Odd Citizen

Odd Citizen
An Odd Citizen’s Search For Vanishing Freedoms

Freedom From vs. Freedom To

September 21st, 2010

By restraining government powers the U.S. Constitution protects “Freedom To” for its citizens. It doesn’t define those freedoms, it just restrains the forces that, if allowed, can and will limit or destroy “Freedom To”. We should understand “freedom to” as anything an individual wants to do do that is not explicitly illegal.

President Franklin Roosevelt fameously perverted the concept of freedom by defining “freedom From Want” and “freedom from fear”, presuming that it is the government’s responsibility to supply these “freedoms”. Quoting Roosevelt:

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

What Roosevelt implies is that political and diplomatic activities should provide “freedom from want”, while world disarmament would result in “freedom from fear.” That sounds like the Hillary/Obama agenda of a nanny world government and disarmament as a prevention for war.

Over time, however, the term “freedom from” has come to mean freedom from worry, from financial struggle, from hunger, from criticism, and from anything else that embarrasses, inconveniences or annoys people. All of this “freedom” is, of course, to be provided through legislation, regulation and taxation.

In today’s context the political left under the leadership of President Obama sells Freedom From’s by the ton. Freedom from worrying about health care, freedom from worry about college expenses, freedom from getting ripped off by the financial system, freedom from bank failures, freedom from big business rapacity, freedom from jokes or wisecracks about being black, homosexual, female, disabled, crazy, lazy, or weird. The uses of “Freedom From” are endless if you’re a big government type.

All of this “Freedom From” is usually attributed to its use in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s January 6, 1941 speech which was ostensibly intended to rally America in its preparations for war and the cause of providing material aid to the Allies already fighting World War II. Then about half way though the speech he shifts to sewing doubt about the loyalty of some citizens thus: “We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.” Oh, those evil capitalists may be at it again.

And later in the speech:

A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups. A free nation has the right to look to the leaders of business, of labor, and of agriculture to take the lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups but within their own groups.

The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and, if that fails, to use the sovereignty of Government to save Government.

(emphasis added)
What? He appears to fear that the citizens might wreck his Government. “Using the sovereignty of Government to save Government”? Is that Roosevelt’s purpose of going to war? The above paragraph tells more than it says about the leftist mindset.

Then it was time to shift to the social issues.

For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

Sounds a lot like our current president to me. Damn the constitution. The government can do anything I want it to do. If the government could just get a hold of everything we’d have: equality, jobs, security, end to “special privileges”, and preservation of civil liberties. All stated in terms of collective needs, “all the people” not “every person.”

A paragraph later he calls for more government social-economic programs to provide:

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement.
As examples:

We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.

We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.

We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

Sounds more and more like the Reid, Pelosi, Obama agenda all the time. But, of course, they’ll tell you theirs is a modern, 21st century version.

But common to this day’s leftist agenda, it costs a lot of money. They have a crisis not to waste, preparation for World War II. So:

A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

Notably, Roosevelt recommended that the country borrow less and tax more as a result of the crisis. But then he wastes no time casting aspersions on the evil capitalists who would probably cheat and might make money from his wartime program. And to top it off, in true Marxist form he says tax payments should be based on “ability to pay.”
Paraphrasing Carl Marx’s Communist Manifesto: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

If all this sounds remarkably like the Obama regime today, it’s not a coincidence. These are people who have no ideas of their own beyond clever ways to undermine America’s hated capitalist system, redistribute wealth, use a crisis to pass a radical socialist agenda, regulate individualism out of existence, and make government the be-all and end-all of life in these United States. It’s the old, worn-out, discredited by experience, the 1930’s to 1940’s Socialist New Deal.

The scary part of it is that they might succeed in finishing the destruction of American individualism and enterprise, a task started by earlier “progressives” and largely implemented by their own hero Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The most valuable “Freedom To” that we still have is the freedom to vote and lobby for reduction of government. The “Freedom From” that we most need now is Freedom From the Obama Regime.

Small Minds and Small Cranes

September 15th, 2010

Currently we’re seeing small-employment exemptions being introduced into various pieces of regulatory legislation. For example, the Democrats propose exempting employers with 25 or fewer employees from 1099 reporting provisions of the Obamacare legislation. This brought to mind a consulting job I did years ago. My client was contemplating the importation for resale of Italian made mini-cranes, somewhat similar to (but not) the one illustrated below.
(Click image for link to manufacturer’s web page)
So I went around interviewing potential buyers. Their reactions were universally negative, summarized as “We do that kind of work with fork lifts” or more succinctly “Why would we need that pussy crane?”. What mystified me was that the crane was actually quite popular in Italy. Aside from the macho aspects, why would the market for it be so limited in the U.S.?

