Current Events

Mandatory Health Insurance Unconstitutional

On September 18, The Wall Street Journal published the following legal analysis by Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, Washington D.C.-based attorneys, who served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations:

“Federal legislation requiring that every American have health insurance is part of all the major health-care reform plans now being considered in Washington…

“The elephant in the room is the Constitution. As every civics class once taught, the federal government is a government of limited, enumerated powers, with the states retaining broad regulatory authority. As James Madison explained in the Federalist Papers: ‘[I]n the first place it is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects.’ Congress, in other words, cannot regulate simply because it sees a problem to be fixed. Federal law must be grounded in one of the specific grants of authority found in the Constitution.

“These are mostly found in Article I, Section 8, which among other things gives Congress the power to tax, borrow and spend money, raise and support armies, declare war, establish post offices and regulate commerce… If the federal government has any right to reform, revise or remake the American health-care system, it must be found in this all-important provision. This is especially true of any mandate that every American obtain health-care insurance or face a penalty…

“The Supreme Court construes the commerce power broadly… But there are important limits… Health-care backers understand this and… have framed the mandate as a ‘tax’ rather than a regulation. Under Sen. Max Baucus’s (D., Mont.) most recent plan, people who do not maintain health insurance for themselves and their families would be forced to pay an ‘excise tax’ of up to $1,500 per year—roughly comparable to the cost of insurance coverage under the new plan.

“But Congress cannot so simply avoid the constitutional limits on its power. Taxation can favor one industry or course of action over another, but a ‘tax’ that falls exclusively on anyone who is uninsured is a penalty beyond Congress’s authority. If the rule were otherwise, Congress could evade all constitutional limits by ‘taxing’ anyone who doesn’t follow an order of any kind—whether to obtain health-care insurance, or to join a health club, or exercise regularly, or even eat your vegetables.

“This type of congressional trickery is bad for our democracy and has implications far beyond the health-care debate. The Constitution’s Framers divided power between the federal government and states—just as they did among the three federal branches of government—for a reason. They viewed these structural limitations on governmental power as the most reliable means of protecting individual liberty—more important even than the Bill of Rights…”

Obama’s Big Political Gamble

Der Spiegel Online wrote on September 18:

“US President Barack Obama has scrapped his predecessor’s plans for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. German editorialists hope the move will encourage Russia to back tougher sanctions against Iran. But while some praise the decision as hopeful and brave, others dub it naive and dangerous…

“Germany’s Green Party interpreted the decision as an embarrassment for Merkel and her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party… Guido Westerwelle, the candidate for the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), welcomed the decision… and he called on Germany’s government to capitalize on the moment to push for the removal of US nuclear weapons based in Germany by 2013…

“German commentators focused on the political risks facing Obama. As they see it, Russia might not interpret the move as a conciliatory gesture to improve strained US-Russian relations but, rather, as a sign of weakness and green light to continue with its aggressive and uncompromising foreign policy…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘That the president can venture to cancel the program shows courage, a willingness to take risks and decisiveness, though it might also mean that he’s taking a big political gamble. Obama’s biggest challenge is this: He has to quell the suspicion that he has buckled in the face of Russia. And he has to succeed in doing this not only in the US Congress, but also when it comes to America’s allies in Eastern Europe. They are afraid that some people in Moscow will be able to misinterpret the decision to cancel the missile defense shield as a sign of weakness and to be emboldened to promote their interests with tanks in other places in the same way they did in Georgia…’

“The center-left Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘… Obama might have been thinking that canceling the plan would elicit some sort of quid pro quo from Moscow. The Russians are very happy about it… Russia’s claim that the planned missile defense system harmed strategic stability was never meant seriously. It was rather intended as propaganda and a way to influence a public that was very touchy about this issue. So this means it pays to play hardball.’

