What Are The Real Lessons From the “Deepwater Horizon” Accident?

Like everyone else I’ve been watching the results of the aftermath of BP’s deepwater exploration rig “Deepwater Horizon” explosion and subsequent sinking and release of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.  I’m sorry for the people on the gulf, particularly on the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, that are having to deal with this mess, my heart goes out to you much as it would if your homes burned down (by accident), you were in a serious car accident (by accident) or you lost your homes to a tornado or hurricane (natural disaster/accident).

I hope my point wasn’t too subtle for anyone.  This was an ACCIDENT.  In time, we’ll find out if it was a preventable accident or not, but for now it’s just a horrible accident.  The plain truth is that it was also inevitable.  We’ve been drilling offshore since the 1930’s and the modern drill platforms appeared in 1961 or thereabouts.  Right now there are a little over 600 rigs available for lease or use by the oil companies to drill for oil.  The oil exploration business is and INDUSTRY.  It’s a very complex industry and anytime you deal with a complex industrial process from time to time there is going to be an accident.  All of these marvelous machines and all of these trained workers have a human component and that component will, from time to time, fail either in the design or implementation of their machines or in their performance of the job.  The point is, industrial accidents happen.  The always have, they always will, it’s only human.

The real test is what happens after the accident.  How does the company respond to the accident and its aftermath?  In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, I’d have to say that BP didn’t respond very well.  I believe after talking to people that work on the rigs out in the gulf and people that are quite knowledgeable about the subject that INITIALLY, BP was trying to save the hole.  I don’t think that lasted long, though, because they quickly came to the realization that it wasn’t going to be possible to save it.  From that point on, BP’s only interest was in containing the oil short term and plugging the hole long term.  Yes, I’d call that a failure on their part.  I think they’re still failing in some ways when I read and see people and boats ready to go to work to contain and clean up that are sitting and waiting for contracts/orders/authorizations.  It would be nice to think that these altruistic souls would just go out and get to work but the harsh truth is it takes fuel to run those boats, it takes money to pay people that should be fishing but can’t and need other work, and only a few can actually just pick up and go long term to do this kind of thing, everyone else needs some kind of money to be able to actually get to work.

BP, being such a large international corporation, is a political entity itself.  Except for a very few at the higher levels, everyone there is worried about their job.  They’re not going to exceed their authority and the buck gets passed up higher until there is actual approval to do some of these things, so people wait.  This is a failure.  Likewise, our federal government has failed miserably.  I believe this failure would have occurred if the president’s name had an (R) or a (D) after it for the exact same reasons as BP’s failure, nobody willing to take the responsibility to actually DO anything.

If we understand and accept that the accident was inevitable the question then becomes how do we deal with it once it happens?  Obviously this is where we need to make changes and improvements.  FEMA and the USCG need to have an immediate response plan in place that the field commanders can instantly begin implementing.  The oil companies need to do the same thing.  Both parties need to realize that in some cases, this accident being a prime example, there is no possible way to have all of the resources you need instantly available 24/7 so when help is offered, as it was by the Dutch and other European nations, they are able to bring them in and put them to work right away instead of waiting for 2 months and then when they’re here, ignoring their input and recommendations.

The mess will get cleaned up.  The hole will get plugged.  The gulf will return to normal.  It’s going to take a long time, of that there is no doubt, but for this to be anything but a complete waste the oil companies and the federal government need to use this to learn where their system failed so that when the NEXT accident happens they are better prepared to contain and clean up the resulting mess.

-john stricker

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 7:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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The US Government Has Limits. REALLY! It Does!!

Contrary to what many in Washington that say they represent us believe (on BOTH sides of the aisle) the US Government does, indeed, have limits on what it can and cannot do.  They’re not even really that hard to find, all one has to do is look in a copy of the United States Constitution.  It’s all in there.  So let’s take a few minutes and actually LOOK at it, READ it, and try to UNDERSTAND it, at least where it applies to how the founding fathers wanted to limit the power of the federal government.

The limits are really laid down in the amendments, particularly the first through eleventh.  The real killer to federal power are the ninth and tenth amendments and they were not placed there by chance or at random.  So we actually start with the text I’ll copy them here:

Amendment 9:  The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10:  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.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?  The Constitution is a document that was adopted to specifically limit the power of the federal government.  To understand where the founding fathers are coming from, they had just thrown aside the yoke of a repressive, dictatorial monarchy and had no desire to ever see their new nation fall under the same taskmasters.  The ninth amendment makes it quite clear that the purpose of the Constitution is NOT to limit the people or the states, except in some very specific circumstances, but rather to limit the power and scope of a federal government.  The wording of the ninth amendment is quite clear on that point.

The tenth amendment is also quite clear.  It says, very plainly, that if it doesn’t say in the Constitution that the federal government can do it, then it can’t do it.  If it doesn’t say that the States or the People can’t do it, then they can do it.  Simple.  Elegant.  To the point.

Prior to passage of the Bill of Rights James Madison wrote in the Federalist Paper No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”  It’s important to note that Madison saw no need for the Tenth Amendment feeling the Constitution would take care of this on its own, however other founding fathers disagreed especially as they were considering the other amendments included in those first ten and insisted that the ninth and tenth be included to prevent the growth and excess of federal power.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No.84, “[A Bill of Rights] would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”  Clearly, Hamilton was concerned that some of the powers delegated in the Constitution and even the Bill of Rights could at a future date be perverted and twisted in a “catch-all” type of mentality empowering the federal government with rights it was never intended to have.

In 1883 Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote, “The Constitution was, from its very origin, contemplated to be the frame of a national government, of special and enumerated powers, and not of general and unlimited powers”, echoing Hamilton’s sentiments.  In 1931 the Supreme Court found in “United States vs. Sprague” that “The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the states or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified…” in the majority opinion written by Justice Owen Roberts.  This opinion reiterated that the tenth amendment was in place confirming that the Constitution was there to limit the power of the federal government and free the States and the citizens.

Somehow, later in the 20th century, the Supreme Court and the federal government lost sight of this primary, over-riding principle of our governing document.  Following the Great Depression and New Deal era, the federal government gained more power virtually year by year and our society, economy, and overall standard of living has been in decline because of that.

We have the road map of what works, it’s the US Constitution.  We simply have to abide by it and if the federal government won’t do it, then drastic change is certain to result.

-john stricker

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Now that we have “Health Care Reform”, will we ever be rid of it?

In my last ravings I wrote about how the Health Care Reform Act was several thousand answers to what amounts to only 2 real problems with your health care system.  It’s been signed into law by the President.  I’ve had a number of discussions with many people about how we can get rid of it.

The answer, sadly, is I don’t believe we can.  Even if we’re wildly optimistic and believe that in 2010 the Republicans gain control of the House AND Senate, it’s still not going to happen.  To repeal the bill it will have to be voted on by BOTH bodies and then sent to the President for his signature.  He won’t sign a repeal of the bill, I think that’s pretty clear, and he’ll veto it.  To override that veto takes a 2/3 majority and nobody thinks that’s going to happen.

All of this means that the actual BENEFITS of the bill, that is the government payments and controls in the bill, will begin to take effect before 2012 while President Obama is still in office, even if he turns out to be a one-term president.  Once the benefits start getting paid, and the businesses quit providing health insurance to their employees (which is one of the main goals of the Act), people will be reliant on the government health care plan.  At that point, there will be no turning back from this debacle.  Once these benefits start coming from Washington, they will be permanent, at least until it bankrupts the country.  Health Care will become another in a series of “sacred cows” that can’t be touched just like Social Security and Medicare is now.

There is one glimmer of hope.  Normally all major laws have a clause in them that says should any single provision of the act be found to be unconstitutional the rest of the act remains in full force.  In their haste to ram this legislation through Congress and get it on the President’s desk, this provision was omitted in the law as signed.  Since it’s been signed, it is done and can no longer be amended.  There are numerous challenges to this bill working their way through the federal court system and they will eventually get to the Supreme Court (at least some of them certainly will).  The only hope of getting this bill overturned is for this to get through the courts, have a major section of it found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and in that way making it null and void.

