One of the iconic cartoons – and sometimes even in real life – there is a robed character on a street corner with a sign the reads “The End of the World is Coming.” Of course, both science and logic tell us that he is right.
Usually, that warning is an invitation to repent for some wayward ways or maybe just a solicitation for a few coins. We would be foolish to take him too seriously because we know that his warning has no relevance to our lives.
If we do take such ominous warnings seriously, we might be like the late Reverend Harold Camping, who on two occasions led his followers on a “camping trip” (I could not resist the pun) to the mountain to await the imminent Rapture — the first phase of the world-ending Apocalypse in which the forces of good and evil will face off in worldwide conflagration. According to the theology, the good Christians will be beamed up to the heavenly place while the less worthy will be left behind to suffer from – or conduct — the awful biblical battle. If Camping had read the Bible more closely, he might not have been so quick to predict the hour of judgment. According to Matthew 24:36, “of that day and hour knoweth no man.”
I think of all this whenever some agency … some scientific authority … some politician by the name Al Gore makes yet another “end of the world” prediction. As I have written in the past, I am an agnostic on the meaning of climate change. My unwillingness to embrace the predicted earth-ending calamities is not the denial of scientific empiricism.
It does appear that the earth has warmed up a smidgeon over the past few years. But we are also told by scientists that the earth will again enter ice ages – even to become what it was at one time, “snowball earth.” Yes, our beautiful green planet was once covered in ice and snow from pole to pole – and they say it is going to happen again in a few billion years.
I react to that as I do to the guy on the corner with the sign. They are probably right, but it is so far in the future – and so little, if anything, we can do about it – that the warning is irrelevant.
Of course, the Draconian hyperbolic outcomes predicted for our warming earth are more immediate. We are told that we must … must … act now to save the planet. The existence of humans hangs in the balance. According to the dangerous climate change sign-carriers, we are just decades … nay, years … away from catastrophic events. In fact, the events are upon us already in the form of increasingly severe hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and sunburns.
We are told that the Camp Fire in California was the most destructive and deadly in history. But … was that because the geological and climate conditions are so different than in the past? OR because we have constructed thousands of homes and other structures in regions where massive forest and brush fires are common? Is the death and destruction from hurricanes because they are inherently more powerful? OR because more people have migrated to the southern seashores?
Since virtually all their deadlined-predications in the past have never come to pass, I am not overly concerned about the latest ones. Al Gore seems to be standing in for Reverend Camping in repeatedly leading us to the mountain of failed prophecy.
Perhaps the earth is in a warming cycle, but I do not believe mankind has the power to impact on that reality to any significant degree – at least not without returning to the Stone Age. So, maybe for a while we will have to not build residences in floodplains or on seashores. Or, accept the consequence. Maybe retaining walls are a better investment than fear-mongering-for-profit campaigns.
Our most prudent plan would be to spend our resources adjusting to the reality of the consequences of a warming cycle than to try to stop it like one might want to stop a speeding train by standing on the track.
Part of my skepticism is also borne out of my own experience with science versing mother nature.
At one time, I owned a home on the shore of Lake Michigan. At the time, the lake was rising and taking down the sand dunes and no few homes. There was only a sliver of a beach – and at times none at all. I was told that it was a climate problem. Lake Michigan would never recede in our lifetimes. We had to fortify our lakefront to save the homes. Many of my neighbors did. I did not.
Weeeeell … much to my pleasant surprise and to the surprise of the scientists and experts, the lake level dropped. The bare bluffs that had collapsed into the lake were again green with bushes and trees. And my beach – from bluff to shoreline — was as wide as a football field. The experts never did – or could – explain why they were so bloody wrong. But I learned that scientists are often only slightly better than crystal ball readers in predicting the future.
In the 1950s, those atomic tests were going to destroy the planet. The nuclear age continued and so did the earth. In the 1960s, the world was to be ravaged by war and starvation due to the imminent “population explosion.” The “explosion” has continued, but the Draconian outcomes did not occur. In the 1980s, scientists predicted that we would be out of fossil fuel by the Twenty-First Century.
And now, we seem to have more than ever – much to the chagrin of the climate catastrophe folks.
My bet is that all those terrible things that are predicted to happen in the next 10 or 20 years if we do not take drastic actions IMMEDIATELY, will not be nearly as bad as they predict and may not happen at all regardless of what we do, or do not do.
So, there ‘tis.
In one of the most memorable scenes from the classic movie Casablanca, Police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) is ordered to conduct a raid on the nightclub/backroom casino owned by Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) – a casino in which the good inspector, himself, had been gambling. With an expression of mock sincerity on his face, the inspector says, “ I am shocked – SHOCKED — to find that gambling is going on in here!”
Like in our current political melodrama, the raid on the casino was not the result of the rule-of-law — or the gambling joint would have been closed long before. It was an arbitrary political decision based on the political desires of the establishment at that moment. What was once overlooked by the local gendarme, was suddenly recognized as a crime
With Special Counsel Robert Mueller taking up the Louis Renault role, we are told of the shocking news that President Trump may have told a few fibs about his alleged assignation with cinema slut Stephanie Clifford playing in the role of Stormy Daniels — and that these prevarications were crimes against the people. Breaking campaign finance laws, to be specific. We are to be shocked – SHOCKED – by these revelations.
