Thursday, January 7, 2010

Henry Sidgwick on American Moral Depravity

Henry Sidgwick was a 19th century utilitarian philosopher and classical liberal. John Rawls calls his Method of Ethics the first modern academic work on moral theory. Sidgwick's writing, unlike the German idealists, is clear. His ideas are detailed and elaborate, so reading Method of Ethics is not light, but it is well worth your time. Although Sidgwick was an accomplished classicist, I don't think he does a great job on virtue ethics and Aristotle. Toward the end of his discussion of what he calls intuitionism, that is, duty based ethics (think of the Ten Commandments or Kant's dictum of practical reason that we should act as though our action is a universal law), Sidgwick recommends two universal duty-based ethical principles that are the most convincing that I have seen. The first principle involves duty toward ourselves and amounts to a statement of the importance of deferral of gratification or neutral time preference. The second principle involves duty toward others. Sidgwick calls it the benevolence principle. The principles are as follows (pp. 381-2):

1. Hereafter as such is not to be regarded neither less nor more than now...a smaller present good is not to be preferred to a greater future good (allowing for differences of certainty).

2. The good of any one individual is of no (greater) importance, from the point of view...of the Universe, than the good of any other; unless, that is, there are special grounds for believing that more good is likely to be realised in the one case than in the other...as a rational being I am bound to aim at good generally--so far as it is attainable by my efforts--not merely a particular part of it...(so that) each one is morally bound to regard the good of any other individual as much as his own, except in so far as he judges it to be less, when impartially viewed, or less certainly knowable or attainable by him.

Upon consideration of Sidgwick's two moral principles, that we should treat the future with the same respect as the present and that we should consider the good of others as much as our own unless it is less knowable or attainable than our own, that American society is morally depraved.

The first principle, deferral of gratification or neutral time preference, has been ignored by the United States government; by Keynesian economics; by the banking system; and by the Federal Reserve bank. The reckless borrowing, spending, inflation and waste in which the American economy has engaged would, in Sidgwick's view, be unconscionable. Even more so, he would view the subsidization of house construction at the expense of alternative uses and the future and the aggressive subsidization of such waste as depraved.

As well, Sidgwick's second principle has been ignored by business executives and by the government. The closing of successfully operating plants in order to reap short term stock option rewards at employees' expense; the manipulation of earnings to induce payment of bonuses and stock; the abuse of shareholders in order to reap excessive executive compensation, using spurious claims of market demand as a rationale (spurious in part because the executives cannot point to any ability with respect to which many others do not have better endowments and scrupulously avoid measurement of potential abilities with respect to recruiting; and when their firms fail they demand subsidies from the public) all evidence depravity in the planned corporate sector.

Even worse, governmental decision making is tainted with the corruption of special interest manipulation. It is laughable today to claim that the US or state governments represent the general good.

Professor Sidgwick would likely turn in his grave were he to see the ways in which the American dream has declined. (Sidgwick, again was British, not American, but he would surely have been deeply concerned with the American example.)

Kitco's Nadler on Markets and the Fed

Jon Nadler had written an article on Kitco a few days ago suggesting that Ben Bernanke's public statement that he would tighten this year ought to give gold bugs pause. Today Nadler writes:

"Bloomberg reports that: “A prospect of higher interest rates in the U.S., the world’s largest economy, probably will strengthen the dollar further and may take 'some of the wind out of the commodity markets’ sails,' said Royal Bank of Scotland Plc’s commodity analysts, led by Nick Moore. The dollar may rally some 15 percent this quarter, they said.”

Nadler recommends a holding of 10 percent of your portfolio in gold. The breakdown in my brokerage account now is as follows:

Cash 45%
Stocks 22%*
High-yield bonds 6%
Gold (GLD) 15%
Agricultural commodities index (DBA) 6%
Silver (SLV) 6%

*Stocks include Kayne Anderson (a gas pipeline investment trust), GE, the health industry index (IYH), a drinking water stock fund (FTSIPCE9R), and several general stock funds.

My pension account, which is 60% larger than my brokerage account, is almost entirely in cash and a GIF (interest bearing account) that TIAA-CREF offers. In addition, I hold cash in two banks totaling about 30% of my brokerage account. One of the banks, Everbank, offers international CDs such as Euros and Yen, but I have it all in the dollar now.

Nadler argues that unless you think that hyper-inflation is a possibility that gold is not a good hedge against inflation. He argues that the 1970s's gold boom was an anomaly that occurred because of the absence of investment alternatives such as small business stock funds.

