26 May 2009

Another good day at the range

Trying to get time, energy and the schedule to get to the range has been bothersome.  The last time I went was to test out some ammo for my .32 LWS from Reed's Ammo, in which I apparently bought out their supply of GDHP.  That and I wanted to cycle some Federal Hydrashock and Hornady rounds through it.  The Hydrashock I've had stovepiping problems with: the Seecamp just seems to do that with the round and I have no idea why.  Hornady cycles well and came up with one non-firing round which, after contacting them, I sent it to them and wait to see what happened to it.

Mostly that was in the category: can you hit a target with such a small firearm?  The answer is: yes, and even keep all but a round or two out of 60 inside the manshaded outline.  Good deal!  I do have a laser aiming device on order and will revisit actual accuracy at a later time.  I wanted to get used to the recoil which is very different from firing larger frame weapons, as the force is only going into a small part of my hand.  Basically it was load and shoot to get comfortable with it.

I had taken my two Mosin-Nagants with me, but only got to fire one, an Izhevsk 91/30:

No, I can't take a picture worth a damn and really should not have used the flash.  I did what I could with Photoshop so you can get an idea of how they look.

I had only fired a Marlin-60 clone and Mossberg 16ga bolt-action before, so didn't know what to expect.  I put a test round through to make sure that it functioned well, and then put a target at 35 feet and figured the Mosin sight was in meters and guesstimated 10 as the offset.  Which started getting me rounds inside/outside the upper box area that was center of mass for the man outline and a bit to the left.

Not bad for someone who has never had a lick of rifle training in his life.  I don't count the Marlin as it just feels like a big handgun that doesn't aim as well, and the Mossberg is a different beast entirely.  Really, I'll need to keep my eyes open on the market for a good semi-auto shotgun.

Sadly a class had to use the range and that was it for the last outing.

So today was the second Mosin-Nagant, a Tula 91/30:

I started right out at 45 feet and guessed 14 on the Mosin which put the shots around the head area.  So drew it down to 12 and that pulled shots into the upper chest, and then at 10 I was happily plunking shots in the center of mass box.  Just line up the top of the forward sight between the two bars and the 'V' notch and I was good to go.  Moving the target to 60 feet and I tried at 12, which got me high into the head/neck area, and dropped down to 10 which moved right back in to the center of mass box.

Again, zero training.

If I had the energy I would sign up for a course from someone who knew what they were doing, but my physical condition makes that a non-viable option.  Thus it is practice when I can.


Cleaning a rifle that leaves salts behind is an interesting subject.  Unless you know exactly what the salt is and can get the proper chemistry to break it apart and have it form neutral bonds with your cleaner, you can actually do more harm than good.  Ammonia, especially, does fun things with metal... yes if you get rid of it immediately you will be ok...and if you don't get rid of it all you won't.  What works with most salt?  Water.  Dissolves the salt and allows you to dump the water.  And if you need a hasty-cleaning job to just remove the salts and then you have to wait awhile, you don't want to leave water in your bore, either... thus the cheap and sleazy solution used for black powder comes from various sources of equal parts hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and Murphy's Oil Soap.

First it depends on water.  H2O2 at 3% is 97% water, and 70% isopropyl alcohol is 30% water.  Murphy's Oil Soap (concentrate) has water in it, too, plus leaves behind an oily residue... that you will want to clean out but is relatively safe to leave for awhile... and you don't leave water or ammonia behind.  Smells nice, too.  Store in the dark or in brown plastic bottles as you would like the hydrogen peroxide to have a bit of its activity left when you need it.

Come to think of it, hot tea with heavy cream in it would be pretty close to something similar... not as active but hot water dissolves salt like all get out... tannic acid isn't something you would want to leave behind, though... I'm sure there is something as good out there!

For the hard to get at areas and those you can't fill up with water, there is Gunzilla, which I'm trying out with a handy-dandy spray bottle.  A water soluble CLP, that is designed to lift corrosive salts from metal and keep them there so you can clean them out.  That is not cheap, however, and I'll see about effectiveness if time goes on.... no change to the metal means it works...

Last but not least in the wonder-protection racket of keeping metal away from corrosive material is my favorite for my Ruger Mark III: Militec-1.  That stuff is magic.  Just a drop or two wipe down and a couple pinhead sized drops in the bolt, and it leaves all the residue in front of the bolt and none between surfaces.  It is doing the same for the bolts in the Mosin-Nagants, too.  A little goes a long, long way... and considering how dirty .22LR can be from some manufacturers... no, scratch that, ALL of them without exception... that is saying something.  Works just as well with corrosive Czech and Bulgarian berdan primed ammo so far.  Don't know how they do it, but its worth the cost, and I'm damned cheap.

Beyond that, I'm finding that the old parts-set for my Vz.61 was missing about 2/3 of the necessary parts (beyond those chopped up or tossed due to restrictions) and there is nothing as frustrating as getting a start in on a project and finding that the part you thought went to one area of a gun actually goes to another area (or doesn't actually fit with anything and you are left scratching your head) and you don't have the first part.  I'm getting the part and a trigger assembly as something just isn't looking right and I am very suspicious that some parts were tossed into what I got from extras bins as they look brand new fresh for something that should be up to 30 years old.  Not that I have a suspicious mind or anything... still I'm running at just about $50-100 under the cost of a new one (can be found here).


In all a good day at the range today.  I have found that I do have some basic accuracy with a rifle!  And that even after baking the stock for 6 hours at 145 degrees until I couldn't get any cosmoline, that the heat of the barrel will STILL drive cosmoline out of the wood.  Thus it will be necessary to carry a rag with them... plus the barrel gets damned hot.  So does the adjustable sight.   Plus no matter how snugly I hold it, the material from my shirt will chafe, so either I am doing something wrong (would drill instruction manuals from the 1920's do that, I ask you?) or we modern folks are just used to the easy life and need to learn to buck it up.  Or I lack formal training in proper stance and technique, etc. (outside of those manuals, of course)  Probably just need to shoot more.  Ahhh... such enjoyment always has its costs, I suppose.  I do have to see how the upper handguard of the Tula got loose today.  Possibly the forward retaining band, but that looks to be non-biased, not conforming to the cut of the wood... or the cosmoline just made it so slick on the upper surface that nothing will keep it in place.  Just what is it with that stuff, anyway?  And how much can wood hold?

The smell of expended powder.

The smell of cosmoline.

And the absolute amazement that I can, indeed, hit the broadside of a barn and even get it into a small area on a plank of it.

For that the time of having to clean the rifle is minor...

21 May 2009

Fundamental values priced to go

I am looking at the 'Fundamental Values' speech of President Obama from 20 MAR 2009 at National Journal's Hotline On Call and it may vary from the given speech as these things can be different from the initial copy to final presentation. The speech is given in front of the National Archives building, and I'll excerpt my problem areas as I go along.

First is the very first part:

These are extraordinary times for our country. We are confronting an historic economic crisis. We are fighting two wars. We face a range of challenges that will define the way that Americans will live in the 21st century. There is no shortage of work to be done, or responsibilities to bear.

And we have begun to make progress. Just this week, we have taken steps to protect American consumers and homeowners, and to reform our system of government contracting so that we better protect our people while spending our money more wisely. The engines of our economy are slowly beginning to turn, and we are working toward historic reform of health care and energy. I welcome the hard work that has been done by the Congress on these and other issues.

The primary duty of the President is Commander of the Armies and the Navy, which is also the seat of the Admiralty power and this the President Commander in Chief of our armed forces. He is not given the spot to remedy economic ills, or other woes of the financial sector - in no place is this given as a Presidential duty. Indeed, that primary responsibility calls for the thing the Left bemoaned over the last few years: sacrifice. Yet this President has decided to fight on the cheap by removing funding for weapons systems that have either been demonstrated as effective (such as Ballistic Missile Defense) or which went into final testing after acceptance (like the Non-Line of Sight Cannon). Such systems are meant to protect the Nation and our soldiers in the battlefield and make them more effective. By cutting back on systems, support and equipment, President Obama is the first President in quite some time to actually cut back on military systems during two Congressionally Authorized wars.

Protecting 'consumers' and homeowners, reforming government contracting, nor trying to provide indulgences... ahhh... sinecures... no... that's not it... ENTITLEMENTS to the American people. none of that is actually carrying out that wartime duty. All of those are a distraction from the primary duty of the President during wartime and are normally relegated off the table when there are ongoing conflicts. Quite the contrary, the massive, historic, and ill-conceived spending to 'bailout' nearly everyone from automobile companies, large banks, homeowners, 'consumers', and the rest of it is taking money from our current and necessary needs of supporting two conflicts and ensuring that they end satisfactorily. Iraq still requires US commitment to ensure that the government can, indeed, stand up on its own and face the local threats of the region. By all estimates that will not be done until sometime around 2015 if all goes well. Afghanistan is now nearly isolated with Pakistan faltering as Islamic radicals move against the government and its institutions. As we move 90% or more of our supplies to Afghanistan through Pakistan, spending money on domestic problems when our war fighters are at the mercy of a decaying situation in Pakistan is not only ill-conceived, but horrific in its possible consequences. As this administration has offered no better means of supplying our troops at the end of one of the longest supply chains on the planet, touting nice things done for the citizenry at home while neglecting his duties abroad is fundamentally an abdication of DUTY he volunteered to take.

The President does recognize the responsibility to keep us safe at home, but:

This responsibility is only magnified in an era when an extremist ideology threatens our people, and technology gives a handful of terrorists the potential to do us great harm. We are less than eight years removed from the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. We know that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again. We know that this threat will be with us for a long time, and that we must use all elements of our power to defeat it.

Already, we have taken several steps to achieve that goal. For the first time since 2002, we are providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy. We have re-energized a global non-proliferation regime to deny the world's most dangerous people access to the world's deadliest weapons, and launched an effort to secure all loose nuclear materials within four years. We are better protecting our border, and increasing our preparedness for any future attack or natural disaster. We are building new partnerships around the world to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we have renewed American diplomacy so that we once again have the strength and standing to truly lead the world.

What steps are we taking to go after the Taliban/al Qaeda/Shadow Army and their helpers from the Mehsud backed organization and Gulbudden Hekmatyar's organization? Cutting the military during active conflicts is NOT investment in fighting.

The 'global non-proliferation regime' hasn't worked. Even at its best companies from advanced Nations, like Japan's Mitutoyo which was done during the wonder years of the Clinton Administration in 1995. That saw 10,000 precision measuring devices that make up nuclear separators go out into the nuclear black market from an above-board firm and no one suspected it for YEARS. Of course no one on the Left wants to bring that up, of other French and German companies that did similar things during that last lovely period of 'non-proliferation' that saw Pakistan, India and now North Korea gain nuclear capability. That concept just didn't work even with our ALLIES helping us.

Beyond that the Left is going to get heartburn with President Obama giving the same reason that President Bush gave to go after Saddam Hussein: "...deny the world's most dangerous people access to the world's deadliest weapons..." Yup, there it is again, the thing the Leftists have hated for the last 6-7 years or so, which is the reason we finally decided that Saddam's not keeping his cease-fire negotiations had to be called for the sham it was. I'm glad that ONE Leftist has recognized the problem, even though the last solution is a non-solution in actually stopping the problem.

With Mexico fighting a massive criminal insurgency based on the drug trade and some of that spilling over our borders how can any President say we are 'better protecting our border'? Have we closed it to all traffic save ports of entry? No? Then that is a major problem that remains unaddressed to this very day and we will pay for it if that criminal insurgency spreads any further north than it already has into parts of Texas and as far north as Phoenix, AZ.

After insulting the UK, presenting a lackluster performance at the G-20 that no one took seriously, starting a virtual trade war with Mexico over trucking and imports, having a DHS Secretary that has pissed of Canada by imputing that it is a haven for terrorists, and being unable to do anything with Russia to stop hostile acts towards Georgia or helping us in supply our troops overland with the help of Turkmenistan, just what, pray tell, is our diplomacy doing to help us fight al Qaeda or strengthen our ties with our allies? This is not leadership save in the negative sense of appearing weak and feckless. How can anyone take us seriously on nuclear non-proliferation if we can't even figure out basic diplomatic protocol and so as to not insult our allies?

So far I am less than impressed with President Obama trying to tell me that weakness is strength, that not building up defenses are building them up, and no protection is protection. Plus all this wanting to do jobs that the government isn't given to do and abdicating his duty on a job he DOES get to do.

The next piece is priceless:

These steps are all critical to keeping America secure. But I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values. The documents that we hold in this very hall - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality and dignity in the world.

I stand here today as someone whose own life was made possible by these documents. My father came to our shores in search of the promise that they offered. My mother made me rise before dawn to learn of their truth when I lived as a child in a foreign land. My own American journey was paved by generations of citizens who gave meaning to those simple words - "to form a more perfect union." I have studied the Constitution as a student; I have taught it as a teacher; I have been bound by it as a lawyer and legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never - ever - turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.

Now about that hall, the National Archives, is that the same place that Sand 'Big Socks' Berger took historical documents on the decision of the Clinton Administration not to go after Osama bin Laden? Say, why did that guy get off so lightly, anyways? That is destroying historical documents of a historical Presidency, and those are priceless as no duplicates exist of them. And just a couple of days ago a hard drive from the Clinton Administration went missing. Luckily it was backed up, but it is still saying something that an item kept in that very hall with such enshrined documents went walkabout. Now that very same building has had problems with folks filching signatures from historic documents, stamps and other bits and pieces from the archives... so you just might want to check and see just why these things we value so highly as a Nation are given such poor security.

Our own Founders, however, point to a lot of documents that they used to get to our documents, as they valued the tradition of civilization and wanted to ensure that our views in the Declaration fit with our overall understanding of the role of Earthly law as opposed to the Law of Nature and Nature's God, plus keep up the fine tradition of being part of the Great Peace of Westphalia and ensure that we kept continuity with our understanding of the Common Law as a Nation under the Law of Nations. Plus the Black Book of the Admiralty. But we don't teach those things any more so it is not surprising that the effort to make us forget them has gone apace to the point where those historic foundations and views are lost on the current President.

Saying that you understand the necessity of needing to form a more perfect Union and then push on things not given to any President to do represents a gross inability to actually understand the actual Constitution. That is not surprising as President Obama has proven unable to understand why a negative rights document, like the Constitution, is fundamental to ensuring that government does not become despotic or tyrannical. In fact in pressing for 'bailouts' that have little to no 'oversight' and that rewards political backers can be SEEN as despotic heading towards tyrannical demonstrates how deeply he misunderstands the duties laid out for the President as they are a subset of duties under the Law of Nations and divided up particularly by the Constitution so as to ensure that no single President ever gains such power to thwart the law and reduce the say of the people over expenditures of their money by the government.

Somehow that is not keeping up with the enduring principles of that the Constitution engenders, but actually defying them.

This speech, so far, is: do one thing, say another, mean a third.

After that section President Obama goes on a values rampage and there are a couple of peculiarities that show up.

First is this one:

It is the reason why enemy soldiers have surrendered to us in battle, knowing they'd receive better treatment from America's armed forces than from their own government.

The Imperial Japanese forces didn't recognize this, nor did the Moro's during their insurrection, and KSM has derided us for our values and has only sought to use them against us up to and including telling us that we really must do our duty to him via what our own Nation stands for. You see we draw a distinction, and always have, between professional soldiers and those fighting in Private war venues. In fact one of our greatest Presidents ensured that the differences were made clear, succinct and that summary justice on the battlefield was done to those who fought in Private war against us. We do that not because we are horrific, but because it is lawful and civilized and has been to as far as ALL history we have knowledge of that records those fighting like this. To be a 'student of the Constitution' one must understand the power outlay and how that fits within the understood framework of the Law of Nations. We do provide greatly for those enemies that fight in a civilized venue, that adhere to the known standards of conduct of wars between Nations. For those that don't, as our forefathers tell us going back to the Founding and to the documents they used to gain insight into how Nations work, there is no mercy and swift justice with prejudice involved.

Battlefield justice.

I suspect, however, that he has something else in mind that is NOT in keeping with our history, our values and our understanding of why those fighting Private war deserve only the Terrible Swift Sword of the Republic wielded without Mercy and with Prejudice.

From Europe to the Pacific, we have been a nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law. That is who we are. And where terrorists offer only the injustice of disorder and destruction, America must demonstrate that our values and institutions are more resilient than a hateful ideology.

Terrorists are not offering 'injustice' and 'disorder and destruction' are but means and methodologies, and they are hallmarks of the way they have chosen. They do still follow a set of laws, but it is not Earthly law, but that of Nature and Nature's God, red in tooth and claw. It is man turned to savage animal, with a facade of thought so as to carry out cruelty in a wanton manner and attack all societies so as to return mankind to the Law of Nature where the weak are ruled by the strong. Chaos is a means to an end, not the end entire, as there is a logic behind the Law of Nature as we all well know. A horrific logic that recognizes justice only of domination and of subjugating others, of killing as you please to get your way. Thus they fight in Private war as enemies of all mankind to dissolve societies and institute the brutal rule of savage man once more. To us that seems as injustice, but we must recognize that it is the older order of justice which we defend against by creating societies with internal laws and compliance to them to gain the protection of such laws.

We call them outlaws by the conception that they are outside the law and cannot be protected by it as that takes personal adherence and submission to the law to form civil society. Yes, there I go bringing up the understood tradition of such a thing, and looking to see that it has great importance over how we approach those who have disdained all civil law, refuse to submit to it and who take up Private war against us all. Thus these outlaws hate us not because we have such lovely values and institutions, but because we will not submit to those waging war against us. It isn't a question of 'disorder and destruction' those are means to an end, not the end in and of itself. They do offer something: rule under the Law of Nature. It is that which we find an abomination.

Now for this passage:

After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era - that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.

Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that - too often - our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us - Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens - fell silent.

It is interesting that since we opened Guantanamo, went after Saddam and robustly went after terror cells wherever we could find them by whatever means were at hand, that there have not been successful attacks upon the US since 9/11 that hit our soil.

Now when he talks about government making hasty decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, he is talking about the 'bailouts', TARP and such, right?


But those were sold completely with fear mongering, scare tactics, and pushing through legislation that folks in Congress didn't even READ because it was so 'urgent' that President Obama could spend a few days on vacation after it passed before he signed it... and we have completely set aside the power of having to follow the law on bankruptcies and the President has usurped the power of Congress in that area to craft things that do not follow any legal stricture of guidelines. He must be fessing up to making horrific decisions and is about to apologize to us, no? I mean all that spreading of economic doom and gloom and fear, that has got to be it, right?

Unfortunately, no:

In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people, who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach - one that rejected torture, and recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Close an effective institution that your own Attorney General categorized as efficient, well managed and operating under proper legal guidelines? One that, since its opening, has protected us and only 1 in 7 of those let out have returned to their horrific ways... well, no institution is perfect.

So when will this President recognize the extra-legal activities he has taken with regards to bankruptcy laws set by Congress? Really a President that so adores the Constitution and the law ought to be able to use the instruments of the law and not go 'winging it' in areas already well defined by the Constitution as an area given to Congress to set up the law.

What's up with that?

And why have so many fallen silent about these extra-legal methods being deployed in the area of bankruptcy? They are well known...

Now President Obama wants to go on this 'Fundamental Values' bit with terrorists:

Now let me be clear: we are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. We do need to update our institutions to deal with this threat. But we must do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability. For reasons that I will explain, the decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable - a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions; that failed to use our values as a compass. And that is why I took several steps upon taking office to better protect the American people.

He hasn't been clear on much of anything so far, is he sure that we are at war with al Qaeda?

Just asking, given his opaqueness on bankruptcy law.

About this updating institutions bit: why?

No, really!

Look a prior President that I cited above, set out exactly, plainly what to do with those that use the concept we call 'terrorism' as a means to their end. Pretty damned blunt on the institution, being the military, and what to do, namely summary justice on the battlefield. And the Geneva Conventions has these 'terrorists' actually fall outside of the Convention as they adhere to no Nation, and that is one of the Fundamental Values we have since the Founding in military sorties done by Presidents Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln. So what, exactly, needs updating? THEY understood what they had to do, as did Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt against the Moros. If these fine stewards of the Nation knew and utilized their powers via all known laws of war as they are understood even under the later Geneva Conventions, and pre-existing systems like the Hague Convention, then what is it that needs to be updated?

These previous occupants understood their Oaths, their Duty, the rule of law and the due process of military law.

All of them.

Once set and approved those methodologies require no further checks: Congress had their say in how the armed forces are to be run.

The law on the military side is its own balance once its course is set, and there is ACCOUNTABILITY up the chain of command to the very top from the very bottom. There is nothing 'ad hoc' save having a President unwilling to cut the orders to make sure that we didn't capture ANY 'terrorists'. Those that we needed information from we could offer life internment at a lovely place, say Guantanamo... or just utilize the battlefield justice to give them what they are due, which would probably have made them shut up and accept a bullet. ANY information garnered from Guantanamo is a success of expediency: in return for information we let you live out your days in exile from mankind so as to keep all Nations safe from you. That is leeway we give the CinC as the head of the Admiralty: to protect us and use means that may not fulfill immediate duties so as to carry out the duty of protecting all societies from those fighting under the Law of Nature.

As for the 'ad hoc' framework, I do agree: our terrorism laws are complex, and never get to the point of what terrorism is and how to deal with it. I suggest using the absolutely understood legal framework of the Piracy code as it is the best system ever devised by man to go after those fighting Private war on land and at sea. Even by the strictest interpretation of the Priacy code, al Qaeda has staged piratical attacks not only on the US, via the USS Cole attack, but upon other merchant ships of other Nations. Similarly Hezbollah is due for that after performing a missile attack on a merchant vessel, HAMAS for staging sea based landings of Israel, and the Islamic radical organizations that cooperated on the Mumbai attacks as they took over a ship at sea to do their work. Those are ALL open and shut cases that then get all those organizations the lovely 'Pirate' label and all those in such organizations can then be tossed away for life on simple finding that they are part of the organization in any way, shape or form. Those aiding and abetting get ten years in the pokey, which lets you go after merchant support of Pirates. The code is very clear, easy to read and succinct in what to do and how to determine who is and is not a Pirate.

This requires no 'new' framework, just to enforce the DAMNED LAWS as they stand.

You know, what President 'Mr. Expert on the Constitution' Obama is supposed to do? Constitutional and legal scholar and all that?

Enforce the EXISTING laws?

Now on to tortured reasoning, and the reasoning is tortured:

First, I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America.

I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts - they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.

The arguments against these techniques did not originate from my Administration. As Senator McCain once said, torture "serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us." And even under President Bush, there was recognition among members of his Administration - including a Secretary of State, other senior officials, and many in the military and intelligence community - that those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate, and the wrong side of history. We must leave these methods where they belong - in the past. They are not who we are. They are not America.

And I reject the assertion otherwise on water-boarding. We have multiple heads of the CIA and members of the INTEL Community that have told us otherwise, that attacks in Los Angeles and Brooklyn have been thwarted due to information gathered via water-boarding. Thus we have evidence that it IS effective. Safe, too, compared to how it is done in SERE training. So the contrary assertion needs firm, strong and definitive backing, which is lacking.

We are not the ones undermining the rule of law: terrorists do that by refusing to submit to civil law. At any point up to their capture they can submit to civil law and be held accountable to it. They do not. That is their action, not ours, and it places them outside of all law venues save the harshest: battlefield justice. When captured by civil means they get civil justice, and then the law needs to be harsh to remove these people from ever being a threat to any society ever again.

Could the President please cite those we have alienated due to these methods? Name the Nations, Mr. President, and tell us exactly what they disagree with... we would like to send them a whole lot of terrorists to take care of! Really, if any other Nation is morally superior in this venue, then lets hand THEM the problem to figure out as it is one for all of mankind. We get the shitty end of the stick because we happen to have a bit more military might and wherewithal to bring such people down and in. So lets ship the terrorists off to the complainers so they can DEMONSTRATE how to safely get such information and then make sure these terrorists never, ever become a threat to mankind AGAIN.

They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists? I can see it now: 'Join al Qaeda so when the US captures you, you can be water-boarded! It is far better than what will happen to you in EGYPT or SYRIA!!!'

Yup, makes sense.

No? The President is trying to make another case? Really? Just what sort of a rube is this guy, anyway?

And on 'increasing their will...', I always thought that it was cartoons that did that and flushing of Korans. The militants seem to go on about those a whole lot more than getting water-boarded or having to listen to Black Sabbath for a few weeks... cranked to 11.

Decreasing the will of others to work with us? Only when the NY Times lets National Secrets out... I'm sure President Obama can figure out how to stop that, no?

Now here is a sticking point: where are the al Qaeda and Taliban prison camps?

Really! Where are they?

These are the guys that don't go in for that, remember? Beheadings are their deal, usually with a dull pen knife but a hatchet that hasn't been sharpened in a decade will do, too. THEY DON'T FOLLOW THE RULE OF LAW. It is kill, kill, kill and kill a bit more, plus some rape, pillage and don't follow your own religious code when you get a chance. So what are we seeking? Sharper hatchets and swords in beheadings? What, exactly, will we gain from TERRORISTS by being NICE TO THEM?

Please, tell me! A bit less abuse before they kill those they capture? And how about that killing civilians as a way of doing business which NO MILITARY in their RIGHT MIND would do... which points up the problem of the Imperial Japanese forces, doesn't it? What the hell is this 'moral equivalency' BS?

Oh, and thank you, Senator McCain, for giving this bozo President cover for trying to get more of our troops killed by being nice to terrorists and then trying to get them into civil jurisdiction where they DON'T BELONG. Presidents must have this ability to be harsh as those they are fighting are not civilized and seek to tear civilization down. Yes, we don't torture. No I don't see how using water-boarding on terrorists is 'torture'. No definitions don't help you as the thing I DO like is a few grams of lead deposited at high velocity with a terminal impact going inside a terrorist. Anything else done to them that is not wanton cruelty to animals isn't torture.

After that the President goes on to Guantanamo, and as I've already hit that let me point out that with Guantanamo we have:

  1. Not suffered another attack on the US,
  2. Gotten high value targets that orchestrated the operations of 9/11 put away there and out of circulation,
  3. Stopped attacks on the US that were in planning stages when you would really LIKE to stop them,
  4. It is a place where the MAIN conviction is being found to be an illegal combatant under the laws of war, which has been done to a number of prisoners,
  5. 1 out of 7 prisoners released has returned to terrorism which is a damned sight better than how our civil system works for normal criminals,
  6. Had a zero percent escape rate plus a near zero percent outside contact rate, unlike civilian prisons,
  7. Has had the current AG plus numerous other international organizations deem Guantanamo as well run and humane, plus being thoroughly legal.

By these effects it is not only legal but effective in what it is doing.

Plus no one has offered a better solution.

President Obama is trying to make a problem where NONE exists:

Indeed, the legal challenges that have sparked so much debate in recent weeks in Washington would be taking place whether or not I decided to close Guantanamo. For example, the court order to release seventeen Uighur detainees took place last fall - when George Bush was President. The Supreme Court that invalidated the system of prosecution at Guantanamo in 2006 was overwhelmingly appointed by Republican Presidents. In other words, the problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place.

There are no neat or easy answers here. But I can tell you that the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away if we maintain an unsustainable status quo. As President, I refuse to allow this problem to fester. Our security interests won't permit it. Our courts won't allow it. And neither should our conscience.

My conscience isn't bothered by Guantanamo. Quite the opposite, I know it is being run in method that is far too civilized for those that deserve battlefield justice. I only get qualms about why we are keeping individuals there in the first place when they deserve the lead solution on the battlefield. The Uighars are TERRORISTS they not only fight China... remember this, this standard applies to China as well... but they fight against all civilization by aligning themselves with al Qaeda. In that alignment they deserve not to be let loose under some strange idea of 'justice' but recognized as the mortal threat to a brother Nation, and if we are too queasy about doing the right thing we can let CHINA do its form of justice on them. They will be... persecuted? Terrorists? Nuh-uh, that doesn't wash no matter how much soap you use. We may find these people 'innocent' of being involved in active hostilities: then we are to send them HOME.

Ahhh... there's the rub, no? Their home countries don't want them because they will most likely be seen as terrorists... and our problem with that is? We are not talking about persecution for religious beliefs or political views, we are looking at individuals who understand that where they are at is the most lenient treatment they will get on Planet Earth because they are viewed as terrorists and willing to take up Private war against their fellow man at home. Believe it or not, closing Guantanamo will not help this: they will not be seen as any less a threat just because WE SAY SO. To think otherwise is extremely authoritarian and trying to tell other Nations how to run their own internal affairs for the prime decisive factor of who is and is not a part of civil society. We have zero business telling other Nations who to accept in their civil society especially when those individuals have expressed views AND taken actions against such societies. When members are persecuted for purely civil differences of conscience, be it religion, politics or whatnot, then we have a major problem as it is civil society that needs to allow such things as freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of political conscience. For those willing to take up Private war against their society?

Are you nuts?

After that President Obama goes back to the fear mongering bit. Say, stop doing it on the economy FIRST and maybe we will see if what YOU are doing is legal and Constitutional, ok?

From there President Obama tries to bring up the 'where the hell should we put them?' idea:

Let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: we are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders - highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety. As we make these decisions, bear in mind the following fact: nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal "supermax" prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists. As Senator Lindsey Graham said: "The idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational."

For those who are a threat to National Security and can't be placed anywhere they can endanger Americans: supermax? Do they get phone privileges? See their lawyer once a month? Any means to communicate with the outside world? Because ALL of those ARE a threat to National Security. Including sending letters. Convicted terrorists do not need to leave a supermax if they have any form of contact with the outside world. Neither do mafioso. Plus they then get all the civil law venues that they wish, and that means contact with the outside world.

This is supposed to be a 'smart' President?

Now we might try my idea of closing Alcatraz as a park, depositing all the detainees there and dropping off a month of supplies at a time. No need for guards on-site, only for patrol boats and keeping a few helicopters ready for intercepts. Then set up a live round shooting gallery from the wharfs at San Francisco and invite some of the best long-range rifle companies to show off their wares. Charge a fee per round! Why I'm sure we would get a whole civilian marksmanship thing going just for that alone... might even pay for itself if we limit it to those still learning...

Ah, not to be, of course. President Obama is set to try and wrench the clock back to 9/10 as he sets up how he wants things to go. Pity that:

First, when feasible, we will try those who have violated American criminal laws in federal courts - courts provided for by the United States Constitution. Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong. Our courts and juries of our citizens are tough enough to convict terrorists, and the record makes that clear. Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center - he was convicted in our courts, and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison. Zaccarias Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker - he was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison. If we can try those terrorists in our courts and hold them in our prisons, then we can do the same with detainees from Guantanamo.

Awww... letting those waging Private war go into the civil system where they can get their 'civil rights' which they don't want! And the moment they get let off the hook because, you know, military folks can't be pulled out of battle to testify in court because they are doing this thing known as 'fighting for the Nation'? The President does know that the 'Blind Sheikh' moderated a dispute in HAMAS from his cell in the US, right? [Actually a factional dispute between the Muslim Brotherhood/HAMAS and the Sheikh's own GIA] Exercised authority over terrorists? With his lawyer's help? Remember this is supposed to make things 'better'! We can try and even convict them, but that doesn't seem to stop them from helping their comrades and directing them...

Then there is this:

The second category of cases involves detainees who violate the laws of war and are best tried through Military Commissions. Military commissions have a history in the United States dating back to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. They are an appropriate venue for trying detainees for violations of the laws of war. They allow for the protection of sensitive sources and methods of intelligence-gathering; for the safety and security of participants; and for the presentation of evidence gathered from the battlefield that cannot be effectively presented in federal Courts.

Terrorists ARE fighting a war with us! President Obama, way up at the top, SAYS SO. Therefore their FIRST venue is the military not the SECOND. He has gotten the order exactly wrong by his OWN ESTIMATION OF THINGS. This is not the SECOND CATEGORY but the FIRST: he has said as much at the start.

This is one of those deals where he is stating a fantasy: these are not civil problems first, they are military problems first. And if they are not judged to be illegal combatants, that is they do not take part in or support terrorism, then there is NO civil venue that can be used on them for those charges as that is double jeopardy. The primary determination of their being terrorists is MILITARY. Period. If they aren't then the can be brought up for other actions, but not for those involving the terrorist determination. By stating at the start that members of al Qaeda are at war with us, then the first venue is military justice.

The third category of detainees includes those who we have been ordered released by the courts. Let me repeat what I said earlier: this has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to close Guantanamo. It has to do with the rule of law. The courts have found that there is no legitimate reason to hold twenty-one of the people currently held at Guantanamo. Twenty of these findings took place before I came into office. The United States is a nation of laws, and we must abide by these rulings.

US Courts only have say on US soil.

That is why we have military justice, but also why we have Admiralty law that extends US soil to our ships at sea and extra-territorial enclaves known as Embassies. That said if the military has ruled that they are not terrorists, then SEND THEM HOME.

The fourth category of cases involves detainees who we have determined can be transferred safely to another country. So far, our review team has approved fifty detainees for transfer. And my Administration is in ongoing discussions with a number of other countries about the transfer of detainees to their soil for detention and rehabilitation.

That should be done with all that we find not to be terrorists. Period. Send them home.

Reading through the intervening verbiage on the points and I do wish that President Obama would stop harping on the 7-years thing as his party was the cause of dragging things out when a well understood process was stood up after CONSULTING the members of his party. It is the perfect worlders that have held up military tribunals to determine the status of detainees, and that system has only gotten it wrong 1 in 7 times so far. Of course that means 1 in 7 released were and remained terrorists...

Finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.

I want to be honest: this is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

Welcome to the real world, President Obama.

I notice you are lacking an answer on this, the #1 thing that you harped about for the last two years.

Remember, he has been touted as the 'adult' by a lot of sympathetic Leftists... yet he has not thought up a solution to a problem that has vexed mankind for... ohh... 6,000 years or so. Did anyone really expect this bozo to think one up in a couple of years?

I know that creating such a system poses unique challenges. Other countries have grappled with this question, and so must we. But I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for Guantanamo detainees - not to avoid one. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so going forward, my Administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.

I hate to tell President Obama this: but the determination of being an illegal combatant is enough to hold them forever.

Of course a much greater President of years past had the actual solution. We could try battlefield justice. In fact if the troops see too many terrorists cycled through the civilian system to be let loose, that will become the operative mode no matter what the President orders.

