Opinion | The GOP May Turn on Donald Trump

By Eric Varney

  • Bill Weld says he knows of at least six Senators who would vote to convict
  • Mike Murphy was told by an unnamed Senator that thirty would vote to convict if vote were held in secret
  • Republicans could use a surprise vote to convict as a way to defend themselves

 

     Moscow Mitch stated that he and his colleagues in the Senate have heard enough and that no witnesses should be included in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

He’s made it very clear that his intent is to lie for and with Donald Trump. Maybe he’s made it a bit too clear in a ‘thou dost protest too much’ way, while his private intent could be quite different. Let’s examine.

Back in late September, Fmr Senior Aide to both Mitt Romney and John McCain, Mike Murphy stated on MSNBC that a Republican Senator, in which he did not name, told him if a vote were held in secret, there would be thirty Republicans who would vote to convict.

Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld, stated on December 16th that he knew of six Republican Senators who are in favor of Impeachment.

This is the same Bill Weld that wants to primary Donald J. Trump in 2020. Clearly, he sees an opportunity to make something happen, even if it is a long shot challenge.

I predict now and have predicted in the past few weeks on Facebook that Trump will be convicted by a narrow margin and this will be followed by several Republicans announcing their retirement.

Just a few days before, McConnell also stated that he was “in full coordination with the White House.”

In my experience, nobody but Donald J. Trump is better at lying than the Republican party. So, please forgive me if this sounds a bit far-fetched, but what if Republicans are lying publicly to keep Trump off their backs until it’s time to make a decision and then pull a surprise vote to convict?

They would beat Trump at his own game- the lying game. Remember in 2016, when Trump insulted and lied his way to the GOP nomination? None of the other candidates in the field saw it coming. Total payback, a concept Donald J. Trump is obsessed with, could come in the form of the surprise F-U vote to convict.

The GOP would have every reason to do this. In fact, I can name three of them.

  • Donors
  • Filling any and all positions
  • Future Elections

They would still get what they wanted in a hypothetical President Pence that they’re getting now with a  low-information President Trump. Republicans would still get to funnel money to their super wealthy friends, they would still be able to fill any and all positions they can with their people, however unqualified they may be, and still rig future elections, just like they always have. We all know this, it would be business as usual.

A surprise vote to convict  would all them to morph from chaotically, incompetent evil to a more dangerous one of laser beam focus. One that could threaten things like Roe V. Wade.  Another acquaintance of mine, who I will not name, gave me inspiration for the  reasons above. 

The drawback to Republicans in this scenario is that they would not have a strong enough candidate to present a challenge the democratic nominee in the general election, and will, therefore, ride their power out with Mike Pence, giving the other side at least four years.

The advantage, however, to Republicans in this scenario, which was presented to me today on Facebook by a friend I do not have permission to name, stated “it would also allow them to pass the buck on what they’ve done. ‘No, we didn’t want to funnel money, it was corrupt Pres Trump. Aren’t you glad we took care of him?’ Dems will fall for that hook line and sinker.”

I’m not so sure that democratic supporters are going to fall for it hook, line, and sinker, but I do believe Republicans are capable of master class lying and will try to lie their way out of a rough passage in the history books. I believe Republicans can get rid of Trump, piss off Trump supporters, and still get these same pissed off Trump supporters to vote for them again and again, simply because a Democrat will hold an office- any office- if they don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

America we have a problem! We are losing the global skills game.

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America we have a problem! We are losing the global skills game. If you are a kid wondering if school is worth it, read on and prepare to be shocked. People are passing you by.

As I have traveled the world I have seen how motivated their children are to excel and get high grades and the most education possible. They love learning.

Yet I see many American kids barely making it out of high school while thinking that they had “made it.” That would have been true until the computer age arrived, but not in today’s global high-tech economy.

Our kids seem to be sleep-walking through life on easy street (with a lot of helicopter parenting). It’s as if they think big money will just “happen” because they have the illusion they will be a football player or rock star and hitting the video game is more important than hitting the books. Get real.

I have to warn our youth that they are being passed in high- tech skills by kids in other countries who want to escape poverty so badly they work harder than you can imagine. In China the school day can be 12 hours long.

So they are getting as much education and skills as possible–and because of it they are getting jobs Americans aren’t qualified to fill! Over 3 million of them are sitting there and our kids can’t get them unless they upgrade their skills.

Today kids from China and India are filling American high tech jobs because American companies can’t find enough Americans with those skills. Right now there about 3 million of these jobs available, but companies have to end up recruiting overseas for the jobs here — or send the work there — because our work force doesn’t have the skills and can’t compete. It’s not about pay, its about being skilled enough to do the work.

If you don’t believe me, do your own research because I have worked with this over 30 years and seen the technology advancement in 50 some countries first hand. I saw China go from behind us to catching up and passing us in key technologies while we act like the over-confident hare sleeping by the road as the tortoise passed him by. Now, China is more like the energizer bunny on a global scale.

I grew up poor on a farm. That experience motivated me to get as much education as possible because I knew I wasn’t going to inherit any money and being a non-profit farmer the rest of my life sounded as exciting as cutting off an arm. My ticket out of poverty was an accounting and law degree.

When I first went to China for negotiations in 1982 I met a young man my age who was making $30 a month as a Chinese negotiator, basically the same pay as everyone else in China! Men and women wore the same ugly blue shirt and pants. Within a few years two of them had moved to the U.S. and one got a law degree. Today, China has nearly as many millionaires and billionaires as we do! (They junked socialist economics for capitalism.)

Imagine 1 billion young people just like him in China today, and another 1 billion in India (the world’s largest democracy) today. These two countries each have 1.3 BILLION people (over 2 billion total) who want to get into the middle class or better. They are doing it by getting high-tech skills, not by selling you timeshares and burgers at minimum wage or running call centers.

Tariffs won’t fix our lack of skills or our trade imbalances — all they do is raise prices on consumers and kill jobs from the extra costs they pass on to American companies who pass those costs on to you and me as the end buyer. Tariffs don’t raise our peoples’ skills to make us more competitive.

If we want to win the future that is already here — a world of rapidly changing technology on a global scale, we must upgrade our next generations skills. Rather, YOU KIDS must upgrade your skills or get dust blown in your face byyour global competitors. They won’t mind kicking sand in our collective face when they pass us.

Much of this is due to lack of investment by the GOP in education and skills training that Democrats fight for knowing they are the key to our success. We have people in Congress who know so little science they think this 4 billion year old planet is only 5,000 years old! The Chinese have a 5,000 year history and know better than that fable.

If our youth today don’t light a fire under themselves they will end up like a lot of kids I had working for me the past couple years who just couldn’t cut working even in an inside job in air conditioning with training.

My company offered training but they ones who came had practically no skills which I could live with. All they had to do was try and do a good job. Wow. That was asking a lot. What I could not live with is the lack of work ethic many had.

Most of them ended up being laid off because showing up for work everyday and doing a good job each time seemed too much to ask. I would be given false reports on who showed up at what time. Some would say stupid things in front of clients (like commenting how attractive a woman was and not have a clue it was inappropriate until I let him have it.) Most were in their late 20’s and early 30’s. A bunch didn’t have ID’s.

It hired a mix of ethnic backgrounds but most of them turned out to be white kids with just high school. Sadly, I discovered that too many of them turned out to have serious drug issues – things like being an alcoholic who gets drunk on night 1 of a 5 day project, passes out and misses day 2. Gone! Some would come in and appear to have been on meth all night and acted like a zombie. Bye!

Some seemed to love a weekly xanax night so they would call in “sick” Monday — if they called in. Gone! Some were on opioids and could not get off and stole from me. Fired! Some were just liars or lazy. A couple were narcissist who created chaos and did crazy stuff. When I terminated them, the chaos ended.

After all the sifting and sorting out of people I ended up with some really talented, honest, skilled people but the ratio is about 2 out of 20 — or less. Corporations who are willing to train say that they have to reject over 80% of the applicants because they don’t have enough math or reading skills to be trainable to run the computerized machines!

America, it is time for some “tough love” if you really want your kid to succeed because letting little Johnny grow up in the basement playing video games all night in his 20’s is not going to make America great, or even a winner. How will that help him (or her) once the parents die and aren’t around anymore and they don’t know what being independent is like?

China is building MagLev high speed rail capable of 265 miles per hour while our trains wheels come off at 80 and our infrastructure falls apart from neglect and old age.

We need to become the highly trained builders that our fathers were if we are to carry on the American tradition of a rich democratic country with the best labor force in the world.

We won’t be No. 1 much longer with a work force of the unskilled and unmotivated, who may be blaming immigrants for there lack of success when the problem is looking at them in the mirror. In fact, for centuries it was immigrants who fueled our success with their innovation and hard work. This is why we need their energy to keep us in the winners circle.

Food for thought…Pass it on if you care about our future.

Michael Fjetland, BBA/JD, Author

Better Times Ahead April Fool

http://www.BetterTimesAheadAprilFool.com

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Hump Day at CPAC

Hump Day 3 - Ed 1

The original photo is already hackneyed, a jaded pathetic cliché.  Like Sweaty Richard Nixon and the Checkers speech, or Bush Jr. on the aircraft carrier with the “Mission Accomplished” banner.  I suppose most people viewed this CPAC spectacle as some sort of sick Me Too moment, or maybe thought of a Snow Monkey humping a basketball.  That crossed my mind, as did the notion that here Trump is doing to the flag what he’s been doing to us for the last couple of years.  As humor often is, that was, sadly, too close to a dark truth to be funny.  I thought maybe the angle that he mistook the flag for a porn star might work, but that depressed me for the same reason.

So after dry humping the flag, he went off on a deranged monologue for two hours.  If an older relative spoke like that you’d be figuring out a way to nab his car keys and keep him off the road.  It sounded like he went off his meds, but CPAC loved it.  Of course they did.  So family values now embrace cheating, as long as it’s with a porn star.  Or a Playboy bunny.  It’s ok to lie about not knowing them, more lies of not knowing about the hush money, then confronted with the checks he signed he claims it wasn’t money from the campaign.  I suppose that’s another lie, but who knows.  Either way, the cash does not have to originate from a campaign fund to be an illegal expenditure.  It could have come from his charity.  The one the NY AG shut down because of outright fraud, as he happily treated that money along with campaign and inaugural contributions as his own personal loot.  Or to express sadness that a really good guy like Manafort is going to jail for tax evasion, money laundering, bank fraud and perjury.  For Chrissake,  he was the bag man for Putin’s other puppet, the former President of Ukraine.  Apparently all that’s ok too.  And it must be so disappointing that after years of accusations they couldn’t get anything on Hillary.  Not a single stinking charge they could trot out in front of a grand jury.  Anywhere.  I want to see CPAC, to see what it looks like when these slobbering slack-jawed Trumpian sodomites proudly pass these values on to their kids.

