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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Constitution Is Not Right Wing

     "The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterrupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism."

     That was James Madison, "Father Of The Constitution", describing the unlikelihood of both an unnecessarily large military and the loss of federalism brought on by an unchecked national government. He clearly overestimated the intelligence and interest of the voting public. In his defense, though, the plan he was trying to sell to the American people was brilliant and seemingly airtight. The system of federalism created by the U.S. Constitution gave the 13 colonies collective military might when it was needed and, after the addition of The Bill Of Rights, protected individuals from oppression at the local, state and national levels.

     Virtually every video of a Tea Party rally will contain someone using the word "unconstitutional" in voice or written on a sign. I constantly hear the word in the current Republican Debates, and by Fox News pundits. But they only use the term to describe programs proposed by President Obama or the Democratic Party. To be fair when the Tea Party protests started, a Republican was in the White House and the main objection was to the Troubled Asset Relief Plan and Ron Paul and Gary Johnson call out both parties' illegal activities. Why do you never see liberals screaming about the unconstitutionality of Republican proposals? When The Patriot Act came to pass, the argument seemed to be focused on public library records rather than 4th Amendment protections against warrantless searches. Occasionally the First amendment comes up, and arguably it is the most important line in the document, but what good are your words when your President is free to murder you at his own discretion? That sounds far fetched, but it's already happened. I'm sure most people reading this already know about Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son. Murdering suspects is clearly banned by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, but this is one move right wingers are applauding Obama for. A Democrat won't always be in office, who will the next George W. Bush want to kill? I'm pretending here that Bush was more militant than Obama for Democratic sympathies. Suspected terrorists, much like those accused of drug crimes, fall into a category where only special interest groups like the ACLU ever stand up to executioners of the law. Drug suspects are often robbed by local or state police and don't get their property returned even if found innocent. I don't want to go on this point too long, but if you're suspected of a heinous crime, the public doesn't seem interested in the odds of your innocence.

     If your anti-war, you're pro-constitution. Article 1 Section 8 describes the powers of the U.S. Congress, and declaring war is among them. This has happened 5 times in the history of the country. We are currently involved militarily in at least 5 "engagements", because we the voters choose monsters we see as "strong leaders" instead of presidents who show a history of honoring written law, and because we ignore Article 1 Section 8 when want "free stuff" or "crime" suppression from the Feds. There is an amendment process that could expand the powers/duties of the federal government but that takes too long, and may not reach the level of support required, so whether it's the TSA, DEA, or food stamps your federal government simply ignores the constitution and with a simple majority of congress creates a new program that they can buy your love with.

     Then there's socialism; I hate it, but it's LEGAL! There is nothing in the Constitution that says states can't tax you to extremes and offer to take care of your every need. There is a huge advantage to collectivism in The United States; unlike other socialist nations, under federalism, individuals in socialist states are protected by the federal government. All nations that drift to far to the Left or Right end up embracing both extremes. You can't suppress civil rights without a lot of tax revenue, and you can't heavily tax people against their will without using force, either way it ends with a police state. Research Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot or any other statist regime and you'll see that whether you define them as Left or Right, socialist or fascist, they all end with the same system - a huge overpowering government that will seize most of your money and freedoms. If Ohio were to became a socialist state, their government could take most of your income (up to the point that leaves you with enough to pay the feds), they could control all the means of production, but they could not take away your free speech, establish religion, deprive you of due process, or search you or your home without a warrant.

     The Constitution was supposed to protect us from the tyranny of the majority. Under a federalist system we can flee one state for another which could have a very different government structure, when the national government controls everything, we are trapped. The Unites States' system of checks and balances and the separation of powers keeps force unconsolidated. 50% plus one shouldn't decide how the rest of us must live. Most of the federal power grabs have been justified by the general welfare and or commerce clauses : "to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States" after which the specific powers are enumerated and "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes". In Federalist No. 41 (the Federalist Papers were a series of newspaper articles meant to sell the Constitution to Americans) Madison answers critics' claims that the Constitution was vague and gave to much power to the new federal government: "For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power?" He also described the commerce clause as a check on state governments from taxing imports and exports. (Only the federal government would be able to lay tariffs or duties on imports) I am not a judge or a lawyer and I've only studied law to a small extent for my own curiosity, but it is quite obvious to me that nothing in Article 1 Section 8 confers the powers of plumbing regulations or making home loans to our national government. It is this incredibly loose adherence to law that leads to daily civil rights violations and way too much power in the hands of politicians who will bribe us with our own money and make laws benefiting the highest bidder.

