Braces and Me

This will be the introductory and title post on a brand-new category on this blog.

I am, unless I turn out to defy all reasonable mortality expectations, emphatically on the wrong side of the halfway mark in my life.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been — with good reason — embarrassed by my smile, to the point that I generally try not to smile, especially not when there is a camera in operation.  My teeth are widely and irregularly spaced, are not terribly straight, and by this point in life are pretty well-stained by years of propping up a good portion of the world’s coffee growers.  Some time ago, on Instapundit, I ran across a link to an article about a study that some researchers did on what, exactly, people first notice when they meet a stranger, with a specific view towards what prompts a favorable versus an unfavorable reaction in them.  The results were broken down by male and female.  I can’t remember much about the article at this point (and a half-hearted attempt to find it just now came up dry), but what I do recall is that both men and women responded that the top thing they noticed, both favorable and unfavorable, were the teeth.  Not the eyes, not — for women — the breasts, not the butt or the legs or the hair (unless perhaps hairy legs?), but the teeth.

My pediatric dentist repeatedly advised my parents back in the day not to put braces on our teeth “until our heads quit growing,” his point being, I guess, that it doesn’t really do much good to align the teeth in a skull the dimensional relationships in which are still changing.  Can’t argue with that as a proposition of theory.  On the other hand, the world is full of adult people running around with beautiful smiles and who had braces slapped on them at age 14 or so.  As well, back then I don’t think my parents could have afforded braces in any event, so perhaps his recommendation, however ill-advised, was superfluous.  I will say this much about this dentist’s competence:  He never once did bite wings on my brother or me, with the result that when I went for my DODMERB (Dept. of Defense Medical Examination Review Board) physical, in connection with applications to the service academies and NROTC, and that dentist actually did shoot my mouth, he looked at me and said (I still vividly recall this), “Kid, you’re going to lose some teeth if you don’t get some fillings ASAP.”  Sure enough, several of my teeth had enamel that hadn’t properly joined up in the cusp, thereby exposing the softer material underlying to a decade or more of abuse.  The cavities had penetrated down and hollowed them out, with the result that one is now a crown and the other — or rather, its remains, as that crown came off years ago and I didn’t have the money to replace it — is just the stumps of roots surrounding the post of the root canal.  It will have to be pulled and an implant — which I also can’t really afford — stuck in its place.  So much for my pediatric dentist’s competence.

And then I was grown and in the Navy and then law skool and then came marriage and three children and suddenly here I am on the back side of life and still embarrassed to smile at strangers.  So for my birthday, recently, my wife and my mother cooked up the notion of getting me braces.  The wife is from California, where a perfectly-aligned blazing white smile is an article of faith right up there with “global warming” and the benefits of regulating capitalistic enterprise out of existence, and so all three of my boys have not only been dragged to a very nice Jewish dentist but also a very nice Jewish orthodontist for years now.  [Lest Gentle Reader task me with ethnic animosity for that last remark, I’ll pass along that where the wife grew up, most of her neighbors and playmates were Jewish, they all went to Jewish orthodontists and dentists (as did the (Roman Catholic) wife and her 137 sisters), and they all had perfect teeth.  The idea that the guy hammering away at her and the kids’ teeth is Jewish is in the nature of medical comfort food for her; I’m not sure she’d trust a goy to Get It Right.  I say that in all seriousness; her own life experiences have imprinted in her psyche the notion that if you want the job done right, the first time, with no bullshit or tap-dancing, all else being equal you go find a Jewish guy to do it.]

And so several weeks ago I too made the trek.  I’d figured I was going to get me a “grill,” as I’m told such things are now called.  Hadn’t made up my mind how I was going to respond to people’s commenting on what someone my age is doing wearing a teenager’s dental devices.  Sometimes the truth is the simplest, after all:  These are a birthday present from my wife and parents.  But lo! when I got there I found that what was proposed was not the zareba of steel (festooned with pieces of the wearer’s last meal) that we all knew and loved as children, but rather something calling itself “Invisaligns” (cute name; get it? “invisible” and “align”).  They’re clear (mostly) plastic brackets (“trays” is what the manufacturer calls them) that are custom-manufactured to clamp in a progressive series over the wearer’s teeth and slowly jerk them from where they are to where they ought to be.

