Friday, December 27, 2013

NSA phone surveillance is legal, N.Y. judge rules?

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Friday found that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ telephone records is legal and a valuable part of the nation’s arsenal to counter the threat of terrorism.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in a written opinion that the program “represents the government’s counter-punch” to eliminate al Qaeda’s terror network by connecting fragmented and fleeting communications.


In ruling, the judge noted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how the phone data-collection system could have helped investigators connect the dots before the attacks occurred.

“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world. It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data,” he said.

Pauley’s decision contrasts with a ruling earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, who granted a preliminary injunction against the collecting of phone records of two men who had challenged the program. The Washington jurist said the program likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unreasonable search.

Pauley dismissed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

“We are pleased with the decision,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said.

In arguments before Pauley last month, an ACLU lawyer had argued that the government’s interpretation of its authority under the Patriot Act was so broad that it could justify the mass collection of financial, health and even library records of innocent Americans without their knowledge. A government lawyer had countered that counterterrorism investigators wouldn’t find most personal information useful.

The ACLU sued earlier this year after former NSA analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of the secret programs that critics say violate privacy rights. The NSA-run programs pick up millions of telephone and Internet records that are routed through American networks each day.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Obama’s Top Violations of the Constitution for 2013?

One of Barack Obama’s chief accomplishments has been to return the Constitution to a central place in our public discourse.
Unfortunately, the president fomented this upswing in civic interest not by talking up the constitutional aspects of his policy agenda, but by blatantly violating the strictures of our founding document. And he’s been most frustrated with the separation of powers, which doesn’t allow him to “fundamentally transform” the country without congressional acquiescence.
But that hasn’t stopped him. In its first term, the Administration launched a “We Can’t Wait” initiative, with senior aide Dan Pfeiffer explaining that “when Congress won’t act, this president will.” And earlier this year, President Obama said in announcing his new economic plans that “I will not allow gridlock, or inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way.”
And so, as we reach the end of another year of political strife that’s fundamentally based on clashing views on the role of government in society, I thought I’d update a list I made two years ago and hereby present President Obama’s top 10 constitutional violations of 2013.
1. Delay of Obamacare’s out-of-pocket caps. The Labor Department announced in February that it was delaying for a year the part of the healthcare law that limits how much people have to spend on their own insurance. This may have been sensible—insurers and employers need time to comply with rapidly changing regulations—but changing the law requires actual legislation.
2. Delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate. The administration announced via blogpost on the eve of the July 4 holiday that it was delaying the requirement that employers of at least 50 people provide complying insurance or pay a fine. This time it did cite statutory authority, but the cited provisions allow the delay of certain reporting requirements, not of the mandate itself.
3. Delay of Obamacare’s insurance requirements. The famous pledge that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” backfired when insurance companies started cancelling millions of plans that didn’t comply with Obamacare’s requirements. President Obama called a press conference last month to proclaim that people could continue buying non-complying plans in 2014—despite Obamacare’s explicit language to the contrary. He then refused to consider a House-passed bill that would’ve made this action legal.
4. Exemption of Congress from Obamacare. A little-known part of Obamacare requires Congressmen and their staff to get insurance through the new healthcare exchanges, rather than a taxpayer-funded program. In the quiet of August, President Obama directed the Office of Personnel Management to interpret the law to maintain the generous congressional benefits.
5. Expansion of the employer mandate penalty through IRS regulation. Obamacare grants tax credits to people whose employers don’t provide coverage if they buy a plan “through an Exchange established by the State”—and then fines employers for each employee receiving such a subsidy. No tax credits are authorized for residents of states where the exchanges are established by the federal government, as an incentive for states to create exchanges themselves. Because so few (16) states did, however, the IRS issued a rule ignoring that plain text and allowed subsidies (and commensurate fines) for plans coming from “a State Exchange, regional Exchange, subsidiary Exchange, and federally-facilitated Exchange.”
6. Political profiling by the IRS. After seeing a rise in the number of applications for tax-exempt status, the IRS in 2010 compiled a “be on the lookout” (“BOLO”) list to identify organizations engaged in political activities. The list included words such as “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” and “Israel”; subjects such as government spending, debt, or taxes; and activities such as criticizing the government, educating about the Constitution, or challenging Obamacare. The targeting continued through May of this year.
7. Outlandish Supreme Court arguments. Between January 2012 and June 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s extreme positions 9 times. The cases ranged from criminal procedure to property rights, religious liberty to immigration, securities regulation to tax law. They had nothing in common other than the government’s view that federal power is virtually unlimited. As a comparison, in the entire Bush and Clinton presidencies, the government suffered 15 and 23 unanimous rulings, respectively.
8. Recess appointments. Last year, President Obama appointed three members of the National Labor Relations Board, as well as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, during what he considered to be a Senate recess. But the Senate was still holding “pro forma” sessions every three days—a technique developed by Sen. Harry Reid to thwart Bush recess appointments. (Meanwhile, the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, provides that authority remains with the Treasury Secretary until a director is “confirmed by the Senate.”) In January, the D.C. Circuit held the NLRB appointments to be unconstitutional, which ruling White House spokesman Jay Carney said only applied to “one court, one case, one company.”
9. Assault on free speech and due process on college campuses. Responding to complaints about the University of Montana’s handling of sexual assault claims, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, in conjunction with the Justice Department, sent the university a letter intended as a national “blueprint” for tackling sexual harassment. The letter urges a crackdown on “unwelcome” speech and requires complaints to be heard in quasi-judicial procedures that deny legal representation, encourage punishment before trial, and convict based on a mere “more likely than not” standard.

10. Mini-DREAM Act. Congress has shamelessly failed to pass any sort of immigration reform, including for the most sympathetic victims of the current non-system, young people who were brought into the country illegally as children. Nonetheless, President Obama, contradicting his own previous statements claiming to lack authority, directed the Department of HomelandSecurity to issue work and residence permits to the so-called Dreamers. The executive branch undoubtedly has discretion regarding enforcement priorities, but granting de facto green cards goes beyond a decision to defer deportation in certain cases.
It was hard to limit myself to 10 items, of course—Obamacare alone could’ve filled many such lists—but these, in my judgment, represent the chief executive’s biggest dereliction this year of his duty to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution, and to “take care that the law be faithfully executed.”
Alas, things may get worse before they get better. New presidential “counselor” John Podesta’s belief in governance by fiat is no secret; in a 2010 report, he wrote that focusing on executive power “presents a real opportunity for the Obama administration to turn its focus away from a divided Congress and the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage.”
Happy New Year!

The Common Core "Slippery Slope"

The Common Core agenda - the plot to nationalize school standards and take autonomy away from state and local education authorities - has been proceding behind the scenes.
Michael McShane and Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute write about Common Core's "slippery slope" and the attempts of Common Core advocates to hide it:
The Common Core opens the door much wider for Washington to meddle in schooling. The experience of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act is instructive. Initially, NCLB limited federal authority over how states would set standards, select tests, and improve teacher quality. In recent years, however, the Obama administration has used its ability to issue “waivers” from NCLB to push states to adopt the Common Core, sign onto certain tests, and evaluate teachers in specified ways. There’s much precedent for worrying about slippery slopes.
In fact, for all their lip service to federalism, few Common Core advocates give the impression that they worry about extending Washington’s reach. Many have avidly supported Obama initiatives that have increased Washington’s authority. The “state-led” talking points look more like advocates trying to address a short-term political problem.
The result is a dishonest debate, in which advocates refuse to acknowledge what they really think it’ll take for the Common Core to deliver on their grand ambitions for the program. That can create problems of its own: See the troubled rollout of health-care reform, where promises made for political reasons have yielded fierce backlash and immense implementation challenges.
The comparisons to both the federal health exchange and President Bush's No Child Left Behind are apt. The driving ideology behind these kinds of initiatives is that the top-down technocratic elite (usually in Washington DC) can set policy and make rules better than the people who actually live in the states that will be affected.

Common Core Curriculum Criticisms

There is a proper way to educate and there is a proper way to govern, and they are both known. Today we do these things in a different way, which presents a serious and perhaps fatal problem for our country. But repair is possible. 

Take education first. The word “education” comes from a Latin word meaning “to lead forth.” And if you think about it, “forth” is a value-laden term. Which way is forth? The Bible tells us to “raise up a child in the way he should go.” But which way should he go? How does one come to know the answer to that? After almost 14 years as a college president I’m an expert on young people between 18 and 22, and I can tell you that if you ask a young person today which way is the right way to go, more often than not he or she will answer: “It depends on which way you want to go.” Young people today give that answer because they’ve been taught to give that answer. But it’s the wrong answer, and the activity of getting from there to the right answer—the activity of coming to know which way is the right way—is education. Thus “to lead forth.”

Two Ways of Education 

At Hillsdale College students read a lot of old books, including Plato’s Republic. In the Republic they read the story of Gyges’ ring—a ring that makes the wearer of it invisible. One of Socrates’ interlocutors in the Republic, a young man named Glaucon, raises the question: Why would a man in possession of such a ring not use it to do and obtain whatever he wishes? Why would he not use the ring’s powers, for instance, to become a tyrant? In response, Socrates turns the discussion to another question: What is the right way for a man to live? What is just by nature and what is unjust?

These Socratic questions were once at the center or core of education, and they remain at the center or core of education at Hillsdale College. But in American education as a whole, these questions have been abandoned.

Let me give you two examples of how the new way of education differs from the old. One concerns the use of the word I just used—“core.” Here at Hillsdale we have a core curriculum—a thing most American colleges and universities have watered down or done away with—which is a core group of courses that all students, regardless of their major, are required to take. A true core, as I’ve described, has a unifying principle, such as the idea that there is a right way to live that one can come to know. Compare that to the use of the same word in describing the latest bright idea of the education establishment—the so-called Common Core—which is an attempt by bureaucrats and politicians to impose national standards on American schools. When one looks into Common Core, it becomes clear that it has no unifying principle in the sense I have described. And it has destructive effects. But the point I want to make here is that its only stated object is career preparation.

Bereft of the kind of questions posed by Socrates in the Republic—or the kind of questions raised in the Bible, or in the plays of Shakespeare—modern education treats students chiefly as factors of production, as people to be trained for productive jobs. And although we all wish productive jobs for our children, as parents we know that they are not chiefly job seekers or factors of production. After all, how many of us, if we were given the choice of our children earning a lot of money and being bad, or struggling economically and being good, would choose the former?

