Monday, April 30, 2012

Whither Liberalism?

I enthusiastically recommend to you these three articles from the latest issue of First Things"Liberalism After Liberalism" by Wilfred M. McClay; "After Progressivism" by Yuval Levin; "Sin's Political Lessons" by James R. Rogers.  The first by McClay sets the table for reaction and response from Levin and Rogers.  (Unfortunately, you have to be a subscriber in order to get the last two online.)

Their subject is of course liberalism, classic and contemporary, and they tackle in turn the issue of what it was, what it has become, how so, and where it's headed.  All three are extremely insightful as the latter two do not so much criticize as build upon McClay's argument.

Let me cut to the chase, or my chase anyway, and hopefully whet your appetite for them all (if you don't already subscribe to First Things, you should):  There is an important difference between what I'll call a liberalism of aspiration and a liberalism of humility.  The former, which is at the root of contemporary liberalism or progressivism, imagines individuals so free and autonomous as to be if not deities, then at least demigods.  The latter by contrast recognizes limits, limits formed by our being as creatures (i.e., not gods, not even potential gods) and even more importantly by our being as fallen creatures.  To achieve the maximum liberty possible, its near certain abuse must be constrained.  How it is constrained, of course, makes all the difference in the world. 

My sympathies are with the latter, which, as all three writers in their own way put it, is the liberalism of among others Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Publius, and, most significantly, the Bible.    

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Letting Slip the Dogs of War

Partisan war, that is.

Why is it OK for the Left to pick on Mitt Romney with the now tired dog-on-the-car-roof story, along with the his-great-grandfather-was-a-polygamist smear, but not OK for the Right to fight back with the President's own words and voice admitting to once sampling canine cuisine, not to mention the fact that a relative as near as the very father he used to dream about was a polygamist too?

We of course know the answer, but who better to elaborate than Mark Steyn?:
My point is that self-loathing cultural relativism is so deeply ingrained on the left that any revulsion to dog-eating is trumped by revulsion to criticizing any of the rich, vibrant cultural diversity out there in Indonesia or anywhere else. Most polygamy in the developed world is nothing to do with Mormons: It’s widely practiced by Western Muslims, whose plural marriages are recognized de facto by French and Ontario welfare departments and de jure by Britain’s pensions department. But “edgy” “transgressive” leftie comics on sad, pandering standup shows will reserve their polygamy jokes for Mormons until the last stern-faced elder in Utah keels over at the age of 112. In the United Kingdom, 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to their first cousins, with attendant increases in their children’s congenital birth defects. Bur the comics save their inbreeding jokes for stump-toothed West Virginians enjoying a jigger of moonshine and a bunk-up with their sisters. The editor of Washington’s leading gay newspaper was gay-bashed in Amsterdam, “the most tolerant city in Europe,” but by Muslims rather than the pasty rednecks who killed Matthew Shepard, so liberals don’t have a dog in this fight. Likewise, the epidemic of black-on-black murder vs. the once-in-a-blue-moon Trayvon Martin: To the liberal mindset, certain dogs won’t hunt. In one of his many bestsellers, Ayatollah Khomeini produced a hierarchy of “the uncleans”: Dogs are at Number Six, Infidels are at Number Eight, and Number Eleven is “the sweat of an unlawful ejaculation.” In the liberal hierarchy, conservative infidels are at Number One, dogs are somewhere between Eight and Eleven, and the sweat of an unlawful ejaculation isn’t on the list at all.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Father of the Bride

 That's me this weekend...in case you were wondering why the Sage had been so quiet these past few days.

All is well.  Happy with the bride.  Happy with the groom.  No last-minute drama.  As I say, all is well.

We are blessed indeed, and very thankful for it all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't Say "Deregulation"

Patrick Brennan makes a great case for deregulation, especially of the transportation industry.  As a regular purchaser of airline tickets while a college student in the mid-1970s, i.e., before deregulation, I can testify from personal experience about the very real and high cost of regulation.

But the much larger service Brennan does is found in these two sentences from near the beginning of his argument:
Of course, almost everyone agrees that the government should play a role in regulating certain segments of the economy, and certain risks cannot be mitigated by the market alone. But the president pretends that Americans have been, on balance, ill served by greater economic liberty.
Greater economic liberty.  Beautiful.  Someone please pass on this phrasing to the Romney campaign ASAP.

