July 21, 2015

An Open Letter to Bruce Jenner

Hi Bruce.  I'm Stephen Hutchins.  You don't know me, and the odds of you ever actually seeing this "letter" are a million to one.  Heck, the odds of more than half a dozen people reading this are close to that.  But I wanted to write this anyway.  To quickly get to the point, I neither "accept" nor "appreciate" what you've done to yourself.  I also don't consider you particularly "brave" or "inspirational".  I don't consider living a delusion to be either of those things.  I have no choice but to "tolerate" what you've done, because it's over with and I wouldn't force you back even if I had the power to do so.  I do wish, however, for you to abandon this line of action and return to being the best Bruce Jenner you can be.   If this seems "hateful", "bigoted", or "close-minded", I understand.  But know that after much thought, study, and prayer, it's actually from the purest kind of love.

I recently watched the musical "Billy Elliot", based on the movie of the same name.  It deals with a lot of themes you might find strike close to home these days.   Probably the main theme of the story is that Billy should strive to be who he really wants to be.  He gets this from his late mother, who left a message for him to always be true to himself. [footnote 1]

In the story and throughout much of modern culture this sentiment is widely expressed as the ultimate goal for any person.  It is supposed to bring ultimate joy, self-fulfillment, and inner peace.  Today it is considered fashionable to "express yourself" however you see fit, with the implicit corollary that any type of self-expression is "good" as long as it's "from the heart", or is just "being yourself".  It is also a crock.

This notion is one of the worst ideas to afflict mankind in modern history.  Not that it's a brand-new philosophy or idea..... quite the contrary (in fact, you'll find that virtually no philosophy or abstract thought is truly original, no matter what the dispenser claims).  It's just that for some reason, it has really taken hold in modern "Western" culture.  Perhaps it is because it aligns nicely with the words of old Polonius, a character from Shakespeare's "Hamlet".  He tells his son, as a matter of sage advice, "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."[footnote 2]

But this letter isn't a commentary on Shakespeare.  It's about this widespread notion that "being true to yourself" is both good and equivalent to indulging any and every whim your mind devises.  It SOUNDS good, because it matches what we want to hear.  I want to think that all my ideas are great. I want people to tell me that I can do whatever I want.  I want people to like and appreciate anything I say or do.  Put simply, this philosophy means that I am the most important person in the world.  Surely, you can see how that can quickly go astray.

Taking this to its logical extreme to illustrate the absurdity is easy.  What would we say if Charles Manson declared that encouraging his friends to kill some people was just him "expressing himself" as a murderer?  Was Jeffrey Dahmer merely indulging his "inner cannibal"?

Now of course some readers may freak out at the ridiculous comparison here.  And that is precisely my point.  Yes there is of course a huge difference between serial murder and merely living a certain "lifestyle".  But if the same philosophy justifies both, don't you have to consider that perhaps the philosophy is wrong?  And make no mistake, that philosophy absolutely will take someone in that direction.  After all, if  A) I should be "true to myself", and B) "expressing myself" in any manner is always appropriate and helpful, then it logically follows that if at any time I feel like hurting somebody, I SHOULD hurt them.  If we all lived by that creed, society would crumble in an instant.

So then, clearly this "Be true to yourself" philosophy must have limits.  Many people might at this point argue that the philosophy is still perfectly valid, so long as you respect other people and their rights.  That certainly eliminates the Manson and Dahmer connection, but it doesn't make the philosophy any better.

Consider the glutton.  To a glutton, "being himself" means devouring everything in sight, and at least all the foods he enjoys.  His body tells him that he wants food (a very natural desire), and he wants to be true to himself so he obtains and eats the food.  And this can certainly be done without inconveniencing anyone else.  There is plenty of food that goes to waste in many places of the world, and it may well be that the glutton is also a great worker who absolutely earns his keep and helps others in the process.

If the philosophy is really valid, then the glutton will find that his indulgences bring joy, contentment, and good health.  Is that the case?  Not likely.  In fact, it seems more the case that gluttons are always despairing, impatient, and in poor health as a result of their indulgence.  Many turn to surgery for help, and sometimes it does help.  But any doctor will tell you that regardless of the surgery, the glutton must learn some self-control or the whole thing will be for naught. [footnote 3]

And so we now arrive at your situation, which is publicly obvious.  You are convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that you need to live as a woman.  And like the gluttons, you've even turned to medical science for assistance.  I fear that like with them, in the end it gets back to you.  The doctors can pump you full of hormones.  They can alter your appearance.  They can physically alter you in all kinds of ways.  But they can't alter reality.  When they're done, you'll still be Bruce Jenner, with an xy chromosome, and you'll have to live with yourself.

Lest you think this is a brutally harsh assessment, and lest you think that I am merely some kind of "hater" for even bringing up this (rather obvious) truth, consider a recent example from my own life:
I have a son.  He's very young.  He has days when he wants to pretend to be something else.  One day he'll tell me that he's a dog, and then he'll do nothing but bark for the next few minutes while scampering about the floor.  Another day he's adamant that he is "Jason", the red Power Ranger.  As a father, I laugh at his imagination and give leave to it.... to a point.  Real dogs pee on fire hydrants, sniff poo, and do many other things that would be both ridiculous and potentially harmful for my son to try.  Therefore, out of love, I can't let him indulge his "dog fantasy" too much.  "Jason the Power Ranger" is a fictional character in an absurd tv show.  It would be both ridiculous and potentially harmful for my son to be "Jason" in his preschool classes, or to attack people with a sword because he thought they were alien invaders.  Therefore, out of love, I can't let him indulge his "Jason fantasy" too much.

Keep in mind that he really could, if he were old enough and rich enough, indulge those fantasies to an extreme [footnote 4].  He could ask scientists to give him floppy ears and a wet nose.  He could live (for a time) on dog treats and meats.  Similarly, he could toke up on steroids and become a strong athlete, run around with a sword, and threaten "evil-doers".  But would that bring him joy?  Would that really lead to "fulfillment"?  No.  It's insane.  He would be living a lie.

Which brings us full circle.  Being true to yourself is NOT a matter of indulging every whim, or blindly following whatever your "inner self" tries to tell you.   In fact, that philosophy only leads eventually to leading a life of delusion, ignoring the reality around you (and within you) to the detriment of both yourself and those around you.  And confronting that truth is not being hateful, bigoted, or mean.  It's being caring.

Lest anyone object that indulging in sex-change fantasies and all the other related whims (setting aside people with chromosomal issues, and the like, which deserve their own separate consideration) are not at all like pretending to be a dog or a sword-wielding superhero, I must respectfully disagree.  I'll grant you that there's a lot less difference between a human male and female than there is between a human and a dog, but the comparison still stands.  If it takes surgery, massive does of chemicals, and even then is still not quite physically the same, then it is little different than trying to be a dog.  And while there may be that one story about that one person for whom a sex change operation seemed to bring some level of peace, I can assure you that there are far more examples of it merely causing more strife.  And lest you think that the strife was a result of people who acted selfishly or who rudely wouldn't "accept" the change, and are therefore to blame, consider basic math.  If 1 person demands to be treated in a certain manner contrary to basic reality, and 50 others have to comply appropriately, who is the one "forcing" his or her beliefs onto others?  Hmmm?  Who is acting selfishly?

One absolute last note, and it is certainly not least.  I merely saved it for last because to even mention Jesus, God, or the Bible leads some people to dismiss you as some kind of ancient wacko before they even hear you out.  There is one very important person who absolutely can't stand the "just be true to your own self" philosophy, at least in the modern sense where it means to indulge whatever you want:  Jesus Christ.  In Matthew 16, Mark 8, and Luke 9, He is quoted as saying something along the lines of (depending on your translation), "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."  The world would have you believe that joy, peace, and fulfillment come from "being true to yourself."  Jesus would have you believe that joy, peace, and fulfillment come from "denying yourself" and following Him.  That's the choice.  It's certainly not easy, and we all need to be better at it.  If you find yourself espousing the "just be yourself" philosophy as an excuse for any manner of behavior, know that you are giving the opposite advice to what Jesus would give. [footnote 5]

In Christian Love,

  1. This is not meant to imply that Billy Elliot is a horrible show and has nothing to contribute to society.  I don't have any problem with a British boy wanting to dance, nor do I think that non-conformity is some type of inherent evil.  I DO, however, have a problem with the underlying premise the show espouses, and that is expounded upon in this letter.
  2. But that reference bears inspection.  What is Polonius really saying there?  The "modern" interpretation is that he's imploring his son to "be himself" at all times.  The modern interpretation would say that Polonius is telling his son to know his inner self, to follow its direction, and that honesty and frankness will happen as a matter of course.  If so, old Polonius is either a horrible hypocrite or a fool.  After all, he is helping the false king Claudius spy on Hamlet.  That hardly smacks of honesty and frankness.  So either he's not actually living his own advice, or the advice itself is false, in that "Being true to yourself" in the modern sense does not bring about honesty and frankness between men.  There is another way to read that passage that make more sense in the context of events.  What if Polonius is telling his son to always look out for himself first?  In that sense, Polonius is telling his son that he should act like Polonius acts: Always looking out for #1.  As to his duplicity regarding Hamlet, Polonius could merely reason that Hamlet ought to know that everyone is looking out for #1, and if you know someone is a sneak and a liar, then they can't really fool you, can they?  And if they do, it's your own fault. 
  3. Corresponding with the earlier statement that virtually no philosophy is really new, arguments over philosophy are also ancient.  This particular argument and example is a direct take from the apostle Paul who tells the Corinthian church that "food is for the stomach, and the stomach for food, but God will do away with both of them."  As here, the admonishment is that even if something is "natural", it doesn't mean anything goes.
  4. Think I'm nuts?  Well, then read this article http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/becoming-disabled-by-choice-not-chance-transabled-people-feel-like-impostors-in-their-fully-working-bodies and tell me who the crazy person is.
  5. And no, I don't think to "deny yourself" means that you have to completely ignore any and all desires.  Nor do I think that "being yourself" is inherently bad.  Being yourself is perfectly fine if you're talking about your favorite foods, or colors, or football team.  But when "being yourself" is an excuse for delusional or sinful behavior, you're on the wrong path.

September 2, 2014

Scouting the opposition -- Niners and Levi's Stadium

The San Francisco 49ers opened a new stadium right next to their practice facility in Santa Clara, California this season.  As luck would have it, this new facility is about 3 miles from NetApp headquarters, and therefore only about a mile from the hotel where I am staying this week. 

As even more luck would have it, the Dallas Cowboys are opening their season against said 49ers Sunday in Arlington.  So I called Jason Garrett and offered to do some scouting for him, since I was in the neighborhood and all....

Of course he agreed, given my EXTENSIVE insider knowledge about the NFL and gameplans in particular . Here is the first stage of my endeavors:

From the West    

Granted, it's probably not the way most scouting departments run things, but then they don't get hired last-minute to do secret spy work on the opponent, either.  I start at the stadium itself.  You can learn a lot about your opponent by examining his home.  It's clear from this photo (and I apologize for the shaky, blurry spy-cam nature of some images here.... tricks of the trade and all....) that we most have to concern ourselves with the Niners' star player #20, "Inaugural".  I believe he's a running back and clearly the team wants to feature him prominently.  Also of note is #14, the utility-back "Season", who gets second billing.  Based on this, I think our defense must focus on shutting down numbers 20 and 14.  If we can do that, we have a chance.  Finally, I asked some locals, and they said there was no truth to the rumor that the Niners' preseason was so bad that Levi's asked to have their name removed from the stadium marquee.  It's just a construction issue (to which I can also attest.  Even though the stadium is "open" and hosting events, there are scores of construction folks still swarming all over the place at all hours).

From the East
As verified on the other side, where the "Levi's" sign is still very visible.  Why yes, that IS a soccer field directly adjacent to the East side of the stadium.  In fact, it's three (very nice) soccer fields that comprise the Santa Clara Youth Soccer complex.  The Niners and the city of Santa Clara (which is really just a San Jose suburb) went through all kinds of hoops to get this stadium done....but they couldn't budge the youth soccer facility.  Personally, I have no problem with that, although I'd hate to be the ball kid at the soccer game after someone hoofs it out-of-bounds on that side next to the stadium.  Goodness knows where it'll bounce.

Practice facility gate
Just East of the stadium and South of the soccer complex is the Niners' practice facility.  Just in case anyone didn't know it, the security gates and the sign made it clear.

So you're saying the public isn't welcome here?
Santa Clara's finest
I tried to wheedle these gentlemen into opening the facility for me, but they wouldn't budge.  It probably didn't help that when asked to show ID, I pulled my driver's license out of a Cowboys wallet.  Dang.  Chalk one up to experience.

The practice field
But it turns out that I could still observe the practice field from the top of the BART terminal stairs.  No, it's not the field with the sprinkler going (that would be the soccer facility again).  It's the little patch of green above that, the one mostly obscured by trees and gates.  But I think I saw someone moving out there for just an instant.  I've included that in my report to coach Garrett, and I'm sure that as the week progresses I'll see a lot of action from here.

So there you have it.  I'll grant you that the report is a little light on specifics, but then it's still just Tuesday.  I can also report that access to Levi's stadium itself is actually marvelous, with a terrific public bike/walking path that leads right up to the gate, along with the aforementioned BART train stop right next door.  Unfortunately for the local folks, however, early reports of events speak of diabolical traffic jams.  There are really only two places to park nearby (mostly reserved for VIP parking anyway), and both are accessed only by one major street.  Making things worse is that one of those lots is shared with the local amusement park.  In other words, it's a good thing there's a nice multi-mile path to the stadium, because you'll need to use it.  You can't drive there.

Naturally I can't share with you all all the scouting tidbits that I will be sending to coach Garrett, but I thought you'd appreciate this early look at the effort. 


August 26, 2014

It's NFL Preview time!

Since 1989, I've been writing my own personal NFL preview, complete with predictions.  Here is the latest version: 

 Your life is now better for having read that!  You're welcome!


June 26, 2014

Math is not God; It's not even merely a guide

Mathematics is not a moral code.  It’s not a philosophy, religion, creed, or even a self-help guide.  I bring this up because there seem to be a great many people confused on the point.  In many Western societies, there has been a rush to anoint mathematics as the guide for all mankind.  I’ve even heard people say they believe in God “as a kind of mathematical formula”.  But there’s a big problem.  Mathematics doesn’t answer the great question posed to all of mankind from the beginning of recorded history:  Why?

Basically, why should I do action X?  Numbers don't given any answers.  For example, you may hear someone say, "10,000 illegal immigrants are pouring through our borders every month!  We have to do something!"  OK.  Even assuming your numbers are correct, why do we have to do something about it?    I might as well tell you, "11 times 11 yields 121!  We have to do something about it!"

I think most people in these situations are implying some moral value which has nothing to do with the numbers.  They can do this on topics ranging as far and wide as “climate control” to “income redistribution” to “euthanasia”.  They are fooling themselves. They are appealing to numbers to explain their own morality, something for which the numbers are completely ill-equipped.  Many of these topics for which people use numbers to somehow support their arguments have already assumed the moral stance.  Numbers may tell us all kinds of things about the climate, but they don’t tell us whether any particular climate is “ideal”, or if that climate should be ideal for only humans, or if it’s worth putting huge numbers of people through huge types of changes and demands in order to attempt to change the climate.  Numbers may tell us that money is unequally owned, or is concentrated in certain areas, or used for certain things, but numbers cannot tell us whether or not that is a proper state of affairs. Numbers may tell us that adopting euthanasia as a standard medical practice would save some amount of money, or generate certain transfers of property, or relieve some persons of a particular kind of burden, but they cannot tell us whether the money matters, or if particular kinds of burdens should even be relieved.

