Trading Bad

“What I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games.  Sometimes it seems like a bad trade.  But bad trades are part of baseball.  Who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake?”

        —Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy in Bull Durham

 

I suppose these things happen.

In 1989 the Minnesota Vikings gave the Dallas Cowboys five players and six draft picks (including three #1 picks and three #2 picks) for an aging Herschel Walker and a couple of mid-late round draft picks that, other than receiver Jake Reed, didn’t turn into anyone you’ve ever heard of, and the Vikings haven’t even sniffed the Super Bowl since.  Dallas converted those picks into (among others) Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith, Pro Bowlers Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland, receiver Alvin Harper, and three Super Bowl wins in four years in the early-to-mid-1990s.

A lopsided deal, to be sure.  But as far as I know, nobody died in the process.

By now you’ve seen that the Obama Administration made a deal with the Taliban to exchange five jihadists from Guantanamo Bay for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held prisoner in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009.  On its face this doesn’t seem like a major issue, and one might even call it a victory any time we can secure the return of an American POW.  The U.S. government has on many occasions and under a number of administrations engaged in spy swaps and other forms of prisoner exchanges.

But this one struck me as different from the get-go, and as more facts emerge—and I confess we’re still pretty early in that process—the worse this thing looks.

To begin with—and maybe this is just my ignorance—I thought it a bit odd that the Taliban even had a U.S. prisoner to exchange.  I did not know they were in the business of keeping live American prisoners, and indeed it turns out that Sgt. Bergdahl was the only one they had.  Which in itself begs the question why they had him alive in the first place; what value was he to them?

Then there was the notion of the exchange rate.  I do not mean to imply that any human being is more or less valuable than any other, but in return for this single infantry sergeant the Obama administration gave up five reportedly senior Taliban officials and military leaders, including men with direct ties to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden (don’t sweat that, because Obama got a pinky-promise from the government of Qatar that they’ll keep an eye on these guys for the next year, just to make sure they don’t revert to their more violent tendencies; you’ll forgive us, however, if we wonder if that’s as good as the one Obama gave Bart Stupak (D-MI)).  Not only is that effectively trading generals for foot soldiers, but it’s not even a 1:1 deal.  Of course, we’ve seen how Obama negotiates with anyone outside the GOP, so that isn’t particularly a surprise.

But I can excuse all of that.

What I can’t excuse are the details that are emerging about the apparent circumstances of Bergdahl’s “capture,” and the way the President went about making this deal.

All the facts are not in; the Pentagon says it will investigate the matter, and unlike the many other promises from this Administration that it will investigate this, that, or the other thing and hold those responsible accountable—see Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS, NSA, VA, etc.—this one I sort of believe.  But what appears to be coming clear is that Bergdahl was not an ordinary POW captured in combat.  Multiple reports from men in his unit—apparently until now suppressed by the Pentagon, undoubtedly at the direction of the White House—indicate that Bergdahl instead was a deserter who walked off his post and voluntarily into the hands of the Taliban (which might explain in part why he was in the unique position of being in Taliban hands alive).

That’s bad enough, and I understand that the military takes such a dim view of desertion that the penalties for such an action are, well, somewhat on the stiff side.  One could reasonably ask why you would give up anything in exchange for a deserter.  But what really should bother everyone about this is the fact that the U.S. military spent as much as 60 days trying to find and rescue Bergdahl, and as many as 14 U.S. soldiers died in the process.   Add to that the however many Americans killed in the process of capturing the five jihadists released from GITMO in order to get Bergdahl back.  By making this deal, the Obama administration has cheapened those sacrifices, if not nullified them entirely, all for what really amounts to a political smoke screen—since when does Obama give a crap about the military—aimed at distracting attention from the VA debacle (which was distracting attention from the Benghazi and IRS scandals, which were distracting attention from FUBARCare . . . ).

That ought to make you sick to your stomach.

Worse still, all of the nearly 3,000 Americans killed in Afghanistan—every one of them a volunteer, by the way—presumably died defending this country and the American way of life; a way of life that was supposed to be grounded in the rule of law and separation of powers guaranteed under the Constitution.  Say what you will about whether that’s what we’re accomplishing in Afghanistan from a policy standpoint—and it’s a fair complaint after twelve mostly rudderless years, and three years after the last plausibly legitimate objective was achieved—for people who volunteer to go there and serve, that’s what they believe they’re doing, and it’s why they’re doing it.  Yet, the Bergdahl trade represents yet another act in this Administration’s continuing imperial erosion of that concept.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House was obligated to give Congress 30 days’ advance notice before releasing any GITMO detainees.  Obama ignored this, and told no one in Congress ahead of time, except apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who claims he was notified just before it happened.  Even liberal Harvard law professors and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) acknowledge that this was a violation of the law.  The Obama Administration claims—depending on when you ask them—it could not give notice because Bergdahl’s health was deteriorating such that his life was in immediate danger and they could not risk a delay scuttling the deal, or that the Taliban was going to kill him; but video of Bergdahl’s release appears to show him in reasonably good health, and it’s unclear why he would have suddenly been in immediate danger after having been in captivity for five years.  At this point in this Administration, does anyone with a mind even bother listening to the explanation du jour?

Part of the problem here is that it turns out that an exchange of GITMO prisoners for Bergdahl had been under consideration as far back as 2011—in itself begging the question why the sudden urgency now—and Congress told the President no.  But the bigger issue is the underlying attitude of this Administration that if in its sole judgment circumstances warranted a more expedited approach, then the law passed by Congress and signed by him simply didn’t apply.  This President has such utter contempt for Congress, the Constitution, and the separation of powers, and views himself so above the law, that none of it matters.  This prisoner exchange, like so many actions by this lawless President, is totally at odds with the framework of freedom so many have died in that godforsaken hellhole to defend.   Left unchecked, it leaves us yet another step down the path of voiding the price those servicemen and servicewomen paid.

And that’s a bad trade, indeed.

Advertisements

Your Liberty Is Being Decreed Away

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career.  I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.  You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

      —John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything

 

Somebody has to put a stop to this.

On Thursday, the President purported to bail out Congressional Democrats drowning in a tsunami of outrage over millions of people losing their medical care insurance due to the minimum coverage requirements of FUBARCare.  Following up on a proposal discussed in the last post, Obama made an executive decree authorizing the continued sale of discontinued policies made illegal under the law.

The trouble is the Democrats, having created the problem in the first place, can’t fix it by reinstating the plans.  They don’t have the constitutional authority to do so, and their insistence on doing it anyway is frightening.

They can’t do it via legislation, as we discussed Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pushing.  The one thing Chief Justice John Roberts got right in his majority opinion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius was that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the power to compel economic activity.  Because of that, it could not be used as a constitutional basis for upholding the individual mandate.  Senator Landrieu’s proposal simply amounts to an insurance company mandate, and the same analysis would apply.

I suppose one could argue that an insurance company mandate could be supported like the individual mandate was by enforcing it via a tax—Roberts was still wrong on that, by the way—but as a practical matter I don’t see how you would make that work.  It’s one thing to require individuals each of whom has to file their own tax return to submit proof of insurance with the return or have to pay their individual penalty.  But how do you enforce a tax on an insurance company to compel the reinstatement of hundreds of thousands of canceled policies?  How would you even compute such a tax, particularly when some people may have made other arrangements and don’t renew?  And there remain the disastrous long-term economic effects of compelling reinstatement, which we touched on in the last post.

Nor can the President do it.  Like Congress, he doesn’t have the authority to compel economic activity; the Commerce Clause doesn’t even apply to the President.  But he avoided that by not going as far as requiring insurance companies to reinstate policies, only decreeing that they would be permitted to continue selling policies that do not meet the statutory minimum coverage requirements.  He calls it “enforcement discretion,” and it is a power that doesn’t exist under the Constitution.  Scour Article II—you will not find it. 

Once again, we see this President unilaterally amending legislation—legislation he signed into law—creating a line-item veto by executive fiat, a power he simply does not have.  The President is only empowered to execute—that’s what an “executive” is—the laws passed by Congress.  He is not empowered to edit them, nor is he empowered to pick and choose which laws he will execute and which he will not.  One wonders where all those Democrats who little more than a month ago were shrieking at Ted Cruz that “It’s the law of the land!” are now. Thursday’s announcement and whatever order or communication that will go out to implement it are absolutely and unequivocally unconstitutional.

Notice a couple of things about the President’s “fix.”  One, it doesn’t lift the minimum coverage requirements; it only says that the penalties won’t be enforced.  It will remain illegal to have such a policy, and it will remain illegal to sell such a policy.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how comfortable I’d be holding or selling an illegal policy based on this President’s (unconstitutional) assurance—revocable at any time at his whim—that I won’t be punished for it.

Two, this “amnesty” plan is only good through 2014, once again conveniently pushing the issue off just long enough to get them through yet another election cycle.  And it likely does little for the millions who have already had their policies terminated.  Like everything else with this President, it’s a substance-less veneer; a cynical mirror hastily erected to divert your attention from the bigger issue.

And that bigger issue resides in the underlying thought process reflected in FUBARCare and the most recent band-aid.  Under FUBARCare, Congress took upon itself the power to compel individual private citizens to purchase a product regardless of whether they wanted it or could afford to pay for it, under penalty of law.  Let’s stop there for a moment; where does that end?  If Congress can make you buy medical care insurance, can’t it through the identical mechanism make you buy any other product or service it chooses to favor with an artificial compulsory market?  Suppose the UAW goes to Congress and says “We need more people buying cars”—what’s to stop Congress from enacting an individual automobile purchase mandate requiring every person over the age of 26 to buy a new car every three years or face a $15,000 fine, er, tax (with, of course, the appropriate federal subsidies, etc.)?

Pressing on, we see that the proposed solutions to the policy cancellation issue simply flip the analytical equation that led to FUBARCare in the first place.  Having compelled people to buy the product, the Progressives’ instinctive fix for the cancellations was then to compel people to sell the product.  True enough, Obama’s illegal exercise of fiat has—for now—stopped just short of compelling private insurance companies to sell the old policies, but compulsory sales was in fact the concept behind Senator Landrieu’s legislative proposal.  She wanted to force insurance companies to continue to sell policies they would otherwise cancel, and do so even at a loss.

Just like compulsory buying, this compulsory sale idea is subject to logical extension, and the place it leads isn’t pretty.  If government—whether via legislation or executive order—can compel a private insurance company to sell a policy, then it can compel any other private enterprise to sell a product, again even at a loss.  And if it can compel a private corporation to sell a product, it can compel any organization to sell a service.  And if it can compel a private organization—a private group of people—to sell a service, then it can compel a private individual to sell a service—force him to work—and again, to do so even at a loss.

Rusty, that’s crazy.  No one would ever suggest the government force individuals to provide a service against their will.

Really?  Well there are Progressives already openly campaigning on the premise that government should force doctors to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients—force them to provide a service—even if those doctors can’t break even under those programs’ payment structures.  It’s not far from there to say that doctors have to accept all patients, regardless of who they are or whether they can pay at all.  And if they can do it to doctors, well guess what, Sport . . .

It’s called a “command economy,” and it’s a hallmark of totalitarian communism.  Once government controls both sides of the transactional equation, once it acquires the power to compel both the purchaser to buy and the seller to sell, then all freedom is lost.  There is no private property, because both your money and your goods are subject to being forcibly exchanged in compulsory transactions; they belong to the government, to be disposed of as it sees fit for the collective good.  There is no liberty, because your labor—your fundamental control over yourself—is subject to being forcibly devoted to the service of someone else, whether you receive adequate compensation in return, or even any compensation at all; it likewise belongs to the government, to be disposed of as it sees fit for the collective good.  We all become slaves, each chained to the other, with the whip hand belonging to the Progressive ruling elite.

The Constitution was meant to protect you from this.  And it’s being openly, contemptuously ignored, with hardly a word in protest.  Once this genie is out of the bottle, friends, there ain’t no going back.  Write and call your Representative and your Senators; tell them they have to speak out and take action in defense of the Constitution.

We have to stop this now.  If it’s not already too late.

Goldfinger

 

I gave you my heart, and I tried to make you happy

But you gave me nothing in return

You know it ain’t so hard to say

Would you please just go away?

            —The Commodores, Sail On

 

Did you know that at one time it was illegal in this country to own gold?  It’s true.

Up until the early 20th Century, our money in this country was tied directly to gold and silver.  Most of it was literally gold and silver coinage.  Paper “money” really consisted of certificates redeemable at any national bank for a specified amount of gold or silver, and thus a paper “dollar” derived any value it had from its holder’s ability to convert it into gold or silver.  In 1900 the Gold Standard Act pegged the value of the dollar at 25.8 grains of .9 fine gold (23.22 grains of pure gold).

The benefit of such a system is that you know your money is always going to have a relatively stable value because it is (or is backed by) physical gold and silver, which have been accepted as currency basically since the beginning of civilization; i.e., gold and silver have always been real money.  The limitation of this system, however, is that because you had to mint your coins out of gold or silver, or be in a position to redeem any paper certificates presented by exchanging gold or silver for them, your ability to mint or print money was limited to the amount of gold and silver you had on hand.  And this poses more than a little nuisance to progressive politicians who like to spend money without having to worry about where it’s going to come from.

With that background, meet Fred Campbell.

In October 1932 and January 1933, Mr. Campbell bought twenty-seven bars of gold (at the time, about $200,000, or $3.4 million in today’s money) which he deposited at Chase National Bank in New York for safekeeping.  On March 9, 1933—just five days after taking office, and building on restrictions originally enacted by Woodrow Wilson—Franklin Roosevelt signed the Emergency Banking Act, which amended the 1917 Trading With The Enemy Act to grant the executive branch sweeping powers to regulate money, including the power to regulate the hoarding or transfer of gold.  On April 5 FDR issued Executive Order 6102, the first of a series of orders that—with extremely limited exceptions—outlawed private ownership of gold, and required all privately held gold to be turned over to the Federal Reserve in exchange for $20.67 per ounce in paper currency.  When Mr. Campbell later tried to retrieve his gold from Chase, the bank—to no one’s surprise—declined to give it back to him.    Campbell was then indicted for violating the executive orders.

The federal district court that heard the case (Campbell v. Chase Nat’l Bank, et al., 5 F. Supp. 156 (S.D.N.Y. 1933)) began by correctly observing that gold and silver have forever been recognized as the basis of trade—as money.  And thus, whether as legally monetized coin or as commodity bullion, gold and silver are necessarily and inherently tied to the concept of money.

But then the court went off the rails.  Because gold and silver are the basis of money, according to the court, they are affected with “public interest.”  Uh-oh.  And because they are a matter of public interest, they must be within the scope of Congress’ “plenary” (total) power to regulate money.  From this, the court then upheld the government’s action of taking Campbell’s gold—his money—as a valid exercise of the government’s sovereign power of “eminent domain” (the power to seize property):

“The frontiers of necessary action by the federal government are constantly shifting, and, as a result, the methods of using federal governmental powers have to change from time to time, and hitherto unused powers have to be invoked to cope with the varied exigencies encountered . . . The incidence of the right of eminent domain, as will be seen from what is hereinafter said, is not, however, limited to commodities affected with public interest, but involves the right of the government to take private property of any kind when it is deemed necessary, by the appropriate authority, for the public good.”

Notice the dangerous thinking embedded in the court’s expansive language.  The limits of the federal government’s power are not fixed, but are instead infinitely flexible to allow the government to take action in response to the self-declared emergency of the moment.  And thus the government’s sovereign power of eminent domain extends to allow it to take anything from you it deems necessary for the public good.  Even your money.

But Rusty, we see eminent domain used all the time to build roads, and the government always has to pay fair compensation for what it takes.

True enough.  But without getting into the argument over whether people who have their land taken from them ever really receive fair compensation, consider that in this instance we’re not talking about a forced sale of land.  Nor are we talking about a taking for use by the general public.  We’re talking about the government taking your money for itself and replacing it with less money (or with what is arguably not even money at all).

Later in 1933 the government, having confiscated all the gold, took it upon itself to raise the exchange rate for gold to $35 an ounce, conveniently allowing it then to sell that gold internationally and claim for itself the profit it denied to the rightful private owners of that gold.  People who were forced to accept $20.67 in U.S. currency in exchange for their gold in effect took an immediate 70% loss, as illustrated in what became some of the “Gold Clause Cases” decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1935.  The plaintiff in Nortz v. United States, 294 U.S. 317 (1935) was denied the difference between the value of his gold on the open market and the dollar face value of the currency he was given in compensation for its confiscation.  In Perry v. United States, 294 U.S. 330 (1935), the plaintiff was denied the difference between the gold value of a U.S. Treasury Bond originally payable on its face in gold and the devalued dollar face value of the bond.

For the next 40 years, private gold ownership was illegal in the United States.  Although U.S. currency was technically backed by gold held by the U.S. Treasury, you couldn’t actually redeem it and collect that gold.  In the mid-1960s the Treasury phased out silver coinage.  In 1971 President Nixon officially ended the gold standard; since then, neither gold nor silver have been considered money in this country.  With no tie to an objective value, U.S. currency became “fiat” money—money that has value solely because the government says so.  And because it’s not subject to being redeemed for gold (or silver), the government can then print as much as it wants, because there’s no risk of a run on inadequate gold reserves to back it up.  Of course, like anything else when you increase supply (in this case, by printing more dollars) you drive down its price; in the case of dollars, that means inflation—the same number of dollars buys less than it used to.