 

Building the Perfect Constitution, Part 1

Identifying the Gaps

Making good on my earlier threat to present a nine-part series on the Constitution, I now present you with Part One.  In the introduction (or Part Zero) to this series, I pointed out that the Constitution is contentious, partly because it initially (and for some time afterward, including, in the opinions of many, right now) failed to live up to its early promise, and partly because it can be “interpreted” in a number of ways, usually with some kind of partisan bias.  Interpretation is naturally problematic any time you don’t have full access to the thoughts of the individual(s) who wrote something.  In this case, the best way to resolve matters is to resort to their available writings and other relevant records.  Some of those who contributed to the Constitution made their feelings known prior to its ratification, in the so-called Federalist Papers (John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, all writing under the pseudonym “Publius”); many others had their various thoughts and objections recorded during the debates that took place during the Constitutional Convention, between May 14 and September 17 of 1787.  We can also read the writings of the anti-federalists (“Cato,” “Brutus,” Patrick Henry and others), to discover what they objected to under the proposal to more tightly bind the sovereign States under a strong federal government.

The greatest concern of the anti-Federalists, of course, was the threat of the eventual loss of hard-won liberty to yet another overreaching government.  As previously noted, these guys had just fought a war to eliminate the double threat of burdensome economic regulation and disarmament.   It was only grudgingly that some of these fellows came around to the notion of centralized power, and some retained reservations about this well afterward (three of the delegates to the Convention never signed off on the new Constitution).

Patriot, statesman, writer of epic breakup letters.

The Federalist writers did succeed, over the course of 85 essays, in convincing the masses (or at least their delegates)  that a stronger form of government was required. 

For many progressives, here is where the story ends:  states don’t have (or need) rights, a federal government should be as strong as it has to be, and the “general welfare” can be promoted, for various definitions of “general welfare,” with the raising of as much tax revenue as is required.  For many conservatives and libertarians, here is the past as prologue:  the modern phenomenon of unchecked government growth, economic pathologies inflicted by regulation, and a long series of abuses of the citizenry, all begin with this interpretation of the Preamble and the “Taxing and Spending Clause” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1) of the Constitution.  This divergence in interpretation is precisely what’s at issue at the deepest recesses of the ideological divide in America, and the only way to resolve that issue is to finally determine, once and for all, just which interpretation is the correct one.

Not that doing so would convince those in the wrong, but maybe we can hope to prevent future generations from being indoctrinated in that set of beliefs. 

This is a thorny problem.  Education about civics, history and political science is in the hands of educators who quite often have a vested interest in promoting the progressive viewpoint.  Moral hazard, in this regard, should not exist at all (but here I’m waxing tautological, since moral hazard shouldn’t exist in any form).  However, it’s an inevitable consequence of the politicization of education, which itself is an inevitable consequence of the parallel existences of public education and of public sector unions.  (I’ve just nicely set myself up for a future blog topic, so feel free to wait with bated breath for that.)

I can recall the earliest discussions of the Constitution in my classes, coming up through the public school system in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in the northwestern suburbs of Houston, Texas.  In one class, we were asked about the role of the Constitution.  The teacher had some difficulty getting her message across, and the question was asked repeatedly, each time after some amount of discussion.  One response that eventually bubbled up, partly in response to her urging, was that the Constitution “is a blueprint for government.”  That is a satisfactory response to a teacher whose income is assured by government activity, but it would have been a major disappointment to the Founders. 

Among the most strident opponents of the government’s monopoly on the use of force; along with Jefferson, one of the earliest prominent libertarians.

The Constitution is indeed a plan for government, but as is the case in the visual arts, it’s the negative space that really defines the subject.  It’s what the Constitution doesn’t authorize the government to do that is key to its operation.  The simplest statement of this principle is “if it’s not expressly authorized, it’s forbidden.”  The broader reality is expressed, explicitly, in the Tenth Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  This statement is clear enough, but can be seen to have been presaged by a provision in the Articles of Confederation:  “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

While it can be demonstrated that partisans on both sides of the early debate over General Welfare had their reasons, some of which from both are quite valid, the prevailing point of view was steeped in the paradigm of the time, which was embodied in those Articles.  What I said about the guys just having fought a war is relevant here:  their understanding of the role of government was what it was, and was manifest in the somewhat more verbose wording of the Articles.  Less time was spent justifying the Articles than in stating their purpose.  (The justification itself was eloquently provided by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.)  When concepts were brought forward from the earlier document to be applied to the Constitution, a wide range of assumptions came with them, which the Framers put to parchment in sometimes more verbally-efficient ways.  The downside of that textual parsimony is that context was lost to subsequent generations, members of whom had never participated in the Revolution nor the Convention debates.

A recent argument I had on social media is a case in point.  Progressives, you might have noticed, tend to be somewhat hostile to the notion of states’ rights.  They regard the pathological case of the southern states retaining slavery as proof that states should not be permitted to govern themselves, as if a single problem renders the entire concept moot.  (This argument’s “negative space” is a particularly interesting disregard for the numerous examples of oppressive federal legislation.)

Although the Tenth Amendment has never been overturned, or altered in any way, the Left tends to regard the Civil War as some kind of repudiation of its content.  In the aforementioned debate, I struggled mightily to convince my opponent that the concept of state sovereignty is intrinsic to the Constitution, it being the paradigm in which the Founders were operating.  Whereas my adversary argued that state sovereignty had to have been defined somewhere in the Constitution in order to be a valid principle of government, I held that it was assumed from the outset, because that was the way they’d been doing things from the end of the Revolution.  Since the Constitution never asserts that the states are not sovereign, the prevailing assumption, that they were sovereign from the start, must remain in place.  Although he was manifestly incorrect in his assertion, he did have one valid (if inadvertent) point:  that the Constitution does not effectively define its terms.  People who were writing mostly for the benefit of themselves—those who would have to sign off on it and then undertake the process of bringing their own states around to its prescriptions—brought their own assumptions to the table, and sometimes overlooked the need to elucidate those assumptions for those who would follow.

We’ll cover this problem in detail in the third installment.

