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Archive for the ‘Institutional Stupidity’ Category

For a while now, some conservative pundits and individuals have portrayed our current political predicament as being akin to the “zombie apocalypse”.  It is an easy comparison to make, and it isn’t even a new one, as demonstrated by our friend, Packy East, in this clip:

But ask I drove to work this morning, listing to a discussion about the ridiculous and costly nature of public sector unions, and how government, led by the EPA, was standing in the way of what should be a very simple infrastructure improvement that would allow American businesses to remain competitive moving forward into the 21st Century, and this story about the Bureau of Land Management harassing a rancher in southern Nevada, I realized that the zombie analogy wasn’t entirely accurate.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the zombies are still out there, shuffling along, and multiplying quickly, but I realized this morning that there is a better analogy of the relationship between our government and its citizens:

facehugger

I trust no further explanation is necessary.

Those who are paying attention will get it.

Those accustomed to stupid government tricks will get it.

The zombies will engage in ad hominems to prevent others from getting it.

The grievance pimps will take to their fainting couches with wicked, crippling cases of the vapors.

And it will still be true.

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No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get away from the legalized marijuana issues.

I was talking with an acquaintance this week about idiocy of Washington’s tax scheme for legalized marijuana.  He’s a numbers guy and is well-versed in tax bureaucracies, and their miraculously functional illogic.  We had started out by discussing how the measure was sold in this state, which focused almost exclusively on “new tax revenue” and “being able to focus law enforcement on other matters other than marijuana-related offenses”.  (I’ve lived in this state for 13 years, and I can say I was aware of any great law enforcement push to enforce the laws when it comes to marijuana.  But then, that may be influenced by the fact that police departments pass out munchies to those openly defying the law, so there’s that…)  It also flies in the face of data which is pretty clear that we don’t have an epidemic of incarceration solely because of marijuana possession and use.

The dual-mindedness of the people in this state on this issue simply boggles the mind.  The state has undergone a crusade against smoking in which some counties decided that bad second-hand smoke studies were a good basis for banning smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants specifically set up to cater to smoking customers, and the state legislature followed shortly after with a ban on smoking in all public places, including within 25 feet of any doorway.  This was followed by local authorities moving to ban people from smoking in their own residences if they live in public housing.  The legislature, not to be out done, came back with a proposal to ban smoking in an automobile if there are children present.  And yet these very same tyrant wannabes needed a drool rag to wipe up after their tax lust.  I have yet to hear how all but banning the smoking of tobacco products can be an imperative for public health, and yet pot smoking doesn’t create some of the very same harms we’re preventing with the anti-smoking crusade.  The utter dishonesty of it sickens me.  Putting aside the addiction issue.  Putting aside the evidence (yes, I know that the studies are mixed) regarding how much longer marijuana impairs you than alcohol does, I defy anyone in the public health community to tell me that smoking tobacco is a public health threat that requires increasing restrictions on liberty, but that lighting up a joint is something that the government should be cool with.  But then, if there was any honesty, it would require an admission that the government is ok with harm to its citizens, as long as it is getting paid.

But then the police being able to concentrate on “other offenses” is really a poor argument too.  It isn’t an accident that as part of the move to legalize recreational marijuana use, the state legislature had to set limits for legal impairment for drivers with regard to their use of marijuana…meaning that they knew what everyone knew, and didn’t want to discuss.  That as with alcohol, there would be people who would not be able to stop themselves from using, and driving, and that like with alcohol, people would be harmed as a result.

And now, in the fashion we have come to expect in this country, it appears that even toking up isn’t immune to forces of entitlement and the playing of race cards, as this story in The Root demonstrates.

When I read this story earlier this week, I realized that if the Earth was going to have an extinction-level collision with an asteroid, I’d probably be up on the roof, writing “Hit Here First”.  Just the very idea that white people will get all the good weed is a fair condensed version of everything that is wrong with this country today.   I read the headline, and thought to myself that I would give my last dollar to be able to go back in time, and be right there to respond to Rodney King’s famous question with an emphatic “NO!”

We aren’t even fiddling while Rome burns any more.  We’re sitting in the ashes, and blaming each other because it is too hot.  With stratospheric “real” unemployment numbers, a government addicted to spending what it doesn’t have, and an educational system that would have made Ponzi blanch at its brazenness, people now want to worry that someone might get a better buzz than they did, simply because of their skin color.  And the people who are most worried don’t seem to care that each of those problems with society are magnified in “their communities”…a problem which the community organizer in chief is unable or unwilling to solve, opting instead to use race as a wedge, and pursue redistribution.  But then, smart people realize that the “If a man is hungry, take someone else’s fish at gunpoint and give it to him” is a plan that simply discourages fishing.

Then there is the “WHAT?” factor to the underlying logic.  I grew up next to a large urban center(and went to college in it) that was living under similar economic conditions before Obama and the Democrats took them nationwide.  It didn’t seem to affect the ability of persons of color to obtain Hennessy, Couvoisier, Tanqueray, etc.  In fact, I never once heard a concern uttered about the white people getting all the good booze.  The article suggests that we had to have Obama as President to get us to the point of seriously considering marijuana legalization.  It seems only fair that since he is intent on limiting the economy so that everything but the amounts we spend on his vacations and golf is a finite resource, that someone could now publish a piece about the fear of segregation of pot based on race and NOT do so as a work of satire.

Things like this almost make me want to root for the collapse of our civilization.  But instead, it may prove more profitable for those in power to simply let us fade away in a cloud of smoke and mellowness…as long as someone with a different skin color doesn’t get a better class of weed.  Maybe we could get Philip Morris to come up with a couple of premium blends.  Then we could solve the problem, AND make an evil corporation cool again.

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So once again, a member of academia decided to give President Obama a tongue bath in public.  This time, the offender is Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history and eduminication at NYU, who published a shallow bit of wishcasting called “End Presidential Term Limits” at the WAPOO.

I actually resisted writing about this nonsense for a day or so, but I keep finding it in friends’ feeds, so I finally put on my waders and ventured in.  The dumb is strong is in this “expert”.  I find this disappointing, as historians usually have to demonstrate an ability to connect the dots, but, I don’t think Professor Zimmerman ever has.

Professor Zimmerman starts by lamenting the fact that term limits force the executive to use persuasion rather than personality to get second-term agenda items passed:

In 1947, Sen. Harley Kilgore (D-W.Va.) condemned a proposed constitutional amendment that would restrict presidents to two terms. “The executive’s effectiveness will be seriously impaired,” Kilgore argued on the Senate floor, “ as no one will obey and respect him if he knows that the executive cannot run again.”

Of course, it isn’t the job of the Senate or the House to “obey” the President.   That’s not why they are elected, or in the case of the Senate, why they were once appointed by the state legislatures.

I’ve been thinking about Kilgore’s comments as I watch President Obama, whose approval rating has dipped to 37 percent in CBS News polling — the lowest ever for him — during the troubled rollout of his health-care reform. Many of Obama’s fellow Democrats have distanced themselves from the reform and from the president. Even former president Bill Clinton has said that Americans should be allowed to keep the health insurance they have.

Of course, even Bill Clinton wouldn’t have dreamed of simply declaring that some parts of the law were hereby suspended or altered by executive fiat alone.

Or consider the reaction to the Iran nuclear deal. Regardless of his political approval ratings, Obama could expect Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) to attack the agreement. But if Obama could run again, would he be facing such fervent objections from Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)?

Of course, a President not suffering from extraordinary narcissistic tendencies might actually take such opposition from members of his own party as an indicator that his chosen negotiator eagerly accepted the offer of a crisp new Ten Dollar Bill in exchange for two Twenties, and that he betrayed multiple strategic partners in the process.   Alas, Obama is not that President.

Probably not. Democratic lawmakers would worry about provoking the wrath of a president who could be reelected. Thanks to term limits, though, they’ve got little to fear.

Seriously,  for a “history” professor, he seems to have ignored one of the major features of the American Republic.  The executive’s wrath should not be something “feared” by members of Congress.  It would interfere with their duty to their constituents, the independence and judgment they are intended to exercise in their own elective service, and would completely violate the whole notion of “separation of powers”.  Even as someone who purports to support lowercase “d” democracy, it should be apparent to Professor Brain Donor that there is value in the ability to persuade Congress and the American People that your initiatives and agenda items have value, will work, and most of all will not limit, or harm the freedoms of the American people.  This is likely the primary reason that Professor Zimmerman and other tyrant worshipers in academia advocate for precisely the opposite; the President has never been successful at such persuasion.  Either because he is not willing to make his case in a many in which he has to treat those he “rules” as equals, let alone their representatives, or because he simply isn’t capable, as it would stretch him far outside his comfort zone where he utters glittering generalities, and his audience swoons and fawns, or the darker, more revealing place where he adopts the pose of the unrepentant ideologue, banging his shoe against the podium while denouncing those who dare to question his divine pronouncements, made completely without the burden of ever having to cross the line from intellectual conceptualism to actual implementation and management of reality.

That was the argument of our first president, who is often held up as the father of term limits. In fact, George Washington opposed them. “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public,” Washington wrote in a much-quoted letter to the Marquis de Lafayette.

Washington stepped down after two terms, establishing a pattern that would stand for more than a century. But he made clear that he was doing so because the young republic was on solid footing, not because his service should be limited in any way.

There is a lot of assumption in these two paragraphs, almost all of it wrong.

First is the assumption that we are in the midst of a “great emergency” that only Obama is “the most capable of serving the public during”.   While things are bad, every electioneer will tell you that “America stands at a crossroads” and “only XXXXXX can save the country”.  But the fact remains that Obama’s administration is marked by lurches from one crisis to another, several of which were of his own making, while he continued to blame his predecessor for these crises as his chosen method of dealing with them.

Second is the idea of service.  While he has occasionally paid lip service to the concept, his actions and other statements make it clear that Obama and his retinue do not believe that they “serve” the American people, but instead “rule” them.  It is this mindset which they govern from, and defend policies injurious to freedom, whether it is the belief  that “sometimes, you’ve just made enough money”, to “you didn’t build that”, to justifying a brazen lie by telling people that insurance they freely chose and contracted for would no longer be available to them, because they we “bad apple” policies, and that young men in their 20s were absolutely better off with a government approved high deductible, high premium policy that ensures availability to contraceptives, maternity care, and mammograms to them.

Finally, the history professor omits some facts.  In Washington’s time, Federally elected office was not the cushy sinecure with insider trading opportunities, incredible perks, and quid pro quos that they enjoy today.   Even when the capitol was in New York City and Philadelphia, serving in office required sacrifices from those who did so.  These sacrifices were financial, in which the office holder often let their own careers atrophy while they served for much lower pay, and they spent a lot of time away from home and their families when communication and travel were both much, much slower than they are today.  While Washington acknowledged that he served a second term because his closest advisors convinced him to do so, he also had no wish to become an American “King”, and had himself spent many years away from his home in the service of his country.  He was tired, both in general, and specifically with regard to the strife that had erupted between those who served with him.  While he did not advocate term limits, he certainly didn’t foresee career politicians becoming so wedded to the office that they would die there after serving multiple terms either.

That’s why the GOP moved to codify it in the Constitution in 1947, when a large Republican majority took over Congress. Ratified by the states in 1951, the 22nd Amendment was an “undisguised slap at the memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” wrote Clinton Rossiter, one of the era’s leading political scientists. It also reflected “a shocking lack of faith in the common sense and good judgment of the people,” Rossiter said.

