Monday, November 21, 2011

Amendments I'd like to see ratified

So, who’s ready to fire-up an Article V Convention?!

The following brainstorms do not necessarily need to be ratified in order. The progression presented is the result of my own cursory perspective on how best to implement the necessary steps for reining-in the federal government’s power.

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1. The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. United States Senators shall be selected by the legislatures of the several States. No Senator shall serve more than two terms in that office.
Section 2. Members of the House of Representatives shall be elected to no more than six terms in that office.

Amendment XXIX

Section 1. In light of historical abuses by the Congress and by the President of the power to regulate commerce among the several States, as contained in Article I, Section 8, third clause, of this Constitution, a proper and expanded definition of this clause has become necessary.
Section 2. The power to regulate commerce among the several States shall refer to the authority to ensure goods, services, and any other marketable commerce be able to be offered, bought, and transported across State lines without barriers of law created by any State’s legislature or directive from any State’s executive branch.

Amendment XXX

Section 1. The Congress is hereby prohibited from abdicating or conceding its Constitutional authorities, as established in Article I, Section 8 of this Constitution, to the President.
Section 2. The establishment or chartering of a central banking authority by the Congress or President, including any which exist at the time of the ratification of this article, is hereby prohibited.

Amendment XXXI

Section 1. The sixteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The Internal Revenue Service, whose establishment was made possible by the Sixteenth Amendment, is hereby abolished. The United States Tax Code as it stands at the time of ratification of this article is null and void.
Section 3. In place of the tax code, taxation shall be executed through a 10 percent flat tax on a minimum annual income threshold beyond $25,000. In the same year as determination of the enumeration for the House of Representatives, Congress shall have the authority to adjust the minimum income threshold by increments of no less than $5,000. This minimum income threshold may be reduced only upon such occasion as increases in the value of the United States currency necessitates.
Section 4. No police powers shall be exercised by any tax agency, established by the Treasury or any other Department of the United States government. Upon suspicion of noncompliance by a taxpayer, said agency may only collect delinquent taxes due to the Treasury, through confiscation, after attaining a warrant from a court upon completion of due process for that taxpayer.

Amendment XXXII

Neither the Congress through legislation nor the President through regulations from executive order shall make laws prohibiting the use, possession, cultivation, or commerce of naturally occurring intoxicants.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top 10 questions on the application to determine if you’re qualified for Head Coach of the Detroit Lions

Don’s note: What appears to be an ongoing theme of sports actually ends with this entry. I formulated this list several weeks ago after one amusing round of Sunday gridiron action. This past weekend’s follies simply presented a renewed opportunity to let out a figurative sardonic yawn while dishing-out more cheap shots in one setting than a Michigan Wolverine…

10. Experience: Have you ever actually seen a football?

9. Experience: Have you ever picked your nose while standing along the sideline during an NFL game?

8. Technical knowledge test: Is the number of quarters in a football game more than 3 or less than 5?

7. You’re not too embarrassed to admit to loved-ones you chose to come to Detroit?

6. Do you have a concealed weapons permit?

5. Can you tolerate petulant suburbanite yuppies?

4. Are you willing to pick a fight with the opposing coach after a bad loss in which you’ve clearly been out-coached?

3. Are you OK with the owners undermining you by letting the players whine to them every time you point out when they’ve made game-changing costly blunders?

2. Are you OK with knowing a 7-9 season likely will be the highpoint of your career?

1. Have you bought a Ford F-150 lately?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sports is going to hell (a.k.a., why I still like NASCAR)

Earlier this autumn, I found myself unable to generate – what is termed in pop-cultural as – any Give-A-Damn when the news splashed across my television the NBA had to begin canceling games due to the ongoing lockout.

Millionaires quibbling with billionaires excites me not one God-forsaken bit.

The story was going to end there without much reason to actually write about the topic of sports… That is, until news recently began spilling out of State College, Pennsylvania, like a lanced infection point.

Charges of sexual abuse of young boys by retired Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, accusations of a cover-up by senior university administrators, as well as endless questions of who else knew what in now-former Head Coach Joe Paterno’s coaching staff since Sandusky’s tenure there are beyond horrific.

As an exclamation point, the alleged abuses are reported to have taken place at the youth services foundation Sandusky established in 1977 known as The Second Mile.

My intent here is not to go on a prolonged diatribe filled with disturbing details about the Penn State scandal. More than enough has already been published on the subject – and more undoubtedly is to come.

Instead, I want to explore what I see as the connection between Happy Valley and the NBA: the steadily growing entitlement mentality in sports – fueled by the celebrity worship which our society has nauseatingly embraced.

It is through our unhealthy fascination with celebrities that so many teens burst into tears at the sight of a singer or band, others go into prolonged mourning because someone famous dies, and unwarranted accolades are showered upon athletes – all taking place and increasing in intensity for generations.

When it comes to sports, today it starts in our schools. We all have either witnessed it, experienced it (meaning through bullying), or enjoyed being the beneficiary of it.

