America's birthday ...

Another July 4 is nearly upon us, marking the middle holiday of the major three which occur during the warm weather season. But it is much more than that -- marking this year the 238th birthday of our nation.

Independence Day, of course, is a time when we should be generally thankful for the freedoms we enjoy.

We could do this by giving thanks to the Founding Fathers who produced a government that has proved remarkably workable for more than two centuries, despite some divided opinion today about what that government should be doing.

Certainly, we could thank those who gave their lives more than 200 years ago to bring freedom about. Or those who have done the same since then to preserve the freedom that was initially won.

Some of those lives were given in Iraq, a troubled, divided, war-weary country which on this Independence Day will provide a stark contrast to our own. We should appreciate the vast difference.

Happy Birthday America, and let us all celebrate the freedoms we still enjoy so long after it was won.


Obama appointments

The U.S. Supreme Court on (June 26) unanimously reaffirmed the checks and balances at the foundation of American government by ruling that President Barack Obama's January 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.

The decision upholds an earlier ruling by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, which also said Obama overstepped his authority in making the appointments during a time when the Senate, which must be consulted on such appointments, was in session.

Thursday's decision in NLRB vs. Noel Canning is significant beyond the one issue at hand. It could aid those who have been fighting without much success to rein in Obama's many power grabs, including unilaterally suspending parts of health-care and immigration laws that he doesn't like. It also could give fuel to the legal challenge planned by Speaker of the House John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, to Obama's executive overreach.

In any case, it will be hard even for the president's defenders to shrug off this resounding rebuke from the entire Supreme Court, including two liberal justices appointed by Obama himself. This was a decision made according to the Constitution and in the best interests of the country.

The Columbus Dispatch


U.S. in Iraq

The deadline set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of next Tuesday for Iraq's political leaders to form a new, fully inclusive government establishes a basis for U.S. involvement in the country. Such involvement is essential if the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is to be turned back. Kerry's rejection of hypocritical warnings from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei against U.S. military intervention, even limited air strikes, is a good sign. It serves notice, hopefully, that after a period when the U.S. has been largely missing in action in Iraq, Washington is determined to prevent the country becoming "a safe haven ... for extremist jihadist groups", as Barack Obama has said.

Iraq is in a mess. After Obama pulled U.S. troops out in 2011 without leaving a residual force, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, backed by Iran, was left to rule in the name of narrow Shia sectarian nationalism. The situation has left the Sunni minority disaffected, feeding the rapid growth in support for ISIS Sunni extremists.

Obama and Kerry know there is little hope of reversing the jihadist advance while Maliki's sectarian government retains power. The deadline, provided it is enforced, should go a long way towards creating a political environment that will be better equipped to confront the extremists. Achieving that change will not be easy. Maliki, working with Tehran, appears determined to continue in his Shia sectarian way, increasing the likelihood of civil war and the dismemberment of Iraq.

Without an appetite anywhere in the West -- least of all in the U.S. -- for a return to boots on the ground, options are limited. But in being forceful on his Iraq visit (and travelling to Erbil to meet Kurdish leaders, who have been ignored by Washington since 2006, when former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice went there) Kerry has conveyed the message that the U.S. is back and means business. The 300 U.S. military advisers being deployed, probably to identify possible drone and cruise missile attack targets and to beef up the Iraqi army, also indicate renewed involvement. Such determination has not always been evident under Obama.

The Australian

Surry Hills, Australia

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