We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, June 22. 2015
Are Humanities Degrees Doomed? Experts Weigh In.
Most Americans do not understand SPF ratings, or how sunscreen is supposed to work. But they do care about “anti-aging” effects.
Arm Candy Report, Hollywood Division: Shiksas, Asians Out, Hot Yoga Instructors In
California: Running On Empty
Most Millennials Want to Own Homes - They just don't think they can afford them.
How climate-change doubters lost a papal fight
i“Unless you accept the alarmist position and the dictates of the [Obama] administration, you cannot typically receive government funding”
The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows the largest ever gap between trust in business and government since we began this study in 2001. This can be attributed to a continued destruction of trust in government that began in 2011...
Media spins horrific murder into a fight over a flag
It’s Official: Barack Emo Obama Disappointed By Entire World
Venezuela’s Economy Spirals
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I’m having difficulty in wrapping my brain around the Edelman report and its effort to measure trust in government vrs trust in business. The article doesn’t offer much in insights as to specific countries or specific business sectors. But, based on the video, it does seem to focus on International issues.
So I am going to go off on own riff re: globalization and regulation. It seems to me that government and big business work in tandem to the greater benefit of the multinational megacorps and the inadvertent disadvantage of small local, regional, and national businesses.
Big business is a factor in driving big government. The government has to be large enough to have leverage over the business or industry, otherwise a multinational can extort concessions and play one jurisdiction against another. The dilemma is how to regulate to protect the public’s interest (health and safety) and not strangle innovation, investment, and growth? How do you keep it manageable, how do you avoid a patchwork of conflicting, complex, is inherently tied to the size of government and this is the heart of the conundrum. How do you balance regulation and counter intuitive regulations from mutlitple jurisdictions? Consider that these decisions are less and less local, by people who have skin in the game and hands on in the trenches knowledge, as opposed to a remote book learned bureaucrat in another state, country, and on another continent.
Just as in the past, corporations push for policies that promote globalization because it is in their interest to do so, not because they care about controlling the rest of us. It doesn’t come out of malevolence, but rather indifference; the undermining of the American middle class ethos is just collateral damage. Why, because bringing down trade barriers and establishing unified codes of law under international courts accelerates business. Businesses prefer predictability and stability. Corporations don't want to expend time and resources dealing with penny ante law codes, regulations, customs regs, measurement systems, recordkeeping requirements, taxing bodies, and court systems for hundreds of jurisdictions because it is a huge non productive waste. Obviously, the more uniform and standardized these things are across boundaries, the simpler, faster, and more cost effective business is. Just for example, consider the advantages of standardized shipping containers. Specification and certifications had to be established so that they meet the same weight, structural integrity, and size requirements, ergo they are interchangeable and used anywhere in the world.
I don’t know what the consequences will be, but it seems to promote the already inherent advantages of being big. I worry about the effectiveness of classic natural market restraints. I hope there will be a candid conversation regarding the trade offs.
Re: California running on empty
As I read and remembered how without mammoth engineering projects including diverting a large amount of water from the Colorado River, much of California would revert to desert, I was reminded of the people who laughed and jeered at the people in New Orleans after Katrina: "What genius thought it was a good idea to build a city below sea level." Can we now ask which genius thought it was a good idea to build cities and start farms in the desert?
Re: Millennials don't think they can afford to buy a home
They're probably right. They will have a lot to pay for. Soon there will be two workers per Social Security recipient and because there is no actual money in the "Social Security Trust Fund", that means that each worker will basically pay for half the benefits of a retiree. When interest rates go back up, as they surely will (as they are), tax payers will spend more money on servicing that debt (bad enough if the debt stays at this level), and with many of the public pension plans being drastically underfunded, the tax payer will likely be forced to bail them out. After that, they get to pay their student loan debt, their share of the cost of welfare, health care, military, environmental regulations, social engineering, and all the rest. Then they save for their retirement, buy their groceries, put gas in their car (or charge up their batteries). They can have fun with whatever they have left.
I hope they have been paying close attention to who has been promising all those free lunches that are bankrupting them and the country so they can blame them for the mess and throw them out of office.
"I hope they have been paying close attention to who has been promising all those free lunches...."
