Friday, February 27, 2009

A big pile of money

When I was in high school, I took a German language class. I was a less than stellar student, but I do remember our teacher, a German immigrant with a strong accent. I remember only a few things from the class, one is to conjugate German personal pronouns, the other was a story our teacher told to us about conditions in Germany before World War II. He said that one day his mother came home and told him to run as fast as he could to the bank, withdraw all of their money and run to the nearest store and buy a pair of shoes.

Our teacher, who was very young at the time, did just as his mother asked him to do, he ran to the bank, an withdrew all of their money, he needed a wheelbarrow to carry all the cash, but he then ran to the nearest shoe store and was just able to purchase a pair of shoes with the cash. When I was in high school I thought the story to be highly improbable, but later studies showed me that this actually happened about 1923. Here are some pictures of the way the money was used. By late 1923 it took 200 billion marks to buy a loaf of bread.

Few, if any, of the current U.S. Government administration have read any of this history or the commonly accepted fact that if the monetary authority chooses to monetize a country's national debt, its banks' bad loans, or the savings of depositors at failed banks, then that country will experience hyperinflation. Germany in 1924 has many parallels to the current conditions in the United States and other countries. For up to date information on the Money Stock Measures in the U.S. from the Federal Reserve Statistical Release, you can see that M2 has steadily increased for the past two years.

M2 consists of M1 plus (1) savings deposits (including money market deposit accounts); (2) small-denomination time deposits (time deposits in amounts of less than $100,000), less individual retirement account (IRA) and Keogh balances at depository institutions; and (3) balances in retail money market mutual funds, less IRA and Keogh balances at money market mutual funds. Seasonally adjusted M2 is constructed by summing savings deposits, small-denomination time deposits, and retail money funds, each seasonally adjusted separately, and adding this result to seasonally adjusted M1. M1 consists of (1) currency outside the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Banks, and the vaults of depository institutions; (2) traveler's checks of nonbank issuers; (3) demand deposits at commercial banks (excluding those amounts held by depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign banks and official institutions) less cash items in the process of collection and Federal Reserve float; and (4) other checkable deposits (OCDs), consisting of negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) and automatic transfer service (ATS) accounts at depository institutions, credit union share draft accounts, and demand deposits at thrift institutions. Seasonally adjusted M1 is constructed by summing currency, traveler's checks, demand deposits, and OCDs, each seasonally adjusted separately.

The meaning of the increase in the money supply is controversial. But as George Santayana, stated in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Hopefully, we are not repeating the mistakes made by Germany in the 1920s, but it sure does look suspicious.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Marriage -- an ancient covenant

Marriage is an ancient institution. References to marriage and marriage contracts go back into Egyptian and Babylonian times and are found extensively in Roman writings. Chinese wedding traditions date back more than 2,400 years. See Chinese Wedding Traditions.

In the Pentateuch and the Old Testament is referred to as a "covenant." See Prov. 2:17, Jer. 31:32, Ezek. 16:8, 59, 60, 61, 62; Mal. 2:14. See also Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002. Quoting from Instone-Brewer, at page 4:
The legal basis of marriage was called a "covenant" because, like all other types of covenant, it was an agreement between two parties that contained stipulations and sanctions. A marriage covenant, like any other covenant, included details of payment, the agreement to stipulations by two parties, as set of penalties for the party who did not keep these stipulation, and a legally binding witnessed ceremony or document that recorded all these matters.
See also Hugenberger, Gordon Paul. Marriage As a Covenant: A Study of Biblical Law and Ethics Governing Marriage, Developed from the Perspective of Malachi. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, v. 52. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994.

In England, references to marriage agreements are found as early as the laws of Ethelbert approximately 660 A.D. See Reilly, S. A. Our Legal Heritage The First Thousand Years: 600-1600 King Aethelbert - Queen Elizabeth. Champaign, IL: Project Gutenberg, 1990s.

In the United States today, there are those who believe that we can simply disregard thousands of years of social, legal and religious history and remake marriage into an insignificant form of social contract of convenience merely by having courts order the changes into existence. The reality of human existence mandates otherwise, especially when some members of that same society believe that marriage is more than a social contract, but is a divine institution established by God.