“Conservative Die Welt writes: ‘… it does raise the question of whether this policy is naïve and, in the end, dangerous. The other problem is that it leaves much of Central Europe disappointed. … People there are afraid of being abandoned again… After Obama’s failure to appear at the ceremony marking the anniversary of the beginning of World War II in Gdansk [Note: The White House declined to send a senior figure to Poland’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary outbreak of World War II on 1 September], this will be the second blow to their hopes…’

“Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘… Poland’s goal was to get an American military base. With such a base, the US would have had to defend Poland not only because it was a member of NATO, but also because its military base was there. The majority of Poles are not convinced that NATO lives up to its name of being a “defensive alliance” anymore. And Poland’s government doesn’t have much faith in NATO either. If Poland were attacked, NATO members would debate things for two weeks before doing anything to help. With no missile shield, there will be no US base in Poland. As a result, Poland’s dream of having the US as a power that would protect it is shattered.’

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘What’s truly unusual about Obama’s decision is that he is taking a huge step toward Russia without having any guaranteed quid pro quo to show for it. It’s a rare thing for a US president to make a down payment like this. It either shows great courage in the face of risk or pure naiveté. Just how risky Obama’s bet is can be seen from Moscow’s celebrations of the cancellation of the missile plans. Diplomats are pounding their chests and boasting that Obama’s buckling was the logical consequence of their refusal to compromise on this issue. For Obama, it will be a very expensive decision. In terms of domestic politics, he is exposing himself to accusations of being a wimp and damaging the country’s security. In terms of foreign politics, he is snubbing two allies — the Czech Republic and Poland — who view the cancellation of the missile shield as a betrayal… Moscow has the upper hand now.'”

The Wall Street Journal added on September 18:

“President Barack Obama’s decision to drop plans to deploy a ballistic-missile defense shield in Central Europe — drawing immediate cheers in Moscow and criticism elsewhere — is a gamble by the U.S… The move fits into a broader Obama administration strategy of attempting to win over opponents through engagement. But as with the effort to engage Iran, the strategy runs the risk of appearing to give away too much to tough negotiating partners who may simply pocket any concessions…

“Russian officials insisted they hadn’t agreed to any quid pro quo to secure the U.S. policy shift… Moscow doesn’t see abandonment of the Bush administration’s missile plans as a concession to respond to, but as ‘a mistake that is now being corrected,’ said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO… ‘This is a recognition by the Americans of the rightness of our arguments about the reality of the threat, or rather the lack of one,’ from Iran’s missiles, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, told state television. ‘Finally the Americans have agreed with us,’ he said.”


Will Russia Impose Sanctions on Iran?

The Wall Street Journal wrote on September 24:

“President Obama scored a potential victory in his diplomatic engagement with Iran by gaining what appeared to be a commitment from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to exact economic sanctions against Tehran if it doesn’t compromise on its rapidly expanding nuclear program. The severity of sanctions Russia would agree to remained unclear, however… Russian support for sanctions is viewed as crucial in pressuring Tehran to relent. ‘The Russian position is simple…Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But in some cases sanctions are inevitable,’ Mr. Medvedev said following a meeting with Mr. Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.”

Iran No Threat?–Get Real!

Reuters reported on September 18:

“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a lie on Friday, raising the stakes against Israel just as world powers try to decide how to deal with the nuclear ambitions of an Iran in political turmoil… Ahmadinejad’s anti-Western comments on the Holocaust have caused international outcry and isolated Iran, which is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear programme… Germany said Ahmadinejad was a ‘disgrace to his country.’… White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Ahmadinejad’s comment ‘only serves to isolate Iran further from the world.’

“Ahmadinejad won support from Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006. ‘Our belief and creed … remain that Israel is an illegal entity, a cancerous tumour, that must cease to exist,’ Nasrallah said in a televised address…

“Ahmadinejad repeated on Thursday that Iran would ‘never’ abandon its disputed nuclear programme to appease critics… Next month’s major powers talks with Iran offer no clear relief to Israel, which wants world powers to be prepared to penalise Iran’s vulnerable energy imports but sees Russia and China blocking any such resolution at the U.N. Security Council… Russia, which has veto power in the U.N. Security Council, last week ruled out oil sanctions against Iran…

“At home, Ahmadinejad is facing strong opposition which erupted into unrest following his disputed re-election in June… The June vote, which was followed by huge opposition protests, plunged Iran into its worst political crisis in three decades and revealed deepening rifts within its ruling elites.”

Israel and Iran–What’s Going On?

Reuters reported on September 21:

“Israel has not given up the option of a military response to Tehran’s nuclear programme, senior officials said on Monday, after Russia’s president said his Israeli counterpart assured him it would not attack Iran.

“Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was asked by Reuters if that comment by Israeli President Shimon Peres [whose role is largely ceremonial], as reported on Sunday by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, was a guarantee there would be no Israeli strike on Iran. Ayalon replied: ‘It is certainly not a guarantee. I don’t think that, with all due respect, the Russian president is authorised to speak for Israel and certainly we have not taken any option off the table.’

“Echoing that, the chief-of-staff of Israel’s armed forces, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, later told Army Radio when pressed on whether Israel could attack Iran: ‘Israel has the right to defend itself and all options are on the table’…

“Russia plays a role in the stand-off between Israel and Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made an unannounced visit to Moscow this month, has been keen that Russia not sell anti-aircraft missiles to Tehran and also that Moscow support international sanctions against Iran. Last week, a former senior Israeli defence official told Reuters that Israel would be compelled to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if the international powers had not agreed by the end of this year on crippling sanctions to force Tehran’s hand.”

Prisoner Abuse Continues in US Prison Camp

Der Spiegel Online wrote on September 21:

“US President Barack Obama has spoken out against CIA prisoner abuse and wants to close Guantanamo. But he tolerates the existence of Bagram military prison in Afghanistan, where more than 600 people are being held without charge… Bagram is ‘the forgotten second Guantanamo,’ says American military law expert Eugene Fidell, a professor at Yale Law School… And what does Obama say? Nothing. He never so much as mentions Bagram in any of his speeches. When discussing America’s mistreatment of detainees, he only refers to Guantanamo…

“The Bagram detention facility, by now the largest American military prison outside the United States, is not marked on any maps. In fact, its precise location… is classified… Bagram is located in the middle of the Afghan war zone… all the detainees there have been classified as ‘enemy combatants’ rather than prisoners of war, which would make them subject to the provisions of the Geneva Convention… ‘In my view, having visited Guantanamo several times, the Bagram facility made Guantanamo look like a nice hotel,’ says military prosecutor Stuart Couch, who was given access to the interior of both facilities…

“From the beginning, Bagram was notorious for the brutal forms of torture employed there… At least two men died during imprisonment. [In regard to one] of them, a 22-year-old taxi driver named Dilawar… his interrogators had already known — and later testified — that there was no evidence against [him]…

“To this day, there are hardly any photos from inside Bagram, and journalists have never been given access to the detention center… According to an as-yet-unpublished 2009 Pentagon report, 400 of the Bagram inmates are innocent and could be released immediately… Some have been there for years, without knowing why…”

“Obama Administration Has Completely Failed…”

On September 21, Der Spiegel Online published an interview with New York-based human rights lawyer Tina Foster, “who began representing Guantanamo inmates in 2005. She realized that many of them had spent time in Bagram prison and had been seriously abused there. In 2005, she travelled to Afghanistan for the first time. There, she met hundreds of relatives of Bagram inmates who asked why the world was interested in Guantanamo but nobody seemed to care about abuses at Bagram. Since then she has worked exclusively with Bagram detainees.”

In the interview, Foster stated that the “Obama Administration has completely failed” to keep their promises. She explained:

“Unfortunately, the US government did not change its position on Bagram when Obama took office. The government still claims that our clients are not entitled to any legal protections under US law. It maintains that even those individuals who they brought to Bagram from other countries, and have held without charge for more than six years, are still not entitled to speak with their attorney, and they are arguing now that they are not entitled to have their cases heard in US courts…

“There is absolutely no difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration’s position with respect to Bagram detainees’ rights. They have made much ado about nothing, in the hope that the courts and the public will not examine the issue more closely… Some of our clients have been at Bagram since its early days, and they still are not being told what the charges are against them, or given the ability to challenge those allegations in any fair legal proceeding…