"Just like Rome, we fell asleep when we got spoiled"*

“The people get the government they deserve"**

     This is our fault. Rather than looking long term we vote for men and women who promise to take care of us and keep us safe rather than those who promise fidelity to the supreme laws. We allow envy, greed, xenophobia and fear to lead us to choose representatives who will harm those we see as our opponents rather than our fellow man. When we feel we are not getting our share of the world's prosperity or we disprove of another's lifestyle or choices we go crying to the referees who will consult the rule books and stretch the meaning of language to satisfy our selfish desires. No group of human beings in the history of the world was given a better more simple set of laws and we have thrown most of it away. The men who created this country were horribly flawed, the two most brilliant owned other human beings while at the same time preaching to others how morally unacceptable the practice was. Allowing slavery to continue, even if abolition may have meant the loss of two or more states, was clearly a mistake and a contradiction to the document as a whole. How could blacks be subject to laws of any nature if they were not people, but merely property? How could they be people if they were not protected by the Constitutional rights extended to all? The 3/5th's compromise was an abandonment to principle for a more pragmatic and easy answer that satisfied the darker side of democracy; the forces applied to smaller groups to benefit larger or more powerful groups. Over time the amendment process was used properly to make all human beings, full human beings. Maybe by seeing their own faults they were led to create a system of government that could not be controlled or manipulated by other flawed men who would later come to power. A system where a written document was the supreme law of the land, not men who will always act in their own self interest. But ultimately it is powerless when the multitude is disinterested or unaware of the violations that their leaders visit upon them. I beg everyone, please read The Bill Of Rights and Article 1 Section 8, and if your not bored by then, the rest of the Constitution. It's not an outdated set of rules to be only respected by weirdos in tri-cornered hats. It's a guarantee that individuals control their own lives and are not subjects to the whims of kings or priests, or the tyranny of the majority.

*  Jello Biafra and D.O.A. 
** Tocqueville and many others
first paragraph is taken from Federalist No. 46

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rich Communists Vs. Poor Libertarians

     Are you driven by your own self interest or a higher ideal? Why do so many wealthy Americans want the government to redistribute their wealth? Why would any poor American reject that idea?
     According to a 2006 Pew Research poll, those identifying as libertarian or liberal tend to earn about the same annually with about 30% making over 75k and 14% making less than 20k. I take from this, that on average, our relative wealth has little to do with our ideas of social justice.
     Are those of us who fall into the rich collectivist or poor individualist groups all massive hypocrites? I earn far less than the average American and although I've never benefited from government aid, I'm not above taking it. I have no choice, but to overpay into it and I see no conflict by taking advantage of whatever benefit I may later reap. For instance, I love PBS's Frontline, but I don't think PBS should receive government funding. I use the national highway system, but it should be sold off to private owners. If my recent back problems hadn't improved and I could never work again, I would be quite happy if the Social Security Administration started sending me checks. And yet I hate and despise my government. Michael Moore is reported to have about 50 million, that he earned in a capitalist system, which he could donate to the I.R.S., but, pardon the fat joke, he doesn't seem to be going hungry. And yet his answer to every problem is more government.
     The biggest difference between the two of us is not our income, but our view of human nature and the role of an individual in society.  I boil over in rage at the sight of government force. I've been summoned for jury selection at least 4 times in the past decade, and words couldn't possibly describe the hate I feel when I read those threatening letters. And this is arguably a necessary role of government. You should have seen me drilling out the inside of a government mandated low-flow shower head.
     I'm not quite an anarchist, but I do respect the philosophy. Shouldn't all your actions be voluntary? I never signed over my natural rights to any group and only when I infringe on someone else's natural rights by the use of violence, theft or fraud do they have justification of force against me. I don't see why wealth should not be considered a right. Money is not evil, it is only a tool to make trade easier. It is only the representation of your time and effort. If you accumulate wealth in a free market, it is only because people are voluntarily giving it to you in exchange for a product or service that is more valuable to them then the money exchanged.
     Who will take care of the poor in this greedy libertarian paradise? We will you authoritarian dumbass. We don't need force to be good people. Americans are crazy charitable. The last few years, in a down economy, Americans have been giving away about 300 billion dollars in charity annually. Recent Census Bureau numbers have 49 million of us at or below the poverty line, divide that by our charitable donations and it comes out to $6k per.- Keep in mind, of course, that some of that money leaves the nation. That might not sound wonderful but keep in mind the horrible situation we are currently in. A situation caused by a bubble created by artificially low interest rates and a federal policy of coercion on low income mortgage lending and a burst caused by mathematical reality. Now imagine how much more we would give if we weren't being robbed by our benevolent rulers and we knew that government wasn't taking care of the needy, putting it all on us as individuals. It still gets better, the welfare state is not the only waste of money. The warfare state is out of control. As I stated in the last entry, the defense budget costs about $2200 per American. Actual spending on the military is about double that. I don't see any reason not to cut the whole thing by 75%. Federal Department of Education - $60 billion a year, has only existed since the 70's and has not brought about the least bit of improvement, kill it. I could go on itemizing, but this may get boring. I don't mean to suggest that every dollar not confiscated by the federal government would end up being donated, but certainly the more we have individually, the more we give away.
     I'm happy AND poor. The beauty of a free market is that I can do as little or as much as I want to. For a few years now, I've only been working 30 hours a week. I knew it wasn't going to be good for my bank account, but I have chronic back pain and horrible insomnia and I decided I needed more rest than I needed money. It's been working out just fine. Would I have this choice in a collectivist system? "From each according to his ability to each according to his means" hasn't worked out anywhere ever. The ruling class would certainly not allow me to slack off the way I do, it's not good for the community at large. Collectivists seem to think that human society should mirror an anthill. But if one ant were smart enough to realize he could shirk his responsibilities and the others wouldn't notice, wouldn't he?  I want to work as little as possible, and only my own needs or wants dictate the time I spend toiling. I own my own home, I buy my cars new ....and I eat a lot of Ramen Noodles. My choices, my responsibilities. Of course there are people far worse off than me, and not because they are lazy, but because of severe medical problems or born to horrible parents or a multitude of other unfair conditions. This need not be, nor can it be answered properly with government force, but by our own individual, never ending pursuit to improve the world.
     I have no objection to socialism, when it is an option, but should I be locked in a cage if I don't take part? Voluntary socialism is a beautiful idea, and it has worked on a small scale for as long as humans have existed. The average household is made up of individuals who have agreed to share in expenses and chores for their mutual benefit. Maybe this could work on a larger scale, although it has been tried before.
     Government has not made modern life easier, technology has. If we didn't have child labor laws do you think 12 year - olds would be working in coal mines? Do you think your food would be tainted or scarce? Would we all be at the mercy of the rich like some Dickens nightmare? Capital needs labor and vise versa. The same relationship exists between consumers and retailers. The rules are built in naturally, I will not work for less than my time is worth and I won't buy products with a bad reputation.  The rich can't force me to do anything, a swarm of armed men in riot gear can.
     Lastly, taking more money from the producers, just means higher prices for the products. The poor are taxed too much as well. Social Security, Medicaid and Unemployment deductions are no different from income taxes. That money is already spent. It isn't waiting for you when you need it. Then there is the hidden tax of inflation. that doesn't just happen, it's caused by printing money. When asked in a recent debate how he felt about 50% of Americans paying no income tax, Ron Paul said "we're halfway there", in contrast Herman Cain's 999 plan would probably lead me to buy food on the black market. And yet he's leading in the polls. How much different are Herman Cain and Michael Moore? How different is Barack Obama from George W. Bush? All I see are control freaks.

     "Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil..." 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Republicans Love Big Government

     If you've been watching the Republican primary debates, you'll no doubt realize that the party is no fan of "Obamacare". Every time the candidates mention repeal, they get a huge round of applause. The price of the plan is impossible to nail down, the variables make the cost swing wildly. The Congressional Budget Office actually estimated that the plan would decrease deficit spending by $143 billion over 10 years. Half of that money was to be supplied by the C.L.A.S.S. Act, which was recently abandoned, because no one wanted to voluntarily pay for government run long-term care insurance. The Republican leadership says the real cost of Obamacare over the next decade will be $700 billion. I won't take a guess at the overall price, but I know anytime the government increases it's involvement in anything the price will rise and the quality will lessen.
     The biggest hope right now for repeal is not who the next president will be, but will the Supreme Court rule the plan unconstitutional. The idea being that the federal government can't make you buy a product. They of course already do. I never signed up for Social Security, Medicare or Unemployment insurance and yet I'm forced to pay for it. The truth is virtually nothing the federal government does is constitutional, but somehow the phrases "regulate commerce" and "promote the general welfare" have been interpreted to mean "anything the federal government decides to do is fine".
     Most of the time you will hear Republicans say the same thing I just did. Oddly they never mention this argument when discussing the war on drugs, gay marriage or any other time they want to force you to conform to their ideals.
     When the prohibition of alcohol was passed in 1919, it was understood that this required an amendment to the constitution. It then required a second amendment to repeal it. That is because it is not mentioned as a power of the federal government and the ninth and tenth amendments reserve such powers or freedoms to the states or to the people. Prohibition was stupid, but it was legal. 
     Other federal drug laws have a long boring history I'm not going to go into. These laws did not come about by amendment, they came about because of bureaucratic growth and propaganda. The cost of the War on Drugs is uncertain - $40 to $250 billion a year, depending what you take into account. More importantly unless you commit a real crime (one with a victim) there is no reason to use force to meddle in someone's life. Sometimes in some areas there may be a shortage of whatever banned substance you're looking for, but most of the time everything is available. When I was underage no one ever said they could sell me alcohol, drug dealers don't have the same legal or moral obligations sellers of legal intoxicants have. If you can buy heroin at Walgreens, the black market is gone and so is all the violence that comes with it. So why does this go on? I believe it's a mix of misguided conventional wisdom, campaign contributions from the prison industrial complex, and the satisfaction a moral crusader feels when a a harmless pothead goes to jail. Note: President Obama, despite what he said before he was elected, has increased the drug war.
     Why does any government recognize marriage? I got married to save money on home and car insurance and I liked referring to my wife as "my wife". Once you hit a certain age it feels somehow embarrassing to say "my girlfriend". If an insurance company decides that being married makes me less of a risk, or even if they just want to use the discount to get my spouse to purchase from their company, it makes sense. The only reason I see for government defining  marriage, is so they know who to send my Social Security death benefits to. It wouldn't cost anymore if they gave those checks to a man, or anyone else I designated, instead of my wife. Opponents also bring up adoption all the time. Can a two dad or two mom family actually raise normal kids? Go into a Walmart and look at the families, do you see any that you would want to live with? I've seen enough irresponsible parenting to realize this is a non-issue. Another issue that comes up with gay marriage is insurance. This also should be a non-issue. Instead of all these government regulations meant to protect us, just let businesses decide who they will serve. I could go into the Civil Rights and Americans with Disability Acts here, but that deserves it's own entry. A free market provides every service anyone wants at the best price. If you are in a same sex marriage and you want to share an insurance policy, go to a company that allows it. This will benefit that company while harming the others who don't. If you don't get to choose your policy, because it's provided by your employer, that is a whole other problem. Health insurance would be far less expensive and have more options if everyone shopped around and bought it on their own. This would also lower the cost of medical care in general.  The practice of employer provided health care is a result of wage controls from the 40's and a misguided tax system. Your government ruins everything it touches. Note: President Obama doesn't support gay marriage either. 
     If you find a Republican who wants to cut military spending, say hi to Ron Paul for me. This party loves killing people and no amount of money is ever enough. Right now the military budget is over $700 billion. That's over $2200 per American per year. This is just the amount in the budget, the real price is far higher. If Republicans are correct Obamacare is going to cost about 10 percent of that per year over the next ten years. I realize defense is important, but the United States can blow the entire world up ten times over with it's nuclear arsenal and we have a well armed citizenry, no one is invading America. China is in second place with $100 billion in military spending, one seventh of what is budgeted in the U.S.. The main, and many would argue, only reason we are a target of terrorism is that we are an empire with a military presence in nearly every country. No Saudis seem to be killing Canadians. Worse than the money wasted are the Bill Of Rights violations in the name of safety. TSA pat-downs and nude screenings are clearly banned by the forth amendment. Note: President Obama loves using the military in illegal wars even more than Bush did. The U.S. government is now assassinating  American citizens without a trial or even bringing charges. Where has the anti-war left gone? Spending on this nightmare would be far smaller if  the federal government followed the constitution. Only congress can declare war and it hasn't done so since WWII.
     I believed the lie myself for many years - The Republican Party is the small government party. If you research this it won't take you long to see how ridiculous this is. In the past this was not so clear. Now all the information is available online. The Republicans talk about cutting spending and regulations all the time, but it never happens. Democrats will go on television and scream about Republicans starving children and the elderly, but they won't even cut funding for PBS. The federal government's own pages will provide most of the information. I left the Republican party during the Bush years because spending increased so dramatically even while the GOP controlled both houses of congress and the White House. Bush defenders hate Obama, Obama defenders hated Bush, there is virtually no difference but the rhetoric.
     Democrats will do anything to please unions, no matter how impractical or financially impossible. Republicans will lower taxes, but will never cut the spending to match. Is that enough to bother with these parties? If you want small government look into libertarians and constitutionalists, if you believe in collectivism look into socialists. Once again I would like to recommend visiting or another unbiased watchdog website before you vote.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Let The Money Be, Campaign Finance Reform Is A Disease.