As a social, religious or legal contract, marriage itself cannot be considered a "right" either inalienable or civil. You have no more right to buy property or own a car than you have to enter into a marriage contract. As a contract, religious institutions and civil institutions both can define the relationship. A constitutional provision defining marriage is no more a deprivation of a person's rights than any other law concerning contract. You cannot obtain an inalienable or civil right by voluntarily entering into a contract, neither do you obtain some kind of civil or inalienable right to enter into a marriage contract. Just as I have the freedom not to enter into a contract, I also have the freedom not to marry. Therefore, as previously said, there can be no "right" to marry.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It is not all about you

An overriding theme in our society today is avoiding responsibility and passing the buck. No one wants to admit they are at fault. If I lose a business deal or make a bad investment, someone else is at fault and I need to sue someone for damages. If my child doesn't achieve in school, it is the teacher's fault, or the school system. If I drive too fast on the freeway and get a ticket, it is the fault of the police officer who stopped me. If I eat too much and get grossly over weight, it is the fault of the fast food companies.

Advertisements make this attitude easy to acquire; you deserve a break today; you need...; you, you, you. Very little, if anything about responsibility, honesty, integrity, balance, sharing, loving your neighbor as yourself.

As a practicing trial attorney, I cannot tell you how many lawsuits I have seen where the client states, "Its not the money, its the principle of the the thing..." Get real, its the money. As soon as the cost of the lawsuit reaches really outstanding proportions, the same client will start to blame the attorney for filing the lawsuit in the first place, saying,"You told me I would win, you told me it wouldn't cost more than ..." Sure, I told my client that he would win!! I can tell you, without reservation, I have never told a client they would win in my entire life. The attorney does not control the court, the jury or the other side's attorneys. It is the client's attitude that someone else is always at fault that creates this conflict. In home defects cases, it is not too unusual for the attorneys' fees to exceed the cost of repairs and sometimes the value of the house.

It is not about me. It is about you and all of us. The only real joy and happiness in life come from breaking away from thoughts of "me" and thinking about the needs and wants of others. Joy and happiness come from serving rather than being served, from helping, rather than being helped. How about do unto others as you would have them do unto you? How about taking responsibility for your own decisions and making the best of them? How about stop blaming your parents, your genes, your third grade teacher and everyone else and just get over it. Take your losses and get on with life. Bloom where you are planted and don't become a weed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Abysmal Ignorace is no excuse Part Two

In the Declaration of Independence refers to "certain unalienable rights." Unfortunately, almost everyone remembers the "rights" part of the quote but forgets the rest. The whole quote is, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Read it. Think about it. How politically correct does it sound today? All men are created equal. I would guess that part is not so popular with the evolutionists today. They are endowed by their Creator. An endowment is a gift, it is not earned and it is not necessarily deserved. This gift comes from their Creator. Looks like the evolutionists are not going to be fans of the Declaration of Independence are they? The rights given men by their Creator are unalienable. Any idea what that means? Apparently no one thinks a lot about the fact that the rights given by the Creator are unalienable, which simply put, means they are not transferable and cannot be sold or given away. In those days, alienation had to do with the sale of land.

The men who drafted the Declaration of Independence meant to say that certain rights came to us as intelligent human beings, not as citizens of any government. They were specific to enumerate certain of those rights, including a right to life (looks like abortion is out), a right to liberty (more about liberty later) and the right to the pursuit of happiness. These rights came from Nature's God and were inseparably part of the Laws of Nature. What is most surprising is what can happen if these rights are denied the people. Here is what it says:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Guess what? Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Looks like the folks in California gave their consent with Proposition 8, by a majority, to a Constitutional Amendment. What else? Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, like those advocating same-sex marriage for example. Are we in danger of being reduced to the absolute Despotism of the Courts and losing our unalienable rights? Likely, if the judges or anyone else insist that their private interpretation of the law is superior to the consent of the governed.

However, the rights enumerated (and those not enumerated) by the Declaration of Independence were not directly incorporated into the Constitution or any other law. Legal rights, also known as civil rights, are not unalienable. Civil rights are by their nature changeable and subject to the whims and chances of administrations and lobbyists. The number of "rights" recognized by U.S. law, at all levels is staggering. For example, I have a right to remain silent if arrested. At the same time, I have a right to complain to the police about my neighbor's dog barking. All of these legal "rights" some trivial, some fundamental and important, are subject to change at any time. However, none of the civil or legal rights were given me by my Creator. They came from judges, magistrates, mayors, legislators, bureaucrats, homeowners associations, clubs, franchises, unions, and anyone else willing to extend a right to me.

