Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Three Horsemen of the Recent Apocalypse

Democrats, welfare statists, ambitious censors, and People for the Un-American Way were dealt a triple whammy of telling defeats in a matter of two days. Air America, the liberal, anemic, and unlistened-to talk radio station that was intended to compete with Rush Limbaugh and other forthright and outspoken conservative talk show hosts, filed for bankruptcy (for the second time; the first in 2006). It was not a total loss. Al Franken, failed comedian and its most notable host, won a Senate seat in the U.S. Congress.

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown made electoral history by winning the Senate seat held by career welfare statist Ted Kennedy for over four decades in a contest that reflected, on the part of voters, at least, not so much a desire to spurn Kennedy as it was a rejection of Obamacare.

Instead of the usual patronizing and venal blandishments by the late and unlamented Prince of Chappaquiddick, another Kennedy (Anthony) wrote the majority opinion in defense of the freedoms Teddy devoted his life to destroying. The Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, practically nullified the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), citing the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech, reversing itself from having upheld it years ago.

No one mourned or much noticed the passing of Air America, but jubilation over the Brown upset and Supreme Court ruling lit up conservative and Tea Party blogs, while the Mainstream Media and its shills for the welfare state and “progressive” agenda stuttered surprise and dismay, and immediately began rummaging through a slag heap of excuses, regrets and explanations. It was almost as though they were trying to explain why water ran downhill, when they had convinced themselves it ran uphill; their behavior demonstrates their unfamiliarity with reality. Their conclusion was that the Brown victory was simply a matter of voter “frustration,” which must be the political understatement of the month. One could just as easily call the men who fought the British at Concord and Bunker Hill “frustrated.”

Congress, however, in terms of it being a “democratic“ institution, does not believe in the “will of the people” it purportedly represents. That should be obvious given its express train action to pass the health care bill against mounting popular opposition to it, an express train at the moment stalled on the track by doubt, desertion, disaffection, internal squabbling over pork, and a dawning fear of the electorate. The only “will” Congress has believed in is its members’ own “wills.” President Barack Obama, Senator Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seek a “triumph of their wills.”

The reference to Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary on the Nazi Party Congress is not gratuitous. Make of it what you wish, but the fundamental roots of that time and ours, in terms of the growth of government power and its transparent totalitarian character, are the same. The people will be led, willingly, or with whips, to a socialist Nirvana. Only the language, manners, and dress codes have changed.

Scott Brown’s victory is welcome merely as a delaying action -- provided he keeps his promise to oppose the health care legislation in the Senate -- but any optimism about his victory and intentions should be tempered by a healthy dose of caution. As Scott Holleran notes in his blog column, “From Brooke to Brown”:

Brown, supported by independents, unhappy Democrats, and Tea Party activists, ran on one central idea and campaign promise: to kill Obama’s “health care reform”. The crowd during his victory speech roared with the cry: “Forty-one! Forty-one! Forty-one!” It means he had better deliver on his promise and lead the charge to stop socialized medicine. But there he stood with former Massachusetts Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a moralizing Mormon who forced his conservative Heritage Foundation plan, a carbon copy of Obama’s plan, on the state (Brown supported RomneyCare). Brown also supports Obama’s plan to send more troops to be sacrificed in Afghanistan, seeks a ban on late term abortions, and is thoroughly mixed on favoring individual rights and capitalism. During his victory speech, he did not once mention fighting for man’s rights, free market capitalism, or liberty, and his opposition to ObamaCare is entirely based on practical objections, i.e., that it costs too much, not that it is a violation of rights. Senator-elect Brown also joked at his daughters’ expense and showed that he has the capacity to be terribly unserious.

He should be dead serious about his intentions to vote against ObamaCare. If he doesn’t, he will reap the same wrath which the Democrats are likely to experience in November. As Paul Hseih notes in his Pajamas Media editorial, “Brown’s Victory: The Declaration of Independents,“ it was the force of independent voters who tipped the scales in his favor:

Independents are also the driving force behind the tea party rallies. Many tea party supporters have been quite explicit in warning that their opposition to the policies of our current Democratic president and Congress should not be mistaken as automatic support for the Republicans….So what do the independents want? In a word, limited government.

From the tea party protests to the polling booths, independents have been declaring that they want a limited government that protects individual rights.

The Republicans have won an important victory in Massachusetts — one that will reverberate throughout the country as the 2010 election cycle heats up. But they shouldn’t get overconfident.

