The latest C-Poll is closed. You can read all about it here!

February 24, 2010

And now, for a completely trivial pet peeve: “Guardrail Damage Ahead”

Here in Texas, whenever someone puts a serious dent in a guardrail, the highway department will send out someone to put up signs alerting us to this fact.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s Maintenance Operations Manual explains when the warning signs should go up:
"Guardrail Damage Ahead" signs should be installed only when substantial damage occurs to guardrail barriers or attenuators which causes them to not function properly.
What the manual doesn’t explain, however, is why this warning to drivers is necessary.

Unless the damage is so severe that the guardrail is sticking out into a lane of traffic, no hazard is posed, so what’s the point?

Whenever I see one of these signs, I say to myself, “Wow, thanks for the warning!  If I lose control of my car here, it might not be safe for me to hit that guardrail.  I must aim for something else.”

How the MSM read Joe Stack’s manifesto

Via RedState, February 22:

For what it’s worth, read it yourself and decide.

February 22, 2010

McCain: It’s not my fault! They made me vote for it!

Senator John McCain, just now realizing that conservatives consider his vote for the TARP financial industry bailout to be a political liability, offers this defense (Arizona Republic, February 22):

Under growing pressure from conservatives and "tea party" activists, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is having to defend his record of supporting the government's massive bailout of the financial system.

In response to criticism from opponents seeking to defeat him in the Aug. 24 Republican primary, the four-term senator says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

So.  Bush administration officials assured you that the money would be used in a particular way.  Then, you and your staff combed through the proposed legislation and found that yes, safeguards were in place to ensure that the money would indeed be used in the way specified by the officials.  Thus, with confidence you cast your vote in favor of the TARP legislation.

Wait.  What’s that?  You didn’t read the legislation before voting on it?  You simply relied on administration assurances that the the money would be spent to combat the housing crisis?

And now it’s their fault that you cast your vote for a bill that had no such restrictions on the money?

You think this defense is going to mollify your critics?

Again and again, you remind us that if Sarah Palin hadn’t been on the ticket, your loss to Barack Obama in 2008 would have been epic.

February 17, 2010

Did the Civil War truly settle the secession question?

Prior to the American Civil War, it was popularly assumed that states which had freely chosen to enter the Union could just as freely withdraw from said union at their own discretion.  Indeed, from time to time individual states or groups of states had threatened to do just that, but until 1860 no state had actually followed through on the threat.

Since then, it has been considered axiomatic that the War “settled the question” of whether or not states had the right to secede.  The central government, backed by force of arms, says the answer is No.  As long as no state or group of states tests the central government’s resolve, we can consider the question to be “settled” from a practical viewpoint.

This assertion has long troubled me from a philosophical and moral viewpoint.  We are supposedly a nation of laws, and the central government is supposedly subservient to the laws that established and empower it.

In a nation of laws, when someone asks, “Do states have a right to secede from the Union?”, a proper answer would have one of two forms:

  • “Yes, because x.”
  • “No, because x.”

Here, x would be an explanation of the laws that supported the Yes or No answer. 

With the secession issue, though, we are given the following as a complete and sufficient answer:

“No, because if any state tries to secede, the central government will use force of arms to keep it from succeeding.”

There is no appeal to law in this answer – just brute force.

Based on this premise, the central government can amass to itself whatever right or power it chooses, simply by asserting it.  After all, who has the power to say otherwise?

Come to think of it, that’s exactly how the central government has behaved more often than not since the Civil War.

This issue came to mind today because of an item posted today on a trial lawyer’s blog (found via Politico).  The lawyer’s brother had written to each of the Supreme Court justices, asking for their input on a screenplay he was writing.  In the screenplay, Maine decides to secede from the US and join Canada.  The writer asked for comments regarding how such an issue would play out if it ever reached the Supreme Court.

Justice Antonin Scalia actually replied to the screenwriter’s query.  I have a lot of respect for Scalia regarding constitutional issues, but his answer here is beyond absurd.

I am afraid I cannot be of much help with your problem, principally because I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court. To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, "one Nation, indivisible.")

He actually said that a constitutional issue was settled by military action.  Oh, and by including the word “indivisible” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the issue became even more settled.

What if the president were to send out the troops to prevent the news media from publishing or broadcasting anything critical of his administration?  This is clearly an unconstitutional action, but by Scalia’s logic, if the president succeeds, we must then say that the military action “settled the question” of free speech.

If these scenarios are not comparable, I’d like to hear why.

February 5, 2010

We truly get the government we deserve

This would be outrageously funny if the implications for our republic weren’t so deadly serious.

Over the past few months, a reporter for CNSNews.com has been cornering various members of Congress and asking a simple question: Which part of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to mandate that every American buy health insurance?

Back in October I highlighted the answers given by three of them, but CNSNews has now done us the service of compiling all of the responses into a video. 

The answers vary, but here’s a rough sampling of what you’ll hear in the video embedded below:

  • You’re kidding, right?  How can you ask such a question?
  • I don’t know (said in a way that does not indicate embarrassment)
  • You’ll need to ask the lawyers on our staff
  • In the “commerce” clause
  • In the “general welfare” clause
  • In the same place that gives Congress the power to pass Medicare.  You’re not saying that Medicare is a bad thing, are you?  Some extremists actually say that we should get rid of Medicare.

The correct answer, of course, is that the Constitution does not empower Congress to pass laws like this.  Try to point this out to our congressfolks, though, and we’re called extremists. 

Decades of public schooling have resulted in generations of constitutionally-illiterate voters who happily keep returning these people to Washington.

February 4, 2010

Too late for Terri, but still encouraging news

The Wall Street Journal reports today on a medical study that, if its findings are true, suggests the possibility that Terri Schiavo was aware of her husband’s unrelenting quest to have her put to death by starvation and dehydration five years ago.
In a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, four of 23 patients diagnosed as being in a vegetative state showed signs of consciousness on brain-imaging tests.

Even more significantly, one patient was able to answer yes and no questions using the researchers' technique—indicating the potential for communication with people previously considered unresponsive.

Researchers at two centers, in England and Belgium, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests on 54 patients with severe brain injury. Of these patients, 31 were diagnosed as being in a minimally conscious state, meaning they showed intermittent signs of awareness such as laughing or crying. The other 23 were diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, meaning they were considered unresponsive and unaware of their surroundings.

The study is part of a growing body of work changing how people think about the vegetative state. "There has been a kind of nihilism towards these patients. This represents a cultural shift," says Joseph J. Fins, chief of the medical-ethics division at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.

Modern liberals probably wouldn’t give the time of day to a classical liberal

I tend to call myself a constitutionalist conservative, but my views on government and liberty align quite nicely with what was once known as liberalism.

"A [classical] liberal is fundamentally fearful of concentrated power. His objective is to preserve the maximum degree of freedom for each individual separately that is compatible with one man's freedom not interfering with other men's freedom. He believes that this objective requires that power be dispersed. He is suspicious of assigning to government any functions that can be performed through the market, both because this substitutes coercion for voluntary cooperation in the area in question and because, by giving government an increased role, it threatens freedom in other areas."

— Milton Friedman

Reference: Capitalism and Freedom (U. of Chicago Press, 1962), p. 39