My second example of the turn taken by modern education goes to the heart of the problem. Here is a passage from the Teacher’s Guide for Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, published in 1991 by the College Board—the influential organization that, among other things, administers the SAT exam. It is written by an English professor from Agnes Scott College in Georgia. 

. . . AP teachers are implementing the best of the new pedagogies that have influenced leading institutions of higher learning. Perhaps most importantly, as Arthur Applebee explains, “objectivity” and “factuality” have lost their preeminence. Instruction has become “less a matter of transmittal of an objective and culturally sanctioned body of knowledge,” and more a matter of helping individuals learn to construct their own realities. This moves English courses away from the concept of subject matter to be memorized and toward “a body of knowledge, skills, and strategies that must be constructed by the learner out of experiences and interactions within the social context of the classroom.” Emphasis is on the processes of language and thought, “processes that are shaped by a given cultural community and which also help students become part of the cultural 

community.” Contemporary educators no doubt hope students will shape values and ethical systems as they engage in these interactions, acquiring principles that will help them live in a mad, mad world(emphases added).

Could the difference be more stark between the older and newer ways of education? Between leading students toward an understanding of the right way to live in a comprehensible world, and telling them they must shape their own values and make their own reality in a world gone mad? And by the way, think of the definition of “reality”; then think of making one’s own reality. Do you see that it destroys the meaning of the word to use it that way? 

Two Ways of Governing

The difference between the old and the new way of governing is directly connected to this turn in education. One way to see the difference is to see that laws in America used to be simple and beautiful. They were written with care, and citizens could read them quickly and understand their meaning. Of the four organic laws that founded America—the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance, and the Constitution of the United States—none of them was more than 4,500 words long. 

The Northwest Ordinance, adopted in 1787 and passed again in 1789, contains the following beautiful sentence: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind, the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” 

Accordingly, Congress proceeded to give 1/36 of the land in the vast Northwest Territory—including Michigan and four other states—as an endowment, controlled by the states, to support education in each township. One of the finest laws written subsequently was the Homestead Act of 1862, by which ten percent of U.S. land—over 270 million acres—passed into the hands of individual citizens. The Homestead Act was 1,320 words in length.

Compare the Northwest Ordinance and the Homestead Act—perfect examples of the older, constitutional way of governing—with the new bureaucratic way of imposing central control through rules and processes that no one can understand. Compare them, for instance, to the Affordable Care Act, which when it was passed in 2010—and this does not include the countless rules and regulations it has generated over the past three years—ran to 363,086 words. This law—and in the true sense of the word it wasn’t a law at all, but something different—was not readable or comprehensible to any member of Congress who voted for it or to the citizens whose lives it was aimed at manipulating in a detailed and intrusive way. Could anything be uglier? And is it surprising, being governed in this way, that the richest nation in human history is going broke?

Let me mention two characteristics and dangers of the new way of governing. First, if you look at the size of the federal budget, you see that in economic terms the government is beginning to rival in size the rest of the country. Less and less do we have a large and thriving private sector—which is where the Constitution placed sovereignty—in control of a limited government that owes its authority to the governed.

That the Constitution placed sovereignty in the people, outside the government, means that the only way the people can maintain their sovereignty—the only way they can control the government—is through elections of representatives. But as the government becomes almost as big, in economic terms, as those who elect it, the government itself— with its clients and friends—becomes increasingly influential in the electoral process, while people who make their living independent of the government become less influential. This trend could prove fatal to our country, because at some point if it continues—and we can already see the beginnings with attempts to regulate political speech—the idea of free elections will become problematic.

My final point is that this new way of governing actively opposes America’s founding principles. Consider an example from the College’s recent history: What could more directly contradict America’s bedrock principle of human equality than the attempt by bureaucrats at the Department of Education to force Hillsdale, whose charter prohibited racial discrimination long before the Civil War, to count its students by the color of their skin?

James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution, and when he suggested in the Federalist Papers that the Constitution receives its authority from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, he was expressing what was then the common view. Here is the famous statement of those principles: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government . .
 . .
Compare that confident statement of principles to this passage from President Obama’s 2006 book The Audacity of Hope:

Implicit in [the Constitution’s] structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course . . . (emphasis added).

How did Barack Obama come to believe something so foreign to America’s heritage as the idea that in the name of liberty we must reject absolute truths—which necessarily includes rejecting those truths I just quoted from the Declaration? And how is it—because this is a bipartisan problem—that not once in the course of two long presidential campaigns did an opponent of Barack Obama think to point out his unequivocal disagreement with the principles we celebrate as a nation on the Fourth of July? 

Do you recall what I said about the connection between the new way of education and the new way of governing? Given what is now taught in our schools, is it any wonder that our leaders today behave like wearers of Gyges’ ring who have not given thought to the questions raised by Socrates in the Republic, or to the connection between the principles of the Declaration of Independence and civil and religious liberty?

The means of repairing both education and government today is the activity that takes place at Hillsdale College. Through its undergraduate and graduate programs, its Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., its extensive online learning program, its charter school initiative, its multiple outreach activities, and its publications such as Imprimis, Hillsdale seeks to radiate that activity to every corner of the nation in every possible way. This is the work needed to save our country, and it is the purpose of Hillsdale’s “Rebirth of Liberty and Learning Campaign.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words: the constitutional soundness of ultrasound requirements

December 16, 2013 (The Public Discourse) - Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a state law requiring that a pregnant woman have an ultrasound of her unborn child before having an abortion. Oklahoma’s state law had required that the pregnant mother be shown and told about the ultrasound and given information about the state of development of the fetal child gestating in her womb. The woman remained free to look away from the image, and she remained free to have an abortion, notwithstanding the information about the child’s state of development. Nonetheless, in Pruitt v. Nova Health Systems, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the law was an unconstitutional interference with the constitutional right to choose abortion.

