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Archive for the category “Politics”

Rush Limbaugh R.I.P.

Believe it or not, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio.

It was the late 1980s and I was working for the Claremont Institute in Southern California. I was taking a two-week vacation, traveling by car to Pittsburgh in my old Mazda GLC.

I left L.A. on a Sunday afternoon, drove to Las Vegas and spent the night there, then Monday morning I headed north on interstate 15 through the Nevada desert. My old car only had an AM/FM radio for entertainment.

So, manually turning the AM dial searching for a strong radio signal I came upon this guy talking about politics from a conservative point of view. “What the hell is this?,” I wondered in amazement. Media is not allowed to be conservative!
The host was spellbinding in his delivery. He was topical in his commentary. He was a great story-teller. And he was saying things that I had been thinking myself for years but never heard expressed on the radio or tv. When I lost the signal out of Las Vegas I picked him up again in St. George, Utah on a different station. When I lost that signal I picked him up again out of Salt Lake City. This guy was everywhere apparently. The next day I woke up in Denver, drove north to Cheyenne and then east into Nebraska. By mid-morning I could find him again on any of three or four stations along interstate 80 “all across the fruited plain.” This pattern continued nearly every weekday all the way to Pittsburgh and then back again on the return trip to Los Angeles.

I remember wondering which network Rush Limbaugh was part of. Was it CBS or NBC or ABC, or some new network? Apparently, he was part of the “EIB network“ which I had never heard of. I remember trying to look up the “EIB network” and not finding anything. I had never figured the possibility that one man could have created his own network.

Now he is history. Rush Limbaugh will occupy a space in American history no less monumental than Will Rogers or Johnny Carson.

In my mind, Rush was most poignant when talking about his own life, his own failures in his early life, and his struggle to ultimately succeed – just by being himself. I started listening to Rush when I was in my thirties, broke and at times unemployed. It was looking like my life might not turn out as well as my promising school career had suggested. But I got through those times, partly by listening to Rush and taking his life as an inspiration. I often think of him as inspiration even today, and I’m sure millions of others do as well. That I will never forget.

Rush Limbaugh R.I.P.

Calm and Community

July 31, 2020

Radio personality Todd Herman described the upcoming 2020 elections as a choice: “Chaos and Communism or Calm and Community.”

With a hat tip to Mr. Herman, I’ll borrow his phrase to describe what I saw on a little vacation road trip through Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Nothing but Calm and Community up there. Here’s my road trip chronicle — including breakfast photos! To drum up business for the deserving, I’ll throw in some links to some local businesses I patronized.

Nine Days Total. Enjoy!

Friday July 10, 2020, Day 1
6-hour drive from Colorado up to Lander in central Wyoming, just northwest of historic South Pass. Lander is smallish town (population 7,487) oriented towards tourists seeking outdoor recreation. Main street boasts a brewery with live music on summer weekends and two ice cream stands.

Veterans Memorial outside Fremont County Courthouse. Lander, Wyoming
Elk statue in front of the Pronghorn Lodge in Lander, Wyoming

A few links:
Pronghorn Lodge
Holiday Lodge Lander
To quench your thirst try the Lander Bar. Outdoor live music on Friday night.

Saturday July 11, 2020, Day 2
Up with the dawn (5 am) and out the door by 5:30 in time to catch McDonald’s opening hours for an Egg McMuffin breakfast to go.

Just outside Lander along US 287 I caught some mid-summer hay fields in the early morning light. Those are the Wind River Mountains in the background.

Like something out of Van Gogh, hay fields in Wyoming’s Wind River Valley

As the combined routes US 287 and US 26 head northwest towards the continental divide at Togwatee Pass, the human stories of this land become as dramatic and colorful as the scenery surrounding it. I pass Crowheart Butte — named for the grisly outcome of a long-ago battle over hunting grounds between the Shoshone and Crow tribes.

Historical sign explaining Crowheart Butte
Crowheart Butte

At a turnout a few miles up the road the scenery gets even more colorful where Wind River breaks through a red rock canyon.

Highways 26/287 continue past the mountain town of Dubois, Wyoming, and on toward the Continental Divide. The road reaches the divide at Togwatee Pass.

On the western side of the pass, the peaks of the Grand Tetons come into view, getting larger in the windshield as the miles went by.

For the next 4 hours I drive west through Idaho farming country, stopping only for a Jack-in-the-Box burger in the industrious town of Rexburg, Idaho and at a gas station in Dell, Montana along Interstate 15.

Lemhi Pass, where Lewis & Clark crossed the Continental Divide on their way across the continent to the Pacific.

Lemhi Pass, looking westward into Idaho
Lemhi Pass looking eastward back into Montana
Historical sign explaining the crossing of the Continental Divide by Lewis & Clark at Lemhi Pass
Continental Divide
Lemhi Pass looking west. I posted this on Facebook along with caption below:

Looking west from the summit of Lemhi Pass. On August 12, 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis finally  reached the Continental Divide at this place. Lewis viewed the same aspect as in the attached photo — mountain ranges as far as the eye can see — and realized that there was no Northwest water passage along this route. Today, July 11, 2020, from the very spot where Meriwether Lewis stood in 1805, I am able to dictate my words into an i-phone, take a photo with that same phone, and post both the words and the picture for the entire world to see instantly.

The ‘High point’ of the journey
The steep road down the western side of Lemhi Pass

Sunday July 12, 2020, Day 3
Sunday was a day of rest, mostly, except for a drive along the rapids of the Salmon River.

Salmon River, downstream of North Fork, Idaho

After crossing the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass, Lewis and Clark figured they would make dugout canoes from the local timber and just float their way downstream until they reached the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Captain William Clark, a master boatsman, reconnoitered the Salmon River on horseback for some 20 miles below current day North Fork, Idaho. Seeing the river’s extreme rapids and rocky banks, it was near this exact point that Lewis and Clark gave up on the water route down the Salmon.

Salmon River near where Captain Clark turned back.

The Salmon River rollicks through these mountains for hundreds of miles and is, in fact, far too dangerous for travel by dugout canoes. These days, however, scientifically designed inflatable rafts take whitewater rafters downriver all the time — young and old, human and sometimes canine, with oars and usually beers in hand.

The dirt road along the banks of the Salmon ends just below the point where the Middle Fork of the Salmon joins the main branch. Beyond this lies the River of No Return Wilderness, perhaps the most remote area in the continental United States.

The carving on the log reads: Middle Fork of the Salmon — Yonder lies the Idaho Wilderness

Monday July 13, 2020, Day 4
Salmon, Idaho has beautiful mornings:

From the hotel room balcony. Salmon River foreground, Beaverhead Mountains background.

Breakfast at the Red Dog Diner on Main Street, which is actually part of a gas station. Aren’t all the best bbq places located in gas stations, like Joe’s in Kansas City? In this gas station you get breakfast and can listen to the local old men talk politics.

Red Dog Diner. Salmon, Idaho

Here’s a look around the calm community of Salmon, Idaho, population 3,112 and county seat of Lemhi County:

Main Street. Salmon Idaho
Lemhi County Courthouse
Salmon River

Links:
Bear Country Inn
Stagecoach Inn Salmon
Red Dog Diner
Junk Yard Bistro
St. Charles Catholic Church, Salmon

Back in the car by mid-morning. I’m heading north to Missoula, Montana the east to Helena.

Stickering the Montana sign has become a popular pastime for bicyclists and hikers.

Following Lewis & Clark’s route (for a while) north into Montana’s secret Bitterroot Valley. Huckleberries grow here and I had to include them in my lunch in Hamilton, Montana (population 4,348 and growing fast).

Lunch at the Coffee Cup Cafe in Hamilton, Montana. Huckleberry pie included.
Pie and Pastry display
Calm and Community at the Coffee shop

Link:
Coffee Cup Cafe, Hamilton, Montana

On a whim I decided to get off US 93 and take a backroad up to Missoula. I stopped for this:

Ranchland in the Bitterroot Valley. Near Stevenson, Montana
An old Montana homestead. Available.

Link: Holiday Inn Express, Helena, Montana (population 28,190)

Tuesday July 14, 2020, Day 5
Breakfast at Steve’s Cafe in Helena!

Chicken Fried Steak with hashbrowns. Eggs over easy.

Link: Steve’s Cafe, Breakfast and lunch among friends. Click the link — just looking at the photo will make you hungry.

Today I’m off across the Montana plains to see some small towns and courthouses. First stop, Townsend (population 1,878).

Broadway Street Townsend, Montana
Photos of seniors from the Class of 2020 have been placed up and down Main Street.

The practice of putting photos of graduating seniors on town light poles will become a theme among Montana towns I visit today.

Missouri River Trading Post, Antique store.
A bungalow on Broadway, Townsend, converted to professional offices.

On down the road, through some hills and ranches to White Sulphur Springs, Montana (population 939).

2 Basset Brewery White Sulphur Springs
Main Street White Sulphur Springs
Inside the Meagher County Courthouse

Next stop: Harlowton, Montana (population 997)

Statue at the Wheatland County Courthouse, Harlowton, Montana
Old bank building, Harlowton
St. Joseph Church, Harlowton
The old Graves Hotel, Harlowton, Montana

Late in the afternoon I arrived in Billings, Montana (population 109,577). I took some photos from the ridge above the city.

Billings, Montana from the airport area

I’ve enjoyed each of my many visits to Billings. Billings has a surprisingly vibrant downtown with a good choice of hotels, restaurants, steakhouses, brewpubs, and Montana casinos. A few short blocks away, old-town Billings has its own group of bars and restaurants clustered around the old train station.

Links: most convenient yet affordable lodging in downtown Billings: The Clocktower
Fanciest restaurant in Billings ($30-50 per person): Walkers Grill. See and be seen at the bar, if you’re into that.

Wednesday July 16, 2020, Day 5
Breakfast!

Breakfast at Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Link: Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Breakfast is free with a night’s stay at the Clocktower. Opens early at 5:30. Dare yourself to walk out of this place without one of their giant cinnamon rolls.

Pompey’s Pillar:

Pompey’s Pillar

Pompey’s Pillar National Historic site lies about an hour east of Billings along I-94. The rock formation along the Yellowstone River has been used as a landmark and register for travelers for centuries. Its most famous signatory carved his name into the rock in 1806:

W. Clark. July 25, 1806

William Clark and half of the Lewis and Clark expedition came this way on their return trip from the Pacific in the summer of 1806. Clark inscribed his name and named the edifice “Pompey’s Pillar” after Sacajawea’s infant son, who was nicknamed “Pomp” by the crew. (Captain Lewis and the other half of the company as exploring the Marias River in northern Montana at the time. The two sections would rendezvous at the junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers a shortly thereafter.

Visitors can climb up to see the preserved markings:

Pompey’s Pillar

The area has a calm, park-like setting.

Yellowstone River at Pompey’s Pillar
Yellowstone River
A beaver or groundhog, or some other critter or varmint-like mammal enjoys an early feed before more people arrive.

I stopped in Baker, Montana (population 1,741), near the North Dakota line, to find another town honoring its graduating seniors with lamppost fame. Perhaps the town does this every year, but it’s a very nice gesture for the class of 2020 who didn’t have a formal graduation ceremony. I’ll do my part to make them famous.

Link: Corner Bar Saloon, Baker. Sandwiches for lunch for me. Sat at the bar without drinking. Stuck a $20 in one of the Montana video poker games and quit with $22.50. Pool tables not being used during the lunch hour.

Into North Dakota. Wide fields of canola near the town of Bowman (population 1,650) in the extreme southwestern part of the state.

Farmers at work (aren’t they always?)

Amidon (population 20), Slope County, North Dakota once billed itself as America’s smallest county seat, but no longer. Wikipedia has the skinny (link):

Amidon was the smallest incorporated county seat in the 2000 census. When the 2010 census reported its population as 20, it became the second-smallest incorporated county seat after Brewster, Nebraska, with a population of 17. In 2000, Amidon had 26 people to Brewster’s 29.

There are two other unincorporated county seats that are smaller: Mentone, Texas (population 19), the county seat of Loving County, and Gann Valley, South Dakota (population 14), the county seat of Buffalo County, South Dakota.

Slope County Courthouse. Amidon, North Dakota
Gone but not forgotten
1919: American Legion First Annual Encampment after the end of the Great War. Amidon, North Dakota

I end the day with a long drive to Minot (population 40,888), North Dakota, past oil wells, fracking towers, and wide bright canola fields sprinkled with glacial ponds called ‘sloughs’ (more on those later).

Link: Staybridge Suites Minot

Thursday July 16, 2020, Day 7
Hotel breakfast. Mistake. Should have eaten at Denny’s down the road.

I was rewarded with an early morning view of the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, northeast of Minot.

A black bird photobombing my landscape
Souris River
Canola Fields

The town of Mohall (population 783), Renville County North Dakota. This is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip — a city worker using a heavy forklift to carry a crate of water and a sprinkler attachment to water all the town’s flower pots.

Using heavy machinery to water the town’s flower pots on Main Street
Memorial Courthouse, Renville County, Mohall, North Dakota
St. Jerome’s Church, Mohall, North Dakota
Main Street, Mohall North Dakota

Finally, this. Found in a basement meeting room of the county courthouse.

Read this. It was probably written during one of the World Wars

The town of Bottineau, North Dakota, population 2,211.

The town’s namesake, Pierre Bottineau. Trapper and guide.
Grain elevators. A common sight on the Plains

In the background of the next photo, Main Street can be seen ascending the heights north of town called Turtle Mountain. More on Turtle Mountain later.

Main Street, Bottineau, North Dakota
A bank becomes a bar

Somehow I missed the highlight of Bottineau, the Pride Dairy. They are the last small town creamery in North Dakota, yet they supply their ice cream, cheeses, and syrups to locations as far away as Mount Rushmore. Hint: try their ice cream bars, called ‘Cow Pies.’ Larger and more delicious than the average ice cream bar.

Link: The Pride Dairy

The International Peace Garden:

Entrance to the International Peace Garden, on the boundary line between the United States and Canada

Link: The International Peace Garden. Situated literally on the boundary line between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba, this park was dedicated on July 14, 1932 to peace between the two large North American neighboring countries. This site in particular was chosen with a nod to its location near the geographical center of North America.

It was here in the Peace Garden gift shop that I first tried ice cream from the Pride Dairy in Bottineau — and was so sorry I hadn’t stopped at their ice cream parlor when I was in town. Their ice cream is fantastic!

One last photo of the Peace Garden shows an international boundary marker and the clearing marking the boundary extending in the far distance.

International boundary between the United States (left) and Canada (right)

I took some back roads I had found on the map on my way back to Minot for the night. These little roads led along the crest of Turtle Mountain within five miles of the Canadian border. At one point I saw a highway road sign that simply said “Point of Interest” with an arrow pointing to a driveway off to right. No other explanation. Ok, I like mysteries, so I pulled up the driveway, around a bend and found this:

Mystical Horizons

It’s a small park called Mystical Horizons (link) and it’s not shown or advertised on any map — I don’t know why.

This one or two acre park, unmanned, has a replica of Stonehenge-like astronomical clocks, a sundial, and a Polaris sighting tube (to be used in finding the North Star). The park sits atop Turtle Mountain with spectacular views of the North Dakota countryside below.

Sun dial at Mystical Horizons showing 3:00 pm (4:00 pm Daylight Time)
Astronomical observatory. Sunlight shines between the slots on the equinoxes and the solstices.
Looking west from Mystical Horizons
Yellow canola fields and blue ponds can be made out in the distance

Back to Minot for dinner.

Fish and Chips at Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub, with a well-earned Guinness

Links: Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub
Staybridge Suites Minot
and once again,
Mystical Horizons

Friday July 17, 2020, Day 8
Time to return to Colorado. It will be a 2-day drive. I left very early, before breakfast, heading south on US highway 83.

Canola fields and sloughs south of Minot, North Dakota

For miles and miles the landscape was simply covered with canola fields interspersed with bright blue glacial ponds. I stopped on the side of the highway to take photos. After a bit state highway patrol car pulled up behind me to see if I was taking pictures or “just having a bad day.” This was near 7:00 in the morning. The trooper and I talked a bit, saw a deer running through one of the canola fields. I asked her if people around here referred to the water as ‘lakes’ or ‘ponds’ and she said they called them “sloughs” instead.

After another hour of driving, breakfast!

Hashbrowns are under the toast, and the patties are sausage patties not corned beef

Link: Rolling Hills Restaurant at the Flying J Travel Center in Mandan, North Dakota. Mandan (population 22,752) is across the Missouri River from Bismarck. There’s nothing like a cooked breakfast at an Interstate truck stop!

It was a long, 100-degree hot drive down to Hot Springs (population 3,711), South Dakota. I was detoured around the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation due to Covid-19 concerns. They’re having a hard time of it there and are restricting travel to locals and those with special permits.

Link: The Hills Inn, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Saturday July 19, 2020, Day 9
Breakfast!

Breakfast burrito with green chili

That was a bit of a curveball after all the eggs and hashbrowns I’d been having this trip. Thank you to the Mornin’ Sunshine Coffee House (linked) for the excellent breakfast.

Hot Springs, South Dakota was once a very popular resort town back in the days when doctors prescribed ‘taking the waters’ as a cure. Because it was built up at that early time the town’s buildings are mostly constructed of limestone blocks, giving the town an air of antiquity. It’s a great place and lies in hilly country about 50 miles south of the Black Hills. I even saw a pair of newlyweds on their honeymoon her.

The town’s claim to fame, of course, is its hot springs, shown here cascading down into the Fall River below.

One last photo on the way home. I passed by Pine Ridge near Crawford, Nebraska (population 997). I’ve stopped in this town before, usually for gas, and always for some Dairy Sweet as well.

The Pine Ridge of Nebraska

Home to Colorado Springs by late afternoon.

A most epic trip! Hope you enjoyed it with me.

All photos taken by the author in July, 2021

A list of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog can be found here.

Enterprise, the Jewel of Eastern Oregon

The Wallowa Mountains above Enterprise, Oregon

June 30, 2019

Wallowa County occupies the far northeastern corner of the state of Oregon. It’s far from Portland and the State Capitol in Salem, far from the Pacific ocean beaches, and far from California. Unlike most of eastern Oregon’s desert stretches, Wallowa County boasts snowed-capped peaks and lush green valleys. 

Enterprise, county seat of Wallowa County, lies in a beautiful alpine valley.  When you go there, expect to see many pickup trucks with two black labs in the back.  Standard. Expect also to see a few horses get loose just outside town and run down the road with their owners running after them in vain, causing the closest thing to a traffic jam in this rural place. Again, standard.

Welcome to Enterprise, named after the idea of “enterprise.” After a look around town, we’ll end up at the lake. That’s how life usually works around here.

Wallowa County Courthouse — front entrance

The courthouse and many other buildings in town are constructed of a locally-quarried gray stone block known as Bowlby Stone, named for a local landowner.  The porous stone could be cut by masons while it was still damp from the quarry, but after a time it dried as hard as concrete.  (This last bit I read on an historical sign, and this is the first time I’ve heard of quarried rock being called “damp”.)

Wallowa County Courthouse — Enterprise, Oregon

Here’s Enterprise’s slogan: “The Past is our Future.” I doubt that will be so, as will be seen later.

Main Street. Enterprise, Oregon. A Bowlby stone building on the right. A nice local watering hole on the left.

The OK Theatre. Enterprise, Oregon

Enterprise has a population of 1,940; the county has a total population of 7,008. But that may change.  Its fantastic location in a deep Alpine valley beckons travelers, tourists and second-home seekers.  In short, folks with disposable cash. That’s what I saw when I last visited a few years ago.

Neighborhood home with white picket fence. Enterprise, Oregon
The Ponderosa Motel. Fine lodging just across the street from the courthouse. The Wallowa Mountains are the backdrop. Enterprise, Oregon.

Only western Oregon makes the national news — in Portand, Antifa just beat a bystanding journalist into a brain bleed (https://humanevents.com/2019/06/29/antifa-brutally-assault-journalist-during-portland-protest/?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fduckduckgo.com%2F) — but eastern Oregon is the Republican half of the state.

You can see the signs of it everywhere:

Wallowa County Courthouse’s Fountain of Honor — Enterprise, Oregon

This part of Oregon is becoming a refuge from the fascists taking control in western Oregon. Meanwhile, the spirit of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce will be here always.

Statue of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce.

Here’s some more history, for this interested:

South of town, Wallowa Lake catches the snow melt from the mountains high above it and feeds the Wallowa River which runs through Enterprise:

Wallowa Lake
Wallowa Lake

Cool summer memories. Toes compliments of yours truly.

Wallowa Lake

Some scientific information on the lake and surrounding area:

Finally, one last look at the valley, taken just before sunset on a warm June day:

View of the Wallowa Mountains, as seen from my room at the Eagle’s View Inn & Suites, Enterprise, Oregon

All photos taken by the author. Photos were taken on June 25, 2007 and June 22, 2015.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Top Ten Reasons to Vote for Barack Obama

November 2, 2012

From our corporate office in Moon Run, Pennsylvania, the top ten reasons to vote for Barack Obama:

Number Ten:  So every summer can be a Summer of Recovery!

Number Nine:  If something happens to Barack, Uncle Joe Biden has everyone’s full respect.

Number Eight:  Voting the same way as so many Hollywood Stars makes you feel so smart! Giggle!

Number Seven:  Israel Schmisrael. Them guys are a pain in the ass.

Number Six:  CZARS BABY! GIMMEEE MORE CZARS!!

Number Five:  Because American politics should be more like Chicago’s — America’s model city.

Number Four:  Higher unemployment means more free stuff for more people. Oh the Joy!

Number Three:  Expert teleprompter reading is an under-appreciated talent.

Number Two:  As long as we don’t pass a budget it’s not really a deficit, right?

and the Number One Reason to Vote for Barack Obama:  Ten More Solyndras!

A Quick Note to Remember for Tonight’s Presidential Debate

October 16, 2012
‎”The classic liberal,” Reagan wrote, “used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom.”
 — From “Where’s the Rest of Me?” 1965
Remember this passage. Remember it each time Obama complains tonight that some Romney policy would “leave you on your own.” When Obama says that he affirms what Reagan accused liberals of believing — that “control is better than freedom.”

Obamacare is a Tax

This morning, the Supreme Court agreed that the individual mandate of Obamacare is not Constitutional under the Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. In short, Congress may “regulate” commerce but it may not “create” commerce by compelling us to make certain purchases.

However, the Supreme Court went on to say that, nevertheless, the individual mandate of Obamacare is Constitutional if it is viewed as a tax. Very well then, if the Supreme Court says it’s a tax then I will respect that. It’s a tax, and all Americans must carry health insurance or the IRS will compel them to pay this tax.

What does this mean?

It means that Obama raised taxes in a recession. He raised taxes on the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. He raised taxes on the Middle Class. He raised taxes on small business owners who create the majority of jobs in this country; consequently those jobs may never be created. He raised taxes on the student with a part-time job. He raised taxes on the day laborer. He raised taxes on the poor. He raised taxes on everyone. It is the largest tax increase in American history.

It also means Obama lied in his 2008 campaign. He said no one making less then $250,000 would see their taxes increase. That’s a lie. In 2009 Obama swore up and down that the mandate was not a tax.  But that’s a lie as well. We’ve all been deceived.  To save his honor, to prove he is not a liar, Obama must announce that he will sign a repeal of Obamacare since it has now been declared a tax. But I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen.

Abraham Lincoln said that ultimately, the people rule.  Ultimately a Republic cannot rely on the wisdom of its high officials but must instead rely on the wisdom of its people.  In this way the Court’s decision may be a Godsend. It will force the American people to act. It is now up to the people’s votes this November to repeal this foolish and life-destructive tax.

Obamacare Judicially Reviewed

Pete Spiliakos provides a nice review of Solicitor General Verrilli’s attempts to defend Obamacare in front of the Supreme Court this past week (“What Part of ‘Because I Said So’ Don’t You Understand?”).  Most tv and print pundits say the government’s lawyers (Verrilli) did a poor job defending the law in front of the court and many blame Verrilli personally.  In the final analysis however

 …Solicitor General Verrilli did his pitiful tap dance about how the health care market is “different” and how the federal government has the power to compel you to buy health insurance but not a cell phone or burial insurance.  And the result was that the more conservative Justices pounded him into the ground.  The problem wasn’t Verrilli.  It was the quality of his arguments.

From the day it passed I assumed Obamacare would be struck down by the courts as an unlawful abuse of Congressional power.  Article I of the Constitution enumerates the specific powers of Congress; the power to force purchases on people is not among that enumeration.

Although Article I grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, that power does not extend to forcing people to participate in commerce — so that they can then in turn be regulated!  Here I’m reminded of the climactic scene in Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.” Eastwood’s character points a rifle at a frontier journalist who sputters “certainly you wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man!” Eastwood then points to a gun lying on the floor and growls “See that rifle there?  Pick it up!”  That’s the Pelosi-Reid Congress at work — Join the national health market so we can regulate you!  Or else!

A proper judicial review should thwart such an abuse of power.  In doing so the Court would exercise its proper role of oversight first used in Marbury vs Madison over 200 years ago. That’s judicial review in its proper place.  In case you’re wondering, should the Court strike down Obamacare it could not be justly accused of judicial activism — the judicial exercise of power not found in the Constitution.  Remember forced bussing of school children back in the 1970s?  That was judicial activism.  Obamacare is simply an unlawful abuse of power which needs to be vacated.

For more on the Obamacare arguments see also “I Wonder Why Solicitor General Verrilli…”

For a more practical (rather than legal) explanation of why Obamacare (or any other centralized planning solution to health care) is a foolish idea please see Walter Russell Mead “The Health Care Disaster and the Miseries of Blue.”

Finally, I think it’s important to remember why Obamacare is key to November’s election. The health care law is President Obama’s signature legislation. It’s also the perfect archetype of all he stands for: central planning, centralized government control of markets and industries, all supposedly for the benefit of the people yet in actuality at the people’s great expense and for the benefit of those who fund and support the party in power.  In an age of rapid technological advancement such policies are the exact opposite of the direction that America should take for the protection of individual freedom and the protection of individuals against the tools available to those who would seek despotic power.

All four remaining Republican candidates are running against Obama by running against Obamacare and the implications of Obamacare for government power.  Although Mitt Romney is the frontrunner he has failed to close the deal largely because of his association with “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.  Rick Santorum has said that the danger posed by the implications of Obamacare compelled him to enter the Presidential race (see “Rick Santorum — The Servant“). His stump speeches focus on freedom and resonate with the crowd (See Daniel Henninger’s “Santorum and Freedom“).  Gingrich and Paul are also strong opponents of the law.

I’m not in the prediction game; I’m lousy at picking football games against the spread and I won’t try to handicap the Supreme Court vote.  I just know how they should vote.

Lincoln: Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum

During this election year our major political figures make speeches every single day.  As winter caucuses turn to spring primaries these addresses can become small and tedious. They are often filled with jabs at an opponent’s gaffes made yesterday but certainly to be forgotten tomorrow, or delivered solely for the purpose of posturing on some particular issue. Therefore I thought it might be useful at this time to step back and consider a larger view of the health of American politics.

On January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on the subject of “The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions.” The Lyceum was a kind of debating society, a sort of voluntary educational institution of the prairie. Lincoln was 27 at the time he gave this speech. His biographers quote it often. Here I’ve excerpted some passages which I find most poignant these eight score and fourteen years later.

As a subject for the remarks of the evening, the perpetuation of our political institutions, is selected.

…We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them — they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors.  Their’s was the task…to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of…a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these…undecayed by the lapse of time, and untorn by usurpation — to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How, then, shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?…Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!  All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined…with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions…Accounts of outrages committed by mobs, form the every-day news of the times…Whatever, then, their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.

…But, it may be asked, why suppose danger to our political institutions? Have we not preserved them for more than fifty years? And why may we not for fifty times as long?

…That our government should have been maintained in its original form from its establishment until now, is not much to be wondered at. It had many props to support it through that period, which now are decayed, and crumbled away.  Through that period, it was felt by all, to be an undecided experiment; now, it is understood to be a successful one. Then, all that sought celebrity and fame, and distinction, expected to find them in the success of that experiment…Their ambition aspired to display before an admiring world, a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition, which had hitherto been considered, at best no better, than problematical; namely, the capability of a people to govern themselves…They succeeded.

…But the game is caught; and I believe it is true, that with the catching, end the pleasures of the chase.  This field of glory is harvested, and the crop is already appropriated.  But new reapers will arise, and they, too, will seek a field…And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion…The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress…but such belong not to the family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle.  What! Think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caeser, or a Napoleon?  Never!…Is it not unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us?  And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.

Distinction will be his paramount object; and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.

Here then, is a probable case, highly dangerous, and such a one as could not have well existed heretofore.

History shows that Lincoln’s ominous warnings were uncomfortably accurate. It is in fact more than reasonable — it is inevitable — that some Caesar or Napoleon will spring up among us; the only uncertainty being that man’s exact description and circumstances. I will look in particular for one who finds satisfaction in “pulling down.”

Crony Capitalist Contraceptives

Peter Schweitzer has an excellent article on the recent controversy over the health care mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptives free of charge, free of copays.  As one might expect, the driving force is money, not morals.  I’ve copied the gist of the argument below. (read the whole thing here.)

You’ve heard of crony capitalism? Well this is America’s first example of crony contraceptives.

Forget for a minute the religious question and look at who wins big here: Big Pharma. This mandate is not really about condoms or generic versions of “the pill,” which are available free or cheap in lots of places. This is about brand-name birth control drugs and other devices that some consumers swear off because they are too expensive. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires health-insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for all “FDA approved contraceptive methods.” It does not insist on generics. And it does not offer any cost containment.

What’s more, the mandate prevents health-insurance companies from having copays or deductibles for the benefit. This is the perfect set up for Big Pharma. Since the drugs will be paid for by a third party (insurance companies, who will pass the cost on to employers and the rest of us), the consumer won’t worry about the price. Expensive brand names will no doubt see demand rise.

So how does Big Pharma get such a sweet deal? Read on:

It’s important to point out that among President Obama’s biggest financial backers are precisely the Big Pharma companies who benefit from the mandate.  Sally Sussman, head of government affairs for Pfizer, is one of his biggest campaign bundlers, who co-hosted a fundraiser for Obama on Thursday night. Pfizer sells numerous contraceptives that now must be covered by health-care plans.  Obama’s financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry run deep. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he collected three times more in contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers than John McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  And he will no doubt win the money race again during this election cycle.

There’s more:

Back in the nation’s capital, Big Pharma has spent a lot of money over the past couple of years, keeping an army of lobbyists employed. As Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner pointed out last year, since the Obama administration took office, “the drug industry’s $635 million in lobbying exceeds that of Wall Street and the oil and gas industry, combined.” And the lesson seems to be clear: it is money well spent. Not only did they get largely what they wanted from Obama’s health-care-reform law (no caps on drug prices, no reimportation from Canada); now, President Obama’s mandate is broadening the market for their products. With drug prices so high, the best way it can increase demand for its products is to get the federal government to mandate payment for it.

Of course, also consider the following, but remember that crony capitalism on the federal level causes far greater damage than can be done on the state level:

President Obama’s not the only one who has mandated certain health-care requirements for the benefit of companies with which he has close ties.  Back in 2007, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed an executive order that required school girls in Texas be vaccinated with Gardasil, which fights against a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer (the full cost of the three-shot vaccine is $360). Again, forget the culture war politics for a second.  Instead of looking at the bedroom, follow the money to the corporate boardroom: Gardasil is produced by pharma giant Merck, whose chief lobbyist in Texas at the time had been Perry’s chief of staff.  Merck was a campaign contributor, and had also made contributions to the Republican Governors Association while he headed that organization. Again, a corporation supports a politician who in turn issues a mandate that creates a bigger market and larger profits for its product.

Obamacare is all about Crony Capitalism. So is Obama’s energy policy — subsidizing major donors through those donors’ green energy companies. Barack Obama’s Presidency is as fraught with failure as Jimmy Carter’s was, but at the same time it is as corrupt as Richard Nixon’s.

Santorum on “Absolute Separation” of Church and State

February 26, 2012

“Santorum:  Separation of Church and State Not Absolute”

That’s the headline coming out of an interview between Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week”.

(video of both today’s ABC “This Week” interview and NBC’s “Meet this Press” interview here.)

Santorum’s exact quote was:

“I don’t believe in America the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum told host George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says ‘free exercise of religion,’ that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith into the public square.”

(decently in-depth story quoted above can be found here.)

The Constitution guarantees every American what they deserve — the ability to exercise their religion freely. So Santorum is absolutely correct in his statement, and he extends his respect outside of his own religious persuasion to “people of faith and no faith”.

However, the media, seeking a big story, (and perhaps his opponents as well) will likely try to spin this statement into something dictatorial. Don’t participate. Save the thrill of feeling scared for the latest Wes Craven movie or even an old Alfred Hitchcock black and white flick. That way you can enjoy entertainment for entertainment’s sake without falling for some broadcaster’s sales pitch.

In Santorum’s words :

the First Amendment says ‘free exercise of religion,’ that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith into the public square.

Again, he’s correct. That’s what freedom of speech and religion are about. Freedom of religion means speaking your mind in a pluralistic society. It applies to politicians as well.

The Associated Press version of the story (link here) badly misquotes Santorum by leaving out the word “absolute”. The AP actually ran the story under the deceptive but more titillating headline “Santorum says he doesn’t believe in separation of church and state.” The Associated Press has a near monopoly on print news stories in this country, so they often unabashedly distort their coverage — sometimes out of bias and sometimes simply to drive sales.

Finally, as we all know, the term “Separation of Church and State” is a phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter. The phrase does not have the force of law because it does not appear in the Constitution itself. Instead, the First Amendment bars the “Establishment” of religion using these words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I ask that you consider the difference between “establishment” of religion (prohibited) and “separation of church and state” next Christmas when we have our annual spate of lawsuits about whether decorated spruce trees on public property are “Christmas trees” or “holiday trees”. What foolishness! Christmas trees have never established any religion nor forced any citizen to worship or not worship in any way shape or form.

We can avoid the “establishment” of religion in America but we cannot, in any practical way, “separate” church and state. That is because we cannot “separate” our religious thoughts and opinions from our understanding of right and wrong and good and bad. These ideas are intertwined at their very roots. Absolute separation is not only undesireable as Santorum said, it is impossible.

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