Sunday, June 05, 2016
Lessons from Obama
The American founders had the very good idea that they could prevent the development of tyranny by dividing the functions of government into three independent parts: Legislature, Administration and the courts. And they had another safeguard too: A procedure for impeaching a lawless president.
All those safeguards have now broken down. As president, Obama's job is to administer the law, not to make it. But he openly flouts that. What he cannot cajole the legislature to do, he boasts that he will do with phone and pen. He has no shame about usurping the role of Congress. He acts like a king -- exactly what the founders wanted to prevent.
And SCOTUS too has set itself up as yet a third legislature. They interpret the constitution to mean whatever they want it to mean-- regardless of what it actually says. So they find a right to abortion in the constitution when the word is not even mentioned there and they deny protections that ARE mentioned there. Despite the equal treatment clause, they approve various forms of "affirmative action", which are nothing if not arrangements to treat people unequally, dependent on their race, sex or anything else.
And what can anybody do about these usurpations? Nothing. But that should not be so. Something should be done to pull these arrogant people back to within their constitutional roles. Impeachment founders on the generally rather even divide of voting power in the Senate and the way that an impeachment vote will rarely deviate from party loyalties.
So some new mechanism to rein in these improper power grabs is clearly needed. Dealing with SCOTUS is fairly easy. Congress has the power to specify what SCOTUS can consider. So Congress can simply pass a law saying that (for instance) any consideration of race in hiring is forbidden and add the rider that that particular law is not within the authority of SCOTUS to consider.
So it's the presidency that is the big problem. And it would seem that only an age-old method is likely to suffice. It is a method easily abused but it could be formalized in a fairly safe way: Military intervention. A constitutional amendment would be far too difficult to get through and, as we have seen, constitutions are too easily defied.
What could be done, however, would be to pass a law setting up a consultative committee comprising the heads of the four main armed forces -- Army, Navy Airforce and Marines. And the duty of that committee would be to observe a President and, on their own initiative, warn him whenever he overstepped his legal powers or failed to administer the law. And if the warning was not heeded, a military unit (Marines?) could be delegated to arrest him and put him on trial before a court martial. And that court would have the power to detain him in secure custody until the next President is elected.
A wily president would of course put in his own men as heads of the armed forces as soon as he came to office. And that could indeed weaken the safeguard. One should however remember President Salvador Allende of Chile. Before he tore up Chile's electoral rolls he put a safe, non-political man in charge of Chile's armed forces. That man was Augusto Pinochet. And there are other instances of that general kind.
Australians will remember the dismissal of Prime Minister Whitlam by Governor General Sir John Kerr, his own appointee. No blood was spilt on that occasion, showing that the peaceful and orderly dismissal of an elected national leader is possible -- but Australia does have the advantage of being a constitutional monarchy, so there is some supervision of the politicians -- JR
Paul Ryan's Declares for Trump
House Speaker Paul Ryan will vote for Donald Trump, he wrote Thursday in an op-ed for the GazetteXtra of Janesville, Wisconsin. The statement of support comes after Ryan initially withheld his endorsement when Trump emerged the GOP nominee.
Trump traveled to Capitol Hill after Ryan announced he wasn't ready to endorse Trump to meet with Ryan and other GOP leaders.
"Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life," Ryan said in the op-ed, before listing a series of policy ideas.
"Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall," Ryan said.
Ryan's spokesman Brendan Buck made clear that the op-ed should be considered an endorsement.
In Clinton, Americans don’t trust
ONE YEAR AGO, a Quinnipiac University poll of voters in three swing states highlighted a looming problem for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign: More than half the respondents in each state regarded her as dishonest. A nationwide CNN poll the same month yielded similar findings: Fifty-seven percent of voters said Clinton was not trustworthy.
Democratic sages brushed the matter aside. “Does Hillary Clinton’s Trustworthiness Matter?” asked Time magazine in a story at the time. The consensus of the experts it quoted: Nah, not really. “People are looking first and foremost for someone who will . . . get things done for them,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. Honesty wasn’t essential to victory. After all, went the argument, Bill Clinton won two presidential elections, despite widespread doubt about his trustworthiness.
But Clinton’s dishonesty problem hasn’t gone away. When Gallup asks Americans what word first comes to mind when they hear Clinton’s name, by far the most common answer is some version of “Dishonest/ Liar/ Don’t trust her/ Poor character.” It isn’t only Republicans or conservatives who are repelled by Clinton’s honesty deficit. Exit polls during this year’s primaries showed that among Democrats who said that honesty was the value they prize most in a presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders racked up huge margins over Clinton. He carried 91 percent of those voters in New Hampshire, for example, and 82 percent in Wisconsin.
With the release last week of a report by the State Department’s inspector general on Clinton’s misuse of official e-mail, the former secretary of state’s reputation for mendacity only grew worse.
For a year or more, Clinton has insisted that she broke no rules by maintaining her own private e-mail server to conduct government business. She repeatedly claimed that she had nothing to hide. That she was “more than ready to talk to anybody anytime.” That her reliance on a back-channel for e-mail violated no security protocols. That it was not only “allowed by the State Department,” but that the department had “confirmed” that it was allowed. That her use of a private server was “fully aboveboard.” That everyone she had dealings with in the government knew about it.
But the inspector general’s report shreds those claims.
No, Clinton never sought legal approval to use a private server for e-mail. If she had made such request, it would have been denied.
No, Clinton was not “more than ready” to cooperate with investigators: Unlike four other secretaries of state (John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Madeline Albright), Clinton refused to be interviewed by the inspector general. Six of her aides refused as well.
No, Clinton’s “homebrew” server setup was not common knowledge. Even President Obama knew nothing about it.
No, Clinton’s behavior wasn’t “fully aboveboard.” When State Department staffers voiced concerns about her insecure e-mail channel, they were silenced by their superiors and instructed “never to speak of the secretary’s personal e-mail system again.”
A reputation for dishonesty has trailed Clinton from her earliest days in national life. The controversy over her e-mail deceptions is only the most recent, and not even the most outrageous. (Worse, to my mind, was publicly blaming the murder of four Americans in Benghazi on an inflammatory Internet video while privately acknowledging that it was a premeditated attack by Islamist terrorists.) So far, Clinton’s lack of integrity hasn’t derailed her political career. Maybe it never will.
Or maybe, as she competes for the White House against an opponent whose swollen ego and disregard for truth match her own, Clinton’s sordid character will finally prove her undoing. “Crooked Hillary,” Donald Trump has gleefully nicknamed her. The more he repeats the label, the more indelibly it will stick. Clinton’s honesty gap may have seemed manageable a year ago, but that was before Trump’s scorched-earth tactics changed everything. Now, even the State Department all but calls its ex-boss “Crooked Hillary.” How much more can her electability withstand?
Is there a more brain-dead concept than to empower the government to fight “income inequality”? What sane, normal, rational human being thinks that human talent, drive, interests and opportunity can — or should — result in equal outcomes?
Despite my love of athletics, I knew in third grade that my friend, Keith, could run much faster than I could. For two years I played Little League ball, and I got better at it. But no matter how hard I tried or how many hours I spent, I could not hit, run or throw as well as my friend Benji.
Later in life, I started playing tennis, and I became quite passionate about it. But most of the people I played against had started playing years earlier, and most had taken lessons for years. I got better, but given my competitors' head start, the gap remained.
Financial planners advise clients to start early and stick to some sort of game plan. Is there any wonder that those who do so will have more net worth than those who started later, or who lacked the discipline to follow and stick to a plan? How is government supposed to address these “unequal” outcomes?
Most entrepreneurs experience failure before hitting on an idea, concept or business that makes money. Even then, it takes 20 to 30 years of long hours and sacrifice, along with occasional self-doubt and a dollop of luck, to become a multimillionaire.
I recently saw a movie starring Cate Blanchett. She is a very good actress, but she is also strikingly beautiful. Is there any doubt that her good looks, over which she had no control, are a factor in her success? Is it unfair that an equally talented actress, but with plain looks, will likely have an “unequal” career compared with that of Blanchett?
Speaking of acting, most who venture into that field do not become successful, if success is defined as making a living as an actor. These overwhelming odds still do not deter the many young people who flock to Hollywood every year to “make it.”
Had a would-be actor dedicated that same drive and personality to some other profession, success would have been more likely, if less enjoyable. Should the government intervene and take from the successful non-actor and give to those who unsuccessfully pursued a long-shot acting career? An ex-actor told me of her recent lunch with a friend she had met when they both left college and pursued acting. While the ex-actor moved on to a different, successful career, her friend stuck to acting, through thick and thin. The actor informed her friend that she recently turned down a commercial. Why? What struggling actor turns down this kind of work? Turns out, through some sort of “assistance” program, said the friend, the state of California is “assisting with her mortgage.” She has no obligation to repay the money, and she will continue to receive the assistance as long as her income is not above a certain level. How does this strengthen the economy? The ex-actor, through her taxes, subsidizes the lifestyle of the actor, who admits turning down work lest she be denied the benefits.
But this is exactly the world sought by Bernie Sanders — a government that taxes the productive and gives to the less productive in order to reduce “income inequality.”
In the real world, two individuals, living next door to each other, make different choices about education, careers, spouses, where to live, and if and how to invest. Even if they make exactly the same income, one might live below his or her means, prudently saving money, while the other might choose to regularly buy new cars and fancy clothes and go on expensive vacations. Is there any question that the first person will end up with a higher net worth than the latter? Is their “inequality” something that government should address?
Although Beyonce is a good singer, is there any question that there are others with superior voices? But Beyonce is also blessed with “unequally” good looks, charisma and perhaps better management — maybe better than the other two ladies in her musical trio, Destiny’s Child, whom she once sang with. Three singers, in the same group, have had “unequal” outcomes.
Communism, collectivism and socialism rest on the same premise — that government possesses the kindness, aptitude, judgment and ability to take from some and give to others to achieve “equality.” Karl Marx wrote, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” And that’s the problem. The statement implicitly acknowledges that some have more aptitude, drive, energy and ability than others. To take from some and give to others reduces the initiative of both the giver and the givee.
This is the fundamental flaw with income redistribution, the very foundation of communism, socialism and collectivism. One would think that Bernie Sanders would have figured this out by now. But wisdom among 74-years-olds, like outcome, is not distributed equally.
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Posted by JR at 12:27 AM