Monday, March 26, 2012

Important Week for the Republic

This is, perhaps, the most important week in the Republic since its founding. This week ObamaCare is presented in front of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Typically, SCOUS relies on written briefs from the various parities involved, and hears a short, typically two hour, oral argument on the case. The oral argument is not like in any other court. In the Supreme Court, you give a short opening statement, then the justices grill you with questions based on your written brief. According to the only lawyer I know who has ever argued a case before the Supreme Court, it is the most intimidating conversation you will ever have.
This case has vast implications for the powers of Congress, and government in general. Because of this, SCOUS will spend an unprecedented three days on the issue. On the first day the topic will be if SCOUS can even rule at all over the individual mandate yet. There is a very obscure bit of the tax code hanging around since 1867. That little bit of law says that no tax law can be challenged until the tax has been levied and collected. The individual mandate's penalties due to non-compliance do not come in to effect until 2014, therefore the first time any of the penalties would be collected would be in 2015. So, according to the 1867 law, the individual mandate would not be eligible for challenge until 2015.
What is most interesting about this part of the proceedings is that this was never ever brought up on appeal. This is just something that SCOUS wanted to talk about first. You see, SCOUS spends most of its time asking lawyers, "What does this have to do with us??" They are the only court that really works hard on not doing its job. It is also something that the opponents of ObamaCare were not prepared for... neither were the supporters. The court appointed a special attorney to argue for the Government, and the states attorney's Generals will need to come up with the opposition.
That they are even talking about this law suggests that there is quite a bit of support on the court to postpone arguments for several years. This only helps the supporters of ObamaCare, as they would have more time to change the mandate language to be more palatable to SCOUS.
Also, if President Obama is re-elected, there is a good chance that he will be able to nominate one or more Justices to SCOUS, thus changing the leaning of the court from a conservative court to a liberal one.
To be honest, I don't know where the court will end up on this one... I didn't see it coming, and I know next to nothing about the 1867 law. It sounds valid... However, the court, while often seeming like it wants to postpone and not rule on anything, is loathe to not take up cases that it has selected for hearing. I think if the court wanted to take this route it would have simply directed the lower courts to examine this law, and let it be at that. That they actually scheduled three days to go over the ObamaCare case tends to make me believe that they will not punt, but go a head and make a true ruling on the entire case.

The next day of arguments is over the Individual Mandate itself, which will be moot if the court decides that the law can't be challanged... Anyway what everything boils down to is this clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution:
[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
It gives Congress the power to act as the regulatory body for commerce that happens across state lines. It means that the Federal Government is the one who says how interstate commerce is to proceed. It is something that the Articles of Confederation did not have, and it is a vital part of what makes the United States, united. Before the Constitution, states basically had to make treaties with one another over interstate commerce, and the agreement that Virginia may have had with Maryland, may not have been the same agreement that Maryland had with New York. With the central government powerless to regulate the state's commerce, states literally fought battles between one another to settle disputes. It made things horribly confusing for merchants as well, with one set of rules for one state and another set of rules for another. So, when the Constitution was written, this clause was included to solve all of these problems.

With the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1929, the usage of the Commerce Clause was greatly expanded to make a Constitutional opening for his New Deal social programs. This didn't go over well with the existing court, so Roosevelt planned to add so many of his own justices to SCOUS that he would force a court to agree with the New Deal's social programs. In the end, he didn't have to. Roosevelt was president so long that he outlasted many of his opponents, and was able to stack the court in his favor. This is one reason for the term limits now imposed on the Office of the President of the United States.

Anyway, back to ObamaCare... The supporters of ObamaCare say that health care is something that we all consume and that it is an industry that spans every state in the union. Therefore Congress has every right, under the commerce clause to require that all people have some sort of health insurance.

The opponents of ObamaCare will argue that the Commerce Clause does not apply in this situation, and that there is no possible way that a person who chooses not to buy Health Insurance is engaging in interstate commerce. They will argue that the Federal Government has never before attempted to regulate non-participation in an act as participation in that act.
The supporters of ObamaCare will say that this is not so, and that Government regulation of NOT engaging in interstate commerce is long established law. They will bring up the curious case of Wickard v. Filburn where a wheat farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was fined because he was growing wheat over his quota. Filburn's argument was that the wheat was for personal use, and was not going to be sold, therefore he was not breaking any quota laws, and, since the wheat was not sold, he was in no way engaging in interstate commerce. Nah nah na boo boo!!!

