A feature, not a bug

So Congress has only passed 12 laws so far this year?  Great!  That’s still probably close to a dozen more than are necessary.

Democrats flush with a new House majority after nearly a decade in the minority are sending over a rash of bills most political watchers believe have little chance of passing the Senate, such as universal background checks for gun purchases, net neutrality, climate change, congressional ethics, expanding voter access, raising the minimum wage and more.  ((“a rash of bills,” or “a lot of rash bills?  — Jemison))

The Senate was designed to be a speed brake on ill-considered legislation (of which there appears to be a considerable amount of late). Congress should be judged by the wisdom of its output, not its quantity.  So here’s an agenda I’d offer Congress:

  1. Pass next year’s Federal Budget BEFORE the end of the current fiscal year for once
  2. Repeal the 16th Amendment, abolish the IRS and institute a national sales tax
  3. Confirm or reject whatever nominees remain before the Senate
  4. Go home and let the American people live their lives for the next year.
  5. Repeat #1, #3 and #4 annually

Who’s with me?

For those with ears to hear

I was impressed by President Trump’s State of the Union address.  It was one of his better public speaking performances, and whoever helped him craft the remarks instilled some great message discipline.  The speech covered a wide range of topics, some of which I thought could have been left for a different venue in order to tighten up the key points.  But those key points shone through, as this analysis by Glenn Reynolds shows:

So one of the interesting things about Trump’s speech last night is how it seemed calculated to demolish all the standard anti-Trump tropes from the media and from the left and to do so with compelling imagery. Consider:

Trump’s a Nazi: Praise for Holocaust survivors, and a touching rendition of “Happy Birthday.” (With Trump waving his fingers like a conductor).
Trump hates minorities: Brags about record low black, Hispanic, and Asian unemployment — while white-clad Democratic women, overwhelmingly white themselves, sat prune-faced.
Trump’s a Russian tool: Withdrawing from the INF Treaty.
Trump’s a warmonger: Without me, Trump says, we’d be at war on the Korean peninsula. Also, I’m looking at pulling out of Afghanistan.
Trump hates women: Except he got even the prune-faced white-clad Democratic women up dancing (and chanting “USA! USA!”) when he talked about record female employment in and out of Congress.

And his rebuke to socialism was designed to strip the glamour that the media have tried to imbue it with by tying it to the abject misery of Venezuela.

In debate, I think this is called cutting across your opponent’s flow. ((As a former competitive debater, I can confirm that term.  – Jemison))  And I think it’s Trump’s opening shot at 2020, as well as an effort to undercut the “Resistance” in and out of Congress. Plus, as Ann Althouse notes, despite the predictions of lefties like Robert Reich (see below) it was all wrapped in optimism and sunny American exceptionalism.

Genuinely Reaganesque.

There’s one Reynolds missed.  While I’m not in favor of the government providing taxpayer-funded family leave after the birth of a child, I was very glad to see him pivot from the “image of a mother holding her new baby” to the horrors of the recent pro-abortion legislation in New York and Virginia.  The contrast was deliberate and well-executed, followed by a call to Congress to outlaw late-term abortion (it’s a start).

Overall I was encouraged by the way in which the speech was an invitation to work together for the good of the country, without retreating from strongly held policy positions.  If the goal in politics is to capture the middle ground, I think Trump did a good job of it last night.

Naturally, many in the country today are dismissing everything he had to say.  Some, like Senator Chuck Schumer, were dismissing it even before hearing it.  No matter how reasonable Trump tries to be, nor how many facts he arms his talking points with, there will continue to be those partisans who refuse to listen.  Not only because they are invested in the Democratic party, but because they abhor the vision of America Trump’s election represents — a return to the roots, if you will.  The most “Reaganesque” moment of the speech in my opinion was when Trump pledged our nation would never be a socialist country.  The fact there were audible boos in the halls of Congress to this rejection of socialism should be a wakeup call to Americans who value their freedom.  It is not hyperbole to say there are members of Congress dedicated to subverting everything our Constitution and our history stand for.  They will not be swayed by reasonable arguments, demonstrable facts or the evidences of history.  They will have to be fought tooth and nail as if the survival of our nation depends on it.

Because it does.

TSA Shutdown? Yes, please

Regular readers of this blog know that I absolutely loathe the Transportation Security Administration. It’s a monstrous, unconstitutional abomination that should not exist in any society that considers itself “free.” What’s more, it is demonstratively unable to meet its primary purpose: detecting and intercepting potential threats to travelers.  Perhaps the ongoing “shutdown” of the Feral Government will give Americans — and the TSA Employees themselves — a chance to rethink how ‘essential’ this function really is:.

Nobody wants to work for an employer who holds off on cutting paychecks until a more convenient moment, and that’s just what the federal government is doing during its “shutdown”—a spectacle that almost seems crafted to demonstrate how easy it is to live without the leviathan in Washington, D.C.

Understandably, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are no more enthusiastic about working when their paychecks are delayed than is anybody else on the planet. That’s why they’ve been calling-in sick in increased numbers—some to seek temporary work elsewhere in order to pay their bills—as the more-theater-than-reality “government shutdown” drags on.

Not that there’s any point to all of that [TSA] groping beyond the purely recreational aspect. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle weapons and explosives past TSA agents 95 percent of the time, according to a 2015 Homeland Security Investigator General report. Maybe that’s because agents are relying on dowsing rods or Spidey sense—they’re certainly not depending on the expensive equipment they make travelers and baggage file through.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” The Inspector General office also noted.

“Security theater” is what security expert Bruce Schneier, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, calls most of what the TSA does. They’re “measures that make us feel safer without improving security… I’ve repeatedly said that the two things that have made flying safer since 9/11 are reinforcing the cockpit doors and persuading passengers that they need to fight back. Everything beyond that isn’t worth it.”

But, isn’t this an opportunity for us all? Given that the world is a better place when TSA employees and other government minions don’t do their jobs, and some are already seeking alternative employment, what a great opportunity to shut down their agencies, shrink the government, and make everybody’s lives a little better!

If it isn’t worth it, why pay for it?

Especially when the cost is measured in civil liberty as much as it is in dollars. It’s long past time we reevaluate just how “essential” large parts of the Feral Government really are. We pay for more government than we should want, and yet get less return on those payments than we need.  As for the “shutdown,” let’s keep a little perspective:

shutddown

The true fault line

Our political differences as a nation are not defined by a simple Republican-Democrat binary choice.  The real issue is whether the Constitution means what it says regardless what year it is, or whether is can be folded, spindled and mutilated by every generation’s interpretation of the day.  It should not come down to the viewpoints of nine unelected people to determine how our future unfolds.  But since that’s the reality of how our system now works, selecting the right people for that job is paramount:

If you think things are bad now, just wait a bit. It’s about to get worse, much worse.
A war is coming over the Constitution between those who would defend it and those who find it a nuisance. …

To Brett Kavanaugh’s foes, the Constitution stands in the way of grand designs they have for the federal government and your lives.

They want to control things in your lives — your healthcare, your lightbulbs, your land, your neighborhood, your dishwasher, your electric bill, your employer. That’s why a wartime coalition of Leftist interest groups have mobilized to battle over the future of the Constitution.

Kavanaugh’s foes want the Constitution to mean whatever suits their transformative agenda. Kavanaugh believes the Constitution means what it said when it was written. That it was written in 1787 doesn’t trouble him at all. …

The coming fight over Brett Kavanaugh will feature two sides with almost nothing left in common. Sure, we live in proximity to each other. But one side defends the Constitution and the other side will stop at nothing to replace it.

One side believes words have specific, objective meanings that transcend fads.  They are consistent, predictable and stand the test of time.  The other subverts words to suit their agenda and will even quibble over the definition of “is.”  Who would you rather have governing you?

Why ‘progressivism’ is regressive

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Calvin Coolidge provided a keystone speech.  He was known as a man of few words,* but the occasion of our nation’s birthday inspired him to pay homage to those who had gone before.  The entire address is worth your time, but this excerpt in particular speaks to today:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter.

If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.  

Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.     ((Emphasis added)) 

For most of human history, despots and absolute rulers held life-and-death sway over their people, who had little control over their own lives.  When America is referred to as ‘exceptional’ it is in that context, rather than in comparison with contemporary nations (although it often applies there, too).  The Founding generation carefully distilled centuries of human experience into a philosophy of governance that managed to be both idealistic and pragmatic at the same time.  They recognized the dignity of the individual as a creation of God, yet also allowed for the fact we are fallen in nature and prone to abuse our authorities.  As James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution put it:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Those who want a ‘living Constitution’ they can warp to the whims of the times forget how carefully its systems of checks and balances was forged.  The chains they placed on Leviathan have been weakened over the generations by tinkerers and would-be tyrants.  The recycling of old ideas as “new” has not improved our charter, for truly, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Rather, it’s demonstrated the wisdom and foresight of those who crafted it.  As the title quote for this blog suggests, we are on a wrong road.  To truly be ‘progressive,’ we need to turn back and get onto the right road.

(*) A female visitor to the White House once approached Coolidge to inform him she’d made a wager she could get him to say more than two words.  “You lose,” was Coolidge’s reply.

The absolutely useless GOP

It’s clear at this point in history those of us who want a restoration of the characteristics that once made America great — prudence, self-discipline, foresight, statesmanship, to name a few — will have to look somewhere other than the GOP to find them:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was hoping his Republican colleagues would be embarrassed by their vote to jack up federal spending earlier this year and support his plan to phase in a balanced budget. Few were.

Paul got 20 other Republican senators on Thursday — less than half of the Senate GOP caucus — to vote for his “penny plan,” which would balance the federal budget over five years by cutting spending except for Social Security by 1 percent every year. No Democrats back the proposal…

“Republicans only care about budget deficits when they’re in the minority,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at FreedomWorks.

Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self Governance, agreed, saying, “There are very few sane people willing to have a rational discussion about fiscal responsibility … It’s obscene. These guys are pigs in slop.”

One percent a year should be easy to find in a $4 trillion budget.  But I’m sure the gluttonous swamp would cry the fiscal sky is falling (“Children will starve!  Seniors will be destitute!  Illegal aliens won’t have as much welfare support”).  Well, maybe not that last talking point (they aren’t completely foolish and willing to admit their agendas).  But here’s some perspective:

Paul’s plan would have reduced spending by $404.8 billion in the fiscal year that starts October 1. After the budget balanced in five years, spending would be held to 1 percent increases per year, resulting in a budget that was 14.6 percent bigger in 10 years that it is now.

In other words, even after balancing the budget, the overall size of it would continue to grow.  Don’t overlook the fact in the excerpt above that a mere one percent of Federal spending equals $404.8 billion!  A true conservative would say balancing the budget would be preparatory to starting to trim back the Federal Leviathan.  Yet these GOPers can’t even countenance the first step!

Putting America first, or “making America great again” is inseparable from solving our budgetary house of cards.  You failed once again, GOP.  When you ask yourselves how in the world a man like Donald Trump could get elected, just look in the mirror.

As for us, primary season is upon us.  One of my Senators just guaranteed he won’t have my vote.  How about yours?

The last peaceful option?

The current polarization in this country is unique in our history.  There is little (if any) common ground between viewpoints, and both “left” and “right” (increasingly nebulous terms) see the other as completely illegitimate and a threat.  Thus the “culture wars” of the 1980s/1990s have become much, much more, and are being played for complete national dominance.  Twitter, like Facebook, Google/YouTube, etc, is clearly putting its technological thumb on the scale of public debate, finding various ways to mute nationalist/conservative voices.  So it was no surprise to see Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, recommend this article extolling the perceived virtue of California’s one-party rule.

The next time you call for bipartisan cooperation in America and long for Republicans and Democrats to work side by side, stop it. Remember the great lesson of California, the harbinger of America’s political future, and realize that today such bipartisan cooperation simply can’t get done.

And as voices including that of a former Supreme Court justice clamor to rescind the 2nd Amendment, those who value freedom are having to consider their options:

South Carolina Republicans have introduced a bill that would give the state capital the power to secede from the United States if the federal government violates the Second Amendment and begins seizing legally purchased guns.

With passions running high on both sides, firearms are just one of many different triggers (pardon the pun) that could turn our current cold civil war into a hot one.  The continuing politicized effort to overturn the 2016 presidential election through a farcical investigation could spark partisan violence at any time.  One side is convinced beyond persuasion that Trump is an illegitimate president, while the other is equally convinced our government has become corrupted to partisan purposes.  Those of us who hope the election of Trump might harbinger a restoration of sorts still have to be concerned that roughly half our fellow citizens would overturn any progress in the very next election if they can.  That’s why it might be better for all concerned if we found a peaceful way to divide the country so that each group can live as they choose (and reap the consequences and benefits thereof):

It is long past time for an amicable divorce of the United States of America. There is simply no common ground with the Left anymore. We are now the couple screaming at each other all night, every night as the kids hide in their room…  ((an apt metaphor… Jemison))

The history of the world is nations breaking up and redrawing their borders. If we want to avoid this political divide turning into a deadly one, we should do likewise.
Stop clinging to the past and acknowledge where we are as a country, not where you want us to be, not where things were when your grandpa was storming the beaches of Normandy. Where we truly are

The GOP has many problems, but the Democratic Party has turned into something completely un-American. The United States was founded on two things: Judeo-Christian values and a limited federal government. The entire platform of modern Democrats stands completely opposite both of those…

This idea of breaking up the country may seem a bit outlandish now, but you won’t think so once real domestic unrest comes to your town. Our political disagreements have become a powder keg, one that already would have blown if conservatives had liberals’ emotional instability.

Nobody is expected to cheer for this split. Cheering is not a normal reaction when couples get a divorce. We cheer for old married people on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

But life is imperfect. Life is hard. We both now agree that living under the other side’s value system is wholly unacceptable. The most peaceful solution we Americans can hope for now is to go our separate ways. So let us come together one last time and agree on one thing: Irreconcilable differences.

I spent 24 years wearing a uniform on behalf of this nation.  No one would be sadder than me to see it disbanded into successor states.  The diminution of the United States would be a global disaster.  But it is still preferable to the carnage that will result if we have two incompatible worldviews continue to vie for dominance over a divided population.  A substantial portion of our people now neither understands nor desires true freedom.  As Sam Adams said, may history forget they were our countrymen.

It is far better that part of our nation remains free to continue the vision of limited, Constitutional governance in accordance with Christian principles than to see the whole of it subsumed by both alien populations and alien ideas.