The process starts with shoving a tiny camera — I think it’s a laser beam — in to image the patient’s mouth in a series of probably 40 or more separate shots, front sides, back sides, and tops.  The computer collates all the individual shots taken and produces a fully-rotatable, three-dimensional image of exactly what each tooth looks like, where it is in relation to the others, and how it is aligned relative to the jaw.  It’s pretty neat to see, to be truthful, when you’re looking from the inside of your jaw out at the backsides of all your teeth, a tongue’s-eye view, so to speak.  Very much a what’ll-they-think-of-next sort of sensation.  The orthodontist then takes that computer imagery and uses it to design a program of “trays” which will, in the proper sequence and at the proper speed, move the patient’s teeth into their proper locations.  At least for the present, each set of “trays” is worn for two weeks.  The orthodontist can scroll you through your planned progression right there on the screen, so that you can, in a quasi-time-lapse sequence, see exactly how your teeth are going to be moving.  Or at least that’s the idea.

After about six weeks or so you receive your first sets of trays.  They just snap over your teeth and that’s that.  Unless someone’s looking very carefully they really are not obtrusive to the observer.  You can’t fully close your teeth with them in, of course, because the thickness of the plastic encases the entire exposed surface of every tooth.  So if you try to put your teeth together and grin it looks a bit like you’re snarling.

You have to wear them at least 22 hours a day.  You can’t eat with them in.  You can’t drink anything hot (like coffee, tea, or soup) because of the risk of the plastic softening.  You’re not advised to drink anything, like red wine, that would stain them.  About the only thing they allow you can consume without taking them out is water.  After eating you have to floss, brush your teeth, and clean your “trays”; you of course have to do so upon rising and before going to bed.  What this works out to is that if you’re at all diligent you’re going to end up brushing and flossing anywhere from four to six times a day.  It also means you’re going to lose weight during the process.  It’s such a pain in the butt to eat that you pretty rapidly get to the point where it’s just not worth it.  Since I can start to miss a meal or 20, that’s not really a bug but a feature for me.

In terms of cleaning, my orthodontist adjured me to avoid brushing with tooth-whitening toothpaste (risk of scratching and compromising transparency) or denture cleaners (too harsh).  In fact, the product specifically recommended to me was regular old Dawn dishwashing liquid (the blue kind; not sure why but the color was specifically part of the recommendation).  So now at the office and at home I have a cup and a small bottle of Dawn.  Before I eat (if at home), or while I’m flossing and brushing (if at the office), I’ll pop my “trays” into a cup of lukewarm water with a tiny dollop of Dawn in it.  Then after brushing I’ll rinse the Dawn off under running water and use a tiny bit of toothpaste to scrub them down.  I figure even if the plastic gets a little scarred, at the worst I’ll be done with that set in another ten or so days and what’s it to me.

How to track how long you’ve had your trays out?  I hit upon the notion of setting the timer on my phone at two hours each morning.  Then, when I pop them out to eat or drink, I start the timer counting down.  When I put them back in I pause the timer and I have exactly how much time for that day is left.  I find that I generally am left with 45 or so minutes at the end of each day, and that’s with eating my meals quickly but not bolting (I trained in Germany and so eat pretty fast in any event, although nowhere near as fast as the Germans can).

Discomfort?  I had a sense of movement for about two or three days with the first set of trays, and then it went away.  I just started the second set on Thanksgiving Day, and I have to say I really didn’t notice much movement at all, and what little I did has already vanished.  I don’t know whether it’s that I’m just fortunate enough not to be bothered by the process — just as some people experience extreme pain with traditional braces and others little or none, so also with Invisaligns — or whether my teeth, being mounted in a bone jaw that is several decades older and more brittle than what these things were designed to deal with, are simply successfully resisting the trays’ plastic and so in effect moving the plastic, instead of the other way around, but I’ve experienced so far nothing that I can describe as discomfort.  That may change, of course.  With the next set they’re going to glue tiny spuds onto my teeth at various places — the precise number and location varies with the specific patient — the better to jerk things around.  That may start the circus; maybe not.

I will say that having a set of large foreign objects in the mouth is disconcerting.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.  The plastic’s coefficient of friction is noticeably different from that of your teeth’s surfaces, and so the insides of your lips feel like they’re sticking to your teeth as you try to speak.  Additionally, because the plastic fully encloses the teeth’s surfaces, you cannot force air between your teeth while wearing your trays, which alters your pronunciation of certain vocables like “f” and “th”.  I also have the sensation of dryness in the mouth, largely as a result of the tongue’s wanting to “stick” to the back sides of the teeth.

