Saturday, February 07, 2009

Our Curse on Alex Rodriguez (aka "A Fraud") Continues!!!

More on this as things unfold perhaps and after I find in the archives where I have discussed this curse and what it entails.

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Points to Ponder:
(On Economic "Stimulus")

The way I see it, if they want to credibly claim this stimulus will work then cut it down to the 5% that actually will affect economic improvement, re institute the down payment assistance programs that Congress and President Bush in their "infinite wisdom" canceled out last year, and present that as their package. I doubt they would get much opposition to that but this thing they are trying to push is 95% backroom political paybacks that will not accomplish anything except add to the debt and increase federal power when the latter has not shown historically that they can handle economic matters very well historically. Nothing will fix the housing issue faster than re instituting down payment assistance programs. [Excerpt from a Thread Circular (circa February 6, 2009)]

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Between Unconstitutionality and Unworkability:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Prefatory Note: This text was largely drafted and refined between April 10, 2007 and December 30, 2007 with a few finishing bits (including a couple of footnotes and some minor tweaking) being done in the past month and a half and a final retouching this morning. -ISM]

"A conservatism that cannot find room in its folds for the actualities is a conservatism that is not a political force, or even a twitch: it has become a literary whimsy." [William F. Buckley Jr. (circa 1967)]

In writing on the 2008 Presidential race and various and sundry subjects connected therein{1}, it seemed opportune to address a major problem I have previously mentioned. Many who consider themselves "conservatives" have a problem presenting a coherent, workable, and historically sound model for effective governance. I will include some mention of those conservatives' ideological foes and I will assess both groups using the criteria in which all matters political, social, economic and moral must be viewed by Americans who recognize the role of law in a just society.{2}

Unfortunately, part of the reason for the political division we see in America today is a skewed conception of these matters that has come about for a variety of reasons both historical as well as circumstantial. The purpose of this posting is to explain these as well as note what is lacking in modern politics to counteract the extremes. But to best understand this, I want to address the nation's founding and assess the original political and ideological divisions to better understand what has subsequently happened.

Political parties did not exist in the United States before July 4, 1776 or thereafter. The reason was because the nation was at war with the mightiest empire of its time and trying to do what no nation had ever succeeded in doing before: to throw off the shackles of colonial rule for reasons based on principles of human dignity and the rights pertaining thereof rather than mean self interests. Although these principles were not always followed with crystal consistency (as the whole issue of slavery exemplifies{3}), they must be examined even in passing when it comes to the heart of any governmental arrangement.

The political climate as we have seen it in recent decades has worsened to the point to where amicable discourse is seemingly not possible anymore.{4} This in and of itself is not a problem per se because even in the earliest days of the republic, people disagreed passionately on issues. The difference is the party system to some extent. Most people do not realize that political parties were not anticipated by the framers of the Constitution; back then, even political enemies among the Founders generally assumed that those in positions of leadership (whatever their views) were acting in good will and in accordance with what they believed to be the best interests of the United States. Parties originally did not exist. This explains why the first President of the United States (one General George Washington) was elected unanimously for two terms.

But even when the party system developed over time, a conscious attempt to focus and achieve the interests of the common good dominated most of the age of this nation's history. However, the Democratic Party has gotten away from this understanding in recent decades, as have many in the Republican Party. Concern for the common good gave way to putting selfish personal interests first and that is what the problem we see today is in spades: opposing personal interest groups more interested in their selfish whims than in what is good for the nation as a whole. And with many of these people, they do not care if something is allowed under the Constitution or not, they simply try and take it and do not give a damn while blaming others for doing the same thing. This is the problem of "unconstitutionality" which I refer to in the title of this post.

A reaction of sorts to this prevailing attitude has become fashionable by some who call themselves "conservatives" who at the very least appeal to the Constitution on sundry and divers matters. However, history shows that their approach does not work. I will provide a few examples to illustrate this principle lest readers think I am merely asserting it without being able to supply any proofs.

At the dawn of the republic, rival factions developed different ways to view the Constitution. Its defenders explained the Constitution to the public through The Federalist Papers, and it is to that understanding that we must turn. But there must be some standard. Or as we noted back in 2007 when extending anew our previous offer to "evolving constitution" sorts to play a game of "evolving rules Texas Hold'Em" for money (an offer which in four years no one has yet taken us up on):

Rationally, if you do not take a fixed approach to a law, precept, or principle, then they are subject to change. Noting that, it should also be considered that there would be a weird notion in place if such persons were to ascribe some fixed schedule for such evolutions when they do not recognize the concept of fixity to laws, precepts, or principles to begin with. So in the game of "evolving rules Texas Hold'Em", the values of the hands would change often -perhaps even hand to hand at times or intermittently during hands.

