Encroachments of Power -Cedar Sanderson

 

Encroachments of Power -Cedar Sanderson

 

About two hundred years ago, a British jurist named Albert Venn Dicey coined the phrase the Rule of Law. The idea behind the phrase extends back as far as written history, however, with the tablets of Hammurabi that laid out the laws of a long-vanished society, and the even older Code of Ur-Nammu (Kramer). The Rule of Law holds that not only one person ought to be obedient to the laws as recorded, but the governing body must be equally constrained. The opposite side of the Law is Man, capricious and vindictive. “The law – and its meaning – must be fixed and publically known in advance of application, so that those applying the law, as much as those to whom it is applied, can be bound by it. If courts (or the officials of any other institution) could make law in the guise of applying it, we would have the very ‘rule of men’ with which the Rule of Law is supposed to contrast.” (Fallon)

The Rule of Law means different things taken in different contexts. Applied to a single individual, it is usually taken to mean adherence to the written laws of the nation where that person is in residence. Applied to governments, it can be taken to mean the codex of laws recorded, enforced consistently and without capricious punishments handed down outside of those laws. Public officials, despite being elected or appointed, are not to be above the rule of law, even while they guide and refine it.

The Founding Fathers of the United States attempted to anticipate the need for a rule according to law in the new nation they struggled for. Alexander Hamilton wrote “how easy it is for men to change their principles with their situations; to be zealous advocates for the rights of the citizens when they are invaded by others; and, as soon as they have it in their power, to become the invaders themselves; to resist the encroachments of power, when it is in the hands of others; and, the moment they get it into their own, to make bolder strides than those they have resisted.” Our government, far from being a monolithic machine, is made up of just such people, and the rule of law is what must remain in place to prevent them from seizing power in some petty tyranny.

Governments around the globe in modern times display varying adherence to the Rule of Law. In some places, lip service is paid without reality reflecting what is said. China recently proclaimed “fairness is the lifeline of the rule of law.” However, external observers and activists reject that statement, “like a rooster dreaming that he can lay eggs, the basic political system is incompatible with rule of law, they mainly want to use the law to control society and control the public,” Teng Biao, a prominent rights lawyer, wrote this week. Currently in Hong Kong, a pro-democracy movement called the Umbrella Movement is testing the limits of that rule of law in China, and finding that it is fading in the once independent city.

Zimbabwe and its fall from the Rule of Law to the Rule of Man is a perfect example of why the ideal of the Rule of Law is a worthy one to strive for. In 1999 it was reported “Mugabe has arrested, jailed and tortured journalists, imposed bans on the media, outlawed strikes and “stay-aways” and allowed the military and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to arrest and detain civilians. He has openly flouted court orders and challenged judges to resign.” In the fifteen years since then, an estimated 30,000 deaths have occurred under his genocidal regime.

On an organizational level, the Rule of Law means not only obedience of the laws in place, but protection from infringement of the individual’s rights by the organizations that impose and enforce those laws. Police, for instance, are intended to be a force for good, “Cops and liberties are not zero-sum rivals; a strong and effective police force is not a corrupt or abusive police force; good street policing does not oppress and brutalize.” Here in the United States, the core principles of the Bill of Rights are intended to give every person an equal chance before the law, something that has been refined, battled, and re-discovered many times since the ink was wet on that document.

Policing seems to be a central point of a growing concern here in the United States. Laws, loosely adapted to suit the purposes of those organizations which once proclaimed an intent to protect and serve are now turned against that very citizenry, often if no intent or crime exists. Seizure of assets, originally intended to work under the Rule of Law to threaten drug dealers, is now seen as a ‘revenue stream’ for A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing “trophy shots” of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.”

The police are not alone in this tactic of seizing money for no good reason. The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.” The NY Times goes on in this article to enumerate other instances, and the frightening fact is that there is no Rule of Law that can stop the IRS, it seems. Rule of Man holds sway in what is possibly the most draconian of government bureaucracies. Not a tyranny of a single dictator, but that of thousands of petty tyrants, pecking the nation to death in their pursuit of power.

For each individual, living under the Rule of Law ought to mean trust and security, and when the authorities fail as sometimes happens, recourse to not only make it right for that single person, but to safeguard others, and to mend the broken trust before it threatens to decay into the Rule of Man. The United States government was designed with checks and balances between the three branches for good reason, to prevent the tyranny of a single man at the apex of the pyramid proclaiming that he holds the pen that dictates the Rule of Law.

110 responses to “Encroachments of Power -Cedar Sanderson

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  2. Alexander Hamilton wrote “how easy it is for men to change their principles with their situations; to be zealous advocates for the rights of the citizens when they are invaded by others; and, as soon as they have it in their power, to become the invaders themselves; to resist the encroachments of power, when it is in the hands of others; and, the moment they get it into their own, to make bolder strides than those they have resisted.”

    From the man who gave us the implied powers argument, so he should know.

    No discussion of the law is complete without bringing up Frédéric Bastiat’s “The Law.”

    Without a clear definition of what it is and is not the law gets perverted.

    • “The United States government was designed with checks and balances between the three branches for good reason, to prevent the tyranny of a single man at the apex of the pyramid proclaiming that he holds the pen that dictates the Rule of Law.”

      The only check against a out of control government that matters is ” We the People.” In general, if someone is expect Congress to keep the President in check and vice versa with the Supreme Court keeping an eye on both, they’re part of the problem.

      • Not entirely in disagreement with you, however, the intention was that the three branches would keep one another in check. Yes, grassroots is the people, but keep in mind we are not a pure democracy, which is a good thing.

        • Not to mention the fundamental problem that if we have to continuously monitor them, we hardly have time to live our own lives.

          It reminds me of the government bureaucrats who declare that the businesses hampered by a regulation should have been monitoring them when they announced it. That is, that they, the bureaucrats, need constant adult supervision, and every business they regulate has to, for free, provide this supervision.

          • I have a life to live, and I’d rather not have to be thinking about the government all the time. Once in a while is good, and part of the price of living in a free society.

            • We’re supposed to have the help of the forth estate, but not to do everything for us. It used to be expected of us to be knowledgable and that one could converse on the issues of the day, but now we don’t need to think about it. We can just watch Bill O’Reilly or any number of other pundits/ comedians and they will tell us what to think. It easy to turn over this responsibility to others and then bitch when they mess up….

              I don ‘t know. I ‘m tired and starting to ramble. Going to bed.

              • Actually I believe the problem isn’t that we don’t want to need to think about the issue of the day. Rather the problem is that government as grown so that there are ten thousand issues each day, and we simply can’t know about all of them. In fact we can only know about a tiny fraction of them and still have time to make a living.

                • “The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?” — Madison

                  • Considering how many running feet of shelf space the US code now occupies, it is virtually impossible to know the whole of the law

                    • Yes! I found it interesting to learn that when we were an infant nation, the number of lawyers was limited. maybe that’s what we should go back to!

                    • I would also and if you have ever practiced law you should be barred from public servitude.

                      😉

                    • Anti lawyer sentiment can be funny jokey ha ha up to a point. And for me, this is that point, winking emoticons and all.

                      I mean, sure, quoting Shakespeare saying “first, we kill all the lawyers” is occasionally chuckle inducing and having attended law school myself, I understand the sentiment. Having said that, there’s more than one legal professional in this here group that I wouldn’t mind casting a ballot for. And this rule would have meant we never got Abraham Lincoln.

                      😉 >

                    • Zachary,

                      I’m OK with that.

                      Talk about someone whom suspended the rule of law when it was inconvenient. Or turned the US constitution into a suicide pack for the States. He pretty much set the precedents that the Federal Government has right to force state continued participation that if we as a people, say in the State of Texas, decide through Referendum to dissolve the bonds that tie us to the Union, our only recourse to do so is with forces of Arms.

                      Yes Foxfier is correct we individually are free to physically leave the States, but “We the People” are not.

                      This is why jselvy and others feel trapped by it.

                    • As I recall, the South fired the first shots at Ft. Sumter. Maybe I’m misremembering that, but I don’t believe it was the Yanks who resorted to force of arms first.

                      But never mind that. Let’s all jump on the memory of Lincoln and offer up what we believe would have been acceptable alternatives to what he did, seeing as how they were so obvious in hindsight and relatively consequence free.

                    • Zachary,

                      I only gave reason as to why I would be OK with him not having become President. Those reasons being relevant to the post at large and shed some light on a conflict that we had within the group.

                      Lincoln is not my favorite President I’m a Coolidge man.

                    • Hopefully slightly less testy…

                      Look, I don’t think your problem is with lawyers per se. Your problem is with lawyers who have been corrupted by power and divorced from whatever principles they may have once held in common with the rest of the country, and I totally share that sentiment. I get it. And I do occasionally joke with my friends and clients about what a horrible person I am because I’m a lawyer. Occasionally. But throwing all lawyers under the bus is wrong, and that joke has been made a few times too many by a crowd that I consider (mostly) friendly for me not to say something about it.

                      Corruption by power is hardly unique to lawyers. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to medical doctors, to generals, even to animal-loving artists. The profession isn’t the problem, the corruption of their principles is.

                      We need good lawyers. And we need (some) good lawyers representing us in Washington and other halls of power. If we throw them all out, in Texas, it means losing Ted Cruz.

                      And it’s not like I’m running for office myself. But I’m a Hun. And try telling ANYONE who comments here regularly that they can’t do something or shouldn’t be allowed to do something because of their employment, and what kind of response do you think you’d get? And they’d be right to do so.

                      At any rate, I hope I’m not venturing into the realm of friendly fire. I felt a little heat coming my way, no doubt unintentionally, and responded quickly and with what may have been less than optimal forethought.

                    • Zachary,

                      You are correct we should judge people on their character not on their law degree.