Some days ago I was planning on drinking me a beer or twelve.  One thing I’d not seen was any warning on whether the alcohol in alcoholic beverages has any deleterious effect on the plastic, either visually or structurally.  So I Googled it, and came up with a raft of blogs about Invisaligns (apparently I’m not the only person who likes to drink me some beer, trays or no trays), including this one.  The poor ol’ gal who runs the linked blog has had, to judge from her posts, what must be in a very close running for Very Worst Orthodontic and Periodontic Experience, Ever.  In addition to needing her teeth straightened, her natural smile showed an extent of upper gum which she found embarrassing.  In all truth, how her smile used to look (she posted some pictures) didn’t seem unattractively extreme, but then it’s not my smile.  It’s hers.  The long and short is that she’s spent quite a bit of time, and more than a little money, as well as some pretty significant pain, and for whatever reason her mouth isn’t cooperating.  Teeth that won’t stay in place (after 955 days of Invisaligns . . . I was told about 18 months), a failed surgery to correct how much upper gum is exposed when smiling (together with a visible surgical scar across the smile).  The heart goes out to her.  I’ve been humiliated to see a picture of my own smile for getting on for 40 years.  Don’t give up, I guess I’d say to her; not yet.

The answer, the by way, is that you most certainly can drink beer with your trays in.  Your mouth will feel like the non-slip tile floor in a Burger King’s men’s room, of course, and from comments I’ve run across it seems the breath matches.  But then again, drinking beer in any significant quantity (as I like to do when with my friends) leaves your mouth feeling like that tile floor in any event, and who can forget Kurt Vonnegut’s description of breath that smells “like mustard gas and roses”?  Besides, when I’m drinking me some beer it’s not like I’m trying to pick up girls.  Too old, too out of shape, too behind the times for that.  Oh yeah, and I’m married, too.  All of which is to say that at least in my own Life Condition, the watchword is “splice the mainbrace” and enjoy.

I will vouchsafe Gentle Reader further updates from time to time.

Oh Boy! We’re Famous!!

For me, June, 1987 was a bittersweet month.  Without going into too great detail, a relationship which I thought had wonderful potential got side-tracked, although it took it another three years and even greater heartbreak to die.  Looking back from 25 years on, I have to admit that not only did she make the right decision for her — as was her absolute right — but also more likely than not for me as well.  But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt as badly as it did at the time, or that it took any less time for the wounds to heal.  But heal they did, eventually, and although the might-have-been is always tantalizing (call it emotional rubber-necking:  I drive slowly past the memories, looking at the wreckage, and wondering what the hell happened to wad things up like that), it no longer has the power to tear the old scars wide open.

June, 1987 was also the month of the Last Show on A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor’s radio show, which was — up until the point that he discovered left-wing politics — wonderful.  It was funny, creative, poignant, well-done yet quaintly informal.  I’d bought tickets for the March 20, 1987, show for a friend and myself, and about two weeks after placing my order Keillor announced on the air that he was killing the show at the end of June.  After which point tickets became unobtainable.  My friend and I ended up driving for what seemed like six months past forever (although familiar with the map of the U.S. for years, it really hadn’t soaked in until I physically experienced it just how huge a place the Upper Midwest actually is; there were places where for more than an hour we couldn’t get FM radio on the interstate), but made the trip in good time, successfully, and had a wonderful time at the show.

That summer I was underway on my ship the night of the Last Show, and so my mother taped it for me, right off the air.  [Aside:  The video of that show, or what was purported to be that show, which came out a couple of years later, was, to put it mildly, fraudulent.  The show that was aired, and was taped by my mother live as it aired, simply does not match the performance on the VHS tape, in several material respects.  Interestingly, the CD of that show, which came out many years later and which I also have, matches the show that my mother taped.]  It was wonderful.  I didn’t have time to listen to the tapes (as I recall it took two) until some time later.  And this is the tie-in to the first paragraph of this post, above:  I listened to that show as I was driving across Canada, then through New York, and then the Massachusetts Turnpike (by way of utter irrelevance, the turnpike runs right past Stockbridge, Mass., and there was a small sign beside the road that I noticed to the effect that the fine for littering was still $50), on my way from visiting this young lady to a Navy station on the coast.  For whatever messed-up reason the two recollections — of listening to that Last Show and feeling my heart slowly tear out, mile by mile — got all twined together, with the result that it was the better part of twelve or so years before I could listen to those tapes again and not immediately experience the emotional trauma of that earlier time.

In any event, among the other things they did on that Last Show, aside from the last installment of News From Lake Wobegon, was wrap up one of their long-running series, The Adventures of Buster the Show-Dog, starring Timmy, the Sad Rich Teenage Boy, Sheila the Christian Jungle Girl, Father Finian, and of course the eponymous Buster.  The questing heroes finally make it back to St. Paul after wandering the world and decide, before parting ways, that they’ve just got to get a group photo.  So off they go to the corner drugstore, where a crooked clerk intentionally trips the alarm system and makes off with $100,000 from the till, leaving the five (including the cabbie who drove them there; they’d insisted he get in the picture as well) to face the music alone.  This all dawns on them the next morning, as they sit around the empty boxcar down at the CB&Q rail-yard, where they’d found refuge from the police the night before.  Father Finian comes back with some donuts, coffee, and a morning paper.  There on the front page are their pictures, identified as the perps in “$100,000 Drug Heist.”  They’re now wanted, fugitives.

