There Truly is Nothing New Under the Sun

Back when Dear Leader was new in office, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, famously observed that you should never “let a good crisis go to waste.”  By that he plainly meant – didn’t even try to hide that he meant it, either — that in the confusion, desperation, and panic of a “crisis” (whether real or manufactured, a point he did not bear down on very much, understandably), a government can get people sufficiently buffaloed that they’ll acquiesce in nonsense that they wouldn’t tolerate under any other circumstances.  The truth of his observation has been borne out in Dear Leader’s subsequent achievements, if you can call them that.

First and foremost of course was the Porkulus Act, which doled out not quite $790 billion, mostly to friends and supporters of the new administration and the party to which it belongs.  Some of it may actually have done some good; a client of mine that is a water and wastewater utility provider got a partial grant that it used to sewer no fewer than seven older neighborhoods, at least some of which had near 40% failure rates in their septic systems.  But the vast majority of the money seems to have gone down the drain of sundry union-friendly government make-work projects.

Then came the disaster of “affordable care,” which was rammed down the throats of an unwilling populace, without its provisions even having been read by the legislators who voted for it. 

And of course we’re coming up on completing our fourth consecutive year without a federal budget, with our most recent quarterly GDP growth rate in negative numbers, a credit downgrade (or is it two now? I forget), stagnant unemployment, job growth numbers which aren’t even keeping up with population growth, and trillions of dollars in additional debt.  Dear Leader refuses to discuss any structural changes to how the U.S. spends money, confining himself to demanding ever higher nominal tax rates from “the rich.”

He’s now issuing reams of “executive orders” to undermine the rights guaranteed to citizens by the Second Amendment.  These orders have been issued in response to a genuinely horrible mass shooting in Connecticut, by a mentally deranged man who had just been served with papers to institutionalize him and which were filed by his own mother (whom he murdered to start his spree).  Dear Leader’s proposals are conceded even by his own DOJ as ineffective to make any serious reduction in gun crime incidence, unless they are accompanied by (i) registration, and (ii) coerced buy-back programs. 

Gun buy-backs?  Unless compulsory and “massive,” they are ineffective.  Even Australia’s, which was specifically targeted at semi-automatic weapons and may well have positively affected the incidence of mass shootings (>4 victims per), had “no effect on crime otherwise.” 

Ban on “large capacity magazines” (you know, the magazines that permit you to engage all three of the guys who just broke into your house without having to stop and re-load)?  The issues here are that they’re a durable good, lasting essentially indefinitely, and there are already millions upon millions upon millions of them floating around.  If you exempt existing magazines lawfully owned you’re talking “decades” before you see any impact.

“Ammunition logs”?  These require merchants to log you every time you purchase ammunition.  Of course, the kind and amount of ammunition you purchase is a good clue as to what kinds of weapons you have and how much use you make of them.  As the DOJ memo notes, the criminal statutes which prohibit certain criminals from owning weapons also pertains to ammunition, but while firearms purchases are subject to background checks, ammunition purchases are all but anonymous.  Creating this sort of log requirement, in addition to an enormous burden on merchants, also establishes, as the DOJ notes, an “intelligence tool to find not only ammunition but also the illegally possessed weapons.”  I’m sure, however, that no law enforcement operatives would ever use such logs to troll for enforcement of an unconstitutional ban on certain kinds of firearms.  This would be the same DOJ that ran a clownishly poorly managed illegal gun-running operation into Mexico (and counterpart programs here domestically) the entire point of which was to supply semi-automatic, large-capacity magazine weapons to known criminal enterprises.  And the study cited by the memo, run by the LAPD, would be from the same folks whose officers have just been outed by a whistle-blower (who’s now subjected to intimidation for his troubles) for buying firearms are steep discounts available to policemen, and turning around and re-selling them (illegally) for handsome profits.

Universal background checks?  Oh, that’s right.  That only works in a world without straw purchasers (e.g. the people the DOJ intentionally permitted to buy the guns in Operation Fast and Furious, but we pass lightly over the several hundred corpses that brainstorm produced), and . . . with universal registration (but of course), and a world in which there are no informal transactions (in other words, your buddy you golf with on Sunday mornings asks what you’d take for that Kimber and you sell it to him).  Even so, the memo notes that straw purchases (q.v.) and theft account for by far the largest number of firearms used in crimes.

