Belmont Club

The Book of Numbers

George Will calls them the Fivers. “From the Goldwater Institute, the fertile frontal lobe of the conservative movement’s brain, comes an innovative idea that is gaining traction in Alaska, Arizona and Georgia, and its advocates may bring it to at least 35 other state legislatures. It would use the Constitution’s Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution’s Framers thought their document guaranteed.” “Members of this nascent movement to use Article V have a name: Fivers.”

Then there’s Rand Paul’s Four-men.  The Senator is actually going “to file a class action lawsuit Wednesday against President Obama, the National Security Agency and a host of others involved in a U.S. surveillance program that collections information on millions of U.S citizens.”

“I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment,” Paul said in a statement from his political action committee. “The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants.”

Let’s not forget the Firsters. A First Amendment Zone declared by the Bureau of Land Management in order to channel objections by the Bundy Ranch supporters after the agency deployed 200 agents to push ranchers off the disputed area.  The incident also featured the Seconders, as many ranchers were seen with their Second Amendment firearms on display.

And spare a thought for the One Tenners:

Representative James Lankford (R-OK), Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, today introduced the House Joint Resolution legislative proposal for the Health Care Compact, a breakthrough governance reform that allows states to clean up the health care mess created by the federal government….

To date, eight states have joined the Health Care Compact (Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah), [perhaps 9 now as Kansas has passed it in both houses] and legislation has either passed the state legislature or is being considered in 12 additional states.

Interstate compacts are governing tools that have been used on more than 200 occasions to establish agreements between and among states. Mentioned in Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution, compacts are constitutional instruments that provide authority and flexibility to the states for administering government programs without federal interference. Congressional consent is required for states to enter into a legally binding compact.

In case you think Lankford is starting a rebellion, Vermont’s trying to leave Obamacare too. The Green Mountain State wants to adopt a single-payer health care system. The difference is that Vermont’s attempt to craft its own system are described as “bold” but Kansas’ efforts under the Health Care Compact are “crazy”.

Of the plans that states have hatched for the Affordable Care Act, none has been bolder than that of Vermont, which wants to implement a single-payer health-care system, along the lines of what you might find in Britain or Canada. One government- operated system will cover all 620,000 of Vermont’s citizens. The hope is that such a system will allow Vermont to get costs down closer to Canada’s, as well as improve health by coordinating care and ensuring universal coverage.

Just two small issues need to be resolved before the state gets to all systems go: First, it needs the federal government to grant waivers allowing Vermont to divert Medicaid and other health-care funding into the single-payer system. And second, Vermont needs to find some way to pay for it.

Numbers, numbers everywhere.  Perhaps the increased citation of Constitutional numbers is because political groups are using it as a fallback protocol. Network traffic is breaking down and the system is defaulting to an earlier, more primitive standard just to get the packets through. Appealing to the Constitution is the political equivalent of calling upon God;  something that doesn’t happen everyday, but whose occurrence underscores the seriousness of the situation.

It also emphasizes the depth of information contained in what some have dismissed as ‘a hundred year old document that nobody understands.’ Its provisions are the product of analogous, if not similar crises in America’s history. The numbered articles are there for a reason; included at the impulse of real events; they were not written in by someone who merely wanted to pass the Constitution so people could see what was in it.

And while appeals to the document don’t indicate rebellion, they certainly suggest feedback.  A lot of people think there’s something wrong with the way America is trending, but the people who appeal to the Book of Numbers at least want to give it a chance.  They are reverting to the common dictionary in an effort to find their bearings.

Fortunately that dictionary still exists. It’s quiet binding power was on display when the NATO commander disagreed with the president, but in an obedient manner.  “Gen. Philip Breedlove painted for members of the House Armed Services Committee a bleak picture of Russia’s actions — and warned that the United States was not taking steps it could to help Ukraine better defend itself. On several points — from estimates of Moscow’s troops to intelligence-sharing with Russia’s likely adversaries — Breedlove’s briefing directly contradicted the message coming from other branches of the Obama administration.”

Breedlove, a four star Air Force general, was careful not to tell members of Congress anything that directly undermined the authority of the Commander-in-Chief during his March briefings. But lawmakers and Congressional staff members who attended these sessions say it was clear that Breedlove felt he was stifled to respond adequately to the crisis in Ukraine.

Yet whatever Breedlove’s personal misgivings, he was clearly mindful of the need to maintain the chain of command because once that is cut, all the bets are off. Once you absolve yourself of the duty of obedience to your superiors, your subordinates are entitled to the same with respect to you.

Unfortunately the same awareness is not on display among many of the feckless operatives of the administration. The unrecognized danger created by those who push for a more personalized presidential authority, one free of legal restraints (‘I have a pen, I have a phone’) and who see the attainment of particular political goals as worth trashing the rules fail to realize that what holds things together is respect for the Constitution not by the personal authority of any president.

To attempt to govern by ‘Any Means Necessary’ is another word for Every Man For Himself. And that’s too expensive to work. Legitimacy is the only economical way to govern. In the old radio serial Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, all the Canadian Mountie usually did when he found the culprit was say, “I arrest you in the name of the Queen” and the the villain more or less submitted meekly to the Crown. Even allowing for fictional license, this is the way functioning societies operate.

The Bureau of Land Management should have ideally sent one person to the Bundy Ranch. Sending 200 Federal agents to enforce obedience isn’t a mark of power. It’s a sign of dangerous weakness; of the collapse of credibility. And that’s true internationally too. Recently NBC News reported a Russian fighter repeatedly buzzed a US warship in the Black Sea.

According to officials, in a 90-minute encounter, the Russian SU-24 fighter jet made a dozen low passes — ranging from sea level to several thousand feet — near the USS Donald Cook.

The crew aboard the Donald Cook made several attempts to radio the Russian warplane asking the pilot what were his intentions and sending warnings to remain at a safe distance, but the Russian pilot never responded.

American credibility and prestige — its legitimacy as the hegemon in other words — would once have prevented the Russians from trying this stunt. But it’s gone.  And going to battle stations each time plane shows up is ruinously expensive.

When the IRS shuts down Republican companies or when Harry Reid uses his political position to drive a rancher off his land the damage goes beyond the individual aggrieved party. It goes to the legitimacy of the system. Of all the values the “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” cohort have squandered, nothing has been more ill-spent than trust.

Many people — not everyone to be sure, but many — are finding their belief in the political elite — the cultural, social and political authority figures — at an ebb. They want to believe, they just can’t.  William Manchester argued that the British ruling class finally collapsed when it spent the trust reposed in it by its incompetence in the Great War and its betrayal of Britain in the 1930s.  They destroyed their own myth and left nothing but a bitter disappointment:

The appeasers had been powerful; they had controlled The Times and the BBC; they had been largely drawn from the upper classes, and their betrayal of England’s greatness would be neither forgotten nor forgiven by those who, gulled by the mystique of England’s class system, had believed as Englishmen had believed for generations that public school boys governed best. The appeasers destroyed oligarchic rule which, though levelers may protest, had long governed well. If ever men betrayed their class, these were they.

So perhaps it’s fortunate that there’s still the Book of Numbers. America does not have an traditional elite to fall back upon. All they have is what Piers Morgan sneeringly described as “your little book.” People fall back on it, not because they want to rebel but because they still want to believe; if not in some group of people then at least in America.

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Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
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Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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