As a legal matter, the Oklahoma court’s decision was utterly indefensible. Even by the remarkably pro-abortion standards of the US Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, a right to choose abortion is not abridged by requirements designed to inform that choice.

The US Supreme Court made all this rather plain in its (otherwise horrible) 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the right to abortion created in Roe v. Wade (1973). The court ruled that informed-choice requirements properly can include “truthful, non-misleading information” about the gestational age and developmental status of the unborn child, in order to ensure “that a woman apprehend the full consequences of her decision,” including the (literally life-and-death) “consequences to the fetus.”

Oklahoma’s ultrasound requirement plainly fits into this category. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to the contrary, which claimed to rest on the Casey precedent, is almost inexplicable. At the level of mere technical legal skill and reasoning, the opinion is simply incompetent.

The US Supreme Court’s decision not to review the Oklahoma decision is disappointing. To be sure, it does not endorse the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision. A decision to decline review technically says nothing about the merits of the earlier decision. It simply leaves the lower court's decision alone, making it a precedent applicable in Oklahoma state courts only and invalidating only this particular Oklahoma statute.

Nonetheless, Nova Health Systems may be the proverbial “One That Got Away”—a lost opportunity to have repudiated a deeply misguided decision and, further, to have upheld an important category of legislation that even those who consider themselves pro-choice should support.

Mandatory ultrasound requirements before obtaining abortion are potentially very important and useful, and they are fully constitutional. They serve to enlighten the abortion choice by making clear exactly what it is that is being chosen. That can, and should, change many women’s minds about aborting the life they are carrying. And changing minds—persuasion—is fully consistent with the notion of choice, and thus constitutional even under Casey.

The Practical, Persuasive Importance of Mandatory Ultrasounds
In 1988, when ultrasound use was still fairly new, a young colleague of mine, Kim, was pregnant with her second child. At one of her doctor visits, Kim had the opportunity to see her unborn baby boy on the ultrasound screen and received the now-familiar picture for the refrigerator door.

That’s the way to stop abortion,” Kim told me. Just show the pregnant woman her living unborn baby, moving in her womb. “No one could see that and have an abortion. You don’t need to ban abortion or overrule Roe. You just need to show the woman her baby.” No pregnant woman, she believed, could see what she had seen and conclude that this was just an inanimate, inconsequential mass of tissue. The implication was that no woman with a trace of moral sense and natural empathy could then choose to kill her child.

To be sure, that might not be true in every case. Some women, shown ultrasounds of their pregnancy, abort anyway. But my friend Kim’s intuition was, and remains, a powerful one: seeing is believing. Facts, verbal descriptions, and logic lack the same persuasive, emotional force of seeing what abortion is, and what exactly—who exactly—it is that is being killed.

Most people, I believe, have basically good moral sense. But moral intuitions misfire, given insufficient information, insufficient reflection on such information, pervasive social pressure and cultural bias, or corrupting personal interests that can overpower natural moral sense.

I am convinced that the reason many otherwise thoughtful, morally aware people consider themselves “pro-choice” on abortion—and why at least some women are emotionally able to abort their babies—is some combination of ignorance about the basic facts of life, illogic in processing the moral implications of such facts, acceptance of false representations made by others, self-interest resulting in nearly willful blindness to facts, and simple cowardice. The proportions may vary in each case.

But I suspect that there are precious few who support legal abortion (outside of the most compelling, tragic situations of true self-defense), or who engage in abortion, who both fully understand the facts of what abortion is and can reason through those facts to a moral conclusion in a clear-headed fashion un-swayed by social pressure or personal interest. For many, I believe, elective abortion is at some level an act of ignorance.

Start with the facts of abortion. The belief that the living, unborn human child, gestating in his or her mother’s womb, is not a distinct living human being is, as a matter of objective fact, almost incomprehensibly ignorant. Abortion kills a distinct human being with a biological identity separate from the pregnant woman.

This is not a matter of opinion. It is not a matter upon which reasonable people can disagree. It is a scientific fact.

There may be some room, I suppose, for people to argue about the moral implications of this unavoidable fact. One could argue that killing a distinct human life is a matter of moral indifference; or that some human beings are subhuman and may be killed for the benefit of others; or that a pregnant woman’s interest in not being pregnant or becoming a parent justifies, in some or all circumstances, of which she is the sole judge, killing the unborn human life. Those are moral, philosophical, or religious questions. But the facts are just facts.

My friend’s intuition was that, for most people, these moral and philosophical questions are rather easy ones. It is wrong to kill human beings. It is no less wrong to do so because they are young, weak, vulnerable, or dependent upon another. It is wrong in principle, not to mention horrible in practice, for some human beings to treat other human beings as subhuman—to define them away, as entitled to no moral status or respect and therefore entitled to no consideration. And it is wrong, outside of exceptional circumstances, to kill another person simply because it benefits you.

For most people, these are agreed moral tenets. Thus, given the facts of abortion, my friend believed, most pregnant women would do the right thing, because they possess right moral instincts. They would not kill their children.

Of course, people are capable of great feats of self-deception when it comes to basic facts, especially when it seems to be in their interest to deceive themselves. People are capable of stunning fact-defying flights of imagination. We can be sheep-like at times, readily misled by disinformation. We are often eager to believe what it is convenient to believe.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE
More than that, people often don’t think straight: we don’t always evaluate information properly or reason clearly from premise to conclusion. We “think” in shortcuts, clichés, summaries, experiences, emotional reactions, and bumper sticker slogans. We don’t always use our heads.

It is often essential to show people facts that they may be disposed to slight, ignore, or distort. It is helpful to confront people who are facing a moral decision with core information in a form that enables them to truly apprehend the facts and consider their implications. Thus, a requirement that a pregnant woman contemplating abortion view an ultrasound of her unborn baby, in real time, and be told and shown that her baby is living, could potentially have an enormous impact. If a pregnant woman actually sees her baby, she may rethink her decision to have an abortion.
That is the driving force behind state laws mandating ultrasounds and pre-abortion information. These laws are designed to inform and persuade, based on the premise that vivid, visual information and verbal explanation will make a difference in the woman’s choice.
Abortion advocates realize this, which accounts for the vehemence of their opposition to ultrasound requirements. Such requirements are designed to show and tell. The pro-abortion argument against them is, in a nutshell, that it is an unconstitutional impairment of the freedom to choose abortion to be shown and told, in words and in living, real-time moving pictures, what abortion is. Knowledge is bad. And, at a certain level, the pro-abortion side is right: if more women knew what abortion is, and does, and could see their contemplated victims, going forward with such killing likely would more greatly burden their hearts and minds.
Pro-abortion critics also deride such laws on the ground that they are condescending or paternalistic, arguing that women know exactly what they are doing when they are choosing abortion. But do they always? Do all women seeking abortions fully understand abortion? Have they all given careful consideration to the morality of killing their unborn child based on full information about that child?
Frankly, I doubt that this is the case. I believe that many women having abortions, and the men and women who often press this choice upon the pregnant woman, do not know—do not really, fully, apprehend—the reality of abortion. And doubtless many others would prefer not to think about it too intently.
If some pregnant women would be influenced by fuller information and understanding into choosingnot to have an abortion, there is much to be gained by ultrasound requirements. And if other womendo fully understand what abortion is, and who it is that is being aborted, there is little to be lost by such requirements. It may make the choice a little more uncomfortable, even anguished—as it should. But it does not prevent the abortion choice itself, if the pregnant mother remains determined to kill her unborn child.

The Constitutional Soundness of Ultrasound Requirements
As I have written elsewhere, the Court’s decisions in Roe and Casey permit abortion on demand, throughout pregnancy, for essentially any reason that the woman and the abortionist think appropriate. But Casey and subsequent cases do permit the state to weigh in on the abortion choice—by favoring childbirth over abortion, by legislation establishing “informed consent” requirements concerning the nature of abortion and the life of the child in the womb, by imposing waiting periods for reflection before abortion, and even by expressing the state’s view as to the moral wrongness of abortion—as long as such actions do not present a “substantial obstacle” to choosing abortion, and the pregnant woman retains the ultimate power to decide whether or not to abort her child.

As the Court put it in Casey, “States are free to enact laws to provide a reasonable framework for a woman to make a decision that has such profound and lasting meaning.” They may require that abortionists provide “truthful non-misleading information” to ensure that the pregnant woman will “apprehend the full consequences” of abortion, including information making clear “the consequences to the fetus” of abortion.
Under these standards, the constitutionality of ultrasound requirements is absolutely clear. They provide truthful information about the status of the unborn child. They show the woman that there is a separate human life developing within her. They introduce her to that life, showing her who it is that the contemplated abortion will kill. They make plain “the consequences to the fetus.”

Why, then, did the Supreme Court decline to review the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s plain error inNova Health Systems?

One answer might be that there was no direct “conflict” on the issue in lower court decisions, a standard the Court often uses for deciding what cases to review. This is not fully convincing, however, as the Fifth Circuit has upheld Texas’s ultrasound law, in an only slightly different legal challenge. Another answer might be that the Oklahoma state court decision was so thinly and badly reasoned as to not count much as a harmful precedent.

Or it simply might be that not enough Supreme Court justices had the stomach for yet another 5-4 fight over the deeply divisive social issue of abortion. Perhaps neither the more conservative bloc of justices nor the more liberal bloc was confident that the outcome would be 5-4 in their favor rather than 5-4 against them. The swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, has been unpredictable on abortion and other social issues. While ultrasound requirements would seem to be an easy case for him—he wrote or co-wrote the decisions embracing a broad power of the state to insist on informed consent before abortion—there is always reason to be nervous if your case for a sound and important constitutional principle depends on the vote of Anthony Kennedy.

Still, the issue is destined to return to the Court. Pro-life legislators around the country are rightly realizing the importance and persuasive impact—the literally life-saving potential—of ultrasound requirements.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And a picture of a living, moving baby, growing in his or her mother’s womb, may be worth several thousand lives.
Reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse

The Twelve Days of Obama Christmas

In keeping with the celebration of the season it seems appropriate to modernize this great Christmas Carol with accomplishments from the White House taking their rightful place in history, five years into this President’s reign.

