Sunday, July 29, 2012



I hope you'll check us out there and help keep the discussion going.  We're still working through a couple of site construction issues affecting things like facebook links, but nothing impacting the posts themselves.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and appreciate your patience.  See you at the new site!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Eat Mor Chikin

Saleswoman:  Are you looking for something in particular?
Vivian:            No.  Well, yeah.  Something . . . conservative.
Saleswoman:  Yes.
Vivian:            You got nice stuff.
Saleswoman:  Thank you.
Vivian:            How much is this?
Saleswoman:  I don’t think this would fit you.
Vivian:            Well, I didn’t ask if it would fit, I asked how much it was.
Saleswoman:  How much is this, Marie?
Marie:             It’s *very* expensive.
Saleswoman:  It’s *very* expensive.
Vivian:            Look, I got money to spend in here.
Saleswoman:  I don’t think we have anything for you.
Marie:             You’re obviously in the wrong place.
Saleswoman:  Please leave.
            —Dey Young as Saleswoman, Julia Roberts as Vivian, and Shane Ross as Marie in Pretty Woman 

Isn’t it funny, for all their talk about diversity and tolerance and inclusion and open debate, how quickly the Left moves to silence through the force of government anyone who disagrees with them?

Most of you have at least a passing familiarity with the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A.  Many of you may also be aware that the company remains privately held by its founder Truett Cathy and the Cathy family, and that in keeping with their Southern Baptist beliefs the restaurants are closed on Sundays and holidays.  A few of you may know that the Cathys have incorporated their beliefs into their business by embedding them in the company’s statement of purpose.  You may not share their convictions, but these are people who at least have all the appearance of being serious about trying to live out their faith as they understand it.

Well, it seems that earlier this month the company’s COO Dan Cathy gave a couple of interviews in which he acknowledged his family’s support for what they see as the biblical definition of the family unit.  While as far as I can tell he never outright said his family is opposed to same-sex marriage, he did say that they invite God’s judgment when we try to redefine what marriage means.  Again, you may disagree with him on this issue, and that’s fine.  I’m not here to debate the merits of same-sex marriage (at least not this time).  What is undeniable is that opposition to same-sex marriage on biblical grounds as they understand them is in fact the teaching and position of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“We affirm God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy—one man, and one woman, for life.  Homosexuality is not a ‘valid alternative lifestyle.’  The Bible condemns it as sin.  It is not, however, unforgiveable sin.  The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals.  They, too, may become new creations in Christ.”

If you’re going to claim to be a Southern Baptist, as the Cathys do, this is part of what you’ve signed up for.

As you might imagine, with Cathy’s public invocation of God in opposition to anything gay, all Hell broke loose.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced that, by the infinite power vested in him, he would not permit Chick-Fil-A to open any more restaurants in Boston.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Joe Moreno have likewise said they will use local government to ban Chick-Fil-A restaurants from opening in Chicago.  According to Emanuel, “if you’re going to be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”  A similar ban is in place in the San Francisco suburb of Mountain View, California.

I see.  If anyone disagrees with the community’s “values”—as Emanuel defines them—they should be run out of town.  In other words, agree with me, or leave.

Let’s be clear about something.  Neither Chick-Fil-A nor the Cathy family, so far as I can find, has said they won’t serve gays, or that they’ll require gays to eat in a segregated part of their restaurants.  No one has charged them with discriminatory hiring practices.  I’m not even aware that they ask anyone entering their restaurants whether they’re gay.  All Mr. Cathy said was that because of his religious beliefs he opposes gay marriage.  And while you may disagree with him until your blood boils dry, let me let you in on a little secret:

He’s absolutely entitled to that belief, whether you like it or not.

The dangerous problem with the gay lobby in this country is they’re no longer about acceptance or tolerance.  They are about force-feeding you their lifestyle, ideology, and worldview and compelling you affirmatively to agree with it.  It’s not enough for you to leave them alone to be however they will be; you must change your beliefs to adopt theirs, and if you don’t they’ll use the force of government to bludgeon you back in line.  Dissent is not tolerated.

So in these cities controlled by the Left, anyone who disagrees with the Left’s views on gay marriage is now going to be put out of business.  By the government.  This is exactly the sort of tyranny against which the Constitution was intended to protect.

Let’s start with Article VI’s Supremacy Clause:  “This Constitution . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”  There is no authority, federal, state, or local, that overrides the Constitution.  Not even Rahm Emanuel. 

Then we have the First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]”  The government can’t take action that prevents a person from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.  Even if it disagrees with those beliefs.  [As an aside, yes, the First Amendment applies via the Fourteenth Amendment to state and local governments, too.  See Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), and its progeny.]  And the First Amendment continues: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech[.]”  Not only can the government not prevent you from worshipping as you choose, it also can’t prevent you from talking about your faith.  As Justice David Souter wrote in Board of Education v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”  In other words, government is forbidden from drawing distinctions between citizens based on their religious beliefs.  The Fourteenth Amendment bolsters this by guaranteeing equal treatment under the law for all citizens:  “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Nothing limits this protection to citizens who agree with the majority, or to persons whose values reflect the values of the locality. 