The court thought otherwise, though and said that even though Filburn was not selling his wheat, he was not BUYING wheat either. Thus by not engaging in interstate commerce, in the purchase of quota controlled wheat, Filburn WAS engaging in interstate commerce. In other words, by not buying wheat off of the controlled market, Filburn was acting to soften the market by growing his own wheat. So, Filburn's self used wheat could, indeed be regulated by the FedGov. Awesome right?

Roscoe Filburn and his wheat.

Then comes the much touted, world famous, broccoli argument. The opposition then argues that if the FedGov can force people to buy health insurance, can they also force us to buy broccoli? Broccoli is good for you and thus its consumption would lower health care costs. So, in the name of lowering interstate health care costs, we must now buy a quota of Broccoli every week, or be subject to fines. What about cars? GM is too big to fail, and is now mostly owned buy the United States Government. The best solution for GM to pull itself out of bankruptcy is to increase sales. It aid this Government owned company Congress says that every American must purchase a GM car. Blamo, problem solved.

Non-sense, says the supporters. The purchase of health insurance affects everyone in that if you do not have health insurance, and you go in to an Emergency Room, Medicare must cover your dead beat ass. Since Medicare is paid for by the American Taxpayer, ipsofacto, the Government has the power to force you to buy something that will keep your dead beat ass from bankrupting Medicare.

I have to admit first, and if you read this blog you already know, that I have NO CLUE on how the Government has any leg to stand on in this case. I don't see how not engaging in commerce, is commerce, because I MIGHT have a need for a government program later on. It doesn't hold water. Not to mention the fact that if we didn't make the very real Constitutional stretch to allow Medicare in the first place we wouldn't be in this goddamned mess in the first place. The simple fact is that this law removes any limits on the government at all. They can force the population to do, and to buy whatever they want it to. It is the end of the Republic, and the beginning of Fascist America (Fascism in an economic sense is where commerce is owned privately but tightly controlled by an all powerful state).

The final day of arguments is to settle the final two questions posed before the court. Whether the rest of the law can take effect even if the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional and whether the law goes too far in coercing states to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income people by threatening to cut off federal aid to states that don't comply.
Again we see the cascading mootness (I don't think that is a word...) of these decisions. If the court decides that they can hear the arguments about the individual mandate, and they decide that the mandate is unconstitutional, then the first question is valid, and the second is not. However, if they decide they that they can hear the arguments about the individual mandate, and they decide that the mandate is constitutional, then the second question is valid, and the first is not. BUT, if they decide that they can't hear arguments on the individual mandate, then everybody goes home and waits until 2017 or so when these questions pop up once again.
Anyway, back to the point. I don't see how the states that don't comply can't be coerced to comply with the federal aid thing. The FedGov and the states have been playing this game forever and it never seems to be a constitutional issue. It would be very interesting, though if the court said that the FedGov can't do such a thing. I wounder if we would see the drinking age drop back to 18 in the southern states... Now that I am over 18, I really... don't think I could care less. But there are a number of other issues that States could rebel on with out the fear of the FedGov taking money away. I like that... I like that a lot!!
Can the rest of the law stand if the individual mandate is taken away? I think that the court will say that it could. I don't see any reason why not, the court has a history of striking down individual pecies of law, while keeping other pieces intact, so I don't see why that would be a problem here. The problem would be to the law itself. With no way to ensure that the populace is insured, the law becomes a toothless tiger, and not worth the paper it is printed on. This might be the best situation for everyone, except we Libertarians who have been screaming since 1929..., as this will allow the more popular parts of the law, no denial of policy based on pre-existing conditions, and no lifetime limit on policies, to survive.

This is a big deal and I really hope that the court will strike down the individual mandate. I think that it will come down to a 5-4 decision to strike it down, but you never know about Justice Kennedy. He is a big government conservative, and not a strict Constitutionalist like the other Justices appointed by Republicans. There is no doubt however in the liberal side of SCOUS. They will undoubtedly vote to uphold the mandate.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Republican Canidates

The candidates are slugging it out big time for the Republican nomination for president. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I am not really a big fan of any of them, but let's roll through them and see who will be facing the President in the coming election.

Now all of these guys are going to be the same on several points, and I'll just address them now. All will appoint justices to SCOTUS who will be strict Constitutionalists in the cut of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas. All of them are going to be against Row v Wade. What I am going to look at are issues that are important to me, and my general feel for each candidate. I will likely not vote for the eventual nominee for President, nor will I vote for President Obama. I live in Oklahoma, and this state's delegates to the Electoral College will go to the eventual Republican nominee. I, therefore, am safe in voting for the Libertarian candidate, who will likely be former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. BUT since Mr. Johnson will NEVER become POTUS, I want to look over the guys who actually have a shot.