On the first day of Christmas Obama sent to me - A health care cancellation notice
Millions have received these so it makes the top of the list as the thing that people have become most familiar with this yuletide season.

On the second day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Two lying Secretaries of State
Traditionally this is where the turtle doves appear. Both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry (“Lurch”) may not be turtles but are often very much doves. And they can be counted on to spin the truth any which way you can.

On the third day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Three Washington Post Pinocchio’sPresident Barack Obama made the ‘biggest Pinocchio’s of 2013’ as judged by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker with a) “If you like your health care, you can keep it.”  b) The Benghazi terrorist attack and c) The sequester

On the fourth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Four missing ObamaCare Chiefs
According to CNBC 4 out of the 15 chiefs of ObamaCare insurance marketplaces run by individual states and the District of Columbia have either quit or gone on leave since the botched Oct. 1 launches of their health exchanges.

On the fifth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - the Five worst Cabinet Secretaries
According to US News and World Report the five worst appointments by the current President are “tax cheat” Tim Geithner, Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder Hilda Solis & Shaun Donavon. Thanks to Sean Hannity for the Geithner name enhancement

On the sixth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Six votes from a poll worker
It seems that Ohio poll worker Melowese Richardson voted under her own name twice and four times using different names. Gotta love that Obama lawn sign there 3 months after the election.

On the seventh day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Seven trillion dollars in new debt
We’re not quite there yet, but it’s clearly closer to seven billion than the six billion hit already and closing in by the hour.

On the eighth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Eight crack cocaine dealers with commuted sentences
Eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses saw their sentences commuted in 2013 to help those incarcerated because of harsh drug laws. The President said they’d been sentenced under an unfair system.

On the ninth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Nine Thanksgiving pies
The White House Thanksgiving menu this year included: huckleberry pie, pecan pie, chocolate cream pie, sweet potato pie, peach pie, apple pie, pumpkin pie, banana cream pie and coconut cream pie. The First Lady did not comment on the nutritional value.

On the tenth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Ten constitutional violations
The list is actually longer but Forbes has just published its most egregious violations.  The mini-dream act, four illegal ObamaCare delays, two IRS policies, the expansion of recess appointments, an attack on college campus free speech and its record setting pace of outlandish Supreme Court arguments. (Clinton/Bush 43 averaged 2.4 unanimous Supreme Court defeats per year, in 2013 Obama had 15)

On the eleventh day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Eleven million dollars for a funeral
Even though President Obama and his entourage spent less than 13 hours on the ground in South Africa while attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral, the State Department budgeted over $11 million for ground transportation and hotels for the trip.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Obama sent to me - Twelve phones a tapping
With the current activities at the NSA the phones could clearly have reached any and all places on the list but they just seemed to go nicely with the traditional twelve drummers drumming.

And one more time down the list:
On the twelfth day of Christmas Obama sent to me:
Twelve phones a tapping
Eleven million dollars for a funeral
Ten constitutional violations
Nine Thanksgiving pies
Eight crack cocaine dealers with commuted sentences
Seven trillion in new debt
Six votes from a poll worker
Five worst Cabinet Secretaries
Four missing Obamacare Chiefs
Three Washington Post Pinocchio’s
Two lying Secretaries of State
And a health care cancellation notice.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Under Common Core, third graders read about murdered parents, Taliban brutality?

A text on the Common Core reading list for third graders in the state of New York is called “Nasreen’s Secret School.”
It tells the story of a little girl, Nasreen, who lives in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. After her parents “disappeared” with no explanation, Nasreen is understandably unhappy and won’t talk to anyone. She eventually finds some degree of satisfaction after her grandmother enrolls her in a secret school the Taliban doesn’t know about—and for God’s sake, hopefully won’t find out about.
The book is optional, which means that teachers can choose to assign it or not.

The author of the book, Jeanette Winter, is an elderly art school graduate who has almost certainly never once set foot in Afghanistan.
Newsday rosily argues that story provides important lessons for every American eight-year-old: Gender equality and universal schooling are good. Brutal repression may end up as your lot in life. Also, your parents may get inexplicably dragged off and probably killed by murderous thugs.
One mother in Suffolk, N.Y. said the discussion about freedom and persecution she had with her third-grade son after he read the book was “one of the most poignant points of the school year,” according to the Long Island newspaper.
Many other parents are less than thrilled about the story, however.
In three Long Island towns (Southold, Islip and West Islip), parents have demanded that the local school boards get rid of “Nasreen’s Secret School” as well as another, similar book by Winter called “The Librarian of Basra.”

A Southold school board member, Scott DeSimone, charged that both books have a “pro-Muslim agenda,” says Newsday.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn child psychologist and author Laura Markham is less conspiratorial in her analysis.
“Nasreen’s Secret School” “teaches that parents can be taken away by soldiers and never return,” Markham told Newsday in an email. “It should not be part of the core curriculum. This is not banning books, this is leaving the parents in charge.”
Earlier this week, parents in the Wappingers Central school district in New York’s Hudson Valley voiced similar concerns at a school board meeting that became so contentious the sheriff had to be called.
“This book is a realistic portrayal of war,” social worker and mother Alicia Alfred said at the meeting, according to the Hudson Valley Reporter. “In no way do I find it appropriate for third graders. I would ask the district that they screen their books and that [parents] a get a list of books you approve so that we can screen them too. It’s disheartening to me that the board is not respectful of what these mothers have to say.”

