Truth Will Out

For decades, the debate over gun control has raged through the body politic of this country. Gun rights organizations have consistently fought efforts by the gun-control/ban lobby to impose registration of gun ownership, citing a concern that lists of owners could potentially be used in the future as the basis for confiscation of privately-owned firearms.

Those fears have consistently been scoffed at by the gun-banners as being “paranoid fantasies”, despite the historical fact that such lists have been used to do just that in countries such as pre-WW2 Germany, Cuba, China, Russia, Australia, Laos, the United Kingdom, and many others.

The gun-banners response? “It can’t happen here.”

The problem is, it already has happened here, and things are positioned for it to happen again on a massive scale.

confiscationDuring the Hurricane Katrina disaster, New Orleans police went to the homes of registered gun owners and illegally (as later determined in the courts) confiscated legally owned and registered guns from their owners.

And now, we have Connecticut. A few months ago, the state enacted a Draconian semi-auto gun ban and limits on ammunition magazine capacity. Residents were given a limited time frame to register those guns and magazines they currently owned. No new guns or magazines would be allowed to be owned in the state. Per the law, anyone who owns any such unregistered device after the deadline is guilty of a felony.

The problem for the state is that the deadline has passed, and as of now, only about 50,000 people have complied with the law, with the number of people failing – or refusing – to comply being estimated at being as high as 300,000.

Apparently, most of the gun owners in Connecticut are tired of silly laws that don’t do anything to actually reduce crime (as they won’t, because crime is a function of behavior, not tools).

So now the state has sent out threatening letters to those gun owners – begging the question of why, if the state already knows who they are, the registration is even necessary – informing them that if they don’t dispose of the guns out of state they’ll be subject to criminal prosecution.

First of all, the state is going to flood its courts with hundreds of thousands of criminal cases based on this law? And let’s not forget that conviction requires a unanimous jury verdict, while exoneration requires only one “Not Guilty” vote. So, lots of luck on getting convictions.

Further, this idiotic law has achieved only one thing: turning formerly law-abiding citizens into unindicted felons. On top of all of that, they’re being deprived of their private property without “just compensation” as required by the Fifth Amendment (a sure-fire cause for appeal of any criminal convictions).

But most importantly, it clearly puts the lie to the gun-banners’ historic claim that their ultimate goal is anything Lies 2short of the elimination of private gun ownership, and illustrates their willingness to use confiscation as their means, in spite of their repeated denials.

Remember: the state already knew who these people were through records of gun purchases. This registration scheme did nothing other than to provide them an excuse to initiate confiscation actions and criminal prosecutions.

And the gun haters wonder why we gun owners don’t believe a single thing they say…

©Brian Baker 2014

Electronic Cigarettes On The Firing Line

The Health Nazis Are At It Again

Well, the Health Nazis are at it again. According to a story in the LA Times on February 25th (LA Times article):

smoke-nazi“A Los Angeles City Council panel on Monday endorsed an array of restrictions on e-cigarettes that would prohibit the vapor-emitting devices from being used in most workplaces and a number of public spaces.

“The proposed ordinance, now heading to the full City Council, would treat e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes, outlawing their use in parks, on city beaches, in restaurant outdoor dining areas and at city-sponsored farmers markets.

“… (L)awmakers acted after Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said e-cigarettes threaten to make smoking socially acceptable after years of advocacy to discourage the habit. Young people who get hooked on the nicotine in e-cigarettes may then turn to tobacco use, he said.

“Monday’s vote came as a larger debate plays out over e-cigarettes and whether they are a gateway to tobacco…”

This was utterly predictable, and clearly illustrates the mendacity of the elitist nabobs who want to control every aspect of how people live their own lives.

Regular cigarettes, the kind with tobacco in them, have been demonized for the last couple of decades, and their use severely restricted based on now-discredited pseudo-science that attributed all kinds of evils to the chimera of “second-hand smoke”.

Of course, the natural result of that was the free market development of an alternative product that has none of the e-cigsupposedly deleterious ingredients of real cigarettes, the electronic cigarette – or “e-cig” – which merely vaporizes a harmless liquid that may (or may not, depending on the user’s preference) contain nicotine. Some e-cigs are merely flavored, containing no nicotine at all.

If one keeps in mind that the original rationalization for attacking regular cigarettes was their alleged negative effect on “bystanders”, what possible justification can there be for banning a product that has no such effect?

vapingWell, read the quoted material: there’s a danger that they may make some form of smoking “socially acceptable” – oh, horror! – and that they may be a “gateway” to regular cigarettes.

Are these the same type of people that have scoffed and ridiculed the idea that marijuana might be a “gateway” to stronger drugs? Why, yes they are! And they can make these claims without a shred of irony or self-awareness of their own hypocrisy.

And the real bottom line? “Social acceptability”. How awful. A lifestyle choice these elitist control freaks don’t approve of. We simply can’t have that!

E-cigs are a product that is completely harmless to “bystanders” – they don’t even have an aroma, unless one buys a scented/flavored type – as well as to the user, as far as has been determined, yet the very idea that someone might be able to emit from their mouths something that merely looks like smoke is enough to send the Health Nazis into a hissy-fit.

asthma inhalerWhat’s next? Are they also planning on banning asthma inhalers? If not, why not? There’s no difference that I can see.

These control freaks must lose sleep at night worrying that someone somewhere is enjoying themselves doing something free of government regulation.

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2014

 

 

The “Climate Change” Zealots Are At It Again

That must mean there’s 4 more weeks of winter coming…

Just like Punxsutawney Phil’s annual Groundhog Day appearance to “predict” whether or not it’s going to be a long winter, it’s that time of year again when all the global-warming nuts make their appearance to pester the rest of us with their wild-eyed hysteria about the coming end of the world due to mankind’s driving too many non-electric cars, or something.

The “global warming” scam is just fodder for the socialist Kool-Aid gulpers. The fact of the matter is that the planet is a bit over 4 billion years old, and in that time the climate has always been “changing.”

Always has, always will.

And thank God for it.

pack ice

San Francisco Bay Area, August 30, 8000 BC

Ten thousand years ago — a mere blink of the eye in geological time — half the Northern Hemisphere was completely covered with pack ice over a thousand feet thick, extending all the way down to what is now central California.

What happened? Those woolly mammoths drive too many SUVs? Those Stone Age people keep their thermostats set too high?

A couple of decades ago, Al Gore was babbling about how, right about now, New York City would be submerged.

Even though I find a lot of appeal in that idea, I have yet to see news video of people swimming down Park Avenue.

Meantime, the polar caps on Mars were shrinking, last I read about it. Is the Mars Rover belching out too many hydrocarbons? Those Martians irresponsibly using too many spray cans of hair gel, or what?

Back in the ‘70s, the big “coming disaster” was “global cooling.” We even got to be treated to periodic Hollywood post-apocalyptic disaster movies about it, too.

Watch them now; they’re laughable beyond belief.

Of course, “cooling” is now no longer de rigueur. And since the “climate” hasn’t actually warmed in almost 20 years, the socialists are now using the more all-encompassing term “climate change.”

And since the climate is always changing, that’s a pretty clever catch-all. No matter what … “The sky is falling!”

yawnThis entire “climate change” scam is so ludicrous that no one with half a brain falls for it anymore. Which is why polling data places it w-a-a-a-y down the list of people’s priorities.

Time for the socialists to get a new script. That one’s definitely in turn-around.

The planet’s climate is an incredibly complex dynamic system, driven by solar forces, planetary, geophysical, meteorological, geological, oceanic, astronomic, and cyclical influences, among many, many others.

Football is a much simpler dynamic, not nearly as complex. How come, at the start of the season, the “experts” can’t tell us which teams are going to be in the Super Bowl, which one’s going to win, and what the point spread will be?

Once they can do THAT, maybe I’ll have some confidence in these Chicken Little “climate predictions”, and their lame attempts to blame mankind for what is in reality a natural phenomenon.

© Brian Baker 2014

John Roberts: Poster Boy For “Moderation”

Now that the reality of Obamacare is setting in, we can all be mindful of the fact that we can thank Chief Judas John Roberts for the pain. To refresh memories, it was Roberts who cast the deciding vote when the law was facing its thCARLM0V0challenge at the Supreme Court, and who single-handedly imposed it on us by deciding that contrary to what even its proponents stated, the IRS penalty for non-compliance wasn’t, in fact, a “penalty” but a “tax”, and therefore constitutional.

Reportedly, he did so with his judicial legacy in mind, concerned that his Court would be treated by history as being too “ideological” or too “conservative”. Therefore, he found a way to throw the decision to the liberals.

In other words, he showed “moderation”.

And what was the result of that “moderation”? Well, the Left still hates him… but now the Right does, too.

What’s my point in revisiting this history? To underscore the magnitude of the mistake the Establishment GOP is making right now in pursuing the same “logic” in their approach to politics as Roberts did in his approach to his legacy.

I first started The Island in 2006, and in the lead-up to the 2008 elections I was vocal and vehement about my refusal to support any candidates who would knuckle under on certain fundamental principles. I don’t consider myself an “extremist” or “fringe wacko bird”. I’m a traditional conservative.

Now here we are, in 2013, with the Establishment GOP essentially at war with conservatives, castigating and denigrating the Tea Party and others who refuse to go along with their eternal “compromising” and “moderation”, even to the extent that Karl Rove and others are forming PACs specifically tasked with targeting and defeating conservative opponents in electoral primaries.

Who are they going to replace those votes with? They’re putting themselves in the position of relying on the same votes the Dems already have locked up. This is a strategic error of the first order.

Nowhere was this better illustrated than in last week’s gubernatorial race in Virginia, pitting uber-leftist Terry McAuliffe against conservative Ken Cuccinelli, a Tea Party favorite. The Democrat Party poured a tsunami of money into the race, while the GOP refused to give Cuccinelli anything more than token support. The result was a squeaker win by McAuliffe who managed to eke out a 2% margin of victory in a race Cuccinelli could have easily won, thereby assuring that the GOP was once again able to successfully snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Let me emphasize the point of that story:  THE ESTABLISHMENT GOP WOULD RATHER SEE A SOCIALIST WIN THAN SUPPORT A CONSERVATIVE.

th[2]Instead of busily “compromising” with the Dem/socialists, you’d think they’d be trying to find some common ground with conservatives. Instead, they’re setting fire to their own ship while they’re in the middle of the ocean.

Really, really stupid.

© Brian Baker 2013

Feeling The Pain Yet?

There’s been a lot of press coverage and commentary lately about the absurdly disastrous Keystone Cops rollout of Obamacare. Its proponents keep trying to assure us that it’s all a “glitch” keystone cops– a $630,000,000 “glitch”! – and once it’s operational we’ll all love it. And never forget: according to Obama, “if you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep it” anyway.

Well… are you ready for sticker shock?

Over the last 2 years – since the enactment of Obamacare and during its phasing in – my Medicare Advantage plan premium has increased from $0/month to $28/month (this year) to $85/month next year, in addition to $105/month for basic Medicare (which has gone up from about $80/month). That’s a 230% increase in two short years.

sticker shockMeanwhile, my Social Security COLA increase for next year will be about $30/month, so I’m going backwards about $70/month.

My max out-of-pocket has gone from $3500/year to $6700/year, my office visit charge has gone from $30 to $50, my co-pay has gone from 15% to 20%, and many previously covered services have been severely limited or terminated.

Fortunately, I do now have pregnancy and pre-natal care. Of course, since I’m a guy in my mid-60s, this isn’t very useful.

So, Obama’s right. I DID get to keep my health insurance. Unfortunately, like Cinderella’s carriage, it turned into a pumpkin.

A VERY expensive and ugly pumpkin, at that.Ugly pumpkin

One other thing. Often when I discuss this issue, there’s some Dem/socialist who cleverly points out that I’m a hypocrite for criticizing government interference in healthcare when I’m a recipient of government “benefits” myself.

I’d like to point out that I am, indeed, a recipient of those benefits. But not by any choice of my own. I was forced, at the figurative point of a government gun, to participate in these programs, and had “contributions” withheld from my paycheck for almost half a century. I’m simply getting back what I already bought and paid for.

But I have a standing offer to the government: reimburse me for all my involuntary “contributions” into Social Security and Medicare, including monetary inflation and all the interest I would have earned had I been able to keep and invest that money myself, and I’ll sign a waiver releasing any and all claims to any such benefits.

