Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Netanyahu, Roosevelt, and Truman

On July 14 (2014) Time magazine reported that "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene a meeting with his security cabinet on Tuesday to vote on a cease-fire proposal from Egypt      that he favors, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz."

I wonder what the result would have been if President Roosevelt had to take a vote of his cabinet to choose between a D-Day landing at Pas-de-Calais or Normandy, or if Truman needed an OK from his cabinet to drop two atomic bombs.

That's the difference between the Israeli form of government and the American Constitution's Article II, making the president commander-in-chief. Thanks be, again, to the Founders.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lunch with Rick and Bob

Fox News has an intelligent half-hour program Saturday at noon (Mountain Time) called “The Wall Street Journal Report.” A sizable portion of this week’s show was devoted to an examination of Rand Paul and Rick Perry as potential Republican presidential nominees.
For a reason I’ll explain below, the program airing today was an amazing coincidence.

I found the program of special interest for two reasons. One was because moderator Paul Gigot and his two WSJ guests, Daniel Henninger and Matthew Kaminski, discussed Governor Perry with the utmost seriousness both as a thirteen-year Texas governor and a credible presidential nominee and potential president.

The other was because almost exactly twenty-four hours earlier (from now, as I write) I was sitting across a luncheon table from Rick Perry and Bob Beauprez here in Colorado discussing, among other subjects, the Tenth Amendment.

Governor Perry was in Colorado campaigning for Beauprez because he is the Republican candidate for governor. The invitational luncheon with a group of Republican and Conservatives was not a fundraiser, but rather a “meet-and-greet” in support of Beauprez’s candidacy.

I’m relating this, first, briefly to emphasize my impression of Bob Beauprez, whom Governor Perry introduced. 

As expected, he outlined the current failures of Obama and his captive Democrat senate. He spoke with conviction and understanding about the Founders’ core principles, to which he hoped to be ever faithful, emphasizing the Tenth Amendment and expounding on the many ways it has been violated by the current administration. Last, he explained some of the programs he’d implement if elected governor. 

All were important, but for me one stood out: Bob promised to have his administration review every, yes every, Colorado rule and regulation and measure it against the litmus test of whether it advanced or retarded individual rights, limited government, and free enterprise.

After he and Governor Perry finished speaking and lunch was served, Bob and I discussed Colorado’s anti-gun legislation—signed into law by the current Democrat governor, who admitted he’d not read it before putting pen to paper—which Bob hopes to get the legislature to repeal.

Bob Beauprez’s comments were preceded by Rick Perry’s remarks which were thoughtful, knowledgeable, articulate, and convincing. As expected, he spoke with earned pride of the “Texas Miracle” in which he has played such a prominent role, a phrase which has entered the contemporary lexicon to mean a state’s burgeoning economy. 

Perry had at his fingertips facts and figures about several of the critical problems facing America today. Domestically: economic issues, particularly jobs, unemployment--and of course Obamacare and immigration. As to the latter, he proposed specific, and doable, fixes--and his proposals left no doubt the combination of them could greatly reduce the amount and character of those coming across the border today.

Perry spoke of the Founders whose fundamental ideas he clearly understands. He, too, focused strongly on the Tenth Amendment, and when we talked about it in more detail at lunch it was clear to me that he understood that federal overriding of the "states/people" reservation of power provided in that Amendment has been the source of much violation of the Constitution's attempt at a working federalism. I gave Rick and Bob a copy of my recent blog on the Tenth Amendment. (We also discussed American innovation, flying, and other less cerebral subjects.) 

As a candidate for the presidency of the United States, the man I had lunch with yesterday is politically, intellectually, and knowledgeably not the same person who participated in the 2012 Republican debates.

Rick Perry is dedicated, smart, personable, experienced. And real!

The pretenders to the nomination--Jindal, Christie, Bush III, Paul, Walker, Rubio, Romney, et al.--better be at  the top of their game because here comes Rick Perry out of Texas, with the presidency in his sights.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Announcing the availability of a new Monograph by Henry Mark Holzer: The June 25, 1950, North Korean Invasion of South Korea: The Rest of the Story.

The three-year conflict that raged the entire length of the Korean peninsula between June 1950 and July 1953 is often referred to as the “Forgotten War.” That’s ironic because two major consequences of that indecisive war— which cost the United States some 40,000 dead and billions of dollars—greatly shape today’s dangerous world. One consequence is the nuclear capability of the maniacal North Korean regime. The other is China’s emergence as a world military and economic power.

Yet beyond perhaps recalling that North Korea attacked South Korea, few Americans today know who really started the Korean War, why the conspirators engineered the attack, and what was behind the United States’ response.

The truth is that the countless dead on all sides of the Korean War—military and civilian—were mere pawns in a geopolitical game created and played by Communists in thrall to collectivist-statist dogmas that sought world domination, aided and abetted by American politicians.

·         Josef Stalin had a major interest in keeping Mao Tse-tung from a rapprochement with the United States, while appearing to support the Chairman’s goal of “liberating” Formosa (now Taiwan).
·         Mao Tse-tung, for his part, did entertain the possibility of a rapprochement with the United States, while simultaneously planning to liberate Formosa.
·         Kim Il-sung wanted to unify Korea under a Communist dictatorship, with himself at the top of the heap.
·         Harry Truman schemed to use a war in Korea to force Congress into funding worldwide containment of the Soviet Union.

As my Monograph explains, among these four strange bedfellows there was more than enough culpability to go around.

The role played by each of these four, is the Korean War’s “rest of the story,” exposure of which is owed mainly to Professor Richard C. Thornton’s masterful Odd Man Out, Truman, Stalin, Mao, and the Origins of the Korean War. 