The Daily Caller would like to salute the educators and bureaucrats who selected the books for various Common Core reading lists. Whoever you are, you are plainly tone deaf and absolutely hilarious.
Let’s see. There’s “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell. The Newburgh, N.Y. school district spent $6,000 on copies of that book for a bunch of 14-year-old students before somebody noticed that the words “dick,” “cock” or “erect penis” appear on at least 11 separate pages. (RELATED: Another school district pulls a raunchy Common Core-approved book)
Then there’s “Dreaming in Cuban” by  Cristina García, an utterly minor 1992 novel with steamy sentences such as “Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs” and “He entered her repeatedly from behind.” (RELATED: Fifty Shades of the Common Core: how much porn is too much?)

This fall, for the first time, 45 states and the District of Columbia began implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which attempts to standardize various K-12 curricula around the country.
The Common Core standards demand that students know certain things by certain grade levels, but do little to describe how teachers should impart those skills. The multitude of lists of books is very varied.
The Common Core standards have been endorsed by numerous groups including the National Governors Association.
Criticism of the Common Core has risen sharply. Opposition has brought together conservatives who are opposed to centralized public education and leftists who deplore ever-more standardized testing.

Read more:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Former abortionist: “I couldn’t look at those little bodies again”, Sarah Terzo is a pro-life author and creator of the website. She is a member of Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians?

December 20, 2013 (LiveActionNews) - Eclipse of Reason is a graphic and deeply disturbing documentary put together by the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist turned pro-lifer who also produced the movie The Silent Scream. Eclipse of Reason shows a second trimester unborn baby being torn apart in a D&E abortion. The movie was made some time ago, in the 1980s, and when watching it it is easy to feel sorrow at the fact that the same procedure so well documented in Eclipse of Reason is still taking place today, in many abortion clinics throughout the country.
Along with the footage of the aborted baby, several former abortion providers are shown on the video. The one quoted most extensively is Dr. Arnold Halpern.
Dr. Halpern is identified as a former director of the Planned Parenthood clinic. In the video, he first explains what his view had been on when a “fetus” becomes a “baby.”
…I never personally considered a fetus a real baby until 20 weeks of gestation when one could hear the fetal heart tones and a woman feel movement. Now somewhere along the line I was apprised or thought I was apprised that the fetus was not a human being until it arrived to the point where women could feel that baby move. As we’ve gone from1982 to 1986 and into the late 1980s we realize that the fetus really is a child and that it really is moving, and that the heart beat is really beating by the use of ultrasound and modern techniques of detecting the fetus.…
The sophisticated equipment we have today can detect fetal heartbeat very early in pregnancy. At this link, you can see a video of a baby’s heart beating at just four weeks after conception. The heart actually starts beating at 21 days. Dr. Halpern goes on:
On one day I walked to the abortion clinic with 10 or 12 or 13 women waiting and I realized I cannot do any more abortions. I felt uncomfortable doing it, I felt disgusted at myself. I realized now that I’d started doing second trimester abortions and not only did I see a little tissue coming out , I saw fetal parts, I saw babies coming out, and I felt that I was so uncomfortable at this point that I could not continue and I walked out of the clinic and left that clinic without doing the abortions and never entered the abortion clinic again.
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I had finally got to a point where I couldn’t look at those little bodies again.”
Seeing the body parts of older unborn babies was what shook this doctor and made him reconsider. Dr. Halpern went on:.
Now I recognize that there is no difference between a first-trimester abortion, a second trimester abortion, or a third trimester abortion, or even infanticide. It’s the same human being in different stages of development.

We have gone into a noble profession to be healers, and we lose sight of what we were called to do when we get into the killing business.
These are powerful words from a former abortionist who saw the light and changed the course of his life.

Sarah Terzo is a pro-life author and creator of the website. She is a member of Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. You can reach her at
Reprinted with permission from LiveActionNews


Study: Some mothers push daughters to have abortions?

December 19, 2013 (NRLC) - While there are some questionable assumptions, some limitations to the data, it is hard to ignore the clear implication of a recent study of teens who abort: that some parents, mothers in particular, are pushing their daughters to have abortions.
The study, “The Role of Parents and Partners in Minor’s Decisions to Have an Abortion and Anticipated Coping After Abortion,” appeared the December 13, 2013 online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health (

Two of the authors are familiar names from the “Turnaway” study, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers Diana Greene Foster and Heather Gould [1]. Other authors include Lauren Ralph, another colleague of theirs from the University of California System at Berkeley, and Anne Baker, a clinic counselor associated with Hope Clinic in Granite City, IL. [2]

The study looked at 2008 data from 5,109 women who had abortions at a single, unnamed abortion clinic, in a state “without a parental involvement requirement.” Nine percent, or 476, were minors 17 years old and younger.
More than half of the aborting women were white, while about four in ten were African-American. Only about 1% were Hispanic. Seven percent of the minor teens had already given birth to a child.

Researchers looked at data from medical records and counseling needs assessment forms from patients visiting the clinic in 2008. They sought to determine how many minor teens told their parents (or partners) of their plans to abort, how supportive they were of their decision, and what pressure they felt to abort and from whom.

