Daily Archives: March 20, 2012

Ohio Farmer’s Case at Center of Health Care Battle

If the Obama administration persuades the Supreme Court to uphold its health care law, it will be thanks to a seventy-year-old precedent involving an Ohio farmer.

Roscoe Filburn sued to overturn a 1938 federal law that said how much wheat he could grow on his farm and made him pay a penalty for every extra bushel.

The 1942 decision against him, Wickard v. Filburn, is the basis for the Supreme Court’s modern understanding of the scope of federal power. It is the contested ground on which the health care case has been fought in the lower courts, and it is likely to be crucial to the votes of Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, who are widely seen as open to persuasion by either side.

Supporters and opponents of the health care law say the decision helps their side.

To hear the Obama administration tell it, the Filburn decision illustrates how much leeway the federal government has under the Constitution’s commerce clause to regulate the choices people make in matters affecting the economy. If the government can make farmers choose between growing crops and paying a penalty, it can tell people that they must get health insurance or pay a penalty.

Opponents of the law say the case sets the outer limit of federal power, one the health care law exceeds. It is one thing to encourage farmers to buy wheat by punishing them for growing their own. It is another to require people to buy insurance or face a penalty, as the health care law does.

Mr. Filburn argued, as do opponents of the health care overhaul, that he was challenging a law that was not authorized by the Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate commerce “among the several states.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling against him was unanimous.

“Even if appellee’s activity be local,” Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote, “and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.”

The decisions of millions of people to go without health insurance have a significant effect on the national economy by raising other people’s rates and forcing hospitals to pay for the emergency care of those who cannot afford it.

The administration has insisted that the overhaul law is a modest assertion of federal power in comparison to the law Mr. Filburn challenged. “The constitutional foundation for Congress’s action is considerably stronger” for the health care law than for the law that the Supreme Court endorsed in 1942, the administration said in a brief.

Opponents of the law take the opposite view. It is true that the federal government may “regulate bootleggers because of their aggregate harm to the interstate liquor market,” Mr. Carvin wrote in a brief, but the government “may not conscript teetotalers merely because conditions in the liquor market would be improved if more people imbibed.”

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Mexico Hit by 7.6-Magnitude Earthquake


Acapulco (Photo credit: Arturo de Albornoz)

The magnitude of an earthquake that struck about 115 miles east of Acapulco, Mexico, was revised down to 7.6.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in a Twitter post that there were no immediate reports of serious damage.

The epicenter was fifteen miles east of Ometepec, Guerrero. Its depth was eleven miles. Tourists and residents said they felt the earthquake in Acapulco.

The USGS earlier reported the magnitude of the quake at 7.9.

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Second Judge Resigns from Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Six Months

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, home to the Khmer Rouge trials.

A judge has resigned from the court set up to try former Khmer Rouge officials, saying his counterpart was obstructing investigative efforts.

The resignation by Laurent Kasper-Ansermet is the second departure of an international judge from the court in the past six months.

His predecessor, Siegfried Blunk, resigned as a co-investigating judge in October, complaining that Cambodian government ministers undermined proceedings.

Cases 003 and 004, are at the heart of the dispute between Mr. Kasper-Ansermet and You Bunleng, the Cambodian co-investigating judge.

“Judge You Bunleng’s active opposition to investigations into Cases 003 and 004 has led to a dysfunctional situation,” Mr. Kasper-Ansermet said in a statement.

Prosecutors filed submissions in September 2009 asking the judges to begin investigating five people. The submissions were divided into Cases 003 and 004.

The two investigating judges, one international and one Cambodian, collect evidence to decide whether people charged should be brought to trial.

Via CNN.

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Pop Five: Reasons the United States Has Lost Its Mind

A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 20 weeks.

A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 20 weeks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the Huffington Post, Soraya Chemaly has written a searing critique of the Republican male interest in keeping women pregnant. “The rest of the civilized world,” she writes, “thinks this country has lost its mind. It’s no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny.” Blow are Ms. Chemaly’s top five reasons the world thinks the U.S. is crazy.

5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by withholding medical treatment or forcing them to undergo involuntary medical procedures. We impose an obligation on women to sacrifice their bodily integrity for another. (Take, for example, the case of Tysiac v. Poland, where a mother of two became blind after her doctor refused to perform an abortion that would have halted the course of a degenerative eye disease.) If my newborn is in need of a kidney, and you have a spare matching one, can I enact legislation that says the state can take yours and give it to her? No. We do not force people to give their organs to help others. One of the most fundamental of all human rights is that humans be treated equally before the law.

4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration with a condom-covered, six- to eight-inch ultrasound probe. Pennsylvania and eleven other states are considering that option. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds undertaken without a woman’s consent are rape, according the legal definition of the word. This violates a woman’s bodily integrity and is torture when used as a form of control and oppression.

3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning, and charging women who miscarry with murder, like Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi or at least forty women in Alabama or like Bei Bei Shuai, a woman who is charged with murder after trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Pregnant women are becoming a special class subject to “special” laws that infringe on their fundamental rights.

2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women’s lives. “Let women die” bills are happening all over the country. Every day, women die because they do not have access to safe abortions.

1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. This week, Georgia State Representative Terry England supported a bill, which, taken tandem with other restrictions, will result in doctors and women being unable to make private, medically based decisions, and some women being forced to carry their dead or dying fetuses. Rep. England cited his empathy for livestock in arguing for the bill. Women are different from farm animals. This bill, requiring a woman to carry a dead or dying fetus, is inhumane and unethical. By forcing a woman to do this, you are violating her right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment.

There’s a lot more where that came from. In fact, Ms. Chemaly’s original post was ten reasons the world thinks the U.S. is crazy. I recommend you click here to read her thought-provoking article.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Health, Pop Five, War on Women

Khmer Rouge Prison Chief Testifies against Former Party Leaders

Kang Kek Iew 2009

Kang Kek Iew 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Khmer Rouge’s chief jailer began a week of testimony Monday at Cambodia’s U.N.-backed tribunal against three of the regime’s surviving leaders.

It was the first courtroom appearance by Kaing Guek Eav (known as Duch) since February, when the tribunal’s appeals court sentenced him to life imprisonment for committing “shocking and heinous” crimes against the Cambodian people.

The three senior Khmer Rouge figures on trial are eighty-five-year-old Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologist and “Brother Number Two”; eighty-year-old Khieu Samphan, an ex-head of state; and Ieng Sary, the eighty-six-year-old former foreign minister.

All three are accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide, and torture.

Unlike Duch, who admitted his role in the killings and asked for forgiveness, the three say they did no wrong.

Duch commanded Phnom Penh‘s top-secret Tuol Sleng prison, where up to 16,000 people were tortured before being sent for execution at the “killing fields.”

During Monday’s court appearance he wore a prison uniform. A judge ordered security to let him wear civilian clothing for the rest of his testimony.

Via the Associated Press.

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Mets Agree to Pay $162 Million Related to Madoff Case

Go Mets!

Go Mets! (Photo credit: ViperWD)

The owners of the New York Mets have agreed to pay $162 million to settle claims related to the Bernard Madoff case.

In the suit against the Mets, attorneys for the trustee in the case alleged that team owners Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, and their partners engaged in “willful blindness.” That’s another way of saying that the Mets knew that Mr. Madoff’s investment firm was a front for a pyramid-style scam but chose to invest with him anyway.

Mr. Madoff cheated his investors out of more than $17 billion.

Mr. Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to running the largest Ponzi scheme in history and was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

The trustee has collected about $9 billion of the money lost to Mr. Madoff’s scheme, which the victims will receive.

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