Wall-to-Wall

From the L.A. Times, "Historic wave of Mexican immigration at a standstill, report says":
The number of Mexican migrants to the United States dropped significantly while the number of those returning home increased, bringing net migration from Mexico to a statistical standstill, according to a report published Monday.
Look for Democrats to shift policy and agitate for immediate construction of a fence between the two countries.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stand Your Ground

"I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them."
When actor John Wayne as dieing-of-cancer gunman "J.B. Books" in the 1976 film The Shootist, Wayne's last, uttered those words onscreen, audiences cheered, especially young men.  But, alas, what made the dramatic pronouncement of such a code so poignant--the applause was a release--was  precisely the fact that even then it was already long passe.

Political correctness is an especially evil evil not only because it involves all of us in perpetrating a lie we all know to be a lie.  But also because as we're all guilty of at least the lie, then we all have a stake in continuing it as well.

Among the lies everyone knows to be a lie is the lie that force, that violence, that fighting of any kind, fighting back even, is at root unjust.  James Bowman, by way of review of the new documentary Bully, a film he finds problematic, makes the point quite well: 
...you can't really treat bullying as a problem in the abstract, apart from the context in which some particular act of bullying takes place. The only way history shows of fighting bullying is by fighting back against the bully -- which, in our faulty modern way of looking at things makes the bully indistinguishable from the bullied. That must be why Mr. Hirsch [the director] acts as if fighting back were not an option. His victims all have to retain their pure victimhood. (my italics)
Among the many bad outcomes still possible to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman last month, is the repeal of  "stand your ground" laws across the country.  Such laws were themselves a correction, an attempt to return to Wayne's common-sense code.  A reaction to the Florida shooting that returns us instead to the "duty to retreat" standard, a duty to avoid conflict at almost all cost, would not only give the thug, the bully, the upper hand again, it would also reinforce the sick-unto-death contemporary notion that victimhood is a virtue.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Justice Demands...

...that John Edwards rot, or at least go bald, in some jail.

But of all people the editors at National Review think otherwise:
John Edwards, the Dorian Gray of the Democratic party, is one of the most loathsome characters in American politics, corrupt himself and a source of corruption in others, a preening, moralizing fraud who went so far as to have a staffer claim paternity of the illegitimate child he fathered with a campaign contractor. Even after he was exposed, Edwards denied that he was the father of the child until a paternity test forced him to own up to the fact. But for the charms of John Kerry, he would have been vice president of these United States. But for the labors of the National Enquirer, he might have been president, Democrats having learned in the 1990s how to make their peace with such situations.
If being a louse were a crime, John Edwards would hang for it. But he is instead facing prison for alleged campaign-finance violations, and it is our obligation to come unenthusiastically to his defense. He may be guilty of bribery, and if he were a sitting senator he would likely be guilty of gross ethics violations, but the facts do not support prosecuting Edwards under campaign-finance laws.

Heck, I'd almost take those two paragraphs alone in lieu of sentencing.

Born Again Indeed!

The world is full of charlatans, but no one can list Charles Colson among them.

He turned to Christ in the wake of Watergate and it made all the difference.  He swallowed his sinful pride as a result that glorious day and I witnessed him, on the screen at least, do so again and again over the years as he held his tongue about the truth of people and events being reported upon that he knew to be otherwise.

I knew it had to be difficult for him.  I also knew that it demonstrated the sincerity of his faith.  R.I.P.

One of a Kind

It'll soon be two months since conservative gadfly and media entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart died suddenly and unexpectedly.  Although I knew who he was, I was not a follower and so I read and listened to the many obituaries, both kind and unkind, with interest.  As I did, I became increasingly intrigued with Breitbart's persona as distinct from his person and decided that while he was certainly unique, he was also representative of a type, a type, that is, of contemporary conservatives.

The type I'm thinking of is relatively young, say, mid-twenties to mid-fifties.  The age-spread is significant as it marks the group as a product of the Sixties, not exactly children of the Sixties, as were their parents or older siblings, but undeniable heirs to its legacy nonetheless.  Importantly, that legacy includes an element that serves to distinguish them from their conservative elders with whom they otherwise share a defining ideology.

The distinction is more a matter of style.  The elders' disposition, consistent with their politics, is, well, conservative.  But the contemporary conservatives I have in mind are in this respect more like their liberal antagonists, i.e., loud, brash, impatient, confrontational.  Where they differ from them, aside from political ideology of course, is that these contemporary conservatives judge the promise and project of the Sixties as altogether fraudulent, or at least doomed for failure from the very start.  For that reason, they are quite often temperamentally disappointed, disillusioned, angry even.