                      😉

                      I really don’t believe we should legislates at all.

                      I’m more for customary law with mediators approach.

                      Sorry.

                    • Asserting Lincoln suspended Rule of Law simply because it was “inconvenient” is the kind of word games more commonly associated with slippery shyster types. We were at war — perhaps you heard? It was in all the papers. Some suspension of Rule of Law is inherent after a declaration of war — it is, in fact, why a declaration of war is made (presumably the other side already knows without our telling them.)

                      Contrary your statement, there has been no precedent established barring any State leaving the Union … by Peaceable means. Violent overthrow of the Union is probably one of those things we want to retain even without the precedent established, but maybe that’s just me.

                      The great unanswered question of the War of Southern Secession is whether States retain the right for dissolution of the bonds holding them to the Union. Texas and California are likely the two states with the best legal footing for such a case, but the litigation of it is not terribly suitable for debate in this venue, especially as we’ve already reached Full Nesting.

                      As for the War itself — that was over 150 years ago. Let’s not be all European about holding a grudge. Besides, as a native born West Virginian I’ve got ‘plaints agin both sides of that confab and would knock all y’all sideways in a debate over it.

                    • RES,

                      Ex parte Merryman?

                      It wasn’t just my opinion.

                      This lead to the Espionage Act 1917; which lead to the Patriot Act; which lead to Sections 1021 & 1022 of NDAA.

                      Ah… but this is America we would never put anyone into camps.

                      As to the Succession issue.

                      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/is-secession-legal/

                      First, we would have to petition all the other states, and they would have to agree to let us go. If not, our only other recourse is revolution.

                      So, we have a place to start when we have more time.

                    • It should be noted that Ex parte Merryman was a circuit court decision (not SCOTUS) by Roger Taney, better known as the author of the Dred Scott decision. From my review of the case summary I am compelled to think Judge Taney wrong, that the authority under martial law to detain alleged enemy combatants resides — and must reside — with the executive.

                      Having some familiarity with the contributors at The American Conservative, please accept my belief that it is scarcely more reliable a source than is The Nation and that it is unlikely any argument sourced there will be read by me, much less found persuasive.

                      Yes, I condemn arbitrarily and merely because of an argument’s source. I am old and I find it saves time to reject certain sources wholesale rather than individually. As indicated above, The American Conservative is in good company in this regard, being deemed on a par with The Nation, Pravda, The Daily Worker, The John Birch Society, NPR, The New York Times, the major network news organizations in general and MSNBC in particular the current administration, 97% of Congressional Democrats and 45% of Congressional Republicans. I also distrust the evidence of my own eyes and ears and no longer have full confidence in my memory.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Discussions of the ACW are full of “friendly fire” incidents. [Smile]

                    • I got lawyers all through the family tree and would never disparage the benefits of legal training.

                      OTOH (ya knew there would be another hand, didn’t you?) the contemporary manner of legal education ensures that not only is a lawyer familiar with the law but that such familiarity breeds contempt. Too many flaws in the process to list, but the limiting of law school admission to hyper-ambitious argumentative jerks must certainly be a starting point, and the reduction of Legal Ethics to adherence to the letter while dragging the spirit into a back alley and “doin’ ‘er up right” is a good place to stop.

                      When I think of the conditioning lawyers go through, especially the repeated reminders that those in law school are amongst the brightest people in the nation (we had conversations with a friend while she matriculated through Chapel Hill’s law school and she especially noted that reminder … generally with amusement) the wonder is that you don’t all emerge as amoral hired guns.

                      I look at Ted Cruz, Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin, Andrew McCarthy and can only say that calling lawyers as a class corrupt is as valid as claiming all accountants to be dry humourless drudges (that’s the actuaries.)

                    • As a necessary aside, my ethics teacher (pretty decent guy, all things considered), on the first day walked up to the podium and said “Okay, we’re going to go through a lot of stuff here, and you’re going to need to know all of it. But before we open any books or review any material, you need to know the FIRST rule of legal ethics.” At which point he paused for dramatic effect, looked me straight in the eye, and said “GET PAID.”

                      He had a point, in that if your bills are paid and your belly full, it’s a LOT easier to be ethical than if you’re in a bind, behind on the mortgage, and moths are fluttering around your pantry. But it’s always stuck with me.

                      Good class, good guy.

                    • …claiming all accountants to be dry humourless drudges (that’s the actuaries.)

                      I do believe humourless would be the bridge too far, but you, sir, are parched. Shriveled. Occasionally dessicated.

                      Sir, you are an intimate of dry.

                    • APPROVED. And if it can’t be understood by the average fifteen year old, out it goes.

                    • And if it is able to be understood by a fifteen year old, it’s eligible for debate before being returned to the shelf.

                    • If it was understandable by a teenager we wouldn’t need lawyers and judges to “interpret” it for us. Wouldn’t that be just awful?

              • The Fourth Estate didn’t like the number they were assigned so they became a Fifth Column.

                • Christopher M. Chupik

                  I guess we need a Sixth Column. 😉

                  “Do you have a moment? We’d like to tell you about the Great God Mota.”

            • Derrell Poole

              It use to be that way, Cedar. The Constitution was written in simplicity for this very reason. It was written to be understood by amateurs so they could keep track of government without expending their whole lives in the process. After all, isn’t that what freedom is about? Someone said it should not matter who is elected president so little power is vested there.

              But no matter what flavor, government is a Beast because government ALWAYS seeks control. ALWAYS! This government has stolen most of the power it has by trashing the Constitution establish an Administrative Bureaucracy (to which we have no voice) so complicatied we cannot comprehend its depth and now believes it is the master of the masters. It sincerely believes it can do anything it wants.

              Not according to Article VI, clause 2!

          • The problem is both better and worse than you make it out to be. It’s worse, because not only do the bureaucrats require supervision, they don’t use the most efficient forms of communication to permit that supervision. It’s better because those forms exist and it’s pretty easy and quick to tell if they’re enabled in a particular government. Where they are not, the government is not acting in the best interests of the people and should be thrown out just for wasting our time.

        • The direct election of Senators under the 17th Amendment dealt a mortal blow to the American Republic. FDR’s election in 1932 finished us off. The last four Presidents, and a worse than worthless SCOTUS, have left us pretty much without anything that could be called Rule of Law.

          • I was going to mention this, but Peter beat me to it. But- there’s nothing that says an amendment cannot be repealed. We’ve done it once already.

            • We should roll back to the original 10 and carefully debate any further inclusions.
              I would propose that the 13th stay

          • 1913 was a bad year for liberty all around.

    • Of course, no discussion of the Rule of Law vs. the Rule of Man would be complete without a mention of the man who embodies both at once.

      Judge Dredd.

  3. The Rule of Law dies from the head down.

    Somewhat related to the concept of the social contract, the Rule of Law is maintained only so long as the holders of power honor and obey its essence.

    Once a power-holder decides that her cause is more important than the mere procedural crap that an honorable society agrees to live by, the Rule is doomed, at least until power is taken from the power-holder and granted to someone more amenable to the Rule.

    But it very much works on a ratchet principle. Once the Rule of Law is abased and abused by a power-holder, it tends to recover some lost ground under a following,more Rule-oriented power wielder, but never to its previous level of influence.

    No matter who we elect during the next twenty years, U.S. society’s regard for and adherence to the Rule of Law will never recover to its previous level of importance.

    Thanks to BO, we have come close to squandering what has historically been the best, most evenly advantageous system of social ordering and justice in the world’s history, and it will never again be as good as it was before he took power.

    So, thanks for that, all of you ignorant BO voters.

    • We can create a counter-ratchet but only by changing our own playbook. Take a look at gun rights and you’ll see the start of a successful counter-ratchet movement. That can be replicated in a lot of different public policy arenas.

      • Yes we can to an extent, theoretically it is possible. But I don’t know of a single example where we have ever ratcheted back to as much or more freedoms than we started with. Your example of gun rights is a good one. There are a lot of states and even some examples in the federal laws where we have gained rights back, but if we compare to what rights we had at the turn of the last century we have a lot less rights than we did in 1900, and we certainly had less rights than we did when the constitution was ratified and we simply had the 2nd amendment without infringements.

        • NFA of 1934, GCA of 1968, Safety Act of 1986, that stupid and thankfully sunset Assault Weapon Ban of 1994-2004. All sold as means to make us safer, and all really intended to limit availability of weapons to the common people. An interesting development is that it seems technology, not legislation, will restore arms to the public. 3D printers and computer controlled milling machines now, and more so in the future, allow folks to turn a garage or basement into a weapons factory.
          But the example proves the point. Such rearming of the people will be accomplished not by restoring lost rights, but by a complete and total disregard of whatever restrictive laws might exist. And thus the rule of law is laid low.

          • You beat me to it on the assault weapons ban, but also gun rights in general are winning with no state now without some sort of concealed carry regime and guns now recognized as an expression of an individual and not collective right.

            The ability to personally become a manufacturer or other producer is a key element in the counter-ratchet I have in mind because it increases your attack surface and will tend to move people towards the small government side.

            Remember, most industry regulation is written for the benefit of large incumbent producers and against the small entrant, the upstart. 100% of all individual producers will be small upstarts.

            • “but also gun rights in general are winning with no state now without some sort of concealed carry regime”

              That right there is a perfect example of what I was talking about. Yes we are ratcheting back to such an extent that all states have some type of concealed carry (although in some states it is so limited as to be practically unavailable to private citizens). Buuuttt, there was a time in this country when the idea that the government would be able to restrict your right to carry however you chose would have be anathema. You used to be able to carry whatever you wanted, however you wanted, now there are only a couple of states where you aren’t required to have a permit.

