Beyond the Cusp

December 8, 2013

Congress Should be Congratulated and Lauded for Inactivity

There have been a plethora of articles of late criticizing and belaboring the fact that the present Congressional session had passed the least pieces of legislation and considered far less bills than any in recent history. What is confusing me is why exactly that is a bad thing. It strikes me that the less Congress passes in legislation making new laws which spawn hundreds if not tens-of-thousands of new regulations for each piece of legislation passed the more freedom and liberty will remain with the American people, and that is a really beneficial and decent thing to laud. If you have any doubts about such, just take a look at the results from one piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. That one piece of legislation was over a thousand pages of legalese and delegating responsibilities to different positions and staffs to fill out the needed and necessary regulations to fulfill every vaguely defined goal and any implied desirable results which could be divined from the endless text of the legislation. This led to over twenty-thousand pages of regulations at last count if some watchdog sources are to be believed. What makes things even more dire are the results we have already witnessed that have befallen many Americans who thought they were within the dictates of the law believing President Obama’s promises that they could keep their insurance if they liked it and they could keep their doctor if they liked him or her; but now we know those were lies and the worst kind of lies, intentional and misleading lies made to an unsuspecting and trusting people, after all it was the President who made the promises. So, when it was announced a few weeks back that this Congress had passed and considered the least amount of legislation and took less actions, votes, and other sundry decisions I was overjoyed and pray that this is simply the beginning of a favorable trend.

 

Imagine if this becomes a continuing trend where each successive Congress considers less legislation, passes less new laws, approve less new regulations and perchance spending less funds, what a boon that would be for the American people. If such a trend went on long enough the point might even be passed where the Congress would need to rescind legislation undoing some of the damage previously accrued through Congressional actions. Imagine less regulations and fewer laws and a government actually shrinking as it released itself from some of the most unnecessary or redundant workload which currently is the cause of wasted millions of dollars if not billions. Imagine if the Congress actually rediscovered one of the better and more innovative ideas from the Founding Fathers which was to leave all of the day-to-day regulating and laws to the individual states to address and the Congress and Federal Government simply attended to matters between the United States and other nations and was available to settle disagreements between states which were expected to be concerning fairness in trade more than anything else. That would give the American people the advantage of fifty separate states each attempting to address the day-to-day laws and regulations in as efficient and orderly a manner as they could imagine. Some states would excel at one thing while others would excel at their specialty and even if some states simply never got a great idea of their own you know what? The states could learn from each other’s actions and adopt the systems that functioned closest and were the best at attaining the goals of each state. Over time some states which adopted the methods of another state as they proved more efficient but they found something they could tweak to make it function even better in their case, well that improvement might be adopted by the originating state to test if it worked better there as well. There would be more minds with greater variety at addressing the needs of the people, the citizenry, that things would improve and better ways of getting items taken care of would be found more readily making everyone’s lives better off. Now if the United States Congress would just agree, but a slowdown is a step in the right direction.

 

As long as we are on the subject of improving governance and the government that is responsible for such perhaps a few pipe-dream suggestions could be offered. The first would be that when Congress passes any legislation they then must approve every single regulation which is written to flesh out the bill and make it functioning. The Congress need not necessarily write every single regulation, though that would be preferable as that at least is performed under the scrutiny of concerned citizens, they should have to vote every one of them up or down such that the regulations are at least reviewed by the people elected by the citizenry to represent their interests. The laws passed by the Congress should necessarily be applied to the members of Congress and their staffs with absolutely no exceptions. The use of Congressional exception that allows the Congress not to be subjected to the very laws they impose on the people is the height of governmental hypocrisy. This should include all laws pertaining to illegal insider trading and other illicit financial dealings as the members of Congress should not be allowed to invest their monies into companies they know they are about to grant multi-billion dollar contracts and thus become wealthy beyond measure as a result. The members of Congress and their staff should be required to place their investment monies in a blind trust where a manager controls their investments and it should be illegal and punishable by impeachment and imprisonment for any member of Congress to dictate or even contact the person handling their investments by direct or indirect means. All laws and regulations should be given a sunset clause of no more than a decade such that if the law or regulation is not reviewed and voted to remain active at least once every ten years, then that law or regulation should be made null and void. Then there is the final pipe-dream; make the entire Federal Government, every department, sub-department, agency, cabinet position, committee and any other functioning part of government justify their continued existence by stating before a review board appointed by the states what exactly under the Constitution allows their continued existence and if they are unsuccessful in doing so, then they would be disbanded and cease to exist. A similar procedure with laws and regulations might not be a bad idea as well. My bet is that virtually every unfunded mandate which places the financial responsibility for a Federal Government imposed requirement or program be placed on the individual states would disappear in a rapid manner. The unfunded mandate is an edict from the Federal Government which denies the states their right to have a vote in determining what they will be required to finance. That is just one more reason to return the selection process for Senators to the individual states by repealing the Amendment XVII. States could decide to continue to allow for the direct election of their Senators by their voters, but they should be granted their choice as having the states choose the manner or even the person who will become their Senator was another of the major checks and balances built into the Constitution and the balance has been destroyed and is very much responsible for the Federal Government expanding its powers unchecked and running roughshod over the states in the process. It is time to give the individual states back their voice in the Federal government, way past time.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 1, 2013

What Should Americans Expect from 2014 and 2016 Elections?

It is understood and natural that all the stops will be removed for the 2016 elections by both parties as there will be no incumbent running for the Presidency and thus far there is no definitively obvious candidate for either the Democrats or the Republicans and the third party situation is currently fluid as the Tea Party block of mostly conservative and Constitutionally supportive group is currently being pushed aside by some in the Republican Party and could either form a third party with a fairly large base for such a venture or take the helm of one of the existent third parties such as the Libertarians or the Constitution Party, the latter not all that concerned with just the Constitution and more bent towards the Christian right lately. Before we get to the 2016 elections there will be the small matter of the 2014 election coming up in the coming year, so let us start with that.

 

If the political landscape continues on its current trajectory, it will be difficult deciding which of the two major parties will enter the 2014 midterm election more damaged as both are taking a beating at their own hands. The Democrats have what has become a ball and chain attached to them called Barack Hussein Obama. Where the President’s coattails may not have reached all that far but they had the effect by the Democrat Party out in full force with the additional troops and organizational tools, information, voter lists and campaign cash at the party level which may have made the difference in some of the tighter races. With the disastrous rollout and diving popularity of both Obamacare and its main supporter, the President, the Democrats will enter the start of the races at the end of the summer limping rather than running, but do not expect that deficit to continue long enough to make a huge difference if the press reverts to its default cheerleading for the Democrats as if they were part of the actual campaigns. Granted that the new media does provide some additional possibilities for other voices to be heard but thus far the Democrats have proven more adept at using the Internet than the Republicans. Likely the most important influence over the midterm election will be whether the Republican Party has reached some degree of accommodations in accepting the Tea Party segment of their base and have found some common ground and allowed for Tea Party candidates to run with the full support of the entire machinery and facilities available to the “mainstream” candidates on the slate of ballots. If the Republican Party elite continue with their denunciation and demonizing of the Tea Party they may find out that far more of their base is sympathetic and allied with the positions and candidates from Tea Party influence such as Senators Ted Cruz, Jim Inhofe and Mike Lee and Representatives Louie Gohmert, Paul Broun, Cynthia Lummis, Tom McClintock, Pete Sessions and Jim Bridenstine than to the establishment Republicans such as John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the like. But if the Republican Party establishment continue to threaten the Tea Party membership of the party they may chase away the support of not only the Tea Party members but many among the more conservative Republicans who might see such attacks as against their beliefs as well.

 

As far as what the results from the 2014 midterm are concerned, should the Republicans hold on or increase their majority in the House of Representatives then nothing will really change as far as legislation getting passed and such obsessions from President Obama such as Cap and Trade similar to the plan put forth by Vice President Al Gore which would place stringent caps on pollution and especially greenhouse gasses giving cleaner companies credits which they could then market to other companies who were exceeding their allotted quotas so as to incentivize companies to clean up their environmental side. The system, where workable in theory, would necessarily be abused and used to punish certain industries especially those using coal and promote favored industries such as biofuels. The Cap and Trade system would give the biofuel companies massive numbers of credits which they could in turn sell to those companies using carbon based fuels such as oil and coal and by selling their Cap and Trade credits they would be made economically viable and would spend most of their efforts into selling their credits for the highest possible rate and mostly end up ignoring the production of useable energy. The end result of such a system inevitably makes for higher, even skyrocketing, prices for energy making, as President Obama said during the 2008 Presidential campaign, “Under my plan, of a Cap and Trade System, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket, even, (and) regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I’m capping greenhouse gasses, coal fired plants, (you know) natural gas, you name it whatever the plant were, whatever the industry was, they would have to (ah) retrofit their operations, that will cost money, they will pass that money on to the consumers.” The only matter then would be whether or not the Democrats retained their majority in the Senate. Should the Democrats retain their majority, it would be expected that the Cloture Rule would remain changed as was done with the so-called nuclear option which would mean that the Senate would act more like a rubber stamp for the President’s appointments other than for the Supreme Court than it would an advise and consent body as intended and defined by the Constitution. That is not to say that the nuclear option was un-Constitutional as the Senate may pass any rules it feels necessary by a simple majority vote and all would be as the Constitution lays out the rules of the Senate being established by that body. There will only be a change if the Republicans can take control of the Senate but even then they might choose to allow the rule change to stand in anticipation of winning the Presidency in 2016, which brings us to that election.