At the end of it, most people spouting the numbers have already made their own subjective moral determinations.  They may already believe that it is a moral imperative to keep the climate as close as possible to how it was in 1975 (if that's even humanly possible... that we can control the weather).  They may believe that it is a moral imperative that all people have an equal amount of money.  They may believe it to be a moral imperative to save money on health care.  In short, they are trying to “impose their morals” on all of us.  But by what right do they have to do so?  Besides their own minds, to what can they point in order to support their stance?   From where did they get those morals?

All of this is also to point out something for another post, which is this: Why are so many people who are relying on Christian morals to buttress their arguments for certain actions so eager to disparage or eliminate Christianity from public view?

May 28, 2014

World Cup 2014 Predictions

Four years ago, I predicted that Argentina would win the World Cup.  I was badly wrong.  This year, I decided to ask old acquaintance Horst Blevins to weigh in and share his thoughts on the upcoming tournament.  Horst used to make a career of writing about soccer and he correctly foresaw the Italians winning the cup in 2006.  He's clearly qualified.  While you can go to any website and get their take, I'm fortunate to have such an "insider" contact who spent many years in Europe following the game at the highest levels. With that introduction, I give you the official Horst Blevins World Cup 2014 predictions, as delivered to me verbatim from the man himself:
Guten Tag Stephen!  It has been a long time.  Of course I have been thinking about the World Cup.  Has not everyone lately?  I would be happy to share my thoughts with you and anyone else.  But then, there is only one thought to be truthful:  Brazil!!

Brazil will be the story of this World Cup.  As the host nation, it will dominate every news feed.  The Brazilian fans will dominate the stadiums.  The Brazilian people will dominate the streets (sometimes in protest).  The Brazilian team will dominate the tournament.  There are many possible outcomes to this tournament, but only one probable outcome:  Brazil!

The key on the pitch will be stamina and depth.  So many games at this tournament will be played in difficult conditions.  Manaus is expected to be like a sauna.  Other locations will be similar, with temperatures near 27C as a minimum, and very high humidity.  The last time the tournament was held in a country with such high heat was 1994, when yes, the Brazilians won in your USA.  Again, it is because of stamina.  You must have a deep roster for such conditions.  Relying on two or three players is not enough.  They will tire and need breaks.  The Brazilian team is the deepest in the world, even if they do not have the biggest stars in the tournament. Plus they will have the fan support, which makes a big difference when one is fatigued and you must find energy.

Other traditional powers are bringing deep squads, and they will have their say.  But they all have flaws except Germany, who I expect to see reach the final against Brazil.  I have examined each group and here are a few notes on each:

Group A: 1.  Brazil  2.  Croatia  3.  Mexico  4. Cameroon
It is unthinkable that Brazil do not win this group.  Croatia have talented players such as Luka Modric, and Mexico are capable of beating any opponent when things go right for them, but they are not Brazil.   Cameroon have hope here because neither Croatia or Mexico look dominating, but the Lions have never recaptured the magic they showed 24 years ago.  I think Croatia edge Mexico for the second spot because the Mexican team looked very emotionally fragile during qualifying.

Group B: 1.  Spain  2.  Chile  3.  Netherlands  4.  Australia
Spain have had the most remarkable run.  They won Euro '08, WC '10, and Euro '12.  That is incredible.  It is also going to end, but not in this group.  Spain's "anaconda" soccer style will be right at home in the Brazilian rainforest, at least in the group stage.  They are the masters of the 1-0 victory, and should be capable of doing that to all their opponents here.  The Netherlands will attempt revenge in their opener against the Spanish, but the Dutch look like a spent force.  Sneijder and Van der Vaart are getting old.  Dirk Kuyt is already there.  That will let Chile slip through to the second round, for what has become their customary second-round exit at the hands of Brazil.  Australia?  No G'day mate.

Group C: 1.  Ivory Coast  2.  Japan  3.  Colombia  4. Greece
When Colombia lost their primary scorer Falcao to injury in the Franch Ligue 1, they lost this group.  He was their primary threat and team leader.  Now the group is 4 flawed teams hoping for a break.  Ivory Coast have the most to gain and the most to lose.  Their aging core should be desperate to finally advance past the first round, and now they have an opportunity to do that.  Japan are always dangerous, but also find ways to lose games they should not lose.  Greece will likely finish last because they do not score enough goals.

