(Photo credit, Splitting the Herd by Frederic Remington, courtesy of Allen Ness)
The Tucson Ring
Almost everyone knows the story about Geronimo, how he broke out of the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona and went on a rampage before he was finally captured in 1886. What most people don’t know is the front end of that story, that the Indian Agent there, a fellow named Tiffany, had formed a syndicate with a group of businessmen, later called “the Tucson Ring”, who sold tainted beef to the reservation, pocketing the difference. This caused Geronimo and other bands to bolt the reservation, and go on their sprees. After a few years, many deaths, many soldiers and dollars, and several dime novels, Geronimo surrendered to a Florida prison an American folk hero, while Agent Tiffany and the Tuscon Ring were finally rounded up, indicted and punished.
(On a melancholy note: Grover Cleveland was president at the time so this is probably the only recorded incident in American history in which a government employee was both fired and prosecuted criminally under a Democrat administration. So, remember Grover Cleveland in your prayers.)
What follows is a sordid tale of selling tainted beef by tainted salesmen.
As promised in Part I, I won’t rehash the Article V argument substantively. I’ve provided links here where you can review aspects of it, but in the context of the tone of the parties, and as a prelude to possible motivations of its promoters.
And because of the length, this will require a Part III, for as with most investigations, new leads keep popping up.
The conservative activist, Tom DeWeese, best summed up where we are in “Some Thoughts on the Article V Issue” in the John Birch Society website in February. Note his tone, even after months of blistering attacks from the principal promoters of Article V:
“….I have a great concern over how the Article V Convention is being promoted. I have been an activist all of my life. I have seen pretty much every tactic used by powerful forces who are trying to railroad the people. The tactics always seem to be the same. Use the facilitation process to bring people into the fold, control the debate, and attack the opposition with accusations of deceit and fringe ideas. (Emphasis mine) I have many times been awarded a tin foil hat by such forces for advocating ideas contrary to their vision for America. So, I’m a little sensitive to such tactics when I see them. And I know that the Tea Party is well aware of such tactics. That, in fact, is one of the things that motivates true Tea Party patriots to take action against rich, powerful, D.C.-based groups that try to usurp or control the Tea Party. Yet, these are exactly the tactics I see being employed today by Article V proponents. Some of my associates have attempted to speak out at meetings where Article V is being promoted, and are not allowed the floor
“…A deliberate attempt to silence opposition should cause people to question the motives of the perpetrators.”
“…Something really smells about this Article V movement. Its arguments don’t pass scrutiny. Its tactics are underhanded. Its source of funding is not in the open. I think honest Tea Party members and dedicated freedom activists should ask a lot of questions before risking our precious Constitution to their lot.”
That just about says it all.
Except why? Why has the face and nature of conservatism (not to be confused with the GOP establishment, or am I wrong here?) been transfigured into two or more bickering camps, instead of marching arm-in-arm to meet a mutually acknowledged more deadly enemy? (The odds of any of this coming to pass is very slim, odds I think the sellers of this plan are well aware.)
I get strong scents of pedantry, narrow-mindedness, arrogance, condescension, mockery, cultural elitism, and a lust for money…all the things we thought we hated about the Left.
And while it may appear that Mr DeWeese is painting the opponents of Article V as the victims here, actually the victims are the several legislators who are being hung out to dry. For you see, they are the ones who must put their integrity, and their state’s reputations, on the line. Article V should never be treated cavalierly, yet it is being offered for sale like a used car without a CarFax report. Only, who do the citizens blame if the car sputters and stalls a thousand miles down the road…and the original sellers of this tainted vehicle are nowhere to be found?
I’m already on record (see Part I) of being partially in favor of the Article V process, but because it could lead to a nullification-type crisis between the states and the federal government. In other words I predicate my position on the probability that everything the opponents to Article V argue might happen probably will happen…only I see this as potentially a Good Thing.
You see, my firm belief is that this contretemps between the People and the government will not be resolved by process, for the “enemy”, both the Left and the Government Establishment, simply cannot allow their gains of fifty years to be lost through a “process mechanism” such as Article V. They have already shown their disdain for “mere paper”, the Constitution included. If Mssrs Levin, Farris, Meckler, Dranias et al have suggested otherwise, you have been misinformed.