Will this happen?  I give it about an 1:3 chance of being overturned in the Supreme Court, if that, but it is a chance.  If we, the people, are extremely fortunate it will happen quickly and the court will rule in favor of the people.  Time will tell.

-john stricker

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm  Comments (10)  
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It doesn’t work in Canada, why do they think it will work here?

Nationalized Health Care, that is.

If you’ve spent any time looking at the health care reform bill that was signed into law (note I didn’t say “passed” as that bill was never properly voted on, but that’s a rant for a different column….) why do the politicians think it will work here?  An article from Reuters this past Monday (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100531/hl_nm/us_health_3) goes into great detail on exactly how the Canadian model is beginning to collapse under its own weight.  Among the primary reasons given are “an aging population” with more and more demands placed on the system with fewer and fewer young people able to pay for it.

With the health care reform bill, we are setting ourselves up in the same position.  The US Population is aging and Medicare, along with the Part B subsidies and the Prescription  Drug plans nearing their breaking points before the bill even comes into effect.

The sad part is, it’s all avoidable.

I don’t argue that some changes had to be made.  Medical costs have been growing at 4 to 6 times the inflation rate for other goods and services.  This plan will not make them any less expensive.  Here’s an idea for a plan that COULD have worked had the Congress not been hell-bent on demanding a total national takeover of health care.  There are two main issues that most US citizens felt needed to be addressed.  First, about 10% of the population was uninsured.  Notice I didn’t say couldn’t afford insurance, I said uninsured.  There is a difference.  Every one of us knows someone (or more than one) family or person that is perfectly capable of AFFORDING insurance but simply chooses to drive that new car, or have that new boat, or live in a house that is barely within their means.  They made a choice to embrace those luxuries rather than buy health insurance.  I’m going to very blunt here and say that I have NO sympathy whatsoever for those people.  None.  Their lot in life, if they ever face a catastrophic illness or accident, was chosen by them and nobody else.

There is a group, however, that simply can’t afford health insurance.  I do have sympathy for those folks.  If you have to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table or buying health insurance any of us would make the same choice, and those people need help.

The second issue is a catastrophic illness or accident that maxes out your HMO or insurance that nobody could have foreseen or adequately prepared for.  Again, this group needs help as well.

The answer to these issues is really not that hard and yes, the government is involved.

To take care of the issue of a catastrophic medical expense I propose the government have a National Catastrophic Health Care plan.  Set a limit (I’ll leave the actual amount to the actuaries to determine) where after that point the national plan takes over.  Let’s say for the sake of discussion that limit is somewhere around $50,000.  The first $50,000 of a person’s health care is that person’s responsibility, beyond that, the catastrophic plan takes over.  This would be funded by taxes, either a direct tax like Social Security/Payroll Taxes or a national sales tax on EVERYTHING, no exemptions.

This would leave the amount below that to be the responsibility of the individual.  For that, conventional health insurance COULD be purchased, if the person so wishes it.  They wouldn’t have to buy it, that’s up to them, but its their problem.  Now think for a minute what that would do to insurance rates if every company KNEW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that NOBODY would ever cost them more than the $50,000.  Rates would plummet, making it more affordable.  Most people aren’t all that concerned about the regular trips to the doctor for checkups, or their kids vaccinations, or the occasional cold.  They can handle that, given some time.  What they can’t handle is when things spiral out of control with catastrophic illness and injury.

Even though rates would drop, some people still couldn’t afford even those costs.  For those people that are below a certain income level, they are charged a % of their income to be part of a national health care pool for low income individuals.  We do that now with low rent housing and even some types of food assistance.  Once their income exceeds a certain point, they are no longer charged that % but the amount under the catastrophic limit is still their responsibility.

We don’t have to destroy what is the finest health care system in the world today to take care of these two issues.  Are there other problems?  Sure there are, but in scope they are minor issues and none of them requires 2300+ pages of new law to address.  They don’t require ordering by threat of imprisonment people take out insurance.  They don’t require nationalizing over 1/4 or our economy to address and make no mistake, friends, that is just exactly what this bill is designed to do.

My next rant will be on what to do about it since the bill has already been signed into law…….

-john stricker

Published in: on June 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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President Obama just doesn’t get it

News reports are that the President is going to skip the annual Memorial Day ceremony of laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery this year.  Surely he must have a good reason.  He must be traveling out of the country on official State business, or there must be security issues, or perhaps he’s simply ill and not able to attend.

No, he can’t make it because he’s vacationing in Chicago.

To be fair, he is going to speak at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery there, but that’s a poor substitute in my opinion.  Our nation is at war.  We have service members fighting and dying on foreign soil as I type this blog.  My admiration and respect for these men and women can’t be described in words on this page and my sadness and gratitude to those that gave their lives and their families that have suffered the loss is likewise without an adequate means of expression.  To think that the President, the Commander in Chief of these people, is more focused on going on a vacation than attending the most somber and august even to honor our dead is something that disappoints and actually disgusts me to my core.

President Obama, when you ran and were elected to the office, you took on a heavy mantle of responsibility and this Monday you are shirking that responsibility so that you can go on vacation.  You should be ashamed.  Virtually no family in the United States hasn’t been touched by the loss of a loved one or friend in the service of the United States Military and if you believe for one minute this will go unnoticed, you truly just don’t understand the American people.

I didn’t vote for you.  I don’t agree with your policies.  I have always believed, though, that you were doing what you thought was best for the United States, albeit with a misguided point of view.  Today I realize you truly don’t care about anything but yourself and I’m disappointed and ashamed to call you the President.

-john stricker

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 7:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Is there an answer to the immigration issue?

With all of the gnashing of teeth about Arizona’s recent  signing into law a state statute that would make what is already Federal Immigration Law an Arizona state law as well I had the same knee-jerk reaction as every other blogger and commentator in the English speaking world to throw my two cents worth in.  For whatever reason, good sense actually overruled my normally hasty posting of opinions.

There has been enough written on the Arizona issue already including the Truth, Lies, and the ever popular Half-Truth that I think I’ll just let anyone reading this hunt around on their own and make up their own mind.  Instead, I’m going to actually post what I think is wrong with our immigration policy and how we can fix it, or at least throw some ideas out there and see what sticks.

I don’t think anyone can argue that what we have now simply isn’t working.  Our Southern border is wide open for the most part and as long as it remains that way I promise you that nothing will happen to change the problems we’re having now.  Given that, the southern border MUST BE CLOSED TO UNRESTRICTED ENTRY.  Without that, nothing else will make any difference.  If that takes posting US Military troops on the border, building a concrete wall, and placing sophisticated electronic monitors the length of the border then so be it.  Yes, the Mexican government will scream.  Let them.  I want to get along with our neighbors to the south as much as anyone else but when they have far more Draconian immigration laws than we do, and when the benefit to illegal immigration to the US is all going to them and little if any to us, I really don’t care if they scream or not.  They can worry about getting their own house in order before they start telling us what to do in ours.

Once the border is under control, then we can work to take care of the illegal aliens already here and it can be done.  It’s simply not going to be practical to send somewhere between 10 million and 30 million people back across the border by deporting them so there has to be another way.  There is.  Grant a period of time, say six months, for anyone in this country illegally to come to an immigration office and apply for a special visa.  This visa, what we commonly call a “green card”, would be issued automatically.  The individual would be finger-printed and a correct and current address reported.  It would be made clear that if that address is invalid, they will be deported.  The card would be valid for an additional six months during which time a background check would be run on the individual for a criminal history.

Anyone caught after the six months time period without their visa would be automatically deported and not allowed entry into the US again.  If the background checks uncover a history of violent crime,  being on any kind of a terrorist watch list, or any other major (read that felony) conviction, they get deported.  During the six months the temporary visa is valid the immigration department will run background checks to attempt to discover any criminal history or reason for deportation.  Assuming they apply for their cards and pass the background check, they are issued a one year guest worker visa that can be renewed as long as they are legally and gainfully employed.

Anyone holding a guest worker visa convicted of a felony or a habitual offender of misdemeanor statutes is deported.  If you’re not going to respect our laws you don’t deserve to be here.  Once they have their guest worker visa they can begin the process of applying for naturalization.  There will be no cutting in line, no moving ahead of anyone.  They wait their turn to become citizens which is fine as long as they are gainfully employed and continue to renew their visa.  I would like to see the time limit at something like five years but with the influx of new applicants it could very well be double that.

I could see allowing some moving ahead of the line if they are willing to do something of extra service to the country, for instance volunteer to serve in the US Military for at least three years, learn to read, speak and understand English, and receive and honorable discharge.  If they would be willing to do that, when they’re discharged they are naturalized citizens.  Beyond something similar to that level of public service, no exceptions.

Last but far from least, institute extremely stiff penalties for ANYONE employing someone that is either not a citizen of the US or didn’t have the proper documentation.  When I say stiff penalties, I mean stiff as in bankruptcy seize all the assets stiff.  If it is made cost ineffective and the risk/benefit ratio increased so high there won’t be any jobs for illegals here anymore.

Are there problems with the plan?  Sure.  First we have to get over the idea that we’re not going to grant them “amnesty” no matter what.  I don’t like the idea of ignoring laws either, but in this case if we’re going to get the problem under control there really is no viable option.  Spouses that either can’t or don’t work would have to be addressed if they’re here illegally, as well as children.  But these issues are not insurmountable and within ten years of this plan I could see the illegal immigration problem being well in hand.

-john stricker

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 11:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

A New PM for Great Britain……..Now What?

The political world was stunned yesterday when it was announced that the Queen had invited Conservative Party leader David Cameron to be the new Prime Minister of Great Britain following the resignation of Gordon Brown from office.  Just last weekend Brown was reported as saying he would resign “sometime before fall” and it was completely unexpected that his resignation would come this quickly.

Cameron was able to gain the position of Prime Minister after putting together an agreement with the Liberal Democrats party to share power, the first time a coalition for power has been formed in the UK since WWII.  The Conservative party gathered the most votes of any single party but not a majority that is normally needed in Britain to ascend to the PM position.  Almost immediately new PM Cameron appointed Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister.

Most everyone on this side of the pond that’s even noticing is shrugging their shoulders and saying “so what?”  That’s not an unfair reaction, what difference does it make to us here in the United States?  First off, Great Britain has been our most steadfast ally ever since WWII.  We’ve had differences of opinion, certainly, but the two nations share a common ancestry and remain defenders of one another.  Since President Obama has come to power, though, the relations between our two countries has been at the very least a bit frosty.  Although the President was on the phone to the new PM within minutes, I sincerely doubt those relations are going to improve with a Conservative party member in power now.

The members of the Conservative party in Great Britain have a very real and negative attitude of the Europeanization of Britain.  They have fought to keep the British Pound as their currency and generally limit the influence of the EU there.  The Liberal Democrats are very strong supporters of the EU and Europe in general so this is going to be quite interesting to see what kind of give and take this will result in between the two parties.  Similarly, the Conservative Party has generally supported an aggressive action towards terrorists and the outlaw countries in the Middle East, the Lib Dems want all of the British troops removed.  They are similarly far apart on many other issues on the domestic side as well.

How these two groups come together, if they really do, should be something to see.  Personally, I think the new PM threw them a bone by naming Nick Clegg a bone by naming him Deputy Prime Minister and the Lib Dems aren’t going to get much else.  In the long run, I’m not sure it will matter.  While the UK is not as socialist as the rest of Europe, they are much further down that road than the United States is and I’m afraid they’re too far down that path for anyone to turn them back without major social upheaval.

On this side of the Atlantic we can still learn something by watching this particular political drama play out.  We can see if it’s possible to even slow down the socialist march in the UK.  If not, then they are doomed, and we are most likely going to follow suit, just at a later date.  If they can even slow down that paraded, then perhaps there’s a chance for us as well.  Time will tell.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Evils of Coveting

The first weekend of May I was at a writing conference in Oklahoma City, OK.  While at the conference I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman whom I’d read on the blog of his literary agency (Hartline Literary Agency, www.hartlineliterary.com ) where he is an agent.  The gentleman’s name is Terry Burns and he’s a unique individual.  (He’s also a dead ringer for my mom’s cousin, Bob McCleary, right down to the western dress, his voice, and his mustache.)  Terry is also a many times over published author and his writing on the blog shows he’s quite accomplished.

