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DOMA Case…It’s About Taxes!

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There has been extensive discussions about how the case of United States v. Windsor., the case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), will be decided.

After yesterday’s oral arguments, virtually every court watcher believes DOMA is in serious trouble, after most of the justices showed severe doubts about either its legality under equal protection grounds, or under federalism grounds via the 10th amendment.

Of course, we know how precise predictions like this are.  Using oral arguments, I and others were sure, beyond a doubt, that Obamacare would also be declared unconstitutional.  Of course we all know how that worked out.  Chief Justice Roberts declared the mandate legal because it wasn’t a mandate…but a tax.

And therein may be the most hilarious segue of them all.  Because when you look at the Windsor case, what is at the heart of it?

Edith Windsor married her longtime partner Thea Spyer in 2007.  When Speyer died in 2009, she left her estate to Windsor, who got hit with a $360,000 tax bill. Because of DOMA’s definition of marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” federal tax benefits that shield married couples from the estate tax didn’t apply.

So ultimately, this case may not be about equal rights at all.  It may end up being purely about…taxation.

Now, do I think Roberts et al are going to consider this based on taxation grounds alone?  No.  Of course not.  Just listen to the oral arguments!  How could this be purely a case regarding the ability of the federal government to tax individuals?

I mean, that would be ridiculous. 

Let hilarity ensue

This was crossposted at the Spitcracker Picayune

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CPAC Winners/Losers

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Winners

1. Gov. Scott Walker

Of all the speakers at CPAC this year, I think Walker may have improved his position the most.  Walker was already a conservative hero, but he is starting to provide a vision of what conservative leadership under him would look like.  He did deliver the red meat, as other speakers did, but at the same time he got the convention to focus on the issues that matter:  jobs and the economy.  And although Barack Obama has made us forget this, Presidential voters prefer Governors over legislators.  He could be a force to be reckoned with.

2.  Sen. Ted Cruz

In the past few weeks, Cruz has elevated his status immensely, on issues as far reaching as the budget, gun control, and drones.  Cruz knows how to hit all the right buttons when it comes to liberals, and they are starting to despise him. He must be doing something right.

3.  Dr. Ben Carson

The cult hero’s stature grows.  He announced his retirement at the convention, and then gave a blistering analysis of the Obama administration, accusing him of trying to destroy the country.  It will be interesting to see what he chooses as his next step on the big stage.

4.  Sen. Rand Paul

Paul was already riding high after his filibuster, and this speech continued the ride.  Young conservatives flocked to his speech, and Paul delivered.  But the same problems remain going forward:  can he blend his type of libertarianism with the base of the party?

5. Gov.  Mitt Romney

Surprised? I was.  I expected a polite reception, as we are wont to do for losers.  But you know what?  There was honest-to-goodness warmth for Mitt.  The crowd gave him an extremely warm reception.  In turn, Romney gave an honest assessment of his failures, and that the GOP must learn from them to be successful in the future.  He also pointed to the way forward: focus first on our biggest success right now, the thirty GOP Governors across the country that are pushing reform, regardless of what the Beltway does.  And furthermore, he urged focusing on innovation and business growth, which is at the heart of a vibrant economy.  I don’t think Romney has any real future in public life, but this is a brilliant man that is still a wealth of knowledge; and amazing, it took losing last fall for conservatives to finally find some love for him.

Losers

5.  Gov. Bobby Jindal

I don’t think Jindal (or for that matter, several of the speakers below) were bad per se; in fact, I enjoyed parts of Jindal’s speech.  And some of his policy initiatives, like his tax reform, are brilliant  I just think that Jindal pales in comparison to other speakers when it comes to natural charisma.  Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it usually does.

4.  Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio gave a really good speech.  It hit all the great points about conservatism and where we go from here.  The problem?  He ignored his signature issue, immigration.  Look, Rubio’s plan (any way, the version that has leaked publicly) is borderline amnesty.  If he believes that, he should defend it to conservatives.  If he doesn’t support it, say so.  It was disappointing that when given this opportunity, he didn’t take a courageous stand, one way or another.  Probably the right political move, but I still was not pleased.

3.  Rep. Paul Ryan

I like Paul Ryan a lot but more and more I don’t seem him taking ‘the next step’.  Maybe he would be a great Speaker of the House or Majority Leader. He has a brilliant understanding of numbers and the budget.  But he may not have what it takes to get to the next level, and honestly, he may serve conservatives best by staying in Congress.

