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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why I’m Not Listening to the State of the Union Message

The Constitution mandates that every year the President of the United States shall report to Congress the state of the union.  Such reports as prescribed by the Constitution have long since disappeared.  In their place we have political speeches.

George Washington gave the first State of the Union message to Congress on January 8, 1790, in the provisional capitol of New York City.  The topics of his address are illuminating.  He dealt with the performance of the federal government as specified by the United States Constitution and the preamble to that Constitution.  It was not a political speech, but rather a report to Congress as to how effective the government was in fulfilling its very limited responsibilities under the Constitution, and how successful it was in avoiding interference into the lives of the citizens of the land.

Since one of the two enumerated responsibilities of the new government was to provide for the common defense, President Washington commented directly on that matter.  He said, in part…

"Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard.— To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

In other words, his advice was an early version of Ronald Reagan's axiom, peace through strength. 
Washington talked in his address about trade relations with other nations, and about the importance of uniform currency, weights and measures.  He also reminded the Congress that the future of the nation depended upon informed, free citizens, saying…

"And by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of Society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy, but temperate vigilence against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws."

Edmund Burke, the great British member of parliament and philosopher, could not have said it better.  Liberty is fragile and exists only when government is minimal, law stands above the rule of man, and the people understand the foundations of freedom.
President Washington concluded his address with these simple, yet profound words…

"The welfare of our Country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed. And I shall derive great satisfaction from a co-operation with you, in the pleasing tho arduous task of ensuring to our fellow-citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient and equal Government."

Although the Constitution directed the President of the United States to make an annual report to Congress on the state of the union, it did not say that report had to be given in person.  Washington’s successor, John Adams, followed his lead and spoke to Congress in person.  In his speech, he addressed national security issues and the problem of piracy that threatened American commerce.  He went on to say…

"Although I can not yet congratulate you on the reestablishment of peace in Europe and the restoration of security to the persons and properties of our citizens from injustice and violence at sea, we have, nevertheless, abundant cause of gratitude to the source of benevolence and influence for interior tranquillity and personal security, for propitious seasons, prosperous agriculture, productive fisheries, and general improvements, and, above all, for a rational spirit of civil and religious liberty and a calm but steady determination to support our sovereignty, as well as our moral and our religious principles, against all open and secret attacks."

President Adams provided a thorough accounting to Congress of issues specified as the responsibility of the federal government under the Constitution.  He ended with this admonition in regard to public debt…

"Since the decay of the feudal system, by which the public defense was provided for chiefly at the expense of individuals, the system of loans has been introduced, and as no nation can raise within the year by taxes sufficient sums for its defense and military operations in time of war the sums loaned and debts contracted have necessarily become the subjects of what have been called funding systems. The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own. The national defense must be provided for as well as the support of Government; but both should be accomplished as much as possible by immediate taxes, and as little as possible by loans."

Adam's successor, Thomas Jefferson, abhorred the rule of Kings, and to him, giving a public address to Congress smacked of a monarch addressing those he ruled.  Thus, he declined to speak, but sent a written report instead.  This practice of sending a written report continued until it was broken by the father of the income tax, Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson felt very comfortable in the role of a monarch and, in fact, ushered in the relentless growth of government above and beyond the constraints intended by the Founders as written in the Constitution.  Wilson’s presidency was the beginning of the end of the rule of law in the nation, and it was the beginning of the growth of government into a powerful, all-controlling state.

However, Calvin Coolidge, who became President upon the death of Wilson's successor, Warren G. Harding, reverted to the policy of Thomas Jefferson, that of sending a written report to Congress.  Since that time, with the advent of radio and then television, State of the Union messages by the President have gone far afield of their Constitutional intent, and resemble instead a political speech directed not at Congress, but at the voters across the nation.

It is worth recounting the state of the union message of President Coolidge, in regard to the fiscal status of the government…

"Our main problems are domestic problems. Financial stability is the first requisite of sound government. We can not escape the effect of world conditions. We can not avoid the inevitable results of the economic disorders which have reached all nations. But we shall diminish their harm to us in proportion as we continue to restore our Government finances to a secure and endurable position. This we can and must do. Upon that firm foundation rests the only hope of progress and prosperity. From that source must come relief for the people."

It was this type of common sense that enabled Coolidge to lead the nation away from a very precarious financial situation and back to the kind of broad prosperity that is unknown by a socialist system, but is the hallmark of a free market that is minimally restricted by regulations and taxes.

So it is that President Barack Obama will once again give a so-called State of the Union message to Congress and to the nation.  As with virtually every President before him, he will pronounce the state of the nation to be good.  But, I will not be watching.

Why will I not be watching?  The answer is that there is hardly one word uttered from the mouth of this President that can be trusted or believed.  His lies are public and as many as the stars in the sky.  There are so many, it is impossible to recount them all.  He and his political team almost certainly instituted the Fast and Furious gunrunning scheme for political purposes.  As a result, one border agent, Brian Terry, died and hundreds of Mexicans have died.  The goal was to constrict your right to keep and bear arms, but instead it exposed a corrupt president and corrupt Attorney General.

Barack Obama lied about Obamacare, saying, "If you like your insurance, you can keep it, period." It was a lie and he knew it was a lie from the beginning.  He knew it would not become law if he did not tell this lie.  That's why he told this lie over and over and over again.  As a result, millions of Americans have lost their medical insurance coverage, and millions more will lose it in the future.  In addition, the financial burden of this socialist fantasy will further delay, perhaps permanently, a return to economic prosperity.

We now know that Barack Obama lied about Benghazi.  He knew from the very beginning that the attacks had absolutely nothing to do with an anti-Muslim video, yet he repeated the bald faced lie that it was for two weeks after an American Ambassador and, other brave Americans were murdered.  Our president was willing to let men die in order to get re-elected.

The President lied about the IRS.  First, he said he knew nothing about it and promised to get to the bottom of it and correct it.  Now, he has changed his story, saying that the targeting was correct and it was to protect the public.  This undoubtedly was another scheme cooked up by the White House political team to help the President get re-elected.

On and on and on it goes.  President Obama repeatedly says one thing and then does exactly the opposite.
So, that's one reason I won't be listening to the State of the Union message.  The words the President utters mean absolutely nothing.  It's no wonder that more than 70% of the American people don't trust the President.  They shouldn't!

The second reason I won't be listening is that this President is completely and totally ignorant of economics.  He has no clue whatsoever of how things work or that freedom is the secret strength of America.  Nor does he understand that freedom is not divisible.  You can't pick and choose your freedoms.  Either freedom exists in the marketplace or all freedom vanishes.  Either freedom of speech exists, or all other freedoms disappear.  Either freedom of religion exists, or all other freedoms are endangered.

His circumvention of Congress on the day of his State of the Union message by issuing an Executive Order setting a new minimum wage for federal employees, not only exhibits his contempt for the Constitution, but also his total ignorance of economics.  The so-called minimum wage law is the primary cause of limiting access to the ladder of opportunity to poor Americans.  It denies opportunities, especially to the poor, to obtain their first entry level job, and without a first job, there can never been a second job, or an opportunity for advancement at your first job.  It is abject economic ignorance to believe that government can set prices or wages.  Only the free market can set prices and wages fairly.  And, when government interferes by trying to set a minimum wage, it hurts the very people it will supposedly help. 

When the price of wages goes beyond the free market value of that job, the employer either has to employ automation, or terminate the service in order to survive.  Government intervention into the marketplace may benefit a few at the expense of many.  Often, a so-called black market appears, but in reality it is simply the free market serving suppliers and consumers at the best possible prices.  It is clear that President Barack Obama is totally ignorant of how an economy functions.  Government is an impediment to universal prosperity and to lifting people out of poverty.  Since government is not subject to the marketplace, the impact of President Obama's Executive Order will be limited to higher taxes on Americans.  But, while the passage of a new minimum wage law by Congress may be good politics for the uninformed voter, it is bad law.  It will destroy jobs and opportunity.

It is because of government that extensive poverty continues to exist in our land.  Let us not forget that the origin of minimum wage laws is racism.  They were designed by unions to deny employment opportunities to minorities, especially African Americans.  If you read the Congressional Record of the debate that took place about the Davis Bacon Act (the 1931 act requiring that only union labor be used in government construction projects), you will find blatant racist comments by Democrat Congressmen from New York, as well as from other parts of the nation.  It was designed expressly to deny black Americans an opportunity to participate in construction projects funded by the federal government.  Up until that time, African Americans were heavily involved in the construction industry, but thanks to that law, they have never fully recovered their position there. 

Similar to the Davis Bacon Act, minimum wage laws were created to artificially benefit union workers.  And, remember, each and every time wages are artificially inflated due to government preference in the form of a union shop, all consumers are penalized.  And, foreign competition benefits, as it did in the auto industry.

Up until this Administration, all Presidents did their best to unify our nation.  They encouraged productivity by both employees and employers.  They respected the heritage of our nation and revered the wisdom of America’s Founders.  This President has made it clear that he has no use whatsoever for the wisdom and counsel of the Founders.  He is a Marxist through and through.  Only Marxists talk about redistribution of income and inequality of outcomes.  Those who love and cherish freedom talk about the opportunity that comes from living in a nation of low taxes, few regulations, and limited government.  We encourage love and understanding, not division, envy and jealousy.  We form the backbone of compassionate America, the individuals who voluntarily give generously to help their fellow man, and to fund a myriad of nonprofit organizations that enrich the fabric of our nation.

