Time For a New Political Party?

Joy Cost makes a strong case that if you’re conservative, the GOP is not really your friend. I do recommend reading the whole thing. Cost points out that the GOP while being the political home of conservatism is not a truly conservative party. He’s right about that – and also right that the part of the GOP which is loyal to big business is not actually in tune with conservative principals.

This is something I’ve been yammering on about for a while – that big business and big government are actually quite in tune with each other. This is especially true as the sort of people who rise to the top in both areas are alike as peas in a pod. They mostly go to the same schools, have the same social backgrounds – they marry each other, attend each other’s events and, in the end, have the same world view, which is almost entirely liberal, save that big business types are often in favor of lower taxes, at least for big business. This is why the GOP leadership – which is often beholden to big business – infuriates us so often. There isn’t in big business – and thus there isn’t in a lot of the GOP leadership – the real will to reduce government, to end subsidies, to reduce regulation…because big business profits off the system as much as liberals who man the government system do. Think about it: if we really reduced regulation, then a lot of small time operators would be able to enter the market and start competing with the established companies…that means that profits would shrink! Can’t have that…

On the social issues side of the ledger, those who inhabit the world of big business are almost entirely on the side of legalized abortion, endless immigration, affirmative action and same-sex marriage. Why? Because it would be uncool to be otherwise – it really does go to that shallow a level. If you’re working at some large investment firm in New York City, do you want to go to the Manhattan party and admit that you think marriage should be between one man and one woman? For goodness sakes, everyone would think you entirely out of it…you might not get invited to the next party! Most, if they started with conservative social morals, will drop them like a bad habit once they reach the upper echelons…because that is just the way things are, and most people lack courage to stand against what is fashionable (and this condition is even more pronounced among those who rise high up in the bureaucracy or government or business).

For years now I’ve stuck with the GOP because I believe it is the party most likely to be taken over by conservatism – and I do believe that this is still the case. But suppose we work hard and battle our way to victory in 2016? We get even someone like Walker as President and we have a GOP controlled Congress. All that would be good – but suppose we get to 2019 and there’s still no ban on abortion after 20 weeks? Suppose the Department of Energy still exists? Suppose government spending is higher than it was in 2016? What have we really accomplished? Even supposing we’ve got taxes cut, our defense rebuilt and the economy is humming along? We’ve got nothing, as conservatives – we’ve neither reduced the size of government as more libertarian-minded conservatives demand nor have we even made a start at reviving American morality as social conservatives demand. All we’ve done it tinker around the edges and left in place the government monster built up by liberalism – and eventually to be reconquered by liberalism in a future election.

I have been wondering of late if it is time for a new party? Maybe even two new parties? To be sure, we have to be careful – we don’t want to spit the non-liberal vote and thus merely ensure endless liberal political dominance…but we do need some mechanism to ensure that what we, the base of the GOP, demands actually gets done.

What I wonder is if we split off, only for Congressional purposes, from the GOP about 100 Representatives and 10 Senators and formed, say, a Christian Democrat Party…without those Representatives and Senators, the GOP cannot control either house of Congress. Democrats can’t, either. In fact, no one can – absolute gridlock…unless certain demands are met. Boehner wants to be Speaker? Then there are certain actions which must be taken. You get the picture. Such a thing would become even more crucial if there is a Republican President because that is when actual laws which can be enacted can be sent up…if Congress does so; but the GOP as currently constituted might not really want to send up the sort of laws the base wants. Holding them to ransom (ie, do as we bid or you’re no longer Speaker) would be a convincing argument to actually move conservative legislation along. And if some on the right don’t want to be part of a Christian Democrat Party, they can form a Liberal Party (taking back a word which the Progressives have co-opted) to pretty much do the same thing…withhold support to the GOP unless, say, the GOP agrees to, for instance, reign in the power of government to spy on the American people.

I’m not at all sure this would work – but as you can see, what has happened here is that the three main elements of the GOP (business, social conservative, libertarian) are broken up for Congressional purposes into three different parties, and no one on the right gets anything unless everyone gets something. There is a risk that one party will join with the Democrats to form a Congressional majority, of course, but I think it pretty small as Democrats won’t openly embrace business and can’t embrace social conservatism…the libertarians might from time to time be swayed by Democrats, but such would never last long because, well, Democrats are just increasingly fascist. The best way for the new parties of the right to work is that they all nominate the same person for President…but if a real lousy GOP candidate emerges, then the Liberals and Christian Democrats nominate someone more acceptable and the GOP goes down to flaming defeat…which would make the GOP more likely to seek a candidate who can appeal to both Christian Democrats and Liberals. And there’s always that chance that a Liberal or Christian Democrat in a three or four way race could win the White House with a plurality…which works even better for the right.

This is all just an idea – for now, I’m still back in the GOP, especially in the White House, for 2016. But I think it something worth thinking about.

Yes, There are Limits

There’s been a lot of back and forth on this since the Charlie Hebdo attack, and now Pope Francis has chimed in:

Pope Francis suggested there are limits to freedom of expression, saying in response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack that “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch.”

The pontiff said that both freedom of faith and freedom of speech were fundamental human rights and that “every religion has its dignity.”

“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” he said. “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”

The pope was speaking to reporters on a plane as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines on his tour of Asia…

Over at Ace, they are little disappointed about this. Allahpundit is also not too pleased. I’ve seen over the past week plenty of comments from conservative and libertarian people who are really not thinking this thing through. To be sure, there is the understandable desire to defend against Islamists who, after all, will kill us no matter what we do – but just because we’re dealing with people like that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility for our own actions. Too many people are getting themselves into the position that unless we applaud the most vile expressions, we are letting the terrorists win. There’s a word for that – but I won’t use it, because it is vulgar and might cause offense…and because I’m someone making failing, weak efforts at being a Christian gentleman, I try not to be offensive.

I’m five feet, seven inches tall. I weigh about 175 pounds. I’m not exactly of the body-builder sort. Now, suppose I had a neighbor who is six feet, six inches tall; weighs about 280 and bench presses cars. I take a dislike to this neighbor because he’s a jerk – and I express my views about him by drawing insulting pictures of him and posting them on a board out in front of my house. Now, to be sure, my gigantic neighbor – who is a jerk, as I said – should still take my insults in stride. There is no actual justification for him to pound me into a pulp because I drew unflattering pictures of him. On the other hand, if I did get pounded into a pulp, how many of you would be thinking – at least – that I shouldn’t have been writing checks my body can’t cash? Even if you called the police to have the man arrested and were willing to testify against him in court because, still, he shouldn’t have pounded me, wouldn’t any reasonable person say that I had played a role in bringing on the pounding? There are plenty of ways I can deal with a jerk – including if really pressed to it, fighting. But if I’m going to fight, then I’d better be ready to fight. If I’m not prepared to actually fight, then maybe I should seek other means of redress? Thinking is a very important part of deciding what to do.

In our definition of free speech there is no license to print whatever you want. You might have heard the word “libel” from time to time. Also, the famous “you can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” exception is well known. Even in good, old, First Amendment USA, there is no absolute right to say what one pleases. We have these reasonable restrictions on free speech because they are, well, reasonable. Of course, this still allows a very wide latitude for people to write things – and in the United States, we tend to have the widest latitude in the world. And this is a good thing – a thing I would die in the last ditch to defend. There was nothing legally wrong in what Charlie Hebdo printed. No reasonable person in the United States – or even in France, for that matter – would want Charlie Hebdo shut down over the offensive cartoons. Furthermore, no reasonable person would assert a right of the offended party to do violence against Charlie Hebdo for their offensive cartoons. There is no justification for what happened – and if it had happened in the United States and the perpetrators were caught and brought to trial, I would be only too pleased to pronounce a guilty verdict against them in court…nor would I shed tears if the perpetrators wound up killed by the police, as the French perpetrators ultimately did. But with all those caveats, I still have to say – as unpopular as it might be – that Charlie Hedbo did play a role in bringing on the attack. And they played that role without having made any provision for repelling an attack. I’m guessing because they never imagined that there would be such an attack – or, perhaps, they thought that the French government, which has been slack as all European governments, would protect them?

Choose your battles: that is an old saw; but none the less wise for having been used often. People who have read my stuff over the years know that I’m on board with fighting Islamist terrorists. In fact, I’m in favor of much more vigorous war than we’re doing – and even much more vigorous war than President Bush engaged in. I’m incensed on a regular basis at the crimes of the Islamists – especially, these days, the horrific massacres of Christians. I’d like us to really take the fight to the enemy. But I’m not going to sit here and just write nasty things about Muslims and think I’m doing something against Islamist terrorism. It might make a person feel good – though I really can’t imagine why – to do such things, but I don’t see any point in it. All it does is take our eye off the ball and, additionally, provide additional recruiting tools for the very people we want destroyed. We are, indeed, supposed to be better than the enemy – true, we should be physically stronger and better able to apply force against them, but we should also be more just, more merciful and more respectful of their innate, human dignity. Better. You see?

We’re doing it all wrong, in my view. Obama and the liberals are wrong in that they believe that Muslims are the offended party and if we’ll just show forbearance, they’ll quit. Plenty of conservatives are wrong in that they believe if we just give brag and insult and drop bombs, they’ll quit. Other people are a combination of these things. Me? I want to win the war. I want Islamism destroyed. To do that will take intelligence, foresight, courage and a fine and sensitive touch with the great mass of the Muslim people.

Of course, our real handicap is that far too many people in the West – and probably a majority; especially in Europe – don’t really believe in anything. They don’t believe in honesty. Don’t believe in decency. Don’t believe in self-sacrifice. All they want is their creature comforts and a life free from responsibility – and they’ll bury their heads as deep in the sand as necessary to live like that. We’re easy pickings for people like the Islamists – I am the person entirely unsurprised when Western people volunteer to join them. People, if they are not utterly craven, want to believe. We in the West offer nothing to believe in – just more gadgets and more moral disintegration. Those in the West who do have good beliefs are ridiculed, and absurdly compared to the terrorists, as well. A kid who has been taught to believe in nothing worthy – who, indeed, has been told that worthy beliefs are flat out wrong – and who has been fed a steady diet of nonsense is especially prone to fall for the first charlatan who comes along.