2.  Rep. Michelle Bachmann

If there was an example of someone whose time has passed, it is Michelle Bachmann.  She hit her peak with the Tea Party, but right now, does she present any vision of a future for conservatism?  If she does, I don’t see it.

1.  Gov. Jeb Bush.

Again, like several listed above, it is not that he gave a bad speech.  It is just that as once being one of the leading conservative voices in America, it is amazing at how unimpactful his speech was.  The crowd was polite but largely dismissive.  Jeb is going to run in 2016…I honestly believe that.  But I really do wonder if he missed his window of opportunity, and he should have run in 2012.  He is an accomplished governor, no question, but like Bachmann, what real vision does he provide for a party looking for one?

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CPAC 2013

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As my previous post showed, I have serious issues with CPAC organizers this year.  But let us not allow that distract from the greatness of this conference.  It should be fascinating.

I will be posting the best videos of the day here, starting on Thursday, but just  a simple guide of the expected best speeches of the conference:

Thursday, March 14

1:30 PM  Sen Rand Paul

2:30 PM  Sen. Macro Rubio

3:15 PM  Gov. Rick Perry

3:30 PM  Sen. Tim Scott

7:30 PM  Fmr. Sen. and new President of Heritage Foundation Jim Demint

 

Friday, March 15

9:30 AM  Rep. Paul Ryan

1:00 PM   Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney

2:25 PM   Gov. Bobby Jindal

7:30 PM   Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush

 

Saturday, March 16

9:15 AM   Gov. Scott Walker

9:30 AM   Fmr. Speaker Newt Gingrich

10:00 AM Dr. Ben Carson

12:00 PM  Fmr. Gov. Sarah Palin

2:30 PM    Mia Love

5:10 PM   Sen. Ted Cruz

.

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Come back periodically over the next few days, as I post videos and commentary.

 

CPAC Live Stream

Streaming by Ustream

 

KEYNOTE:  SEN. TED CRUZ (PART I, II, III)

SATURDAY

Gov. Scott Walker

Dr. Ben Carson

Fmr. Rep. Artur Davis

Phyllis Schlafy

Fmr. Gov. Sarah Palin

FRIDAY

Rep. Paul Ryan

Sen. Kelly Ayotte

Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (introduction by Gov. Nikki Haley)

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush

THURSDAY

Fmr. Rep. Allen West

Sen. Rand Paul

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don’t think we need to name any names, do we? Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere. If we’re going to have a Republican party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP. We must have a message that is broad, our vision must be broad, and that vision must be based on freedom.”

“There are millions of Americans, young and old, native and immigrant, black, white and brown, who simply seek to live free, to practice a religion, free to choose where their kids go to school, free to choose their own health care, free to keep the fruits of their labor, free to live without government constantly being on their back. I will stand for them. I will stand for you. I will stand for our prosperity and our freedom, and I ask everyone who values liberty to stand with me. Thank you. God bless America.”

Sen. Marco Rubio

“We don’t need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea’s called ‘America’ and it still works…Our people have not changed. The vast majority of the American people are hard-working taxpayers. Our challenge is to create an agenda applying our principles.”

“Do not underestimate, I know this movement does not, the impact that the breakdown of the family is having on the American people and our long-term future.”

“[Opposing abortion] does not make you a chauvinist…opposition to gay marriage doesn’t make you a bigot.”

“We can’t solve every war. We can’t be involved in every armed conflict, but we also can’t be retreating from the world.”

Gov. Rick Perry

Sen. Tim Scott

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This CPAC Fan Wants CPAC Reform

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The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is the preeminent conservative gathering of the year. For years, conservative luminaries such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and every other name you can imagine have seen it as a destination of choice.

I had the honor to go to CPAC in 2008, and listen to George W. Bush speak in his last year of his Presidency.  It was a fascinating experience, especially in the light of the dimming conservative movement at the time.

However, CPAC has taken a turn for the worse.

This is the first year that I can remember where the organization clearly made political choices for the audience.  The first ill-advised move was to virtually ban GOProud, the Republican Gay group.  By allowing them to participate, they by no means would be endorsing any policy initiative of the group…they would only be providing a seat at the table.  Instead, Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s co-founder and executive director, will be participating in a panel hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute entitled “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet.” As of this morning, panelists included Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Liz Mair and Jonah Goldberg.  This is not even an official CPAC event…basically, Mr. LaSalvia had to come in through the back door.