Ralph et al. also tried to assess women’s attitudes towards abortion, their confidence in their abortion decision, and how well those women expected to be able to cope with their abortions once they were performed.
Researchers say that their data show that most mothers knew of and were supportive of their minor daughter’s decision to abort. Nearly two thirds (64%) of minors in the study said their mother was aware, and 93% of those mothers were said to be “supportive.” Note that simply meant that the teen responded affirmatively in some manner to the question “Is this person supportive to you in what you want to do?”

A minor’s father was less likely to know of the decision to abort. While just 38% were aware, the teens indicated that 85% of their fathers who did know were supportive. About 80% of a minor’s “partners” (the baby’s father) were aware of her decision to abort (83%) and, if aware, were “supportive” (85%).

To make sure we’re clear, this would mean that just over a third (36%) of minors’ mothers and nearly two thirds of minors’ fathers (62%) were not informed or for some reason not deemed aware of the abortion. Generally, though, the data indicates that the father of the child was informed and was supportive of the decision to abort.

While most (81%) had what researchers termed “high confidence” in their abortion decisions, one in ten minors aborting at this clinic indicated that they were pressured; they sought abortion “mostly because someone else wants them to.” The study’s authors were willing to classify 7% as being “pushed” to have abortions (due to the pressure and “low confidence” in some cases). While authors said women at this clinic who revealed the presence of coercion were counseled to delay abortion or receive additional counseling or referrals, there is no guarantee that women visiting other clinics were afforded such alternatives.

It must be noted that this study looked at women from a single clinic with a relatively large abortion clientele. Though a handful appear to have been counseled not to abort (at least at their initial encounter), a clinic doing more than five thousand abortions a year would have quite a workload, approaching 14 abortions a day.

This means, most likely, that this not some full service hospital, but a full scale abortion mill that is probably widely known to be such in the surrounding community. And that means that the women showing up here are probably much more likely to already be “abortion-minded” than a teen showing up at the office of a private practice ob-gyn or a small “family planning” clinic that presents itself as helping women “plan” their “parenthood.”

This certainly colors the data, making it difficult to extrapolate to the teens in general or even to the experience of minors and their parents at other clinics across the U.S.. However it does raise concerns.

It is no surprise here to see that minors are more likely to tell their boyfriends than they are anyone else. Not simply because he is the father and there is necessarily any strong desire to let him have a say. It may be because he is, in part, a chief cause of the crisis and thus an obvious choice to turn to for the teen who is seeking a solution. That interaction may be as detached as a confirmation that he will indeed pay for the abortion. But it might also be a curiosity, even a longing, that there might be some indication that he would be willing to make the relationship permanent and welcome the child in life.

The advice of many abortion counselors, that a male be “supportive of whatever decision his partner makes,” can too easily be taken as lack of interest or enthusiasm in either the mother or the child, crushing whatever glimmer of hope remains.
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Given the prevalence of abortion in the 1980s, there is a likelihood that many of the mothers coaching their daughters to abort have had abortions themselves, aborting what would have been older or younger siblings of teen now deciding what to do with her own baby. That there might be some level of rationalization, some self justification in their advice to their daughters is not difficult to imagine.

And that, over the past thirty years or so, these grandmothers would have internalized many of the arguments and rationalizations made for abortion– that it will ruin the chance at any career, threaten a life of poverty and living with the shame of single motherhood, make it impossible to have an ideal marriage and family–so they would urge an abortion as the only real way to avoid a bad situation.

Though given less opportunity to be involved here, the fathers of these minor daughters would also have been affected by the abortion zeitgeist, if not as aborting fathers, then as men sold the mass media myth of abortion as a painless, easy way out for everyone.

Even in these discouraging statistics, there are some glimmers of hope. About a third (31%) of minors said that they thought that abortion was similar to killing a baby that is already born. Even though it may be difficult to ascertain precisely how a teen understood that statement, it is encouraging to now that this was nearly double the percentage of adults (16%) who voiced a similar sentiment. It does not seem a stretch to say that the younger generation seems to display a greater sense of “baby awareness” than do their parents.

Close to half of minors (49%) expressed what authors termed “some spiritual concerns about abortion” and 24% indicated they were “concerned about God’s forgiveness.” Percentages for adults on these questions were lower (43% and 18%, on the two questions, respectively), but not significantly so.

Though this study explicitly involved the records of minors from an abortion clinic in a state without parental involvement laws, it is unclear what the study’s implications are for teens or such laws. The clinic could have been just across the state line from a major metropolitan area in a state with a parental consent or notification law. Teens could have been under the impression that some sort of parental permission was required and could have felt they needed to give the counselor the impression that they had talked to their parents when they had not. And this particular clinic, because of its size and reputation, may have attracted a more abortion minded population to start with.

Some parents will indeed try and talk their teens into abortions, thinking they will preserve the “family reputation” or somehow spare their daughter years of misery. This simply means that our educational efforts will not only have to focus on teenage girls or even single college aged women, two of the groups that have historically been responsible for many of the abortions in America, but also upon older women who may even be past their childbearing years but are now in a position to pass on their painful mistakes, previous rationalizations, and unresolved issues to their own children.

Many of these teens have some moral qualms and clearly realize they are considering the destruction of another human life. With just a bit of encouragement, a little bit of hope, and better information about alternatives to abortion that are better for both mother and child, many more will be able to fight the pressure to abort their babies.

Reprinted with permission from NRLC