“What most people don’t realize is that Bagram has always been far worse than Guantanamo. One thing that has not been stressed enough in media accounts regarding Guantanamo is that much of the abuse that the Guantanamo prisoners suffered actually happened at Bagram. Many of our former clients were subjected to sexual humiliation and assault akin to Abu Ghraib-style torture. In terms of torture and abuse, Bagram has a far worse history than Guantanamo. There are at least two detainees who died there after being tortured by US interrogators… according to the military’s own autopsy report… Bagram has always been a torture chamber…

“I think General Stone’s report [saying that many of the detainees in Bagram are innocent] confirms what we have learned over the years from our clients — most of the people at Bagram are being imprisoned unjustly. General Stone reviewed the military’s own records and determined that, of the 600 current detainees at Bagram, there are 400 innocent people that the US government should not be detaining… What is completely baffling is why these 400 innocent individuals have not been released…

“I voted and campaigned for Obama, like all the other folks here in the US who wanted to see this country recover from the illegal and unjust policies of the Bush administration. When I heard Obama’s announcement to close Guantanamo, I breathed a sigh of relief that perhaps this extremely ugly chapter of American history was finally being put to an end. Unfortunately, since then, the Obama administration has completely failed in delivering the change that was promised… The reality is that the Bush and the Obama administrations have the same position on the rights of detainees in Bagram.”

“Obama the Impotent”

The Guardian wrote on September 22:

“Much hope has been invested in Barack Obama’s ability to strike a new course for the US following eight years of Bush administration unpopularity. Yet many in the US and abroad are impatient with the pace of progress under the Obama administration…

“Besides the ongoing battle over healthcare, this week sees two showdowns between Europe and the US that will reveal further slippage in American global leadership. The first showdown comes today at a UN special session on climate change in New York City; the second will come at the end of the week at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, where America and Europe will butt heads over financial system reforms designed to ensure that the AIGs of the world can never again cause an economic collapse.

“Europe has been increasingly critical of America’s failures to live up to its global responsibilities… On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to reverse the Bush administration’s terrible ecological record. Yet so far the world has seen more symbolic gestures from the Obama administration than accomplishments. Its biggest achievement so far has been an example of disappointment…

“That’s the start of President Obama’s week. At the end of it, President Obama will appear at a meeting in Pittsburgh of the G20, a bloc of both developed and developing nations, representing 85% of the world’s economic output and most of its population. On the table will be what reforms to help avoiding a repetition of the financial panic and global economic collapse that is perceived as having originated on Wall Street… Here again, Europe is leading, while the Obama administration is dragging its feet…

“The world is about to enter a challenging phase where the US – the undisputed leader of the free world for the past 60 years – is going to rapidly cede its place at the head of the line. It appears that the wheels may be coming off the world’s post-war leader, and not even Barack Obama can stop it happening.”

Everyone Is Saying No to Obama

The Jerusalem Post wrote on September 22:

“Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no. The Saudis twice said no to his request for normalization gestures towards Israel… The North Koreans said no to repeated attempts at talks, by test-launching long-range missiles in April; Russia and China keep on saying no to tougher sanctions on Iran; the Iranians keep saying no to offers of talks by saying they’re willing to talk about everything except a halt to uranium enrichment; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is saying no by refusing to meet with Binyamin Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction; the Israelis said no by refusing to agree to a settlement freeze, or even a settlement moratorium…”

EU Unhappy With USA Over “Climate Change”

The Financial Times wrote on September 21:

“A growing rift between the US and Europe is overshadowing Tuesday’s United Nations climate change summit in New York… The downgrading of expectations comes as relations between the US and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown. In Brussels, European Union officials have grown increasingly frustrated at the US stance, saying it has fallen short on both its level of ambition to reduce emissions and on offering aid to developing nations… European officials say the Obama administration lacks focus because its top talent is wrapped up in the all-consuming debate over healthcare.”