I figure that check should be well north of a million bucks. Easily.

© Brian Baker 2013

Establishment GOP: The French Army Of American Politics

The Establishment GOP is the French Army of American politics, throwing up their hands in surrender at the first hint of opposition.

We’ve all heard the jokes. Why did the French plant so many trees along the Champs Elysees? So the Germans could march in the shade.

What’s the shortest book in the world? The Compendium of French Military Victories. It’s two covers with one blank page in the middle.

Ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine: “Great deal on French military surplus rifles! Never fired! Only thrown down once!”

Etcetera.

Their Commander-In-Chief is John Boehner, the Neville Chamberlain (to mix metaphors, as Chamberlain th[4] (3)was British) who engineered the “Peace in our time” accommodation of Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland preceding the full breakout of World War 2; just like Boehner is constantly seeking some “compromise” from Harry Reid and Obama that they’ve clearly said they’re not willing to negotiate.

It’s always easier to snipe at your own side who thinks that actual principles are actually worth fighting for – as Boehner et al have done to the conservatives and Tea Party people such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Michelle Bachman and others – and Chamberlain and his ilk did to Winston Churchill, than to FORCE the other side to actually yield on issues. FORCE might make you actually have to take a stand and DO something. Heaven forbid.

The only difference between the French Army and the Brits was that ultimately the Brits wised up, dumped Chamberlain and made Churchill their wartime leader, while the French just continued to… lose.

Kind of like what the GOP is doing now, in this current conflict between the GOP and the Democrats over Obamacare.

I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s been in the news lately.

The Dem/socialists have been calling us conservative/Tea Party types “terrorists… holding the country hostage… ready to ‘blow up’ the economy… subversive… economic bomb-throwers…” and etcetera, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Of course, the Establishment GOP rushed to our defense.

th[7] (4)Oh, wait! They didn’t! According to them, we’re “whacko-birds… the fringe… rightist extremists… nuts… extremists…” and other assorted and sundry “loons”.

And THESE are the guys we’re supposed to vote for to advance and defend the principles in which we believe? Further, after all of that kind of “support”, they wonder why we’re not just RUNNING down to the polls to vote for them?

The Establishment GOP isn’t just stuck on stupid. They’re super-glued in place.

Every time Harry Reid or Obama make a threatening noise – “We’re not going to negotiate because the GOP is holding the country hostage”, or some such lunacy – the Establishment GOP hacks quake in their boots and look for the nearest exit, worried like hell about what the New York Times or some other leftist rag is going to write about them. Why is that? No matter what they do, those fishwraps aren’t going to give them good press. So why even worry? If you’re going to be condemned, how about being condemned for actually standing up for the principles you profess to represent?

Damn! What a concept!

But it sure as hell worked for Ronald Reagan. (And, incidentally, NOT for any of the subsequent GOP nominees who all tried to falsely claim the mantle of Reagan. They couldn’t even talk the talk, let alone walk the walk)

If the American Revolutionaries were made up of people like these gutless wonders, we’d all be pledging allegiance to the Queen of England and paying a tea tax.

thCADPO7G6It’s time for some MAJOR changes in that sorry excuse for an opposition party. As far as I’m concerned, their symbol should no longer be an elephant, a noble and grand animal. It should be some wimp hiding behind a bush waving a white flag.

Pathetic and disgusting.

© Brian Baker 2013

Update 1 October 2013:  Credit where credit is due, the House GOP stood firm today, allowing the government to go into shutdown mode. Good for them.

The question now becomes:  will they have the nerve to stand firm? Or will they once again break out the white flag once the heat gets turned up? Even MORE importantly, will they have the brains to turn the heat to where it belongs, at Obama and Reid?

Only time will tell. Stay tuned.

Update 16 October 2013:  As usual and as expected, the GOP folded like a cheap suit, surrendering in ignominy to the Democrats.

What a shock, I’m sure.

 

 

War And Syria. An Open Letter To My Congressman

The following is a letter I hand-delivered to the local office of my Congressman, Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, who also happens to be Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services. I’ll let the letter speak for itself.

Brian Baker
(ADDRESS)
Saugus, CA   91390

(661) (PHONE NUMBER)

(EMAIL ADDRESS)

4 Sep 2013

th[6] (3)Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon

Dear Buck,

I want to take this opportunity to express to you my thoughts on the current situation vis-à-vis Syria, as I know you and your fellow legislators will be debating the issue in the very near future.

First some background. I grew up in a foreign service/military family and spent five years in the Middle East (Iran) where I went to high school in the mid 1960s. My Armenian mother, now a naturalized American citizen for over six decades, was born and raised in Iran. I’m a Vietnam veteran, Life Member of the VFW, and student of military affairs and doctrine. Because of this background I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the issues involved in this current situation.

To be blunt, I see absolutely no reason for this country to be engaged in the internal strife in Syria, on any level.

First of all, we don’t even have a horse in this race. Why would we consider backing one group against another group when the reality is that whichever side prevails is still going to hate us? Haven’t we learned anything from history? From Iran? From Libya? From Egypt? From Iraq, which is already falling to pieces again?

Consider Afghanistan. Why are we fighting there? What’s our purpose? How do we define “victory”? How do we get back out of there? When? What’s going to happen after we leave? Do we want to keep repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over and over again?

Einstein noted that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions while expecting different results. Isn’t that what we’re doing in the Middle East? Or as Santayana noted, those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it.

There are only two reasons why this country should ever go to war: to defend ourselves, and to protect or extend our own national self-interest. Well, Syria certainly isn’t attacking us, and I can’t discern any national self-interest in what’s taking place in their internal civil war.

Obama babbles about some vague and chimerical “responsibility” that “the world” has to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Iraq, and then threatens to attack Syria with missiles. Well, first of all, if “the world” has such a responsibility, why isn’t “the world” doing the attacking? Why are we “the world’s” police force? And isn’t such an attack absolutely no different from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? That “day that will live in infamy”? We would be attacking a country that hasn’t attacked us, nor any other country beyond its own borders. There are no treaty obligations or commitments anywhere that would attach to or justify such an action.

Let’s examine the strategic implications. First of all, as anyone with military knowledge and/or experience knows, your battle plan lasts only until the first shot is fired. After that, the other guy gets a say, too, and your plan goes out the window. From that point on, everything is improvisation. Obama may think, in his abject ignorance, that he can blithely lob a few missiles at Syria without any repercussions, but he – and we, if he does it – is in for a rude awakening if Syria or its allies decide to respond in some fashion. They have a myriad of choices on what they can do, and most of them are potentially very unpleasant. You’re the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee; I’m not telling you anything there that you don’t already know.

There are also the political considerations of the end result. Obama, as did Bush before him, seems to think that somehow we can accomplish some kind of “nation building” in the region resulting in Western-style democracies friendly to our country. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I say that based on my intimate knowledge of the region. The regional Islamic nations don’t have the cultural or social heritages requisite for such a result. They’re riven by sectarianism, centuries-old rivalries based on religious dogma, clannishness, endemic and institutionalized corruption, and a religion that discourages individuality and independent action. Their social structures are dominated by “strong men” who hold on to power with a death grip. Show me one example where we removed one of these men and he was replaced by what we would consider a “democracy”. There aren’t any such examples.

th[5]The last, and possibly most, important thing I want to mention is this: just who does Obama think he is to drag this nation to the brink of war on his own say-so? The Constitution is crystal clear that the power to declare war rests SOLELY with Congress. The President doesn’t have the power to declare war on his own, nor does he have the veto power over Congress’s own determination.

Obama’s been acting like he’s been coronated with the laurel wreath of an Emperor, instead of simply elected as President. He has absolutely no authority to go around lobbing missiles at other hapless countries simply because he feels like it, no matter what his supposed “justification” is. That’s up to CONGRESS to decide, not him.

And I’ll take that one step further. Obama’s been making not-so-veiled threats of proceeding with his bombing anyway if he doesn’t get congressional approval. In my opinion, that is the very definition of an impeachable offense, and if he does in fact do that, I’ll expect articles of impeachment to follow promptly.

Thank you, Buck, for taking the time to consider my thoughts on this matter. I’m also going to post a copy of this on my own blog site as an “open letter”. I hope you don’t mind, but I want my readers to know my thoughts on the subject.

Here’s the site’s URL, if you’re interested:  http://theviewfromtheisland.wordpress.com/

Sincerely,

 

 

© Brian Baker 2013

 

Snowden: Traitor Or Patriotic Whistleblower?

Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s program of massive monitoring of American citizens’ electronic communications. Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Tora Bora, you already knew this. His actions, and his subsequent efforts to find a country to protect him from prosecution in this country, have been getting a lot of ink and air time in the news, as well as snowdenhaving effects on our international relations, most recently being credited with Obama’s cancellation of his scheduled summit with Putin.

Opinions on Snowden’s actions seem to fall pretty decisively into one of two camps:

Opinion 1:  Snowden’s a criminal at the least, and very possibly a traitor. He revealed national intelligence secrets, in clear violation of the law and his oath to maintain secrecy. His actions possibly aided our enemies, fundamentalist terrorists. The monitoring he revealed is all perfectly legal, as authorized and defined by the Patriot Act.

Opinion 2:  The NSA monitoring program is a gross violation of Americans’ right of privacy, and Snowden was right in revealing the extent of the monitoring, even though he broke the law to do so. That is the very essence of being a whistleblower. Others in position of authority – particularly knowledgeable elected officials – should have done so long ago. The American people have a right to know if their government – which works for them – is actively spying on them.

I’m firmly in the camp of those who hold Opinion 2, and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, there’s absolutely no evidence of which I’m aware that shows this program to have done anything at all to fight terrorism. On the one hand, we’re told that such indiscriminate “monitoring” is a powerful tool to fight terrorism, while at the same time we shouldn’t worry because there’s so much data being acquired that our own individual privacy is not at risk because there’s simply too much garbage to wade through by the NSA.

Well… which is it? Is there “too much data”, or is it a powerful tool? It sure can’t be both. Either the data is useable, or it’s not. If it’s not, then there’s no valid reason for the program to continue. If the data is useable, then what’s to prevent the government from using it against law-abiding citizens on the merest of whims, any time they feel like it?

Supporters of the program point to the requirement that FISA courts have to approve warrants, but in my earlier essay I already tore that particular rationalization to shreds. It’s laughably meaningless, as the FISA courts function in complete secrecy. A secret court to approve secret warrants to conduct a secret surveillance of private individuals. Why do I not find that reassuring?

Terrorists aren’t stupid. Think about it. In this day and age, even the low-IQ drug dealer on the corner knows to use “burner phones” – one-time-use disposable cell phones – for their communications. Are we supposed to believe that terrorists are dumber than some punk standing on a ghetto corner? That one doesn’t even pass the giggle test.

If I were a terrorist, I’d use my cell phone to talk up a whole bunch of fictitious attacks I was planning… say, on American embassies in a bunch of Middle Eastern countries. I’ll bet I could get the American government to react to that. Maybe they’d close down a bunch of those embassies for a while… maybe even 19 of them. Then, when nothing happened, they’d sure look foolish, wouldn’t they?

Oh, hey… didn’t we just close down a bunch of…

Never mind…

In all these years of having this kind of surveillance program in place, why have we never heard of any examples of how it foiled some terrorist plots? I know, I know… because it would “reveal operational details…”.

Uh huh…

I’ve been highly skeptical of the Patriot Act from its first proposal years ago. Even the name is bothersome, as if it’s somehow “unpatriotic” to be concerned about its potential for abuse and violation of fundamental rights of American citizens.

There’s another aspect to the Snowden affair to consider, too. Granted, he violated the law by revealing those secrets. But if a law is unconstitutional, and/or exceeds its authority or violates citizens’ rights on a wholesale scale, is there an obligation to make that known and oppose it?

NurembergIn the post-World War 2 trials of the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, the principle was firmly established that hiding behind the law, or in their case “orders”, didn’t relieve individuals from their responsibility to do what’s actually right.

In this case the right thing to do would have been to have a public debate on such a massive and intrusive program, and get it all on the record. But that never happened… UNTIL Snowden blew the whistle.

I’d like to think that I’d have the guts to do the same thing if I were in his place.

© Brian Baker 2013

The Supreme Court Drops The Ball … Again

The current US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has handed down some really excellent decisions, such as in the Heller, McDonald, and Citizen’s United cases. They’ve also managed to hand down some real stinkers. The Obamacare case comes immediately to mind.

Now they can add the case of Perry v. Hollingsworth, the case about California’s Proposition 8, to their Hall of Shame.

th[6] (2)Rather than deciding the merits of the case, the majority dismissed the case and remanded it back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, meaning that the Circuit’s finding that the Prop 8 ban was a violation of federal constitutional rights remains in effect. They did this on the basis that, since the state’s officials – the Governor (Schwarzenegger) and Attorney-General (Jerry Brown) –  refused to do their duty to uphold and defend the properly-enacted ballot initiative, the proposition’s proponents who did actually work the case had no “official” position (“standing”) that entitled them to have their case heard in the court.

SCOTUS held that the defenders weren’t “harmed”, another issue that goes to standing. But I believe that SCOTUS did, in fact, err in holding that the Prop’s defenders didn’t have standing. Their group had expended considerable time and financial resources in getting Prop 8 enacted, and to have two government hacks — Schwarzenegger and Brown — refuse to do their jobs and uphold and defend the law — a function of their office — meant that they (the defenders) suffered tangible injury, which gives them standing.

Further, nowhere in the US or California Constitutions are executives endowed with the power to determine the constitutionality of ANY issue. That’s properly the purview of the appropriate courts. Their job is limited to executing and defending properly-enacted laws, which they clearly failed to do. If this case is an example of the “proper” execution of the politicians’ duties, that raises interesting questions: Why do we even bother having a proposition process at all? Or legislatures? Why don’t we just coronate Caesars and have done with the whole charade?

Additionally, as Kennedy pointed out in his excellent dissent, it’s not at all unusual for interested parties to represent such issues when state officials refuse to do so; that the majority was wrong in applying the “Arizonans” case; and that the states have the right to allow other parties to have standing as the states are the bodies that determine such matters under state law and the California Supreme Court had approved the defenders’ standing.

The initiative process in California was enacted in order to give the people a direct voice in government and allow them recourse if arrogant or corrupt politicians failed to address their concerns. By remanding the case because the politicians failed to defend the law, essentially SCOTUS invalidated the entire referendum process, depriving the people of California of any recourse against officials who refuse to carry out the duties of their office.

th[8]Now, I do think that the defenders made a strategic error in not trying to pursue a Writ of Mandamus while the issue was still at the state level. Such a Mandamus would have forced Schwarzy and Brown to defend the law, or appoint some other “official” government representative or agency to do so, depriving SCOTUS of their escape hatch.

There’s yet another problem with this ruling, too: Prop 8 is unconstitutional on Federal grounds in California, while identical laws on the books in many other states are unchallenged and therefore still constitutional by default. SCOTUS has allowed a double standard to come into existence, where constitutional rights in California are different from every other place in the country.

In the past when the Federal courts have ruled on same-sex marriage cases they’ve held that such state bans are constitutional. When the cases were appealed to SCOTUS, most notably 1972’s Baker v. Nelson, SCOTUS hasn’t granted cert and has let the Circuit decisions stand.

Through their actions in this case, they’ve allowed two definitions of “constitutionality” to come into existence: in the Ninth Circuit and California, the bans are unconstitutional. In the rest of the country, they’re not. That’s an absurd and untenable condition.

Interestingly, there are a couple of other cases working their way up which don’t have this specious “standing” issue in play, particularly Sevcik v. Sandoval, a Nevada case so it’s also in the Ninth Circuit. So, if the Ninth again holds the ban to be unconstitutional, SCOTUS will have to deal with the issue again, and won’t be able to duck the issue over the specious “standing” issue as the state’s officials are actually fulfilling their duties to defend the case.

So this clearly isn’t over yet. Further, there’s going to have to be some kind of resolution as to the inconsistency of the state of the law in different Circuits as to constitutionality. The Constitution demands “equality”, and right now that’s not the case at all.

Instead, we now find ourselves with the issue of constitutionality in this country completely unresolved. This is an absolutely terrible decision, one grown out of cowardice on the part of SCOTUS to actually face and resolve the issue. I give them a big, fat “F”.

© Brian Baker 2013