So let’s go after straw purchasers.  In plain English, they’re the people who have no criminal history but who either buy intending to deliver the gun to someone they know couldn’t legally buy it (like the folks the Eric Holder DOJ intentionally permitted to buy large quantities of weapons and then walk them over the border to turn them over to the drug cartels), or people who buy the gun intending to let the known impermissible use the gun.  For an example of the latter case, see G. Gordon Liddy, who has mentioned several times on the radio that as a convicted felon he cannot legally possess a firearm.  “Mrs. Liddy, however, owns several.”  Here’s the DOJ on Mrs. Liddy:  “Straw purchasers are the primary source of crime guns. Importantly, straw purchasers have no record of a prohibiting offense. As a result, they are quite different from those who actually commit crimes. Consistent with criminological theory, because the person conducting the straw purchase does not have a criminal history forbidding him or her from making legal purchases, this population could potentially be deterred from initiating this illegal activity.” (emphasis mine)  And how do you deter them?  Well, you threaten to make them criminals.  Hey!  This works even better than we thought!  Let’s create several hundred thousand criminals where none existed before.  It’s not as if there are, from a citizen’s standpoint, any concerns about due process when everything is a crime.

“Assault weapon” ban?  Well, before 1994, “assault weapons” (by which is meant “scary looking long arms,” since actual . . . you know . . . assault weapons, of the sort that McArthur’s troops took ashore at Inchon, have been illegal since 1934) accounted for a whacking 2-8% of all gun homicides.  “Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence. If coupled with a gun buyback and no exemptions then it could be effective.”

See a pattern here?  I’ll help the slow-witted:  it’s coercion.  You must “sell” your weapon to the government and there will be zero exemptions.  That you haven’t even a speeding ticket?  Too bad.  Don’t sell and hide it instead in your closet?  Well, just try going to your local Wal-Mart, which now has to keep a log of ammunition sales, and buying a box of .223 Remington.  “Gee, Mr. Murgatroyd, hang on while I go check the back shelves,” says the nice sales clerk while he presses the little red button under the counter.

But why am I blogging about guns, and Dear Leader, and Fast and Furious, and all the fiat regulation on the subject that has gushed forth since Newtown, Connecticut exploded?  Why is it relevant today that Dear Leader’s enforcer quipped that one should never “let a good crisis go to waste”?

It’s important because eighty years ago today, a building burned.  It needed to be burned, at least as an aesthetic proposition.  But when a half-baked communist agitator and arsonist (it may be that he was more arsonist than communist, but that’s not important any more) went and burned the Reichstag, on 27 February 1933, the newly-minted Reichskanzler saw his chance, his crisis which he did not let to to waste.  I mean, can you imagine what Dear Leader would do if someone with a Texas driver’s license torched some government warehouse in Washington, DC?  To say nothing of the Capitol?  Here was a “crisis,” tailor-made to a fellow whose party had polled about 33% of the vote the preceding fall, but who needed a bigger slice of legislative support to do what needed to be done.  And sure enough, Hitler didn’t let that crisis go to waste.  He cajoled President Hindenburg into signing a decree that suspended large chunks of civil rights enjoyed by German citizens and otherwise guaranteed to them by their constitution (much like the Second Amendment guarantees the right, without “infringement,” to “keep and bear arms”).  Using that decree he then ruthlessly suppressed the communists between the fire and the (already-scheduled) national elections of March 5, 1933.  That got him up to not quite 45% of the vote.

But more importantly, it got him, when you excluded the communists, a two-thirds majority in both houses of the German parliament, needed to change their constitution (like reading the Second Amendment out of ours).  I mean, it was a crisis, right?  After all, the (Nazi-controlled) press told them it was.  The (Nazi-controlled) police told them it was.  Field Marshall Hindenburg, as close to a saint as anyone has ever been . . . until a sitting President of the United States of America is likened unto God Himself <excuse begged while post author leans over and vomits on office floor>, told them it was.  And so they got, passed on 23 March 1933, with effectiveness from 27 March 1933, the “Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich,” the Law for the Relief of the Emergency of People and Reich, better known by its colloquial name, the Ermächtigungsgesetz — the Enabling Act (and boy howdy did it ever).  An English translation of it is here.