However, you will recall that the inflation of the 1970s took the following path. First, the Vietnam War debt precipitated aggressive Fed policy and Nixon added inflation in the early 1970s. By 1970 the inflation rate was about 4%, only slightly higher than it has generally been during the past 25 years. But at that time people perceived the 4% as high. Today they perceive 3.7% inflation as no inflation.

The taste for gold did not accelerate until later in the decade, the late 1970s, when the Johnson/Nixon money had circulated for five to fifteen years. This occurred because of speculation that was in reaction to visible inflation approaching and exceeding 10%.

At the time that the inflation was reaching its peak, the Carter Fed under Paul Volcker adopted the monetarist policy of raising interest rates to limit monetary growth and inflation. This resulted in high interest rates occurring at the same time that inflation was peaking. High unemployment and high inflation coincided, resulting in "stagflation". Today, the monetary policy of the past two decades which was almost as inflationary as under Johnson and Nixon has been counteracted by international central bank intervention. Thus, national central banks hold US bonds. This creates a market situation that is inherently unstable in the long run. We all have faith in the rationality and dependability of governments to manage the world economy wisely because of the numerous historical precedents such as......? In other words, I am not clear as to what makes central bankers more judicious investors in the dollar than Americans were investors in Nasdaq tech funds.

In any case, the Fed has required Americans to rely on the sensibilities and market judgments of global central bankers. In response to excessive lending and apparently uncontrolled and incompetent use of derivatives in the past two decades, the banking system contracted its loan volume last year. The Fed's response was to triple the monetary base. Since 2006 the money supply has been growing at an 8% clip, more than double the recent inflation rate. Some fear a banking collapse leading to deflation, others fear increasing Fed aggressiveness in expanding the money supply. In any case, the Fed needs to balance three factors: unemployment; the prospect of the collapse of incompetently managed money center banks that rely on fresh Fed money; and inflation. Any tightening will threaten the incompetently run banks and may result in higher unemployment. Thus, the Fed will likely have to choose between short term unemployment and the risk of additional inflation in the already unstable system.

In reaction to global concerns about inflation and, as Nadler points out, tightening in China, there may be some Fed tightening in the near term, which is why I am holding dollars. Over time, however, there are obvious risks as to Bernanke's judgment.

Mr. Nadler has forwarded me some interesting comments. I had written to him this e-mail in response to an article about Ben Bernanke's statement that he is going to tighten:

"I have about 25% of my portfolio in gold and commodities at this point, about 30% in stocks and high-yield bonds and 45% in cash at this point and have been following your column for the past couple of months. The quote from Bernanke sounds compelling but I'm curious if you have (or know of anyone who has) compared Fed chairmen statements with actual policy decisions over the ensuing two years, say tracking back to the 1970s? My guess is that there have been frequent statements about tightening and austerity but much less frequent examples of actually following through. So what is the real content of a Fed chairman's statement that he will tighten? My guess is that the statements frequently do not match reality. Any opinion?

Mr. Nadler wrote the following response Q&A style:

Langbert: So what is the real content of a Fed chairman's statement that he will tighten? My guess is that the statements frequently do not match reality. Any opinion?

Nadler: Not in all cases. The most notorious example was Volcker, in 1982. There is a CPM Group report that illustrates just how much people had geared up for massive inflation but an equally massive interest rate hike sterilized any such nefarious outcomes. Surprise. In any case, I can find that text next week for you if you require.

L: If the Fed tightens and the dollar strengthens, do you think that there would be an effect on the stock market and employment, which in turn would make Obama's political position worse than it has been becoming? In that case, the guy who is investing in stocks will get creamed along with commodities.

N: Investments in anything (other than dollars and debt instruments) would probably take a hit. Commodities more than stock, likely. Foreign currencies and emerging market equities, as well.

L: Recall that in the 1930s Mariner Eckles tightened in 1935 or so and that led to the bottoming in the late 1930s that was below the initial bottom. I suspect Bernanke is aware of that history and doesn't aim to repeat it. Also, if he tightens, it might be a repeat of Carter's administration, with a tightening at the end which sealed Carter's coffin.

A: The political 'palatability' might indeed be low, but someone has to explain that you cannot rebuild and get on with it without some short-term pain. The sooner Obama makes it clear that the problem was hatched and aggravated during the Bush years, the more likely he is to succeed in selling rate hike and tax hike programs. The Fed is independent and will thus act when it sees fit, not when Obama gives the 'all-clear' signal.

