Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The End of the Rule of Law

One of the basic underlying tenets in the founding of the United States of America was the absolute necessity to have "The Rule of Law" instead of the arbitrary law of tyrants. And with it the separation of powers among executive (the CEO), Congress (the Board of Directors) and the judicial system (courts) keep one entity from becoming too powerful.

A rational, free nation needs laws (and, of course, the power to enforce them) under which its citizens can operate. Originally laws came from religion, which in the United States was predominantly one sort of Christianity or another. Our "Founding Fathers" all were reading from the same script(ure). Until the '60's (19) pretty much everyone in America shared a similar set of Judeo-Christian moral precepts, "morals" if you will.

In order to be effective, laws must be somewhat immutable. Citizens must be able to rely on laws in order to plan their lives, both personal and business. The ease with which laws can be changed can create an environment in which citizens cannot rationally plan for the long-term. Our moral lives began changing in the rebellous '60's. I suppose Roe v Wade in 1973 marked the turning point to what charitably could be called moral relativism, when the Supreme Court read new meaning into the old-fashioned words of our Constitution governing when life begins. After defining life anew, nothing could stop them.

Now, 35 years later, I believe that Congress -- and politicians in general -- are attempting to micromanage our country. "Laws" are mutable. Or to put it another way, politicians are now guided by "The Rule of Polls". And I believe that the judicial system, too, is micromanaging our country, deciding cases based what the judges feel is "right", regardless of the Constitution or prededent. These two Constitutional entities have gained the upper hand over the Executive Branch, to the detriment of our freedoms. Here in Seattle, the mayor, city council, and county officials, too, are micromanaging our behaviors. Cigarette smoking is pretty much prohibited. Restaurants can't use "trans-fats" (which used to be the healthier "hydrogenated oils"); but I guess can use saturated fats and lard, which are just as bad. Plastic or paper? Seattle's mayor and city council have banned foam and Seattle will charge a fee for each disposable paper and plastic bag. The state has made illegal using cellular phones while driving.

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These are huge abridgments to our rights as citizens and absolute micromanaging -- behavior control -- of our lives by politicians? Used to be we were able to follow those broad moral principles, now we are governed by a precise and detailed set of rules and regulations, set by liberals who do not believe Americans are smart enough to be free or those principles get attacked by lawyers who force specific rules. ("Don't stand on the top of this ladder, you might fall and hurt or kill yourself.")

Some examples. (This is an on-going, continually-edited blogpost, much like our laws and court decisions have become. Only, I am not getting paid or care about polls and what people think.)

July 2008, the Washingon DC-based U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval of Dominion Resources Inc.'s Cove Point, MD, liquified natural gas expansion project. This expansion was approved by FERC in 2006 and will take the capacity to 14.6 billion cubic ft (bcf) from the current 7.8 bcf, much needed energy in the east. Just why is the court involved in business a business decision?

"Anti-Trust?" As of July 2008, there were two different Congressional hearings on on the proposed advertising pact between Yahoo and Google in front of lawmakers who question the wisdom of the deal. Plus a Justice Department inquiry and as many as a dozen state attorneys general are now questioning the business transaction. Where is the trust to be anti-ed? And where does the power to "question the wisdom" of two independent, sophisticated companies by Congress come?

A bill July 2008, introduced by Rep James Oberstar (D., Minn) would require some Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) supervisory inspectors to relocate every five years and FAA employees would not be able to leave the agency and represent airlines before the agency for two years. And why is Congress managing the FAA's day-to-day functions?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said (July 16, 2008) he is ready to move a bill to target "greedy speculators". Is being either "greedy" or a "speculator" against any law? (Apparently some of these "speculators" are McCain contributors.) And in March 20, 2009 the U. S. House of Representatives passed a law -- the Senate isn't far behind and Obama has promised to sign it -- that identifies a minority group of executives, those who have, will or might, receive bonuses for working in companies that take Taxpayer monies through TARP, HARP, MARP or whatever the stupid initials are, that taxes such bonuses at 90%. If, of course they make over $250,000 a year. IN ADDITION to the regular income taxes, AMTs and so on. Congress is targeting a minority group. This can happen to anyone in this country. Rule of Law? What Law? Not to mention that taxes are now essentially simply another way for Congress to bestow favors on special interests. Complexity on purpose to extort campaign funds. The tax code has grown by 2.3 million words since 2001 (A Space Oddessy) with 500 changes to it in 2008 alone. The cost of complying is estimated at $200 - $300 billion annually. It is impossible to understand and Congress wants it that way. As a matter of fact Congresspeople get paid to threaten new laws and taxes.

Congress is getting ready (July 2008) to pass the "Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007" (Russ Feingold D., Wis. and Hank Johnson D., GA) which would alter consumer contracts numbering in the hundreds of millions to delete any arbitration provision. These are completed, signed agreements for credit cards, cell phones, health services, consumer purchases and on and on. Not only would it prohibit such arms-length agreements in the future it would cancel those alreaddy executed. Another indicator of the Democrats carrying water for their biggest campaign contributors, the trial lawyers who'd rather get into court than allowing arbitration. We know why Democrats are proceeding here, but does it have the authority to abrogate contracts among virtually millions of people?

The Rule of Polls (see above) is certainly eclipsed by the Rule of Campaign Contributions. Case in point: Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA or "Fannie Mae" "Fannie" or simply "Fan" and the Freddie Mac ("Freddie" or "Fred") began as laudible organizations to purchase mortgages from lenders, primarily banks (for Fan) and Savings institutions (Fred). But these so-called Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) have bought Congress, especially the Democrats, with $171,000,000 in lobbying over the past decade, making them the third largest lobby spenders ($800,000 in this election cycle alone to their Congressional "overseers" and so far, $83,000 to Obama and $14,000 to McCain which ought to tell you something). What have they bought? A political slush fund (ACORN) which throws money to inner city mayors in community development grants, and for which Obama once worked registering "voters", some lenders and Democratic voter registration, and Congress which has fought tooth and nail to keep stop meaningful regulation of the two GSEs. Yes, the Democrats conceived of them, "privatized" them, but keeping the inherent government guarantee on their debt and cheered while they gobbled up almost half of the mortgages created in the United States (over $5 TRILLION) with little safety capital $1oo billion compared to $1.5 trillion of debt. Much of this debt is held as core capital by thousands of small and regional U. S. banks, along with cash and U. S. government Treasury securities.

Medicare? A virtual plethora of campaign contributions, and dissatisfaction. But most recently, July 2008, a new Medicare law passed to block a scheduled cut in fees paid to doctors. But that's not all. Congress is deeply into managing Medicare -- our healthcare system -- so, the law which was designed to block cuts (or in other words, allow increases, thus increasing the deficit) also lowered some out-of-pocket costs for mental health; allows payment for anti-anxiety and sleep drugs; makes getting physicals easier; and of course cut backed payments to for-profit health plans, Democrat's whipping boys. These were deemed "meaningful" by the American Association of Retired People (AARP), a major far left-wing lobbying organization and Democratic campaign contributor. But, hey, this will only cost us taxpayers $20 billion.

And speaking of micromanaging, Congress itself extended Medicare reimbursement for one biotechnology (Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics) company's anti-cancer drug Zevalin for 18 months. the Centers for MEdicare and Medicaid Services proposed a significant deficit-saving reduction. Go Congress! Wonder who got what in campaign contributions.

And why are healthcare costs so high? Well, both houses of Congress reached agreement on legislation that would require employers and health insurers to put mental-health coverage on a par with physical health coverage. Can we as citizens make any decisions for ourselves?

From personal experience, this Medicare law has been passed, changed, re-passed, held in abeyance, passed etc. etc. It is impossibly difficult to manage a company to an ever-changing environment. But Democrats could care less, they don't want businesses to thrive, far from it, because that's not where their core campaign contributions come from. Complexity and change is good for them, and who cares about America?

Housing crisis? The housing industry has given more than $95 million (as of early July 2008) to federal candidates and political parties. Big winners are those with key roles in the Senate Banking Committee (Christopher Dodd, D. Conn., chairman, $10,000, for example who also got a "special" mortgage from Countrywide Financial's CEO Angelo Mozilo)), the House Financial Services COmmittee (Barney Frank, D. Mass, for example) as they are wrestling with emergency housing bills.

And if you want to understand the weakness of the executive branch -- the "Administration" check out what "its" Environmental Protection Agency has published. This of course is laid at the foot of the U. S. Supreme Court in its 5-4 2007 ruling (Mass v. EPA) that greenhouse gases are "air Polluntants" under current environmental laws. So EPA proffered a 588 page proposal of rulemaking that it would regulate farm tractors, lawn and garden equipment (with different measures such as grams of carbon per kilogram of lawn cuttings); domestic livestock "emissions" from farms over 25 cows and 500 acres of crops; dirtbikes and snowmobiles; how aircraft can taxi on runways; boat design; crew education campaigns for boat crews; residential and office buildings; manufacturing plants; large schools and hospitals; and on and on and on.

I don't think it's any accident that --speaking of polls -- something like only 9% of the people have either a "great deal? or "quite a lot" of confidence in (now-Democratic) Congress; the Supreme Court scored its lowest rating ever; and, of course, the demonizing of Bush has sunk him low (but much higher than Congress at 25%) . (This is July 2008.)

Los Angeles is attempting to zone health issues by banning from a 32 square mile swath of land (home to the "impoverished" and minorities) any new fast-food restaurant. This is a cousin to banning of trans-fats and requiring mandatory menu-item-postings around the country (Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, Boston and all of California). Let's see are these Democratic/liberal controlled places?

August 1, 2008: The House Energy and Commerce Committee wants the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to turn over to it results of an analysis of the suggestion of a relationship of cancer and the drug Vytorin. I guess we should just get rid of the FDA and let Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.) make those decisions. Micromanaging?

And the House passed legislation that would treat gender discrimination the same as race, disability and age, allowing women to sue for unlimited compensatory and punitative damages. (Yum-yum, the trial lawyers slather.)

In the State of Washington, a new law passed in June 2008, requiring thousands of dollars and hundred of hours on the part of some of the largest real estate companies TO TRY AND UNDERSTAND THE LAW which no longer allows real estate agents to represent either a buyer or seller. They must act for both to determine whether a seller is in "in danger" of foreclosure. Penalties can reach $100,000.

Senator Charles Schumer (D., NY) wrote a letter June 26, 2008, to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) that IndyMac Bank "could face a collapse" and released to to the public and in the next 11 business days $1.3 billion was withdrawn by a panicked public -- the provervial run on a bank -- causing its collapse. It'll only cost the FDIC $4 or maybe $8 billion plus giving depositors with over $100,000 in the bank zilch. Thanks, Chuck for micromanaging IndyMac into nothing.

The courts? The Supreme Court ruled that a state -- Louisiana and five other states -- could not execute a man for simply raping his very young daughter. No matter laws, the Supremes thought there was "a national consensus" against it. Precedent? Who cares when there is a national consensus self-defined by the Court.

Back to Seattle: the City Council approved a Mayor Nickels bill to change the legal agreement taxi owners have made with their drivers so the city sets their maximum allowable lease rate; oh, yes, in order to solve global warming all Seattle taxis will need to get at least 30 mph by 2013, and the city will increase the number of valuable (upwards of $100,000) taxi licenses buy and prohibit multiple ownership. The article describing the act also mentions that three has been no evidence, no studies, to indicate any need for this....I wonder how much the unions (which will govern drivers) contributed to Nickels and the rest versus the losing taxi owners? But who cares if the taxi-car owners have an agreement with their drivers. The mayor wants to change it, and he did. Rule of what law? Well, we hate corporations here in Seattle! Well, of course the cold, greedy, heartless corporations here in Washington must not even give leave to their empllyees for domestic violence and related issues. Let the Washington Legislature come to the rescue. Yes, it did expand existing "leave laws" to mandate that ALL employers permit victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to take leave to "deal with" legal or law enforcement assistance, treatment or counseling. And family members, too, defined broadly to include A PERSON WHOM THE EMPLOYEE IS DATING, are covered. Yes, your boyfriend gets leave if he beats you. Oh, great!

And speaking of courts, August 14, 2008, Wall Street Journal: "The court-appointed receiver in charge of California's inmate health-care system asked a judge to seive $8 BILLION from the state's build 10,000 new medical units for 10,00 sick or mentally ill inmates." Ohm yeah, he also asked the judge to hold Governor Arnold Schwarzenberger and the state controller in contempt of court for refusing to allocate the money. But, what the...California is projected to have a deficit of only $15 billon dollars this year. The Terminator said, "No sweat, everything will fall in place," or something like that.

And now housing and other development costs will skyrocket because of bureaucrats. A ruling released Friday, August 8, 2008, by the state's Pollution Control Hearings Board means the Ecology Department must rewrite regulations governing stormwater. Stormwater, a man-made phenonmon. Well, except for the storms and water. Regardless, this new mandate from a Hearings Board, whatever the hell that is, will force new (unproven?) rain-absorbing techniques techniques, known as low-impact development ("LID" as in keep the lid off?) that AIM to filter stormwater runoff through the soil, on all new developments. I missed the cost and how many jobs might be lost. Need I say, "environmentalists were pleased" stated the Seattle Times (P. B4 Local, August 9, 2008). Well duh.

News Alert
from The Wall Street Journal

March 19, 2009
The House voted 328-93 to approve a bill imposing 90% taxes on employee bonuses from firms bailed out by taxpayers.
The bill would tax bonuses paid by firms that received more than $5 billion from the TARP. The Senate is working on its own plan to try to recoup bonuses.
The House bill is a response to the furor over millions in retention bonuses paid by AIG.
So with this lurch once again Congress completely dismisses the rule of law to punish a group of people it doesn't like. Think closely of the consequences. Any conservative group can be a target of the rath of a Far-left zealot. Time to retire them.

There seems to be no right or wrong absolutes; everything is relative. The old-fashioned concepts of "moral good and bad", honor, tradition, are...old-fashioned (and the values of the money-grubbing conservatives.) And any agreement among legal citizens can be broken, abrogated or thrown out by courts, legislatures and Congress. Again, the Rule of Law is becoming no rule, it's whatever some bureaucrat, judge or Congressperson thinks should be "right".

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