Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Prerogative of Inaction

A lot of the Obama administration's justification for its unprecedented extension of Presidential authority* has been that "Congress won't act."

We saw it Monday on immigration: "Obama said Monday he was frustrated with congressional inaction on immigration reform and planned to act alone because of “the failure of the House Republicans to pass a darn bill.”"

We've seen it before on a huge number of issues; the minimum wage, carbon emissions, "gender identity discrimination", appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (where the Supreme Court just this week smacked down the administration for being too cute by half), and many other issues. If Congress doesn't do what the President wants, the President will just go ahead and do it anyway.

The trouble is, nothing compels the House or the Senate to take up the topics the President wants them to take up. That's the heart of the principle of separation of powers; the two houses of Congress enact the laws, the President signs and enforces them. He doesn't get to pick and choose which laws he will or will not enforce, nor does he get to make up laws that he wishes the Congress had enacted. Congress has the option to not vote on bills. It's their call.

There is a remedy for a do-nothing Congress; of course. Vote in a new one.

Democrats and Obama don't like the fact that the Republican-led House of Representatives isn't doing what Obama wants? Vote the bums out! It means you'll have to wait until the next election, but that's the mechanism our Federal Constitutional system has, and it's the one that the President swore an oath to protect and defend.

And we've seen that very mechanism work fine before. Like the 2010 mid-term elections, where the Democrats lost control of the House and lost their filibuster-proof lock on the Senate. The people didn't like the job the Congress was doing, and it changed the composition of the Congress. That's the way things are supposed to work.

Elections have consequences. Someone not too long ago made that very point in the wake of having won an election. I wonder who it was?

Yes, elections have consequences. Including elections that put Republicans in power. You don't get your own way just because you want something.

Or, if you really wanted to jump on Congress to do something, why not push Harry Reid, the head of the Democrat-controlled Senate, to put forth a budget? It's one of the few things the Senate is Constitutionally required to do, and it's something Harry Reid hasn't managed in 4 years. In fact, the House has passed 4 times as many bills as the Senate. Want to blame a do-nothing Congress? Blame the Democrat Senate.

* Not in the number of executive actions that the President has taken, but in their scope and in the way they are used to undermine and ignore bills enacted by Congress and signed into law. That is unprecedented.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On the Washington Redskins

™ Pro-Football, Inc., no
challenge to ownership intended
So yesterday the news came out that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the US Patent Office revoked the Federal registration of several trademarks belonging to the Washington Redskins football team. As Erick Erickson put it:
What is really going on here is that a bunch of overeducated white guys who cry during Love Actually feel they have too much privilege and are thus guilty. So they have gone out and found things to be offended about on behalf of others less privileged than themselves.
But setting aside the Political Correctness Run Amok origin of the decision, and setting aside the fact that this decision is likely to be overturned in a Federal court for exactly the same reasons the same decision was overturned in a Federal court in 2003, there's a very simple fact about trademark law that few people have thought through (hat tip to Mark Levin for reminding us all of this fact on his radio show last night).

A lot of people in the media, both conservative and liberal, new media and old, have made the pronouncement that the decision means that now anyone is free to make use of the Redskins' logo and name, putting them on shirts and hats and posters, thus strangling the profit centers of the team and forcing the owners to Do the Right Thing.

Trademark doesn't work that way.

All that has happened is that the private corporation, Pro-Football, Inc., which owns the Washington Redskins and is run by Danel Snyder et al, no longer has their trademarks registered by the Federal government. It in no way removes their trademarks, which are protected by common law, and which the corporation can (and will I am sure) sue those who attempt to infringe upon it in order to protect their marks and the revenue they bring in.

Think about it - you see unregistered trademarks all the time. That's why some trademarks have a ™ symbol and others have a ® symbol. They're both trademarks, and are both fully enforceable by law. The only difference is that the first one isn't registered with the government, and the second one is.