Q: tightening two years into the Obama administration will lead to a couple of years of even higher unemployment and a rough ride for the Messiah. Or will the Fed respond to political pressure and tighten a bit, rescinding the tightening at the first sign of stock market declines and higher unemployment? It seems to me that the political pressure to follow the inflationary path at this point is still greater than the threat of inflation. Also, the reserves already created are going to be inflationary if the banking system decides that the risk of the problems from last year have passed. If Bernanke continues to pander to them, they will relax.

A: The liquidity will be mopped up with various tools. There is no quid-pro-quo that inflation must result from all of this injecting. What is needed more than anything is more regulation, less lobbying, and far less corporatism. Which, is, what America now has - not capitalism.

You will be all right I trust. Though it will have to be a nimble run...

I am not quite as confident as Mr. Nadler that there will be a nimble Fed and banking response to the massive liquidity that the Fed has handed to the banks or that regulation will help, but hopefully you, dear reader, and I will be nimble in responding to the current monetary risks.

Freedom of Information Act Request for 12-31-09 Town of Olive Bank Statements

PO Box 130
West Shokan, NY 12494
January 7, 2010

Ms. Sylvia Rozelle, Town of Olive
Mr. Berndt Leifeld, Town of Olive
45 Watson Hollow Road
West Shokan, NY 12494

Re: Freedom of Information Law for Town of Olive Bank Statements, 12-31-09

Dear Sylvia and Berndt:

This is a freedom of information law request for the same information that you gave me last fall but as of December 31, 2009. This would include a copy of all town bank statements as of that date.

Thank you,


Mitchell Langbert

This Man Is Awesome--Let's Root for Lt. Col. Allen West

Phil Orenstein has been backing Lt. Col. Allen West for some time, and Jim Crum just sent me this video. Tell me this guy isn't awesome. Let's hope he wins office in the sunshine state. Here's a real presidential possibility for the tea party movement.

Michael Yon Detained in Airport and Released

One of my readers has suggested that I take a look at Andrew Breitbart's blog about Michael Yon, described as a "military blogger" who talked back to a customs officer in the Seattle Airport, was detained, questioned and then released. Breitbart's blog states:

>Yon was escorted to a room elsewhere in the airport where he said he remained silent during much of the questioning. According to Yon, “they handcuffed me for failing to cooperate. They said I was impeding their ability to do their job.”

>Yon described the TSA officials as noticeably frustrated by his refusal to answer their questions: “I always assume everything is being recorded. I was trying to be professional.”

>Yon continued, “They said I wasn’t under arrest, but I’m handcuffed. In any other country, that qualifies as an arrest.”

>Ultimately Port Authority police released Yon; according to Yon, the police were “completely professional” (emphasis added).

When I lived on the northern border of New York State in 1991-1994 I was body searched by the US customs officials and questioned several times in depth by the Canadians. At the time, I drove a bright blue Ford Probe, a somewhat sporty but inexpensive car (I liked it but Ford discontinued the model). Apparently, my scruffy appearance coupled with the car made me a target for search.

The imposition on my freedom was distasteful. I believe that the primary motive for the ongoing questioning was concern with drug trafficking, although terrorism may have been a secondary motive in the early 1990s. I believe in drug legalization, but that is irrelevant to the question of border searches.

I learned not to smart talk the customs officials and to answer their questions politely. One afternoon the US officers searched my car in considerable detail and I was physically searched. No one likes to be compelled like this, and there was a risk that a zealous customs officer might have planted evidence.

That said, the matter of terrorism is important. It is unfortunate that the techniques of investigating terrorism are not sophisticated enough to eliminate searches of someone like Yon who has done nothing wrong. Moreover, if it is possible to minimize terrorist threats while reducing searches of the Yon variety, I am for it.

I do not think that open borders would be wise at this time because of the terrorist threat. Instead, I do believe that more sophisticated profiling would be most beneficial. Likely, with more accurate profiling Yon would not have been questioned in detail.

Unfortunately, the left and many civil liberties advocates have opposed profiling. The thousands of people left dead by terrorists suffered the ultimate incursion on their civil liberties, but strangely, civil libertarians have rarely questioned how terrorist murder, a far more extreme incursion on civil liberties than anything that has been done by a customs officer, might be eliminated. Instead, objections have been raised at attempts to minimize more anti-libertarian murder by substituting less anti-libertarian tactics like profiling. Both are anti-libertarian, but murder more so than being questioned. Defense is a necessary evil.

