Six Disastrous Assumptions

“A government ought to know how to levy taxes.  But if it doesn’t know how to collect them, then a man is a fool to pay them.”

J. P. Morgan in what has been termed the indiscretion of a lifetime

“People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either being made.”

attributed to Mark Twain

Morgan’s boast and Twain’s warning trigger this reaction in me: A law that cannot be comprehended deserves to be ignored or, at the very least, ridiculed.

This is not anarchy.  This is a practical response to gibberish.  A government ought to know how and when to make law, but more especially when not to. This was the message of Viscount Falkland early in the 17th Century, who declared before the British Parliament: “Mr. Speaker, when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”  Our state and federal governments each apparently operate under an assumed production quota that has not been met.  The crafting of legislation has given way to the crafting of coalitions between factions with opposite views of a proposed law.

From these coalitions, this “reaching across the aisle,” this “bi-partisanship” — What an insincere word! — we are treated to the vision of our representatives cooperting to turn cow chips into decorated cakes. They don’t craft law, even though they’re all lawyers. They toss up a rickety shell of “enabling legislation” and assign the writing of law to a process called “agency rule-making,” so that Congress can return to posturing and stuffing omnibus bills with all the odious proposals that wouldn’t stand a chance under the scrutiny of honest deliberation.

This Is What We Vote For

It’s my fault — and yours.  We send the most kind-hearted, well-intentioned, meddlesome people to serve in our legislatures, state and federal, do-gooders who are ignorant of their own states’ constitutions, not to mention the Constitution that constrains Congress. .

They believe, first of all, that they were sent to their state or nation’s capital to make law.  They’re under the misapprehension that something must be done. Therefore they must find subjects — issues — begging to be bound in the concertina wire of newly-spun law.

The Assumptions

A legislature convenes, ready to go to work.  Every member, eager to be effective, casts about for an issue.  The first, usually erroneous, assumption is that there is even a problem to be solved in the first place.  When the culture of the country or of a state refuses to change swiftly enough to satisfy the social engineers in our midst, mobs of shrill and indignant activists cry for more laws. This is usually the most ready source of urgent issues.

The legislature’s second assumption is that the shrill and indignant deserve to be heard — that every “problem” raised by the perpetually loud and self-righteous can be resolved and therefore must be resolved.

The third assumption is that what the hoarse, vocal mobs demand cannot be resolved without government intervention.

Real problems do exist, of course. But most are not properly the government’s business.

The fourth assumption is that the appropriate intervention is a law, when, in truth, a few noisy, nosey people of one persuasion simply need to adjust to the quieter people of another persuasion.

Because we (voters) are smart and have learned how to solve problems, we assume that our legislators are like us in those skills. And everyone who has raised a child knows that not all problems have solutions. Often the problem exists nowhere but in the mind of the immature, impatient, offended, screaming child. Sometimes the problem is real, like an abrasion or a broken toy, and we adapt to it. Isn’t that what we teach our kids?

In rare instances, though, all of the first four assumptions are correct, right up to the need for a new law. Sadly, real problems deserving of government attention are trampled in the legislators’ — in Congress’s — stampede to assuage the selfish, the greedy, and the legions perpetually offended on behalf of others.

This latter clatter is comprised of individuals insidiously motivated to watch your language and your behavior and to upbraid you on behalf of groups they have defined as needing a perimeter of defense. Think of post-Europeans — whom some call “white” people — who have assumed the role of activists on behalf of others who don’t include them as members, Americans of indigenous heritage, for instance. And so, we have whitish people, native to America, insisting that other whitish people use the term “native America” to apply not to native Americans but to people who still refer to themselves as American Indians.

The fifth assumption of a legislature eager to solve every problem, real and imagined, is that a decisive, effective law is to be avoided and substituted with a compromise that creates a new program or bureau, new and complicated regulations, a new entitlement and, with it, new generations of people dependent on the government for their financial survival and personal comfort. (That would be lawyers. Silly you, you thought I meant the poor.)

Even if the first four assumptions are correct, the fifth should be viewed with the greatest suspicion. Our legislators should first be assuring that requirements and constraints already written into law are being enforced. If a new law is still needed, a simple directive or prohibition should be the preferred response.

The sixth assumption is that the legislators are exempt from writing the law themselves but must hand that task to bureaucrats through enabling legislation.

Legislation now commonly turns all power over to a fourth branch of government not described in the Constitution. A legislative act nowadays typically creates a new agency empowered to write the code, enforce the new rules, investigate compliance, judge offenders, and impose penalties — all of which properly belong to the original three branches of government.

Pause and Read Those Assumptions Again

If the first four assumptions were challenged honestly, there would be a lot of idle time, and a lot fewer government employees, in Washington, D.C. and in state capitals.

When a legislature swallows the entire package of assumptions, we get what we voted for: the enthusiastic, one-size-fits-all application of good intentions backed up by the force of law.

There are always two factions in a legislature, sometimes more. One faction generally represents the money pushing for one solution to a non-problem, the other faction represents the current state of affairs and the money behind it, or is backed by or another group of donors with another agenda. When necessary, one side’s bill is blended, in committee, with the other side’s version until the bristly points of each have been trimmed to stubble.  A typical result is the Pigrolet.

Politics necessitates compromise to assure that nothing so extreme as to be effective becomes law.

