June 22, 2017

A Thought about the Constitution

"The Constitution is the bedrock on which a living, evolving nation was built.  It is -- and must be -- a timeless and durable foundation that individuals can count on in a changing world. It is not perfect but the Framers made it more perfectible through the amendment process."

~ Mark R. Levin

Source: page 38, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto."

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Mark Levin is a conservative talk radio host. He currently practices law in the private sector, and is head of the Landmark Legal Foundation. (About the Mark Levin Show)

June 21, 2017

Arlington County Auditor to Put Citizens First

According to a report today by the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey, "As he embarks on his first full fiscal year on the job, the Arlington County Board’s auditor said he aims to put the needs of the public first as he reviews county-government spending processes."

McCaffrey continued, writing:

"In remarks at the June 20 County Board meeting, Chris Horton told board members he would be “citizen-centric – looking at things from the perspective of community members, not just from the perspective of managers.”

"Horton last November was hired as the auditor, after the first occupant of that position left after six months to move to California. The position is just one of four staff slots reporting directly to County Board members, rather than through the county manager.

"Horton, who came from a similar position with Fairfax County Public Schools, said his role would be one of an honest broker.

“I’ve got to be someone who is collaborative in working with people to strive to get mutually beneficial solutions,” he said. 'We’re all on the same team.'"

The County Auditor's remarks to the Arlington County Board were made in conjunction with two items on the Board's recessed meeting yesterday. The first was approval of the 8-page Annual Audit Work Plan for FY 2018. In addition, the Board made changes to the charge for the Independent County Auditor (both original and revised available from the recessed meeting's agenda).

McCaffrey also wrote, "County Board member John Vihstadt, who pressed for the position, said (the auditor's hiring) has proved a net positive despite a somewhat rocky first 18 months," e.g., the previous auditor left after six months for a job in California.

Kudos to the County Auditor's taxpayer-focused attitude!

Growls readers who have questions about the County Auditor's FY 2018 work plan are urged to write  to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 20, 2017

A Thought about Political Correctness

"Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates."

~ Camille Paglia

Source: her June 15, 2017 interview by Jonathan V. Last, posted at the Weekly Standard.

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Camille Paglia is the University Professor of Humanities & Media Studies at the University of the Arts. She has authored seven books, and has written numerous articles on art, literature, popular culture, feminism, politics and religion for publications around the world. (Profile, The University of the Arts)

June 19, 2017

EPA Administrator Ends $1 Million Gym Membership Program

At the Washington Free Beacon today, Elizabeth Harrington writes, "The Environmental Protection Agency has ended a nearly $1 million program that provided gym memberships for employees.

Harrington went on to explain:

"The new administration under EPA administrator Scott Pruitt identified the gym memberships as an abuse of taxpayer dollars. Examples of the program's misuse included $15,000 for gym memberships for 37 EPA scientists in Las Vegas last year.

""We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. "Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment."

"Pruitt vowed an end to taxpayer-funded programs after the Washington Free Beacon report on the agency spending $15,000 on gym memberships in Las Vegas, earlier this year. Employees in the U.S. Environmental Science Division billed taxpayers $399 each for gym memberships, even though employees had access to a "state-of-the-art" gym on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) campus.

"The campus gym includes a relaxation room with massage chairs, fitness assessments, personal trainers for hire, a registered dietician, a spa and leisure pool, indoor jogging, and a "gender neutral bathroom."

While the cancellation of this $1 million boondoggle is more symbolic than real, given the federal government's $4 trillion budget, the action does send the message the White House is serious about eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them about the steps they have taken to hold the federal government accountable for the tax dollars they receive. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 18, 2017

A Thought about the Minimum Wage

"Every side in a political argument tends to gild the lily, but the acknowledgment of any downside is particularly devastating to liberal presumptions. Liberals are inherently activists on domestic policy, and to make the strongest possible case for action, you need certainty, not nuance; cost-free benefits, not painful trade-offs; blissful promises, not unintended consequences.

"Consider the minimum wage. Rarely do liberals truly grapple with the possibility -- supported by some, but not all research -- that it suppresses employment. If they did, they would be more cautious about advocating a higher minimum wage in a soft job market, and less scornful of opponents."

~ Rich Lowry

Source: his December 13, 2013 column, "The Left's Reality Problem," published by The Oregonian.

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Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

June 17, 2017

Should Legislatures be Able to Override Bad Court Decisions?

In a March 2017 article at The Federalist, Dr. Julio Gonzalez, physician and lawyer in Florida, explains why legislatures should be able to "override bad court rulings." He introduces the article this way:

"We regularly witness the increasingly aggressive and activist posture of our nation’s judiciary. The issue recently came to a head with Judge James Robart’s extra-constitutional act of staying a significant portion of the president of the United States’ foreign policy initiative and the subsequent affirmation of that stay by the unabashedly activist Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Those of us who value the restrictions the Constitution places on government cannot help but worry over the implications of these unprecedented confrontational actions and the effects they will have upon our republic. Indeed, we are left with the troubling question of whether there is any solution to this latest assault upon the fabric of our Constitution. But perhaps there is.

"In January, I filed a bill in the Florida House of Representatives that proposes a legislative override provision to Florida’s Constitution. I also filed an accompanying memorial suggesting that Congress consider a similar addition to the United States Constitution."

Gonzalez continues with a bit of Constitutional history:

"Article III of the U.S. Constitution gave the courts “Judicial Power” over all cases and controversies arising out of the laws of the United States and the Constitution, but it did not assign to the Supreme Court final (plenary) authority regarding the constitutionality of laws. The Supreme Court actually seized this power in its seminal Marbury v. Madison decision of 1803. In it, Chief Justice John Marshall singlehandedly declared, “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Consequently, any law the court determines is repugnant to the Constitution will be void.

"Although the Congress of the day did not react to this, by 1820, the consequences of the resulting change in the relationship between the three branches of government caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, who warned in a letter to Jarvis Williams, “to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [would be] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

"The Civil War and its associated amendments set the stage for the fulfillment of Jefferson’s prognostications. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution included Due Process and Equal Protection clauses that federal judges would subsequently employ to force their will and power upon the states. With the appointment of progressive judges during the twentieth century, the Supreme Court engaged in the laborious work of redefining the various passages of the Constitution in manners neither foreseen nor intended by the Framers."

He also notes that "if a Canadian legislative body should find the opinion of the court inconsistent with the views of the electorate, the legislature could override or nullify the court's ruling," and adds that Australia, Israel, and England have similar provisions.

"In short," Gonzalez said, "a legislative override provision to our Constitution would represent the clearest and most effective correction to the unchecked actions of an overzealous activist court. Indeed, a legislative override provision would place our nation closest to the vision President Washington shared in his Farewell Address."

Read the entire article; here's a second link.

A Constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to override court decisions is just one of several proposed by talk radio host Marc R. Levin in his book, The Liberty Amendments. For more information about a Convention of States to propose amendments to the Constitution, you can read this interview at CNS News on August 12, 2013.

Learn more about the Convention of States by visiting the Convention of States website. And get involved. Start by signing the petition to call for a Convention of States.

June 16, 2017

"Green Deathtraps" Blamed for Greenfell Tower Fire in London

At American Thinker today, Tom Lifson  writes, "In the wake of the ghastly conflagration that engulfed a recently renovated 24-story apartment tower in London, the world is waking up to the dire threat created by energy-saving green zealots.  It turns out that nobody much worried about the fire hazard involved when flammable materials were used to add an outer "skin" of cladding to the building, creating heat insulation thanks to the air pocket between the new cladding and the old exterior wall, but also providing an ideal space for fire to race up the building."

Lifson links to a UK Telegraph report that says:

"Fears were raised that green energy concerns were prioritised ahead of safety as it emerged that cladding used to make the building more sustainable could have accelerated the fire."

The Telegraph story also points out:

"Government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.

"It was installed on the council-owned Grenfell block in 2015 as part of a £10 million refurbishment by a company which was later liquidated after a firm they were working with refused to pay out in a dispute over their work.

"Tens of thousands of buildings in the UK have been fitted with cladding, it is estimated, leading to calls for an immediate review of safety.

"Experts said that the cladding - which is used to insulate the building - had acted like a "chimney" for the flames by allowing the fire to spread upwards through the gaps between the cladding and the building walls."

Lifson reminds us, ''Council-owned' is the British descriptor for public housing."

Finally, the Telegraph provides the following information about the materials in the so-called cladding:

"Dr Jim Glockling, Technical Director of the Fire Protection Association, said that they had been lobbying the Government to review the safety of combustible materials used on the outside of buildings since 2014.

"All fire safety regulations are focused on containing a fire within a building, but this cannot happen if it is spreading along the outside.

"There has been an emerging body of evidence surrounding some of the materials being used and now we have an appalling demonstration of what can happen," he said.

"Alongside the cosmetic appeal of cladding, it is used as an insulation to make buildings more sustainable to meet green energy requirements.

"It could be that this is the quest for sustainability trumping other concerns," Dr Glockling warned."

Ah yes, sustainability. As Peter Woods, president of the National Association of Scholars, wrote in an article two years ago, "'Sustainability' is like a religion. Or, sustainability is a religion."

Here, Lifson asks:

"Did green fever cause the obvious fire hazard to be ignored?  We simply do not know.  But the zealotry of those who are convinced that CO2 increases are dooming us could well prioritize energy savings above safety.  As seems to have been done in London.

"How many more green death traps are out there?  Tens of thousands in the U.K., but how many in the USA?

"The EPA sponsors the Energy Star certification for buildings.  A quick look at the site does not reveal any emphasis on fire safety.  But there certainly are a lot of properties signing up . . . ."

He answers the question this way: ". . . Saving energy is fine, but there are tradeoffs, and human lives did not weigh heavily enough when that flammable cladding was used." Makes you wonder about the  tradeoffs in Arlington County's Community Energy Plan (CEP). For background on the CEP, see our June 13. 2017 Growls.

UPDATE (6/18/17) In an article posted yesterday at Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch quotes "Robert Solomon, who heads the building fire protection division at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)," who says, “I don’t see this happening in the U.S.,” Solomon told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We actually apply a very constrictive and restrictive test protocol to those types of systems on buildings.” Read the entire article at Daily Caller.

UPDATE (6/19/17). At Townhall.com today, Katie Kieffer begins her reporting:

"Blue flames are products of extreme heat but “green” flames are products of extreme environmentalism, as we saw last week when fire engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower.

"From London to California’s Sun Valley, so-called green policies that disregard basic principles of fire safety are sparking deadly infernos. This issue deserves our immediate attention far more than Russian hacking myths and fairytales.

"The odor of burning plastic filled the air as 250 firefighters rushed to the scene of Grenfell Tower on June 14. But the flames spread too quickly and intensely for even this army of professional flame-stoppers. At least 30 people died, some 74 were injured and many more remain unaccounted for—meaning that the true death toll is closer to 60.

"For years, the 24-story public housing tower’s residents had complained via the Grenfell Action Group that the building—originally constructed in 1974—was a fire hazard. Instead of heeding the warnings, London Mayors like Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson aggressively pressured local councils to reduce carbon dioxide by refurbishing older buildings. (The 2008 Climate Change Act obligates the UK to slash greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050 in comparison to emissions in 1990.) Unfortunately, safety was sacrificed for the sake of reducing emissions.

"No one knows what first started the Grenfell Tower fire. We do know that major experts are tying the “eco-friendly” exterior insulation or “cladding” to the fire’s uncommon force and rapidity."

June 2017
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister