Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Civics 101

Ukraine Is Everyone’s Problem


That might sound like a strange article title from a libertarian. After all, aren’t we supposed to be ultra-isolationist types? Aren’t libertarians not supposed to care what happens anywhere else in the world? While that is ordinarily true, the situation in the Ukraine differs from, say, that of North Korea on a whole bunch of levels. First and foremost, the odds of the US entering a shooting war with the Koreans (or Iran, a host of other nations) is infinitesimally small. Should the Koreans actually be dumb enough to lob a nuke at Anchorage (or Seoul, or Tokyo), they fully understand their half of the Korean Peninsula won’t be suitable for human habitation for another 10,000 years. Let them rattle their sabres and keep Dennis Rodman busy. If they want to become a glass parking lot, I could care less.

What separates the situation in Ukraine from others around the globe is the agent provocateur, Russia. I know what you’re about to say – I can see the eyes rolling over from here. “What does the Russian interest in Ukraine have to do with the US?”; “If it’s Europe’s problem, let Europe handle it”; “The Ukranians can fight their own fights” and my favorite, “Haven’t the Russians been part of the Ukraine for centuries?”

Well, yes – the Russians have used Sevastopol as the home port for the Black Sea fleet since Catherine the Great was “Tsar of all the Russias.” In fact, Sevastopol was the original “Potemkin Village.” It also marked arguably the bloodiest loss for the Russian Empire during the Crimean Way, when after 11 months of siege the city fell to British, French and Turkish troops – but only after the classic Russian “scorched earth” stratagem of burning the city to the ground and scuttling the Black Sea fleet. But the entire argument that the Russians are simply securing a port and region with historic ties to Moscow is as fallow as the Sahara in July. When Ukraine gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, one of the provisions was recognition of the “special status” of both Crimea and Sevastopol. The city is (or was, until Saturday) jointly ruled by both Russia and Ukraine; the region was given semi-autonomous status and under the Ukrainian constitution, allowed to pursue it’s own relations with Moscow. The Russian naval base was leased to Moscow until 2042. In short, Russia had no pressing reason to invade Crimea. Indeed, if anything, the situation after the Orange Revolution in 2004 would have dictated military action more so than the current one.

The middle two arguments and part of the first are debunked by more recent history than the Crimean War. When Ukraine gained independence, there was an immediate problem faced by the entire world: Ukraine inherited an entire Soviet ICBM fleet – and those missiles were armed. Overnight, the world was faced with a new nuclear power – in fact, Ukraine commanded the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It was larger than the combined nuclear forces of Great Britain, France, China, South Africa and Israel. The answer to resolving the potential nightmare was the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security AssurancesUnder the terms of that treaty, Ukraine agreed to relinquish her nukes in exchange for guarantees of her sovereignty and protection from the other signatories: the United States, Great Britain and Russia. There can be no doubt the Russians have violated the terms of that treaty (as of this writing, 2 regiments have taken up strategic positions with Ukraine and another 3 full divisions are poised to complete the invasion). The question before us is, do we agree to abide by our treaty commitments? Failure to do so demonstrates to every other ally of the United States that we are a feckless, irresponsible partner in world affairs. Already, the fealty of the US is being questioned after our actions (or inactions) during the Obama presidency. Failure to act now will destroy what remains of 75 years worth of credibility built by successive administrations, both Democrat and Republican.

But ultimately, the decision of what our country should do regarding the current situation in Ukraine belongs to We, the People. Just as an outcry against the planned bombing of Syria nearly a year ago persuaded the government to abandon those plans, a similar outcry of support for Ukraine could lead to action. But why should we, as citizens of the United States, care about what Russia does to her neighbors?

To understand that, you need to know a bit about the history of the principle actors on the stage. First and foremost is Vladimir Putin. I think most of my readers are aware of Putin’s ties to the former KGB. But I doubt few understand the type of command Putin has over the Russian government and the thrall he has over Russia’s people. As a politician, Putin is an ultranationalist, appealing to the Russian desire for a return to the type of world dominance once enjoyed by the Soviet Union. As a leader, he has been every bit as ruthless in the political arena as he was during his 16 year stint as a KGB colonel. Indeed, he rose within the infant Russian democracy to take the reins of the FSB, the successor to the KGB – and used the power of that office to “convince” Boris Yeltsin to appoint him Prime Minster in 1999. Only 3 months later, Yeltsin agreed to resign and appoint Putin as acting President. In the 14 years since, Putin has assumed autocratic command of every aspect of Russian political, economic and military life. As to Putin’s intentions on the world stage, he has made it clear his overarching goal is to first expand Russia’s border to encompass the territory of the old Soviet Union. Additionally, he regards any countries that were formerly in the Warsaw Pact as Russian “protectorates,” even should those nations decide to join the EU or NATO.

Part of Putin’s strategy has been to install puppet leaders in several of former Soviet republics. As a strategy, it has proven quite effective – for minimal expense, Russia effectively brought all of the former Soviet Republics back into herself. One place it didn’t happen was Georgia, which led Russia to invade South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, and occupy those territories ever since. It was the ouster of one puppet,  Viktor Yanukovych (who has since turned up in a dacha outside Moscow), in the latest Ukranian uprising that led to the Russian incursion in Crimea. Yanukovych’s career is a strange one. This marks the second time Ukrainians have deposed him, the first being the Orange Revolution in 2004. It was the chaos among competing democratic factions that allowed Yanukovych to return to power, but it was his insistence on doing the Kremlin’s bidding that ultimately led to his downfall.

Perhaps it’s paranoia speaking, but if so my family’s history justifies a little paranoia. The Russian crackdowns on dissidents and “undesirables” are very reminiscent of two of the most horrible regimes in world history, that of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Putin has, like Stalin, Lenin and Hitler before him, made no secret of his desire to control the world. My family suffered at Dachau and Auschwitz; those that survived suffered near equal indignities at the hands of their Russian “liberators” in Austria. So, yes, I grew up with those horror stories, with the tattoo on my grandmother’s arm and with an innate understanding of the types of atrocities autocratic regimes impose upon the populace. As an American, one of the things I’m proudest of is our commitment to the principle of “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is a principle we abandoned in the 1930’s as Adolph Hitler absorbed country after country in central Europe.

But even if we allow our founding principles to stand aside, there is another compelling reason to actively engage Putin’s Russia now. Our failure to take decisive action from 1933 – 1939 led to the invasion of Poland and World War II. Indeed, although FDR is not one of my favorite Presidents, I do commend him for pushing through the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed Britain to continue the fight once hostilities began – despite strong objections from the “America Firsters” in both parties. We have see any number of tin-pot dictators come and go in the 70 years since that war ended, but this marks the first time that one has seized control of a nation that is actually capable of plunging the world into general war. If Hitler had been confronted in the Ruhr, the Sudetenland or Austria before Poland, that great conflagration would have been avoided (in the case of the Ruhr and Sudetenland) or played out dramatically differently. Instead, we (along with Britain and France) played a geopolitical game of appeasement, believing that “giving” Germany predominately German-speaking territories would sate Hitler’s appetite.

My fear now is we will have forgotten the lessons learned at the expense of over 100 million lives and try to appease Putin. Tin pot dictators always mean what they say – the only question is if they have the ability to make those threats reality. Vladimir Putin has that ability, and this failing to stop him will cost the world far more than 100 million people.


Wait a cotton pickin’ minute


Perhaps because I’ve never believed our nation is a bunch of redistributive idiots at heart, I’ve watched as the country plunged headfirst towards Obamacare with fascination. Maybe because nearly all my adult life is partly defined by my battle with Crohn’s Disease, I pay an inordinate amount of of attention to the Battle for Health Care Reform. Could be because I am even now lying in a hospital bed in the latest go-round with Crohn’s, I’m amazed at the dizzying pace of lies pouring forth from the administration of President Barack Obama over the past four weeks.

What is most sad is that a sizable chunk of the American people are just sitting back and taking it. Despite the evidence of their own eyes from the past four years, they continue to loll about and let the administration get away with the greatest government take-over of American life in history. I’m stupified by the willingness of the American citizenry to just play ostrich when they should at least get to strutting like Foghorn Leghorn.

Then it hit me.

With all the force of a Superstorm, it hit me square in the face. After 40 years of war, debt, moral erosion and political scandal, the American people are tired of dealing with it all – and longing for something they never experienced. The Founding Fathers left us a political and economic system that only works if everyone (or nearly everyone) participates. Most people don’t participate unless they have either a very personal interest in a particular program or they’re corrupt enough to look upon governement service as a way to create individual wealth.

More later. As mentioned, I’m typing this from a hospital bed. In the meantime, am I on the right track? Is the reason most Americans just don’t care because we’ve spent four generations being battered into submission?


Cops vs. Civil Liberties? It shouldn’t be.


With everything that’s been making headlines this week, there certainly isn’t a shortage of things to write about. Heck, it takes me almost three hours each morning just to get through the barrage of news articles that find their way into my email and the topics cover everything from government malfeasance to the hyper-partisan Congressional environment through miscellaneous popular interest items. But there was one headline of which I’m betting the vast majority of you are unaware.

The other night, the city council in New York City voted to effectively end the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” program. They took this action for three reasons, two of which are political (the Council Speaker, once considered a shoo-in in the upcoming Mayoral election, is suddenly trailing human joke Anthony Weiner and the Justice Department is opening a probe on the practice) and one fiscal (the city just lost a lawsuit from the NYCLU). Current mayor, Michael “Mao” Bloomberg has already threatened to veto the new legislation – but in NYC, the Council can override a mayor’s veto and they have the votes to do so.

The stop-and-frisk program is a wonderful example of what happens when what seems like a reasonable idea at one time can later morph into  a heinous overreach of government authority. The roots of the program are found in former Mayor David Dinkins’ “Clean Halls” program. That program aimed to reduce crime in NYC’s infamous public housing projects by giving police expanded to authority to stop anyone found in the buildings or grounds and ask for ID; if the person stopped couldn’t prove they lived there, they were arrested for trespassing and escorted away. It was an admirable effort that worked reasonably well in removing trespassers and also found more than a few fugitives.

It was so successful that Mayor Mike expanded it to all public spaces. That led to the idea that the police could catch even more bad guys and maybe even prevent crimes by allowing the police to not only randomly stop people, but check them for contraband. This was all premised on the idea that the police would have reasonable cause before accosting ordinary folks and searching them.

Has the program actually reduced street crime? The NYPD attest that it has, pointing to the reduction in violent crimes since 2002, when the program began (from about one violent crime per 44 residents) to the present day one per 76. But nationally, there has also been a marked reduction in violent crime during the same period: from one per 320 Americans to one per 480. It’s just a cursory examination of the numbers, but it may be that the national reduction in violence is as much responsible for New York’s drop in crime rate as the stop-and-frisk program.

To further damn the program, the NYPD’s statistics show that the program may have been more trouble than it was worth. It was found during the NYCLU case that the stop-and-frisk policy is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, despite the city’s claim that officers were only allowed to stop people who presented with a reasonable expectation that they were involved in some type of crime. Yet, the city’s own data show that although some 4.4 million stops were made, only 6.26% resulted in an arrest and another 6.25% resulted in a summons issued. Those are pretty pitiful results, especially when compared with the fact that over 28% of the incidents resulted in police using force to effect the stop.

So why put the program in effect in the first place – and why keep it going for more than a decade, when there is no discernible proof that it served it’s intended purpose? The answer to the first part is simple enough; New Yorker’s love their city – but they hate the high crime rate. To turn on the evening news or pick up a copy of the New York Post is to be bombarded with lurid tales of rape, murder, muggings and general mayhem. Although they’ll never admit it, most live in constant fear of being assaulted and with a reason. Those crime statistics still paint a pretty grim picture; a picture of  a city whose crime rate is nearly 6 times worse than the national average. And as I’ve discussed before, where people are afraid, they’re also willing to cede to the government their rights. New Yorkers are especially axiomatic of this “nanny state” mentality. When they feel threatened they demand the government do something, anything, regardless if rights get trampled in the process – because, after all, it’s the other guy’s rights being trampled. It is, in short, the same mentality that allowed dictators like Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin to ruthlessly pursue their bloodthirsty agendas.

As to why it took a class action lawsuit and the threat of federal intervention to bring it to an end, one only has to look at the cottage industries that grew and depend on stop-and-frisk. The mayor, who at one time harbored Presidential aspirations, became synonymous with both this civil rights violation and by crusading against the Second Amendment rights of his subjects (as well as the evils of tobacco, carbonated beverages and trans-fats). He routinely uses the number of weapons seized during the stops-and-frisk as evidence that his anti-gun crusade would work, if only the rest of the country would follow his lead. There is NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, whose career depends on keeping those crime stats dropping and can hardly walk  away from the program he most credits for the decline in violent crime. There are the rank-and-file officers, who after decades of ridicule and abuse by the citizenry, have found themselves for the past 12 years in a position of absolute authority. After all, who’s going to argue with a NYC cop who has the ability to stop you, detain you and search you anytime he wants? There are surely others, as well; like all major operations that are rooted in skirting existing law, corruption certainly follows.

The lesson that I wish New Yorkers (and everyone else) would take away from this episode in their history is this: even trying to exchange their freedoms for their safety was an abysmal failure;  their crime rate is still far higher than people who live elsewhere. It is proof that liberty is not a currency that can purchase safety.


Watch the Senate vote on Immigration Reform


Senate Invokes Cloture on Immigration Bill, Final Vote at 4pm | C-SPAN.


A Simple Question


(h/t TF Stern)

The lies that this government tells regarding the unconstitutional NSA surveillance programs are never ending. Just this past weekend we learned that contrary to administration and congressional assurances, analysts at the NSA routinely listen in on phone calls and read private emails without any warrant whatsoever. At this point, I’m not sure how anyone with a pulse can actually believe the drivel coming out of the DC establishment. (The Chief Liar, when the revelations about the scope of the NSA wiretapping were first being divulged: “Some of the hype we’ve been hearing over the past day or so — nobody has listened to the content of people’s phone calls.”)

The one thing that we’re constantly told by those same DC establishment types is that these programs are justified, Fourth Amendment be damned, because they’ve stopped “dozens” of terrorist attacks. The Nitwit-in-Chief said,

I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.

This was his justification for abandoning his oath to uphold the Constitution, suggesting that in order to keep the nation safe we were going to have to “choose” to ignore pesky Constitutional limitations on executive authority. It’s a common theme from Herr Obama, who also raised the specter of doing away with the Second Amendment in the name of “public safety.”

In the name of fairness, I’ll play along with the little game the DC spinmeisters created. We’ve been told by all kinds of politicians that “dozens” of attacks have been stopped by their illegal spying on Americans, but to date they’ve only told us of two, including an attempted bombing of the NYC subway. Yet, a little digging on my part has turned up 28 terrorist attacks since the program began, including 7 on US soil since Obama was sworn in:

  • June 1, 2009: Abdulhakim Muhammed shoots two soldiers at a Little Rock, AK recruiting station. Muhammed freely admits to being an Al-Qeada operative.
  • Novermber 5, 2009: Maj. Nidal Hassan shoots up a dispensary at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding more than 30. The investigation discovers that he has been espousing a Jihadist philosophy in emails and message board postings. Last week, a military judge refused to allow Hassan to use his preferred defense – that he was defending Al-Qeada from American aggression.
  • December 25, 2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempts to explode a bomb concealed in his underwear while his international flight is on final approach into Detroit. The flight is spared only when the underwear bomber’s bomb fails to detonate and other passengers subdue the Al-Qeada agent.
  • May 1, 2010: Faisal Shahzad plants a car bomb in NYC’s Times Square. Disaster is averted only when Shazad’s bomb fizzles instead of detonates. A broken wire in the detonator is later found to be the cause for the bomb’s failure.
  • May 10, 2010: A pipe bomb detonates at a Jacksonville, FL mosque, wounding 60. Nobody has ever claimed responsibility and no arrests have ever been made
  • January 17, 2011: A bomb is discovered along a parade route to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Again, no one claims responsibility and the case remains open.
  • April 15, 2013: Two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, explode a pair of backpack bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line. 3 are killed and over 170 wounded. In the resulting manhunt, it’s discovered that the elder brother “disappeared” in Chechnya for six months and that both brothers have “radicalized” in recent years.

I have 7 examples of terrorists that slipped through the warrantless dragnet first unleashed by Bush and expanded by Obama. There are 21 more where the terrorists either successfully killed their American targets overseas, or were only stopped by their incompetence. Quite frankly, the entire program looks absolutely ineffective.

Unless, of course, the intent of the program is simply to give the administration surveillance powers not even the Gestapo or NKVD dreamed of. In that case, it is the most successful program of it’s type in history.


A Patriotism Optional Nation


“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” -Mark Twain

This is going to be a long post, so I’ll beg forgiveness now. But what needs to be said is far too important to attempt to keep this brief, or under 750 words – for if it were that simple, then it wouldn’t need to be said.

Our nation is at a crossroads of our history. Down one path lay the glory and honor bestowed on us by the men whose names we learn to cherish as children: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln. Down the other lay one paved in darkness and guarded by men we’ve learned to revile: Stalin, Hitler, Napolean, Caesar. We haven’t arrived at this juncture by accident, but it wasn’t pre-ordained, either. We came to this point willingly and of our own accord.

How did we arrive here? Because when times call for the greatest fortitude, people clamor for illusory safety and willingly allow government to abscond with what we once described as inalienable liberties. While our nation followed this course during the 18th and 19th centuries, we never forgot – or allowed our elected representatives – to forget the meaning of the word “inalienable.” Even the most egregious violations of the Bill of Rights and examples of executive overreach were quickly repealed. Or failing that, the third leg of our government – the courts – would invalidate the law in question. During the Civil War, the government violated the Third Amendment (prohibiting quartering soldiers in private homes), the Eighth Amendment (prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment), and Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution (the nation’s first military draft was enacted by executive order, not an act of Congress). By the war’s end, troops were no longer quartered in private homes, the Army commanders who had inflicted the most horrible deprivations the mind can create were themselves jailed and the Supreme Court invalidated the draft.

Ben vs Obama

By the time the Great Depression had plunged the world into chaos, the citizenry was panicked. Governments around the world responded by instituting varying levels of socialism. In nations with a history of repressive governments, the repression reached new levels of inhumanity. Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan and China all gave rise to governments that (as a matter of policy) established mass executions and detentions while squelching all opposition. Spain erupted into a civil war between two equally brutal and repressive regimes.

In the US we instituted the “New Deal,” a  series of programs that increased the government’s role in the economic and business life of the nation to unprecedented levels. This intrusion into previously private affairs didn’t infringe on the basic freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence. But it did set an important milestone in the affairs of the nation. It marked the firs time the nation willingly exchanged freedom of action for the illusion of security. (Let’s face facts: the national economy in 1939 was only marginally better than in 1929).

However, with the outbreak of World War II, Americans accepted not only having their inalienable rights curtailed, but in several case outright removed. Japanese-Americans by the tens of thousands were jailed, their citizenship nullified by executive order, in violation of the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments. First Amendment protections were stripped away, as a compliant press and population acquiesced to censorship on a grandiose scale. Defendants were not allowed to exercise their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in “national security” trials. J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI routinely searched homes and businesses for saboteurs – without warrants, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

After the war ended, these Constitutional violations ended. But 44 months of war and deprivation, after 12 years of government intrusion during the Great Depression, had inoculated the American public from the idea that government needed to be guarded against. An entire generation had now grown up knowing only a federal bureaucracy that claimed it could solve the problems of mankind.

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy” -James Madison

Thanks to the relentless indoctrination our nation has endured for almost 80 years, both from popular culture and the way we teach (or more accurately, fail to teach) history and civics, the United States of America is no longer the home of the brave. This is not to say that there are not courageous individuals among us. Obviously there are, or else things like this wouldn’t happen. But our society no longer expects bravery as the norm, which is why we celebrate those willing to run into collapsing towers.

This transformation of the American from rugged individual to fearful member of the collective gave rise to egregious abuses of power over the last six decades. Some we still remember: McCarthyism, Watergate, Iran-Contra. Others have slipped the collective conscience and disappeared in to mists of time. The common thread between all, though, is an underlying belief that government should have more  power than the people it serves – all in the name of safety. It’s how we’ve wound up with massive programs. It’s how lawmakers and executives of both major parties can say with a straight face programs like PRISM are necessary to keep Americans safe.

This brings us to the 21st century, a century that began with the downing of the World Trade Center. The American populace screamed for vengeance, yelled for justice – but more importantly, demanded the government make them safe. And the government responded to those demands; not with a measured voice reassuring the populace that the terrorists would be caught and punished. Instead, two major wars were launched by executive fiat. Yes, the Congress technically voted to invade those foreign countries, but the vote was actually to cede the power vested in them by the Constitution to the Executive branch. Seemingly overnight, we were a nation at war.

“We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” -Edward R. Murrow

In the same way the United States has ceased being collectively valorous, we have sullied the definition of patriotism. Being a patriot requires more than waving a flag on Independence Day, singing “God Bless America” during a baseball game; it is more than putting a lapel pin on your suit jacket or cheering returning soldiers. These are nothing more than outward displays of nationalism. Regardless of a nation’s ideals, such actions are performed by supposed patriots of every nation. Britons stand when a band strikes up “God Save the Queen,” Saudi’s bow when the King’s limo passes by.

On the other hand, the patriot understands and defends the ideals which separate his nation from all others. The original American patriots pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Many gave their lives, more sacrificed their fortunes. None, however, were forced to give up their honor. Rather, their honor was restored by fighting for the ideals in the document they signed in 1776. In our modern era, the rights they enshrined as being inalienable, rights that laid the foundation for our nation, are being eroded by the misnamed Patriot Act, by secret courts and warrants, by an executive branch that sees little value in life or liberty. Where are the modern patriots?

NSA PollThe reality is patriotism is a vanishing character from our nation. More than half of our citizens are perfectly happy to be spied on by their government, not caring this can only occur as an abrogation of the Fourth Amendment. Over the past week, I continuously hear statements like “If the government wants to watch me watch porn, I don’t care.” Nobody much cares if the Nazi’s can’t march in Washington, so long as they can watch Honey Boo-Boo. After all, freedom of speech isn’t for people who might have offensive views but only those with whom we can commiserate. Abridging the Second Amendment, redefining it if necessary, is fine. The public doesn’t care, so long as it can be made to feel safer. Seventh and Eighth Amendment protections for suspected terrorists need not apply – especially if the hapless citizen accused of terrorism is overseas. Why bother with a trial, when a missile tipped robot can eliminate the problem? If a bunch of kids in Brooklyn get stopped and frisked by the NYPD for the awful crime of walking around, who cares about their rights to due process? The cops might find a gun on one of them.

All of this is now acceptable to an American people conditioned towards cowardice. Our forefathers abandoned personal safety and financial security in the pursuit of liberty. They did this at the founding of the nation and as they expanded the national boundaries westward. They did this as they boarded creaky ships to cross the Atlantic in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. These people were patriots. They did not fear their government, they stood for their rights and took it to task when government dared infringe upon them.

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”― Thomas Jefferson

Despite the platitudes from the elected, our modern government is no longer “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The modern American constantly lives in fear of what the government may do to them, rather than holding government to account for its actions. They often don’t even realize how afraid of government they’ve become. They live in fear of being audited by the IRS, of having their driving privileges revoked, of having their property seized by “eminent domain.” They live in fear that their employer will lose a government contract, of being denied a government loan, of being denied admission to college.

So, my question to you is: what are you willing to give up for liberty, those of you who call yourselves patriots? Are you willing to sacrifice your life? Your house? Your bank account? Your Social Security check? How about the big screen television or cell phone? Because our reality is that very few are willing to sacrifice anything. It’s why we’ve become a nation of nationalists, not patriots. We cower when we should fight. If you want to know why you are no longer safe in your cities, America, look no further than the rot that infects your citizenry’s soul. Your complacency as the nation’s values were stolen is the reason our foreign enemies are emboldened.

“Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and perceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and last some crisis shows what we have become. ” ― Brooke Foss Westcott

America is now the nation of cowards. As such, we’ve become the patriotism optional society.

May God help us all.


Trust Me – I’m from the Government!


“Trust me government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs–in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship, between the people and their elected leaders, is a special kind of compact. Three hundred and sixty years ago, in 1620, a group of families dared to cross a mighty ocean to build a future for themselves in a new world. When they arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, they formed what they called a “compact”; an agreement among themselves to build a community and abide by its laws. The single act–the voluntary binding together of free people to live under the law–set the pattern for what was to come. A century and a half later, the descendants of those people pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to found this nation. Some forfeited their fortunes and their lives; none sacrificed honor. Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln called upon the people of all America to renew their dedication and their commitment to a government of, for and by the people. Isn’t it once again time to renew our compact of freedom; to pledge to each other all that is best in our lives; all that gives meaning to them–for the sake of this, our beloved and blessed land?”

The words above were spoken by Ronald Reagan, during his acceptance of the Republican nomination for President in 1980. He was not prescient regarding today’s headlines – he was very much speaking about how the triple whammy of Vietnam, Watergate and Carter had ruined American trust in government.

You have to wonder what he would say about events 9 years after his death.

The scandals rolling out of the White House over the past month seem to cascade, gaining in severity as each new revelation makes the headlines. First there was the attempted cover-up over what happened at the Benghazi consulate on September 11, 2012. That quickly was pushed aside by the revelations that the Department of Justice was wiretapping reporters, going so far as to name one a criminal co-conspirator, and using the secret FISA courts to obtain the warrants. A few days after that came news the IRS was targeting conservative, religious and civil libertarian groups – which despite repeated administration attempts to at turns sweep the investigations away or stonewall them, continue to amaze in their revelations of government run amok. Then last week, we learned that the National Security Agency (perhaps better called the National Paranoia Agency) is actively spying on, well, on EVERYONE.

Of course, to hear the usual suspects, the spying is neither intrusive (hey, it’s only every piece of communication you’ve taken part in over the past 6 years) nor targeted at people who’ve done nothing wrong. But for that argument to have any merit, you need to believe that the government can be trusted. And since late April, the only thing the government has successfully demonstrated is that it cannot be trusted to make a ham sandwich, much less not abuse power.

As I wrote about earlier, there is a common thread that binds all of these revealed actions together: the belief that government knows best. While I welcome that traditional liberals have joined with conservatives in decrying over all of this (you can read some excellent opinion articles here, here and here), the fact is that those traditional liberals are primarily responsible for the way this administration continues to circumvent the Constitution. They have spent 70 years pushing an agenda that calls for greater and farther reaching government “solutions.” It is the progressive tradition that claims the Constitution is an outdated document. It is their current tribune and the man currently occupying the Oval Office, who has publicly lamented that the supreme law of the land fails to define what the “government can do for you” and that he is “constrained by the system the Founders put in place.”

The abuses of power we’re now witness to, are the direct results of that philosophy. After all, were the government limited in authority and power as originally planned by the Founding Fathers, then such things could not have come to pass. Hopefully, America is starting to awaken to this reality. If Barack Obama is the last President to wield such immense power, if this is the last Congress to pass sweeping laws that (at best) skirt Constitutional limitations, then this period of our history will serve to have forever discredited liberalism as a political theory.

We can only hope.


A Veteran’s Memorial Day


I originally posted this on Memorial Day, 2010, but the sentiment is the same. As you head out to the beach, the barbecue or the ballgame today, please take a moment to remember why you have this particular Monday off from school or work.

And although it’s been three years since I originally wrote this and the little boy at the end is now not quite so little, I still want to thank him and his parents. Whenever I need affirmation that this nation still has good and just people, I think of them.

I awoke this morning to thoughts of old friends who left us too soon. It’s not an unusual occurrence; most mornings I wake thinking of the same men. When they died, they did not give in to fear; cowardice was not these men’s forte. Some died in battle, some preparing for battle. Two very good friends of mine died not in battle, but the wounds they sustained in defense of liberty hastened their untimely departure from our world. One man was known simply as Tank. He was a large man, but in his later years his body had been ravaged by the effects of two bullet wounds and prolonged exposure to Agent Orange during his two tours of duty in Vietnam. Today, I celebrate not only Memorial Day but the tenth anniversary of his passing. Although Tank never spoke of it, he was awarded a Bronze Star during his second tour. It wasn’t until his funeral that I learned how as a 23 year old platoon sergeant he ran back onto a hot LZ, taking a bullet in the back and one in the shoulder, in order to pull one of his men to the relative safety of a tree line. But anyone who knew the man wasn’t surprised to hear of his courage under fire.

This morning, as I thought of him, I shed a tear.

The other day, I watched my town’s annual Memorial Day parade. In addition to the Korean War and Vietnam vets, a detachment from the local Marine Corps reserve unit marched. As I looked at their eager young faces, I realized that most of those kids weren’t born when I earned my EGA in 1983. In fact, most of them hadn’t been born when I mustered out. Realizing that most of these young men will be shipped to Iraq or Afghanistan, I reflected on my own service. I joined to fight Communism, and like most of the world, I rejoiced when the Berlin War crashed to the ground. I truly thought my service had proven, in some small way, invaluable to the defense of the American way of life. Yet here I was, watching a new generation of Marines preparing to fight a new enemy. Had my service not been as valuable as I once thought? Had the men I had known during my service, men who had fought and died in battles around the world – had they died in vain? I decided that no, our service – their service – had been as important in our time as these brave young men’s service is today. And then I realized that none of those young men will return from their combat tours the same. Even if not scarred on the outside, even if they survive to return home physically intact, they will carry the memories of what they see and feel and endure for the rest of their lives.

And as I watched, I shed a tear.

Last night I watched the National Memorial Day Concert, broadcast from the National Mall on PBS. I listened as Gary Sinise and Dennis Haysbert recounted the final moments of Charlie Johnson’s life. I watched as a new generation of war widows were celebrated. I enjoyed the stylings of Brad Paisley. Like plenty of others, I rose to attention and sang the Marine Corps hymn during the Salute to the Services, and I rose to attention and sang again during “America the Beautiful.”

But many times during the concert, I stopped to shed a tear.

And I wondered, as I prepared to try and sleep, will anyone awake on Tuesday and remember the sacrifices of the men who have fought and died to preserve the United States? It’s terrific that we have a day set aside to pay tribute to those men. And I don’t mind that we celebrate by doing uniquely American things – backyard barbecues, trips to the beach, baseball games. But I wondered, when Tuesday comes will my fellow countrymen remember those who ensured that the backyard barbecues could continue?

A little earlier today, I went to the neighborhood bodega. It was a routine trip to pick up a few items needed for my own backyard barbecue. Like many veterans, I have a “Pride Hat.” You may have seen one perched on a veteran’s head – a military baseball cap on which are pinned his campaign ribbons. Mine is nearing retirement. It’s 14 years of service are evidenced by its faded color and the only thing keeping it together are years of starch used to block it. As a result, I only wear it on special occasions. Today being one of those occasions, I wore it on my walk to the bodega. On my return trip, a neighborhood kid – maybe 6 or 7 years old – stopped me and said, “Were you really in the Army?” I smiled and said, no, I am a Marine and we’re better than the Army. The little boy sat on his bike for a minute, seeming to take in this bit of information. The he stood, and said “Thank you” before pedaling off down the street.

I shed a tear. In fact, I’m still shedding a few as write this. Because I have my answer. For as long as children like this can find my service honorable, they will keep the flame of liberty alive. In so doing, the most important thing we can do as Americans is to remember and honor the sacrifices that so many brave men have and  will endure. We will continue to live as Americans, preserving our republic as the beacon of freedom and liberty for the rest of the world.


A Government of People


One constant with the Obama administration has been the taint of scandal. Of course, the news media has been particularly exercised over the past ten days or so. Beginning with Benghazi, continuing through the IRS mess and right into the Justice Department’s spying on the AP, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have been deluged by the media feeding frenzy. But the reality is this: Team Obama has faced a seemingly endless run of scandals throughout this Presidency. There was the lack of “shovel-ready” jobs, the “green energy” debacles of Solyndra and Fiskar, the notoriously inept “Fast and Furious” gun running operation, the “recess appointments” of NRLB directors, the Corporation for National and Community Center misuse of funds. This is also the administration that sees no problem with killing Americans overseas, has pushed for expanding the Patriot Act to allow warrantless spying on virtually anyone (the root of the AP scandal), pushed hard for the authority to indefinitely detain anyone, appointed committed communist Van Jones to a federal post, created the “czar” positions and has overseen the overwhelming ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security. There are plenty more, of course, but you get the idea – this is an administration that kicks up dirt with every step.

The current narrative is that all of this proves that the Obama administration has a bunch of rotten eggs, some who are outwardly corrupt and that the lack of managerial skill in the White House is the primary culprit for all this nonsense. Well, yes – but don’t get sucked into that storyline. The real scandal is not malfeasance by government officials, nor is it the nature of Washington politics. It is not the politicization of every detail (sorry, Mrs. Pelosi) or Republican complicity with a dastardly administration (sorry, Mr. Limbaugh).

The real scandal is that everything that has happened was going to happen under this President, regardless of Congressional oversight or public outcry. No matter how many times the administration stubs its big toe, it will continue on the path they set upon in January, 2009. This is not because the President or his chief lieutenants are corrupt by nature. Instead, it is because of the overriding belief that government can solve all problems, tackle every issue and bring peace and harmony throughout the land.

On its face, this isn’t a terrible idea. It would be wonderful if there were an entity that could wave a magic wand and make every problem disappear. It is the basic thought behind every liberal policy position. But it is scandalous, if only because it is an idea that has been tried many times before and never with any success. In some cases, the result of attempts at government interventions are humorous (such as the toilet paper shortage in Venezuela). But far more often, the results are disastrous. If you’re at a loss for why this is, all you need to do is look at the people around you.

The preamble to our Constitution established a “Government of the People, by the People and for the People.” What the Founding Fathers failed to verbalize is that as with all governments, it would also be a government OF people. That is to say, at all levels of government, there are people making decisions daily; decisions which affect their fellow citizens’ daily lives. What liberals (or progressives) fail, time and again to recognize is that people are not infallible.  Quite the contrary, people make mistakes. And a person who believes in the infallibility of government is going to be far less vigilant in looking for the fallibilities in government employees than one who knows better. The Founders understood that bureaucrats generally lack common sense, which is why they spent more time writing into the Constitution the things government is not allowed to do than conferring powers to the bureaucracy. Not so sure on this point? Stop to ask yourself how many of those people around you would you trust with intimate details of your life. Then realize that one out of every ten Americans is currently receiving a paycheck from your taxes – and you’ll begin to understand why government is not the beneficent giant liberals want you to believe in.

This is not to say government is inherently evil. However, when the people employed by the government are in charge of the government, bad things tend to happen. It isn’t a lesson that Barack Obama seems to have learned – and it’s why he is not fit (and never was) to be the Chief Executive of the United States.


Mike Rowe: the First Four Years are the Hardest…


Mike Rowe, doing another Dirty Job

You may be familiar with Mike Rowe from his show on the Discovery Channel, Dirty JobsEven if you’ve never seen the show (in which case I suggest you catch an episode), you’ve probably seen him shilling cars and trucks for Ford or paper towels for Viva. And if you watch ABC’s World News then you hear his voice every night – he’s the announcer during the opening and commercial breaks.

What you  may not realize is that he is also a serious advocate for vocational training. His foundation, mikeroweWORKS, is dedicated to making education in skilled trades something other than a remedial course of study. He understands a point I made several weeks back, that a four-year degree is not the best path for every student. Or for our nation’s future.

Before you say that of course our nation still values the skilled trades as highly as a college education, ask yourself how you would react if your son or daughter announced their intention of becoming a truck driver after high school. Or a plumber, electrician, farmer, or welder. Even thought they are among both the highest paying and most consistently sought after trades by employers, I doubt it would be greeted with the same enthusiasm as an announcement they wanted to become an astrophysicist or surgeon.

Therein lies a major problem, both for the current economy and the economy of the future. Already the news is full of accounts of college graduates queuing up for job applications in the unskilled trades (think retail worker), simply because there isn’t demand for their skill set. At the same time, there is a desperate need for mechanics, welders, riggers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs – all you need to do is pick up the help wanted section of any metro newspaper.

Mr. Rowe understands this problem is a problem. To that end, he’s written an open letter to Mitt Romney. He wrote a similar one to Barack Obama during the least election cycle, but based on the President’s education initiatives it fell on deaf ears. You can read the full letter here, but I wanted to lift one line that I thought exemplified the problem:

I always thought there something ill-fated about the promise of three million “shovel ready jobs” made to a society that no longer encourages people to pick up a shovel.

In a nutshell, THAT is the biggest problem with getting our nation back to work today. Many of my conservative friends are adamant about making welfare and unemployment recipients work for their benefit checks. I don’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment. But in a nation that no longer values physical or skilled labor, how likely is a program akin to Roosevelt’s CCC or WPA to succeed?


A User’s Guide to the US Constitution


What’s that you say? You didn’t know there was a user’s guide to the Constitution?

Well, obviously SOMEBODY wasn’t paying attention in Civics class. Either that, or you’re one of the unfortunate millions who never had the opportunity to study civics – but that’s a different post for a different day.

Let’s begin with a little history. Our Constitution didn’t just materialize out of thin air. Neither did it arrive at the National Archives in the same manner that Moses received the Ten Commandments. (I’m only half being tongue-in-cheek about that; one of my younger acquaintances honestly thought that God himself gave the Constitution to George Washington in a burning ring of fire. And we wonder why the country is heading off the rails?) In fact, our current Constitution wasn’t even the first one The United States used. That honor belongs to the Articles of Confederation. It’s in there that some of the quirkier aspects of our national government can be found: the idea of state representation, as opposed to popular representation for instance. It went into effect in 1781 and was quickly realized that it made the federal government too weak to be effective. The principle reason we scrapped it is as old as the fight for American Independence: taxes.

