“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, July 30, 2010

Charlie Rangel Assailed By Luke Russert

Last week, or thereabouts, ethically-challenged New York Democratic House power Charlie Rangel was assailed by MSNBC's Luke Russert. Here's the video.

I never liked Tim Russert. He was a liberal media lapdog. But his kid has potential. Note Rangel hoping to diss Luke Russert by alleging smarmy motives. I guess Charlie was projecting, eh?

Still, it's a priceless piece of raw evidence illustrating the contempt for and low regard in which Rangel holds voters, whom he allegedly serves. Basically ignoring media questions, impugning only base motives to what Jefferson held as a more valuable, necessary service than government- a free press' inquiry into government's actions.

Here's just one of many articles on Rangel's situation which you can find by Googling the topic 'Charlie Rangel ethics.'

What I find sad, yet predictable, is Rangel's continued insistence that his stark violations of tax law be seen as 'honest mistakes' or 'oversights.'

There's the abuse of a rent-controlled apartment as an office. The failure to pay taxes on the Dominican vacation home.

For these, Rangels pleads confusion and inadvertent, unintended non-payment of taxes, for which he should be forgiven and not penalized.

What Rangel fails to realize, as have his party's Congressional leaders for the several years that this travesty has been unfolding, is that this attitude infuriates voters everywhere.

Try Charlie's defense for yourself with the IRS, and you, or I, would be in jail. Charlie, on the other hand, is brazenly showing the contempt that so many in Congress feel for the rest of us.

They are different. They deserve exemption and blanket pardons for violations of the law.

First Geithner. Then Daschell. Now Rangel. They all plead 'honest mistakes.'

They all should be in jail. Now.

It's also a measure of the cynicism of Congressional Democrats that they now believe merely tossing Rangel to the wolves of public opinion will help them stave off defeat in November.

His transgressions were affordable until the Democrats' poll numbers became to awful. Now, he's got to go, because his sacrifice will, they calculate, have value.

Forget right and wrong. Forget being answerable to the law, like everyone else. Congressional members seem to have rejected these concepts long ago.

Thus the years-long fumbling by the so-called House Ethics Committee over Rangel's obvious law-breaking.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Constitutionality of ObamaCare

The Wall Street Journal's weekend interview in this past Saturday's edition was with noted conservative Constitutional law scholar Randy Barnett.

Barnett gave a thorough explanation of his detailed views of the merits and likelihood of success of the several states' lawsuit against ObamaCare.

But what drew my attention were these passages from Barnett,

"When the Constitution was written, Mr. Barnett says, commerce was understood to mean "trade in things...goods...The Commerce Clause was really put there, essentially, to create a free-trade zone for the United States," not to give Congress power over all economic activity."

And, near the interview's end,

"Will his argument prevail? "If I want to bet actual money, I'll always bet the court upholds anything Congress does," Mr Barnett says."

When I read this, I realized that I believe our country has no hope for anything resembling an America like the one I knew growing up, without a Constitutional Convention.

Mr. Barnett, a serious conservative and champion of the original Constitution and individual liberty, believes that the Supreme Court will typically simply rubber stamp any foolish, illegal and unconstitutional law Congress sees fit to pass.

When someone like Barnett sees no hope for respect for the Constitution from Congress, it's time to rewrite and amend the Constitution to force it to.

At a minimum, to my earlier post on ten things I'd change in the Constitution, I'd now add a more specific rewrite of the Commerce Clause which also struck down and obliterated existing case law on the subject.

It appears that the Commerce Clause, as liberally interpreted by the Supreme Court, has become the first punch in a 1-2 combination that has essentially stripped the States of their significant powers. The next punch after the Commerce Clause is the Supremacy argument, which states that where the federal and a state government clash, federal law and rule trumps.

If we can't trust our courts to adhere to the Constitution, then we need to amend the Constitution to prohibit those rulings we've already seen the federal courts make in favor of the federal government, and, then, limit the courts, as well.

There appears to be no other way now to restore the limited government which the Framers designed in the Constitution.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rick Santelli On Meet The Press 25 July 2010

Thanks to an off the cuff remark by Joe Kernen on CNBC the other morning, I belatedly learned of Rick Santelli's appearance on the network's Meet The Press program this past Sunday.

It wasn't hard to find a video of the segment on YouTube.

I found Santelli to be particularly spot on about what seems to motivate Tea Party activists. I'm one, and I've met others at rallies on Capitol Hill.

He's right that the motivating forces to control spending and reduce taxes cut across otherwise-diverse groups of people.

For real insight into the inability of mainstream liberals to understand Tea Party concerns, listen carefully (again?) to the black guest espousing more social spending, rather than spending on military matters, then Santelli's response, and, lastly, the host's clueless rejoinder.

When Santelli notes that the interest rate on Greek debt doubled in a year, the host replies,

"We're not Greece. We can print money."

My God! That man's an imbecile!

Of course "we can print money." So could, and did, the Wiemar Republic. And we all know what the led to. Wheelbarrows full of cash to buy a loaf of bread.

Doesn't that Meet The Press host know that money is a medium of exchange of value? It doesn't just come off of a printing press without a consequence.

Thus, the stupid notion that we can just "print more money," or, equally dangerous, as Santelli noted, borrow it, completely overlooks the fact that we have to create value in order to make the money worth something.

Finally, I realized something in Santelli's comments that had totally escaped me before I viewed this clip. For background, here's the full CNBC Santelli Tea Party call from last summer.

The host asked him a question about the Tea Party, as if it were an actual political party. Since Santelli's original reference to holding Tea Parties last year, many evidently believed that "Party" in "Tea Party" stands for, well, a political party.

If you listened closely to the second clip in the video, presenting Santelli's original call, on CNBC, for a Tea Party to be held in Chicago, you will note that he refers to the event, a tea party, along the lines of the original one in colonial Boston. Not the birth of a political party.

I've been to a couple of events in Washington, D.C., organized as Tea Party rallies, but never have I felt I was part of a political party of any organized sort.

Until Santelli replied to this question, I didn't really understand how or why others believed that people attending Tea Party events saw themselves as members of a political party.

Good job, Rick.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

House Republicans Run Scared On Energy Bill

Want to know why independent conservatives like me hate so many GOP legislators almost as much as we hate Democrats?

Consider this recent Wall Street Journal article. In it were these passages,

"Senate Republicans are more than eager to debate and oppose a cap and tax bill going into the August recess. It polls badly when voters learn it is a vast new energy tax that will hit every sector of the economy. With unemployment at 9.5%, the public will settle for normal jobs in lieu of speculative "green jobs."

The danger is that some GOP Senators may relent on a "compromise" bill that includes the cap and tax Plan B of RPS. Democrats know an RPS might be palatable if it were expanded to include nuclear power, a Republican fixation. Democrats will also portray any bill as a response to the Gulf oil spill, and the press corps will ignore the boring details.

The potential for GOP panic was on display last week, as Henry Waxman's House energy committee unanimously passed the Blowout Prevention Act of 2010. Every committee Republican voted for industry tax increases and a federal takeover of the oil-and-gas permitting process for all drilling, even on state or private property. Never mind that the country's main source of carbon emissions—coal-fired power plants—had nothing to do with the spill.

Democrats are determined to pass something before their clock runs out in November, or even after the election in a lame duck session as Senator John Kerry told Politico.com yesterday.

The GOP can serve the public and itself by just saying no. Opposing any kind of new tax on energy won't cost Republicans a single seat in Congress, but letting Democrats win another huge liberal victory would demoralize potential GOP voters. The best Republican strategy now is to wait for this madhouse to collapse of its own destructive weight."

I wish that every Republican House member on that energy committee who stupidly voted for "industry tax increases and a federal takeover of the oil-and-gas permitting process for all drilling, even on state or private property" could be defeated and still hand the House to the Republicans this fall.

The editorial's conclusions are correct. These Republicans ran like scared rabbits, forsaking any thought that they could easily explain their opposition to this bad legislation.

With Republicans behaving like this, it's less clear why anyone should believe bad federal government behavior will cease just because the GOP wins control of either Congressional chamber.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why California Is Going Bankrupt

If you don't understand why California is leading the nation's states in the direction of bankruptcy, read this article sent to me by a colleague.

BELL, Calif.-- Three administrators whose huge salaries sparked outrage in this small blue-collar suburb of Los Angeles have agreed to resign, the City Council said Friday.

Council members emerged from an hours-long closed session at midnight Friday and announced that they'd accepted the resignations of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and Police Chief Randy Adams.
Rizzo was the highest paid at $787,637 a year -- nearly twice the pay of President Barack Obama -- for overseeing one of the poorest towns in Los Angeles County.
Spaccia makes $376,288 a year and Adams earns $457,000, 50 percent more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

The three will not receive severance packages, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. Rizzo will step down at the end of August and Spaccia will leave at the end of September. Adams will also leave at the end of August, after completing an evaluation of the police department, the Times said.

"I'm happy that they resigned but I'm disappointed at the pension that they're going to receive," said Ali Saleh, a member of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse or BASTA.