Mitt Romney

Mitt is a business man, the former Governor of Massachusetts, and the CEO of the Utah Olympics.
Mitt's most attractive features, besides his hair, is the fact that the business that made him his millions was taking crap companies and turning them around in to money making machines. He showed that this could be done with bureaucratic nightmares as well when he took the Utah Winter Olympics, a failing money pit in one of the most rural settings the Olympics has ever seen, with absolutely NO chance of making any money at all, and turned it in to the most profitable Olympics that has ever been. On top of all of that Utah is STILL benefiting from Mitt's work. The SLC airport has become a hub for regional flights, the Utah Ski industry has grown from little known jerkwater mountains in to the number 2 place to ski in the nation.
While he was in Mass, he floundered a bit as he attempted to run a State like a business. After a while he got the hang of it and made some good progress for businesses in that state. His biggest achievement was that he was able to work with some of the most liberal "tax and spend" democrats in the nation to cut $3 Billion from the state deficit, and raised state revenue all without raising taxes.
My primary problem with Mitt is that he is TOO willing to cave in to Democrats in order to get things done. Who is the real Mitt Romney and where does he draw the line? He has shown that he is more than willing to move that line once he draws it.

The Issues I care about:
Gun Control
Mitt's stance on Gun Control has been very flexible. He said he believes in the Second Amendment, but, as Governor, he worked for the passage of a law that extended the so called "Assault Weapon" ban. He is quoted as saying that he would work so that "regular weapons more available to our citizens." Well, Mitt... define "regular weapons."

This is why you elect Mitt Romney POTUS. The guy knows how to set businesses loose. He knows where to regulate to prevent fraud and where to relax so that business can grow. He is very good at this sort of thing. He would be the one to lead congress to create legislation to really cut the red tape.

What Mitt would NOT do, however, would be to force Congress to take back their role as the creators of the regulations. He would want to keep the regulation creation and interpretation of federal law with the Executive Branch. Mitt is a guy who is after power, and this little gem of power he would be unwilling to relinquish.

Mitt would work to cut spending, but not to the extent that the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, and Rand Paul want spending to be cut. You can expect Billion dollar deficits and a growing national debt under a President Romney. However the Trillion dollar deficits seen under President Obama should be a thing of the past.

Bailouts Mitt would have bailed out GM. He thinks that the bail outs of GM and all the bailouts of Chrysler (this is their Second) were a good thing. Expect more of the same from Mitt.

Tax Reform
Mitt is for cutting of the Corporate tax, and other taxes, but keeping the basic tax structure that we currently have. Again, Mitt is a power guy and the tax code gives too much power to the Government to just give it back to the people.

Newt Gingrich

Newt was a History Teacher, congressman from Georgia, Speaker of the House, Government Consultant, and Author. He has spent more time in Government than any of the other candidates.
Newt's most attractive feature is that, in 1994, he was the leader of the Republican Revolution that took back the House after 60 years of Democrat control. During his time as Speaker, he passed the Contract for America, the congress cut Welfare, and they balanced the budget. He was forced out of office on ethics violations that were all, eventually, shown to be false.
While Newt talks a good game most of the time, the ideas that he comes up with when he really gets going are just off of the wall. At his heart, he believes that Government is there not to protect people and defend freedom, it is to control people. He gives me the wiblies. One idea that gives me the most wiblies is that he says we can get $2.50 gasoline. How is the President going to do that? Newt says by opening up American markets. Sure, drilling more oil will drop the price of oil, but enough to get it back to $2.50? I don't think so. Really the only way to drastically bring down the price of oil is to increase the value of the dollar, and I don't think that Newt has it in him to do what is necessary to make that kind of deflation happen. Other than that, you can make $2.50 gas with price controls, but that is a very bad thing.

The Issues I care about:
Gun Control
Newt holds the line on gun control issues. He is a Government guy, so he has toed the line on keeping existing gun laws on the books. He is supportive of the CCW reciprocity bill in congress.

Newt proposes to improve the economy by a fundamental reforming of the entitlement system. He also wants to get rid of the capital gains tax, and the corporate tax. He says this will make companies want to invest in the US and let them keep more of their profits.
Ok, sure, I'll buy that

Newt says that regulations need to be loosened to allow for more American investment.
Ok, I'll buy that, BUT again, Newt is a government power guy, and he will do nothing to hand back regulation to congress from the Executive. It is just too big of a power stick to help his friends and hurt his enemies.

Newt is calling for drastic cuts in spending, and a balanced budget. He suggests that the most gains can come from entitlement spending. I tend to agree with him.

