I had a small chat with a friend of mine today, and it touched on the subject of what appeared to be an ever-increasing amount of violence in America. Specifically, in this conversation, the recent shooting in Fresno and the one in the Midwest that was broadcast live on Facebook. Our chat got me thinking.
The two acts of violence are not outliers or statistical anomalies. They are part and parcel of a process that has been going on for some time, but has recently devolved into publicly tolerated, if not accepted, political violence. In the Fresno shooting, we have the terrorist proclaiming his hate for white people and shouting “allahu ahkbar.” The press, specifically AP, whitewashed this by saying the terrorist shouted “’God is great’ in Arabic.”
The apparently motive-less shooting of an elderly black man by a younger black man demonstrates this lack of public opprobrium when the police spokesman says that he wishes we could have taken the killer alive, so we could get him help.
And while this was going on, out in Berkeley the “antifa” activists were inciting violence in their cause to prevent fascism. If one speaks out publicly against their position, they use violence to shut that speech down. The irony is lost upon them, although that is to be expected, given the state of public education.
At the same time, we have a public college professor advocating the assassination of the president of the US.
This is just in our little corner of the world. Europe fares no better. Wave after wave of “refugees” are swarming into Europe, demanding to be taken care of on the taxpayers dime, while refusing to assimilate and creating crime waves of epic proportions.
In the middle-east, it is a perilous proposition to be a Christian or even a secularist. The savages are destroying centuries of culture; art, history, civilization are all falling beneath the onslaught of their savagery. The US not only approves of these atrocities, we actively cooperate with the barbarians. We have a stated goal in Syria of removing the only leader who protected the civilized people.
It’s been exported to Africa. Boko Haram, al Shabab, and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and the Sahel, among others, have made Africa a bigger hell hole than even Winnie Mandela could have imagined.
The far east doesn’t escape. China, Thailand, and Burma have all had their problems with islamic terrorism and insurgency.
All of this points in one direction. There is an active, violent, and relentless attack on, for lack of a better term, western Christendom and democracy. The forces of savagery and barbarism are engaged in a struggle to bring about the destruction of the west. The antifa people are upfront about admitting it, as are the young socialists who wish to do away with capitalism and private property. The islamic movement is not only upfront about it, but they advertise their disdain for us every time they televise another of their savage killings.
The last great civilization, that of the Greeks and Romans, were destroyed by barbarians from without. As civic virtue and the desire to preserve their culture waned, the barbarians grew ever-more powerful, until it was too late. Now Athens and Rome are just notes in history books.
It seems we might be on the same path. Civic virtue is declining. It is becoming ever more difficult to suggest that there are virtues worth inculcating, and vice worth decrying. It is no longer possible to assert the superiority of one’s own culture without being branded a racist, or a sexist, or a homophobe, or whatever current slur passes for argument nowadays.
If we, as a nation, and a people, don’t decide that our culture, western Christendom, is worth defending, we may end up like Rome: merely a footnote, if there are any books left unburnt.
The left is continuing it’s clamor for Trump to release his tax returns for various years. Some of them have gone back as far as the 1970’s to try and find some sort of dirt on him. But there are at least three reasons, two practical, one principled, that disclosing his tax records is a bad idea.
The first practical reason is that disclosing them would not benefit him at all. His detractors would complain about everything in them and his supporters would point out every good thing in them.
The second practical reason is that the vast majority of Americans would not understand them; I have seen estimates that Trump’s tax returns run about 1200 pages. He has accountants and lawyers that are experts in taxes doing his returns. I have taken classes at the doctoral level in federal taxation and I have serious doubts that I could follow taxes that are as complex as his must be.
So that leaves the average American in the position of listening to someone else tell them what is in his taxes. Rachel Maddow, assuming she is still on the air, would tell her listeners one thing, Eric Bolling would tell his supporters another. But neither of them would have read all the pages of Trump’s return, either. They would have employed experts to explain it to them, and then they would explain it to us. So any information you get from those returns would be third-hand, at best, and unlikely to sway anybody’s mind about Trump.
The IRS has undoubtedly audited Trump at least once or twice over the past decade. Yet there has been no accusation of chicanery in his returns, nor has there been any IRS enforcement action taken against him, that I am aware of. And, by the way, the tax code is so byzantine that even the IRS gives out erroneous information on a regular basis.