This is an exceedingly dangerous construct that’s developing.  Despite the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and religion, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, we have government denying the right to do business to someone solely because their expression of their religious beliefs conflicts with the views of others.  And notice the arrogance; we have a total of three government officials purporting to state what the beliefs and values are of metropolitan areas with literally millions of residents.  Emanuel talks about “Chicago values,” as though the nearly 3 million inhabitants of that city share a single monolithic belief system.  Presumably if Chick-Fil-A’s and the Cathy family’s values are that antithetical to those of Chicagoans, Chicagoans won’t patronize the restaurants and they’ll be gone in fairly short order. 

But rather than allow Chicago’s residents to decide for themselves what their beliefs are and to act accordingly, Emanuel is taking it upon himself to declare unilaterally what those values are, and then is going to apply the force of government to discriminate between citizens based on that declaration.  Those who agree with what Emanuel says are Chicago’s values can stay and do business.  Those who do not, have to close up shop and leave.  A single man choosing who stays and who goes, who may do business and who may not, based solely on whether he agrees with their religious convictions.

Whether you agree or disagree with Don Cathy’s views on gay marriage, this kind of government reaction to an individual’s statement of his beliefs should scare the bejeezus out of you. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guns And Roses

“Hey, come on now.  If you kick out the gooks, the next thing you’ll have to kick out the chinks, the spics, the spooks, and the kikes.  And all that’s gonna be left in here are a couple of brain-dead rednecks, and what fun would *that* be?”
            —Robin Williams as Airman Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam

The great American patriot Saul Alinsky famously preached to his radical disciples, never let a crisis go to waste.  So in the wake of the tragic and horrific shootings last week in Aurora, it’s all too predictable that we see the Left frantically calling for bans on “assault rifles” lest all 318 million of us be mowed down in a hail of bullets.

Before Piers Morgan hyperventilates, let’s all take a deep breath and examine this.

First, using the Aurora tragedy as the basis for an assault rifle ban is silly.  Rusty, a dozen people are dead—how can it be silly?  Well, let me explain.

An “assault rifle” is a short shoulder-fired weapon capable of fully automatic fire—that is, it can fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull, like a machine gun—from a detachable magazine.  Examples include the U.S. military’s M-16, and the ubiquitous AK-47.  The Smith& Wesson M&P 15 rifle this lunatic in Aurora had is almost assuredly an AR-15 model, meaning it is a semi-automatic rifle; it requires a separate action of the trigger for each round.  In other words, it’s not an “assault rifle,” no matter how many times you mindlessly throw that phrase around.  

Class, let's repeat:  an AR-15 is NOT an "assault rifle."

The only exception to this would be if the weapon happened to be a law enforcement version that I suppose could be fully automatic (although I can't find that S&W makes such a gun); such a gun IS an “assault rifle,” in which case it’s already illegal for him to have had it (thus once again demonstrating the simple truth that gun bans won’t save you from bad guys with guns).  So calls for an “assault rifle” ban based on this one incident are either a nonsequitur—calling for the ban of a weapon other than what was used—or meaningless in their redundancy of existing law.  Either way, it’s silly.

Furthermore, it’s a gross overreaction to what is essentially a non-problem.  Not to diminish the loss suffered by those directly impacted by the shootings in Aurora, but the fact is this sort of incident is rare almost to the point of being unique.  Outside of last week’s events, can any of you recall the last time you heard of anyone in the U.S. being murdered by someone using an AR-15?  I doubt you can come up with even one.  I couldn’t.  And there’s a reason for that.

All rifles combined—AR-15s, illegal M-16s and AK-47s, bolt action deer rifles found in some 3/4 of the homes in Texas, etc.account for around 3% of homicides each year.  Using 2008 as an example, out of some 14,000 homicides in the U.S. that year, less than 400 were committed with a rifle of any type.  Of those, AR-15 type civilian semi-automatic rifles would have comprised a fraction, if any.  A rifle, assault or otherwise, as a practical matter simply isn't typically the weapon of choice for murderers.  Even among those who use a firearm to do their evil, they use a rifle of any type less than once in ten.  Among mass murderers, the only one I can find who chose a rifle was Charles Whitman—the University of Texas tower killer from the mid-60s—and even he was using either a bolt-action single shot rifle, or a semi-automatic WWII era M1 battle rifle, not anything even resembling an "assault rifle."

Now, 400 murders in a year is tragic, but let’s put it in perspective. 

Out of that same 14,000 murders in 2008, about 13%—nearly 1,900 or nearly five times as many as with rifles—were committed with knives, the vast majority with common kitchen knives. 

In 2008 there were nearly 40,000 automobile fatalities, more than three times the total number of murders by all weapons and other means combined.  For every person killed with a rifle of any type, over 100 were killed by a car.    