If Republicans choose to run on a platform of limited government, economic freedom, and individual rights, then they will retain the support of the independents and win. But if they take these recent election victories as a mandate to promote a divisive “social issues” agenda, then they’ll once again drive away the independents and lose.

The independents have spoken — and they want the Democrats out of their pockets and the Republicans out of their bedrooms.

As for the Supreme Court ruling, it no sooner was broadcast than the White House and members of Congress revealed their “wills.” Constitutional “scholar” Obama blasted the ruling, calling it a defeat for “average Americans” and a victory for “special interests,” not really grasping the point that it is in the “special interests” of all Americans, individually or through organizations that happen to be corporations, to be able to express their advocacy of or opposition to ideas or political issues in any form or at any time they choose, without penalty or the threat of arbitrary government injunctions, such as that exercised by the Federal Election Commission.

"We don't need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans," Obama said Saturday, devoting his weekly radio and Internet address to the topic. "And we don't intend to." The White House is working chiefly with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, on a bill pushing back on the court decision. The goal is to put forward legislation within two weeks, Van Hollen said Saturday, but the choices are limited by the nature of the court's First Amendment ruling.

George Soros isn’t a “powerful interest” that does its best to “drown out” the voices of Americans? Are not his MoveOn.org lobby and affiliated leftist organizations, including labor unions, guilty of attempting to gag opposition to health care? Did not Obama-connected ACORN and SEIU thugs and hirelings attempt to ride roughshod over Tea Partiers and town-hall meetings?

You want to ask the President: What part of “freedom of speech” do you not understand?

The New York Daily News, citing a portion of the ruling, could help him.

"No sufficient government interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. His decision - joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito - shredded previous court rulings barring big business and big labor from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads.

Of course, gaffes galore were let loose by various sages of Congress, including one by Maryland representative Chris Van Hollen, who more or less declared the ruling “unconstitutional.”

“This is a very, very sad day for American democracy and this is a very radical, radical decision that came out of the Supreme Court of the United States – a court that said they respected precedent…This throws out decades of precedent designed to protect the citizens and the integrity of our political process against big money special interests. It will open the floodgate, if left unchecked and unchallenged, to more and more special interest money, big corporation money, at a time, as my colleague Senator Schumer said, we need to be reducing the amount of influence of special interest money."

Although it took Justice Kennedy and his colleagues to pen a 75-page opinion, together with supporting concurrences with other justices, the conclusion they reached was clear. Some excerpts from the majority opinion should be enlightening:

If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech. If the anti-distortion rationale were to be accepted, however, it would permit Government to ban political speech simply because the speaker is an association that has taken on the corporate form.

Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC [political action committee] created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence.

When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.

The dissenting opinion against the “wholesale” refutation of the restrictions on speech as exercised by corporations, attempted to read the minds of the Founders, whom Justice Stevens claimed were largely against corporations and the power they could wield. He claimed they were “implicitly” singled out by the Founders for exclusion, and so could not claim freedom of speech rights. The majority opinion addressed the premises of the dissenting minority, and handily vaporized them.

Most of the Founders’ resentment towards corporations was directed at the state-granted monopoly privileges that individually charted corporations enjoyed [e.g., the East India Company, which attempted to dump cheap tea on Americans]. Modern corporations do not have such privileges, and would probably have been favored by most of our enterprising Founders -- excluding, perhaps, Thomas Jefferson and others favoring perpetuation of an agrarian society

The freedom of “the press” was widely understood to protect the publishing activities of individual editors and printers… But these individuals often acted through newspapers, which (much like corporations) had their own names, outlived the individuals who had founded them, could be bought and sold, were sometimes owned by more than one person, and were operated for profit…Their activities were not stripped of First Amendment protection simply because they were carried out under the banner of an artificial legal entity. And the notion which follows from the dissent’s view, that modern newspapers, since they are incorporated, have free-speech rights only at the sufferance of Congress, boggles the mind.

The journey to first principles, at least for the Court, has been long and arduous. But this, at least, is a start.

The fourth horseman of the Democratic Apocalypse, which would be the Court’s absolute and unqualified upholding of individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, remains to enter the heartening picture that Americans saw last week. When it does, we will perhaps see the resurrection of a constitutionally established republic.


M.D. Labeit said...

Perhaps Obama brainfarted when he lamented over the influence of corporate special interests. After all, he literally stole trillions on their behalf.