What I discovered is that in Italy there were a lot of regulations that exempted employers of fewer than 25 or fewer than 50 employees. So it was customary for Italian business owners to limit their work forces to these maximums. And given the small workforces and the small facilities to house their operations, it made sense to use smaller tools like the mini-cranes.

The lesson here has little to do with the size of cranes and everything to do with the perverse, growth-choking effects of regulations proposed by small minds. What the under-25 employee exemption is intended to do is relieve the burden on small employers. What it actually does is to choke off growth at the 25 employee level.

If a regulation is so onerous that a size exemption is thought to be needed, then the regulation itself is poisonous and should not be enacted for anyone.

$800K Penis Washing Stimulus – In Africa

September 14th, 2010

The Federal Government, as part of the stimulus program, is spending $800,000 of your tax dollars on a program to study the benefits of post-coital penis washing for un-circumcised African men — apparently as a prevention for AIDS.

(h.t. via Drudge)

$800,000 is a lot of money, and the only ones stimulated are the African men.

How crazy can it get?

Could a Crazy President be Removed From Office?

September 7th, 2010

Obama talks about “building our economy on a ‘new foundation”? What is that? Socialism. OK, we already know this guy’s way out there. Then the ad lib “They talk about me like a dog.” Poor president Obama.

But then I began thinking about the President’s state of mind. What would happen if he actually flipped out? Here’s a guy with virtually unlimited power and a narcissistic, inflated self-image, walking around accompanied by a suitcase containing codes and communications devices capable to destroying the entire world. What would happen if he became increasingly erratic, paranoid and irrational? What would be the mechanism for such a president to be involuntarily replaced in office by the Vice President? Would the congress go along? Would the bureaucracy block his removal? Would his political base among the voters continue to support him?

In those cases where a President has been sick or injured the process of a temporary transfer of power has been accomplished, but not smoothly or in an obviously formal way. It’s been somewhat ad-hoc. Yes, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on an airplane after John Kennedy was assassinated. After President Reagan was shot, General Haig, then Secretary of State, told the press “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.” He presumably meant, and later said as much, he was in charge of the White House operations, not the President’s duties. Nonetheless, his statement did shake some people’s sensibilities at the time.

The 25th Amendment, Section 4, of the Constitution seeks to establish a mechanism for removing a president who is deemed incompetent to fulfill the duties of his office, as follows:

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Most, but especially the first paragraph of this amendment seems unusually vague for a constitutional provision — “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide”. Hunh! Wish the founders were still around to write this stuff.

Aside from the case of a physically incapacitated president, there is the problem of mental incapacity or irrationality. In this latter case, behavior that is irrational to some may be rational to others, so it’s up to congress to vote on it. And the President has the right to appeal their decision.

Now I’m not saying that President Obama is off his rocker, although he seems liable to instability when things don’t go his way. He wouldn’t be the first president to show this character flaw.

But wouldn’t it make a great plot for a novel or a movie? The President of The USA starts to do things that a lot of people consider lunatic-fringe, but not entirely crazy. The voters become increasingly alarmed by what they see as ever-increasing mental and emotional instability in the President. Some citizens and pundits call for congress to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. The political establishment resists because acting might harm their political futures, whereas doing nothing is a lot easier. The President invokes the power of the government employee unions to reinforce his position … some of them object and refuse to go along, others field thugs to public meetings … a reporter from a right-wing talk show is getting gory details of presidential behavior from a gorgeous blond woman code-named “Inconvenient Elvis”. Pressure builds for congress to invoke the 25th Amendment or for the President to resign. The President is steadfast in his refusal to resign and goes on vacation. Inconvenient Elvis reports from the vacation retreat that the the President is riding a camel while singing old Woody Guthrie dust bowl ballads, but won’t say what the President is wearing while doing so. His political allies ignore his mental state and, with the help of allies in the press and network TV, they spin the story and back him. Besides, many of his quirky ideas and pronouncements support their legislative agenda, and besides, they say he “means well.”Boom, great novel, or what?

Big Government Leads to Desperate Mobs

September 7th, 2010

Here’s what happens when citizens allow government to take over their lives, making decisions for them that in a free country they can and should make on their own. When citizens become dissatisfied with the way they’re being treated, then it becomes a political matter. There are no individual solutions. In modern Europe this applies, among other things to medicine and retirement. Here we have the French people facing the menace of an increase in the retirement age (specified by government) from 60 to 62. It isn’t an individual matter. It’s a political matter. There’s nothing to do but demonstrate.

This is an object lesson for why the Obamacare socialized medicine law must be repealed. Democracy by mob isn’t and should not become part of our American tradition.