The USA incurred serious debts while fighting off the British Empire, primarily owed to the French. After the Treaty of Ghent was signed and the US officially became an independent nation, the French – who were near broke themselves (this was the time of “Let them eat cake”, after all) – came looking for their money. The French King was quite accommodating: the new United States could pay up in gold and silver, or could hand over land from the former British Colonies. Not willing to give up the territory we had just fought over for the past 8 years, the Continental Congress passed excise duties in order to pay the debt. Great idea, except under the Articles of Confederation, any state could opt out – and 11 of them did. Just to compound matters, most of the states had individual liabilities resulting from the war, mostly due to the French crown as well. So, they passed taxes and tariffs on each other to pay off those debts. By 1787, the entire country was readying for civil war as each state asserted its rights under the Articles and a hapless Congress could only look on in despair.

Enter the Constitutional Convention. In February of 1787, rather than go to war with one another (thankfully), the states agreed to a redo on how the federal government should operate. Originally, 70 people were selected to attend. Only 55 actually did and of those, only 39 signed on to the new Constitution. It was understandable: most had shown up expecting a sort of massive peace negotiation, not a negotiation about scrapping the current government and replacing it with something entirely different. Rhode Island was so upset by the idea that they recalled all of their representatives. The new Constitution, even after weeks of negotiating, was hardly a hit: as mentioned, 16 representatives refused to sign, including some fairly big names of the day. Imagine if we decided to reboot under a new Constitution today and the current Speaker and Vice-President refused to lend their support to the document. That was the same effect that George Wythe (Virginia) and John Lansing (NY) not signing had in 1787. And that was just the beginning of the trouble getting the Constitution ratified: popular support was anything but forthcoming. Just like today, a document that is amazingly short proved to be incredibly difficult for the populace to comprehend.

That’s where our user guide comes in play. The two principle architects of the Constitution, James Madison of Virginia and Alexander Hamilton of New York engaged in a series of letters that sought to explain how the Constitution affected everyone: from vagabond to Senator; scullery maid to Governor. Today, we know these letters as the Federalist Papers. These 85 letters, most commonly published as essays on what equates to our modern op-ed pages of the popular newspapers of the time, provided the Founding Father’s actual vision for how the Federal government is supposed to act.

It is the quintessential user’s guide. Like any good instruction manual, it lays out – in detail – how each branch of government should interact, not only with one another but also with the states and the general population. So next time you have a question about why something is set up the way it is, hit that link and review the reasons before going off half-cocked.


Happy Independence Day!


Today, as we enjoy time with our friends and families, revel in the fireworks and devour our barbecued food, we’re celebrating the 236th Birthday of our great nation. But more importantly, we’re celebrating 236 years of independence – independence from tyranny and oppression.

We all know that the Declaration of Independence was signed by the 56 members of the Continental Congress on this date 236 years ago. Most of us even know how the powerful statement contained in it’s beginning; a statement that has defined Americanism throughout our history. But how many of us have read through the entire document, where the grievances of the original states are enumerated? The American Revolution was far more than a tax revolt. We’re taught in history class that the Stamp Act and Tea Tax were the sparks that ignited the insurrection against the British crown. While far from popular, the reality is that the imposition of those taxes were but symptoms of a far larger problem for the Americans. That problem was the  way the British government disregarded the basic liberties and freedoms of the American colonists, granting or revoking them as it saw fit.

Just like those brave men and women 236 years ago, we believe that the “inalienable rights” of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness cannot be impinged upon by any government – and that any government that tries is answerable to the people. It is what defines us as a nation and a people. It is the essence of American Exceptionalism – that a nation can be founded more on an ideal than a population or geography. To this day, we remain unique in this regard: no other nation can lay claim to such distinction.

Below is the full transcript. Read it through. Remember why celebrate the day, and why freedom loving people the world over celebrate with us.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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 these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


John Roberts is not a Villian


ObamaCare CartoonI’ve read today – far too often today – that Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts is a cross between Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate and Benedict Arnold. Or maybe something worse. Although I doubt Chief Justice Roberts needs me to come to his defense (or that he even cares, to be honest), I’m going to give it a shot. Let’s look into what the Supreme Court ruling on the PPACA actually means before passing judgement, shall we?

The Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot compel anyone to buy anything. Ever.

Big? You bet this is huge. We’ve heard for two years from academicians and progressives that under the Commerce Clause, Congress has the ability to force us to buy stuff. Their theory was that because everyone needs health care at some point, we all engage in commerce related to the health industry and the very act of not purchasing health insurance was an action. Well, not so fast.

“The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels  individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority…The Framers gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it, and for over 200 years both our decisions and Congress’s actions have reflected this understanding. There is no reason to depart from that understanding now.”

So, the Obama administration’s argument (echoed by the same academicians above) got the royal smack-down. Chief Justice Roberts may as well have wrote, “What are you, a bunch of moe-rons?”. The result is the same. Rarely does a published opinion go this far (nearly 16 pages) to explain why an argument is so plainly stupid.

The Supreme Court ruled that ObamaCare is the biggest tax hike in US history.

Yes, they ruled the PPACA can move forward, but that the government can no longer try and hide behind the facade of an individual mandate. No, they ruled: ObamaCare is actually a tax increase. Or more precisely, a combination of 21 different tax increases that total $1.2 trillion in new revenue annually. How big is that?  It amounts to new taxes that consume 8% of the nation’s economic output. With only a little over 4 months until the election, I’m not sure how either the President or his minions in Congress feel about running for election on a platform of delivering the biggest tax increase in history. I doubt they’re relishing the chance to find out. Already the cries are being raised about the impending sequestration, with it’s 1.5% tax increase and strong possibility of pulling the economy back into recession. ObamaCare represents a tax increase more than 5 times that impact. By ruling as they did, the Court hand-delivered a gift-wrapped campaign theme for the Republicans this Fall. “If you thought the economy was bad before, just wait until ObamaCare sinks it forever.”

States cannot be forced to participate in ObamaCare. 

A big part of how ObamaCare delivers affordable insurance to the masses is through a massive expansion in Medicaid, by enrolling anyone at 133% of the federal poverty line or below in the program. A big part of how the administration covers up the cost of that expansion is by removing federal subsidies for it by 2017, but still compelling the states to pick up the tab. As of right now, 13 states are balking at the idea of pushing their budgets into the red to make good on this mandate. The Supremes issued another smack-down on this, ruling that unfunded mandates are unconstitutional, even if the mandate is to an existing program.

“It is enough for today that wherever that line may be, this statute is surely beyond it. Congress may not simply “conscript state [agencies] into the national bureaucratic army,” and that is what it is attempting to do with the Medicaid expansion.”

Either the administration can relent and pick up the entire tab for the Medicaid expansion, or live with fact that the original goal of covering more than 95% of Americans in some form of health plan is by the boards.

So, is this really a win for Team Obama? Only in Pyrrhic sense. Yes, the PPACA stands for now – but not all of it. The Medicaid smack-down means that a very large part of the administration’s base of support won’t see any benefit from the law. As for the rest of it, Team Obama is now left to campaign on the largest tax hike in history, in the middle of the worst economy in 80 years. It is also already galvanizing support for the Republican challenger as nothing else could have – especially given Mr. Romney’s own dubious record on health reform.

The President may be heading to bed this evening with a smile on his face. But I bet the one on the Chief Justice’s face come November 6th will be a bit bigger.


ObamaCare Constitutional (Sort of)!


The Supreme Court issued their ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act earlier this morning. The short story is, the act stands. But there is much in the  ruling that I can see making the President and entire Federal government wishing they had never taken this up to begin with.

For staters, the Individual Mandate is  completely unconstitutional. No ifs, ands, or buts.

“Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.'”

Instead, the Court ruled that Congress can impose a “health tax” as part of the individual tax code, but again, it cannot apply a penalty to persons who refuse to participate in the insurance market. They can only impose the tax uniformly – on everyone – and then refund or credit people who do buy insurance.

But the biggest bombshell coming from this ruling is the Court’s take on unfunded federal mandates. They’ve basically eviscerated one of Washington’s favorite ploys – requiring the states to do something, but not paying for it. In this instance, it is the expansion of Medicaid to cover all persons up to 133% of the federal poverty line. Although Congress offers short-term relief for the increased expenditure, that ends in 2017 and the states eventually pick up most of the tab – or face losing all of their federal funding for Medicaid. The Court ruled that if the Feds want to expand Medicaid that way, they need to pick up the full tab – permanently.

“The Medicaid expansion thus violates the Constitution by threatening States with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion. The constitutional violation is fully remedied by precluding the Secretary from applying §1396c to withdraw existing Medicaid funds for failure to comply with the requirements set out in the expansion.”

Taken broadly, this opens a Pandora’s box of mandates to legal challenges, in everything from education (“No Child Left Behind”) to transportation (Federal Highway Funding). Fun times lie ahead, I’m sure.

I’ll have more in a few days, once I’ve fully digested all 193 pages of the decision. If interested, you can read the full thing here.


Social Conservatism and Libertarianism can co-exist


This morning’s post about being a Libertarian raised questions among the readership (thanks for the feedback, by the way) and I thought one in particular needed addressing. It came from a Twitter follower who wanted to know how I, an unabashed Christian and social conservative, can also be an unabashed Libertarian. On first blush, I understand how there is a seeming dichotomy in the two philosophies. The confusion, I think, stems from not understanding how classical liberalism and classic Protestantism influence Libertarian thinking.