The Islamists offer something to believe in, and a lot of people go for it – and that we know it is stupid and destructive doesn’t alter our position or our peril. The Islamists are not the first people to sucker large numbers into doing evil, while thinking they are doing good. Ultimately, we won’t win this war unless we start to believe in something superior to the Islamists. We’d better figure out real quick who we are and what we believe. Defending a vulgar, little paper like Charlie Hebdo won’t do the trick – in fact, it is our celebration of such that is at the heart of our problem. It is a sign of strength if we tolerate such things in our midst, it is suicide if we praise such things…and while a collection of liberals apparently had a long held feeling of hate towards Charlie Hedbo, that was more a function of cowardice than a desire for standards of decency…we know this because the only thing liberals didn’t like about Charlie Hedbo was that it insulted Islam. This is just a species of “please cut my throat last” cowardice. If we were a people who condemned Charlie Hebdo for all its insults – you know, including the insults against Jews and Christians – while never making a move to suppress it, then we would be morally healthy, and better able to fight and win against Islamists. But that would also be a people who condemned 80%+ of what is in popular culture these days.

I’m getting a little long in the tooth at age 50. No one in their right mind is going to place me on the battlefield – but I assure one and all that I am ready to defend Judeo-Christian, Western civilization. I’m not so willing to die to defend the right of adolescent jerks to insult people. Do you see the difference? I’ll fight and die for “We hold these truths to be self evident…” and “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”, but I’m not really pleased at the thought of dying so that the next vulgar little reality series can be broadcast on television. In fact, no one is willing to die for that. The Islamists have their dogmas they are willing to fight and die for – what dogmas are we willing to fight and die for? And if we do have some people believing in dogmas worth fighting for, are there enough of them?

Ultimately, there are limits – because there have to be. The limits are necessary for us to have civilization. You can’t have it all. You can either hold to rigid standards of conduct or you can be destroyed by people who hold to rigid standards of conduct. Those are your choices, boiled down. Among the rigid standards of conduct in our civilization is a cautious courtesy of speech – an unwillingness to cause needless offense. Gracious, there are enough things to offend us all just in day to day living – we don’t need to add to it. Yes, at times we must take the course of King St. Louis – when someone is insanely persistent in demanding death and destruction, we must drive a sword through him as far as it will go. But good King St. Louis also would never have dreamed of just insulting people for the fun of it – and he was a Crusader, my friends; a more devoted enemy of Islamic aggression you will not find in the annals of history.

I really do love this country of ours – warts and all. I really do think that in secular terms, we offer the best that humanity has to offer. I do think our nation worth defending. But it is worth defending only if we live up to the standards upon which it was founded. Look through the Declaration and the Constitution and you’ll see it shot through from start to finish with decency. Even when Jefferson condemned George III before the bar of history, he didn’t offer insult. No one reading that sublime document could conclude other than that the king was in the wrong, and right and justice were on our side. Jefferson offered truth, well written to appeal to the better angels of human nature. Contrast it to the cowardly tripe of modern liberals, or the school-yard insults hurled by some. We’re better than that. At all events, we had better be better – because if we aren’t better than the enemy, we won’t beat him.

Can the Constitution be Saved?

Charles Cooke notes that some on the right appear to be eagerly anticipating the time when a Republican President can invoke the “Obama rule” and just start doing whatever he or she pleases – and he doesn’t like it:

…I am afraid that I consider this approach to be little short of suicidal, and I can under no circumstances look forward to a system in which the executive may pick and choose which laws he is prepared to enforce. On the contrary: I consider the idea to be a grave and a disastrous one, and I would propose that any such change is likely to usher in chaos at first and then to incite a slow, tragic descent into the monarchy and caprice that our ancestors spent so long trying to escape. During the last 500 years or so, the primary question that has faced the Anglo-American polities has been whether the executive or the legislature is to be the key proprietor of domestic power. In one form or another, this query informed both the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution that followed it, and it was at the root of the Revolution in America. Cast your eyes across the Declaration of Independence and you will notice that the majority of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” have to do with the violation of the rights of assemblies by individuals who believe themselves to be the dominant arbiter of the state’s affairs…

I don’t like it, either; but the question is, can the cat be put back in the bag? That is where we get into very doubtful territory. Earlier in his article, Cooke notes the impossibility of actually explaining what is at stake to the average audience – which either won’t know the issues (thanks, public schools!) or won’t have the patience to deal with it. We are a very long way from any sort of America which fully understands what is at stake. This puts anyone who wishes to have a constitutional republic at a disadvantage as it is useless to discuss the finer points of what is actually a human right against someone who is promising the sun and the moon in a political campaign.

No system will ever work better than the people who run it. And the trouble with all human systems is that they are run by human beings – human beings who are prey to cowardice, greed, pride, flattery and all that. The historian Will Durant, in discussing the Principate established by the first Roman Emperor, noted that in legal terms the powers the Emperor had were no greater than those of an energetic American President – how, then, did the Principate so swiftly degenerate from the high tone of Augustus to the madness of Caligula and Nero? Because the people who ran the system allowed it to happen – it was easier to just let the Emperor rule; to take the bribe, the obtain the sinecure position, to let things slide. Fighting for principal only forced you to work and exposed you to attack. Better to go along to get along. One would have hoped in 2009 that Congressional Democrats would have been keen to preserve their own power vis a vis the White House, regardless of who is in office. But, nothing doing – once Obama was sworn in, Congress became the merest rubber stamp…and once the GOP gained the House in 2010, nothing happened in Congress because Reid, the alleged leader of the Senate, decided that it was just easier to let Obama do whatever he pleased. This it the nature of things in human affairs – and no system we have or can create will really change it.

Our now-tattered and broken system had a good run. From 1787 until 1950 it pretty much worked as planned, aside from a few abuses. It worked because everyone kept it working – the President didn’t abuse and Congress was vigilant in protecting it’s power. Since 1950, though, it as rather fallen apart (the signal for this, by the way, was Truman’s commitment to war in Korea without obtaining prior Congressional authorization: going to war in Korea was correct American policy – but Truman should have got a declaration of war from Congress, first). We have just drifted along with the tide of events – and Congress passed its legislative powers away: first to the Courts, later to the bureaucracy and now to the merest whim of the President. The one defense the Founders gave us against Executive abuse – impeachment – is a dead letter. It never really worked (if it had, a good dozen Presidents would have been removed from office over the years), and it was killed off when Clinton was acquitted by the Senate even though he clearly had broken the law and should have been removed from office. Unless by some political miracle you can get 67 Senators in opposition to a President, impeachment will never happen – and I can’t see either major party ever getting to 67 Senators while the other party is in the White House. Freed from any fear of impeachment, a President can do as he pleases while in office – there’s really no way to stop him (some people hold that the power of the purse can still be invoked: I ask, how? Suppose the President draws money out of the Treasury which hasn’t been appropriated; what is the only sanction you can hit him with? The aforementioned dead letter of impeachment…).

I don’t know how we get back to a place where the President holds himself in check and/or the Congress vigorously protects it’s own power. It could be that we’ll need to go through a period of executive tyranny (you know, dictatorship) which leads to revolution and the re-establishment of constitutional law. I hope it doesn’t come to that. And as a means of trying to prevent that, I do have some suggestions:

1. Don’t be afraid to rake over the past a bit. When a new Administration comes into office, one of its first orders of business should be the investigation of the previous Administration. This is especially true when it is a change of political party as well as a new Administration. Sure, this means that Bush Administration officials would have been raked over the coals by Obama people – but it also might mean that Obama people get the same raking over by President Walker’s troops. The thought that in just a few years the other guys might be in power and thus looking to send you to jail would produce a great deal of fear about abusing power and breaking the law.

2. Term limits. Part of the problem with Congress is that they can stick around too long…you’ve got a nice office, a large staff, things are going pretty well: why rock the boat? Might cause you to lose office. Better to just go along to get along. Term limits brings that to an end – if you can’t re-seek your current office next year, then might as well do your job (true, some people will just coast along to the end of their term…but others will be ambitious for different office, and what better way to make a name than to shake things up?).

3. Make all government officials – elected and appointed – directly responsible for their actions. No more government pays when official so-and-so screws up: nope, the official pays. In criminal and civil penalties. No more immunity for government officials: and no more anonymity, either…their names, salaries, positions and performance reviews are on line for everyone to see. Having the people kinda looking over their shoulders might make them less willing to do wrong.

That is just a few things; other people can come up with other ideas. But do keep in mind that there are two ways to make a government behave: have honorable men and women as a majority of the government, or put the most intense fear of retribution into the minds of government officials. We can’t ever be sure that anyone is actually honorable (even the best of us can go wrong), so we should concentrate on putting the fear on them – the thought that you are to be hanged in a fortnight does concentrate the mind wonderfully…and if a government official is worried every day that he might be called to account for his actions, he’ll either do as little as possible or be as honest as possible…in either case, we’re ahead of the game.

Turley’s Testimony

In all of the chaos that has been swirling around the last week or two, i.e.; the border crisis, the Malaysian airliner, and the Gaza Strip, what has been lost or certainly under reported is the very important Congressional lawsuit against Executive Authority. Notable George Washington University law professor and admitted Obama supporter Jonathan Turley testified in front of Congress this last week in support of the lawsuit, and his testimony was very compelling and should get the attention of anyone who respects the Constitution and the founding of our country. Turley warns not only of unlawful unilateral changes to legislation by the executive branch, but also of the “fourth branch” of government, and the increasing power of agency deference, and the enactment of law through regulations. The testimony is found in full text here, and is a good weekend read. Many of us here have spoken to this issue quite a bit calling for the need to limit the size and scope of the federal government, and to see that the House, through elected representatives, and the States assert their Constitutional authorities. Unfortunately, in the face of those statements, we have been called racists and extremists by the very people who either support the expansion of unilateral power and the departure from the tripartite system our founders intended, or by those who are so willfully ignorant they pose an extreme danger to our republic. I contend it is the latter. In his testimony, Turley explains how he sat in bewilderment when the President stood in front of the Congressional body and told them straight up that he would go around them if they failed to act and many of them stood up and cheered. How sad is that? Congress cheering a President that promises to strip them of their elected responsibility. This lawsuit must go forward, and it must succeed, and this is just the first of many actions the people must engage in to regain control of this government, and of this country. Below are some excerpts:

While the President is clearly exasperated by the opposition that he has encountered in Washington, the Framers created a system that often forces compromise between factional and political groups. That legislative process tends to produce laws with a broader base of support and, frankly, a better product after going through the difficult revisions and conferences. What emerges is not always perfect but it does have the legitimacy of a duly enacted law. It is that legislative process that is the key to the success of the American system. Thus, the loss caused by the circumvention of the legislative branch is not simply one branch usurping another. Rather, it is the loss of the most important function of the tripartite system in channeling factional interests and reaching resolutions on matters of great public importance. 

The rise of this fourth branch in our tripartite system raises difficult questions.65 Today, the vast majority of “laws” governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations. Adding to this dominance are judicial rulings giving agencies heavy deference in their interpretations of laws under cases like Chevron. Recently, this Supreme Court added to this insulation and authority with a ruling that agencies can determine their own jurisdictions — a power that was previously believed to rest with Congress. In his dissent in City of Arlington v. FCC, Chief Justice John Roberts warned, “It would be a bit much to describe the result as ‘the very definition of tyranny,’ but the danger posed by the growing power of the administrative state cannot be dismissed.”

Is the Solution to Obama a Parliamentary Government?

Part of the genius of our Founders was the really clever way they blended three forms of government into one.  We are part monarchy, part Republic, part democracy.  The Democracy, of course, is the House – one man, one vote and everyone counts.  The Republic is the Senate – each constituent State has equal representation regardless of population.  The monarch, of course, is the President.  Most people don’t fully realize this aspect of our government – but the President is as much a king as anyone who ever sat a throne except for one thing:  his term of office is limited by years rather than by his life span.

It is interesting that in Churchill’s history of the First World War – The World Crisis – the description he gives of the American government observes that in practical terms, in 1917, the American President held more power than any other single individual on earth.  That was written before the enormities of Stalin and Hitler, but by Churchill’s lights at the time, it was correct – even though Russia had a Czar and Germany and Austria-Hungary had Kaisers. The President is at once party leader, head of State and head of government.  A vigorous person in that office is able to impose his will upon Congress and the people and move policy in the way he desires, even without violating the Constitution. And the President can pretty much get America into war any time he wants by simple fact of moving military forces under his own authority anywhere he wants, and letting the resultant events almost compel a declaration from Congress.

I believe that our Founders set this up quite deliberately – that they wanted a system which embodies what they perceived as best in all forms of government, but with each side checked vigorously by other Powers in government. And it worked very well – we had our leader who could act decisively in an emergency while also ensuring that final power to actual change things was in the hands of elected officials, with a final referee, as it were, in the Supreme Court to ensure that neither President nor Congress strayed beyond the bounds of settled law.  There was, however, a weakness in the system and it is a weakness which cannot be avoided in any system: it is dependent for its operation upon the actions of human beings.  Human beings are Fallen and thus get things wrong; usually very often. But we had a great bit of good luck at our start in that our first President – our first King, as it were – was George Washington.  Here was a man who genuinely held himself to be no more than the first magistrate of a free people and while he could have stayed in office until he died – and, indeed, at one point could have gotten himself crowned as actual king – he voluntarily gave up office and retired to private life.

This example of humble Presidential leadership stood us in good stead for quite a long time, but by the time Theodore Roosevelt took office, it started to wear thin as he and most of his successors thought of themselves not as agents of an impartial government, but men of destiny who had to place their indelible imprint upon the nation and the world.  From Theodore Roosevelt to Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama is a pretty straight line, only slightly pushed off course by Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan, who did have a much more Washingtonian ideal of the Presidency than most over the past century.  It was Theodore Roosevelt who first denied the limitations of power in the Founder’s system – saying that unless something was specifically forbidden a President in the Constitution, the President was free to do it.  This was a watershed event – and quite in contrast to Roosevelt’s recent predecessor Grover Cleveland who routinely vetoed legislation for the sole reason that he found no warrant for the law in the powers granted to the government by the Constitution. Now we’ve finished the task and in Obama, we’ve got a President who is essentially claiming that unless someone can actually stop him, he can do as he wishes – the pen and the phone are mightier than the Constitution.  And, so, how do we fix this?

The Founders thought they had provided sufficient safe guards against such things by inserting into the Constitution the power of the legislative to impeach the executive. It was thought that out of a jealous desire to preserve legislative power that the legislature would vigorously oppose the executive and be willing to use the extreme sanction of impeachment when a President started abusing his office.  It didn’t really work out like that – the first impeachment of Andrew Johnson was the merest bit of partisan hackery where the legislative majority simply  wanted to do away with an uncooperative executive; the second against Nixon was only successful because Nixon’s own allies abandoned him; the third against Clinton failed because Clinton’s allies refused to abandon him even though it was clear that Clinton has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”. And that was that – once it became clear that partisanship would rule the day in impeachment, then it became a requirement that the Senate have 67 firmly committed members to vote for conviction before impeachment would even be considered and given the partisan nature of things, this means a Senate wherein at least 67 members are from the opposition party.  You can look back in time and see how few and far between are the times when any party controlled 67% of the Senate seats.  This means that impeachment is functionally impossible. We need another means of controlling the executive.

We could decide to lower the bar on impeachment convictions, and that might be a sorta-good way to go.  Better than no restrictions, after all.  But if we made it so that only 55 Senators had to vote to convict, then we would see more partisan hackery in the matter of impeachment where the Senate majority just wants to get rid of a President who isn’t cooperative.  That is fatal to good government quite as much as an out of control executive.  Maybe, and this is just me starting to think it over, we should remove the President from day to day executive authority?  That would be to interpose a Prime Minister between the President and the operations of government on a day to day basis.  A Parliamentary regime.

We’d still want a Commander in Chief for war time and other such emergencies, but we also very much want a President who can’t use his pen and phone to alter law.  So, we amend the Constitution to command the President to nominate as Prime Minister the leader of the party holding the most seats in the House of Representatives, and that person – upon confirmation via the Senate – nominates the heads of the government Departments and monitors and controls their actions subject to approval or overthrow by the House. We would make it so that the President signs laws into approval, or vetoes them as he desires.  He would still command the armed forces, negotiate treaties (with the advice and consent of the Senate as now) and could recommend legislation – but in what the Departments would do, he would have no say. And the people who do have the say in the actions of the Department, they can be removed by a simple majority vote in the House – and if the people don’t like how government is going, then every two years they get a chance to change the composition of the House, and thus get a government hopefully more to their liking.

Yes, this could lead to a situation – as it does in France, from time to time – where the President and the Prime Minister are of different parties.  Would it really be that bad if they had to work together?  The PM can want this, that or the other thing, but he’s not going to get it into law unless the President agrees – ditto on the President’s side. Other changes can also be made (I’ve long been in favor of limit the President to one, six-year term, eg), but we do have to think seriously about how we are going to ensure the means of cutting off a President – like Obama, but also like Johnson and FDR and Wilson in the past – who doesn’t care what the law says and is just going to do what he wants, defying anyone to stop him, secure in the knowledge that his opponents won’t have those 67 Senators necessary to convict on impeachment. At any rate, if anyone has a better idea, I’m all ears.

 

A Conflict of Vision

Mark and Amazona and I had an off-blog conversation recently about how we have begun to distance ourselves from friends or acquaintances who inhabit the left side of the political spectrum.  For most of my adult life I rationalized keeping such friends by convincing myself that it was “only politics”; that we basically wanted the same things for ourselves and our descendants; we just disagreed with how to get there.

One of the things that the Obama presidency has accomplished is highlighting the stark contrast between Liberals and Conservatives, not just on issues and not just on their approach to problem solving, but on a fundamental conflict in our vision for the future.

The greatest and most obvious conflict of vision is about the basic role of the central government where one side believes the success of government is defined by how many people are helped by government and the other side which believes the success of government is defined by how few people need help from the government.

But the conflict is much deeper and broader than that.  It is a conflict between:

  • The fundamental transformation of America and the fundamental restoration of America.
  • The belief that some people can neither handle nor deserve freedom, and the belief that the yearning for freedom is an inherent part of the human spirit.
  • The belief that America is the greatest force for freedom and prosperity in the world, and the belief that America is the source of most of the evil and misery in the world.
  • Doing what’s right all of the time, regardless of the consequences and doing what’s right only when doing so yields personal or political benefits.
  • Always telling the truth and ignoring the truth when it has negative political or personal consequences.
  • Voting for someone because you’re confident they will honor their oath to uphold the Constitution and voting for someone because you’re confident they will ignore or subvert the parts of the Constitution that you don’t like.
  • Case law and original interpretation.
  • Morality and moral relativism.
  • Learning from history and re-writing history to fit an agenda.
  • Dwelling on what’s good about America as opposed to dwelling on what’s bad about America.
  • The creation of wealth and the transfer of wealth.
  • Freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
  • A dynamic view and a static view on just about everything.
  • Defining success as actually helping someone in need vs. defining success as feeling good because you tried to help someone.
  • Accountability and avoiding responsibility.
  • Humility and hubris.
  • Criticizing policies because they’re bad policies and being accused of being racist for criticizing policies because the policy maker is black.
  • Becoming a color-blind society and using race as a political weapon.
  • Lightly-regulated free market capitalism and crony capitalism with rewards for supporters and burdensome regulations on and harassment of any company that doesn’t support your policies.
  • Policy making based on polling and policy making based on sound scientific and economic principles.
  • Transparency and closed door, secret deals.
  • Increasing tax revenue and decreasing spending.
  • Economic justice and economic liberty.
  • Social justice and justice for all.
  • The individual and the collective.
  • Results vs. intentions.
  • Conservation and eco-imperialism.
  • Victory and exit strategy when applied to military conflict.
  • An educational system that teaches how to think vs. what to think.
  • “Our plan didn’t work because we didn’t spend enough money”, and “your plan didn’t work because it was an unworkable plan.”
  • Eliminating incentive and fostering dependency vs. entrepreneurship and self-reliance.
  • Voting based on issues and voting based on the best way to govern.
  • Liberty and tyranny.
  • And ,ultimately, between the survival of the human race vs. the here and now.

So I ask my former friends and acquaintances on the Left — common ground?  What common ground?  We are in a fight for the soul of the greatest nation in the history of the world, and our conflict of vision for the future is so profound that I will, without hesitation, lay down my life to ensure that my descendants are not forced to live under your vision.

 

Social Security Hitting Kids for Parents’ Debts

This is just hideous:

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy…

This is just a desperate ploy from a government which is greedy for every dollar it can lay its hands on – but it also shows (if ObamaCare didn’t clue you in) that no one in government really knows what is happening…its all done behind the scenes with lobbyists and bureaucrats and staffers inserting things into bills and regulations without anyone accountable to the people really knowing what is going on.

This, of course, needs to be repealed – it is un-American to seek to collect debts owed by one person from another.  If the person who owes the money is dead and there’s no estate to collect it from, then the debt is a write-off.  Whether or not anyone in Congress will step up to fix this particular problem remains to be seen – but the ultimate fix to this is to prohibit Congress from passing laws of more than, say, 10 type-written pages…and to prohibit the bureaucracy from implementing new regulations (which also must not be more than 10 type-written pages long) before Congressional approval of each new regulation.

UPDATE – technically unrelated, but check out what is happening with the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.  True, its a dispute over grazing rights which has been going on for decades…but whatever one wishes to think about the particulars of the case, why did Uncle Sam whistle up an army to round of the man’s cattle?  Why make a “free speech” zone?

Given that this is Nevada and we have Harry Reid and the BLM is involved, I’m immediately suspicious that this is just another corrupt land deal – there are stories that this land is to be set aside for a solar plant with a Reid son involved.  I’m not so sure about that – this has been going on too long for that (since 1993).  I’m more thinking that since it is some really nice countryside (and the Virgin river runs year-round through it as it heads towards Lake Mead) that someone has a mind to build some resorts out there – and ol’ Harry has been more than once involved in screwy land dealings where, hey presto!, BLM land is made available to the “public” and Reid cronies make a killing.

A Constitutional Convention of the States

With the movement for a Constitutional Convention of the States picking up steam, in spite of being completely ignored by the MSM, this is a topic that is long overdue for discussion. Amazona asked that I re-post her comment from the previous thread outlining the constitutional amendments suggested by Mark Levin in his recent best-seller, “The Liberty Amendments.

“Mark Levin is proposing ten amendments to the Constitution. Each one is written in thoughtful language so as to preclude any ancillary problems:

1) Term Limits: He proposes limiting service in both the House and Senate to 12 years. Yes, we’ve heard all the arguments about elections being the best limit. But the past 100 year has proven that to be false. As someone who works day and night to throw the bums out, I can tell you that is nearly impossible to throw them out with the amount of money they raise – precisely for their abuses of power. Levin also proves that limiting time in office was a highly regarded proposal during the Constitutional Congress.

2) Repealing the 17th Amendment: Levin proposes repealing the 17th amendment and vesting state legislators with the power to elect senators so that the power of states is not diluted, as originally feared by the framers of the Constitution.

3) Restoring the Judiciary to its proper role: The Judiciary was never meant to be an all-powerful institution in which five men in robes have the final say over every major policy battle in the country. In order to end judicial tyranny, Levin proposes limiting service to one 12-year term, and granting both Congress and the state legislatures the authority to overturn court decisions with the vote of three-fifths of both houses of Congress or state legislative bodies.

4) Limiting Taxation and Spending: Levin proposes a balanced budget amendment, limiting spending to 17.5% of GDP and requiring a three-fifths vote to raise the debt ceiling. He also proposes limiting the power to tax to 15% of an individual’s income, prohibiting other forms of taxation, and placing the deadline to file one’s taxes one day before the next federal election.

5) Limiting bureaucracy: He proposes an amendment to limit and sunset federal regulations and subject the existence of all federal departments to stand-alone reauthorization bills every three years.

6) Defining the Commerce Clause: Levin writes an amendment that, while technically unnecessary, is practically an imperative to restoring the original intent of the Commerce Clause. The amendment would make it clear that the commerce clause grants not power to actively regulate and control activity; rather to prevent states from impeding commerce among other states, as Madison originally intended.

7) Limiting Federal power to take private property

8) Allowing State Legislature to Amend the Constitution: Although the Framers intentionally made it difficult to amend the Constitution, they did so to preserve the Republic they created. However, the progressives have illegally altered our Republic through a silent and gradual coup without using the amendment process. If we are going to successfully push the aforementioned amendments, we will need an easier mechanism to force them through. The proposed amendment allows states to bypass Congress and propose an amendment with support of just two-thirds of the states (instead of three-fourths) and without convening a convention.