What brought me to writing about this now instead of almost two months ago was my reading just yesterday of a very favorable review by Thomas Hibbs of Whit Stillman's new movie, Damsels in Distress, his first film in over a dozen years. (If you're not already familiar with Stillman, I'd encourage you to become so, but that's not the point here.)  At one point in the review, Hibbs reproduces this dialogue from a scene in the movie:

Violet: Have you chosen a topic for your paper?
Fred: Uh, “The Decline of Decadence.”
Violet: You think decadence has declined?
Fred: Definitely. Big time. Major, major decline.
Violet: How?
Fred: “How” or “in what ways”?
Violet: Either.
Fred: Okay, take the flit movement in literature, or homosexuality –
Violet: What?
Fred: Homosexuality. It’s gone completely downhill. Right down the tubes. Before, homosexuality was something refined, hidden, sublimated, aspiring to the highest forms of expression and often achieving them. Now it just seems to be a lot of muscle-bound morons running around in T-shirts.
Violet looks a little shocked.
Fred: It’s pretty disillusioning.
Violet pauses in thought for a long moment.
Violet: Are you gay?
Fred: Not especially, but in another era it would have had more appeal. Now, I just don’t see the point.

Hibbs mentions Oscar Wilde in passing in his review, but I'd already thought about him before when I was considering the type of conservative I've described above.  The story goes that when Wilde was first introduced to ice cream, he said something like, "Mmm, this is really good.  A pity it's not a sin to eat it." 

The character in Stillman's film discovers something that Wilde seemed to know instinctively, and that also, I'll argue, that the contemporary conservatives I'm describing know as well.  That is, that the bohemian depends always upon the bourgeois.  To be sure, the bohemian knows that in order to be himself he must always challenge convention.  His code is ├ępater le bourgeois, shock or "stick it to" the smug middle class and their equally smug middle-class sensibilities.  But he also knows that he must never seek to destroy them.  Why?  Because a bohemian's very existence, not to mention his meaning, is derivative.  No genuine bohemian is ever a nihilist. 

But part of the promise and project of the Sixties is that in fact he is just that.  This, I think, explains some of the disappointment, disillusionment, and anger of many contemporary conservatives.

Sixties liberals have ruined bohemianism just like they've ruined almost everything else.

Until the Sun Goes Down Over Santa Monica Boulevard", cont.

From the Wall Street Journal:
Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.
Need anyone say anymore?

This is Who They Are

The Left, that is, and this is what they do.

"Condoms on Crosses" (my title) is not some avante garde work of "art" (funded by the NEA, of course), but instead the bullying action of Pro-Choice students unhappy with the free expressions of Pro-Life students at Western Kentucky University.

One has to wonder if they would have been as eager to desecrate copies of the Koran, for example.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

THIS is News?

A new book confirms and the New York Post reports the obvious:  "Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner was behaving like a jerk long before the world got a glimpse of his crotch."

"I'll be real frank here..."

So begins Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) as he explains why President Obama's signature health-care legislation is so unpopular and how that fact alone will make winning the swing state of Virginia this fall very difficult for him:  “I think that the manner in which the health-care reform issue was put in front of the Congress, the way that the issue was dealt with by the White House, cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader.”

Well, Senator Webb, I'll be real frank here too:

Had it not been for you abandoning, first, your natural party, the GOP, and, then, apparently, principle as well, the Obamacare abomination would never have passed the Congress and both he and the country would be in much better shape as a result.

I think Senator Webb's coming retirement is going to suit him very well.  I know it will me.

Straight Shooting

A buddy of mine likes to say that if you're not free to own a gun, you're not free.

Ann Coulter does a fine job of reporting to us the history of black Americans with respect to gun ownership, a history I'd say confirms my friend's insight quite well.

What DO Liberals Want?

One suspects that question has no answer, no final answer anyway.

The American Spectator's R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. was thinking about the differences between liberals and conservatives when he came across a column by the British political philosopher Roger Scruton in which Scruton asserted this:
My own view is that left-wing positions largely come about from resentment -- I agree with Nietzsche about this -- a resentment about the surrounding social order. They have privileges, I don't. Or, I have them and I can't live up to them. Things should be organized differently. And there's always some sense on the left that power is in the wrong hands.
Tyrrell agrees and offers even more concision:
That comports very well with my long-held thesis that there is only one political value that all liberals through the generations continue to profess. It is not personal liberty. It is not public order. It is disturbing the peace.
When I, as a conservative, scream that I want mostly just to be left alone, what I really mean is that I want liberals to leave me alone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It Ain't Easy Bein' Cheesy

I thought all the liberal Democrats in Wisconsin were preoccupied with recalling their Republican governor until I stumbled across this headline:  "Wisconsin Cracks Down On Public Sex At Nude Beach" 

Nude beaches in Wisconsin?