Now President Obama goes on at length on things, makes some of my articles look small in comparison. In the 'transparency' arena and 'National Security' concept we get this:

On the other hand, I recently opposed the release of certain photographs that were taken of detainees by U.S. personnel between 2002 and 2004. Individuals who violated standards of behavior in these photos have been investigated and held accountable. There is no debate as to whether what is reflected in those photos is wrong, and nothing has been concealed to absolve perpetrators of crimes. However, it was my judgment - informed by my national security team - that releasing these photos would inflame anti-American opinion, and allow our enemies to paint U.S. troops with a broad, damning and inaccurate brush, endangering them in theaters of war.

No, Mr. President, you are not a passive actor: you had to ORDER that they not be released, not 'opposed' their release. Get your powers straight, please, and tell it like it is. No one else gets a say on National Security like that.

But this one, a bit further down is a bellyflop:

I ran for President promising transparency, and I meant what I said. That is why, whenever possible, we will make information available to the American people so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable. But I have never argued - and never will - that our most sensitive national security matters should be an open book. I will never abandon - and I will vigorously defend - the necessity of classification to defend our troops at war; to protect sources and methods; and to safeguard confidential actions that keep the American people safe. And so, whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions - by Congress or by the courts.

No, sir, we have not seen 'transparency' in a number of venues and I can start with the non-military ones of TARP, bailouts and strong-arming creditors for those companies going under, plus helping out banks and forcing one to take on a bad business deal it would normally have refused... where is the transparency on these things? Being all open and above-board going outside the bankruptcy channels, forcing creditors to take LESS than they could get through court settlements, and putting Union participation above that of people actually owed money and who should get first dibs as creditors? Our economy is a part of our National Security, too, and you are messing it up to a fare-thee-well by going outside the courts, acting outside the law and generally acting as a one-man show in determining economic winners and losers.

But this is an outright misinforming of the public:

The Framers who drafted the Constitution could not have foreseen the challenges that have unfolded over the last two hundred and twenty two years. But our Constitution has endured through secession and civil rights - through World War and Cold War - because it provides a foundation of principles that can be applied pragmatically; it provides a compass that can help us find our way. It hasn't always been easy. We are an imperfect people. Every now and then, there are those who think that America's safety and success requires us to walk away from the sacred principles enshrined in this building. We hear such voices today. But the American people have resisted that temptation. And though we have made our share of mistakes and course corrections, we have held fast to the principles that have been the source of our strength, and a beacon to the world.

Not only the Framers and Founders, but the Anti-Federalists: they all cast their eyes to the future and looked at how past events challenged previous systems and did their best to ensure that this system wouldn't be screwed up by petty politicians seeking personal power and authority. They did, indeed, know about Pirates, roving bands of marauders, and other outlaws and clearly and succinctly gave that those violating the Law of Nations were to be punished. Says so right there in the US Constitution Article I, Section 8:


To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

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 make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

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;


Offenses against the Law of Nations is a second category with its own, well understood framework.

One that President Obama is overlooking.

It describes the Offenses and what may be done about them... and we give the final writing of those laws to Congress. Also note that it is not up to President Obama to make the rules for the governing of the land and naval forces, that is left up to Congress. He gets to run them, and any problems are decided by the courts. Just like Abraham Lincoln did with the rules authorized by him: they followed the governing of Congress.

We don't need a President to set up new 'frameworks': we need Congress to do that when necessary. Executive fiat not required, unless you are Chrysler.

Which brings up that damned transparency thing again....

When do we get to see that, Mr. President?

18 May 2009

Petty corruption of tyranny

The following is originally posted at The Jacksonian Party.

The following is a personal outlook paper of The Jacksonian Party.

Taxation is one methodology for the State to get the funds to keep itself running so as to protect society.  The Nation State has that burden and uses the tool we call taxation to burden the public for its own defense.  And yet we hear of all the great 'good' that can be done by taxation, if only we give the government more of our money.  Unfortunately government is not a good caretaker of funds nor an able spender of them, as I have looked at before.  So when government gets involved in anything, the immediate cost overhead burdens how the money is spent with inefficient bureaucracy, oversight and other compliance mechanisms required within the government.  I personally worked at one of the most efficient agencies in the US federal government that only had 35% of its budget taken up with that overhead, and worked with another that only had 41% taken up with such overhead.  The functions of defending the Nation, its borders and upholding the common law are all things that cannot be done elsewhere in the bureaucracy or by the people: these are National concerns.

Things like healthcare, education and agriculture are all better suited to local administration, the more local the better.  When government gets involved your tax dollars go less far, less efficiently and with less accountability that with State, local or personal expenditures.  As you can hold all your recipients personally accountable, you are the best place to spend any funds for things that are best done locally.  You pay a premium to get government 'oversight', and that comes in loss of productivity for the system as a whole

Higher taxation is always touted as 'necessary' and 'patriotic' to pay for such things, and yet I remember that when the Goods and Services Tax was first put in across the border in Canada, shopkeepers welcomed me with open arms as I didn't have to pay that tax!  It is the strangest dichotomy that something that gets such a 'good' is reviled or even despised by those who have it put on them.  What happens is that such taxes are not liked nor do they engender good feelings towards the overall system.  In fact just the opposite.

From this article by Pierre Lemieux originally seen in The Globe and Mail in 1994 and reposted by the author, I can see those transition years happening as I understood them, then:

As budget day nears, politicians of all stripes warn us that tax evasion is rampant in Canada. Before he started talking about tax increases, Finance Minister Paul Martin had declared that "hundreds of thousands of otherwise honest people ... have withdrawn their consent to be governed" by escaping in the underground economy.

The problem is that the politicians do not seem to draw the right conclusions. Pressed for money -- actually, nearly bankrupt --, the federal government, as well as some provincial governments, has decided to clamp down on the underground economy. Revenue Minister David Anderson has declared a war on tax evaders.

After shopkeepers defied the law by openly selling smuggled cigarettes in Saint-Eustache, Qué., Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard came out against what he sees as a new state-cheating culture. He apparently thinks that citizens should always obey the rulers. Indeed, the governing class shows a rare unanimity in bringing the Canadians back under the government's rod of iron.

That is to get the much lauded healthcare system in Canada, that now sees people not liking it all that much as services for what we, in the US, would consider routine tests, like MRI and CAT scans, now have long waiting lists.  I remember someone citing that all of Canada has the same number of MRI machines as metropolitan Philadelphia.  When government takes more money to provide fewer services than was available without government intervention, the people draw their conclusions on the efficacy of funding government.

Mr. Lemieux then looks at some of the reasons the tax cheat culture started in Canada:

First, how did tax evasion develop among so docile a people as the Canadians? The answer lies, of course, in the tax burden they have to shoulder. Tobacco, on which federal tax rates have increased by 150% over the last five years, is only the tip of the iceberg. The total tax take by all levels of government now amounts to nearly 40% of the Canadian gross domestic product. If we include the deficits, which are just future taxes, government takes close to one half of what people produce and earn in this country. In two words, tax evasion is a response to tax invasion.


Galloping regulations are another factor. Some of them come with taxes: Small businesses now have to perform time-consuming GST accounting, and prepare a complex quarterly report. I don't know if we ever were a nation of shopkeepers, but we are certainly becoming one of tax collectors and accountants. Other forms of regulation -- labor regulations, for instance -- make it much more simpler and cheaper to go underground, for consumers and suppliers alike.

The second question is, How could we ever accept such a tax burden in the first place? One hundred or 200 years ago, the great Western thinkers to whom we owe whatever liberty we have left would never have thought this could happen in a free country.


The third question relates to the state's reaction. Politicians argue that the individuals who do not pay their "fair share" thereby increase the tax burden of other citizens. The main thrust of the coming federal and provincial budgets may well be to increase the effective tax burden under the guise of "fair shares."

This is a naïve cliché which assumes that political and bureaucratic processes naturally lead to the optimal amount of taxes required to finance unanimously demanded public services. What actually happens (at least if we agree with the Public Choice approach in economics) is that the government will take as much as it can, it will charge what the traffic will bear. Governments satisfy minority pressure groups and buy votes through spending. If Canadians in the underground economy were to start paying their "fair" taxes, government revenues and expenses would just increase by the amount of the new taxes. In this perspective, the underground economy is a useful restraint on Leviathan, and a benefit to all taxpayers.

Yes, that is exactly what I remember from shopkeepers when the GST was put in place: they had become the accountants for the revenuers!  And loathed it.  Some even preferred 'off the books' purchases that were legal, just so they could avoid doing the paperwork on the purchases... anything to avoid the overhead of doing the government's work FOR IT without any recompense.

Looking at Recent social trends in Canada, 1969-2000 on p.468 (via Google Books excerpt), the trend of tax evasion declined from 1969-80, and then steadily increased thereafter.  In Taxation in Canada by Janet Shimbashi Denhamer pp. 55-57 (via Google Books excerpt), is a discussion of means to avoid taxes in Canada via planning, avoidance itself, evasion, or putting income into categories that are not directly taxable.  Thus when government puts in broad-based taxes that are deeper and more invasive, people lose their adherence that they are for the 'common good' and that the 'common good' is best served by avoiding taxation at all costs.

Germany has one of the highest tax rates for individuals in Europe, and yet it appears there is something going on at the lowest levels.  From this report at Marketplace at Public Radio on 19 FEB 2008, we see some of the hints of how people feel about taxes when tax evaders are caught:

Brett Neely: Well, it seems like someone who was possibly an employee at this bank in Lichenstein, the LGT bank, stole a DVD full of sensitive customer information and sold it to Germany's intelligence services for what's reportedly about 5 million euros.

Jagow: Why would the intelligence service pay for this information?

Neely: There's been a big problem with tax evasion in Germany. It's kind of a sport in some ways. And Lichenstein is one of the favorite places for wealthy Germans to stick their money. The German government's been trying to find ways to collect on these taxes for years, but they can't get through Lichenstein's bank secrecy laws. So when this data was put up on the market, it was irresistible.

To put that in US terms it would be the following: the CIA was spying on American's overseas finances to supply information to the IRS.

Mind you, everyone on the Left tells you how wonderful it is to pay taxes and how those in Europe are so glad and pay so readily... and then become tax evaders, apparently.  Mr. Neely continues on that it is unusual for people to drive to Liechtenstein with cars full of money, but that everyone gets tax consultants to help expose as little money as possible to taxation in Germany.  Everyone does it.  Mind you, that is from generally left-leaning Public Radio, and a startling admission that broad-based taxes may not be that well received in highly taxed Nations.

In Denhamer's work, it is pointed out that the ability to misrepresent  items leads to the amount of evasion being higher than expected when considering Gross National Income.  Lemieux makes that point also, and when comparing tax receipts on income versus GNI, the delta between what 'should' be garnered under taxation and what is garnered is the amount being avoided.  Government raise rates to generate more revenue... which increases avoidance as taxation gets more draconian.

In a Business Today article of 20 MAR 2008, Aseem Mahajan looks at some of the coverage of the scandal and what it reveals:

The drama began on February 14th, when police detained Zumwinkel at his villa.  The CEO was charged with evading tax payments of over € 1 million ($1.5 million) by channeling money into underground foundations set up in Liechtenstein by LGT Bank (along with Andorra and Monaco, Liechtenstein has been labeled as a tax haven by the OECD).  While many German elites tried to stay clear of Zumwinkel and his financial dealings, a deeper probe revealed that more than 1,000 German investors had also channeled money into Liechtenstein’s “foundations” to avoid Germany’s notoriously complex tax code.  To add to the situation, in recent years, many Germans have become wary of the gap between corporate managers and average citizens.  According to The Economist, “the pay of Germany’s top managers jumped 17.5% in the 2006-07 financial year,” while “globalization and economic reforms have squeezed the wages of ordinary Germans” (“The Disgrace of Germany AG,” February 21, 2008).  Although Germans voted to raise the top income tax rate in 2007, this has had little effect on reining in the wealthy.  The number of German tax advisers has increased recently, and “tricking the taxman is now widely considered a national pastime in Germany” (“Not so Fine in Liechtenstein,” February 22nd, 2008, The Economist).  In a country that delicately balances capitalism with large social-welfare programs, even a few scandals can rile critics of capitalism, which leaves it much more vulnerable than in America. 

