Another Scalia? No, another Thomas!

In California, carrying concealed weapons is controlled by the local, elected Sheriff.  In Tuolumne County, where I live, it’s easy to get a permit.  Sheriff Jim Mele is a second amendment man, who has publicly stated he has no interest in enforcing ridiculous federal gun laws.  He’s a popular sheriff.

It’s different in San Diego County, which has a gun grabber for a sheriff.  It’s virtually impossible for a regular citizen to get a concealed carry permit, so suit was filed to force the sheriff to be more reasonable.  The Ninth Circuit ruled for the sheriff (natch), and the plaintiffs appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court.  The court decided not to hear the case, prompting an angry and well reasoned dissent from Justice Thomas.

His dissent was joined by only one of his Associate Justices  —  Neil Gorsuch.  The proof is in the pudding, and Gorsuch is the real deal.  Scalia was the conservative darling of the Court.  But the real, honest to God conservative has always been Clarence Thomas.  If you want to read an inspiring story, get a copy of My Grandfather’s Son, by Clarence Thomas.  It’s the story of a great American, told in praise of the man who raised him.

Compare Gorsuch (and, hopefully, Trump’s next appointment) to the two women on the court who are the type Hillary Clinton would have appointed, Sotomayor and Ginsburg.  A Christian school in Missouri was denied funding for a school playground improvement, on the grounds that it would violate the separation between church and state.  The Supreme Court overruled the lower courts, and ordered that this injustice be remedied.  The two dissenters, Sotomayor and Ginsberg, would have had a third vote if Clinton had been elected.

Say what you want about Trump, he’s no Hillary Clinton.

Along with James Capretta, Yuval Levin is the health care expert I trust.  He says the Senate Obamacare bill is not a repeal and a replacement, as it was advertised.   It’s a reform of a very bad piece of legislation.  But as Levin explains, that’s all these Republicans in Congress are willing to do.  Is a quarter loaf better than none at all?

Capretta, also writing in NRO, says it’s very much needed fundamental reform of Medicaid.  If you want to stand on principle, and throw away a chance at real reform because it’s not enough, you don’t belong in politics.  You should become a preacher.  As the great Senator Ev Dirksen of Illinois used to say, “I’m a man of principle, and one of my principles is flexibility.”

Here’s a little historical nugget I read about today.  In 1826 Secretary of State Henry Clay and Senator Edmund Randolph of Virginia hated each other.  In Virginia at the time, fighting a duel was considered an honorable thing to do.  Not so in the north, where Clay, of Kentucky, hoped to get the votes he needed to eventually become President.  So Randolph continually insulted Clay with lies and vitriol, and finally provoked him into a duel.  They fired pistols at ten paces, and both of Clay’s shots missed.  Randolph was very well aware of the fact that Clay had no idea of how to handle a gun.  It’s why he wanted to duel him in the first place.  So Randolph took a shot at Clay’s leg, missed, and fired his second shot in the air.

Clay’s reputation suffered from this encounter, just as Randolph knew it would.  In politics, sometimes you have to be creative.

Oil = power

The Germans found out the hard way.  They signed the Armistice in 1918 because they’d run out of oil, and without it their armed forces were unable to fight on.  The also lost the Second World War for lack of oil.  The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because we cut them off from our oil, and they lost the war in the Pacific because they couldn’t get enough oil.

So when “Trump calls for U. S. Dominance in Global Energy Production”, he’s not just talking about oil, and the economy, and jobs, he’s talking geopolitics at the highest level.  As a major energy exporter, the influence of the United States around the world be magnified enormously.  Especially with the countries we export to.

Being reliant on another country for your oil makes that country your ally, de facto.  So who needs our oil, and who do we want as our allies?

Number one on the list is Japan, followed by South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.  These are all countries that border on China.  The logical American source for this oil is Alaska, much closer to these markets than the lower 48.

If Trump gets his way, the lion’s share of the oil we’ll need for the domination we seek will come from increased production on the federal lands in the western United States.  From Montana south to Wyoming, then south to Utah and Colorado, then South to Arizona to Mexico, within these states the potential petroleum reserve on federal land is worth unknown trillions of dollars.

Opening up oil exploration and production on the federal lands within these states, will, by itself, increase American production to make us energy dominant.  But we want a special relationship with Japan, and we want to let them import a pot of oil they’ve had their eyes on since the Prudhoe Bay discovery was made  —  Alaska.

The trans Alaska pipeline is running at 25% of capacity, and we’ll need to get it running full steam again.  Japan will take every drop of oil we can get to Valdez.  There’s one undeveloped area that could fill that line to capacity, and it’s located not for from its northern terminus.