I guess so, but as one group that uses the beach regularly is quick to explain, it's strictly "family-style nudism, where sexual preferences and harassments are not a public issue, where consumption of alcohol is controlled, where illegal activities and substances are forbidden.”

Family-style, that is, until the public sex on the beach got so out of hand that it began to offend those sun worshippers with more Victorian sensibilities.  As a result, on a website run by some of them, they even went so far as to draw a line in the sand by posting this warning:  “You will be expected to behave just as you would at any other public beach. If you don’t, someone will likely correct you or a Ranger will arrest you...Tanning oil is for tanning, not for fun. Nudity is for fun, not sex on the beach. ‘Nuff said?”

Anyway, I thought the headline should instead have read:  "Prude Nudes Boo Lewd Nudes"

BTW, I can almost hear some of you asking, "C'mon Sage, how can you be so sure these nudists were in fact liberal Democrats?"

Puhleeze.

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Surprises

The growing scandal surrounding the actions of the General Services Administration forms an almost perfect Rorschach inkblot test for political ideology.

If you are not surprised at all by the GSA's behaviour because you think it altogether predictable that any group of people charged with spending another group of peoples' money will sooner or later act in just such or at least similar a fashion, then it's probably safe to call yourself a conservative.

If, however, you are surprised by the reports, and manage even to feign a little outrage over them, but then, as a consequence, call first for the creation of yet another agency to oversee the GSA, then you are definitely a liberal.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Not sure why, but I just can't get enough of the story and accompanying picture of our Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton letting her hair down in a Colombian night club. (Literally, have you seen her hair lately?)

I'm guessing that after the kerfuffle over the other Hilary's (Rosen) comments about the real status of traditional women, the Secretary wisely decided to holster the angry, condescending feminist pose for a spell.

Plus, Bill's no where in sight, so enjoy yourself girl!

Secret, Um, Servicing

Too bad the story of the Secret Service's use of Colombian prostitutes didn't break during the Clinton Administration.  Had it happened then, the agents could have credibly claimed Executive Privilege.

The Lonely Crowd

We're all aware of the paradox:  The larger the crowd you're in, the lonelier you're likely to be.  Contemporary life, with all its technological wonders that make communication and travel faster and easier, thereby connecting us to an ever larger circle of people, has, as we say, paradoxically, made us even less connected.

I'm routinely amused (and more than a little disgusted) by the now common spectacle of small gatherings of people at restaurants, the mall, a ball game, wherever, who, while clearly together, nevertheless only infrequently look at each other.  Instead, their heads remain bowed before, and their eyes fixed on the smart phones forever in their hands, anxiously reading from or thumb-punching messages to some other they wish could be with them as well, presumably so they could ignore them too.

Anyway, Stephen Marche writes an interesting piece in which he analyzes the phenomenon in the age of Facebook.  It's a bit long, but worth the time.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What is "Social Darwinism"?

I mentioned it in a post just the other day and as you're hearing it a lot lately from liberals, to include the President himself, in order to smear conservatives and Republicans of course, you might want to know better the meaning and history of the term, its use and abuse.

And who better to explain it all than Jonah Goldberg.  (Getting tired of me singing this guy's praises?) 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Big Business vs. Free Markets

Thanks to Jonah Goldberg for highlighting this very important distinction.  Our enthusiasm and support should be for the latter, not the former.:
...Since the Progressive era, American liberals have been in favor of some variant of corporatism or industrial policy. The idea stretching from Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson through FDR, JFK, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton to now is that the government is smart enough to pick winning industries and technologies. You know, like Solyndra. 
There’s a huge difference between being pro-business and pro-free market. The government’s role in the free market is to keep it free and fair, not to play favorites.  When government takes it upon itself to be the ally of business, certain biases often take over. For instance, existing industries have a huge advantage over ones that haven’t been created yet. A more obvious bias is toward big companies over small ones. Big companies create constituencies and can afford lobbyists to make their case. Moreover, big business becomes a tempting vehicle for other policies like, say, providing health care. And why not: When government is scratching business’s back, why shouldn’t business return the favor?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

May I Make a Suggestion?

Who would have thought that Wisconsin of all places would be in the headlines so much?  Anyway, it's there again, this time because already beleaguered Governor Walker signed a repeal of a law passed in 2009 that made it easier for plaintiffs to win bigger awards in sex discrimination cases.    