Hence, I consider most civil libertarians of the Breitbart variety to be profoundly anti-libertarian. Nor do I think Yon is anything more than an activist trying for cheap publicity.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rubio Ousts Greer in Florida

Progressive Republican Jim Greer has stepped down as chair of the Florida Republican Party, according to Talking Points Memo.com. David Brooks in the New York Times mentioned Greer's replacement, Marc Rubio, as a potential leader of the Tea Party movement (along with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson). I hesitate about the Brooks mention for obvious reasons. Anything associated with the Times is potentially cooptive. If I were Fidel Castro, I wouldn't be asking the Republican Liberty Caucus for advice, and we should be extremely wary of the Times's opinions.

TalkingPointsMemo.com writes:

"It's hard to overstate the importance of this resignation to the national GOP landscape.

"Florida is shaping up to be the epicenter of the intraparty GOP war in 2010, and the resignation of Greer suggests the battle is tilting toward the ultra-conservatives on the tea party side of the line. Ever since Crist entered the Senate race, Rubio backers have accused Greer of turning the state party into an arm of the Crist campaign. Crist and Greer are longtime political friends, and Greer made it clear from the get-go that he supported Crist over Rubio (he promised to run the party objectively, however.) Rubio backers began to attack him and call for his resignation. Now -- over Crist's objections -- they appear to have gotten their wish."

Tea Party Movement

Jennifer Rubin of Commentary blogs about David Brooks's New York Times article. Even a Times Democrat like Brookes admits:

"the new administration has not galvanized a popular majority. In almost every sphere of public opinion, Americans are moving away from the administration, not toward it. The Ipsos/McClatchy organizations have been asking voters which party can do the best job of handling a range of 13 different issues. During the first year of the Obama administration, the Republicans gained ground on all 13."

Rubin makes several good points in response:

”The Obama administration is premised on the conviction that pragmatic federal leaders with professional expertise should have the power to implement programs to solve the country’s problems.” Actually, I think it’s fair to say (in fact Brooks has been candid enough to say it on occasion) that the Obama team has become infatuated with a certain type of problem-solving — centralized, blind to unintended consequences, arrogant in the assumption of expertise, and lacking humility about government bureaucrats’ ability to micromanage the lives of hundreds of millions of us."

Like most of the Times's writers, the author has insufficient knowledge of American history or the philosophy underlying the nation's founding to understand the Lockean motivation behind the Tea Parties' outrage. The Times, like America's ill-educated "elite" in general, lacks the intellectual foundation to grasp why their ideas repeatedly fail; why many find them administration distasteful; and why better-educated tea party enthusiasts aim to throw the New York Times-supported bums out the door.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Health Care Totalitarianism

Both recent health care bills mandate that all Americans must have health insurance. But how will this requirement be monitored? In the case of automobiles, the state does not know whether you have automobile insurance until you are stopped by a state trooper for driving over 80. Then, the trooper checks your insurance and registration, and if they are wanting you are in hot water. There are probably plenty of people driving around without car insurance (one struck my mother in the late 1980s and she couldn't collect damages) because the government does not know whether you have insurance unless you get caught.

What about health care? How will the government know whether people not covered by a government or company plan have purchased individual insurance?

There are two options. First, the laissez-faire approach would permit people to avoid purchasing health insurance until they get caught. They would get caught by being hospitalized without insurance. If that approach is used, then there are alternatives. The hospital could refuse admittance, which would be much worse from a moral standpoint than the current approach of providing free (unpaid-for) care. Or payment of back premiums when lack of coverage is discovered in the hospital could be required. This would probably amount to the current method. People charged for three or 10 years' back premiums simply will not pay.

The second option would involve ongoing enforcement by investigation of people's health coverage status. This would involve an increase in intervention in people's private lives. The government would investigate employment relationships; holding of second jobs; marriages; other forms of domestic partnership; income tax information; sources of income; and other forms of personal information likely to shed light on health insurance coverage. Insurance companies will be required to divulge premium rolls and such rolls will be matched against federal income tax information. Those who do not pay federal income taxes might be subjected to in-person inquiries and investigations.

