Tuesday, March 25, 2014

From Health Care Benefits to Health Care Rights

Today the Supreme Court took up the case of Hobby Lobby and its effort to secure exemption from the PPACA based upon their religious beliefs.

Steve Green, president of the 640 store Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, claims that the requirement that the company provide birth control provisions in the health insurance benefits violates their religious freedom under the Freedom of Religion Restoration Act of 1993.

It is not obvious why a religious conviction carries more weight than any other objection to the PPACA. Religious freedom is one of many natural rights we possess that are codified in the Bill of Rights. Religious freedom does not stand out any more importantly than, say, the right to free speech, to free assembly, and to own firearms. ( There are probably web pages out there with quotes by our founders to the contrary.) One ought to be able to claim exemption from the PPACA for any reason--or no reason at all.

That said, the government and its progressive Social Democrat supporters in the media continue their clumsy compulsion of Americans.

The government basically is arguing that health insurance benefits are now health insurance rights. According to this presupposition, Hobby Lobby should not be allowed to deny the rights of their female employees.

Apparently only the government can deny so-called health care rights. The HHS has excluded some 190 million Americans some kind of exemption from the requirements of the PPACA.

And is any of this a denial of "rights" at all? Exclusions from PPACA simply mean that women--and everyone else--enjoy the same rights that they always exercised before Nancy Pelosi persuaded her fellow Social Democrats to pass the PPACA in order to find out what is in it.

Seeking even 15 more minutes of fame, the parasitic Sandra Fluke weighed in with an article in the Washington Post. Calling the case a catastrophe for women's rights,  she  distinguished between non-profit organizations and for-profit corporations. Not sure what is the difference, other than one operates for profit.

Opponents of Hobby Lobby have gathered outside the Supreme Court building to chant and rap about "no bosses in the bedroom." The irony is that contraception paid for by one's bosses actually puts the boss in the bedroom, at least in the incoherent context suggested by the chanters. The Boss in under the sheet with every associate, guarding against unwanted pregnancies--for his good and yours:  "Yes Ms. Employee, I want to provide for your contraception so that you and your lover can intermingle your bodily secretions without fear of an unwanted pregnancy that might mean lost work time owing to morning sickness and maternity leave."

When the boss does not provide for the contraception for employees, that is when his presence is felt the least.

Hobby Lobby president Steve Green and his mother and co-founder of the company

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fred is Dead . . . and a Democrat

A few days back, Fred Phelps, founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, died.

The church apparently consists primarily of family members. Over the years his church's mission seems to have narrowed to making "prophetic" denunciations of homosexuality.

Several reflections about his passing have appeared on various news websites.

A couple of my own on issues that few others have mentioned:

Homosexuals and their supporters often slander anyone who disagrees with them on any issue relating to homosexuality as "haters." In this case, however, they have actually found one. I cannot say that I have ever read a quote by Phelps specifically saying that he hates homosexuals. I believe, however, that he--as a professing Christian--loves what God loves and hates what God hates. He makes it clear that God hates homosexuals. So he hates them,too.

And unfortunately for those notoriously ignorant progressive Christians, Fred appears to be right.

I am neither a Christian nor a progressive. So I cannot claim to be an expert on either point. It does seem to be philosophically incoherent to be both a Christian and a progressive--at least on this issue.

Here is a clip and paste from one of the Westboro Baptist Church websites explaining the meaning of their mantra "God Hates Fags:"

"GOD HATES FAGS" -- though elliptical -- is a profound theological statement, which the world needs to hear more than it needs oxygen, water and bread. The three words, fully expounded, show:
1. the absolute sovereignty of "GOD" in all matters whatsoever (e.g., Jeremiah 32:17, Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, Proverbs 16:4, Matthew 19:26, Romans 9:11-24, Romans 11:33-36, etc.),
2. the doctrine of reprobation or God's "HATE" involving eternal retribution or the everlasting punishment of most of mankind in Hell forever (e.g., Leviticus 20:13,23, Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Malachi 1:1-3, Romans 9:11-13, Matthew 7:13,23, John 12:39-40, 1 Peter 2:8, Jude 4, Revelation 13:8, 20:15, 21:27, etc.), and
3. the certainty that all impenitent sodomites (under the elegant metaphor of "FAGS" as the contraction of faggots, fueling the fires of God's wrath) will inevitably go to Hell (e.g., Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Jude 7, etc.).
The only lawful sexual connection is the marriage bed. All other sex activity is whoremongery and adultery, which will damn the soul forever in Hell. Heb. 13:4. Decadent, depraved, degenerate and debauched America, having bought the lie that It's OK to be gay, has thereby changed the truth of God into a lie, and now worships and serves the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen! Rom. 1:25. But the Word of God abides. Better to be a eunuch if the will of God be so, and make sure of Heaven. Mat. 19:12. Better to be blind or lame, than to be cast into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. Mk. 9:43-48. Abstain, you fools.

Other things that God hates can be found at an unrelated website here .  

What is not widely known about Phelps and not mentioned in recently published acknowledgments of his death is that he was a long time Democrat who ran for office in Kansas several times as a Democrat. Moreover, he supported Al Gore in his campaign for President. This is before Al Gore and other Democrats found it more expedient to bring their religious beliefs more into conformity with political opportunities.

Some photos cleaned from Log Cabin Republicans here.

Fred (left) and Al (center)

Fred Phelps, Tipper Gore, Betty Phelps, and Al Gore


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Core Value: Fiscal Responsibilty

The third and final Tea Party Movement core value is Fiscal Responsibility.

When the federal government ignores the bounds of the few enumerated powers listed in the Constitution and acts with the self appointed authority of legislate on any and all matters, it should be no surprise that it will ignore the bounds of common sense on spending.

Generated by the desire of power rather than adherence to principles, the Presidents, Congressmen, and Senators of both parties seem hell bend on legislating and spending whatever it takes to insure support in the next election. Instead of  leadership from statesmen, we seem to be serviced by political prostitutes who promiscuously offer their favors a diverse clientele of special interests.

These politicians spend and borrow with the confident hope that we will somehow find a way to pay the huge financial debts we are incurring.

Well, as someone once said, hope is not a strategy.

The inability of the the government under the original Articles of Confederation to pay the national debt, both to its domestic creditors and to foreign governments, was one reason why the movement began to create a new government.

In Federalist 7, Alexander Hamilton noted that many states "feel and indifference, if not a repugnance, to the payment of the domestic debt." In Federalist 43, James Madison called the payment to foreign creditors a "moral obligation."

Our current crop of alleged leaders have only one plan to pay off the debt--pay it forward.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Core Value: Free Markets

Complementing the Tea Party Movement's core value of Constitutional Government is its passion for the free market.

The founders assumed the existence of a free market in which individuals and associations of individuals engaged in production and commerce for profit without direction of the general government. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 12, noting the prospect of financial reward, observed that "the assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer, all orders of men look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward of their toils."

As we launched our new government, the founders directed their concerns to two main issues:  the free flow of goods and services across state lines and a unified commercial policy vis-a-vis Europe.

Under the new Constitution, the federal government enjoyed the right to regulate interstate trade. For the founders this meant eliminating barriers and taxes that the individual states erected against their neighbors. According to Hamilton in Federalist 11:

"An unrestrained intercourse between the states themselves will advance the trade of each, by an interchange of their respective productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home, but for exportation to foreign markets."

The opening of foreign markets appeared to be the greatest opportunity in the eyes of Hamilton.

In Federalist 11 he noted how the diverse foreign trade rules of the different states enabled European nations to discriminate and even manipulate commerce to their advantage. The new Constitution empowered the government to address this issue. He wrote:

"Under a vigorous national government, the natural strength and resources of the country, directed to a common interest, would baffle all the combinations of European jealousy to restrain our growth. This situation would even take away the motive for such combinations, bu inducing an impracticability of success. An active commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine would then be the inevitable offspring of moral and physical necessity. We might defy the little arts of little politicians to control, or vary, the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature."

Seeing the virtually unlimited potential of American labor, he concluded:

"Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European great! Let the thirteen states, bound together in a strict and indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all trans-Atlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and thew new world!"

Now from the very beginning, the new government periodically and judiciously  provided incentives for the development of particular industries. It rarely regulated economic activity. It NEVER assumed the risks for economic enterprise.

Today, however, the government  routinely regulates economic activity of businesses large and small. For the powerful corporations, they assist in writing the laws that will regulate them and restrict new competitors. And in return for funding for their reelection campaigns, the politicians will assume on behalf of the taxpayers the risks for their economic and financial activities. If the economic or financial activities prove to be a bust, the politicians will flatulate about the corporations, create new regulations (with the assistance of those intended to be regulated), and give them taxpayer money.

That's not free markets. That's crony capitalism.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Core Value: Constitutional Government (4)

One final core value of constitutional government is representation.

In Federalist 9, Hamilton writes:

"It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy, without feeling sensations of horror and disgust,at the distractions with which they continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions, by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration , between extreme of tyranny and anarchy."

Fortunately, he continued, the science of politics has progressed since ancient times. Among the advances is the idea of representation, or what James Madison called "A Republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government."

What is that disease? Factions. Those "petty republics" to which Hamilton were torn apart  by groups of citizens animated by some passion or the pursuit of private interests and advantage against the common good.

The writers of the Constitution believed that factions, too,  plagued the state governments under the original Articles of Confederation.

According to Madison in Federalist 10, it is a "Republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promised the cure for which we are seeking."

He cites two important differences between the ancient democratic republics and the modern republic created by our constitution: the idea of representation and that the particular scheme of representation in the United States involves large territorial districts.

"The two great points of difference between a Democracy and a Republic are, first, the delegation of the Government, in that latter to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; second, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country over which the later may be extended."

According to Madison, the representative principle will provide a filtration of public opinion that will sift it of passions and narrow private advantage. In this way the common good will emerge.

"The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public view, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizen, whose wisdom may discern the true interest of the country.  and whose patriotism and love of  justice, will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.,  Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good, than if pronounced by the people themselves convened for the purpose."

Moreover, according to Madison, the large electoral districts more likely will encourage the rise of virtuous public spirited men as opposed to demagogues:

"In the next place, as each Representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small Republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidate to practice with success the vicious arts, by which election are too often carried."

Should factions prevail in some instances, the extended size of our republic will serve as a barrier to their spread.

                                               This is what democracy looks like

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Core Value: Constitutional Government (3)

A third aspect of the core value of constitutional government is bicameralism--the division of the legislative branch into two chambers.

The idea of a two house legislative body is an old one in the West. Most of the European monarchies at the time we won our independence boasted two house legislatures in addition to hereditary monarchy. They went by different names: cortes in Spain, diet in the Germanic principalities, estates in France, and--more familiarly to Americans--parliament in Britain. Of course, the Europeans thought about their constituent assemblies differently than we think about ours.  In 18th century Europe, the two houses represented different orders in society. The upper houses represented the nobility; the lower houses represented everyone else. For example, in Britain the House of Lords was filled with titled nobility (Barons, Dukes, etc.) who inherited their position and who in some sense represented Britain's nobility. The House of Commons was filled with land owning gentry or knights from the larger cities who represented the common realm.

According to the political thinking behind the idea of two houses, they worked together to seek the common good of the people. If one or the other house tried to pursue a path that advantaged it own particular order, the other house could "check and balance" it. This idea went back to Polybius and Aristotle. This political thinking was only a theory, however. In an age of absolute monarchs, most European kings ruled; only a small or even nonexistent role played by the legislature. The kings of France, for example, refused to call the estates general into session for decades.

British settlers to North American duplicated this pattern as they erect their first provincial governments. Most colonies had a lower house elected by the people, roughly imitating the British House of Commons. Each also had an appointed governor's council, roughly imitating the British House of Lords. The governmental structures existed only as a pale imitation. No hereditary nobility put down roots in the colonies.

Many state constitutions, save that of Pennsylvania,  adopted two house legislatures after the revolution. They experienced theoretical difficulties, however, justifying a two house legislature in a nation that lacked the traditional social orders of Europe. (Pennsylvanians argued that we have not aristocratic order and all American enjoyed the equal status as citizens sharing the same interests. So why have a two house legislature?)

 The original national government under the Articles of Confederation  maintained a one house legislature.

The Constitution of 1787 created a two house legislature, commonly known as bicameralism.

The exact form resulted from political compromise. The original Virginia Plan drafted by James Madison and submitted to the constitutional convention called for a two house legislature, in both of which representation from the states rested on population. This gave the states with larger populations more representation. More interestingly, Madison apparently tried to keep some semblance of the idea of an aristocracy. In his original plan, the lower house (House of representatives) elected the upper house (the Senate). This provided a kind of filtration of public opinion as voters elected for the membership of the House of Representatives, who in turn voted for the membership of the Senate. Instead of the inherited aristocracy of the upper houses of the European constituent assemblies,  Madison hoped for a "natural aristocracy" of talent and virtue.

Madison's vision fell by the wayside, however,  as a result of political compromise. The states with small populations insisted on equal representation as currently practiced under the Articles of Confederation. A compromise decided that in the House of Representatives, representation would be based upon population; in the Senate, representation would be based upon the equality of each state.

In the Federalist 62, Madison asserted that this meant that our general government was part national and part federal. It was national in that each state enjoyed representation based upon its population in the House of Representatives; it was federal in that each state enjoyed equal representation in the Senate.  Under this scheme,  no legislation passed "without the concurrence first of the majority of the people, and then of the majority of the states."

This introduces that idea of "checks and balances"--not between branches of the government as we learned in high school civics-- but between the two houses of the national legislature. In that same edition of the Federalist, Madison admitted that the system created a  "check on legislation" that may in some instances be beneficial but in other instances be detrimental to the common good. Often however, the "checks and balances" served to insulate the government from momentary and transient passions that might overwhelm the House but be restrained by the Senate.

Sometimes these leads to so-called "government gridlock." Rather than seeing gridlock as some flaw in the system, one needs reminding that this is the system.

Until a clear consensus among voters forms about the direction our national policy ought to take, the Congress will experience "gridlock" or, as the founders called it, "checks and balances."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Core Value: Constitutional Government (2)

A second aspect of the core value of constitutional government is separation of powers.

The constitution divides government into three branches by function--legislative, executive, and judicial. Powers and officers for each branch must be appropriate for the end served by each branch.

The separation of powers helps preserve our liberties. According to James Madison in Federalist 47, "No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty" than the idea of separation of powers. "The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether heredity, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

The failure to maintain this distinction between branches of government in Britain had been one of the complaints about British rule--albeit a minor one. British monarchs, limited as they were, greased the legislative process in Britain through influence. They would offers member of the House of Commons pensions or paid military commissions to sway their votes in support of the king's program. In addition, they would add peers to the House of Lords by granting titles of nobility in return for support. The origins of the term "political corruption" came from this practice of "corrupting the legislature."

The constitutional, however, does not separate the branches completely. Each branch possesses the constitutional means to resist encroachments from the others. "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition."

The most difficult challenge was controlling the legislative branch. Contrary to what you and I were told in high school civics, the Constitution did not separate powers into three co-equal branches. A glance at the Constitution and the relative space devoted by each article to the separate branches demonstrates the differences. As Madison wrote in , in Federalist 51, "in republican government, the legislative authority, necessarily, predominates."

So how does the Constitution propose to control the government's most powerful branch, the legislature?

It creates a legislature of two different houses to check and balance each other.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Core Value: Constitutional Government (1)

The Tea Party Movement core value of constitutional government can be summarized under four points:


--separation of powers

--checks and balances

--principle of representation

Let's look at them one at a time.

Federalism, or a federal government,  describes that feature of our Constitution that creates divided or concurrent jurisdiction between the general government and the state governments.

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 9 described the concept in his defense against the accusations that the Constitution created a consolidated, national government:

"The definition of a Confederate Republic seem simply to be an "assemblage of societies" or an association of two or more states into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of Federal authority are mere matters of discretion."

"The proposed constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the state governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a Federal government."

James Madison in  Federalist 39 also addressed this question. He argued that the new general government is part national and part federal. It is national in the operation of its powers: it acts directly on American citizens. It is federal in the extent of its powers: it possesses jurisdiction only in particular, limited objects appropriate for a general government. It "leaves to the several states a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects."

This introduces a second aspect of federalism: the idea of limited federal powers.

Madison elaborated on this topic in  Federalist 45:

"The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain it the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects, which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state."

In Federalist 46, Madison summarized this view and addressed another objection raised by some opponents of the Constitution: there cannot be two sovereigns. History, they said,  has never known such a construction.

Madison suggested a novel, even radical idea: sovereignty resides with the people.

"The Federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, instituted with different powers and designated for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution  seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other.  These gentlemen must be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone . . . ."

The constitutional conservatism of the Tea Party Movement and its adherence to the federal principle is hardly radical, as is charged by tea party opponents. It is the most fundamental of constitutional principles established by our founders.

What is radical is the idea that Congress can legislate at its pleasure, that the President can use his pen and phone to issue executive orders on any object, and that the Supreme Court can extend its judicial power to all cases whatsoever.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tea Party Core Values

The last post at Right Detour noted the fifth anniversary of the tea party movement.

Republican politicians have been promising to uphold these values for decades only to renege on them once in office. Only the outrageous bailouts and stimulus packages of the liberal Bush and Obama administrations kindled the conservative populist movement known as the tea party. Politics is not longer business as usual for Democrats or Republicans.

All tea party groups share the same core values:

--Constitutionally limited government

--Free markets

--Fiscal responsibility

The next few posts here at Right Detour will briefly explore those core values.

The first, and most important, is constitutionally limited government.

First, some background.

Ironically, in the context of contemporary politics, the movement behind our current Constitution of 1787 sought a stronger government. It was driven by the conviction that our first constitution inadequately met the needs of the American people. Supporters of this new constitution argued for the need of a stronger government, yet also reassured more skeptical Americans that the new government created by this constitution would not threaten the sovereignty of the states or the liberties of the people.

That first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, operated between 1781 and 1789. That document created a "league of friendship" between the thirteen former colonies. Passage of any law required approval of the representatives of nine out of the thirteen states; revising the Articles through amendments required the approval of all thirteen. The states retained nearly complete sovereignty. The Articles gave no authority to the Congress to act directly on American citizens. Any policies of national import had to implemented through the states. Policies of foreign import could not be enforced. Foreign nations held us in contempt and closed off the Mississippi River and most of their ports to our commerce.

Compounding these difficulties were the governments of the states themselves. Reflecting on the experience of their colonial governments, state constitution makers created state governments with weak governors and ineffectual upper houses. The lower legislative chambers dominated most state governments during the immediate post-revolutionary period. Although the end of the war brought prosperity, the state governments created all sorts of mischief through interference with contracts, paper money schemes, suspension of debt collections, and discrimination against each other's commerce. Some American leaders even feared the breakup of the American people into four or five separate confederations. Such  a development would increase the susceptibility of Americans finding themselves once again subject to European powers.

The 1780s and 1790s witnessed constitutional revisions at both the state and national level. Our current constitution, placing the Articles of Confederation, resulted from that revision.

Alexander Hamilton addressed the readers of the four New York newspapers that began publishing a series of articles that became known as The Federalist:

"After an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting constitution [the Articles of Confederation], you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks of its own importance; comprehending in its consequence nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved for the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political  constitutions, on accident and force. If there be any truth in that remark, the crisis, at which we are arrive, may with propriety be regarded as the era in which the decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

We constitutional conservatives of the tea party movement also live in such an era, when President Barack Obama's promise of "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" threatens the constitutional, political, and economic order that we inherited from our forefathers.