Predictably, the Left and the Democrats across the country, including the Obama campaign, were quick to pounce, calling the repeal even more evidence of the GOP's ongoing War on Women.  Well, the editors at NRO, for one, would have none of it and quickly fired back, setting the record straight with this piece: "There is No War on Women in Wisconsin"

All of this is instructive, for conservatives and the Republican Party, that is.

With all due respect to the editors at NRO, aside from the cute alliteration in the title, the substance of the piece is all wrong.  Thoughtfully rehearsing the reasoning behind, the very sound reasoning behind Walker's repeal is not enough, it's not even the point.  The point is that we are now deeply into a political war where all the predicates have already been laid.  What the editors, what conservatives everywhere, and what the GOP especially ought to do is, like the Democrats, attack.

Instead of defending the repeal by explaining it once again, Republican spokesmen should ask, with an effective dose of righteous indignation by the way, feigned if they have to, why it is that  Democrats remain forever in favor of frivolous lawsuits?  Is it their almost incestuous relationship with the nation's trial lawyers and the substantial campaign contributions those lawyers make to the party?  Are they eager to increase the cost of doing business by making the price of insurance against such frivolous lawsuits even more expensive, a cost invariably paid by the consumer anyway.  During these times of stubbornly high unemployment, do they want companies' funds to be held in reserve in order to pay off claimants instead of being used for expansion, for hiring new people?  And why do they want to make it more it even more difficult for women to get good jobs as the former law encourages employers to shrink from hiring women in the first place for fear of later being sued?  Are the Democrats engaged in a War on Women?

That, I submit, is the way the game is played.

Or at least it is if you want to win.

Disconnect

Elizabeth Warren is the very liberal Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Scott Brown for the Massachusettes' senate seat this fall. Not surprisngly, the left-wing magazine The Nation is enthusiastic about her candidacy. Hence, from time to time, puff pieces like this one by E. J. Graff appear in its pages.

What interested me about the article was its first three paragraphs and a common tendency among many liberals it reveals:
It was a grim, sleety day in Chicopee, a gritty postindustrial town in western Massachusetts, where paint flakes off worn-out bridges and boarded-up factories. At a community relations luncheon, kind security guards were opening back doors and holding out umbrellas for the few willing to brave the freezing slush. This was not a campaign stop, we reporters were told decisively by Alice Buckner, the business and community liaison at the nonpartisan, federally funded Westover Job Corps Center. If Elizabeth Warren showed up, she would be visiting with students, not campaigning.
Around us, upbeat young Jobs Corps enrollees—ages 16 to 24, brown and black and white, skinny and fat, tattooed and pierced and dyed—were setting up the room and the banquet table. Among our handouts were heartbreaking student essays about choosing jobs over drugs; gastric bypass surgery over helplessness; and overcoming bullying by practicing the new skills of energy, enthusiasm and hard work.
Chicopee’s mayor, Michael Bissonnette, took the podium to tell the students that he had grown up in the projects, and he knew their biggest problem—themselves. They had to look themselves in the mirror each day and say, “I can do it.” Then he introduced his “good friend” Elizabeth Warren, who was running for US Senate and who had something to say about all this.
Since liberal Warren is the mayor's "good friend", I'm assuming he shares her ideology. If so, then how can he, and later she, tell these young people that their biggest problem is "themselves", that they should practice saying, "I can do it," when that message and plea is a decidedly conservative one.

A liberal message, by contrast, would tell them that their biggest problem is not "themselves", that in fact their plight is not their fault at all, but rather it's the fault of the "machine", the Man, the 1%, Big Business, Big Oil, Big (you fill in the blank), white people, vested interests, the legacy of racism or sexism or homophobia, etc., etc., etc., anything and everything but themselves.

Even liberals know in their heart of hearts that liberal-ism is not the answer.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Felix Culpa and Good Friday

Felix culpa is the Latin phrase that more or less translates "happy fault."  The idea that gives it meaning is scandalous (lit., a stumbling block).  "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."  It is that Adam's fall from grace, his deliberate disobedience and God's allowance for it, including the whole of the disastrous consequences that followed, the whole of them, was somehow good news, i.e., the gospel.

How so?

Because through it, and because only through it, the heart of God is fully revealed.

That God loved His creation was clear in the beginning. ("And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.")  But what, really, was the nature of that love?

That love was, and still is fully revealed, and thereby the heart of God is revealed along with it, in His willing sacrifice of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ ("...the express image of His person") and the Son's willing sacrifice for us ("Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."),  both in order to account for the Original Fall, and all that followed in its wake.

Which is why the culpa is called felix, and this Friday is called Good.

Happy Easter Everyone!

