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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Characteristics of Despotism 

Awhile back I received as a gift a book titled “The Making of America” by W. Cleon Skousen, originally published in 1985. It is very much written from a conservative, or perhaps more accurately traditionalist, viewpoint, but it is loaded with quotes and footnotes and appears to have been exhaustively researched.

Chapter two of the book describes how the Founding Fathers—those who designed and drafted the US Constitution—perceived that there is a spectrum of governmental designs, with one end being a condition of no law, i.e., anarchy, and the other being a condition of all legal authority being vested in a single all-powerful leader, which the author calls “Ruler's Law” (think the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the emperors of China or more modern despots like Hitler and Saddam). The writers of the Constitution wanted to design a government that was somewhere in the middle, wherein the ruler has only as much power as the people choose to bestow.

The book lays out twelve characteristics of Ruler's Law that strike me as pretty much on the money. I hope my listing them here falls within the fair use doctrine, because I don't want to get in trouble for violating anyone's copyright. Anyway, here they are:

1. Government power is exercised by compulsion, force, conquest or legislative usurpation.
2. Therefore, all power is concentrated in the ruler.
3. The people are treated as “subjects” of the ruler.
4. The land is treated as the “realm” of the ruler.
5. The people have no unalienable rights.
6. Government is by the rule of men rather than the rule of law.
7. The people are structured into social and economic classes.
8. The thrust of government is always from the ruler down, not from the people upward.
9. Problems are always solved by issuing new edicts, creating more bureaus, appointing more administrators, and charging the people more taxes to pay for these “services.” Under this system, taxes and government regulations are always oppressive.
10. Freedom is not considered a solution to anything.
11. The transfer of power from one ruler to another is often by violence—the dagger, the poison cup, or fratricidal civil war.
12. The long history of Ruler's Law is one of blood and terror, both anciently and in modern times. Those in power revel in luxury while the lot of the common people is one of perpetual poverty, excessive taxation, stringent regulations, and a continuous existence of misery.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to make of this what you will.

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Iran on UN Commission for the Status of Women 

Fox News online is reporting that the UN has elected Iran to the Commission on the Status of Women. For those who live in caves with no media access, Iran penalizes women who "dress immodestly" with lashings. Stoning is also "enshrined in law" Fox says.

Fox reports that the Commission on the Status of Women is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women," according to its website.

Iran's election was "by acclamation," Fox says, meaning no member (including the United States) called for a vote on Iran's election.

What a joke! And a bad one at that.

This is just one more indication of what a meaningless, corrupt, feckless debating society the UN has become. It has long since abandoned the high ideals set out in its charter, and does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Once upon a time this kind of thing would have caused me to scream bloody murder about how the US should drop out of the UN; that the organization doesn't deserve the prestige it gleans from having the US as a member, etc.. Now, however, I think we should remain a member, but just treat the UN with a maximum level of cynicism, just like pretty much all of the other member states do, because the organization has a total lack of moral authority. I think we should stop paying any money to the UN to fund any program or project that is contrary to our nation's principles and interests. That pretty much leaves UNICEF and disaster relief as the only things we'll contribute to.


I like the idea of a parallel international organization whose membership is restricted to truly democratic states, where real work can be done with real moral authority behind it. Maybe the existence of such an organization would incentivize nations to nurture democratic processes. The best feature is that such an organization would exclude the Irans, Venezuelas, Sudans and North Koreas of the world, among others.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Question About Arizona's New Illegal Alien Law 

Amidst all the brouhaha and accusations, I've seen nobody addressing the following question:
How, exactly, will the procedures and tactics used by Arizona law enforcement officers under the new law to identify and arrest illegal aliens differ from those already used by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers?
Seems to me the answer to that question is important. If the Arizona cops don't do anything differently in identifying and arresting illegal aliens, why is it OK for the ICE officers but not for the Arizona police officers?

I will not buy any answer that's based on ICE being federal and the Arizona cops being state. It's pretty clear on the face of it that the federal government has defaulted on its Constitutional obligation* to defend the borders, so it would seem that Arizona has the right to defend itself against invasion by foreign nationals. (Thank you, Professor Reynolds.)

People have objected to the professor's theory on the grounds that the definition of "invasion" has been settled by Congress and the courts, and it doesn't include gradual and long-term illegal entry by foreigners. However, as a practical matter when citizens are being murdered and other felonies are being committed by drug gang members and just general lowlifes who are in the United States illegally, is the state of Arizona required to sit on its hands and wait for the feds to take action that might never happen?

What about the clause after the invasion clause. Suppose the Arizona Legislature "applied" to the federal government to come in and protect the state of Arizona against domestic violence being perpetrated by the illegals? Back in law school I was taught that the word "shall" connotes a mandatory action. Would the feds do nothing and thus twice violate the same Constitutional section?

Would the intentional failure by a President to defend the border constitute a "high crime or misdemeanor" that would be grounds for impeachment? (Ans.: Not against Obama with the present Congress. - Ed.)

If nothing is done by government the people will take matters into their own hands, and vigilantism would probably be a lot worse for Hispanics, whether here legally or illegally, than anything the Arizona cops (many of whom are Hispanic themselves) would do.

* Art. IV, Section 4 reads in its entirety:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence. (Emphasis added.)

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Peace Processes Never Work 

That's the headline for a Bret Stephens opinion piece (registration and/or payment may be required) in today's Wall Street Journal. Stevens lists all the various "peace processes" that have been going on since the Clinton administration (some go back to Bush 41), the only one of which that has worked being the one relating to Northern Ireland, and that one worked, according to Stephens, only because the IRA finally realized that it was counterproductive all around to continue fighting, and not because of the efforts of George Mitchell.

After reading the essay, it occurred to me that if, say, the NFL operated the same way as the diplomats do, each team would play one game, and it would never end.

Because, you know, coming to a resolution isn't what's important. What is important is playing the game.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Good Advice 

I just got the following quote from Patriot Post:
"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 1823

Too bad that the Supreme Court of the United States hasn't followed that advice since at least LBJ's Great Society. The Justices would do well to begin following that advice forthwith.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The SEC's Goldman Lawsuit 

After reading a whole bunch of articles and listening to a whole bunch of news stories and commentary about the SEC's lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, I find the timing vis a vis Obama's push for financial industry reform to be too cute by half. I do not believe the disclaimers by Rahm Emanuel and others that the White House or the DNC had no prior knowledge of the SEC action. As any literate person over the age of about 15 knows, politicians lie. Especially about things that help them get what they want.

Then there are the stories about how much money Goldman's employees gave the Obama campaign, and how Obama's not going to give any of it back. There are other stories about the former Goldman employees occupying posts in the administration. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Sorry, Charlie, I just don't believe in coincidences, especially in this administration.

I have no actual evidence of collusion, of course, but I'd like to go on record with a comment about how unsurprised I will be if, after a "decent" amount of time, the SEC and Goldman reach a settlement that either lets Goldman off the hook or has them paying a face-saving (to the SEC) but immaterial (to Goldman) sum in settlement, and all will once more be right with the world.

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