But the point of it all is that Timmy’s reaction to reading the paper is the exclamation (he says it twice, in fact, as I recall), “Oh boy!  We’re famous!!”

So what does a radio show broadcast 28 years ago have to do with anything?

As the ‘umble proprietor of this ‘umble blog, I do pay attention — embarrassing though it generally is — to the site statistics so helpfully compiled by the lads at WordPress for my enjoyment.  It’s how I know to address things to my reader.  No, seriously, tossing posts up here is half a jump from what must have gone through Field Marshal Haig’s mind as he dispatched the troops over the top at Third Ypres.  Splendid ranks and all, and well-equipped, but you don’t really expect to see them living again.

But there is one post that I put up last year about this time, here, about cooking chitlins.  That single post has probably garnered more views than the entire rest of the blog combined.  Over the past three or four weeks it’s out-stripped by a factor of fifteen or more (I’m not making this up) every other post, new or old.  The search terms that have brought people to that post have run a pretty decent gamut of the questions that people have about the preparation, cooking, seasoning of the guts.  I really don’t quite know what to make of it.  Here I’ve spent three-plus years now putting up all manner of “heavy” stuff on this site, and yet the solitary item that routinely fetches ’em (cf. Twain: “If that don’t fetch ’em, I don’t know Arkansaw.”) is a post on cooking hog guts.

So I’m constantly reminded of Timmy’s line from that Last Show:  Oh boy!  We’re famous!!

I suppose I ought to count my blessings and go home.  If it’s true, as Oscar Wilde observed, that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, then being the go-to guy on the internet on how to boil up a nice vat of hog’s intestines beats nothing at all.

Will They Play With Fire, Again?

The Supreme Court at least in its present composition has an extremely mixed track record in upholding the basic building-block notions of the U.S. Constitution.  Its two most egregious, and potentially most damaging, cases thus far have both concerned the “Affordable” Care Act.

Gentle Reader will recall those two cases:  This first decision ruled that Congress can in fact exercise powers plainly not granted to it by any article, section, clause, phrase, or word of the document, nor which can be squeezed from the document by even the most strained reasoning, if (wait for it), Congress could have enacted a penalty on the failure to abide by that illegal power grab and called the penalty a “tax.”  Get that?  The ACA imposes a penalty on people who fail to buy insurance from private insurance companies.  Congress obliges individuals to engage in commerce, in other words, rather than merely contenting itself to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” which is what Article I Section 8, Clause 3 actually authorizes it to do, in respect of people who are engaging in those sorts of commerce.

Not even the clowns on this court could get five votes in favor of a power to oblige people to buy a new car every three years in order to support the personal transportation industry in America.  Remember, the industry which provides the means for individual Americans to live anywhere outside the most densely populated parts of the Northeast Corridor is one the fruits of which are of much greater importance to many more people on a much more frequent basis than the activities of health insurance companies, doctors, or hospitals.  Such an enactment would avoid the “free rider problem” of people who insist that their beat-up ol’ bangers (my 2000 Chrysler Concorde, which I picked up 16 years ago yesterday with 6 miles on the odometer, rolled 235,000 miles yesterday evening) are sufficient for their needs.  We folks who persist in driving a car until the wheels fall off by doing so deprive the automobile manufacturers of the cash flows necessary to fund their research and development to comply with ever-more-stringent CAFE standards because global warming climate change.

O! but let us not lose faith in the creativity, the revolutionary consciousness (cf. Solzhenitsyn’s chapter on “The Law as a Child,” in Vol. I of his Gulag Archipelago) Solomon-like wisdom  of our judiciary.  Congress cannot make you engage in activity.  But it can tax your failure to do so (according to the RevTrib Supreme Court), and if you don’t pay the tax it can imprison you for that failure.  And here’s where Chief Justice Krylenko Roberts really extended the known boundaries of American jurisprudence.  You see, Congress didn’t call the penalty for failure to buy health insurance a tax.  The administration and its lapdogs in Congress, in lying selling to the American public this abortion of a statute, repeatedly and explicitly disclaimed that it was a tax.  But Krylenko Roberts held that Congress could have called it a tax, and because it could have called it a tax and relied upon its taxing power to exercise indirectly a substantive power denied to it by the document itself, therefore it was a tax and therefore the individual mandate is constitutional.

Wow.  I mean, just wow.  Think of all the meaningless formalities which we can, under the Krylenko Roberts Doctrine now dispense with.  The senate refuses to ratify a treaty?  No problem:  It could have ratified the treaty, and therefore it did, and therefore that treaty, “constructively ratified,” we may call it, is now under the Supremacy Clause part and parcel of the highest law of the land.  Congress refuses to fund a program — oh, say, handing money to the baby cadaver salesmen at “Planned Parenthood”?  No problem:  Congress could have called that appropriation an expenditure for “public health,” and therefore the administration can keep shelling out tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars.

But it gets even better:  Remember, the substance of the Krylenko Roberts Doctrine is that what matters in terms of the question, “Did Congress have the constitutional power to enact this provision?” is not, you know, whether the document actually or necessarily by implication grants that power, but rather whether Congress might have chosen to slap a monetary penalty (which the RevTrib Supreme Court can then call a “tax”) on a person’s conduct inconsistent with the desired behavior.  Let’s think of this in terms of the Fifth Amendment.  Oh no:  We’re not forcing a criminal defendant to testify against himself.  We’re just making him pay the additional expenses of proving his guilt without his cooperation.  I mean, can you say “externality”?  It costs money, dammit, good money that has to come from the public fisc to prove up a crime without a confession (hence, as Solzhenitsyn points out, the organs’ single-minded focus on obtaining those confessions, by means he and others (see, e.g: Dolgun) have described in detail).  So you don’t have to testify; oh no, you’re perfectly at liberty to sit there mute in the courtroom.  But by God we’re going to make you pony up for getting all those eyewitnesses in, all the forensic proof, the DNA testing, and all that.  And the beauty is that because it’s a tax (remember the Krylenko Roberts Doctrine, dear children), its imposition is utterly independent of our defendant’s actual guilt.  I mean, the money had to be spent, after all, and if the defendant is innocent, then there’s no reason he shouldn’t have testified to that effect, right?

Similarly, we’re not forcing you, Gentle Reader, to march in support of Dear Leader’s non-public deals to hand nuclear weapons to Iran.  But because the rest of the world, and especially Israel, will be much likelier to accept that deal if it knows that the entire American population is behind it, and the costs of ramming Israel’s physical destruction down its throat are much greater in the face of its opposition, we’re going to impose a money penalty (oh, we might have called it a tax, and therefore it is a tax, and therefore Congress had the power to impose it) on your failure to turn out for the scheduled Mass Demonstration demanding death for Zinoviev and Kamenev, the Trotskyite dogs and imperialist stooges immediate implementation of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.  By like token, we’re not forcing you to enroll your children in the Young Pioneers, or the Bund deutscher Mädel, or the Red Guards, but your unreasoning refusal to enroll them means that the school system must spend that much more time and greater resources educating them in Mao Thoughts the Führer’s Will the precepts of the Great Helmsman’s Short Course their civic duties in respect of the “Affordable” Care Act, and therefore a money penalty, which we might have called a tax but didn’t, is obviously constitutionally proper.

See how much can be accomplished through the Krylenko Roberts Doctrine?

The second case which Gentle Reader might recall is the insurance exchange case.  You’ll remember that, in order to compel the states to establish their own insurance exchanges under the “Affordable” Care Act, the availability of financial subsidy for the (now wildly-escalating) premiums was very carefully limited to those who purchased policies through exchanges established by “states,” which the statute very carefully defined to mean, you know, the 50 states of the union (and, I recall, territories and possessions as well).  All of those actors are, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, geopolitical entities, with physically-described borders.  They are not agencies or instrumentalities of anyone, like, for example, the federal Department of Health and Human Services.  Well, most of the states had better sense than to pour money down that rat-hole, and so Dear Leader’s administration set up a federal insurance exchange for people in those states, and then — here’s the flagrantly illegal part — began doling out money for policies purchased on that exchange.

The RevTrib Supreme Court upheld the illegal expenditure of public funds for an unauthorized purpose, because, well, Congress might have said “federal government,” or even “department,” and it was really important for this statute to work so we’re just going to act as if Congress actually had done what it didn’t do at all, namely include HHS within the definition of “state,” or alternatively just go ahead and authorize subsidy payments for policies bought through the HHS-run insurance exchange.  And lo! the outlay of billions of dollars is magically validated.

We may call this the “Statutory Error Doctrine”.  You see, when Congress has, through oversight (obviously it must have been just a drafting error, because reasonable minds simply cannot disagree on something so important, after all, as whether to plonk down billions of dollars on socialized health care, much in the same fashion as all sensible men being, per Disraeli, all of the same faith), omitted to authorize the administration to take Action X, whatever that may be, then the RevTrib Supreme Court will correct that li’l ol’ drafting error, and will supply what Congress plainly meant to have said, were it fully mindful of its duty to the Party.

Dear Leader’s administration is now advocating what we might call the “Statutory Omission Doctrine,” in which the RevTrib Supreme Court may supply, not merely a missing or obviously incomplete definition, but an entire statute which plainly Congress would have enacted, but for its truancy in obeying the Holy Writ of the Light Bringer.  You see, Congress, which under Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 has the power to “an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and has done so.  Those rules provide for deportation and other nastiness for folks who come here illegally.  Congress has not chosen to exempt from those rules the parents of children who are, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, citizens of the United States by right of birth.  Very awkward, by God! as the Duke of Wellington observed about William IV’s rant at the Duchess of Kent.

Some stupid redneck dirt lawyer might suppose that Congress, realizing it cannot deport minor children who are, by constitutional right, citizens and thus have a right to stay here, determined to leave in place the disincentive of family separation to discourage parents from creating such “anchor babies” in the first place.  Fine:  Your child can stay here because she’s a citizen, but your country ass is getting shipped back to Guadalajara, lady.  You’re perfectly free to take your citizen-child with you or leave her here.  If you leave her here we’ll provide for her, but you’re leaving.  Speaking as a father of three wonderful boys, I can tell you that is one powerful disincentive.  It puts, after all, the most painful burden on the only decision-maker (the pregnant woman) capable of preventing the situation from arising.  The infant cannot decide for herself, after all.  The father in fact cannot really decide.  So we’re going to make that woman wager the most sacred of human bonds against her desire to violate United States law.

Dear Leader does not like this.  He does not like this because those parents are reliable sources of money and political support.  The ones who eventually are able to vote (e.g. the anchor baby herself when she turns 18) reliably and extremely heavily vote Democrat.  So he has decided to exempt from the operation of the “uniform Rule of Naturalization” the parents of those anchor babies.  On a blanket basis.  He’s decided that the importance of keeping in place a permanent dependent class of Democrat electoral cash and support is more important than his own constitutional duty under Article II Section 3 that, “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed[.]”

Thus far he’s gone zero-for-however-many on injunctions preventing his administration from implementing this illegal program, which he calls, of course misleadingly, “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans”.  It’s not “deferred” action, but the permanent abandonment of action, and is widely known to be such.  Well, now the RevTrib Supreme Court has agreed to hear the administration’s appeal of the most recent such injunction.

We’ll have to see what Krylenko Roberts and his colleagues do.  I firmly disagree with the linked article that, “There are reasons to be sympathetic to President Obama’s efforts to overhaul America’s immigration laws. The system has been broken for decades, and political elites have proven unable or unwilling to fix it.”  It is no such thing.  It has not been enforced for decades, and this has created a painful and in many cases tragic set of facts on the ground.  But that is not the fault of either Congress or the law itself.  It is, rather, the logical outcome of hundreds of millions of politicized decisions by the ought-to-be-enforcers of the immigration laws.  Imagine if hundreds of millions of people and institutions simply refused to comply with the Internal Revenue Code.  Imagine if banks refused to produce and keep the financial records necessary to track taxpayers’ transactions; imagine if employers simply destroyed their payroll records after each pay period, and refused to remit income or payroll taxes.  Imagine if everyone simply stopped filing returns.  Imagine if all this went on, not for a season or two, but for decades.  Imagine that all this went on with the active connivance of the Internal Revenue Service.  Now, would it be intellectually or morally defensible to say that the Internal Revenue Code “has been broken for decades”?  Bullshit!  And the same response is due the claim that the immigration system is “broken,” unless by “broken,” you mean that the laws have been openly, flagrantly, and with the encouragement of government broken.  Well, yes, the immigration laws have been broken.  And for years the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibiting the denial of voting rights based upon the color of one’s skin, was openly and with the active cooperation of government “broken.”  Where is the principled argument that we should have, in the 1960s, and in lieu of adopting and ferociously enforcing the Voting Rights Act, just rolled over and allowed the South to continue on as before?

But will the RevTrib Supreme Court formally rule that, gosh darn it, this is Just So Important, and when Something is So Important, the president has the inherent power to put in place whatever program he deems expedient?  I’ll remind Gentle Reader that James II’s blanket exemptions from the religious disability laws were a principal reason (although not the final: that was the birth of a male heir) for the erosion of support which ended in the Glorious Revolution.  But will we have formally announced, with all the gravity that can be mustered by an institution which has so far beclowned itself as to rule that homosexual “marriage” is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, that when the president deems something sufficiently important, the allocation of “all” (not some, most, or “generally”) “legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States” is no longer operative?

We might call such a notion the “Constitutional Omission Doctrine,” and set it forth as follows:  “If the president shall deem an issue sufficiently important, and if the Congress shall refuse to enact such legislation as the president shall deem necessary or expedient to address such issue, then the president may act in such fashion as the president shall deem appropriate, and such action shall have the force of law.”  That is pretty much the position taken by Dear Leader and his supporters.  We have an “immigration crisis,” with a “system that is broken,” and Congress refuses to act because of “partisan gridlock,” and therefore the president has the inherent “authority to act when Congress won’t.”  Because obviously the constitution’s drafters must never have imagined that Congress and the president might disagree on a matter of significant policy.  It’s just plain as day that they never intended that the federal government might be unable to act as a president thinks it ought to act because Congress has decided an issue contrary to the president’s desires.  And if they never intended that situation to come to pass, then the conclusion is inescapable that they obviously meant to include a provision in the constitution granting the president that authority, and the fact that the drafters included no such provision is merely an oversight, a mistake.  Like defining “state” such that you can’t shoe-horn “Department of Health and Human Services” into it.  Since we have a “living document” on our hands (all those silly little words about how the document may be amended are merely illustrative of one alternative method among many, after all), the fact that a fail-safe clause is nowhere to be found in the words the drafters actually used is no impediment to our now, 226 years later, recognizing that the president in fact has such a power.

I would caution the RevTrib Supreme Court against recognizing any such authority.  Once you recognize the ability of one branch to bypass another and exercise legally binding power over an issue or set of issues which the document on its face places squarely within the remit of another branch, what is then to prevent the doctrine’s application to the RevTrib Supreme Court itself?  Obviously, after all, the drafters never intended to create a situation in which a number of unelected, unaccountable nincompoops would usurp the expressed policy decisions of the legislative and executive branches.  I mean, the whole point of freeing ourselves from a monarchy, an prohibiting titles of nobility, was precisely to ensure we never became the playthings of a court and court party.

For example, consider the Defense of Marriage Act.  Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and enthusiastically signed by a president from the party not in control of Congress, the RevTrib Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.  We ignore the argument over whether the statute was a good idea in the first place.  Reasonable minds can differ in good faith as to whether the federal government needs to get into the business of deciding who is married and who is not, at least for purposes of federal laws where the marital status of an individual is a relevant determination.  Reasonable minds can differ in good faith as to whether marriage-is-what-you-call-it is a good policy position (I think it’s a bad policy position).  But the reasonableness and good faith of people on either side of those sorts of arguments played no part in the RevTrib Supreme Court decision.  According to it, the American people, acting through their lawfully elected representatives and approved by their lawfully elected president, did not have the right to decide the issue as they did, because the constitution does not permit that substantive outcome.

But hist!  Let us now apply the Constitutional Omission Doctrine to this dispute.  Congress determines that the RevTrib Supreme Court got its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act wrong, and because the drafters obviously intended to grant Congress the power to correct flagrantly bad court decisions (really? can it be that the drafters desired that a decision once blown should remain blown for all time, until the very institution that buggered it up climbs down and admits as much?), be it and it hereby is declared that the decision in this-that-or-the-other-case is reversed, set aside, and for naught held.  See how simple that was?  About as simple as the Democrat-controlled Congress in the late 1950s or early 1960s just un-doing Brown v. Board of Education.  Woo-hoo!  Plessy is once again the law of the land.  Gentle Reader can come of with just about any number of parade-of-horribles decisions that might fall prey to the doctrine, to the consternation of whatever group(s) or interest(s).

But Gentle Reader will tax me with hyperventilation.  Of course no Congress would ever do such a thing!  It would be politically impossible!  Never come to pass.  People would never stand for it!  And so forth.  And no administration would ignore the repeated cries for help of its overseas ambassadors, then stand by idly while an American ambassador was slaughtered like a dog and literally dragged through the streets, then send multiple representatives to lie repeatedly to the American public about why it happened.  No administration would ever weaponize the federal tax gathering apparatus to shut down the political affiliations of its political opponents, then instruct its senior administrators to destroy evidence and lie to Congress about its destruction.  We’d never have an administration concoct an attack on two U.S. warships — when no opposing forces were ever in the area on the night in question — and use that non-existent attack to obtain an authorization to wage years of undeclared but very much real war halfway around the globe.  [I’m referring, by the way, to the Gulf of Tonkin “Incident,” the non-existence of the second “attack” of which is related by no less personage than Vice Adm. Stockdale, who was in the air over the Maddox and Turner Joy that night, and in whose book he unambiguously states that the second “attack,” used by LBJ to get the Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed, never happened.  He had been named in the European edition (but not, significantly, the Pacific edition) of Stars and Stripes as having been present on the scene, and he spent the entirety of his long captivity terrified that his captors would get hold of a copy of that edition, see his name, and torture out of him his recollections of that night.  But they never did.]

Who are we to say what some future president and Congress may or may not do?

The last sentence in the last book of the last volume of The Gulag Archipelago reads:  “There is no law.”  The present administration, aided joyfully by the present constellation of the RevTrib Supreme Court, have marched us a good way down that same path.  Here’s hoping they have the minimal integrity not to take us that last step.

Carousel of History?

We may hope not.

Over at Instapundit, a link, via Ed Driscoll, to a piece by one of my favorite linkees (is that a word, even?), viz. Victor Davis Hanson, “A Tale of Two Shootings“.

[N.b.  Hanson, whom I’m mostly familiar with via the internet, is a very accomplished classical historian, with a heavy sideline in military history.  I recently read — it was borrowed, so I had to return it, much to my chagrin — his The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny, a comparative history of Epimanondas’s conquest of Sparta, Sherman’s march through Georgia, and Patton’s march through France in 1944.  Fascinating stuff.]

Be all that as it may, Hanson looks at two shootings:  the first, in 2014 of the violent criminal Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, and the second of Kathryn Steinle, in San Francisco.  Brown was black; Steinle was white.  Brown had just committed a robbery; Steinle was walking down a pier with her father.  Brown had just attacked and attempted to seize the weapon of the police officer who had matched him to a minutes-old radio alert of the robbery, and was shot dead in his tracks , from the front, while charging the officer.  Steinle was shot dead in the back while . . . well, while walking with her father, minding her own business.  Brown was shot by a police officer; Steinle was shot by a multiple-convicted felon whose very presence in the United States constituted a crime.  The police officer who shot Brown was white; the convicted felon who shot Steinle was Mexican, an illegal alien.

After Brown was killed in the midst of his attempted third felony of that day (first: robbery; second: attacking and attempting to steal weapon from law enforcement officer; third: second attempt to attack and steal weapon from same), Dear Leader’s administration and his political allies very carefully stoked the fires of racial hatred, and Ferguson burned.  After Steinle was shot dead by the felon who was very intentionally released by the City of San Francisco in spite of a request by federal authorities that they hold him until he could be deported (this would have been his sixth deportation), there were . . . crickets.

Hanson has the temerity once more to point out the very different treatment of the two killings, one indisputably justified (Brown’s), and the other (Steinle’s) indisputably an abomination, all but engineered by the left-extremists in the San Francisco city government.

Maybe VDH didn’t want to violate Godwin’s Law, which holds that the longer an internet discussion goes on, the closer to 1.0 approaches the probability that someone will make an explicit comparison to the Nazi era.  But since Hanson put up his post yesterday, and today is November 9, I’m going to do the belly-flop for him.

On November 9, 1938, Germany exploded.  Well, to be more precise, a segment of Germany exploded.  That segment was the segment represented by synagogues and Jewish businesses.  They were torched, their owners and congregants beaten, in many cases beaten to death.  There was so much broken glass in the streets from smashed windows that the Germans knew it as “Kristallnacht,” or “crystal night.”  Here’s the Wikipedia entry, for those curious.

Why did Victor Davis Hanson’s post on the political reaction, and the carefully orchestrated violence, in response to Michael Brown’s death put me in mind of November 9, 1938?  Because Kristallnacht too was a highly orchestrated orgy of violence in response to a single killing.  Ernst vom Rath was a German diplomat stationed in Paris.  On the morning of November 7, 1938, a Polish Jew then living in Paris a teenager, Herschel Grynszpan (he had fled Germany in 1936; after his arrest he stated that he acted to avenge the news that his parents were being deported from Germany back to Poland), shot him five times.  Rath died on November 9, by which time the Nazi powers had had time to organize “spontaneous” demonstrations of outrage inside Germany.

The destruction of November 9, 1938, was no less “spontaneous” than the observances surrounding the announcement that officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who successfully defended himself from Michael Brown, would not be indicted for any criminal offense.

Carousels are circular.  Stand in one place long enough and everything you’ve seen before you’ll see again.  Sort of makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what else from the 1930s and 40s we’re going to see again in the coming years?  Holodomor?  Molotov-Ribbentrop?  Munich? (Dear Leader sure made a run at that last by handing the Iranian mullahs a green light for nuclear weaponry.)  Greater Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere?

Sobering thinking, it is.

[N.b.  I don’t know whether I’ve pointed it out before on this ‘umble blog, but November 9 is a date pregnant with significance in German history.  In 1918, the German republic was proclaimed and the Kaiser abdicated; in 1923, the Beer Hall Putsch failed; in 1938, they put on Kristallnacht; in 1940, Neville Chamberlain, the man who more than any other enabled Hitler to become the continental-scale monster he did, finally died; and, in 1989, the Berlin Wall, the physical embodiment of the war’s outcome, came down.  Can’t make this stuff up.]