              • On one hand, if we can never restore our previous rights perfectly, we should know that so that we fight all the harder to preserve what we have left. On the other, that we can, however imperfectly, regain rights means we should not give up once defeated for a time.

                • I didn’t really make the point at all that was percolating around in my brain this morning. (rereading my post, I’m not quite sure where I got started down the rabbit trail, but it was sometime before I started typing).
                  We can ratchet laws back, and theoretically could ratchet them all the way back to their origins, but in practice it is much easier to pass more restrictions than to get rid of restrictions, and we virtually never get rid of ALL of the restrictions. So it is better to never give an inch, yes we need to fight to regain ground we have lost, but that should make it plain to us to never give up an inch of ground without a fight; not even to “show our reasonability” or our “willingness to compromise.”

                  • It is almost impossible to recover liberty once ceded short of bloodshed, but I still have hope that this nation is the exception.

              • Quibble: Since becoming a State, Missourians never had a right to carry a concealed weapon until they passed their concealed carry law in 2003 (and overrode that incompetent buffoon of a governor’s veto). From the beginning, concealed carry has been against the law, while “loaded and exposed” was legal (except for certain idiotic, hoplophobic municipalities). I *think* Missouri is not the only State that was that way (not that I’d be willing to testify in court to that without do much more research).

                • I’ll take your word for it (I certainly don’t know the history of all of Missouri’s laws) but, when we became a country, a fair time prior to Missouri becoming a state, there were no restrictions on carrying concealed.
                  There are currently only 7 states I believe that prohibit “open carry” of which Texas, which so many consider a bastion of freedom, is one. Interestingly up until a few years ago Texas was one of those states where concealed carry was allowed without any permitting restrictions, but open carry was illegal at that time also.

                  • It is my understanding that the open carry laws in Texas are a hangover reconstruction era law. I could be wrong

                    • That is my understanding also, they are still a law on the books that is enforced and they have been unable to get overturned.

                    • The NAACP should protest the law as it has a disproportionate effect on the black population. Many reconstruction era arms laws were specifically intended to disenfranchise free blacks. The video “No Guns for Negroes” does a better job of explaining this than I can. It’s available on both You Tube and JFPO.org

            • Why go back that fare NC gun registration and the civil disobedience of non-compliance that happened there.

    • You can restore the rule of law, but it requires punishing the men who ignored it under the law. In other words, to do this, BO needs to be impeached, convicted and jailed for a good long time. Second choice would be a vigilante lynching. Anything less does not deter the next piece of human excrement from trying again. After all, the worst that will happen to them is that they will have to retire (with full pension).

  4. And these are the people they want to put in charge of everything.

  5. Pingback: ‘Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required’ | Enjoyment and Contemplation

  6. While I agree with what you wrote in general, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate a bit here with regards to the theory. The law is written and enforced by man on men, so it is impossible to remove man from the system without introducing its own set of problems. Just as man can be capricious and vindictive, man can also be merciful and forgiving; the law can be neither. Both the “Rule of Man” and the “Rule of Law” need to keep checks on each other for the system to work. Civil Disobedience and Jury Nullification are two of the justifiable checks by the “Rule of Man” on the “Rule of Law”. Zero Tolerance policies are an example of applying the “Rule of Law” and coming up with an absurdly bad outcome.

    Personally, beyond my normally argumentative nature, I agree that the Rule of Law is failing in the US today, where we see laws rewritten, bent and even broken at whim by the government and certain politically favored groups; the Rule of Man is at its unjust peak. It’s been my personal belief for some time that the fundamental cause of a lot of the problems we have is that the system of checks on abuses of power is not working, both the formal (inter-government checks) and informal (media and civic) are not working. If they were working as intended, the pendulum of which was dominant (law or man) would oscillate slightly between the two as time went on, but abuses would be quickly corrected. Until the checks on abuses of power are fixed, we’re stuck.

    • Also there’s the problem that hard cases make for hard laws, especially when those cases are tearjerkers or evoke visceral fears. One of my current works in progress deals with a post-biological human getting caught on the wrong end of a law intended to criminalize the development of dangerous abhuman AI’s, a law made after a disaster that involved a badly-designed AI, such that people demanded the legislators Make A Law to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

  7. Egregious Charles

    Rule of Law was great but it is impossible now because we have so many laws that the only reason anyone is not in prison is selective enforcement. Have you used a product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling? Sold toys at a yard sale without having them tested for lead? I can list a few but if the problem were a short list of laws everybody breaks, it would be an easy fix. The problem is that Congress passes somewhere around 8000 laws a year* and you have to obey all of them, not to mention state and local laws and regulations from various agencies with delegated lawmaking power. They are not written with perfect clarity or accuracy and frequently affect people they weren’t aimed at (like lead testing toys at yard sales which was aimed at Mattel and their ilk). You have to follow the letter of the law, not the intent. Masses of those will have to be repealed before we can have Rule of Law again.

