Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

States' Rights, Federalism, and the Constitution

Last week was a bit of a wild right for states' rights. Most of the people generally opposed to the concept were suddenly very supportive, and accused those who usually support states' rights of voting against the idea. The cause: a gun vote. Specifically, the US Senate considered a Thune amendment to the defense bill that would have mandated nation-wide reciprocity for concealed-carry permits. In other words, when you visited other states, they'd be accepted and valid, just like your driver's license is now. I happen to think the idea is a good one, but more importantly than that, it is the perfect point to launch into an explanation of what we conseratives mean when we say "states' rights."

Despite Senator Barbara Boxer's insistence that the conservatives were betraying the principle of states' rights, I think she's wrong (as usual). When we talk about states' rights, I don't think that's the best label for the principle being referred to. I actually like the word "federalism" more. The Miriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law defines federalism as follows:
distribution of power in a federation between the central authority and the constituent units (as states) involving esp. the allocation of significant lawmaking powers to those constituent units

That's a great way of explaining what we conservatives mean when we use the more-common phrase "states' rights." I'll be sticking with my preferred label from here on out, but remember that whenever I say "federalism," I'm referring to the same Constitutional principle that the "states' rights" crowd does. I call it a Constitutional principle because I believe that it's a concept enshrined in our Constition by the Founding Fathers. There are probably a whole host of people better at explaining this than I am, but here it goes:

My first question for you is simply, "Can the federal government do anything it wants, or are there limits placed on it's authority?" I hope that your answer involves some recognition of the fact that we have, or at least are supposed to have, a limited federal government. If you don't understand that, please, I beg you, go read the Constitution.

Ok, assuming you got that one right, my next question is, "Where are those limits found?" The answer is simply our Constitution. Again, if you didn't know this, please go read it.

In outline format, it looks essentially like this:

Article 1: 'Congress has power to do a, b, c, d, and e.'
Article 2: 'The President has power to do f, g, and h.'
Article 3: 'The Judiciary has power to do i and j'
Article 4: more on this later
Article 5: amendment process
Article 6: debts, treaties, oaths
Article 7: ratification process

From this, we can see that our federal government is one of enumerated powers. In other words, we've given various parts of the federal government power to do a through j and if it's k through z, or anything not in that list .... ... the federal government CAN'T do it! That's what we call federalism. When the government tries to do k through z, we say that it is "unconstitutional" which is a short way of basically saying, "hey, you don't have power to do that."

Unfortunately we've been pretty lax about calling them on that lately (like since FDR took over) and now the federal government gets away with doing boat-loads of crap (like super-tankers, filled to the gunwales) that it shouldn't be doing.

The Founding Fathers were a little worried about something like this happening, so they wrote an amendment in the Bill of Rights specifically to make sure that we (and the federal government) got the point about limits on their authority. It goes like this:

Amendment X: 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.

Wow! Could they have been any more clear?!? Still, we managed to create plenty of Constitutional abominations like the Department of Education or Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and .. (the list could go on for a very long time, but I don't want to get sidetracked. If you're curious - and have a lot of time on your hands - read the Constitution and then compare it to our current federal budget, and try to reconcile those two with the 10th Amendment.)

Nowadays, people who actually believe in (that means that they think we ought to have, not that we actually do have - no one could be that foolish) a limited federal government of enumerated powers use the shorthand of "states' rights" or my preference, "federalism." These people are overwhelmingly conservative or libertarian. Liberals generally don't want a limited federal government. Things like the Constitution cramp their style.

During the debate on the Thune Amendment, liberals were complaining that conservatives were abandoning their states' rights principles. I think they were wrong, and here's why: Remember that "states' rights" is just an abbreviated way of saying "follow the Constitution." For example, no states'-righter would argue that the states have a right to infringe on free speech, or declare war, or print their own money. See, the Constitution grants those powers to the federal government. But they would argue that the federal government shouldn't be managing education, or health care. Why? Because the Constitution doesn't grant them that power. There is a power granted to Congress that is relevant to the Thune amendment and explains why it is Constitutional:

Article IV
Section 1. Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
Section 2. The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

See, the Thune amendment wasn't trying to strip power from the states and usurp it for the federal government in violation of the Constitution. It was asking Congress to fulfill its Constitutional role to "prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof." The amendment had the added benefit of ensuring that "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States." Far from violating the Constitution as their liberal accusers claimed, the supporters of the Thune amendment were showing fidelity to it.

I can't think of a better way to demonstrate how conservatives honor and follow the Constitution while liberals ignore it (and don't even know what it has to say on the matter of federalism).

Happily, federalism is making a bit of a comeback lately. There's the Patrick Henry Caucus here in Utah, and hopefully Montana or Tennessee will get a gun case to the Supreme Court that has real potential to put some teeth back in the 10th amendment.

In a nutshell, I think we'd all be a lot better off if the federal government got back to following the Constitution and respecting the principles of federalism that it embodies.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In Defense of Chris Buttars

My state senator, Chris Buttars, has managed to get himself in a bit of hot water. His comment that the “radical gay community” is the “greatest threat to America going down I know of” is the one that seems to be getting all the attention from the media.

First off, I think ABC4 did a nice job of clarifying that his comment was directed to the “radical gay community” and not all gays generally. Most media reports leave that tidbit out in an attempt to stir up trouble for Senator Buttars.

Secondly, is what he said really unheard of or shocking?

During the last LDS General Conference Elder James J. Hamula quotes an earlier talk by President Boyd K. Packer which said, “I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now.”

President Packer went on to say, “Unspeakable wickedness and perversion were once hidden in dark places; now they are in the open, even accorded legal protection. At Sodom and Gomorrah these things were localized. Now they are spread across the world, and they are among us.”

The Divine Institution of Marriage also says:

“In recent years in the United States and other countries, a movement has emerged to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right. This is not a small step, but a radical change: instead of society tolerating or accepting private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, advocates of same-sex marriage seek its official endorsement and recognition.”

“This trend constitutes a serious threat to marriage and family. The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.”

“Because this question strikes at the very heart of the family, because it is one of the great moral issues of our time, and because it has the potential for great impact upon the family, the Church is speaking out on this issue, and asking members to get involved.”

“… speaking out against practices with which the Church disagrees on moral grounds – including same-sex marriage – does not constitute abuse or the frequently misused term ‘hate speech.’ “

“Legalizing same-sex marriage will affect a wide spectrum of government activities and policies. Once a state government declares that same-sex unions are a civil right, those governments almost certainly will enforce a wide variety of other policies intended to ensure that there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. This may well place ‘church and state on a collision course.’”

“…if same-sex marriage becomes a recognized civil right, there will be substantial conflicts with religious freedom. And in some important areas, religious freedom may be diminished.”

“Adopting same-sex marriage compromises the traditional concept of marriage, with harmful consequences for society. ”

“… the legalization of same-sex marriage likely will erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children. Is it really wise for society to pursue such a radical experiment without taking into account its long-term consequences for children?”

“These developments will create serious clashes between the agenda of the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children traditional standards of morality.”

Kind of makes the point that it’s a big deal, huh? You might even be able to see where Buttars would get the impression that it is the “greatest threat to America.”

There’s a strong argument to be made that what Senator Buttars said was tactically a dumb thing to say. He should have known that the media and liberals would play this for as much sympathy and attention as they could get. Still, I agree with the basic sentiment that homosexuality is an evil practice and shouldn’t be accepted or granted approval.

However, I’m not really interested in arguing over homosexuality or gay marriage (my church said it should be illegal, so case closed as far as I’m concerned). This was all a long-winded way of getting at my point: Liberals are way too worried about what other people think about them. It’s like listening to needy middle-schoolers whine “but what if they don’t like me or think that I’m cool.” See for yourself:

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=5644436 : “The Utah Pride Center said Buttars' recent comments as well as today's press conference deeply hurt and saddened its community.”

http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=5628917&pid=1 : “Many Utahn's, straight, gay and transgender alike, are understandably very upset by Senator Buttars' hurtful statements.”

http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=5635909 : "It gives us a horrible name. People would expect it, actually, from Utah because that's what they think goes on here, that we're really close-minded and un-accepting. So, it would fit right into the stereotype of us," said Chantel Lichtenfels. Josh Ewing, with the public relations firm Love Communications, says these comments create an image nightmare for Utah. "It just cements the reputation that Utah is kind of a backward place with incredibly conservative people," he said.

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=5644436 : And someone else said, "Buttars should be forced to resign. He is an embarrassment for our state."

http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11809451?source=rv : Jennilynn Peterson said she brought her toddler son to the party in express defiance of the idea that gay activists were somehow dangerous. "I think it's a great thing for him to experience," said Peterson, a resident of Bountiful. "I'm not going to hide the world from him." Peterson, who grew up in Utah, said she resented how Buttars' comments might be interpreted outside of the Beehive State. "He doesn't speak for Utah," she said. "I really hate that all over the United States, people think we're all like him. We're not."

I could dig up equally “offensive” quotes by liberals about conservatives, Bush (they routinely called him a chimp - try that with BHO and see what you get labeled), Republicans, white people, rural Americans, etc. but that’s not the point. The point is that liberals need to toughen up and realize that we’re not all going to shower them with praise if they choose to be queer.

And who cares what California or New York or San Francisco think of Utah? I sure don’t. They don’t give a rat’s behind what I think of their silly ideas or “lifestyle choices” so why should I care about their opinions of me or my state? And why are liberals so desperate for outside approval? Where’s their spine? It’s like they can’t stand the thought of someone in the world not liking them. It comes off as pathetic and annoying.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Capitalism, Socialism, the Plan of Salvation, and Satan's plan

My apologies for not writing in a long while. I'm a slacker, as you all now know.

I started reading the first of Chris Stewart’s “The Great and Terrible” series of books, and a thought came to my mind that I felt compelled to share: I think capitalism is the economic equivalent of the Plan of Salvation and socialism / communism / collectivism / Marxism / Obamaism / “spread the wealth around” is the economic equivalent of Satan’s plan. I’m serious too.

The key difference between the Plan of Salvation and Satan’s plan was agency. Under the Plan of Salvation, we would all be free to do as we choose. Some of us would make good choices and succeed, others would make poor choices and fail. That was a necessary and important piece of the plan, a critical key to our progress. And it happens to be exactly the way free-market capitalism works.

The opposite of that is Satan’s plan, where we would be deprived of our agency, forced to do what is “right,” having no opportunity to learn or grow on our own. That’s the way socialism works: no agency, no chance to fail (or succeed), “spread the wealth around” until we’re all equal and no one is better off or worse off than anyone else, regardless of the personal decisions of the individuals.

Free-market capitalism appears cruel and harsh to it’s detractors and opponents, just like the Plan of Salvation must have seemed cruel and harsh to the third of our spirit siblings who chose Satan’s plan. That plan and communism offer the appearance of comfort and security: “don’t worry, no one will be left behind” and “we’ll save everyone.” The problem is that it’s a lie, and a damning one at that.

I could probably dig up some quotes by Church leaders if I thought it was necessary, but I think anyone who understands the Gospel will recognize the principles of the Gospel contained in free-market capitalism, and anyone who would deny it wouldn’t likely be persuaded by a few quotes from Church leaders, so I won’t bother.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

mysteries of the Trolley Square massacre

I generally don't consider myself much of a conspiracy theorist, but maybe some of you will take this to be somy nutty conspiracy theory of mine. Anyways, there are some thing's about the SLC PD's Investigative Summary of the Trolley Square shooting incident that have been bugging me for a while. Here is the text of an email I sent to slcpd@slcgov.com tonight. I'll let you know if they answer me.

To Whom It May Concern:

I recently reviewed the SLC PD Trolley Square Shooting Incident Investigative Summary and found a few inconsistencies and holes that raised questions in my mind. I was hoping someone at the SLC PD would be so kind as to attempt to answer them. Please understand that I’m not attempting to cast the actions of the SLC PD in a negative light or any such thing. In fact, I believe that the police responses by Officer Hammond and the SLC PD as a whole were admirably well-executed and worthy of a great deal of praise and the gratitude of SLC residents. There are just a few points of confusion that the after-action reporting left ambiguous and I would like to see them clarified.

The first and largest question is simply: What were the actions of Officer Gordon Worsencroft?

The Investigative Summary explains that Sergeant Josh Scharman formed an “entry team” with Detective Brett Olsen, Detective Dustin Marshall and Officer Gordon Worsencroft:

“Sergeant Scharman ran down four flights of stairs and drove to Trolley Square, arriving at approximately 6:47 pm. Armed with his MP5 service weapon, he formed an entry team with Detective Brett Olsen, Detective Dustin Marshall and Officer Gordon Worsencroft.”

“Detective Olsen obtained his MP5 service weapon and joined an entry team with Sergeant Scharman, Detective Marshall and Officer Worsencroft.”

“Detective Marshall obtained his AR-15 service rifle and joined an entry team with Sergeant Scharman, Detective Olsen and Officer Worsencroft.”

Mysteriously, Worsencroft was no longer with the team when they confronted Talovic. There are specific mentions of Sharman, Olsen, and Marshall firing at Talovic, but no mention of Worsencroft. Also, He is conspicuously missing from the list of officers that shot and killed Talovic:

“At that moment, three other Salt Lake City Police Officers, Sergeant Josh Scharman, Detective Brett Olsen and Detective Dustin Marshall, were able to confront Talovic from behind, shooting and killing him with multiple rounds.”

“The team came around a corner of the store, with Detective Olsen on point flanked by Detective Marshall on his right and Sergeant Scharman on his left.”
The Investigative Summary specifically describes the actions of Scharman, Olsen, and Marshall, three members of the four-man entry team, but omits Worsencroft. This begs the question: What did Worsencroft do from the time that the entry team entered the north door of Pottery Barn Kids to when they confronted Talovic and why was he not with the rest of the entry team?

A second question stems from the description of the items located, documented, and seized at the crime scene:

29 Shotgun shells, fired by Sulejmen Talovic
19 9mm shell casings recovered
28 Shotgun wads recovered
5 223 cal casings recovered
9 Live shotgun shells recovered
1 Slug shotgun shell (dropped by police while reloading weapon)
16 Bullet fragments recovered in various places
3 45 cal shell casing recovered
15 Bullet strikes to Sulejmen Talovic
1 38 cal slug recovered
1 Fragmented bullet recovered

I have every reason to think that the SLC PD Crime Scene Unit and the Utah DPS Crime Lab were thorough in their searching, seizing and documenting, so it is likely that the assorted shell casings account for every shot fired during the incident (with the exception of the .38 S&W revolver that Talovic used to kill Vanessa Quinn, but one can suppose that since he only discharged two of the five cylinders, the two .38 shell casings were still in the revolver). The 29 shotgun shells are listed as “fired by Sulejmen Talovic.” The three .45 shell casings appear to have come from Officer Hammond’s weapon (he is described as having fired three shots, and other sources have indicated that he was armed with a .45 handgun). It can be surmised that the five .223 casings came from Detective Dustin Marshall’s AR-15 when he fired at Talovic. The question arises when considering the nineteen 9mm shell casings recovered. Sergeant Scharman is described as firing a total of six rounds from his MP5 and Detective Olsen fired a total of seven rounds from his MP5. Their actions would explain thirteen of the nineteen 9mm shell casings, but where did the other six come from? Even if Sergeant Oblad’s “service weapon” of an unspecified type and caliber were a 9mm firearm, that would still leave four more 9mm shell casings than the Investigative Summary indicates there were shots fired. Where did those six or four additional 9mm shell casings come from? Did Officer Worsencroft fire them? If so, why was this not mentioned in the Investigative Summary?

A third group of questions emerges after seeing this video taken during the shooting incident. At the 1:47 mark in the video, two police officers can be seen, the second of which appears to be armed with a shotgun which he fires from the hip at the 2:11 mark. Who was this second officer? Could it have been Officer Worsencroft? Why was this weapon discharge not mentioned in the Investigative Summary? And why were all 29 shotgun shells described as “fired by Sulejmen Talovic” when it appears from the video that a police officer fired at least one?

I greatly appreciate your efforts in clearing up these few points of confusion. Thank you.

Monday, April 7, 2008

BHO's not-so-new kind of politics

BHO has staked his claim to fame on a couple of things. One of those (a major one) has been a "new kind of politics." He's supposed to be our knight in shining armor, riding in to rid us of the partisan bickering, the twisting of words, the disingenuous attacks on opponents, etc.

This is important because his "100 years of war" claim flies in the face of his "new kind of politics" claim.

Here, in a nutshell, is yet another way in which BHO is a hypocrite:

John McCain says he's fine with us being in Iraq for 100 years "as long as Americans aren't being injured or harmed or wounded or killed" and cites the examples of Japan and South Korea as circumstances under which he would accept a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq.

Then along comes BHO and claims that McCain "is willing to send our troops into another hundred years of war in Iraq." At best, that's a terrible mischaracterization of McCain's stance on Iraq. I'll let you judge for yourself whether this represents a "new kind of politics" or the same old crap.

David Axelrod, BHO's chief campaign strategist, even defends BHO's lie. He claims that BHO "is not saying that Sen. McCain said we'd be at war for a hundred years." Both men (BHO and Axelrod, not John McCain) are liars imo. Watch the video and judge for yourself:

Monday, March 31, 2008

HRC's Honesty Obstacle

Because the Democrats have been on a big "Fairness Doctrine" kick lately, I want to be "fair" to HRC and give her her due when she's earned it. In an event that has become so routine it is almost suprising that it is still considered newsworthy, another politician with the last name Clinton told another lie. Shocking as this may be to many of you, I hope you'll be able to struggle on after your hopes and dreams for change (or am I confusing my liberals here?) have been crushed.

I had written a long post detailing the intricacies (intentional, repetetive, etc.) of HRC's "sniper fire" claim, but then along came Frank Rich with a much better article about it. I'll just say that I find it terribly demeaning to our soldiers who face REAL sniper fire.

And speaking of demeaning people (unborn ones this time), BHO's silver tongue is losing a bit more of its sparkle: "If [my daughters] make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." What a terrible attitude to have about the miracle of life (and personal responsibility).

Also, looks like BHO was misleading (or mis-remembered, as that appears to be the new DC buzzword) about whether he actually saw / handled / wrote on a questionaire showing his liberal streak. Among other things, it said he wanted to ban handguns. As funny as it is to watch this apparent contest between HRC and BHO to out-lie each other, I hope you don't need to know that he filled out this questionaire to know that BHO is a flaming liberal (as is HRC).

Anyways, that's enough funny business for today (or at least one would hope!)