Impeachment Farce: The Bureaucracy Has Forgotten Who the Boss Is

Sharyl Attkisson wrote an article yesterday in The Hill. She highlights something most of us probably knew but hardly anybody is saying.

There’s an important revelation from the first day of impeachment hearings that I haven’t heard discussed. It has to do with the witnesses’ strange notion of how foreign policy works.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor both accused President Trump of interfering with U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. They indicated they differed with Trump’s skepticism of Ukraine’s newest leadership, and they disagreed with Trump’s apparent decision to keep Ukraine at a measured distance while he assessed the situation.

They further said that Trump gave approval for his attorney and adviser, Rudy Giuliani, to develop a communications channel on Ukraine diplomacy that was outside the “regular” diplomatic chain. Some in the media have dubbed that a “shadow campaign.”

The Huffington Post wrote, “State Department officials say Rudy Giuliani’s foreign policy backchannel ‘undercut’ U.S. policy on Ukraine.”

And Ambassador Taylor testified, “The official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Rudy Giuliani.”

There must be some confusion.

That’s a very kind way of saying it, I think. Actually, I prefer the way Ace put it.

The President, Not Stuffed Shirt Paper-Pushers in the Federal Bureaucracy, Is Invested With the Foreign Policy Power by the Constitution

Which is spot on. From Article II, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

That’s about as clear as distilled water in a crystal glass. Presidents make foreign policy, not obscure ambassadors and deputy assistant secretaries of state. They do what the president and the secretary of state tell them to, or they should be fired, for cause and without benefits.

And that is the exact problem in Washington (Westminster has the same problem). The bureaucrats have gotten too big for their britches and now think they run the show. That simply is not acceptable. We elect the president not least to run foreign policy as we want it run.

One of the main reasons Trump is president is to end the forever wars that are bleeding the country, without bringing any advantage to it, see Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and others, where we have, if anything, made bad situations worse. It has, however, been good for arms makers and their sycophants in Washington.

President Eisenhower had some good warnings for us as he said farewell almost half a century ago.

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad. […]

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Essentially, we have failed that charge. And so, now, the time has come to try to repair this oversight, in short, to “Drain the Swamp”. It is going to be a long difficult project, but if we are to remain America, it must succeed.

Video Thursday

Welp, a renewed hope in Britain

Maybe, I think everybody has doubts, but at least he’s always been a Brexiteer, and I think Trump likes. Good luck to him, as he tries to drain a bit of the UK swamp.

So Mueller testified yesterday. I saw just a bit last night, what a backfire that was. Here’s the best comment on it.

https://captiongenerator.com/1467792/Hitler-Discovers-Robert-Mueller-Knows-Nothing

Then there is this.

 

And a senior Google engineer talks.

Peter Thiel on Google and more. Lots of very good stuff here.

We the People

[ This first ran last year, on Constitution Day, which is today. It’s just as important today, and every day. You need to know what is in this document. There is a bit more about the “Charters of Freedom” here as well From the Comments, Constitution Day]

Sometimes we forget what a remarkable document the U.S. Constitution is and today is Constitution day.

The United States of America is by a considerable margin the oldest government operating under a single document in the history of the world. Not bad for a bunch of colonial revolutionaries. Now it is up to us to continue the record.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Read more of this post

Of Purse Strings

Elbridge Gerry (1744–1814), American statesman

Elbridge Gerry (1744–1814), American statesman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, there’s been a fair amount of talk about whether the House of Representatives can and/or should shut down Obamacare by defunding it. Some say that it’s spending or some of it is mandatory, some that it is reckless to risk shutting down the government, as well as several other points. As usual, that prescient group that we call the Founders, thought about these things while they were designing the government.

And that to me is one of the wonders of the United States, we are rarely in a situation that we have no guidance from them, which we spurn at our peril.

The clause of the Constitution we are speaking of here is ARTICLE I, SECTION 7, CLAUSE 1, the Origination Clause

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution says this, in part

[…]

The final version of the clause was much weaker than the form proposed by Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, which would have required all “money bills” (including appropriations) to originate in the House and would have given the Senate no power to amend. Gerry feared that the Senate would become an aristocratic body because of its small size, its selection by legislatures rather than by election, and its six-year term of office. “It was a maxim,” he said, “that the people ought to hold the purse-strings.”

The strongest proponents of national power opposed the clause in any form. As James Wilson of Pennsylvania explained at the Convention, “If both branches were to say yes or no, it was of little consequence which should say yes or no first.” What survived the contentious debates was closer to Wilson’s vision than to Gerry’s. The clause was restricted to bills for raising revenue, and the Senate was given the amendment power (which, Gerry thought, gutted the provision of any real effect).