This policy of exclusion further extended to Governors Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, both of whom have angered conservatives in recent months.  Both have raised taxes and considered expansion of Medicaid in their states, further angering the conservative base.

To me, the entire process is somewhat disheartening.  I have always viewed conservatism as the grandest exchange of ideas. We believe the market, and the market of ideas, is integral in formulating the best government and leadership possible.

Edmund Burke, the Father of conservatism, said it best:

When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.

The organizers of CPAC should take a serious look at their decision making process.  They like have become too exclusionary, too driven to push their own ideology rather than foster an exchange of ideas.  Conservatism must be open to all ideas, and allow the masses to accept and reject the intellectual concepts that best allow the nation to prosper.

Again, a conservative can never go wrong by heeding Edmund Burke:

But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.

CPAC can and should do better.

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Obama’s Redemption?

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Conservatives love to despise Barack Obama.  The first reason is because he was a neophyte with little experience that rose to the top leadership position in the world, mostly riding his media status.  Second, because he is arrogant and espouses his moral superiority, even when being a hypocrite about it.  Third, because his own analysis of his leadership skills is woefully incorrect.

On most of the grand issues of the day, Mr. Obama has taken the wrong path. He could have built a stimulus program in early 2009 that actually promoted job growth.  He could have pushed Democrats to build a health care plan that reduced and restrained costs instead of increasing them.  And then for the last two years, he could have pushed tax reform and entitlement changes instead of reverting to the classic tax and spend mantra that has haunted liberals for decades.

But he has always taken a pass.

Last week proves hope springs eternal.  Mr. Obama invited a group of Republican Senators to dinner to talk about how to move forward in his final four years as an American President.  And according to reports, Obama was more open and honest than he has been in the past.

Despite liberal whining about how much Barack Obama has had to endure from Republicans, the reality is he has never faced an opponent greater than himself.  Obama’s primary problem through out his Presidency is the inability to tell everyone, including his own party, to ‘Go to hell’, and simply lead on an issue.

Leadership, true leadership, begets public support.  See Rand Paul’s crusade on civil rights and drones last week, ironically occurring the same time as Obama’s dinner round table with the GOP.  This wasn’t an issue that the media, Republicans or Democrats for the most part cared about.  But the public did care.  There is a growing unease of the every expanding power of the President when it comes to such things as drones.  Paul simply was willing to take a stand, even if he knew there was no path to victory in his endeavor.

Obama has never done that.  Can you think of a stand Obama took that was not cautious, thought out, and strategically positioned in such a way that Obama could either back down or blame someone else for its failure?

During his dinner with the GOP, Obama seemed reluctant to lead on the issues, again.  From Peggy Noonan, from an unnamed Senator at the meeting:

Senator No. 1: When pressed on the question, the president seemed to step back. “His idea of a process is, ‘You guys figure it out and work with my staff, and if you need me call me.’ But in the end, unless the president really gets engaged and forces meeting after meeting, I don’t see how you get past the logjam.”

…or this…

Senator No. 2: “At the end I mentioned, ‘Share [with us] how you see this going forward.’ ” Here the president “got hazy. . . . I told him this will never work without adult supervision from the White House. I don’t think he comprehends that this is part of getting something done.”

Senator No. 2 said he planned to “press” the president in coming days “to lead, to exert authority.”

Obama, at this moment, has a chance to lead.  What does he honestly have to lose?  He was a solid victory for re-election, is the undisputed leader of his party, with Democrats (even if they disagree with him) willing to go to the mat for him.  He will never face election again, and the only thing remaining in his future his his legacy, which at the moment, is mixed.

But is the President willing to use that political capital?  The above quotes lead you to believe the answer is ‘No’.  A report from the Politico states more than half of the Democrats in Congress oppose any changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is fiscally insane.  Another quote from Noonan’s article:

At certain points in the conversation the president, according to the senator, said that even if he wanted to agree with the Republicans on certain specific questions there would be a rebellion in his own party: “He said that a few times. But that’s an abdication. You have to lead! You have to educate as only a president can with a bully pulpit, you have to bring your party along.”

Tuesday was the first time that I can remember that President Obama speaking to his liberal caucus, and telling them hard truths. Obama met with Senate Democrats, and was up front for the need for entitlement reform.  He stated his need to exchange entitlement cuts for more taxes.  We can debate the numbers and the actual specifics, but for Obama to tell liberals they will have fundamental changes to entitlement programs is some what of a breakthrough.

A tremendous amount of opposition to this kind of plan exists among the liberal base, and I am not sure that the President realizes what kind of fight he is in with his own party if he is honest about achieving these goals.  And of course, from our side, we conservatives have a huge trust deficit with this President, after 5 years of having the football pulled out from under us, Charlie Brown-style.  Mr. Obama will have to be forthright and honest through out the process to build enough respect and faith to get such a big deal done.

I have long said this is not an intellectual barrier for the President, but a psychological one.  Barack Obama has long been a cautious person, unwilling to take public stands that reflect poorly on his character or his public persona. Maybe this is what comes from being America’s greatest African American politician; maybe it is a reflection of African American society today to avoid risk.  I don’t know.  But I know that reality exists for this man.

So ultimately, Mr. Obama could lead.  He could get a grand bargain of tax reform, entitlement recalculation, and budgetary changes that could put the country on a long term path of fiscal sanity and economic prosperity.  It would mean he would have to compromise with the GOP and push back against liberals in his own party.  Ironically, I seem to believe the latter is much harder for this President than the former.

Cross posted at the Spitcracker Picayune

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“All right, Mr. McCain, I’m ready for my close-up.”

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Let us start by stating a fact:  John McCain is a true American hero.  His military service, and even much of his political career, is to be praised and appreciated. He has given his life to public service, and I truly respect that.

But Mr. McCain has officially jumped the shark.

Sen. McCain along with with comrade-at-arms Sen. Lindsey Graham seem to believe they live in an alternate universe, apart from the rest of America.  Their delusions of grandeur run rampant, as they proceed without any thought or care greater than their foreign policy vision.  And most definitely, separate from the Party they seem to still think they are members of.

Just hours after Sen. Rand Paul finished his much praised, much watched and much talked about 12 hour filibuster to (successfully) force the Obama administration to admit that drone strikes cannot be used on American soil except in situations of imminent threat, both Sens. McCain and Graham, without Democrat support no less, went to the floor of the Senate to attack, not Barack Obama or Eric Holder, but…Rand Paul.

Now, let us put aside the drone issue.  Clearly, I believe McCain and Graham are on the substance of the issue incorrect.  But that doesn’t even matter to the point at hand.

The point is, Misters McCain and Graham think of themselves as a Party of 2.  They are only Republicans when it serves their own personal interest.  The remainder of the time, they look at themselves as mavericks.  And being a maverick is great, except when it isn’t.

Right now, it isn’t.

No one is saying they had to agree with Sen. Paul.  Disagree all you like.  But even if you disagree, going to the floor of the Senate to basically insult someone who is, theoretically at least, on your own team is insanity.

Oblivious as these two are, they have no understanding for the optics of the situation.  While Sen. Paul was on the floor of the Senate, these two men were having dinner with…President Obama.  Then, less than a day later, they are on the floor of the Senate, attacking one of their own.  They could have held their fire, for one day.  They could have written an editorial over the weekend in the New York Times.  They could have made their opinions known in a respectable way.  They decided on another, less dignified path.

This was a pivotal moment for the GOP, a moment where they stood for what was right, in a bipartisan manner no less…and these guys didn’t like it.  Not one bit.  Even establishment Republicans like Saxby Chambliss joined.  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to hold the vote until Rand Paul was satisfied with the administration’s legal answer on the drone attacks.  The GOP sent out instant messages, rallying the troops, asking other Senators to join the filibuster, and raising money on the issue.  The Republican party, for once, was unified.

Except for the party of 2.

In fact, this was probably the strongest bipartisan issue opposing Obama since he became President.  Liberals, progressives, libertarians and conservatives, to one degree or another, joined Sen. Paul in his cry for civil liberties.  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) promised to subpoena the Department of Justice to get the legal arguments for the drone strikes.  Sen. Ron Wyden (D) went so far to go to the Senate floor to applaud him.  People believed in the cause.

Except, of course, for the dynamic duo.

Both of these men have forgotten Reagan’s famous 11th commandment:  Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

I have often used this argument with my conservative brethren when it comes to talking about moderates in our party.  The likes of McCain and Graham have been the source of many fights on my end.  I defend them, saying that I don’t agree with them, but they are part of the team.  They are a member of the GOP.  Let Democrats do the attacking, we don’t need to be a circular firing squad.

At some point, when your allies keep stabbing you in the back, you have to shake your head, and walk away.  This may be that moment for me.

For John McCain, this has been a sad, slow descent into utter irrelevancy.  He and Graham are in a tiny and ever growing smaller caucus that believes in more power for the unitary Executive, more intervention overseas, and a bolder American foreign policy.  The third member of their three amigos, Joe Lieberman, has already been put out to pasture.

For reasons unknown to me, Barack Obama and other Democrats have followed these two down the primrose path, to one extent or another.  We have seen this in Libya, in Syria, and to some extent in places like Mali.  We have certainly seen it in issues like drones and the Patriot Act.  And if Sen. McCain and Sen Graham want to follow that path, more power to them.

But sooner rather than later, they are likely to notice there is no Party standing behind them.

This was crossposted at the Spitcracker Picayune.

 

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Media’s Mendacity On The Sequester

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There are many, many examples of the complete distortion and silliness among the mainstream media these days, but few have the clear evidence as the question of who was really responsible for the concept of the sequester.

The question arises because, as the sequester cuts are about to go into effect, liberals are trying to find any excuse imaginable not to lay the blame for this mess at the feet of the President.  The most recent attempt was a slide from a Powerpoint presentation by Speaker John Boehner, that mentioned the sequester on July 31, 2011.  Andrew Sullivan, the Nation, Mother Jones, TPM…even MSNBC all ran with this story.  And it is, in fact, true…Boehner did mention it at that time.

So, what is the real history on the sequester?  Well, the GOP put together a nice ad on the subject:

The problem with the progressive media’s time line is that Obama actually brought up the sequester in the Spring of 2011.  He raised it early in the debate, long before this Powerpoint presentation was made.

Don’t believe me, don’t believe the GOP ad?  Fair enough.  How about Bob Woodward, liberal icon?

CHRIS WALLACE, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY” HOST: Bob, as the man who literally wrote the book about the budget battle, put this to rest. Whose idea was the sequester, and did you ever think that we’d actually get to this point?

BOB WOODWARD: First, it was the White House. It was Obama and Jack Lew and Rob Nabors who went to the Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, and said, ‘this is the solution.’ But everyone has their fingerprints on this. (FOX News Sunday, February 17, 2013)

Well, o.k..  Maybe you think Bob Woodward is untrustworthy.  Fair enough.

How about the Obama White House itself?  Here is Jay Carney, Communications Director, admitting that the sequester idea originated in the West Wing?  .

JAY CARNEY: What I will concede is that we were looking and the Republicans were looking for a trigger around which to build a mechanism to get us out of default possibility and the sequester was one of the idea put forward, yes by the president’s team. (Special Report, February 12, 2013)

Now, lets say you think Jay Carney is a liar.  Fine, that is reasonable.  But then, why did Mr. Obama, during the midst of last year’s election, promise to uphold the sequester cuts, and railed against Congress for thinking otherwise?

Obama was for the sequester cuts…before he was against it.

The media’s outright distortion and stupidity on this issue is quite staggering, even for the a left wing agenda that has been complicit in hiding truth after truth from the American people.

The most you can say about the sequester is that Obama didn’t want to solve anything when the debt ceiling was hit in 2011.  Fine, that is an honest assessment.  But the sequester, as a plan, was put forward by the President and his staff.  Republicans would have preferred straight forward cuts (as they, on several occasions, proposed, and the House of Representatives even passed on three different occasions).  To now blame the GOP for a plan they never passed before Obama suggested it is ludicrous.

The irony here is we have video evidence that the President was fighting to put the sequester cuts into place last fall.  We have his Communications director, not to mention a respected liberal reporter, both stating that the sequester plan originated in the White House.  And the media is still trying to blame the GOP for this mess.

Mendacity, indeed.

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This was crossposted at the Spitcracker Picayune

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Civil Disobedience: When Do We Choose The Path Less Traveled?

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One of my most prized possessions is an autograph from Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi that my great uncle acquired on a visit by Gandhi to Bangalore, India in the 1930s.  It is not prized to me personally because of its monetary value, but because of the historical and philosophical significance of Gandhi in relation to India and in his greater influence on world history.

Gandhi’s main influence on the world, I believe, was his ability to put into practice the concepts of civil disobedience, first verbalized by the great American author Henry David Thoreau, in a way that effected massive change.  By combining the belief of non-violent mass protests along with Thoreau’s basic concepts of civil disobedience, Gandhi was able to force the English Empire to ultimately, and mostly peacefully, deliver independence to 1/7th of the world’s population.  It was something the world had never really seen before:  an empire coming apart because of the will of those that were ruled, without violence or bloodshed.

In this day and age, much of what Thoreau wrote sounds like a right wing conservative…or maybe a Tea Party member.  To show how far left the Democrats have moved the country, how many of these quotes, which were praised by the likes of Martin Luther King, would no be considered sacrilege by the mainstream American left?

I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe— “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

Or this…

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.

Or…

It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.

The reality is, Gandi put into practice the basic concepts of individual freedom that Thoreau so artfully devised.  And from Gandhi came the likes of the nonviolent Civil Rights protests in the 1960s, and Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement against the Soviets in the 1980s.

The question that stands before us, however, is whether civil disobedience is meaningful in this day and age.

Civil disobedience is ultimately only effective and meaningful in a society that respects independent thought and freedom, even if it goes against the interests of the state.  In India, the British Empire could no longer defend their immoral rule over hundreds of millions of Indians without providing self determination.  In the U.S., segregationists and others fell to the wayside after a long fight that clearly demonstrated the utter illogical fallacy of living with the concept of ‘separate but equal’.  Even in Poland during Solidarity, the Soviets (never known to accept any such dissent) found it very difficult to deal with a peaceable movement; they could have thoroughly wiped them out, but at what cost?  Even the immoral Soviet machine knew that cost was too high.

The exception, of course, was Tienanmen Square in China, where the Chinese felt no distaste in wiping out the movement and putting thousands to death as the world watch.

So what kind of country is America today?

I am not one anyone would call a ‘rabble rouser’.  I eschewed protests of any kind when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan (well known for its protest movements).  Frankly, I thought they were silly and largely a waste of time, in lieu of actual political dialogue and debate.

So why do I now to accept these kind of movements and protests?  It is quite simple:  government has grown so invasive and contrary to many of the basic principles of individual freedom, we as a citizenry may have no other choice.

It began with Obamacare, forcing people into contracts for insurance, regardless of their will.  This has progressively moved on to other facets life, as liberals see more ways government can ‘aid’ the public.

But the most recent iteration was gun control.  As the gun control debate proceeds, I think the illogical and ill thought out plans of the liberals in Washington almost necessitates such civil disobedience.

The most recent proposal would consider some type of universal background check system, that would cover not just gun dealers, but gun shows, and supposedly, even private sellers (selling a gun from one individual or another, or even inheriting a gun through a family member).  The reality is that such a system is inconceivably hard to envision.  There is no way today for the government to track most of these weapons, and proving they were exchanged from one person to another, for cash or otherwise, is impossible…unless you forcibly register all guns in America, and right now that is not going to happen.

So what is the eventual result of such a law?  People will ignore it.  As stated most eloquently by Charles de Montesquieu’s adage: “Useless laws weaken necessary laws.”  Gun exchanges, except those going on in public, will go on as they always have.

There is a simple truth to governance…laws that cannot be enforced will be ignored.  There are numerous examples of this, both in the U.S. and around the world.  Think of laws against drugs, especially marijuana.  How is that working out?  Walk into any dorm of any college in America on a weekend, and you will see the utter failure of marijuana prohibition.  And this gun law would be no different.

And such laws are not just ignored by citizens, but by the machinery of the state as well.  How many state and local governments now ignore marijuana laws?  And how foolish do you have to believe that gun control that is unfeasible would be any different?

The larger societal problem is that such unenforceable, largely ignored laws further sow the seeds of distrust and skepticism within the public.  Such laws are first ridiculed as being ignorant of reality; they then are roundly ignored by citizens and government; and of course, ultimately fail in their goals.

What does this achieve?  Well, the obvious result is greater opposition to government actions.  This feeling of contempt of central government does not simply reside on the political right.  It is a basic tenet of most libertarian movements.  Many environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, are also calling for greater civil disobedience in blocking such proposals as the Keystone pipeline.  In places such as New York, which have passed unenforceable limits on the sizes of gun magazines, even Democrat gun owners plan to ignore the prohibitions.

What this slowly leads to is the progressive erosion of the legitimacy of government.  In a country where the majority of people see government as restricting their rights and liberties, instead of expanding them, more and more civil disobedience will become the norm.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King, as often is the case, state it best…

“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of nonviolence says that violence should be resisted not by counter-violence but by nonviolence. This I do by breaking the law and by peacefully submitting to arrest and imprisonment.”
― Mahatma GandhiNon-violence in Peace and War 1942-49

…and…

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The simple truth is a government that expands continuously, out of the rate of its ability to enforce its own regulations and rules, will become moot.  All these great leaders of our past recognize it.  Sadly, our contemporary leaders are too clueless and short sighted to see the damage they do.

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Rubio’s Immigration Tightrope

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Senator Marco Rubio is playing a high risk game.

This past week, he came out in support of an immigration bill, whose contents were supported by a bipartisan group of Senators.  The much talked about plan would, generally, give a path to citizenship after placing those illegal aliens in the back of the line, and some theoretical, yet undetermined in specificity plan for border security.

The details of the above are immensely important, and we don’t know the details yet.  Both conservatives and liberals fret the outcome of the debate, and where the ultimate lines will be drawn.

However, the politics are fascinating.  Rubio has clearly emerged as one of the leading candidates to take the GOP helm in 2016.  There are a myriad of others, but Rubio is probably the best known and, at the current moment, best liked of the group.

And he picks this moment to confront, of all things, immigration.

It is a risky gambit, that has serious downside risk, and upside potential.  On the down side, if Rubio appears to be pandering to the left at all on securing the border (which is clearly job #1 for conservatives on the immigration issue), he loses almost all credibility as a conservative.  I believe that if you secure the border, the other issues could easily be dealt with.  However, is this plan which envisions a commission of border state governors necessitating authorization before a path to citizenship is available enough to convince the right that the border is secured?  I don’t think it goes far enough at all.  There is talk of expanding border patrol and drones, but the simple question is this:  will we deport all illegal aliens arrested after this deal is passed?  Anything short of that would not placate even moderate conservatives such as myself.

Rubio has been making the rounds this week.  On Sean Hannity on Monday, Rubio was defiant that this was the proper course for the country.  When pressed by Hannity on the idea that the 11 million (or more) people would be able to qualify for citizenship under the bill, which is by far the most controversial part of the proposed legislation, Rubio responded: “We’re not trying to punish anybody here. It’s not about that we’re angry at immigrants. It’s about the fact that we don’t want this to ever happen again and we don’t want to be unfair to the people that have done it in the right way.”

Rubio continued the conservative circuit, appearing on Rush Limbaugh’s show on Tuesday.  The audio is linked below.  Rush did seem at least open to Rubio’s proposals, if not enamoured by them.  It was certainly a strong showing for the Senator, as he again demonstrated why many conservatives believe he is the most eloquent voice in conservatism today. But will that last against a large conservative revolt, if it ultimately occurs?

As for the upside, I think it is much smaller than the the potential risks, frankly.  If Rubio does get passage of a reasonable immigration deal, does that give him more leeway among the mainstream media when 2016 arrives, ala John McCain?  I doubt it.  The media is the media, and should never be trusted.  As for the Hispanic vote, even with Rubio’s background and credentials, we know by polling analyses that Hispanics lean liberal.  What is the best case scenario for Rubio, getting 40% or so of the Hispanic vote?  And I am leery of even that estimate.

It is a high stakes gamble, with Rubio walking a tightrope that may be impossible to traverse.  If he fails to win the confidence of the Right, it may prematurely end his Presidential hopes.  On the other hand, if he is able to pull off some kind of victory, it will elevate him to the head of the class.  Political theater at its best.

 

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A Positive Few Weeks For The GOP

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It has been an inglorious few months for the Republican brand.  Everything that could go wrong has, and the momentum politically has been all in the direction of the President and his allies.

The past couple weeks however marked the first time since the election that is not the case.

It began, predictably, with gun control.  I predicted long ago that the gun control fight would be a political road bump that the Democrats would not pleased by.  Last week saw the first inkling of that reality.  Mr. Obama released his presidential orders (of which, all that can be said is they were of no real consequence, either to defenders of the 2nd amendment or prohibitionists).  He then followed with his legislative plan for Congress.  This week Senator Feinstein released her plan to the public as well.

And that was largely responded to with a big ‘thud’.