Group D: 1. Uruguay  2. Italy  3. England  4. Costa Rica
If Luis Suarez is truly injured, then the Uruguay hopes are in trouble.  My sources say that he will be fine, and this Uruguay team has plenty of firepower elsewhere like Edson Cavani.  They will score, even against Italy and England.  They will advance, being very near to home.  Costa Rica is game but outclassed in this, the next most difficult group in the entire tournament.  That leaves Italy and England.  If you had to bet everything you had on either the Italian soccer team or the English, which one would you choose?  Me too.

Group E: 1. Ecuador  2. France  3. Switzerland  4. Honduras
France finish second here only because they enjoy making things difficult for themselves.  They have far more talent than any other team in the group, and to not advance would be a major embarrassment.  Switzerland have good players, but they are not nearly as good as their FIFA ranking suggests.  Ecuador will have some local support, being so close to Brazil.  It will help them overachieve in this round.  Honduras will fight hard, but probably not advance.

Group F: 1. Bosnia-Herzegovina  2. Argentina  3. Nigeria  4. Iran
Iran look like the worst side in the tournament on paper.  They will do well to earn a single point.  The battle will be between the other three sides.  Argentina have the most talent, but it is very top-heavy.  Argentina is a side of strikers and wingers.  An aging Javier Mascherano cannot be an entire midfield and defense by himself.  Argentina will struggle despite their talent and only just advance.  Bosnia have Edin Dzeko and he will get at least two goals, enough to help top the group.  Nigeria are difficult to play, but they do not score enough goals.

Group G: 1. Portugal  2. Germany  3. Ghana  4. USA
I know this hurts you, but you must face reality.  Your USA are the weakest team in this "Group of Death".  Like Iran, you should be happy if Klinsmann can get that group to earn even a single point.  Ghana have better strikers than you.  Portugal and Germany are completely superior from top to bottom.  I think Portugal finish on top of the group due to scheduling quirks.  They get Ghana at the last, when Ghana will be desperate and vulnerable to counterattacks, which Portugal do very well.  Germany will also struggle more against Klinsmann's USA side.

Group H: 1. Belgium  2. South Korea  3. Russia  4. Algeria
Belgium are too talented to not win this group, although their inexperience may make things difficult.  South Korea and Russia are evenly matched.  I think the Koreans' experience gives them a slight edge.  Algeria will be looking to improve upon their showing four years ago, when they were the most boring team in the finals.

Once past the group stage, squad depth will become even more important, and only the teams with the most talent can expect to advance.  I think Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, France, and Germany are the favorites.  Of those sides, Argentina have a structural flaw in midfield and will not win.  Portugal rely too heavily on one player, Ronaldo, and will not win.  Spain are too old, and are overdue for a loss.  They will not win.  Uruguay will not win because after the 1950 final, if they were to win again on Brazilian soil there would be a war.  France will not win because they are France and no longer have a leader like Zidane.  That leaves Brazil, Italy, and Germany, the three most successful sides in World Cup history.  Brazil are at home. They have the deepest squad.  They will win the tournament, blessing us all with videos of Carnival-style celebrations, beautiful women crying, and people dancing on beaches.


November 14, 2013

Death knell for constitutional, responsible government?

Imagine this scenario (not much imagination required):

Many citizens of a small town have become concerned about the eating habits of their fellow citizens.  There's only one restaurant in town, and it's a McDonald's.  Several people don't want anything to do with Big Mac Extra Value Meals, and others say that they can't afford to buy even a hamburger.  In response to this crisis, a few members of the city council ram through a new local ordinance saying that all McDonald's orders sold in the town must be a meal deal that includes a vegetable, fruit, cookie, and iced tea or coffee.  Since this will obviously raise the price of the happy meal, and not help people who couldn't afford earlier menu options, the ordinance also includes a provision that McDonald's will pay for portions of these new meals for certain people, if they apply at city hall and meet some arbitrary criteria.  To cover that provision, another is added that EVERY person in town MUST eat at the McDonald's at least once a week.  This will ensure that McDonald's has enough business to overcome the subsidized diners.  The town Mayor is the main proponent of these new laws, although he lets others actually write them.