That is the crux of the social welfare state: any avoidance of taxation demonstrates that the welfare, itself, is not appreciated and that political favoritism goes to the pocketbook, directly.  When government takes healthcare and social services out of local hands, it then puts in place the avenues of political corruption that can range on a National scale, not State (or Provincial) or local one, which should be easier to catch and hold people accountable for their actions.  At the National scale entire political classes who gain benefit from corrupting the tax system to reward some over others on the public dollar then rally to say 'how good' the tax system is at going after the 'fat cats' while seeing that it is those exact, same 'fat cats' who are their backers across all political parties.  More government increases the avenue for corruption, not decreases it.  Higher taxes on the wealthy become a facade behind which the decaying State is eaten away by its own politicians.  'Progressive taxation' turns out to be a misnomer as it heavily politicizes the 'progressiviness' of the taxes and allows those who have the means to avoid them, evade them or just not pay them.

Taxation 'progression' leads to political regression.

On 20 FEB 2008 article at Euro Intelligence by Wolfgang Münchau examines the principle reason for tax evasion being... yes... taxes:

Germany has always had a problem with tax evasion, mainly because of relatively high marginal tax rates. Slovakia with its 19% flat tax has no such problem. Austria, which has one of the lowest tax rates of the industrialised countries, has no such problem either, even though, unlike Germany, it has a direct border with Liechtenstein. Nor have the Swiss. The French have a problem with Switzerland and Monaco. The Italians have a problem with Monaco. And the Spanish have a problem with Andorra. But nobody has bigger problems than Germany (which has problems with Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and even Austria). Germany is a country where business elites enjoy among the lowest pay packages, and the highest marginal taxes.

The German government now plans a series of measures to crack down on Liechtenstein. But to what effect? If the German government succeeds to destroy Liechtenstein's business model, this will be bad news for the plucky principality. But then, what stops wealthy German investors to go to Monaco, the Channel Islands, or the Cayman Islands?

Ah, the winds of the next World War, perhaps?  Unlikely as Germans are not about to militarize over taxes... yet.  But destroying the efforts of small Nations to be financially independent in how they do things so they can address local concerns means that they need to get understanding that their sovereignty matters.  When liberty is destroyed or put at threat by outside forces, those doing the threatening need to understand that they are harming the flow of all liberty, not just seeking their 'just due' via taxes being avoided by THEIR OWN CITIZENS.  Perhaps if they would lessen services and programs and institute a more moderate and lower tax, the people could find a way to provide for those things that government does in a piss-poor way?

That requires divesting the Nation of internal power over its own people and allowing liberty a greater hand for each individual to determine their own course in life and not seek cradle-to-grave support from a beneficent that has draconian taxes and a tyrannical system of collection that uses spies to find out just where their own people are hiding money.  As so many point out how 'good' Germany is in healthcare, the flip side is that their own espionage services are used upon their own citizens to catch them evading TAXES.

I thought the idea was to build up social cohesion and trust in government, not destroy it?

What is even worse is that the entire EU concept was supposed to ameliorate the problem.  From Businessweek 27 MAY 1996 an article on Germany's problem then:

Can German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spark a supply-side revolution in Europe? No one would have believed it just a few months ago. But Kohl's Apr. 26 announcement of plans to ax more than $46 billion from government spending and to roll back Germany's costly tax and social security regimes is the strongest signal yet that such a shakeup is on the way. Kohl's proposed budget cuts--the equivalent of 2% of gross domestic product--would slice far deeper in a single year than then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ever did when she launched her bid to reform Britain.

Kohl's plans could mark the start of an economic and psychological turnaround whose effects would soon ripple throughout Europe. While his program aims to revive Germany's economy, his broader goal is to change Europe's economic mind-set. He wants to scrap the long-held expectation that Europe must have big government, high taxes, unbending labor practices, and huge social spending. "Psychology is 50% of economics," says Meinhard Miegel, head of Bonn's IWG Institute for Economy & Society.


A more favorable tax regime would also kill the incentive for tax dodgers who bank their money in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. "It would absolutely stop tax flight from Germany," says Martin Hufner, chief economist of Munich's Bayerische Vereinsbank. That, in turn, would help Germany regain an estimated $70 billion in revenues lost annually through tax evasion. Revamping the tax system is also aimed at luring foreign investors away from other high-tax countries such as France and Italy. Says Herbert Demel, CEO of Audi: "It is the first step to correct Germany's disadvantages as a place to do business."

Didn't get anyplace, did it? This downsizing government and giving back liberty deal, just didn't make headway all that much against the 'progressive' interests of unions and business.  Those two items working together for their own interest shows a major problem once big government arrives: you have a hard time getting rid of it via 'cuts'.  That was back 12 years before the 2008 scandal, and yet that is where you get when you don't give back those things government has taken from smaller concerns within the Nation.  By not increasing liberty the government now uses repressive means to squeeze the citizenry, rich and not-so-rich alike, based on 'fairness'.  Just like their fellow citizens in Canada, those in Germany see no reason to adhere to an oppressive tax code and obey it.  That disobedience engenders an adversarial relationship between the State and the people, where the State flexes the negative liberties invested in it AGAINST its own people.

In the US we see this distrust arise in a different venue one which we know all too well due to past abuses.  At The Wall Street Journal on 18 MAY 2009 Glenn Harlan Reynolds has an article on this topic:

At his Arizona State University commencement speech last Wednesday, Mr. Obama noted that ASU had refused to grant him an honorary degree, citing his lack of experience, and the controversy this had caused. He then demonstrated ASU's point by remarking, "I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. . . . President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS."

Just a joke about the power of the presidency. Made by Jay Leno it might have been funny. But as told by Mr. Obama, the actual president of the United States, it's hard to see the humor. Surely he's aware that other presidents, most notably Richard Nixon, have abused the power of the Internal Revenue Service to harass their political opponents. But that abuse generated a powerful backlash and with good reason. Should the IRS come to be seen as just a bunch of enforcers for whoever is in political power, the result would be an enormous loss of legitimacy for the tax system.

Our income-tax system is based on voluntary compliance and honest reporting by citizens. It couldn't possibly function if most people decided to cheat. Sure, the system is backed up by the dreaded IRS audit. But the threat is, while not exactly hollow, limited: The IRS can't audit more than a tiny fraction of taxpayers. If Americans started acting like Italians, who famously see tax evasion as a national pastime, the system would collapse.

Or become so infamous at cheating that they would take it as second nature that to avoid government taxation, regulation and oversight meant that one easily disobeyed those laws and any others that happened to get in the way of free exercise of liberty.  Taxes are put upon liberty, and it doesn't matter where they fall. 

If upon investors, they lack the ability to invest in a robust fashion and build industry to provide jobs and productive capacity for the Nation.

If upon businesses, they are robbed of the ability to to be competitive and unequally put upon by 'progressive' tax loads that ensure big businesses will always survive and small ones never threaten them.

If upon shopkeepers, they must needs spend productive time being the unpaid accountants and tax collectors for the government.

If upon the individual, then the means to sustain personal liberty is directly taxed and, with 'progressive' taxation, the impetus is upon the rich to gain political clout so as to shield their wealth at the expense of the rest of society.

Because government is a necessary evil to give us a space to secure our positive liberties does not make it a benefactor to society.  One would think that generations of having demonstrated how 'entitlements' done through government by taxation have had the opposite effect of enriching society.  Those that have made the citizenry beholden to government have created those that will evade it and created a cheating citizenry seeking the free exercise of liberty.  Moderate and equal taxation with an exemption for the destitute gives each individual a citizen's share: everyone contributes in the exact, same proportion be they poor or mega-wealthy.  Each extra dollar earned is only moderately taxed, so there is great incentive for an individual to do more to secure their worldly life and exercise their liberty to their benefit and understand the responsibility of being a citizen to one's fellow citizens.

To do otherwise is to make shopkeepers the tax collectors... and to turn the espionage services meant to defend a Nation against its own citizens who are viewed as cheaters.  Unfortunately it is government that cheats by taking liberty in excess of the few things it must do to secure the safety of society and administer laws equally.  And when government tries to 'do more' it becomes beholden to the special interests and not the general interest of all of society.  That is no good at all.

14 May 2009

He was such a quiet boy...

Just one of those idle thoughts...

The cycles in human functions of society

One of the reasons that the Anti-Federalist works make compelling reading is that they are looking beyond the structure of the proposed Constitution and at previous human societies and their governments so as to see the pathways that were taken by them and how they related to the proposed new form of government. From that examination the ideas start to build up and then were examined for fit into the Constitution's structural pathways. While much of the talk did lead to the Bill of Rights, a number of items were not addressed by those first ten Amendments. It is true that many of the expectations of the Anti-Federalists did not come to pass, while others that were once thought of as safely relegated to history have returned from the dust to haunt our modern times. The reason for their views, disparate as they were, was that the applicable standard for how human society functions is governed by patterns that our Earthly law takes: when creating the same sort of law device, we find that it is limited to certain scopes and abilities without regard to culture. That is why looking at Ancient Greece, the Roman Republic, Confederation of the Swiss, or the government of Vienna were critical to the Anti-Federalists as they each had proclivities and trends due to the structure of their governments. Thus Spain, Netherlands, Britain and many other Nations with different forms of government also served as touchstones to examine their pasts and outcomes. If you can identify the key points of a larger trend problem and find those points in the proposed Constitution, then they are a problem in how governing will come out.

This was not the only methodology used, however, and another was put forward on the basis of the governing parts and how they were constituted. These views are purely structural and not depending upon more than human nature as understood at the time. Human nature, it must be understood, is based on what the nature of man is: a being that comes from the Law of Nature and Nature's God. Whatever formulation we give to this base state of humanity, be it from single divine source, multiple divine sources or just the system that came about due to physics and chemistry in the universe, that state of man is invariant over time. That state of human nature is then refined by our creation of society, but it still remains of its original stock. As with highly polished and stained wood, the underlying material is still wood and has all the benefits and deficits of being wood rather than, say, iron or aluminum or silicate structure. That recognition that we are all created equal, with all Liberty and Freedom born within us is then the measuring stick for the outcomes of human nature in creating society, States and Nations.

These are two of the most simple tools of analysis of human society and governments: past works and structural views based on known starting point. There is no science of them, however, as we have been loathe to apply numbers, meaning and measure to human actions so as to not only qualify them, but quantify them. Even in our modern times, this is not done, as to do so becomes politically charged by those who do not wish for human society and governments to get such high level of definition as it is thought that will reduce man to mere known quantities. That reduction, however, is not in the analysis but is part of our beings as natural man: if we are given Liberty and Freedom in equal measure, our actual being is flawed and that effects how we approach Liberty and Freedom as we create society. By this view the nature/nurture 'debate' is ill-founded as there is no statement of what man is in his base state in nature and how we create the means to change that via culture and society. As we once did not understand why charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter acted as they did when combined in certain proportions, chemistry allowed us to examine the pieces, understand them and refine the nature of the end product. What it was would always be: the mystery of it would only deepen as we understood it better and that would lead to further discoveries of the nature of atoms, chemistry and physics. Alchemy gave way to Chemistry and that did not, alone, demonstrate a 'philosophers stone' but demonstrated that such a thing was the act of actually seeking answers in a methodical way.

So when reading the Anti-Federalist works we come upon one of the closest reviews of man and the society, governments, States and Nations that are created by man-made laws on Earth as those things relate to a solid, known starting point.

One of the best statements to lay the groundwork for understanding how natural man comes to make society and government is given in An Old Whig IV in OCT 1787:

Men when they enter into society, yield up a part of their natural liberty, for the sake of being protected by government. If they yield up all their natural rights they are absolute slaves to their governors. If they yield up less than is necessary, the government is so feeble, that it cannot protect them. To yield up so much, as it necessary for the purposes of government; and to retain all beyond what is necessary, is the great point, which ought, if possible, to be attained in the formation of a constitution. At the same time that by these means, the liberty of the subject is secured, the government is really strengthened; because wherever the subject is convinced that nothing more is required from him, than what is necessary for the good of the community, he yields a cheerful obedience, which is more useful than the constrained service of slaves. To define what portion of his natural liberty, the subject shall at the time be entitled to retain, is one great end of a bill of rights. To these may be added in a bill of rights some particular engagements of protection, on the part of the government. Without such a bill of rights, firmly securing the privileges of the subject, the government is always in danger if degenerating into tyranny; for it is certainly true, that "in establishing the powers of government, the rulers are invested with every right and authority, which is not in explicit terms reserved." Hence it is that we find the patriots, in all ages of the world, so very solicitous to obtain explicit engagements from their rulers, stipulating, expressly, for the preservation of particular rights and privileges.

Patriotism is the act of extracting explicit, stipulating and exactly expressed limits of government so that the common man is protected. What An Old Whig does is to encapsulate much of Thomas Paine's work into this, so that it is clearly understood the reasons for government are, and that not looking for government to do everything requires the patriotic duty of ensuring that the strict bounds of the governing structure are respected. This effort is done to forestall 'expansive' views of government, as seen with someone like Theodore Roosevelt, and those that would stretch the meaning of 'general welfare' to mean the entire welfare of everyone, at all times, in all conditions, always.

Dissent to just naysay is not patriotic. Patriotism points out the problems in legislation and how it is enacted and adjudicated and points to the overstepping in all three areas by each branch of government. 'Strict Constructionism' is NOT just an application to the Supreme Court: that is a misplaced zeal for a particular set of views and trying to stop bad laws ONLY once they have come about. Patriotism is to examine each branch of government, its workings, identify the problems in each area and then propose solutions for each so as to keep its domain of power sacrosanct and limited. The Civil Rights movement that looked at all three areas of government was Patriotic: its effort was to ensure the rights of all citizens to be treated equally in each branch of government and by the entirety of the laws enacted. Whenever dissent is brought up, it must go beyond just a 'bad law' and state how such laws do not respect the domains of power granted to government in detail and in full. Thus the deriding of the President for utilizing the powers given as Head of State, Commander of the Armies and the Navies and Head of Government must understand that any legislation addressing such powers must respect them and the awesome capability we hand to a President in doing things outside the realm of the Nation as it interacts with other nations and oversees the use of the common property of mankind in the form of the high seas and the earth beneath them and the atmosphere above up to the end of it and the beginning of space.

By examining the basis for what government is, how it is made and why we invest negative liberties in it, An Old Whig properly re-states the basis for all government in any Nation. That is historical analysis that relies on Locke, Vattel, Grotius and many others who have gone into great detail on how the laws of Earth are different from the Laws of Nature and why we set aside some Liberty in society for the organs we call government. Man who retains all Liberty and exercises all for himself is a savage, an animal in stature. Only by vesting negative Liberty for common oversight in the State and the Nation can we have space to exercise positive Liberty freely without threat of our negative Liberties we invest in government overwhelming us and dissolving civil society.

Federal Farmer used the structural approach quite often. Thus examining the system as proposed led to questions that were derived from it and how human nature acts upon such structures. Federal Farmer III on 10 OCT 1787 is a work that heavily goes into the structural analysis realm, and I will use boldface where necessary to call out some parts:

Dear Sir, The great object of a free people must be so to form their government and laws and so to administer them as to create a confidence in, and respect for the laws; and thereby induce the sensible and virtuous part of the community to declare in favor of the laws, and to support them without an expensive military force. I wish, though I confess I have not much hope, that this may be the case with the laws of congress under the new constitution. I am fully convinced that we must organize the national government on different principles, and make the parts of it more efficient, and secure in it more effectually the different interests in the community; or else leave in the state governments some powers proposed to be lodged in it - at least till such an organization shall be found to be practicable. Not sanguine in my expectations of a good federal administration, and satisfied, as I am, of the impracticability of consolidating the states, and at the same time of preserving the rights of the people at large, I believe we ought still to leave some of those powers in the state governments, in which the people, in fact, will still be represented - to define some other powers proposed to be vested in the general government, more carefully, and to establish a few principles to secure a proper exercise of the powers given it. It is not my object to multiply objections, or to contend about inconsiderable powers or amendments. I wish the system adopted with a few alterations; but those, in my mind, are essential ones; if adopted without, every good citizen will acquiesce, though I shall consider the duration of our governments, and the liberties of this people, very much dependant on the administration of the general government. A wise and honest administration, may make the people happy under any government; but necessity only can justify even our leaving open avenues to the abuse of power, by wicked, unthinking, or ambitious men. I will examine, first, the organization of the proposed government, in order to judge; 2d. with propriety, what powers are improperly, at least prematurely lodged in it. I shall examine, 3d, the undefined powers; and 4th, those powers, the exercise of which is not secured on safe and proper ground.

First comes the statement of the objective, which is for a free people to be able to form a government that can write and administer laws that society will have confidence in as respecting the virtuous part of the community, and yet be minimal in weight so as not to require a military to enforce them.

Second is the problem of having such government be efficient but to also not impinge upon different parts of a diverse community unequally. As each community has diverse interests, the nature of government that is representative of them must respect that diversity and not make laws at the highest level, but to allow them to move down to more representative levels (in this case the States as the next major organizing unit of the Nation).

Third, to the end of the Second, the problems of larger government requires that the States retain powers and that an extremely close examination of the exact powers handed to the federal government is essential to protecting society from the larger, national, government.

Fourth the proposed Constitution is a good structure, by and large, but needs to address duration of government and the Liberty of the people who will have such Liberty dependant upon the general, national government.

Finally, good administrators will always respect the Liberty of the people, but by leaving the actual structure in place that is open to abuse of power by those with ill-intents such Liberty is put at peril.

From that Federal Farmer will then break out sections as specified to examine the structural problems in the proposed Constitution, how those are problems and the pathways of abuse of them, and then propose moderate changes to that structure to further limit or refine the powers and make them more exacting and circumscribed. It is that understanding that good men will not always govern and that those will malign views can and will come into high office that is an understood outcome of all governments be they representative or not. Such malign use increases when power is concentrated, and the object of representative government is to remove the ability to concentrate such power in fewer and fewer hands in proportion to the population as a whole. As general government for a nation is the resting place of individual negative liberties, it is the utilization of those negative liberties that must be highly defined and exactingly stated.

Even with an older writing style and its attendant peculiarities, this piece reads like a modern political analysis piece on the structure of representative government should read if we ever had people who bothered to write them. We have come to denigrate the Anti-Federalists for being on the 'losing side' of the Constitutional debate, while what was being done was criticism to build a stronger and more solid system to secure Liberty for the common man and ensure that society would not come to ill ends by this more general government. Many would propose a more State-based and centered system, and those, too, need to be respected as they have a different understanding of the problems of large scale Republics and other forms of government that had salient features to that which was proposed.

Robert Yates took time to distill Luther Martin's Objections from a three hour speech, and examining Martin's later works that was no mean feat as Luther Martin did tend towards bombast and not sticking to a point very well. While some of the criticisms raised were partially addressed with the Bill of Rights, some were not (as is the case in most Anti-Federalist works as the Constitution went through ratification and then immediate Amending). On 27 JUN 1787 in Luther Martin's Objections (sweetened and condensed by Robert Yates) we get the following mid-way through it:

Unequal confederacies can never produce good effects. Apply this to the Virginia Plan. Out of the number 90, Virginia has 16 votes, Massachusetts 14, Pennsylvania 12—in all 42. Add to this a state having four votes, and it gives a majority in the general legislature. Consequently a combination of these states will govern the remaining nine or ten states. Where is the safety and independency of those states? Pursue this subject farther. The executive is to be appointed by the legislature, and becomes the executive in consequence of this undue influence. And hence flows the appointment of all your officers, civil, military, and judicial. The executive is also to have a negative on all laws. Suppose the possibility of a combination of ten states; he negatives a law; it is totally lost, because those states cannot form two-thirds of the legislature. I am willing to give up private interest for the public good, but I must be satisfied first that it is the public interest. Who can decide this point? A majority only of the union.

The Lacedemonians insisted in the Amphictionic council to exclude some of the smaller states from a right to vote in order that they might tyrannize over them. If the plan now on the table be adopted, three states in the union have the control, and they may make use of their power when they please.

Some mis-reading of the Constitution went on, obviously, but the utilization of an Electoral College has the final fall-back to the House of Representatives. Indeed that Electoral College is a temporary body, made up of the Electors chosen by the people, but any mischief in such councils to dead-lock them throw the selection over to Congress. While not an obvious pathway for corruption, it still exists and we have seen unfaithful Electors show up rarely, but it has happened.

The power of the House to originate spending bills gives it great power on the Liberty of the people, and even with a Senate that can stop such legislation, the opportunity to subborn or otherwise find unfaithful Senators to their duty to the Union exists. In fact that was enhanced by Amendment XVII, so as to remove the Statehouse from the selection procedure and make both houses elected by the people directly. Amendment XVI also gutted the controls of the federal government which was prescribed from making disproportionate direct taxation upon the people, and allowed such a thing for the placement of direct taxation by varying proportion upon the people. Thus the problems of the Lacedemonians persists: a bare large state majority can inflict unequal laws and does not have to respect the minority opinion on such. Over time this creates an unbalanced system of government due to the corruption that is inherent in mankind when applied to concentrated societal power venues.

Later in his speech Luther Martin brought up the following examples:

On this latter ground, the state legislatures and their constituents will have no interests to pursue different from the general government, and both will be interested to support each other. Under these ideas can it be expected that the people can approve the Virginia Plan? But it is said, that people, not the state legislatures, will be called upon for approbation, with an evident design to separate the interest of the governors from the governed. What must be the consequence? Anarchy and confusion. We lose the idea of the powers with which we are entrusted. The legislatures must approve. By them it must, on your own plan, be laid before the people. How will such a government, over so many great states, operate? Wherever new settlements have been formed in large states, they immediately want to shake off their independency. Why? Because the government is too remote for their good. The people want it nearer home.

The basis of all ancient and modern confederacies is the freedom and the independency of the states composing it. The states forming the Amphictionic council were equal, though Lacedemon, one of the greatest states, attempted the exclusion of three of the lesser states from this right. The plan reported, it is true, only intends to diminish those rights, not to annihilate them. It was the ambition and power of the great Grecian states which at last ruined this respectable council. The states as societies are ever respectful. Has Holland or Switzerland ever complained of the equality of the states which compose their respective confederacies? Bern and Zurich are larger than the remaining eleven cantos (so are many of the states of Germany); and yet their governments are not complained of. Bern alone might usurp the whole power of the Helvetic confederacy, but she is contented still with being equal.