Not very many people think about their rights unless they feel that they have lost some right or another. The very nature of our society is leading us into a swamp and morass of so many rights that we may be righted to death, literally. If we go so far, and we may already have done so, so as to support immorality, evil designs, and all manner of wickedness in the name of rights, that same Creator that gave us our rights, will not allow us to continue. Whether we believe in our Creator or not, we have to recognize that our civilization, like many of those that have gone before, will crumble and fail, if we disregard a decent respect to the opinions of mankind and to further assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

I would suggest that abysmal ignorance is no excuse. I would suggest that you read the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence and see how many of them are applicable to our own government, including our judges, today.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Abysmal ignorance is no excuse Part One

Recent posts by two blogs commenting on the media coverage (See Self Evident Truths and US Political Scene) and subsequent comments concerning California's Proposition 8 controversy have prompted four (there may be more) observations:

1. Notwithstanding the prior rulings of the California Supreme Court, presently, the supporters of same-sex marriage are legally not being denied civil rights.

The attacks on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other religious organizations and churches center around the idea that through their support of Proposition 8, those who advocate same-sex marriage have been denied their civil rights. A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude, and the right to equality in public places. Civil rights are, by definition, not inherent, they are a creation of law. Neither are they simply desires, wants, wishes or feelings.

The current Constitutional law in California states, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Therefore, there is no "civil right" to an alternative definition of marriage because a same-sex marriage is not an enforceable right or privilege according to the current law. If a law is repealed or superseded by another law, any rights granted under the previous law or laws do not exist. As an example of this principle that the "right" has no separate existence from the law, in 1870 the Utah Territorial legislature passed an act giving women the right to vote becoming the first state or territory to give women the right to vote. However, the Federal Edmunds-Tucker Act took away the right to vote in 1887. Finally, with support of the LDS Church, the right to vote was granted again in 1895. Notwithstanding any and all arguments about the fundamental nature of the right to vote, that "right" only existed as long as the law supporting it existed.

Civil marriage is a relationship defined by law. In some states, a man and a woman can live together, holding themselves out as spouses, for a specific statutory time period and obtain the legal benefits of a marriage without complying with the formal registration requirements. Such a marriage is often called a "common law" marriage. The existence of such a relationship points out the fact that marriage is not a civil right, but a creation of law. Here, I am not talking about religious beliefs. A person may have some fundamental beliefs about marriage originating in a religious belief about the relationship, but our legal system has long held that religious practices that impair the public interest do not fall under the first amendment. If marriage was or is the result of the existence of some identifiable civil right, then Reynolds v. United States would have to be overruled and to my knowledge, Reynolds is still good law in the United States.

The real question as to whether or not same-sex marriage involves some kind of "civil right" is whether or not a person who chooses a same-sex relationship thereby acquires some right or privilege not present before that person's voluntary choice? In other words, can anyone voluntarily acquire a "civil right?" If civil marriage is a creation of law and not a civil right, then only those complying with the law can have a marriage and a person's voluntary choice not to comply with the law does not give rise to any rights at all.

Put another way, can a person choose to be subject to discrimination and still complain of the discrimination? Even another way to put the question is if a person chooses not to marry at all, can that person claim discrimination merely because married couples are treated differently than a single person? What if a person was once married and then his or her spouse dies or there is a divorce? Does a widow/widower or divorcee have a right to claim discrimination merely because there is a category of married vs. unmarried? Why is there a married vs. unmarried category? Why not treat everyone as an individual rather than have a category of marriage at all? But that is the subject of another analysis. Is a person who chooses to work and therefore pays taxes, discriminated against as compared to a person who chooses not to work and therefor pays no taxes? Every time a law is passed, the law makes a discrimination between those who are subject to the law and those who are not. Those who are not subject to the law cannot argue that they have some "right" to receive the benefits (and assume the liabilities) of the law merely by virtue of the fact that they do not fall under its provisions including its definitions.

There is no legal difference between a single individual and one living in a same-sex marriage except in those jurisdictions that either recognize same-sex marriage or have defined some sort of domestic partnership arrangement. Why aren't single individuals marching in the streets to get the same consideration as married couples or domestic partners? Could it be that all of the laws are not particularly favorable to married couples and that there are some advantages to being single?Medicare is available only to those over 65 years of age. Is the rest of the population thereby denied a civil right? That is, a right to have affordable medical care? (I am sure that there would be arguments to that effect). But if I do not wish to have Medicare coverage at age 65 I do not have to enroll. If I choose not obtain Medicare coverage, can I then complain that I am being denied a civil right?