    *Of this 8000 most are appropriations bills that only affect spending of your tax money not your behavior but you still have to read them to know which aren’t.

  8. Since Hong Kong’s protests were mentioned…

    A WSJ article two weeks ago mentioned some interesting trivia about the number ‘689’.

    1.) The number has been adopted by the Hong Kong protestors because it’s the number of votes that the current head of Hong Kong received. 689 out of the 1200 electors that Beijing allows voted for the guy.
    2.) June, 1989, is when the Tianenmen Square protests were crushed. June, 1989, in a numeric format is 6-89, or 689.
    3.) That other island off the coast of China that has a rocky political relationship with China is the home of the Republic of China, or Taiwan. The current president of Taiwan received 6.89 million votes in the last election.

  9. Just posting to follow.

  10. Off topic but J&G sales are running a sale on Mauser k98s for $249.95. Is it a comment on my age or the country that I can remember when they could be had for less than $100?

  11. Okay, I think I’ve finally noticed a pattern that I’ve been seeing in a fair number of books, fanfic, etc.

    1. You have a villainous villain, and the goodies plan to stop him.

    2. The goodies stop him in a humorous, secret way, or a clever, public way. Usually this involves the villain holding onto the Idiot Ball good and hard. There is much proclamation of how it would be evil to kill somebody, so they have to be clever instead of using brute force. (The latest one is that you killing somebody to protect others and make the world safer just makes you feel better about other people being safe, so really it’s no different from killing for money because money makes you feel better.)

    3. Suddenly the author decides that’s not good enough. So the good guys implement a truly hideous scheme of revenge on the now-helpless villain, or a moderate scheme of revenge which just happens to turn hideous, because Fate is so much nastier than good guys.

    4. The hideous scheme of revenge isn’t enough, so the good guys kill the villain in the nastiest, most psychopathic way they can. (Usually it’s just one of the good guys, protecting the others by not telling them. Because otherwise you might question if they’re good guys.)

    5. The good guys say things about how sad circumstances cause killing to occur, so you can know they really they are Deep and Thoughtful good guys.

    • 6. Oh, yeah, and a lot of the villain’s henchmen turn out to be really nice guys who are totally innocent and have no dark side whatsoever, even if they’ve been working really closely with the villain. Basically they are easily led peasants of simple brain, and so apparently they are equally led by both good guys and bad. (Though their IQ’s and eloquence magically go up if they’re being easily led by good guys.) They are also touchingly grateful and tend to fall in love with the good guys, although not in any way that would actually be too serious or cause the good guys any worry or sorrow.

    • The Other Sean

      I haven’t encountered anything that I can recall reaching that level (i.e. no more than a couple points from your list). Do you have some examples so I know what to avoid? 🙂

    • Thank you for the addition to my “don’t do this” checklist.

      • It’s like years ago the “he went mad and” — I don’t think decent writers do that.

        • Probably not, but I’ve noticed a few tics sneaking into the WWI book, I think because I’ve been reading a LOT of academic monographs and recent histories, and some of their attitudes are pulling my grad-school indoctrination out of the pit I dumped it into.

  12. I am retreating from the debate. I cannot maintain objectivity on a subject so near and dear to me. Statist Josh can explain it better than I can anyway.

    • jselvy,

      Remember this is just a blog. It’s just words. It’s nothing personal.

      Be nice. Until it’s time not to be nice.

      Marc MacYoung has saying it goes (from memory ), “It’s all a negotiation, until you pull the trigger.” Meaning up until the time you pull the trigger you are free to stop or change course, if needed. Nothing is set in stone. Once you pull the trigger everything changes and your left with dealing with the consequences.

      We are still in the negotiation stages of this process of what we want our future to be. Nothings hopeless and nothing is set in stone.

      [Crap when did I become the sensible one in this group?]

      P.S. I been where you are at, it’s hard to step back and be objective about your own position. We all have blind spots and this group will definitely help one become a better debater. So stick around.

      • I’d just like to note that you’ve matured quite a bit as a conversationalist since you joined the Hunnish Horde. And indeed your entry to the community was… rough. Well, mostly on you, but I think a few of the Huns may have bruised their metaphorical knuckles on your head. 😀 It’s been an interesting run; I’m glad you’ve stuck around.

        • Thank You.

        • I like said on the “tell people you appreciate them, they’re not freaking telepaths” post– Josh cares; passion that seems to come from love, not “I’m gonna win*.”

          That’s not as common as it should be, and it’s nice to have someone who fits but adds a genuine diversity angle. Like having one Catholic in a wide selection of protestants, they agree on almost everything, but…..

          *(the “gonna win” is a side-effect that maybe a Hunish requirement. 😀 )

  13. Another Supreme Court decision that has brought us to the currect train wreck was Baker v Carr. Prior to that, most states were organized the same way teh United States as a whole is. An lower house, usually called the Assembly, and an upper house, usually called the Senate. The assembly was population based, the senators came one or two to a county. In New York, the rural counties have no power at all because of this decision. As a result, inane laws like the SAFE act can be passed without any meaningful opposition. Rural counties have different priorities then cities. And no real representation.