I thought Brown's gaffe about his daughters was inappropriate. Liutenant colonels are usually less jovial than that.

The Institute for Justice has posted a good defense of Citizens United: http://www.ij.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3063&Itemid=165

Mo said...

thanks for the good post but I do still wonder about corporations and perhaps you might clear up this for me. One libertarian argued that there is privilege in setting up the corporation itself which includes limited liability protection for the owners to encourage the pooling of capital. So in a sense it is a legal entity that the state grants privilege to --- or you can say its sate guaranteed--as opposed to being one based on voluntary contracts between individuals.

Anonymous said...

Mo: Well, the libertarian was only half right. And so are laws of incorporation, which vary from state to state (in the U.S.) and are a mishmash of objective and statist law. The objective part of laws of incorporation protect investors and partners in any contracts signed between parties from fraud and the like, against everything but risk, so the state is not granting those parties or the corporation "privileges," just the sanctity of contract. (You'd have to read through Kennedy's majority opinion, and then Stevens' 90-page dissent, to see what both were getting at on the subject of corporations.) Also, M.D. provided a link to the IJ's answers to the principal charges against the Court's ruling vis-a-vis corporations, which link I would have included in my piece if it had been available in time. You might even read up on the movement years ago that advocated Federal charters for corporations, which as blatantly fascist, and which, if implemented, would have granted corporations privileges in exchange for subservience to fiat law. An example of that now is General Motors.


Roger said...

As has been stated before, you won't get money out of politics (special interests) until you get politics out of money (the mixed economy). To hope otherwise is foolish, at best.

Ed said...

Roger remarked: "As has been stated before, you won't get money out of politics (special interests) until you get politics out of money (the mixed economy)." This is true. The solution may need to be a Constitutional amendment that prohibits Congressmen from taking money from special interests, complemented with a prohibition of special interests to offer them any in exchange for protective legislation, with commensurate penalties, civil or criminal, to lend substance to the amendment.

First and foremost for legislators found guilty of taking money would be censure and/or removal from office. First and foremost for special interests or lobbyists would be a civil or criminal charge of suborning Congress.


MD Labeit said...

Now here's a problem. My platoon sergeant made contact with me just recently and asked if I was interested in going to Haiti to paticipate in providing humanitarian relief. I told I'd give him an answer on Thursday.

Now I'm opposed to the use of the military as an instrument with which to dispense taxpayer funded aid and goods. However, I'm trying to go on active duty status and my commander, seeing that I didn't volunteer for Haiti, may deny my request to go active, since "selfless service" is an official "army value". I won't be safeguarding the rights of American citizens while in Haiti; by contrast, active duty is a path which can put me in a future position where I'll be doing just that.

What should I do? Can a conclusion be formed from this antecedent info?

Ed said...

MD Labeit: Interesting conflict you present. Of course, as you present the conflict, it is a classic case of extortion: "volunteer" for Haiti duty, or jeopardize your value of an active duty career. I don't know where you're posted, here or abroad, but I would do this: Remind your sergeant that your function as an American soldier is to defend this country and uphold the Constitution, not act as a part-time Salvation Army samaritan. Remind him that you are not motivated by "selfless service" to the country, but selfishly dedicated to its preservation as a free country. Remind him that to help Haiti is simply to perpetuate the moral corruption of its government and of its citizens (although that might be over his head).

I took a stand years ago when faced with the prospect of being sent to Vietnam to be sacrificed in a war I didn't understand. But then I was faced with the draft. All I will say here is that all the guys in my Air Police squad died over there, and I'm the only survivor from the original stateside squad.


M.D. Labeit said...

I'm in NYC.
As a clarification, my sergeant isn't pressuring anyone to go. He's merely doing what his next in command is telling him to do. But I have to be briefed by my CO in Feb in order to switch to active duty and chances are, he'll ask if I volunteered for Haiti. I don't know him personally since he's relatively new.

Appealing to protecting the rights of Americans will sound odd to them in the face of the money that I can make in Haiti. "Are you crazy, that's overseas pay you moron!"

PS, the MD doesn't stand for medical doctor.

djr said...

The single atom of good news in the last year - not Brown, looks like a drip; the court ruling! I hate to do this, but Rush's reading of some of the exchange was a wild eye-opener. Banning of books was actually part of the FEC's case (beyond just the video that was the object of the case). I'm damned glad they gored into that element of it - it blew the lid off.