Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Day, Another Assualt on the 2nd Amendment

This article from CNN has to be some of the most biased reporting I've read... all day, anyway.

I think the biggest problem I have with it, is the obvious appeal to emotion over logic- that because we know, in hind-sight, that the person killed was unarmed and likely not really a danger to the shooter, we should believe that he knew that at the time.  CNN should be ashamed of its use of the emotional pain of a family to promote its leftist, anti-self-defense agenda.  The further prejudiciary summation of the Trayvon Martin case just makes it worse: as those George Zimmerman should also have known, at the time, that Trayvon was unarmed.  Despite Zimmerman himself being quite familiar with how easy it is to conceal a weapon.

So while I grieve for the family who lost a child; a brother, I also grieve for the family who is now basically under siege from left-leaning "journalists" like those at CNN who believe they should have no right to self defense.  I grieve for us as Americans for having to defend that right from the likes of CNN and the talking heads they choose to push their agenda.  I grieve for liberty, and justice as both are mocked by the left and twisted into something they are not.

The Growing Police State - Interior Edition

H/T Drudge Report

From Iraq and Afghanistan, to the US/Mexico Border, to the London Olympics, we are slowly being desensitized to the ubiquitous "drone," or "UAV."  For all the good of which they're capable, they are also available for much mischief, as described by this article.

So now, beyond National Defense, or specific surveillance of major events, States, counties, and even municipalities are trying to get in on the act.  They claim the additional surveillance is for the good of the people, and allows them to project a presence farther with less man-power. 

And, indeed, that's true.  The question, though, is whether that's good.  Every day, it seems, the police have more effective means to snoop on citizens.  From infra-red cameras to find "grow houses" and meth labs, to red-light cameras to catch traffic violations, it seems that fewer and fewer police are needed to do the work of keeping the public in line.

Wait.  Did I just say that?  Why, yes, yes I did.  The fact is that so many of our laws are more about keeping the public in line, and assuring our compliance, rather than promote the peace and protect us from actual criminals.  Look into any city's pet ordinances, and you'll likely find a mishmash of leash laws, leash-zone/no-leash-zones, and downright contradictory statues on how stray animals are to be handled.  Look into their trash collection policies (trash collection!) and you'll find all sorts of rules about what can be left on the curb, what has to be taken for special processing, what can't be picked up at all, and so forth.

One cannot pretend that these laws help the public order at all.  Not seriously, at any rate.  If there are certain behaviors which threaten public peace and order, then those should be addressed, but this continuous litany of statutes- often contradictory- does nothing other than make people unsure of the law.  Indeed, there are those who suggest that such confusion is part of the point- a populace unsure of the law is actually easier to control.

This is where I normally say "Contact your congressman."  But that won't work here- instead, flood your city councils.  Make known that you want nothing to do with an ever-increasing police state where citizens are constantly under surveillance simply because someone, somewhere, might be committing a crime.

On Doing Right and Doing Wrong

Just the other day, my son hurt his little sister.  They were playing in his room; he was bouncing off the walls, and she was sitting playing with one of his toys.  Everything was great.  Suddenly, she started crying in that "ouch, why did you just hit me?" cry.  So I walked into the room and the first thing my son said was, "I didn't mean to!"

My five year old is a liberal.  Now, that's to be expected; he's too young to fully comprehend the facts of life, though we're teaching him as quickly as he'll learn.  The fact is though, he believes money comes from Mom and Dad (we're working on that), he believes that his intent matters more than the results of his actions (we're working on that, too), and he believes that everything should be "fair," (yep, we're working on that, too).  He's a Liberal.

So I explained to him that it didn't matter that he "didn't mean to," it mattered that he he had hurt his sister.  I think it's time for us to address the fact that this how liberals view right and wrong.  To them, there is only one factor in whether your actions were good or not- your intent.  If your motives are pure, they'll claim, then the results are secondary, at most.  If you want to end poverty, but your actions increase it... well, that doesn't matter because you meant well.  If a formerly fairly Westernized society (Egypt) starts moving quickly to becoming an Islamist state, well, that's okay because our support of their rebellion was well meaning.  And so it goes.

However, Conservatives believe there are two factors to consider.  Motive is one of them, yes.  The other is the result.  Consider this:


If your Motive is good, but the results bad, you have done a bad thing.  If your motive is bad, but your results good- you've still done a bad thing, or, at least, you shouldn't be credited with the good results.  If your motive is bad and the results are bad, you've done a bad thing.  Only if both your motive and your results are good have you done a good thing.

This is why Conservatives are not merely "Results Oriented."  We're perfectly willing to use people's bad motives to a good result, because we're realists and realize that most people are at least a little bit selfish.  Denying that helps no one.  However, we don't believe that someone acting on a bad motive deserves any particular credit for the good that arises.  Similarly, we don't believe that people who act with disastrous results should be lauded for their high motives.

In the end, this means that doing good is much, much harder than doing wrong.  It requires deliberative thought and planning.  It's no good to say you want to end poverty, if your policies simply increase it and/or have other bad side effects.  You must plan your policy in such a way that you achieve the planned result.

This is but one more reason Conservatives oppose so many Liberal policies.  It's not because we necessarily have different motives, but that we put equal emphasis on motivation and result.  Only when both are good has laudable action occurred.  Policy must reflect this paradigm, and must be crafted accordingly.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Brave Brave Brave Sir Issa

So, CBS and the LA Times came out with a story earlier today about the House Republicans, led by Darell Issa and John Boehner, finally charging Eric Holder in contempt for refusal to cooperate with the investigation it Operation Fast and Furious (Watergate didn't have a body count).  And there was much rejoicing.

Then comes this article from the Daily Caller.  Never to be out weenied, the House Republicans want to be known that they are not planning to file any Contempt Charges against the Attorney General.

Excuse me, gentlemen, whose side are you on?  Because I'm pretty sure the family of Brian Terry, the Border Patrol agent murdered by those wielding guns obtained through Fast and Furious, are getting a little tired of waiting.  I know I am.  The Federal Government not only allowed guns to be sold to known gun runners, but subsidized them because it was cheaper to buy them on the black market than from legitimate gun dealers.

I'm not even sure why Barack Obama hasn't already been impeached, but this apparent reluctance to do anything of substance is most off-putting.  Either admit you'll never do anything about it, stop wasting your time, and allow us to replace you with people who will, or do so something about it.

And, until then, I give you the House Republicans' theme song.

Tyrant: Obama Targets Private Citizens

H/T Pat Dollard.

In the Wall Street Journal, Kim Strassel has an article about Barack Obama singling out some large Romney Donors and slandering them. 

This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few" have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the expense of so many Americans."
Strassel puts the dog in the soup (if I may) when she says that " Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats."

Now, anyone familiar with the reputation of Chicago Politics, and Mr. Obama's political career specifically, are hardly surprised to find his campaign using such tactics.  Indeed, compared to having divorce records unsealed (probably illegally) this is positively tame- except that when he was doing that it was for a Senate Seat (first in the IL senate, then to the US Senate) and Senators, while powerful, hold nothing like the power of the President of the United States.

This targeting of private citizens for participating in Constitutionally protected free speech, with which he happens to disagree and of which he happens to disapprove, should be disturbing to say the least.  And it must not be allowed to continue.

In November we have a choice between Mitt Romney (of whom I'm not a huge fan, just read this site and you'll see) or the SCOAMT.  There are those who claim "there's not a dollar's worth of difference," between the two.  To them I ask: do you really believe that Mitt Romney would target private citizens for supporting his opponent?  I do not believe that there is no difference between the two.  I may not trust Romney to be the small government conservative that I believe Rick Perry would have been, but I do trust him to try to reign in government to some extent.  More important, though, is that I trust Mitt Romney's character, which is something I cannot say about President Obama.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Growing Police State - Republican Edition

Here.  Go take a look at this.  I'll wait.

Here we have Republicans, thinking they're working for the good of the country, I'm sure, who are, in fact, just providing yet another way for the Federal Government to track its citizenry.  This should not be allowed to stand.

Call your Representative and tell them to vote 'NO' on HR3523.

I do not wish to live in a state, the motto of which could be "The Innocent Have Nothing to Hide."  I want to live in a state the motto of which is, "We have to be pretty sure you've committed, or are going to commit, a crime before we can even ask what color your hair is."

"Secure in their persons and papers," anyone?  Have any of these people even read the Constitution?

When even the so-called 'Conservative' party abandons the Constitution for their agenda, what are we supposed to do?

No.  Really, if somebody has a good answer, I'd love to hear it, because I'm running out of ideas.

Update: It passed the House.  Now on to the Senate.  Please, call your Senators and oppose HR3523.

The Growing Police State

What. The. Ever-loving. F*ck.

It appears that the Federal Government, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to create "Environmental Justice Teams," for the purpose of "avoid[ing] placing disproportionately high and adverse effects on
the human health and environment of minority or low-income populations."

Yes, folks, you read that right.  If you're a member of "minority or low-income populations," you now get special treatment from the government protecting you from those big bad companies who want to give you jobs.  And not by the EPA, oh no- they're too mamby pamby.  Why, since they don't even have their own SWAT Teams, they're not even as tough as the Department of Education.  No, we have to involve the Department of Orwellian Nightmare, er, Homeland Security.

The same people who brought you the TSA strip-searching a 4 year old girl, now want to get involved in "environmental justice."

Go read that whole thing.  It's a disgusting example of government over-reach and bureaucratic bloat.  And our so-called "Representatives" have, thus far, proposed nothing to stop it.

It's time for the States to stand up.  Please, Governors and State Legislatures: for the good of the People and for our continued liberty, please re-assert your authority.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

God Save us from these do-gooders

The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - CS Lewis
Go read that link, then come back.

Done?  Okay.

This is example number I'm-not-bothering-to-count-anymore of why the Federal Government should stick to things that truly concern it, as defined by the Constitution.  Assuming there were a rash of horrible farming accidents involving children, wouldn't it be better for the States to address any concerns?  If nothing else, a State can customize its laws to fit its needs.  A heavy handed, top down Federal "solution" is worse than no solution at all.