Instead of this institutionalized ineffectiveness, one side’s bill or the other’s should simply be passed in its entirety.  If it’s good, it will quickly accomplish what it set out to do.  If it’s bad, it will flop, be repealed, and the sponsors will go away in shame. The sponsors of legislation should agree to accept humiliation as a consequence of bad law in exchange for getting their agendas passed.

We could add a corollary assumption, I suppose — that bureaucrats will achieve through rules what the legislation might have achieved in simple language. Piggy-backed on that you can add the assumption that regulators will certainly not tailor the language of the rules to favor a certain set of political beliefs or an agency’s sense of self-preservation. Neither of these assumptions is valid — they are merely the assumptions of the legislators who consign lawmaking to the bureaucrats.

A Better Idea

Having continually failed to live by Falkland’s maxim on the necessity of legislation, the chief responsibility of all legislatures, state and federal, for the next hundred years, ought to be to observe a moratorium on passing new bills and, instead, the careful review of all laws and acts now in force and the dismantling of most.  A new law should be permitted only insofar as it replaces an existing act with one that demonstrably can be understood by a majority of high school graduates, since compliance and enforcement are chiefly in the hands of just such individuals.

According to figures compiled in 2001, over 150,000 new federal, state, and local laws are passed every year in the USA and over 3,000,000 new pages of regulation are published.  Ignorance is no excuse if you are charged with a violation.  (Unless you’re Congressman Diggs, q.v.)

The Sausage Connection

Once a squishy non-solution to a non-problem has been crafted it is time to give the bill a name and amend it with unrelated provisions. The Covid relief bill of 2021, also known as the “American Rescue Plan Act — (ARPA),” is the newest and rottenest example. It’s an “omnibus” bill, meaning that it includes a lot of stuff retrieved from wastebaskets in the legislative office building — stuff that was almost abandoned and discarded during the previous President’s administration.

To fund it, the federal government is borrowing more than $14,000 from every taxpayer in order to return $1,400 in “rescue” money. The rest of the money confiscated to pay for the bill goes to the unrelated riders attached to it — solutions to problems you didn’t know you had and that you didn’t know were related to the virus: bail-outs for states and cities with poor spending habits, foreign aid for non-pandemic projects such as abortions of undesirables in other countries, money for farmers, and funding for cash-strapped Amtrak, just to give a few examples. If Congress were behaving as its charter intended, each of these wonderful (to some) provisions would be handled as a separate issue, voted upon as individual bills, and funded without borrowing at all.

ARPA, of course, includes rules intended to restrict peaceful citizens’ access to firearms — another issue obviously related to the effects of the virus on American households. And we will eventually learn of other rules and restrictions that even the members of Congress don’t know are in the bill — the bureaucrats haven’t written the rules yet! And that’s part of the message here. It’s probably not the scant few provisions passed by Congress and signed by the President that you will unwittingly violate.

They’re only “acts” anyway, with grandiose titles, as if “The Children’s and Young People’s Internet Safety Act – (CAYPISA),” by its very name, accomplishes its pretenses. (That’s an illustration. I made it up.)

An act such as that is merely “enabling” legislation, which enables the cadre of un-elected zealots to “craft” the body of regulation calculated to assure that children using the internet remain safe — whatever that means.  Congress assigns the writing of legislation to the bureaucrats engaged in agency rule-making, the permanent denizens of the Washington swamp — bureaux, to use the French plural, which, as described above, are granted the unconstitutional authority to craft regulations having the power of law.

Wherever you are, U.S. citizen, at any given moment, you are subject to hundreds of thousands of inscrutable, inaccessible laws.  Do you need to tutor you child at home?  Do you pay someone to mow your lawn?  Are you pumping self-serve gas in Massachusetts?  Did you just click “check out” on a web site?  Did you just sign for a package from your grandmother in Estonia who has sent you some family heirlooms?  Did you just shoot a skunk out behind the shed?  I would wager (illegally of course) that what you just did, or what you will do about it in your very next move, not only is regulated but cannot be done legally.

The Internal Revenue Code has deified regulatory insanity and has set the standard for it.  Now any other government regulation can be just as incomprehensible and get away with it. (Why is the Internal Revenue Code impenetrable?  Because Congress passes a bunch of little tweaks every year that must be shoe-horned into it somewhere.)

It’s not that any enforcement agency will ever catch up with you by scrutinizing your daily actions.  The conventional enforcers, that is, police at all levels of authority, are oblivious to most of this morass of regulation.  They go home after work and break all the same laws that you do.

What Really Happens

You’ll be caught once someone jealous of your presumption of freedom, (a nosy neighbor, your ex-husband’s girlfriend’s daughter, an innocent-sounding question on an IRS form, a postal clerk), notices that you did it.  Did you write a check to pay the kid mowing your lawn?  Did you tell your buddy that you tossed the dead skunk into the woods for the coyotes?  Did you compel your daughter to replant the neighbor’s flowers that she uprooted on a lark the night before?

Once you are caught, an attorney acting on behalf of the party offended by your action — a prosecutor, a tort lawyer perhaps, will magically locate the regulation that you violated and will file the papers to charge you with the crime.