All that's happened is that they have to go from Washington Redskins® to Washington Redskins™. And if you think that's going to stop them from protecting their trademark, or somehow coercing them into changing the name because of a loss of revenue, you're deluded.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

On Town of Greece v. Galloway

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. The case stemmed from the practice of the town of Greece, NY, to start its town council meetings with a sectarian Christian prayer, often invoking "Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior," and similar phrasings. After some local residents complained, the town brought in some non-Christians to give the prayer, but returned to all-Christian prayers after a year or so.

Although many are characterizing the ruling as a victory for the conservative wing of the Court, I must disagree. It is, in fact, a victory for the Christian wing of the Court.

Consider the religious affiliations of the Justices in the way they voted:

FOR Christian prayer before government meetings:

  • John Roberts (Catholic)
  • Anthony M. Kennedy (Catholic)
  • Antonin Scalia (Catholic)
  • Clarence Thomas (Catholic)
  • Samuel Alito (Catholic)
AGAINST Christian prayer before government meetings:

  • Stephen G. Breyer (Jewish)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jewish)
  • Elena Kagen (Jewish)
  • Sonia Sotomayor (Catholic)

Bear in mind that, although Kennedy votes more often with the conservative wing of the Court than the liberal, he is by no means a party-line ideologue like Scalia or Thomas. He is the "swing vote" on the Court, and could have gone either way on this question. But... it's easy to say that majoritarian prayers don't have any harm if you're in the majority.

Notice who voted against this. All of the non-Christian members of the court, and Sotomayor, who would probably burst into flames if she ever voted with Scalia and Thomas on any issue. The non-Christian Justices know what it's like to be in a country that "tolerates" people whose religion isn't the majority, and they (rightly) said that there is a very real sense of exclusion and coercion that attends such activities when they're undertaken in the context of an official government function.

Make no mistake. This was not a conservative victory. This was a Christian victory. A victory for those who think that the views of the majority can and should be forced on the minority, who think that the minority should simply shut up and be thankful that we're allowed to practice our blasphemous faiths in this country at all. And that point of view transcends party. Bigotry practiced by a majority and endorsed by force of law is no less bigotry.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Give as good as you get, GOP...

Why don't the Republicans in the Senate fight back. Like, ever?

I mean, Harry Reid is bashing the Koch brothers with an almost Turret's-like cadence, on the Senate floor, on the record. Because they are rich, and disagree with his liberal policies, they are tarred as being unAmerican.

So why don't the Republican senators give as good as they get?

Every time Reid does one of his Koch brothers bashing sessions, a Republican should get up and point out the hypocrisy on display. Reid never seems to have a problem with billionaires making enormous donations to liberal or Democrat causes. Billionaires like James Simmons (hedge fund manager - wait, isn't Wall Street evil?), Irwin Jacobs (computers), John Stryker (inherited his money), George Soros (a legal immigrant - how dare he follow the law!), David Shaw (hedge funds again), James Crown (investments), Marc Lasry (hedge funds yet again), etc.?

Reid is out to intimidate wealthy donors from donating to the GOP and conservative/libertarian causes. Let's see what the left does when given a dose of its own medicine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Obama, Russia, and the ongoing nuclear threat

From Russian state TV, our staunch partners in peace.
At today's news conference in The Hague, President Obama said the following:
"Russia's actions are a problem. They don't pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan."
Perhaps he is forgetting what happened just a week or two ago, when Russian state television made the point that Russia is:
"...the only country in the world capable of turning the USA into radioactive dust."
Obama just doesn't understand that a suitcase nuke isn't the only way a nuclear weapon could go off in Manhattan. If he did, he'd be a much more ardent backer of missile defense, not only for his precious Manhattan, but also for our NATO allies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pro-choice morons

The First Amendment guarantees
me the right to tear down signs I
disagree with, right?
Okay. I am myself in favor of abortion rights (hell, I'm in favor of a lot more than that when it comes to reproductive science, but that's neither here nor there). But this is completely beyond the pale and these knuckleheads should be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law. You can't go around stealing private property and assaulting people, just because you disagree with what they're saying.

"They're shaming people" is not an excuse to shut down speech. Ever. If you're not doing anything wrong, there can, by definition, be no shame.