Rizzo would be entitled to a state pension of more than $650,000 a year for life, according to calculations made by the Times. That would make Rizzo, 56, the highest-paid retiree in the state pension system.

Adams could get more than $411,000 a year.
Spaccia, 51, could be eligible for as much as $250,000 a year when she reaches 55, though the figure is less precise than for the other two officials, the Times said.

Saleh said the crowd applauded after the announcement but immediately yelled out questions about what would happen to the council members. Four of the five of them are paid close to $100,000 annually for part-time work. When the crowd's questions were not answered, they shouted, "Recall!, Recall!"

Revelations about the pay in Bell has sparked anger in the city of fewer than 40,000 residents. Census figures from 2008 show 17 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Enraged residents have staged protests demanding the firings and started a recall campaign against some council members.

"Woo-hoo, the salaries. Wow. What can I say? I think that's unbelievable," Christina Caldera, a 20-year resident of the city, said as she stood in line at a food bank.

Caldera, who is struggling after recently losing her job as a drug and alcohol counselor, said she generally was satisfied with the way the city was being run but felt high-paid officials should take a pay cut.

"What are they doing with all that money?" she asked. "Maybe they could put it into more jobs for other people."

Attempts to leave messages seeking comment from Rizzo and Spaccia failed because their voicemails were full. A message left for Adams was not immediately returned.

The county district attorney's office is investigating to determine if the high salaries for the council members violate any state laws. The City Council also intends to review city salaries, including those of its own members, according to Councilman Luis Artiga and Mayor Oscar Hernandez.

"We are going to analyze all the city payrolls and possibly will revise all the salaries of the city," Artiga said.

However, both men said they considered the City Council pay to be justified.

"We work a lot. I work with my community every day," the mayor said, as he shook hands with and embraced people leaving the food bank Thursday.

Council members are on call around the clock, and it is not uncommon for them to take calls in the middle of the night from people reporting problems with city services, Artiga said.
Though many residents are poor, Hernandez said they live in a city they can be proud of, one with a $22.7 million budget surplus, clean streets, refurbished parks and numerous programs for people of all ages. He pointed proudly down a street to a park filled with new exercise equipment.

When Rizzo arrived 17 years ago, Hernandez said, the city was $13 million in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy. Rizzo obtained government grants to aid the city, the mayor said.

Rizzo was arrested near his home in Huntington Beach in March and charged with misdemeanor drunken driving. He pleaded not guilty and is due back in court for an Aug. 5 hearing, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.

The Los Angeles Times reported the salaries last week, prompting a large protest Monday at City Hall in which residents shouted and demanded that Rizzo be fired.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown said his office has launched an investigation in conjunction with the state's public employee retirement agency into pension and related benefits for Bell's civic leaders.

Those are certainly eye-popping salaries, aren't they? You have to wonder what the levels of compensation are for those council members who so quickly defended their own pay.

Isn't this the sort of surreal, unconnected-to-reality municipal pay levels, voted by town councils, that is driving voter discontent with elected officials at nearly all levels of government?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ironic Naming of US Spy Submarine

A friend recently regaled me with some stories regarding the recently-decommissioned Sturgeon-class submarine USS Parche.

It seems that Parche was the predominant US spy submarine during its long career, from 1979-2004,

"Parche is the most decorated ship in U.S. Navy history, receiving a total of nine Presidential Unit Citations, ten Navy Unit Citations, and thirteen Navy Expeditionary Medal awards during her thirty years of service."

I'd read of Parche's participation in the famous undersea cable tap in Blindman's Bluff, a book written about a decade ago providing the first public information concerning the US Navy's extensive undersea espionage activities. It's riveting reading. According to my friend, the recently-published Red November is similarly informative and worth the price.

What seemed incredibly ironic to me was the text at the end of the Wiki article:

Parche's research and development duties will be assumed by Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf-class submarine whose construction period was extended to include modifications that will allow her to carry out the same types of research and development.[1] According to Robert Karniol, Jimmy Carter in succeeding Parche has become "Washington's premier spy submarine."

I get the connections. Carter was a nuclear submarine commander. Carter was a president, ineffectual, mean-spirited, petty and comical though he may have been.

But, really, the guy was about the most anti-military president we've ever had. He personally botched the Desert-One Iranian hostage rescue. It took Ronald Reagan to restore America's military strength and, perhaps more importantly, international respect for and fear of that military's capabilities.

Why would you name a premier piece of Navy espionage equipment for one of the most pacifist, embarrassing Commanders in Chief in our nation's history?