Once it reaches this level, there is no use resisting.  You’ll be named in the court news (even though you’ll not actually have your day in court).  Pay the fine and, if you can, undo the “damage” wrought by your good intentions.  Make a show of self-flagellation; write a letter to the editor not to proclaim your innocence or protest your ignorance, but to profess your chagrin and regret.  Don’t whine.  Argue that you make a point of reading at least a summary of the 150,000 new laws every year and this one just slipped by you somehow.

Once you’ve joined the ranks of those bruised but not destroyed by our country’s freefall into the pit of tort, go underground.  Never let it happen again.  In your own existence, at any rate, make the lawyers irrelevant.  Make the law irrelevant.  Make the lawmakers themselves irrelevant.

Don’t be taken in by persistent activists and their agendas, the clamoring newscasters, the glitz of the self-worshipping entertainment world.  Don’t write to your representative or senator and complain about the complexity of the system.  Chances are, the one maverick in every legislature, who might sympathize with you, is not from your district anyway, and that maverick will not be re-elected.  Chances are your own legislator will quietly turn your letter over to an office charged with investigating kooks like you.

If you haven’t yet ended up with a criminal record over something petty, take these same steps pre-emptively to distance yourself anyway.

I am advocating passive, not overt, resistance.  Where possible, practice malicious obedience – paying your property taxes in pennies is the classic example, even though only the town clerk suffers, not the buffoons who write law.  I also advocate responsible citizenship, the kind of community-minded, family-centered citizenship that was envisioned and practiced by most of our forebears — simple, humble, civilized people who, a century before I was born anyway, never could have believed that legislators, regulators, and attorneys would be unleashed to create the runaway cancer that is our current body of law.

This is the cancer that will consume us.  This is the decay that, absent a natural disaster of global proportions or international political catastrophe, will destroy us.  You will not stop it.  You may survive it, and not by stockpiling water and bullets, but by staying out of its way.  You will not be irresponsible if you look out for yourself.  Earn your paycheck — (errr, direct deposit).  Raise your family.  Save something of value to use as a medium of exchange when the digital money system collapses and to pass on if that collapse doesn’t come in your lifetime.  Practice local charity by giving to someone in need.  (Surely you know someone who deserves an anonymous handout.)  Serve on the parade committee.  Teach Sunday school.  Read.  Be a scout leader.  Learn another language.  Travel.  Support the French club’s trip to Europe.  File a short form.  Plan for retirement and nurture a couple of innocent hobbies to pursue when you’re old.

Your Mission: Survive

Life on Earth is fleeting. Survive this chapter and turn the page. There is an eternity beyond time and space, waiting to receive you.

Unless… Unless you’re that one person in ten thousand who may be able to make inroads into the system and jam its gears.  If you’re near retirement age, consider going to law school, if only so you can become a member of the bar and needle it from the inside.  Do that, and you just may enjoy ten or twenty years of malicious fun in retirement.

=David A. Woodbury=

A Well-regulated Militia

The time is approaching when we will be compelled by an act of Congress to register our firearms.

We are continually reminded that “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That part is clear to everyone except those promulgating law in Washington, D.C. Few people, though, understand what is meant by the first part of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Let’s begin with an account of a genuine muster of the well-regulated militia:

The four pages of text in these images (following the title page of the book from which they are copied) give a brief illustration of the reason for the much-misunderstood Second Amendment.  Ezekiel Porter, mentioned on the second page, was my fourth-great-grandfather, by the way.

This excerpt describes the forming of the militia in Farmington, Franklin County, Maine, which at the time was in Kennebec County, Massachusetts.  They had good reason to become “well-regulated” and they were expected to use their privately-owned guns.  Yes, those guns were simple black-powder muskets, long rifles, and pistols and, in the event of an invasion, those citizens would come up against the same sorts of weapons they themselves owned plus a few cannons that the invaders could drag with them.  There was no standing army in the USA of 1790.  And this militia, described in the History of Farmington and comprised of capable men of the area towns, was smart to train for battle, because the British surely did come back and invade the United States in the war of 1812.

The Constitution provides for a navy, but it specifically prohibits a standing army for a period of longer than two years.  That provision has never been rescinded by any amendment.  However, we have supported a standing army (and more) ever since the last time Congress made a declaration of war on June 5, 1942, now 75 years longer than authorized by the Constitution since we’ve had no threat of invasion of this country in that time.

Among the powers granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8, are these:
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Then the Second Amendment clarifies: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now compare this language from the Constitution to the truncated excerpt from the History of Farmington, above.

Should the United States be policing the world? Or instead, should we citizens throughout the country be training ourselves regularly in order to repel invaders?  I’m not sure, but I am sure that I am not proud of the politics since 1945 that have been driving us into a permanent worldwide policing role and military presence.  We have been in Korea, for instance, since 1950.  Could we not have trained the South Korean military in self-defense in a little over two years from the cessation of gunfire in 1953?  Could we not have withdrawn our forces from that country by, say, 1955?  (See A Parting Tribute to my Uncle Woody.)

The constitutional prohibition against a standing army and the provision for a well-regulated militia, together, are what make the debate about the right to bear arms so complicated.  Perhaps the original threat giving rise to the Second Amendment, defending ourselves from an invading foreign army, has evaporated, but perhaps a new basis has cemented itself just as firmly.  Perhaps the invaders we must defend against are hidden within our midst.

The National Guard, a term in use since 1824, now fills the role of the constitutional militia.  The Militia Act of 1903 redefined and recreated the traditional state militias as the “organized militia,” that is, the National Guard.

So how is it that we also maintain a standing army dispersed to permanent undeclared wars and other assignments around the world?  Please comment if you have the answer to that.

In spite of these developments, it remains indisputable that the Constitution provides for the citizenry of the country, not the professional army of the federal government, to keep and bear arms.

It was clear to the founders of the United States that an armed population is comprised of citizens, an unarmed population is comprised of subjects.  George Washington is credited with the statement: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

The Second Amendment, then and now, is about defending the United States of America from forces that would destroy it, from outside or from within.  Originally, every home was equipped with one or more firearms anyway — standard equipment for hunting and personal defense, and readily diverted to the purpose of defending the country.  It can certainly be argued that a citizen might properly own a weapon in any class of arms that could be deployed against the United States, the better to emloy such a weapon in the service of the militia.

In the centuries that have passed since the adoption of the Second Amendment in 1791, the National Guard, better trained and better equipped, has taken over for the militia described in the History of Farmington.  I accept that, and while I have no desire to own my own fleet of Phantom jets, I also do not intend to jeopardize my permanent right to own the firearms that I consider important to my own safety as well as my country’s defense.

A Recent Historical Perspective

I suppose I am more in tune with the America of the 70 years preceding my birth than the America of the 70 years since I was born.  While I have mastered the skills for “survival” — better to say participation — in the ever-changing society of the past few decades, I have also mastered the skills needed for survival in the ages familiar to my grandparents.

I’ve seen it from both perspectives.  I don’t trust the present — the technology, the world order, the federal government, the culture of the masses, the distribution systems for food and other perishables, or America’s single source for all manufactured goods (China).

That something has changed in the character of our population is obvious to an older American. When I was born (1950) a home typically had one wage-earner. There was a mindset that approved of locking up the mentally ill, and more were locked up than perhaps was right. But some were confined that should have been. Courts did not coddle violent criminals. Children conformed to certain social standards called “manners” and did not dictate the tone of a household or the spending habits of a family. Only a narrow band of entertainment and advertising were aimed at children, not the entire entertainment industry. Education was designed to impart information and promote critical thinking, not to indoctrinate compliant minions of a ruling oligarchy.

When I was five years old the Meadow Gold milkman in Lima, Ohio, still drove a horse-drawn ice-chilled wagon drawn by the mare, Buttermilk.  The man who repaired pots and pans also appeared from time to time on a horse-drawn cart.  Many of the country’s railroad trains were still pulled by steam locomotives.  Our home didn’t have a television or telephone, and my parents survived for months at a time without an automobile.  A long gun in a closet or on the wall was no more unusual than an umbrella in a stand beside the front door.  The elevator at the Montgomery Ward store had a full-time operator who delivered customers to their chosen floors.  It took a nickel to get a six-ounce bottle of pop from a machine and there was a two-cent deposit on a glass bottle.  My grandmother was still mourning my uncle’s death in Korea.

It wasn’t until I was ten years old that I owned my first firearm, a Marlin .22-caliber single shot rifle which I earned by selling Christmas cards in Gomer, Ohio.  I told my customers what I was working toward, and they supported my objective.  I still have the Boys Life magazine with the ad for Junior Sales Club of America, which provided the Christmas cards and the gun.  It was shipped to a local hardware store in my name, and my father had to go with me and sign for it to pick it up.  I haven’t shot anyone with it yet.

I am not nostalgic for the living conditions of those times.  Perhaps, though, I miss the gentle sense of peace, security, and opportunity.  Perhaps I am nostalgic for the freedom to engage in any enterprise as a teenager, from street musician to seller of homemade potholders, from apprentice gardener to newspaper carrier.  I miss coins made from silver, photo albums, and a news media that barely paid attention to politicians and celebrities.

I miss heroes who were actually honored, Sunday school, and shelves full of National Geographic magazines.  I miss holidays that were sincerely celebrated with town ceremonies on the appropriate dates before it became de rigueur to shift them to the nearest Monday for people whose incomes were derived from taxes (and, yes, bank fees have become a new form of taxation with the complicity of Congress, so banks now close on those Monday holidays).

And I miss the respect that Congress once held for the American people. I am not volunteering to register my firearms, but I do think that we are, at last, a conquered people.

=David A. Woodbury=

Ignorance of the Law

is an excuse, if you’re a congressman.

And not only an excuse, but grounds for acquittal.

We’ve all heard it: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Well, in 1978 a federal district court judge ruled that a defendant must be acquitted if he had acted in good faith believing he was not violating any law. Those are the judge’s words, not mine, and the judge’s ruling has not been challenged. It stands as legal precedent. 

The defendant should have been more familiar with the law than most of us commoners; he had already been a congressman for 24 years when he became the subject of the judge’s definitive decision.

In what follows, I am making no judgment or comment on the merits of the case.  The jury acted on the merits.  And all references to the congressman’s race are integral to the newspaper report and the biographical clip that follows it.  I am only quoting the two passages to substantiate that ignorance of the law is an excuse, according to a federal District Court judge, whose ruling has the force of law.

Bangor Daily News Weekend Edition, October 7-8, 1978
DIGGS CASE JURY BEGINS DELIBERATION – Washington (UPI)

A jury Friday began deliberating fraud and false payroll charges against Rep. Charles Diggs Jr., D-Mich., under instructions they must find the black leader acted with specific intent to defraud the government in order to return a guilty verdict.