This question of independence for locality and abiding by some level of interdependence and shifting the power towards the latter and more remote government is not one to be taken lightly. Small and compact confederations act well due to limited geography and closely aligned populations, and the use of Dutch and Swiss confederacies points to that fact. Larger Nations succumb to the distance effect for general government when the interdependence is too high: general government concentrates power and shifts decision making out of its best venue of more local government which is responsive to local concerns.

By applying historical analysis to similar governmental set-ups (without regard to underlying type of structure to get to the larger structure) Luther Martin via Robert Yates makes key points about the necessary limits that governments have when working in federal systems or confederations. The slow movement of power via the processes that allow for larger sub-units or populations to slowly corrode the process so as to make the interests of the most populace majority the absolute will of the general government then creates a form of ungoverned democracy that seeks mere majoritarian rule by fiat without the need to respect the rights of the minority population. Only when the populations are small and the Nations compact does this not happen: when they become more wide ranging, the abuse of power due to its distance becomes large factor in the stability of the entire Nation.

The writer Centinel tends more towards bombast, it is to be admitted, although not as intemperate as Luther Martin when he writes directly (Robert Yates had the unenviable task of making Martin's speech civil), and is very pointedly suspicious of those that took part in writing the Constitution. He fits more into the mold of what we commonly think of as Anti-Federalist, but even he has to use analytical tools to back his suspicions. In that era before the Great Conspiracy Theories For Everything were put forth for nearly everything, he falls back upon simple historical precedent:

I have been anxiously expecting that some enlightened patriot would, ere this, have taken up the pen to expose the futility, and counteract the baneful tendency of such principles. Mr. Adams's sine qua non of a good government is three balancing powers, whose repelling qualities are to produce an equilibrium of interests, and thereby promote the happiness of the whole community. He asserts that the administrators of every government, will ever be actuated by views of private interest and ambition, to the prejudice of the public good; that therefore the only effectual method to secure the rights of the people and promote their welfare, is to create an opposition of interests between the members of two distinct bodies, in the exercise of the powers of government, and balanced by those of a third. This hypothesis supposes human wisdom competent to the task of instituting three co-equal orders in government, and a corresponding weight in the community to enable them respectively to exercise their several parts, and whose views and interests should be so distinct as to prevent a coalition of any two of them for the destruction of the third. Mr. Adams, although he has traced the constitution of every form of government that ever existed, as far as history affords materials, has not been able to adduce a single instance of such a government; he indeed says that the British constitution is such in theory, but this is rather a confirmation that his principles are chimerical and not to be reduced to practice. If such an organization of power were practicable, how long would it continue? not a day - for there is so great a disparity in the talents, wisdom and industry of mankind, that the scale would presently preponderate to one or the other body, and with every accession of power the means of further increase would be greatly extended. The state of society in England is much more favorable to such a scheme of government than that of America. There they have a powerful hereditary nobility, and real distinctions of rank and interests; but even there, for want of that perfect equallity of power and distinction of interests, in the three orders of government, they exist but in name; the only operative and efficient check, upon the conduct of administration, is the sense of the people at large.

That from 05 OCT 1787 in Centinel I by Centinel.

It did last more than a day, but his point of the balancing act between these three branches, each having separate domains is clear. What this system has, however, is the inverse problem: a weak branch losing power to the other two branches of government. While President Lincoln wielded extraordinary powers, those were powers given in case of civil war or insurrection, as the Laws of War would need to intrude on the civil society for the defense of the Nation. One branch becoming stronger by its own inclination and then aided by a second branch and a third branch that was weak would not properly stop the accumulation of power to government.

Here the Amendment process is the one most liable for abuse as the overwhelming majority of the States must be reflected in Congress: no say is given to the President or Supreme Court as a check and balance. Thus with the aforementioned Amendments on directly electing Senators and direct taxation that is unequal, can be added the other part which is the ability of the House to set its own size. That was done in 1911 and has steadily concentrated more power into the hands of the House which remains the same size while the population grows. The ability of individuals to be heard in that venue decreases as they become a smaller fraction of the overall population represented. A strong President and abiding Congress can push through acts that then require the Supreme Court to strike down if it is a strong body. A weak Supreme Court will find agreeable arguments that stretch or even break traditional power structures via 're-interpretation' of the Constitution or making it 'living'. Then a President and Supreme Court can backstop changes to those rulings and make them firm changes in the system that breaks the structure.

That is the overall problem from 1900 to present. It is brought up by Centinel with more than a bit of bombast, innuendo, and outright ridicule, but even with that his points are extremely well taken. By fusing historical analysis with human nature based observations, he does overstate how fast such a system will go down by great orders of magnitude, but the problems pointed out are very real.

Before the Bill of Rights was added Richard Henry Lee's Objections to the Constitution of 16 OCT 1787 examines another example of analysis: that of appeal to past known authority's reasoning. This not just the citation of authority, which is common place for those that wish to get some backing to their points, but a discussion of what that authority said and why it is important. This form of analysis is one that is a rich endeavor as it does allow an individual to gain insight into modern problems by understanding their origin and how they were viewed when original laws that ours are descendant from were made. Not just blind recitation or mere footnote, this sort of discussion brings past insights alive via in-line text analysis (as vice the modern blockquote which we use today to offset original texts). This makes it harder to read, but also more lively, as Mr. Lee demonstrates:

It cannot be denied, with truth, that this new Constitution is, in its first principles, highly and dangerously oligarchic; and it is a point agreed, that a government of the few is, of all governments, the worst.

The only check to be found in favor of the democratic principle, in this system, is the House of Representatives; which, I believe, may justly be called a mere shred or rag of representation; it being obvious to the least examination, that smallness of number, and great comparative disparity of power, render that house of little effect, to promote good or restrain bad government. But what is the power given to this ill-constructed body? To judge of what may be for the general welfare; and such judgments, when made the acts of Congress, become the supreme laws of the land. This seems a power coextensive with every possible object of human legislation. Yet there is no restraint, in form of a bill of rights, to secure (what Doctor Blackstone calls) that residuum of human rights which is not intended to be given up to society, and which, indeed, is not necessary to be given for any social purpose. The rights of conscience, the freedom of the press, and the trial by jury, are at mercy. It is there stated that, in criminal cases, the trial shall be by jury. But how? In the state. What, then, becomes of the jury of the vicinage, or at least from the county, in the first instance—the states being from fifty to seven hundred miles in extent? This mode of trial, even in criminal cases, may be greatly impaired; and, in civil cases, the inference is strong that it may be altogether omitted; as the Constitution positively assumes it in criminal, and is silent about it in civil causes. Nay, it is more strongly discountenanced in civil cases, by giving the Supreme Courts, in appeals, jurisdiction both as to law and fact.

Judge Blackstone, in his learned Commentaries, art. Jury Trial, says, "It is the most transcendent privilege, which any subject can enjoy or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbors and equals—a constitution that, I may venture to affirm, has, under Providence, secured the just liberties of this nation for a long succession of ages. The impartial administration of justice, which secures both our persons and our properties, is the great end of civil society. But if that be entirely intrusted to the magistracy,—a select body of men, and those generally selected, by the prince, of such as enjoy the highest offices of the state,—these decisions, in spite of their own natural integrity, will have frequently an involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity. It is not to be expected from human nature, that the few should always be attentive to the good of the many." The learned judge further says, that "every tribunal, selected for the decision of facts, is a step towards establishing aristocracy—the most oppressive of all governments."

Here Mr. Lee uses the analysis style of parallel development: first showing what is in the proposed system and then doing the parallel analysis using Blackstone. This is a fascinating way to work as it requires that the individual think about their entire view and that it has a high degree of correspondence with previous thoughts in that area. Parallel development analysis is one fraught with danger, as each set of circumstances is unique, but when looking at overall characteristics and removing current incidentals so as to define what a system is actually doing, that definition then can be examined in light of past thinking on that same sort of problem.

That is not a simple point to make and requires space to develop, and yet if you correctly place and identify the hallmarks of a current problem in comparison with past ones, you can then examine outcomes of the past one to see how that would play out with the modern one by adding incidental circumstances back in. Military commanders do this continually as the training at the highest levels of general staff require a deep knowledge of past campaigns across history so as to examine similarities and differences with modern campaign proposals. Being able to figure out the level of abstraction, say between Alexander's overall campaign and its drive to India vice the modern campaign in the same region of Afghanistan, depends on the analysis of culture, techniques and methodologies in each and then examining salient differences and similarities (ex. mobility and firepower has changed greatly but culture very little in the intervening millennia).

The trained legal mind of Mr. Lee shows through: he utilizes past analyses and decisions while distilling the modern counterparts and juxtaposes them to see if he can get a meaningful result in law and fact. Even though the Bill of Rights obviated much of his argument, there are remaining points he brings up about the Legislative Branch and its tendency to be unrepresentative across a number of branches that is not easily ameliorated even by the affirmations in the US Bill of Rights as compared to its English counterpart.

The points raised by these techniques are valid ones, then and now. They deal with the patterns of governments and how human nature makes institutions and those who run them powerful, and that in search of more power, those running the institutions become especially liable for abuse and corruption. One of the foremost of the writers that were in the Anti-Federalist camp was Brutus. Reading his works are like reading a modern logic based analysis, for all that they were written during the period of consideration of the Constitution. Starting with his first work on 18 OCT 1787 in Brutus I, the import of what is being done is clearly demonstrated and why getting it right, then, was of paramount importance:

When the public is called to investigate and decide upon a question in which not only the present members of the community are deeply interested, but upon which the happiness and misery of generations yet unborn is in great measure suspended, the benevolent mind cannot help feeling itself peculiarly interested in the result.

In this situation, I trust the feeble efforts of an individual, to lead the minds of the people to a wise and prudent determination, cannot fail of being acceptable to the candid and dispassionate part of the community. Encouraged by this consideration, I have been induced to offer my thoughts upon the present important crisis of our public affairs.

Perhaps this country never saw so critical a period in their political concerns. We have felt the feebleness of the ties by which these United-States are held together, and the want of sufficient energy in our present confederation, to manage, in some instances, our general concerns. Various expedients have been proposed to remedy these evils, but none have succeeded. At length a Convention of the states has been assembled, they have formed a constitution which will now, probably, be submitted to the people to ratify or reject, who are the fountain of all power, to whom alone it of right belongs to make or unmake constitutions, or forms of government, at their pleasure. The most important question that was ever proposed to your decision, or to the decision of any people under heaven, is before you, and you are to decide upon it by men of your own election, chosen specially for this purpose. If the constitution, offered to your acceptance, be a wise one, calculated to preserve the invaluable blessings of liberty, to secure the inestimable rights of mankind, and promote human happiness, then, if you accept it, you will lay a lasting foundation of happiness for millions yet unborn; generations to come will rise up and call you blessed. You may rejoice in the prospects of this vast extended continent becoming filled with freemen, who will assert the dignity of human nature. You may solace yourselves with the idea, that society, in this favoured land, will fast advance to the highest point of perfection; the human mind will expand in knowledge and virtue, and the golden age be, in some measure, realised. But if, on the other hand, this form of government contains principles that will lead to the subversion of liberty - if it tends to establish a despotism, or, what is worse, a tyrannic aristocracy; then, if you adopt it, this only remaining assylum for liberty will be shut up, and posterity will execrate your memory.

Brutus casts the fundamentals of Liberty forward from the Declaration - that of man in society to make or unmake governments. There is no higher power in this, and we depend upon the wisdom of our fellow man as reflected in our society to ensure that government abides by that society and does not seek to tyranny. From that introduction, and a bit more, he then goes on to start laying out the major questions of the proposed Constitution:

The first question that presents itself on the subject is, whether a confederated government be the best for the United States or not? Or in other words, whether the thirteen United States should be reduced to one great republic, governed by one legislature, and under the direction of one executive and judicial; or whether they should continue thirteen confederated republics, under the direction and controul of a supreme federal head for certain defined national purposes only?