This system would magnify government intervention in people's private lives. Of course, once the government has a bureaucracy of this kind, it will invent ever more invasive uses of it. For example, the homeland security agencies created by the Patriot Act are now investigating purchases of prescription drugs from Mexico. This has nothing to do with terrorism, and hardly seems relevant to the Patriot Act's rationale. But that is one of the law's key effects a few years later. In other words, the law turned out to be an aide for investigation on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. Imagine the opportunities that health reform provide to invasive bureaucrats, zealots and law enforcement officials.

At least some of the uncovered do not want insurance. They will be subject to harassment. Further out, the investigative edifice will be used to prosecute people for buying the wrong foods, binge drinking, failing to exercise, or unacceptable sexual activities. The road to serfdom has taken us to our destination. Serfdom is now the American way of life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Free Course on Constitutional Law

Netty Weisbaum just forwarded this e-mail. Brooklyn Law School professor Henry mark Holzer has announced that he will be teaching a rare course in constitutional law, free of charge, on eight evenings in February and March. Holzer represented Ayn Rand.

> AN N O U N C E M E N T: An Internet Course On AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
Presented By Professor Emeritus HENRY MARK HOLZER rooklyn Law School

http://www.henrymarkholzer.com

Like many other Americans, I am deeply concerned about our nation’s future.

The Weekly Standard of December 21, 2009, reports that “a survey commissioned by the American Revolution Center” found that “when it came to a simple test of knowledge about the founding [of the United States of America], nearly 83 percent of . . . Americans failed.”

In the face of this woeful ignorance, the Constitution of the United States of America is under an unprecedented attack by Barack Obama and his runaway Democrat Party, aided and abetted by the complicit mainstream media.

Yet with a few notable exceptions there is hardly any knowledgeable defense of our founding document to be found anywhere.

Not on radio or television. Not in the press. Not at the grassroots. Certainly not in academia. Nor, sadly, among most Republicans, Conservatives and even Libertarians. Most of the Media’s “instant,” pontificating constitutional experts, especially those on national television, do more harm than good because they spread disinformation that is neither knowledgeable nor principled.

While many “tea party” activists and other patriots are valiantly trying to fight for core constitutional values, they’re disarmed because they have been taught little about American constitutional law. The fact is that everyone fighting for America today, in order to defend the Constitution, must know the answers to countless crucial questions.

Just a few examples:

· Can Congress constitutionally require Americans to buy medical insurance?

· Did Congress lack the constitutional power to give a lame-duck, unelected treasury secretary unchecked and unsupervised power to dispense a trillion dollars of taxpayer money?

· Does Obama have the constitutional power to appoint unaccountable “czars” to rule over virtually every aspect of our lives?

· How was a bare majority of the Supreme Court able to usurp constitutional control over America’s national security and the “War on Terrorism” from President George W. Bush?

· Why do even supporters of Roe v. Wade’s result admit that, as constitutional law, the decision is indefensible?

· What turned the Constitution into a “living” document that can mean anything Earl Warren, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor feel it should mean?

· Is the “fairness doctrine”—which could kill conservative talk radio programs, like Rush Limbaugh—a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment?

· Are American citizens about to be stripped of their constitutional “right to bear arms”?

· What are “unenumerated” constitutional rights, and why have they never been recognized?

· Can racial quotas ever be eliminated entirely?

· Where does the Constitution say that convicts are entitled to law libraries?

The answers to these and scores of other questions about America’s Constitution will, for good or ill, determine much about the future of the United States of our nation.

Those who are committed to fighting for that future must acquire a basic understanding of the Constitution's origins and birth, its written text, the manner in which it has been deliberately violated, and the consequences of how it has been misinterpreted by collectivists and statists.

Because of the importance of this struggle, I have put aside most of my writing and legal work and early in 2010 will offer—strictly as a pro bono personal undertaking—an Internet course consisting of ten lectures on American constitutional law. You can learn about who I am, and understand why I’m doing this, simply by taking a look at my blog (www.henrymarkholzer.blogspot.com) and/or my website (www.henrymarkholzer.com).

Please help me get out the word about this course.

If you agree that it is essential today for laypersons--especially Conservatives, Libertarians and Independents--to understand basic American constitutional law ("Con Law 101," if you will), please forward the following Announcement to everyone you can, asking them to do the same. I am particularly interested in getting it to prominent Conservatives, Libertarians and Independents such as Palin, Paul and Independent teachers, clergy, columnists and others who have the public's attention. “Plugs” from leading talk show hosts and hostesses are most welcome.

Many years ago, one of my clients and friends—the author Ayn Rand— asked me a rhetorical question: “If we don’t fight for this country, who will?”