 

The 2016 election for the Congress will pretty much follow the same patterns as described for 2014 with the only modifiers being whether the Presidential elections drive any measurable excitement in one party more than the other giving that party a useable advantage in funds and strong base turnout or if the Presidential race appears to be closely contested and there is a visceral, obvious and real difference between the two major party candidates and not just the cosmetic difference as we have seen in the past elections over the past twenty years. Once again for the Republican Party much will depend on whether or not they have come to some mutually acceptable agreement joining the centrists and the Tea Party and other staunch conservatives, which make up a goodly proportion of their base, or if these voters feel disenfranchised and their causes which they feel strongly about ignored or even opposed by those responsible for making party policy and the Republican platform. Currently the Democrats in theory have what is normally considered a leg up as they hold the White House and thus if they run the Vice President he will have the advantage, presumably, of the former President’s support and good name recognition and early platform as the White House can make sure he gets a fair amount of face time with the Press and before television cameras and radio microphones. The Democrats may have a second candidate with former Presidential support should Hillary Rodham Clinton run, her husband Bill Clinton would be a great asset during the campaign as he probably would have higher approval numbers than his wife. Many have claimed that the nomination is Hillary Clinton’s for the asking, but we have all heard that song before and it did not play to completion last time around when President Obama won out over Hillary Clinton in the primary elections. Still, before Hillary Clinton would decide to run again, she would definitely have to address her strong negative resulting from the mishandling of a number of items from the last time she ran and her time as Secretary of State. Her mishandling at the State Department include, but are not limited to, her inability to negotiate a continuation of forces treaty with Iraq which many blame for the current devolution into violence in that nation and its sliding into Iranian orbit without an American presence and the need for support by the Shiite government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as Benghazi and the death of four Americans including the Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, as well as an aide and two former Navy SEALS. Meanwhile the Republican Party will need to first and foremost figure out who they are. Their big-tent approach has appeared to possibly be a major factor in their recent losses both in Presidential election and in some Congressional races. There are those who claim that the Republicans need to move placing a large difference between their platform and policies and those of the Democrats while others claim that in order to defeat the Democrats the Republicans must entice the middle of the road voters and even some more conservative Democrats to vote for their candidate as the polls and voter registration rolls show the Republicans at a deficit compared to the Democrat voter numbers. What would need to be considered as an outside condition that might make a huge difference in tactics, choice of candidates and planks in their platform is what is the makeup of the unaligned and independent voters. There are as many theories as to the makeup of these groups as there are pundits with each having their own slant and percentages. The consensus here at BTC is that the Republicans have misjudged not only the weight of the conservative numbers among the unaligned and independent voters, but have also misjudged the number of voters among their own party who are definitely conservative. We feel that the Republican Party’s sliding to the left to be as similar as they possibly can to the Democrats is simply a recipe for disaster and as long as that is their policy, they are doomed and may as well pack it in and go to the country club and play a round of golf, at least then they will have had some fun and have something worth talking about.

 

The results of the 2016 Presidential elections will only be of importance if a true conservative wins the election. Should one of the “Compassionate Conservatives” win as the Republican candidate then all the American people can hope for is a replacement of Obamacare with a softer, gentler government healthcare plan rebranding basically the same horrendous system under a Republican’s name, say like maybe Romneycare? A liberal or progressive, they mean the same thing in American politics as they are simply brands worn and not really defining characteristics as most liberals are not libertarian and most progressives are not selling new ideas or progress but reselling the same old ideas that have been their stock and trade for the past century or more. Even an honest conservative might not make much of a difference unless they have a solid base of same-minded support in both houses of Congress, otherwise very little will change as the ideologues will block any true reforms which scale back the powers and intrusions into every corner of American life and society which the Federal Government has usurped over the past two centuries. What would be a saving grace for the United States would take a near miracle and at least a decade but it has been America’s charmed existence that she has gotten just those miracles at the time she needed them the most, and she could use one very soon. The last miracle was the election of President Ronald Reagan to follow and clean up after President Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a very large supply of such communicators who are both conservative and a Constitutionalist on the horizon, and no they do not have to be Republicans, though such a Democrat would really be a pleasant and unexpected surprise as they would still get the vast majority of the people who vote for the Democrat because my family has always been Democrat. Even with a Congress and President that are true and stringent Constitutionalists who have the energy and desire to scale back the Federal Government within the boundaries placed in the Constitution, we suggest they begin with applying the Amendment X to the overwhelming piles of regulations and simply repeal Amendment XVII and return at least some of the power which was intended to remain with the States through their legislatures and governor deciding how their US Senators were to be chosen. Those stats which desire to continue to allow the direct election of their Senators are free to choose such a method and those who wish to retain that power to the state’s governance can choose that manner. Then there is the other branch of government which is the slowest to change, the courts and, in particular, the Supreme Court. That is the reason this is a challenge that will persist and take longer than any one man is permitted the White House as President. The courts have been a difficult problem to rectify as the appointments are for life or until the particular judge wishes to resign or is making such a mockery of his position that the Congress invited him to step down though impeachment is not an easy procedure purposely. The challenges currently facing the United States will be difficult to rectify as they require a dedication and persistence in their efforts by the American electorate and the ability to keep their eye on the end goal and pass the importance of their effort on to the younger Americans to continue the effort. Anything short of restraining the government and placing it on a budgetary crash diet and soon will result in the United States falling prey to the same economic difficulties as are currently plaguing the European Union except instead of failing countries as in the European Union the United States will have bankrupted states, cities, municipalities and counties and a Federal Government wallowing in too much of its own debt to be of any avail. The Chinese curse that wishes for one, “to live in interesting times,” may apply to the next decade or two more than anybody will have cared for after the times have passed.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

November 23, 2013

The Debate is Cloture and Not the Filibuster

The main reason that the mainstream media is talking about the Senate changing the rules on the practice of filibuster is due to their being too lazy to explain what the Senate really did and actually educate the people who might not be as up on their United States Constitution as used to be the norm earlier in American history. The Senate changed the rules on cloture which is the means by which a filibuster is ended, not prevented or even stopped dead but ended with a possibility of allowing limited debate time to each Senator if the rules so permit. So, let us take a short trip back through history, and I promise to try to be brief. When the Constitution was ratified and became the founding document for the governance of the United States in 1789 there were no rules limiting debate in any manner. Senators could talk on any legislation pending before that august body until the cows came home and beyond. That was the beauty of the Constitution and the original interpretation of the idea that the House of Representatives was a rough and tumble and coarser body while the Senate was proper and deliberative with cordial rules and mutual respect, a far cry from what we have today and even originally. Do not for one second believe that American politicking has become raucous and vile only in the recent past as it actually has become more sensitive and polite. Nobody is referring to the other candidate for President of being a hermaphrodite or of being the son of a half-breed Indian squaw. To quote the two gentlemen in question behind those remarks, and they are to this day considered gentlemen though I doubt the shorter of the two would have agreed with such a description when he was alive; the Jefferson campaign described President Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman,” and Adams in return defined Vice President Jefferson as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Yes, believe it or not these were the President and Vice President of the United States at that time as originally the candidate with the most votes became President and the candidate who came in second became the Vice President but we obviously changed that as it became a tad unworkable and obviously so. The Twelfth Amendment in 1804 put this problem to rest allowing for separate ballots for President and Vice President but did not dictate that the two office holders be from the same party, it is still possible though unlikely that the President and Vice President could come from different parties.

Back to the “nuclear option” voted on by the Senate this past week. The Senate rules call for a simple majority vote with limited debate for any motion to alter, add or deduct from the rules under which the Senate operates thus making any chance for a filibuster basically mute. Because of that the Democrats with their four seat advantage won the passage of the new rules by a 52-48 vote. President Obama took the opportunity to continue his war against the minority Republicans in the Senate in a short speech after which he delegated a person to answer any questions in what has become a normal routine of never allowing the President to be questioned by the press directly or be allowed to ever go off of the carefully scripted words on his teleprompter. Sometimes I think that it would be both revealing and educational allowing for the truthful revelation of the character and inner feelings of a President if it were required that he take a session answering press questions at least once each month and could be required when asked to appear before either branch of Congress to answer questions on any legislation brought to the floor by request of the White House or any member of the President’ own party. Any additional information that is revealed concerning a President’s inner feelings, ability to think quickly and respond to unexpected queries and situations as well as anything that fills the people with additional truths about the person supposedly running the nation and being the face of the American people and the nation on the world’s stage should be encouraged, even mandated. The Senate changing the rules such that a cloture vote which restricts virtually ending debate on appointment for judgeships and other posts to a simple majority has basically changed the process into simply the Senate being a rubber stamp for all but the absolute worst nominations, and even then it might be questionable if the Democrats would not simply bow before the President’s will. This may prove to be catastrophic or it may simply end up as a tempest in a teapot, it all depends on which appointments now gain affirmation who might have been prevented by a Republican or a single Democrat deciding to filibuster the nomination. This I just one more time will tell and I have found that time usually tells long after anybody is paying attention. A perfect example, except that people are paying attention, is Kathleen Sebelius and the catastrophic rollout of Obamacare. Had that gone relatively smoothly with only minor glitches we would have never known how vacuous that woman is and how Health and Human Services is being directed by an incompetent who appears incapable of managing a major project any better than a junior project manager in training.

 

There will be some commentators and political talking heads who will go off the deep end and erroneously relate that this move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was unconstitutional and that the Constitution enumerates the right and procedures known as the filibuster and cloture vote. They are mistaken at best and intentionally misleading at worst. The truth is that the Constitution says absolutely nothing about either process by name. Under the Constitution the original Senate had absolutely no limit on the length of the debate thus allowing every Senator and thus every State to have ample time to discuss and debate the merits of legislation and even return home to get their marching orders from the State Legislatures which chose the Senators. The Senate under Article I, Section 5, Clause 3 was empowered to write its own rules concerning debate and the procedures which govern the same. The Senate adopted its first anti-filibuster rule in 1917 calling such a procedure cloture. Traditionally the cloture vote has taken some form of supermajority in order to shut down debate. The rules of the Senate, according to the writings of the Founders, was to be a more deliberative body which fully debated legislation thus allowing the Senate to reject any legislations which was passed under emotional or other reaction to momentary events and to represent the individual States within the Federal Government such that the States would be protected from the rapacious appetite for power and dominion by any Congress or President. It is interesting that the initial limitation to debate came in 1917, four years after the ratification of one of the most destructive laws to ever make its way onto the books, let alone the Constitution, the Amendment XVII which forever changed the Congress and permitted the unrestrained expansion of the powers, reach, and oppressive abilities of the Federal Government. Under this amendment the States no longer appointed their own Senators in any manner they saw fit, be it appointed by the Governor, appointed by the Governor and ratified by some branch of the State Legislature, appointed directly by the State Legislature or even directly elected by the people which any State could have enacted as their method had they so chosen. This was a direct assault on the rights of the States and took place under a wave of humanist excitement where it was believed that the people, if allowed to voice their combined will, would reach a more reasoned and duly proper decision than any that could be reached by the corrupt and despicable State Governances. The members of the Federal Government even back then looked upon the State Governments, from which many of them had originally served, with contempt and disdain. They saw them as incapable of reasoned thought or honest debate. Looking at the Congress of today one might come to the conclusion that a monarchy might be preferable, but surely I jest. It is likely certain that had the Senate remained as intended a product of the individual State Governments deciding their selection process that the vast majority of States would have decided to allow for the direct election of their Senators in the Federal Government anyways, so there is probably little difference today that if the Amendment XVII were never passed or ratified. One note on history, both the Amendment XVII and the Amendment XVI, which enacted the income tax, have both had claims made that they were not truly ratified by the necessary States within the time limited by the Constitution and are therefore not enforceable. Thus far nobody has won a court case challenging either Amendment. Given my personal choice, I would prefer ridding the United States of the Amendment XVII as returning a greater amount of limiting force by the individual States would do more to limit and turn back the growth of the Federal Government than anything else I have ever heard promoted. The one item that would cease to exist immediately would be the imposition of unfunded mandates on the individual States by Federal legislation as that has become a nasty and not all that uncommon way that the Federal Government passes legislation while forcing the States to finance the implementation and continue maintenance of the legislation and not burdening the Federal budget with such costs. Imagine a Federal Government which was forced to pay for every consequence of their legislative agendas. They would soon go on a legislative diet which the press would label gridlock and the Representatives and Senators would label sticker shock from seeing the financial consequences of all of their actions and being unable to pass the costs off on the States. That was an imagine that Mr. John Lennon missed in his song, but being British I guess he should be forgiven.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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