Student athletes – especially those who perform their sport(s) at the highest levels – simply are treated differently. In the vast majority of instances they are granted a far greater degree of forgiveness and leeway in their personal behavior and all too often enjoy latitude in their academic responsibilities other students do not.

This sense of behavioral entitlement is granted to them by school staffs and faculties, their peers, parents (their own and/or others), and the communities at large they “represent.” The social process originates in grade school. It expands in high school. It reaches new heights at the college level. By the time a select few lucky athletes are able to take their on-field/court performance to the next level, the absurdity of the situation is almost beyond comprehension.

When charges are filed against or word gets out of an arrest of a popular athlete, fans – without fail – begin clamoring for “second chances” or at the very a least slap-on-the-wrist consequence. Three years ago in northern Ohio, there was significant hand-wringing over the legal fate of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth after he killed a man in Florida because he was driving drunk.

Other times, fans simply go into a disturbing state of denial that their beloved athlete could do any wrong.

An effective example of that is how people in Pittsburgh react to stories about Ben Rapistburger… I mean Ben Roofieburger… I mean… Aw, hell, you know who I mean.

Also, it should be noted the vast majority of coaches in sports are former athletes. So, it ought to be no surprise when we find them behaving in ways reminiscent of their less upstanding players.

We only have ourselves to blame – myself included. With all the money the average person dumps into tickets and league products – the replica jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, posters, jackets, pins, bumper stickers, league television packages, trading cards, bobble heads, Beanie Babies, and even Christmas tree ornaments – it is no wonder so many athletes retain such senses of privilege. Personally, over the course of my lifetime I have poured my own money into these items as well as accepted them as gifts to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Liberty vs. the philosophy of sports

Much the same way my libertarianism has spilled into my approach to religion, a similar impact is taking place with my outlook on sports. Between the manner in which the NFL maintains its sense of preferred geographic dispersal via revenue sharing and how more and more professional sports franchises are demanding their localities pony-up tens- or even hundreds-of-millions of dollars to finance construction of a new stadium or arena, there is much for a libertarian to loathe about professional sports.

Simply put, when we invest significant emotional energy in a sports team, we essentially are embracing a form of collectivism. In many instances, top-performing teams actively frown upon individual-centered performances by their athletes in favor of shoehorning them into roles that typically require them to play below their full potential. Or, in a mirror of the corporatist establishment fostered by federal agencies and their bodies of regulations, we have seen more than our share of sports superstars receive preferential treatment by those who are supposed to officiate games impartially.

The states of affairs described above in large part (not entirely, I must confess) stand in contrast to what takes place in NASCAR. There, race teams operate in an environment which is the closest to a true free market setup: all race teams’ earnings from race to race are dependent upon their performances.

Additionally, race teams, even those which drive for the same ownership and must compete head-to-head, are expected to put forth their best individual performances each and every race.

And if not for NASCAR, we would not have stories such as Denny Hamlin’s, who made his Cup-level debut in the later stages of 2005.

Not long before then, Hamlin was pondering leaving stockcar racing. Wanting to see their son realize his dream, his parents took out a mortgage on their home to finance his racing endeavor in Late Model Stock Cars. It paid-off when he was able to land a driver development contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Hamlin reached the highest level of stockcar racing with no sense of entitlement, no expectation of unearned reward simply for showing-up. There are no participation trophies. He fought and worked to realize his dream – with a little help, love, and support of his family.

Most importantly, he had to be able to finance and then earn his own way to the top of his sport. You don’t see that anywhere else in sports.

Related (mildly) side note

Revisiting the subtopic of celebrity worship (but straying from the central theme of sports), I shall admit to feeling genuine sadness five years ago upon learning of Steve Irwin’s untimely demise. For a change and unlike the vast majority of his contemporaries in professional sports and the entertainment industry, it can be said Irwin became famous because of his genuine motivation to make his fans and viewers smarter. Additionally, he was trying to do so in a field of science – an area in which today too many people are lacking knowledge.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beyond libertarian: an expository examination of modern anarchism

In my two previous notes I made reference to the Voluntaryist movement. Those mentions were part of a message to those participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement who identify themselves as seeking small, constitutionally-limited government (libertarian) and seeking little-to-(essentially) no government authority in society (the aforementioned Voluntaryists).

While the idea for this essay has been rolling-around in my head for a while, it has been the recurring discussion of the presence of anarchists at OWS protests which has motivated me to finally tackle authoring my examination of anarchy in today’s society.

In many instances – when addressed during media coverage and public discourse – the term “anarchy” is assigned an unfairly negative connotation. Not all such harsh assessments are unwarranted, of course. However, due to the overuse of the term it has become an inaccurate blanket-description for many who not only disapprove of governmental use of force but become actively involved in decrying it.

The overly broad use of anarchy as a descriptor is unfair due to the fact there are primarily two distinct camps in it. Although the notion of government and politics being defined in terms of left versus right was debunked decades ago by the late-great David Nolan, the two main groupings of anarchists is best illustrated using a left-right dichotomy.

