As a rule, I don’t sound off on issues without first thinking them through carefully. I have my snap-judgments on issues, but I try to ponder the sides of any argument before sounding off on it. Yes, this means that many times the news and novelty of the issue have faded by the time I type up anything about it, but it also means that I’m rarely stung by jumping on an unsubstantiated urban legend.
With that said, I’m going to do what I rarely do: discuss a breaking issue. Today Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California ruled that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
The judge is saying that California, and all the U.S. by extension, has the constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis to all people. So does this “obligation” include allowing a brother and sister to marry? How about someone marrying a minor? How about Mike and Mark marrying Mary, Marcy, and Maggie? How about Matt and Spot? And if marriage has become a right, could Moe sue Mindy for turning down his proposal?
And if this ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, how long do you think it will take for a gay couple to sue some church that teaches homosexuality is morally wrong, and therefore refuses to solemnize gay marriages?
Here is the second in my posts inspired by an editorial cartoon. Today’s edition was drawn by Bruce Beattie last month.
Look! It’s an oil-drenched bird bringing the guy his dividend check. Oh, the tragic irony!
Eh, not so much.
See, President Obama strong-armed BP into ponying up $20 billion to fund clean-up along the Gulf Coast and to help people whose businesses and livelihoods have been affected by the spill. But try as I may, I can’t find anything in either Section 2 or 3 of Article II in the Constitution that grants President Obama the authority to tell a foreign-owned company how to spend its money here. But much of what President Obama has done so far has been outside of his Constitutional powers.
But back to the dividend checks. The $20 billion isn’t coming from the coffers of BP. Instead, BP has suspended paying out any dividends to its stockholders to raise the money. So who is being given the bill for the BP payout? Could be you, if you own any BP stock or mutual funds that contain BP stocks, and about 40% of BP is owned by Americans. I sure hope you aren’t living off your investments, because President Obama has just taken some of your money.
What should he have done? There are billions of unspent stimulus money that should have been used. Then President Obama could have recovered the money by using the Justice Department to sue BP for any criminal negligence that contributed to the disaster. That would have freed up money to people harmed by the spill as well as keep paying out dividends to BP stock-holders.
In case you didn’t have enough already, here is yet another reason why I don’t look to Hollywood for scholarly political analysis:
Woody Allen has a strange take on the democracy that allowed him to become rich and famous.
Uh, no. The United States is not a democracy. It is a representative Republic. There is a difference, but one that is obviously missed by the writer of the article.
In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper La Vanguardia (that we translated), Allen says “I am pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.”
But wait – there’s more!
The director said “it would be good…if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.”
Do you think President Obama could get the trains to run on time if given unlimited power?
I have no desire to see anyone become a dictator in this country, even a conservative Republican whom I support 100%. I want the government to do just those few things it is supposed to do, as outlined in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and nothing else. Simply put, I’m an adult, and I don’t need some government parental-figure telling me what I should and should not do. But I’m not an immature Hollywood celebrity who desires someone else control his every decision.
Too often I hear some elected official saying that the United States is a democracy. But we are not. The U.S. is a representative republic. The founding fathers were smart enough to realize that a democracy is inherently inefficient and unstable. Do you really want every American to vote on every item that comes up before government? That’s a democracy. And once the majority of the people realize that they can vote money away from the minority, then that democracy is doomed and will shortly implode.
We are a republic because we vote for people to represent us in government. The founding fathers didn’t want the people to vote directly on bills; that is why they created the Constitution the way they did. The President is not elected by the people; the people vote for electors to the Electoral College, and they vote for the President. And the citizens of each district vote for their representative in the House, and the state legislatures used to select people to be Senators. This way there were Representatives who were in touch with the common people, and Senators who were in touch with the needs of the states. With the arrival of the 17th Amendment in 1913, Senators became elected by the people of the states, and so they became populist puppets like the Representatives and had less to do with representing their states.
But our elected officials continue to talk as if we lived in a democracy. I don’t know if they do it because it is easier to say “democracy” than it is to say “representative republic,” or if they honestly don’t know the difference. President Obama and his aides are guilty of this, as reported by ForeignPolicy.com:
President Obama said Sunday that the United States is still “working on” democracy and a top aide said he has taken “historic steps” to improve democracy in the United States during his time in office.
The remarks came as Obama met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev — one of the U.S. president’s many meetings with world leaders ahead of this week’s nuclear summit.
The published press briefing at the White House identified the “top aide” identity: Mike McFaul, Senior Director for Russia and the Caucasus.
Q Hi, this is for Mike McFaul. When you were discussing the discussion between President Nazarbayev and President Obama about human rights and democracy, you seemed to be suggesting there was some equivalence between their issues of democracy and the United States’ issues, when you said that President Obama assured him that we, too, are working on our democracy. Is there equivalence between the problems that President Nazarbayev is confronting and the state of democracy in the United States?
MR. McFAUL: Absolutely not, Jonathan. To be clear, what the President was saying is that all democracies need to work to improve their democracies. And he’s taken, I think, rather historic steps to improve our own democracy since coming to office here in the United States. There was no equivalence meant whatsoever.
Really? Historic steps? Fine, Mr. McFaul: name three historic steps taken by President Obama to improve our own democracy.
Can anyone name three? I sure can’t, so I contacted the White House asking for three examples. I’ll post whatever response I get back.
When government is in charge of parceling out health care, then government rules over every part of our lives, telling us what we may and may not do. We are no more American citizens; we are now American subjects.
I work in the software industry. It is an industry standard for software to go through different versions over time. The idea is to improve the program with each release, but that isn’t always the case. Just look at the bad press that Windows Vista has received since it was released.
Likewise, our nation has undergone several versions. It began with a beta release on July 4th, 1776 and progressed to version 1.0 on March 1st, 1781, when the Articles of Confederation were ratified. As is common with initial releases, what looked good on paper didn’t work very well in real life. The thirteen states were sovereign, with a small, toothless federal government. Eventually the flaws led to a convening of the Second Continental Congress and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.
When the ninth state ratified the Constitution on June 21, 1788, America 2.0 was released. This version proved to be much more robust than version 1.0, and it continued, with small patches, for almost 100 years until the crisis of the Civil War. Version 2.0 was coded with strong states and a stronger, but still limited, federal government. Many southern states split from the mother country over the issue of slavery, arguing they had the right to do so under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and it took years of bloody fighting and two more amendments to bring the nation together again.
President Lincoln’s efforts brought about America, Version 3.0. With the advent of this release, people stopped referring to the United States as separate sovereign states, and began referring to them as a single unified nation. A strengthened federal government took charge of America 3.0, leading the way for the next decades; Americans began to become familiar, if not comfortable, with the federal government dictating what individual states could and could not do.
America 4.0 appeared as part of President Roosevelt’s efforts to ameliorate the Great Depression. This version created a major societal shift, as American citizens went from being largely self-reliant to being largely dependent upon the government for job creation, policies that affected everyday life, and relief from every woe. President Johnson further altered social paradigms with the release of Version 4.5, an expansion of the welfare state with an associated reduction in individual self-reliance.
And now that the House has passed the Senate’s Health Care Reform Act, America 5.0 is almost here. It will begin when President Obama signs the bill into law, effectively taking over one-sixth of the nation’s economy and shouldering the responsibility of providing health care for every individual within its borders. If you are ignorant of American history and America’s founding principles, you might be looking forward to this new version. But I believe America 5.0 will create ever more monolithic government control over state and individual freedoms, as begun in version 3.0. Socialized health care will create fewer services at a higher cost, as every such program has produced in every nation where it has been tried; the only beneficiary will be government officials and bureaucrats, who will now have more control than ever over how Americans–who were meant to be sovereign citizens–may choose to live their daily lives.
Nationalizing health care is a dramatic code rewrite of the ideas put forth in the U.S. Constitution of America 2.0 about individual freedoms and responsibilities, but with the passing of the health care bill, Version 5.0 will be the law of the land. The question remains whether this will be a good change or a bad one. Looking at the way other nations have changed with the adoption of socialized medicine, I believe this change will be far worse than those which came before. If you think Windows Vista got nasty reviews, wait until you discover the “undocumented features” of America 5.0.
As much as certain people try to claim that Microsoft has a monopoly on operating systems, there are alternatives available to those who want them. The computer software market allows you to go with the competition if you dislike the current market leader. But when government controls your health care, who can you turn to when a bureaucrat decides your health, or even your life, is expendable? As messy and crazy as a free-market health care system can be, it allows for individual choice. But when the government is the only choice, you get one-size-fits-all care or nothing at all. That doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade.
Some mention has been made in the news and online regarding the American Community Survey. You may not be familiar with this document. It replaces the long form version of the U.S. census to be administered in 2010.
We were among the several million lucky households selected to fill out the American Community Survey, known in this household as the Governmental Proctology Exam. Our bulky, multiple-page form arrived in the mail yesterday.
