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Doug Smith: Cautionary Tale from a Curmudgeon

2 Jul


Doug Smith: Author, Historian and regular contributor to Free State Patriot

“The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number.

The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

Robert Heinlein


Some of our idealists and are enthusiastically celebrating SCOTUS’ ruling on Obamacare. So, for them: a Cautionary Tale.

Our vaunted Brethren (and Sisterns? ) reversed their own positions and found, because they wanted it to be so, that the words of a law did not say what they said, but rather what the Brethren thought they ought to have said, if the Congress intended what the Brethren thought the Congress ought to have intended.

The court, in very nearly the same breath, has said Government may NOT control your decisions, yet Government May control your decisions, depending 9 people’s whim of the moment. The Court, has, then, gathered to itself the role of Grand Arbiter, final word on all decisions of law or politics regarding what Government may do TO you.

How’s that again?

Our Constitution was enacted to protect citizens from what Government could do to its citizens, by people who had been subjects of a Government which could, and did, exercise arbitrary power at the whim of King or Noble. People who live under a monarch thought to rule by divine Right, unquestionable, are the Subjects of his will, and the whim of his lesser nobles. Or 9 Robed Arbiters.

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Citizens are protected by laws and rights that may not be infringed under those laws. Altering those laws, under the Constitution is, by design, possible, but difficult. We ought not to alter our laws on the whims of a few or a passing fashion, but by a dawning and sustained consensus that a change ought to take place, and carries popular support. Because what is so easily gained, “just like that”, can just as easily be taken away.

As part of this cautionary tale, consider that we fought a war to get the 13th Amendment, and how enduring it is. Whereas the 18th Amendment, which, like Obamacare, involved a Progressive Government controlling businesses and personal financial choices, lasted barely 10 years.

Prohibition, like Obamacare, was touted as “the law of the land”. But it quickly became unpopular, and was repealed. Why? Because it didn’t work, and was a financial disaster. Obamacare has been, and remains, hugely unpopular. Why? Because it doesn’t work, and is a financial disaster.

Our cautionary tale, then, suggests the Idealists might want to temper their celebrations. Or, perhaps, elect politicians who will vote and work to make it workable. To make it survivable, it would be necessary to change it to earn support.

Idealists don’t want to do that. They prefer that you accept their will since acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number.

But their neighbors are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. And we are comfortable with that.


Mark Caserta: Supreme Court has become too political

25 Jun

Do these nine individuals deserve our trust for a lifetime?


Mark Caserta: Free State Patriot Editor

Jun. 25, 2015 @ 12:01 AM

As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States has the responsibility of interpreting the law as it applies to all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution. Unfortunately, through the years, the court has succumbed to being government’s ultimate political apparatus.

Article III, Section I of the U.S. Constitution states that “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” As the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution, the court is charged with ensuring “equal justice under the law” for all Americans.

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A Supreme Court ruling is final and cannot be overturned by any single entity, including the president of the United States. Rulings may be nullified only if a decision is based on a law that Congress has passed, and Congress decides to change the law. Or if the decision is based on the Constitution, and the Constitution is amended. And of course, a later court may overturn a ruling if they deem it unconstitutional.

So what makes these nine Supreme Court justices so wise that we grant them vast power and control over our lives? In this writer’s opinion, not much.

While both the executive and the legislative branch have a say in the court’s composition, little consideration is given to the “constitutional caliber” of this ruling entity.

As a matter of fact, the entire process of vetting individuals nominated for court vacancies has become shallow and conspiring to the point of absurdity. The Constitution doesn’t specify qualifications for justices such as age, education, profession or native-born citizenship. A justice doesn’t even have to be a lawyer or a law school graduate! Sadly, it seems more consideration is given to the ideological balance of the court than to the justices’ qualifications.

Frankly, the polarization that’s enveloped the nomination and confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court has rendered it dangerously political. Remember, an appointment to the Supreme Court is a lifetime commission! The potential ramifications of an ineffective, perhaps partisan court could impact generations!

Currently, the Supreme Court is about as balanced as it’s ever been. It’s popularly accepted that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito (appointed by Republican presidents) comprise the court’s conservative wing. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan (appointed by Democrat presidents) make up the court’s liberal wing, with Anthony Kennedy (appointed by a Republican president) as the court’s moderate and often “swing vote” justice.

