Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Under the Mid-Nineteenth Century Sun, Nothing New

Excerpt, "Congressional Government" by T. Woodrow Wilson, 1885:

The leading inquiry in the examination of any system of government must, of course, concern primarily the real depositaries and the essential machinery of power. There is always a centre of power: where in this system is that centre? in whose hands is self-sufficient authority lodged, and through what agencies does that authority speak and act? The answers one gets to these and kindred questions from authoritative manuals of constitutional exposition are not satisfactory, chiefly because they are contradicted by self-evident facts. It is said that there is no single or central force in our federal scheme; and so there is not in the federal scheme, but only a balance of powers and a nice adjustment of interactive checks, as all the books say. How is it, however, in the practical conduct of the federal government? In that, unquestionably, the predominant and controlling force, the centre and source of all motive and of all regulative power, is Congress. All niceties of constitutional restriction and even many broad principles of constitutional limitation have been overridden, and a thoroughly organized system of congressional control set up which gives a very rude negative to some theories of balance and some schemes for distributed powers, but which suits well with convenience, and does violence to none of the principles of self-government contained in the Constitution.

* * *

Nor were these open assumptions of questionable prerogatives on the part of the national government the most significant or unequivocal indications of an assured increase of federal power. Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury, had taken care at the very beginning to set the national policy in ways which would unavoidably lead to an almost indefinite expansion of the sphere of federal legislation. Sensible of its need of guidance in those matters of financial administration which evidently demanded its immediate attention, the first Congress of the Union promptly put itself under the direction of Hamilton. "It is not a little amusing," says Mr. Lodge, "to note how eagerly Congress, which had been ably and honestly struggling with the revenue, with commerce, and with a thousand details, fettered in all things by the awkwardness inherent in a legislative body, turned for relief to the new secretary." His advice was asked and taken in almost everything, and his skill as a party leader made easy many of the more difficult paths of the new government. But no sooner had the powers of that government begun to be exercised under his guidance than they began to grow. In his famous Report on Manufactures were laid the foundations of that system of protective duties which was destined to hang all the industries of the country upon the skirts of the federal power, and to make every trade and craft in the land sensitive to every wind of party that might blow at Washington; and in his equally celebrated Report in favor of the establishment of a National Bank, there was called into requisition, for the first time, that puissant doctrine of the "implied powers" of the Constitution which has ever since been the chief dynamic principle in our constitutional history. "This great doctrine, embodying the principle of liberal construction, was," in the language of Mr. Lodge, "the most formidable weapon in the armory of the Constitution; and when Hamilton grasped it he knew, and his opponents felt, that here was something capable of conferring on the federal government powers of almost any extent." It served first as a sanction for the charter of the United States Bank,—an institution which was the central pillar of Hamilton's wonderful financial administration, and around which afterwards, as then, played so many of the lightnings of party strife. But the Bank of the United States, though great, was not the greatest of the creations of that lusty and seductive doctrine. Given out, at length, with the sanction of the federal Supreme Court, and containing, as it did, in its manifest character as a doctrine of legislative prerogative, a very vigorous principle of constitutional growth, it quickly constituted Congress the dominant, nay, the irresistible, power of the federal system, relegating some of the chief balances of the Constitution to an insignificant rĂ´le in the "literary theory" of our institutions.
Its effect upon the status of the States in the federal system was several-fold. In the first place, it clearly put the constitutions of the States at a great disadvantage, inasmuch as there was in them no like principle of growth. Their stationary sovereignty could by no means keep pace with the nimble progress of federal influence in the new spheres thus opened up to it. The doctrine of implied powers was evidently both facile and irresistible. It concerned the political discretion of the national legislative power, and could, therefore, elude all obstacles of judicial interference; for the Supreme Court very early declared itself without authority to question the legislature's privilege of determining the nature and extent of its own powers in the choice of means for giving effect to its constitutional prerogatives, and it has long stood as an accepted canon of judicial action, that judges should be very slow to oppose their opinions to the legislative will in cases in which it is not made demonstrably clear that there has been a plain violation of some unquestionable constitutional principle, or some explicit constitutional provision. Of encroachments upon state as well as of encroachments upon federal powers, the federal authorities are, however, in most cases the only, and in all cases the final, judges. The States are absolutely debarred even from any effective defense of their plain prerogatives, because not they, but the national authorities, are commissioned to determine with decisive and unchallenged authoritativeness what state powers shall be recognized in each case of contest or of conflict. In short, one of the privileges which the States have resigned into the hands of the federal government is the all-inclusive privilege of determining what they themselves can do. Federal courts can annul state action, but state courts cannot arrest the growth of congressional power.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Friday Night Music - Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

I'm not sure where I have been all my life that I never heard this version before last week.