I laugh. (Yet again.) Not a chance--they will still vote for the same type of politician. Which leads to the question, which politician is NOT bankrupting us? Grumbles and goes to get more coffee.
Mary, I hope. I don't expect. :-(
When politicians started taking (and citizens allowed it) money from one person to give to another (for a good and worthy reason, of course - yet patently against the Constitution), the end of freedom in the US began.
The geniuses that did so lived in the last century. The morons that don't attempt to understand or protect what was built and maintain it are running California today. The ideological fools that waste the billions that could be building desalinization plants as the population and the agriculture expanded on "Trains to nowhere" are in California.
The genius that are making their deserts bloom today, are in Israel.
Short and to the point; "If you promise to rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always be assured of the support of Paul."
Are Humanities Degrees Doomed?
a kid looking to take on $100,000 in student debt should look at the degree as a financial investment. engineering BS, probably; poetry of forest peasant wymyn BA, no.
the kolleges and their spokeswhores want you to focus on the degree, not the knowledge, because a degree course generates tuition and employment for otherwise unemployable professors.
on the other hand, there's nothing preventing a working engineer from learning all there is to learn about forest poetry from independent study, or from venues on the internet, or take a night course at the local college.
DoJ's Gag Order On Reason Has Been Lifted — But The Real Story Is More Outrageous Than We Thought
So the DOJ is not only trying to prosecute people for posting an opinion online, but now they want to prosecute reporters for reporting on what the DOJ is doing.
All I can say is, "Thank God for the First Amendment". We'll see how long it lasts.
Yes, California is mostly desert below Monterey and in the Central Valley. However, there is typically PILES of snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that run off into the sea. Man has always altered the landscape to make life easier. I don't see anything wrong with creating reservoirs and water delivery systems to use that abundance of water to support a very lush agricultural state.
Why would we want to ignore run-off and let it go unused? It is smart to turn California into an almost year-round fruit-and-vegetable basket for a huge swath of the U.S.
Any state that has reservoirs, sewer systems, etc. have changed the natural landscape. Would you say that we should get rid of these things and just go get our water from the river/lake that is closest to our house? And that we should go back to outhouses out back to get rid of our waste?
Water is not a finite thing. Water is continually renewed to our system through rain, snow, etc. You can't 'use up' water because it is always replenished. That is the beauty of the world.
California has denied that much of it is a desert and has failed to make plans for a growing population and the irregularity of rain/snow. Instead, they have built a greenie Disneyland, which is finally showing its weaknesses and shortcomings. Only the stupid would fail to notice that and continue on as if this were 'normal.'
where does it say that in the constitution? and with respect to what, specifically?
several of your examples are examples of state, not federal, spending.
First of all, powers that are not given to the government are reserved to the states and the people. There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Federal Government the right to take money from one person and give it to another. Secondly, the Fifth Amendment says that a person cannot be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Thirdly, Madison (someone I'd take as a pretty good authority on the Constitution) said he could not find anything in the Constitution that allowed Congress to spend constituent's money on objects of benevolence worrying that there might be no end to it (see near the end of the page: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=004/llac004.db&recNum=82)
The power to tax "for the General Welfare" is used to justify the welfare state but "General Welfare" didn't mean handing money to people who will not work or cannot work. Otherwise Madison wouldn't have made the argument stated above.
Madison's worry seems to be completely justified given where we are now.
More than half of the snow/rain that falls on California is flushed out to sea. Most of this waste is the result of a concerted effort by various agendized groups under the guise of saving the environment. Oddly those things that would help the fish the most are scrapped while the pseudo-environmentalist go after anything that supports capitalism or is connected in any way to capitalism. With few exceptions all of the left wing organizations fighting to "save the environment" are actually fighting to destroy capitalism and pump up socialism. Once all the family farms and orchards in California are destroyed by the left they will no doubt gladly support government farms.
unfortunately for Madison, the USSC has adopted the views expressed by Alexander Hamilton, who was in favor of a more expansive reading of the general welfare clause. you might enjoy the readable wikipedia discussion of United States v. Butler, Helvering v. Davis and Steward Machine Co. v. Davis. The clause is discussed in the context of your 10th Amendment objections.
this is from Butler:
The clause confers a power separate and distinct from those later enumerated[,] is not restricted in meaning by the grant of them, and Congress consequently has a substantive power to tax and to appropriate, limited only by the requirement that it shall be exercised to provide for the general welfare of the United States. … It results that the power of Congress to authorize expenditure of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution.
also, FYI, since you mentioned it, the 16A (income tax) has been held not to violate the 5A.
please don't be one of the many people here who won't accept Marbury v. Madison.
you've never heard of the supremacy clause? federal law that congress decides preempts all state law? or general codes common to all states like the Uniform Commercial Code?
you should climb out of the bunker more often.
Uhm, this is about multinational corporations, not states, and about the Feds accomodating Big Business via regulation.
I'm not a lawyer so when I read that the Constitution prohibits the Federal Government from doing something, I take it at it's word. I'm sure there is legal reasoning behind these decisions, but just because a majority of Supreme Court Justices say the Constitution says something does not mean that's what it says. Madison was the primary architect of the Constitution as well as author of the Bill of Rights. Sorry, but I'd take his word over anybody's. But I don't expect to get very far if I were to contest things like that in court.
Justices aren't beyond political motivation or pressure. FDR appointed justices who overturned long standing decisions to create a more expansive government. So much for stare decisis. That seems to be a big issue for Democrats when a Republican nominee is before the Judiciary Committee, but that's because they are trying to increase the scope of government.
For the record, I've heard some arguments for the unConstitutionality of the income tax, but I don't make them. I argue that the enforcement is unConstitutional. Since Capone, you are required to waive your Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate yourself when you fill out your income tax forms and if you are audited, they violate your Fourth Amendment right to be secure in your papers unless they have reason to believe you have broken the law and have gotten a warrant. In addition, the IRS can confiscate your bank account without judicial review or your knowledge.
I have no opinion about Marbury vs Madison other than to note that limited self government has inherent inconsistencies and imperfections. One of those being the Supreme Court that is supposed to interpret the meaning of the Constitution. As I said, a majority can interpret the Constitution to say anything they want it to say whether it says that or not, but on the other hand, it seems like there should be some final arbiter of its meaning.
I like Harry Browne's first questions for a potential Supreme Court Justice if he had become president: "Can you read?" Then "Do you know the meaning of 'shall not be infringed' and 'Congress shall make no law'?" I like it but I recognize that it is still an imperfect system.
if you were only arguing about how things should be, I'd have no argument with you. but you're making definitive statements about how things are, and there you're dead wrong.
you can't ignore USSC precedent because there are rulings you don't like. I mean, you can, but those are loser arguments in the only place where they count: before a court that's going to interpret a statute, rule or constitution.
we have a vital interest in not allowing federal power unlimited reach, but you're going about it the wrong way. Madison and people like him lost that argument over how the general welfare clause was going to be interpreted over 75 years ago, and no court, liberal or conservative, has changed it.
the limitations on congressional power under the general welfare clause are discussed in one or all of those USSC cases. you'd be better off getting a handle on this than presenting low grade loser arguments based on what you personally think constitutional interpretation is. this isn't your bible, you can't make up stuff.
deal with this: the constitution says what a majority or plurality of Supreme Court Justices say the Constitution says it says. this notion precedes Marbury, it can be found in Federalist 78. you don't have to like it, but stop pretending that this isn't how the real world works.
if you don't understand Marbury, you'll be losing every argument, all the time. if you think asking a supreme court nominee -- probably a senior circuit court justice -- if he knows how to read is an intelligent question, you'll win brownie points on some internet forums but be laughed at everywhere else. if you think "shall not be infringed" means laws against child porn or private ownership of rocket propelled grenades are unenforceable, or that any constitutionally protected rights are absolute, you've got serious problems.
There are two arguments, the legal and the intellectual. Not being a lawyer, I'm arguing an intellectual case.
As I tried to say, self government is imperfect and self-contradictory. The Constitution as amended by the Bill of Rights spells out the limits of government and a branch of government is empowered to interpret those limits. That branch is said to be of equal power to the other two branches of government yet it holds veto power over them. Is there another way to implement self government? Not that I know of.
I admit that for better or worse, we are stuck with this system. I'll go further and say that I am glad we are stuck with this particular system as I favor it over any others I'm aware of. But you also have to admit that the Constitution has been corrupted politics and expediency in the process. How else can you describe the decision against Capone? And how else can you justify the ability of the government to perform an audit of your finances without a warrant?
Another example is the importance of stare decisis, I value the stability that gives the law but I also know that we are were we are because the Court overruled previous rulings. I certainly don't want to be bound by a bad ruling forever so I'm happy that old rulings can be over turned so there is some balance to be achieved. I'm not qualified to say exactly where that balance should be, but I reserve the right to complain about where it is put! :-)
We were originally discussing the ability of the government to take money from a person who earned it legally and give it to someone who earned nothing. The legal theory of original intent would say that's unConstitutional. That is clearly not what was intended when the document was written and ratified. Yet we are here in part due to the efforts of those who want the Constitution to be a "living" document.
In the end, we are not really governed under the Constitution but what a majority of the SCOTUS says the Constitution says. I don't necessarily like it, but like I said, I know of no other alternative.
Capone's attorneys messed up in trial, but in general, regarding the fifth amendment and illegal income:
It does not violate the 5th Amendment. The courts have held that you may elect to claim the 5th amendment privilege as to certain specific entries on your return if the disclosure could reasonably expose you to risk of criminal prosecution. Thus, you could describe the activities either in a general way that does not indicate illegal activity (e.g. "product sales" rather than "sales of cocaine") or, if that's not possible, you may claim a 5th amendment privilege as to the source of the income. But the amount of the income must be disclosed and the appropriate tax paid on it in order to be in compliance with the tax laws. The dollar amount of the income does not itself reveal anything criminal and thus the fifth amendment is not implicated.
are you talking about grand jury subpoenas of bank records?
bank records are business records of the bank, not private financial papers of an individual
So I'm mistaken? You can claim the 5th on your tax form?! (Was that a known feature of the income tax before Capone?) I stand corrected. Thanks. I would note that different countries handle this sort of thing differently. For example, it is my understanding that it is not a criminal offense to withhold information on your tax form, but it is to lie about something on your tax forms.
I'm talking about an IRS audit. The IRS can call you into their office and produce personal financial records. My reading of the Fourth Amendment says that my "papers and person effects" are private with respect to the government unless they have reason to believe I've committed a crime and have a warrant. It appears to me that this is allowed to facilitate enforcement of the income tax. I don't consider that sufficient justification.
It was (and I assume it still is) also within the purview of the IRS to seize your bank account without your knowledge and therefore you have no defense except after the fact. I'm sure there is some legal justification for that. I don't accept the justification, but I do accept the fact.
There are other incongruous legal realities such as asset forfeiture, but thankfully, I only have experience with the previous two examples.
But it seems to me that the heart of the matter is that we don't want to be bothered with amending the Constitution any more. For example, it was amended to outlaw the sale and production of (new) alcohol but not for drugs - even those that were once legal. Similarly, if it is felt that the government should be allowed to take my money and give it to somebody else, there should be an amendment to allow that. Of course that would require a (huge) debate on not only the justification but the wording of it and the high hurdle of ratifying the amendment. It's much easier to start small (widows and orphans maybe) and let it expand from there.
Earlier you mentioned the supremacy clause. Isn't marijuana possession a Federal crime? How can it be legal in a state? I guess my arguments, such as they are, should not only be directed at the SCOTUS, but also at the executive branch.
not sure what capone's 5A rights were back then, but there was a requirement to report illegal income. I understand his trial lawyers made a bad tactical decision and records came in to evidence that didn't have to.
I'd be extremely careful about how to assert a fifth amendment claim on a tax return, I'd get expert advice from tax professionals and tax attorneys. I believe the amount has to be reported correctly.
if we're talking about ordinary tax disputes, if the IRS seizes bank accounts, that's the end result of what happens if the taxpayer refuses to file or refuses to pay taxes. if the taxpayer is nonresponsive, the government can lien property, and after that, take property that's been liened. but there's always notice, opportunity to be heard, opportunity to appeal.
The IRS Collection Process explains things.
if you're talking about civil asset forfeiture because of, say, structuring cash deposits to evade bank reporting rules, I agree with you completely. there was a notorious instance where a million dollar yacht was seized because the coast guard found three marijuana seeds in an ashtray. that kind of abuse is hopefully over.
drug laws, state and federal. this is how it works. there are some areas of law where the fed has exclusive right to make laws about, such as foreign treaties, or immigration. there are areas "reserved to the states" where fed isn't involved. then here are areas of overlap. sometimes congress says its going to preempt the entire field, as it did with bankruptcy (there are no more state bankruptcy courts). sometimes it doesn't preempt so you have the Securities and Exchange Act and state blue sky laws regulating in parallel. drug laws are like that, and probably will stay that way because there's no real national consensus on what they should be like.
federal courts aren't concerned about street level marijuana distribution, state prosecutors are. the DOJ is better suited to tackle the major distribution criminals. the US Attorney for Colorado isn't busting the pot shops because the DOJ is exercising discretion because the people of CO have decided that those sales are ok. in states where "medical" reefer is legal, the feds seem to get involved where the sales get too much in their faces.
Believe me, I have no intentions to claim the 5th on any tax form and I don't expect I'll ever be in a position to need to claim it for any reason!
WRT IRS seizing bank accounts, the story is this: My future wife, her first husband, her brother and his wife all owned a restaurant. When it was clear to everybody but her brother that it wasn't going to make it, they bailed (I'm not sure how formally, I could ask, but I'm not sure that's determinative in this case). Her brother limped along for a while and then closed up. At one point, my wife's sister in law thought it was a cool move to not pay FICA and save money (sort of like the first couple of Clinton's Attorney General Nominees). Later, my future wife divorced her husband and had to support herself with a minimum wage job. The other three had some sort of means to support themselves. One day, my went to cash a check to buy groceries and found that her check was no good because her bank account was attached. Of course she was not notified of any action by the IRS subsequent to that. The other three had no action against them. When we got married, I paid what they wanted - it wasn't much. My involvement was thirty three years ago and my wife's was, of course, more so the details are a bit fuzzy.
Now, I know if the IRS goes around telling people they are going to take their money before they do, they are wasting their time because the person will just withdraw it. So I understand why it isn't announced, but that's not my problem (well, it is, but you know what I mean). They (you know, "they" :-) ) have set up a system where enforcing it requires them to trample on peoples' rights.
So we agree that we have unConstitutional laws (I thought you would), yet the SCOTUS ruled that it's completely legal. So I would ask those Justices, "Can you read?" Apparently, they have a comprehension problem with, "... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Just one of the many places where the SCOTUS may have used reasonable legal thinking but managed at the same time to read something in the Constitution it does not say. I contend that's no different than my IRS examples.
Your being an observant Jew (right?), you might agree that another example of Judicial lunacy is the right to abortion. Somehow, killing your unborn offspring is a privacy issue between you and your doctor. I understand that the cut off time has changed over time - later and later of course. With the way language is stretched, I would not be surprised if it gets stretched even more.
I think your then future wife was just collected in the wreck, as they say in NASCAR. her ex- and the other two were ignoring the IRS and they got all the notice of intent to lien and all the opportunities to work something out. I think the IRS assumed your future wife was still living with her ex, or they didn't have a separate address. so the lien notices, which mentioned her, didn't get to her. she didn't have a chance to contest anything because of her partners.
if you got a notice of intent to lien, as part of the "pay up" process, you could withdraw your cash, but what would you do with it? a lien attaches to all your property, all your accounts, present or future. you'd open a new bank account or try to finance a house and there's the lien. the sad thing is that its possible she could have negotiated her way out of the levy back then, as she was apparently just an innocent bystander.
read that IRS link again, they have to do a lot of things and give a lot of chances to negotiate or set up a payment plan before they start taking bank accounts.
I think congress passes a lot of laws that could be successfully challenged as unconstitutional. a lot of them are challenged successfully. but what the constitution says, the USSC has the final say (with some exceptions).
as for abortion, I believe it is a sin to kill an a unborn for any reason whatsoever and that one day, this country will be called to answer for our collective guilt.
I know what an ectopic pregnancy and the principle of the double effect are.
I agree with you completely about abortion. There can be no more innocent a life than an unborn baby and taking an innocent life is murder. That is as antithetical to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as murder in other instances yet a majority on the SCOTUS felt that privacy trumped killing ignoring the sentiments of our founding documents. Not their finest hour.