Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Super-Dee-Duper week at the Supreme Court of the United States of America!

What a wonderful week at the Supreme Court of the United States of America! On Monday, those rights that are defended by the 1st Amendment, were upheld as the "Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case", which struck down California's effort to force religiously oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to promote abortion mills to their patients with government scripted materials. And then Tuesday brought us a case in which the "Supreme Court Ruling Delivers a Sharp Blow to Labor Unions", which, by some estimates, will liberate some 770,000 citizens from having to support public sector labor unions, which are no longer able to compel membership dues from either those who fundamentally oppose the union's ideology, or simply because they don't want to be members of that union. That is such a good thing (Hopefully Missouri will extend the same right for 'private' workers, again. IOW: 'Vote Yes on Prop A' this August!)!

And then today, Wednesday, came the icing on the cake, as Justice Anthony Kennedy is stepping down from the court, and President Trump will soon be nominating his successor from the list of 25 potential nominees that Neil Gorsuch was also selected from.

Oh... happy day!

Of course, people being who they are, your mileage may vary... people such as, Chris Matthews, for instance:
"...To give this to the Republicans when they control the Senate basically 51 or 50 to 49 with John McCain perhaps not voting again—to give them this last chance to pack the court 5-4 again hard conservative, I again, I say the base will attack the leadership for this if they allow it to happen and they should. Because this is time for vengeance for what happened 2 years ago. And if they don’t reap the vengeance now with four and half months to go before the election, they will not look very strong to their base..."
Doncha think that his use of 'vengeance', really captures the reasonableness, the sense of toleration, and the desire to work together for the 'greater good', that the Pro-Regressive Left so thoroughly embodies? A perfect likeness, I think.

The Left's botched attempt to bring the GOP's Chickens home to roost
Unfortunately, even though Matthews' shouldn't have anything to splutter his hopes upon, his reference to 'what happened 2 years ago', is to a gift that the GOP gave to the Left, from when Merrick Garland was denied a hearing for the SCOTUS seat left vacant by Antonin Scalia's death. That desperate delaying tactic was, as I railed at the time, " a weak, despicable, display of cowardice.", and it didn't require much cranial wattage to realize:
"... the precedent that it will set for every President elected from here on out, where Congress will set limits on executive power based upon it's current comfort levels on the coming election...."
, which in effect provides an excuse to deprive a sitting president of the opposite party, of his power to nominate a SCOTUS vacancy during a presidential election year (one quarter of his term in office!). It is an awful, irresponsible idea... which was validated by the GOP. What's worse, it wasn't necessary, which had they made even a light review of Garland's record, they'd have seen that it was full of opinions that warranted the Senate's legitimate denial of consent to his nomination to the SCOTUS, as many of them were in direct conflict to the United States Constitution that he was supposed to be upholding. Had Sen. McConnell and the GOP had the sand to meet the challenge head-on by examining and exposing the unsuitability of Garland for the highest court in the land, that ploy first proposed by then Senator Joe Biden, would have been long forgotten in irrelevance.

Fortunately for us, however, that same excuse won't work today. Why? Here, let Sen. Schumer tell you why:
"Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016: Not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year."
Don't look now Sen. Schumer, but this is not a presidential election year, it is only a mid-term election - which he has to know... though maybe, as my friend Dana Loesch suggests, maybe he's simply hoping on your ignorance to carry his argument through:
Yep, not only is it not a presidential election year, but years after Joe Biden first floated that absurdity, President Obama himself nominated, and saw seated, Justice Elena Kagan, in the swing mid-term election year of 2010!

IOW my dear Leftist friends: You've got no legs to stand on.

We The People, on the other hand, are looking pretty good, as the vacancy left by Garland's being passed over, was one which President Trump later filled by nominating Neil Gorsuch - an excellent justice, second only to Justice Thomas on the current court. I only hope that President Trump can deliver another such winner from his list of 25 Justices, so that I can see what getting tired of winning, really feels like. :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dear Mr. De Niro: How do you expect to convey meaning, when your words are meaningless?

Everyone's probably seen or heard about Robert De Niro's emphatic F'bomb at the Tony Awards, even those, like me, who didn't watch it. Is there something we can learn from that? Well, not from his 'words', such as they were, but perhaps there is something to be learned from the meaning they lacked.

But first, a couple housecleaning points:

  1. Robert DiNero is a fine actor. To call him washed up, or a hasbeen, is not only an ad hominem, it is a silly one without much more merit than his own statement at the Tony's.
  2. Will I continue to watch his movies? To the extent I did until now, yes. Why? Because he's a good actor, and as an actor he doesn't portray himself, but brings other characters to life in a movie. If he ever takes to portraying himself in movies that are all about what he thinks... those I won't bother with. But until then? Yeah, if a movie seems interesting, his being in it won't phase me one bit.
  3. Being an actor doesn't disqualify him from expressing an opinion. If you'd like to argue the point, I suggest you take that up with James Woods.
Ok, so on to what Robert De Niro didn't have to say, in the meaningless words he emoted for us on the little screen.