Among the key components of modern anarchism is the prevailing anti-elites sentiment. On the right hand of the scale there are those who fit the description of Voluntaryists and Anarcho-capitalists. To the left, there are those who seek a redistributive form of society sans the existence of a ruling government (research the term “neo-anarchist” dubbed by Keith Preston).

Voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists believe the free market and unrestrained free choice will derive the necessary economic freedoms that impel prosperity while determining or maintaining social norms will be up to parents and broader family structures in bringing-up their children – as well as religious institutions.

Left-wing anarchists do not share the above economic outlook.

Property rights at the core

In all honesty, given the fact anarchy involves the anti-elites approach, the left-wing camp operates under an umbrella of irony. While the outlook on social norms is – on the surface – the same, this division of anarchism spurns the concept of fundamental property rights.

Where this approach to anarchism differs from its left-wing counterpart of totalitarian statism is simple: redistribution is achieved through mob rule as opposed to the force of governmental authority.

Herein lies the irony: given that anarchism is rooted in the rejection of the authority of elites, in order for redistribution of people’s assets to take place via mob rule someone must be in a position to direct the mob’s focus toward a perceived injustice.

Someone (obviously meaning multiple individuals) must enjoy or retain enough of a degree of credibility which enables them to stir the pot so as to set the majority’s mob-rule agenda.

In essence, these pot-stirrers become de facto elites.

Furthermore, when a vocal and determined minority in such a society identifies what they view as an injustice requiring immediate confiscation and redistribution but the majority disagrees, what is likelihood the agitated minority will concede the point in those instances and let the issue be?

Now, you have a situation where the majority must act in some regard as a force of authority to deter the disgruntled pot-stirrers – creating a scenario where leaders among the majority will inevitably need to emerge and potentially create a competing class of elites.

Conversely, respect for and defense of property rights stand at the heart of Voluntaryism. The forced redistribution of one’s earnings or tangible property is the complete antithesis of Voluntaryist aims for society.

On the right-wing end of the spectrum, the individual’s right to keep what he or she either earns through employment or builds through personal industrious efforts is unalienable: so is the right to share any of it strictly of their own volition for the benefit of others, as well as dealing with the consequences for one’s choices is the responsibility of each individual.

Voluntaryists believe that a society where its citizens are allowed to live within such constructs will steadily align itself toward prosperity and generosity – based on the principle that virtue can only exist when there is free choice.

What becomes of social norms?

Social norms stand a vastly better chance of lining-up with virtuousness under Voluntaryism and Anarcho-capitalism because they are approaches which center on respect for the individual and place emphasis on respect for property rights.

In the left-wing version of anarchism, the notion of social norms becomes much more fluid. This is due to the fact those who do enjoy the prerogative to influence and steer the sentiments of the majority will at some point play to the base desires of humans for the purpose of using such motivations as incentives for pursuing their agenda: as opposed to encouraging individuals to determine their own independent agendas and examining the potential effects on others – especially society at large.

The left-wing cycle of disregard for property rights can only lead from anarchy back to the Progressive ascent of the pot-stirring elite toward statist control of the masses.

In conclusion

Undoubtedly, the left-wing vision of anarchy is every bit the nightmare it is so often portrayed. When the denial of property rights collides with the individual’s unalienable right to defend their property, the resulting clash can only leave a bloody trail of carnage in its wake.

That is not to say there is a complete absence of genuinely well-meaning participants in that movement. Among the goals of these advocates is to create a society that operates while free of what they consider the burden of money. But, embracing this concept requires overlooking a vital truth that money is the medium by which people deal with one another on civilized terms. Without that medium – which represents the value of the product of labor and resources – we will be left with a society where individuals would eventually need to deal with one another via the barrel of a gun. (See pp. 380-385, “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand)

At the same time, honesty in assessing Voluntaryism is a must. Make no mistake: it is a genuinely noble ideal that is worth pursuing. However, the likelihood of it being realized in my lifetime or that of anyone who reads this is nil.

Much of that is due to the fact it will take generations for the necessary education of the masses regarding the simple principles of self-reliance and individual responsibility. In the interim, a dramatic society-wide change in perception of government’s role in our lives must sweep over the American population while dismantling takes effect of the various entitlements and unconstitutional safety nets.

In essence, we must grow into a society where dedication to self-governance prevails.

If it were as easy to do it as it is to express the notion, by now we would be nearly on the verge of achieving it. Reality does not smile upon the Voluntaryist idealist in today’s world.

That is not to say Voluntaryism’s full-time proponents should abandon their efforts. I stand side-by-side with anyone whose two-fold goal is to vastly reduce the size and scope of government while preserving the rights of the individual.

Some amount of government, though, is necessary: to provide for the defense of the country; to pursue justice once crimes have been committed; to settle disputes involving legally binding contracts; and to safeguard the rights of citizens in the event of their violation by any of the states.

My ultimate hope is that we can return to that system of governance through participation in the democratic process and the manner in which we do commerce: via the mechanism enjoyed by our forefathers in the United States – as opposed to the alternative.