9) State Authority to Override Congress: A proposed amendment to allow states to override federal statutes by majority vote in two-thirds of state legislatures. The last two proposals are rooted in the idea that the states only agreed to the Constitution on condition that their power would not be diluted and that all federal power is derived from the states.

10) Protecting the Vote: A proposal to require photo ID for all federal elections and limit early voting.

Taken as a whole, there is no doubt that these amendments would restore our Republican form of government. Every proposal is backed up by scholarly analysis of the Framers’ view on the proposal, an overview of what has changed since the founding, and the rationale for why the proposal is necessary. You should read the entire book. As someone who is busy reading all the current news every day, this is the only political book I made time to read all year.”

Filibuster Follies

As for the filibuster, itself, I am just not that concerned.  After all, the real mutilation of the Senate came when we started to elect Senators by poplar vote instead of through the State legislators. The Senate is supposed to be the representative of the States, as sovereign institutions – by making the election of Senators direct, we simply turned the Senate in to a smaller, more exclusive House of Representatives.  If anyone wants to restore the Senate to its ancient glory, I’m all with you and let’s set about repealing the 17th Amendment.  But, still, this is a change – and a permanent one.  While the filibuster still technically exists in certain cases, it is in fact a dead letter…any time a Senate minority attempts to use it, the Senate majority will just do away with it, as Harry Reid’s majority just did.

The only thing I can find as a reason for this end of the filibuster is a desire on the part of Democrats to pack the courts with as little fuss as possible – especially the DC Court as it is in charge of dealing with regulatory matters.  Democrats want smooth sailing for whatever Obama and minions say in regulating our lives in to the ground, and this is their way to get it.  Seems a bit short-sighted, though – not a very good reason for giving up the filibuster, especially as Democrats are in grave danger of losing their majority in the 2014 mid-terms (I figure its 50/50 the GOP will win the necessary 6 seats…but even if we don’t in 2014, we will eventually have a Senate majority again, and Democrats will be rather backs against the wall).

And when we have a full Congressional majority and control of the White House, then the Democrats will feel the full force of their mistake.  No longer will the basic premises of Big Government reign supreme because it takes 60 votes to close off debate.  No longer will one or two RINOs be able to ensure that the legislative desires of the GOP are blocked.  All it will take, with a GOP President, is a mere 50 GOP Senators to agree, and our will is law…end of the Department of Education; end of the Department of Energy; and so on.  218 House members, 50 Senators, one President with a Vice President to break the tie in the Senate.  That is not a very high bar.  100 years of Progressive politics can now be undone in a few months.  To be sure, a returned Democrat majority can attempt to re-cobble it all together again…but after four or five years without it, it might not be politically possible to do.  And the certainty is that whatever is done can be easily undone.  And if Progressive politics are in bad odor then a non-Progressive campaign reminding the people that a victory for the left means mere re-imposition of the things we just got rid of, then the non-Progressive side will win.

It could be that when the history of our times are written, it will be revealed that Obama and Reid did away with the filibuster simply because they were frustrated they couldn’t immediately get 100% of their way…that they gutted their own protection because they simply didn’t want to get 90% of their desires.  If so, then it will be just another bit of proof that whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

White House is Staging A Bloodless Coup!

OK, folks–here’s the deal- I don’t think too many people are realizing this:

1. We currently gather TEN TIMES the amount of revenue required to service our debt, EVERY MONTH.

2. The 14th Amendment states that WE MUST honor and service our debts; meaning that paying and servicing debt MUST COME FIRST.

3. Barack Obama has been threatening that we WILL DEFAULT on our debt if the debt ceiling is not raised in two days.

4. The ONLY way this can happen, is if Barack Obama IGNORES the 14th Amendment and REFUSES to service the debt. This means that Barack Obama MUST OPENLY DEFY the Constitution to bring about what he threatens will happen.

5. Understand also that I believe that Barack Obama FULLY INTENDS to carry out his threat. I believe that Barack Obama MEANS, in direct opposition to the 14th Amendment, to ALLOW the United States to go into default. Like a terrorist with his finger on the button of his suicide vest, he is threatening to DESTROY THE FULL FAITH AND CREDIT OF THE UNITED STATES, placing our economy in RUIN, unless Congress meets his every demand.

6. In effect, Barack Obama is staging what amounts to nothing less than a COUP– a complete usurpation of the power of the purse that IS EXCLUSIVELY THE PURVIEW of the duly and locally elected United States House of Representatives.

7. In completely and WILLFULLY ignoring his Constitutional responsibilities with respect to the 14th Amendment, Barack Obama has effectually denounced the primacy of the U.S. Constitution. He is effectively governing by EXECUTIVE FIAT.

In other words, Barack Obama HAS THROWN AWAY THE CONSTITUTION and is in effect GOVERNING AS A DICTATOR!

UNDERSTAND THIS, PEOPLE–THIS IS NOT HYPERBOLE!