What this fails to recognize is that to pass the 22nd Amendment also relied on the “common sense and good judgment of the people”, unlike a great deal of other changes to the Constitution that were wrought through an overreaching judiciary instead.  And the left still practices this double standard today, as the litigation over Proposition 8 in California demonstrates.  But Rossiter also had the luxury of living in an era when it was easier to pretend that “common sense” and “good judgment of the people” went hand in hand.  We do not.  Common sense dictates that you cannot increase sovereign deficits by Trillions of dollars in short spans of years for very long before you have severely hampered the freedom of future generations.   And passing the point where more people rely on the assistance of the government than their own efforts for their sustenance pretty much guarantees that the “good judgment of the people” will not have anything to do with “common sense” as it creates an incentive to elect others to enrich themselves as they carry out the direction to loot from the present and the future for their constituencies.

He was right. Every Republican in Congress voted for the amendment, while its handful of Democratic supporters were mostly legislators who had broken with FDR and his New Deal. When they succeeded in limiting the presidency to two terms, they limited democracy itself.

He was wrong, because even then, “the people” did not directly elect the President, rendering the notion that an amendment placing term limits on the office as a limitation, ridiculous.  As I have already pointed out, the left only believes in lower case “d” democracy when the plebes vote correctly, as dictated by their leftist betters.

It’s time to put that power back where it belongs. When Ronald Reagan was serving his second term, some Republicans briefly floated the idea of removing term limits so he could run again. The effort went nowhere, but it was right on principle. Barack Obama should be allowed to stand for re-election just as citizens should be allowed to vote for — or against — him. Anything less diminishes our leaders and ourselves.

That “power” was never actually there.  And actually, the notion that we should continue to be able to re-elect the same person because of some notion of their “indispensability” is a great diminishing of ourselves, because it presumes that we as a nation are incapable of producing capable leaders who can govern through persuasion rather than fear, and can unite, rather than divide while preaching about the incivility of their opponents.  I wouldn’t be in favor of it even with Reagan, but at least a third term of Reagan offered the prospect of a President who loved this country, and saw no need to “fundamentally transform” it into something that it was never intended to be.

 

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I had an interesting conversation this week with another businessman who has had enough.

The topic came up when he learned that I am business attorney, and he started to talk to me about the never-ending stream of regulations and taxes, and how he wondered if government didn’t do some of it just to find out how much we would let it get away with.  I smiled, I nodded, and then I told him about my recent odyssey with the Census Bureau.  We both got a laugh out of that, especially when we talked about how long the survey was, and how they just presumed that I would be willing to surrender that time to the government without a peep.  This lead to a discussion about how it doesn’t take very many agencies, bureaus, and offices making “insignificant” demands on you time, and on your earnings before it really starts to add up.  And of course, none of them ever take into consideration that their “insignificant” demands are coming along with all the other “insignificant” demands…not that it would matter, of course, since their demands are important, and must be responded to.

Then he said “I’ll go you one better.  A few years back, I got one of those forms where they wanted me to pretty much inventory EVERY item in my business, then compute the tax and send it to them.”

“Ok…” I said.

“Yeah.  I thought about it for a minute, realized how many HOURS that would take to do, hours that I wouldn’t be using to earn money, and so I looked at the form, and saw that it was a $40.00 fine to not fill out the form and send it back.  I wrote on it “I’m not going to take the HOURS necessary to do this.  Bill me for your fine.”  And I never heard anything more.  They send a new form every couple of years, I answer the same way.  And I’ve never been contacted by anyone looking for their fine.”

We both laughed.  And for a few minutes, I was glad.  It makes me happy to see even small acts of defiance against an out of control government.

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I was introduced to a new song last night.  And it made me very, very happy to know that there are people willing to be the nail that stands up, at a time when so many allow themselves to be intimidated by a tyranny of political correctness, and small-minded thugs who keep finding new ways to take what doesn’t belong to them.

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A friend of mine let loose today with a good rant on Facebook today on the chronic misuse of the word “tolerance” and how the ones who use it most clearly don’t understand it based on their intolerance of those they disagree with.  I’m proud to count her, and others like her, as friends.

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As our President continues to hamfistedly attempt to gaslight the nation about his blatant lies, and as he sets the tone from the top down of a government culture that pays lip service to accountability, yet remains blissfully consequence-free in light of its mendacity and failure, there is a rising anger that will eventually remind our public “servants” that service and employment both come with accountability, and that we will not let those who serve us continue to enjoy good fortune at our expense, and a cushy sinecure that none of us could ever hope to dream of.  The fact that they continue to let this attitude build, while flaunting their disrespect and lack of self-awareness in our faces demonstrates the kind of bad judgement that converts dismay due to lack of respect to a desire to instill fear.  I don’t think it will be pretty, but I do think it will be instructive, and occasionally, “pour l’encourage les autres” has its place.

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The “ACA is rotting on the vine” argument is the wrong one. Not because it isn’t true…it is…but because implementing it means that a government that is supposed to protect religious liberties will instead actively void them (HHS Mandates), because people with chronic health issues will see their health negatively impacted, because the most brutal collection agency in the world will become the enforcement arm of a law that REQUIRES you to purchase a product simply because you live and breathe, because a government that couldn’t abide by confidentiality laws and keep disclosures of confidential taxpayer information from being disclosed to people who had no business knowing it will be granting even wider access to your confidential medical data while pinkie swearing that they won’t ever misuse it or use it against you, they promise (just like the IRS), and because people won’t be able to afford the individual mandate, we will be providing means-test free subsidies, resulting in an even greater redistribution of wealth and resultant dependency on government than we have NOW, and because implementing it makes it commonplace and accepted, even if it is a POS, and that means that government will attempt to “fix” the problem with the only solution it recognizes as legitimate…MORE GOVERNMENT.

The “Accept Defeat Before You Fight” cadre of the GOP showed us all exactly where their priorities are. I’ll skip the obvious questions about what might have happened if other famous Americans had done the same when faced with adversity, and instead say that it was an easy calculus for them to accept when they are insulated from some of the most detrimental aspects of this abortion of liberty courtesy of the American taxpayer.

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A friend of mine posted a link to an article this morning he prefaced with the question “Is sacrificing your religious liberty the price of market participation?”  The article, by Benjamin Wiker, entitled “The Religious-Liberty Quagmire to Come” discusses a recent Slate article sympathetic with the current HHS mandate overreach in which government attempts to abrogate the rights of people to exercise their religious liberty with their property, specifically duly chartered legal business entities.

The article’s author opposes the viewpoints expressed in the Slate article, by author Dalia Lithwick.  I oppose them also, but on grounds originating not just in my studies, but also by practical experience and logic.

The first point raised is this:

Lithwick argues, first of all, that corporations are distinct entities from individuals.

This is true in a literal sense.  Corporations have a legal identity that are separate from their owners in the same way that I have a legal identity that is separate from my oldest son.  You’ll note that I did not use my wife in that example.  It was not an accident.  While she is indeed an entity that is distinct from myself, we happen to live in a community property state, so we “enjoy” the dual status of having distinct legal identities, while legally being considered as having the same legal identity for legal, and more to the point, commercial, purposes.  This reality is imposed upon us by the state, which applies this status based upon an action we took based on a shared religious conviction, and retain based upon that same shared religious conviction.  We are each “owners” of that resultant fictional legal entity known as a “marital community”, which, at least in our case, exists and acts in both personal and commercial transactions in ways that express or are the result of our individual religious beliefs.

While individuals can have religious beliefs, corporations can’t. Once you establish a corporation, it is automatically a secular corporation.

This is what we called in law school a “false starting premise”.  The reason is simple.  The state’s blessing to act as a corporate entity does not automatically confer a “secular” (like the author of the piece, I also object to the common use of the word “secular”, and for the same reasons, however, for the purpose of this essay, I will use it in the context of the incorrectly presumed “neutrality” in which it is often used) status on the resulting entity.  The reason for this is simple.  State enabling statutes almost always permit corporations and limited liability companies to be established “for any lawful purpose”, which by its nature would include the conducting of any lawful business in a manner consistent with the religious faith of the owners of the entity in question.  In fact, thanks to the First Amendment, and its extension to the individual states, the states would be legally prohibited from restricting individuals from forming entities for such purposes.

The other obvious weakness in this rather remarkable assertion from Ms. Lithwick would be the fact that churches often incorporate as non-profit corporations in order to apply for Section 501(c)(3) status so that donations, gifts, and tithes maybe tax deductible to the donor. (Contrary to popular opinion, churches do not have to apply for this status to be tax-free.  They are already tax-free, as they should be, as a result of the First Amendment.)

Wiker states that Lithwick’s assertion is rooted in the decision in the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. decision.  The corporation is owned by a Mennonite Family which employs 950 people.  The family opposes the HHS mandates regarding abortion on religious grounds.  The Federal Judge hearing the case concluded:

“We simply cannot understand how a for-profit, secular corporation — apart from its owners — can exercise religion,” circuit Judge Robert Cowen wrote. “A holding to the contrary … would eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.”

Aside from the naked and unsupported (and unsupportable) conclusion that a corporation is secular, there are a few other weaknesses.  State law would rightfully permit me to draft and file for a client Articles of Incorporation or a Certificate of Formation establishing that the entity is “being formed for the express purpose of selling ice cream, and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and any other lawful purpose,”, and there is nothing that the state or the Federal government could Constitutionally do to prevent me from doing so. Being a distinct legal entity doesn’t mean that a corporation cannot express or conduct itself based upon a specific political or religious viewpoint.  And while there are instances in which government may lawfully restrict what an owner does with its private property in certain balancing of the equities situations, at this time, I can think of none which directly conflict with the right of conscience.

The assertion of an automatic secular nature of corporations based on a theory of complete segregation between a legal entity and those that own them faces other philosophical and logical difficulties aside from being an assumption of a fact not in evidence.  First among them is the fact that one of the pillars the good Judge rests his opinion on is the notion that that an individual can exercise religious freedom, but a corporation cannot.  This point ignores the fact that corporations ARE allowed to exercise other First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, and Freedom of Association, which is the main principle underlying the freedom to enter into contracts with people of your choosing, or the freedom to hire people who you think make a good fit with your corporation, and will make a good employee.  Recognizing this, there is no logical or legal basis to presume that these freedoms can be exercised by a corporation or an LLC, but that those same entities can or should be barred from exercising religious freedom to act in a manner consistent with the religious beliefs of its owner.

The second weakness with this assertion is the fact that the income from many of these “separate, distinct legal entities” is reported not on a separate tax form for that entity, but on the personal tax forms for those who own those entities, which would hardly make sense if these were indeed separate and distinct from their owners.

The third weakness of this viewpoint is that our economy would be in much worse shape without corporations and LLCs because they make it possible for more people to provide goods and services at prices and in quantities that the risk that they would necessarily have to bear individually would either make prohibitively expensive, or practically impossible to provide.  While the very word “corporation” often evokes the image of boardrooms filled with grey suits making decisions that impact the livelihood of hundreds or thousands, or more, the fact is that the majority of corporations are closely-held businesses, where the ownership consists of a individuals, or small numbers of people, often members of the same family, or of one or two families. And in some instances, this is also true of those large corporations that I previously spoke of.  Ford is one example that comes to mind.  However, even if it wasn’t for the fact that a majority of these entities are small, closely held corporations or LLCs that permit individuals to offer products or services because of the risk management that the law permits through the use of these entities, there is also the fact that the law DOES allow certain individuals who offer goods and services through corporations and LLCs to refuse to offer those goods and services based on the individual owner’s right of conscience and/or religious beliefs, among other factors.  Doctors, who can refuse to perform abortions, and attorneys, who can refuse representation based on any factor at all, are two that come to mind.  While competence or having the requisite skill are among the reasons for these rights of refusal, they are not the ONLY ones.  And while it might be tempting to say that the personal nature of services rendered by these professions support such an exemption, the fact is that for nearly all closely-held business entities, the nature of what those individuals do is personal.  For such individuals, their business is at the forefront of their thinking.  It is the first thing they think of in the morning, it is what they contemplate as they drift off to sleep at night.  Their businesses ARE an expression of who they are, and  that “separate legal entity” invariably becomes associated with the individuals who own them.  The manner in which they conduct their business often expresses an opinion or a philosophy held dear to the owner of that business.  It is not reasonable or logical to suggest or expect that these individuals segregate their religious and spiritual identity and activity from the profession or career that they otherwise breathe and eat; to do so would be a denial of the very essence of the person that the law and society would find morally objectionable and repugnant if any other belief or activity was being discussed instead of the free exercise of religion. This is no less true for a baker of wedding cakes, or a photographer than it is for a doctor or a lawyer who has incorporated so they can ply their trade without risking the loss of everything they own and have worked for to one lawsuit.

Another logical weakness in this assertion is that many of these entities often are operated day-to-day in accordance with various codes of ethics voluntarily committed to by the owners and employees of the corporations and LLCs.  For an entity to be, even indirectly, conducted according to such a code of ethics, but presumably not capable of exercising a religious point of view is facially absurd.

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I’d like to think that things will get better, but the current prevailing prejudice against religion in some of the most litigious groups in our society leads me to believe that we’re in for a lengthy fight to preserve our first liberties.  Especially if examples such as the New Mexico photographer, and the pink swastika philosophy that seeks to punish those who do not wish to participate in their activities, regardless of whether not it makes any logical sense to compel those who object with their beliefs to provide a personal service or product is any indication.  But then, with a federal government that is engaging in similar unconstitutional behavior as a guide, there really is no reason to be surprised at the bold entitlement demonstrated in this strategy, which is why legal interest groups such as the ADF are going to become increasingly important and need our help in the coming years.

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So I got a letter from my friends at the Census Bureau.

Frankly, after my last phone conversation with them, I’m shocked.  But after reading the letter, I’m appalled.  The Census Bureau’s dedication to finding more ways for my government to spend other people’s money buying votes is almost…heroic.  But I’m getting very tired of the idea that I should be an unpaid information gatherer who needs to cheerfully and dutifully provide to them information that can be used to aid identity theft AND target us for more government “dedication”, and that their assurances that our information will be kept confidential and not be misused should be trusted.  In the immortal words of Brother Theo, “I can only assume someone has been spray painting “IDIOT” on my forehead again.”

Dear Resident:

Recently, a U.S. Census Bureau telephone interviewer contacted your household on behalf of the American Community Survey (ACS).  The Census Bureau is conducting this survey under the authority of Title 13, Section 141, 193, 221, of the United States Code, and response to this survey is required by law.  I understand that you have some concerns about participating in this survey, but your household’s participation is important to the success of this survey.

The American Community Survey contains questions about your household characteristics including such topics as education, employment, and housing.  The primary goal of this survey is to provide the information each year about the social, economic, and housing characteristics of the United States.  Your participation helps provide the information needed by your community, county, state, and nation to plan and fund programs at all levels.  The ACS will provide detailed information updated every year.  Before the ACS, such information was only available from the census which is done every 10 years.

We want to emphasize that any information that you give to our interviewer will be kept confidential.  By law, the Census Bureau cannot publish or release to anyone any information that would identify you or your household (Title 13, Section 9).  The information you can provide can be used only for statistical purposes.

We hope that you participate in this survey to help us improve the information that you and others provide about your community.  If you have any questions, call us at 1-888-817-2153.  We will be pleased to help you.

Sincerely,

James B. Treat

Chief, American Community Survey Office

Let’s brake it down, shall we?

Dear Resident:

Recently, a U.S. Census Bureau telephone interviewer contacted your household on behalf of the American Community Survey (ACS).

More than one, actually.  I made the mistake of being polite to the first one.  As the second one learned, I am not amused by unwarranted intrusions on my privacy and my time.

The Census Bureau is conducting this survey under the authority of Title 12, Section 141193221, of the United States Code, and response to this survey is required by law.  I understand that you have some concerns about participating in this survey, but your household’s participation is important to the success of this survey.

1.  I’m tired of the passive-aggressive bullshit.  Seriously, you set the wrong tone sending an attorney a fat envelope with the words “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW” on the outside.  And the “Pretty please, participate please?” offered in the same sentence as a reminder that my response is required by law isn’t convincing, it is embarrassing, as I try to keep from laughing out loud at this hamfisted approach.  Knock it off.

2.  I have a law degree.  Continuing to tell me that 13 USC 141, 193, and 221 “gives you the authority” to seize my time, and make me an unpaid gatherer of information that you have no authority to demand of me isn’t very convincing.   You are empowered to ask questions that would tend to aid in the apportionment of Congressional representation.  Nowhere in the three sections you cite are you granted authority to ask me about my education level, my employer, my wages, my commute, my residence and the amenities in it, or the health of the people who live under my roof.  These have as much to do with Congressional apportionment as a goldfish has to do with a delivery truck, and even if the authority to ask such things was clearly spelled out, which it is not, I’m not some vassal or serf to be bullied into coughing up my papers, and letting you know what goes on behind my closed doors simply because Congress wants to know.  Perhaps you have heard of the penumbras and emminations of privacy rights in the Constitution, at least those not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights?  If “privacy” means enough that a woman can hire a doctor to snuff her child in utero, then it certainly would permit me to tell a nosy government that still works for me to go pound sand when it starts asking me to spend significant amounts of my time sharing information with it which is none of its business.

3.  I don’t “have some concerns about participating in this survey” (did you learn condescension on our dime as well?) ; I DON’T TRUST YOU.  I read the pretty pamphlet you included with the survey, which outlined how your employees are prohibited by law from disclosing or misusing my confidential information.  It might have even been reassuring, had I not been paying attention to recent news, but given the fact that the IRS is subject to laws and regulations more specific and strict regarding the treatment of citizens’ personal data, and the late revelations demonstrating that IRS employees weren’t deterred one whit by these laws and regulations, you’ll just have to understand that we both know I’d have to be three days dead to trust your agency with that data.  No thank you.

The American Community Survey contains questions about your household characteristics including such topics as education, employment, and housing.  The primary goal of this survey is to provide the information each year about the social, economic, and housing characteristics of the United States.  Your participation helps provide the information needed by your community, county, state, and nation to plan and fund programs at all levels.  The ACS will provide detailed information updated every year.  Before the ACS, such information was only available from the census which is done every 10 years.

1.  Those household characteristics are as related to the topic of the census as a goldfish is related to a delivery truck.

2.  So, as I correctly discerned from the outset, the purpose of this survey is to get information that will allow our elected officials to go shopping with our money and buy votes.

3.  Every year?  I definitely didn’t see the authority to conduct a survey annually in 13 USC 141.  In fact, it was very specific about surveys in addition to the decennial census, but it did NOT authorize the taking of a survey annually.

We want to emphasize that any information that you give to our interviewer will be kept confidential.  By law, the Census Bureau cannot publish or release to anyone any information that would identify you or your household (Title 13, Section 9).  The information you can provide can be used only for statistical purposes.

I want to emphasize that I don’t trust you, no one with three functioning brain cells has any reason to trust you, and you are asking for information that is none of your business.  If I can’t be forced to quarter troops in my home, then I can’t be compelled to reveal to a Census Bureau employee information about amenities in it, or the people who live in it.  And I do not appreciate the presumption that my free time is yours to hijack for purposes of me reporting on myself and my family so that Congress can go on a vote-buying shopping trip with even more of other people’s money.  I realize that you think that the 40 minutes you estimated would be necessary for me to fill out your survey was an innocuous demand on my time.  But you’re only one of many agencies which think that they are making innocent and de minimus demands on my time.  And it is starting to add up.

The fact is that I am citizen of a nation founded on the unique recognition of the rights of the individual…a concept we felt so strongly about that we drafted a Bill of Rights to ensure that the power of government would be limited and subservient to the individual.  This hasn’t been revoked, nor have these rights been surrendered…a fact that many federal employees and elected officials are on the cusp of being very deliberately and unpleasantly reminded of.

The law you cite doesn’t give you the authority to ask the questions you have asked, and even if it did, it is an unwarranted and intrusive invasion of my privacy.  I answered the only questions that the statute can be reasonably said to allow, and they are the only ones I have any intention of answering.  Your time might be better served harassing someone who doesn’t understand the difference between a citizen and a subject.

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Apparently, the sequester hasn’t affected the Census Bureau, because they CONTINUE to call my home.

Last night, to their bad fortune, they did so when I was actually here.
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I got another call from the Census Bureau last night.

It didn’t even register with the flunky attempting to intimidate me into giving them a host of information that is none of their business that telling me “Congress passed a law giving us the authority to collect data for them.” wouldn’t even be the slightest bit convincing to an attorney who has read the relevant sections of 13 USC and can’t find ANY authority for the scope of the questions they were asking, and she got very upset when I told her that they need to quit calling my home, as it is starting to border on harrassment.

Fed Flunky: Sir, if you do not answer the questions, I’ll have to make you as a “refusal”.

Me: You can mark me as a refusal, but that would not be true. The law says I can be fined if I willfully refuse to fill out any portion of the survey. I filled out the first page, and then wrote “None of your damn business” on the remaning 35 pages. Therefore I didn’t fail to fill out any portion of the survey, only the parts that are none of your business. Besides, I’d be seventeen different kinds of idiot to give you that information considering the federal government’s recent treack record with confidential data.

Fed Flunky: Sir, THAT’S not what the law means.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware I was speaking to another attorney. It must suck having to work a Friday evening for minimum wage.

Fed Flunky: If you have a law degree, you can defend yourself at the hearing.

Me: Is that supposed to scare me?

*click*

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If we can pay for this kind of idiotic pursuit of American citizens, and NOT enforce current immigration law, and not allow the government to perform the functions that it is SUPPOSED to be doing, like training for military units, then this government’s legitimacy should be loudly and frequently questioned.  Daily.

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This week, Chris Matthews attempted to expand a lucrative franchise of fostering division and hatred in a manner befit of a panoply of “leaders” of the “African-American Community” when he assumed the mantle of authority to speak “On behalf of all white people“.

Now I’m not about to follow in his footsteps and make the same mistake. I can only speak for myself, and as a person who happens to be white (think physical characteristic and not identity), I assure you that Chris Matthews does not speak for me. If some of the reactions that I read yesterday are any indication, I’m not the only one who shares this opinion.

I’m not sure if the recent anniversary of the untimely death of Mary Jo Kopechne at the hands of one of his former associates was weighing a little too heavily on his conscience, causing him to have a little something extra before his broadcast, or years of seeing “RACISM!!!!” in everything from blacktop roads to the milk in his morning corn flakes has further strained his already tenuous grasp on reality. I prefer either of those options to rank cynicism and a weariness at seeing grievance hustlers like Al “I-perpetrated-a-fraud-and-got-away-with-it” Sharpton, and Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson make a very good living casting every event imaginable as an expression of racism and discrimination requiring them to “lead their communities”, and often demand apologies when none are owed from people who do not owe them, and deciding to give it a whirl himself.

Regardless, the media, and the usual suspects, which includes politicians, have done a fine job in turning Treyvon Martin’s death into something it never was: the result of racism.

From the Injustice Department, headed by one of the biggest race hypocrites to draw breath in my memory, to the President himself, who again inserted himself into this controversy by pissing gasoline all over a fire stoked by these “leaders” for the last week, the meme is out there that racism is the reason a 17-year-old is dead, along with a law that was never invoked in the criminal case against the hispanic man who shot him. And it is being used to justify demonstrations among the perpetually grieved, and riots and property damage that make most law-abiding Americans less, not more, sympathetic to their cause. “Disgusted” is far too mild a word to describe my feelings about the rhetoric, the lies, the vitriol, and the complete disrespect for the law, and its processes that I have been witness to this last week.

I was born at the beginning of the 1970s. When I was a child, the attitudes of the previous generation were already being swept away, and, at least in my social circles, Dr. King’s dream about judging a man based on character instead of race seemed normal, rather than some sort of manifestation of backwards thinking. At least for a while. As I got older, I started to see racism firsthand. I saw it on my college campus (an inner-city campus), and in the workplace, where it was often implemented by law. And the more I saw, especially in the workplace, the more I came to question its effect on society. Perhaps the most telling moment was in law school. My Constitutional Law professor, who was black (and also preparing an Amicus brief for the Grutter case), and I got into it when we were discussing the infamous Bakke case. I committed the sin of reading the footnotes, and asking uncomfortable questions about the information they contained. The plaintiff, Bakke, had applied to get into Medical School at the University of California. Being a graduate program, the school only admitted a set number of students, most of whom were selected based on grades and test scores. I say “most”, because the school, as part of an affirmative action program, set aside a set number of seats for African-Americans, and lowered the standards for admission for them to qualify, which meant that Bakke, who was otherwise capable, and met the median standards, was eligible for even fewer of the available seats because of this policy. What got me going was in reading the footnotes, members of other minority groups apparently had no problems meeting the same standards applied to other applicants. In fact, Asians had consistently higher scores, according to the footnotes. I raised my hand, and asked why we continually lowered the bar for only one class of people. My professor responded that it was a remedial measure, enacted to make up for inequality that had been practiced before. I asked him if he thought medical school was the right place to perform such remediation. He asked what I meant. I told him “Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want MY doctor to be the guy who wouldn’t have qualified to get in to medical school if the bar hadn’t been deliberately lowered for him and others like him. The class’s reaction indicated that the logic was obvious. The professor’s reaction indicated that I struck a nerve. I was lucky to pass the class.

While this lowering of the bar has morphed into something less objective, and thus more repugnant, there have been some glimmers of hope, most notably, Justice O’Connor’s assertion in the Grutter case, which indicated that government wouldn’t keep the bar artificially low forever, and at some point in the future, it would no longer be necessary to have different standards for different skin colors. As I watched last week, I realized that the time for abandoning such measures has come and gone. Ambition has given way to entitlement, and remediation has given way to a bitter, permanently aggrieved mindset, which can only be cured by government dependency on what it takes from others to redistribute, and of course, the self-style and appointed “Community Leaders” who strike an indignant pose and utter demands and platitudes into every open microphone they see. And thanks to the single most divisive “Uniter” in almost a century, and his merry band of grifters, and thieves, it has gotten worse.

So what’s my point, you ask? It is something that needs saying, and I apologize for failing to say it sooner.

As a man who never owned slaves, and had to work for the things I have (and the things that government takes from me to give to others), I DON’T APOLOGIZE.

As someone who doesn’t take the breathtaking lawlessness currently practiced by the government as occasion to riot, to loot, and to commit mayhem, I DON’T APOLOGIZE.

As someone who has witnessed 30 years of affirmative action/diversity destroy merit in our society, and in our civil service, while continually being lectured by academic pinheads constantly spouting such inanities as “Only white people can be racist”, or waxing poetic about “White Privilege”, like I never had to work for anything in my life, because all it took was knowing the secret handshake, and the password to be taken to the head of any line, I DON’T APOLOGIZE.

As a man who is sick and tired of having to deal with the aforementioned “Community Leaders” and those who feel compelled to feel and express “OUTRAGE!!!111!!!” on behalf of others by finding racism and racial intent in every turn of phrase, in every term, and in every idiom, rather than facing and dealing with the very real problems that face ALL OF US, I DON’T APOLOGIZE.

As someone who never saw any reason to identify and characterize people based on their race, because I believe in and aspire to higher ideals, but who has had to listen to a constant drumbeat about it from people who inject it into everything, in order to bolster their continuous demands that I, and others like me need to do more, and to give more to improve the conditions of “their people”, rather than relying on them to strengthen and improve society by doing it themselves, I DON’T APOLOGIZE.

I apologized earlier in this piece for not saying this sooner. I was somewhat reluctant to commit this to writing, as it would be very easy for the very people I never want to hear from again to characterize me as a racist, or maybe even a “creepy ass cracker”, but in the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize that it does not matter. No matter how deferential I am. No matter how much I go out of my way to not offend for offense’s sake, it will never be enough for the usual suspects, and their subjective damnations or mystic (and faulty) divinations of the content of my soul. I have witnessed a fundamental transformation, and it has made my country an uglier place, not a better one. That’s the only apology I offer. I waited too long to say it, and this country has waited too long to expect the perpetually aggrieved among us to sack up and contribute to society, or go shut the hell up, and go away. I used to think that the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” treatment given racism in the last three decades did much to take the sting out of the allegation. But when it is used to ruin careers, and drive a man acquitted of a crime (and who isn’t even white) into hiding, as the President again lowers himself to racial demagoguery, I start to think something no one should be thinking: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

If you agree with Tingles Matthews, The Wrong Reverend Sharpton, or the Wrong Reverend Jackson, and make racism your answer to everything, and apply it liberally to any person, group, or ideology which disagrees with you, have a care. It wouldn’t necessarily be a racial thing if good people decided they were sick of your shit, and acted accordingly. It’s past time for “communities” to dismiss their “leaders” and their “organizers”, and set to work on mending society, before we revert to a fractured land where unity is a thing of the past.

