The New Terrapin Gazette
Number 183 9 January, 2011
People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this; that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it.
Are observations like these outdated?
Scalia, The Fourteenth Amendment, And The Persistence Of Immaturity
Associate Justice Scalia of the US federal supreme court says the constitution does not protect women or homosexuals from discriminatory acts by government. His reasoning is crystal clear: he asks whether the congress that wanted the states to ratify the fourteenth amendment intended to shelter women and homosexuals. Certainly not. Women could not vote back then, and as for homosexuals — well, there was no issue.
This means that as long as the express, specific intent of the authors of the amendment is the ultimate authority on its interpretation and purpose, Scalia is right, and it is entirely up to the states to make rules for the treatment of women and homosexuals.
Readers of this publication will recall that the supreme court used similar reasoning in deciding the slaughterhouse cases. That alone suggests that Scalia is dead wrong. But the issue remains: can we interpret the meaning of the constitution’s spare language according to its lexical content, or according to the mindset of the authors, or according to contemporary standards of reason and culture?
A definitive answer to that question would go on for many pages, so let this suffice for now: the constitution means what its words say, and those words must be understood in terms of values they express.
Consider, as an instructive example, the Declaration of Independence. Now that document is not law. Yet the sentiments it expresses are fundamental principles, and they do influence the legislation of the land. The Declaration proclaims that “all men” have God-given rights, but is that statement to be interpreted with the tacit knowledge that women and black folks do not have the same unalienable rights white males have? For the Declaration’s authors, the answer was an unequivocal affirmative.
Certainly the purpose of the document was not to give women the right to vote — that would come more than a century later — and a divisive issue of the time, slavery, is not mentioned.
The truth is, however, that Jefferson and others placed what they knew to be an incendiary phrase in the Declaration.
Rather than plunge into a tangential dissertation on the ethics of Jefferson, one can simply say that he was more consistent and practical than puzzling. He knew that slavery was a doomed evil and accordingly welcomed an evolution of values. His words heralded the further enlightenment of his nation without provoking opposition; by stating truths simply, he created icons resistant to ethical erosion.
It is not unusual to find that when principles are first articulated, their full implications can be unclear to their authors. Think of it as a person grasping the beauty and rationality of a concept, but not foreseeing its consequences. What seems prudent at the time can be accepted because of the many unspoken and understood limitations on the principle; later it may well be discovered that sheer consistency requires further change, such that the principle is honored.
This point may be illustrated by the flaw in contemporary US conservatism. As a champion of Liberty, it rates high but not perfect marks. Unfortunately it makes no thoroughgoing demand for the freedom that all humans deserve. While it emphasizes prudential finance and an efficient free market, it overlooks those personal areas in which decent governments would not intrude. It imprisons people for truly victimless crimes, mocks religious freedom, compromises too readily with authoritarian bureaucracy, has a censorious and irrational preoccupation with sexual mores, tends to impose stifling conformity and often waxes collectivist-repressive. In sum, it shows too little respect for the individual.
That’s why a conservative with a penchant for philosophical consistency is likely to evolve into a libertarian (who may continue to think of himself as, and call himself, a conservative).
The realization that rational attitudes toward the rights of man and toward Liberty can unfold over time is seminal. This leads to the understanding that in past ages, some thinkers grasped the simple, fundamental truths of politics, and expressed them concisely — but incompletely. That those ideals could not become fully manifest in the time of their birth is immaterial; one does not curse the ancient Athenians for practicing cruel and self-contradictory democracy. As many of history’s pioneering ethical insights were put into partial practice, it became clear that a more functional, better-integrated and increasingly coherent understanding of them was available.
The second amendment to the constitution provides a good example. It means exactly what it says when it reminds the world that ultimately the Liberty of the people is a function of their ability to defend themselves. Its earliest opponents ignored it in order to disarm former slaves, thus preventing them from driving off the KKK and night riders. Then firearms-banners lied about Number Two, claiming its validity depends on a link to a governmental militia. In a lunatic flight of fancy, they posited the existence of a variety of collective right — a bizarre concept in itself, and a tool of tyrants — and denied that the amendment states an individual right. They mocked the very idea of the amendment’s importance, saying that the right to bear arms is as absurd as the right to arm bears.
Never mind that disarming the law-abiding populace — to the distinct advantage of the criminal class — is an insane policy. The core dispute is whether an essential truth is just a rationalization of an obsolete folkway; as Obama put it in his harebrained Marxist fashion, Flyover Country’s inhabitants “cling to religion and guns” because they don’t have enough money.
More than any other amendment, the second expresses the profound taxonomic and practical distinction between Liberty and governance. It is here, in twenty-seven words, that the foundation of the foundation is established.
Indeed, the bitter aspect of the history of the constitution is how long it continues to take for the founding principles of the USA to be fully realized. After two hundred twenty years, the second amendment remains in merely partial effect. Today the nation is struggling to recognize where the real dangers are and resort to Liberty as the most effective counter to evil. The electorate cannot allow past misunderstandings and ignorance to reverse ethical enlightenment.
That statement raises monumental questions. Which are the eternal verities, and which are the prejudices and irrationalities that have hindered the evolution of principled policy? As the above examples should illustrate, it is possible to identify both. And how, exactly, is that to be done? That might be a good topic for another day.
For now, know that Scalia is wrong. He is not often wrong, and there is something to be said for his brand of federalism. But on this point, he is simply wrong.
A Law Degree Is Neither A Complete Nor A Sufficient Education
This newsletter has said it before, and here it comes again: it is madness to assume that a law degree qualifies a person to do anything from practice law to oversee the financial machinations of Freddie Mac. Lawyers are lawyers, nothing more. From this weblog:
In his recently released book Leadership and Crisis, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recounts an exchange with President Obama during the Gulf oil drilling moratorium. (Full disclosure: I co-wrote the book with Jindal.) After telling Obama that the moratorium would potentially cost tens of thousands of jobs, “The president went on to assure me that anyone who lost their job would get a check from BP. When I explained that BP might not write them checks because it was the federal government that imposed the moratorium the president said, ‘Well, if BP won’t pay the claim, they can file for unemployment.’ I was amazed by the level of disconnect. The people of Louisiana want to work, not collect unemployment or BP checks.”
For Obama, getting an unemployment check is about the same as getting paycheck.
Regarding which, another weblogger has this to say:
I think he is so appallingly ignorant of how wealth is created that he believes killing off jobs, as his administration has done along the Gulf Coast, is no big deal. The lost wealth will magically recreate itself, perhaps in the form of unemployment benefits. I think that Obama really does not understand the difference between receiving a paycheck in exchange for creating wealth, and getting a government handout in exchange for nothing.
That’s the problem with neo-Marxist economics: it’s hard to tell whether the neo-Marxists are ideologues who believe lies, or just ignorant dupes who do not grasp the simplest aspects of economics. Yes, economics is a study, not a science, and yes, there are all sorts of economic theories that do not agree with each other. That does not mean that the fundamental facts of how goods and services are produced and distributed are somehow false. Obama, as this publication has repeatedly pointed out, seems to be promoting lies; he implies, for example, that if rich people have money, they will not “spread it around.” Could it be that the man is an ignoramus with a very narrow education? Well, yes.
In the view of most collectivists, a tax reduction or a failure to increase a tax are gifts the government gives people, and are tantamount to income. In other words, when the feds agree not to take as many dollars of your money as they planned to take or used to take, they are giving you money. That is part of the tax-and-spend mindset that portrays government as a prime provider of prosperity.
It’s a quick shuffle, and a hallmark of the community organizer’s mentality. His concern is where his supporters/clients will go for gifts, and that means they should go where the money is. That predisposes him to take aim at the rich and the impersonal institutions (governments, corporations). His mindset provokes a lament that the constitution is composed of “negative liberties” and makes no promises of economic security. He is, in other words, a thug.
The faux humanitarianism of the collectivist Utopian is actually a greedy totalitarianism. It leads to the creation of a dependent underclass whose members have diminished rights and severely limited powers. Their role: footsoldiers in class warfare. The results mock the slogans of the cause, for as Liberty is reduced, free markets disappear and poverty necessarily increases.
One is reminded of the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” motto over the gate at Auschwitz — in the modern instance, the motto reads, “Submission pays off.” Muslims would agree.
Oops. The US Navy has come up with a littoral ship that’s literally no good.
The causes of hoaxes in science include greed, as this recent example shows, but ideological zealotry is also on the list. Anthropogenic global warming is the invention of a beclouded mindset that sees humankind as essentially flawed and damaging; the fact that charlatans and liars like Al Gore have become rich because of the hysteria they promote does not fully account for the phenomenon, however. Where faith is involved, reason is discounted.
“Progressives” will flatly reject this: “Although other credible sources confirmed it before WikiLeaks did, in receiving similar disinterested responses from the media, it should be clear now that President Bush’s concerns about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program were well-founded.” Well, of course. Some things just can’t be true. So you don’t need to check it out.
The Congress is barely under way, and the “progressive” assault on it has begun. With the help of the journalistic establishment, the collectivist segment of US politics plans to isolate, mock and discredit the reformers. Of course it does. “Reform consists in taking a bone from a dog.”
Rep. King, the Muslim’s friend, finds he has no friends in the US Muslim community — or, for that matter, at the very politically correct NY Times. This is a story that needs to be told, understood, and passed on. Unfortunately it will be bypassed deliberately by media types and the “progressive” element in US politics that seeks to portray its opponents as Islamophobes (which does not mean “Muslim-haters,” but “those who fear Islam”).
This publication believes Governors Jindal and Martinez are qualified to form the nation’s next administration. And: they can beat Obama.
Holder is a racist, and he must go.
To counter the lingering sense of disgust invoked by mention of the Department of Justice’s Grand Imperial Kleagle, here’s something just for fun.
Global warming madness. Stunning.
If the news media can quash anything, they will do what they can to quash this. How can The New Terrapin Gazette say that? Because it’s a list of the stories the journolistas under-reported in 2010. Yes, these are the news items that the news media considered improper to deal with any more than was absolutely necessary. Yet many richly deserved to become full-blown Watergate-style scandals. Why they never achieved that status is easy enough to understand; now what can you do about it?
Related: a “wingnut” weblog adds another under-reported story to the list, and this newsletter has to concur. Virtually nobody knew about this, and that’s a real shame. As you know, propaganda is half what the rascals say, and half what they prevent you from knowing. That’s one reason this newsletter exists!
The Smithsonian has posted an interesting article on the Roman Colosseum. More is known now about its operation and complex machinery. Note, by the way, that the article claims that it is not at all clear that Christians were on the menu for the Colosseum’s lions. Well, drat; that’s another dang fantasy destroyed by scholarship.
A historian ruminates on the nature of his craft, and cites examples of how our understanding of the past can go astray.
“Wingnuts” don’t like being called haters. They are touchy about it because of all the irrational hate directed at some of their icons — people such as G. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Sarah Palin and Whittaker Chambers. But it’s also true that many of the folks on the right do hate Obama. That makes for some interesting back-and-forth. Yes, Bush in particular has been very unfairly treated by the collectivist myth-makers, as the linked commentary points out.
This would be funny, but…it’s about people in prison filing fraudulent tax returns and getting money from Uncle Sam. Uncle can’t get organized enough to put a stop to it. That’s the Uncle who wants to take over the health care of the public.
Here’s a shock: Muslims use a car bomb to kill Christians; then everybody who approves of the murders lies about what happened. Unh, that’s The Religion of Peace in action, eh? Yes. So will the locals allow Christians to establish a church near the scene of the murders in order to reach out to their loving Muslim brothers and sisters and promote inter-faith understanding? Probably not, but maybe a mosque can be built on the bloody spot.
Muslim activists on the campus of a public California university denounce Israel. How outrageous do their statements have to be before the fanatics are officially accused of Jew-hatred?
US politics: here’s more on the Cloward-Piven strategy, mentioned in this publication some time ago. This time the item deals with a possible GOP response to C-P.
Related: wait for news on pensions; it will come. And it will hurt.
It almost seemed as if the Duke fiasco that cost a prosecutor his license to practice law and disgraced the faculty of a well-regarded university had finally faded…and now Obama has handed the nation one of the loons who wanted to see the innocent lacrosse players hung out to dry. This is how Obama, whether removed from office within the next few months or refused a second term, will cause tremendous harm to the nation. His appointees often come from a putrid gaggle of ideologues who have no business in government. That’s what the nation gets for electing a fanatical amateur.
The masthead includes a quote from the works of John Jay Chapman.
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