In order to clarify the purpose and intent of the Constitution, it is necessary, then, to draw on the words and writings of the Founders, and where possible, to disentangle opposing views.  The seminal arguments for drawing up a Constitution were made in the Federalist Papers, notably #23 and #s 37-51.  While Jay, Hamilton and Madison were in close agreement throughout the Federalist project, they parted ways over the very issue I identified above, with Hamilton advocating a more powerful federal government, with greater power to regulate the market and raise taxes, for purposes of a virtually unlimited range of “general welfare” programs.  It is worth pointing out here to Democrats—those ostensibly more concerned with the democratic process than Republicans, who are ostensibly more concerned with republicanism (Constitutionalism)—that Hamilton’s view was decidedly the minority view, and that from 1800 onwards, it was held to have been repudiated by the election of Thomas Jefferson and the ensuing primacy of the Democratic-Republican Party.

More than any of his contemporaries, Madison espoused the view that gradual encroachment, rather than sudden violence, was the means by which the government would eventually become tyrannical.

My thesis is that when interpreting the Constitution, we should, whenever possible, rely first on Originalist intent, and failing that—when it is too obscure or manifestly no longer applicable to our modern situation—to fall back on plain language.  Only after exhausting plain language—and to properly interpret that, we must often resort to other writings in order to discern meanings and connotations that have fallen by the wayside since then—are we justified in regarding the Constitution’s content as antiquated or unclear enough to require novel interpretation.  In this way—relying on what was originally meant, then what is actually said (as heard by the idiom and phraseology of our modern ears)—we can reserve actual interpretation for use as a last resort, thereby minimizing controversy and schism.  As I turn up examples of Originalist intent, and occasionally of plain language stating the Constitution’s positions, I will identify them as Resolutions that can be used to outline our model Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation were a pretty good start, but they, like their successor, left some gaps to be contended with.  Several incidents in the wake of the Revolution made this clear, most notably Shay’s Rebellion.  There were also problems collecting pre-war debts from the states and their citizens, with which to repay Britain, a provision of the Treaty of Paris.  The ratification of this Treaty itself was problematic, because there was little means of compelling delegates to participate in the proceedings.  It was drafted in April of 1783, but not signed off on by the Americans until January of the following year.

The confederacy had no taxation power, and had to request money from the states (this posing a severe limitation on that common defense).  There was no central judiciary, although the states had their own courts.  The most significant binding feature of the Articles was the confederate legislature, which was unicameral and allocated one vote to each state delegation.  Decisions entailing action by the confederacy required a unanimous vote, and there was no real provision for enforcing its resolutions.

Although the Constitutional Convention had initially convened with the intent to amend the Articles of Confederation, the focus quickly shifted toward devising an entirely new government and governing document.  The arguments in favor of replacing the Articles with a new Constitution were laid out on May 29 by Edmund Randolph, and included the following (from James Madison’s notes):

First, that the Confederation produced no security against foreign invasion; Congress not being permitted to prevent a war, nor to support it by their own authority.  Of this he cited many examples; most of which tended to show, that they could not cause infractions of treaties, or of the law of nations, to be punished; that particular States might by their conduct provoke war without control; and that, neither militia nor drafts being fit for defence on such occasions, enlistments only could be successful, and these could not be executed without money.

Secondly, that the Federal Government could not check the quarrel between States, nor a rebellion in any, not having constitutional power nor means to interpose according to the exigency.

Thirdly, that there were many advantages which the United States might acquire, which were not attainable under the Confederation — such as a productive impost — counteraction of the commercial regulations of other nations — pushing of commerce ad libitum, &c. &c.

Fourthly, that the Federal Government could not defend itself against encroachments from the States.

Fifthly, that it was not even paramount to the State Constitutions, ratified as it was in many of the States.

So the most important justification for the new government was the need to provide for the common defense, a need covered by the first two items above.  (This was also the most prominent justification listed in the Articles themselves.)  The next most important was the need to maintain a free market, one capable of engaging with foreign markets without limit, or at least one with enough government backing to be able to deal with any foreign interference.  The next was the perceived need to maintain a governing sovereignty exceeding—but not superseding—that of any individual state.

Nowhere in this list is mentioned the need to “do things for the people.”  The “general welfare” did not, for a majority of the Framers, entail taking care of the masses via appropriation of taxes.   Indeed, the notion of income taxation appears not to have occurred to any of them.

We’ll go more deeply into the general welfare problem in the next installment.  For our purposes today it is sufficient to demonstrate that this was an issue right from the start, and to demonstrate that the need for a common defense was the principal driver of the Convention.  It is also instructive to bear in mind that these were highly-educated men, men for whom the history of far-flung empires like that of classical Greece and Rome were well-known, along with the problems of maintaining unity and stability across any expansive geographic scope.

Resolved:   while differing in some particulars, we can agree that a Constitutional republic is now called for, and we can regard the Constitution as upholding the need for a stronger government as predicated on some specific, identified needs (such as to maintain a sort of national unity and to protect a free market).

They nonetheless wanted a government that was decidedly less strong than the one they’d just overthrown, in the interest or preserving liberty.  They intuitively regarded the available liberty as inversely proportional to the power of government.  And they were right.  Every additional act of legislation is another chip off the block.

Utopia and dystopia: two interchangeable faces of the same coin.

Let’s take a look at Federalist #41, which I keep handy in a vest pocket for just this kind of occasion:

To the People of the State of New York:

THE Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered under two general points of view. The FIRST relates to the sum or quantity of power which it vests in the government, including the restraints imposed on the States.  The SECOND, to the particular structure of the government, and the distribution of this power among its several branches.

Under the FIRST view of the subject, two important questions arise:

Whether any part of the powers transferred to the general government be unnecessary or improper?

Whether the entire mass of them be dangerous to the portion of jurisdiction left in the several States?