Unlike Casablanca, where the crime of gambling was tangibly evident, the crime of obstruction of justice is much more ethereal – a crime based on the state of the mind. IF, as the President’s critics argue, Trump paid off “the mouth that whored” SOLELY to prevent her from undermining his chances of becoming President, It COULD BE – note, that is “could be” – construed as an illegal campaign contribution.
However … IF the payment was to protect Trump’s general reputation – such as it is – or keep his adultery from his family, then it is not specifically a campaign issue and, therefore, no violation of the campaign laws. And that is even true if the concern about the campaign was, in fact, one of Trump’s reasons. The money must have no other purpose than to support the campaign, or the law does not apply.
There is also the issue of prosecutorial discretion. The same issue can be charged as a technical civil infraction by the Federal Election Commission – which would result in a fine – or a criminal felony. This is just another example that we do not live under the much-proclaimed rule-of-law, but under the arbitrary interpretations of law by prosecutors and judges.
That is why most prosecutors say it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to actually convict Trump on violating campaign laws. Many go further to opine that no prosecutor would even attempt an indictment on that charge based on the inability to prove intent.
There is also the issue of obstruction of justice. The recent court filing by the Special Counsel states that “Individual 1” (obviously Trump) was engage in preliminary talks with Russian business interests through attorney Michael Cohen at a time when candidate Trump said he has no deals with Russia. According to the armchair quarterbacks, in concealing his alleged dealings, Trump was obstructing the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with his campaign.
In the court-of-public-opinion – ruled over by the lords of the Fourth Estate – accusation, when consistent with preconceived narratives, is equivalent to conviction. In that spirit, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell – whose “Last Word” is never such (sigh) – is prodding Democrats to take up the impeachment of the President. He notes, that no President in history has ever been accused of a federal crime without an ensuing impeachment. In fact, O’Donnell told the Huffington Post that Trump “must be impeached.” I am sure if you asked him, O’Donnell would also endorse having the President “hanged, drawn and quartered.” Among the unhinged Trump haters, there is not even the presumption of a presumption-of-innocence.
And is there even a standard for obstruction of justice – or is it just whatever a prosecutor wants it to be? If Trump saying that he did not have business “deals” with Russians – a word with a wide range of interpretations – is evidence of obstruction of justice, what in God’s name was Bill Clinton’s public statement that he had never “had sex with that woman?” In the days of Clinton, it was widely held that fibbing in public to protect oneself was an understandable sin, but hardly a crime – and certainly not enough to consider removing a President from office.
Despite all the sound and fury surrounding the various Mueller investigations, it is unlikely – based on what we know today – that Trump will be convicted of any of the crimes he is accused of committing. Accusations are the cheapest currency of politics – and even one of those too-easy-to-obtain indictments is a matter of opinion to be tested in court. Much of the work of the Special Counsel is more of a shadow game to influence the political process.
At best, Mueller could name Trump as an “unindicted co-conspirator.” Why no indictment? One reason that likely will be given is that under the current rules of the Department of Justice, a sitting President cannot be indicted. However, this may be nothing more than political cover for the fact that any indictment on the evidence would be unsuccessful in court. Mueller has no winnable case to bring.
Just as FBI Director James Comey admitted that he leaked negative information about Trump to provoke the appointment of a special prosecutor, his good buddy Mueller could gratuitously have included the “co-conspirator” language simply to provoke an impeachment hearing.
So, there ‘tis.
One of the more maddening things for we citizens is to read something in plain English in the Constitution only to have the Brahmans of the Court tell us it does not mean what it says. That is the case of the protection against “double jeopardy” – being tried for the same crime a second time.
That issue may come back to the surface with implications for the trials of former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort. He is being tried in both federal and state courts for essentially the same crimes. A constitutional challenge to the current law could – just could – get him out those cases that were filed in the Southern District of New York and the Northern District of Virginia. Some argue that the guilty verdicts could be thrown out even though he already confessed to some charges.
According to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, “… (n)or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…” Pretty simple. Citizens of United States – who are the only people protected by the Constitution – cannot be required to stand trial for a second time on the same offense.
In 1847, the Supreme Court decided that the double jeopardy protection did not apply to being tried for the same defense by the federal courts and local courts – declaring the two to be “separate sovereigns.” In other words, if you are found innocent of a crime in a state court, you can be put on trial for the same crime in a federal court. That happens a lot. And, according to the current opinion of the Supreme Court, that does not constitute double jeopardy.
The Court proffered the theory that since they are two different jurisdictions (sovereigns), they can pursue an accused separately. If you were that person, you would most certainly believe you were in double jeopardy.
Since that highly controversial decision in 1847, constitutional and legal scholars have argued that the Court erred. Been known to happen. The federal ban on being tried twice is a constitutional protection – a protection against ANY second trial for the same offense applicable to ANY citizen. The Fifth Amendment does not make an exception for “separate soveriegns.”
States can make their own laws, but not when they violate the basic rights protected by the Constitution. So sayeth the Tenth Amendment. All rights and powers not strictly provided to the federal government in the Constitution are to be retained by the states and the people. The intention of the Founders was to strictly limit the power of the central government.
So … how did Washington (the city, not the man) become so powerful? You need to ask the justices of the Supreme Court why they so often have trouble with the English language as found in the Constitution. The document seems pretty clear. Protection from double jeopardy is right there in the Constitution. It does not yield that decision to the states even in view of the Tenth Amendment.