As defined today, liberalism invokes the idea that government is the only organization capable of providing social cohesion. Religion, family and community each play a role, but in the end it is the government that must be the glue that keeps society from coming apart. This view – call it modern liberalism – is currently the predominant one in western society. The “enlightened oligarchy” of this model actually isn’t far removed from the “enlightened monarchy” that dominated that dominated European governments in the latter half of the 18th century. It also hews closely to various themes that come to bear in the mid-20th century, in which government control over most or all aspects of social order were encouraged: Socialism, fascism and communism.

However, classical liberalism as practiced in the upper-echelon salons of Western Europe and mainstream American life in the same period held that each institution worked in combination to create a stable society. In this model, government is just another player along with religion, family and community in creating a just and stable society. Classical liberalism, as opposed to modern liberalism (or perhaps, “progressivism” is a more apt term), holds that individual rights outweigh those of the society – provided the individual is a just and moral being. If not, then each of the various factions that comprise a society; the churches, the schools, the community organizations, the family and friends and yes, the government, has a role to play in returning the individual to that place of moral rectitude.

“The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained… While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords government its surest support.” –George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 20, 1789

Although the nation’s creation included the indispensability of a moral citizenry, the founders further outlined the necessity for religion and governance playing separate yet equal roles in public life by purposely cleaving the two. Government would have no role in determining religious affairs and (other than informing the moral character of the citizenry) religion would have no say in the body politic. They codified the principle in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids the government from establishing a national religion or interfering in any religious activity. Moral character may be important, but it is not so important that the government should decide that which is moral. Rather, the government should be informed of that which is moral by the decisions of plebiscite, which in turn should be informed by the communities’ religious institutions.

This reliance on indirect morality in government is how I can be both a Libertarian and socially conservative. It is not the government’s job to dictate morality; that is best left to me, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and my spiritual mentorship from my church. The moral and religious beliefs I hold will, by nature, play a part in how I vote and participate in the political theater. But the place to make the arguments for those positions is not in the political arena, but the spiritual: in the pews and pulpits, not the halls of Congress.

To put it more plainly: it is not the role of religion to decide the affairs of government and it is not the role of government to decide the affairs of religion. This principle has been a cornerstone of the American Republic since the founding. As JFK said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” That many of my fellow social conservatives see fit to now overthrow this essential precept of American republicanism speaks more to their insecurity and unwillingness to engage the populace in true debate over morality – rather, they would impose it by means of government impression. That is antithetical to the teachings they claim to uphold. Christ wants a conversion of souls, not an enslaved people. In the same way, we should look to create a nation of free minds, not coerced opinions.

Libertarianism and social conservatism are more than compatible. Since both teach that the best way to a society that can absorb the worst while coming through with our individual best, they are mutually supportive.


Why I’m a Libertarian


When I announce my political affiliation, the usual responses range from subdued chuckle to loud guffaw. “Oh no,” people say. “You’re not one of those crazies, are you? An anarchist, ready to abolish the government?”

Well, I am a Libertarian and have been for a quite a long time. And the reason is pretty simple: if I’m crazy, then so were men like Thomas Jefferson, Samuel and John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. All, excepting Madison, signed the Declaration of Independence. You might have noticed that these men, the original Libertarians, while unafraid to fight for liberty – to give their lives in the cause of liberty, if needed – were hardly anarchists. In fact, when their first attempt at organized government yielded something much closer to anarchy than we even want to dream of today, they organized the first Constitutional Convention.

So, if that’s crazy, feel free to count me in.

“The Presentation of the Declaration of Independence” by John Trumbull

To put it simply, Libertarians believe that government exists solely to protect individual freedom. But our views on where those freedoms derive are much different than that of the typical Republican or Democrat; in fact, they are diametrically opposed. Ask yourself this question: is government the final arbiter of what constitutes essential liberty? If you answered yes, then you hold the same world view as the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats.

Before you answer that the idea of a government not being responsible for deciding what freedoms we should enjoy is the definition of anarchy, consider the very document that founded our great country, the Declaration of Independence. It is more than a 236 year old piece of parchment that hangs in the National Archives. It is the very embodiment of what makes America, and Americans, unique among other nations and nationalities.

“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…”

Now consider the Preamble to the document that created the federal government, the Constitution for the United States of America. It is 11 years the junior to the Declaration, yet in it the nation’s founding principles are given their equal due – prior to prescribing the methods used to preserve Liberty.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, to establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

When you actually read the words, two things immediately become clear:

  • The essence of Liberty, of Freedom, is not something that comes from any government. It comes from a Higher Authority.
  • Government exists to protect those rights, not corrupt them.

Understanding the first point is essential to truly understanding the American concept of Liberty and freedom. The only way individual freedoms are absolute is if they come from an authority higher than that of either men or their institutions. Otherwise, individual freedoms are a caprice, something to be given or withheld as determined by the fancy of others. Governments, rather than working to protect those freedoms, become dishonest arbiters of disputes. Eventually, governments (and the people governing) no longer see themselves as members of the general society, bound by contract and convention to uphold liberty. They become oligarchs; a separate class that believes itself superior to the rest of society.

Does that last paragraph give you pause? It should, because we are witnesses to that very transformation. It is not a sudden transformation that occurred in the past two or three years, either – it’s been underway for most of my lifetime. Is it beginning to snowball, accelerating in pace and breadth? Certainly, and the quickening pace over the past few years makes anyone concerned about preserving liberty queasy.

Now, as to why I identify as a Libertarian and not a Democrat or Republican: the proponents of the two major parties are our modern oligarchs, who see themselves as more fit to determine which liberties are essential and which can be abridged by the government. There truly isn’t much of a difference between them, in that both see distinctions in liberties; the difference is only in which liberties they deem more essential. The things they spend their time arguing over are actually further limitations on those essential liberties and freedoms, disguised as concern for safety of the overall society. The reason they feel secure in their deliberations is that the Nation, once enamored of Liberty, is today concerned less with freedom than safety – or at least, the illusion of safety. The people fear deprivation of material desires than the loss of freedoms. They are convinced the loss of freedom for one party will not result in a curtailing of freedom for themselves – when the reality is that any loss of freedom for any American necessitates that all Americans lose some aspect of their Liberty.

Terrific examples come from exchanges I had this week with unabashedly partisan Democrats and Republicans. I fed the same quote to both, and their reactions were remarkably similar. The quote, from Ben Franklin, is “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither.” The Democrat’s response was that Franklin has been dead 200 years, and his ideals with him. The Republican’s response was that changing times require changing mores.

That’s the final point that our founding document makes, that most Americans either forgot or were never taught.

“—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”

The nation’s founding principle is that the Liberty and the ideals of freedom supersede anything else. Liberty takes precedence over personal comfort, over wealth, over safety and even life itself, if necessary. The very ideal is worth fighting and dying for, as in the case of the American Revolution and the Civil War. What is more, if this principle is derived from an act of Divine Providence, then it does not disappear with the death of individuals nor the passage of time. It is an everlasting, eternal truth.

Because I am a free man and believe my freedom is not negotiable: That is why I am a Libertarian. Because I believe that the government is my servant, not my master: That is why I am a Libertarian. Because I believe that no man has the right to subject another to his will: That is why I am a Libertarian.

And if you believe these things, so are you.


Help a Jarhead (or maybe a million)


Two Marines affected by contaminated Lejeune water

Undoubtedly, most of you have heard about Love Canal, NY. But what would you say if I told you there was a place where contamination levels were worse, with a population 500 times greater? And what would you say if that place was owned by your government? And that while acknowledging the contamination since 1984, the government has done nothing in the intervening 28 years to assist those affected by it?

This is the situation for the more than 1 million Marines and sailors who served aboard Camp Lejeune, NC between 1957 and 1987. During that time, the wells used for drinking water at the base were contaminated by more than 200 known toxic substances. Nobody can say with any certainty what the effects of ingesting this many poisons, in the volumes and combinations by anyone who lived on the base for any length of time, might be. What is known that there has been a rash of strange diseases in people who lived and worked on the base: male breast cancers, digestive diseases and cancers, brain diseases and cancers. While they cannot be 100% conclusively linked to the contaminated wells and ground water, the unusual rate of incidence of these diseases certainly suggests more than  a casual causal probability. In some cases, the incidences are more than 1000x what is found in the general population!

But the government understands that actually taking care of the men, women and children who ingested these chemicals is an expensive proposition. And so, rather than live up to the Marine Corps motto of “Semper Fidelis,” your government has seen fit to lie, obfuscate and deny assistance to them. Rather than display faith and fidelity to the Marines who were assigned to duty at Camp Lejeune, the government has decided it better suits their needs to shun us and pray we all die off before they need to do anything. The Obama administration has decided that rather than lend a hand, more study is required. Congress has allowed legislation aimed at helping  languish in committee, despite having bipartisan support and 42 co-sponsors.

There is something you can do to help, though. First, sign the petition to let the President and Congress know that you, the taxpayer and citizen, support the Marines fighting what may be the most desperate battle of our lives.

Second, the Janey Ensminger Act would classify any Marine or sailor, or their dependents, who lived at Lejuene as having a 100% service-connected disability. That would allow them to receive free, lifetime medical care through the Veteran’s Health Administration.  As mentioned above, the bill is currently stuck in the Veterans Affairs Committee. The committee rules allow the committee chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL 1), to pass the bill out of committee without a vote. So, write Rep. Miller and urge him to send the bill to the full House of Representatives for a vote. You can also message him through Facebook.

Let’s get it done, people. When duty calls, the Marines are the first to answer. Now it’s your turn to do the same for them.


Divide and Conquer


“Increasingly, the Democratic Party feels the need to match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics. I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose.” – Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope.

“Elections have consequences. And at the end of the day, I won.” – Barack Obama (discussing economic policy with Eric Cantor), January 23, 2009.

One of the things my liberal friends have trouble digesting is Barack Obama’s inability to sustain the “Hope and Change” ideology of the 2008 campaign during his Presidency. I would invite them to ponder those two quotes above the next time they try to figure it out.

Obama campaigned, beginning with his convention speech in 2004, as being a new, “post-partisan” politician. A politician who would put his party aside for the sake of compromise, a man whose principle ambition was “to get things done.” He won, by and large, because he convinced large numbers of people who had no prior electoral experience of that narrative. This was despite the fact that in his brief time as a sitting representative, he didn’t have one example of a compromise solution he had worked on. He did have one bipartisan bill he worked on with Sen. Tom Coburn – S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. But that particular piece of legislation passed the Senate 98-2, and Obama was one of 47 co-sponsors. It wasn’t a compromise, none was needed to pass. Coburn noted during the 2008 election, in discussing this one example of post-partisanship, that “It’s easy to work across the aisle on consensus items. It’s when you demonstrate that you’ll stand in between — in no man’s land between the two trenches of the Democratic and Republican base, and you’ll take the heat. We haven’t seen that from Barack. As much as I like him, he’s not ever rejected anything of his party to be able to stand in the middle.”

More than anything else, this is the reason Obama cannot mobilize the people who propelled him to victory in 2008. The carefully crafted image of a post-partisan politician was with one move after assuming office, destroyed forever. Obama, the man who convinced millions who distrusted politicians and the political system that he was somehow different, revealed himself to be as partisan as anyone who’s ever held elective office. He tried to recapture that theme after the 2010 midterms, but quickly reverted to being a partisan hack. The evolution has left those millions who were cynical about the political process before his candidacy even more cynical in the aftermath.

The genie is out of the bottle and it won’t go back in, just as those millions won’t be coming back to support the President this time around. This realization that Obama can’t reclaim the throne of preeminent post-partisan is well understood by Campaign Obama and they’ve gone to the only option the President’s words and actions have left them: divide and conquer. They’re praying they can mobilize enough of the left wing to win reelection. But to do that, they need to abandon all pretense of being anything other than the highly partisan; they need to attack and denigrate any position not in line with leftist theology.

That this type of campaign will accentuate the differences in the nation, polarizing us more than any time since the Civil War, is of little consequence. The only thing that matters is that Barack Obama wins – even if the nation loses.


ENOUGH!


How Politicians View You

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

15,000,000,000,000
56,650,000,000,000
22,000,000
187,000,000,000,000
4,700,000,000,000
20,000,000,000,000

Do you recognize those numbers? In order, they are the current federal debt, the current total US debt, the number of Americans who aren’t gainfully employed, the sum of unfunded federal liabilities, the current fiscal years’s proposed budget and the Obama administration’s estimated federal debt on January 20, 2016.

In addition, we have the gradual erosion of Constitutional rights, the looming specter of uncontrolled inflation (which is now running 8%), a quagmire in Afghanistan, a pending war with Iran, Europe back in recession, the potential for a “Russian Spring,” and border security still hasn’t been effectively solved.

These are real crises. Real problems that we should be focused on and demanding that the politcal leadership focus on. But if you dropped in from Mars, here’s what you would think were the problems facing the country:

How promiscuous are Georgetown law students?
Is there a Massive Government Conspiracy to assassinate bloggers?
Why are NFL players paid to hurt other players?
A washed up pop-star drowns in the bathtub after overdosing on painkillers!

I could continue, but you get the point (I hope). In ancient Rome, it was said Nero fiddled as the city burned. Today, we’re the fiddlers. Blame the politicians for the mess we’re in all you want, but I’m about to hit you with some cold, hard reality. We are the reason politicians are avoiding the real problems. Every time you lose your focus and begin worrying about some silly “culture war” diversion, the media applauds and a politicians from both parties smile. Why? The vast majority of politicians are not idiots. They know the real problems we face – and they know the only solutions are neither popular nor easy. But rather than debate them honestly, it is far easier for them to divert our attention with “issues” that really have no effect on how you or I conduct our daily lives. They prefer debates over things they all know governments have virtually no control over, and should have no control over, then coming to the American people and telling us the truth about things. It is much easier to build brand loyalty for a political party over culture issues (Republicans, please step to the right; Democrats to the left). It is nigh near impossible to do when facing the real problems we face.

But we still live in a representative republic. We, the people, still have the ultimate power. But we have to exercise it. That is the ultimate solution to our nation’s ills. But doing so involves two skill sets we’ve not demonstrated in years: perseverance and determination. We – me, you, everyone – needs to demand our political leaders face the real problems and work on solutions. And we need to let them know that if they don’t, another election is right around the corner and we’ll vote for someone who will.

Don’t let them distract you with another bogus news story about a trivial issue; another “he said, she said” item or another nonsensical quote from a would-be candidate. Keep your focus on what really matters. Or, go ahead and keep thinking that cultural issues are the defining item of our time.

Just don’t come crying to me when the country turns into another Greece.


Dear Rick Santorum:


I won’t make this very long. This message is too important to be left open to interpretation (which you demonstrate time and again to be horrible at).

Actually, I can sum up the message in pretty short order: GET OUT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE.

It’s not that I think you’re necessarily a bad guy. I believe you genuinely care about America’s blue-collar majority, probably quite a bit more than Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. Unlike the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I also believe that you’re a man of conviction whose word is as good as any signed contract. In fact, I think you’re probably not unlike many people I know personally. Your politics, however, are better suited to running Pakistan than the USA.

Numerous independent and non-partisan economists have reviewed your spending proposals. All of them agree that of the proposals currently out there, yours is the most fiscally irresponsible. We’re enduring a Presidency in which the federal debt will double in 4 years. Somehow, doubling it again by 2016 doesn’t strike me as either responsible or *ahem* conservative.

But more alarming than that is your commitment to theocracy as an overriding governing principle. That anyone can as flippantly dismiss the separation of church and state as you have, and still be considered a major candidate, speaks volumes about the mess the Nation has become. That you seem to read meaning into the 1st Amendment that isn’t there doesn’t speak very well of your professors at Dickinson. That you seem certain that people of faith are excluded from providing input into government affairs is either the result of extreme bigotry or extreme blindness on your part. If it’s the former, then nobody but another bigot could want you for President. If the latter, you’re too stupid to be President.

I’m writing this as man of deep religious faith, but also an American citizen. I’m fine with you practicing Catholicism openly. But I doubt you feel the same about the millions of your countrymen who are equally faithful regarding other religions. You’ve made it abundantly clear that you certainly do not respect the rights of millions of more to not practice any faith. I’m not going to pretend to know everything there is to know about Catholicism, but surely you were taught the Golden Rule at some point (some version of it seems to be the underpinning of every Christian religion I’ve encountered). Anyway, that’s what makes the 1st Amendment unique among the laws of men: we actually codified the idea that if you respect everyone’s else right to speak, write and pray as they like, they’ll respect yours to do the same. You know, the whole Do Unto Others thing – the part of your faith you seem to have left at the altar of politics.

The longer you stay in the race, the longer the press will be obligated to publicize you and the moronic things you say. But if you drop out now, you can still go on speaking tours of every KoC hall in America. You can still write op-eds for the weekend newspapers. You’ll still have the same right as every other citizen to weigh in on the important topics of the day. But those of us who really don’t want have your misguided opinions shoved down our throats won’t be forced to listen to you every morning, noon and night – to the exclusion of the real problems facing us.

See, there are people in America who actually care about fixing the country – and not turning us into a broke, corrupt and contemptible nation. I know, I talk to them every day of the week. And with you out of the way, the public discourse can return to matters of substance. If you love your country as much as you profess, than do us a favor Rick. Get out.


Are the Birthers on to Something?


A Supreme Headache

Beneath all of the coverage of the Republican primaries this election cycle, something rather startling is afoot.

What if the Republican nominee ran for the White House unopposed?

Granted, this is still a rather far-fetched supposition. But there are currently six separate ballot challenges to Barack H. Obama winding their way through various state courts. Particularly disconcerting to the Obama administration is that the courts in these states haven’t summarily dismissed these challenges, as requested by the President. Instead, hearings are underway or scheduled in all six.

While challenges in deeply the deeply red states of Alabama and Tennessee probably won’t surprise anyone, the challenges in deeply blue Illinois and Massachusetts undoubtedly will. And challenges in North Carolina and Georgia, two swing states the DNC was hoping to turn from purple to blue, have to be driving insiders in both the Democratic Party and Obama campaign nuts. Especially the one in Illinois, considering that Obama 2012 is headquartered in Chicago.

The principle issue being raised in these challenges could actually disqualify Mitt Romney, as well as the potential Vice-Presidential aspirations of Marco Rubio. It isn’t inconceivable that they could eventually make their way to the Supreme Court – and if that is the case, the entire 2012 election would be tossed for a serious loop. I mean, can you imagine a Presidential election without one candidate who would be eligible? As strange as that sounds, it could happen. And that is why I’m finding it a bit strange that there hasn’t been more extensive coverage in the media.

The issue being presented to the courts is no longer that the President was born on foreign soil, thereby making him ineligible for his office. Rather, it is the contrast between the 14th Amendment (which states that anyone born on US soil is a citizen) and Article II, section 1, which states that the President needs to be a “natural-born” citizen. Or have been a citizen at the time the Constitution was ratified – and I doubt we’re going to find anyone meets that standard. At issue is that nowhere in the Constitution does the term “natural born citizen” receive a concise definition. Granted, common sense would seem to dictate that anyone born in the US is a natural born citizen. But this is a matter of law, and so common sense will not play a part.

What does matter in these things is a thing called precedent; that is, what have previous courts ruled on the matter. And oddly enough, there isn’t any precedent upon which the legal definition of a “natural born citizen” can be ascertained. The Supreme Court was asked once before to provide clarity on the issue, in the 1872 case of Minor v. Happersett. But the court demurred, on the issue, saying the case had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s citizenship but whether women had the right to vote (women’s suffrage was still a state-by-state issue in 1872). However, the court did issue this cryptic message in their decision:

“The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first. For the purposes of this case it is not necessary to solve these doubts. It is sufficient for everything we have now to consider that all children born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction are themselves citizens.” [emphasis mine]

In this decision, the Court essentially created the possibility of three types of citizens: natural-born , born (children of non-citizens or naturalized citizens born in the US), and naturalized. The implications are profound – in essence, the only potential federal office holders (since the chain of command established by the 25th Amendment makes almost all members of Congress and cabinet members potential Presidents) could be persons who can trace their citizenship not to their birth certificate, but to their lineage.  Is Nancy Pelosi a natural-born citizen under this definition? How about John Boehner? Is Leon Panetta?

Besides the long-term implications, there are the very near-term ones to consider. As I mentioned, Mitt Romney would not be considered a natural-born citizen under this definition. Try this on for size: the case or cases wind their way through the appellate process and make it to the Supreme Court. Let’s say the who process moves faster than light-speed (for the court system) and the Supreme Court rules that natural born citizens are the children of US citizens only in September. (A decision, by the way, that is not improbable even if the timing is). As  a result of such a ruling, Barack Obama would have to step down – and any laws and executive orders signed by him would become moot. Further, both parties would find themselves without a viable candidate for the Presidency (I suppose Joe Biden would become the Democratic nominee, by default).

The whole thing just snowballs from there, of course. What are your thoughts on how this could play out – not just the decision, but the potential impact. Let me know in the comments below or hit me up my email.


So Long, #Twitter


An open letter to the leadership & employees of Twitter:

I, along with millions of others worldwide, enjoy using your service. In my case, I originally joined the “Twitterverse” in 2007. Over the nearly 5 years since, I’ve engaged thousands of others in discussions regarding current events, political affairs, health issues and my beloved New York Yankees. During the popular uprising in Iran, I was one of the tens of thousands people around the globe who helped spread the word. As the Arab Spring grew and rose, I was one of those men and women who retweeted the eyes-on accounts from those on the ground.

Your company has provided a unique platform for sharing ideas and organizing the global community. More than any other company, you became the epitome of what “social media” can and should be. Regardless of whatever platform changes you’ve made throughout the years, you never lost sight of what it was that makes your service unique and valuable to millions of people, of all ages and backgrounds, throughout the world.

Never, that is, until today. With your announcement that you will now engage in selective censoship, you have abandoned the very ideals of free speech and expression that make your service at times aggravating, others hilarious, but always thought provoking and important. But once you engage in censoring those short bursts of independent thought, your service is no more relevant than any other propoganda tool.

So, for that reason, I am taking the boycott planned for tomorrow one step further. Effective tomorrow, I will stop using your service until you renounce your current course of action. If you again pledge to support a free and open internet, free of censorship, then I will happily return to using Twitter. The links from this blog, my Facebook account and numerous other sites will all be deactivated. What’s more, I’m asking all of my followers to do likewise.

So, until then, au revoir, Twitter!


SOTU Dissected


Would you trust this man?

Trust Me

Last night President Obama delivered his constitutionally-mandated State of the Union address. It was, of course, little more than the official start of his re-election campaign. Still, the 65 minutes he spent in the House well delivered more than a few interesting tidbits. I thought we could have some fun digging into the speech‘s rhetoric and laying bare the facts.

Obama: “We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”

This is the third SOTU address in which he floated the idea of ending oil subsidies. It’s also going to be the third time this falls on deaf ears. He couldn’t get this passed in 2009, when his party controlled the House and had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate – and that was with a specific legislation calling for $36.5 billion in energy taxes over ten years. The administration never followed up a similar proposal in last year’s SOTU with draft legislation. It seems equally doubtful that a candidate who received nearly $3 million in campaign donations from the oil industry (thus far) is in any rush to see this put into law. Further, we’ve seen the results of the investment in “green energy” companies like Solyndra. In blackjack, that’s the equivalent of “doubling-down” on a 9 when the dealer is showing an ace.

Obama: “Our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

Perhaps the President needs to go back and re-read that health care law. First of all, the reform relies primarily on an individual mandate, enforced through the IRS. If that enforcement doesn’t qualify as the biggest government program in history, then obviously I’m not as good a student of our nation’s history as I thought. And there are other, already existing programs that will be greatly expanded should the Supreme Court not throw the whole thing out this summer. For instance, Medicaid grows to cover anyone up to 138% of the official poverty line, which the CBO scored as requiring a funding increase of $434 billion per year. In and of itself, that would make Medicaid the single largest line item in the federal budget – and most state budgets, too.

Obama: “Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

This is a wonderful assertion, except that it ignores the reality of the federal budget. The Iraq campaign was financed entirely on debt. Ending that war doesn’t actually result in any savings, except in the strange and convoluted world of Washington finance. It just means we’re able to borrow less money and keep everything else funded at the same levels. Of course, the President largely ignored the problem of the federal debt, so I suppose he thinks keeping deficits at staggeringly high levels in order to score a few rhetorical points is money well spent.

Obama: “Through the power of our diplomacy a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one.”

I’m not sure which world he meant by this, but it obviously wasn’t this one. Yes, the European Union seems likely to join the US in applying stringent sanctions. But Russia and China have no intention of doing so, and both countries used their veto power in the UN to prevent that body from enforcing them. Besides, the sanctions will have limited effect on the Iranian economy, since the Iranians switched from accepting dollars and euros to rials or rubles. Just for good measure, Israel seems hell-bent on taking unilateral military action if they deem it necessary. It’s hardly the unified front the President presented.

Obama: “The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”

Apparently, the President failed to read his latest NIE. In that document, the Taliban is expected to gain strength by using the ongoing talks to re-establish their legitimacy in the Afghani countryside while stalling until we pull out. This assertion is as hollow as LBJ’s that “the Government of South Vietnam has grown steadily stronger.” Of course, we all know well that turned out.

An overarching theme last night was the idea of economic “fairness.” As described by Mr. Obama, fairness is “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Yet, at no point did he actually outline how to make that a possibility. He suggested that millionaires aren’t paying their fair share of income taxes – yet according to the IRS the effective rate for those people is 26.5%. Only 10% of people making under $100,000 per year are paying a higher effective rate – and less than 5% of millionaires pay a lower rate. Thanks to that disparity, millionaires accounted for 36.5% of the federal government’s income. Unfair? You bet it is – but I doubt asking the 47% of Americans whose effective tax rate is negative to pony up is what the President had in mind when talking about “fairness.”

Finally, one thing was ominously missing from the speech: any discussion of individual freedom and liberty. The entire speech was a discussion of increasing the role and prominence of the federal government in our lives. “With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow,” declared the Mr. Obama. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a scarier statement by any President in our recent history. Putting aside the obvious constitutional questions raised by a President acting unilaterally, consider that some 13 million more Americans are looking for work since he assumed office and real GDP growth (accounting for inflation) is -7.3% over the same period, I don’t want this President touching the economy. Especially when he has demonstrated an incredible desire to amass power in the West Wing and during an election year.


SOTU? SNAFU


Tonight, President Obama will deliver his (hopefully final) State of the Union address. Since I imagine you have better things to do, I thought I would give you the Cliff’s Notes version now.

1. The economy, despite Tea Party intransigence, is gaining momentum. Only 21 million of you are looking for a real job now, when 13 million were doing that when I gave my first State of the Union speech.
2. Under my leadership, we’ve finally got the national debt under control. You might remember I promised to that back in 2008. Well, this year we’re projecting the deficit will only be $980 billion! Imagine that – the first sub-trillion dollar deficit ever (on my watch).
3. Of course, the economy still needs work. It’s very, very unfair to expect that when so many of you now need food stamps, that the other half of the country doesn’t pay their fair share. Why, my good friends Warren Buffet and George Soros were complaining they don’t pay enough in taxes! So, I’m asking you to pay up. Pay up A LOT, in fact.
4. Were making big strides in those green jobs I promised. Why, we’ve given billions of dollars to companies like Solyndra in the past year, and look how it’s paying off.
5. On a related note, I also bailed out the auto companies. Okay, Chrysler got bought by Fiat and it’ll take decades before GM’s stock price gets back to what we paid for it. But, did you notice GM actually sold a couple of Volts last month?
6. There was a Democratic president who once said, “The buck stops here.” Well, I’m happy to report that I’m passing that buck right back to you. Remember, I pointed out last summer that you’re all a bunch of whining, lazy do-nothings. So, this mess is yours – just reelect me in November. I kind of dig the free house that comes with the job. Oh, and getting the chance to sing at the Apollo without the risk of getting booed off was pretty cool, too.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled lives.