You might be curious as to what kinds of questions you might be asked as part of this survey. Here’s a quick rundown of the questions posed only to Person 1, usually referred to as the Head of Household in previous census documents. These questions are repeated for up to four other people residing in the house, plus additional questions asking about the relationships of Persons 2-5 to Person 1.
You may want to pause here and get yourself a beverage before you begin. Maybe a bathroom break, too. This is going to take a while.
Ready? Here we go.
First Name, Last Name, Middle Initial
Date of Birth
Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin
Race (a list of 15 options, including two fill-in-the-blank options)
Location of birth
If not born in the U.S., when did you come to the U.S.?
In the last three months did you attend school/college? What grade were you in?
What was the highest level of schooling completed?
Ancestry or ethnic origin
Do you speak anything other than English in the home?
If yes, what language?
How well does this person speak English?
Did this person live here a year ago?
If not, where did the person live previously? (Address, city and state)
Covered by insurance? (Current or former employer, insurance purchased personally, Medicare/Medicaid, Tricare/military care, VA, Indian Health Service, other)
Deaf or difficulty hearing?
Blind or difficulty seeing?
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions due to physical, mental or emotional condition?
Difficulty walking or climbing stairs?
Difficulty dressing or bathing?
Difficulty running errands due to physical, mental or emotional condition?
Current marital status
12-month history of marriage/widowed/divorced
How many times married?
If female, have you given birth in the past 12 months?
Grandchildren under 18 living in home
Grandparents responsible for basic needs of grandchild(ren)?
Length of time grandparent has been financially responsible?
Active duty in various conflicts?
VA service-connected disability rating
Last week, did this person work for pay at a job?
Last week, did this person do any work for pay?
Address of company where person worked last week
Method of transportation to get to work last week
Automobile occupancy going to work last week
Time person left home to go to work
Laid off last week?
Temporarily absent last week? (Vacation, maternity leave, illness, bad weather, etc.)
Have you been informed that you will be recalled to work within the next 6 months?
Have you looked for work in the past 4 weeks?
Last week, could you have started a job if you were offered one?
When did this person last work, even for a few days?
During the past 52 weeks, did this person work 50 or more weeks? (Paid time off counts as work)
In the past 12 months, how many hours per week on average did this person work?)
Category of current job (8 possible categories)
Name of employer
Employment type (what does your employer do or make?)
Type of work the person does
Most important activities or duties at work
Income for the last 12 months (interest, dividends and rental income, Social Security or supplemental income, welfare assistance, retirement/disability pensions, other)
Total income from all sources
Describe the building.
When was it built?
When did Person 1 move in (month/year)?
Acreage of lot
Actual sales of all agricultural products from this property
Business on the property?
How many separate rooms are in the house?
How many are bedrooms?
Amenities (hot and cold running water, toilet, bathtub/shower, sink with faucet, stove, refrigerator, phone including cell phones)
Number of automobiles
Heating fuel for the house
Last month’s electric bill cost
Last month’s gas bill cost
Past 12 months of water/sewage bill costs
Last month’s fuel usage (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.)
Past 12 months food stamps benefits
Is there a condominium fee in addition to rent?
Ownership of housing?
Cost of rent
Does the rent include meals?
Estimated sale price of property
Annual real estate taxes on property
Annual payment for fire, hazard and flood insurance
Does anyone in the household have a mortgage on the house?
How much is the mortgage payment?
Does this payment include real estate taxes?
Does this payment include fire and flood insurance?
Does anyone have a second mortgage on the property?
Monthly amount for secondary mortgage
Annual cost of property taxes and fees
In short, this is a stalker’s wet dream. Why do the Feds need to know what time I leave the house to go to work? Why do they need a 12-month history of my marital status? What do they want with last month’s electricity bill? Is it any of their business whether I have difficulty dressing or bathing? (Are they offering to come help me bathe? If so, I have a two-word answer for them, and it ain’t Happy Birthday.)
I can understand their desire to obtain this information. But just because they want it doesn’t give them the right to demand it from me. This survey arrived with an implicit legal threat on the outer envelope: “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” It did not explain the nature of my required response. Fortunately, I have a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2. The only information I am required to give the Census Bureau, by the supreme law of the land, is the number of people living in this dwelling. And that’s exactly what information I gave them. That cut down the “estimated time to complete this survey” from 38 minutes to 30 seconds.
We live in the Age of Information. More and more businesses, companies, and of course government entities are recognizing that your information is valuable, and they try to get you to give it away for free. Consider for a moment: how much is this information worth? How dare anyone, let alone the federal government, demand that you give them this valuable information for free?
But even if the Feds wanted to pay me to obtain this information, I would refuse–because I believe in a limited federal government, not in a nanny state that feeds me, burps me and changes my diapers every day of my life. I am an adult citizen, and not an infantile subject.
Former Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales has been in and out of the news for months now, so I figured I had better write about him and the problems in Honduras. Most of the time when I mention Zelaya and his removal from power as president of Honduras, I get a response of “Who?” Since this is going to be fairly technical, here’s the Cliff Notes for people with a short attention span: Zelaya was legally removed from power because he violated the Constitution of Honduras.
In 1982, the Constitution of Honduras was approved by the people of that nation. Like the Constitution of the United States, it may be and has been amended many times. Article V of the American Constitution outlines how the amendment process is to be accomplished, and Articles 373 and 374 do the same for the Constitution of Honduras. Article 373 states that the Constitution may only be amended by a two-thirds vote of all the members of the Honduran Congress, and only if the next session of Congress likewise musters up a two-thirds vote. That is the only method allowed to change the Constitution of Honduras. Article 374 further states that there are eight articles that may never be changed, and those include Articles 373 and 374, as well as Article 239, describing the term of the office of President. Article 239 states that once someone has been President of Honduras, he may never again run as either President or Vice-President. It also states that anyone who breaks this law, or even proposes its reform, will immediately lose his position in government and is banned from any Honduran public office for the space of ten years.
Enter President Zelaya. Did he actually call for the Constitution of Honduras to be changed to allow him to stay in office, as President Hugo Chávez successfully did in Venezuela? Not specifically, but he did call for a poll of the people to determine if they wanted to convene an assembly to write a new constitution. The problem is that a constitutional convention is not allowed by Article 274, as it would change the constitution. In calling for the convention, Zelaya was working toward abolition of the current Honduran constitution, and that included Article 239. *zap!* Zelaya just touched the third rail of Honduran politics. And as soon as he touched it, he ceased to be President of Honduras.
The Honduran Supreme Court ruled that the referendum Zelaya called for was unlawful, but Zelaya chose to go ahead with his plans anyway. He ordered the military to pass out the ballots for the poll, but General Vásquez refused to comply with the order, citing Article 323 which prohibits the military from complying with an illegal order. Finally, the military, acting under the orders of the Supreme Court of Honduras, arrested Zelaya on June 28, 2009, and he was removed from office and sent out of the country.
“It was a military coup that tossed him out!” No, it wasn’t a military coup in the classic sense, because it did not leave the military in charge of the country. On the contrary, the Honduran military was exercising its responsibility as outlined in Article 272 to enforce constitutional law when needed. Nor was it a coup in the sense that a small group overthrew the government. This was the action of a united Supreme Court, Congress, and a plurality of the people of Honduras. So with the removal of Zelaya and no Vice President to take his place, the Honduran Congress selected its president, Roberto Micheletti, to be the next temporary President of Honduras. This act was similar to the line of succession in the United States, where the Speaker of the House is next in line after the President and Vice President.
“Well, Zelaya should have been impeached legally rather than forcibly deposed!” Our Constitution outlines the process for impeachment and conviction of a President, but the Honduran Constitution no longer has a provision for impeachment since Article 205 was amended in 2003. Article 313 gives the Supreme Court the authority to hear cases against the office of the President, and on June 26, 2009, the Supreme Court of Honduras accepted the case filed by the Chief Prosecutor against Zelaya. Because of the case filed against Zelaya, an arrest warrant was issued and carried out by the military.
Now it gets a bit sticky. The military had the authority to arrest Zelaya, but it did not have the authority to evict him from the country. Indeed, the Honduran Constitution states in Article 102 that no Honduran may be expatriated or extradited. By sending Zelaya to Costa Rica, the military did overstep their authority. This is the legal opinion of the Law Library of Congress’s Directorate of Legal Research:
V. Was the removal of Honduran President Zelaya legal, in accordance with Honduran constitutional and statutory law?
Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.
However, removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution, and apparently this action is currently under investigation by the Honduran authorities.
