Browsing the blog archives for May, 2014.

There is no such thing as “constitutional formality”

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I was watching ESPN the other day when the announcer referred to the process underway to remove Donald Sterling as owner of the LA Clippers franchise as a “constitutional formality.” The more I think about this, the more it bothers me.

At first I was taken aback by the casual use of this term. The process required by the NBA’s constitution is not a formality. It lays out steps that ensure a fair process for everyone involved, at least to some extent.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CONSTITUTIONAL FORMALITY. ANYONE WHO DOESN’T SEE THE INHERENT CONTRADICTION IN THIS TERM DOESN’T APPRECIATE THE NEED FOR A CONSTITUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE.

So why does the NBA–or the United States for that matter–have a constitution? Why not just vote on issues as they arise and let the majority rule? Isn’t this democracy?

Constitutions are established to establish basic standards on how things must be done, standards that cannot be overturned with an emotional 51% vote or overruled by a tyrannical leader. Constitutions can change, but only through an established process that requires more than a fleeting majority. The US has a constitution to protect individual liberties and restrain government. The Constitution is not universally respected, however, so all of us must insist that it be upheld. When the US government violated the Constitution when FDR interned Japanese-Americans shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it was up to other Americans and a court system to address this injustice.

We don’t live in a literal democracy because we don’t vote on every issue. Instead, we live in a representative democracy. We elect leaders to represent our views and vote on our behalf. These leaders are constrained by the Constitution, and the courts can step in when there are interpretational differences. It’s not a perfect system, but the checks and balances it provides are essential. A pure democracy without a strong Constitution would subject individuals to tyranny of the majority. Rights would be constantly negotiable, making them temporary privileges subject to the current whims of government leaders and public opinion at large.

Let’s return to the Sterling situation. The NBA’s constitution was designed to protect and balance the interests of the association and the individual owners. It does not allow the commissioner to remove an owner for making offensive comments. Instead, it lays out a process by which an owner can be removed. This process must be followed, and it cannot violate the US Constitution.

Constitutions are absolutely essential. Without established due process, justice is reduced to a lynch mob. Many who have commented on the Sterling situation don’t seem to get this point, ignoring issues such as the illegal recording of a private conversation and the rights of Donald Sterling’s wife. They only see the presence of mob rule when they disagree with the outcome. Perhaps this is why progressives cheered President Obama when he announced he would (unconstitutionally) bypass Congress when it did not take action he favored. Many of these individuals—including the President himself—constantly berated President Bush for alleged Constitutional discrepancies pertaining to issues such as the Iraq war, waterboarding, and Guantanamo.

Donald Sterling is ultimately responsible for his actions, but he has a right to established due process. Anything else is a travesty of justice.

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More on the Sterling Slippery Slope

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The most interesting comments on the Donald Sterling/Clippers situation are coming from Sterling’s wife and her attorney as they fight to retain her ownership stake in the team. In an ABC interview, Shelly Sterling asked a provocative question: “I will fight that decision. To be honest with you, I’m wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there’s 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?”

The NBA claims the authority (from its own Constitution) to oust both of the Sterlings as Clippers owners because of what Donald said in a private conversation. Now the NBA is extending its authority to Donald’s wife, who wasn’t even part of the conversation. Really?

But the best comment came from Pierce O’Donnell, Shelly Sterling’s attorney: “We do not agree with the league’s self-serving interpretation of its constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances,” O’Donnell said. “We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation.” He has a point, but he is not fighting the NBA’s decision to remove Donald over an illegally recorded conversation. California law and the US Constitution protect both Donald and Shelly.

Unless there’s a quiet settlement, the arguments in this case will get very interesting. There’s too much hypocrisy to sweep under the rug.

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Climate Disruption

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In the 1970s it was global cooling (http://newsbusters.org/node/6546).

When the evidence suggested that the earth wasn’t cooling, they called it global warming (http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20060403,00.html).

When the evidence suggested that the earth wasn’t warming, they started calling it climate change. Now the White House is calling it climate disruption (http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/05/06/report-uses-phrase-climate-disruption-as-another-way-to-say-global-warming/).

But wait…if we only initiate massive government controls we can keep from destroying the earth for our children and grandchildren…

There’s far too much on this topic to discuss here. As a primer, I HIGHLY recommend The Great Global Warming Swindle released in 2007 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtevF4B4RtQ). A recent book review in the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/10748667/The-game-is-up-for-climate-change-believers.html) is also great reading. I want to focus on the connection between science and politics, and more specifically on the notion of experts.

Respect expertise on a topic, but don’t follow the experts blindly. They are not always correct. “Experts in the scientific community” are telling us that we are causing the earth to heat up and that we must take action soon to avoid destroying the planet. But “leading economists” also told us that Obama’s 2008 $787 billion stimulus package was going to create tons of new jobs and it didn’t. You’ve probably had a mechanic tell you that paying him for some type of preventative maintenance was necessary to avoid a breakdown that never happened.

Experts are just like the rest of us. They have biases, limitations, and political views. They want to feel like they matter. They are also influenced by the money trail—government grants for climate research, political contributions for cronyism, or a quick $75 for an unnecessary car repair. This doesn’t mean that they’re expertise isn’t valuable or that they can never be trusted, but it does mean that their claims should be vetted.

When it comes to climate change, there are lots of questions that need to be answered. For starters, why should we believe dire forecasts about anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming when the ones about global cooling were incorrect? If many of the climate claims have already been debunked, why should we believe the current ones? How can we be certain that human activity is causing climate change when we know that there have been more pronounced temperature swings long before humans started building factories and driving cars? Couldn’t the oceans and solar activity—things we cannot control—be the prime causes of climate shifts?

The proponents of climate change are good at issuing reports but have been unable to provide definitive answers to questions like these. Many prefer to say that the topic is too complicated to explain or it’s “settled science.” Some play the “what if we’re right” game, suggesting that we must take drastic action just to be on the safe side. Others mock you as a flat-earther, a greedy capitalist, or an environment hater if you question them. If the “experts” on anthropogenic climate change cannot provide convincing answers to these and other questions, then we have every reason to be suspicious.

But why does the notion of anthropogenic climate change have such a strong political following? If we accept the fact that human activity is irreparably harming the earth, then it stands to reason that we (government) must take action. In the case of climate change, the action required is a mass scale-down of business activity and heavy-handed government control to make sure that nobody drives the wrong car, burns the wrong fuel, produces the wrong crops, raises the wrong livestock, or make the wrong products. But it gets worse. The only way to combat this globally is with multi-country agreements, which means global enforcement, wealth redistribution from developed nations (the earth destroyers) to less developed ones, and the constant negotiation of our Constitutional liberties to appease other nations. If you’re a hard-core socialist who dreams of a one-world government, then this is your ticket.

I have a simple suggestion that could go a long way to resolve this problem: A NATIONALLY TELEVISED DEBATE with a team of scientists on each side and a moderator whose only job is to make sure they don’t get bogged down in scientific jargon. This would give the climate change advocates an opportunity to sway the critics, but would also expose the holes in their arguments. Of course, this is why it will never happen. The proponents would rather stick to the “settled science” argument and let the media push the political agenda.

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