisted that he would carry on. The magic of what Paul Krugman calls the “confidence fairy” and private-sector growth would overcome all.
In Washington, Boehner’s caucus exhibits the same zealotry. “The American people want us to cut spending,” the GOP speaker repeats, ignoring the vast majority of polls that show Americans care far more about jobs and the economy. We will “cut and grow,” is the new conservative message. Get government out of the way and the economy will blossom.

Yet Goldman Sachs projected this month that the deep cuts in domestic programs in the 2010 budget passed by the House could cut our growth rate in half. John McCain’s former economic adviser, Mark Zandi, projected a loss of 700,000 jobs. If the budget cuts cost federal jobs, said Boehner, sounding like a latter-day Marie Antoinette, “so be it.” He believes the private sector will more than make up for the loss of such jobs.
Remarkably, President Obama has once more been absent without leave. In his State of the Union address, he hailed the recovery and turned to deficit reduction. A few weeks later, he said it was time to “live within our means.” He hasn’t drawn a line against short-term cuts, choosing instead to argue for cutting less.
In the run-up to the 2010 elections, the administration assumed that job growth was picking up (remember “Recovery Summer”). The Election Day “shellacking” stemmed largely from the fact that voters didn’t see the jobs and didn’t think the White House had a clear view on how to create them.
The president and Republicans seem to believe that the “confidence” that comes from immediate spending cuts will offset the jobs lost from those cuts as well as offset declining household disposable income, plummeting housing prices and massive household indebtedness.

In Britain and the United States, it is bizarre to hear the same cruel conservative ideas and arguments defining policy while both countries are still struggling to recover from the human catastrophe they caused. And in both, economic reality doesn’t interfere with conservative faith.
In the United States, 25 million people are in need of full-time employment. Housing prices are headed back down; trade deficits are going back up. State and local governments have largely exhausted rainy-day funds and are laying off workers. Businesses are sitting on trillions in cash while waiting for consumer demand to pick up. At last Thursday’s “Summit on Jobs and America’s Future,” sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, economists showed that at current rates it would take eight years for the United States merely to return to pre-recession levels of employment.
For the unemployed, time isn’t measured in hours or months. It is measured by savings exhausted, homes lost, dreams crushed, children uneducated, marriages broken. Eight years is a calamity. But the White House and Republicans are arguing only about how much and what to cut, assuming that business needs only confidence, not consumers, to start hiring again.

You have to admire conservative gall. Financial collapse and global economic calamity changes not a word of their mantras. At the depth of the crisis, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, the Ayn Rand devotee and toothless watchdog whose willful lassitude did as much as anyone to allow Wall Street to blow up the economy, admitted to “a flaw” in his world view. But last week, Greenspan was newly unrepentant, charging that Obama’s governmental “activism” was standing in the way of recovery.
Greenspan didn’t mention that the pre-crisis decade featured declining wages and benefits for most American families, Gilded Age inequality, the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs, unsustainable trade deficits and ruinous financial speculation. But neither Greenspan nor conservatives, nor, tragically, Obama, are about to let reality get in the way of ideology.
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation. She writes a weekly online column for The Post.

This and That for March 15, 2011

Barbour Cuts Press Aide After Japan Joke

Mississippi Governor and 2012 presidential hopeful Haley Barbour accepted the resignation of his press secretary, Dan Turner, Monday after reporters discovered he included a joke about Japan in his daily press clippings. The joke, which said Otis Reddings' "The Dock of the Bay" was not popular in Japan now, was one of several off-color remarks: Others made fun of Janet Reno and the Cambodian genocide. Turner can commiserate with Gilbert Gottfried, who was dropped as Aflac's spokesman after making several Japan jokes on Twitter.                                                                                                               Read it at Politico

Muammar Gaddafi Nears Benghazi

Just one city now stands between Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi's troops and the rebel capital Benghazi. On Monday, Libyan fighter jets began attacking Ajdabiya—what Al Jazeera calls their "last line of defense" before Bengazi. Should Gaddafi's forces advance and capture the city, they'll have access to roads to surround Benghazi and cut off the rebels' supply lines with Egypt. Germany and Russia, meanwhile, raised questions at the UN about a no-fly zone that make it seem increasingly unlikely. A spokesman for the Libyan rebels visiting Paris told European leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "We want a no-fly zone, we want tactical strikes against those tanks and rockets that are being used against us and we want a strike against Gaddafi's compound."                                                                             Read on Al Jazeera

NRA Passes On Meeting With Obama

Looks like the National Rifle Association is not ready to join hands with the anti-gun lobby just yet, despite what the White House might think. In an editorial in a Tucson newspaper Sunday, President Obama called gun-control lobbyists and the NRA to begin "a new discussion" to regulate guns, but the NRA said Monday they will be attending no such meeting. "Why should I or the NRA go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?" said the NRA's longtime Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre. Justice Department officials will meet with gun-control advocates starting on Tuesday and over the next few weeks to discuss changes in policy, and White House officials had indicated they had expected the NRA would be there as well.                     Read it at The New York Times

Japan Warns: Stay Inside to Avoid Radiation

Could the manmade disaster surpass the natural one? Experts are calling the Japanese nuclear crisis the worst since Chernobyl after a third explosion and a fire at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Monday. Radiation levels near one reactor were 400 times the normal amount a human should experience in a year. Japan's government has told people living within 20 miles of the plant to stay indoors, and the Tokyo metropolitan government has said it has detected radiation levels 20 times above normal over the city. So far, winds have blown most of the radiation out to sea. As the world watches the disaster unfold, Rory Kennedy, who directed Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable, and Keven McAlester remind us that America's plants are even more vulnerable than the ones in Japan.                                       Read it at The Daily Beast

U.S. Tensions Rise with Saudi Arabia

Could Saudi Arabia's decision to send 2,000 troops to Bahrain hurt its relations with the United States? Things are already tense between the historically close countries, as Saudi Arabia is annoyed at the way the United States dropped support for Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. "They're not in a mode for listening," a U.S. official says of communications with Saudi Arabia. Apparently, Saudi Arabia's King Abdulllah told President Obama he should support Mubarak, even if Mubarak began killing protesters. Obama ignored his advice. "They've taken it personally," a source tells The New York Times, "because they question what we'd do if they are next."                                                                                            Read it at The New York Times

Internet Explorer Adds Do-Not-Track Tool
Will be released Tuesday.

Gang-Rape Lawyer Seeks Gag Order
Would block media from Cleveland, Texas.

Hugo Chavez: Say No to Implants
Tells Venezuelan women to turn down breast implants.

Literature's New Darling from Belgrade
Téa Obreht is just 25.

Three-Year-Old Is UK's 'Youngest Alcoholic'
Was treated in hospital for addiction.

2,405 Shot Dead Since Tucson

In an op-ed today, Obama laments those killed since the Giffords shooting. But a new ruling—and Dick Cheney—could be a turning point in gun laws. 

Article - Romano Goddard Guns