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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Chooses Re-election Over Party Affiliation

Senator Specter is more to be pitied than condemned.

More interested in re-election, he has taken the ultimate political dive by switching party affiliation. Another perfidious example of political self-aggrandizement taking precedence over any semblance of principle.

Incredibly, even at 79 the ‘ole boy still wants one thing and one thing only, i..e. to be re-elected even if it means openly shattering the myth of his conservatism and exposing himself for what he really is—a self-indulgent divine right politician who values power over principle.

Being a thorough political pragmatist, he knows he stands little chance of coming out ahead in the Republican primary against conservative Pat Toomey, so he is doing what any self-serving politician would do—he is taking the path of least resistance and shamelessly succumbing to political expediency.

As of Wednesday, he will officially come out of the closet and openly rally with his philosophical counterparts across the aisle. And with Franken’s probable election to the Senate in the weeks ahead, the Senate will, indeed, be filibuster-proof, allowing any manner of progressive tyranny to be more easily perpetrated on the republic. But poor 'ole Specter will finally have found his political niche on the Hill by comfortably settling in with his liberal me-first-country-last political colleagues on the Left.

Seems to me it’s only a matter of time before Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins opt to cross the aisle into the socialist/progressive camp as well. The determining factor, of course, will be whether or not they too foresee a difficult re-election campaign for themselves ahead. Isn't lofty political purpose inspiring!

Though our country is definitely in trouble when its leaders so willingly and cavalierly co-opt leftist tyranny merely to stay in power, there's also a silver lining here. This could be the beginning of a long-overdue conservative house cleaning. Thus, only in the short term might Specter's perfidy pose a serious legislative challenge for the country. In the longer term, knowing who you can count on in a legislative clinch has its benefits as well.

It goes without saying that it’s going to be a very tough 3 years 9 months ahead of us. Let us pray the country can survive the progressive onslaught on our way of life during that time. But, let's each of us also do what we can to foster a resurgence of American exceptionalism and conservative dominance. If we are to survive as a free enterprise republic, much will need to be undone in the years ahead, and that will only be possible if our elected representatives in the future accurately and intrepidly reflect American traditions and values. If conservative Americans get their act together--at long last--the mid-term elections in 2010 could start turning things around. We've got our work cut out for us, America, but I think we can do it. We have to do it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Term Limits Needed to Help Restore Republic

I think we can agree that D.C. is broken, and that a restoration of limited, civic-minded and responsive governance is long overdue. The question is how do we bring that about. From my preliminary research, I have concluded that term limits is at the core of any meaningful remedy.

Though polls suggest that nearly 80% of the people support term limits, in US Term Limits v Thornton, 514 US 779 (1995) the Supreme Court narrowly ruled 5-4 that state-imposed term limits on members of Congress was unconstitutional and that only if the Constitution is amended may term limits be imposed. Citing that since authority to limit congressional term limits was not specifically reserved to the States, Justice Stevens reflected the majority opinion by stating that “in the absence of any constitutional delegation to the States of power to add qualifications to those enumerated in the Constitution, such a [State] power does not exist.”

Further, Storer vs Brown granted States the right to regulate election procedures but not to impose qualifications for Senators and Representatives. (It is important to note, however, that Justice Thomas dissented by opining that “where the Constitution does not speak either expressly or by necessary implication, the Federal Government lacks that power and the States enjoy it.”) Makes sense to me.

From my preliminary research of this subject, by the very fact that the Framers carefully omitted senatorial and representative qualifications for office—except age, citizenship and residency—it seems reasonable to opine that the founding fathers may have left the issue of term limits to the People alone and not to the States or to the federal government. This conclusion would be consistent with Robert Livingston’s view that “the people are the best judge of who ought to represent them.” However, it has become apparent to me that the Framers' views on this subject were sometimes ambiguous and their positions on the matter often conflicted.

However, it's important to note that Thomas Jefferson believed that the Framers’ failure to include term limits in the Constitution was one of two “principal flaws”--the other being the absence of a bill of rights (Ltr from Jefferson to Madison, 12/20/1787). Thus, his respect for the notion of term limits is obvious.

Interestingly, James Madison noted that term limits may be one of the “effectual precautions” which will better ensure that the people keep their representatives “virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust”. (Federalist Paper #57). In Federalist Paper #39, he conceded that "tenure for a limited period” was a defining characteristic of representatives in a republican form of government.
George Mason, another Framer, considered “periodical rotation essential to the preservation of republican government.”

So, though there appears to be plenty of Framer support for the concept of term limits, the Framers clearly saw no need to set term limits in the Constitution itself since they assumed frequent elections would result in regular turnover in both houses. To wit, James Madison anticipated that “new members would always form a large proportion” of the House.

Some Framers actually predicted a 2/3 turnover in congressional membership. Obviously, they did not foresee that their assumptions regarding a high turnover of membership would be so at odds with actual developments in modern day America. They never guessed that about 90% of today’s incumbents would be virtually assured of re-election and that temporary, civic-minded "citizen representatives" committed to public service alone would, for the most part, morph into an elite class of self-serving career politicians.

There are numerous arguments for and against term limits, but the following constitutes the nub of the issue for me. Many argue that representatives need more time to learn the ropes, thus enhancing their effectiveness as lawmakers; however, this assertion refutes itself. Simply put, we limit the President to two 4-year terms. Is the President’s job so much less demanding and complex that we can limit his tenure to 8 years, but a Senator or Representative needs more time?

Also, the biggest and most cogent argument against State-imposed term limits is this: Justice Stevens opined that “permitting individual states to formulate diverse qualifications for their congressional representatives would result in a patchwork that would be inconsistent with the Framers’ vision of a uniform national legislature representing the people of the US.” Hard to logically counter that argument. It could, indeed, be a mess. Thus, it would seem that only a constitutional amendment can ensure a uniformity in term limits.

Also, what appears disturbingly obvious to me is that for a long time now unresponsive and seemingly disconnected--even clueless--political careerists have often controlled the reins of legislative power. Obviously, that is not what the Framers had in mind for our republic. Thus, for me, term limits is the only remedy to cronyism and self-serving careerism.

Among other benefits, term limits will: 1) encourage new folks with fresh ideas; 2) encourage representatives to fashion policy on the basis of principles vs. the demands of re-election campaigns; 3) limit the level of corruption and the inordinate and counterproductive influence of lobbyists; 4) prevent the growth and entrenchment of a permanent ruling class more interested in feathering their own nests than in properly representing the legitimate interests of their constituencies and their country; and 5) term limits might well have the effect of moderating the damaging effects of gerrymandering.

Watching aged reps barely able to walk or speak coherently suggests to me that to better ensure accountability and to restore congressional relevance and competence, perhaps the most sensible term limit solution lies somewhere in the commonsense middle.

I opt for no more than three consecutive 2-year terms for Representatives (total 6 yrs) and no more than one consecutive 6-year term for Senators (total 6 yrs). And to ensure that the people, the ultimate guardians of our republican form of government, are able to determine who should represent them in D.C., at the conclusion of their term limit a Senator or Representative would be permitted to run for a seat in the other chamber, thus ensuring that the electorate is not denied the future sterling services of an especially popular favorite son whose tenure in one chamber has ended.

To retain the people's authority over who will represent them in D.C., a tenured-out Senator or Representative may opt to seek re-election in the same chamber, but only after the requisite break in his or her service in that chamber. This formula would also ensure that a lame duck rep who is still interested in public office at a later date would strive to be productive, responsive, energetic and engaged until the conclusion of his tenure. Representatives’ talents wouldn’t be wasted, “institutional memory” wouldn’t be lost, a more vigorous competition of ideas would ensue, a “citizen congress” vs a mob of lobby-dominated career politicians would blossom once again, and otherwise entrenched congressional staffers with, perhaps, questionable lobbyist ties and commitments would be replaced more frequently with fresh blood. Upshot:  “we the people” would , at long last, be better served. At least that's my take.

Though the amendment process normally takes years, I'm convinced that we need to move the process forward. So, let’s light the fire under both our DC and State representatives to begin the amendment process, whether that process originates with Congress or the States.

As we all know too well, of course, a ruling bureaucracy is never self-correcting, and an entrenched elite even less so; thus, it will clearly require an intensely hot flame to move things forward.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

HR 450: A Sliver of Hope for our Tattered Constitution

Once in awhile some upbeat initiative provides some welcome relief from the prosaic and outrageous. And so it is with HR 450, the Enumerated Powers Act, which, with the co-sponsorship of 19 other Republicans, was once again introduced by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ).

Citing the inviolability of the 10th Amendment’s provision that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”, Rep. Shadegg’s bill, if enacted, would compel lawmakers to cite specific constitutional authority for any bill passing through Congress. (Wow! Can you just imagine the D.C. Aristocracy's finally adhering to Constitutional Law and limited government? Nor can I, but the prospect is exciting nonetheless.)

With the unrestrained expansion of federal government into every sector of society, the bill’s purpose is to oblige lawmakers to be mindful of the framers’ intent with respect to drawing a clear distinction between what constitutes Federal and State powers. (Civics 101, huh?)

Specifically, HR 450 stipulates that “each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement (subject to review by the Supreme Court) of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act," and that "the failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. “

Given progressive dominion in Congress, the bill, of course, has precious little chance of making it to the floor, much less escaping the House Rules and House Judiciary Committees ruled by Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) respectively.

Nonetheless, Mr. Shadegg is to be commended for his determination to return our runaway government to its “limited government” constitutional parameters. It is reassuring to know that in addition to constitutional sticklers like Governor Perry of Texas who is reasserting the insuperability of the 10th Amendment, there are lawmakers in Washington, D.C. too who honor and cherish the Constitution.

I hope others join me in personally commending and encouraging Mr. Shadegg for his patriotism--Washington Office: 202-225-3361. A quick supportive phonecall to Rep. Lee's office here in Rochester might also be helpful--663-5570.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Maersk Alabama" Crew Does Us Proud

Apologizing for America and harping on its myriad failures, both real and imaginary, during his recent self-indulgent whirlwind sweep through European capitals, Mr. Obama's anemic and embarrassing kumbaya performance is in stark contrast to the steely backbone and resolve displayed by the unarmed Maersk Alabama crewmen who recaptured control of their ship from Somali pirates on Wednesday.

As I listened to the news yesterday, I quickly recalled America's undeclared wars with N. African pirates in 1805 and 1815, the so-called Barbary Wars, which were successfully prosecuted by America's then fledgling naval and marine forces. Still reeling from the heavy losses sustained during the Revolutionary War, until America was able to bring its military power to bear America had no choice but to pay ransom to these pirates for years in order to protect its merchant ships plying the Mediterranean. At one point, the ransom amounted to nearly 20% of America's national budget! But, with the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 behind, America was finally able to successfully stop cold the attacks and the ransoms.

And here we are two centuries later with an unarmed American merchant ship transporting relief supplies to E. Africa attacked by pirates. Unlike attacks on ships of other nations, the courageous American crew wouldn't give up the ship, nor would they be cowed by their assailants. It didn't matter if the American crew was unarmed. They simply weren't going to surrender. This precisely illustrates what an Americans' character is all about. And at a time when our government appears to be embarked on a foolhardy path of self-abasement and appeasement, the Alabama crew should make us all feel a full measure of pride once again.

In all of this, what strikes me as acutely inane is the prohibition against a crew's carrying weapons to defend themselves against attack. Looks like insurance liability issues alone take precedence over the common sense prioritywhich should be the safety of our crews. This insanity must end, failing which America must exert overwhelming military force against the pirates' Somalian coastal bases. Complete "shock and awe" would put them and others everywhere on notice that Americans aren't to be trifled with under any circumstances. Unquestionably, such a credible show of force would be an effective deterrent, but for obvious reasons my guess is that it just won't happen. Not on this Administration's watch anyway.

Why? Our Chief Executive's sophomoric kumbaya foreign policy clearly militates against such a forthright demonstration of strength, national sovereignty and resolve. I suspect he might will be content now and in the future to rely on hostage negotiations alone and, by implication and extension, shipping company ransom payments later. Doesn't it just tug at your patriotic heart strings to know that Mr. Obama occupies our once venerable White House?

The courageous American crew who wouldn't give up the ship or be cowed by our enemies should make us all mindful of who we are and who we want to continue to be--justifiably proud and thoroughly unapologetic Americans. Yes, we value compassion and generosity, but, historically, we haven't abided being trod upon. Unfortunately, I am convinced these are American values not entirely shared by our effete Chief Executive or by his transnational minions in the State Department.

Let's hope this post-American Chief Executive learns something from this intrepid American crew. Who knows. He might even start feeling and acting like a proud and unapologetic American himself. Perhaps it's merely a matter of a learning curve he must navigate before he finally gets there. Let's hope the ephiphany comes sooner rather than later. Hopefully, not too much later. Anything's possible, I suppose. But, I, for one, am not holding my breath. I believe I understand what we have today in the White House guiding our precious nation. And that disturbing reality should give us all pause.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Could A Perfect Storm Be Brewing?

Tasked by the FBI to provide "informational analysis" on conditions which could be construed as potentially harmful to civil order and national security, InfraGard, of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), issued an unclassifed Protective Intelligence Communicatiion report in March 2009 regarding the "crescendo" of public concern about Mr. Obama's presidential eligibility.

Authored by Dr. Lyle J. Rapacki, Protective Intelligence Specialist and Agent, the report summarizes the substance of legal challenges to Mr. Obama on the question of his constitutional eligibility and concludes that if it "should be discovered Mr. Obama is ineligible, a constitutional crisis would ensue attempting to determine which of his executive branch orders should be valid." It goes on to warn that "if...Mr. Obama fights revealing his documentation, there is growing concern of civil unrest, or worse, being unleashed in the streets of our nation. The economic crisis coupled with this type of a constitutional crisis could prove to be a flashpoint that would test conventional law enforcement and elements of homeland security."

The stream of law suits, the most recent of which have been tendered by high ranking military officers and state legislators, to compel Obama to prove his eligibility have been unremitting and increasingly vocal. A request for "quo warranto" action, an apparent last-ditch legal remedy, was recently delivered to both the US Attorney for the District of Columbia and to the Attorney General.

Dovetailing with this unsettling assessment, and pretty much out of public view, are the following national security developments which, in their totality, could well signal acute domestic instability in the period ahead.

Upon the recommendation of the Army's Strategic Studies Institute, The Army Times reported that a somewhat euphemistically dubbed "Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF)", currently the role of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, but which, reportedly, might eventually comprise upwards of 80,000 troops, is being trained and readied to deal with what could be widespread civil disorder resulting from an "unforeseen economic collapse" or "loss of a functional political and legal order."

Symptomatic of festering civil unrest are the many "tea parties" springing up around the country, growing fears of economic disintegration and of both crippling terrorist attacks and even of perceived federal overreaching. Add to this the very real threat of a rogue nuclear EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack on the homeland which could instantaneously reduce the country to a paralytic pre-industrial condition, plus the unrest on our southern border, and there appears to be ample and justifiable cause for concern and appropriate contingency planning at every level of government.

Clearly, a perfect storm could, indeed, be brewing. Thus, it is only prudent that we are all properly prepared. Boy, we sure live in an intensely interesting time. Wow!