"Parchment Barriers" and Worse

"Parchment barriers" is what founder James Madison called mere paper protections against all real threats to liberty, paper protections like a catalogue of rights and, presumably, even a written constitution itself.  He had little faith in them.  Instead, he knew, as all the Framers knew, even when they insisted on writing it all down nevertheless, that genuinely secure rights are those that are inscribed indelibly on the hearts and minds of free men.  It is only when they are written there that we can ever hope to stand successfully against all the inevitable encroachments, to include even the sustained, drip-drop variety we Americans have witnessed and experienced and grown accustomed to since the New Deal at least.

Which brings me to the current debate over the constitutionality of Obamacare.  I worry that too much of our resistance to it is beginning to rest on just such "parchment barriers", and worse.

The Commerce Clause, around which so much of the current debate is spinning, is found, in case you didn't know it already, in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.  There, the powers of Congress, "few and defined" mind you, are listed.  It reads--are you ready?-- thus:  "The Congress shall have Power...To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"

That's it.

That's it, I say, but over the years, those few words have been used nevertheless to authorize an ever-expanding government, potentially a government without limits, which effectively turns our  Constitution on its head.  Think of it, a document that was conceived and committed to writing in order, chiefly, to secure our liberties, is now understood, and seriously so, as a vehicle for authorizing threats to them.  Oh, to be sure, the authorization is all for presumably good reasons like providing universal health care, but it threatens our liberty in the process nonetheless. 

Part of the reason for this is that as we have abandoned in far too many cases now the plain meaning of its words, or, when the words are unclear, the context provided by the whole of the document, a context that would clarify those otherwise ambiguous words, not to mention the even larger context afforded by a just consideration of the circumstances under which they were writtten in the first place.  Madison would doubtless cluck his tongue and say, "Such are mere 'parchment barriers.'"

But it's worse than just that, and ironically so.  Even as we have loosened ourselves from the plain meaning of the words, we have shackled ourselves to increasingly strained interpretations of the same, interpretations of the kind that would make a Talmudic scholar's head hurt, but of the kind we have nevertheless gotten used to.

For example, from the reports of the hearings before the Court last week we learned that at one point Justice Stephen Breyer helped make the Government's case for them when he suggested that perhaps simply by virtue of being born one enters the market for health care and therefore the Commerce Clause would apply.  To which, according to Charles Krauthammer anyway, the attorney challenging Obamacare responded with something like: "If birth means entering the market, the Congress is omnipotent, authorized by the Commerce Clause to regulate 'every human activity from cradle to grave.'”

Yes!  Score one for our side.  Go Team, Go!

Meanwhile, the rest of engaged America, like a crowd at a tennis match, turns its collective head toward the other end of the court to see if our opponent is able to make just as witty a reply.

Is this really what it's come down to?  Does the security of our liberty now rest not only on what have proved to be flimsy "parchment barriers" after all, but, even worse, on us anxiously awaiting, fingers crossed, for what is little more than the good fortune of having a smart lawyer engage in clever repartee with a hostile judge over whose interpretation of a small clause in the Constitution will hold the day?  Good grief.

If our liberties were truly written still on our hearts and minds instead of on paper alone, we would not be indulging in this spectacle at all and no one would have dared challenge them in the first place. Indeed, no one would have even thought to do so.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Sing the Auto Electric

If you purchase a Chevrolet Volt, you know, the electric car made by General Motors, the company you and I bailed out, in order to save union jobs, so that union workers would still make a wage, so that they could continue to pay union dues, so that the union could make huge donations to the Democrat Party, in order to...oh, sorry, where was I?

Oh yea, as it happens, if you purchase a Chevy Volt, it'll take you almost 27 years to save enough on fuel to make up for the difference in price had you simply bought a similar gas-guzzling equivalent instead.

But then the cost savings was never the chief reason for buying an electric car anyway.  Rather, it was so you could wear a little green ribbon on your lapel and feel superior to everyone else.

Some things money just can't buy.

Network Negligence

The major news networks are conforming almost exactly to Rush Limbaugh's parody of them as the "Drive-By Media."

First, ABC apologizes for first reporting otherwise, but later noticing that in fact the pictures do show a wounded George Zimmerman.  Second, NBC edits and then admits to editing the audio tape in order to make Zimmerman look more like the racist they had already concluded he is.  Now, CNN enhances the same audio and confesses, that, oops, sorry, contrary to what they had earlier reported, he didn't say c**n after all.

Meanwhile, the city of Sanford seethes and nervously awaits the reaction to the special prosecutor's decision regarding Zimmerman's future.  The rest of us, the entire country, that is, are left to pick up the pieces...once again.