The same reason that states cannot try a person already tried by the federal government – or at least should not be able to — is the same reason that the claim of states’ rights did not protect slavery. It was a violation of federal constitutional rights of all citizens – ergo forbidden. States could not plead as “separate sovereigns” – although they tried with nullification acts, but that is a different story.
Opposition to the current interpretation of double jeopardy is so profound that two of the Supreme Courts most distant members in terms of judicial philosophy – Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas – both believe that the 1847 decision should be reviewed and potentially reversed.
The 171-year-old decision of the Court could be upended in the case of Gamble v. United States of America, which challenges the law and is on the docket to be heard by the current Court. That is the case that could impact significantly on Manafort. If the court reverses itself, he could be off the hook for all the non-federal cases – and Trump could grant a pardon for any or all of the federal charges.
What are the chances? Who knows. But with Ginsberg and Thomas on the same side – and with the Court having a clear five-member majority, it does seem very possible. Manafort notwithstanding, however, it is probably time for the Court to declare that the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy means what it says.
So, there ‘tis.
No organization in America can out do People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in garnering publicity for ugly antics and idiotic ideas. Following in the footsteps of the radical feminists – who want to remove the word “man” from “mankind” to “manufacture” – PETA’s latest left-wing assault on the common language is proposed to take all references to animals out of our clichés.
They propose that “bringing home the bacon” should be replaced by “bringing home the bagels.” How do Jews feel about that since they are most closely associated with the bagel? I take particular offense to this idea because I LOVE bacon. Yeah, I know it clogs my arteries and I have to indulge in moderation – meaning about once a week as opposed to every breakfast. On rare occasions, I even indulge myself in my favorte sandwich – and I am not speaking of one of those run-of-the-mill bacon, lettuce and tomato deals. No. No. No.
Mine is a full one-pound of semi-crisp bacon pressed between two slices of Wonderbread slathered in Miracle Whip (not a mayo guy). I do add a slice of beef steak tomato as a healthy supplement. Hmmmm. I suppose PETA will want me to rename the tomato – something like a “beat stalk” tomato. That makes no sense, but neither does “beef steak.”
PETA proposes that we celebrate accomplishing two tasks in one effort by replacing “killing two birds with one stone” to “feeding two birds with one scone.” It has a nice sound to it, but frankly, I like scones too much to feed them to birds. My feathered friends get Wonderbread – preservatives and all. If you are into double-entendres, you could “feed two birds with one pita.” I like that since PETA’s idea is for the birds, anyway.
For years … decades … maybe even centuries, we have been advised not to “put all our eggs in one basket.” PETA suggest that we do not “put all our berries in one bowl.” By extension, I assume the we can no long call our savings a “nest egg.” Maybe we can call it our “silo share” or better yet – in keeping with the PITA theme — our “berry preserves.”
PETA’s ambition to re-write the English Language is not limited to clichés. They want the English town of Wool to change its 1000-year-old name because it suggests cruelty to sheep. They propose it be renamed “Vegan Wool.” That would suggest that we should only be cruel to vegan sheep – and hey, they are all vegans already.
Speaking of sheep, we often accused of being a “nation of sheep” – after the William Lederer 1961 book by the same name. So, I guess we have to bow to both PETA and the feminists on this one and call ourselves “a nation of pandering persons.”
Weeeeell … you can just image what PETA thinks of the New York town of Fishkill. You do not have to imagine, however. They will tell you. According to PETA (People Engaged in Textual Asininity), the town should be renamed “Fishsave.” In the original context, “kill” actually means creek, but don’t tell the folks at PETA. If you do, then also educate them on the fact that “wool” – as the town in England — is Saxon for “well” or “spring.” Just that no one speaks Saxon any more.
You can see where this is going. No more “dog days of summer,” “hogging the blanket,” “horsing around,” “fishing for a compliment” or “cat houses.” Speaking of felines, I hope this means an end to all those “pussy” references at those feminist rallies – including those silly pink knit pussy hats.
I wonder if PETA will go after the sports teams for all those animal names. Rams … eagles … tigers … bears … cubs … seahawks … panthers … and on and on.
I could go on with additional examples of PETA’s “offensive” references to animals and suggested upgrades in the language, but I prefer to leave that up to the readers. Besides, time for me to pig out at lunch.
If you are so inspired, I would love to hear your suggestions for replacing references to animals with more politically correct terms. And do not worry if your suggestions are really stupid. You will be very much in keeping with PETA.
So, there ‘tis.
Normally, when a prominent member of a President’s own political party passes on, it usually has positive political implications. There is a pause in the partisan bickering. The media is filled with the person’s good works – which reflects well on their political party. It provides the President with an opportunity to be a consoler and unifier.
This has not been the case with President Trump.
This was clearly seen with the death of Senator John McCain. His funeral was unusual in that it was weaponized against Trump by the McCain family and an obsessively anti-Trump media. McCain was most certainly a prominent Republican and arguably a war hero, but the day-after-day canonization of his yet-to-be-interred remains was far beyond the merits of the man. He was a man with an angry and vengeful nature. He was every bit as narcissistic as Trump. His votes were too often predicated on political motivation rather than public good (i.e. campaign finance regulations). He preferred to be a maverick instead of a principled conservative. Most of the high praise in the press was designed – with malice of forethought — to draw starker, darker comparisons to Trump – who did little to effectively counter the slander-by-false-comparison.