Thus, the government was able to take people’s money in the form of forcibly confiscating their gold in exchange for devalued currency.  Then the government was able to take it again (and again, etc.) by printing fiat dollars resulting in inflation that made the paper money that replaced the gold worth less and less.  This illustrates the problem with an unbridled power of the government to just take what it wants in the name of what it says is the “public interest”: your private property is no longer safe.

George Will wrote yesterday about a disturbing case in Virginia where Old Dominion University has commandeered the City of Norfolk to use its eminent domain power to seize private land, not for public use, but for the University’s use.  And although your ability to own gold was reinstated in 1975, there’s precious little to stop the government—potentially by executive decree of the President—from confiscating it again just as FDR did in 1933; only this time they’ll be compensating you not with devalued gold certificates, but with inflationary fiat currency.  Indeed, what’s to stop the government from then seizing your fiat money accounts themselves and compensating you with 20 year Treasury bonds?  We’ll have gone from gold, to gold certificates, to Monopoly money, to IOUs.

What happens when there’s nothing left to seize?

Fiat Out Of Control

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun . . . Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”

            —Chairman Mao Zedong, The Little Red Book

 

This is scarier than I thought.

Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting this week with his committee on curbing gun violence and various pro- and anti-gun groups.  On Wednesday, he emphasized the urgency of action:

“If our actions result in saving only one life, they’re worth taking.”

Only one life, huh?  To save even one life, it’s worth the Administration taking unilateral action; you sure about that, Joe?

You mean like sending armed help to save Americans trapped in a consulate compound under siege in Benghazi?   Or responding to urgent requests in the weeks leading up to that attack to increase security at that post?  Or closing it (as the British did) months earlier after it became clear that the situation was unstable and dangerous?  Are those the kind of life-saving actions worth taking, Mr. Vice President?

You mean like ending the occupation in Afghanistan and withdrawing instead of leaving troops in harm’s way for some undetermined period of time with no mission?  Or employing whatever means are necessary to obtain information about terrorist plots aimed at killing Americans?  Are those the kind of actions worth taking if they save even one life, Mr. Vice President?

Or do you mean like securing the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico borders against heavily-armed drug runners (drug-runners armed by your own Department of Justice)?   Is that what you mean, Joe?

How about stopping hundreds of millions in federal funding for 300,000+ abortions a year performed through Planned Parenthood?  Is that what you mean, Joe?

I assume you don’t mean ensuring that a stay-at-home-mom is in a position to stop an intruder and save her children when there’s no time to wait for the cops, do you, Joe.

Apparently some lives and some actions are more worthy than others.

But here’s the scary part.

The above litany demonstrates that these people are not serious about “saving lives,” which of course begs the question what it is they’re really up to.  And that’s what makes this so troubling, because Biden now says that the Administration’s zeal nevertheless to act and act quickly on gun control could include the issuance of undetermined executive orders:

“There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken.  We haven’t decided what that is yet.”

Wow.

I have repeatedly covered this President’s history of power abuse through the unilateral exercise of executive fiat (by decree: it is because I say it is).  But to date that’s been limited to unconstitutional usurpations of Congressional authority by effectively repealing legislation (Defense of Marriage Act), amending legislation (Obamacare (the CLASS Act), No Child Left Behind), or enacting legislation (DREAM Act) by one form or another of executive order.  Now we’re talking about the possibility of the President, acting alone under his sole authority as determined by himself, purporting to alter/restrict/eliminate (pick your verb) a right expressly reserved to the People of the United States in the Constitution.

Let me repeat:  we’re talking about the President limiting or removing a right specifically guaranteed to you under the Constitution, based solely on his own self-proclaimed power to do so.

Of course, nothing in the Constitution grants him that authority:  Article I gives the legislative power exclusively to the Congress; Article II limits the power of the President to executing laws duly enacted by that Congress; Article V provides the sole means of altering the Constitution itself, neither of which include executive fiat.  Yet there he goes (or is at least threatening), and if he can do that, where, exactly, are the limits of his power and who is to enforce them, because they’re obviously not to be found in the Constitution?

Now if that doesn’t have you good and puckered, let’s review a little history.  On November 9, 1938, anti-Jewish riots broke out all over Nazi Germany in response to the murder of a German diplomat in Paris.  This event became known as “Kristallnacht” (“night of broken glass”), and although Jews had been persecuted in Germany prior to this event, Kristallnacht is generally regarded as the beginning of the Holocaust in earnest.

On November 11—just two days later—Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick enacted the Regulations Against Jews’ Possession Of Weapons, which effectively banned all Jewish ownership of guns.  The next day, November 12, the German Jews were fined 1 billion marks to pay for the damage caused during Kristallnacht.  On November 15, Jewish children were expelled from public schooling.  Less than a year later, Jews were being rounded up and shipped to concentration camps.

Some six million Jews were killed.

No, Hitler didn’t come to power by seizing guns, nor did anti-Semitic persecution begin with gun control.  But when it came time to get serious about rounding up and disposing of perceived enemies of the State, one of the very first things the Nazis did was disarm their victims.  And they did it by administrative order—the stroke of a bureaucratic pen—not through the open deliberative process of a representative legislature in accordance with an objective rule of law (i.e., a Constitution).

The Nazi Germany experience is not unique, although it may be the most stark in terms of the temporal relationship between government disarmament and the institution of mass killings of potential dissenters.  There are numerous other examples of public disarmament followed by governmental mass murder of dissenters just in the twentieth century.

  • The Ottoman Empire began instituting restrictions on the manufacture or carrying of firearms in the late 1890s.  By 1915, local Armenian officials were ordered to collect (read: confiscate) quotas of guns, but faced a Hobson’s choice:  meeting the quota proved you were part of an armed conspiracy against the government, while not meeting it proved you were stockpiling weapons.  Either way, you were executed.  Ultimately the Armenian population was rounded up and force-marched to relocation camps in the interior of Turkey.  A million or more died.
  • The Soviets began requiring the registration of firearms in 1918, almost immediately upon taking power.  By 1925, unauthorized possession of guns was outlawed.  Stalin’s political purges and ethnic deportations between 1929 and 1953 led to some 20 million deaths.
  • The Chinese began instituting gun control laws in the early 20th Century.  In 1957, the Communist government banned possession altogether.  Between 1957 and 1976 about 20 million Chinese dissidents died at the hands of that same government.
  • Cambodia likewise had had gun restrictions dating to the early 20th Century.  When the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, they didn’t bother enacting a law—they just went village to village and took the guns.  Once the population was disarmed, the Khmer Rouge rounded up the intellectuals (i.e. the most likely potential dissenters), and force-marched them to labor camps.  About a million died.
  • In Uganda, the government banned unauthorized possession of firearms at least as far back as 1955.  By 1969, the country was under the control of dictator Milton Obote, who tightened the ban basically to cover everyone but those close to the government.  Idi Amin took over in 1971.  The Asian population was promptly deported and their property confiscated.  Some 300,000 political enemies were killed.

While it does not involve genocide, even our own history is marked by the efforts of a tyrannical government to disarm a dissenting public.  The first military engagements of the Revolution took place on April 19, 1775 at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.  Any elementary school kid can tell you about Paul Revere riding the countryside to warn the colonists and muster the militias against a column of Redcoats marching out of Boston:  The British are coming!  But recall what it was the British were after:  private guns.  They were going to seize weapons and supplies the colonists had stockpiled at Concord.

The White House’s threat to resort to executive action on gun control is a serious, serious deal.  And don’t hold your breath waiting for John Boehner and this Congress or John Roberts’ Supreme Court to stand up and stop it.  Ain’t.  Gonna.  Happen.

We, the People, are all that’s left.  We have to stand up and stop this, and we have to do it now, before it’s too late.

Join the NRA and your state or local association.

Call or write your congressman and your state reps.

And when it comes down to it, band together and refuse to comply.

An Open Letter To The Paulites

Gibson:           Wait a minute!  Are you out of your mind?  You can’t pull agents off a priority surveillance to follow your wife!  It’s gross misappropriation of Sector resources!  It’s   . . . it’s a breach of national security!  You copy, Harry?  This is too far.  You’re losing it big-time.  I have to stop you.

Tasker:           What are you going to do?  Tell?

Gibson:           G*dd#mmit, Harry, this is both our butts.  So your life is in the toilet.  So your wife is banging a used car salesman.  Sure, it’s humiliating.  But take it like a man.

            —Tom Arnold as Albert Gibson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker in True Lies

I’ve mentioned a couple of times my growing frustration with The Mike Church Show on Sirius/XM.  King Dude used to be my preferred morning drive time programming.  But as we got into this election cycle, he went off the cliff over Ron Paul.  That was fine to a point.

But he won’t let it go.

Even this week, Church’s commentary has been inundated with Ron Paul this, and Rand Paul that.  He moans on and on about Ron Paul not being on the list of GOP convention speakers (I note his son Rand is actually on the speaker list two days).  And when he’s not pimping for Ron Paul, he’s endlessly trashing Mitt Romney for not being Ron Paul.

Mr. Church, does Ron Paul have photos of you hottubbing with Satan?

Look, I share your frustration with the Republican establishment.  I understand that the GOP has been a large part of the expanding government problem.  And I am sympathetic to much of the Libertarian message Paul espouses (although I won’t go with him on things like legalizing drugs or complete isolationism, and the whole Lew Rockwell connection and Paul’s affinity for bizarre conspiracy theories is a little creepy).  But at some point all of you Paul disciples need to come to grips with the reality that Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee for President.  Nor is he ever going to win the Presidency.  That’s not a comment on his substantive policies, it’s just a fact, every bit as much so as the sun will rise in the East.

I know you love him, but you need to get over it.

Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for President; nothing will change that now.  Is he the perfect candidate?  No.  He wasn’t my first (or second, or third) choice, either.  But he’s what we have to work with, and he has one very, very important attribute you need to keep sight of:

Mitt Romney is not Barack Obama.

And this really is the point that scares me about all of the Paulian grousing.  I’m hearing Paul supporters either so frustrated they say they’re going to sit the election out completely, or endlessly trashing Mitt Romney as being indistinguishable from Obama.  While I am not here to shill for Romney or the GOP, let me just say that both positions are counter-productive, and fatally short-sighted.

First, not voting—or writing in Ron Paul, which is the same as not voting because he cannot win—is for all intents and purposes a vote for Barack Obama.  Let me explain.  The Presidency is not won by total popular vote (which is why national polls are meaningless), but by electoral votes, which are divided by state.  Assume your state has 10 electoral votes, all 10 of which will go to the candidate who wins that state.  If 47 people vote for Obama, 45 people vote for Romney, and the 8 people who love Ron Paul either don’t vote or write-in for Paul, Obama wins.  That’s the same result as if those 8 people voted for Obama; the only thing that changes is his margin of victory is 55-45 instead of 47-45-8.  Either way, Obama gets all 10 electoral votes.  Your protest accomplishes nothing.  The only action that would change the outcome is if at least 5 of the 8 Ron Paul folks actually vote for Romney (3 if we assume the other 5 don’t vote). 

Flashback to 1992.  Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot ran as an independent on a pseudo-Libertarian platform.  While he did not carry a single electoral vote, he garnered some 18% of the popular vote.  Whether that siphoned enough votes that would otherwise have been GOP to cost George H.W. Bush re-election is debatable, but it is certainly within the realm of mathematical possibility.  The race this time around is infinitely closer than the ’92 Bush/Clinton contest, and the margin of victory either way is likely to be razor-thin.  Ron Paul protest non-votes almost surely tip the scales to Obama.

