A case for a change

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

There are two major candidates, one of whom will be elected in December, with different aspirations. Mitt Romney wants very much to be President. To that end he will promise anything he needs to promise and will have a tough time following through on those promises if elected. This is not intended as an endorsement of Mr Romney.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is President. He made all those promises four years ago, and to achieve some he ignored others. He wants very much to transform America. It worked for FDR—four times. It was only after World War II ended and Truman lifted wartime restrictions that the nation began to recover from the recession of 1931.

So let us look at the transformation so far. The “bailout” of the auto industry involved a takeover of two companies in order to preserve the union welfare state of those companies and give the government a “stakeholder” place in decision making. The bankruptcy law was violated and preferred stockholders, many of them public employee and teacher pension funds, were left holding the bag to assure government preferred stakeholders—aka the UAW. When franchises were closed, the fact that some had paid serious money for their franchises was not a consideration. Apparently volume of sales was not either.

Another aspect of the transformation of the auto industry is the new green technology. An example of this is the new Chevy Volt. GM loses $49,000 on every one that leaves the factory in order to reach a price point of $40,000. In addition the taxpayers pick up another $7,500 in a tax credit to bring the price down to a level where people will buy the vehicle.

The genius of the American auto industry has been its ability to produce vehicles that capture the consumer. And scuttle those that do not. They did not have to deal with the fiat that “you will build this vehicle” mentality of the Combloc. The Edsel was a failure—Ford ditched it and followed with the Mustang. Despite Ralph Nader the Corvair was extremely popular—there is a 61 driving around town that is in better shape than Ralph.

Ford escaped the “bailout” by having shepherded its resources to where it would not have to take a reorganization. Not to worry. New EPA CAFE standards took care of the the popular Crown Victoria. The company will survive, but a solid, powerful vehicle has been removed from production. Its replacement, the AWD Taurus-SHO, is unlikely to last as many miles and has a higher price tag to begin with. And with Executive Order 13603 in place, Obama has “authority” to seize industries in the name of national security.

The “bank bailout” saved some companies that should have been allowed a quiet demise. The real estate bubble which brought it down was caused largely by federal requirements to “open up” the housing market. To avoid pressure by compliance agencies, the banks loosened credit requirements to the point that massive groups of people were approved for loans they could never pay. There were people in certain counties in Colorado who were refinancing every eighteen months. There was a joke in the consumer community about using Visa to pay Mastercard—eventually the house of cards (so to speak) tumbles.

As the Congress set about remedying the financial situations there were companies that should have gone under, but were “too big to fail” so they were propped up. The regulations bill that the President signed had not been read by its sponsors. Retiring Sen Chris Dodd said it would take a couple years to find out what was in it.

So we come to the quick fix comprehensive health care reform. Like the financial services bill it was rushed and rammed through without time for reading or reflection. So much for the promise of transparency. What is in it—other than a tax that is unlawful because it originated in the Senate or else in the mind of an intimidated Chief Justice—is not clear. What is not in it is: cost control, frivolous lawsuit control, and cost increase control. Without these, the temporary nature of the bill is apparent—the costs will crash the government.

Then we come to the assertion that the President has authority to order the assassination of anyone he deems a threat to the American people. In asserting this power—which was not asserted in the Divine Right of Kings—the President places himself with banana republic dictators as well as Vlad the Impaler, Caligula, Stalin and Rasputin.

The President has also issued executive orders giving himself authority Congress and the Constitution will not. He tires of waiting for Congress. He has always, from his own statements, been frustrated by the Constitution’s negative liberties. He would like to change this Constitution out for one that mandates redistribution. And he clearly is looking for three more appointments to the Supreme Court in order to achieve this.

Mr Obama recently remarked that is is nearly impossible to effect change from the inside. Perhaps the community organizer needs to get back outside.

Compleat Idler, Education

U.S. Marshals – real versus reel

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

In a world of semi reality, I like to retreat to what Fran Striker called the days of yesteryear. when the action was on the silver screen.  And between the real and the movies is the U.S. Marshal.

Question 1: What famous Western lawman was killed in 1924 during an altercation with a Federal Agent.

Question 2: Name three Deputy U.S. Marshals who were present in Coffeyville, KS, the day the Daltons came to town.

Question 3: Besides Tilghman and Earp what member of Wyatt Earp’s Dodge City Police Department later became a Deputy U.S. Marshal.

