Beyond the Cusp

June 13, 2013

President Obama and the United States Constitution

President Obama has made his disdain for the United States Constitution well known. He complained before his first term as United States President in an interview on Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ FM in 2001 that the United States “Constitution is a charter of negative liberties” and not of positive liberties. He further explained that the Constitution “says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.” Keep in mind that this interpretation comes from a man who as a Professor taught courses in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, so he presumably knew what he was talking about and understood the reasons the Constitution was crafted in the manner of limiting government. Apparently Professor Obama, and we can assume President Obama, vehemently disagree with the founding fathers and their vision of limited government allowing for maximum freedoms and liberties for the people. So, perhaps we should look into the consequences of President Obama’s view of positive liberties against the founder’s ideals of negative liberties, or more accurately compare President Obama’s view of empowering government against the founder’s ideas of empowering the people.

First we will summarize the philosophies behind the founding fathers Constitutional limitations on government and how that impacts the people. The founders were strong believers in the ability of man’s capability for self-rule without having to rely on having to be ruled by their supposed betters. They were also mostly strongly religious and this enhanced their view as mankind as a noble being different from the animals and having a divine spark, a divine spirit. They believed that the Creator gave man life and with life certain rights which could not be denied by government or other men if society was to be free and have maximum liberty. As such they placed mankind above government and judged government as being a necessary evil which was best when kept as powerless as possible. Government was to only be permitted to wield those powers requested and permitted by the people. Even then, the layers of government were to have limited power by making each layer removed from the people dependent on the next closer level for its powers. Thus the people requested and allowed a set of powers to be transferred to government at the most local level which then assumed these powers and would also be tasked with adjudicating differences between contesting individuals. This local level of government would in turn permit some of these powers which were beyond their capabilities to be granted to the next level of government along with the adjudication of differences between any competing local governments. This level of the government then passed along those powers beyond their scope to the next level which also adjudicated any contentions of the lower governments. This continued until the least amount of power would be vested in the Federal Government which also adjudicated between the State Governments. Any adjudication could potentially have a judgment appealed to the next higher authority until reaching the final level of adjudications, the Supreme Court. The founders believed that all power comes from the Creator and the most powerful entity was the individual. This also implied that the individual along with the most freedoms and liberties also carried the most responsibilities. Thus, the higher up the government tree one climbs, the lesser powers relegated to each governmental level until reaching the Federal Government which would have the least power and the greatest restrictions on its powers and responsibilities of adjudication. Thus, under the United States Constitution the people are to be vested with maximum powers being permitted all responsibilities, abilities, powers and decisions with the minimal exception as listed within the Constitution. The best description was probably framed within the Bill of Rights, more specifically the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment reads:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

President Obama does not believe that the government should be limited in its powers but instead believes that the government should dole out limited powers, responsibilities and options to the people while retaining maximum control at the highest levels. President Obama believes that the Constitution should empower government and dictate what it is that the government is required to perform for the people. This results in the government deciding what rights it is willing to remit to the people and what privileges it will grant to the people. As a result, the people only receive the privileges which the government determines they may be allowed and any power thus vested with the people may also be taken back by the government at their slightest whim. In President Obama’s world, the people are only granted the rights and responsibilities which the government determines or believes they are capable of while the remainder of power is retained by the government. Furthermore, the Federal Government also determines what responsibilities and powers the States are permitted who in turn decide the same for local government with the final determination of what the people are allowed granted at the local level. Since government passes down the powers, rights, responsibilities and all functions in life with strict limitations retaining the bulk of available oversights and control with itself at every level, the people are basically power starved.

The difference between the United States Constitution and President Obama’s ideas of governance are stark and somewhat counter-intuitive. When President Obama speaks about his disdain for the limitations of the constitution, he speaks that he believes that people would have more power if instead of limiting government the constitution should insist that government perform expressed function for the people. Despite intuition might have one believing that if government is commanded to provide enumerated functions for the people that the people will have more privileges and rights, the United States Constitution actually grants the people far greater flexibility, rights, powers, liberties, and responsibilities. Where President Obama’s idea of government permitting certain services to the people as demanded does allow for the people not to have to assume many, if any, responsibilities as that remains with the government as they are granting items while retaining the real control. With the Constitution written by the founding fathers begins by leaving all responsibilities with the people and as such also gives all powers, freedoms, liberties, and abilities also with the people and the people decide that which they will permit the government to possess. So, if you desire to be responsible for your own actions and taking care of your own needs and expressing yourself however you please while standing by your words, then the United States Constitution was designed for such as you. But if you wish to have all decisions and consequences taken care of by a greater power that gives you that which it decides is in your best interest and requires minimal responsibilities or efforts from you, then you would love President Obama’s world of unlimited government granting you, the people, what is best for you, well, actually granting you what is best for government.

Beyond the Cusp

January 5, 2013

Legislating Morality

There is a phrase often bandied about when talking about issues pertaining to morality that it is impossible to legislate morality because people cannot be made to be moral. If this were true then having and enforcing laws that seek to prevent murder, rape, theft, assault, fraud, traffic rules, and much of the rest of the criminal codes should be equally fruitless as these are actually morality questions. What people mean when they say that morality cannot be regulated by laws is that they are against some of the more acceptable immoral acts such as adultery, coveting, misrepresenting facts, and other immoral acts which are generally ignored by much of the populace and perceived as victimless misdeeds. Of course they are not victimless but what they are is non-life-threatening, not injurious or irreligious in their nature. Many of these immoral actions do have a victim such as the wedded spouse of the adulterous partner, but the victim is usually not hurt physically and the mental injury is not perceived as being overly severe.

The question we need to ask about any actions or infractions that are of an immoral nature is will the resultant injury from the act be something which is actively destructive to the fabric and tranquility of the society. What makes this question at all interesting is that the answer will differ from one area to the next. What is considered beyond the pale in Ottumwa, Iowa is likely not so shocking or even notable in Las Vegas, Nevada, especially on the strip in the heart of Casino Row. Such a factor would not be possible to be universally applied when it comes to the vast majority of what might be termed minor moral transgressions. What makes the legal codes against murder universal is that it is something that is a universally agreed upon moral transgression. There is nowhere in most countries where out and out premeditated murder is not a punishable crime. The same can be said about most laws that ban an action or interaction.  The question then becomes at what level of severity of moral turpitude constitutes an act beyond acceptable levels? Those items which are near universally deemed too severe will be constituted in law while those of a lesser severity will only result in possible scandal and setting a mark against your good name to as little as a shrug or raised eyebrow. The problem is that in many areas of our society things that used to be of a shaming nature are now almost considered to be rites of passage committed by virtually everyone and no longer carrying any level of shame.

The other problem which is considered far more problematic in some neighborhoods than in others is that our lawmaking procedures have become increasingly more centralized. With our neighborhoods growing to the point that they form a patchwork of interconnected neighborhoods has led to the blurring of local laws being applied. One of the ways that some neighborhoods have coped with this has been to form community councils which often decide what standards of appearance residents must upkeep and restrictions against some actions. These local groups usually have little if any actual weight to enforce their edicts beyond fines though such is often sufficient to force compliance. As far as actual laws for which incarceration is a possibility, these laws at the most local of levels is usually city at best and county at least. From there the jumps become significant as from the county level the only higher levels are State, Nation, and if those who espouse a single world government, planet. The problem is that the closest to the community where laws are enacted with serious consequences is either city or county, both of which contain numerous different communities which are fused together to form the ruling entity. If you live in or near a major city you probably know of at least one neighborhood where the people are provincial and very religious while there is likely another neighborhood where the accepted morals and acceptable behaviors would be an anathema to the former community. The problem is the City must find some acceptable set of laws which can be applied with only minor allowances for different enforcement levels between these two disparate neighborhoods. The ending legal codes is usually slanted more towards the lower enforcement of morality than the provincial and very religious community would prefer and still would have some laws which the seedier neighborhood would prefer did not exist as they put a crimp in business as usual when the police crackdown and fully enforce all the laws and codes.

Another influence on which of the moral codes is enacted into laws in a community is very dependent on the age in which you study. Laws were far more strident and forceful of a solid Christian ethic in the eighteenth century American colonies than the laws are that exist in the present day. This has much to do with the makeup of the population and the importance of religion which was the central and unifying factor in many of the colonies as everyone was of one religion in many of the townships. Where in the early colonies church attendance was required and if one did not regularly attend church they would quickly find themselves placed in the stocks or possibly worse. Such a law today would be completely unenforceable especially as we have a very diverse society with people of many differing religions and some with no religious affiliations at all. As populations grow and cities continue to hold greater percentages of the total population, the more watered down morality written into the code of laws will become as a result. It is a simple fact which somebody needs to make a formula to fit and define this occurrence; after all they seem to have formulas for everything else. I can predict that the formula would be one representing an inverse proportionality.

But the real question that needs to be addressed as our societies become ever more expansive and this will cause less laws and thus less enforcement of items of a moral basis. Where I doubt that murder as a rule will ever be allowed and the laws against such universal evils will be retained, what I do question is whether some of the definitions of who is considered a person become transformed. One prime example is the rules pertaining to murder under some forms and interpretations of Sharia. Under some interpretations of Sharia it is permissible to kill an infidel, an apostate, a homosexual or anyone like Salmon Rushdie who has a fatwa calling for his death with the most minimal of mitigating requirements. Honor killings are often considered a lesser crime and not really prosecuted as a murder and more likely to be prosecuted as manslaughter under extenuating circumstances. Under traditional Hindu laws it is required for the wife to throw herself onto the funeral pyre of her husband, something the British tried unsuccessfully to eradicate. This is more an example of a completely separate morality for these societies than the one people in the West are accustom to witnessing, but that does not mean they may not eventually end up as the accepted morality on which universal laws are based. How would a one world government rule on such actions and the numerous others where different societies have dramatically different ideas and underlying ethos? Looking at many of the actions which are passed by the United Nations General Assembly and also many United Nations agencies have made over the years and some of the adjudications coming out of the ICC (International Criminal Court) and ICJ (International Court of Justice) do not exactly fill me with even a shred of hope or confidence that a universal governance based on the current form of the United Nations would have a base set of morality which even remotely would match mine. I am actually very sure that I would not be able to live in such a world as my sheer existence would very likely be something punishable by numerous laws emanating from such a body. How about you, would you feel safe under such governance?