Conservatives don't use the agency of government to compel our fellow citizens to support charitable cause that we deem worthwhile.  Rather we use persuasion and encouragement and our own dollars to intervene in the lives of others to help them overcome adversity.  We don't believe that taking tax dollars at the point of a gun is compassion, no matter how worthwhile the cause. 

Americans believe in unity, and common respect for others, and they believe in traditional moral values as enumerated most clearly in the Ten Commandments.  We trust in God's wisdom and justice, not in the vagaries of fallen man.  We revere America's Founders and share their understanding that all men are imperfect. 

We endeavor to tell the truth at all times and to rely upon integrity and honor, rather than cunning and scheming, to accomplish our ends.  And, we reject the idea that the end justifies the means.

Barack Obama has little to nothing in common with the values and principles of the Founders.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the color of his skin.  It has everything to do with the corruptness of his ideology.  It is an ideology that is antithetical to American values and tradition.  It threatens to undo the greatness of America and turn this nation into just another soft European tyranny, or worse.

When President Barack Obama says that "I can't wait for Congress to act" and that he has a phone and a pen that he will use to go around Congress, he is violating the rule of law and acting like a dictator.  To go around Congress is to circumvent the Constitution of the United States of America. 

Make no mistake about it, corrupt politicians like Barack Obama will use the power of government to deny health care to those who oppose them.  They will spy on them, they will restrict them, they will harass them, they will stomp on their liberties. They will sic the IRS on them, and do whatever is necessary to maintain political power.  Power, it’s what all politicians lust after and once the people surrender their power to the bureaucrats and the politicians, our republic will be dead.

No, I will not listen to a liar, nor will I listen to an authoritarian wannabe.  Instead, I will continue to work hard to save this nation for my children and my grandchildren.  I want to restore this nation to the land of the free, where every child has an opportunity to climb the ladder of success as far and as fast as they can go based on their willingness to work hard, to take risk, and as God blesses them.  That is the America I grew up in, and by the grace of God, that is the nation my children and all the children of America will inherit.

Friday, January 10, 2014


In about 35 days Major League pitchers and catchers report to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona.  It’s a ritual that has been going on since the 1800s.  The Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings held spring training camps in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1870.  The Washington Capitals held a spring training camp in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1888.

By 1900, virtually all teams held spring training camps in Florida and Arizona.  Thus began the annual ritual not only of the teams themselves, but also of the fans getting out of the cold weather in the North to sit in the warm sunshine and watch their team prepare for the regular season that opened in early May, or in mid April, as it does today.

Early on, spring training was typically tied to barnstorming tours where the major league teams played local clubs who wanted to see how they stacked up against the big boys.  Barnstorming was also a way for major league baseball players to make some money.  Even after World War II, the salaries of the typical major league player were very modest.

In his book, White Rat, Whitey Herzog talks about getting along financially as a baseball player in the mid 1950s through the early 1960s.  When Herzog was playing for the Washington Senators (1956-58) he lived in a trailer, because that was the most he could afford on his salary.

When Herzog played for the Kansas City Athletics (1958-60) he lived in a home that he built.  But, even then, during the off season he umpired at high school basketball games and operated a small construction company just to pay his bills.

Herzog was never a great player, but he was dedicated.  His lifetime batting average was .254.  He hit 25 home runs and had 172 RBIs in 634 games.  Of course, he went on to be one of the greatest managers in the game, being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.  One of Herzog’s greatest lines was, “Baseball was good to me after I quit playing it.”  And, indeed while he never really made any significant money as a player, he was well compensated as a field manager.  After short stints as a base coach, interim field manager, and in charge of player development of several teams, Herzog became manager of the Kansas City Royals in 1975.  There he won three straight American League Western division titles.  But, his greatest success was as the field manager of the St. Louis Cardinals where he was famous for “Whiteyball,” the nickname for the team he built on a foundation of base running speed.  In St. Louis he won the 1982 World Series and the National League Pennant in 1985 and 1987.

Until 1947, the vast majority of Major League teams held spring training in Florida for the practical reason that the farthest team west was the St. Louis Cardinals.  It made no economic sense to train out west, when Florida was much closer to the fan base of the teams.  But in 1947 the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians were persuaded to train in Arizona.  It is true that a number of MLB teams had trained out west prior to World War II, most notably the Chicago Cubs, who first trained in Santa Monica in 1905 and then trained on California’s Catalina Island from 1922 to 1942, and again in 1950-51.  The incentive for the Cubs to train on Catalina Island was the fact that the team owner, William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnet, was the owner of the Cubs and the owner of Catalina Island where he wintered.  Other teams trained in California so that they could barnstorm their way back home, earning money for the players and expanding support for the team.

Similar to the draw for the Cubs to Catalina Island, was the draw of Arizona to the Cleveland Indians.  The Cactus League became a reality in 1947, when Horace Stoneham’s New York Giants and Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians took up residence in Phoenix and Tucson, respectively.  Veeck (Veeck as in wreck he would say) owned a ranch near Tucson.  Bill Veeck went on to be the most innovative and future looking, if madcap, owner in baseball.

During his time in baseball, Veeck was the owner of the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox.  In 1947, he signed the first black baseball player in the American league, Larry Doby, and later that year signed the ageless Satchel Paige, who became, at the time of his signing, the oldest rookie in the history of baseball.

In 1948, Lou Boudreau hit .355 and that propelled Cleveland to its first pennant and World Series since 1920.  Not afraid to be wacky, Veeck famously buried the 1948 pennant once it became obvious that the team would not repeat in 1949.  One of Veeck’s most memorable publicity stunts was the hiring of the 3 foot 7 inch Eddie Gaedel.  On August 19, 1951, Veeck sent Gaedel to the plate to pinch hit.   Gaedel’s uniform number was “1/8” and yes, he walked on four straight pitches and then was pulled for a pinch runner.

But, back to spring training.  Today, baseball spring training is bigger and better than ever before.  The facilities are nicer and bigger than they have ever been.  And, it’s often difficult to get tickets to spring training games because the demand continues to grow each year.  Tens of thousands of fans make attending the spring training of their favorite team an annual ritual.  There’s a special camaraderie among both fans and players as practices begin.

And, then when the actual games begin, the stands fill up.  No one wants to miss the first appearance of a heralded rookie, or see their favorite player take the field or hit one out of the park.  And, at the beginning of each regular season, every fan holds out hope that “this is the year” for his or her team.

Of course, there are lots of great sports played in the United States.  There are the timed rectangular sports of football, soccer, basketball, rugby, hockey, etc. where you score points by making it to the other end of the rectangle and dropping your ball, puck, or whatever in a hoop, a net, or score simply by bringing it across the goal line.  These sports can be lots of fun and bring lots of excitement.

But, as for me, give me that special green diamond that is unlike any other sport in the world.  It has a special magnetism, a special draw that is different than any other sport.  And, I must not be alone in this feeling since the number of people who annually watch baseball at all levels far outnumbers any other sport.  For instance, the annual attendance of several triple A baseball teams is much higher than the annual attendance of the highest attended National Football League team.  I know, a NFL team only plays 16 games per year, just one tenth of those played by the fellows on the diamond.  Nevertheless. Baseball has a certain long term drawing power that no other sport can match.

While the NFL has seen a decline in television viewership and attendance over the last few years, attendance at MLB games has continued to grow.  And, the fascination of Americans with baseball isn’t just as a spectator sport.  Millions of Americans—young, middle aged and even older—play baseball each year.  And, across the globe, in places as far away as Russia and Italy, baseball continues to grow in popularity.  Of course, in Latin America and in the far East, baseball is huge.

And, this doesn’t even touch on the fact that more money is spent on salaries of US baseball players than on players for any other professional sport.  Nor does it cover the fact that revenues to professional baseball far outstrip any other professional sport in the USA.  And, let’s not forget that the most money ever paid for a professional sports franchise is $2 billion, the amount paid to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But, baseball is not about money, it’s about the love of the game.  It’s about hitting an 85 mile per hour curve ball.  It’s about the most difficult play in sports, turning a double play.  It’s about miracle catches, and late inning walk off home runs.  It’s about seeing a young pitcher throw a perfect game.  It’s about seeing your son or daughter play the game and come to love it as you do.

Baseball is truly as American as apple pie.

Yes, professional baseball had its problems with drug use.  But, I believe that is gone for good.  Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and others dishonored the game by using performance enhancing drugs, but last year baseball writers uttered their verdict.  They bypassed both Clemens and McGwire for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  They sent a stern message to all professional baseball players, if you want your shot at getting into the Hall of Fame you can’t use performance enhancing drugs to get there.

This year the Hall inducted some all-time great players, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.  These are great choices and great players who understand what baseball is all about.  It’s about loving and  respecting the game of baseball.

So, as for me, I’m packing my bags and heading south, looking forward to seeing the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training in Jupiter, Florida.  I’m going to enjoy the warm sunshine, and the gentle breezes, but most of all, I’m going to relish the crack of the bat, the pop of the glove, and the amazing athletic skills of the players on the field.  And, while I’m at it, I’m going to root, root, root for the Cardinals.  There’s just nothing like a baseball game.