Rush is right: Drive-By.

"Women are not an interest group"

So says the President who is also the leader of a party and champion of an ideology that treats women in precisely that fashion, that is, a bloc of potential voters to be mined for electoral success.  Along with, of course, blacks, Hispanics, the "poor", illegals, the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, homosexuals,....

It's a tried and true strategy.  If you can divide the country into "us" and "them" just enough, you can sometimes manufacture the narrow majority you need to win an election.

My Favorite Week of the Year

Sports week, that is.

This time each year it's the Final Four followed by Opening Day followed by the Masters.  It just doesn't get any better.

I guess it could have, however, as my beloved Braves fell today,1-0 to the Mets.  Foreshadowing, I fear, a fate similar to the last couple of years: GREAT pitching, NO hitting?  Argh!

Oh well, it's a long season and still a great week.

What is "Judicial Activism"?

As you knew she would, Ann Coulter weighs in on President Obama's intemperate remarks from the other day about the proper duties of that "unelected group of people" otherwise known as the Supreme Court.

Among the President's more egregious misunderstandings, or mischaracterizations, was the one he made about the meaning of judicial activism, long a conservative complaint about rulings coming from liberal justices on the Court.  Here Coulter offers as good a short-hand definition of it as any:
Decisions not plausibly based on anything in the Constitution.
Of course, she wouldn't be herself if she didn't also take a shot:
Curiously, the only court opinions liberals really get excited about are the ones having nothing to do with the Constitution: abortion, nude dancing, gay marriage, pornography, coddling criminals, etc., etc.

Freedom vs. Equality...again

Victor Davis Hanson argues that our coming election will be useful in its clarity at least.  As he sees it, all the issues boil down to "Freedom or Fairness in 2012?".   He sums it up with this:
These are the ancient arguments that have pitted the liberty of the American Revolution against the egalitarianism of the French, the statist visions of John Maynard Keynes against the individualism of Friedrich Hayek, and the tragic admission that we cannot be truly free if we are all forced to end up roughly equal against the idealism that if we are all roughly equal then we are at last truly free.
In blunter terms, Romney’s message is that, if you have the money to drive a nice Kia, what do you care if a sleek Mercedes whizzes by? Obama’s answer, in contrast, is that you should care, because the guy in the Mercedes probably took something from you. 
The election will hinge upon how many people who can’t now afford a Kia believe that they might be able to under Romney — and upon how many couldn’t care less about the guy in the Mercedes.
Regrettably, most people who even recognize the tension between the pursuit of liberty and the pursuit of equality/"fairness", reduce it, like Hanson does here, to material terms, to differences in economic visions.  While it is that, it is also more, much more than just that.

It is also very much about the formerly privileged position accorded traditional marriage and family versus the equality-inspired radical feminist and militant homosexual rights agenda.  As well as, I must add, everything that touches that debate, to include the repeal of Don't Ask-Don't Tell, for example.  Therefore, it is also about the kind of military we will have.

It is about the kind, not simply the cost, of the health care you will receive.  As we have already witnessed, it is about religious liberty and freedom of conscience when the kind of care you receive at a Catholic hospital, for example, differs from the kind that the state sanctions.

It is about the locus of political authority, nearby or far away, as states currently cannot build roads and individual land owners cannot build homes without first obtaining permission from the federal government and its bureaucracies.

It is also about, maybe even especially about, whether this country is indeed exceptional or simply one of many more or less similar (equal?) governing units currently scattered across the globe.

This fall--and always for heaven's sake--much more is at stake than simply whether or not you keep more of your own money in your pocket.    

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Insult to Injury

Yesterday, President Obama insulted the Supreme Court and its member justices by describing it and them as but "an unelected group of people."

Today, he insulted as well proud Social Darwinists everywhere by calling the Republican-proposed budget--a plan that does not cut, does not halt, and only marginally slows the growth of an already fiscally unsustainable Leviathan--little more than a "thinly veiled" version of their nature-knows-best, survival-of-the-fittest philosophy.

I guess when he's in the mood to hurl invective, his philosophy is "let'er rip!"

"An unelected group of people"

Or, if you like Mr. President, one of our three co-equal branches of government.

The President from the Rose Garden yesterday on the likelihood of Obamacare being judged constitutional or not by the Supreme Court:
"I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected congress...I just remind conservative commentators that for years we have heard the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. That an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example and I am pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step."
There is so much wrong with this:

First, there is absolutely nothing "unprecedented" or "extraordinary" about the Court overturning a law it judges unconstitutional.  That is precisely what the Court does; that is its constitutional role and the process by which it does so is called judicial review.