This enquiry is important, because, although the government reported by the convention does not go to a perfect and entire consolidation, yet it approaches so near to it, that it must, if executed, certainly and infallibly terminate in it.

Starting at the very top of the logical chain, the first question is major as the proposal is certainly going beyond the Confederation which then existed. This may seem minor to us, generations onwards, but it was a major point that Brutus would then reduce piece by piece to understand the parts of the system and what they meant as relative to the existing system. Over his papers Brutus would continue to examine the Constitution and even demonstrate logical problems of it, particularly in regards to slavery (which I examine, in part, here). These are not the ravings of a Monarchist, nor a rebel, nor a madman, but the considered examination of the Constitution in its part and whole which, as far as Brutus could write, is in many ways as good as or superior to the works of Hamilton, Madison, Jay, et. al. in the Federalist Papers or other allied Federalist writers. What is interesting is that some of the pieces by the Federalist Papers writers looked to be a response to Brutus, but on slavery Madison falls short, and far short, of the arguments presented by Brutus. Still, those arguments are not fabrications, but a logical examination of the role of the federal government in the system and what happens when the system is actually running.

This last is critical for all the Anti-Federalist writers as they saw the problems that happened in past governments (and even current ones) and realized that upon seeing the seeds of future problems in the Constitution it was incumbent upon them to call attention to them. The Bill of Rights would assuage a number of fears, but the majority of those dealt with more than individual rights, but what happens to a system that can be Amended and abridged either directly or indirectly via corruption and abuse of power. While Hamilton would point out there was no way to ever stop that, the human heart and mind being what it is, the Anti-Federalist view was that the path to such power should be hard, not easy.

Neglect of the system is also a point that a few brought up, and that is, perhaps, the easiest path of power for any seeking it: a population that is lax and lazy about their civic duty to help determine government will be easily led astray and impoverished, while those who govern will seek to rule, absolutely.

Speaking on this topic was Federal Farmer on 03 JAN 1788, Federal Farmer III :

De Lo[l]me well observes, that in societies, laws which were to be equal to all are soon warped to the private interests of the administrators, and made to defend the usurpations of a few. The English, who had tasted the sweets of equal laws, were aware of this, and though they restored their king, they carefully delegated to parliament the advocates of freedom.

I have often lately heard it observed, that it will do very well for a people to make a constitution, and ordain, that at stated periods they will chuse, in a certain manner, a first magistrate, a given number of senators and representatives, and let them have all power to do as they please. This doctrine, however it may do for a small republic, as Connecticut, for instance, where the people may chuse so many senators and representatives to assemble in the legislature, in an eminent degree, the interests, the views, feelings, and genuine sentiments of the people themselves, can never be admitted in an extensive country; and when this power is lodged in the hands of a few, not to limit the few, is but one step short of giving absolute power to one man - in a numerous representation the abuse of power is a common injury, and has no temptation - among the few, the abuse of power may often operate to the private emolument of those who abuse it.

Again examining past thought and then paralleling it with modern happenings via paraphrasing from known text. Here distance and sparseness of representation become corrupting. By not keeping vigilance against government giving interest to some over others, the good value it represents is degraded and becomes an object grab for power and riches.

Agrippa on 22 JAN 1788 in Agrippa XV would look at this and I break up the massive paragraph a bit to make it more readable:


Can any man, in the free exercise of his reason, suppose that he is perfectly represented in the legislature, when that legislature may at pleasure alter the time, manner, and place of election. By altering the time they may continue a representative during his whole life; by altering the manner, they may fill up the vacancies by their own votes without the consent of the people; and by altering the place, all the elections maybe made at the seat of the federal government. Of all the powers of government perhaps this is the most improper to be surrendered. Such an article at once destroys the whole check which the constituents have upon their rulers.

I should be less zealous upon this subject, if the power had not been often abused.

The senate of Venice, the regencies of Holland, and the British parliament have all abused it. The last have not yet perpetuated themselves; but they have availed themselves repeatedly of popular commotions to continue in power. Even at this day we find attempts to vindicate the usurpation by which they continued themselves from three to seven years. All the attempts, and many have been made, to return to triennial elections, have proved abortive. These instances are abundantly sufficient to shew with what jealousy this right ought to be guarded. No sovereign on earth need be afraid to declare his crown elective, while the possessor has the right to regulate the time, manner, and place of election. It is vain to tell us, that the proposed government guarantees to each state a republican form.

Republics are divided into democratics, and aristocratics. The establishment of an order of nobles, in whom should reside all the power of the state, would be an aristocratic republic. Such has been for five centuries the government of Venice, in which all the energies of government, as well as of individuals, have been cramped by a distressing jealousy that the rulers have of each other. There is nothing of that generous, manly confidence that we see in the democratic republics of our own country. It is a government of force. attended with perpetual fear of that force. In Great-Britain, since the lengthening of parliaments, all our accounts agree, that their elections are a continued scene of bribery, riot and tumult; often a scene of murder.

These are the consequences of choosing seldom, and for extensive districts. When the term is short, nobody will give an high price for a seat. It is an insufficient answer to these objections to say, that there is no power of government but may sometimes be applied to bad purposes. Such a power is of no value unless it is applied to a bad purpose. It ought always to remain with the people.


Here looking to the oligarchical setup of the Republic of Venice and the multi-province arrangement of the Dutch, along with the British Parliament, he utilizes comparisons of Republican forms of government to question the restraints in the proposed system. What is surprising to most modern readers, who come to the Anti-Federalists thinking they are just carping on a few points, is not only the variety of positions they take, but the solutions they offer to actually fixing the Constitution. These are not modern critics who only complain: they offer in-depth and substantive looks across history and then propose methods to better ensure that the path to absolute power is strewn with obstacles while still allowing the overall system to work effectively within the restrictions it has.

Centinel would go to the heart of the matter in Centinal No. 8 on 29 DEC 1787:

But as it is by comparison only that men estimate the value of any good, they are not sensible of the worth of those blessings they enjoy, until they are deprived of them; hence from ignorance of the horrors of slavery, nations, that have been in possession of that rarest of blessings, liberty, have so easily parted with it: when groaning under the yoke of tyranny what perils would they not encounter, what consideration would they not give to regain the inestimable jewel they had lost; but the jealousy of despotism guards every avenue to freedom, and confirms its empire at the expence of the devoted people, whose property is made instrumental to their misery, for the rapacious hand of power seizes upon every thing; dispair presently succeeds, and every noble faculty of the mind being depressed, and all motive to industry and exertion being removed, the people are adapted to the nature of government, and drag out a listless existence.

If ever America should be enslaved it will be from this cause, that they are not sensible of their peculiar felicity, that they are not aware of the value of the heavenly boon, committed to their care and protection, and if the present conspiracy fails, as I have no doubt will be the case, it will be the triumph of reason and philosophy, as these United States have never felt the iron hand of power, or experienced the wretchedness of slavery.

That is one of the hardest pieces of prediction to read from the Anti-Federalists as it speaks of a future time in which we have so discounted Liberty, so taken it for granted, that we do not understand its blessing as it relates to moderate and small government that only has a role to protect us.

The methodology for such a thing is laid out by many authors, but Cato condenses it best in Cato No. 6 on 13 DEC 1787,:

In what manner then will you be eased, if the expences of government are to be raised solely out of the commerce of this country; do you not readily apprehend the fallacy of this argument. But government will find, that to press so heavily on commerce will not do, and therefore must have recourse to other objects; these will be a capitation or poll-tax, window lights, &c. &c. And a long train of impositions which their ingenuity will suggest; but will you submit to be numbered like the slaves of an arbitrary despot; and what will be your reflections when the tax-master thunders at your door for the duty on that light which is the bounty of heaven. It will be the policy of the great landholders who will chiefly compose this senate, and perhaps a majority of this house of representatives, to keep their lands free from taxes; and this is confirmed by the failure of every attempt to lay a land-tax in this state; hence recourse must and will be had to the sources I mentioned before. The burdens on you will be insupportable-your complaints will be inefficacious-this will beget public disturbances, and I will venture to predict, without the spirit of prophecy, that you and the government, if it is adopted, will one day be at issue on this point. The force of government will be exerted, this will call for an increase of revenue, and will add fuel to the fire. The result will be, that either you will revolve to some other form, or that government will give peace to the country, by destroying the opposition. If government therefore can, notwithstanding every opposition, raise a revenue on such things as are odious and burdensome to you, they can do any thing.

Now this strikes very close to the modern time as what is 'Cap and Trade' or a 'carbon tax' other than a window light tax? The question of submitting to such 'reasonable' taxes is that they are unreasonable in the extreme, as when government can reach into your very home to tax what you do, then you are a slave to government. Any government that could raise such a revenue will be odious, burdensome and will be able to do anything it wants to you.

Harsh words and nearly prescient, as it correctly describes our current state of affairs from back in 1787.

This is what happens when the past is used to examine the present: future conditions can be considered and questions raised about present actions.

Today we stand at the precipice that the Anti-Federalists looked at and gritted their teeth in and behaved in a civil manner so as to try and ameliorate the things they saw that would come from such a government as proposed. Many of their arguments were forestalled by the Bill of Rights, but even those that would be addressed directly by the Bill of Rights did not address the other powers of government to circumvent those rights. We have seen single branches become weak for a time, and bad laws passed and instated, then as powers shift those openings are then exploited for uses far and beyond the first law given. Such is the state of the Interstate Commerce Clause that government can regulate anything at your local level that it feels it wants to based on a nebulous 'National Market'. That poor reasoning started in the Supreme Court, then was expanded by the Legislative and then backed by the Executive, and yet the power as given was highly circumscribed to not allow the federal government to do any such thing.

The Anti-Federalists were more than just naysayers, although there were a few that were just that, the majority were critics of the power arrangement as given not just due to animosity to those who wrote it, but due to the problems in what was written. While their motivations ranged from base to intellectual, their perseverance to the cause of Liberty an their Patriotism to restricted government cannot be more highly said. As Atticus would write in Atticus No. 1 from 9 AUG 1787, this was more than just the Constitution that was being examined:

Republicanism, a few years ago, was all the vogue of politicians. "A government of laws and not of men." But now the aristocratics and monarchy-men on the one hand, and the insurgent party on the other, are with different views contending for a "government of men, and not of laws." The weakness of republics is become the everlasting theme of speculative politicians. While a man of less enthusiasm, on remarking the extravagancies of parties, is ready to say,

For forms of government let fools contest,
Whate’er is best administ’red is best.

But even this is not strictly true. A government may be deficient in its form: and afford no principles on which the executive power shall proceed. We may therefore define a good government thus. It is that which contains a good system of laws, with provision suitable and sufficient, for the putting them into execution. By whatever name such a government be called, it is a good one. The goodness of forms of government is, however, almost wholly relative. Some agree with one nations, with respect to their temper and circumstances, some with another. Habit and actual experience alone, can absolutely determine that which is fit for any individual State.

Liberty, when considered as a power, is the unrestrained power of acting reasonably: As a privilege, it is the security which a man feels in acting rightly and enjoying the fruit of his own labor. When either of these are wanting, the people are not free, although their government may be called a democracy. When these exist, the people are free, although the government may be stiled an absolute monarchy. For an absolute, and arbitrary government, are very different things.

Liberty is the unrestrained power of acting reasonably, so as to ensure the security which we feel in acting rightly and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Government must be limited for us to have Liberty.

And as our system now degrades to attempt to please everyone so as to secure absolute power in the federal government, we can look to those that came before us who criticized the system.

Who weren't listened to.

Now we shall pay dearly for ignoring their insights.