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First, from the snoops who have announced themselves and expect me to help them:

I got a call from an employee of the Department of Commerce this evening, who was calling regarding their intrusive survey that they generously provided a shotgun invitation to.  She confirmed the phone number and address, and wanted to speak to the man or lady of the home.  I advised her that she was speaking to the man of the home, but that I had NO intention of answering their survey.  She asked me why that was.

I informed her that it was because their intrusive questions include ones that a prospective employer could not ask me, that some of them would be in violation of HIPPA laws if my doctor revealed the answers, and because some of them asked sensitive information that could be used to my detriment by identity thieves.  She started to say something, and I cut her off, saying, “Don’t try to tell me about how the information is “confidential” and would never be misused.  The revelations coming out of Washington D.C. over the last couple weeks are enough to dissuade me from ever believing that.

She said that she understood that some of the questions could be construed as personal, and that I could always decline to answer specific questions on that basis.  I responded by telling her that it wasn’t just about the questions being intrusive, but that they had clearly exceeded the statutory grant of authority which they felt empowered them to ask the questions in the first place.  Her response was that she understood, but it was Congress that gave them that authority so it could get the answers to those questions.  I told her that I didn’t doubt that they wanted the answers; no doubt they could be used to buy a lot of votes with taxpayer money.  She responded again that it was Congress who wrote the law.  I responded by telling her she just didn’t get it.  “I’m an attorney.  I’ve read the law that your agency relies on as its authority to ask me these questions.  The scope and the nature of these questions clearly exceed that.  It isn’t even a question.  You can’t blame that on Congress, they aren’t the ones sending the surveys and threatening me if I don’t play along.”  She assured me that it was not her agency’s intention to make anyone feel threatened.  I looked at the envelope with its bold-lined box on the front stating in bold all capital letters “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW”, and mentally uttered thanks that she had cleared that up.  I again repeated that the questions exceeded their authority. 

She responded, “I can certainly see your point.  But the fact is that Congress is who decided that they wanted the answers to these questions before the next decennial census, and that’s why they wrote the law.” For a second, I mulled over asking her how it is that Congress could decide that they could require a census more often than the decennial measure set forth in Article I, Section 2* of the Constitution without an AMENDMENT permitting them to do so, and then decided against it, since she clearly wasn’t equipped to have that discussion. 

She then suggested that I do the online survey, and simply refuse to answer the questions I felt were too personal.  I asked her who was going to pay me to do it.  She laughed.  I said “I’m serious.  I bill out at $200.00 an hour, and I don’t appreciate my government thinking that it has the right to essentially directly stick me with an unfunded mandate requiring me to give it an hour of my time I’ll never get back for something no reasonable person who believes in limited government would have any intention of participating with in the first place.”  She was almost at the point of pleading me to just fill out the survey, even if I only answered one question, and again invited me to do it online.  I told her that I would think about it, but if I do, I’m filling out the paper survey, and sending a letter that they won’t like very much with it.  She laughed and told me that they always welcome opinions.  I advised her that I’ll fix that, and she just laughed again before saying good night and hanging up.

…which brings me to the snoops who don’t announce themselves, and apparently have the ability to read every word I type online…

I kicked myself after hanging up for not saying that the survey was redundant, given the revelations today about PRISM.  I mean, why bother asking me when the NSA can (and probably does) monitor everything I do online.  I know, they want me to believe that the information would never be misused or illegally shared with other parties, but let’s be honest:

What’s stopping them from misusing or abusing the data that they never should have had in the first place?   

We all know the answer to that question. 

Nothing. 

 Which is why the data will flow to whoever finds it politically useful.  It isn’t like this Administration has any interest in actually going after real terrorists…the ones who actually kill people, and hate America, not the average Americans alarmed and enraged by the excesses, lawlessness, and tyrannies enjoyed by the Federal government, who it pretends are the terrorists.  After all, its ok if a few flunkies are sacrificed to quench the rage of the taxpayers.  It’s a very small price to pay for keeping the right people in power, and those who oppose them struggling to get a government boot off of their necks.  It provides the illusion of accountability without ever putting any of our self-appointed betters in any real jeopardy of having to answer to us.

From the Slate story on PRISM:

The Washington Post disclosed Thursday that it had obtained classified PowerPoint slides detailing the program, codenamed PRISM, from a career intelligence officer who felt “horror” over its privacy-invading capabilities. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the source told the newspaper.

Participating in the PRISM program, according to a selection of the leaked slides, are Internet titans including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. It was established in 2007 and is used by NSA analysts to spy on Internet communications as part of the agency’s foreign intelligence-gathering work. The analysts use PRISM by keying in search terms supposedly designed to “produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s ‘foreignness’.” However, the Post notes, training materials for the program instruct new analysts to submit “accidentally collected” U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

According to the Post, the system enables NSA spies to monitor Google’s Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), photo libraries, and live surveillance of searches. If agents believe a target is engaged in “terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation,” they can use the spy system to exploit Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities.  And PRISM can monitor Skype, the Post notes, “when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of ‘audio, video, chat, and file transfers’ when Skype users connect by computer alone.” In order to receive immunity from lawsuits, the participating companies are obliged to accept a directive from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to “open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA.”

Sure, sure.  That sounds like something that would never, ever, ever be abused by the federal government.  Especially under this Administration.  Just ask James Rosen or his parents.  Or the Tea Party groups whose First Amendment rights were treated by the IRS with all the care and concern one might give to a used kleenex.
Had Enough Yet?

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Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

[The underlined portion was modified by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment; the rest has never been altered by Amendment.]

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