After all, no matter what I had in my hand, I could go all in and "win" because the "interpretation" of what hand was higher would change constantly to reflect what I was holding in my own hand.{6} As absurd as this premise may sound, stop and think for a moment what absurdity my proposed game plan is intended to illustrate.

It is impossible for there to be a stable society where the law is so manipulated as these sorts favouring an "evolving Constitution" would like to see. However, at the same time it is important to have some degree of room for revision of the laws of the land if we are to avoid being in the position of advocating that the law is made for man rather than the converse.{7} That is why the Founders put the amendment procedure into the mix at the very beginning: to insure that any adjustments to the Constitution would require effort to undertake and would require a super majority of states to ratify. This was to affirm the important understanding that law was not a minor trifle but instead was to some extent a requirement for societal stability by codifying the natural right of all to defend themselves and their natural God-given rights. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa July 11, 2007)]


Here are the footnotes from the above posting:

{6} With the way the latter game is played, it is possible for an ace high to beat three of a kind, two pair to beat a flush, or three of a kind to beat a full house, etc...if the lower hands were held in that round by your weblog host of course :) [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa May 25, 2005)]

{7} Those who wonder why true conservatives worthy of the name[...] have an abhorrence of the federal government intervening everywhere and anywhere this is the reason in a nutshell even if those conservatives have never stopped to crystallize their instinct into a coherent principle before. The reason is an instinctive understanding that law is made for man not man for law: the understanding that law's purpose is to protect legitimate rights not to grant them and not to revoke them. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa February 1, 2007)]

The bottom line is that the Constitution needs to be a fixed point of reference for law . Early struggles were over how this was interpreted. Alexander Hamilton was the great Defender of the Constitution both in his actions to secure ratification as well as his authoring of approximately 60% or more of The Federalist Papers. James Madison has often been called "the Father of the Constitution" due to his role in the drafting of the Constitution as well as his singular authorship of the later Bill of Rights and a third of the texts from The Federalist.{5} Both of them wrote on the importance of implied powers as a requirement for the government to function. Hamilton's stance on this was firm and never wavered while the same cannot be said for Madison who in 1788 explained the principle of implied powers thusly in Federalist #44 -a paper generally attributed{6} to him:

No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included. [James Madison: The Federalist #44 (circa 1788).]

Not long after Madison penned those words, he came to oppose Alexander Hamilton's proposed Bank of the United States. Hamilton defended the charter of the first Bank of the United States on the above principle while Madison opposed it as lacking explicit Constitutional grant. And it is at that point that we need to consider the branch of Constitutional interpretation which is promoted by many who call themselves "conservatives" today -particularly those of a libertarian stripe.

Hamilton and Madison appealed to President George Washington who requested from both of them arguments for their positions. Washington while an intelligent man was not the intellectual that Hamilton and Madison were and he did not hesitate to seek counsel to help him make a decision. Washington also asked each man to explain their position in a fashion which he could use should he decide in their favour. Madison's stance was to the point; namely that there was no explicit wording in the Constitution to support the idea of a national bank. Hamilton took the approach that the federal government had the authority as a sovereign power to employ whatever means were necessary to exercise the enumerated powers as long as the means utilized were neither (i) expressly prohibited by the Constitution itself, (ii) immoral, or (iii) contrary to other constitutional principles. Readers will notice a similarity in Hamilton's arguments to Washington with those of Madison in The Federalist. And ultimately, Washington sided with Hamilton and signed the charter of the first Bank of the United States into law with a twenty year sunset date.

Madison and Thomas Jefferson opposed the bank charter on a fundamentalist reading of the Constitution of the very sort that more "conservative" sorts today often appeal to. But history showed them that this was not workable. Jefferson as president was approached by Napoleon in 1803 to buy the Louisiana territory from him but could not square this offer with the very interpretation of the Constitution that he and Madison had taken in opposition to Hamilton and Washington twelve years earlier. Ultimately after conferring with Madison, Jefferson went ahead with the purchase anyway and proved that when the rubber meets the road, his strict interpretation of the Constitution was not tenable.

In Madison's case, his about-face from the Federalist principle he so astutely penned in 1788 was even more costly. Succeeding Jefferson in the presidency in 1809, Madison knew that the charter of the first Bank of the United States he bitterly opposed in 1791 was due to expire in 1811 and he fought every attempt to recharter it. After the bank charter expired, Madison found himself in a war with England which had been years in the making essentially{7} and in what would be a constant refrain due to the sad unwillingness to learn from history{8}, the military was drastically downsized after a major war only to be ill-equipped when it was necessary to resort to arms again.

As a result, President Madison had an ill-equipped military in disarray, the magnificent navy started under President Washington and expanded under President Adams was decimated under the tenure of President Jefferson. Madison thus had virtually no army or navy, no source to fund a war with the demise of the bank charter, a Congress that had declared war against the most powerful empire in the world, and that empire about to try and reconquer America. Fortunately, the United States won that war.{9} Afterward, Madison fought to recharter the Bank of the United States and this was achieved in 1817. He had realized through experience and numerous embarrassments that the strict fundamentalist reading of the Constitution was not tenable. Let us now transpose these models into modern parlance so that readers can see the current political picture with greater clarity.

There are at bottom three approaches to take on the matter of the government intervention. There is the unconstitutional such as Democrats and those who want federal intervention everywhere and anywhere to fit their pet subjects without concern for the Constitution or any attempt to square their view with what the law of the land actually is. Then there is the unworkable such as Ron Paul sorts whose approach to the constitution has historically not worked and (if adhered to) would have first lost the United States the greatest land acquisition in its history followed by a loss to England in the War of 1812 if Madison had (among other things) ignored the enforcement of a provision he and Jefferson fought against during the Undeclared War of 1798.{10} But in both cases, the strict approach to the Constitution proved that it did not work with Madison learning through experience that his stance as enunciated in Federalist #44 was correct not only abstractly but also in reality.

The path between the unconstitutional weltanchauung of the liberal so-called "progressives" and the unworkable approach advocated by the Ron Pauls and Tom Tancredos of the world is one which recognizes both explicit grants of authority in the Constitution but also implicit ones which are logically required for the explicit ones to be actually carried out provided that they conform to the three points noted above. The key here is what is "required." In the examples already given, Hamilton pushed for the central bank arguing that the Constitution gave the government power over coining money and regulating exchange but did not say how this was to be done. Hamilton reasoned that the bank therefore was needed to carry out the explicit mandate of the Constitution on coining money and regulating exchange. This is one example of recognizing a necessary implied power.

The example with President Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase was that the president had the authority with the advice and consent of the Senate to make treaties with foreign powers. In order to execute a treaty with Napoleon for Louisiana, President Jefferson needed to have the authority to buy the land. Jefferson went to the Congress, which authorized the purchase to enable Jefferson to carry out the treaty making power he was vested with in the Constitution. This is another example of a required implied power to carry out explicit Constitutionally delegated powers.{11} And of course the myriad of times the president has used the armed forces without an explicit declaration of war going back to President Washington{12} is another example of legitimate implied powers{13} being utilized.

It has long been my position that we need a third way in politics -this is something that I knew intuitively even when I had not explicitly worked out all the details of how it would be done. I have even supported variations of a third party in the past with the idea that the third party would have to take time to be built up to be a competing force politically and be well organized on Constitutional principles first lest it go the way of all third parties historically. But ultimately, if the sort of third way I outline above could be achieved in one of the major parties, then I would have no problem giving that party the sort of political loyalty I would like to give a political party. Until that happens, I cannot and will not be affiliated with any political party until support for the Constitution is shown to be a reality and not merely a bunch of rhetoric thrown about during election seasons with nothing tangible in reality being done in the halls of government about it.{14}

For there is a serious lacuna in general goodwill between people of various viewpoints coupled with an inability to amicably discuss principles without viewing those who do not agree with them as either sinister, evil, or some other caricature. I believe this is inevitable in a society where reason and logic are not properly valued and (sadly enough) that has been the case for a long time now. The latter, though, ranges beyond the scope of this post to adequately deal with but it deserves at least a brief mention in passing.

[Dedicated to the memory of Ronald Wilson Reagan]

Notes:

{1} Unlike a lot of commentators, your host did not expect to do much in this area before the proximity of the 2007 elections (read: until after Labour Day) and indeed that proved to be the case.

{2} Though longtime readers of this humble weblog may expect an explicit reference to the theory of Claude Frederic Bastiat at some point, I refer only implicitly to that but explicitly in this context to the founding documents The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States respectively.

{3} The problem was that slavery as an institution or system was well entrenched in America. I explain the context of this factor as it pertained to the Founding Fathers and the diversity of their views on the matter here for those who are interested:

On Slavery and the Founding Fathers of America (circa April 17, 2007)

{4} We live in a divisive 24/7 media culture and the perception has been created that one cannot have principled disagreements with someone else on issues without one side being somehow degraded. Obviously I have a passion for many issues but I am nonetheless aware that there are people who disagree with me on some/many/most/all things. I do not lose sleep over this because of a belief I have that ultimately what is true will have lasting efficacy and what is false will not. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa May 17, 2007)]

{5} They authored between them 94% of The Federalist Papers with the rest coming from the pen of the eventual first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (John Jay).

{6} I say "generally attributed" because the authorship of twelve of the essays is disputed with Hamilton writing at least 51 and Madison as many as 29. The Federalist #44 is most likely James Madison's work because Madison and Hamilton both credited it to him. Hamilton did this most notably during the fight for the charter of the Bank of the United States where he quoted the words of Madison against Madison's position: a strange tactic to take if those words were from Hamilton himself rather than Hamilton seeking to use the words of his positional adversary (then Rep. James Madison) against the writer of the words himself.

{7} President Jefferson tried to deal with England's encroachments on American sovereignty in a most feeble fashion with an embargo of English goods (the Embargo Act of 1807) which seriously impaired American commerce (practically in New England) while not putting a hurt on England at all. It was not repealed until early 1809 on the day when Jefferson was about to leave office.

{8} Those who wonder why I have always so resolutely taken many of the stands I have -even on matters that may appear more than a bit controversial- it is because I take history and learning from it so seriously and expect those I dispute with to have a similar concern themselves if we are to avoid repeating history as sadly so many generations since the dawn of time have done.

{9} Those who wonder why I have always so resolutely taken many of the stands I have -even on matters that may appear more than a bit controversial- it is because I take history and learning from it so seriously and expect those I dispute with to have a similar concern themselves if we are to avoid repeating history as sadly so many generations since the dawn of time have done.

{10} I refer here to the Alien Enemies Act which was one of four acts passed by Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. Two of them had sunset clauses in them and the third was repealed by President Jefferson. The fourth act (the aforementioned Alien Enemies Act) is still in force today, was used by President James Madison during the War of 1812, and also by President George W. Bush in what has been (imprudently in my view) called the "War on Terror."

{11} On the Constitutional Standing of Wars Undertaken Without a Formal "Declaration of War" (circa December 26, 2007)

{12} Congress has the power to declare war but without the president explicitly requesting it from congress, such is hardly ever (if ever) forthcoming.

{13} I could also if not for the sake of time and not wanting to get too far offtrack point out that the arguments against non-gold backed currency made by some conservatives have a similar problem jiving with a healthy third view approach to the Constitution as enunciated above. (And also note another perilous historical example or two of how their prescriptions would have been detrimental to the survival of the Republic they would profess a love for.)

{14} Since those words were written, the election of Michael Steele as I noted a few days ago has made me strongly considering after over twelve years in political exile a reaffiliation with the Republican Party -something that was nowhere near my radar screen when those words were originally written.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle out as HHS Secretary

When we consider that so far President Barack Obama's cabinet appointments have gone to various lobbyists or other political insiders, it is the considered view of your host that the bloom has left the Obama rose faster than any presidency in recent memory. The withdrawal of someone we have long been disgusted by{1} is only the latest as we now have a Treasury Secretary in Tim Geithner who like former Senator Daschle did not pay his taxes but an Attorney General in Eric Holder who is probably the worst apple of the bunch since he favours the kind of stupid gun control policies that have never worked and never will work in reducing crime.{2} I do not care what race, religion, etc. anyone has in government as long as their policies are the ones that will be truer to the core of this country's founding -one of which is a healthy respect for the individual right to self defense.

So with the Republicans in the House stood tall and did not cast a single vote for the Screwjob "Stimulus Bill" and the election as Republican National Committee chair of one Michael Steele, the withdrawal of former Senator Thomas Daschle is a good sign for those of us who are not interested in the sort of "change" that President Barack Obama has claimed he wants to bring to this nation -even if the Senate remains to stand tall and hopefully filibuster this plan long enough to at least lower its popularity in case it does eventually pass whereby to pin the inevitable economic boondoggle{3} on the Democrats and President Obama if not defeat it altogether.

Notes:

{1} For one such example from the archives, consider this posting from late 2004.

{2} Points to Ponder on Gun Control (circa December 9, 2008)

{3} The principles where I approach this proposed "bailout" by President Obama are the same as those whereby I opposed the one implemented under President George W. Bush at the tail end of his term. And to illustrate this point, here are the most germane of threads directly applicable to the subject from the archives of this weblog in order from oldest to newest

Briefly on the Proposed "Bailout" (circa October 1, 2008)


More Brief Bits on the Proposed "Bailout" (circa October 3, 2008)


More Brief Bits on the "Bailout" (circa October 5, 2008)

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Michael Steele Gives His First Interview as RNC Chairman

My comments made offhand in various forums on this matter will clarify my own view on this event so I post them here for your consideration from an interactive chat thread with various friends:

[I]n light of the election of Steele to RNC chair [I am] going to strongly consider reaffiliating with the Republicans after years in political exile...[circa January 30, 2009 @ 3:30pm]

I said consider it JJJ...after twelve years of exile I am finally optimistic that things are as they were after Goldwater's defeat where the base is rising again. (We have not had that for over twenty years.) [circa January 30, 2009 @ 3:37pm]

I hope so CCCCC...I saw the mess that the GOP is in now coming over a decade ago and wanted nothing to do with it. I felt about the Republicans like Reagan did the Democrats: he did not leave them they left him. At least he had a party to move to and I did not so it is what it is now and not in the same sense of "is" President Clinton used ;-) It is at least on the table now and has not been for ages. As far as gun toting goes, as long as we do not go hunting with Cheney consider that a rain check if I am out in that area... [circa January 30, 2009 @ 3:46pm]

There are sadly those who think that anyone who does not agree with them either 100% or at least 100% on their pet issues is somehow not a "real conservative." Those people despite having good intentions nonetheless end up doing nearly as much damage as the RINOS do. [circa January 31, 2009 @ 10:32am]

Without the election of a conservative to party chair, I would not be feeling this optimistic Aaaaaa. But I am now sensing that 2008 could be 1964 all over again except the sacrificial lamb for the cause was not Goldwater but Palin. (Johnny Mac went down too but he was not the one who in a classic Goldwater-like way fired up the base.) [circa January 31, 2009 @ 10:36am]

I have been tired of the old boys for nearly twenty years Ccccc so believe me, I know. But Steele has me seriously thinking about re-upping again...if they are actually gonna fight for a change I would be glad to help them. But I will not carry water for RINOS -my view is the same as Reagan's in that if there is 80% agreement then join common cause. The remaining differences can always be hashed out later on but this "political perfection" crap that so many idealists seek never translates into victory in the political arena. [circa January 31, 2009 @ 10:42am]

I agree Ttttt but for the first time in eons I am actually optimistic that the GOP may be starting to get it again. [circa January 31, 2009 @ 6:56am]

With that in mind, I have decided that the often-mentioned and long-completed thread on the necessary third way in politics{1} will be posted on February 6, 2009.

So that is where I am at now folks, strongly considering something I have not given even a second's thought to for over twelve years after the results of a few days ago.

Note:

{1} To my knowledge (and I may be mistaken), this was the last time I mentioned the piece on this humble weblog:

But that point aside, the originally planned posting will be done soon -though I may lead off tomorrow's new blogging cycle with the oft-mentioned posting on the needed third way in politics.

I am not sure right now how I plan to do that and will basically decide on a whim tomorrow depending on if I am motivated to finish the aforementioned material into a bloggable piece or not at that time or thereabouts. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa October 21, 2008)]

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Points to Ponder:

Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter. [Sen. Tom Daschle, Congressional Record, May 7, 1998 more than ten years before he was caught cheating on his own taxes who now wants the clemency he would have denied to others]

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In response to an email inquiry for my opinion on the following article:

Justice, Mercy, and Capital Punishment (Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM)

My answer as sent out yesterday with a few tweaks here and there is presented below:

With all due respect, Archbishop Chaput is full of it when he claims that there is no evidence that the death penalty deters behaviour. I went over the studies that show otherwise about a year and a half ago. Whatever benefit of the doubt that we might give the late Pope John Paul II on this matter there is no doubt now and Chaput needs to get with the program. The blending of capital punishment and abortion is pathetic of course but Chaput's claim that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent is blatantly false.

More could be noted but that is my first impression -the article is poorly written as it appeals to emotion rather than reason and I give lower grades to those who do this particularly when they would on other issue discourage people from arguing in the same fashion.

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Biden the Putz Part MCMLXXXIV or thereabout but Quayle was an idiot merely for misspelling potato

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