Most of America’s consciousness of the U.S. Marshal has come from novels, movies and television where they swept into the small towns to fight corrupt local sheriff. And we know Matt Dillon who loomed ominous in the voice of William Conrad on radio and larger than life in the frame of James Arness on television. For those unacquainted there are episodes of Gunsmoke on the internet.

The vision is almost always positive—an affirmation that our federal government will protect us. The character of Rooster Gogburn, who played whichever side of the law was convenient, may be a little more accurate.

William Matthew Tilghman may be the straightest of the old west lawmen. As far as I can tell he did spend a night in jail, having been caught taking county records to the true county seat from the other true county seat back during the County Seat Wars in Kansas. He was the main inspiration for the character of Matt Dillon. At age 70 he was hired as marshal by the city of Cromwell, Oklahoma. He immediately offended Prohibition Bureau Agent Wiley Lynn who asked the sheriff not to sign Tilghman’s commission. Tilghman responded by getting his commission directly from the Governor. On the night of November 1, 1924, Tilghman was having coffee with some businessmen downtown when he heard shots being fired outside. Tilghman then went outside where Wiley was firing his weapon and staggering. Tilghman disarmed Wiley and was attempting to subdue the agent when Wiley put two bullets in Tilghman, Wiley was acquitted because he intimidated witnesses but lost his commission. He was killed in 1930 in an altercation with the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.

When riders were seen coming up from South Coffeyville it was assumed that it was just another Marshal’s posse up from the Indian Territory. As they rode into town and parked their horses people were uneasy. When it started things got confused. Charles Connelly, the Town Marshal, was shot early on—reports are mixed as to whether he was even armed or returned fire. Most of the shooting was done by immigrant blacksmith John Kloehr with a rifle borrowed from the hardware store. When it was done four of the five robbers lay dead and the fifth lay seriously wounded. Connelly was not a deputy US Marshal—he was town marshal, high school teacher and truant officer. He seldom carried his breaktop, five-shot .32 revolver. The three Deputy US Marshals for the Indian Territory were Grat, Bob and Emmett Dalton—the District Judge in Wichita had not bothered to revoke their commissions.

William Barclay Masterson was called “Bat” because he had to use a cane because of a damaged pelvis from the Battle of Adobe Walls. A Canadian, with no documentation of naturalization that I have been able to find, Masterson moved from the Dodge City Police Department to the office of Sheriff of Ford County in November 1877. After a career as a lawman, he was a gambler, a hired gun for the Santa Fe in the Raton Pass dispute, a fight promoter, a sports writer and editor. In 1903 he was appointed Deputy US Marshal for the Southern District of New York (New York City). The Sullivan Law in New York cut into his practice of buying old guns in pawn shops, carving a few notches and then selling them as the gun he carried in his lawman career, His pal Damon Runyan used him as the model for Obadiah “The Sky” Masterson in The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown which was the basis for Guys and Dolls.

The United States Marshals have served the Federal Courts and the other branches of the Federal Government since 1789. But they were not the “saviors” the movies showed. In the area of general law enforcement, the states handled that before the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Up until 1896 the Marshals were paid fees by the courts for serving warrants and process and guarding prisoners. They also served process for banks with their fees set by courts.

But if you like B-westerns—I grew up going to the Gothic with my big sister on Saturday afternoon—you know about U.S. Marshals. They come into town, order sarsparilla, get into a fight with the town bully and get arrested. In the sheriff’s office, they identify themselves and talk about the rustlers—they always shoot for the gun hand which would make a low energy video game. And despite the wiles of the schoolmarm, they head for the next town when the banker is packed off to the state prison for running the rustling ring so he can foreclose on all the ranches (who does he think he is–FmHA).

“Out in the territories it was a U.S. Marshal and the smell of Gunsmoke.” Never mind that Dodge City was in the state of Kansas and the gambler named Holliday who built the rail head was called Colonel, not Doc. Never mind that from 1876 to 1882 the homicide rate (including police shootings) was 1.5 a year. Never mind that Dodge had a police department. And never mind that the cattle drives ended in 1882 when a standard gauge railroad provided a direct line to Kansas City from Fort Worth. Okay, for twenty years Matt Dillon was America’s marshal and averaged 13 lethal force incidents a year.

And Abilene had no shootings until they got proactive and hired a marshal. When the marshal was killed they recruited a gunfighter named JB Hickock. Hickock liked killing but was beginning to show signs of macular degeneration—he was fired after killing his own deputy. But then we remember Wild Bill Hickock and his sidekick Jingles riding around in buckskins as a US Marshal cum Knight Errant—sort of your freelance after school lawman. Of course JB Hickock wore a buckskin jacket over a fancy silk vest with a waist sash into which he stashed a brace of 1851 Colts in .36 caliber. (Take that, you cowboy action folk who insist on .44s and .45s.)

So the Marshal is in our psyche, along with the Texas Ranger and the Lone Ranger. And what the Marshals are doing now is the day-to-day court security, contracting transportation and confinement and cleaning up after other federal law enforcement agencies. Not real exciting stuff. I’ll probably get the new True Grit. I’m really behind though with a bunch of martial arts flix I have yet to see and I haven’t seen 3:10 to Yuma.

Compleat Idler, Free Society

What a difference fifty years makes

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl – Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

Fifty or so years ago in a high school parking lot, the place does not matter but we can call it Littleton (in those days they rode horses in the downtown and had one zip-code) or Scottsbluff or any of a number of towns in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska, about five guys were standing around the open car trunk admiring Fred’s new Remington with the Weaver 6 power scope. The principal, the coach and a couple teachers came out to see what was going on.

“Well,” said the principal, “it looks like somebody else is going to be gone opening day.” There was laughter as well as a suggestion by the Latin teacher that they just close school that day.

In those days you could walk the a school parking lot and pop trunk lids and find a rifle or shotgun in most cars. It was not a big deal.  When you got something new the coach had to see it.

Today, such scenes are viewed through the filter of “zero tolerance” and handled by the “school resource officer” with backup from BDU clad SORT members who look like storm troopers out of Star Wars. There would follow a suspension for at least the remainder of the school year regardless of state attendance requirements, not to mention referral to the juvenile or adult justice system. Academic work completed during that time could not be counted.


Life and Death Powers

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

In the past few days, the Attorney General has affirmed the President’s power to make the decision to eliminate or neutralize those who present a threat to the security of the nation. This was before congress and published in the Washington Post. I was disturbed by this—I was also disturbed when we started using the term “enemy combatants” for foreign nationals picked up on the battlefield and the expansion of powers under the USA PATRIOT Act and the Homeland Security Department’s assumption of powers. But back to the AG who was reported by the Post as follows:

Now Mr Holder talked specifically about Mr Awlaki. Upon order of the President an attack drone was sent to take him out. Mr Holder said that the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of due process was satisfied by the President’s review of the facts to determine guilt and punishment in a capital case. Let us examine these assertions. GEORGIVS TERTIVS REX, a gentleman ruling by semi-devine right and eager to suppress a violent insurrection, did not publicly proclaim the right to put out a hit. Parliament held power to issue letters of marque and reprisal as does the United States Congress.

So what does the Constitution of the United States say about this? The Fifth Amendment, to which Mr Holder pays lip service, reads as follows:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The question is whether there an exception for time of War or public danger. The answer is that this applies to the land or Naval forces or the Militia when in actual service.  Mr Awlaki does not fit those categories.

This Assertion of power was extended by the testimony of General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta over the President’s legal authority to engage in military actions.  Mr Panetta basically reiterated what the President said about the Libyan excursion, that is that when there is a coalition our authority derives from the other nations involved.  Mr Panetta asserted the executive authority to make all decisions regarding defense.

So this goes back to examples where President Polk sent Maj Gen Zachary Taylor to Texas to expel Mexican troops from the area between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers.  That was within his authority.   When Taylor crossed the Rio Grande (sort of  like Gaius Julius on the Rubicon) we were at war and Polk dispatched Winfield Scott to take over what Taylor stumbled into.  He obtained a retroactive declaration of war after acquiring New Mexico. Arizona, Utah, Nevada and (unfortunately) California as well as parts of Colorado and Wyoming.   While President McKinley waited for Congress and thought war with Spain was stupid, his Assistant Secretary of the Navy had dispatched Dewey’s fleet to Manila.  And so it goes through Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson (his actions against Mexico), Kennedy, Johnson etc. 

But the founders did not value governmental efficiency.  They deliberately made it difficult to go to war.  They deliberately gave the executive few powers. 

But there is one thing to remember.  “All power is temporary, save that which created the cosmos.” – J.F. Macarthur