Second, no bill can become a law in the first place unless a majority of both houses of Congress vote for it.  We have no minority-passed laws.

Third, that Obamacare was passed by a "democratically-elected congress" no one denies, although the implication of his use of the phrase is clear:  All challenges to it are somehow un-democratic and therefore illegitimate, even if they are constitutional.

Fourth, that it was passed by a "strong majority" is false on its face.  As I said, it was passed by a majority by definition, but it was not passed by a representative majority.  No Republican voted for the bill.

Fifth, the Court performing its duty to judge a law constitutional or not is no definition of judicial activism.  Rather, judicial activism is defined as the Court stepping outside, and often eagerly so, the otherwise narrow process of judicial review in order to discover, to invent even, extra-constitutional rights from the "penumbra" and "emanations" of the in any case not fixed, but "living, breathing" Constitution, and thereby prescribing on its own what are in effect statutory obligations and mandates on the other two branches, on the states, and on the people.

Sixth, the phrase, "an unelected group of people," is in the first instance an insult not only to the dignity and integrity of the Court as a whole, but also a personal insult to each of its members, to include its more liberal justices who are likely to agree with the President about the law before them, not to mention the two of those Obama himself nominated.  But insults aside, that the Court is "unelected" not only goes without saying--we are all aware of the constitutional process whereby Court members are nominated, approved, and seated--that they are "unelected" is so by design.  The Framers quite deliberately sought to create and sustain an independent judiciary, a truly independent third branch that could effectually check and balance the other two precisely because it is unelected.



BTW, some of you may be thinking that these comments are contradicted by a couple of my previous posts (here and here).  Not so.  Those musings were about the absurd spectacle of us surrendering in this case our right to and duty of self-government to nine, five, or even one justice.  They were also a comment about the foolishness of pretending that the Court's decision here will in any legitimate sense resolve the underlying issue as this issue is simply too big for this or any Court to resolve.  It is simply, if not the last, certainly the most significant brick yet laid in the huge, monstrous, edifice that is the omnicompetent Nanny State, the Left's New Jerusalem.  For that decision, we all need to be involved, and quite directly so, because what we're talking about doing is abandoning the old and familiar America for an altogether new and different one.

The Guy's Just Weird

Keith Olbermann, that is, which I think is as much a reason as any for his most recent termination of employment (for all of them actually), this time from Current TV, Al Gore's latest effort to redeem and justify himself by raging against the Man.  But then Gore is pretty weird himself, so it never was a match likely to last for all that long.

Of course, for his firing we could add to his weirdness his penchant also for angry, unprofessional on-air rants, not to mention his spectacular hypocrisy.  But we don't have to because NRO's Rich Lowry does it for us:
Olbermann is the termagant of the Left, whose on-air biliousness is apparently not an act. He gives limousine liberals a bad name, since the stereotypical representative of the breed is at least satisfied with his car and his driver. According to published reports, Olbermann kept complaining about the car services contracted to ferry him to work to issue populist jeremiads in favor of Occupy Wall Street. 
Olbermann had a contract for $50 million over five years, a confirmation of the axiom that no matter how much someone derides corporate greed, he wants to make as much money as possible, ideally for as little effort as possible. Current had trouble getting Olbermann to show up to do coverage on election nights despite his status as the network’s “chief news officer.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Honest Commie?

This afternoon on MSNBC, Van Jones, self-professed communist and controversial former Special Advisor to the President for "Green Jobs", had this to say about Obama's coming re-election bid:
“I think if President Obama came out as gay, he wouldn't lose the black vote."
No real news in that, but, for a socialist, a noteworthy lapse from routine duplicity.

The Usual Suspects

In the latest issue of National Review, Lisa Schiffren writes an interesting review of Thomas Mallon's novel Watergate.  While it's not likely that I'll ever read the book, it's apparently unique in that Mallon, remaining mostly true to the known facts, retells the story by pursuing the more human interior thoughts and motivations of its cast of characters, to include, of course, Richard Nixon himself.

Schiffren concludes with general praise for the effort, but along the way scribbles this gem:
In a funny way, the most interesting thing about Watergate is that it is presented as a purely human drama, in which the characters all have a normal array of motives, goals, and emotions, far more personal than political.  Glaringly absent is the overlay of hatred, vilification, and presumption of intent to upend the Constitution to support a war, along with all the other outsized evil fantasies of Nixon and his staff, as conjured by generations of liberals, activists, Yale Law School students, Weathermen, and folk singers.
"...and folk singers."  I love that.