McCain’s request that Trump not be invited to the funeral and his posthumous letter incorporating a hit on Trump were far from the class and graciousness that Bush “41” demonstrated during his life. The McCain’s family’s unending nasty public comments about Trump during and after the senator’s funeral – as late as this week – have been repetitious and petty. They usually involve how they will never forgive Trump.
Unlike McCain, Bush deserves every minute of every praise. He was an extraordinary human being in demeanor and accomplishment. One does not always have to agree with each and every action or policy to recognize and appreciate the quality of the man.
Of course, he does have his detractors. Many see his call for a “new world order” as some Orwellian scheme of control over the world by a cabal of conspiring autocrats. If you give the phrase that meaning, there is reason to be concerned. Bush, however, was doing what we want American presidents to do – trying to improve the world for mankind by dealing with the evil alliances. We created a new world order after World War I – literally wiping out monarchies. We did it again after World War II –making the world free for democracy. Nixon changed the world order with his China policy. Reagan made an enormous change in the world order with his forced collapse of the Soviet Union. Most Americans would see Bush’s call for a new world order in that tradition.
It is only natural that every praise of Bush will be compared – if not openly, at least in the mind – with Trump – and it is not a positive comparison for the President. It is that crappy personality issue. In that regard, Bush is one of the role model Presidents for his successors and for the children across the country – what a President should be.
Whereas Bush was humble, Trump is egocentric. Whereas Bush was gracious, Trump is petty. Whereas Bush was articulate, Trump is argumentative and too often not credible. Whereas Bush could embrace political adversaries (in the tradition of Lincoln and Reagan), Trump reacts explosively to the least opposition or criticism.
Just to be clear, recognition of Trump’s personality issues, does not mean that I have lost sight of the more important policy proposals and achievements of the Trump presidency. Nor is it an absolution of the ethical collapse and corruptive bias of the left-wing news media. Those are far greater threats to the Republic than Trump’s idiosyncrasies. This is only a comparison of two personalities. If given the choice, I think virtually all parents would want their children to grow up with Bush’s personal character – and not with Trump’s.
Bush’s passing – and all the deserved eulogies that will be offered during this time of requiem – will shine a light on all of Trump’s personality deficiencies. That is unfortunate, but how things are.
So, there ‘tis.
By nature, I am an optimist. I base it on a human history that has steadily improved in virtually every way. Yes, there are terrible events – natural and man-made – and there are temporary setbacks by regressive dark forces. But, for the most part, the record of human progress is positive and has resulted in a persistent upward line on the graph of human improvement.
In 1776, the new United States of America kicked off the most dramatic democratization movement in the history of the world. By example and might, we led the transformation away from a world ruled over by authoritarians of all sorts – kings, tsars, emperors, tribal chieftains, dictators and potentates. In less than 200 years, America had inspired and sponsored a world of nations based on democracy and juxtaposed to the remnants of the old authoritarian order.
The success of the United States in becoming that beacon of freedom — or, as President Reagan put it, that “shining city upon the hill” – was an almost universal common belief in personal freedom and limited government. Virtually all the misfortunes of society were to be handled by a combination of self-reliance and the goodness of others — not on a dependency of an inefficient powerful central government.
Our Founders gave us the instruction book of freedom and positive progress. It was called the Constitution – and lest we didn’t understand their meaning and intent in the words of the Constitution itself, they provided us with a library of explanatory papers and documents. Sadly, the liberal education industry no longer emphasizes the writings of the Founders – replacing it with the impossible political and economic theories of Utopianism.
The strength of America was our common understanding of values. We may not always agree on how to get to our common goals, but we shared the same goals. This does not seem to be the case anymore. We are not only a nation divided along partisan lines and philosophic lines, but a people who seem to no longer have even the same values and goals in mind.
One of the most important fundamentals of a viable Republic was keeping even limited government closest to the people. As the Tenth Amendment prescribes, any power not specifically provided to the federal government is reserved to the several states or to the people. Since such a concept disenfranchises authoritarians, we can understand why the progressives constantly want the central government in Washington to take over more governance and expropriate more of the people’s wealth. Unfortunately, “states’ rights” was given a bad name when the Democratic Party wrongly weaponized it as a means of denying blacks their civic, human and constitutional rights. Regardless, it remains an existential concept.
Charles Kesler, the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, describes the current situation in America as a movement away from “normal politics” to “regime politics.”
In an essay in Imprimis, Kesler defines “normal politics” as a condition when there is common agreement on goals and values, but disagreement on the means by which those goals can be best achieved. That has been the characteristic of the American experiment in democracy for the first 200 years.
Kesler writes that “regime politics” exist when there is no longer agreement on the basics – the values, the goals and objectives. It is when our division represents two entirely different sets of values and traditions.
Both sides agree that we are in the midst of a battle for the very soul of America – with conservatives standing with the vision of the Founders and the constitutional process of forming a “more perfect union” based on the fundamental of personal freedom and limited government.
The radical left, that has a stronghold in the misnamed Democratic Party, pushes for a world where power is the central right of governance. The people are not the source of power, but the subjects of an elite political class that is better equipped to decide the fortunes of the less able masses.
Of course, this is not a new concept. It is what the Founders rejected – and which we as a nation has stood against for two centuries. It is an incremental return to authoritarianism
The first common value that is attacked by the left, is confidence in the written word of the Constitution – and the amendment procedure by which it enables us to improve the union by popular consensus. Since the left does not believe in the basic principles of personal freedom and the inalienable rights of we the people, they see the Constitution as a “living document” subject to fundamental changes in meaning and principles — and in some instances as a passé piece of paper that can be, and should be, largely ignored.
This diminution of the Constitution is the central issue in the fight over “activist” or “strict constructionist” judges. This also leads to a fundamental understanding of the role of the judiciary—with conservatives holding to the tradition of deciding cases based on law and progressives encouraging the courts to make law by judicial edict.
This abandonment of traditional values is seen in the #MeToo movement. In proposing that a woman must be believed as conclusive evidence in a judicial or civil process tosses out one of our most sacred safeguards against tyranny – the rule-of-law and standards of evidence.
The increasingly destructive political correctness movement is designed to serve two purposes for the left – to stifle freedom of the speech, which has become a serious threat in recent years, and to create politically advantageous divisiveness.
This goes along with identity politics that creates tribal-like conflicts by which the left benefits. Identity politics is a direct attack on the national motto of e Pluribus Unum and a long-held belief in assimilation. This means that those we allow in the country are here to become Americans – to embrace our core values and traditions.
The left casts these concepts aside in favor of maintaining permanent divisions based on ethnic background, religion and culture. Traditionalists believe that folks seeking asylum, citizenship or even work visas should adhere to our established laws. Progressives see immigrants as establishing ethnic beachheads in which their culture rules. It is the reason we are even having a debate about Sharia Law and have communities in which American police are not to enforce the law.
The idea that political power can be — and should be — gained by breaking the law is inherent in the progressive movement. It is why they do not believe in enforcing the law at the border. It is why they create those idiotic sanctuary cities and states to thwart federal laws. It is why the will to not enforce election laws and then proffer the ridiculous argument that voter fraud does not exist.
They pay lip service to the importance of a free press while creating a media culture that is only free of fairness, balance and honest reporting. They have nullified the longstanding ethics of journalism in a free society for an activist, opinion-oriented so-called news industry that dishes out propaganda – political and philosophic – to an overly tolerant public.
President Trump is certainly at his provocative best when he calls the left-wing media “the enemies of the people,” but any objective analysis would see one-sided analyses and panels of parroting pundits as the enemies of truth. A press that is controlled by government OR by one political establishment is not a free press and is not in service to the nation as the Founders envisioned when they incorporated the Fourth Estate into the First Amendment. Contain
In a recent edition of MSNBC’s “Up with David Gura,” the discussion was a full-bore attack on the one major conservative station, FOX News. One of the panelists proposed that there should be a law to curtail FOX support of President Trump, Republicans and conservatives. Ponder that for a moment. Those claiming fealty to an unfettered press are actually proposing that government step in to block opinions and points-of-view with which the leftist press does not agree. As shocking as such a proposal should be, neither the host nor the other guests protested that suggestion.
We had a progressive president who began his presidency with what became known as an “apology tour” – demeaning the history and nobility of America. He then withdrew America from world leadership with a preposterous doctrine of “leading from behind.”
The political left embraced treaties that disadvantaged America – including the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the Iran Nuclear deal and a number of trade agreements. This brand of globalization is far different from such things as President Truman’s Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II AND strengthened America at the same time – and President Reagan’s Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) that made the world a little safer place INCLUDING America.
Then there is the issue of patriotism – love of country. That is the very centerpiece of a nation with shared values and common objectives. It is the glue that holds the Republic together. The left – especially since those days of rage in the 1960s – has disparaged both a love of country and the country itself. In the name of pretentious globalization, the left eschews American leadership and slanders our national purposes.
In the progressive world, one can disrespect the flag and the National Anthem –not just on the football fields, but in classrooms across the nation. The voices of the left are quick to criticize our fighting men and women as well as the victories they pursued on our behalf.
My pessimism for the future of America is based on the rise of the left – and how they now control our schools, our entertainment industry, our book publishing businesses and our news media. These are all the means by which a culture and values are passed along to future generations. In many ways, the Millennial generation has been propagandized their entire lives. The rise of acceptance of socialist authoritarianism among our youth is alarming, to say the least.
On the other hand, the optimist in me believes that true personal freedom as described in the Constitution is an ever-compelling belief. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty speaks of those “yearning to breathe free.” I believe that that “yearning” is ingrained in the human soul and no matter how many times freedom is oppressed, freedom will emerge victorious. But I pity those who might be trapped in one of those times when the authoritarian left seizes temporary power and suppresses freedom and our inalienable rights.
So, there ‘tis.
In what has been widely described as a not-so-subtle rebuke of President Trump’s criticism of the federal courts in the Ninth Judicial District, Chief Justice John Roberts made his case for the independence of the American judicial system. He said:
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
Okay! That may be what a Supreme Court justice might say in an address to the graduating class of Duke University Law School or the annual convention of the National Bar Association. But, as a serious response to presidential criticism of liberal activist federal judges, Roberts is soiling his long black robe by treading into the murky political waters.
Granted that Trump’s verbal attacks on the courts is a bit maladroit and excessively pugnacious, but he is not wrong. In fact, his pointing to judges playing out the political philosophies – or not – of the presidents who appoint them is common fodder of political discourse.
Hypocrisy rears its head.
Democrats, who now celebrate Roberts’ self-laudatory remarks and elementary-level description of the federal bench, we loud in the complaints about the partisanship of the judges that re-affirmed the election of George Bush the Second in 2000.
In fact, the most notable exceptions to justices reflecting the politics and philosophies of the presidents who appointed them is when supposedly conservative lawyers and judges appointed to the courts by the relatively more conservative Republican presidents have been known to veer off to the left – Justices David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and even Roberts, to a degree, are just the latest samples. More consistent with the culture of their party, liberal Democrat judges tend to remain dogmatic to the philosophy of the presidents who appoint them – often becoming more liberal as their party steers to the port side.
Judges are political creatures
If there was any truth in Robert’s grandiose claim, we would not see so many decisions decided along “political lines.” And that seems to be more the case as you rise up the levels of the federal court systems. District tend to be less politically predictable largely because their cases are more specific to the issues of the crime or the civil issues. They are rarely deciding matters of overarching constitutionality. The federal Appellate or Circuit courts tend to be more political in general – and the Ninth District especially.
When it comes to the Supreme Court, however, there is a very strong correlation between the decisions and the political views of the president who nominated them. The entire process is political. Most of those sitting on the Federal courts had resumes that involved significant political involvement. There philosophic (read that political) leanings are not only known, but a major factor in their selection.
In saying that there are no Obama, Bush, Clinton or Trump judges is simply wrong. We have long understood that how a justice will vote is directly correlated to the president who nominated them. It is a form of political shorthand. To say that Justice Sonia Sotomayor is an Obama justice informs us how she will vote — and why she did vote the way she did — on all those divisive POLITICAL issues that come before the court.
Roberts’ public p****ing contest
While Roberts’ response was more in the spirit of a cheerleader than a referee, there is the question as to whether he should have engaged at all. There is a bit of an irony in Roberts’ proclaiming the courts to be independent of the political climate de jure and then he creates – at least by intimation – a political controversy. He had to know that his comment would not go without a response from Trump – even many responses
Perhaps because he was appointed by Republican Bush, Roberts’ feels a sense of pre-emptive absolution in becoming political against a Republican President. Regardless, judicial tradition – more in theory than fact – has it that these comments by sitting justices are inappropriate. It was not too long ago that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg felt obligated to make a public apology after insulting the President.
Media hits the hype button
Just because one can concede that sharp words between a President and a Chief Justice has a modicum of news value does not mean it should be elevated and twisted into a major confrontation. Of course, the #NeverTrump news would have you believe that Trump and ambushed Roberts in a dark alley. In the media’s biased analysis, it would seem that this exchange of words will bring down a Republic that has withstood wars – including a Civil War – depressions, the 1960s Days of Rage, terrorist attacks, presidential impeachments, assassinations and the presidency of Jimmy Carter is about to teeter on the brink of collapse over a little friction between the Executive and Judicial branches.
So, there ‘tis.
This is not the biggest story in America – but it is part of one. It is a very local story, but one that says a lot of what is going wrong in America.
The New China Restaurant
William Gee grew up in the food service business in the Chicago suburb of Fox River Grove, Illinois. His parents opened the New China Restaurant in 1974. It immediately became one of the most popular eateries in town. Through the years, countless numbers of the communities’ young people worked at the New China to earn money for college or maybe that first car.
In 2013, the New China was destroyed by fire. The cost of rebuilding was beyond William Gee’s budget. That is when the people of Fox River Grove sprang into action. They raised enough money to enable Gee to open the new New China Restaurant.
Despite being closed for a month, the new eatery had regained its old popularity – and then some. According to Gee, he was serving more than 120 pounds of chicken A DAY – not to mention a lot of egg rolls and fortune cookies.
Happy Days …
Gee had the perfect restaurant in the perfect location in the perfect community as far as he was concerned. What could go wrong? In a word, everything.
… until the politicians get involved.
It seems that the Fox River Grove village board has other plans for the block where New China and a number of other businesses were located. They want to tear down the entire block and make it available for a “higher and better use.” That is the legal language for exercising the power of eminent domain — to force all the property owners to sell their buildings and businesses.
Historically, the power of eminent domain was to be exercised only in situations where there was a clear PUBLIC good or necessity. Note the emphasis on “PUBLIC.” Land could be taken for a public project, such as a highway, library or tertiary treatment plant. It was also necessary to make a case that the particular land in question was essential to the project.
Kelo v. City of New London
The definition of “public good” changed in 2005 when the liberal faction of the United States Supreme Court (John Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer) were joined by recently retired Anthony Kennedy in a 5 to 4 decision that said economic development was a permissible reason to confiscate property under the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment. Of course, this is not the first time the activist liberals had weakened our Constitutional guarantees – of which property rights were paramount in the thinking of our Founders.
It was no longer about the importance of the project to the community, but the money it would generate for the town treasury. If, for example, some developer would build a shopping mall or high-rise apartment on the property, it would generate more tax revenue than the New China Restaurant and all those other stores up and down the block.
