Obama warns Supreme Court

US President Barack Obama on Monday challenged the “unelected” Supreme Court not to take the “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” step of overturning his landmark health reform law.

Though Obama said he was confident the court would uphold the law, the centerpiece of his political legacy, he appeared to be previewing campaign trail arguments should the nine justices strike the legislation down.

In a highly combative salvo, Obama also staunchly defended the anchor of the law — a requirement that all Americans buy health insurance — as key to giving millions of people access to treatment for the first time.

“Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said.

Pointed comments from Supreme Court justices last week during three days of compelling hearings have convinced many commentators that the court, expected to rule in June, will declare the law, dubbed ObamaCare, unconstitutional.

Such a move would electrify the White House race, puncture Obama’s claims to be a reformer in the grand political tradition, and throw the US health care industry into chaos.

Obama noted that for years, conservatives had been arguing that the “unelected” Supreme Court should not adopt an activist approach by making rather than interpreting law, and held up the health legislation as an example.

“I am pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step,” Obama said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden with the leaders of Canada and Mexico in his first comments on last week’s hearings.

Obama’s comments will be seen as a warning shot to the court, one of the three branches of the US government, and could draw complaints from critics that he is trying to influence the deliberations.

The health care case is the most closely watched Supreme Court deliberation since a divided bench handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush over Al Gore, and could have far reaching political implications.

Obama also argued there was a “human element” to the health care battle, as well as legal and political dimensions.

He said that without the law, passed after a fierce battle with Republicans in 2010, several million children would not have health care, and millions more adults with pre-existing conditions would also be deprived of treatment.

Opponents of the health care law argue that the government has overreached its powers by requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance.

But supporters say that the government is within its rights to regulate the health industry as it has the power to oversee commerce across state borders.

Without the mandate, they say, the costs of insuring an extra 32 million Americans would be prohibitive to the private health insurance industry.

The Affordable Care Act is highly polarizing in US politics as the election approaches and Obama is yet to get a political dividend for the huge expenditure of political capital required to pass the legislation.

Read more here.

Poised To Strike

The Supreme Court’s conservative justices said Wednesday they are prepared to strike down President Obama’s healthcare law entirely.

Picking up where they left off Tuesday, the conservatives said they thought a decision striking down the law’s controversial individual mandate to purchase health insurance means the whole statute should fall with it.

The court’s conservatives sounded as though they had determined for themselves that the 2,700-page measure must be declared unconstitutional.

“One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.

Agreeing, Justice Anthony Kennedy said it would be an “extreme proposition” to allow the various insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down.

Meanwhile, the court’s liberal justices argued for restraint. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court should do a “salvage job,” not undertake a “wrecking operation.” But she looked to be out-voted.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or fall in total. Along with Justice Clarence Thomas, they would have a majority to strike down the entire statute as unconstitutional.

An Obama administration lawyer, urging caution, said it would be “extraordinary” for the court to throw out the entire law. About 2.5 million young people under age 26 are on their parents’ insurance now because of the new law. If it were struck down entirely, “2.5 million of them would be thrown off the insurance rolls,” said Edwin Kneedler.

The administration indicated it was prepared to accept a ruling that some of the insurance reforms should fall if the mandate were struck down. For example, insurers would not be required to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions. But Kneedler, a deputy solicitor general, said the court should go no further.

Read more here.

Supreme Court Says No to TV Cameras for Health Care Hearings

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected requests to allow television cameras in the courtroom for the upcoming arguments on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, though said it would release audio recordings of the proceedings on the same day.

In a statement, the court acknowledged the “extraordinary public interest” in the proceedings, set to be held over three days beginning March 26. Still, it was not enough to shake the long-held tradition of barring recording devices of any kind from the courtroom, despite pleas from many news organizations.

Instead, the court will post audio files and transcripts on its website in the afternoon following each day of proceedings.

Following the announcement, the C-SPAN cable network said it would broadcast the arguments on its cable channel and on the radio as soon as the recordings are available. A statement from the network said it was “disappointed” the court rejected its request to air the proceedings live.

The court’s statement did not actually address the issue of live recordings, merely providing directions where interested parties will be able to access the audio files and transcripts.

According to the AP, the court’s announcement is similar to the decision over the case of Bush v. Gore in 2000, which clinched George W. Bush’s election as president. It was the first time the justices provided audio of the arguments the same day they were held, after denying requests for the proceedings to be aired live.

SCOTUS throws out massive class action sex discrimination case

Unanimously overruling the San Francisco-based 9th District Court, the Supreme Court threw out a massive class action sex discrimination case against Walmart. The key issue was whether the one and a half million women hired by Walmart, or who were not hired by Walmart after the case was filed, had enough in common to constitute a legally valid class able to sue. Reuters summarizes:

The high court accepted Wal-Mart’s main argument that the female employees in different jobs at 3,400 different stores nationwide and with different supervisors do not have enough in common to be lumped together in a single class-action lawsuit.