Second—and the reason the first point is so critically important—Mitt Romney is in fact not Barack Obama, and blurring that distinction is dangerous almost beyond words.  Look, I get it that the Massachusetts healthcare thing is a huge albatross, but at least it’s the sort of smaller-scale experiment for which the 10th Amendment was intended to make States the laboratories:  Massachusetts is free to try universal government-provided health insurance, so long as it doesn’t inflict it on Texas.   I get it that even with his adoption of the Ryan budget proposals you’re still talking about a HUGE central government, but at least he’s a step in the right direction.  You can’t turn the aircraft carrier around unless you can stop it first.

More importantly, a President Romney won’t be fiating the Constitution out of existence.  I’ve harped on this many times, but Professor Thomas Sowell did an excellent piece (h/t to my Dad for pointing this out to me at RealClearPolitics.com) highlighting the stakes in this election and the dangers of focusing on isolated issues at the expense of the bigger picture of the steady destruction of the Constitution under this incumbent President:

“If laws passed by the elected representatives of the people can simply be over-ruled unilaterally by whoever is in the White House, then we are no longer a free people, choosing what laws we want to live under.

When a President can ignore the plain language of duly passed laws, and substitute his own executive orders, then we no longer have ‘a government of laws, and not of men,’ but a President ruling by decree, like the dictator of a banana republic.

When we confine our debates to the merits or demerits of particular executive orders, we are tacitly accepting arbitrary rule.”

Candidate Obama agreed with this premise, opportunistically hammering then-President Bush over use of “signing papers” (caveats attached to his signature on bills, purporting to exempt him from enforcing certain parts, thus assuming for himself a line-item veto that doesn’t exist), and promised never to use such devices to get around the constitutional mandate that the President enforce the laws enacted by Congress.  President Obama’s actions once in power, however, have been very different than his campaign rhetoric (see the DREAM Act, No Child Left Behind, the CLASS Act, waivers under Obamacare, Clinton’s welfare reform, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Voting Rights Act (as applied to The New Black Panther Party), etc.).  Time and again Obama has ignored the constitutional limits of his office, and done, un-done, or re-done legislation to suit his fancy.

This is why this election is so critical, and why you Paul supporters can’t get so caught up in your Libertarian ideals that you lose sight of what’s happening.  We’ve already seen the extent to which Obama is willing to discard the Constitution and take unilateral action he has no authority to take.  How much worse is he going to be when he no longer has to face re-election, and he now knows (thank you, George W. Bush and Chief Justice Roberts) he may actually already have 5-4 support in the Supreme Court?  How much worse still if he gets to appoint replacements for Justices Thomas or Scalia and boosts the Left majority to a theoretical 6-3 or 7-2?

You Paul supporters will have your time to fight the Libertarian fight another day, but only if we ensure that Obama does not get a second term.  If you take your toys and go home now, if Obama wins re-election, tomorrow may never come for that liberty you claim you so cherish.

Right Back Where We Started

Cohaagen:    Richter, you know why I’m such a happy person?
Richter:         No, sir.
Cohaagen:    Because I have one of the greatest jobs in the solar system.  As long as the turbinium keeps flowing, I can do anything I want.  Anything.  In fact, the only thing I worry about is, one day, if the rebels win, it all might end.
—Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen and Michael Ironside as Richter in Total Recall
 
Am I the only one alarmed by these things?
Foxnews.com reports that this week the President will begin announcing a series of measures to try to jump start the economy, beginning with the Affordable Loan Refinance Program.  Apparently, not enough people with bad credit or other high risk factors are able to refinance mortgages that are under water; that is, people who are at high risk of default can’t get loans on houses that aren’t worth as much as what’s owed on them.  So to boost sagging demand in the housing market, Obama is by executive fiat going to order banks to make low-interest (read: low return relative to risk) loans to people who fail the normal underwriting rules designed to mitigate against the risk of foreclosure, and to do so on assets that by definition won’t cover the amount of the loan in the event the borrower defaults.
Wasn’t it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
As I’ve discussed previously, it is exactly this sort of government program that is at the root of our current economic mess.  The mortgage crisis and banking industry meltdown stemmed directly from the government effectively forcing banks to make high risk loans with little security.  Of course, why should we be at all concerned about repeating this mistake—after all, this time it’s Obama, and we know all about the Obama administration’s sterling track record when it comes to dabbling in high-risk lending.
Apparently, after 1000 days in office, the situation is now so urgent that we absolutely cannot wait any longer for Congress to act, so Obama-the-Savior has to assume the burden of rescuing us himself.
But I want to leave aside the sheer stupidity of repeating the forced lending mistake and focus on the real danger here, which is the process by which this is coming about.  This of course isn’t the first time we’ve seen this (as I’ve covered here and here and here), and there have been several examples of this use of executive fiat in recent weeks.  Barely 10 days ago, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius informed Congress that because of long well-known problems with its long-term financial viability, the Administration would not be implementing the “CLASS Act,” the long term care program baked into the Obamacare bill, effectively exercising an after-the-fact line-item veto by administrative action. 
I guess they really did need to pass it so they’d know what was in it.
Last week, the President—again citing Congress’ failure to act—announced that his Department of Education would waive State compliance with basic elements of the No Child Left Behind law, effectively repealing the statute by executive decree.
Let’s assume for a second that Obama’s right (and, frankly, I don’t disagree that the CLASS Act and the No Child provisions the administration is avoiding were bad ideas—the mortgage thing is a different story, but my point here has nothing to do with the substance or merits of any of these statutes).  Let’s assume that he’s omniscient, endlessly benevolent, and really does need to take these measures for our own good.  Let’s assume that it’s really that urgent and we can’t wait any longer for Congress to enact legislation.  Let’s forget for a moment the colossally incompetent mess this President and his cabinet staff of career academics made the last time they got into the high risk loan/investment business, and assume that this time he’s got it right.
From where does the President derive the authority to do any of this?
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution lays out the powers of the President:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have the Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
 