On the soundtrack of the movie Layer Cake, starring Daniel Craig.  The role that apparently bought him to the attention of Barbara Broccoli and the coveted role of Bond.  James Bond.

If this doesn't rock your socks, nothing will.

Joe Cocker's version of Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.  Incomparable.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Night Exorcism

For the last six weeks I've had a severe earworm.   Every morning when I awaken, ground control to Major Tom is on a loop in my head.  Even after I take my protein pills and put my helmet on it doesn't cease.

So I decided to go full blast and let you share in the joy of David Bowie's Space Oddity.

May all your earworms include Major Tom.

You're welcome.

Exorcism complete!  I hope...

Friday Night Funny

For those of you who haven't seen this yet...it. is. hilarious.  Seems that the UK has been gripped by a (horrible) trend whereby pubs, caffs, bistros, rest au rantes, coffee shops, etcetera, go out of their way to serve all manner of food and drink on/in something other than plates, glasses and cups.  Witness here the joy of being served your steak and melted garlic butter on a well used (and knife marked) flat wooden board.  Or your full English breakfast on a shovel!  A fruit shake in a light bulb and butter on a rock.  Witness too the ingenuity of food served on construction debris and pieces of clothing. And sometimes just on the table top itself. Too hilarious (and frightening) for words.

Enjoy!  Oh, and Bon Appetite!

Monday, March 23, 2015

DJ Snake, Lil Jon - Turn Down for What

Warning: sexual content...

...in the same sense that Road Runner would get a warning for "violence".

[i.e. it's funny, laugh!]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Gig

The Foreign Service's practice of making its officers compete and lobby for positions is not for the faint of heart. Especially when, like me, one is coming into bidding season late and unexpectedly due to circumstance.

Today, however, marked the end of that every-three-year struggle, as I received a "handshake" for a job I didn't think I was a contender for. It's a domestic gig, with "H", the Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

Yes: your humble foreign correspondent is now State's liaison officer to the House of Representatives.

I work on Capitol Hill. I have an office in the *Rayburn Building*.

Good Lord, I'm gonna see such sausage made!

Monday, March 16, 2015

I wish I didn't love you so.

There are some songs that you just know in your heart that you should be offended by and that you should absolutely hate. Like a siren’s song, however, the catchiness of the tunes just get into your head and you find yourself the humming the songs to yourself, cringing all the while.

I have known some guys who thought that women were their property. I have known women who could not respect a guy unless he treated her like she was his property. Either way, I think it is a disgusting concept. However, I like this song, except perhaps for the kazoo solo.

A guy goes to bed with his best friend’s girlfriend. Disgusting. But I like the sound of this country song.

I am greatly troubled by the proliferation of drugs. We are not allowed to burn leaves in the fall anymore because it causes air pollution but inhaling marijuana directly into the lungs has no ill effect. In some places medical marijuana can be prescribed by anyone you designate as your health care provider, medical degree not needed. You can use it in any strength, and in many cases an unknown strength. You can have it whenever you please. Pfizer should be so lucky as to have its drugs used with the same lack of restrictions. But this song rocks.

I am not going to apologize for this one. You just KNOW he isn’t serious. I love the end of the spoken part:

         “Yeah she’s ugly but she sure can cook, baby.”

         “Yeah. Alright.”

Music. Can’t live with it and can’t live without it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ain't no such thing.

I heard this on the radio years ago and wanted to post this story, but I did not recall the figures. I just saw it on the Conservative Tribune so I thought I would pass it along.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men — the poorest — would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12, the ninth $18, and the tenth man — the richest — would pay $59.

That’s what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement — until one day, the owner threw them a curve (in tax language a tax cut).
“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20.” So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.00.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six — the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his “fair share?”

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being PAID to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. 

“I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man who pointed to the tenth. “But he got $7!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man, “I only saved a dollar, too … It’s unfair that he got seven times more than me!”

“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man, “why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn’t show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered — a little late — what was very important. They were FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS short of paying the bill!

Imagine that!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.