FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #87: “In a democracy you hold the keys to the treasury. So be careful of what you ask for.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 11th, 2011

The Founding Fathers Purposely made it Difficult for the New Federal Government to Spend Money

Benjamin Franklin knew.  He knew what would happen once the people learned they held the keys to the treasury.  “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”  All the Founding Fathers knew this.  This is why they created a representative government.  They put other people between the people and the treasury.  A lot of people.  Responsible people.  People who knew better.  Or should know better.

It started with the separation of powers.  The country needed a leader.  But they didn’t want a king.  They wanted a leader with limited powers.  So they limited the president’s access to money.  The Founding Fathers gave the power of the purse to the House of Representatives.  The president could only spend the money Congress allowed the president to spend.  The president could veto spending.  But Congress could override this veto by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate.  So the president can try to stop spending.  But he simply can’t spend at will.

But neither can the House.  Because the Senate has to approve any spending initiated by the House.  Before it can even get to the president.  The Founding Fathers purposely made it difficult for the new federal government to spend money.  To limit the power and breadth of the federal government.  By limiting its money.  Even after the president signs it into law.  Should any questionable spending pass both houses, and the president approves it, we can still challenge it.  By the third branch of government.  The judiciary.  Which further checks the power of federal government.  On the rare occasion when the federal government passes bad legislation.

As Originally Written in the Constitution the States’ Legislatures Voted for a States’ Senators

Back at the Founding the states were very powerful.  They were nation-states.  Joined together only by a loose and weak confederation.  And very suspect of any distant, centralized power.  Whether it be a king on the far side of the Atlantic.  Or a president on the near side.  To get the new Constitution ratified the Founding Fathers knew they had to appease the states’ concerns.  And they did that with the Senate.  The states’ house.

As they originally wrote the Constitution, we elected the members of the House of Representatives by popular vote.  But not the Senate.  The states’ legislatures voted for their states’ senators.  These state legislators who we elect by popular vote in their states.  This put even more people between the people and the treasury.  And gave the states a way to rein in a federal government that strayed too far from their Constitutional boundaries.

But that all changed with the Seventeenth Amendment (1913).  At the dawn of big, progressive government.  When great amounts of power transferred from the states.  To the growing federal government.  And the spending began.  The states’ legislatures no longer voted for states’ senators.  The people now voted for their senators.  By direct popular vote.  And got closer to the national treasury.

Growing Spending and a Declining Population Growth Rate required Higher Tax Rates and Class Warfare

The federal government grew as we removed these other people from between the people and the treasury.  Responsible people.  People who knew better.  Or should know better.  Now people were closer to the federal treasury.  And they slowly learned what Benjamin Franklin feared.  They learned that they could vote themselves money.  And did.

Responsible, limited government went out the window.  Pandering for votes was in.  Rugged individualism was descendant.  And the nanny state was ascendant.  Federal government spending grew.  Federal taxes grew.  And federal debt grew.  Because you won elections by giving people stuff.  Paid for with other people’s money.  Which was key.  You didn’t win elections by raising people’s taxes.  You won them by raising other people’s taxes.  And the way you do that is with class warfare.

In the beginning class warfare was easy.  Because the federal budget was a lot smaller than it is today.  So you didn’t need very high tax rates.  And the population base was growing.  A lot of families had closer to 10 children than the 2.3 children of today.  So having lots and lots of new taxpayers in subsequent generations would produce a steady and growing stream of federal tax revenue.  But as spending grew and the population growth rate declined, that caused revenue problems.  Requiring higher and higher tax rates.  And more and more bitter class warfare.

The General Trend of Defining ‘Rich’ Downward has Redefined the Middle Class as ‘Rich’

With the higher spending and falling revenue budget crises followed.  Which ramped up the class warfare.  Pitting the ‘rich’ against the poor and the middle class.  Of course they kept redefining ‘rich’ as they needed to raise more and more tax revenue.  First calling the superrich fat-cat industrialists and Wall Street bankers ‘rich’.  The billionaires.  Then they included the millionaires.  But when they could no longer pay for the growing cost of the federal government people earning less and less were lumped in with these super rich.  Until today it’s someone making as little as $250,000 a year.

Anyone who says these people should pay their fair share should understand the general trend of defining ‘rich’ downward.  And that line that defined ‘rich’ has moved a long way down.  Closer and closer to the middle class.  Like those earning $250,000.  Many of these people aren’t rich.  Not by a long shot.  Despite earning $250,000.  They’re small business owners.  People who risk everything to run a restaurant.  Or start a construction business.  The number one and number two type of business that fails.   Because they can’t cover their bills.  And grow their businesses.  Despite having business income of $250,000.

The problem isn’t that the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.  It’s that the government is spending too much.  In their eternal quest to buy votes.  By granting more and more government largess to the poor and middle class.  Courtesy of the rich.  Who will soon be anyone with a job.  Because of that growing federal spending.  And a declining birthrate.

Today’s Benefits are Paid by the Rich and Future Generations

As Benjamin Franklin feared this spending is threatening the health of his republic.  And governments around the world.  Because people learned that they could vote themselves money.  And politicians were only too glad to oblige.  Promising ever more.  In exchange for votes.  By providing ever more generous and growing government benefits.  Confident that they didn’t have to pay for these costs.  Instead, they could simply pass the cost of this largess to future generations.  Who don’t vote today.

So today’s benefits are in fact paid by the rich.  Who are small in numbers.  And future generations.  Who aren’t voting yet.   You see, it’s easy to provide benefits today.  That helps garner votes for today.  When the costs of these benefits will be borne by a subsequent generation.  A generation so far out into the future that they have no say today.  But over time this future generation has gotten closer and closer to the current generation.  So close that people alive today will be paying for benefits of today.  More importantly, this future generation is already voting today.  And that’s a BIG problem for a growing government.  So expect the class warfare to get uglier still.

This could herald the end of the republic.  Unless the current generation learns that they are in fact the future generation.  And that they are the new ‘rich’.  Regardless of how much they earn.  And they’ll learn this fast as they pay for everyone else.  After which they’ll see that there’s nothing left for them.  Then they’ll take notice.   And stop the insanity.  Then, and only then, will they stop voting themselves money.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #60: “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Fool me again shame on public education.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 5th, 2011

The Founding Fathers’ Experiment in Self-Government

Benjamin Franklin said when the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.  Because people tend to be greedy.  And lazy.  And they don’t understand public finance.  Especially the uneducated ones.  And there were a lot of uneducated people during our founding.  The Founding Fathers worried about this.  Because governments past have always exploited the uneducated for personal gain.  Kings and lords would give the poor some alms to make them feel good about their lives of unending toil and suffering on the feudal estates.  Should you not be lucky enough to have been born with the ‘right’ last name.  The new United States of America was going to change that.  Here it wouldn’t matter who your father was.  Here, no one would be better than you.

But only if this experiment in self-government succeeded.  So they were very careful when they wrote the Constitution.  And the type of government for the new nation would not be a democracy.  Instead, they chose a representative republic.  For the Founding Fathers all feared democracies.  Which when you come down to it is nothing more than mob rule.  If the mob is racists they’ll pass racist laws.  If the mob is sexist, they’ll pass sexist laws.  And if the mob is greedy and lazy, they’ll vote themselves money from the federal treasury.  This is the risk of democracy.  All you need is a majority.  And whatever you want is yours.  No matter how destructive it is to the country.

That’s why the Founding Fathers did NOT give us a democracy.  We have intermediaries between the mob and the actual law-making.  We call these people our representatives.  At the founding, these were the best of the best.  Well educated and/or experienced.  Men of great honor and integrity.  Imbued with a selfless sense of duty.  These men went out of their way NOT to prosper from their government service.  Really.  It’s nothing at all like today where government service is nothing more than a ticket to a fat pension and early retirement.  Back then such a thought was anathema to the Founding Fathers.  Which is very evident by the type of government they created.

Indirect Elections temper the Populist Tendencies

The Constitutional Convention was a hot, miserable, long summer in Philadelphia.  There was little agreement.  No one liked the final product much.  But most agreed it was the best that they could do.  Even then the U.S. was big.  Lots of different people trying to make the final product favor their state more than the others.  And few were in favor of giving the new central government much power.  They all feared that this new central power would consolidate its power.  And regulate the states to fiefdoms in a new kingdom.  Just like in the Old World.  So they took as many opportunities to restrict federal power.  And minimize the influence of the populist mob.

The new federal government was a limited government.  It was only to do the things the states couldn’t do well.  Maintain an army and navy.  Treat with other nations.  Those things that needed a singular national identity.  Everything else was to remain with the states.  And to make sure the states would not lose their sovereignty, the states’ legislators would choose their federal senators.  The House of Representatives would have direct elections.  Being the closest to true democracy, the House risked being influenced by the mob.  The Senate, then, would be wise and prudent to temper the populist tendencies of the House.  To keep the House from doing something stupid.  Like voting the people the treasury.  (Of course, the states lost a lot their sovereignty when we changed this by amendment to a popular vote like the House.)

The president was to be elected indirectly, too.  Like the senators.  The Founders were worried that the office of the president could be easily corrupted.  So they put great restrictions on its powers.  And made it as difficult as possible for any one group or interest to ‘cheat’ and get their man into office.  Hence the indirect election.  Again, to protect their sovereignty, this fell to the states.  State legislatures would choose electors who would then vote for president.  (With quite a few close elections, there have been calls to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a pure popular vote.  Of course, it is usually the loser in a close election who wants this change.  If the same thing happens in a subsequent close election where they win they are quite happy with the Electoral College.)

Talented People create things to trade

The reason the Founders wanted so many people between the voters and the actual law-making is to keep people from voting irresponsibly.  The federal budget is pretty big.  And people see that it is big.  They figure that because they pay taxes, there’s no reason why they can’t have stuff from the federal government.  In a true democracy, the people could vote to cut taxes and increase spending.  They could vote themselves a monthly stipend to live on and quit their jobs.  An uneducated mob can easily do this.  Who wouldn’t want to get a paycheck for doing nothing AND pay less in taxes?  It’s very attractive.  If I ran for office on such a platform a lot of people would probably vote for me.  But there’s a problem with such generosity.  You see, government can’t give money to people unless they take money from other people first.

There appears to be a popular misconception about public finance.  Many believe that government has a stash of cash that they can give out whenever they please.  And that this stash of cash has mystical power.  That it’s endless.  And when they give it away more just magically appears.  But the government has no money.  The public treasury isn’t filled with the government’s money.  It’s filled with our money.  That’s our tax dollars in there.  Or it’s borrowed money.  Borrowed money that costs interest.  Paid with our tax dollars.  Or it’s printed money.  Money created out of nothing.  Which makes our money worth less.  Which makes everything we buy more expensive.  We call this inflation.  You just can’t print money.  Because it just dilutes the purchasing power of the money already in circulation.  It’s like a bartender selling you whisky from a bottle that’s one part water and 4 parts whisky.  It not only tastes bad.  But you’ll have to pay more to get the same buzz from an honest bartender.

The reason why printing money doesn’t work?  Because it isn’t the money we want.  It’s the things that money can buy that we want.  Who sits in an empty room and enjoys looking at big piles of cash?  No one.  Take the cash out of your wallet or purse and see how long you can stare at it.  Probably not long.  Why?  Because it’s boring.  We don’t enjoy the cash.  We enjoy the things in the room we trade that cash for.  And this is key.  We trade.  We are traders.  Always have been.  And always will be.  We started out bartering for things.  You traded something you built (this is important) for something someone else built (equally important).  Talented people who created things met to trade.  And we still do this today.  The money just makes it easier to trade.  But this would not be possible if we all lived on a government stipend and nobody worked.  Because if no one worked, there would be no things to buy.  We would be sitting in an empty room staring at piles of useless money.

A Public Educational System that doesn’t Educate but Indoctrinates

The Founding Fathers understood all of this.  And they framed the Constitution accordingly.  They limited the powers of the federal government.  Minimized the amount of actual democracy/mob rule.  And minimized the amount of money in the federal treasury.  For they were capitalists.  They knew money left in the private sector stimulated local economies.  People created useful things.  Brought them to market.  And traded these useful things for other useful things.  That’s the way things were.  It’s not how they are now.  Politicians today are in politics for personal gain.  They pander to the voters.  Buy and sell favors.  Enrich themselves in the process.  And leave a swath of destruction in their wake.  And how are they able to do this?  Because the government has become more of a democracy than a representative republic.

Along the way the educational system failed.  Probably starting in the Sixties.  With the hippies in college.  Who went on to teach in the Seventies.  We spent less time on reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.  And more on American white guilt for what happened to the Native Americans and a slave economy.  We learned less about the Founding Fathers.  And more about the people they wronged.  We learned less about American culture and more about diversity and multiculturalism.  We learned less about American Exceptionalism and more about American Imperialism.  We learned less about Western Civilization and more about ‘enlightened’ oppressive socialism.  We learned less about capitalism and more about the ‘fair’ redistribution of wealth.  Let’s face it.  Kids in school didn’t have a chance.  Their teachers were no longer teaching how America got to be exceptional.  They were teaching that America was anything but exceptional.  That we were guilty of every crime and injustice you could think of.  That America needed to change.  And that they, the young, our future, could make that change happen.

So the dumbing down of America began.  For those unable to escape the indoctrination of the new public education.  And the growth of government took off.  In fact, you can say that as society became ‘less American’ they became more dependent on government.  Where once rugged individualists dominated the land their numbers are thinning.  As slick politicians lure more people by the siren song of an easy life provided by government benefits.  And these politicians find the lie easier to sell with a public educational system that doesn’t educate but indoctrinates.  In fact, it’s quite an incestuous relationship.  The politicians spend more and more money on education.  The money goes to the teachers.  The teachers belong to unions.  The teachers’ unions support and donate to Democrat candidates.  So some of that tax money spent on education goes right back to the politicians that just increased educational spending.  And the teachers, eager to keep a good thing going, teach their students to become good Democrat voters.  Instead of teaching them about the three Rs, the Founding Fathers, American culture, American Exceptionalism, Western Civilization and capitalism.  As the standardized test scores show.  And does their irresponsible voting.

A Rising Sun or a Setting Sun 

America is fast approaching a crossroads.  People have learned that they can vote themselves money.  And have.  Politicians are pandering to these people for personal gain.  Offering to spend more and more money that we just don’t have.  Bringing us closer and closer to the end of the republic. 

Ben Franklin sat through that insufferable summer in Philadelphia.  Swatted at the giant horseflies in the hall.  He was old and his time was short.  He sat quietly during much of the debates.  Often staring at the sun carved into George Washington‘s chair.  He wondered if it was a rising sun.  Or a setting sun.  He saw it as symbolic of their little experiment in self-government and the work they were doing in that hall.  Was this already the end of their noble experiment?  Or was it just the beginning?  After the delegates voted to send the new Constitution to the states for ratification he breathed a sigh of relief.  For it was a rising sun.

I guess that question is once again open to debate.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #58: “Presidents with aggressive domestic agendas tend to have inept and naïve foreign policy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 22nd, 2011

Feeding their Egos with Illusions of their own Grandeur

First there were progressives.  Then there were liberals.  Self-proclaimed super geniuses.  Regular Wile E. Coyotes.  Smarty-pants know-it-alls.  You can’t tell them anything.  Because they know everything.  While you aren’t even smart enough to know what’s good for you.  But that’s okay.  Because they have taken it as their personal mission in life to run our lives.  To protect us from ourselves.  To tell us what to eat.  What to drink.  How to raise our kids.  How to educate them about the important things in life.  Fairness and multiculturalism.  Not math and science.  They teach us about the evils of greed.  Our greed.  Not theirs.  They can keep raising taxes to take our money so they can play with it.  But if we complain they say we hate teachers.  And children, of course.

These people start their government careers in the Ivy League.  Where they don’t learn anything useful.  They get law degrees.  Or some degree in the social sciences.  Public policy.  Philanthropy.  Degrees where they learn how to take other people’s money without providing anything useful in return.  All the while feeding their egos with illusions of their own grandeur.  They develop the cutting edge of progressive/liberal thought.  Most of it nonsense to you and me.  But in their little Ivy League world they’re saving the world.  Even though they have no idea of how the world works.  Understand things economic.  Or the role of energy in a developed economy.  They haven’t the foggiest idea about any of these things.  But they feel that only they are qualified to regulate these things.  Because they care about us.  And the planet.  Not profits.

Liberals are also not the manliest of men.  They get in touch with their softer, feminine side.  Get in touch with their feelings.  Some even cry.  Cowboys they’re not.  They’re into conflict resolution by diplomacy and timeouts.  They can be mean and nasty.  Partake in some of the worse character assassination.  But never alone.  Or without the power of the state to protect them.  You won’t see them get into any fights.  Because when it comes to actual fisticuffs, they’re not as brave as their words.  They’re the worse of bullies.  Weaklings that have others bully for them.  That’s why these people watch soccer instead of football.  Why they don’t hunt.  Why they hate the military.  They don’t like any manly behavior.  Or manly men.  No doubt from growing up in a childhood full of wedgies and swirlies.

Big Government and High Taxes

Much of a progressive’s/liberal’s life is spent getting even.  And the best revenge is living well.  And they sure do that.  Live well.  Better than most of us.  And with our money.  Either money gained through some frivolous lawsuit.  From the ‘overhead’ costs of the charitable organizations they ‘work’ for.  (Some keep more than 50% of all donations for their ‘operating’ expenses.  While the new healthcare legislations allow insurers to use no more than 20% of their premiums on their operating expenses.  How’s that for fair?)  High taxes.  Or kickbacks from the industries they regulate.

Those in government hate those in business.  Just like they hate the jocks and bullies in high school who tormented them.  But they hate business people for a different reason.  Because they have talent.  They’re able to create something people willingly pay for.  They can’t.  Of course they can play god over these people who have talent.  And they do.  Which makes up for their feelings of inadequacy.  It’s sort of a love-hate relationship.  They love taking their profits.  But they hate them because they have profits.

People need to feel a purpose.  And so it is with progressive/liberals.  Sure, having our money is good, but floating through life in the lap of luxury leaves them with an empty feeling.  Normal people may feel guilt over taking so much of our money. They just feel bored.  Like rich kids who get in trouble because they have too much time on their hands.  Bored rich kids get in trouble.  Bored liberals write legislation.  Exploit class warfare.  And go about redistributing our wealth.  They take money from the ‘rich’ people who have jobs or own businesses and give it to the needy.  And the more of these people you support with other people’s money, the more they will keep voting for you.  This allows the liberal to live a long life in politics.  Strokes their ego.  And fills that empty feeling they have from being the worthless waste of spaces they are.  And this is why they do what they do.  Keep government big.  And taxes high.

Projecting Force to Protect National Security Interests 

Liberals want power.  They want to expand government.  And expand the welfare state.  They always have big plans when they run for office.  They are never content to sitting back and let the free market work.  Because that’s no fun.  They want to control that market.  Using some bad economic theory (i.e., Keynesian Economics), they do.  They say it’s to make the markets more efficient.  But that’s not the reason.  It’s the power.  The getting even.  And getting their hands on all of that money. 

When presidents come out of the Ivy League, their heads are filled with a lot of progressive/liberal thoughts.  Ideas about income redistribution.  Fairness.  Multiculturalism.  But little about business.  Or the real world.  And as leader of the free world, that can be a problem.  Constitutionally speaking, the president’s responsibility is the real world.  The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces.  The president treats with foreign nations.  And appoints and receives ambassadors.  Nowhere in the Constitution will you see the president being responsible for income redistribution for fairness in a multicultural welfare state.

When a president goes in with an aggressive domestic agenda he comprises his Constitutional responsibilities.  It’s like a kid playing video games instead of doing his homework.  It’s fun.  But there is a cost.  The U.S. is a superpower.  And leader of the free world.  The president’s tools include military force, foreign aid and diplomacy.  And a powerful domestic economy that makes all of this possible.  If a president focuses on domestic policy over his foreign policy, both suffer.  The high taxes reduce economic activity.  Which reduces tax receipts.  And this makes budget deficits.  The progressive/liberal will not want to cut the domestic spending.  So they cut military spending and transfer it to the domestic side.  And borrow money.  Or print it.  Weakening both the military.  And the economic well being of the nation.  Which weakens the president’s ability to project force to protect national security interests. 

An Inconvenient Truth:  We Need Oil Flowing at Market Prices  

Of course, with the liberals’ disdain for the military and the military industrial complex, they don’t care.  They don’t believe there are any dangers out there.  And, if there are, it’s because we brought them upon ourselves.  For being bullies.  I mean, who are we to be a superpower and leader of the free world?  That’s just sticking our nose into other people’s business.  It’s time we stop.  Let other people live their lives.  Besides, it’s a different world today.  We don’t need standing armies or aircraft carriers.  Who’s going to invade us?

True, the chances of a D-Day type invasion landing on our shores is remote.  But there are other ways to attack our country.  9/11 comes to mind.  And there is economic warfare.  Have you enjoyed the Great Recession, the greatest recession since the Great Depression.  Probably not.  Do you remember how it started?  With $4/gallon gasoline.  Do you remember how horrible that was?  People were demanding Congress do something about it.  Amazing, isn’t it.  How high gasoline prices can trigger a recession (of course, the subprime mortgage meltdown changed that recession into the Great Recession).  Keeping oil flowing at market prices, then, is a U.S. national security interest.  Because a spike in gasoline prices will crash the healthiest of economies into recession.  Of course, this goes contrary to everything a progressive/liberal holds true.  But it’s an inconvenient truth they need to learn.

That’s why we’re in the Middle East.  We may get more of our oil from Canada, but we get some from OPEC.  More importantly, our trading partners do, too.  If that oil supply to the Western economies gets shut down, we will suffer a recession closer to the Great Depression than the Great Recession.  Oil is important to national security.  Income redistribution isn’t.  Or using the military for humanitarian purposes.  As bad as the suffering was in Darfur, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, etc., we can’t help everyone.  It would stretch our military too thin, cost more than we can afford and risk the lives of those in the military on a mission that doesn’t impact national security.  And all of this would impede the president in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities.  Protecting our national security.

We need Grownups in Charge of our Foreign Policy

Presidents often hailed for their great domestic agendas (FDR and LBJ, for example) have created economic messes that future generations have to clean up.  And because their real interests were in domestic policy, they bungled their foreign policy.  FDR may have rallied the nation to win World War II, but his naïveté gave us the Cold War.  And LBJ’s Whiz Kids mismanaged the Vietnam War so badly that the fallout nearly ignited a civil war in America.  The country changed.  And it’s never been the same since.

Kids don’t like doing their homework.  They’d rather play their games.  In this respect progressives/liberals are very much like children.  They, too, like to play their games.  And don’t like to do their homework.  But the world is a dangerous place.  We need to do our homework.  To learn the lessons of history.  More importantly, we need grownups in charge of our foreign policy.

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Competency and Constitutionality in Question in Obama’s Libyan War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 21st, 2011

The Libyan War as Popular as the Iraq War

The attacks on Libya have been authorized by the UN.  There is multilateral support.  And a coalition of the willing.  So we’re standing on the side of moral authority.  And legality.  Unlike the Iraq War.  At least this is what the supporters of this Libyan operation are saying.  And they speak with a united voice.  Or do they (see EDITORIAL: Obama’s illegal war by The Washington Times posted 3/18/2011 on The Washington Times)?

Five Security Council member states sat out the vote, including permanent members Russia and China, in addition to Germany, India and Brazil. China in particular objected to any action that would compromise Libya’s sovereignty, but did not veto the resolution. This may have been a political move, since the abstaining countries are now in a position to raise principled objections to whatever happens once force is utilized. To claim the United States forged an international consensus seems premature when Resolution 1973 did not have the support of countries representing 42 percent of the world’s population.

Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil oppose this multilateral action?  And that 42%?  It appears that Libya at best may match the Iraq War in popularity.

Very Little Arab Participation in this Arab Matter

All right, we can expect some of this dissent.  But what about one of our allies.  One of the coalition of the willing (see The House of Commons reacts to Libya assault by Peter McHugh posted 3/21/2011 on the UK’s Channel 4 News)?

[The Prime Minister] was just seven minutes into his defence before the first doubt appeared. How would he avoid “mission creep” asked the SNP’s Angus Robertson. Politicians on all sides now use military phrases as short hand for much more serious questions and what he really wanted to know was how do we avoid the Iraq experience when George W Bush said the war was over in days but thousands were to die in the unplanned years that followed…

He said the campaign against Gaddafi was well supported but only Qatar,out of all the arab states were committing troops. Starting a war was easy, said Dennis Skinner, ending it much harder especially if we did not know what would mark the end.

The unease continued to expose itself in a series of interruptions. “What about the £230m of arms we had sold to Libya last year?” asked one MP and “What about Yemen and Bahrain?” said Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Would the Prime Minister resign if British “boots” were ever on the ground in Libya?

The UK and France are the two big European nations in charge of this thing.  And one of them is already having a lot of second thoughts.  They’re worried about mission creep.  It becoming another Iraq.  And for a “well supported” mission, there’s only one Arab state on board.  Strange, for it is Arab killing Arab in Libya.  And the Arab League supported the UN resolution to create the no-fly zone.  This lack of Arab participation can be unsettling for the coalition.  For without Arab participation, it can look like European Christians fighting Muslims on oil-rich land.  And that just won’t be good for the mission.

The Nobel Peace Prize Winner Initiates War

Across the pond, Republicans and Democrats alike are questioning the Libyan action.  Some of the stronger criticism may be coming from Republicans (see Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Says President Obama’s Unilateral Choice to Order U.S. Military Force Against Qadhafi is an Affront to Our Constitution by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett posted 3/21/2011 on bartlett.house.gov).

“The United States does not have a King’s army. President Obama’s unilateral choice to use U.S. military force in Libya is an affront to our Constitution. President Obama’s administration has repeated the mistakes of the Clinton administration concerning bombing in Kosovo and the George W. Bush administration concerning invading Iraq by failing to request and obtain from the U.S. Congress unambiguous prior authorization to use military force against a country that has not attacked U.S. territory, the U.S. military or U.S. citizens. This is particularly ironic considering then-Senator Obama campaigned for the Democratic nomination based upon his opposition to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

Some serious charges there.  But is it only partisanship?  I mean, right now, President Obama isn’t all that popular these days with his war on Libya.  He’s letting down some of his most avid supporters.  Who are no doubt stunned.  Their Nobel Peace Prize winner initiating war?  How can this be?

The Russians Call the Coalition Christian Crusaders after Libya’s Oil

Remember when Hillary Clinton went to Russia with that button?  To reset Russian-American relations?  They got the Russian translation wrong on the button.  But the Russians still praised the Obama administration for the effort.  But they’re not praising him anymore (see Russian Duma Leader Wants Obama Stripped of Nobel Peace Prize by Kenneth Rapoza posted 3/21/2011 on Forbes).

The controversial leader of the Russian Liberal Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky,  said in a statement on Monday that he will ask the Nobel Committee to strip President Barack Obama of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Zhirinovsky said in the letter that the prize, awarded in 2009 for Obama’s historic presidential victory and his work on nuclear non proliferation, was now hypocritical in light of recent missile strikes in Libya…

“These developments in Libya are another outrageous act of aggression by NATO forces and, in particular, the United States,” he wrote, calling it a “colonial policy” with the goal to control Libyan oil…

Zhirinovsky’s protest to the Nobel Committee is most likely a cry in the wilderness.

However, Russian officials have stated no interest in military adventures to punish Gadhafi for waging a civil war against anti-government forces. On Monday, The Economic Times of India reported Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin calling the airstrikes on Libya a “medieval call for crusades.”

Strip the Nobel Peace Prize?  You could say that the missile strikes are a far cry from what he did to win the Peace Prize.  Which was nothing.  He was elected in 2008.  Took office in 2009.  Not a whole lot of time to do anything.  But Zhirinovsky is a small player in Russia these days.  It doesn’t really matter what he says.  Putin is the power in that country.  And he called Obama’s airstrikes a “medieval call for crusades.”

I think we’re going to need another button.

Obama Attacked for Attacking his own Kind

And it gets worse.  Even some of his most ardent supporters are turning on the president (see Farrakhan To Obama: “Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?” by Alan Colmes posted 3/21/2011 on Liberal Land).

You’re a liar and a hypocrite, and I warn my brother don’t let these wicked demons move you in a direction that will let you absolutely ruin your future with your people in Africa and throughout the world…My advice would be, why don’t you organize a group of respected Americans and ask for a meeting with Qaddafi? You can’t order him to step down and get out. Who the hell do you think you are, that you can talk to a man that built a country over 42 years, and ask him step down and get out? Can anybody ask you?

Your people?  Why, that sounds a bit racist.  His people in Africa is code for black.  His people throughout the world is code for Muslim.  Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is slamming Obama for attacking his black brothers.  And his Muslim brothers.  Even though Obama is a Christian.  Confusing, yes, but for whatever reason Muslims around the world (even Gaddafi looks at him as a son) have adopted this Christian as one of their own.

Mission and Command Structure Poorly Defined

So despite all the talk about a multilateral coalition of the willing, the actions against Libya are pretty unpopular.  Which means support will probably not last long.  So they better get in fast.  Complete the mission with all possible speed and efficiency.  Declare mission accomplished.  And get out.  Shouldn’t be too hard (see Confusion Over Who Leads Libya Strikes, and for How Long by Steven Erlanger posted 3/21/2011 on The New York Times).

As the military operation continued over Libya on Monday, there was some confusion about which country or organization is actually leading it, and for how long. France, Britain and the United States are in charge of their own operations, which each have different code names.

The participants are being “coordinated” by the United States, but not commanded by it, according to the French Defense Ministry. The Americans, with the most assets, seem to be the lead coordinator, but Washington has said it wants to step back after the initial phase and have NATO take charge of maintaining a no-fly zone and arms embargo.

Britain wants NATO to take over but France does not, and Italy is threatening to rethink its participation unless NATO takes command.

Okay, so there is some confusion about the command structure.  But if France is the only holdout in turning over command to NATO we should be able to make a persuasive case to them.  Then that problem will be solved.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said in Brussels on Monday that “the Arab League does not wish the operation to be entirely placed under NATO responsibility…

Turkey is also reluctant to have NATO take charge, since it is the only Muslim member of the alliance, has opposed the use of force in Libya and was excluded from a Saturday planning meeting in Paris. But Turkey, which has kept lines open to the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, is likely to allow NATO to run the operation as long as it does not invade Libya with any ground forces or occupy the country.

Okay, that’s a bigger problem.  The whole Arab world is against NATO assuming command of operations.  Perhaps the British and the French can run the coalition.

Washington may be willing to have France and Britain run the operation as a coalition, but that would be hard for the two countries to do without using NATO assets for command and control, most of which belong to the United States. But Washington has never been willing to put its troops under the command of any other nation, one reason that even in NATO, the Supreme Commander Europe, is always an American.

Good night nurse.  Did anyone think this through?  Before we committed to military operations?  The coalition will fall apart before the popular support for the war does.  Command and control issues.  Mission uncertainty (regime change or no regime change).  If we’re this unclear now that we’re in a shooting war, exactly what clarity was there when we committed to the use of force?

Obama says Libyan Civil War is a US Security Threat

Well, the President explains why in a letter to Congress (see Obama explains Libya mission to Congress by Greg Sargent posted 3/21/2011 on The Washington Post).

Qadhafi’s continued attacks and threats against civilians and civilian populated areas are of grave concern to neighboring Arab nations and, as expressly stated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, constitute a threat to the region and to international peace and security. His illegitimate use of force not only is causing the deaths of substantial numbers of civilians among his own people, but also is forcing many others to flee to neighboring countries, thereby destabilizing the peace and security of the region. Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.

Threatening the United States?  Really?  Losing Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood could threaten our security.  Losing Bahrain to Iran-friendly Shiite control could threaten our security.  But Libya?  While we have suffered at the hands of Gaddafi, it was more tit for tat.  When he retaliated after receiving a military ass-kicking from the US.  His weapon of choice?  Terrorism.  He blew up a Berlin disco frequented by American Servicemen.  And blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  If the pattern follows, we are at greater danger by our action.  Inaction would have been the safer bet for American security.

Note the mention of the “consequences to the national security interests of the United States.” Some Dems are arguing that Obama needs Congressional authorization under the War Powers Resolution, which only allows the President to initiate military action without Congress if America is under attack or under serious threat.

Indeed, Dennis Kucinich is citing this quote from Obama himself back in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Obama’s insistence that our national security is at stake if Gaddafi is not repelled by force tacitly asserts the President’s authority to invade without Congressional authorization.

Not only are we not safer, there are serious questions about the constitutionality of Obama’s actions.

George W. Bush more Constitutional than Barack Obama

The United Nations Participation Act (UNPA) of 1945 is U.S. law governing our actions with the United Nations (UN).  It defines what the president’s authority is when working with the UN.  And it’s not much (see The false defenders of Obama’s war in Libya by Michael Lind posted 3/21/2011 on Salon).

The only rational way to interpret these sections of the UNPA is to read them as authorizing the president, without congressional approval, to supply fewer than a thousand noncombatant troops to the U.N. for Article 41 actions short of war, and also to negotiate agreements to supply armed forces to the U.N. under Article 43 — but only with prior congressional approval. In Article 42 situations, like the situation in Libya, where the U.N. Security Council calls on members to go to war, the UNPA did not grant the president to act without congressional approval — presumably because the Congress that passed the UNPA understood that all Article 42 enforcement actions approved by the Security Council would have to be separately and independently approved by congressional declarations of war before the U.S. could take part.

Far from delegating the president vast discretion to wage war in pursuit of U.N. requests, the U.N. Participation Act jealously guards the constitutional prerogatives of Congress.

In other words, the Constitution grants war making powers to Congress.  Not the UN.  Or the President.

The Constitution cannot be amended by statute. It cannot be amended by treaty. It cannot be amended by precedent. It cannot be amended by public opinion poll. It cannot be amended by election result. It cannot be amended by humanitarian pity. The U.S. Constitution can only be amended by the procedures set forth in Article V of the Constitution itself.

People are free, if they wish, to propose a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would read as follows: “The President of the United States shall have power to initiate war on his own authority, without the prior approval of Congress; provided, however, that Congress may refuse to appropriate funding for the continuation of a war the president has begun.” Such an amendment would create the situation that many people falsely claim to be the case today. Until such an amendment is ratified and goes into effect, however, the law of the land remains what it has always been, and President Obama’s war in Libya, even if it is moral, prudent and legally authorized under international law by the Security Council, is plainly unconstitutional.

Obama is president of the United States.  He swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  He did not swear an oath to the UN.  His authority is defined in the U.S. Constitution.  And it is clear he exceeded his constitutional authority.

Obama supporters are just exasperated to no end.  Because they know that George W. Bush went to war in Iraq with more Constitutional authority.  And this fact is just killing them.

The Libyan War already a Mess

The international community is not united in the attacks on Libya.  There is dissent within the coalition.  Uncertainty about mission.  Exit strategy.  Disagreement over command and control.  And legality.  It’s a mess.  It begs the question why Obama would do this to himself.  Especially with the 2012 elections around the corner.  He looks at the world through political eyes.  One can only assume that he has a plan to make this work to his advantage.  But it sure is hard to see how from here. 

Or is it just like JFK’s/LBJ’s whiz kids during the Vietnam War?  Completely out of their element.  Inept.  And making one bad decision after another.  Guess we’ll find out at the 2012 election.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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The Egyptian Military Suspends their Constitution while some here can only Dream

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 13th, 2011

A Military Coup by any other Name

The Army’s in charge in Egypt (see Military rulers suspend Egyptian constitution by Marwa Awad and Dina Zayed posted 2/13/2011 on Reuters).

Egypt’s new military rulers said on Sunday they had dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and would govern only for six months or until elections took place, following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

As bad as this sounds, the military is the stable force in Egypt.  They’ve pledged to honor Egypt’s treaties during their rule.  Israel welcomed this news.  As did many governments in the region.  Perhaps the military will be able to win the peace.  Much like our Founding Fathers did after their revolution.  Time will tell.  We hope for the best for the Egyptian people.  The region.  And the world.

The Intent of the Constitution was to Oppress the People?

Suspend the constitution?  You know there are some here in the United States that would like to suspend the Constitution.  To hear some talk about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers were nothing but a bunch of racist, sexist, slave-owning bigots.  And these people mock the Tea Party people for all of their constitutional talk (see What “original intent” would look like by David Schultz posted 2/13/2011 on Salon).

Tea Partiers would be surprised how little freedom they’d have if we read the Constitution literally.

I dare say more people in the Tea Party have read the Constitution than those who argue against them.  Those on the left always say we need to take things in context.  When discussing barbaric customs of some indigenous people.  Or even the right to choose.  We can’t remove the context of environment and/or custom from these things.  But we can when it comes to our founding.