The subject of the particular entry was “ A bigger deal is getting away” He wrote about how he answered authors that were hesitant to accept a particular book deal for fear that they might lose a bigger, better deal. His answer is, and I quote, “Let me set your mind at ease, a bigger one IS getting away.” In the publishing business, unless your name is Steven King, Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, etc., you’re ALWAYS going to have a better deal get away. That’s just the way it is.  It’s up to your agent to negotiate the best deal they think they can and then it’s up to YOU to realize that while it may not be the absolute best deal in the world, if it wasn’t a GOOD deal then they wouldn’t be recommending it and you need to learn to accept that.

As I was reading Terry’s musings on the subject, my mind explored just how true that was in so many aspects of our lives.  What it boils down to, at least to me, is Coveting.  Whether you believe in God and the Ten Commandments or not, few would disagree that to covet is a very bad thing.  In fact, I’d say it’s probably one of the worst things because it leads to so many other evils in our lives and the world.  Think about it for a minute.  Why do people commit adultery?  Because they covet another person’s spouse.  Why do they steal?  Because they covet someone else’ money.  Why do they kill?  Because they covet someone else’ life.  Heck, why do we start wars, in many cases?  Because one nation covets the resources or property of another.

To covet something points out just how dissatisfied with our own lives we really are in many cases.  It’s the root of why we never feel like we got the best deal.  We always covet the deal that we heard someone else got that might be better.  This directly relates to what I see happening in the United States today.  We have let the coveting of others’ possessions rule our lives instead of earning and working for what we have.  An excellent example is the recent debate on health care and more specifically, health insurance.

There is no doubt that a certain, small number of citizens cannot afford to pay for their own adequate health insurance.  The numbers vary on the uninsured in the US but generally it boils down to about 10% of our population, but not all of those people can’t afford to have health insurance, they simply choose NOT to have health insurance.  We all know of people that have 2, 3, or more cars and no health insurance.  They might have boats and other toys as well, but say they can’t afford health insurance.  These people first covet what others have in the way of material goods (cars, boats, atv’s, TV’s, etc.) to the point that they ignore the true needs of their family and when they realize they should have something like health insurance, they covet the actual coverage others have worked so hard, and paid for, often forgoing the same luxuries and toys.  While I believe that as a compassionate society we should help those that truly can’t afford their own insurance, I do not feel we are obligated to feed the covetous nature of those that simply have priorities that keep them from buying their own health insurance.

Coveting what someone else has is simply another way of saying I won’t be responsible for my own decisions and since someone else has it, I should have it as well.  I’m sorry, but that’s not true, and the sooner we cut that cycle of covetous dependency the sooner we can get our country back on the path the founding fathers intended.

-john stricker

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 3:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Man” is starting to arrive…….

Who’s the man?  Well, not you or me, most likely.  For the sake of this commentary, the man is coming to visit you from the US Dept. of Commerce and he/she will be wearing a badge identifying them as a US Census taker.  If you did not fill out your census, or filled it out incompletely, the actual people are beginning to come around and ask you personally.

The Census has taken a hit as being highly intrusive and asking many questions they don’t really have any reason for asking.  While in my opinion this is still the case to a certain extent it is much less intrusive than in past years.  Before you decide what you should and should not answer I’d like to cover what the census is for and how it’s authorized.  A census was authorized in the original US Constitution to apportion the number of representatives in the house.

The US Constitution in Article 1, Section 2 calls for a census every 10 years.  It was modified by the 14th Amendment after the Civil War and the slaves were freed.  So what does the Constitution say the Government needs to know?

First off, how many people live at that location.  Total number.

Second, and this may surprise you, but the age of those people.  Why?  Because even though the right to vote in the US begins at age 18, the Constitution still apportions representatives by the number of people over 21.

Third, gender.  Why?  Because according to the 14th amendment, the numbers of male citizens that are denied the right in federal elections to vote for a few reasons (mostly having committed a crime) means they need to reduce the number of people in proportion to the total number of males over 21 in the United States.  Interesting, though, that they do NOT ask if you are eligible to vote in a federal election.

Fourth, race.  Not for any discriminatory reason, but because “Indians” (native-americans for the PC crowd) that are NOT taxed are NOT counted.  Interesting again is that while they ask for race, they don’t ask if you’re an “Indian not taxed”

That’s it.  That’s all the Constitution requires they find out.  Over the years the government has used the census as an excuse to go on their own personal fact-finding missions.  In the past questions regarding how many flush toilets you had, what your heating system was, how big your house is, your income, etc., were included as well.  On the mail in forms this year there were only a few questions and most of them legitimate.

How many people lived at the location, their names, their age, their birth date, their race, and whether or not you owned your home and if you were paying a mortgage.  As you can see, some of these questions are not authorized by the Constitution.  Even though they weren’t authorized, they are still codified in law.  So what if you’re a strict Constitutionalist, as I am, and don’t want to answer them all?  My answer was I won’t answer them.

I provided the names and birth dates of the people living at my house.  In the box where they wanted the age I wrote “Are you all really that stupid you can’t figure it out? I already told you my birth date.”  For race, I wrote in “None of the Above – Not an Indian not taxed”.  In the area about my housing I wrote “None of your damn business”.

As I mentioned, by not answering completely I did violate the law.  It’s important to note, though, that I DID NOT LIE.  I did NOT misrepresent anything on the form.  But I did violate the law in a small act of civil disobedience.  By doing so I am well aware that I can be fined $100 per USC Title 13 Chapter 7.  If you lie, you can be fined $500.  There is no jail penalty for not filling out the form completely.  If they wish to charge me with a violation of the law, that’s fine.  I’ll go to Federal Court without a lawyer, plead guilty and explain my reasons, and pay the $100 fine.

To me it’s worth $100 to do a small part in limiting what the government can and can’t do.  For anyone else, you just have to make up your own mind.

-john

Published in: on May 6, 2010 at 5:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Attempted NYC Bomber Suspect Arrested

As of the news this morning authorities have in custody a suspect in the attempted bombing in NYC.  The city of New York and the United States got lucky.  Either incompetence on the part of the bomb maker, quick thinking on the part of a regular citizen, excellent work by authorities in dealing with the thread, or all of the above kept a massive loss of life and property damage from happening.  This is a good thing.

Excellent work by law enforcement and quality surveillance resulted in the apprehension of a suspect in very short order.  Again, this is a good thing.

From the news the suspect is reported as being a naturalized US Citizen that had origins in Pakistan.  Faisal Shahzad was arrested trying to leave the country.  The Taliban in Pakistan is indirectly claiming some credit/responsibility for the attempted bombing but there is significant doubt about that claim’s validity.  That will all sort itself out.  Professional investigators will get to the bottom of who did what, who helped who, and where the responsibility lies.  These are professionals and I leave it in their hands.  Other things trouble me about this.

I’ve heard on two separate news programs this morning that Mr. Shahzad should be considered a terrorist and if necessary, enhanced interrogation techniques used to find out what he knows (if anything).  NO.  NO.  NO.

We live in a Democratically Elected Representative Republic that has as it’s basis the rule of law with the foundation of that rule being the US Constitution.  We can not, we must not throw that foundation out because some act seems particularly heinous to us (or because someone happens to be an ethnic origin we don’t particular like or understand).  Mr. Shahzad is a US Citizen and must be afforded all the rights due him under our Constitution.  The Supreme Court has said he must be Mirandized, so he must be Mirandized.  The law in that jurisdiction says he must be arraigned within 48 hours so he must be arraigned in 48 hours.

The US Constitution is there for two reasons.  First, to limit what the federal government can do and second, to protect the rights of US Citizens.  That’s it.  That’s its reason for being.  It MUST be honored.  It MUST be respected.  It MUST be upheld.  Especially when we’re dealing with someone we feel doesn’t necessarily deserve the rights afforded under the Constitution, as in this case.  That’s when it’s the most important time to make sure those rights are respected.

The Constitution is something we have to respect, honor, and obey even when we don’t particularly want to do that.  In fact, that’s when it’s the most important time to do that.

-john

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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