My Monograph is available, at no charge, HERE.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tenth Amendment advice to my Republican, Conservative, and Libertarian friends

As many of the recipients of this blog know, I am a recovering constitutional law professor. Although I risk relapsing if I think, let alone write, about constitution law, now that current popular discourse is so permeated with the subject, there is an itch I have to scratch. 

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America provides in unambiguous language that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

To paraphrase, so no one can misunderstand. 

           If in the Constitution a specific power is not specifically delegated to Congress, principally in Article I, Section 8 (e.g., "lay taxes," "regulate commerce," "establish post offices," "borrow money" . . .

          And if that specific power is not expressly prohibited to the states in Article I, Section 10 (e.g., "enter into any treaty," "coin money," "pass any ... law impairing the obligation of contracts") . . . 
           That specific power (e.g., to enact criminal or marriage laws) is reserved to the states, which may legislate if authorized by its (the states') citizens.

In light of this unambiguous language and the equally incontestable intention that wrote it, why then do Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians when speaking of the Tenth Amendment invoke "states' rights"?

Not only was the Tenth Amendment not intended to safeguard rights, not only does it say nothing about states' rights, not only is it clear beyond rational argument that the Amendment speaks only to power expressly delegated to Congress and other power expressly reserved to the states, but states do not have rightsOnly individuals have rights.

Thus, it is doubly wrong for my Republican, Conservative, and Libertarian friends to speak of “states’ rights.” Doing so misunderstands the delegation/reservation intent and meaning of the Tenth Amendment, and in the process completely ignores the real source of rights expressly articulated in the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment. Especially in the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”1

Moreover, my friends who want to invoke the Tenth Amendment in legal and political argument today are missing the constitutional boat. At stake in the current battle over engorged federal power is not a meaningless two words. Obama and his not-so-merry band of progressives in Congress and the regulatory agencies are not violating “states’ rights.”

They are making war on state sovereignty: 
“A doctrine in political theory that government is created by and subject to the will of the people” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

They are warring against the “people,” whom the Tenth Amendment makes the repository of all power not expressly delegated to the federal government.

So please, Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians, get it right.2

1 Another reason the phrase “states’ rights” should never be used is because of its connotation, if not denotation. During the thankfully bygone era of racial discrimination and segregation southern, states used the principle of “states’ rights” to justify first slavery and then Jim Crow laws.

2 The implications of this understanding for politics are substantial, because many voters can easily be made to grasp in concrete terms how a federal attack on their state and individual sovereignty affects them.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The final desecration of Atlas Shrugged

I am aware that among the hundreds of people who receive this blog not everyone is devoted to Ayn Rand’s ideas, or believes that her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged is a masterwork. Thus, what follows will probably be of no interest to them. 

However, for those who revere Rand’s 1957 novel as a superb example of romantic realism—let alone brilliantly predictive—the recently announced third motion picture installment of Atlas Shrugged must be considered the final desecration.

Of the many points I could make, here are only two of the major ones.

The feature film rights to Atlas Shrugged should never been sold (let alone several times over) because the scope, characters, plot, and ideas of Atlas are inherently impossible to dramatize in two hours. 

I say this because of two personal experiences. 

One is because in 1968 Erika Holzer and I found the missing Italian film of We the Living, a much shorter and easier story to tell than Atlas. In its original form, WTL was three-plus hours long. Only due to Rand’s personally suggested edits, a bit of her restructuring, and some 4,000 subtitles written by Erika Holzer and Duncan Scott, did the film become the international motion picture success it deserved to be. 

The second is because toward the end of Rand’s life she worked with a TV producer and writer to create a network miniseries which would have been at least seven hours long. The writer was Oscar-winner Stirling Silliphant, whose writing achievements included the TV series Route 66 and the feature film In the Heat of the Night. At dinner one night in Los Angeles Stirling told the Holzers that there was no way Atlas Shrugged could, with any fealty to the novel, be done as a typical two-hour feature film.

As further proof that it was folly to try, I submit that the eventual producers themselves realized that a standard feature was impossible. So they made three, somewhat connected, but still standard feature films.

I repeat, the feature film rights should never have been sold, and when it was clear the current producers intended to dissect Atlas into three standard feature films, they should have been stopped.

Instead, the producers’ “solution” to the unsolvable length and complexity problems—driven also by the need to begin principal photography before their rights-option expired—was to quickly make one-third of Rand’s magnum opus, with the other two-thirds to come along in two later installments.

As to Atlas I and II (and doubtless the forthcoming Atlas Shrugged III), not a single nationally or internationally household name was associated with the project. This failure was most egregious regarding the script. While it would have been too much to expect that the producers would hire a journeyman writer like William Goldman (All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), there were some well-credentialed Hollywood writers who understood Rand’s novel and could have created a faithfully powerful script. I know one of them.

Worse than all this, by far, is that the well-intentioned producers apparently believed that even though they were making an “entertainment” not a documentary, it was incumbent on them to provide “philosophical oversight.” So they hired the equivalent of a philosophical commissar, to keep the production on the Objectivist straight-and-narrow.
(There’s more. For example: difficulties with distribution, changing actors from one of the parts to the others, miscasting, the impossibility of showing Atlas Shrugged I, II, and III together in a movie theater or even on television.)

The noise you hear is Ayn Rand spinning in her grave. The feature film rights should never have been sold.

In the days of the Italian version of We the Living (1940-1941) it was possible for the film’s negatives and prints to vanish, as nearly happened because of Nazi hostility to Rand’s story about the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution on a fiercely independent woman and the two men who loved her.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of the Internet, cloud storage, digital recorders, and DVDs, there is no way Atlas Shrugged I, II, and III, unlike We the Living, will ever be lost.