What is glorious about the gun control debate for Republicans is that this is a fight that will be fought completely on the Democrat side.  For the most part, Republicans will vote against any assault weapons ban.  They may be willing to look at background checks, the so-called ‘gun show loophole’, and other fringe items.  But the prohibitionist wing of the Democrat Party demand a Brady-like assault ban.

To have any chance of getting this through, they need to be able to get it through the Senate.  Even if somehow they can get around filibuster rules, it is uncertain whether they can get 51 votes needed to pass the measure.  At least 10 Democrats (including 7 from red states running for re-election in 2014) have signaled distaste for the ban.  And of course, they don’t want to be holding the bag if the House GOP vote against it.

Boehner, in a moment of great wisdom, refused to take a stand on the issue…thus leaving the onus on Senate Democrats.  That is precarious position for them.  First, they refused to overturn the filibuster rules, which means on top of having to take unpopular votes, they need several Republicans to side with them.  And with momentum in the media and in polls significantly slowing for gun control, time is running out.

The GOP had little to do with the gun control debate, but had to a lot to do with the shift in the debate on the debt ceiling and the sequester.  This week, they made public a plan to give a short term extension to the debt ceiling, but promised progress only if the Senate held up their legally bound duties and passed a budget.

Again, this is a situation where the GOP has now shifted the responsibility, to some extent, to Democrats. The fight over the artificial debt ceiling was a defensive posture for the GOP, and not they were ever going to win.  However, we see the first rays of light that this posture may pay dividends.  From the Washington Post‘s editorial board, lauding the move:

Mr. Obama must distinguish between the Republicans’ unreasonable positions and their reasonable ones. Refusing to consider tax increases and holding the debt ceiling hostage were examples of the former; both have now been significantly modified, if not abandoned.

Insisting on serious reforms to entitlement programs, however, was the GOP’s reasonable demand, one the Republicans have not abandoned. This presents Mr. Obama with a choice: He can continue driving a hard bargain, in both political and policy terms. That would presumably entail refusing to deal on entitlements until the Republicans capitulate with regard to the sequester and a partial government shutdown on March 27.

Or the president could act on his past promises to tackle entitlements and engage in good faith with Republicans now, so that they have no further reason to exploit the sequester or threaten a shutdown. In that regard, a reference Friday by the White House to purported GOP plans for “drastic cuts in Medicare” was not an encouraging development. There is still plenty of time for Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid to show that they are willing to treat the GOP’s change in position as an opportunity to address the country’s long-term fiscal needs, rather than their party’s short-term political ones.

This is the first times in months that I can remember a major liberal publication taking any GOP argument’s side in the debate.  Surely, others like the New York Times will pull a ‘Pelosi’, and argue that any discussion of a normally passed budget and proper appropriations process is, in her words, ‘ludicrous’. But most common sense people have been arguing for this for at least four years.  The budgetary system is broken.  Yes, Republicans played a part in it.  But now, the Republicans are willing to fix their mistakes; are the Democrats?  I think it is doubtful, but this places the responsibility for failure back on the shoulders of Harry Reid and Barack Obama, squarely where they belong.
The last shift may be the most important, in the long term.  Sen. Marco Rubio finally released major portions of his long awaited immigration plan.  Rubio’s plan would allow illegal aliens to get a pathway to a green card and citizenship, but unlike Obama, would not allow them to ‘jump the line’, as it were, and demand they enter the normal naturalization process with all those that have followed the law and applied for entry in the United States in the proper way.
Rubio’s position was quickly supported by Paul Ryan and others, and likely allows the GOP a workable way forward in the immigration debate.  Rubio’s position is actually much more logical and a stronger position than that of Obama, which would give preference to illegals over those that followed the law; a policy which I believe the public would find abhorrent.
Whether the far right would accept this, or would still call it ‘amnesty’ is up for debate, and also there still needs to be a discussion about how to shore up border security.  However, for the first time since President Bush suggested immigration reform in 2005, we are in a position of discussing policies, instead of simply playing a defensive posture going forward.
The path for the Republican Party is quite clear in these three examples.  We must first accept the reality that we do not, in any real way, control Washington. Second, although the above is the case, we must still provide policy solutions to the problems at hand, and more specifically, show why Democrats positions are either untenable or simply ludicrous.
There are of course many potholes on the way for the GOP.  And a comeback, politically speaking, is a long way off.  But the seeds of how to get the Republican party moving in the right direction is here…if we look hard enough and accept it.
This was cross posted at the Spitcracker Picayune
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