  14. One element in conflict of Rule of Law is the issue of Justice. RoL is about process, Justice is about results. The problem, of course, is that Justice, being the elephant in the room, is different things to different people. Some think it better that 100 innocent men be convicted than one rapist go free, some think that because [insert “historically oppressed group of your imagination choice] people have been given the [expletive deleted] end of the social stick for [insert #] of years that they deserve to be allowed to get away with [insert crime(s)] or at least have the law look the other way.

    Others define Justice differently, arguing that past record of unjust treatment does not justify acting unjustly now, only in the other direction.

    Some people even argue that Category B, having been treated more unjustly than Category C, D or E is entitles to preferential treatment now, although not so much as Category F, which really suffered.

    Some idiots people even seem to think that because the title given the judges on our Supreme Courts is “Justice” these judges need to ensure that the law is not followed when such following would result in an injustice (as perceived by the NY Times editorial staff and 9 out of 10 college professors.

    All of which delegitimizes Law’s Rule, saps the respect for the Law and encourages folks to think of it as a modern version of Old West land wars, fought this time with lawyers rather than gun-hands.

    • Indeed. I find the idea that “because the attacker/rapist/thief/law-breaker is a woman/minority/government-employee, they should be excused/given a lesser penalty because [insert historical data/legend]” to be one of the pernicious weeds infesting the current discussions about criminal law. I am most displeased with the idea that employees of [government agency] are permitted to potentially endanger the lives of other people because they should be exempt from state health regulations by virtue of being employees of [federal agency].

    • So, as part of the Rule of Law is that the laws have to be just?

      Makes sense to me, although I kinda had to hit a few DMs over the head with that when they tried the “but the laws here are X.” (….when my character was a follower of Natural Law. Yeah, they thought that meant I was a druid.)

      • Errrrrr … I wouldn’t go that far. It kinda depends on your definition of “Just” don’t it?

        Let us say that they should not be obviously Unjust?

        Rule of Law primarily requires two things: the laws be (relatively) unambiguous, uniformly applied and uniformly enforced.

        Uhh, that’s three things. Rule of Law requires three, three things: the laws be (relatively) unambiguous, uniformly applied and uniformly enforced and not arbitrary.

        Maybe I should come in again?

        • It’s either “Just” or it isn’t– figuring it out how to apply it,and detect conditions, is another matter.

          Iron needs X amount of carbon to become high grade steel with Y and Z properties. That it’s really hard even now– and dang near impossible back when a good sword was THE go to weapon– to directly measure the stuff that goes into it, much less have it be pure, doesn’t change that. Just means we have to figure out some rules that work pretty good most of the time to identify what is sufficiently close to work; the tolerances are going to change over time.

          Heck, even Himself took a rather gradual approach and worked with what He had– like I keep pointing out, “Eye for an Eye” was a cosmic leap over what was the accepted norm of “you take out my eye, I kill your entire clan.”

    • The problem is that Hard Cases Make Bad Law. Why is doxxing someone with an open comment about how something bad — even specifically bad — could happen to person legal? Because some civil rights activists didn’t want to take their medicine after blacks ignored a boycott and were beaten up.

      Clemency is the proper tool toward the hard cases. Otherwise you permit either manifest injustice or the rule of judicial whim.

  15. Well, well, well.

    Ran across someone having histronics in a comments section about a bill:

    Wending its way through Congress, with scant attention by the media, is Senate Bill S.1979, “USA Retirement Funds Act,” introduced on January 30, 2014 by Sen. Tom Harkin [D-IA]. Section 211 is a chilling read (start reading on page 55 line 17 ending on page 58 line 14).

    There you will find that the Bill specifically targets small businesses (no more than 50 employees), would empower the government to outright seize the retirement accounts of those small businesses without prior notification (Ex Parte), and may be executed on the basis that the government simply BELIEVES the plan “… IS ABOUT TO ENGAGE IN CONDUCT THAT IS A VIOLATION …” (that’s a direct quote).

    Then I googled it. Here’s the link:
    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s1979is/html/BILLS-113s1979is.htm

    • Sen. Harkin and Sen. Brown, both Democrats, are the original sponsors of the bill. The bill picked up two more sponsors, so far, Tim Johnson (retiring) and Brian Schatz who is up for election this year.

      Anybody who thinks seizing a pension plan on suspicion and with only optional judicial review is a good idea should not be in Congress.

      • Spread the news.

        • Write up a simple summary that can be put on Facebook or something. Folks will look at the wall of text and (as intended) blink.

          • Hawaii has a bad case of the Schatz.

            Appointed Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz wants the Feds to have the power to seize a small company pension plan on suspicion that they might be going to do something imprudent. He’s co-sponsoring S1979 a bill that lets the executive seize accounts without meaningful oversight.

            The only appeal is to the Secretary who did the seizing. If he feels like it, he’s able to, but never required to put the issue in front of a judge. This is very wrong. It’s unamerican. It’s disqualifying. No one bureaucrat should ever have the final say over taking your pension money.

            • Keep in mind that this is merely proposed legislation — aka a legislator’s pipe dream — and can only become law if a majority of our (sorta) elected overlords concur. It also takes two houses of Congress to enact this stupidity; many such items never make it out of committee and often were only proposed to mollify wild-eyed radical supporters back home.

              Also keep in mind that, to many of our elected (sorta) representatives, we are the wild-eyed radical supporters back home. I mean, adhere to Constitutionally authorized powers when crafting laws that will make everyone’s poo smell like lavender prevent the destruction of the WHOLE EARTH by Global Hot Air?

              Keep in mind as well that many executive branch agencies, such as the FEC, are eager to extend their power and do things like counting Sarah’s blog as an in-kind contribution to political campaigns and regulate it accordingly. Notice that CO Sen. Mark Uterus Udall is paying no apparent price for sponsoring a Constitutional Amendment to forbid millionaires from paying for in-kind political ads that don’t promote the Democrat agenda (sure, he is losing by nearly ten points, but that is because he’s run a monumentally bad campaign.)

              So, don’t forget that constant vigilance and the willingness to be thought a crank are the price of maintaining your liberty. Don’t get too worked up over these types of bills, but neither should they be dismissed out of hand. Often they are sops to the troops, but often they are trial balloons that need to be popped. A polite letter to your Congresscritter, asking have they lost their fricking mind for details on this proposed legislation will serve to remind them that people are watching and their cloak of invisibility doesn’t completely cover what they’re doing.

              • I read the relevant clause. I don’t need explanation from the Senator. None of them are from my state and the only one that’s up for election is Schatz and he’s only got token GOP opposition and is leading by dozens of points at present.

                Because Schatz struck a cord with my creative subconscious, I wrote up something suitable for Facebook distribution because the man’s a tool and put his signature on a travesty that is fundamentally unamerican when he didn’t have to.

            • Good start, although a little Hawaii centric.

              (I’d do it myself, but… let’s see, so far today I’ve taken apart half a dresser, “helped” do four Halloween pumpkins, gotten a day’s worth of schoolwork done by the Princess without tears and… booger, I may have just burnt the ham and cheese quesadillas.)

              • Harkin and Johnson are retiring, Brown is not up for reelection until 2018. Schatz is the only one that can be voted out this cycle so, yes, Hawaii centric because it’s appropriate targeting of vulnerabilities.

            • Got them in time!

    • Oh, dear…. because Social Security wasn’t sucky enough.

    • A requirement that all businesses with more than 10 employees that earn more than 5k a year “provide access too” (join) a retirement plan system, except for Government and 501-recognized churches.

  16. Just noticed some news from the online version of one Finnish newspaper – well, that particular one is more of an example of the yellow variety, except what they print is usually completely factual, they just go for the most attention grabbing news for which you can invent the most attention grabbing blurbs.

    So once can hope that this particular item is more of a thought experiment than anything which is being planned with the serious intention of maybe going for it in fact at some future date (or maybe it’s false, except several other ideas from that direction have been equally moronic and some of them have been implemented), but: a plan to get rid of privately owned cars. Instead of owning a car themselves citizens could buy ‘packages’ for their transportation needs, which would include trains, buses, taxis and a leased car – presumably leased from some government agency – for those occasions when the first three aren’t feasible. We’d figure how much we need to move, then choose one of these packages for each month, pay a lump sum and get certain, I don’t what, maybe kilometers or hours or combination or whatever, then do the same next month.

    Maybe that plan is just a thought experiment, at least it probably is not feasible any time in the near future, but damn it! The fact that some bunch of our paid officials are even using time and money paid by and taken from our taxes to think about something like that… Okay, our hostess would delete this comment if I wrote what I’m thinking right now.

    😡

    • And yes, one of the reasons for that idea is probably the recurring complaint that Finns drive too old cars. Bad for the environment, don’tcha know? So if we won’t voluntarily start buying the latest, environmentally friendly models…

      Well, maybe one of the reasons for Finns driving the oldest cars in Europe (western Europe, anyway) might maybe have something a little bit to do with the fact that due to taxation which have been directed at cars and fuels – because they pollute, and we have to pay for that – we pay more than most Europeans for our cars and fuel? So many of us just plain can’t afford anything but old or even older cars…

    • Sounds as if you have been allowing cable television executives into your halls of power. Bundling may make a certain sense in that industry, but nobody who has carefully examined the maintenance work actually done (as opposed to recorded) on a rental car would give this idea a second thought, if indeed they had bothered to complete the first thought.

      • Yep. I do drive a company car at work… they seem to start spending more time in the garage than at work well before the odometer gets even close to the first 100 000 kilometers. Which would be considered rather low number for a privately owned car, when you are shopping for second hand ones.