Is the aggregate power of the general government greater than ought to have been vested in it? This is the FIRST question.  It cannot have escaped those who have attended with candor to the arguments employed against the extensive powers of the government, that the authors of them have very little considered how far these powers were necessary means of attaining a necessary end.  They have chosen rather to dwell on the inconveniences which must be unavoidably blended with all political advantages; and on the possible abuses which must be incident to every power or trust, of which a beneficial use can be made.

This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the good sense of the people of America.  It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking: but cool and candid people will at once reflect, that the purest of human blessings must have a portion of alloy in them; that the choice must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the GREATER, not the PERFECT, good; and that in every political institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused.  They will see, therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible against a perversion of the power to the public detriment.

That we may form a correct judgment on this subject, it will be proper to review the several powers conferred on the government of the Union; and that this may be the more conveniently done they may be reduced into different classes as they relate to the following different objects:

Security against foreign danger;

Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations;

Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States;

Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility;

Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts;

Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers.

The powers falling within the FIRST class are those of declaring war and granting letters of marque; of providing armies and fleets; of regulating and calling forth the militia; of levying and borrowing money.  Security against foreign danger is one of the primitive objects of civil society.  It is an avowed and essential object of the American Union.  The powers requisite for attaining it must be effectually confided to the federal councils. Is the power of declaring war necessary?  No man will answer this question in the negative.  It would be superfluous, therefore, to enter into a proof of the affirmative.  The existing Confederation establishes this power in the most ample form. Is the power of raising armies and equipping fleets necessary?   This is involved in the foregoing power.  It is involved in the power of self-defense.  But was it necessary to give an INDEFINITE POWER of raising TROOPS, as well as providing fleets; and of maintaining both in PEACE, as well as in war?  The answer to these questions has been too far anticipated in another place to admit an extensive discussion of them in this place.  The answer indeed seems to be so obvious and conclusive as scarcely to justify such a discussion in any place.  With what color of propriety could the force necessary for defense be limited by those who cannot limit the force of offense?  If a federal Constitution could chain the ambition or set bounds to the exertions of all other nations, then indeed might it prudently chain the discretion of its own government, and set bounds to the exertions for its own safety.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.  The Paper is arguing for a strengthened provision for the common defense, while at the same time admitting a need for care when arrogating powers to a federal government.  The prevailing message is “we need to grant a federal government more power than it currently has, so that we can maintain military preparedness…but let’s not go overboard, OK?”

Resolved:  that the need for a common defense, being pressing in this hostile world of ours, is perhaps the highest priority for a fledgling nation, and a pretty cogent argument in favor of strengthening federal government; but a parallel need exists, to question and limit just how much power we’re going to grant it.  We can build limits into the government by distributing its power among various divisions or “branches.”

The Paper goes on to argue some particulars about standing armies and the need thereof, and these particulars fall somewhat outside our scope here.  But I will cite another portion from the last few paragraphs:

It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction. Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms “to raise money for the general welfare.

”But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars.

But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter. The objection here is the more extraordinary, as it appears that the language used by the convention is a copy from the articles of Confederation. The objects of the Union among the States, as described in article third, are “their common defense, security of their liberties, and mutual and general welfare. ” The terms of article eighth are still more identical: “All charges of war and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury,” etc. A similar language again occurs in article ninth. Construe either of these articles by the rules which would justify the construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever.

But what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching themselves to these general expressions, and disregarding the specifications which ascertain and limit their import, they had exercised an unlimited power of providing for the common defense and general welfare? I appeal to the objectors themselves, whether they would in that case have employed the same reasoning in justification of Congress as they now make use of against the convention. How difficult it is for error to escape its own condemnation!

The takeaway from this is that while it is impossible to enumerate every specific power a republican government must exercise, and so we must deal with the somewhat hazy realm of “implied powers,” we can restrict implied powers to just those necessary to carry out the mission of the federal government as outlined in the Constitution.  The crux of the matter is what is meant by “the general welfare,” and we’ll dive into that in the next installment. 

Resolved:  that we cannot specify every contingency in which the federal government might find it necessary to legislate, but we can keep it on a short leash by placing sensible limits on the meaning of expressions like “the general welfare,” and limiting the “implied powers” to just those required to exercise the explicitly-authorized powers.

Sadly, this is precisely where the Constitution goes off the rails, and why I’m indulging in the academic exercise of designing a new one.  We know what the Founders meant by the “general welfare,” but they didn’t spell it out for those who followed, so they don’t.  Or rather, we know what most of the Founders meant, and we know what a minority preferred to mean, and we know what the eventual compromise between these two views became.  It is my intention to demonstrate that the original meaning—the originalist interpretation—was the correct one.  But even that compromise view, had it held sway over succeeding generations, would be preferable to the wide-open interpretation that we currently shoulder.


More to come as this series unfolds. 

To pinch off this first installment, we’ll recap the main points. 

Various citizens of various States were happy to have thrown off the yoke of overbearing government, but were concerned that the resulting sovereignties were insufficient to govern their polities, given the hazards that still existed in the world at the time.

  1. In particular, they wanted to strengthen commerce between the States, to eliminate the possibility of harmful trade wars between them, and to present a common front against trade aggression from other sources.
  2. They also wanted the States to be able to face off, together, against any foreign aggressor.
  3. They wanted a central government that could enforce existing laws, including those regarding taxation, which were being managed inconsistently at best.
  4. And they wanted all this while still striving for as minimal an authority as could be devised.