In 2008 there were over 20,000 deaths in the U.S. from overdoses of prescription medication.  That’s more than 50 people killed by prescription drugs for every 1 killed by a rifle, again of any type.

With the Left’s hysteria over “assault rifles” in the wake of the Aurora shootings, you'd think there is some sort of epidemic of AR-15-related mass killings.  But this simply isn’t so.  If we’re going to react this way when a single lunatic kills 12 people, where is our similar response to kitchen knives, cars, prescription drugs, and any number of other things that kill vastly more people every year than do semi-automatic rifles?

What this does is expose the ignorance on the Left, whose knowledge comes solely from what they’ve seen in movies.  Despite its looks, the fact is the AR-15 fires a relatively low-powered cartridge, with a bullet diameter the same as that in the common .22 LR ammunition fired in introductory level target rifles used to teach children basic marksmanship.  And because its semi-automatic action requires a separate pull of the trigger for each round, it does not spew hundreds of belt-fed rounds a second like Rambo wielding a .50 caliber gatling gun from the hip, contrary to what the hysterical Left would have you believe. 

But the Left doesn’t know this, nor do they care.  All they know is they think the AR-15 is scary looking, so they seek to invoke government to take it away, without any regard for the real level of danger it poses.  Unfortunately for them, the Constitution is pretty clear on this point:

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Framers didn’t limit the Second Amendment to only those weapons that don’t frighten ignorant nitwits like E.J. Dionne.  They didn’t condition it on whether Michael Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, agrees that an individual has a “need” to keep a particular type of gun (or a gun at all).  The protection is absolute:  the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.  I don’t have to justify my exercise of that right to anyone.  And as something more than an aside, although repeating fire weapons hadn’t yet been invented at the time the Constitution was written, having just fought an armed revolution to be free of a tyrannical government the Framers would certainly have understood the term “Arms” to have included at a minimum weapons of the same type wielded by the common infantry of the power against whom the free state needed to be defended at the time that defense needed to be made; I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t expect us to defend ourselves against modern weapons with flintlock muskets.

As with anything, there will always be a few who abuse the right in its exercise.  In the case of the Second Amendment, that abuse is in the misuse of the gun, not in its possession or in the type of gun it is.  And we already have a prohibition against that misuse: it’s called the murder statute.  The potential for abuse by a few is no justification for summarily eliminating the right for everyone else without going through the constitutional amendment process.

This is why it’s important that the NRA takes the hard line it does, because the issue is bigger than just the Second Amendment itself.  The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, were intended to protect certain rights from being limited at the subjective judgment of someone else, however good (albeit ignorant and misguided) their intentions might be.  The instant we allow government to ignore the absolute guarantee in the Second Amendment, the precedent is set and the door opened for it to ignore any other constitutional guarantees simply because “you don’t need it” (according to them), or “times have changed.”  

Or whatever subjective justification they articulate.

Imagine if Congress sought to bypass the First Amendment and ban all electronic communication on blogs and social media because a select few use them to spew hate speech and the Framers could never have imagined something like the Internet would allow communication to spread among so many people so rapidly.  Or suppose in the interest of preventing rapes Congress bypassed the Fifth Amendment and banned all sex because “you don’t really need it.”  Both scenarios are obviously extreme examples of overkill, and in either event you on the Left would be apoplectic in your opposition to this trampling of your constitutional liberties; and you’d be right.  But once you unilaterally ban what you call “assault rifles” despite the Second Amendment because you have subjectively decided they are unnecessary, there’s no real defense left for any other rights.  

Not coincidentally, in the specific context of the Second Amendment, once the government can ban private gun ownership without regard for the Constitution, there's no real defense left against the ultimate tyrrany of that government itself.  Bans on private gun ownership have a long an honored tradition among dictators; getting rid of private guns was one of the first acts of Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, among others.  It's a whole lot easier to impose totalitarianism when you don't have to worry about an armed citizenry.  As an unimpressed Bruce Lee told an opponent in Enter The Dragon who tried to intimidate him by breaking a board before a match, "Boards . . . don't hit back." 

The world is dangerous, and always has been.  There are always going to be isolated nutjobs who will do dangerous things, and you can’t insulate against that through legislation.  The sad truth is this whacko in Aurora had plenty of other guns, and in all likelihood he would have done what he did even without the AR-15;  do you imagine he would be sitting there with a shotgun, handguns, and more ammo than God, and yet say "Dammit, I don't have an AR-15, because they're banned.  I guess I can't go."  Indeed, if he were so inclined he could have done as much or more damage with a homemade pipe bomb made from common fertilizer and drain cleaner, or even just a couple of bicycle locks and a well-placed match.  No ban was going to stop that.

But I’m left to wonder:  how many lives might have been saved in Aurora had there been even one or two law-abiding citizens there legally carrying concealed sidearms?  

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I continue to struggle with the formatting issues, and for those who can see them, I apologize.  I have no idea what the problem is, and I can't get any help from Google Blogger, which hosts this site.  It's clear I will have to relocate, and as soon as I can get a new site built I will post the move in this space.

Also, in case I can't post here between now and then, next Tuesday July 31 marks the first anniversary of the launch of Chasing Jefferson.  I never dreamed we'd make it a year, and I really appreciate the support from those of you who've stuck with me.  Let's persevere through the site problems, and keep the conversation going.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Who’s To Say What’s Fair?

Annie:    These are the ground rules.  I hook up with one guy a season.  Usually takes me a couple of weeks to pick the guy—kind of my own “spring training.”  And, well, you two are the most promising prospects of the season so far.  So I just thought me should kind of get to know each other.
Crash:   Time out.  Why do you get to choose?
Annie:    What?
Crash:   Why do you get to choose?  I mean, why don’t I get to choose?  Why doesn’t he get to choose?
Annie:    Well, actually nobody on this planet ever really chooses each other.  I mean, it’s all a question of quantum physics, molecular attraction, and timing.  Why, there are laws we don’t understand that bring us together and tear us apart.

Last week I got to see the Service Employees International Union (the “SEIU” you often read about in the news) up close.  Apparently there’s been a long-brewing dispute between the SEIU and several local contractors that provide janitorial services to downtown office buildings over the collective bargaining agreement that expired back in May.  The SEIU has been staging periodic flash strikes and demonstrations at various buildings downtown.  Thursday was my turn, as some 15 were arrested for blocking an intersection with a “sit-in” while maybe as many as a hundred protesters cheered them on from the sidewalk, brandishing signs, banging drums, etc.

Interestingly, if you saw those who were arrested for the sit-in, they appeared to be made up of nothing but retired 60s retreads and bedraggled hippie wannabes.  And it turns out that not only were none of them actually janitors, but they weren’t even from around here.  In other words, these weren’t the aggrieved laborers exercising their right to civil disobedience in order to draw attention to their plight; they were professional malcontents imported as mercenaries by the union.

Kind of how the SEIU organizes voter drives.

The major sticking point in the negotiations is apparently the union wants wages boosted from $8.35/hour to $10, and objects to a clause that would allow the contractors to pay below union scale if they were negotiating for a job against a non-union contractor.  Houston Mayor Annise Parker weighed in Friday on the side of the union, and took the contractors to task for not backing down and negotiating in good faith—it was the union that walked away from talks in May.  According to Mayor Parker,  in Houston “We work hard, we work together, and we treat each other fairly.”

Aaaaahh, the old “fairness” card.

Indeed, the “fairness” of the wages and the flexibility to make competitive bids against non-union contractors is the crux of the issue.  And apparently Mayor Parker and the union, in their infinite wisdom, have concluded that $10/hour is fair, and $8.35/hour is not.  Once again, unions and the Left ignore market reality in their push to mandate “fairness” as they see it.  They don’t like $8.35, so it’s automatically “unfair.”

But is that really so?

The transaction at issue in the union negotiations is the sale of labor, and it is no different than any other transaction involving the sale of any other good.  There is a supply of the good—in this case, the union members’ time and effort—and there is a certain demand for that good—in this case, the contractors’ need for services that they then supply to their customers.  But we could just as easily be talking about the sale and purchase of widgets; the analysis is the same.

What is “fair”?  “Fair market value,” in the world of economics, is the price at which a good will change hands between a willing seller and a willing buyer.  Let’s say a widget maker is willing to part with his widget for $10.  Someone in the market to buy a widget may well be willing to pay that $10 to acquire the widget, and if so, the sale will happen.  But just because the seller wants $10 doesn’t make the widget worth $10, nor does it make $10 a fair price.  Let’s say the seller wanted $10,000,000 for that same widget.  The prospective buyer might very well conclude that that price was too high, and if so would decline to pay that much.  Would we say the buyer is being unfair simply by refusing to pay the seller’s asking price?

We can flip the analysis as well.  Let’s assume again that the seller wants $10, but the buyer is only willing to pay $8.  The seller may conclude that $8 is too little, and if so he will refuse to sell the widget, as is his right.  That refusal to sell at $8 is no different than the buyer’s refusal to buy at $10—each has made a rational decision in his own economic best interest.  The fact that the transaction does not take place does not make either party’s actions “unfair.”  There is no fairness or unfairness in the market—only market reality.  It is what it is.

Let’s add another variable.  Again we have widget-maker A willing to sell his widget for $10.  The widget buyer is looking to buy a widget, but he has more than one choice.  Widget-maker B is willing to sell him a widget for $8.  Is the buyer being unfair when he chooses to buy the widget for $8 from maker B instead of buying it for $10 from A?  Most of us would conclude that the buyer was not being unfair, but instead was making a rational decision in his own economic best interest.  If A wants to sell his widget, he must compete with B, which means he will either have to drop his price to $8 or less, or somehow convince the buyer that there is some advantage to his more expensive widget.