I favor nullification over Article V for the simple reason it can be started with less than 34 states, even one, and doesn’t have to involve a single lawyer, but rather courageous men and women who have been fully read in as to what to expect when they confront Big Government. On the whole, lawyers do not like to engage in any confrontation unless they are in the lead. And a briefcase must also be part of the regalia. And collateral risks must be nowhere to be found. Any political or military strategist will confirm, this view narrows down the options of battle significantly, which works, quite frankly, to the Left’s strengths.
Lawyers are long on process, which Article V is full of, but nullification is strategic and political, with an implied threat of force, requiring more sand than petitions, which most lawyers seem to always lack in a pinch. Throughout history lawyers have been known to egg on many battles, but only rarely draw a sabre to lead one.
So, even in the hands of honest brokers, which I sense we may not have here, the Article V movement is too narrow by half to thwart the Left’s real purposes, indicating a shallow understanding of both the nature of the Enemy and its end game.
Bottom line, in order for that real showdown with government to occur, the states must go into it as a fight-in-the-making, not a process. They must be wearing a game face, prepared for all sorts of reactions by the government, instead of a bunch of rookie lawyers about to try their first jury case. And during this melee the Article V opponents are correct, in my view, i.e., that the Constitution should remain intact and untouched.
Considering who is truly at risk here, then, it surprises me a little, and angers me a lot, that the Article V product that has been sent to the various legislatures has not been fully vetted for their protection and edification. This isn’t a bungalow on the St John’s River being offered for sale, and the legislators aren’t Merle and Maude, recently retired from Vincennes. Still, as I read some of the sales pitches, I can smell the aroma of cheap aftershave, alongside an arrogance, cynicism and a hint of hucksterism, as if it were a given that it was never intended that these legislators or the average citizen should ever be able to get the full gist of this process…seemingly like Obamacare, “you have to pass it in order to know what’s really in it.”.
The people have been under-served in this regard. And so drastically that one could call it wanton and intentional. To shield the legislators from news they not only can use, but need, to make a reasoned judgment in placing their states in the breach, is a cynical calculation of the first order.
Splitting the Herd; Motivations for Mountebankery
Article V has been debated since 1787…by Founders and their peers. There are countless recitations by modern scholars citing those exchanges in the original cordial tone for over two hundred years…until of late, where, in Mr DeWeese’s words, modern promoters “…attacked the opposition with accusations of deceit and fringe ideas.” (With all due respect to Mssr Meckler and others who have heaped these outrages on other conservatives, and even Saul Alinksy, I think Karl Marx can claim credit for this particular attack-strategy, dating back to the 1st Internationale in London in 1864.)
Historically this was not how scholarship worked. Peer review is never unanimous unless you are of the Left, when then, it is mandatory. (Another cautionary thought.)
Although the idea has been around for a long time, the Article V debate, witness Phyllis Schafley’s or the John Birch Society’s Joe Wolverton’s arguments. they had been articulate, polite and even-tempered. But this is not just because of old-timey good manners. This is also because certain ethical rules are at play here, not mere protocols or formalities.
As you may know, when scholars debate they more often argue the theoretical, almost never empirical facts. Article V arguments are all theoretical. In such a case, speaking in certitudes about theoretical propositions that are as yet unresolved is a form of dishonesty (lying). Actually, a serious one. Since neither side here can proclaim that their propositions are certifiably, 100% true until the Courts have ruled, they must each adopt a tone of advocacy, supplication, persuasion, and humility in pressing their case, for at the heart of all ethics there is humility, the admission to oneself there are things here not yet known. Until the Left took over the academy this was a law in every scholarly discipline.
It is then natural to assume those who either will not debate amicably or cannot answer certain questions honestly, such as climate hoaxers now confront, will either flee the field or resort to the sorts of name-calling we’re seeing here. (Witness this debate only two weeks ago in Georgia, as reported by David Gerolamo of TeaPartyNation.)
This is why the Left since Marx has always preferred the journal-to-journal method of disputation, where today, we get an updated version from the internet, a much better substitute if one wishes to hide and ignore facts rather than reveal them.
Citing examples back into the 1800’s, F A Hayek noticed this process had become a tool of the Left, for it allowed them to promulgate lies; factual lies, not faulty premises, but factual lies, selectively to audiences of their own kind, while never placed under any academic constraint to answer direct question or acknowledge proofs of factual error before an objective audience of peers.