According to modern urban management, the income from a property is more important to the public good than some mamasan and Papasan restaurant. (yes, I know “mamasan” and “Papasan” are mostly thought of as Japanese, but the terms also apply to other East Asians. So, give me a little literary license on that one.)
More and more, eminent domain is being used to force the transfer of private property from one owner to another at rates of prescribed reimbursement that never reach fair market value – what an owner could actually receive from the property in a private sale.
No development is in sight
In the Fox River Grove case, it is even worse. You see, the town fathers (and mothers, I presume) have no idea what they will be doing with the property once they acquire it. There are no private developers who have requested to purchase the downtown block. There are no proposals for that shopping mall or high-rise apartment. None of those pretty artist drawings. Nothing.
The village board wants to gamble that once the village has title to the property, they will be able to sell it for a nice profit AND get higher taxes – although not as high as they could be because these same board members will often offer tax breaks to get a developer on board.
Fair compensation … not
Fox River Grove has told Gee that his property is worth no more than $330,000. The Gee family purchased the property in 1974 for $190,000 (equivalent to more than $800,000 today). Gee has put more than $200,000 in developing the property. Then there is the value of the business. In a private transaction, Gee would likely receive more than $1 million for the property. The $330,000 offered by the Village would not come close to enabling Gee to secure new property and re-open his restaurant for the second time.
An attack on private property
Though we do not hear much about it, the abuse of eminent domain has been a serious problem for many property owners. Although our Constitution was drafted to defend our property rights, the courts have frittered them away on all sorts of decisions undermining those rights. It is not just eminent domain, but civil seizure and even the IRS’s confiscation of property without even adjudication.
As Gee said, “If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.” And it does – more often than we could possibly know.
Good fortune needed.
Gee’s future is hanging in the balance. The next time he opens a fortune cookie, we can only hope it says, “You will find happiness staying where you belong.”
(I must confess that I have a personal interest in this story because my own son earned a lot of his college money delivering Chinese food for a local restaurant and, oh yeah, I also really like Chinese food.)
So, there ‘tis.
That crashing sound you hear emanating from Washington early next year will be the visions, expectations and egos of the new freshman class of the 116th Congress.
Having been part of the Washington political scene for years, I have witnessed the arrival of several classes of these legislative newbies. They appear on the steps of Capitol filled with ambition and determination. Movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” are on endless loop in the subcortex of their brains.
Remember, they have just finished campaigns where they have made the most exuberant promises of what they will do – what they will achieve – when sitting in the hallowed chamber. For months, they have been fawned over by adoring fans and their every utterance the topic of news reports. They have appeared before innumerable civic, fraternal, business and social groups – and had been teleported into the homes of hundreds of thousands of voters via radio and television. For them, the word represented by the “V” in VIP is in all caps.
They may expect to see the figurative red carpets rolled out as they arrive, but that is not what they will experience.
In the social and political pecking order of the nation’s capital, a freshman congressperson is among the lowest ranking. Oh sure. There are exceptions. Those from famous families, those who had previous fame in other fields – sports or entertainment — and those with more than a small fortune will get greater attention at the onset, but for the run-of-the-mill congressperson-elect it is more like being a new army recruit showing up for induction into Texas’ inappropriately named Fort Bliss.
In some ways, it is a surreal experience because they will live among the most famous and powerful political figures in America. They will see them in the hallways, on the streets and in the restaurants. Yet, there will be an almost impermeable invisible social wall that separates the political classes.
They will quickly learn that despite all those things they sincerely promised the folks back home that they would do once they get sworn in, they will have zero ability to do any of it. In their orientation, they will be subtly advised that if they behave like good little freshman, they can look forward to rising up the social scale after a few terms.
And what about those important committee assignments? Most freshmen will not be sitting on those key committees you hear about in the news every day. They will be assigned to obscure subcommittees where the work is … well … boring and mundane. How about spending your first term on the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research? It actually sounds more interesting than it is.
Most freshman legislators sit silently on the proverbial back bench while the more senior leaders do all the work. All the bills the newbies thought they were going to introduce and enact will have to wait. The job of the freshman legislator is to vote – mostly as their party leadership “suggests.” There will not be many, if any, opportunities to rise to address their fellow members of Congress. Although there will be time to “address” the empty chamber to produce video clips for back home consumption and future political commercials.
Even if they are so bold as to propose a piece of legislation, it will die in committee. They can hop on the serious legislation advanced by the major players — as one of the legion of “co-sponsors” — but initiating a bill is a no-no. Virtually any bill that a freshman legislator puts into the “hopper,” will go to a committee where it will be assigned to the dark hole, where such legislation dies unceremoniously.
If a precocious legislator wanted to get his or her bill moved in committee, he or she could request a meeting with the chairman of the committee to which the bill has been assigned. Unfortunately, most such requests are denied. And if one of these new legislators wanted to meet with Speaker Pelosi – assuming she is restored to that post – the request would be denied. There is too much serious business – and too many more important people with which to deal – than to spend time with the lowly freshmen.
Members of the freshman class will realize their status when it comes to office assignments. If they think that every member of the House has one of those massive offices you see in the movies, they are in for a rude awakening. They will not even be housed in the same buildings with the upper echelon legislators. One has to move up the legislative ladder over a number of election cycles to move up from the Longworth to the Cannon to the Rayburn House office buildings – and only the top leadership will have offices in the Capitol Building, itself.