Over the years, Supreme Court rulings have literally changed the way we live our lives. Controversial decisions have, at times, been rulings with life or death consequences. Should we really place so much trust in so few individuals?

I’m concerned the Supreme Court has surrendered its noble calling to becoming the pinnacle of political activism. With its escalating impact on Americans, it’s time we protect our nation’s interest by imposing term limits and clearly defined standards qualifying someone to be a justice on our nation’s highest court.

Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

Mark Caserta: Liberals mislead regarding First Amendment

11 Jun


Mark Caserta: Free State Patriot Editor

Jun. 11, 2015 @ 12:01 AM

I recall during a presidential debate in 1999 when the moderator asked the candidates to identify their favorite political philosopher. George W. Bush created a firestorm in the liberal media when he spontaneously and unflinchingly replied, “Jesus Christ, because he changed my life.” The media had a field day castigating Bush for bringing Christianity into politics.

For years, progressives have diligently sought the complete and absolute removal of Christianity from politics. And frankly, we’ve allowed them far too much success. The phrase “separation of church and state” has been bantered about so often by liberals, that many people believe it’s in the Constitution. But not only is the phrase not in the constitution, neither is the concept as propagated by progressives.

The text of the First Amendment reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

As you can see, the First Amendment doesn’t contain the words “separation of church and state.” The words can, however, be traced back to a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote back in 1802 in response to a concern voiced by the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut about religious freedom. In his letter, Jefferson used the phrase as a metaphor depicting the First Amendment as a “wall of separation” between the church and government interference in religion.

Also notice that there are two parts to the First Amendment that reference religion: the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. Today, much is said about the establishment clause, but very little is said about the free exercise clause.

While progressives often attempt to rewrite history to advance their agenda, our Founding Fathers had a keen perspective on the unique and important relationship between religion and the world they wanted to create for themselves and their heirs.

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Leading up to the Revolution, these men witnessed their civil liberties trampled upon by the King of England and Parliament. The First Amendment was meant to protect these basic civil liberties and to ensure government was never able to force a particular religion upon the people or suppress their right to practice it openly. Their recognition of the importance of religious freedom to American democracy prompted the framers to enshrine it forever in the First Amendment.

But through the years, liberal courts and progressives have perverted the Framers’+ intent, essentially trampling upon the free exercise clause through misrepresentation of the establishment clause. Liberals would have you believe that any open display of worship, such as prayer in public schools or displaying the Ten Commandments, is somehow government “making a law respecting the establishment of religion” or “state sponsored religion,” which is absurd.

The strict separation of religion and government was not meant to prohibit openly practicing religion; it was meant to protect it!

It’s time we accept that religious freedom was never meant to be freedom from religion.

Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.


19 Nov

Emperor Obama tests his executive power

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WASHINGTON (AP) — In a broad test of his executive powers, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he will sidestep Congress and order his own federal action on immigration — in measures that could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people illegally in the U.S. and set up one of the most pitched partisan confrontations of his presidency.

Obama declared that Washington has allowed America’s immigration problem “to fester for too long.”

The president will use an 8 p.m. EST address Thursday to announce his measures and will sign the executive actions during a rally in Las Vegas on Friday. In doing so, Obama will be taking an aggressive stand that he had once insisted was beyond his presidential power.

As many as 5 million people in the country illegally are likely to be protected from deportation and made eligible for work permits under the plan. They would not have a path to citizenship, however, and the actions could be reversed by a new president in two years. Officials said the eligible immigrants would not be entitled to federal benefits — including health care tax credits — under Obama’s plan.

The 5 million estimate includes extending deportation protections to parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for five years. The president also is likely to expand his 2-year-old program that protects young immigrants from deportation. The administration had considered extending the executive action to parents of young immigrants covered under the 2012 Obama directive, but immigration advocates said they did not expect the parents to be included in the final plan.

“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said in a video on Facebook.

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Laying the groundwork for his actions, Obama invited 18 Democratic members of the House and Senate — but no Republicans — to dinner at the White House on Wednesday. Among the networks airing his Thursday speech will be Univision, which will interrupt the Latin Grammys to carry his remarks, assuring him a huge Spanish-speaking audience. The major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — were not planning to air the speech, but cable news networks were.