I gave the same answer to Rand as I do now: I will!

SYLLABUS

1. Formation of the American Republic

Events leading to the Declaration of Independence.
The text and meaning of the Declaration.
The Continental Congress.
The Constitutional Convention.
The Constitution’s structure and content.
The ratification battle in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere.
The achievement of the first Congress.
The Bill of Rights and debates over its ratification.

2. The American Constitutional System
A working definition of “constitutional law.”
How the Supreme Court came to be the Constitution’s final arbiter.

“Originalism” and other tools of constitutional interpretation.
Federalism: the relationship and tensions between the federal and state governments, with examples showing federal legislation affecting matters which should be within the powers of the states.

Separation of powers: the relationship and tensions between the three supposedly equal branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial — with examples of where the “more equal” branch, the Supreme Court, refereed battles between the other two branches and, in the bargain, expanded its own powers.

Judicial supremacy: primarily Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion in Marbury vs. Madison, which established the principle of Judicial Review.

Griswold v. Connecticut, illustrating federalism, separation of powers and judicial review.

3. Congress and Its Powers

The source, nature, and scope of Congress’s power.
Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.
Congress’s war, foreign affairs, and related powers.
Congress’s other, miscellaneous powers.

4. The Presidency And Its Powers

The President's “chief executive” and “faithfully execute” power.
The President's power as Commander-in-Chief.

5. The Judiciary And Its Powers

The source, nature, and scope of judicial power. Limitations, if any, on judicial power.

6. Intergovernmental Relations

The “horizontal” relationship between the states, and the requirement of “full faith and credit.”

Constitutional Limitations on Congress's Power

Textual limitations on the power of Congress, including suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
Constitutional Limitations On The Power Of The States
The few textual limitations of the power of the states, including the prohibition against impairment of contracts.

7. Prohibitions On Both Congress And The States: The Bill Of Rights

Introduction to the Bill of Rights.
Does the Bill of Rights apply against the federal government?
“Substantive” Due Process: contraception and abortion.


8. The First Amendment


Speech.
Religion.


9. The Eighth Amendment

Cruel and Unusual Punishment.
The Fourteenth Amendment
Genesis of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Procedural Due Process: Notice and opportunity to be heard.
Substantive Due Process, revisited.

10. The Fourteenth Amendment

Substantive due process, revisited.
Equal protection of the law:
Race.
Gender.
Sexuality.
Conclusion to lectures


GENERAL INFORMATION

Lectures/Schedule

The recorded course—ten two-hour lectures each week for ten consecutive weeks—will be available via (1) my website (www.henrymarkholzer.com) and (2) my blog page (www.henrymarkholzer.blogspot.com), from each of which the entire course can be downloaded free of charge.

It will available on those sites in the middle of the weeks beginning January 17, 24, 31; February 7, 14, 21, 28; and March 7, 14, 21 and will remain there indefinitely.

No Cost To Download Recorded Course

There is no cost to access this course in its recorded/downloaded form. (However, because listeners will be hearing a recording, they will not be able to ask questions.)

Cost To Participate In Live Course

The prerequisite to posting and maintaining the course on my website and blog at no cost is that the ten lectures first be recorded.

To do that, I will utilize the worldwide facilities of www.skype.com, an interactive computer-based communication system.

Using Skype, it will be possible for no more than 23 individuals to hear the course live, and ask questions, by downloading free software from Skype and using an inexpensive, off-the-shelf headset/microphone.

I will record by delivering the lectures live on Sunday evenings, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM Eastern Time on January 17, 24, 31; February 7, 14, 21, 28, March 7, 14, 21, 2010.

(To defray Skype, recording, posting, etc. expenses, I am charging $250 for this interactive participation. Persons interested in being among the 23 who listen to my lectures live should contact me at

http://www.henrymarkholzer.citymax.com/con_law_course_registration.html for full details).


Essential reading

There is no “homework” for this course. However, to benefit fully from it I recommend that prior to hearing the first lecture you obtain a hard copy of, and read, the Constitution of the United States of America. Also, the Supreme Court opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut, which can be found without cost at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=381&invol=479. You will find it helpful to have both available during the course.

Contact/Updates

Persons having questions about anything concerning the content of the course may submit them here. (Please, no questions about Skype!)

Persons wishing to receive additional information about this course, and future courses I may offer, must register to receive my blog (www.henrymarkholzer.blogspot.com). This will be my only way of communicating with you and the only place such information will be available.