(Note: My constant reference to the Left in this discussion is not coincidental. I know as much of their manners and customs as Konrad Lorenz did his jackdaws or Bill Clinton his lingerie, and I regret that some conservatives have decided to place the fate of their Article V ambitions in the hands of leftish machinations such as these. It’s also why I smell a rat.)
Article V has always been an easy sell when the country finds itself in the throes of a government that has lost its financial bearings. In 1936 it was FDR. In 1979, Carter. In such times it’s easy to pour citizens into a grandstand and turn them into a cheering section, in which the central theme is kicking Congress’ butt. But today that threat is much greater, and more ominous, the Left planning to transform the very foundations of our republic. We need much more to bring Congress to heel than a puny balanced budget plan offered by the owners of some Article V swamp property in Florida. At best it’s a Bandaid to a gunshot wound, and as warned, filled with the potential for mountebankery from several quarters.
But neither has there ever there been a time of national emergency that some few weren’t always ready and able to step into the breach to turn it into an advantage for themselves; to profit by adversity.
In this regard, we need to consider that the Right in recent years has become just as infested with the sort of profiteers as once were found in the compassion-for-profit arena, where patrons would pay $100 a head to fill a stadium, get a tee shirt, hear some dying old rock band, and come away with a really good feeling, while the homeless, the starving, the wounded, the poor, the farmers, got 3% of the proceeds, and the promoters and presenters took home the rest.
Legal? You bet. For all I know someone out there has a Draft Vassar Bushmills for President website going now, and has already grabbed off enough cash for hotel and airfare to Rio for the World Cup. Easy to set up, as long as you’re straight with IRS the fine print of the accounting can slide underneath the eyesight of the average donor uncritically. There is no safer swindle than a legal one.
We should also be wary because this Article V mad dash had been predicted by the Left long before Mark Levin published his book. Leftists have been advocating Article V far longer than conservatives, but are also financially able to tease the “capitalist tendencies” in many conservatives in order to push this plan through their auspices rather than their own. Just ask cuckolded Republicans like McConnell how they became cuckolds to get some sense of this skill set the Left possesses. The class action lawsuit with a DONATE button is quintessentially leftist in design.
Ye shall know them by their fruits (Matt 7:16)
Windows to the Soul: Social Station, Fame, Vanity and Narcissism
I once heard Satan say “Vanity is my favorite sin”. (Eccl 1:2) Although you can’t know men’s hearts you can still estimate their motives circumstantially.
This most recent Article V round began with a book by Mark Levin, The Liberty Amendment, which hit the book stands in August of 2013. It was an instant bestseller. Several prominent Americans in Levin’s circle endorsed the idea straightaway. He became Glenn Beck’s next BFF. Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association and founder of Patrick Henry College, signed on. So did Mark Meckler, co-founder to the Tea Party Patriots and Herbalite salesman par extraordinaire, as well as the prestigious Goldwater Institute in Phoenix.
Michael Farris teamed with Mark Meckler to form Citizens for Self-Governance. which is the home of Convention of States where you can find out everything good about the Article V proposal, and quite a bit more about the stupidity of those who are against it. Fundraising appears to be a major part of their endeavor. I’m told that if there’s a granny out there who used to send money to Jim and Tammy, Meckler can find her and get her to send it to him.
Also, there is the Goldwater Institute, through their director of Policy Development and Constitutional Government, Nick Dranias. GI threw their hat in the ring with a different route to a balanced budget, a “Compact for a Balanced Budget”, wherein the states would form a compact with each other, ostensibly to circumvent having to ask Congress’s to convene a constitutional convention. I’m not sure how this would play out, though, for it’s unclear if Dranias’ Compact and the Meckler-Farris Con-Con team are working the same or opposite sides of the street.
But both share a common thread, and that is Lawrence Lessig, the leftist Harvard professor who has an Article V pedigree even older than Mark Levin’s, and perhaps best known for his long-held positions on Net Neutrality. Lessig sits on the advisory council of Dranias’ group, Compact for America, and has done various appearances with both Meckler and Farris. It’s complicated and I’ll attend to that in greater detail in Part III, where I make a general inquiry into how self-interest can blind discernment.
I suggest you read the entire Compact for a Balanced Budget page. It should take a few minutes, but will give you a feel for the legal athleticism that is required not only to get it passed by the legislatures, but to also get it printed in the federal code. (You see, this BBA has no enforcement trigger; i.e., how do the states, once they have signed onto this plan, force the Congress, especially a jealous one, to actually carry out their mandate? In other words, Mr Dranias knows how to build the plane, and take off, but how does he plan to land it?)
While perhaps understandable to an attorney, this Compact plan is not so easy to follow for the average legislator or citizen. I know the design appears easy to understand, but engineers at GM forgot to ask anyone in marketing about the ChevyVolt, “Will anyone buy it?” or, “Can anyone drive it?”. There is an Edsel quality to this plan; drafted by engineers for engineers. Mr Dranias is a top-of-the-line legal draftsman, incidentally, already having one Supreme Court success under his belt, which he husbanded from federal district court all the way to SCOTUS. No mean feat. He says he’s war-gamed it, but I doubt if they seriously brainstormed the landing part. If he had, he could have answered all the questions that have been thrown his way but instead has deflected. I’ve twice asked Mr Dranias questions about this trigger mechanism that causes Congress to accept his “Compact”, and the most I could get was “read the article”. Since it was my “reading of the article” that prompted my questions in the first place…you can see my problem. On being pressed he finally gets a little snooty and condescending as if he were talking down to grade schoolers, with the passing shot, “no sense casting pearls (among swine)”.
Such behavior offers clues as what motivates this movement.
Publius Huldah wrote an essay earlier this year in which she broke down Mr Dranias’ proposed BBA and noted a flaw, namely that it gives license to the writing of a value added tax or national sales tax, to perhaps supplement instead of replace the income tax. I’m sure, in theory, this was not Mr Dranias’ intent. But fine legal draftsmen are naturally very protective of their intellectual handiwork and resistant to criticism, so he rejected this. But alack and alas, in theory, PH was right; those events could happen…making me think immediately of his association with Professor Lessig, who sits on his advisory council. PH’s scenario is the perfect end game for leftist “constitutional change”…with only conservative fingerprints.
For the Opposition
To the extent that there is organized opposition, I think you will find The New American at the John Birch Society and their chief legal writer, Joe Wolverton, to be dedicated to arguing the other side of the Article V movement. The same goes for the Eagle Forum, the home of Phyllis Schlafly, who requires no introduction. Both have been the objects of attacks by Mssrs Mecker and Farris.
Lastly there are the people who write about Article V on lesser-known sites or their own site. Freedom Outpost is a site known for publishing both sides of this issue, but is generally against it. They include a lady named Michelle Horstman, who I’ll cite in Part III, but also Publius Huldah, just mentioned above, who has managed to incur incoming rounds from both Michael Farris and Nick Dranias. While chastising Huldah following a critical analysis of hers about his Parental Rights Amendment, (we’re recovering the Discus file of that conversation, Farris harshly ripped into two people, not one), though a renowned biblicist in his own right, Farris didn’t know who the biblical Huldah was (2 Kings 22), instead, mocking her for using an internet alias, in the disdainful tone, as if it were beneath him to have to respond to such anyone with an alias. I suspect Mr Farris had an out-of-caste moment forgetting that not everyone does this sort of work for the limelight and name recognition. (Full disclosure, VB is not my real name either,.Duh.)
Huldah is a retired lawyer and constitutional scholar living in Tennessee, and who has a busy dance card making personal appearances and debating constitutional issues throughout the South. She is a scholar of the first order, with a genuine sixth sense that goes beyond the legal mechanics of the law (unlike modern self-described “scholar”) which is why she found that small flaw in Farris’ PRA proposal. Sadly, he responded condescendingly, while in the end, she proved the deeper thinker. Bad form all around. The inability to accept criticism with a respectful mind opens several windows to the soul we’re trying to expose here.
As I said, I can only speculate what drives this modern institution-driven generation of wannabe somebodies.
In Ring Lardner’s day there appeared a phrase I liked, “social anxiety”, to explain the desire of the new-rich of his day to try to rise in society a bit too quickly, by-passing the standard requirements for grace, maturity and some experience so as not to bore the hell out or people while you’re going on about yourself.
But there is also the motivation of “station”, to become a somebody, to be notable. I find this more worrisome, for I have commented for years about the propensity for new-generation conservatives to fall into this “elitist trap”. Many libertarians, who I call “Little L” libertarians, share this one thread with the Left, namely by identifying themselves by who they are not, i.e., the common man, or the C-student. I can think of no greater disease in America than for this to infect American conservatism; i.e. the Pharisee praising God that He has not made him like “them”. Especially in the legal community. The Founders call upon us to resist this because we all, everyone of us, are standing on C-students’ shoulders, and quite frankly, we can never earn the right to pee on them. This is a distinctive conservative identifier we cannot allow to lapse.
Windows to the Soul: Mockery
I consider mockery to be a serious character flaw. I think Glenn Beck, who is no stranger to it, and who supports Article V, would find the level of mockery leveled by this movement to be beyond the pale, especially since it is conservatives who are their targets. Considering Mr Farris’ national standing (he just doesn’t strike me as a profiteer) I feel the same. But the arrogance runs deep, I think, and does not wear well on a man his age or station.
But I think he does carries a boil on his behind that is even more difficult to lance, and that is his voluntary alliance with Mark Meckler, about whom personally I can find more nice things to say about Bill Clinton….who I despise.
In fact, if Michael Farris were arrested and Mark Meckler were to show up as a “known associate” on the police report, I would ask the judge to double his bond. Intellectually, Meckler reminds me of the B-26 bomber of WWII fame, known for its huge fuselage and small wings. Soldiers called it “The Flying Prostitute” for it had “no visible means of support.” I think that best describes Mark Meckler; as shallow as a pool of warm piss.
In August 2013, Phyllis Schlafly penned Is and Article V in our Future? which was an opening argument against Article V. Read it, but again, for tone. Seems genteel enough to me, doesn’t it you?
Now compare Meckler’s comments about her. (The factual misstatements are too numerous to list, and so preponderant as to make the factual ones seem almost accidental. Or the misstatements intentional, take your pick.)
And never have I seen so many self-appointed titles. I’m capable of good scholarship from time to time but never considered myself a scholar. But these days to be a scholar, one need only join a club of mutual-admiration, I think. I count more self-styled scholars (at least two one-upped by PH) here than confirmed ones by any academic marker. And at least one of the confirmed ones comes from the Left. Meckler even had the hutzpah to accuse Mrs Schlafly of making nice with the “big-government” Chief Justice Burger (a liberal but not of the Left…which I think is a concept beyond Meckler’s ken), while openly advocating a hand across the aisle to Prof Lessig, who, as a leftist doesn’t believe their should even be an aisle in the final tally.
This article was so reminiscent of an Al Gore speech on global warming, in form, structure, and substance-less goo, it almost looked as if was a cut-and-paste job, with honorifics and names simply inserted.
The same for Joe Wolverton at The New American only for some reason the article has been pulled in the past 2-3 weeks. So I cite Thomas Eddlem’s,”Joe Wolverton and JBS…LOL” where he saved some quotes.
The classic body-slam mockers of lore, Wilde, Levant, Mencken, would look upon Meckler’s mockery as thin and sophomoric; no satire, no edge, no bite, no clever turns of a phrase, not even a person or condition the rest of the world would think worthy of mocking, such as a Hillary, or bi-sexuals. Just petty vindictiveness and meanness against soft targets. This is pushing old ladies down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair; Widmark, film noire, bad acting in black and white.
Which leads me to believe that Mark Meckler’s value to this movement isn’t insipid wordsmithing but rather fundraising and moving those funds around. About this I believe he is very skilled indeed, but I will have to defer until Part III.
In the end, motivations are things we can only guess at and conclude only circumstantially, even when they are pock-marked with out-and-out misstatements. We can never be sure the untruths are lies, in part because so many of these actors are lawyers and all are wrapped in a political world they are unable to step outside to observe. Not being clairvoyant, it is simply above my pay grade to know if a statement is a lie, misinformation, stupidity, or delusion. So, when Michael Farris goes into his closet to pray, I can never know if he does not also carry a mirror.
I am only qualified to rule out one or two circumstantially, and am even paid from time to time to do just that. (I’m not being paid here, if you’re wondering.)
Part III is soon, and there will possibly be a Part IV just to tie up any loose ends, if need be. If the lust for money has now superseded “saving the country” then we who will be left behind have much to reconsider as to who we can rely on in the coming struggles.