Specifically, the Family Farm is one of the core institutions of the United States.  While I did not grow up on one, I had friends in school who did, and my mother, her sister, and their parents did.  Preventing children from working on the farm is terrible for a variety of reasons.  Among those (list not all-inclusive) are the fact that labor will have to be replaced somehow, so prices will go up correspondingly, and the fact small family farmers really can't afford to pay the wages that the large corporate farms can- which will further harm family farms in general.

This is government over-reach pure and simple.  The Federal Government has no mandate or authority to tell parents what they may or may not have their children do.  And yet, here they go again.

Not that I'm surprised.  The first priority of any bureaucracy is its own survival, and its second priority is its expansion.  This is even more true for government bureaucracies, because they are under constant scrutiny by tax-payers who really don't want to pay as much in taxes as they are.

What further does not surprise me, but does anger me, is that, once again, the States are simply allowing this to happen.  The Federal Government is going to overstep its bounds.  The Founders knew that in the beginning of the Republic.  That's why they created the 9th and 10th Amendments, and why they created the Senate as the Voice of the States, where the House of Representatives was the Voice of the People.

The States must begin protecting us from this kind of over-reach.  They must begin reclaiming their authority as Sovereign within their own borders. 

There is some talk of "Nullification" laws or amendments.  Basically, these would be laws or amendments whereby the States reclaim their Sovereignty and block the implementation of these rules and regulations, in addition to laws they view as unconstitutional, within their own borders.  I have been reluctant to endorse these proposals, as they seem problematic to implement in fact.  However, I do believe that, failing an Amendment returning control of the Senate to the States, there may be no other option: the States simply must be Sovereign within their own borders for the Republic to function properly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

These Are the People who will be in charge of your Health Care

Via Fox News: A 60 year old post card finally gets delivered.  To the wrong house.  In the wrong State.

Now, the story itself is a feel-good "ahhhh" kind of story.  A little kid's parents send him a post card which got lost in the mail.  It gets delivered some 60 years later, and the current resident of the home tracks down the intended recipient.  Feel good all around, right?  Except, in this case, the post card gets delivered to a house at the wrong address in the wrong State.


Really, USPS?  Sixty some years later, and you can't even double check to make sure you're in the correct State?

And it is exactly this level of competence that Barack Obama (noted stuttering clusterf*ck of a miserable tyrant), Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi foisted on you in 2009. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Obama Refuses to Address Integrity Concerns Regarding Major Donation Bundler

Corruption In the White House (You're shocked, I know)

 On April 20th, I became aware that Jon Corzine, former New Jersey Governor, Ex-CEO of MF Global, and probable embezzler, is still a major donation bundler for Barack Obama. Now, it should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway- if any Republican had someone of such terrible credentials (how deep in debt was NJ when he left?, What happened to MF Global?) as a campaign bundler, that Republican would be pilloried until they returned the cash and discontinued accepting donations from that source. And it would be right to do so, because such corruption has no place in the United States.

However, the Obama camp seems incredibly disinterested in the appearance of corruption here. The question of whether Jon Corzine embezzled money from MF Global is largely trivial, even if it is not proved in court yet- nor will it be considering the "you-scratch-my-back-I-won't-prosecute-you" nature of the current Department of Justice. However, when you consider his pedigree (if it can be called such) it should be worrying on its face that such a man is working as a campaign bundler for anyone. He left New Jersey so deep in debt that they could see no way out except to elect a Republican (something virtually unheard of in New Jersey). He oversaw the sudden and catastrophic collapse of a major international investment firm- MF Global. These are not resume enhancers, except in the Democrat party.

So, considering the administration's promises of transparency, I decided that they should be allowed to give a defense of the decision to accept these donations. So, not having a phone number I could call, I decided to go to twitter and ask several questions. All of these questions went to three different twitter accounts: @BarackObama, @DavidAxelrod, and @TruthTeam2012. The questions were these:

1) Why is Jon Corzine, disgraced Ex-MF Global CEO Still bundling for Barack Obama?
2) Does Barack Obama think it is appropriate to accept funds for someone responsible for such a collapse.
3) If he does not think it appropriate, will he return the funds?
4) If he will not return the funds, will he at least try to get it back to MF Global's secured creditors?
5) If not, why not?

I asked these questions on April the 20th. As of Monday, April the 23rd I still have not had a response (stunning, right?). So I am forced into the following conclusion: Barack Obama does not think that it is inappropriate to accept funds raised by Jon Corzine, who has succeeded in running the objects of not one, but two chief executive positions into the ground. At least one of those should be heavily investigated, and probably prosecuted, by the Department of Justice- something which is not even being considered, let alone actually done.

Remember that this is the same Barack Obama who promised- promised- to end the "culture of corruption" of the Bush years, and to have the "most transparent administration ever." We were supposed to be able to hold our heads high again. Instead we get cronyism and corruption.

Mr. Obama, it's not too late. You can still return those funds.

Obama Ate a Freaking Dog. Yes. This matters.

Last week there was much ado about the fact that Barack Obama seems to have bragged, in Dreams from My Father, about having been "introduced to dog..." The main point of this was to blunt the rather ridiculus story about Mitt Romney strapping his dog, Seamus (while in his carrier) to the top of the Romney's station wagon on some vacation over 30 years ago. "Romney strapped his dog to his roof!" "Yeah? Well, Obama ate a freaking dog." See how that worked?

The thing is, we on the conservative side saw neither as anything more than distractions. Democrats pushing the Seamus story were trying to distract from the fact that Barack Obama is a stuttering clusterf*ck of a miserable failure, and Republicans were simply responding in a "tit for tat" "two can play at that game" sort of way. Then something unexpected happened- the Democrats absolutely burst into flames. They were frothing at the metaphorical mouth. They acted like someone had kicked (eaten?) their dog. It was incredibly strange.

So I've given it some thought and I understand, now, why this is important. Why it's important to them and why it should be important to us. I understand, I think, what caused them so to panic. There, as best I can figure out, three reasons.

The first is simple, and even trivial. Democrats are not used to losing a battle over "The Narrative," and so do not react well to so losing. The very fact that Seamus fell to the wayside as jokes about Obama eating dog ("Don't taste me, bro!") were flying furiously was so unreal to them, that they had to lash out. We hate what we fear.

The second reason is slighly more complex, but stems from the first. They were expecting this campaign to be a repeat, in many respects, of 2008. Romney scared Conservatives as being too squishy and ready to "reach across the aisle." Why should this have been any different than John McCain? I was certainly one of those Conservatives concerned that we hadn't learned the lessons of 2008. Both Democrats and those like me were surprised to find out we were wrong. The Romney camp is more than happy to let the claws out, metaphorically speaking, against the Democrats. On the Conservative side this is a reason for joy; on the Democrat side it is a cause to readjust their thinking and strategy- unfortunately there aren't many strategies available to you when the incumbent you're supporting has added more debt than all 43 previous presidents combined, is overseeing chronically high (8%+) Unemployment, has seen the price of gas more than double, and overseen some of the bigest foreign policy disasters in US History.

Which brings us to the third reason. The 2008 campaign was based on roughly two things- Barack Obama as "The One" to rehabilitate America's image abroad, and the war weariness of America laid solidy on John McCain's shoulders. The fact that John McCain ran a terrible campaign certainly didn't help, either. In that campaign, the nation was sold a bill of goods like this: Barack Obama is a world traveller. He grew up outside the US and in a bi-racial family. He's suave and cosmopolitan. And never once did anyone stop to ask, "But is he American?"

I do not, here, mean anything about his place of birth or validity for the office of the President of the United States. I don't mean American in birth or by technical definition. I mean: is he American in his Soul? That question was never asked in 2008, never contemplated. People who tried to bring it up were ignored, if possible, ridiculed if not, and piloried if ridicule did not work. Any question of, "Does he understand us?" was called Racist and ignorant.

Now, however, we have more than three years of evidence suggesting that those who asked those questions in 2008 had a good point. From bowing to Foreign Leaders (Americans bow to no one, and we follow the "sit/stand" customs of England only to humor them), to attempting to equate warm feelings for one's country with believing it is "exceptional" (America is objectively "exceptional" in almost every respect- regardless of what the British or Greeks believe about their own countries), to his domestic tax and spend policies, to the way he runs the government. It is becoming clear that he does not believe, not down in his soul where it matters, in the things that make America great. And if he does not believe in them, how can he lead those who do? How can he help us continue to be that "Shining City on a Hill?"

Added: My apologies for not getting this up in time.  Apparently my computer doesn't always like blogger, and will schedule the post without actually, you know, posting.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Compare and Contrast

Mitt Romney strapped his dog (in it's car carrier) to the top of his car proximately 30 years ago.
Barack Obama ate a freaking dog.

Mitt Romney poked unknowing fun at a local bakery.
Barack Obama ate a freaking dog.

A little trip through our National Debt

Not going to post it here, so I can spread some traffic love.  Hit Backwards Boy or Ace (both perma-linked in my side bar) to view it.

And then share it with your friends.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Papers, Please

"He who would sacrifice freedom for a little security deserves neither" -Ben Franklin (attrib)
"Never give up your freedom." -Larry Niven

In recent days, a couple of very disturbing things on the Liberty front have happened, almost without note.

First is this little nugget of a press release.  For those who don't want to click over, the Houston METRO service (along with Houston PD, Harris County Sheriffs, and the TSA) have decided that merely riding on a bus is behavior sufficiently suspicious that uniformed and plain clothes officers should be riding the buses looking for "latent criminal activity."

Second is this precious gem of a 4th Amendment violation from no less than your US Senate (Yes, that's Infowars, but they link to the specific legislation, don't worry).  For those who don't want to click over to that one, starting with the 2015 model year (that would be 2014, for the record) all passenger motor vehicles must have a recording device (like an airplane's 'black box').

Now, what I want to point out about both of these instances is that they're couched so reasonably.  See how seductive the siren's song is.  "It's for your safety."  "The information will remain private."  Ultimately, these come down to the Government saying "Trust us, we know what's best for you."

These are only two examples of a creeping tyrannical state that has been on the rise since at least the late 1930s.  As the Federal Government has seized more control over what should be State and Local functions, the States and Cities have been seizing more control over your personal habits.  As the Federal Government sees the States taking control of things, they, in turn, take control of those things.  It's a never-ending, vicious cycle.  And for decades we've just accepted it.

Well, we shouldn't accept it.  We shouldn't trust the Government- the government has proven too untrustworthy.  From TSA screeners patting down small children, to the Secret Service debauching it up while on assignment with the President, to the State Department illegally extending aid to Egypt.  Obviously the Government does not believe it is accountable for its actions, so what security do we have against it?

It is time for Americans to stand up for our Freedoms and let the Government know that we'll take care of our own personal security.  We don't need Big Sis to watch out for us.  We don't need a police state that has enough manpower to make sure there is a police officer on every bus or train.  We don't want our movements recorded "just in case."  We're big boys and girls, and we can be responsible for ourselves.

To our Senators and Congressmen (especially those from Texas, of whom I am a constituent), I call on you to reject these over-reaches of Governmental authority.  Reduce government and give me back my freedom.  Or it won't be too long before the phrase "Papers, please" will be a common command to US Citizens.

For the rest of you- contact your Senators and Congressmen.  Contact your State and Local Governments.  This continuing overreach cannot stand.

(ht- commenter 'Vic' at the Ace of Spades HQ)

Please Be Patient

I'm researching for my next blog post, but it's taking longer than normal.

To tide you over, have some Mumford and Sons.

And check back for an actual post soon...

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Taxation

Taxation, gentlemen, is very much like dairy farming.  The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo. -Lord Havelock Vetinari, Jingo

With the last post on the Budget and Taxes, I breezed through some ideas which, in retrospect, I should have spent more time.  One blog post is not enough to cover all of them, and there are other subjects I will be addressing, but I will try to get back to them as I can.  The first of those is the false idea too many have that tax rate is somehow directly commensurate with tax receipts.

The idea seems to be that the higher a tax rate, the higher the government's income.  This is false, and has been proven so over and over again.  Whether from sales taxes, or income taxes, or tariffs, the government usually takes in less money when taxes increase and more money when taxes decrease.  An economist named Art Laffer was perhaps the most famous, in recent memory, to describe this phenomenon, and economists talk about it appending his name to the idea to which he gave voice: the Laffer Curve.

Laffer's idea was that the intersection of tax receipts and tax rates exists on a curve.  That at very high or very low rates, the government always receives a small amount of revenue, while somewhere in the middle taxes bring in the maximum amount of money.  As Lord Vetinari would say- they bring in the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo.

Democrats, however, seem to believe that taxation exists on a line.  They seem to believe that as the tax rate goes higher, the amount the treasury receives also climbs.  This is despite several decades worth of evidence to the contrary.  Most recently, when George W Bush cut and consolidated tax rates in the early 2000's, revenues to the treasury soared.  "Record Revenue" was a phrased used more than once.

Yet Democrats' only answer to rising deficits, to "unfairness," and to a host of other ills- real or illusory- is to raise taxes.  They talk about tax cuts in terms of "cost to the government," as thought that money is the government's by right, and you're lucky they are letting you have any of it.  They talk of tax increases on the group of people already paying around 50% of the nation's total tax burden as "fair."

Granting them mere ignorance on the issue, that ignorance is inexcusable.  Yet they also seem determined to let us know that it is not mere ignorance.  Whenever they talk of raising taxes on specific items, like gasoline or cigarettes, or alcohol- the reason there is always the same: to help limit consumption. 

So, on excise or sales taxes, at least, they seem to understand that higher taxation modifies behavior.  Yet they claim not to know the exact same thing about taxes on income.  This is either the most stark example of cognitive dissonance in current practice, or deceit on a breathtaking scale.  Either they truly do not understand that my income is mine, and the government is taking some of it- in which case they view us all as servants of the government, or they do understand that, but would rather play demagogic games in order to exert more power and control.

In either case, they are not suited to wielding the knobs and levers of an area of such importance to normal families.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tenther on the Issues: Budget and Taxes

It seems like every year- let alone every election year- the linked questions of the Budget and Taxation come up.  Conservatives tend to favor reducing both, liberals tend to favor growing both, and a wide swath of the population seems to believe you can increase the budget but reduce net taxation.  So, in the second of my series: "Tenther on the Issues" we'll examine the Budget and Taxation from a Tenther's perspective.

First off, we have to address how we view the budget.  It seems that the government views a budget as "what we'd like to spend," instead of "what we can afford to spend."  No household or business could run that way- but government- with the power of Taxation- can do so with virtual impunity.  So the first thing is to reverse that trend.  Before we talk about whether the budget should shrink or grow, we have to define "budget."  And that definition must- in a sane world- be "what we can afford."  However, with the Federal Government able to tax citizens directly- as well as print money at will- "what we can afford" is "anything."  They just have to be willing to confiscate all private wealth and then inflate the currency to Weimar levels.  Something the current administration seems not to have too many compunctions against doing.

Having defined the budget as "what we can afford," we find the first problem, "we can afford anything."  So how do we address that?  Through a Conservative / Tenth Amendment lens, there is a single "pure" answer, and then there is the "practical" answer.