This announcement appears in its entirety on my website http://www.henrymarkholzer.citymax.com/f/con_law_course.pdf

My Goal

Preparation of this course, and providing everything else that will allow it to remain posted and downloaded indefinitely, is my personal pro bono publico undertaking.

I am offering it in the hope that public education in American constitutional law will aid in our fight to rescue our nation from those who are destroying it.

(To guard against email changing the format, I have attached a Word version of this Announcement.)
____________________________________________________________________________

When I was in college I took a course called Civil Liberties taught by someone named John Nields who had helped represent a firm called Red Lion Broadcasting in a constitutional case that was brought before the Supreme Court. Mr. Nields had retired and was teaching full time at Sarah Lawrence College for $1 per year. I seem to recall he lived in Manhattan and made a short drive up there. I thought the course was one of the best I have taken. This one sounds just as good.

Obama's Change: More Military Afghan Deaths in '09 than Ever Before

Gateway Pundit (h/t Larwyn) reports an ABC news story indicating that the military deaths in Afghanistan were more numerous since President Obama took office than ever before.

Poll Finds Flagging Obama Popularity--Dems Blame Poll

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit quotes a politico.com article (h/t Bob Robbins) that states:

"Democrats are turning their fire on Scott Rasmussen, the prolific independent pollster whose surveys on elections, President Obama’s popularity and a host of other issues are surfacing in the media with increasing frequency.

"The pointed attacks reflect a hardening conventional wisdom among prominent liberal bloggers and many Democrats that Rasmussen Reports polls are, at best, the result of a flawed polling model and, at worst, designed to undermine Democratic politicians and the party’s national agenda."

The Democrats are used to having virtually every media outlet service their partisan propaganda needs and aim to suppress any alternative, especially when more accurate than their traditional propaganda outlets like the New York Times. Democrats much prefer the biases and distortions in the Times to the truth.

Rasmussen reported yesterday that Obama's popularity has severely flagged. The Democrats complain that assertion of facts like that is unfair. As Jules Crittenden points out:

"How much of an outlier is Rasmussen? Not much this morning. Realclearpolitics. Rasmussen gives Obama 46 percent approval, as does Quinnipiac, while NBC/WSJ gives him 47 percent. The diviation spikes in disapproval, however. 53 percent via Rasmussen, mid-40s elsewhere. Sounds like it depends what you think disapproval is. Based on what I’ve been hearing from some Dems in bluest Mass, especially in the wake of back-to-back health care and terrorism debacles, plus the hard left’s disapproval of the Afghan policy, sounds more like all the other pollsters are giving him the benefit of a doubt...Gateway notes that Rasmussen was the most accurate pollster of the 2008 election...

Rasmussen writes:

"The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll, released Thursday, shows that 24% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18".

The two graphs below tell Rasmussen's story:



US ParksService's Alma Ripps on Maurice Hinchey's Hudson Valley Federal Park Proposal

Alma Ripps of the US Parks Service has responded to my inquiry concerning the implications of Congressman Maurice Hinchey's HR 4003, which would begin a process of federalizing the Hudson Valley, as follows:

Mr. Langbert,

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding legislation introduced by Representative Maurice Hinchey, H.R. 4003, which would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of resources in the Hudson River Valley in the State of New York. I apologize for the tardiness in responding to your inquiry. As you can imagine, it is sometimes difficult to reach people during the holiday season to provide information.

The bill does not propose to establish a park in the Hudson River Valley, rather, it would (if enacted) initiate a study to determine whether any resources in the region meet the criteria for potential congressional designation. Such studies determine whether resources are nationally significant, suitable for inclusion into the National Park System, feasible to administer, and require management by the National Park Service versus being able to be managed by others. At the conclusion of a study (which normally takes two or more years), if resources in the region are found to meet these criteria, separate legislation would need to be enacted by Congress to establish a unit of the National Park System.

The Department of the Interior does not take an official position on pending legislation until a hearing by a congressional committee is conducted. To date, no hearing has been scheduled on this bill.

Since a study of the Hudson River Valley has not even been authorized, much less concluded, it would be premature to offer any conjecture on what the implications of establishing a unit of the National Park System in the region might entail. The first question, of course, is whether one or more resources would meet the criteria indicated above. Even when a study does determine that resources qualify for congressional consideration for establishment of a unit (although most do not), alternatives to National Park Service management must be explored and detailed in the study report.