Then there are all those fabled fabulous social events – White House receptions, embassy parties, diplomatic balls, grand holiday events, etc. etc. etc. There are not enough “etc.” to reflect the number of such events. Freshmen legislators will not find invitations to those events in their mailboxes. They will be lucky to be invited to one of those ubiquitous lobbyist-sponsored cocktail parties at the Hilton hotel.
Not only are the freshman House members competing for attention with their own leadership, they are outranked by scores of senators, Cabinet officials, agency heads, Supreme Court justices, White House aides, diplomats, visiting heads-of-state and on the top perch, the President of the United States.
The realization of political and social impotency will hit hardest on those with the greatest arrogance and the biggest egos – those who believe that their election was the granting of some sort of grand entitlement. In my days in Washington, it was referred to as “freshman depression.”
That’s brings to mind the fiery Alexandra Ocasia-Cortez – who is already making waves by complaining about what she perceives as a lack of respect for her new title. While she sees herself as a leader in a movement that is entitled to “occupy” all that it sees and surveys – and which is currently occupying the Democratic Party — she is more likely to earn the title of “least effective legislator” of the freshman class. The political establishment does not admire “attitude” in its freshmen legislators. And Joining a group of anti-Pelosi demonstrators outside the office of future-Speaker, and threatening to “primary” her less radical Democrat colleagues, was not the best way to achieve success, or anything else, in Congress.
Like the Remora fish that attaches to the much larger sharks, freshman legislators can take the ride, but they are not going to pick the direction. That is for bigger fish than them.
So. There ’tis.
Outgoing Republican United States Senator Jeff Flake has made himself a national figure by being a bit of a maverick in the tradition of his Arizona colleague, the late John McCain. Unlike McCain, Flake will not ride out his political career to its final days in the Senate.
Ironically, Flake first stepped out from the relative obscurity of being little more than one one-hundredth of the Senate membership when he announced his intention to step down from an expected bid for re-election.
Flakes retirement from the upper chamber was not due to age, moving on to another public office or the offer of a high-paying job in the private sector. He dropped out of his race for re-election because – to put it bluntly – he was not re-electable. His frequent apostasy from conservative Republican orthodoxy made him a rather unpopular figure among Arizona’s conservative Republican primary voters.
Even though a bit of a back-bencher, Flake had visions of occupying that cornerless office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, if John McCain could ride maverick-hood to a presidential nomination, why not Flake?
McCain’s friends and critics were united in their belief that the late Senator was one of a kind. Flake failed to appreciate that. Also, McCain survived on the political momentum of seniority more than the abject admiration of all his Republican peers – despite the effusive eulogies.
Furthermore, Flake began to out maverick the maverick – and in doing so made himself even more unpopular than his Arizona colleague.
Once he pulled the plug on his 2018 Senate re-election bid, Flake demonstrated a bitterness by finding common cause with Senate Democrats in their #NeverTrump Resistance Movement. As one might expect, Flake’s attacks on Trump and conservative Republicans – often from the floor of the Senate — were welcomed fodder for the liberal news media. He became a frequent guest on shows that had previously failed to recognize his existence.
With Republican control of the Senate held by a razor-thin one-vote margin, Flake could leverage his vote into spotlight grabbing strategies. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flake was able to extend the hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a week by siding with Democrats in what could only be described as meaningless grandstanding. Regardless, the national media focused on Flake as he huddled with the Democrats.
In one of his final imperious acts of egocentricity – at least we can hope so — Flake more recently announced that he would block all of the pending appointments to the federal bench unless the Senate put a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from an excessively reported firing by Trump – a firing that has not happen during almost two years of erroneous predictions by Democrats and the media, and an equal number of accurate refutations by Trump and administration officials that Mueller was not being fired.
Like Flake’s optics-only extension of the Kavanaugh hearings, taking a vote on the bill to protect Mueller is meaningless. The bill is not likely to pass both chambers, and if it did, it would be vetoed by Trump. There is also a serious question if it would be held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court since it appears to violate the separation of powers. And the bill, itself, does not actually prevent the President from firing Mueller. The President, not the Congress. Is in charge of hiring and firing in the Executive Branch.
In just a few short weeks, Flake will be flying off to Phoenix. While he has not announced any future plans, he seems a man too firmly embraced by the political spotlight to move into the shadowy abyss of private life.
Flake appears to have burned too many GOP bridges to restart his career in the party of Lincoln. In fact, his actions on the way out the door suggest he knows that – with one possible exception.
Flake could see himself as a primary challenger to Trump in 2020 as an independent moderate – but even Flake must realize that he has made himself too unpopular with too many Republican voters to get any political traction in the GOP.
This leaves the other option. Switch over to the Democratic Party. This would take him out of the 2020 presidential race because the Democrats already have a too many wannabes. No new kid on the block is going to push all of them aside.
However, at 55, Flake is young enough to be eligible to run for president in 2024, 2026, 2030, 2034, 2038 and maybe even in 2042, when he would be 79 years old – about the same age as two current contenders, Joe Biden, who will be 77 in 2020, and Bernie Sanders, who will be 79.
In the meantime, there is always a governorship, a return to the Senate on the other side of the aisle or a Cabinet position in some future Democrat administration. In any case, it is unlikely that America has heard the last of Jeff Flake. Arrrgh!
So, there ‘tis.