So, absent any smoking gun, or even lukewarm gun, and the lack of the average person to understand the returns, what’s the upside to disclosing his returns? None. Let’s be honest. If Trump tomorrow discovered a cure for cancer, the left would complain that he caused the unemployment of thousands of doctors and researchers.
And then there’s the principled reason. Unless someone can make a credible case that Trump’s tax returns contain information that make him unsuitable to be president, why shouldn’t the returns remain private? Have we reached a point where any aspiration to political office now demands a complete and absolute transparency into all private aspects of a candidate’s life?
And to those who will say that if he had nothing to hide he would release them, I would ask if any of them have drapes on their windows, or doors to their bedrooms. There is a difference between privacy and hiding.
The idea that these tax returns will shed any meaningful light on any meaningful topic is simply silly. The left’s insistence on their disclosure is counter-productive and trivial.
“There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime,” retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker told the Wall Street Journal in July 2011. “That is not an exaggeration.”
I have long maintained that there are too many laws and regulations in America. And while I applaud attempts by Trump to roll back the regulatory overload, more needs to be done.
There have been attempts at figuring out how many laws there are in this country, but none have been successful. Between the cities, counties, townships, states, and the federal government, getting an accurate number is virtually impossible.
In one try at it, in 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses. And keep in mind this was 35 years ago. This effort was considered, at the time, the most exhaustive attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws. In a Wall Street Journal article about this project, “this effort came as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.”
Fast forward to 2015. The United States now has some 300,000 federal regulations, and this number gets bigger every year. In addition to the regulations, there are about 4,500 federal criminal statutes on the books carrying fines or prison terms for offenders. And this is only the Federal level, and doesn’t include any lower level laws.
But the problem isn’t just the number of laws, it’s their byzantine application in ways that were never intended by the drafters. For example, consider the case of Yates v. he United States, 135 S. Ct. 1074 (2015).
John Yates was a commercial fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. A state conservation officer, who was also a deputized federal agent, boarded his vessel to inspect their catch of red grouper. After inspecting some 3,000 fish, the official identified 72 red grouper that did not meet the minimum 20-inch conservation standard and issued a citation from the state. He ordered Yates to bring the undersized catch when he returned to port. When Yates returned to port the next day, armed federal agents stood by while inspectors reexamined his catch, finding only 69 fish under the minimum standard. Federal officials accused Yates of destroying evidence. Three years later, the federal government charged him with the destruction of evidence to impede a federal investigation.
In August 2011, Yates was convicted and sentenced under a provision in the 2002 Sarbanes–Oxley law, passed in the wake of the Enron scandal. The law’s “anti-shredding” provision, meant to apply to the destruction of documents or files related to a federal financial-fraud investigation, has nothing to do with fish.
The Supreme Court threw out the conviction, relying more on common sense than any technical legal rationale.
But the crux of the problem is this. There are too many laws, and those laws are applied in too many unintended ways. No man is innocent in today’s America. The state, which already spies on us, has also made it impossible to obey the law. The Supreme Court has gone so far as to say that a policeman may stop you, search you, and use the results of that search against you, even if you had broken no law giving the cop reason to stop you, provided that the officer believed you had broken a law. In Heien v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that a violation of the 4th amendment is perfectly acceptable if the violation results from a “reasonable mistake about the law” on the part of police. Tacitly, the Supreme Court has admitted that even those hired to enforce the law can’t know the law.
This week, and probably next, the talking heads in the media have been all in a tizzy over Obamacare, its repeal, and its replacement. There has been the usual caterwauling from the unhinged-from-reality left about grandma and little Johnny being left to die while the rich republicans run over them with their Cadillacs. There has been the entirely ineffective table-thumping by various and sundry republicans who should know better than to advertise their impotence. Even the libertarians like Paul Rand have been on the bandwagon of public idiocy about “health care.”
The reason I put health care in quotes is because nobody ever maintained that Obamacare was about the provision of care. It was about the provision of insurance, either provided by the government or the private sector insurance companies. It was about who should be covered by insurance, by whom they should be covered, what procedures should be covered, and who should pay for it.
We had the fights, and the democratically controlled congress produced a bill of such brobdingnagian proportions that not one single congressmen, president, or judge can be said to have read every word, let alone all of the cross-references to other parts of the US Code. But, Obama signed it, and the Supreme Court allowed its mandate. And, mirabile dictu, the promises from the left about “heath care” were chimerical. Rates increased catastrophically, doctors abandoned patients, and plans disappeared, leaving many to depend on the exchanges, if there were any.
And, for years, the right tried to repeal this Titanic of laws. They were elected, again and again, on promises to repeal. But, until now, they have been unable. Now, the stars have aligned. A republican Senate. A republican House. A republican in the White House. And, looming on the horizon, a new Scalia for the Supreme Court. So with all these adventitious circumstances, what has the right done?
They have fallen to arguing amongst themselves about whether to replace with the same thing, the same thing with a different name, a slightly different thing, or a greatly different thing. Not one of them that I am aware of has asked the fundamental question that should have been asked of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi at the start of this rough beast. And that is, where is the constitutional justification for the government requiring, providing, and/or regulating health insurance?
I have read, reread, and scrutinized the Constitution, searching for a justification for Obamacare and can find none. I have likewise searched for the justification of a replacement by the republicans and can find none. Nowhere in the Constitution does the provision of health care by the Federal government appear. And yet, not one republican has voiced his opposition to either Obamacare or its replacement on the principal of governmental overreach.
I suppose that I should not be surprised. Every day, more and more people demand more and more from the government. And every day we lose more and more freedom.
Obamacare requires that we have insurance, or pay a fine. The republican repeal will likely contain a like mandate, due to actuarial necessity.
The young left burns schools and uses the heckler’s veto to shut down free speech, and demands that the government cooperate.
Free and open courts have disappeared with the Patriot Act and the FISA courts.
Social Security and Medicare/ Medicaid have become so sacrosanct that no politician will even discuss the programs other than to pledge their undying support, no matter the cost.
One can’t even grow one’s own wheat without running afoul of the ever-growing government.
At what point do we stand on principal, and stand up and say, “enough?” At what point do we realize that freedom is always to be preferred over the mother’s teat? Our forefathers did it over a crappy little tea tax. We, so far, can’t even be bothered to stop a 20 trillion dollar (and growing) debt, which is surely a crushing tax on us all.
At some point, the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem are going to become ironic
While the left frets and fumes about Trump and some of his policies, the real damage is done elsewhere and the left is either clueless or complicit. The real damage to the Constitution and our individual liberties comes from, mirabile dictu, the courts.
First, in an update to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, there is an expanded Rule 41. But first, a little background on the FRCP.
The rules are a way for the federal courts to standardize practices in all the federal courts across the US. They cover a panoply of matters, most of little interest to non-lawyers. A committee for the Judicial Conference of the United States promulgates the rules. The Judicial Conference adopts the rule, and then punts the issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court then passes the proposal to Congress, which can either disavow the change or it becomes the rule governing every federal court across the country. This is part of a statutory process through which federal courts may create new procedural rules, after giving public notice and allowing time for comment, under a “rules enabling act.”
The new Rule 41 says that “A magistrate judge with authority in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred has authority to issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district if: (A) the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means…”
Under this rule, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will be able to search multiple computers across the country with a single warrant. Until the adoption of this rule, the government could only carry out a search of computers located in the district where the federal magistrate had authority, usually only in the district where the judge is sitting.
Remember, the Fourth Amendment specifies that a search warrant requires “particularly describing the place to be searched.” That is apparently no longer required under the new rule. So, be careful. If you conceal the location of your cell phone by not using, on iPhones, location services, a judge can issue a warrant to the FBI to search your phone no matter where in the world your phone is located. So much for the Fourth amendment.
Speaking of the Fourth Amendment, in a case heard by the entire panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Circuit has decided that if you avail yourself of your Second Amendment rights, you forgo not only your Fourth Amendment rights, but other rights as well, including the First Amendment.
In the case of The USA v. Shaquille Montel Robinson, United States Court Of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit, the court decided that if you are armed legally, you can be searched, even in circumstances where such a search would otherwise be prohibited.
In an opinion concurring in the judgment, one judge wrote that, “the majority decision today necessarily leads to the conclusion that individuals who elect to carry firearms forego other constitutional rights, like the Fourth Amendment right to have law enforcement officers “knock-and-announce” before forcibly entering homes. Likewise, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that individuals who choose to carry firearms necessarily face greater restrictions on their concurrent exercise of other constitutional rights.”
So it appears that if I follow the law in Florida and go armed, I forfeit other rights. And you know what, none of this was done by Trump. If you really want to protect your liberties and America’s ever-declining freedoms, don’t look at the President, look to the Courts.
Demand justices and judges who adhere to the constitution. Every time we celebrate a ruling because we like it, whether or not it agrees with the Constitution, we risk losing more of our freedoms.
Our nation has a financial problem. We are in debt to the tune of 20 trillion dollars. This in a country whose GDP is 18 trillion dollars.And with our continued insistence on deficit spending, we are going to be unable to dig ourselves out of a hole we continually enlarge.
But President Trump has a plan, or so he says, to make 10 trillion dollars in budget cuts over the next ten years. And I applaud the things he plans to cut. For example, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Legal Services Corporation would be eliminated, and the budgets for agencies such as the Departments of Energy and Commerce would be slashed. All worthy and necessary goals; the problem is it can’t be enough.
If he were to cut all non-defense discretionary spending, that would amount to only about 16 percent of the federal budget. Cutting it all, even if politically possible, would get nowhere near his proposed level of cuts. Nor would defense, which was also about 16% of the budget. Elimination our entire military wouldn’t put a significant debt in our problem.
The only way to cut enough of the budget to make a dent in our debt is to take a look at Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. The two of them combined are facing deficits of some 80 trillion dollars in the near future. These are the programs that are causing our debt crisis. In FY 2015, SS and Medicare accounted for 2.3 trillion dollars of spending, or about 60% of all federal spending.
The first SS recipient paid in a total of 25 bucks into SS. After retirement, the government paid her some 23000 dollars in benefits. One is tempted to draw a Santayana-esque lesson from that. You know, not learning from history and all. This year, there is a difference of some 84 billion dollars between FICA payments into the system, and payments made to beneficiaries. That shortfall is made up by investment income on federal T-bill owned by the SSA. However, that will change over the next few years as the shortfall gets bigger and the SSA is forced to sell those T-bills to fund payments to beneficiaries.
There are varying projections, of course, depending on whom you talk to, on when the program will exhaust it’s resources. Some say 2020, others say 2030 0r 2034. But one thing is clear; the liabilities of SS/Medicare will have to be addressed before the economics become completely unmanageable.
Trump may have made some grand promises about knocking down our debt, but unless we undertake radical reforms of SS/Medicare, we will continue to deficit spend ourselves into insolvency.
Even before Trump had been sworn in, the lunatic left was up to their standard antics. Police pepper-sprayed “protestors” who were busy breaking windows while denouncing capitalism. Their protests, of course, being organized on various products of capitalism like iPhones, Androids, and tablets. I’m sure there was little self-awareness of the irony.
There were also the leftists who are in favor of anything, as long as it hurts America or her allies. There were the knuckleheads with the orange jumpsuits, protesting on behalf of the terrorists that Obama had not yet released. There was the anti-Israeli contingent, with their “Free Palestine” signs, as well as the climate change protestors, Black Lives Matter, and feminist groups.
But aside from that, the 58th Presidential swearing-in ceremony went off smoothly.
Notably, Trump laid out a few core principles in his speech. And some tolerable insights that he would do well to remember as his term in office progresses.
First, I would note his statement that, “Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.” I’m not sure that Trump realizes it, but what he invokes here is more than mere populism. Trump is appealing to the principle of subsidiarity; that is, the principle that government ought to be exercised at the lowest level possible, since that is the level most directly accessible and responsive to the citizen.
Second, his statement that, “At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens.” If by “serve” he means a continuation or expansion of an ever-growing welfare state, he would be wrong. If, however, he means that a nation has certain duties that inhere in its very essence, such as defense, civil order, and the like, then he is correct. Especially if he means to reinforce the principle that governments are “instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” I would hope the latter, since it is the people that create the state, and not the converse.
Third, the statement that, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” I believe this to be not only a right of a nation, but a paramount duty of any nation. This goes hand-in-hand with the principle of the preceding paragraph.
Finally, he ends with an appeal to unity, at least on a racial basis. Between him saying, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” and “It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” I believe he is calling to end the increasing divisive nature of racial politics that drive us ever-nearer to an irreparable fault line.
Now, granted, these are all words and they may mean nothing in the long run. But I think it would be hard to argue with the principle involved. And, if Trump sticks to these principles, I can’t help but think that every one of us, and by extension, America, will be better off.