            He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
 
            The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Oh, yes, and Section 3 goes on to provide that the President “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed[.]”
There is no “Congress fails to act” provision in the Constitution allowing the President to take unilateral action if Congress gets bogged down.  There is no line-item or after-the-fact veto allowing the President to—whether officially or de facto through deliberate inaction—write laws out of existence, even if those laws are stupid, fiscally unsustainable, or otherwise useless piles of steaming dung.  That is so, regardless of how urgent the need is.
I’ve harped on this before; the unilateral assumption of Presidential authority to rewrite or simply ignore acts of Congress that have been duly passed and signed into law is by far the single most dangerous threat to what’s left of this Republic.  Once the President has the power to do that, Congress becomes meaningless.  Presumably that same power to ignore actions of the Legislative branch would also permit the President to ignore actions of the Judicial branch.  At that point, we cease to be a nation of laws at all.  The President would have absolute power, because he would no longer be bound by anything Congress or the courts do.  That’s how it works in places like North Korea and Cuba. 
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
We’re about two steps away from square one.

Ask Not To Whom The Law Applies, For Only Obama Knows

 
By now you’ve seen that Obama’s Department of Homeland Security has announced a new policy of not pursuing deportation of illegal aliens meeting certain criteria.  This is the latest example of Obama legislating by executive fiat , in this case effectively passing the DREAM Act by administrative order even though it failed to pass in Congress.  It has, of course, been correctly assailed as an unconstitutional usurpation of legislative authority, and we should all be duly alarmed by this President’s boundless hubris in this respect.
But there’s an even darker, more dangerous side to this, and it should scare the daylights out of you.
Under the plan outlined by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, a “working group” will review each case individually to determine, based on a series of priorities set by the Obama administration, which cases will be pursued, and which cases will be closed.  In other words, an unnamed panel of people selected by the administration will go case-by-case and decide whether the immigration laws will be enforced.  Like the Deltas’ toga party, those the fraternity likes will be shown to the keg, and those it doesn’t will be shunted off to the front parlor to meet Ken, Larry, and Mohammed. 
It is one thing for Obama to refuse across the board to enforce laws he doesn’t like, as he has done with No Child Left Behind, the Defense of Marriage Act, and in many respects with the immigration laws.  But it is quite another to have it be the official policy of the United States that its laws will be selectively enforced as to some people but not others, as determined by the subjective assessment of some double-secret panel of agency appointees.  This law applies to you, and you, but not to you.  Do not ask why.
The potential ramifications are chilling, to say the least.
Ostensibly the DHS review will be framed by criteria borrowed from the DREAM Act, such as those who are in school, or who have U.S. citizen relatives, and what have you.  But what keeps that review confined to those criteria?  What’s to stop this panel from basing deportation review decisions on, for example, an individual’s political views, with administrative closure being granted only to those who can demonstrate a predisposition to agreeing with the President’s agenda (and, of course, what better way to demonstrate that predisposition than by putting one’s money where one’s mouth is, if you get my meaning)?
But take it a step further.  If the President (through his agency appointees) can set up a panel to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to enforce the immigration laws, what prevents him from setting up other panels to make other case-by-case reviews of whether to enforce other laws?  For example:
·      The State Department could establish a panel to review passport applications and grant only those that, in the panel’s judgment, are requested for purposes in line with a list of priorities set forth by the White House (sounds a little like Cuba or the old Soviet Union, doesn’t it?).
·      The Treasury Department could set up a panel to review tax cases and no longer seek recovery of unpaid taxes against members of groups that, in the White House’s view, have historically been economically disadvantaged. 
·      The Social Security Administration could deploy a panel to review social security benefits on a case-by-case basis and adjust or even withhold benefits based on its subjective assessment of an individual’s “need.”
·      The Department of Health and Human Services could create a panel to review on a case-by-case basis whether a person may receive medical treatment based on a policy of prioritizing treatment for those who, in the panel’s subjective judgment, have the most potential for contributing to society in the future.
For you Leftists out there, imagine this executive power of selective enforcement in the hands of, say, a David Duke.  Do I have your attention now?
This has nothing to do with how you feel about immigration.  We are supposed to be a nation of laws that apply equally to everybody.  Under the Fourteenth Amendment:
No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Supreme Court has held since the 1950s that this same concept also applies to the federal government through the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.  I don’t like to suggest that illegal aliens have rights under our Constitution, but those who cry for “immigration reform” (read: amnesty) routinely insist that they do.  And if the President can by executive order start picking and choosing against whom the immigration laws will apply and be enforced, he can do it in any other context, at which point the whole idea of equal protection becomes meaningless.
I understand prosecutorial discretion and the need to focus limited resources.  But this is setting up agency review of enforcement on a case-by-case basis, based on political criteria promulgated by the White House having nothing to do with the violations at issue.  These people are all in different circumstances, but they’re all in custody and being reviewed for the same crime: being here illegally.  That is the law we’re talking about enforcing.  They’ve all violated that law in exactly the same way and to exactly the same extent.  There aren’t different degrees of violation, and this isn’t the sort of thing where the strength of the evidence of guilt can vary.  It’s objective—you’re either a citizen or you aren’t, and if you’re not, you either followed the legal process and have the necessary authorization to be here or you didn’t.  If you didn’t, the law says you are to be sent back from whence you came, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a nice guy, or whether the President likes you.  You’re not less an illegal alien just because you’re in school.  The law is to apply equally to everyone. 
This administration is not only legislating by executive fiat, but it is now deciding on an individual basis to whom the law applies, and to whom it does not. 
These are treacherous waters indeed, friends. 

Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges! — Obama’s Expanding Executive Fiat

“Presenting your Royal Highness, our illustrious King Julien XIII, self-proclaimed lord of the lemurs, et cetera, et cetera, hooray everybody.”
—Cedric the Entertainer, as the voice of Maurice in Madagascar
  
As I initially posted August 8, the Obama Administration has announced that it will no longer enforce the math proficiency requirements built into the No Child Left Behind Act.  Calling it a “slow-moving train wreck,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is waiving the requirement for states that, in his judgment, have adopted their own accountability programs and are making progress towards improvement.  So, in essence, the Administration has, in its infinite wisdom, taken it upon itself to declare that a law duly enacted by Congress that has been on the books for a decade is unworkable and therefore simply won’t be enforced.  There’s been no hearing, no debate, and no vote; only the stroke of an agency pen.  When I raised this with my 13 year old, she scrunched her face and asked, “Do they have the authority to do that?”
Indeed.
Leave aside the pros and cons of the statute itself; I myself think No Child Left Behind was misguided and flawed from the get-go.  The issue here is that the Obama Administration has enacted what amounts to a line-item veto nearly ten years after the fact.  And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of behavior from him.  This week’s action is just the latest in a growing string of increasingly bold assumptions of power through executive fiat.  UPDATE 8/18/2011: DHS CANCELS DEPORTATIONS, ENACTING FAILED “DREAM ACT” BY FIAT.  Consider:
May 2009           Shortly after Obama takes office, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the Voting Rights Act against the New Black Panther Party.
June 2009           Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announces her department will no longer enforce the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments adopted in 1986.
March 2010        To secure Bart Stupak’s deciding vote, Obama signs an executive order essentially refusing to enforce parts of Obamacare providing for federally-funded abortions.
February 2011    The Justice Department announces it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, declaring it unconstitutional.
March 2011        The Obama Administration continues preparations for the implementation of Obamacare, despite a federal court ruling that the law is unconstitutional.
June 2011           Obama refuses to comply with the War Powers Resolution with regard to U.S. involvement in Libya (in fairness, he is not the only President to do this).
August 2011       The Department of Education announces it will no longer enforce portions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
2009-2011          The Obama Administration continuously refuses to enforce immigration laws, dismisses huge numbers of deportation cases, and actively sues to prevent States like Arizona, South Carolina, and Alabama from filling the void.
Did I miss something?  From whence does the President derive the authority to choose which laws will and won’t be enforced?  What makes the President the arbiter of what is or is not constitutional?
Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution places the power to legislate—i.e., the power to make laws—exclusively with the Congress:
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States[.]  (emphasis added)
All.  Period.  Nothing qualifies this grant of legislative power on later Presidents’ unilateral determination of whether the law enacted is workable or constitutional.  The only condition on the legislative power having anything to do with the President is the power of veto conferred by Article I, Section 7:
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it[.]
That veto is subject to override by a 2/3 vote.  A bill that passes both houses and is signed by the President, or neither signed nor vetoed within 10 days, or is vetoed and then re-passed by a 2/3 majority becomes a law.  It is not subject to later Presidential review.
The fact is it isn’t the President’s job to legislate or to pass on the constitutionality of legislation (on the latter, see Marbury v. Madison).  The President’s job is to execute that legislation.  Article II, Section 1 makes this clear:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States[.]
An “executive” is one who carries out, or enforces.  Black’s Law Dictionary lays it out nicely:
As distinguished from the Legislative and judicial departments (i.e., branches) of government, the executive department is that which is charged with the detail of carrying the laws into effect and securing their due observance.
There simply is no constitutional authority for the President to refuse to enforce laws, or for him to decide their constitutionality.  The President can exercise a veto at the time the legislation is passed, but once that time comes and goes, it’s done.  The Bill becomes Law, and the President’s only option is to enforce it.  Subsequent Presidents don’t get to submit the entire United States Code to a do-over veto.
To flip the question, if Obama can do this, what’s to stop a later President from refusing to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964?  Or simply declaring the Americans with Disabilities Act (or—and listen close, Obama-defenders—Obamacare) unconstitutional?
Don’t bother with the “protecting and defending” nonsense.  First, that’s an oath of office, not an empowering provision (and in any event it is preceded by the affirmation that he will faithfully execute the office of President, not of Congress, and is qualified by the caveat “to the best of my ability,” which carves out those measures of protecting and defending that are outside his constitutional mandate).  Second, if “protect and defend” means a President can deem a law unconstitutional and then refuse to enforce it, the Article I passage + signing = passage + veto + override = Law equation becomes meaningless.  Third, unconstitutionality hasn’t even been offered as a justification for most of Obama’s usurpations of legislative power.
Harken back to grammar school or even the Schoolhouse Rock TV series if you must.  We have three branches of government:
The Legislative branch (Congress) legislates;
The Executive branch (President) executes or enforces; and
The Judicial branch (Supreme Court) decides on constitutionality.
This Chief Executive is assuming for himself the legislative authority to re-write laws or eliminate them altogether, and the judicial authority to declare which laws are constitutional and which aren’t.
These are not the actions of a President under the constitutional republic system of government laid out in our Constitution.  They are the actions of a dictator.

Because I Said So, That’s Why

“We make the rules, pal.”
—Michael Douglass as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

More on this phenomenon later, but this couldn’t wait.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he is unilaterally overriding the core requirement of the No Child Left Behind law, waiving the statute’s math proficiency requirements because Congress has failed to revise the law to his satisfaction.
I am no fan of No Child Left Behind, but this action ought to scare the bejeezus out of anyone who’s paying attention.  The Administration, by the stroke of a pen fueled by agency fiat, is overruling an act of Congress.  It’s essentially a retroactive line-item veto of a statute passed several Congresses and a Presidential Administration ago.  There’s been no vote, no hearings, no debate.
This is yet another in a growing list of examples of this Administration’s total disregard for the Constitution.  Obama will enforce what he wants, when he wants.  It doesn’t matter what the Congress (or past Congresses) do, or even what the Courts say.  He is the sole arbiter of what is right, just, fair, and Constitutional.  It is not his to execute the laws duly passed by the Congress, but his to filter those laws according to his own whim.
Is anyone else tired of Obama playing judge, jury, and executioner?
It must be good to be the king.