Der Spiegel Online added on September 22: “… the climate debate has run aground in the US… Even President Obama’s own party is withholding its support…” It added on September 23:

“Chances of Climate Success in Copenhagen ‘Headed Toward Zero’… The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘Disenchantment with Obama reigns at the UN. And understandably so… criticism of Obama — and particularly those coming from European governments — ranges between hackneyed and dishonest…’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘On his trip through Europe in April, Obama’s message of change and hope put many under a spell. But now, six months later, there is disenchantment among the majority of Americans and — though to a lesser degree — also among people around the world… In Copenhagen, people will put about as much trust in American leadership as they do in believing that the US will live up to its promise to close Guantanamo by January.'”

Czech President Klaus Against Climate Change Campaign

Reuters wrote on September 22:

“Czech President Vaclav Klaus sharply criticized a U.N. meeting on climate change on Tuesday… ‘It was sad and it was frustrating,’ said Klaus, one of the world’s most vocal skeptics on the topic of global warming. ‘It’s a propagandistic exercise where 13-year-old girls from some far-away country perform a pre-rehearsed poem,’ he said. ‘It’s simply not dignified.’ At the opening of the summit attended by nearly 100 world leaders, 13-year-old Yugratna Srivastava of India told the audience that governments were not doing enough to combat the threat of climate change.

“Klaus said there were increasing doubts in the scientific community about whether humans are causing changes in the climate or whether the changes are simply naturally occurring phenomena. But politicians, he said, seem to be moving closer to a consensus on climate change. ‘The train can’t be stopped and I consider that a huge mistake,’ Klaus said… However, new proposals by China and a rallying cry from U.S. President Barack Obama did little to break a U.N. deadlock about what should be done.

“Klaus published a book in 2007 on the worldwide campaign to stop climate change… In the book, Klaus said global warming has turned into a new religion, an ideology that threatens to undermine freedom and the world’s economic and social order.”

Relations Between EU and Israel Getting Worse

The EUobserver wrote on September 21:

“Relations between Sweden, the EU presidency-in-office, and Israel have gone from bad to worse after Israel accused Sweden of breaking an EU ban on contact with Hamas… Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad on 14 September told EUobserver that high-ranking officials from EU countries, including people ‘very close’ to EU leaders and foreign ministers, meet with the militant group on a weekly basis. He mentioned visits from France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the UK and Luxembourg, but not Sweden… Swedish-Israeli relations already suffered in August, when Sweden declined Israeli demands to censure a Swedish newspaper article accusing Israeli soldiers of selling the bodily organs of dead Palestinians.”

Core Europe Inevitable

The EUobserver wrote on September 21:

“Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has suggested that if the Irish people vote against the Lisbon Treaty a second time, a group of European Union member states should move to create a ‘core Europe’ in order to implement the treaty… The concept of a ‘core Europe’ moving ahead toward further integration rears its head regularly when movement forward on a particular policy is blocked by a minority of member states.

“Various politicians and academics have advocated the idea that an inner core of EU member states drive forward with deeper integration via the development of a new organisation, often described as a European Federation, alongside the existing European Union. Some experts believe that even if the Irish approve the treaty, such a move remains inevitable as the union expands beyond 27 member states… The UK’s foreign secretary in this period, Jack Straw, backed the idea that the UK should be part of this core…”

The EU Has Their Say on Homosexuality

The EUobserver reported on September 17:

“A Lithuanian law banning discussion of homosexuality from schools and that could restrict publication of gay and lesbian magazines and proscribe pride marches has been condemned by the European Parliament. A firm but not overwhelming cross-party majority adopted a resolution criticising the Baltic country’s new [law]… The bill, which goes into force in March next year, covers all manner of outlets such as websites, exhibitions, demonstrations and other public events if they can be accessed by children… A total of 349 [EU] deputies voted in favour of the resolution [condemning the bill], with 218 against and 46 abstaining.

“UK Green MEP Jean Lambert, a co-signatory to the resolution said: ‘The European Parliament has sent a clear message to the Lithuanian government that homophobia has no place in the European Union… This law contravenes the EU Treaties, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, and should be urgently repealed on these grounds.'”

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