This is the situation facing the janitors’ union in Houston.  The contractors’ refusal to pay $10/hour is perfectly within their prerogative, and there is nothing unfair about it.  Ditto the union's refusal to work for $8.35.  But here’s the market reality the “fairness” cops ignore.  The contractors’ ability to refuse the union’s $10 offer is only as good as their ability either to do without the union’s labor, or—more likely—their ability to obtain that labor from cheaper sources of supply.  If there isn’t anyone willing to do the job for $8.35, sooner or later the contractors will have to accept the union’s demands.  But if there IS  someone willing to work for $8.35, what’s unfair about the contractors’ refusal to hire the union for $10?  It would be economically irrational—some might argue stupid—for them to do that.

This “unfairness” argument stands everything on its head.  By saying the contractors are being unfair, what we’re doing is denying non-union workers the ability to compete for jobs by offering to work for less than the union’s demand.  If Joe is willing to do the job for $8.35, what’s unfair about hiring him at that price?  Are we to deny Joe a job because you say the price he's willing to accept for his labor is unfair?  Moreover, by hiring Joe at $8.35, the contractor is able to offer its services to building owners for less than if he was paying the union’s $10 rate, which benefits the building owners, and allows the contractor to be more competitive in seeking additional contracts.  If the building owner can hire the contractor at a lower rate, in can charge less in rent, which lowers the overhead for the firms officing in the building, and so on.

What’s unfair about that?

No, what’s unfair is this insistence that in the interest of what the Left decides in its infinite subjective judgment is “fair,” we deny willing buyers and sellers the ability to enter into voluntary transactions at prices they decide between themselves are mutually beneficial.  That’s how the marketplace works. 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  My apologies for those who are still seeing formatting issues on this site.  I continue to try to resolve the issue, and you'll see a number of recent posts have been deleted in my effort to correct the problem.  The issue is compounded by the fact that not all browsers see the error--I can't see it on my home laptop from which I create and post my articles--and that Google Blogger has no help line or service function other than a user chatroom.  Please hang in there with me and keep checking in.  If I can't resolve the issue soon, I will have to rebuild this site on other host, and I will post the new location here if that happens.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Me

Do you care about all the little things,
Or anything at all?
            —Thriving Ivory, Angels On The Moon

I’ve applied for a number of professional positions over the course of my career.  As to every single one, I had to submit a resume, the details of which were probed in interviews and third-party background checks.  My prospective employers, whether they were private law firms or publicly-held corporations, wanted to know what, exactly, my experience was and how it was relevant to the job.  They wanted to know where I went to school, what I studied, and how I did; for every one I had to provide access to my college and law school transcripts.

But never a tax return.  Not once.

No one would credibly attempt to deny that the office of President of the United States is a professional position.  With respect to the Presidency, long-gone are the days of the gentrified citizen-servant.  Too much is at stake, and frankly the position has evolved—unconstitutionally, in my view, but that’s a subject I’ve covered in any number of other posts—into one that wields far too much power to be left to amateurs.  We, the People, are the employers with respect to that position, which you may not have realized is the only nationally-elected office in the federal government.  And as the employers hiring someone to fill that position, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our fellow citizens to do our due diligence and ask those questions a rational employer would ask of the applicants presenting themselves for our consideration.

Well, for you on the Left, let me ask you:  What do you really know about the experience, qualifications, and background of candidate Barack Obama?

No, I’m not talking about birth certificates, or years lost in a cloud of pot smoke at Occidental or Columbia (although does it at least strike you as odd that he is the only Presidential candidate in modern history to hide his college records?).  But let me just bring a few items to your attention that you won’t find on CNN or in that dogeared and highlighted copy of Dreams From My Father you keep on your nightstand.

“Brilliant legal scholar” Obama’s name has never appeared on a published an academic work.

Obama is frequently touted as the first black President of the Harvard Law Review (law reviews are periodicals published by law schools containing scholarly articles by academics, practitioners, and students discussing legal trends and issues).  That’s an accomplishment, but what do you make of the fact that he is the only President/Editor-in-Chief of that august publication never to publish a work in his own name?  In fact, despite heading the Harvard Law Review and then spending twelve years on the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School, Obama never published a single scholarly work.  Nothing.  I don't have a link here, because I can't demonstrate a negative.  Do your own research—you won’t find one.  Not that published academic work is necessarily a prerequisite for the Presidency, but the complete absence of any is more than strange for a man who was head of the most prestigious law school publication in the world, and who spent a dozen years in the publish-or-perish world of academia.

Obama did virtually no work as a lawyer in private practice.

Following law school, Obama was hired as a junior associate at the Chicago firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland.  Supposedly this grounds him with real world private sector experience, except the striking thing is it shows he essentially didn’t have any.  According to the firm, Obama billed a grand total of 3,723 hours over an eleven year span from 1993 to 2004 (most of that during his first four years).  To put this in perspective, full time for a junior associate is generally considered to be 1,900 to 2,000 hours per year (40 hours/week x 50 weeks = 2,000), and most firms tacitly expect, if not expressly require, something more like 2,100 to 2,200.  2,400 billable hours in a year is common.  3,000 is not unheard of.  What this means is Obama essentially worked about a year and a half over his eleven years in private practice.  Even assuming the entire 3,723 hours was billed during Obama’s first four years, that’s barely 900 billable hours a year; not even half time.  And remember, this is the sum total of his professional experience outside of academia and elected office.

Obama won his Senate seats by kicking his opponents off the ballot or embarrassing them into dropping from the race.

In 1996, Obama launched his political career by running for the Illinois state senate.  He won the Democratic nomination by getting every one of his opponents kicked off the ballot.  In 2004 he ran for the U.S. Senate, and the campaigns of both his Democratic primary challenger and his Republican opponent unraveled when their divorce cases were magically unsealed and unsavory details leaked.   See Ben Wallis Wells, "Obama's Narrator," New York Times, April 1, 2007, and Editorial: "Why the Tribune Went to Court," Chicago Tribune, June 25, 2004.  


Obama tried to bribe Jeremiah Wright to shut up.

Fast forward to the 2008 campaign, and you’ll recall the uproar over the racist and anti-American comments littered throughout the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright—the man Obama claimed as his inspiration for The Audacity of Hope before he disavowed having ever heard Wright say any of those things despite sitting in Wright’s pews for 20 years.  It has now surfaced—from the mouth of Reverend Wright himself—that Obama twice offered him a $150,000 bribe to stop making public appearances until after the 2008 election.  According to Wright, Obama told him “[y]ou know what your problem is?  You have to tell the truth.”

Problem, indeed.

Those of you who’ve been caught up in the hype—did you know these things?  Now that you do, do you care?

The fact of the matter is this man had done absolutely nothing of substance prior to being elected President.  He had never managed anything.  He had never been accountable for anything.  He had never had to produce a result.  As a lawyer he barely practiced law.  As a professor he barely taught, and generated no scholarship.  He won his elected offices not on his merits but by eliminating his competition, and even then he was more likely to vote “present” than to take a substantive position on meaningful legislation.  His only accomplishment of any note was to publish a book—about himself—and even that has proven to be more of an ideological work of semi-fiction than a factual autobiography.  When real details of his life started to cause him political problems, he tried to bribe his pastor to cover them up. 

It’s little wonder, then, that when placed in charge of the whole enchilada, this man with no real-world expertise at anything has been a disorganized, amateurish flop (his official website says “It’s still about hope”—it has to be, because it can’t be about “happening”).  The economy remains in flatline, yet he continues spending money we don’t have and accumulating debt at a pace and levels never before seen in the history of mankind.  Banana republic dictators thumb their nose at him.  He drops his pants in negotiations with the Russians.  He spends billions on unproven startup companies run by his major donors that have become an almost comic series of bankruptcies.  Nothing he does works, and all we get from him are excuses.  Bush.  Europe.  ATMs and banks.  “Wall Street” (whatever that is).  Speculators. Oil companies.  Tsunamis.  Congress (despite his party holding a super-majority in both houses for his first two years).  Warren Buffet’s secretary.  We’re 90% through his term, and still nothing’s his fault, and nothing’s his responsibility.  At what point does he actually become accountable?

I can forgive you for being blinded by the aura once.  But now that you know these things, and now that you’ve seen this man can’t swim in the deep end of the pool, are you really going to throw him back out there with the rest of us chained to him while he sinks?

EDITOR'S NOTE:  My apologies to those of you for whom Monday's post on The Middleman Always Has Price fouled the formatting of the site.  Apparently something was corrupted in the post text, and I have no idea what.  I have removed that post, and hopefully that will resolve the formatting problem.  I will repost that piece later if we see that the problem has been corrected.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

Inigo:  I am waiting for you, Vizzini.  You told me to go back to the beginning, so I have.  This is where I am, and this is where I will stay.  I will not be moved.
Brute: Ho there!
Inigo:  I do not budge.  Keep your “Ho there!”
Brute: The Prince gave orders.
Inigo:  So did Vizzini.  When the job went wrong you went back to the beginning.  Well, this is where we got the job, so it’s the beginning.  And I am staying ‘till Vizzini comes.        
            —Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, and Paul Badger as the Brute in The Princess Bride

One of the great lessons of golf is that you must learn to play the ball where it lies, however bad a position that may be, and however unfair the circumstances under which it came to be there.  Denial and panic are counter-productive.  Sometimes you have to accept bogey, chip back into the fairway, and try to make it up on the next hole.

Obamacare has passed Congress and been upheld by the Supreme Court.  Rightly or wrongly, that’s where the ball now lies.  The question we must focus on now is:  What do we do about it?

A number of possibilities come to mind.