The Dylan Ratigan Show recently proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to separate money from federal elections. Like every other attempt at campaign finance reform it sounds, to most people, like an obvious answer to a well known problem. Unlike previous attempts, the first draft blocks all money to and on behalf of candidates.  :

"No person, corporation or business entity of any type, domestic or foreign, shall be allowed to contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of campaign for Federal office. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, campaign contributions to candidates for Federal office shall not constitute speech of any kind as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or any amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office."

     What seems to always be missed by reform advocates is that incumbents will always benefit from the removal of cash from elections. While in office they have access to an almost unlimited supply of media outlets. Even if they don't seek them out, their names will be mentioned on television and in newspapers for two to six years and the sad truth is name recognition is a huge factor. Incumbents win most of the time anyway, but challengers will sometimes get caught up in a movement. Something like the Tea Party, the Ron Paul Revolution or even funding coming from a group of businesses can fund a new challenger to a legislative seat. Getting on a ballot takes signatures, but it often takes money as well. In my home state of Pennsylvania it is nearly impossible for an independent or third party candidate to gain ballot access. The Republican and Democratic primary winners are on automatically, where as in 2006 (the amount seems to be based on population) all other state wide candidates needed 67,000 signatures. If a candidate were to manage this monumental task, they still have to overcome the legal battles that the R's and D's are going to throw at them. The major party candidates will dispute their signatures and they'll need a few grand for court costs.
     Notice the phrase about contributions not constituting speech. There is a reason the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech. If this amendment became law it would be illegal for me to buy a yard sign, t-shirt, or a billboard with a candidates name on it. Maybe we can still buy a shirt and write on it with a Sharpie, I'm not sure. Some may think this would be worth the trade off, but I see it as another creepy power grab from an already overly complicated, oppressive government. What if an anarchist were running for office and I put a sign in my yard that said "End All Government", could that be construed to be bought on the anarchist's behalf? I may be reaching, but the law is often interpreted in a loose fashion. Look up the interstate commerce clause and how it's been used. 
     There has been a second draft added to the Get Money Out website that limits individuals to $100 per election cycle. The result wouldn't be much different. It's just another way to hold down independents and insure long political careers for established candidates. 
     I have no doubt these guys meant well. I watch the show somewhat regularly and Ratigan seems to be a very fair, unbiased host. Like virtually every law ever passed, it's the unintended consequences that lead to oppressive complications to what should be a simple free life.
     The real problem with elections is the voter. Why does money matter so much in the first place? It's because people are swayed by lame advertising full of hollow slogans and misleading information. My whole life I've seen public service announcements, usually with some vapid celebrity, telling me how important it is to vote. That it's my "duty as an American" or some such crap. All this time they should have been running ads that said something to the effect of "if you're not going to research your candidates, please don't vote".  Picking names at random is so much worse that not voting at all. It's never been so easy as it is today to get to know a candidate. They all have facebook pages and there are many unbiased info sites such as . The more accessable information is, the less money will matter. I would love to see nameless ballots. A list of the offices that need to be filled, and you fill in the blanks. Money would still play a part. I imagine this would lead to parties sending out cards with all of their candidates' names on it, but it's just one more step to get between the uninformed voter and a populist lifetime politician.