Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Rule Of Law

Over the past few years, one of the most consistant complaints from Democrats and liberals of various flavors has been the alleged violations of the rule of law committed by Bush (whether or not those allegations are accurate is not the point of this post and will not be addressed here). Those same people have loudly trumpeted Obama's election as a return to the rule of law. Why then is one of the very first high-profile actions of this Democrat-controlled congress and rule-of-law-administration a blatant and unarguable violation of the rule of law?
The rule of law is a legal theory which states that everyone, from the top to the bottom, is bound by the same law and must act within the context of that law. The main point of this theory is a check on what used to be considered the sovereign right of kings, the right to pass decrees and laws based solely on the executive's discretion with no overriding authority. According to the rule of law, even the lawmakers are bound by a higher authority which they cannot change without meeting certain, predefined conditions.
The Senate just passed a bill granting congressional representation to Washington DC. The House is expected to pass their own version of this bill in the near future and, once the kinks have been knocked out of it, Obama has already promised to sign the joint bill into law. The only problem with this is that the Constitution, the supreme law of the land and the very one that establishes those rule of law limitations for our lawmakers, states categorically that congressional representation is for states and Washington DC is not a state. Thus, this bill that is expected to be signed into law is a violation of the rule of law that Obama was supposed to be returning to the forefront of American legislation.
This is not an argument over whether or not the citizens of Washington DC should have congressional representation. That is an argument that, oddly enough, no one is really interested in having. Proponents of this new law point out that America is the only country in the voting world that does not give citizens of its capital representation but they don't like to mention the fact that the reason for that is that America has the only national capital that does not reside inside a representative district. It is worth pointing out that, when Washington DC was established as the national capital, it was intentionally placed outside of a representative district by the very people who wrote the rules for those districts. It can be argued that those people never expected or intended the capital to become the permanent residence of so many people but it can also be argued that all of those people moved to DC knowing that it existed in the representative limbo in which it resides. Stated bluntly, an argument can be made for both sides of the debate.
Where there is no room for argument, however, is in the fact that congress does not have the authority to arbitrarily grant representation to Washington DC any more than congress has the authority to arbitrarily grant representation to Guam, Puerto Rico, or any other non-state American territory. There are procedures for this that the rule of law demands be followed.
The way I see it, there are three possibilities that would legally grant representation to the citizens of DC, not counting those citizens simply moving to a state that already has representation. One of those possibilities would require a Constitutional amendment, which we can safely say is not going to happen. The other two would not require amendments (I don't think - legal scholars might disagree with me on one of them) but would would likely result in extremely heated legal battles and one of these would just be plain silly.
The first possibility is a Constitutional amendment that decrees that congressional representation is not limited to statehood. This would, of course, immediately open up the various territories to full congressional representation and would kind of remove the distinction between states and non-state territories. Considering how many times Puerto Rico has voted against becomign a state, it seems to me that the territories themselves might not be so keen on this idea. Even if they were good to go with the idea, though, you can bet that such an amendment would not pass the ratification by the states requirement, which is exactly why Congress is not trying to do it this way.
The second possibility is simply placing DC back inside the statehood borders of Maryland, where it had existed before it became the national capital. This is the one that I say legal scholars might argue about. Removing DC from Maryland did not require an amendment so I see no reason why putting it back would do so, but I admit I might be overlooking something. This plan would, no doubt, require approval from the legislature of Maryland, but I don't really see any reason why they would object. They would instantly gain an additional tax base of just over half a million people. Whether or not the national capital should reside inside one of the states in a republic goes back to the original argument of why the framers took it out of the state in the first place but, as I said at the beginning, that is a different argument. I am not saying this is a good idea, only a legal one.
The third possibility would be for the citizens of Washington DC to vote that they would like to become a state and then for Congress to accept them as a state. They would have to form a state government, which would be rather silly at their size, and they would have the dubious distinction of being the smallest state in the world, but it would be legal.
The point here is that methods for granting Congressional representation to Washington DC exist and Congress arbitrarily granting that representation is not on the list. For people who have made the rule of law such a battle cry, this legislative session is not off to a good start. If they are willing to ignore the Constitution in such an obvious manner, we are definitely in big trouble.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Historical Stupidity

I don't usually make two posts in one day but the more reactions I read concerning this current economic crisis and the so-called stimulus bill, the more disgusted I get and I felt like I just had to say something. Phrases along the lines of "worst disaster in American history" and "can't get any worse" keep popping up everywhere I look and all I can say to this is you can't ask for any more evidence of the stupidity of the average American voter.
This crisis does not hold a candle to October 29, 1929. It is not nearly as threatening as December 7, 1941. It will not have half the impact on this country as April 12, 1861. If you are among the people making these statements and do not know what these dates mean then you are proving my point on making historical statements while knowing nothing about history. I'm not even going to tell you what they are. Look them up, you lazy whiners!
We are in a recession. That is true. For many people this is an extremely bad time and there is no falsehood in this statement either. However, the fact that you lost your job (or might or know someone who did) does not make this a global catastrophe of record-making proportions. There is no argument that these are bad times and we need to do things to make them better, but we cannot make them better by claiming that they are worse than they are.
No, doing something is not automatically better than doing nothing. Doing something that exaserbates or lengthens the crisis is decidedly worse than doing nothing. No, it is not helping just because politicians claim they are trying to help. Most politicians can't be trusted to help you tie your shoes. No, the New Deal did not do a thing to end or even shorten the Great Depression and attempting to copy it will not do a thing to end or even shorten this recession. Entering World War II dragged us out of the Great Depression, which should make you pause and think about which group of people are arguing for this New Deal redux.
The current stimulus bill should have been rejected, not because we don't need a stimulus bill of some sort, but because this was not a stimulus bill. It was an excuse to go on a spending orgy for liberal pet projects. Look it up and try to wrangle your way through the numbers. Those portions of the bill that most anyone could agree are for the purpose of creating jobs or stimulating the economy are the smallest part of the bill. The majority of the bill is pure pork, projects that even liberals will not try to claim are actually for economic stimulation except in the most round about way that anything that "improves the country" (strictly in their opinion, of course) must also improve the economy.
The Republicans did not cause this crisis (another historically blind claim from the far left). In truth, neither did the Democrats. They both had a hand in it (and not a small hand, either) but the true culprits are you and me. If you want to know who is to blame for this mess, just look in the mirror. Every time we the people let those clowns in DC get away with their games as usual; every time we took a loan we knew we couldn't afford; every time we listened to the common wisdom instead of checking the facts; every time we voted for more bread and circuses. These are the causes of this crisis.
We are not at our worst point in history, but we can get their and it will not be politicians who put us there. It will be you and me. It will be the American people continuing to do what we have gotten so good at doing: holding out our hands and demanding more more more while paying nothing in return, or giving everything we have while demanding nothing in payment. Unless the American public finally wakes up and realizes that there is such a thing as cause and effect, that actions have consequences, and that nothing is free, we might be watching our "worst point in history" through the rearview mirror before we realize it.

The Great Debate On Climate Change

Here is something I sincerely do not understand. According to current thinking, human-caused global warming is supposed to be one of the biggest threats facing civilization today and everyone who can is expected to spend billions of dollars to combat this threat, with those who won't pay the tab being villified in the most horrible manners available. Yet, according to all of the research I can find, not only is it not proven that there is a true warming trend, it is also not proven that human activity has anything more than a minimal impact on global climate. Even those who support such initiatives as the Kyoto Treaty admit that these enormous expenditures would have only small effects (the most common numbers associated with the Kyoto Treaty seem to indicate an approximately 5 degree increase in global mean temperature over the next century with the full effect of the treaty offsetting that by about one degree). I am not suggesting that anyone should stick their heads in the sand and do nothing about anything, but this seems to be a rather large amount of effort and money for a bunch of maybes, especially when those maybes are counterbalanced by history.
As a point of referance to chew over, we've only been keeping satellite records of climate conditions since 1979. That is an eye blink in global climate terms and yet mean global sea ice levels right now are roughly equal to what they were then. For those of you who were not around (or aware) in 1979, the trendy hysteria of the time was an impending ice age. All of the public experts of the time were predicting it with the same force and assurance that they now use for predicting global warming trends. They were wrong then. What makes them right now? With sea ice levels now equal to what they were then, should we now be worrying about an ice age again instead of global warming?
I don't know about you but, considering the two possibilities, I'll take global warming over an ice age any day. Humanity and human civilization can survive the former much better and more easily than the latter. Warming rearranges some coastal maps, alters some farming areas, and causes some animal extinctions. Glaciation on an ice age scale buries coastal and inland maps, removes large chunks of farmland, and causes mass extinctions on a scale most people cannot comprehend. The known impacts of an ice age would dwarf any predicted impacts of global warming. In simplest terms, global warming means more tropical locations while ice age means more acrtic locations. A gross oversimplification, I admit, but you get the point. Which would you rather have?
I have issued this challenge before but I will issue it again to all of those Chicken Littles out there who want everyone to commit so much resources to battling a maybe:
1. Can you present evidence that there is an abnormal trend in global mean climate, as opposed to routine fluctuations that we know occur?
2. If #1 is yes, can you present evidence that human activity has an appreciable impact on this trend as opposed to, for example, volcanoes and earthquakes?
3. If #1 and #2 are yes, can you present evidence that human activity short of mass depopulation or mass poverty can have an appreciable impact on reversing or otherwise altering the trend?
This is a very simple three step challenge and, if global warming is truly the known threat that adherants claim it to be, there should be no difficulty in answering these questions. The answers (in the positive, even) would appear in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals that anyone who was seriously interested could easily access and quote and all three must be answered "yes" in order for the current hysteria to be accurate. In reality, however, I have never seen anyone get past #1. There has not yet been one single peer-reviewed article that proves that there is anything other than routine climate fluctuations occurring. That is not to say that there can't be a trend happening, but it hasn't been proven and we have a long way to go before anyone is justified in demonizing someone who asks for more evidence before committing billions.

The Joys Of Moving

If you're wondering where I've been, I've been lost behind boxes. I've spent the last couple weeks moving into a new home and getting settled in. I've also been building a new computer, which has taken up the rest of the time I might normally have been writing. I think I just about have things settled in now, so let's see what trouble we can find.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rights Hidden In Smoke

I read yesterday that legislators across the country are slowing down on or, in some cases, even considering backing off of anti-smoking legislation in so-called "public places" because they fear that, in this time of recession, such bans could put additional stress on the economy. That idea, alone, is telling coming, as it does, from people who have sworn all along that forcing business owners to go non-smoking would not have a negative impact on business, but that isn't, in my opinion, the point. The blatant hypocrisy of politicans playing god with business when "times are good" but backing off and catering to business when "times are bad" is just ... well, business as usual for politicians. It is hardly worth noting.
What is worth noting is that, once again, the average person doesn't have a clue what is actually going on or what is actually at state. I read through the comments section, as I always do when one is available, and the silliness was almost unbearable. A few people understood the real point but, for most of them, it was the usual "my right to smoke anywhere I please" versus "my right to not breathe your smoke". I'm a smoker and I'll be the first to admit that I do not have a right to smoke anywhere I please. For you non-smokers, you do not have an inherant right to not breathe my smoke.
It is really quite simple. I smoke. If you come over to my house, you will put up with my smoke. Don't like it? Don't come over. That is your only option. You have no right to dictate terms in my house because it is my house. By the same token, if I come over to your house and you do not allow smoking then I cannot smoke at your house. If that is unbearable to me then I will not come over to your house. I do not get to dictate terms in your house because it is your house. Neither of us has an absolute right in regards to smoking but we both have an absolute right in regards to our property. There can be no conflict because my right over my property has nothing to do with your right over your property or vice versa. There can also be no compromise. I do not surrender my rights to you just because you enter my property. If you enter my home and start demanding your rights, I will point you to the sidewalk and tell you where you can find your rights. Over the years, many people have learned the hard way that I am not kidding about this in the least.
If what I am doing is not otherwise criminal, you get no say in the matter so long as I am doing it on my property. I cannot murder you just because you entered my property but I cannot legally do that anywhere. Smoking is not illegal so the only person who gets to rule on that on my property is me.
Why have we forgotten this simple fact as it relates to business? The fact that I allow multiple people to enter my property for a fee does not stop it from being my property. You don't get to determine what I sell, who I hire, or what uniform my employees wear. Why should you get to be in charge of anything else?
Non-smokers claim that they have a right to go out to eat without putting up with people smoking but that is an absolutely false claim. There is no such right! You don't even have a right to go out to eat, let alone a right to go out to eat in an environment of your demanding. A right to go out to eat implies that someone is obligated to provide you with a location where you can go out to eat. Ask a person who does not live within traveling distance of any kind of eating establishment whether or not they have a right to go out to eat. They'll laugh in your face and probably tell you to get your whiney self off of their property.
If you want a right to go out to eat then you need to get to work building your restaurant because that is the only way you will have such a right. If you want a right to go out to eat without putting up with people smoking then you need to hang a "NO SMOKING" sign on the front door after you build that restaurant. If you own it then you have the right to make it smoke-free. You also have the right to allow smoking. Just because this country has forgotten what property rights mean does not mean that property rights themselves have changed. They cannot change because they are immutable. If you own it, it is yours to do with as you please, such right stopping only when it conflicts with someone else's right. Any law that says otherwise is a violation of natural rights and should be treated as such.
There is no conflict between the rights of the smokers versus the rights of the non-smokers because such rights, as they have been expressed, do not exist. You do not have a right to either smoke or to not be around smoke. What you do have is a right to own what is your and to act as though you own it. That includes your body, your house, and your business. The sooner we realize this fact the sooner we can reduce the number of useless nonsense arguments and maybe - just maybe - we can get on to arguing about stuff that actually matters.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Fine Art Of Exaggeration

I've been putting this one off for days because, quite frankly, reading the never-ending stories about Al Gore going on and on with his little crusade bores me. The man is a complete waste of space and yet news sources across the world continue to give him space as though he were actually someone who mattered. Think about it for a moment. The man served two terms as Vice President in one of the most popular administrations in recent history (and regardless of your personal opinions of Bill Clinton, you must recognize that he was popular) and yet was still unable to turn that popularity into a landslide against a governor with no significant history. All indications are that even his popular boss didn't like him that much. His "documentary" An Inconvenient Truth is full of documented holes and errors yet, now that he has become the poster child for the media darling that is the Climate Change controversy, it seems that he can barely open his mouth without being the center of attention.
[For those of you who might be somewhat satire-impaired, there was no shortage of exaggeration thrown into that opening paragraph to illustrate the point of this particular post. If you cannot grasp that, please do not flame me for your lack.]
While I have exaggerated to some extent, my irritation is no less real. It infuriates me that a man with no scientific background or training received a Nobel prize for a scientific subject just because that subject happens to be the current cause celebre. It drives me insane that this man is now looked to as an expert on anything other than politics and advertising. He, however, stays true to form, no matter how often the mainstream media wants to overlook that form.
Al Gore's form is hyperbole, plain and simple. Even when he is approaching being right, Gore apparently cannot help but blow up the significance of what he is saying so that it seems more important and so, by extension, he seems more important. In his latest speech to Congress concerning Global Warming, Gore stated, "This is the one challenge that could completely end human civilization ..." Even Gore's supporters have to be cringing at such a blatant exaggeration.
There are so many things wrong with this statement.
Even if we assume that Gore is right about Global Warming and it is every bit as potentially disastrous as he claims, it would be far from the only challenge facing the world with the possibility of "end[ing] human civilization". For decades, the threat of nuclear annihilation was the number boogeyman for those who believed that we were on the brink of extinction. Despite being somewhat mitigated with the ending of the Cold War, this threat still holds at least as much danger as Climate Change. Add in the possibility of terrorists and rogue states and this threat must surmount Climate change as a potential civilization ender. Spend just a few minutes on the internet and I'm sure you could find at least a dozen more challenges that could potentially end human civilization.
The bigger problem with this portion of the statement is that we can't assume that Gore is right. The number of respected scientists who disagree with the popular consensus on Climate Change is not insignificant. It is, in fact, about as large as the number of respected scientists who argue for Climate Change, even if the mainstream media refuses to publicise that fact. In short, the jury is still out and, while it is prudent to take care of your home, such prudence does not mean that your home is on the verge of destruction.
My biggest problem with this statement, however, is the simple fact that it is wrong. Even if everything else that Global Warming advocates maintain is true, not even the worst case scenario of Global Warming could end human civilization. It is a cannard that even Hollywood could not turn into a decent disaster movie. A worst case scenario would certainly change human civilization, but it wouldn't end it. Beach front property might take on a new meaning and a fairly dramatic death toll would be almost guaranteed, but civilization itself would step over this hurdle with hardly an altered stride. No one other than Hollywood is claiming that there would be no arable land left or that the disasters that Global Warming might cause would all come rushing down in a matter of weeks and, make no mistake, it would require something of that magnitude to end human civilization.
It would seem, then, that Mr. Gore has been spending too much time lately with his celebrity sycophants and is incapable of speaking without hyperbole. That being the case, this is entirely too important a discussion for him to even be involved. We do not need exaggeration-prone storytellers debating the fate of the world. We need thinking people who will use reason and facts rather than fear and distortion. I guess that means that we do not need politicians involved at all but, for the moment, I would be satisfied if Gore would fade into the obscurity he has earned.