Two are already more or less in progress.  The obvious option of repeal by the Congress is front burner, but until 2013—and then only if the GOP gains at a minimum a decisive majority in the Senate, which is unlikely—it is nothing more than moot political theater, because at present a repeal bill can’t see the light of day in Harry Reid’s Senate, and would inevitably be vetoed by the White House.  Slightly less obvious is simple defiance at the State level, where GOP governors in several States are telling the federal government “no,” and simply refusing to implement the law.  John Roberts has made his ruling; now let him enforce it.  This won’t stop Obamacare, as the feds will take over, but it will slow it down.  Neither option has much promise of actually correcting the problem any time soon.

You could try to pack the Court if Romney wins the White House.  Nothing in the Constitution fixes the size of the Court at nine justices.  Congress—presumably and historically, but the Constitution is actually silent on this point—has the power to change the number of Supreme Court justices.  But this would still leave Obamacare on the books.

I’ve heard some talk about a process called “nullification.”  The idea is that because the Constitution is a compact between the States as sovereign entities—and thus the federal government is a creation of the States, they retain an inherent power to un-do acts of the federal government.  While I generally agree in theory with the concept, the problem is it isn’t expressly found in the Constitution, and there is a wealth of Supreme Court precedent (incorrectly, in my judgment) rejecting its underlying premise.  Given what we’ve now seen from the Roberts Court in its current composition, I have no confidence you would ultimately get anywhere with an attempt at nullification.  Further, you can be sure that the Obama administration would ignore nullification by executive order anyway.

The more basic problem with any of these options is they don’t address the real disease, which is that our Constitution itself has become perverted in its application beyond recognition.  Several years ago my orthopedic surgeon told me, when we had run out of lesser treatment options for my knee, that “mechanical problems require mechanical solutions.”  While it shouldn’t have been necessary, all three branches of the Beast have so broken the original language of the Constitution that it’s going to require fixes to that language itself to heal the damage. 

To that end, let me offer some suggestions.  We can call it the “Bill of Clarification.”

Article XXVIII (eliminating the “general welfare clause,” which was a statement of purpose and never intended to confer power)

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States is amended to read as follows:  “We the People of the United States do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  All other language in the Preamble is deleted.

Article XXIX (clarifying that when we said enumerated powers, we meant it)

Section 1.  The Constitution of the United States is to be interpreted and applied according to the plain meaning of the language actually written. 
Section 2.  Congress has no powers, rights, or authority beyond those expressly granted in the Constitution of the United States, and any powers, rights, and authority not expressly granted to the Congress therein are expressly denied to Congress.    
Section 3.  The President has no powers, rights, or authority beyond those expressly granted in the Constitution of the United States, and any powers, rights, and authority not expressly granted to the President therein are expressly denied to the President. 

Article XXX (limiting what Congress can do)

Section 1.  Every Bill passed by the Congress must include a citation to the provision or provisions of this Constitution of the United States conferring upon the Congress the authority to enact it.  This citation must be specific and limited to the actual authorizing provision or provisions; a blanket quotation of this Constitution as a whole or of an Article substantially in its entirety is not sufficient, and will render the Bill void.  No Court, Federal or State, may uphold the constitutionality of any Bill on any basis other than that articulated by the Congress in the Bill.
Section 2.  Congress may not appropriate or authorize the spending of money for any calendar year in excess of actual revenues for the same period, nor levy taxes totaling in the aggregate in any calendar year more than 25% of Gross Domestic Product for that year.  Not more than once every fourteen years Congress may, by a vote two-thirds of each House, suspend the application of this Section 2 for a period not to exceed four years.
Section 3.  The power of the Congress to regulate commerce among the several States is limited to preventing individual State commercial policies creating distinctions, preferences, or exclusions affecting the flow of goods or services between the States; this power does not extend to private transactions within a single State, nor may the Congress compel any person to engage in any commercial transaction.  The power of the Congress to lay and collect Taxes is limited to excise taxes on transactions, direct capitations apportioned among the States in proportion to the Census, and taxes on incomes; Congress is not authorized to lay or collect any other Tax.
Section 4.  Congress may not pass any Bill containing provisions not reasonably related to the purpose of the Bill, nor any Bill to any part of which the members of Congress are exempt by virtue of their office.
Section 5.  The veto power of the President may extend to all or any part of a Bill.

Article XXXI (term limits, and restoring the Senate to the States)

Section 1.  No person may be elected to the House of Representatives more than four times, and no person who has held the office of Representative for more than six months of a term to which another person was elected Representative may be elected to the House of Representatives more than three times.  No person may be elected to the Senate more than twice, and no person who has held the office of Senator for more than three years of a term to which some other person was elected Senator may be elected to the Senate more than once. 
Section 2.  The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 3.   The Supreme Court of the United States consists of nine Justices, divided into three classes of three.  The term of the first Class, comprised of the three Justices with the longest term of service on the Court at the time this Article is adopted, expires at the end of the third year after the adoption of this Article.  The term of the second Class, comprised of the three Justices with the second-longest term of service, expires at the end of the sixth year after the adoption of this Article.  The term of the third Class, comprised of the three Justices with the shortest term of service, expires at the end of the ninth year after the adoption of this Article.  No person may serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court for more than nine years, except that a person appointed to replace a Justice prior to the expiration of a term may serve out the existing term and then be re-appointed and confirmed as provided in Article III of this Constitution of the United States for a term not to exceed nine years.
Section 4.  No person may serve as a Judge on any inferior Courts established by Congress for more than a combined twelve years.

Article V provides two mechanisms to make this happen.  One is by two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress.  I have no illusions that that’s going to happen in our lifetime.  The other is by convention called by the legislatures of two thirds of the states.  This Constitutional Convention route is the only means by which we can realistically hope to mend the damage done to the text of our Constitution.  Even then we’re only as healed as the Beast’s willingness to stay within the letter as written.  If Amendment fails to constrain the Beast, there aren’t but a couple of alternatives left.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

“And why, I ask myself, why have I put up with you?  I can't imagine, but now I know.  Fear.  Yellow freakin' fear.  I've been too chicken shit afraid to live my life so I sold it to you for three hundred freakin' dollars a week!”
            —Tom Hanks as Joe Banks in Joe Versus The Volcano

This morning my youngest was working on a word search puzzle titled “4th of July Word Find.”  And as I looked at that and pondered it it occurred to me that there was something significantly wrong with that title.  So I took it from her, borrowed her pencil, and I replaced “4th of July” with “Independence Day.”  She looked at me with a quizzical face and said, “Daddy, those are the same thing.”

No, they’re not.  And the distinction is huge.

“4th of July” is a date on the calendar, like any other date except that it is a federal holiday and the banks and post office are closed.  We mark it with fireworks and beer, but it could just as easily be the 2nd of July, the 15th of March, or the 28th of February.  It’s an arbitrary point in time as we reckon and count it.

“Independence Day” is an idea, and it is that idea that we honor and celebrate on that fourth day in the month of July.  And unfortunately as time passes that idea is becoming an ever fainter image of its former self.

We place Independence Day on July 4 because that is the day our Declaration of Independence was formally adopted by the Continental Congress.  But although the document was adopted and signed on the 4th, the actual separation from Britain was accomplished by the adoption of a resolution of independence two days earlier.  The Declaration itself formalized and explained the reasoning behind what the Continental Congress had in fact already done.

So what is this idea we celebrate with Independence Day?  Jefferson very eloquently laid it out in his opening of the Declaration (which everyone should read periodically—it’s not long, and it’s not a difficult read):  

“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.”

We rightly tend to focus on Jefferson’s statement of our “self-evident” freedoms of Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.  But in so doing we lose sight of the fundamental point of the document, which is that government exists solely by virtue of what power the governed willingly give it, and when that government goes beyond its proper authority the governed have the right to terminate that government and start over:

“[W]henever 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[.]”

In other words, when government gets too big for its britches, the people always have the right to kick it out.  That is what the Founders were doing with the Declaration: terminating their relationship with and subordination to a government that had gone too far out of control.

If you read the Declaration it is clear that the Founders intended an extremely limited role for government.  Its sole function was to secure our fundamental rights to live, have our private property (i.e. the fruit of our labor) protected, and to be able to pursue our interests without interference from government or others.  That is, Government was to preserve an orderly society in which people would be free to go about their business and live their lives without having to worry about someone else killing them, taking their stuff, or getting in the way.  Nothing more.  That’s what liberty and freedom were.

Part of the price of that liberty and freedom is responsibility.  You are free to live your life, but you have to take care of yourself and your family.  You have to provide for your own needs, make your own provisions for medical care, save for your own old age, etc.  Freedom includes the ability to go as far as your talent, labor, and interest will take you, but with that necessarily includes the possibility of failure.  The Founders never intended for government to give you your life, only to protect your ability to do with it what you will.

The problem is over the last hundred years or so, politicians discovered that people like it when government gives them stuff, so they’ve increasingly introduced programs and policies that, under the guise of helping you, have institutionalized themselves as a permanent ruling class.  We’re so afraid of failure that instead of living our lives ourselves, we’ve become dependent on government to do things for us.  But it can only do that by taking what it gives away from someone else, and/or by in the process acquiring a little more power by taking a little more of your freedom to live your life on your own.  Liberty is thus incrementally lost to government creep until one day we find there is none left and the Beast has slowly but ever so surely swallowed us whole.

Today we celebrate our Independence Day, when our Fathers exercised their God-given natural right to throw off the shackles of a government that had gone too far out of its proper bounds.  It was a bold and even dangerous action, defying a sovereign backed by the most powerful military on the planet.  A quotation often attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration goes, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  He may or may not have said that, but the Founders were undoubtedly aware that they were literally risking everything they had for the cause of being rid of tyranny. 

If we do not learn from their example, if we do not stand up and resist a government that no longer confines itself to its appropriate role, we soon may find that Independence Day has become nothing more than the 4th of July.