San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, April 13, 2012

Does "Hunger Games" Teach Anti-Globalism?

I have just recently finished reading the three book series known as the "Hunger Games".   Being generally oblivious to popular culture, I was entirely unaware that this trilogy was receiving vast amounts of press coverage.   If you have not read any of the books (or seen the movie) this blog will probably not make much sense.  I do recommend the books.  They are a quick read and will hold your attention.  I am not going to give a plot summary of the trilogy here.  It is sufficient to say that many reviewers have described the trilogy as a bit of a libertarian manifesto.  I believe that goes too far.  These books are nothing like "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand.  These books tell the simple story of how people do not want government meddling in their affairs and how government loves to meddle in people's affairs, sometimes violently.   Since finishing the books I have seen articles in the paper, on an almost daily basis, in which the various themes of the books are discussed. Today is no different. In today's Denver Post a "Guest Commentary" piece is entitled "Parallels Apparent In 'Games'".  It is written by Sophia Allison Goldberg, a freshman at the University of Colorado, Boulder majoring in anthropology. 
Ms. Goldberg's commentary serves as an excellent example of the power of presuppositions.  She is utterly blinded by anti-globalism and anti-capitalism.  She seems to be incapable of seeing what is obvious to any child.  Rather than seeing the dominant theme of the books as anti-government,  Ms. Goldberg believes that the dominant theme of the books is that "It provides a scary commentary on our world.  Look at it this way:  The United States is the Capitol.  We consume mass amounts of products...we tend to remain inactive when it comes to world suffering....I can't stop seeing the parallels....The exorbitant amounts of money we spend on things like ergonomic dog beds or the newest, fastest, shiniest pieces of technology."  She goes on to argue that each of the 13 Districts is actually connected to a country in the world that the United States exploits for our own greedy, selfish, consumer interests. 
Unlike the ending of the "Hunger Games", Ms. Goldberg comes to her entirely predictable conclusion when she asserts "As the US continues to be a major world consumer, we must realize that cheap jeans come at a high price, i.e., poverty and poor working conditions in another country.  In a globalized society, it's not acceptable to ignore problems like this and to be blind to the ripple effects of consumerism....we have to be careful not to become increasingly like the Capitol.  As Americans, we have a personal and civic responsibility to see that our nation does not become the next Capitol."  Whew!  We are on the brink of destroying every country in the world simply because we like to purchase the products they make and we are on the verge of "becoming the next Capitol" for doing so.
Sadly, Ms. Goldberg's comments are precisely what we have come to expect from freshman anthropology students at the University of Colorado.  She is ignorant of basic economics.  She is ignorant about the operation of international trade and oblivious as to how wealth is really created in the world.  She sees international trade in terms of war and exploitation rather than peaceful, voluntary exchange.  She sees the US as the exploiter and foreign countries as the exploited.  Most importantly, Ms. Goldberg sees government as the solution to all of life's problems rather than as a significant source of many of life's problems.  It is here that she totally misses the single most important point in the "Hunger Games".  Government is the problem, not the solution.
Ms. Goldberg forgets what George Washington knew when he said, "Government is not reason; government is not eloquent; it is force.  Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."  She also forgets that Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men."  That is the message of the "Hunger Games".  Ms. Goldberg is so blinded by her hatred of free trade and capitalism that she is incapable of perceiving what even a child can perceive.  The "Hunger Games" does indeed carry a message.  But, that message is not that free trade is evil and that the US is the Capitol.  The message of the "Hunger Games" is laissez faire!

Update 12-23-13:
I was reading an article in the local newspaper last week when I came across an interview with the author of the Hunger Games series.  She is quite the recluse when it comes to granting interviews.   She does not like to talk about the various interpretations that have been assigned to her book.  When pushed she finally relented and told the interviewer what the Hunger Games series is about.  Her answer was brief and she proved everything I have written above to be incorrect.  According to Suzanne Collins, the books are about "war".  I think she opposes it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Obama Issues Executive Order Declaring Himself King

(I failed to post to this blog yesterday.  My goal is to post something of interest here every day the stock market is open.  My apologies.  My computer decided to die Tuesday night.  My new computer was not up and running until late Wednesday night.  Hopefully the new one will give me as much faithful service as the previous one.)

I have written about Executive Orders in the past.  I had never actually read an Executive Order from the President until a couple of days ago when I thought it might be a good idea.  (Maybe that is why my computer died.)  A copy of this Executive Order (issued March 16th and entitled "National Defense Resources Preparedness" can be found at the following address:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/16/executive-order-national-defense-resources-preparedness.)  It does not take long to read and I would recommend that you do so if you are interested.
President Obama begins his order by declaring that the Constitution grants him authority to declare that he is in total control of the US economy.  He says, "By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (50 U.S.C. App. 2061 et seq.), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows..."  What follows is anything but Constitutional.  Once again, search the section of the Constitution that describes the powers of the presidency and see if anything even remotely close to what he declares here is written there.  You will find that it is not.
The purpose of this Executive Order is to promote the "national defense in peacetimes and in times of national emergency."  In other words, this Executive Order applies all the time.  The order is to be implemented by several government bureaus.  "The National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council, shall serve as the integrated policymaking forum for consideration and formulation of national defense resource preparedness policy."  Does it surprise anyone that a bureau (Homeland Security) that was originally established after 9-11 to protect us from "terrorism" is now being used to justify the attempt to control all economic production in the country?  For that is indeed what this Executive Order declares.  Observe the following:
"The Secretary of each agency delegated authority under subsection (a) of this section (resource departments) shall plan for and issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions."  The agencies that had been previously listed include Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation.  Look at what is being asserted here.  Obama is claiming for himself the power and authority to regulate and control the production and utilization of all food, energy, health care and transportation services produced in the United States, in both times of war and peace! 
What does it take to implement this plan of total socialized control of the entire US economy?  The order says, "The Secretary of each resource department, when necessary, shall make the finding required under section 101(b) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(b). This finding shall be submitted for the President's approval through the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Upon such approval, the Secretary of the resource department that made the finding may use the authority of section 101(a) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(a), to control the general distribution of any material (including applicable services) in the civilian market... Except as provided in section 201(e) of this order, the authority delegated by section 201 of this order may be used only to support programs that have been determined in writing as necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense."   In other words, anytime a bureaucrat decides he wants to take control of the economy all he has to do is drop the President a note and it is off to the races!  Anytime the President wants to assume control of the economy all he has to do is determine that it is "necessary" for him to do so.  This is madness. 
Executive Orders are almost always unconstitutional.  This Executive Order should be cause for impeachment of President Obama.  In this Executive Order President Obama has essentially declared himself to be a King.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When In Doubt, Use An Ad Hominem

One of the surest ways to know that your opponent in a debate has nothing left to say is when the ad hominem statement is dragged out.  For those of you who may not be aware of this ancient debating technique, an ad hominem attack takes place when your opponent no longer debates the merits (or demerits) of your position but, instead, creates a personal attack against you.  Children do this all the time.  When one child wants the other child to share his toy, and when the other child does not want to share his toy, the one child will call the other "stupid".  This type of argument goes on all the time. Sadly, adults are as quick to use the ad hominem argument as children.
If you know absolutely nothing about the content of a debate, it is still possible to know who is likely to be telling the truth simply by looking for the first use of the ad hominem argument.  Winners do not use ad hominem statements.  There is no need.  Losers use ad hominem statements all the time.  There is a great need to deflect attention away from the fact that their logical position holds no water and the ad hominem argument is the last resort of folks who are losing a logical debate. 
Vicki Wyatt Davison is a self described "recovering advertising copywriter who lives in Longmont".  She wrote an editorial for the Denver Post yesterday in which she describes three types of applications for public video cameras.  She called them the "good, bad, and the ugly".  I have forgotten what she used as an example of a "good" use for public video cameras.  Her example of a "bad" use of public video cameras was some poor Frenchman who was recorded urinating in his back yard.  Apparently the video has gone viral on YouTube, once again proving that humankind is always attracted to "entertainment" of the lowest common denominator.  I certainly cannot disagree with her example of a "bad" use for a public video camera. 
It was her example of an "ugly" use for a public video camera that caught my attention.  Apparently there is a pair of nesting osprey at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.  This nesting pair has utilized the same nest location for many years.  Ms. Davison describes the situation as a "life wild" in which "fireworks, a farmer's market, rodeos and carnivals happen all around them, without ruffling a feather."  As it turns out, some government employee (she does not say who it was or what government agency is involved) decided to perch a video camera over the nest and broadcast the daily life of an osprey to the world.  The costs associated with this venture, which are admittedly "small", are being paid by taxpayers.
Ms. Davison takes exception to anyone who might take exception to the video camera placed over the nest.  Her example for "ugly" is any person who believes that it is not the job of government to be broadcasting the life of an osprey pair to the world.  In describing the situation she states that "normal folks thought it was a great idea."  The clear intimation is that those of us who do not believe our taxpayer dollars should be spent placing video cameras over osprey nests are somehow abnormal.  She goes on to exhort all of her readers to "ignore the grousing oddballs" and check out the video link to the nesting pair.  So, if I do not believe that it is the job of government to place video cameras high in trees to observe the behavior of a couple of birds, I am the oddball?
Ms. Davison's immediate leap to ad hominem arguments proves that she has no rational argument in support of her position that taxpayer dollars should be spent to place video cameras in trees to record the behavior of birds.  Rather than admit that she has no rational argument in support of her position, she takes the easy and cowardly way out.  She resorts to the tried and true use of the ad hominem argument.  Anyone that disagrees with her is an ugly, abnormal oddball that has no right to sit in the same room with her.  How tolerant of her.  How kind of her. Merely questioning the moral authority and right of government to spend money extricated from me on a video camera in a tree watching a couple of birds makes me an ugly, abnormal oddball worthy of banishment from human society.  So this is where we have come to in our attempts to be civil to one another?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Constitution Is Not Hard To Understand

President Obama has made several comments recently about the role and function of the Supreme Court.  In particular, he stated that "nine unelected justices" should not be able to become judicial activists and change the law of the land.  Now that is a very interesting thing for him to say.  It reveals much about his mindset.
Why would Obama describe the justices as "unelected"?  Certainly he is aware that the Constitution empowers him to appoint Supreme Court Justices.  Declaring that they are "unelected" does not give us any new information about the position.  He could have just as easily announced that "nine human justices" should not be able to become judicial activists.....  That would have been an equally meaningless thing to say.  So why point out the relatively unimportant obvious fact, known by all, that the justices are not elected?
It seems to me that he could only have one reason for doing so.  He must believe that "unelected" is a pejorative term that detracts from their authority.  In Obama's view, a person who is elected has a mandate from "the people" to act as a king and declare what will be the law of the land.  Anyone who is not elected has no mandate to do anything.  Anyone who is not elected is essentially irrelevant.  Since he was elected to the supreme executive position in the land, he must be the king.  As king, he can do whatever he wants.  One only has to look at the long list of Executive Orders he has issued to realize that his view of the division of power in the federal government is best defined as he has it all and the legislative and judicial branches have none.
Doug Stewart of Colorado Springs wrote a letter to the editor of the Denver Post today in which he asserted that the Supreme Court does not have constitutional authority to conduct a "judicial review" of the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President.  He states, "The doctrine of judicial review is not mentioned in the Constitution.  It came into being as a political ploy by Chief Justice John Marshall in the ongoing battle between his Federalists and Jefferson's Republicans."  Mr. Stewart presents an argument that President Obama would certainly enjoy.  Because the Constitution does not explicitly state that the Supreme Court has the legal right to review laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the President for constitutionality, there is no such thing as a constitutional right for the Supreme Court to conduct a judicial review.  What?
Section 1 of Article III of the Constitution states, "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." Section 2 says, "In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."
So here is the question, what does the Constitution say we should do when a State brings a charge against Congress in regards to the constitutionality of a particular piece of legislation?   Does the Constitution describe what is to be done when the State of Colorado decides that a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama is unconstitutional and should not be foisted upon the citizens of Colorado?  Do we have any clue as to how to proceed when Colorado declares that Obamacare is  unconstitutional because it forces citizens to purchase goods and services against their will and under penalty of law for non-compliance?
The Constitution is not hard to understand.  It can be understood by any grade school child with average reading skills.  The Constitution says that any suit brought by a State is to be heard by the Supreme Court.  Furthermore, it states that the Supreme Court shall have "original Jurisdiction" in those cases.  Although it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution that the Constitution is to be the standard of law by which Supreme Court decisions are rendered, I believe it is fair to say that it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that obvious point.  Therefore, it is an extremely simple matter to understand that the Supreme Court, a group of nine unelected justices appointed by the President, has the authority and responsibility to render a judicial decision in regards to the constitutionality of a law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President when any State in the Union asks them to do so.  Why is this seemingly so hard to understand?
The answer to that question is.....it is not difficult to understand.  The answer to that question is.....those who simply do not like the fact that the Supreme Court has the right and the duty to judicially review congressional actions when requested to do so by a State attempt to obfuscate the issue by pretending that this is some sort of difficult legal issue that can only be decided by those who hold advanced degrees in government and law.  It is all smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that things are amazingly simple.  It is all designed to camouflage the fact that the Constitution is amazingly easy to understand and apply, if only we had the will to do so. It is only difficult to understand for those who believe that the Executive Branch is really a kingship that is free from any and all constitutional restrictions whatsoever.  Sadly, many in this country desperately desire a king over a president.