It’s on the most godforsaken ground on this planet, its only permanent residents the native Inupiats.  Their ancestors arrived 2,000 years ago, and they have survived in the harshest environment  on earth ever since.  The part of the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve where the oil is located is Inupiat land.

The Inupiats want this oil developed.  In Inupiat culture, decisions like these are made by a Council of Elders, and they have met, and they have decided.  They want to stay where they are, in the land of their forefathers, and they want a better life.  Oil development on their land will provide an economic fortune to the few thousand Inupiats left.

I think Trump will listen to the Inupiat, and open up ANWR, and fill that pipeline.


Alaska politicians in black robes

Charles Lane is a relatively sane liberal who writes editorials for the Washington Post.  His latest is “Do we really want the Supreme Court to decide how partisan is too Partisan?”  The Court has agreed to review an appellate ruling from Wisconsin that said the Wisconsin Legislature’s redistricting plan was so partisan it was a violation of the equal protection clause.  Lane thinks the case should be reversed, and he’s right.

If the court unexpectedly upholds the lower court ruling it could spell trouble for the BBA movement.  The Wisconsin Legislature would be paralyzed by a new redistricting effort, with little time for things like Article V resolutions.

Anthony Kennedy will be the fifth and deciding vote, and while it’s highly unlikely he’ll go against his four conservative colleagues, with him you never know.  He may be retiring shortly.  Let’s hope so, and let’s all say a prayer of thanks for the Justice Neal Gorsuch appointment.  I don’t care how much you dislike Trump, if Clinton had won Scalia’s replacement would have been another whack job like Sotomayor.  And there would have been hell to pay.  We’d have the activist Warren court all over again, with what little that’s left of the Constitution in jeopardy.

If Kennedy wants to stick it in the eye of conservatives one last time, he would be making an enormous mistake.  As proof, I cite the record of the Alaska Supreme Court in redistricting cases.

Republican Jay Hammond reapportioned the legislature after the 1980 census, and his plan was challenged before the 1982 election.  The Supreme Court let the 1982 election take place with Hammond’s new districts, but when the election was over and Democrat Bill Sheffield was elected Governor, it revisited the case.

Justice Jay Rabinowitz had claimed to be on the fence in this case, but that was a lie.  Once a Democrat was in the Governor’s mansion, he found one insignificant flaw in one House District in Southeast.  Rather than order the small adjustment that was necessary, he gave the Democratic Governor a free hand to redraw the map of the entire state.

In the 1982 election, Republicans gained control of the legislature for the first time in Alaska’s short history, 11-9 in the Senate, and 21-19 in the House.  Under Sheffield’s new lines, in 1984 the Democrats were back in the majority.  Hammond had designed a State Senate district especially for me.  Sheffield made it impossible for me to stay in the Senate, so I ran for the House.

After every census since, in 1990, 2000, and 2010, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the redistricting plan was unconstitutional.  Unless you’re a lawyer, don’t bother reading these opinions.  If you are a lawyer, look at just one, Carpenter v. Hammond, 667 P2d 1204, 1983.   See if it makes one whit of sense to you.

The Alaska Supreme Court is a disgrace, and Senator Pete Kelly of Fairbanks tried to fix it.  The problem is the Alaska Judicial Council, which selects judges for the Governor to appoint, and is controlled by the Alaska Bar Association and the Supreme Court Chief Justice.   Conservative Governors have wanted to appoint conservative judges, but the Judicial Council refuses to allow them to be considered.

Alaska has a 1950’s era Constitution, written by liberal Democrats.  Kelly wanted to amend the Constitution, and reform the Judicial Council.  Republicans had the supermajorities needed to propose the amendment, but some weak kneed “moderates” wouldn’t go along.

Trump would not have been elected if Scalia’s seat had not been vacant.  Mitch McConnell, in one of his finer moments, kept it open, and deserves some credit for keeping Clinton out of the White House.  A fair number of conservatives only voted for Trump because of the Supreme Court.  They were right about that.

Because Trump made such an outstanding appointment with Gorsuch, Kennedy can retire knowing that his replacement will be cut from the same cloth.  We can expect another Gorsuch – like nominee.  There will be blood.

Because Roe v. Wade may be on the line, this will be the most contentious Supreme Court appointment fight in American history.  The left will disgrace itself with its rabid, half crazed opposition.

It all couldn’t come at a better time for Donald J. Trump.

The Phoenix Convention of States marches on

Since the States formed the federal government in 1787 there has been one national Convention of States, the Washington Peace Conference of 1861.  The Conventions held in Hartford in 1814 and Nashville in 1850 were sectional, not national meetings.  Hartford was about New England’s opposition to the War of 1812.  Nashville was about Southern efforts to head off the secessionists in South Carolina and elsewhere.

All that’s necessary for a successful national Convention of States is a call to Convention by one State, which is then answered positively by a quorum of the States in the union, 26 of 50.  With 32 States under complete Republican control, we’re assured of a quorum, but we want 50 out of 50.

My theory on why there hasn’t been a Convention in 156 years is complicated, but one element is partisanship.  If a Convention is called by Democrats to promote a Democratic solution to a problem the Republicans won’t come, and vice versa.

This partisanship almost prevented the first national Convention of States, called by Democratic Virginia.  The northern Republican States had just won the Presidential election, and didn’t feel inclined toward participating in a Democratic led effort to deal with the issue of slavery.  But, in the end, most of them came.  They wanted to make sure nothing was done to continue slavery.

Politically, a Democratic boycott of a Convention addressing the issue of a balanced budget amendment is foolish.  65% of Democratic voters support a BBA.  One of the most active Article V movements in the country, Wolf-PAC, is led by progressive Democrats.  Any sensible person, right or left, knows that the fear of a runaway Convention is moonshine.

We may see a replay of 1861, with the parties reversed.  The Democrats may decide to send Commissioners at the last minute.  We will do everything we can to encourage them to come.

The Arizona Legislature’s Convention planning committee is up and running, and no one from the Task Force will be participating.  These are formal interim legislative committee meetings and are subject to Arizona’s sunshine law, and will be conducted just like any other legislative committee.  The subject matter will be SHR 1.  The first full meeting will be Tuesday, June 27th at 2:00 Arizona time.  Listen in through this link. 

All indications point to a very successful Convention.  So successful that more such Conventions of States are probably going to be called.  My hunch is that a western State like Utah calls a national Convention of States on the subject of the Transfer of Public Lands.  The twelve western States who would be directly affected would send Commissioners.  The other western states from North Dakota down to Texas would also attend.  If they can convince enough States in the eastern half of the country to come, they could hammer out a proposed solution and send it to Congress.  If Congress ignores them they can start a TPL Article V campaign.

There will be other Conventions, on other subjects, which may be called from time to time.  With modern communications technology, all of these meetings need not be in person.  It all may develop into a new American tradition.

The States, acting together, can save their country.





Welcome to the swamp, Greg

Rep. Greg Gianforte made his maiden speech in Congress yesterday, and it didn’t go over very well.  He started talking about Congressional salaries, and how they should be suspended for failing to balance the budget.  There were boos from the Republican side, and an audible buzz of disapproval.

He said he wanted a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and term limits, and has signed on to be a sponsor.  Those bills were dead when they were introduced.  In this or any Congress, such bills are the stuff of dreamers.  Gianforte is not one of those, and it won’t take him long to understand there is no chance of Congress reforming itself.

Rep. Ken Buck was on the floor, no doubt, to hear his new colleague.  Maybe he’ll get a chance to have a frank conversation with Gianforte about life in the Swamp.  It ain’t pretty.

Gianforte expects to serve just two terms before running for Governor of Montana in 2020.  He won’t have time enough to have any real accomplishments in Congress.  He’ll want to spend as much time back at home in Montana as possible.  While he’s travelling the state he can talk about a balanced budget amendment to more effect than in the halls of Congress.

Avik Roy likes the Senate health care bill, so I think Cruz and Johnson can be convinced to vote for it.  This stuff is so complicated that you rely on experts you trust.  I trust Roy and James Capretta.  Roy twittered, this would be “the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.” (thanks, Instapundit).

If so, hats off to Mitch McConnell.  He got the most conservative bill he could, and that’s as good as it’s going to get.  Cruz and Johnson will figure that out soon enough.  You can’t talk about doing something for seven years, and then get in power and not do it.

The Republicans really need to pass this bill.  If they don’t, this Congress is going to hell in a hand basket.  The worse it gets, the better it is for Article V, but I don’t want to lose the House.

At the actual Article V Convention, once the balanced budget amendment has been drafted and voted on, there will still be some business to conduct.  A Committee of Correspondence of the former commissioners can be formed, with several purposes in mind.

The first will be to monitor the ratification process.  After ratification, the Committee could continue in existence to monitor Congressional compliance with the BBA.  If they felt it was not being properly done, they could issue a call for a Convention of States to discuss what remedy should be pursued.

Maybe calling it a Committee of Correspondence is too grandiose.  They could call themselves the Assembly of States, or the Federal Assembly.  Such a body could prove of lasting significance.