Hence our list of Resolutions:

  • We need a Republic, rather than a loose confederation of States.
  • We need a strong national identity.
  • We need a Constitution to restrain the Republic’s federal government.
  • We need to divide the Republic’s government into separate Branches, each checked in its tendency to assume power by the watchful eyes of the other two.
  • We need to protect a free market, the source of our prosperity (and a good portion of our liberty).
  • We need a means to provide for the common defense.
  • We can justify our actions on the basis of a “general welfare,” so long as we know and agree beforehand exactly what that means.
  • We can imply certain powers that a federal government ought to have, since it would be onerous and all but impossible to list every single power we’re willing to grant it (and we might never finish off our debates if we have to brainstorm them all in order to set them onto parchment).
  • At the same time, we have to limit the federal government’s natural tendency to grow and become more powerful.  We can do this by asserting that “implied powers” must have a basis in explicit powers; we must only grant the existence of those powers that are implied by the existence of an associated explicit power.
  • Beyond those quite necessary contingencies, we must demand that the federal government relinquish all other powers not expressly granted to it.

We’ll revisit and expand upon these in the next chapter, by way of walking through the Federalist Papers.  See you soon.

The President Show

…the pilot episode.

This President’s Day, I figured I would start a series on the presidency, maybe beginning with an introductory post and then following up, on an annual basis, with a profile of an American President, say, in chronological order from the very beginning.

Then it occurred to me that this would require forty-odd annual blog posts, which would run afoul of my remaining life expectancy.  I’d like to retire, at least, somewhere well short of president #30.

So instead I’ll just offer an introductory episode, including some thoughts on the current presidency, in the context of all those who’ve gone before.

  • To start with, 12 of the first 18 Presidents owned slaves (including four of the first five, and the last, Ulysses Grant, who defeated General Lee in the Civil War).
  • George Washington used force to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.  It’s worth pointing out, though, that the rebels fired first, and that Washington was opposed to the tax measure that sparked the Rebellion.
  • Bill Clinton engaged in perjury to Congress, for which he was impeached, in lying about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.
  • Ronald Reagan’s administration was found to have sold arms to Iran, in violation of an embargo, presumably in order to secure the release of American hostages held there.  Some funds from the sale were diverted to provide aid to Contra rebels in Nicaragua.  Congress’ investigation turned up nothing to implicate Reagan himself, although he did at least appear to be aware of the arms sale, at some point, as he later admitted in a public speech.
  • Richard Nixon resigned the presidency after being implicated in the burglary at Watergate, one in a series of paranoid actions against his political opponents.
  • The Teapot Dome scandal erupted under Warren Harding’s administration, in which his interior secretary, Albert Fall, was found to have accepted bribes and other compensation for awarding no-bid contracts for access to oil and gas in Wyoming, on lands that Fall had had the Department of the Interior secure for that purpose.  Fall was the first former Cabinet member to be imprisoned.  While Harding’s administration is widely regarded as the most corrupt (or at least the most scandal-ridden) in history, there is little to no evidence tying him directly to any wrongdoing.
  • The “Whiskey Ring” was a soak-the-IRS scheme cooked up by whiskey distillers operating during Grant’s second administration.  The conspiracy was wide-ranging, with 110 eventual convictions, and implicated Grant’s own personal secretary, Orville Babcock.  Grant’s testimony helped secure an acquittal, but the scandal was damaging nonetheless:  Grant’s administration is regarded as being second only to Harding’s in terms of corruption.
  • Andrew Johnson was impeached after refusing to obey a law passed specifically to prevent him from firing a Lincoln appointee, the Radical Republican and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  The Senate procedure failed, by one vote, to remove Johnson from office.
  • The 1824 election involved a sordid quid pro quo operation between John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams (a Founding Father and second President of the United States).  A failure of the election that year to secure a winner resulted in Congress taking a vote and appointing Adams, largely on the strength of House Speaker Henry Clay’s speech.  After taking the White House, Adams appointed Clay to Secretary of State.  The resulting fallout galvanized Adam’s presidential opponent, Andrew Jackson, and his supporters, eventually resulting in the founding of the Democratic Party.
  • That was actually the second time the House decided the presidential winner; the election of 1800 required Congress to appoint Thomas Jefferson, defeating incumbent John Adams and ushering in a generation of Democratic-Republican rule (as mentioned in my ongoing series on the Constitution, thereby repudiating Federalism for years to come).
  • The 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was decided not by popular vote, nor by electoral college, but by the Supreme Court.
  • The 2016 election, in which Trump won the Electoral College vote despite not winning the popular vote, was likewise not the first of its kind.  Aside from the aforementioned Bush election, Rutherford B. Hayes (1876) and Benjamin Harrison (1888) were installed by the electoral vote, which bucked the popular vote.
  • George W. Bush’s administration pushed for, and got, an invasion of Iraq in 2003, nominally another front in the War on Terror, but of questionable justification.  Although there is no evidence that the administration fabricated evidence of a weapons-of-mass-destruction program operating in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and despite the fact that caches of chemical munitions were found on a number of occasions, the intelligence utilized by the administration in making that decision was of dubious quality, and evidently cooked up by Saddam’s own intelligence forces in order to promote the illusion that Iraq still posed a WMD threat to its hated enemy, Iran.
  • President Obama’s bumbling immigration policy resulted in its own “humanitarian crisis” on the southern border in 2014, although the administration did eventually find its footing. 
  • Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, however, is widely derided as being premature and misplaced, with even Nobel Committee members expressing remorse for the award in the wake of Obama’s expanding drone program and increasing involvement in conflicts throughout the Middle East.
  • On the continuing subject of Obama, we also have the IRS scandal, the hugely divisive Affordable Care Act and the various falsehoods (“keep your doctor”) associated with it, as well as the numerous unconstitutional provisions and actions thereof (such as unilaterally delaying the implementation of key provisions, a power not granted the President).

That’s the backdrop against which the Trump administration comes into play.  I haven’t even gone into the various personal warts of each president (other than to point out Nixon’s paranoia).  Most of these men had unfortunate character traits; Lincoln, for instance, privately espoused a kind of benevolent or neutral racism, and opined that he wished he could preserve the nation without freeing a single slave. 