When you read the sucker, it’s pretty harmless.  For starts, it had a sunset clause built in:  April 1, 1937 (remind me how that worked out, again?).  Of the referenced provisions, Article 85 § 2 and Article 87 related to budgeting and borrowing, respectively.  One is reminded today that we’re coming up on four straight years without a budget, and that TurboTax Tim Geithner’s Treasury has been issuing debt as fast as The Ben Bernanke’s federal reserve can make up the money from thin air to buy it.  Articles 68 through 77 relate to how laws are to be passed.  The law provides that those articles do not apply to laws passed pursuant to the Act.  Can anyone say, “executive orders”?

What does the Act actually do?  It merely permits the Reich government to pass laws.  It doesn’t strip the legislative branch of its own capacity to do so but rather creates an alternative route to legal validity.  The Act provides that laws promulgated by the executive (the “Reichsregierung”) may “depart from the constitution” except to the extent that they impinge on the institutions of the legislative houses “as such.”  Well, isn’t that a comfort?  What we see here is the classic politicians’ behavior of making sure of oneself and bugger the rest of the show.  By the latter phrase I refer explicitly to those provisions of the German constitution — Articles 68 through 77 — which provided numerous avenues to veto enactments of parliament, including specifically through the mechanism of a plebiscite.  Sure wouldn’t want all them smelly ol’ Tea Partiers to interfere, would we?

So what I am trying to say here?  Am I insinuating that Dear Leader is a closet national socialist?  No.  But he is a socialist; in fact he is pretty plainly a marxist, in his understanding of how wealth is created and by whom and under what circumstances, and even more to the point, in how he understands the correct relationship between the individual and the State.  He certainly is more than willing to make up powers for himself — much like that Egyptian feller, Morsi — which attack the very constitutional fundaments of civil society, “departing” from the constitution “for the relief of the emergency” of the people and the country (as if the mass murder by some lunatic in Connecticut somehow creates a crying emergency for me here, well over a thousand miles away).  He pretty openly despises the notion that his Vision of what is right and expedient ought be constrained by anything other than his ability to muster sufficient force to implement it.  His respect for Congress can be easily extrapolated from the rousing 0-98 vote which his last proposed budget received in the Senate, the house of Congress still controlled by his own party.  He doesn’t even have sufficient respect for them to send them something that a single member can vote for and look his constituents in the eye.  To use a perhaps crude metaphor, he treats the legislative branch, a co-equal branch and in fact the pimus inter pares of the Constitution, much as the junior varsity football squad would treat the acknowledged slut of the high school.  And like the lick-spittles they are, they come crawling back for more of the same.

And so today, on the 80th anniversary of the burning of the Reichstag, a “crisis” which was not let go to waste, we appropriately pause to ask ourselves precisely where the tendency of Dear Leader’s actions lies.  How easy or difficult will it be to get the toothpaste of his eight years in office back into the tube?  Having once admitted that a single person can simply make up the laws of the United States as he goes; that he can decree the killing of any person, citizen or no, based upon his decision that this person might be a danger to . . . what?; that he can pledge the full faith and credit of a mighty economy of a third of a billion people, how can we go back?  How can we hold in check another, future president, one even less inclinded to accept limits on his actions than this one? 

As objectionable as Dear Leader’s actions are, and they are, they are even more alarming when placed in the context of the constitutional history of the United States.  Andrew Jackson was roundly excoriated for exercising his veto power not based upon whether a passed piece of legislation was within the constitutional power of Congress to adopt it, but rather based on whether he agreed with it.  He was called, in outrage, “King Andrew.”  From his kingdom we have evolved (or degenerated into) the imperial presidency, in which the chief executive makes war without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress. 

My boys are ten years old and down.  What will be the fruits of Dear Leader’s administration forty years down the line?  Do I dare trust that future president to have the moral integrity which Dear Leader boasts of lacking?

To borrow a line from the late Mr. Justice Holmes:  To ask that question is to answer it.

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