[…]

As it turned out, the Origination Clause has had little effect. For one thing, many revenue bills have their intellectual genesis in the Treasury Department, not in Congress. Furthermore, Elbridge Gerry’s fears were well founded: the Senate’s power to amend is generally understood in practice to be so broad that the Senate can replace the entire text of a bill that technically originates in the House.

The understanding that the clause is a nullity reflects practice, however, not doctrine. In its most recent Origination Clause case, United States v. Munoz-Flores (1990), a divided Supreme Court rejected the argument that origination issues are nonjusticiable political questions. […]

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution

And that’s all true. But lets follow Heritage’s suggestion and have a look a Federalist #58 shall we? It was written by James Madison and sheds more light on the reasoning.

The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government.

This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.

But will not the House of Representatives be as much interested as the Senate in maintaining the government in its proper functions, and will they not therefore be unwilling to stake its existence or its reputation on the pliancy of the Senate?

Or, if such a trial of firmness between the two branches were hazarded, would not the one be as likely first to yield as the other?

These questions will create no difficulty with those who reflect that in all cases the smaller the number, and the more permanent and conspicuous the station, of men in power, the stronger must be the interest which they will individually feel in whatever concerns the government. Those who represent the dignity of their country in the eyes of other nations, will be particularly sensible to every prospect of public danger, or of dishonorable stagnation in public affairs. To those causes we are to ascribe the continual triumph of the British House of Commons over the other branches of the government, whenever the engine of a money bill has been employed.

He is, of course, exactly correct, if you read British medieval history you will find many instances of the House of Commons stymying the barons and the King because the commons wouldn’t fund whatever scheme they had. Although it does seem on occasion that the senate leadership is devoid of any shred of either decency or dignity.

President James Madison served as the second R...

President James Madison served as the second Rector of the University of Virginia until his death in 1836. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Madison also had some comments on men gathered in assemblies to govern in this essay, which I think are of interest in this matter.

One observation, however, I must be permitted to add on this subject as claiming, in my judgment, a very serious attention. It is, that in all legislative assemblies the greater the number composing them may be, the fewer will be the men who will in fact direct their proceedings. In the first place, the more numerous an assembly may be, of whatever characters composed, the greater is known to be the ascendency of passion over reason. In the next place, the larger the number, the greater will be the proportion of members of limited information and of weak capacities. Now, it is precisely on characters of this description that the eloquence and address of the few are known to act with all their force.

In the ancient republics, where the whole body of the people assembled in person, a single orator, or an artful statesman, was generally seen to rule with as complete a sway as if a sceptre had been placed in his single hand. On the same principle, the more multitudinous a representative assembly may be rendered, the more it will partake of the infirmities incident to collective meetings of the people.

Ignorance will be the dupe of cunning, and passion the slave of sophistry and declamation. The people can never err more than in supposing that by multiplying their representatives beyond a certain limit, they strengthen the barrier against the government of a few. Experience will forever admonish them that, on the contrary, AFTER SECURING A SUFFICIENT NUMBER FOR THE PURPOSES OF SAFETY, OF LOCAL INFORMATION, AND OF DIFFUSIVE SYMPATHY WITH THE WHOLE SOCIETY, they will counteract their own views by every addition to their representatives. The countenance of the government may become more democratic, but the soul that animates it will be more oligarchic. The machine will be enlarged, but the fewer, and often the more secret, will be the springs by which its motions are directed. As connected with the objection against the number of representatives, may properly be here noticed, that which has been suggested against the number made competent for legislative business. It has been said that more than a majority ought to have been required for a quorum; and in particular cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures.

But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences. Lastly, it would facilitate and foster the baneful practice of secessions; a practice which has shown itself even in States where a majority only is required; a practice subversive of all the principles of order and regular government; a practice which leads more directly to public convulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any other which has yet been displayed among us.

I reformatted this to make it easier to read. Emphasis is Madison’s.

Federalist #58

I think that tends to shed some light on why the House of Representatives works (or doesn’t) for the benefit of the Republic.

Madison touched a bit in first part of the essay on how the interests of the small states (in population) are served by the equal representation (and indirect election of) the Senate. I can’t help but note again that the direct election of Senators worked against the interest of the small population states which are mostly red states. Some day we will talk again about that but this is already overlong.

Starve the Beast

Churchill, the Power to Tax, and the Federal Reserve

English: Winston Churchill as Member of Parlia...

English: Winston Churchill as Member of Parliament in 1904. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re going to talk today about the history of taxation today and why spending bills start in the House, not to mention the public evil of the Federal Reserve.

Courtesy of Steven Hayward at The Power Line Blog, Let’s start with Churchill (in 1926) on Finance

In case you’ve forgotten, one of the methods our founders used to assure that the government would remain under the control of “We the People” was to invest the House of Representatives (the only house that was designed to be responsive to the people and only the people) with the power of the purse. To me, one of the most serious side effects of The Federal Reserve Act was to give the Federal Reserve the power to print (and therefore create) money from nothing. Here is Winston again on why this is such a pernicious power.

Control over taxation and the revenues of the state has always been the foundation on which Parliamentary Government has rested, and indeed there is no other foundation upon which it can rest.  Once the state acquires sources of revenue independent of Parliament, then the power of Parliament to curb and check maladministration is seriously diminished.

Read it all The Weekly Winston: Global Finance Edition | Power Line.

It is appropriate that we quote the great Anglo-American on this because most of this rigmarole comes down to us from medieval England. And yes, I used the term rigmarole intentionally because that word comes down to us from the records of the submission of the nobles of Scotland under Balliol to Edward I.

The traditional sources of money for the king in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England was the land. A goodly portion of England was divided into hidages which were defined in Ine’s law as a unit of land that could be used for collecting food and other goods from the king’s subjects. Ine here refers to King Ine of Wessex. Although other early Anglo-Saxon kings are not mentioned as collecting taxes, the medieval writer Bede does mention that land in Anglesey and the Isle of Man were divided up in hides.

King Offa of Mercia collected tolls on trade, and it was during Offa’s reign that coinage in silver pennies was first introduced into Anglo-Saxon England. Coinage became a royal right, and was probably introduced to make payment of taxes easier.

The law code of KingÆthelberht of Kent, specified that fines from judicial cases were to be paid to the king.

This pretty much worked until the Viking incursions which caused a large increase in (dare we say) defense spending. from Wikipedia

The Viking expansion to England necessitated the payment of tribute to the invaders in an attempt to buy off the invasions. Kings in this time levied contributions from their subjects, to pay tributes and to fight the Scandinavian invaders. In addition to these contributions, King Edgar introduced a system where periodically all the coinage was recalled and reminted, with the moneyers being forced to pay for new dies. All profits from these actions went to the king, and were a royal right.

The year 1012 saw the introduction of the geld or heregeld, which was an annual tax first assessed by King Æthelred the Unready to pay for mercenaries to fight the invasion of England by King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. Later, after the conquest of England by Sweyn’s son Cnut the Great, the geld was continued. This was a tax based on the ownership of land, and was based on the number of hides owned. The amount due from each hide was variable. It was abolished by King Edward the Confessor in 1051, but was possibly reinstated in 1052.

This continued pretty much unchanged under the Norman and Angevin Kings.

Henry III made some changes and this is where the story starts applying. Again from Wikipedia

During the reign of King Henry III, the king and government sought consent from the nobles of England for taxes the government wished to impose. This led in 1254 to the start of theParliament of England, when the nobles advised the king to summon knights from each shire to help advise and consent to a new tax. In the 1260s, men from the towns were included with the knights, forming the beginnings of the House of Commons of England.

By the middle of the 13th century, the tax on moveable property had become fixed by convention at a fifteenth for those in the country, and a tenth for those living in towns. An innovation in 1334 was the replacement of the individual assessments by a lump sum assessment for each community.

In 1275, King Edward I reestablished a customs duty, by setting a rate of a mark on each sack of wool (weighing 364 pounds (165 kg)) or 300 wool-fells, and a mark on a last of hides. Edward then added another tax, the maltolt, in 1294, on sacks of wool, which was in addition to the previous customs duty. These taxes were removed in 1296, but in 1303 they were reimposed but only on non-English merchants. Over the next 40 years, the maltolt was the subject of dispute between the king and Parliament, with the final result being that the tax was kept at a lower rate but that Parliament’s consent was required to impose it.

A couple of notes here.

  • One is that you notice that this is a flat tax, not graduated by income
  • It’s also kind of a value added tax combined with a sort of a tariff.
  • This is also why the Speaker of the House of Commons sits on what is called “the Woolsack.”

There is very little new in the world, is there?

This was confirmed in Clauses 12 and 14 of the 1215 charter (Magna Charta) which states that the king will accept the “common counsel of our realm” when levying and assessing an aid or a scutage. Clause 14 goes into detail about how exactly the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons should be consulted. These clauses effectively meant that the monarch had to ask before raising new taxes.

That’s the background, and I note that our founders explicitly built our Constitution on the foundations laid in English Common law which included Magna Charta. I’m sure you are all familiar with that classic cry of the RevolutionNo taxation without representation. This is where it comes from. And this is why spending bills must originate in The House of Representatives.

And that’s the problem with the Federal Reserve printing fiat money as well. It amount to nothing more than (in the traditional phrase)

Debasement of the coinage

We the People

Sometimes we forget what a remarkable document the U.S. Constitution is and today is Constitution day.

The United States of America is by a considerable margin the oldest government operating under a single document in the history of the world. Not bad for a bunch of colonial revolutionaries. Now it is up to us to continue the record.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: