A few days after the 2008 elections, Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of President-Elect Obama’s transition team, was interviewed by Tom Brokaw on “Meet the Press”, where she stated: “ [Obama] is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” At the time it was written off by most as simply a poor choice of words, but after the last three years in which Obama has compiled an inglorious record of contempt for the Constitution, Jarrett’s words now have proven prophetic. Obama has even surpassed FDR in the sheer brazenness of his contempt for our nation as a rule of law under the Constitution, and in attempts to make servants of the other co-equal branches of government.
Obama truly seems to see himself in the role of a king, with power to enforce his agenda by sheer will, ignoring law and precedent in crushing opposition to his executive branch tyranny. Two recent events have added to our despicable president’s legacy of corruption, disdain and contempt for the Constitution; his signing of the National Defense Appropriations Act, which funds military and defense operations, but that also contains a provision that should terrify every American that loves freedom; and Obama’s appointment of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
It’s not often that the media give Ronald Paul (R-Texas) a chance to speak.
There were reasons, why I didn’t watch the second GOP debate on Sunday.
Ronald Paul cleared the field on Saturday, he was the last man standing! After some initial tampering with his microphone, and pitch, he opened his arguments by restating his offensive tactic on “big-government Republican”, Rick Santorum. The only two real Tea Party contenders: Ronald Paul and Rick Perry, were left to languish on stage for the better part of 15 minutes, until allowed to join the discussion.
Mitt Romney was busy arguing how many jobs were, lost and gained under his CEO leisure. Newt Gingrich quoted the New York Times. Paul smoothly stepped back, blocked Santorum’s smugness by raining down: “he voted to raise the debt [ceiling] five times.”
Rick Santorum let loose liberal counter-attacks, naming sources “leftist”, and calling Mitt Romney class-consciously dangerous. In so doing, Santorum looked less Republican, more like a blue-state lawyer from the Northeast. Neither Paul nor Romney delved deep into his attacks, mostly picking up on their own strengths. Santorum was a negative force, not a positivist in this debate, Saturday night January 7th.
When Ronald Paul raised his hand for a response, the slick Stephonopilis retorted back to Paul (his senior by quite a few years): “we’ll stay with the subject, don’t you worry.” Brilliance in public debate rarely comes to the fore, especially on television. Paul showed it by counterstriking first Santorum, then defecting the attack from Rick Perry, onto Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
Jon Huntsman decided not to attack. Mitt Romney largely left the debate unscathed. Only because Ronald Paul made no concerted effort to attack the former Massachusetts blue-state Governor. It was easy for Paul to slice-down the cryptic schizophrenity of Gingrich, whose attempted slur of Ronald Paul on “style”, many see as hearnestness.
Gun control is in the news again. Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the Tuscon shootings, when alleged gunman Jared Loughner killed six people and injured thirteen — including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries. The Daily Caller reports that despite lobbying from gun control activists the White House has offered little more than a nod in their direction, perhaps fearing the impact of any new anti-gun legislation on the president’s reelection efforts in key swing states such as North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. But gun control activists aren’t backing off; progressive news program Democracy Now! reports that one survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Colin Goddard, is pushing for new gun curbs.
A very different story has also been in the headlines. A recently widowed teen mother, alone at her isolated home in Oklahoma with her 3-month-old son, shot and killed an intruder on New Year’s Eve. 18-year-old Sarah McKinley of Blanchard, Okla., said that she had to make a choice between her son and the intruder, 24-year-old Justin Shane Martin when Martin busted down the door to her home. “I chose my son over him,” said McKinley in an interview with CNN, describing her decision to fire the 12-gauge shotgun that killed Martin. No charges will be filed against McKinley and prosecutors have said that an alleged accomplice, 29-year-old Dustin Louis Stewart, may actually be charged with Martin’s murder.
I mean, there’s things like SOPA and the NDAA and the Patriot Act and your typical corruption and whatnot, but then you have ridiculous stories like the Texas teen who was accidentally deported to Columbia:
Turner said with the help of Dallas Police, she found her granddaughter in the most unexpected place - Colombia.
Where she had mistakenly been deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in April of 2011.
“They didn’t do their work,” Turner said. “How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport, without anything?”
News 8 learned that Jakadrien somehow ended up in Houston, where she was arrested by Houston police for theft. She gave Houston police a fake name. When police in Houston ran that name, it belonged to a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Colombia, who had warrants for her arrest.
So ICE officials stepped in.
News 8 has learned ICE took the girl’s fingerprints, but somehow didn’t confirm her identity and deported her to Colombia, where the Colombian government gave her a work card and released her.
The only thing going for ICE in this is that the girl gave a false name. Yes, she probably shouldn’t have done that—but how in the world could ICE, in her mother’s words, deport a girl to Colombia who knew no Spanish and failed to even do the basic work of, you know, confirming this claim? You would think law enforcement officials would expect teenagers to give false names upon imprisonment; it’s not that uncommon.
Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.
I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.
Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:
1. Establish Approval Voting
I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.
You would think the First Amendment is a relatively easy legal precept to grasp, and that the idea of free speech is an equally easy general concept to comprehend. Naturally, this being 21st century America, that just isn’t so.
Take this example from the Arizona Daily Star, this Tuesday:
Northern Arizona University students who were passing out American flags Friday in remembrance of 9/11 got a bigger response than they expected.
No fewer than four university officials and a police officer descended on the group, accusing them of hindering foot traffic and lacking an advance permit.
“9/11 is very important to me,” said student Stephanee Freer. “That’s why I do the event. Every year, I do something for 9/11 and it’s never been disrupted like this.”
University spokesman Tom Bauer said it had nothing to do with what they were saying and everything to do with keeping traffic moving.
“I don’t think that this is a freedom of speech issue. We were not asking them to be quiet. We were not asking them to leave,” he said. “We were asking them to move to a different location within the same area. This is basically clearing the walkways.”
Freer said she meant to pass out flags all weekend but canceled the rest of her plans after the dust-up.
Read the rest of the story. Read the arguments of both sides; the students basically say “First Amendment! Free speech!” while the school officials just say “time, place, and manner.”
“Clearing the walkways,” uh-huh.
As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.
I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:
- 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
- 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
- 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
- 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
- 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
- 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
- 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
- 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
- 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
- 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties
Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?
I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink over the years writing about national politics and sea changes in public policy. If it wasn’t for some great professors, I probably would’ve never taken an interest in urban development policy — at least not until I acquired some property of my own and attempted to do something with it (I’m not a homeowner).
I argued at The Dangerous Servant earlier this year that
This is a game of concentrated benefits with diffused costs, and it takes the form — in this case — of zoning laws, but it also includes building codes.
City planners use zoning laws to create geospatial distinctions in an urban jurisdiction by restricting the ways in which property owners can use their land or buildings. When regulations help crowd economic activity out of a residential area, home prices rise artificially because the zone becomes less noisy, less polluted, and less congested. As a result, existing homeowners wind up paying a higher amount of property taxes each year the zoning rules are in effect. Any new developments designed to attract new residents to a jurisdiction also take on a disproportionate share of property taxes.
Federal spending has ballooned 28 percent during the Obama Presidency while the government has amassed more debt than it acquired from the first day of George Washington’s administration to the last day of George H. W. Bush’s.
Our nation is racing toward a fiscal cliff. Yet, as Sen. Jim DeMint noted, instead of hitting the brakes, Congress and the President just set the cruise control. “The Budget Control Act of 2011” offers an object lesson in exactly the sort of empty compromise that has gotten our nation into its present mess. Faced with the devastating consequences of unprecedented and unsustainable federal spending, both parties agreed on only one thing: to lock in that spending for at least the next two years. Bypassing the normal legislative process, the deal was written behind closed doors and dumped it into the laps of both houses under the threat that failing to pay the government’s bills would jeopardize the nation’s triple-A credit.
Unfortunately, the deal didn’t just pay our current bills – it gave the most spendthrift administration in history an open credit line to continue its spending spree beyond 2012. Ironically, it ended up costing the United States its triple-A credit rating by failing to rein in spending significantly. Indeed, Standard and Poor’s had explicitly warned for the last two months that $4 trillion had to be cut from the projected ten-year deficit to preserve the nation’s credit. Even if the plan works perfectly, it doesn’t come close.
Yet the same politicians who ignored these warnings were shocked-just-shocked when Standard and Poor’s lowered the boom four days later. Instead, they blamed the “Tea Party” that has been sounding the same alarm for more than two years.