Summarizing, marriage is a creation of law. It is not an inherent state or characteristic. I can choose to be married or not. I cannot choose to be a specific race. Likewise, I cannot choose my national origin. Some would argue that I can choose my religion, but that is another discussion. Religion is specifically recognized by our Constitution as a basic right. Civil rights are also creations of law, as such, the "right" begins with the creation of the law and ends when the law is changed. Marriage is not the kind of legally created relationship that is the subject of a claim of civil right to marry. To hold otherwise would change the existing law in the U.S. going back to, at least, 1878.

2. Charitable organizations (such as Churches) who donate to campaigns are not "state actors" and cannot deny people their civil rights by making such donations.

I have been taking cases to court for years arguing that homeowners associations are "state actors" for the purpose of civil rights violations, trying to make them subject to due process and equal protection. Despite my arguments, no court in the U.S. has yet to rule HOAs are state actors and subject to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. If I choose to purchase a home subject to an HOA am I then being denied a civil right? No, because the law does not extend civil rights protection to home ownership in a subdivision subject to a homeowners association. It is therefore useless to argue that I am being denied my civil rights by a homeowners association.

Likewise, it is equally as useless to argue that someone is denied a civil right because of a church's donation to a political campaign. Apparently, none of the people asserting the claim that they are being denied "civil rights" because of religious involvement in the California election have the slightest idea of how civil rights law operate. Civil rights come about as a result of laws and can only be obtained from the government and only government entities (i.e. state actors) or other entities specifically identified by statutes (i.e. employers). Only those identified by the law can be subject to civil rights violation claims. Those who attack the LDS Church on this issue are in the ignorant position of asserting that the Church is somehow acting on behalf of the government. As an further example, an extension of the detractors' position would allow someone to sue the Sierra Club for violating a civil right for contributions in support of a proposed environmental law.

3. Individuals who donate to any cause are certainly protected from retaliation under the donors' rights to free speech, and the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

There is no legal theory at all that makes donors to a political cause liable to anyone as a result of the donation. Any harassment of the donors is the equivalent of terrorism, that is, the threat of harm to achieve a political end.

4. The consequences of upholding an extreme social position by establishing laws in favor of same-sex marriage are unimaginable and may end up destroying many social institutions, including, but not limited to our public school system.

If California and other states adopt same-sex marriage and if the current adgenda of the supporters of same-sex marriage and unions continue their campaign throughout the country, many, if not most, of the religious population will chose not to send their children to publically controlled schools, rather than have their children subjected to the same-sex propaganda. It is very likely, in some if not most areas, public schools will cease to exist. This is only one example of the consequences of allowing same-sex marriage to become a "civil right."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Comments on internet usage

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a report on Online Activities & Pursuits. The finding indicates that social networking is rapidly becoming a more adult activity. The researchers found that the share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years -- from 8% in 2005 to 35% now. Now being December 2008. Overall, the number of adults in the U.S. who are online is approaching saturation.

However, the number of users is still greatly skewed to the young, with 75% of adults 18-24 using these networks, compared to just 7% of adults 65 and older. Most, but not all adult social network users are privacy conscious; 60% of adult social network users restrict access to their profiles so that only their friends can see it, and 58% of adult social network users restrict access to certain content within their profile.

The use of social network Websites, roughly follows the overall demographics of Internet use. The most interesting statistic indicates that from 94 to 95% of people with advanced college degrees and who make more than $75,000 a year are Internet users. The lowest level of usage is in those over 65 years of age.

E-mail usage at 91% tops the list of Internet activities, while reading blogs, like this one, is way down on the list at 32%. 72% of Internet users go online every day. But only 10% of blog readers read blogs every day.

I was not surprised to learn that the U.S. population is almost entire addicted to computer games. Over half of American adults, 53%, play video games, and four out of five young adults play games. Among adults, computers are the most popular gaming device, but among young adults gaming consoles are the preferred device for game play. And virtual worlds only draw a small crowd. However, among older adults 65+ who play video games, nearly a third play games everyday, a significantly larger percentage than all younger players, of whom about 20% play everyday.

In the 1960s the young were told that they should drop out of the mainstream and do their own thing. It looks like the present generation is dropping out but staying plugged in to games and the Internet.