The Pure answer is to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments, return the right to appoint Senators to the State Legislatures, and remove the right to tax income from the Federal Government.  Giving Senatorial Appointment powers back to State Legislatures serves as a check on the Federal Government's power, and removing direct taxation from the Federal toolbox forces the Federal Government to live more within its means.  The Federal Government would then be forced to fund itself through tariffs and duties, as well as from the States instead of from the People.  This would force the Federal Government (well, okay, "strongly encourage") to realize it cannot, in fact, "afford anything."

The Practical answer is to accept the current system, and fight for deep, deep tax cuts.  A flat tax would be nice, but is politically impractical.  However, reducing the tax rate down to, say, 15% on top earners would go a long way to cutting into what the government actually takes in in a year.  This would allow wealth to stay where it belongs- in the private sector, to be distributed as those who earned it see fit.  This would still require a graduated (or "progressive") tax system, and the bottom earners would still pay no taxes.  Politically, there probably isn't much (yet) we can do about that.

However, this "Starve the Beast" strategy only works if two things happen.  First- the tax cuts have to be deep enough to push us back down the Laffer Curve far enough to negatively impact tax receipts.  Second- the budget has to be realistic and balanced.

That may be the hardest thing of all.  When the Federal Government focused on what it was supposed to focus on (mainly National Defense, from an expenditures standpoint) this wasn't a problem.  The current entitlement mentality, however, makes this a dicey political proposition, at best.  Special Interest groups from the Elderly to the professionally poor, from Energy Companies to Environmental Groups, all want their piece of the pie- and they're willing to pay with votes.  Worse, to our politicians, they'll threaten to have those votes withheld from any politician who does not kow-tow to their demands for ever increasing funding.

This must stop.  And the only way to stop is to embrace the Federalist paradigm established by the Constitution.  In those places where the Federal Government has no business, it must stop spending.  From Education to Farming, from Medical Research to Medical Care.  Every single one of these things should be cut.  To some extent, some of these things must continue for a time.  It would not only be impractical, but imprudent and inhumane just to cut off all Social Security payments and Medicare.  However, specific plans must be laid to end even these "Sacred Cow" programs.

Those who pay no taxes must stop being net tax consumers (that is- too many of them pay less than zero dollars in net taxes- they actually get subsidies).  Tax deductions must be streamlined and clearly defined.  What defines a "charity" must be reviewed, and those laws strictly enforced.  We cannot afford to continue to spend money on pet causes, however well intentioned those causes may be.

Once all of the spending the Federal Government shouldn't be doing is cut out, I believe we'll find that we have far more money than we thought.  Serious consideration can be given to paying off our debt- instead of merely servicing it.  True Federal Spending (predominately Defense and Government Operations spending) would actually be able to grow, probably at a furious rate.

All the while, the People would be more free, and would have more of their own money to direct toward causes important to them- from TVs for their own homes, to the SPCA or Scientific Funding.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tenther on the Issues: Voter Identification

Recently, several States have passed into law Photographic Identification requirements for voting.  Proponents claim that this is necessary as a step to prevent voter fraud.  Opponents claim that it is discrimination- as it is minorities and the poor who are least likely to have Photo ID?  So where should Conservatives stand on this issue?

Let's address the major claim of the opponents- is a picture ID requirement discriminatory?  That is, does it specifically discriminate against any group or groups of citizens, thereby disenfranchising them?  To answer that, we have to look at how likely it is for a given person to have a photo ID.  To do that, let's take a look at some things that require, at least nominally, picture identification.

Among the things that people- notably the "poor" and "minorities"- do on a daily basis that require picture ID: purchase paint, purchase antihistamines, purchase alcohol, purchase cigarettes, purchase a firearm, go to a movie with an 'R' rating, drive, and open a bank account.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it does show that we expect, and even require, that minorities and "poor" already to have picture id for many things.  So, either all of these activities are "classist" or "racist," or we should be able to dispose of that little canard as it regards Voter Id.  Obviously no one things that going to the movies is racist, nor do they thing purchasing cigarettes or driving are are discriminatory.

Now, let's take a look at the proponent's claims- would picture identification really prevent voter fraud?  Would it even help prevent voter fraud?  Or is it, instead, just an extra piece of "red tape" which will be irritating to those who wish to go vote?

It is well known that obtaining a fake photo ID is not terribly difficult.  Depending on the money you're willing to spend, they're either of quality so bad you can see them a mile away, or they might be so good that the police wouldn't be able to tell the difference without actually running the ID.  Given that poll workers are unlikely to have formal training in spotting fake IDs, it would seem this would destroy the arguments of Voter ID proponents.  However, it misses something very important: barrier to entry.  That is, any sufficiently determined crook is going to be able to circumvent any amount of security you have in place.  However, putting barriers in their way at least limits those who are not sufficiently determined.

As an example: a sufficiently determined burglar will get into your house.  I don't care if you lock your doors and windows, have a security alarm, and a guard dog: a sufficiently determined theif will find a way into your home.  However, what all of those things do is take care of the people who are not so determined- who vastly outnumber those who are so determined.  The same is true of vote fraud.  The number of people willing to cast an illegal vote, if there is no barrier to entry, is much higher than than the number who are truly determined to cast fraudulent votes.  So voter ID, like a locked door on a house, is a barrier to entry.

Now, considering it's modest benefit, is it worth the cost- both in time and money?  Well, monetarily there is virtually no cost.  As pointed out above, to do many things that people do on a regular basis, you are already required to have a picture ID, which means the vast majority of people will not need to expend one penny to comply with the law.  Time is a different matter: poll workers will be requried physically to view everyone's picture ID, and the ones who are dilligent will spend a little extra time to check for any obvious signs of forgery.  This will add to the time it takes to get a ballot when you arrive at your polling location.  How much time?  Well, if it takes an extra ten seconds (including the voter presenting the id, and the poll worker checking it) for each voter, then after 6 voters, you've waited an extra minute.  If there are 60 people in line, the last one will have waited an extra 10 minutes, and so on. 

I am unable to find statistics to show how many voters are at a polling location at once, but let's say there were 100 people in line to vote.  The first person has to wait 10 extra seconds.  The second person has to wait 20.  The third, 30.  The fourth, 40.  By the 100th person, that person has waited 1000 extra seconds.  A whoping 16 minutes and 40 seconds.  When people are just dribbling in a few at a time, the extra wait is hardly noticible.  So, early in the day, you probably wouldn't notice the extra wait.  On voting day, after work (say, between 5 & 7) you'd have a fair wait. 

Is it worth the time (2000 votes at a single pricinct would be a pretty high number, and you're likely to see much of that dribble in through the day, but let's go for broke here, and say at one time you might have 2000 people all standing in line to vote- so, 33 minutes) to wait to vote?  Well, here we get to another barrier of entry- some people who would be able to cast legitimate ballots will choose not to do so if they have to wait that long.  They're going to be busy with life, and they won't want to stand around and wait to cast a ballot.

For me, this another positive to a voter ID law.  As someone who believes you should be both informed and engaged regarding political matters, the fewer "meh" voters involved, the better.  Just because you have the right to vote, doesn't mean it's right for you to vote.  Just as with any other Right, there is the counterbalancing responsibility- in this case to be informed and engaged.  Voter ID will help weed out, not only those who wish to commit fraud, but those who wish to exercise their Right without regard to the counterbalancing responsibility.  On the other hand, someone who has spent some time learning about the issues, or who is truly motivated about a given election, will sit through 30+ minutes of waiting because their vote is that important to them.

So now we have our information: wait time will usually be minimal, and at a time where the pricinct is positively overwhelmed will be a noticible, and possibly inconvenient, amount of time.  There is little or no cost to implement the policy.  It will help weed out votes which are undesireable- either because they would be fraudulent, or because they would not be based on good information and forethought.  Weighing all of that together, Voter ID is, generally speaking, a good idea.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Sacrifice

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  There they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.  The chief priests of the Jews protested to pilated, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews."

Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Thus begins an account of the Loving Sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, written by his best friend, and the man to whom he would leave the honor and burden of caring for his mother- John the Apostle.

All of the Bible leads up to this moment.  Here, the Great Author of All has reached the climax of the story.  Our hero seems poised to lose it all.  What will happen next?  All made so much more dramatic by the almost clinical description of the occurrences.  From the time Adam and Eve ate of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, through the death and resurrection of the world itself in the flood.  From Joseph being thrown into a well and raised up again, to Moses leading the Israelites through the sea, and then the river.  Over and over this moment, this choice, is heralded through scripture.

Today, Christians around the world Celebrate the Passion of Christ- the Holy Sacrifice of the Unblemished Lamb of God.  Today we remember that it is His flesh which, just like the flesh of the animal sacrifices of the Jews, sanctifies us.  Today we remember that His Blood, instead of being painted over our sins like the sacrificial ceremonies of the Jews, instead is drunk- becoming a wellspring of life within us.  Today we mourn, even as we celebrate, that our Savior had to suffer such agonies, and that we were not- and are not- worthy of his loving sacrifice.

On Sunday- called Easter- we will celebrate his resurrection.  We will celebrate the New Life he gives us.  Today, Praise God for His Sacrifice.

God Bless you all this Easter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Defending our Liberty: Why Not SCOTUS?

Recently, President Obama decided to address the pending decision on ObamaCare from the Supreme Court.  It would be "unprecedented," he said, if the Court overturned the law that was passed by a "majority" (no, really?) of Congress and had received "Bi-partisan" support (I guess a single vote in committee is now "bi-partisan," good to know).  He seems to believe that the Courts should not have the power to declare laws Unconstitutional (I agree) because that power should rest with Congress and the President (I vehemently disagree).

Following this pronouncement, many Conservatives took this as a sign that the Supreme Court's preliminary decision had been leaked, and that the President was performing damage-control.  So jubilant were they about this, they forgot that Conservatives, too, believe that Supreme Court does not actually have the power to declare anything Unconstitutional.  Some of them even went so far as to say this is what the founders "intended."

Let's take a look at that, shall we?  Article III of the US Constitution establishes the Supreme Court of the United States.  Section 1 of Article III establishes the courts.  Section 2 grants its power.  It reads:

"The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; --to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; --to Controversies to which the United States shall be a party; --to Controversies between two or more States; --between a State and Citizens of another State; --between Citizens of different States; --between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grands of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens, or Subjects.

In All Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.  In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by law have directed."

Now, I'm not a legal scholar, but nothing in there gives the Supreme Court Jurisdiction over the Constitution.  The closest it gets is this clause, "...the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact..."  but does this mean the Court gets to decide what Laws shall stand, and which shall not?  The understanding at the time of Ratification was that it did not have that power.  The court could decide the Facts of a case (that is, they could overrule any previous Finding of Fact), and they could determine what the Law said about the facts as established.  They could not decide if the law itself was valid. 

So what did the Founders intend?  Well, they built checks and balances all across the system.  The House was supposed to check the Senate, the Senate the House, the President both Chambers, and each of the Chambers the President.  On top of that, the States themselves were supposed to be the arbiters of the Constitution.  By the time something got to the Supreme Court, it was supposed to have been so thoroughly vetted that there wasn't really a question of Constitutionality. 

Then, in Marbury v Madison, the Court unilaterally changed all of that- and the States, Congress, and President just let them.  They claimed a power not explicitly given to them by the Constitution- in direct contravention of the Tenth Amendment which states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  Since Constitutional Review was not "delegated to [the Court] by the Constitution," nor was it "prohibited by [the Constitution] to the States," Constitutional Review should have remained a power of the States.

So why not the Court?  I mean, they're the biggest brains in the land, right?  They have nothing to do but review law and the implications of same, right?  Well... no.  Many of the Justices who have served on the Supreme Court have been of relatively average intelligence.  Moreover, there are simply too many laws for anyone to be familiar with all, or even most, of them.  But even if those first two assertions were true, there are two major reasons that the Supreme Court should not have jurisdiction over what should be Constitutional. 

The first of those reasons is this: the Federal Government was Established (Constituted) by the Constitution- that is, the Constitution defines and empowers the Federal Government.  Why should the Federal Government be the one deciding what powers that document provides?  As has been proven (Commerce clause, anyone?) the Federal Government will constantly broaden its definition of the document to give itself as much power as possible.  That's just the nature of humanity.

The second of those reasons, however, can be more immediately shown: Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Not him in particular- though that, too, at current- but the very fact that, at the end of the day, Supreme Court Justices are appointed for a lifetime, and are accountable to no one- with the exception of possible (but incredibly difficult) impeachment procedures.  That being true, cases- sometimes even when they're very clearly cut-and-dried, will often be decided not by the Constitution's underlying principles, but by the Justices' philosophical leanings.  That means decisions which are vitally important to the operation of the United States, and the Liberty of the People, will come down to one man (or woman).  When that is true, that single man or woman is, in effect, a Monarch, ruling over subjects- not a Public Servant, upholding the Public Trust.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Defending Our Liberty: Where Are the States?

When the Constitution was being debated and, ultimately, Ratified, the Federalists argued that the primary check on a tyrannical Federal Government (the primary fear of the Anti-Federalists) would be the States.  The Federalists viewed the States as the founders, supporters, and arbiters of the new Constitution and the Federal Government it established, and they believed that the States would protect the Rights of the People from the inevitable overreach of the Central Government.

Not only did they believe that the powers of the Federal Government were "few and defined," and that the powers of the States were "many and undefined," they also believed that the States- being closer to and run by the People directly would serve as a brake on the Federal Government.  They believed that the Federal Government would be rebuked should it overstep its bounds.

A few things changed that: among them the Marbury v Madison ruling in which the Supreme Court decided that largely unaccountable, unelected Judges- whose very authority was granted by the Constitution- should be the sole arbiters of what the Constitution means.  Also President Lincoln's decision that States could not secede from the Union (whatever you think about the Civil war, this was a radical departure from what had been understood up to that point).

Whatever the intentions of those decisions, we are now faced with:
  •     A Congress which regularly over-reaches its granted authority by passing laws which it should have no power to enforce.
  •     A President and Executive Branch which regularly rule by fiat.
  •     An unaccountable Bureaucracy which issues "rules" and "regulations" based less on what is necessary for the smooth operation of the Country, and more on what is politically convenient.
  •     An unaccountable Judiciary which routinely overturns laws which have been vetted and approved by the very people which Constituted the Courts in the first place.
  •     A Culture of "Delegation" in which Congress establishes new Bureaucracies which rule by decree.

At some point, the Rights of the States, as well as the Rights of the People have fallen by the way-side.  We must strive and struggle to regain them.  The first step is to get engaged with your State.  The States are the first and most stalwart defense against Federal Overreach, but they have not acted in that Capacity in generations.  Even when ObamaCare was passed, rather than simply stating that this was a power the Federal Government did not have and refusing to comply, the States "accepted the Premise" and took it to the Courts.  The EPA has just issued new CO2 guidelines which will ultimately cripple (and possibly kill) our single largest source of electrical power- Coal Power Plants.  The correct entities to oppose these offenses against the Constitution are the States.

Even our US Representatives are too remote, and must cater to too many people, to be counted upon to reign in the Federal Behemoth; not to mention the fact they are part of that very monster we wish to vanquish.  So engage with your state Legislators, and with your Governor.  Remind them that the Constitution assumes that the Power rests with the States on behalf of the People, and that you will support them if they will engage with, and attempt to quell, this Federal invasion, and the usurpation of our Liberties.