Category Archives: Totty

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Rule Five “Liar or Incompetent” Friday

That notorious right-wing rag, the Washington Post, is calling out Democrat Presidential candidate Cory Booker on his lies about gun laws.  Excerpt:

In a rather strange turn of events, the Washington Post fact checked Booker’s recent claims that toy guns are more regulated than actual firearms. And guess what was concluded? That’s right. That Booker’s take is straight up bogus. 

Let’s review the evidence, shall we?

“Most people don’t know that consumer product safety literally — one industry that’s been exempted is the gun lobby. So we have different regulations for toy guns and no regulations for the weapons on our streets that are killing so many people,” he said during a CNN interview

In a medium post that same day, Booker’s campaign repeated the talking point.

“Nowadays, there is more regulation over toy guns than real ones. While medicine, children’s toys, and any number of other consumer products are subject to regulation by the federal government, firearms are exempt. In other words, gun manufacturers have little incentive to make their products safer. Cory will work to close this loophole in federal oversight and allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure gun safety by making safety warnings and issuing recalls for faulty firearms.”

And:

There are a few points that Booker seems to forget and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) spokesman Mark Oliva pointed them out to the Washington Post. 

“Our industry is the most heavily regulated industry in the country. No other industry is regulated at the federal, state and local level to the extent our industry is regulated, which include design and performance standards,” Oliva explained. “The federal agencies that regulate the industry include ATF, FBI, State Department, Commerce Department, IRS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. No other consumer product requires the licensed dealer to conduct a criminal-background check on a prospective purchaser before they can sell the product. Firearm manufacturers can be sued for product defect claims, although such claims are exceedingly rare given that there are over 400 million firearms in civilian possession in the United States.”

It should come as a surprise to no one that Booker, like most anti-gun pols (or anti-gun anyone) knows fuck-all about guns or the current state of gun laws.  But seriously, folks, how could anyone be so ignorant, so incompetent to hold the position of U.S. Senator, to claim with a straight face that toy guns are regulated more than actual guns?  Is he incompetent, or just a liar?

I’m inclined to say he’s a liar.  Here’s why.

What Booker is implying, of course, is the legal protection gun manufacturers have been accorded from liability for the criminal misuse of their product.  It’s true that no other industry has such a legal protection – why?  Because no other industry has ever needed it.  Nobody is proposing to sue General Motors or Ford for drunk driving deaths.

But Booker isn’t worried about product liability in the normally accepted sense.  What he wants is punitive liability, the ability to hold gun manufacturers liable for criminal misuse of their products, something he would not advocate for any other industry.  Why?

Because it’s an end run around the Second Amendment.  Most gun manufacturers are small companies; even the big ones aren’t terribly large as corporations go.  Booker and his ilk salivate at the idea that a few strategic lawsuits brought in the right areas could bankrupt them, even if they win, in our ridiculously twisted tort system.

Pols lying is nothing new.  But Booker’s lies are just too damned egregious.  Fortunately his Presidential campaign appears to be going nowhere.

Rule Five Failed Coup Friday

This came out almost a week ago over at Human Events, but I needed a few days to digest it before commenting.  Excerpt:

This is a story about a legal chess match played for the highest stakes imaginable: Trump’s Presidency – and whether it would be under the cloud of an endless special counsel investigation – hinged on the result.

John Dowd, Ty Cobb, Jay Sekulow, and the rest of President Trump’s personal legal team were on one side. Mueller, Andrew Weissmann, and the Special Counsel’s office were on the other.

The dispute was a year-long struggle over the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2).

No judge ever ruled on who was right about the meaning of this obstruction statute. No formal decision was ever rendered.

All the same, Trump’s legal team prevailed on February 14, 2019.

That’s the day William Pelham Barr was confirmed as United States Attorney General.

FRAMING THE DISPUTE

So why, exactly, was the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) so contested?

Let’s start by looking the statute, excerpted here:

(c) Whoever corruptly—

(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or

(2) otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so [is guilty of the crime of obstruction]. (Emphasis added).

Why was this so important to Mueller? Because most of the obstruction statutes couldn’t possibly apply to President Trump’s behavior, as they require that a defendant obstruct a “pending proceeding” before an agency or tribunal.

It is settled law that an FBI investigation does not constitute such a proceeding. But § 1512(c) applies to acts of obstruction done with the intent of impairing evidence for a future, potential proceeding. That made it potentially usable against the President.

Second – the language of subsection (c)(2), read in isolation, is *very* broad. Removing subsection (1), it reads like this:

“Whoever corruptly… obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so [is guilty of the crime of obstruction].”

If taken to its extreme, it could be read to cover any act – no matter how lawful – that has the effect of impeding a federal investigation. That would include, for example, asking an FBI director to lay off an investigation, or firing an FBI director. The Mueller Report revealed that Mueller interpreted § 1512(c)(2) in just such a broad fashion.

Please do read the whole thing, and as I did, take some time to digest it.  This analysis is well worth bending a few neurons over.  Go on, read it right now – I’ll wait right here.

All done?  OK, let’s go on.

What this article points out, to my thinking, is how narrowly we avoided a legal coup d’état intended to remove a duly elected, sitting President.  This wasn’t Watergate, after all, where there was an unambiguous, unmistakable cover-up after which President Nixon’s own party told him he had to resign.  This was an utterly partisan exercise intended to undo the 2016 Presidential election, which many in the Imperial City establishment felt hadn’t gone the way it was “supposed” to go.

Here’s the conclusion:

When the June 2018 Barr memorandum became public in December, many Democrats tried to weaponize it against him. But because Barr’s memo was specific to a particular statute, and was perfectly defensible legal analysis, it was hard for the Democrats to get any traction.

In hindsight, however, it’s clear that Barr was the assassin Democrats feared.

Within six weeks of his confirmation, the Mueller probe was over.

When Mueller equivocated on obstruction in his report, Barr affirmatively determined that there was no viable obstruction charge.  In a twist, Barr didn’t rely on a narrow reading of § 1512(c)(2); instead, he exploited the malleability of Mueller’s theory and determined that Trump lacked the requisite intent to commit obstruction.

At the same time, he made clear during the press conference that he didn’t agree with Mueller’s legal theories; one has to suspect he was referring to the debate over § 1512(c)(2).

In any event, Mueller and Weissman had lost the chess match. Trump and his team had won.

No Collusion. No Obstruction. No more Mueller Investigation.

Checkmate.

Indeed.  But here’s my worry:  Corruption in government only grows.  It is the nature of government to grow ever more intrusive, ever more corrupt, and it is in the nature of those in power to seek to retain that power.  And it’s also increasingly obvious that the real power in the Imperial City is not in the hands of the elected officials with their increasingly-unhinged kabuki posturings, but in the bureaucrats that work behind the scenes.

The Mueller investigation has laid that bare, but the question remains, so what?  What can be done about it?  This swamp won’t be so easily drained; I’m worried that we may well already be past the point of no return.

Rule Five Wealth Tax Friday

Fauxcohantas Warren is proposing a wealth tax to pay for all the Free Shit she proposes to hand out in the unlikely event she becomes President Imperator.  Here’s the problem:  She can’t. It’s unconstitutional..  Excerpt:

Whenever Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is asked how she’ll fund “free” college tuition and her many other promised goodies, she has a ready answer: a tax. Specifically, she wants the federal government to impose a 2 percent annual tax on accumulated wealth in excess of $50 million.

This is hardly a new idea. Of the 14 wealthy OECD countries with a wealth tax in 1996, 10 have since then abandoned it. With good reason: this wealth tax is economically destructive.

Even if it weren’t, a pure wealth or asset tax would be unconstitutional. Even CNN, in its fact-checking of Warren’s tax, couldn’t ignore this, noting “there are several procedural problems with the proposal, including its legality.”

Here’s why. States have a general “police power”— that is, a general authority to enact laws regulating private conduct—but Congress does not. Congress has only the specific legislative authority that the Constitution grants it, and the three relevant provisions do not authorize Congress to adopt a wealth or asset tax.

Article 1, Section 9, permits Congress to impose direct taxes on individuals if they are equally apportioned along with excise taxes and duties. The 16th Amendment permits Congress to adopt an income tax. That amendment is important because the Supreme Court had ruled that Congress previously lacked the Article I power to adopt an income tax.

Finally, Article 1, Section 8, permits Congress to adopt indirect taxes in the form of excise taxes on specific goods or transactions. Supreme Court precedent (see Knowlton v. Moore) explains that the estate tax is one such permissible indirect tax, because it is a duty imposed on a transfer of property predicated by death.

Bear in mind that the fact that a proposal is forbidden by the Constitution doesn’t stop politicians from touting this form of stupidity; Congress and the Executive Branch in particular have been using the Constitution as asswipe since about 1860.

But Liawatha’s proposal is especially egregious in its stupidity, not only for legal reasons but also moral and economic reasons.  The moral reasons are simple; a wealth tax, like any tax, is theft perpetrated by government, wherein government confiscates a portion of the citizenry’s wealth by force.  (If you don’t believe that, try not paying your taxes and see how long it takes the government to send men with guns out looking for you.)

And, as the lined article notes, several nations who have adopted wealth taxes have abandoned them due to the economic damage they caused.  Followers of the purveyors of envy like Chief Spreading Bull Warren seem to think that the wealthy keep their money in giant Scrooge McDuckian vaults so they can swim in gold coins; this is a canard.  The wealthy by and large have their assets out in the economy, invested in new ventures, funding new enterprises, new equipment, new facilities, new technologies.  That brings economic growth; that creates jobs.

Liawatha would damage all that in the name of handing out Free Shit.  That’s way to the left of stupid.

Rule Five Fifth Annual Commencement Speech Friday

It’s that time of year again, when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the fourth year, I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.

So, here it is. Enjoy.

“Graduates of the Class of 2019, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.

Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
Work a little harder than the other guy,
Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.