It's not all that complicated to see what I mean by that, take a look yourself (note: F'bombs aren't edited out of the video):
"F* Trump. It's no longer 'Down with Trump!', it's F* Trump!"
Can you tell me what that means by that? And I don't mean 'What emotions did he stir up in you?', I mean: What meaning did his words convey to you? What ideas, or gems of political philosophy did they clarify for you? What course of action did they help you to understand that you should take, and which you will now follow through on? Will those ideas and actions contribute more to our public discourse than slapping a pink pussy hat on your head?


No... I'm pretty sure that the words he so deliberately spoke, meant nothing at all to himself or to anyone else, other than an emotionally meaningless statement without any connection to meaningful ideas to be thought upon, or of effective actions to be taken (and no, yelling 'Down with Trump!' doesn't qualify on any count there), just one shock statement, followed by one meaningless cliche, followed again by the same meaninglessly shocking statement (well... it was shocking at one point a decade or two ago, now it's about as shocking as a raised eyebrow), spoken by an old man in a tuxedo.


He carefully and deliberately stated that he wanted to say something to the audience, and the nation, and then spoke words which had no real meaning. That, to me, is far more shocking than the shock value he intended. This much revered and distinguished looking old man in a tuxedo, went out of his way to say something to the world... but what he spoke did nothing more than demonstrate that he had strong feelings which he was apparently unable to put into words (or possibly felt that more meaningful words would be beyond the ability of his audience to grasp?).

Either way, that's sad.

His statement, the emotion of which resonated through the heads of his audience who were equally attuned to the meaninglessness of his words, contained even less meaning, than did the little boy in 'Kindergarten Cop', when he makes the shocking statement (from a little child, to 1990's audiences)that
'Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina'
It's worth noting how the body language of the little boy, closely matches that of Robert De Niro (watch the little boy shaking both arms in fists above his head after saying it), as does the nervously enthusiastic laughter of the other boys and girls in the kindergarten class.

Both of them had nothing to say, beyond delightedly shocking their audience. The difference, of course, is that one group was a group of six year olds, and the other a group of adults, but what they had in common is that they both seemed to be faced with an inability to contain uncomfortable feelings that they can't really put into words and ideas, except to shock each other with.

One group it is forgiveably amusing and maybe even endearing. The other... not so much.

How do people like De Niro and the other entertainers in his audience, expect to convey meaning, or even to live meaningful lives, when the words and phrases they prefer to use, are so meaningless? Perhaps it's just as well that other people write the words that they act out on the silver screen.

But I can't help wondering if there is any connection between the high profile suicides that seem to plague Mr. De Niro's audience, and the likelihood that they too are so filled with angst, without the ability to put those emotions into meaningful words, themselves.


The Frauds of Free Trade, and the possible uses of Tariffs

As someone who holds Free Trade in high regard, I'm about sick of all of those on all sides of the issue, who toss the term about as if it holds no further meaning or purpose than to serve their personal political agendas. For instance, there are the direct frauds of 'free trade', such as Sen. McCain, and a host of others, who have been blathering on about President Trump's tariff talk, as being a threat to what they delight in calling 'Free Trade' between the G7 nations:
There's just one teensy problem with that - for it to be possible to harm an actual Free Trade scenario between the nations of the G7, something resembling Free Trade needs to already exist between them - and it doesn't!!

These nations have not signed on to their pet 'trade agreements', concocted and employed reams of demands and requirements in carefully worded legalese, in order to say nothing more than:
"We pledge not to hamper, alter, favor or hinder anyone engaging in any form of trade across our borders."
Instead, they, and Canada is particularly relevant in this, have enshrined multiple tariffs against trade from the dairy, lumber, and other industries of the United States of America - not only is that not how Free Trade works, it eliminates the possibility of it, which means that the one thing that most definitely does NOT exist between the peoples of those nations right now, is Free Trade!  It is not 'Free Trade', but multi-national agreements of officially sanctioned intrusions into a Free Market, that are the '70 years of shared values' that the likes of John McCain are tweeting their support of, and to hear them pretending to defend 'Free Trade', is like hearing Jack the Ripper calling for chivalrous behavior towards women.

Free Trade is not brought about through governments imposing their restrictions, directives and penalties upon the peoples' attempting to trade across those nations borders.

Free Trade is what results when the political philosophy (which economics is but a subset of) of those nations, have created a Free Market to trade freely within, by establishing a Rule of Law that is dedicated to upholding the rights, property and contracts of their people.

Free Trade, and Free Markets, cease to exist when some or all of those nations write laws and treaties which use their political powers to alter, hinder, favor, and exploit what trade they do deign to permit between their peoples - no matter what you choose to call that, that is not Free Trade.