The Supreme Court only decided whether the 10-year-old lawsuit can proceed to trial as a group, not the merits of the sex-discrimination allegations at the heart of the case.

Justice Scalia,

said there must be significant proof that Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination. “That is entirely absent here,” he said, noting that Wal-Mart’s official corporate policies forbid sex discrimination.

The unanimous decision is yet another rebuke to the San Francisco-based 9th District Court of Appeals, the most-overruled circuit court in the nation, clearly out of step. The 9th also has the largest region under its jurisdiction, leading to calls to cut the district into two smaller regions. Perhaps the 9th’s jurisdiction ought to be limited to the City of San Francisco, with a new circuit created to encompass the rest of the current district. This is within the jurisdiction of Congress, according to the Constitution.

The Supreme Court and California Prisons

You’ve heard about this one, I’m sure. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the State of California to release about 46,000 prisoners. The California prison population is at about 148% of capacity. Face it … California is a basket case. Perhaps one of the problems with the prisons is that prison guards can retire on hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in pension benefits. That is money that could have been used to expand capacity. The only expansion has been the wallets of union prison guards.

You certainly don’t expect any common sense solutions in California – but the obvious first move is to release every non-violent drug offender currently serving time. Then take all people on death row and execute them … now. Electric bleachers would work. Once they’re executed they don’t take up any prison beds and they’re no longer in need of medical care. If after releasing the non-violent drug offenders and executing all on death row you still have an overcrowding problem, get back to me.

Scalia to address Tea Party Caucus

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will address the newly formed House Tea Party Caucus.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said Scalia will address the inaugural “Conservative Constitutional Seminar” on Jan. 24 to “speak to members of Congress
about the separation of powers.”

“It is a special privilege to have him address the first of what will be regular seminars featuring constitutional scholars,” Bachmann said in a statement. “In his 24 years of service on the high court, Justice Scalia has distinguished himself by his ‘originalist’ approach to constitutional interpretation.”

Bachmann, in the release, said the Conservative Constitutional Seminars are being organized in conjunction with the Tea Party Caucus. The House Constitution Caucus, chaired by New Jersey Republican Rep. Scott Garrett, is also involved in organizing the seminar.

Such conferences, Bachmann said, will be held at least twice monthly.

Justice Elena Kagan’s first vote is against an execution

Justice Elena Kagan cast her first vote on the Supreme Court late Tuesday, joining the liberals in dissent when the high court cleared the way for the execution of an Arizona murderer.

The 5-4 ruling overturned orders by a federal judge in Phoenix and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that had stopped the execution by lethal injection of Jeffrey Landrigan.

His lawyers, in a last-ditch appeal, had raised questions about one of the drugs used in the execution. Since the only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental had suspended production, Arizona officials said they had obtained a supply of the drug from a British company.

Freedom Before All Else….

Many conservative groups have sprouted up over the past year. The Tea Party Patriots, the whole Tea Party movement, the 9-12 project and Americans For Prosperity are just a few. These groups have great heart and a good purpose. In all honesty, these groups have become an easy target for those against freedom to label certain groups and ideas. They, in and among themselves, have been a way for our enemies to destroy us. However, many are also becoming splintered because of certain ideas and groups within the larger movement. Some individuals in these groups are promoting single issues before what is most important. In all truth, there are two things most important that we, as Americans, must stand behind and fight for, as one group, one citizenry and one people. Those two things are simply, the Constitution of the United States of America and Freedom!

If we do not stand for these two ideas and the way of life they represent, what else actually matters? Without Freedom, we lose who we are as individuals, we lose our souls. Right now, we can see ourselves losing more and more Freedom each and every day. Our government says we need more security, more legislation, more rules, that all risks must be taken away. They seem to be trying to create sameness, misery if you will. Please, do not underestimate this regime. They know exactly what they are doing, and many of Americans continue to let them move us into a totalitarian country.

There is a great line from Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” where he says, on the battlefield, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” What will our lives to be without Freedom? What will our lives be worth, especially considering that a government official will be making healthcare decisions for us where all individualism loses worth and governmental money prevails?

Americans throughout the past have always done what is right. We have stood for individualism, Freedom and the rights given to man by our creator. However, most of the world has fought against these things, starting many years before this great country was born. Those who have fought against these ideas have always failed. Unfortunately, totalitarian regimes have always lost, only because of violent uprisings from the people. This is where the people of America have a great opportunity before us. We can halt this attempt to socialize America through non-violence-only because of the people, only because of each and every one of you.

The ideals and beliefs of the people of this country is what has made America what is has always been, the shining city on the hill. Once again we find ourselves at a crossroad, although, maybe one of much more importance than ever before. We have the people, the ideas, the heart to do what is necessary to return this country back to the people. I ask this though: do the people of this country have the will to put government back into their place? As a necessary evil only and not a regime that tries to control the decisions and lives of the people it is supposed to protect.

Freedom and individuality along with personal responsibility has for too long, been eroded away and put into hindsight. Now we must put them into the forefront as we march behind them down the road of revitalizing America. Do we need a revolution, or just a revitalization? We have everything we need to bring this country back to prosperity. Those things are in our Constitution and in our hearts and minds. Now is the time for people to get motivated; not under many ideas, but just one. That one idea is Freedom. With it, we can do wonders and live extraordinary lives; without it, everything is futile.

We have a long road ahead of us in this country. The choice is ours, the time is now.

We do, in fact, live in a strange time here in America. We know man can be inherently evil, however, our politicians are even more so. Our own government calls the ones defending and staning for the Constitution of the United States extremists, while allowing Islam to march all over our free speech and threaten American citizens with death. If we are the extremists, what are those who are in the process of destroying our Constitution, our freedom, and our way of life?

I have many more questions than answers at this point. I do, however, understand these evil men who lead our government must be stopped before they bring death and destruction to the United States just as Socialism has done throughout the history of the world.

Chicago Backs Criminals Over Law Abiding Citizens

AP – Chicago Mayor Richard Daley speaks during a news conference, Thursday, July 1, 2010 in Chicago. Daley

HOW DARE YOU DEFEND YOURSELF

By DON BABWIN

CHICAGO – The Chicago City Council on Friday approved what city officials say is the strictest handgun ordinance in the nation, but not before lashing out at the Supreme Court ruling they contend makes the city more dangerous because it will put more guns in people’s hands.

The new ordinance bans gun shops in Chicago and prohibits gun owners from stepping outside their homes, even onto their porches or in their garages, with a handgun. It becomes law in 10 days, Corporation Counsel Mara Georges said.

The vote comes just four days after the high court ruled Americans have the right to have handguns anywhere for self-defense — a ruling that makes the city’s 28-year-old ban on such weapons unenforceable.

“I wish that we weren’t in the position where we’re struggling to figure out a way in which we can limit the guns on our streets and still meet the test that our Supreme Court has set for us,” said Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, minutes before the council voted 45-0 to approve the ordinance.

It was swift action for a council that typically takes far longer to pass ordinances, but Mayor Richard Daley — who promised the city would not “roll over” if the court ruled against the city’s handgun ban — clearly wanted to give police a law they could begin enforcing as quickly as possible.

“You have to get the tools to the police,” Daley said.

And even though the ban remains in effect until it is struck down by an appellate court, Georges said it was important to pass a new law to clear up confusion Chicagoans might have about what kind of weapons they can legally own and how they can use them.

Some residents applauded the vote.

“There’s just too much killing going on (and) we need protection,” said Mary Fitts, a retiree who came from her home on the South Side to watch the vote. “You can’t even sit on your front porch.”

Others, like Senesceria Craig, wondered how much good it would do. “They’re not going to abide by it,” she said of criminals, pointing out that her 20-year-old daughter was shot and killed with a handgun in 1992, 10 years after the city’s ban went into effect.

But gun rights supporters quickly criticized Daley and the City Council and promised lawsuits.

“The city wants to put as many hurdles and as much red tape in the way of someone who just wants to exercise their constitutional right to have a gun,” said Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist with the National Rifle Association in Illinois.

Vandermyde would not say when lawsuits might be filed. But he said the ordinance would be attacked on a number of fronts — including requiring prospective gun owners to pay $15 for each firearm registered, $100 every three years for a Chicago Firearms Permit, not to mention the cost of the required training — saying they all add up to discrimination against the poor.

“How are some people in some of the poorer neighborhoods who merely want to have firearms for self-defense supposed to afford to get through all this red tape?” he asked.

David Lawson, one of the plaintiffs in the case decided by the Supreme Court this week, agreed. He wondered if a challenge could be raised over the issue of training, saying it’s unfair to require training but prohibit that training from taking place in the city.

Daley and Georges said they expect lawsuits but that they were confident they could withstand legal challenges.

The ordinance also:

• Limits the number of handguns residents can register to one per month and prohibits residents from having more than one handgun in operating order at any given time.

• Requires residents in homes with children to keep handguns in lock boxes or equipped with trigger locks and requires residents convicted of a gun offense to register with the police department, much as sex offenders are now required to do.

• Prohibits people from owning a gun if they were convicted of a violent crime, domestic violence or two or more convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

• Requires prospective gun owners to be fingerprinted, take a four-hour class and one-hour training at a gun range.

• Calls for the police department to maintain a registry of every registered handgun owner in the city, with the names and addresses to be made available to police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders.

Those who have handguns, illegal under the ban, would have 90 days from the day the ordinance is enacted to register those weapons.

Residents convicted of violating the ordinance face a fine of up to $5,000 and be locked up for as long as 90 days for a first offense, and a fine of up to $10,000 and as long as six months behind bars for subsequent convictions.