So what has been President Obama’s response to the removal of Zelaya? As a former Constitutional law professor, Obama should have the ability to understand the Constitution of Honduras. Heck, I’m no Constitutional law professor, and yet the Constitution of Honduras is pretty clear to me, but it helps that I can read it in Spanish. Rather than recognizing that Zelaya’s actions were illegal and his removal in compliance with the Constitution of Honduras, Obama and the State Department are siding with Zelaya, putting pressure on the current, and very legal, government of Honduras. The State Department has the following comment about Honduras:
A coup d’état against the elected government took place on June 28, 2009 when the democratically elected leader ,President Zelaya was ousted and exiled to Costa Rica . Neither the United States, the Organization of American States, the United Nations nor any other country has accepted the de facto authorities in Honduras as the legitimate government of that country.
That tells me that the United States, the Organization of American States, the United Nations and any other country that fails to recognize President Micheletti as the legitimate leader of Honduras are simply wrong. Either they are hugely ignorant about the Constitution of Honduras, or they are letting politics sway their decision-making. Quite possibly both. And while it’s possible for a stopped clock can be right twice a day (or once if it is digital), I find it increasingly creepy to see our administration siding with the Presidentes permanentes of Cuba and Venezuela in condemning the removal of Zelaya.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich explains simply and clearly why the administration is backing Zelaya:
Because the sympathy for the left in this administration is unending.
At this writing, Zelaya is hiding out in the Brazilian embassy in Tegulcigalpa, capital of Honduras. And his comments show he is a nutjob:
It’s been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He’s sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and “Israeli mercenaries” are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.
“We are being threatened with death,” he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him.
This news article was posted September 24, 2009. Weeks later, Zelaya is still alive. Either the “Israeli mercenaries” are running late, or Zelaya is a paranoid, anti-Semitic fruit-loop, and the people of Honduras are well shut of him.
I got the following email recently (formatting left intact):
Subject: Gun Vote – USA Today
This takes literally 2 clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue question with USA Today. It will only take a few seconds of your time. Then pass the link on to all the pro gun folks you know. Hopefully these results will be published later this month. This upcoming year will become critical for gun owners with the Supreme Court accepting the District of Columbiacase against the right for individuals to bear arms.
First – vote on this one.
Second – launch it to other folks and have THEM vote – then we will see if the results get published.
Vote in the USA Today poll - click on the link below.
The Question is:
Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?
The correct answer to the question “Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?” is no. The Second Amendment doesn’t grant anyone the right to bear arms because our rights do not come from the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or even government. The Declaration of Independence states that the source of our rights is God, and the Bill of Rights only lists some them. It does not grant rights to the people any more than government may grants us our rights. Government’s responsibility is to secure these rights for the people, not restrict them. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote before about our God-given rights:
If there is no God, then who or what grants us our rights? They can’t be “God-given” if there is no God to give them, right? Then this implies that the rights must flow from the government. And what the government gives one day, it can easily remove the next. You can see how this has happened in the People’s Republic of China, and I do not wish to see it happen here in the United States. So I’ll be keeping both my God and my God-given rights, thank you very much.
In any case, the quiz is from November of 2007, and the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller in June of 2008 that the Second Amendment applies to individuals. I don’t put any faith in non-scientific polling like at USA Today. Heck, I don’t put much faith in scientific polling because of how easy it is to manipulate people into giving the desired answers.
Sure, we may talk about how our rights come from the Constitution, just like we talk about the United States being a democracy. But in both cases, it’s best to really know the facts behind the statements.
I wrote earlier about the duties of the Vice President as explained in the Constitution. So I figured it would be a good time to do the same with the President’s duties. Here is a breakdown of the duties and powers of the President of the United States, as outlined in the Constitution, specifically Article II, Sections 2 and 3:
Veto laws passed by Congress
Commander in Chief of the military
May require in writing the opinion of any of the heads of the Executive departments
Grant pardons and reprieves for any crime other than impeachment
Make treaties with foreign nations, subject to the Senate then ratifying the treaty
Appoint ambassadors, judges, and other appointments, subject to the Senate consent
Make appointments when the Senate is recessed
Deliver the State of the Union address
Recommend laws he’d like to see passed
Convene and adjourn the House or Senate
Receive Ambassadors or Ministers, like heads of state
Take care that all the laws are faithfully executed
Commission all officers of the United States
Those are the President’s duties. If you see the President doing something that’s not in that list, it is something he has taken on beyond what is called for in the Constitution. For example, where does it say that the President needs to work on the economy of the nation? Where does it say the President needs to institute state-funded health care? Both of these fall under the category of recommending laws he’d like to see passed. But while the President may propose anything he’d like, Congress is limited to what they are allowed to pass. Article I Section 8 expressly states what Congress may pass, and neither the economy nor health care are in any of the items.