The truth is that where there exists a NAFTA, or a TPP, or G7 agreements, or ___ (fill in the damn blank), in place between these nations, cutting 'deals' that their people must conform not only their trade to, but more than a few slates of preciously politically correct policies, these manifestos of political manipulation, favoritism and corruption, ensure that there can be NO FREE TRADE existing between the nations involved in these agreements. Those who are peddling, supporting, enabling or ignoring the reality of these 'trade agreements', in order to continue this... fiction about 'Free Trade' being threatened, are, IMHO, the more egregious liars, hypocrites, and frauds involved in the process, not the person who is upsetting the collective apple cart by refusing to play along nicely in such deceitful schemes.
Late Update:
Trump shook up the meeting on Saturday morning by proposing to eliminate all barriers to global trade, a surprise turnaround from his aggressive tone on tariffs before the summit.

“No tariffs, no barriers, that’s the way it should be, and no subsidies,” Trump said during a 30-minute press conference in La Malbaie. "I did suggest it and people were -- I guess they’re going to go back to the drawing board and check it out."
Sorry, who's the threat to Free Trade?
But wait, there's more!
And then there are those constitutional experts who are using 'Free Trade!' and 'the Constitution!', to prattle on about how only Congress can create tariffs, not the President,  and in doing so are being more than a little disingenuous and obfuscatory. Yes, that is what is stated in the text of the Constitution, very true, as you can see in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1,
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
, but there's more to the truth of the matter than that. Congress has passed a number of laws, that explicitly delegate that power to the President, giving him the ability to propose or impose Tariffs, with very few restrictions. Those laws have yet to be successfully challenged and overturned by the Supreme Court (good lord, even writers at Vox realize this - what's the 'experts' excuse?). So... unless you are advocating for pitching the entire congressional record, laws, regulations and codes (which... I'm listening), shut up already about the President not having the power of Tariffs.

FWIW, I don't think it's a good idea for a president to have that kind of power, but thanks to Congress's disdain for our Constitution, and their repeated preference for the Administrative State, the President does now effectively have that power.

... and the economics of cheerleading
And for the rest of you who are enthusiastically on Trump's side of this, stop beclowning yourselves by saying that Tariff's help the economy - they do not. Or rather, it is the easiest thing to point to what is helped by them, but it takes only a little more effort in thought and attention, to see the greater and more widespread damage that they do to the rest of the nation's economy, and to equal treatment before the law.

Frédéric Bastiat, in his 'What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, or Political Economy in One Lesson', and in his 'Economic Sophisms', gave more than enough arguments and demonstrations of the truth of this, back in the mid 1800's, and just as 2+2 is still equal to 4, the truths he exposed and explained about the economic folly of tariffs (and other market interventions), are still, stubbornly, factually, true today, and for all tomorrows to come.

Tariffs are economically unjustifiable. But what about politically...?
Is there a place for Tariffs? Economically speaking? Again, IMHO, No. When government interferes into its citizens contracts in order to 'help' them compete with others from other nations (or within their own, for that matter), the appearance of helpfulness is an illusion. There is no credible justification for initiating the use of Tariffs to 'help' your nation's industry, and especially not to 'level the playing field' with another nation's people and industry, who are legitimately more productive in that area than your own. Ignoring and abusing that power, will result in real and immediate harm to the liberty, rights and property, of those you're ostensibly trying to 'help'. It is true that in the Founder's era, with the study of Political Economy still in its infancy, it was thought there was a justification for tariffs, which is why it was included in the Constitution. However, as was proven over and again within just 50 years of the ratification of our Constitution, on that matter our Founder's were mistaken. Oops.

Still... that doesn't mean that there isn't a political justification for using tariffs.

There is an argument to be made that Tariffs provide a viable means for political retaliation against nations that are improperly and aggressively using their political power to gain from economically damaging another nation's industries, and in a scenario such as that, Tariffs may well be justified in much the same way that retaliatory force is justified in response to physical aggression from an attacking person or an invading nation. Tariff's may well have a valid place in a nation's political arsenal, as a means of addressing economic conflicts, aka: Trade Wars.

But. As with any form of warfare, it is going to be costly, and it will do damage to their own economy, in employing it - neither side will benefit, except through the complete cessation of hostilities. The questions to be asked, are:
  • are the other nation's aggressive provocations worth the response?
  • will that response do greater damage to the aggressor nation, than to your own?
  • will those actions be enough to convince them to curb their aggression?
That is a dangerous game to play, and it only becomes moreso by treating these situations, as the economic questions they only appear to be, rather than as the weighty political issues they actually are. Such oversights can lead to  dangerous misjudgments, misapplications of power, and would almost certainly lead to deeper and more painful complications, conflicts, and unforeseen consequences, from their misuse.

Free Trade, real Free Trade, is hands down, the best policy for all.

But again, if Trump wants to threaten tariffs as a means of negotiating with other nations to end their tariffs, or as a means of political retaliation when they will not drop their aggressive policies towards us, then although I worry about the  possible consequences (which should not be taken lightly), I don't have a real problem with his doing so.

But if we persist in speaking of Free Trade, where it does not and cannot exist; if we insist that some presidents follow constitutional means while ignoring the legislative means that Congress has written to get around them; if we ignore economic realities in the face of partisan fervor; if we fail to identify the nature of the remedies we use, and remain ignorant of the real consequences those measures might bring about... if anyone expects that we can willfully ignore reality as a means to achieving economic benefits for America... we are all in for a very rude awakening.