Beyond the Cusp

May 2, 2012

GSA and Secret Service Why Such Total Corruption?

Before diving into the irresponsible and tawdry actions by government employees which was plastered on the front pages of the news of late, we need to first off recognize that those caught partaking of these misadventures are not indicative of government employees in general. The vast numbers of government employees are dedicated professionals who work diligently giving 100% efforts. Those who we refer to in what follows are the few bad apples in the barrel. Despite the joke about a substandard performance at a task as, “close enough for government work,” does a disservice to those who toil away, often thanklessly, in the services of the many layers of government. Most tasks performed by government employees are required to meet the same standards as similar professions must meet in the private sector, there are entire departments in government which hold their employees to an even higher standard. This editorial is about those government employees who have failed to maintain a high standard of discipline and judgment and have earned any aspersions thrown at them.

With the latest of the malfeasance and misappropriation of our tax monies have many questioning how could such actions have been committed and with such disregard for allowing it to become public knowledge yet nobody even seems to feel the slightest guilt. Granted, some of the Secret Service did pay for their sins with their jobs, but that was more for their breaking protocols established for securing the President and others whose lives they are held responsible for guarding more than it was for such poor judgments and misconduct. As some of the agents involved will remain in the department, the sin was not in the act but in the poor judgment to allow these actions to have taken place in their rooms within what was presumed to be a secured environment. And how many heads were placed on the chopping block from the GSA extravagance? The count thus far is the chief of the General Services Administration Martha Johnson resigned, two of her top deputies were fired and four managers were placed on leave. Perhaps that was sufficient but I question why those who did the actual planning of this disgrace were not also shown the door along with the compliant chiefs as they were the ones who presented the initial arrangements and had they done their jobs responsibly instead of making a lavish joke out of what was supposed to be a working conference, then none of this could have transpired. This is one of those times where the underlings were just as guilty as were those who as supervisors should have refused their plans.

But the question which often asked is how can the amount and expanse of corruption of the Federal Government in Washington DC be so extreme and beyond that found at almost any other level of government in the United States. Believe it or not, I have a theory on this; what a surprise, huh? When you consider the corruption we find from our elected Senators and Representatives we need to keep something in mind; these are not simple, ordinary politicians, the majority are true professional politicians. These are the product of years of holding public offices. Many started as township, city, or county office holders who then graduated to state level offices and after a decade or more they finally make it to the big show, the United States House of Representatives and eventually even into the Senate. These are people who have been living in the make-believe world of politics where they have the power to solve most of the problems brought before them by the lesser, little folk simply by having a staffer place a phone call or send off a memo to some bureaucrat whose salary they control through their power of appropriations. They attend lavish parties thrown by those seeking influence and as they get higher up the ladder the parties get more and more lavish. By the time they get to Washington DC their taste has been refined to caviar and champagne, and not the cheap stuff. Many of these lifetime politicians have ten, fifteen, even twenty years of experience of being pampered, primped, perfumed, and treated as almost royalty and it has often gone to their heads. They honestly feel they are above the people, above the law, above reproach, basically above everything they see before them and that is what creates the problem which leads to the graft, corruption, and excesses of virtually any kind.

The corruption in many of the elite levels of the upper ranks of the Civil Service personnel have the same track record except they simply held government jobs moving up regularly and eventually they are at what I call the convention level. This is the level that invents reasons to hold training sessions or hold a convention for some legal sounding excuse and it is almost always held in Las Vegas, Hawaii, Bermuda, or other vacation Mecca, possibly even the French Riviera, if your GS Level is at a minimum of twelve. Such is more often an inter-department event where almost everybody is a GS 15 or higher. These are the true professional people whose ability to make expenditures is of the highest orders and quite beyond the imagination of mere mortal taxpayers. These are government employees who have government provided chauffeurs driving them around in a Lincoln, Cadillac or even a Mercedes. By the time you get to the highest level of our Federal government you have been rewarded and rated as exemplary at your job for so many years and for levels of work that are often the butt of jokes for comedians performing in the Nation’s Capital. Actually, after having been raised in the suburbs of our Nation’s capital, I am surprised that there are not far more instances of such extravagant and over-the-top malfeasance by our highest level miscreants, sorry, government employees. The sorry thing is many actually do attempt to work diligently and competently, but the ones who are along for the ride give the whole a bad name. The only thing I can recommend we, the tax paying public, can do is to thank those who work in the government at any level when they treat their job and the public they serve with respect and show diligence. Complaining about the others will usually not accomplish anything except supply the water-cooler circle with grist for their comedic mills.

Beyond the Cusp

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