To alleviate concern about the new law, the Mayor (and other council members) repeatedly go on TV, radio, and the papers and reassure folks that this brilliant plan will not affect what people currently buy and enjoy at McDonald's.  It's purely a solution to help out the disaffected members of the community who are currently unable to enjoy eating out.  They know that it's logically impossible for a law to simultaneously force meals to conform to a new standard while maintaining the older model, but they want the law to pass and be liked, so.....

Predictably, when the law goes into effect, numerous folks are stunned when they go to McDonald's and find that their favorite meal deal no longer exists.  Instead, they must order a much-more-expensive item with foods they didn't even want.  This is a much larger number of people than those who were supposed to benefit from the new law.  Heck, most of those folks STILL don't want anything to do with McDonald's, and are only begrudgingly going there once a week because that's what the law demands.  Many others just ignore going at all, since the penalty for not going is less than the cost of the new meals.

In light of the furor surrounding the change, the Mayor decides that action must be taken.  But rather than try to repeal the law, or admit that he was both mistaken and lied about the nature of the law, the mayor informs the public that he has directed the police force to simply look the other way if McDonald's sells someone a menu item that doesn't meet the new criteria anytime over the next year.  And if McDonald's won't continue to offer those items, that's on them, not the law.

But of course McDonald's has already completely shifted it's distribution channels, pricing, menus, and the very model of its business in that town to comply with the new law.  It can't possibly go back to selling the old stuff now, certainly not without a long transition time.  By the time they changed back to their old model, the year-long "grace period" announced by the mayor would expire and they'd be right back where they started. 

This is insane, and by what right does the mayor have to screw around with the situation by unilaterally declaring exactly which provisions of the law he will or won't enforce?

Congratulations if you're still with me.  And if you've even been vaguely aware of recent news, you know that nearly this exact scenario is playing out in our own United States of America.  Today was the final straw, the point at which President Obama declared that he was unilaterally going to direct law enforcement to ignore the provision of Obamacare that made older health insurance plans illegal...for the span of one year.

This is troubling on so many levels, I almost don't know where to start.  But as with our McDonald's scenario, there are two primary issues.  First, it's too late. Millions of people have already lost their existing insurance plans, and it is unreasonable if not impossible to expect that insurance companies can revive those plans... for one year.  Second, by what authority can the President do this?  He's just given himself a line-item veto, a power repeatedly rejected by hundreds of years of court, analytic, and reasonable precedent.  At least when the President decided to unilaterally ignore the Defense of Marriage Act (basically abdicating his constitutional duties, but I digress...), he went for the whole law.  With this ridiculous announcement, he's claiming that he has the power to cherry-pick individual parts of laws he likes and will enforce.

What's next?  Where does such power end?  If congress were to pass "comprehensive immigration reform", what would prevent this President or any other from choosing which individual parts to enforce?  Maybe a President would unilaterally choose to accept immigrants from Germany but deport those from Japan.  Oh... but only for one year, of course.

And why one year?  Did the president, while imagining for himself a new constitutional power, simultaneously imagine a restriction on that same power?  "I have the unilateral authority to choose which individual pieces of law I will or won't enforce.... but only for a year at a time."   I guess if you're going to conjure a power out of thin air, you might as well conjure the limits of that power from the same Aether.

But this is comically bad.  Has the federal government really sunk so low into deceit, corruption, and incompetence that officials arbitrarily change laws without consulting the representatives of the people (read:  Congress)?  We've already seen how the Department of Health and Human Services granted numerous "waivers" for various organizations regarding Obamacare.  We've already seen how an administration can decide to simply ignore some laws.  But with this farce today, how can anyone argue that laws mean anything?  "Who cares what the law says... we'll just take action X in any case.... oh, but only for one year."  The laws are no longer worth the paper they're written/printed on.

I leave with some sobering words, lifted from the US Declaration of Independence, adopted on the 4th of July, 1776:
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: