Restoring the Executive/Legislative Balance

A guy I follow on Twitter (@TheOneSoleShoe) has written a very good article about an easy way to fix the imbalance between Executive and Legislative power. Right now, as we’ve seen with President Pen and Phone, the Executive can pretty much use the regulatory power of the bureaucracy to decree new laws, even if they aren’t called such. This is entirely opposed to the concept of American government. If you don’t like it, you can go through a lengthy court process and you might just wind up having bureaucratic over-reach enshrined in a Supreme Court ruling (as ObamaCare was, twice). The fix goes like this:

…Rather than allow the Courts to have the final and only say on the scope, meaning and intent on legislation as manifested in administrative rulings and rule-making, why not alter the APA (Administrative Procedure Act) to give Congress the power to approve all proposed regulations on an up or down vote? Currently all that is required is a “notice and comment” period to satisfy statutory due process requirements. But the Agency still retains practically plenary power over enacting the regulation, enforcing it, and even interpreting it. c.f. Chevron USA, Inc. vs Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 US 837 (1984)…

…(Congress) can, right now, statutorily amend the APA to grant itself final approval over all proposed agency regulations, any changes in agency policy that amount to a change in regulation, or substantial reinterpretations of the law including administrative case law decisions. If Congress fails to approve the regulations, they would not go into effect. This would provide a major check on Executive power which already, in an era of divided government, enjoys tremendous power through use of the veto. It would realign the federal branches to their original framework and move us from an Executive-led nation to a Congress-led nation as originally intended.

Do read the whole article as it lays out just what the President is supposed to be doing – hint: he isn’t supposed to be using his discretion to decide whether an illegal immigrant can stay.

Getting back to Constitutional governance is crucial to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States. We can’t afford to further drift into Presidential rule until our President is more akin to a Roman Emperor than a George Washington. There is always a danger, as Republics age, that the people, weary of the political fight, will just turn power over to someone who will take charge and make the difficult decisions. That might have some success, of a sort, for a while, but the end of it is the death of the nation. Only the people, continually engaged in the political life of their nation, can ensure that the nation remains vigorous. This idea is a great way to start to restore Constitutional governance and I think we on the right should run with it.

Advertisements

I Tip My Hat to the New Constitution

Been pondering this for a while – what would I have, if I could do a re-write of the Constitution, taking into consideration some of the gaps people have used since it was written to wreck it? Below the fold is what I’d propose – it is pretty much the same Constitution you’re familiar with, though the Bill of Rights is included in the body of the document.

But it is also changed a bit – term limits for federal office are built in. Specific definition of “natural born citizen” is provided. If we are to have welfare and Social Security, provision is made for it…and the federal government is effectively prohibited from using such programs to advance federal government power. Contentious social issues are taken out of the purview of the federal government.

I’m not saying this is how it all must be, but it is how I think it should be – or something very much like it, if we want to restore rule of law and liberty in the United States. Read it and tell me what you think.

Continue reading

The Death of Free Speech (And How to Restore It)

Mark Steyn takes note of an outrageous event in Germany – satirist writes an insulting poem about Turkey’s President, German government decides to prosecute the guy under an obscure law which prohibits insulting heads of State:

…A free society does not threaten a guy with years in gaol for writing a poem. If you don’t know that that’s wrong, you should just cut to the chase and appoint yourself mutasarrıfa of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman sanjak of Berlin.

What a disgraceful person (Merkel) is, the worst German chancellor since …well, I don’t want to go all Godwin’s this early in the piece. But a few years ago, when Maclean’s and I had our triple-jeopardy difficulties with the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission, the Ontario “Human Rights” Commission and the British Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal, the response of many of my fellow Canadians to the eventual outcome was along the lines of: “Well, I don’t know what Steyn was making such a fuss about. The process played itself out and he was acquitted. So the system worked.”

Some of these people were genuine innocents who’ve never been caught up in a time-consuming seven-figure legal battle before. But many others were making the argument cynically. They know that, if you can tie up a book or a magazine article in court, then there will be fewer books and magazine articles…

As Steyn says, “the process is the punishment”. Now, in the United States our Founders wrote the First Amendment and so it is vastly more difficult to erect speech-suppressing “human rights laws” as they have in the rest of the Western world…but even here in the United States people self-censor in order to just be sure they won’t be the target of a howling mob of Progressive Social Justice Warriors. Remember, one ill-advised Tweet and you can lose your job – but even if you prevail, who wants to put up with that? Better to just keep silent.

It is time to put a bit of teeth into the First Amendment. I suggest a Free Speech Restoration Act.

1. No employer shall in any way sanction an employee for any act of speech made outside of work time. Religious bodies may terminate an employee for acts of speech which deny any of the clearly expressed dogmas of the religious body.

2. Social media companies which allow the exposure of private phone numbers and addresses without a person’s consent may be held liable for civil damages.

3. Persons who spread false statements about private individuals may be held liable for civil damages. Social media companies must provide relevant information upon court order to identify any person who may have spread false statements about a private individual. Private individuals for the purposes of this law are persons who are not an officer of a corporation, an elected or appointed official of government, an employee of a government agency or the employee of any news media entity.

4. Congress shall appropriate a sum not less than $5 billion per year to provide free legal representation to any citizen who needs such representation in order to recover damages resulting from actions taken by employers, social media companies or persons who in any way sanction or cause sanctions to be applied to a citizen for acts of speech. Private individuals who are accused of spreading false information are also entitled to free legal representation.

That should do it. The most important thing is that you can’t lose your job over what you say outside your job. While at work, you do have to toe your employer’s line and if you don’t like it, you can find other employment…but once you clock out, you can say whatever you please and there is nothing your employer can do about it. This, in and of itself, would cure most of the self-censoring which goes on. The second important thing is to provide economic sinews for those who are victims of mob action for stating unpopular opinions…and the fact that such sinews exist, once a few examples are made, would greatly curb social justice mobs. And by excluding those who are in power from protection under this law, everyone is still free to go after the powerful with gusto.

We on the right have a vested interest in this. On the whole, we don’t engage in activity which seeks to suppress anyone’s speech. The left, of course, makes it their business to shut up everyone they disagree with. If we don’t swiftly find some means of ensuring our right to speak, then soon we won’t be able to speak, at all. And I think such a law could garner popular support – certainly the legal industry won’t be against it! But the basic concept of privacy and not lying about other people will be in line with general American ideas of what is right and just. All we have to do is find a candidate who would be willing to run with it.

Can America be Conservative?

You wouldn’t think so, if you listen to the MSM all the live long day. As far as that goes, the MSM Narrative is that one or two aged Christians are all that stands between us and the Progressive Utopia of $15 an hour minimum wages and daily flights bringing in foreigners who will be able to vote from age 16 on. On the other hand, 84% of the American people back a ban on late-term abortions – including 69% of those who identify themselves as “pro-choice”. In other words, this increasingly Progressive America has some how or another managed to latch on to a key aspect of Conservatism – respect for the inalienable right to life enshrined in both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. I fully expect a ban on late term abortions to happen before I die – and I expect that one day abortion will only be permitted when it really is crucial to save the life of the mother. The tide in America is set on pro-life. How did that happen?

Patience and charity played a huge roll. We can’t just change a person’s mind overnight. It takes a while – and you also can’t change a person’s mind if you’re being uncharitable to them…that is, condemning them, scorning them or otherwise indicating a distaste for them. While from time to time a rather zealous firebrand would come to the fore in the pro-life movement, it was pretty obvious that such people were (a) kinda shoved forward by an MSM which wanted people to think that pro-life people were like that and (b) they weren’t really representative of the pro-life movement.  It was hard to characterize the pro-life movement as bad when it was almost always people quietly praying and offering counsel and assistance to women in need. It was also rather crucial that being pro-life was, is and always will be to be in favor of not just something good, but something so obviously good that even the most inattentive can see the merit of your case.

Another case of us winning is on the gun control debate. When I was a kid, it was the “thing” as much as being pro-choice was. Of course everyone wanted strict regulation of guns. But by being patient and being charitable and being in favor of something that is obviously good – the right of people to defend themselves – the right to bear arms movement has triumphed. Oh, to be sure, our Progressives are still keen to take away the guns – but they are just as keen to provide federally funded abortion on demand, too…but they won’t get it and they dare not speak their desire openly, because they know the debate is over and they lost. Only in the very deepest blue areas of the country can Progressives proclaim their desire to have taxpayers pay for abortion and to confiscate all weapons. On the national stage, they have to be in favor of “choice” in abortion and “common sense regulation” of weapons.

So, as we can see, conservatism can win – we can conserve things; the right to life and the right to keep and bear arms. We can also conserve things like property rights, the family and the free exercise of religion, as well – but only if we go about it with patience and charity and carefully selecting our issues so that we are defending what is obviously good. Leaving aside family and the free exercise of religion, let’s use property rights as a means of illustrating how we’re doing it wrong.

At bottom property rights are the fundamentally conservative thing in economic policy. The right of a person to own what he or she makes or inherits is what we’re supposed to be about. But what we do is essentially winding up defending money – we do it by defending capitalism, as a thing, and the net result is that in the public mind, we’re defending those who have bags of money. And the really irritating thing about that is that while we’re in the public mind defending the wealth of robber barons we’re actually defending the wealth of Progressive billionaires who use their money to undermine the things we actually must defend – property rights, the family and the free exercise of religion.

We can’t win the fight to save property as long as in the public mind we’re defending billionaires and multi-national corporations. In point of fact, someone who has billions of dollars and a corporation as large as, say, General Electric is a negation of property. General Electric is a behemoth making a few people very rich. A billionaire doesn’t have property like, say, a farmer or small retailer has property. A billionaire has investments and interests and wants to defend them – and will use his wealth to ensure special dealing for his investments and interests (and large corporations do the same). A farmer just wants his farm to work. A retailer just wants his store to be profitable. Do you see the difference?

To win the fight to save property rights, we have to champion those who actually have property – not those who have buckets of money. In fact, we have to stand athwart those with buckets of money…because a key thing for us to conserve, if we are indeed conservatives, is the bedrock, “small r” republican concept that any great concentration of power is a danger to the Republic. Large amounts of money under control of one person or a few people are dangerous concentrations of power…just as much as any large government bureaucracy. We have to be seen as curbing the power of billionaires and large corporations – and our battle ground would be best defending small business operators and other small property owners against the regulations of government, often done at the command of large corporations and billionaires who are trying to use government power to protect themselves.

What I’m talking about is well illustrated by a proposal from Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to regulate soap – specifically, a requirement for soap makers to register with the FDA any time they change their ingredients. This will not adversely affect  large soap manufacturers – they only rarely change their ingredients and the economies of scale allow them to easily absorb the cost of new regulations. But small soap makers who can’t buy ten tons of their ingredients at a time and, at any rate, might just decide to, say, put a little more of Ingredient A into their soap can’t afford the freight. The big soap manufacturers are entirely behind this proposal – from Procter and Gamble to Revlon and everything in between…because they know full well it will drive a lot of small competitors out of the market, thus increasing their profit margins. We should be taking up the banner of the small operators against the big players…people will see, easily, that we are on the side of the good guys. And we’ll make our point that property rights are something worthy. A battle over this – and similar battles that come up – will allow us to cast ourselves as the defender of the little guy…and will show up Progressives like Feinstein and Collins for what they are: tools of the rich.

Other things that are obviously good can be defended, as well. The family, for instance. Don’t get wrapped up too much in some of the debates currently raging. They are trivial. But in Nevada the governor recently signed a law which empowers families to control the education of their children (it has to do with Education Savings Accounts which allow parents to easily save money to pay for private education). That is obviously good – in defending such a thing as that, we’re defending the ability of strong, responsible parents to be deeply involved in their children’s education, rather than having faceless and corruptible bureaucrats decreeing from on high what sort of education the kids will get. The difference here is not in attacking the public school system, which only allows Progressives to absurdly (but effectively) paint us as anti-education – we’re not attacking anything; we’re just empowering people to do for themselves, if they want. And in doing this we’re also defending family, as a thing. We’re not saying what is a family, at all – we’re just saying that families have rights and privileges that are worthy of defense. And that is a winning way to approach it – because no matter how crazy it gets out there, most families will remain what they have always been…mom and pop and the kids.  And in defending that, we’ll set the cultural stage for a revival of all the things which go along with strong, independent families. And into the bargain with our defense of strong, independent families is a death blow to Big Government: the more power we secure for families, the less power there necessarily will be for government to exercise. Think what happens to government mandates in education once, say, even 25% of the kids are being educated as their parents wish in institutions the government has no control over?

I guess if I had to nutshell it, the revival of a conservative America depends upon us finding the good things we want to defend, and then going out there an defending them without acrimony. People do wish to be fair  and if we’re defending what is fair, we’re going to win.

 

 

 

It’s the Arbitrariness, Stupid

Arbitrary government operating by force, by terror, must destroy the best, the boldest dissenters in sheer self-defence; soon it finds itself destroying all who, on the one hand, do not actively assist it or, on the other, do not passively submit. – Edward Crankshaw

In other words, if you won’t have a government of laws and customs, then you simply must destroy the very best people you have…those who think in the boldest terms and seek to do the best. Arbitrary government cannot exist except when everyone is beaten down…and mindless, bureaucratic hacks are free to just grind away.

A strict – even Draconian – legal code is no problem, at all. If you know what the law is and if the law applies equally to all, then we all know where we stand. We can take care. We can take evasive action. We’re fine, even if rather inconvenienced. But when what the law is resides in the merest whim of those who enforce the laws, then no one really knows the law – no one knows what may be done, or what may bring punishment. People become fearful, dissent and innovation dry up…and the world is left to those who enjoy wielding arbitrary power (and make no mistake about it, some people do enjoy it…such people exist in all societies…and an arbitrary society just brings such people out of the woodwork in droves).

What we saw in Wisconsin is an example of arbitrary law – even if one wants to believe that Walker supporters were breaking the law, it was still an arbitrary enforcement…and done with such crude (disgusting, actually) force that everyone involved in right of center politics in Wisconsin became fearful. What our liberals – who are still mostly silent on the issue – don’t realize is that while they might think it good for such things to be done to conservatives, they will eventually be done to liberals, as well. People who like to arbitrarily enforce laws in a cruel manner never get tired of it – and when the enemies are all destroyed, they simply go after the friends, as well. You see, once you’ve got people empowered to do whatever they wish, they’ll do it – and, indeed, they have to, in a sense. If all the enemies are disposed of and it is now time to close up shop, that forces a bunch of people off the government gravy-train. They’ll invent new enemies as needed in order to justify their continues bureaucratic existence.

The lesson for all of us here – left and right – is strict rules strictly enforced. There is no half-way house. It is liberty or tyranny – no shading in between. We, as a people, must demand that our government officials scrupulously follow the rules…and if we find a gap in the rules, then we must fix it, and the government must follow the new rules, as well.

Being Clear on Religious Liberty

Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which is fundamentally the same as the federal RFRA and the RFRA’s in force in 19 other States – and liberals went ballistic. Given the rapidity with which the outrage spread, I can only presume that it was all orchestrated – liberals, at any rate, not being given to doing anything until they are so ordered by the liberal leadership (no liberal wants to get out in front just in case the Party Line turns out to be different from personal opinion). As to why it was orchestrated – I figure that the left is trying to gin up its base for 2016 and this is just the start of it, and as Democrats have zero chance of winning Indiana in 2016, it makes the perfect target for liberal slander and hatred. Expect more and more of this sort of manufactured outrage as time goes on – Hillary’s only chance (other than the GOP nominating Jeb) being people upset over nothing rather than paying attention to what is happening.

Still, there is an actual issue here. Liberals are attempting to frame it as a replay of Jim Crow – the RFRA, it is alleged, will allow a “straights only” lunch counter and this will be a horrific violation of homosexual rights. The truth, of course, is completely different. The purpose of RFRA is not to harm anyone, but to protect the rights of a minority – in this case, a religious minority (orthodox Christians). Jim Crow was different – that was laws which required the treatment of non-whites as second class citizens by all and sundry. RFRA is just a way out if someone tries to get someone to do something in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs. It would not allow me, if I were a baker, to refuse to serve homosexual customers – it does excuse me from participating in a same-sex wedding by making the cake which will be consumed at that wedding. If I were a baker – and being that I am Catholic – you could get just about anything you want form me…but you couldn’t get a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. There are other sorts of confections you couldn’t get from me, as well…I probably would not want to bake a cake which, say, proclaimed some dogma of Christian Science. You just want a cake – you got it; you want a cake which requires me to sin: it ain’t happening.

And that is all RFRA does – it allows me to not do something for you. If I am not doing something for you then I am also not doing anything to you. I am not violating your rights by not providing a service. In fact, if you were able to compel me to do something for you, then not only would you likely be violating my religious beliefs, but you’d also be forcing me into involuntary servitude…and slavery is explicitly prohibited in our Constitution.

I would never dream of asking someone to do something against their conscience. I’d never ask a pacifist to serve in the army. I’d never ask a Jew to provide me a ham sandwich. I’d never ask a Muslim to sell me some wine. It is just plain and simple courtesy that I do this – it would be the height of arrogant oppression if I were to demand that everyone do for me as I wish. We do live in a pluralist society – in the United States there really are all kinds of people and the only way such a society works is if everyone respects everyone else. Doing it any other way just leads to anarchy, oppression, a disintegration of the ties that bind and a risk of complete societal breakdown.

Live and let live – wise words to live by.

The Conservative Circular Firing Squad

Scott Walker hired Liz Mair to be a communications outreach staffer – and while I can’t say that I know Ms. Mair (we are Facebook friends and have met some years back – I think at CPAC in 2007), everyone who knows her says she’d be splendid in the position. I have no doubt that this is true. As it turns out, however, Ms. Mair had to very swiftly leave the Walker campaign – from what I’ve read, she’s made some disparaging remarks about the whole Iowa caucus system and that caused a ruckus. On the other hand, Erick Erickson over at Red State is holding that Christian conservatives went after her because of her liberal stance on some social issues. In the end, it was probably more the latter than the former – making fun of Iowa is almost a political standard…but being socially liberal is much more problematic.

The other day Ms. Mair took a break from her Lenten fast from Facebook to post the following:

I’m breaking my rule against no social media during Lent to share that I’m a little bit proud and excited that my name is on this amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court.

The amicus brief in question was in support of legalization of same-sex marriage. By judicial fiat. Votes of the people be damned.

To this post, I responded with words to the effect of, “so, by doing this what, exactly, are we conservatives supposed to be conserving?”. My comment isn’t there – so perhaps I forgot to post it. No matter. The main thing is that I find it astonishing that conservatives – of any stripe – do this sort of thing. Same-sex marriage is not just a stand-alone thing. It is not something that once done will be over and done with. It is not, no matter how much one might want to believe, merely a matter of whether or not the privilege of marriage shall be extended to same-sex couples. It is just another tool in the liberal armory. Liberals have many tools – and this one is to be used to further break down the traditional family but even more important, to the left, to attack Christianity. For a conservative to support the imposition of same-sex marriage (especially via judicial fiat!) is to be working for the destruction of conservatism. In theory same-sex marriage might be within the tolerable eccentricities of mankind – it might be something, that is, that a broadly tolerant and reasonable Republic allows to happen…but we are not living in broadly tolerant and reasonable Republic. We are living in the tail-end of a Republic which is mere steps away from becoming a Third World banana republic.

If we just give the left this, then they will use it – and they’ll use it against Christians. It is already being so used in Europe…and if you think liberals will actually care about the 1st Amendment, you’re nuts. Heck, if you’re even of the opinion that when push comes to shove that the Supreme Court will protect the 1st Amendment rights of Christians, you’re still nuts…suppose it happens? Ok. So the Court carves out an exception which allows Christian churches to not perform same-sex marriages…but that would only be after a massive, lengthy and expensive legal fight against the left. And, meanwhile, anyone who can’t afford such a battle just retreats into silence…including political silence. I don’t know how our more libertarian minded conservatives expect to survive when we more socially minded conservatives are forced into the political wilderness.

I’m sure Ms. Mair is sincere about it. Fine. A thousand points for adherence to personal conviction – but minus a million for lack of political sense. We are in a crisis in this nation and the very survival of the United States is the stakes we play for over the next 10 to 15 years. To be sure, she’s just one person who got caught up in the political meat grinder – and she seems a tough enough person to go through it without too much trouble. I’m sorry it happened to her – I wish we had a Republic where tolerance was the order of the day. But we don’t. Liberals forbid tolerance – they are out to destroy us, social and libertarian conservatives, alike. It is time to firmly choose a side – time for all of us on the right to cease the circular firing squad and keep our eye on the ball. We can’t work across the aisle. We can’t generate an alliance to advance one liberal thing and expect to follow up by advancing a conservative thing. For goodness sakes, people: do any of you on the right backing same-sex marriage think that liberals will now come to you to help advance school choice? Go ask your liberal allies about it. See if they are willing.

It is all or nothing – either we go all one way, or we’ll go all the other way. The left has set up the battle just like that – and giving them concessions is akin to surrendering a hill top wherein they now dominate our lines of supply. Every issue has to be taken in consideration to its position in the overall battle. Will an action help or hinder the advance of the overall right? If it will, then do it – if not, then put it aside and concentrate on some other aspect of your agenda which will.