Tax Reform
Newt would keep the Bush tax cuts, cut the corporate tax rate, and eliminate taxes on Capital Gains. He would then "move" to a flat tax. What that means I don't rightly know. Herman Cain is campaigning with Newt, so you have to think there is a lot of talk of Herman's 9-9-9 plan. All in all I think Newt wants to operate inside the existing tax code. He has more power and more control over people that way, and I think he likes that.

Rick Santorm

Rick was elected to congress at age 32 in 1990, and then to the Senate in 1995 in 2007 he was defeated in his re-election campaign by a HUGE margin. Before, and after, his life in politics Rick practiced law.
Republicans like Rick because of his stance on social issues. I like Rick's stances on eliminating Fanie Mae and Fredie Mac's government backed role in home mortgages, and reducing the role of the FED in the economy.
I HATE Rick because of his stance on social issues. The guy is so homophobic I honestly think he might lean a bit that way. He is so anti-abortion that not only should Row v Wade be overturned, but it should be a federal crime to have such a procedure.
The guy touts "family values" and a life that is "centralized on faith" as his big campaign slogans. He actually said that Satan had America in his cross hairs. I honestly think that Rick would move the US to some sort of "Escape From LA" style theocracy. I agree with some of his stances on other issues, but holy cow this guy thinks religious freedom is deciding on with sect of Christianity you want to profess to.

The Issues I care about: Gun Control
Rick is a big supporter of gun rights, and supports the CCW Reciprocity bill in congress. While he was in congress Rick did a lot in the way of tort reform protecting Gun Manufactures from lawsuits brought against them by people who were hurt by the manufacturer's product.

Here is where Rick gets kind of fuzzy... Reading his campaign literature is tedious, because he mentions family and faith more than anything else. What this has to do with the economy or getting business working is very difficult to see... I don't think that Rick really knows what government can do to help businesses out or that the FedGov's place is at the interstate level. Regulation
Rick has said that he will roll back regulations brought on by the Obama Administration. Does that mean handing the regulatory responsibility back to Congress?? No. Spending
Rick is all for cutting spending in the way of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul. I really really like that. However, Rick, like Ryan and Paul, is set on passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. I don't like this for a number of reasons, but what about a federal law for a balanced budget? That might work.
Rick is big for the major reform of entitlement programs, one for the money they save and two... because entitlements destroy families by making a father unnecessary. Seriously. He says this crap. Tax Reform
Rick is for cutting everybody's taxes and, *palm slaps forehead* TRIPLING the child deduction. Sounds great for a guy with seven kids... On top of that he would (from his web site)
  1. Cut and simplify personal income taxes by cutting the number of tax rates to just two - 10% and 28% returning to the Reagan era pro-growth top tax rate
  2. Simplify the tax code and reduce middle income taxes by eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
  3. Simplify the tax code, encourage savings and investment and reduce taxes by eliminating the Death Tax
  4. Lower the Capital Gains and Dividend tax rates to 12% to spur economic growth and investment
  5. Reduce taxes for families by tripling the personal deduction for each child
  6. Reduce and simplify taxes for families by eliminating marriage tax penalties throughout the federal tax code
  7. Retain deductions for charitable giving, home mortgage interest, healthcare, retirement savings, and children
  8. Eliminate the cap on deductions for losses incurred in the sale of a principle residence
  9. Cut the corporate income tax rate in half to make our businesses competitive around the world, from 35% to 17.5%
  10. Eliminate the corporate income tax for manufacturers – from 35% to 0% - which will spur middle income job creation in the United States and will create a job multiplier effect for workers
  11. Spur innovation in America by increasing the Research & Development Tax Credit from 14% to 20% and make it permanent
  12. Eliminate the tax on repatriated taxable corporate income – from 35% from 0% - when manufacturers invest in plant and equipment; and reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 5.25% on other repatriated income and allow for 100% expensing for new business equipment
Holy CRAP!! Why not just embrace a flat tax or the 9-9-9 program Rick? All of this stuff is just more of the same adjusting of our existing tax code.

Rick gets more because he is one of those guys who screams FREEDOM, but then talks about how he would use the power of Government to restrict the very thing he says he wants to grow. Rick wants to address the "pandemic" of porn in American society. Sorry Rick, but the First Amendment, you remember the one that says Religion you should know that one, protects our right to watch OR not watch porn. You must take the good with the bad, because it is the CHOICE that is freedom.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul is a Physician, and a Congressman.
This is Dr. Paul's third time to run for POTUS. Twice as a Republican, once as a Libertarian. I like Paul on just about all accounts. The only thing about him that I don't like is that he is very isolationist. I think that the US needs to be involved in international politics, on a HUGE scale. What I like very much about Dr. Paul is that he wants military intervention to be preceded with a Declaration of War. I absolutely agree that the President has been given unconstitutional power to wage war with the War Powers Act. It is amoral to wage a half-assed war. In a declared war Congress and the President have SO much more flexibility to fight it. Why hamstring yourself? Because they can and it is politically expedient. Dr. Paul would not have such a situation.
Issues I care about:
Gun Control
Ron Paul goes almost as far as I do in terms of Gun Control. He believes that the 2nd amendment grants every citizen the right to keep and bear arms. He has been passive on the removal of federal restrictions on the owning of automatic weapons, so he does not go all the way, but he is, by far, the most pro gun of the candidates.

Economy/Business and
Dr. Paul's stance here is to get rid of the FED and return the dollar to a hard currency. This would make dollars very valuable, and not attached to the economy in any real way. With an independent currency prices would stabilize and be much cheaper (seaming) then before. For instance, a gallon of gas would only cost about a dime, because that dime would now be tied to an amount of gold.

Dr. Paul would throw back to congress the power of regulation. In other words, congress would actually have to write laws that specifically stated how they would be implemented. Current law that requires the Executive to define their regulations would be cut to the absolute minimum required by law.

Dr. Paul and his son Ryand Paul have a plan to cut spending over a Trillion dollars a year. Dr. Paul has said he would never sign a budget that is not balanced, nor would he EVER sign a bill that raised the debit limit.
Entitlement spending would be brought to an absolute minimum.

Tax Reform
Dr. Paul has been in favor of the FairTax, but only if the 16th Amendment could be repealed. However Dr. Paul has said that if we follow the Constitution, the effective tax rate on most citizens should be 0%, so there is no real need for tax reform if spending is brought to where it needs to be.

I like Ron Paul the most. I really do, but his reforms as POTUS just couldn't happen with out a revolution in congress resulting in super majorities of Libertarian leaning Republicans in both houses. Outside that, his ideas are very pie in the sky. I like where his pie is, because most of his views are my own.

Friday, March 2, 2012

First Birthday Cake... At 32

I grew up in rural Nebraska. We weren't rich, but we were better off than most. My dad treated farming as a business, rather than a lifestyle, and made a good living off of it.
I saw poverty, many of the children that I grew up with lived in, what I would conciser, squalor. They were dirty, often showering and washing their clothes at school. It seemed as if their families didn't have two pennies to rub together. However, they all had homes to go to, they had heating and air conditioning, their families had at least one serviceable vehicle, and they all had color Television. Some even had gaming systems, something that my family never had.
Every single one of them had cake, presents, and even a party for their birthdays.

With this as a reference of poverty, it is difficult to conceive what REAL poverty is. When I went to Mexico City as a teenager I witnessed real poverty first hand. Those so poor that their primary concern was where they were going to find their next meal. It was a shock.

From time to time, I will travel to a country where poverty is real, and I will be shocked anew. However, there are those who can lift themselves out of this poverty. Enter one of my favorite, though somewhat batshit crazy, fighters, Rousimar Palhares.

Rousimar grew up in Dores do IndaiĆ”:

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When he was growing up, since he was about 7 he worked on a farm with his parents to earn money for the family. He once fell on a severed banana tree stump that cut deeply in to his chest. His family couldn't afford medical treatment, so the closed the wound with scotch tape. You can see the massive scar on his left side to this day:

When he was about 15 his family managed to scrape enough money together to allow him to train every now and again with Iran Brasileiro, a BJJ black belt in his town.

After training for a while, and a few wins in MMA, Rousimar decided he wanted to be a full time fighter. With the help of his brother, he managed to scrape up enough money to get to Rio. Once he was there, he used an old magazine article to find his idol, Murilo Bustamante, and the Brazilian Top Team gym. Rousimar didn't have any money, but after seeing his skill, Murilo allowed Rousimar to work, and live, in the gym. Rousimar has followed Murilo where ever he went, and still trains under him today.
Rousimar has become a feared man in MMA, and in the BJJ world. He is known for his amazing skill with leg locks, and his powerful body.
Rousimar celebrated his 32nd birthday on February 20th, and, for the first time in his life, he celebrated with a cake. Something so common in my country, a far away dream in another. Happy Birthday Rousimar. I wish you many more with all of the sweets that come with your continued success... Just start letting go of people's legs before they come off their bodies, ok?