Today, there are various models of units of the National Park System ranging from the traditional model where the National Park Service owns and manages a resource to those where we have limited or no ownership interest and work with partners for the continued protection of natural or cultural resources and to promote public understanding of their importance to the nation through education and interpretation. An example of the latter model is the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area where we partner with state and nonprofit organizations and provide financial, technical and interpretive assistance. We also have affiliated areas of the National Park System which we do not manage, but provide financial and technical
assistance to those organizations that protect the resource. A study permits us to tailor the appropriate model to the resource(s), assuming that the criteria for potential designation have first been met.

Should a study of the Hudson River Valley be authorized by Congress, an extensive public involvement process would accompany the study since public support for any potential designation is a key aspect of the feasibility analysis. A study must also provide an analysis of environmental, cultural and socio-economic impacts of a unit of the National Park System should one be determined eligible for establishment.

Since you mentioned the Catskills and the Adirondacks, we assume you understand that the regulatory policies affecting those two regions were enacted by the New York State Legislature and are administered by agencies of the State, not the federal government. Currently, we have a cooperative relationship with the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area which was established by Congress in 1996. No unique federal regulations apply to this area because of that designation, although the National Park Service provides financial and technical assistance to the heritage area.

We hope the above information has been helpful and that you will understand that we are not in a position to provide detailed answers to your questions since we have not commenced a study of the region to determine if a unit of the National Park System could be established in the Hudson River Valley.

Thank you for your interest in the National Park Service. Please contact me if you have further questions.

Alma

Rethinking the Congressional Honorific

Tradition dictates that in writing a letter to a Senator or Congressman we use the appellation "Honorable". About.com gives the standard method:

>"The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

"Dear Representative:"

The reference to Congressmen as "honorable" has no legal standing. As HL Mencken wrote in his 1921 "American Language":

"...perhaps the greatest difference between English and American usage is presented by the Honorable. In the United States the title is applied loosely to all public officials of apparent respectability, from senators and ambassadors to the mayors of fifth-rate cities and the members of state legislatures, and with some show of official sanction to many of them, especially congressmen. But it is questionable whether this application has any actual legal standing...Congressmen themselves are not Honorables. True enough, the Congressional Record, in printing a set speech, calls it “Speech of Hon. John Jones” (without the the before the Hon.—a characteristic Americanism), but in reporting the ordinary remarks of a member it always calls him plain Mr. Nevertheless, a country congressman would be offended if his partisans, in announcing his appearance on the stump, did not prefix Hon. to his name. So would a state senator. So would a mayor or governor...."

The reference to a Congressman as honorable is evidence of faith in the character and integrity of the United States government. Election to the Congress of a great nation is honorable. But do we retain belief in the integrity of the United States government?

Congress has abused its trust by gerrymandering districts, reducing its legitimacy and representativeness. As well, it has failed to maintain proportional representation. In 1787 there was one Congressman for every 3,000 Americans. Today there is one Congressman for every 500,000 Americans. In 1776 the nation's 26 senators represented on average 115,000 Americans. Today, with over 300 million Americans, the 100 Senators represent three million each. The failure to retain proportionality of representation has been accompanied with escalation of corruption, especially in the post World War II period. The corruption associated with the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century was miniscule in comparison with the magnitude of campaign contributions, donations to libraries, speakers' fees and the like today. Membership in Congress has become not an honor, but a form of legalized criminality.

Congress has manipulated the mass media to reflect its own and its clients' interests. It has permitted the subsidization of privileged sectors of the economy at the expense of productive sectors, damaging the nation's economic prospects. It has permitted but refused to take responsibility for wars, harming the nation's interests once it has approved the wars. Congress has failed to oversee the federal government's budget, insisting on renewing hundreds of failed government programs. It has lied to the public with respect to government operations, military operations, the operation of the Federal Reserve Bank, the productivity of government offices and virtually every endeavor in which it has engaged.

Congress has abused its trust by ignoring, violating and damning the Constitution of the United States. It has extended federal power in ways that warranted reassessment through Constitutional Amendment, but knowing that such amendment was impossible, violated its Constitutional mandate. It has effected one failed program after the next, and it puts the interests of the clients of those programs over the interests of the public.

Congress has become a racketeering scheme. Mencken's sarcasm was appropriate in his day. Today, in connection with this year's Congress, the title "honorable" has become offensive.

I call on all Americans to desist from using the appellation "Honorable" when referring to Congessmen.