Obama is to speak at Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School on Friday, a school with a large population of non-English speaking students where Obama unveiled his blueprint for comprehensive immigration legislation in 2013.

Republicans vehemently oppose the president’s likely actions but are deeply divided and have spent much of the week intensely debating how to respond. Some conservative members have threatened to pursue a government shutdown and one — two-term Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama — raised the specter of impeachment on Wednesday.

House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman criticized Obama’s planned announcement, noting that the president himself had said in the past that he was not “emperor” and was limited in his ability to act.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this issue — and many others,” the spokesman, Michael Steel, said.

A wide-ranging immigration bill passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the Republican-led House. Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday took turns declaring their support for Obama’s unilateral action, blaming Republican inaction for forcing Obama to act.

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“There’s one more chance: Just put the bill on the floor, Speaker Boehner,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a lead author of the bill that passed the Senate. “Pass the bill and we will not even have to debate executive action.”

Even Republicans who supported the Senate bill that would have overhauled immigration laws said Obama’s go-it-alone approach would backfire. Still, they cautioned their party colleagues not to overreach in their response.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who worked on the Senate legislation, said the executive actions would leave the status of millions of immigrants unresolved and would not address what he called a broken immigration system.

“Our response has to be measured — can’t capitulate, can’t overreact,” he said. “Impeachment or shutting down the entire government would be an unwise move.”

Adjustments also are expected to a 2012 program that allowed immigrants under 31 who had arrived before June 2007 to apply for a reprieve from deportation and a work permit. More than 600,000 young immigrants have been shielded from deportation to date under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Removing the upper age limit so that applicants don’t have to be under 31 — one option under consideration — would make an additional 200,000 people eligible.

In one specific example, about 250,000 farm workers in the United States illegally would receive work permits under Obama’s actions, according to Giev Kashkooli, the national political legislative director of the United Farm Workers who met with White House officials and with Obama on Wednesday. The UFW had been hoping for a specific program that would provide work permits to more farm workers.

The 250,000 farm workers would be eligible by being parents of children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

The beneficiaries of Obama’s new executive action would be treated in the same manner as those immigrants who were shielded from deportation in his 2012 directive, according to one official who discussed the limits of Obama’s action on the condition of anonymity, lacking authority to speak on the record at this point.

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Those young immigrants covered by the 2012 action can obtain work permits but are not eligible for food stamps, federal welfare benefits or disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program. They also are ineligible for tax credits under Obama’s health care law, though they can buy health coverage at full price on the exchanges created by the law. They may be eligible for public benefits provided by some states.

Bergdahl release arrangement could threaten the safety of Americans, Republicans say

1 Jun


By Karen Tumulty, Published: May 31

Amid jubilation Saturday over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity by the Taliban, senior Republicans on Capitol Hill said they were troubled by the means by which it was accomplished, which was a deal to release five Afghan detainees from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Top Republicans on the Senate and House armed services committees went so far as to accuse President Obama of having broken the law, which requires the administration to notify Congress before any transfers from Guantanamo are carried out.

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. McKeon (R-Calif.) and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, James M. Inhofe (Okla.), said in a joint statement.

Lawmakers were not notified of the Guantanamo detainees’ transfer until after it occurred.

The law requires the defense secretary to notify relevant congressional committees at least 30 days before making any transfers of prisoners, to explain the reason and to provide assurances that those released would not be in a position to reengage in activities that could threaten the United States or its interests.

Before the current law was enacted at the end of last year, the conditions were even more stringent. However, the administration and some Democrats had pressed for them to be loosened, in part to give them more flexibility to negotiate for Bergdahl’s release.

A senior administration official, agreeing to speak on the condition of anonymity to explain the timing of the congressional notification, acknowledged that the law was not followed. When he signed the law last year, Obama issued a signing statement contending that the notification requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander in chief and that he therefore could override it.

“Due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life, we moved as quickly as possible,” the official said. “The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the detainees transferred from Guantanamo to Qatar, where they are to stay for at least a year, “are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands. I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.”

Beyond this individual instance, some raised the larger question of whether it is sound policy for the United States to have, in the words of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), “negotiated with terrorists.”

Rogers said the action marked a “fundamental shift in U.S. policy.”

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