By the same token, Nixon, despite his deep-seated distrust of political opposition, seems to have been a hell of a nice guy, willing to promote race relations quietly without exploiting his successes for political gain.

What I’d like us all to take away from this is that it sometimes seems as though greatness and assholery are intertwined to some degree.  Every great person has character flaws.  It’s almost as if you have to be a particular brand of prick in order to achieve much in this world, but the nature of some positions places checks on just how dicky you can get away with being.

I have the misfortune of being exposed, on about a daily basis, to news and editorial programming on CNN and MSNBC, with the latter predominating.  I think it’s safe to say that Trump occupies something like 80% of their air time.  It’s rare that Trump doesn’t lead off any program, and almost never that he isn’t mentioned at all.  Some programs, like those of Katy Tur and Nicolle Wallace, appear to have come into being specifically to cover the Trump White House, and Maddow, Hayes and Melber never stray far from the topic.

It may well be the case that Donald Trump is the single most scrutinized President ever to occupy the office.  This means in turn that We the People will eventually end up knowing more about him than any other (assuming we don’t already). 

Another way of putting this is that Donald Trump is going to be one of the most consequential Presidents in history.  This is true not only of his impact on the media (and , perhaps, on our lives as individuals), but also on the presidency itself, whether by dint of the avenues for action that he has opened up, or the policies and procedures that will be put in place by Congress in order to restrain the actions of later Presidents.

Think about that just for a second.  Love him or hate him, Trump may end up being the most epochal President in US history.

He’s of great commercial importance as well.  There’s an entire cottage industry, beyond the 24-hour news networks, in informing us about him.  On my parents’ bookshelves I can count at least five books, touted on MSNBC, CNN or the “Tonight Show,” discussing some aspect of his administration, behavior, or ethics.  My sisters have also undoubtedly bought some of the same works.  This industry, at least, might be expected to continue churning after Trump leaves office, although the NeverEndingTrumpShow television programming probably won’t.

Now, we can debate until 2020, or even beyond, the merits of Trump’s character and politics.  I personally subscribe to the view that what he does is far more important than what he says, and that his bragging of sexual exploit and abuse, his endless tagging and trolling of political opponents, and his perpetual stream of gaffes are all but meaningless drops in a rather large and sloppy bucket, itself almost entirely diluted by the much vaster tide of American history. 

The following meme (which may or may not have originated with Rush Limbaugh) seems applicable:

So cute to begin with, so eventually destructive.

Far be it from me to come between a leftist and outrage, but I think we might consider withholding our indignation for things it truly merits:  his actions.  In review:

  1.  Trump pushed for tax cuts which seem to have helped promote economic growth and reduced the average taxpayer’s tax burden.  (Complaints about this year’s tax refunds being smaller have been met with the objection that tax withholdings throughout last year were also smaller, meaning people kept more of what they earned.)  Although it was claimed (by some) that the tax cuts would “pay for themselves,” this hasn’t exactly happened.  A quick review of government spending reveals why:  although tax revenues are up roughly 0.5% since the implementation of the tax cuts, government spending has increased 9% in that same interval.
  2. The Trump administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border for illegal immigration.  While different in scope from previous administrations’ policies, it did entail a continuing separation of minor children from their parents (not exactly a new thing).  There are sound reasons for detaining minor children away from adults in the chaotic environment of border detention, the administration botched it, effectively losing hundreds of children and precipitating a media-frenzy backlash, in turn galvanizing the pro-illegal-immigration camp.
  3. Trump has further exacerbated this problem by blocking entry of migrant caravans.  While the nation is well within its rights to turn away illegal immigrants, preventing petitioners for asylum from making their case is bad policy on several levels.
  4. He has evidently taken steps to impede or prolong the various investigations of his campaign’s possible ties to Russian saboteurs of the Democratic National Convention.
  5. He has instituted a “Muslim travel ban,” more of a moratorium, that stays ingress from selected Muslim-majority nations while travelers can be better-vetted (and the system for vetting can be overhauled).  This ban has been variously challenged, blocked, and eventually authorized as Constitutional.
  6. He has imposed tariffs on China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico, and has threatened to institute more.  The results have been mixed.  Some US industries and workers have suffered, due to shortages and retaliatory tariffs, although the targeted nations, particularly China, seem willing to work with the administration going forward.  I cannot regard tariffs as sound economic measures, but I do see them as having foreign-policy value, and that may be how Trump is using them.  In any event, he may have a solid rationale, based on the preexisting trade situation, for targeting China and Japan.  Tariffs just may not be the best solution.
  7. He has also renegotiated NAFTA, rechristening it USMCA and securing what seem to be more favorable terms for the US.
  8. He has issued a ban on the military service of transsexuals.  While this triggered trillions of progressives around the globe, there is a quite valid rationale:  deployability.  The military demands that every serviceperson, regardless of MOS, be ready and able to deploy anywhere in the world at any time.  People who are undergoing long-term therapies such as hormone treatments, or are on waiting lists for elective surgeries like gender reassignment, are not eligible for deployment.
  9. He appears to now be in the early stages of a sweeping gay-rights initiative, having launched a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality.  (Worst.  Homophobe.  Ever.)
  10. He has repeatedly fired, or pressured to resign, officials whom he has appointed to office or hired as staffers in his administration.  The high rate of turnover is a meme in itself, but there is also question about the quality of those he initially onboarded.  Whether the overall quality of the administration is improving over time remains to be seen.

That’s the list of major accomplishments:  the dos.  What about the says?  Has his speech provoked any dire consequences?  So far, the main result has been the continuing enragement of the progressive proletariat, and the enrichment of those news networks and authors.  One real casualty appears to be General James Mattis left the administration, in which he served as Secretary of Defense, after Trump announced his intention to immediately withdraw American ground troops from Syria.  Mattis, widely regarded as the Adult in the Room, is seen as a major loss for Trump and his credibility.

The question I want you to ask yourself is:  Has it been all bad?  I know that progressives will oppose most of these measures just on general principle, but the performance of the economy alone is enough to vindicate the actions behind that performance.  In a world in which we see Democrats gleefully rejecting the prospect of 25,000 new jobs being created in New York city, in favor of $3 billion in tax revenue that would easily have been recouped (to the tune of $27 billion) over the next few years, it’s hard to credit liberals with a surplus of objectivity or economic sensibility.

But can you put aside your disgust and your disapproval long enough to weigh the consequences of words against the consequences of actions?  Like any President, Trump will do some good and some bad while in office.  Opposing everything he does will land you on the wrong side of those good things. 

Like Nixon, Trump seems to be flailing largely due to his defensiveness.  He is constantly being attacked, constantly kept off-balance, constantly having to respond to criticism.  It’s not his strong suit, and I suspect that he overcompensates quite a bit. 

He can do better.  Much better.  He can start by listening to his advisers.  And by cooperating more with the political opposition, or at least giving an ear to their grievances in the interest of promoting bipartisanship. 

But frankly, he could also do much worse.

Although presidents do often leave office under a cloud of disapproval and even disgrace, history tends to be kinder.  Obama’s divisiveness appears to be an unintended consequence of his constant pursuit of legacy, and Trump’s is much the same.  The harder politics and the public push back on a president, the greater their perceived need for permanence.  The Border Wall may well be the ultimate vanity project, a literal monument to Trump’s ego.  The irony is that it might not even be an ongoing controversy had he not faced such strong opposition over the past two years…and that might not have happened had he not said so many things that pissed so many people off.

With the Wall steadily decreasing in probability, Trump’s legacy may well be limited mostly to things he says, rather than things he does.  I’ll continue to support the things he does right, and oppose the things he does wrong, but I’d very much like to see my fellow Americans giving much less of a shit about

guest columnist Jose Chung

Cult of the Occasional Cortex seeks tax-exempt status, self-annihilates

DERP wire services

Taking one page from Das Kapital, and another from the Koran, followers of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez founded a religious organization and sought tax-exempt status earlier this week.  The resulting philosophical self-contradiction almost immediately resulted in a total collapse of the group.  Only four members survived the initial carnage, and two of them were reported to be deep in shock, unresponsive, and unlikely to ever wield hammers (or sickles) again.

The sole fully-lucid survivor, Allie O’Reilly Campbell, evidently running late to the meeting, witnessed the incident from the threshold of the building serving as the group’s headquarters.  At the moment the cult’s founder, Alessandra Ocampo Cordell, finished filling out the Form 1023 that it planned to file with the IRS, the witness entered the door.  As the last box in the form was being completed, the survivor saw a bright flash, of “Einsteinian proportions,” and the gathering vanished in a “puff of logic.” 

Upon being treated and released, Campbell issued a statement, saying that the cult was founded on the basis of a political interpretation of the Islamic concept of taqiyya, which permits believers, under certain narrow circumstances, to make untrue statements (mostly to non-believers).  The cult’s political justification for this practice is rooted in the Social Justice Warrior’s Handbook, which asserts that “feels are superior to facts” when pushing certain issues.  Emboldened by Ocasio-Cortez’ recent statement downplaying the public’s concern about statements being less “factually and semantically correct” than “being morally right,” the group (originally a James Frey book club) determined that they had a religious justification for advocating specific untruths.  Taqiyya seems to be the group’s sole nod to existing dogma of any kind, and it is suspected that it was employed specifically to justify the seeking of tax-exempt status.

The event left Campbell suffering from radiation exposure, which prompted the attending physician to opine that the incident was a form of “mutual annihilation” seen in nature when subatomic particles, and their antimatter counterparts, collide.  In this case, the opposing factors would seem to be socialism and tax-free status.  He cautioned that socialism, in American political discourse, “remains radioactive” and should be avoided by those engaged in certain lifestyles and activities (especially, anything involving the earning or spending of money).

Cult of the Occasional Cortex seeks recognition, members

DERP wire services

Elated by the election of one of their own to Congress, the newly-branded Cult has called for the creation of a new socialist party.  Undeterred by the existence of another national socialist party in the United States, the Cult is ready for open battle in the streets, if need be.  Modeling their revolution-to-be on the Great Purge, the Cult has announced an initiative to evict all non-Cult members from socialist orthodoxy, calling for separation from the Democratic Party, with the eventual aim of completely supplanting it (to which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has responded, in a Capitol Hill press conference, “Pthpthpthpth”).

While eschewing any form of religious test, the Cult has asserted that among the qualifications for membership, members must speak with a clear Bronx or Queens accent (and reeducation centers are being proposed throughout the South to facilitate this).  Its secret handshake reportedly involves flipping the bird at the birthplaces of Adam Smith and F. A. Hayek.  The Cult’s emblem is still undergoing design revision, in light of the early consensus that hammers and sickles are too “toxically masculine” to represent their membership.  Slogan possibilities have been narrowed down to “Ideas so good, they should be mandatory” and “Waiting in lines for food, toilet paper and medicine brings us all closer together.”

In a preemptive move against being cited as a “socialist” nation, Denmark has once again hoist high the head of Bernie Sanders, impaled on a pike during the 2016 election and preserved in a lutefisk cask. Venezuela, meanwhile, has opened diplomatic relations with the Bronx, seeking normalization of trade relations.  In exchange for Venezuelan oil, the country seeks to obtain a steady supplier of toilet paper, and of rats, stray cats and dogs, all of which have been eaten to extinction within its own borders, and which are naturally abundant throughout New York.