It wasn’t a perfect world in 1787.  We had just defeated the British Empire in a war that lasted 8 years.  And the people were in no mood to replace one central power with another.  Getting a national constitution wasn’t easy.  There were many conflicting interests.  And the states just wanted to go back to the way things were before the Revolution.

But when the Confederation Congress couldn’t pass a ‘national’ tariff over the objection of a single state that benefited well under the status quo, they had to do something.  If the new nation was to survive.  Few nations thought we would.  Some were just waiting in the wings for the collapse.  It was primarily those who served in the military that pushed the idea of nationhood along.  They fought alongside men from different states in a unified army.  These were the first ones to think as Americans.  And it was one man in particular, a retired George Washington, who brought the men together in Philadelphia in that hot and muggy summer in 1787.

It wasn’t easy.  States didn’t want to give up power.  They feared consolidation.  The states didn’t want some faraway seat of power telling them how to conduct their business.  In the context of the times, there was no nation. There were states.  Sovereign states.  Working together in a confederation.  Yes, they understood there were things a national government could do better (coin money, treat with foreign nations, build and maintain a military force, etc.).  But they were leery giving this new central government any power for fear that once they did, there would be no end to this transfer of power.  So the Founding Fathers developed federalism.  Shared sovereignty.  Most of the power would remain with the states.  And only those things strictly enumerated would go to the federal government. 

To begin with, the original document was silent on the right to vote. Voting rights were largely a matter of state law, and in 1787 most states limited the franchise to white, male, Protestant property owners, age 21 or older. The original Constitution did not allow for direct popular voting for president or the United States Senate, and there was no clear language even allowing for voting for members of the House of Representatives.

In the context of the times, white protestant males were the only people voting in the British world.  And Americans came from British stock.  No surprise here.  And a popular vote was not included for a very good reason.  The Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy.  Because once people learn they can vote themselves the treasury, they do.  Also, the states wanted to make sure their interests were represented in the central government.  That’s why state legislators were to elect their senators.  To keep a short leash on the new central government. 

The original Constitution didn’t include a Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers and authors of the Federalist Papers, argued against it. The Bill of Rights protects many rights the Tea Party considers hallowed, such as the freedom of speech and assembly and a right to bear arms. Lacking a Bill of Rights, these freedoms wouldn’t be protected against limitation by the national government.

The reason why they argued against a Bill of Rights was that they said they didn’t need it.  The Constitution enumerated the powers of the new central government.  Anything not enumerated was a power retained by the states.  The fear was that if they included a Bill of Rights and forgot to include a right then that right wouldn’t be protected.  But a Bill of Rights became conditional for ratification by some states.  James Madison opposed it (for the reasons just mentioned) but worked tirelessly to include it.  Because he and Hamilton knew it was the price of ratification.

Most importantly, as written, the Bill of Rights limited only national power — not state power

Again, the Constitution was all about limiting the power of the federal government.  It had nothing to do with limiting states’ powers.  No state would have ratified if it did.  This is the concept of federalism.  To keep Big Government small.  The states had their own constitutions.  And if a state became too oppressive, people could move to a state that wasn’t. 

And then there’s the matter of slavery. Article I, Section 1 of the original Constitution permitted slavery and the slave trade… Slavery did not end until the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

I believe that was Section 2 of Article 1.  And the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave.  But I’m nitpicking.  Again, historical context.  Slavery and Social Security have a little in common.  One is a failed institution.  The other is about to fail.  And the cost to fix or undo them is/was absolutely prohibitive.  And socially undoable. 

Article I, Section 9 did address the slave trade by agreeing to table it for 20 years.  It was the only way to get the southern states to join the union.  Because emancipation would wipe out close to have of the equity on many southern balance sheets.   Though immoral, the institution of slavery was legal.  Ending it would simply destroy the southern economy.  Much like what happened after the American Civil War when northern carpetbaggers came down and bought properties at fire-sale prices.  So there is a reason why the Founding Fathers didn’t address slavery more in the Constitution.  Because it wasn’t as easy to fix as Social Security.

And let’s not forget Alexander Hamilton, who argued against the need for a bill of rights and in favor of judicial review. The famous “Report on Manufactures” and “Report on Public Credit” he prepared as George Washington’s treasury secretary argued for an expansive federal government role in assisting the economy — hardly something the Tea Party constitutionalist would endorse.

Hamilton worked in business at a very young age.  And he was in awe of the British Empire.  Of their wealth and power.  He wanted an American Empire.  He wanted to jumpstart American industry.  And wanted to use a tool familiar to him.  Mercantilism.  It was the way the great empires became great.  In the British Empire, America was a supplier of raw goods.  We had no manufacturing base to speak of.  Hamilton wanted to use government to build one fast.  Today government wants to control the economy.  Hamilton wanted to create an economy where there was none.  There’s a bit of a difference.

It should be clear that many of the liberties and rights today’s Tea Partiers demand and benefit from just didn’t exist in the original form of the Constitution. It took many amendments and clarification from the courts to secure them. On top of that, if the ideal the Tea Party espouses ever was realized, it would just mean the states would have more authority to suppress rights.

The amendment process was part of the original Constitution.  The authors provided the means to change the Constitution.  They just didn’t make it very easy.  Unlike a court ruling, many people would have to agree to a change.  Not just a partisan few.  Or a partisan judge.

The Tea Party gets it.  It’s those who rail against them that don’t.

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