Congressman Diggs

Judge Oliver Gasch [U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia] instructed the jury of 11 blacks and one white to return separate verdicts on each of the 11 counts of mail fraud and 18 counts of filing false payroll vouchers in an alledged [sic] scheme to inflate salaries of five employees so they would use the excess money to pay Diggs’ official and personal bills.

Gasch said if jurors found Diggs acted in good faith believing he was not violating any law they would have to acquit him even if his actions actually were illegal. [emphasis added]

Prosecutor John Kotelly told the jury in his final argument that Diggs’ testimony that the employees paid his bills voluntarily was “preposterous.” He urged juors [sic] to ignore the civil rights and congressional accomplishments of Diggs in reaching their verdict.

“What kind of integrity does a man have who is living off his employees’ salaries?” Kotelly asked.

He said the evidence was “overwhelming” that Diggs, 56, a congressman for 24 years and founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, intended to defraud the government. “If this were a testimonial dinner, one could applaud Congressman Diggs for his accomplishments,” Kotelly said. “But this is not a testimonial dinner.”

Earlier, Coretta King, wife of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Chicago civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young appeared as character witnesses for Diggs and hailed his record.

In his final arguments, defense attorney David Povich said the words of the character witnesses may have been so compelling as to raise a reasonable doubt about Diggs’ guilt notwithstanding any other evidence.

Povich told the jury that no law prohibited Diggs from allowing his employees to pay his expenses voluntarily out of their salaries although this was contrary to the Ethics Committee’s advisory opinion that was published in July, 1973.

courtesy of the Bangor Daily News and United Press International

[End of BDN report. Note that the photo included with the original newspaper article, which depicted the congressman in a distressed state, has been replaced by a more respectful representation of the man.]

Epilogue

From the African American Registry:

From Detroit, Michigan, Charles Diggs Jr. was the son of an undertaker and respected father in the Motor City area. Young Diggs attended Miller High School, the University of Michigan, Fisk University, and Wayne State University; earning a degree in Mortuary Services in 1946. He joined his father in the family mortuary business, and then won his father’s seat in the Michigan senate in 1951. Early on, Diggs was a strong voice for civil rights.

He attended the Emmett Tills murder trial as an observer and was diligent in awakening the conscience of the national Democratic Party; part of this effort allowed the opening of a second [b]lack-majority voting district in Michigan following the 1960 census. Diggs was the key player in organizing the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). However early in 1978, he faced charges of diverting $60,000 in office operating funds to pay his personal expenses. Though convicted of the charges he still won re-election that year.

Diggs appealed his conviction, was eventually censured by the House, and stripped of his committee memberships; he resigned his seat in 1980 after twenty-five years in Congress. He was sentenced to five years in prison and was released after serving seven months. Afterwards, Diggs opened a funeral home in Maryland and was indirectly involved in politics; he also earned a political science degree from Howard University.

Charles Diggs Jr. died of a stroke in August 1998 and was eulogized warmly by Black colleagues from across the country.

Inasmuch as the Diggs trial resulted in a conviction, the jury did not violate or ignore the judge’s instructions.  They simply did not buy the argument that Diggs acted in good faith believing he was not violating any law.

The point still stands: If Congressman Diggs believed he was not violating any law, then, according to this federal District Court judge in Washington, D.C., his ignorance of the law was the excuse that would have justified his acquittal.  Take this ruling with you when you some day have your day in court.

=David A. Woodbury=

The Big Guy’s 1260 days

During the covid-19 pandemic we talked about herd immunity, a principle that we normally apply to other species.  Herd immunity is what permitted humans to overcome past plagues and other odious diseases before people understood disease transmission and control.  Population control of a species is good for the species as a whole but that overlooks — ignores, really — the fundamental difference between us and every other creature that lives and moves and has its being: the individual.

Respect for the individual person has reached its highest expression in the founding documents of the United States.  Those founding documents created a republic, precisely to assure that the individual is sovereign, that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution apply to each person individually and that no group of people (a democracy) can assert group rights that strip one of individual rights.

Grouping people according to arbitrary criteria in order to apply group solutions to group problems — identity politics, some now call it — is one way to keep us divided and angry, jealous and submissive.  It is assuredly one way to trample individual rights with group privileges.

People who are content to submit to group control, to act according to expectations of an arbitrarily-defined community, (the “international banking community” for instance, or the black “community”), are participating in herd behavior.

The Big Guy

When his son was selling access to the former Vice President, Joe Biden was happy to be known as The Big Guy. This is what you voted for in November 2020 — in fact, a cadre of old geezers* slower and dumber than I am — to represent and govern you and invent problems that you don’t have that require solutions you don’t need.  Enough of you asked for it — maybe not enough to legitimately elect the regime of 2021, but enough that it took only a little cheating to tip the balance.  Now you will live with it.  You young people can go ahead and run the world now through your elected oldsters.

It won’t be Joseph Robinette Biden for long — I would say, optimistically for him — 42 months, (a time, two times, and half a time; 1260 days — let those who recognize these references understand what I’m saying).  Those who will control him during his tenure — for The Big Guy himself certainly will not be running the show — are aware of some quiet, efficient ways to remove him by a mysterious suicide or other “unattended” death, as those same people know who eliminated Jeffrey Epstein and Justice Scalia, to name two ready examples.

This “adjustment” in regency, the removal of Joe Biden at the crucial moment, will position newly-ascended President Harris nicely, around mid-year 2024, to breeze into two full terms beyond finishing Biden’s term as President.  During that interim half year she will appoint a VP approved by her financiers, whom she will carry forward into her first full term as the first female elected President.

This will carry her through the year 2032, when her second term as President will come to a close.  The divine implications of the Biden-Harris era remain to be revealed, but the year, 2032, coincides nicely with the 2000th anniversary of the Crucifixion.

=David A. Woodbury= 18 January 2021

*Biden-Pelosi-Shumer, combined age at inauguration: 222 years. I would rather sit and suffer through old movies of The Three Stooges than watch anything featuring those three. At least the Stooges knew that they were a joke.

Four Little Words

February 24, 2018

This article was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education on FEE.org. Use this link to see the original article. It is pertinent as we cross over into 2021 because the new administration in the White House will have much to say about guns.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in a public school, a host of familiar recommendations have resurfaced about how to “prevent this from ever happening again.” Predictably, both conservatives and liberals are looking to the government for a solution. Americans have somehow arrived at a point where they cannot conceive of human action that is not either prohibited, mandated, or, at the very least, centrally planned.

The first problem is the goal. It is absurdly unrealistic to believe any set of rules is going to prevent anything from “ever happening again.” If you doubt that, I invite you to examine the war on drugs. Many decades ago, politicians decided American citizens taking heroin was never going to happen again. They banned that drug completely. You aren’t allowed to possess or sell it under any circumstances. Not after a background check. Not with a doctor’s prescription. Not at all.

Today, that drug is at the center of what the same government calls an opioid “epidemic.” Epidemic. So much for heroin overdoses “never happening again.”

Yet, despite this evidence, liberals still suggest what they’ve always suggested: further restrictions on gun ownership. A good portion of them believes that only government employees charged with national defense or public safety should be allowed to carry guns. Ban them completely for the civilian population, they say, and mass shooters won’t be able to obtain them.

You know, just like drugs.

The conservative answer to liberal prohibition (oxymoron?) is to “arm and train the teachers.” While no one has come out and suggested mandating teachers carry firearms or be trained in using them, every suggestion seems to suggest “we” (i.e., the government) need to do the arming and training.

Here’s a little newsflash for both sides: the teachers are already armed.

No, not every teacher carries firearms and perhaps not as high a percentage of teachers do so as the percentage of the general population that carries. But there are over three million teachers in public schools and some percentage of them have concealed carry permits. It would be unlikely that there aren’t at least some members of every faculty in America that have a concealed carry permit.

It’s not a matter of arming teachers, but rather to cease disarming them when they report to work.

To the extent conservatives acknowledge this option at all, they seem trapped in the same box as liberals in feeling the need to point out there are teachers who are also retired military, in the reserves, or former law enforcement officers. That’s probably true. But there are also tens of millions of Americans, and likely tens of thousands of teachers, who both own firearms and never served in the military or police.

An armed civilian population constitutes that “well-regulated militia” the 2nd Amendment refers to. What makes a militia a militia is the members not being part of the regular army.

I’ve often said the greatest danger to liberty is not a foreign army, terrorists, or even a homegrown tyrant. It is four little words. And they aren’t, “Up against the wall!” That comes later.

They are, “Something must be done.”

Instead of the government “doing something” about mass shootings, it should stop doing something. It should stop prohibiting teachers from carrying into school the same firearms they are licensed and trusted to carry in most other places. It is the path of least resistance to providing realistic protection for schoolchildren. It requires no one to do anything they aren’t already doing.

No, this will not ensure that mass shootings “never happen again.” Nothing will. And not every teacher with a firearm, confronted with the pressure of an active shooter situation, will calmly dispatch the shooter. But as we saw in Parkland, FL, neither will every trained police officer.

Broward County Sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was assigned to the school as a resource officer and was on the school grounds during the entire incident. He heard the shooting inside the school, but videos show he remained outside for four minutes during the six-minute mass shooting, which claimed seventeen lives.

Peterson wasn’t alone. Three other armed law enforcement officers were on the scene and failed to enter the school before backup arrived.

This wasn’t the only government failure in this case. Local police had been called to Nikolas Cruz’s home thirty-nine times over the past seven years, according to documents obtained by CNN. Members of the family he lived with after his mother’s death report he routinely introduced himself as “a school shooter.”

It wasn’t just local police who dropped the ball on Cruz. The FBI was warned multiple times about Cruz, including by “an unidentified woman close to Cruz” who called the FBI a month before the incident, warning of her fears he would “get into a school and just shoot the place up.” The FBI was also called in September 2017 by a video blogger who said a user named “nikolas cruz” had posted a comment on one of his videos, saying, “I”m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Hopefully, this will inspire more than mere outrage at government incompetence. Americans should take a long, hard look at how much of what should be personal and private they have allowed government to become involved in and how badly it has failed them. And if government can’t run education or health care, it certainly shouldn’t be trusted with something as important as the defense of one’s own life.

Thomas Paine began his pamphlet, Common Sense, widely credited with convincing a critical mass of colonists to support American independence, by making a crucial distinction:

“SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.” He went on to say, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”

It’s time Americans remembered the miracles possible within that blessing called society and the limitations of an institution based on nothing more than consolidated brute force. Mass shootings are horrible situations under any circumstances, but they may be rendered less horrible if the victims have options other than to call the government and wait.

States that haven’t already should repeal any laws necessary to give the right and the responsibility for self-defense back to teachers and other school employees. Allowing them the option to carry firearms will both act as a deterrent to future shooters and give teachers a reasonable chance to defend their students and themselves the next time the need arises.

The government has had its chance. It has failed. It’s time to try a little freedom.

Tom Mullen
Tom Mullen

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? and A Return to Common  Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. For more information and more of Tom’s writing, visit www.tommullen.net.

It’s My Fault

If you are discouraged by the apparent choices in the general election this November — Donald Trump versus an equally unappealing Joe Biden, Senator Necktie versus some vitriolic challenger who can’t find Peru or Poland on a map, or if a House of Representatives (not to mention a state legislature) full of posturing lawyers horrifies you — then look to yourself as the reason for your dismay.

I did, and I accepted the blame.

Most voters are still registered as Democrats or Republicans.  Most don’t realize that a political party is a private club, not an arm of government. Anyone can start a new party. Even the two big ones need members like you in order to survive.

Most people don’t realize that each house of Congress follows rules that it has constructed for itself, designed to inflate the power of the temporarily-dominant party and magnify the influence of someone from a district other than your own.  (I recently sent a note to my congressman reminding him that the Speaker of the House is his equal in that body, not his boss.  The Speaker is his boss only within the private club that is their party, I wrote.  It was a waste of words, but I felt better after mailing it to him.)

As a voter, it is you who must take charge of the miserable choices you have in an election.  Term limits is an excellent idea, but forget it.  It will never be made law in any legislative body to which it would apply.

You have a couple of choices and, some think, only a short period in which to take charge; a short time remaining before this country is irredeemably demolished.

Here are your choices:

OPTION 1.

Become seriously active in the private club that counts you as a member.  Enlist others and overwhelm your state’s convention.  Insist that term limits start there.  It’s comforting, within the party, to make sure that every good old incumbent senator and representative gets re-nominated term after term.  After all, incumbents are virtual shoo-ins for re-election.  It’s up to the party members to assure that they don’t become permanent fixtures in a stagnant Congress.

Make the effort to overwhelm the entrenched powers in your state party if you believe that your party is worth sustaining and if you have faith that it deserves your effort.  Unless you become an activist within the party that you support and unless you work with others to take charge of the party’s rules that always favor the good-old-boys system, things will not change.  You will have the same disgusting choices in every election.

I, for one, cannot vote for the challenger in an election just for the sake of opposing the incumbent.  If the challenger’s party promotes policies that I deem abhorrent, then I find myself voting to re-elect the one who should have been replaced in the party’s own convention after two or three terms.  I, just as you, am stuck with the lesser of two evils.

OPTION 2.

Don’t have the time or the energy to work within the party?  Remove yourself from the party’s membership rolls instead.  This is what I did.  Widespread disengagement would be devastating to a party, (although not as effective as loss of its revenue streams, of which I was not one).  Become either unenrolled or enroll yourself in a third party.

I did this a few years ago.  I left one of the dominant parties and enrolled as a Libertarian.  Within a year, the state legislature de-certified the Libertarian Party since, apparently, it was becoming a threat to the Democrats and Republicans, and they paused for some bipartisan cooperation to squelch it.

The Libertarian Party, suppressed for now by the dominant parties, still exists in this state, sacrificing its resources in desperate court proceedings to challenge the legislature’s action.

Where that leaves us

I’ve fallen for it in the past. I wish the voters in some other district would throw out their rep in Congress, who is such a useless piece of shat, an idiot, a crony of mega-corporations, but I kind of like our own rep — after all, I met him once — and so I vote mine back in. And that’s exactly what happens in every other district in the country whose rep I wish was kicked out of Congress.

If we’re going to clean it up, we need to set aside our ardor for our own rep and vote him out too. Our only hope there is that a popular uprising to clean house — meaning the House of Representatives (and the Senate) — would sweep the country.

I don’t see that happening.

#Dexit and #Rexit

If you take your name off a party’s rolls, that doesn’t make you an “independent.”  That term belongs to those candidates who, like Senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are wealthy enough to be independent of party support in order to become elected.  They do not evince independent thinking, though; their politics are consistently aligned with the party each would have joined if he needed money.  As a voter with no party affiliation you are merely unenrolled.

Those are your options, apart from remaining a silent member — a silent number — in one of the two decrepit, undeserving dominant parties.  Those are your options, that is, unless you are committed to becoming violent and contributing to the anarchy that would destroy the country without a care for what might arise in the ensuing vacuum.

Undermining the dominant parties for the purpose either of reforming or replacing them is a process.  Wrenching power from those who will not relinquish it gracefully, and restoring a citizen legislature, takes finesse, not fire.  It needs many voices and many hands.  I am only one.  I could be more effective, I suppose, as a destructive rioter.  But I want a say in the outcome.  I can be more helpful as a peaceful individual rights activist.  (This message is a part of my activism.)

The two dominant parties are controlled by abstruse forces that confidently decide whose names you will see on the ballot.  Their objective is not to present competent candidates for election but to assure that party loyalists are rewarded with nominations.  That’s why we had the Bush dynasty and nearly had the Clinton dynasty.  That’s why what seem like the worst possible candidates rise to the top.  That’s why the Republicans almost had (I shudder to think it) Mitt Romney on the ballot in 2016, until the party controllers’ choice was steamrolled by Donald Trump.  That’s why, to oppose Trump, the Democrats have a candidate who needs to be propped up like wax museum mannequin, but at least, unlike Trump, he can be manipulated by the puppeteers within the Party.

I am convinced that we, who have the power to do it, need to abolish the two big parties, and doing so is as easy as exercising our influence under Option 1 or Option 2. We have no other peaceful way to relieve the them of their stranglehold on our elections. Unenrolling en masse and depriving them of members — compliant peons — is the one productive way I can think of to do it. #Dexit and #Rexit — that’s my proposal.

=David A. Woodbury=

The Pigrolet

After stewing for years about the excesses of our federal government, I have come to the conclusion that the most contemptible unit of government is Congress.  This is the body which has given certain of its members super-powers out of proportion to the principle of equal representation, (raising once more the call for term limits).  Congress passes a bill only after it has been loaded with loathsome and unrelated riders.  With the complicity of the Executive Branch, Congress created the fourth, unelected Regulatory Branch of government, whose description is found nowhere in the Constitution.

Congress passes “enabling” legislation, and then devolves its own responsibility by turning the details over to “agency rule-making,” once a new agency has been conjured to create the new rules.  If a regulation, (which has the “power of law” as if our representatives wrote the regulation themselves), is promulgated that exceeds the intention of the enabling legislation, can Congress simply strike it down?  Oh, no.  To reverse a regulation, a new bill has to be sent through Congress — committees, party politics, House-Senate reconciliation, and all that — and must be attached as a rider to yet another unrelated bill.

I digress for a moment, but It’s a mystery to me why there has not been a Constitutional challenge to the existence of the Regulatory Branch, even more a wonder when the regulators, writing law, are under the oversight of the Executive Branch.  Maybe that’s because I’m the only American who is properly horrified by it, and I haven’t given up my family and all my personal goals and responsibility in order to devote the rest of my life to antagonizing that dragon.

As I have matured, which is to say, as I have become a hardened cynic, I have come to understand a key problem in the way Congress operates, and from that I realize how a simple change might benefit everyone involved, including the party in power, the party in the doghouse, and all us humble citizens as well.

See, the problem is compromise, which is assumed to be a virtue in politics.  The word, bipartisanship, is spoken with reverence by pontificating congresspeople.  It works like this: The Democrats think that every household needs a pig.  A pig takes care of your garbage, it’s companionable, unlike a Chevrolet, you can compost its waste, and in really hard times, you can eat it.  The Republicans think that every household needs a Chevrolet.  It gets you places, it’s economical to run, unlike a pig, it comes in attractive colors, and in a pinch you can sit inside it to get out of the rain.

When Congress compromises, what we get is a Pigrolet — a beast that can’t coordinate the feet on the front with the wheels on the back.  It belches foul fumes while rejecting its special gasoline/garbage blend, (concocted by scientists who reached a consensus), and it bites you when you poke around for the hood latch.  Never mind that the cost of a Pigrolet is orders of magnitude greater than that of a mere Chevrolet; Congress is puffed with pride in assuring that everyone has benefited by its new solution to a problem nobody had, and look how many jobs it has created! (Jobs in other countries, mostly. But lawyers in this country will benefit from the litigation that is sure to follow.)  Once everyone in America has a Pigrolet and realizes what a piece of shit it is, what do we do?  We send the same dolts back to Congress for another term and eagerly await the next product of bipartisan compromise.

Democrats and Republicans need to stop identifying our problems for us.  And — here is the simple change — I think they need to stop compromising.  I think the party in power in Congress — (never mind which party the President belongs to; most Presidents are mere catalysts for compromise) — should get everything it wants.  The people should get exactly what they voted for.  That’s the quickest, and probably the only, way the voters are going to realize what they’ve done by sending certain promise-makers to Washington.  Either everyone gets a pig, or everyone gets a Chevrolet, or everyone gets neither, (the best deal of all).

Am I suggesting, for instance, that the Democrats in the current Congressional mix just vote with the Republicans and pass their oponents’ entire agenda?  Yes!  Go on record to object to what strikes you as absurdities, and then vote to let it happen and get it over with.  It would be tough for a few years, but the culprits would not be able to complain that they were forced to compromise.  Either the country will go down the tubes really fast, or things will get wildly better really fast.

Doing so just might bury one party or the other for good.  Then, maybe, we could resume sending ordinary citizens to Washington who realize that you don’t need to be a lawyer in order to understand the Constitution.  (And who also might be cured of the temptation to create Pigrolets.)

My household doesn’t need a government pig or a government Chevrolet.  And especially we don’t need a Pigrolet, which is to say, we don’t need any of Congress’s cockamamie freedom-crushing compromise solutions to non-existent problems.

I am reminded of a couple of quotes from great Americans who have seen the same problem and described it with succinct eloquence:

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.

Will Rogers

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

P. J. O’Rourke

=David A. Woodbury=