Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


The General Election Begins

WaPo called the GOP primaries for Romney today, declaring "Mitt Romney's 'veepstakes' begin." WaPo's short-list includes Christie, Jindal, Rubio, McDonnell, Thune, Pawlenty, Ryan, Daniels, Portman and Susan Martinez. I'd halve the list to Rubio, McDonnell, Pawlenty, Ryan and Daniels. Regardless, it is obvious that the primaries are now effectively over. The New York Times also noted today, "Obama, Romney shift to general election."

The race for president shifted dramatically Friday into a general election matchup between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney as the candidates delivered dueling, sharp-tongued speeches about the president's leadership.

Santorum and Gingrich - and all who hope to see Obama as a one-term president - should now put aside grudges, vanities and distractions in order to support Romney's up-hill battle to unseat the incumbent. The rest of America has moved past the foregone GOP primaries and is focused on the general election - the GOP would be wise to immediately do likewise.
Categories > Elections


I Wonder Why Solicitor General Verrilli...

didn't go with the statements (I won't call them arguments) of Andrew Cohen in this meltdown brought on by the Supreme Court's critical examination of the constitutionality of the federal health insurance purchase mandate.  It is a powerful example of the combination of self-righteousness, confusion, hysteria, and tyrannical spirit that made this week's oral arguments such an unpleasant experience for so many liberal elites.  Cohen has produced a target-rich post, but just a few examples:

1.  Cohen writes, "The Constitution is what the justices say it is, nothing more and nothing less. But this law is clearly within Congress' power"  Well, which is it?  If the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says is it, then, based on Cohen's own premise, it is unclear whether the federal health insurance purchase mandate is within Congress' power and if a majority of the Court votes to strike down the federal mandate, then it will "clearly" beyond the constitutional power of Congress.  But Cohen clearly suggests that the federal health insurance purchase mandate is within Congress' power regardless of what the Supreme Court decides.  We can see Cohen's constitutional nihilism struggling with his self-regard.  The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is when the Supreme Court agrees with Cohen.  The Constitution is "clearly" what Cohen says it is when the Supreme Court has the temerity to disagree.  Perhaps this argument is less than convincing to those who share neither Andrew Cohen's ideology nor Andrew Cohen's high opinion of Andrew Cohen.

2. Speaking of Andrew Cohen's high opinion of Andrew Cohen.  Cohen writes of Chief Justice John Roberts  "The chief justice has something to prove to progressives." He flatters himself.  I pretty sure that the proper response to a brush with the esteem of Andrew Cohen is apply bleach to the affected area.
Categories > Politics


The Constitution from 30,000 Feet

Jeffrey Rosen has a nice bit of sophistry in The New Republic.  He suggests, perhaps correctly, that Justices Kennedy and Roberts, were asking the government to point to a limiting principle--something which would allow Obamacare, but would nonetheless not allow the federal government legal authority to do whatever it wanted.  Unfortunately, he says:

[Soliciter Genera] Verrilli's error was substantive: He failed squarely to answer Roberts and Kennedy's repeated questions about what limits he envisioned to Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. Verrilli's evasions weren't only unhelpful--they were also unnecessary.

Rosen suggests that there is an obvious limiting principle, one that can be discovered in the founding.  "In previous cases denying Congress the power to regulate local activities such as guns in schools or violence against women," he notes, "the Court has drawn a distinction between activity that is truly local and activity that is truly national."

More generally, he quotes a new book by Neil S. Siegel suggesting that the federal government was designed to address any problem that was not local in nature:

"The Commerce Clause is best understood in light of the collective action problems that the nation faced under the Articles of Confederation, when Congress lacked the power to regulate interstate commerce." Siegel argues that "to over-come failures to participate in collective action whose effects spill across state borders, the clauses of Article I, Section 8 authorize Congress to require various kinds of private action."

Balderdash!  If that was the meaning of the commerce clause, it would not say: "The Congress shall have Power . . . To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."

Rosen's argumen views the Constitution from 30,000 feet. Its particular details fade into nothingness and it becomes a plenary grant to address any issue that Rosen thinks is a national one. 

Consider some constitutional arguments of the founding era. In that era, we should note, it was an open question whether the federal government had the authority to build roads, canals, and other such projects. President Madison thought it might be, but in the end, he decided that such projects required an amendment, which he supported.  Whigs disagreed with that. But if internal improvements were constitutionally controversial, it is hard to claim that there would have been any discussion of whether the federal goverment may regulate my visit to my doctor. 

In his Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank, Hamilton said that Congress may create a corporation to fulfil the powers listed in Article 1, section 8.  Among those he listed was the commerce clause.  After all, creating and managing a national circulating medium is a national act, by definition.  The key question between Hamilton and Jefferson turned on whether Hamilton was correct to infer a power to create a corporation in the service of the enumerated powers.  It was self-evident that the object was national in scope.

But Hamilton noted that there were very real limits:

The only question must be in this, as in every other case, whether the mean to be employed or in this instance, the corporation to be erected, has a natural relation to any of the acknowledged objects or lawful ends of the government. Thus a corporation may not be erected by Congress for superintending the police of the city of Philadelphia, because they are not authorized to regulate the police of that city

The federal government, even Hamilton, the man with the most expansive understanding of federal power at the time, argued, did not have a general police power.  And what is the police power, classically speaking, the power to regulate health, safety, and morals and other such things.  But Rosen wants to say that, under modern conditions, my visit to my doctor is a national concern. Ha!  To be sure, my doctor may buy products that are shipped interstate. And if the federal government allowed it, it might be possible to buy heath insurance across state lines (that would be nice).  In those cases there would be interstate commerce.   By my visit to my doctor is hardly interstate commerce--unless we allow, as Rosen implies, that there is no such thing as intra-state commerce.

And that brings us to another celebrated case--Gibbons v. Ogden.  That case involved the grant, by the State of New York, of a monopoly of shipping on the Hudson river.  The Court ruled, not unreasonably, that the Hudson is not an intra-state waterway. ItJus has borders on New York and New Jersey, and it ends at the Atlantic Ocean.  Hence such a monopoly grant was illegal.

This case matters because people on the Left often cite Justice Marshall's opinion to justfy an expansive reading of federal power.  Justice Sotomayor quoted it from the bench this week. But we need to keep in mind that the case involved shipping on a waterway that borders on more than one state, and that ends at the ocean. We should also read more closely what Marshall actually said:

Comprehensive as the word "among" is, it may very properly be restricted to that commerce which concerns more States than one. The phrase is not one which would probably have been selected to indicate the completely interior traffic of a State, because it is not an apt phrase for that purpose, and the enumeration of the particular classes of commerce to which the power was to be extended would not have been made had the intention been to extend the power to every description.

A clause that grants the federal government power regarding commerce among the states necessarily implies that there is such a thing as commerce that is local--the very thing that Rosen says does not exist. To be sure, he points to "previous cases denying Congress the power to regulate local activities such as guns in schools or violence against women."  But close observers will note that those are not commercial activities at all.  If my visit to my doctor is interstate commerce, then there is no commerce that is not interstate. 

If that is what the people want, there is a simple remedy, one consistent with the constitution. Amendment. But somehow the amendment clause falls by the wayside in pursuit of the public good.

Rosen's argument is that under current circumstances the health care market is national.  H quotes a Representative from Massachusetts:

A national mandate would free Massachusettes[sic] from being "forced to subsidize through higher premiums and higher Medicare and Medicaid costs the uncompensated care of people in other states who do not have health insurance."

But others might reply that Rosen is attacking the notion that the states in our federal system are laboratories of democracy.  They will have diverse laws, and many different approaches to health care policy. He suggests that a state that passes a policy may not suffer from competition with other states. In other words, he presumes what he is concluding--that health care is naturally a national market.

And that brings us to a point that Walter Russell Mead makes eloquently.  America's health care system is simply too large and complex to be regulated by a bureaucracy in Washington that creates a uniform set of rules for a country as large and diverse as the United States.  Even by his own living constitution model, therefore, Rosen's argument fails.

Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Mass Taliban Protest Hopes to Overrun America's Borders

Thousands are expected to participate in the Global March to Washington organized by pro-Taliban organizations abroad that have called on protesters to march on America's borders Friday as part of Land Day demonstrations opposing American policies.

No, not really. That sort of headline and story couldn't possibly be true. Not in America. But exchange the words Taliban with Arab / Palestinian and America / Washington with Israel / Jerusalem, and you have a Washington Times' story on the situation in the Middle East this week.

The Arabs / Palestinians planning to overrun Israel's boarder have the same intentions toward Israel as the Taliban has toward the U.S. How would you suggest America react if the parody news story above were true and the Taliban were amassing on our border (mortars in hand, no doubt)? Now reflect that this is not a hypothetical question for Israel.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Who Cares About Trayvon Martin?

The answer seems to be: a lot of people, including the president.

I've been on an island recently (literally, in the Pacific) and haven't been following a lot of news, but two issues seem to be dominating American news and foreign conversation about America: health-care and Trayvon Martin. I had originally wondered if the prominence of a story about a single (undeniably tragic) murder wasn't a ploy by the media to divert attention from the health care case. The CDC reports that there are about 45 murders / day in the U.S., and the Martin case involves contested facts, unclear motives and a suspect of questionable mental capacity. It's likely neither the most egregious nor clearly race-based murder of that week. Nevertheless, Martin is today's Rodney King and has been anointed by the media as their story of the moment.

Since there is a potential race element to the case, all the usual race-hustlers have scrambled to the spotlight in order to bellow their usual litany of victimhood and division. Obama weighed in on the matter last week ("If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon Martin.") and has been widely criticized by conservatives for his seeming partisanship. I'm slightly sympathetic to Obama. He didn't make this a national story and probably wasn't overjoyed to be asked a question on the subject. He answered by expressing personal empathy to grieving parents. Of course, he didn't express sympathy for the man who might have been forced to shoot a delinquent child in self-defense - which could be interpreted as revealing which version of the facts the president believes. Given his record on racial issues, Obama knee-jerk sympathies certainly run toward Trayvon Martin. But he would have been criticized for silence or nearly anything else he was likely to say, so why not err on the side of his political base?

The problem is not that the president spoke, but that he was expected to speak by a majority of the nation. Other families of murder victims are now asking the president to speak out on behalf of their lost loved-ones. I don't think we need a daily litany of the newly departed from our chief executive. But the media has made this a story and daily stokes passions by granting a microphone to the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Mass demonstrations, race tensions and calls for violence have been artificially instigated by the media's sensational promotion of this incident. Again, while tragic, this story is neither unique nor objectively deserving of national attention - the media simply wanted to create a national debate on race and gun laws (recall the immediate focus on "stand-your-ground" laws). The media control the national conversation, for better or worse - usually the latter.
Categories > Journalism


What Part Of 'Because I Said So' Don't You Understand?

So it looks like Solicitor General Verrilli was shredded by the Supreme Court Justices yesterday on the question of the federal health insurance purchase mandate.  Many liberal journalists are shocked at his inarticulateness.  Liberal journalists should blame themselves a little.  The arguments advanced for the federal health insurance purchase mandate often came down to some combination of "only mean people oppose nice President Obama's law" or "all really smart and honest people all agree with smart and honest me that Obamacare is like so totally constitutional."  Dalia Lithwick's tantrum is an example of the first kind of argument and Jonathan Chait's rant is an example of the second.  Lithwick's post is less interesting.  It doesn't contain any actual arguments about why the Obamacare mandate is constitutional.  She mostly just says that only a horrible person would even think about considering whether such a wonderful law as Obamacare is constitutional.  I wonder why Solicitor General Verrilli didn't go with that strategy during oral arguments.

Chait's post is a more telling example of how self-congratulation and group think can weaken one side's argument.  Chait writes that the health insurance purchase mandate must be constitutional because health care is interstate commerce and the federal government must therefore be able to compel an individual to contract with a private firm to purchase a product they do not want.  Chait specifically takes on the activity/inactivity distinction.  Chait argues that the government does regulate inactivity in that it mandates vaccinations and sometimes compels military service. The federal government derives the power to draft from the power to raise armies and navies rather than the interstate commerce clause.  The states (not the federal government) have the power to compel vaccinations from the general police power that the federal government lacks.  That is why the Supreme Court is very unlikely to strike down the state-level Romneycare insurance purchase mandate and more likely to strike down the federal-level Obamacare insurance purchase mandate (one can imagine circumstances where the federal government mandates vaccinations for certain classes of citizens - soldiers for instance.) 

The problem with all of this wooly thinking is that it leaves one badly prepared when one steps out of the bubble of the likeminded.  Imagine if Solicitor General Verrilli had said something along the lines of "Well of course the interstate commerce clause gives Congress the power to force people to buy health insurance.  Congress has the power to draft don't they?"  Even the liberal Justices would have laughed at him in horror and disgust.  Solicitor General Verrilli couldn't say "Well sure transportation is an interstate industry and everyone participates in transportation markets, so therefore Congress has the power to mandate that every American contract with General Motors to buy a Chevy Volt or else pay a civil penalty."  That stuff works when you are around the campfire with people who really really want the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare.  It works less well when you are in front of Supreme Court Justices who are under the impression that the Constitution created a federal government of limited powers.

So Solicitor General Verrilli did his pitiful tap dance about how the health care market is "different" and how the federal government has the power to compel you to buy health insurance but not a cell phone or burial insurance.  And the result was that the more conservative Justices pounded him into the ground.  The problem wasn't Verrilli.  It was the quality of his arguments.  And that leaves Lithwick and Chait to explain that only meanies and poopyheads disagree with them.

Before you laugh at Lithwick and Chait, keep in mind that Justice Kennedy might find their arguments (which are attacks on the status of those who disagree with them) more convincing than the constitutional arguments of the Solicitor General.       
Categories > Politics


Obamacare, RIP?

Should the individual mandate have bought burial insurance? See p. 7 (Justice Alito's question) of the transcript of day two of the Obamacare oral arguments before SCOTUS.
Categories > Courts


Anthony Kennedy and Status Rewards

My read of the Obamacare oral arguments at the Supreme Court is that it comes down to Anthony Kennedy and that Kennedy is facing a tough calculation.  It looks like Kennedy is leaning in the direction of thinking that the Obamacare federal health insurance purchase mandate is an unconstitutional expansion of federal power, but that he is also desperate to find some kind of an out that will let him uphold both the mandate and whatever idea of constitutionally limited government Kennedy carries around in his head. 

Well if he thinks the federal mandate is unconstitutional, why not just say that it is unconstitutional?  I think some of it has to do with status rewards.  One of the reasons I was pretty confident that the House Democratic leadership would attract enough wavering members to pass Obamacare was because liberal-dominated institutions would be able to provide safe landing spots and decades of ego rewards to members who voted for Obamacare and lost their next election.  Lose a House seat, gain a professorship, an ambassadorship, or a Profiles In Courage Award.  I think Kennedy might be looking at the flip side of this liberal cultural power.  The center-left has been desperate to gain government-run health care for decades.  Kennedy must know that if he strikes down the Obamacare mandate, he is going to go down as a historical villain in all of the institutions controlled by the center-left.  This will be much bigger than his decision in Bush v. Gore and his opinion in Lawrence won't gain him any clemency for his crime of smashing the center-left dream of government-run health care.  If he votes to strike down the mandate, who-knows-how-many law professors, NPR legal commentators, and New York Times editorial writers will abominate Anthony Kennedy's name to his grave and beyond.  He shouldn't care about that, but I fear that he does.  I fear that the constitutional argument over Obamacare won't be won on the legal merits.  The fate of Obamacare might come down to a contest between Kennedy's intuition that the federal mandate is unconstitutional, and his dread of the backlash in liberal-leaning institutions like the legal academy and the mainstream media.
Categories > Politics


Podcast and Colloquium with David Tucker

I recorded a podcast last week with David Tucker who has been visiting Ashland for most of the past six months or so.  We discussed many things, but primarily his new book, Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict.

David also discussed these issues with the Ashbrook Scholars on Friday at a colloquium.  They, too, had a good conversation which you can listen to here.

Categories > Military


An Italian on the Austrian Economist

Alberto Mingardi directs the Italian free-market think tank [yes, there are a few] Istituto Bruno Leoni. In the WSJ, he channels Friedrich Hayek to critique of the European Union.

Centralized welfare systems are necessarily run by a bureaucratic leadership that cannot master the knowledge needed to manage a complex society.

As Mingardi notes, "Hayek is often associated with his critique of socialist systems."

There is, in society, a "knowledge problem": Economic life requires the coordination of individual planning. The relevant knowledge for economic planning is dispersed rather than concentrated in society. If this makes coordination challenging enough in a market system, it also makes coordination a virtual impossibility under central planning: The planner can never secure and process all the necessary information to provide detailed guidance to any given development in society.

Mingardi applies Hayek's critique to "hard-core socialism" and "the soft-core version widely adopted by European democracies," arguing that the bureaucratic leadership of centralized welfare systems simply cannot micro-manage a complex society. The result is inevitably inefficiency and waster - but the temptation to be the party of welfare is clear:

These inefficiencies and this waste, of course, become rents for those that live off them and return the favor with their political support.

Mingardi effectively compares market and social models of democracy in light of the realities of European bankruptcies. The entire article is worth a read.

Categories > Economy

Health Care

HHS Mandate via Puerto Rico

First, they came for the Puerto Ricans.  The HHS mandate requiring sterilization and birth control coverage in health insurance was anticipated in the New Deal policy toward Puerto Rico. It is now plain how New Deal and successive leftist social engineering embraces all aspects of political, commercial, and family life.

The recent Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico drew attention to this constitutional oddity--a commonwealth/colony of American citizens. But the contenders overlooked the most significant element of recent Puerto Rican history for American politics today.

Franklin Roosevelt appointed one of the architects of the New Deal, Rexford G. Tugwell as its Governor.  Serving from 1941-46, Tugwell followed Progressive ideology and transformed the University of Puerto Rico into a think-tank for liberal reforms for the island. He established a decades-long practice of using Puerto Rico as a laboratory for liberal policies, including birth control through sterilization and the pill.  

According to one historian (JSTOR link), heavily Catholic "Puerto Rico became the chief testing ground for the birth control pill."  For a while more women were sterilized there than in any other country in the world. These population control measures, tied with economic reforms, were intended to make Puerto Rico a "showcase for democracy" in the Cold War, a model of enlightened policy toward developing nations.

Bored by their lack of progress, scholars of Puerto Rico such as Oscar Lewis (author of the classic study La Vida) turned instead to that more exciting example of Cuba.

We don't need West Side Story to know that Puerto Ricans "like to be in America." But what happens when America becomes another Puerto Rico?

Categories > Health Care

Health Care

Healthcare in the Court

Three days of oral argument over the constitutionality of Obamacare begin Monday. C-SPAN will replay the oral argument later in the afternoons. It should be kept in mind that the reason we are even talking about the possibility of the Court overturning the law is one justice: Clarence Thomas (no relation to me, incidentally). The New Yorker gave this explanation of Thomas's key role in changing the Court last year.

Toobin writes several silly sentences but note the core of his argument, a warning to the left of his dangerous powers:

In several of the most important areas of constitutional law, Thomas has emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court. Since the arrival of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in 2005, and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., in 2006, the Court has moved to the right when it comes to the free-speech rights of corporations, the rights of gun owners, and, potentially, the powers of the federal government; in each of these areas, the majority has followed where Thomas has been leading for a decade or more. Rarely has a Supreme Court Justice enjoyed such broad or significant vindication.

Conservatives should keep in mind that Thomas was nominated by a president not particularly beloved among conservatives--yet a man who stood by him when he came under vicious attack.

Categories > Health Care


The Global Midieval Warm Period

Steven Hayward, that prickly thorn in the side of climate change scientists who may soon have his opinion forcibly tattooed on his body by diversity-loving eco-liberals in jackboots, notes a new study by Syracuse University which seems to prove that the Medieval Warm Period was a global phenomenon. This discovery refutes a key argument of the environmental movement by showing that pre-SUV eras were just as warm as we are today. Just nother chip in the ol' climate change iceberg.
Categories > Environment

The Civil War & Lincoln

A Southern Strategery for America

Jonah Goldberg proposes federalism as means of peaceful coexistence betweeen the left and right. Trouble is, it has been tried before: Stephen Douglas. The other guy eventually won. Let's stick by Abe's "tough nut to crack."

In California, among other states, the left has long been at work on "independent state grounds" laws. In this regard, opponents of abortion are misguided in their focus on Roe v. Wade, which certainly should be overturned. Overthrowing Roe would permit state legislatures to restrict abortion, but it would leave other, liberal states with abortion rights protected. For more on "independent state grounds" see this book on democracy in California and this article by Edward Erler.

The Sage of Mt. Airy has more theoretical speculations on the meanings of federalism for the right and for the left.


Government of, by, and for Bureaucracy

The unethical investigation (and subsequent 2008 conviction) of the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for alleged ethics violations reveals a crisis in democratic government: When Department of Justice investigators influence elections--in this case, one that gave Senate Democrats a veto-proof majority--they are showing themselves to be the rulers they have in fact become.

In many reapportionment schemes, the legislators pick their constitutents. In the Stevens investigation, where the judge held government lawyers in contempt after the trial, the bureaucrats in effect knocked off a Republican incumbent, who lost by fewer than 4,000 votes a week after the trial. The court-appointed counsel concluded that the prosecution withheld potentially exonerating evidence from the defense. Even Eric Holder had to discipline the lawyers, with one committing suicide. (It should be noted that a Republican Administration might not have been able to control their own staff.)


Categories > Courts


Justice in Gay Suicide Case?

Dharun Ravi had spied on and filmed his Rutgers College roommate, Tyler Clementi, who later jumped off the George Washington Bridge. A jury convicted Ravi of "bias intimidation."

Ann Althouse urges an appeal. 

Categories > Courts


Why Did the Conspiracy Fail?

Over two thousand years ago, a group of aristocrats surrounded Gaius Julius Caesar at a meeting of the Roman Senate and stabbed him to death, having conspired to overthrow a dictator and reestablish a republic. Within a few years of their action, all of the conspirators were dead, and Caesars ruled the world for centuries. Caesar's staying power is visible even today. Among the otherwise-mindless topics "trending" on Twitter today, this morning was filled with trending topics including "Julius Caesar" and the "Ides of March", while a current trending topic is #ReasonsYouGetStabbed. I find this utterly remarkable given that I think you would be hard-pressed to find another person outside of Jesus Christ who has been dead for so long, or for even half as long, and is still so alive in the public imagine. It's a testament to how much the conspiracy of Brutus and Cassius failed in its mission to end Caesar. While there are a multitude of reasons that the Republicans were unable to overcome the Caesarians, these three mistakes from the offset really doomed their dreams:

1. The refusal to include Cicero in the conspiracy was a major mistake. Cicero's gift of oratory surpassed even Caesar's, and he was regarded as one of the most intelligent and patriotic men in Rome--the only other Roman other than Caesar to receive the honorific title Pater Patriae for his defeat of the Catiline Conspiracy. He was the voice of reason. However, Cicero was vain and ambitious, and a wishy-washy flake on top of it. If he were to join the conspiracy, he would want to be in charge of it--and he may have been too queazy to go along with its final mission. In Shakespeare's telling of the tale, Brutus also objects to Cicero's inclusion because he does not want the conspiracy to be led by reason; he wants it to be led by honor. The goodness of the conspiracy's goals should not have to be explained; it should be self-evident. However, by refusing to include Cicero, they lost out on his wise counsel and were also unable to employ him in the ensuing arguments with the Caesarians for the public mind.

2. The failure to kill Mark Antony, Caesar's trusted lieutenant, was a huge oversight. Cassius--and Cicero--said that the man ought to die alongside Caesar, for he was too dangerous to be kept alive. But, the conspirators--again, guided by honor and not reason--did not want to come across as butchers. Brutus would not allow it; if Caesar was dead, they thought that the drunken and vulgar Antony would be unable to do much. They greatly underestimated Antony's power, anger, and ambition, something I am sure that Brutus and Cassius realized as Antony's army wiped their own out.

3. Finally, allowing Antony not only to live but to speak was a huge blunder, and Shakespeare shows that well. There is no historical record of Antony's actual speech, but the effects of it are exactly what Shakespeare described. Antony, speaking at Caesar's funeral with the permission of victorious Brutus, turned the mob against the conspirators and ran them out of the city. He set the public interpretation of the assassination into stone, and his control of the story lasted for centuries. Even in Renaissance Italy, the conspirators were looked upon with hatred--Dante puts Cassius and Brutus on either side of Judas in the mouth of the Beast on the deepest level of Hell. Without Cicero's silver tongue to combat the passionate cries of Antony, who played up the mutual love between Caesar and his people, the conspirators were hopeless and were forced to give up the very thing they sought to keep: Rome.

Of course, there are other factors at play---Cicero's miscalculation of Octavian's skill and ambition, the formation of the Second Triumvirate, the too-far-gone degradation of Roman political society. Nonetheless, these three things doomed the conspiracy from the beginning. However noble their intentions, they failed. They did not murder Antony, and they could not give a proper defense of why they could murder Caesar and not Antony. The result is that two thousand years later, Caesar is still looked at with ambiguous awe while Brutus very much tends to be associated more with betrayal than with patriotism or liberty. High-minded, noble, patriotic Brutus was a good man in an impossible situation, and he could not (or would not) bring himself to do what was practical (and, perhaps, ignoble) in order to defeat Caesar's name, and for that he and his cohorts all met rather unpleasant ends. That's the tragedy of the Ides of March right there. 
Categories > History

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Shakespeare's Coriolanus

"He's a very dog to the commonalty." These are the words we hear about Caius Marcius before we even meet the man, and they ring true both within the context of the play and in the context of much of society's view of the play. Shakespeare's Coriolanus has been called the greatest of the Bard's tragedies, the tragic character surpassed perhaps only by Lear and Cleopatra. Despite most people recognizing something great about it, it is also among the least-loved of Shakespeare's plays. It is seldom read and almost never acted; you would likely be hard pressed to find it on someone's list of favorite plays. There are, perhaps, two great reasons for this. The first is that the play seems to be quite critical of democracy, and that rubs the people of liberal democracies the wrong way. The other is that it is just really hard to like the play's tragic hero, Coriolanus. He's a great man, but not lovable. It's hard to feel sorry for him, but you realize that there is something tragic in his eventual fall. It's complicated.

In his new film adaptation of this play, Ralph Fiennes captures this complication tremendously. With the support of well-tested screenwriter John Logan (whose other work includes Hugo and Gladiator) and a cast of excellent actors rounded out by Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox, Fiennes thrusts this story into modern-day dress. Shakespeare's words come out of television screens by men in suits and ties; his soldiers run around with automatic weapons and hand grenades; his rabble follows politicians around with their cell phones out to record the goings-on. It does this all seamlessly, and shows the timelessness of Shakespeare's understanding of human nature--you come to see that this could have happened in the modern-day Balkan-like setting where it is acted out.

It is a good story for us to try and understand, because Coriolanus presents a problem that societies based upon a certain type of equality must struggle with: what do we do with a man who is an embodiment of inequality, a greater man who we all know is great and who he himself knows is great? We were lucky in our Founding that Washington understood something else about ambition, equality, and nobility that most men do not, and that our great generals after him--Grant and Eisenhower chief among them--have followed in his example. The French with Bonaparte, the Mexicans with Santa Anna, and the South Americans with Bolivar were not so lucky. Though, those men were not quite as good and noble as Coriolanus was, so perhaps that is unfair to him. Perhaps the closest type of statesman we have met recently is Churchill, who, like Washington, managed to overcome these particular faults (or are they virtues in extremis?).

I highly recommend the film. Yes, lines had to be cut to make way for movie audiences and explosions--at the expense of some of the true humor of Menenius and exploring more of the relationship between Coriolanus and his wife--and I do have some qualms with the interpretation of part of the ending, but it is some of the best acting I have seen in film, and likely the high point of the acting careers of both Fiennes and Redgrave to-date (at least of what I've seen of their work). If you get a chance, see it.


What's Right about Kansas

Tim reposts a thumbnail portrait showing what's right about Kansas (other than some silly regulation), on the day of the Kansas primary-caucuses. This reminds me of my quick visit to Russell, KS in 1996, home at various points of both Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. Be sure to hit the A&W Root Beer when driving through Russell!
Categories > Politics


Who Does the New York Times Hate?

Ridiculing the New York Times for liberal bias would prove a full time job, so I generally only venture into that fertile field when the example is particularly egregious. One of those occasions occurred today. The Times published a full page ad from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which viciously slurs the Catholic Church and openly calls for Catholics to leave the Church.

The hysterical ad at times sounds more like satire: "Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly engaged in a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization...?"  But the intent is genuine. Catholic League president Bill Donohue is a war hawk on these matters and declares of the present ad:

Never has there been a more vicious anti-Catholic advertisement in a prominent American newspaper than the one in today's New York Times by Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). 

FFRF is a vitriolic, militant and litigious atheist group with very little tolerance and even less good taste or class. They are of no real interest in this matter, of course - it's not difficult to find a small coterie of hate-filled vermin under any given rock. The issue is that the Times has handed them a microphone. Try to imagine a similar ad aimed at Muslims - or attacking atheists - and imagine the reaction of the New York Times - and the liberal disciples of tolerance who are suspiciously quiet in the wake of this obvious expression of hate and intolerance.

Click to enlarge.

New York Times Anti-Catholic Ad.jpg


Categories > Journalism


The Crisis Hits Close to Home

Timothy Noah's new book, The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, should be available around the time the author, a New Republic columnist, deposits the first paycheck signed by his new boss, a 28-year-old with a net worth in excess of $700 million.
Categories > Journalism


$10 Million Prize for $50 Light Bulb

Awarded by Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the prize would spur industry to offer the costly bulbs, known as LEDs, at prices "affordable for American families." There was also a "Buy America" component. Portions of the bulb would have to be made in the United States.

Now the winning bulb is on the market.

The price is $50.

Categories > Environment


Transhumanism and the Perfection Imperative

E. Christian Brugger is a Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation. In a recent interview with Zenit, he spoke on the bioethics of the philosophy of "transhumanism." 

In October 2004 the bimonthly magazine Foreign Policy published a special report with the title, The World's Most Dangerous Ideas. Eight prominent thinkers were asked to reply to the question: "What ideas, if embraced, would pose the greatest threat to the welfare of humanity?" Francis Fukuyama responded with an essay entitled "Transhumanism." By "transhumanism" he was referring to a current of thought, gaining prominence in the past fifteen years, committed to using science and technology to transcend the limitations of human nature. Scientific research traditionally has striven to overcome the effects of human disease and degenerative illnesses -- purposes broadly therapeutic in nature. Transhumanism aims to move beyond therapy to enhancement. "Its proponents," to quote one advocate, "argue for a future of ageless bodies, transcendent experiences, and extraordinary minds."

The moral considerations of biotechnology are fascinating - hence the genre of books and movies toying with the concept. But sci-fi often becomes reality over time - far less time than we sometimes imagine. While most biomedical treatments are still therapeutic, some enhancements are already among us: vaccines, for example, do not remedy existing illness but empower the body to resist the onset of diseases to which humans are naturally susceptible. Supply and demand will ultimately dictate that women (or petri dishes, as the case may be) are treated with an embryonic wash to ensure the newly-conceived cell-cluster / baby is afforded an equal chance in the world (i.e., increased mental and physical attributes). Couple this with biotechnology to improve the senses and, eventually, mental capacity, and Superman will begin looking a bit more average (minus the flying bit, of course). 

The question is whether there will come a time when we will simply cease to be human, as the term is presently understood - and whether there is a moral quality to the decision to effectively end the human race.

Categories > Bioethics


Podcast with Steve Hayward

I did a podcast yesterday with Steve Hayward on his latest book--I think he has a new book every three months!--The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama.  After having taught at AU this past fall, Steve appears to have gotten carried away with assigning grades, as he uses this book to give each president from Wilson to Obama a letter grade based on their support of the Constitution during their term in office.  It's an interesting exercise, though, and he explains in the podcast what criteria he used.

Steve and I had a great conversation on his book and other things.  Take a listen if you have some time -- it's only a little over 15 minutes long.

Categories > Presidency


Religious Law as Foreign Law in Constitutional Interpretation

A forthcoming edition of the International Journal of Constitutional Law includes an article by Harvard professors Adam Shinar and Anna Su entitled, "Religious Law as Foreign Law in Constitutional Interpretation." The abstract is below

This article challenges the conventional understanding of the separation of church and state by arguing that there is no analytical or constitutional problem with using religious law for the purpose of constitutional interpretation. We situate our arguments within the context of the broader debate on the use of foreign law in constitutional interpretation, and the more recent controversy surrounding the proposed bans on the use of religious law in U.S. state courts. By examining the arguments for and against the use of foreign law, we show how they equally apply to the use of religious law. More importantly, we conclude that differences between foreign law and religious law are, at best, differences of degree rather than kind, and thus do not militate against the use of religious law in constitutional interpretation. The article demonstrates that religious law can be used, and in fact, has already been used by the Supreme Court for four limited purposes, none of which, we argue, offends the principles underlying the Establishment Clause.

The ultimate import of our claim is not that religious law should be used by courts, but that recognizing its potential as a source in constitutional interpretation should result in a deeper and more careful engagement with the possibilities it generates.

The U.S. Constitution is a common law document and the common law is founded upon ancient custom, natural law and right reason. As such, natural law would seem to be a logical and legitimate source by which to interpret the U.S. Constitution - and religious law would seem to be a promising guide by which to discover the natural law. However, entrusting judges with the authority to scrutinize religious law and decipher the natural law seems to be nothing more than conservative rhetoric for the adoption of a "living constitution."

Furthermore, the authors - who seem to favor the adoption of foreign law in U.S. courts - are not likely contemplating Catholic canon law or Jewish Halakha, but rather Islamic Sharia law. Those who might feel inclined to sympathy toward the use of religious law in U.S. courts should consider well which religious law will be employed and the likelihood that religious law would be subverted to bolster progressive ends which will prove anathema to those of faith. 

Insofar as religious law - and religion itself - historically cultivated American law, it is a relevant and proper guide to the interpretation of the original meaning of the constitution's text. But as a persuasive authority to which judges may turn for inspiration in updating an evolving constitution, religious law is no less dangerous than French law. 

H/t: Mirror of Justice.

Categories > Courts

The Family

Chardon Road

This past weekend found me on an unplanned trip to Ohio. I stopped by Ashland to visit friends before making my way up north on Saturday. My grandfather lives in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, and we talked for some time of his days as an actor and a political player, and of the role his parents played in establishing the independent Ireland. After some time visiting with him, I left to head further east to the home of my mother and stepfather. The trip between their homes takes about 45 minutes, all along Chardon Road. Starting in the town of Willoughby, colors of red and black began to appear on the roadside. Flags were at half-mast outside of government buildings and most private property. The more I traveled down the road, the more the red began to grow--soon on every lamppost, pole, tree, and road sign that there was. It seemed to reach a crescendo at the All Souls Cemetery, where my grandfather's parents and his wife are buried, and where one of the all-too-young victims had just been put to rest earlier that day.

Upon entering Chardon, the tiny town that I have been to often since my mother relocated to just outside of it, signs with hearts on them began to appear among the political yard signs. Every home and building showed a town in solidarity, red and black everywhere. The town square appeared calm beneath the falling snow as I drove by, but it had been hectic earlier in the day as citizens from Chardon and neighboring communities gathered to form a human chain around a local church in order to keep the despicable Westboro Baptists from bothering the mourning families during a funeral. My mother takes this road several times a week to head to her father's home, and said she nearly had to pull over from crying so much on Tuesday as she passed the square and saw the scores of cameras gathered there. She says that she still has difficulty driving the road, tears filling her eyes as they take in the miles-long stretch of red and black.

That small community is strong. They like to say that "Chardon will take care of Chardon," and certainly seem to be doing just that. This quaint Ohio town did not deserve the tragedy inflicted upon it, but if any community can pick up the pieces after such an ordeal, it is Chardon--with the love and condolences of all its neighbors throughout the country, and especially along Chardon Road.
Categories > The Family

Foreign Affairs

Netanyahu on Iran

Last May, I posted a video of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech before a joint session of Congress. I called it "an excellent American speech contemplating democracy and liberty." Netanyahu is a patriot of his county and a man for all seasons.

Yesterday, Netanyahu spoke before AIPAC (text). His subject was Iran and his words are both serious and credible. This is the issue of our day, whether we choose to accept it or not.

H/t: Power Line.

P.S. The letters of 1944 between the World Jewish Congress and the U.S. War Department from which Netanyahu reads can be found here.  

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Gridiron Pains

An interesting debate is engulfing the NFL upon revelations that New Orleans Saints' players received thousands of dollars in bonuses for "inflicting injuries" on opponents "that would result in them being removed from the game."

I'm a long-standing critic of the "nanny-state sissies running football" and attempts to have the game "neutered by administrators who have lost the love of sport and succumbed to the gradual enervation of joyless regulation." On the other hand:

Unsportsmanlike conduct was an honorable penalty. Intentionally attempting to unnecessarily harm another player is contrary to the standards of gamesmanship. Spearing, late-hits and the like should be punished, as they demean the game and cross the line of decency.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' pay-for-pain policy pretty clearly crosses the line. Sportsmen drive their opponents into defeat - they don't assault them with financially-motivated malice. Football's a hard game - and those who don't play by the rules need to be treated with hard knocks. Williams and the like deserve what's coming to them.

Categories > Sports


Supreme Court Considers Universal Jurisdiction

WaPo reports:

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will consider whether American courts can hear lawsuits alleging human rights atrocities that were committed overseas without a direct U.S. connection.

During a case invoking the 1789 "Alien Tort Statute" - which laid dormant for two centuries until liberal human rights activists resurrected the arcane law in an attempt to punish corporations viewed as contributing to foreign atrocities - the Supreme Court surprisingly decided to expand the question before the court and entertain whether anyone at all, regardless of ties to the U.S., may be sued in an American court.

Conservatives are rightly skeptical of such broad powers.

"This case was filed by 12 Nigerian plaintiffs who alleged that respondents aided and abetted the human rights violations committed against them by the [Sani] Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria," Alito said, quoting from a brief from the Nigerians.

Alito then asked their attorney, Paul Hoffman: "What business does a case like that have in the courts of the United States? There's no connection to the United States whatsoever."

Similarly, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy quoted from a brief submitted by corporations supporting the defendants: "No other nation in the world permits its court to exercise universal civil jurisdiction over alleged extraterritorial human rights abuses to which the nation has no connection."

Bear in mind that this same basic claim of "universal jurisdiction" was invoked by foreign liberals in an effort to have George W. Bush, the sitting president of the United States, among other conservative leaders, apprehended for war crimes and tried in foreign courts. Universal jurisdiction is the coveted prize of the liberal international community, which seeks to consolidate all power (including judicial power) within its enlightened hands.

President Obama, naturally, supports the theory. While liberals applaud the concept when applied to Bush and Co., I wonder if their excitement would persist if Obama were imprisoned by, say, Malta for crimes against humanity for his promotion of mass-murder through abortion funding. I think not. Luckily, oppression and harassment from the international elite is a one way street - and liberals are never at the receiving end. 

Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Name That Attorney General

U.S. military and intelligence agencies can legally kill American citizens overseas if they are al Qaeda leaders who pose an imminent threat to the United States and cannot be captured.

If you attribute the sentiment to George W. Bush-appointed attorneys general John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales or Michael Mukasey, you're barking up the wrong tree. The ultra-conservative, unilateralist, war-mongering thesis belongs to none other than Obama's own Eric Holder.

His comments mark the first time that a Cabinet member has addressed directly the legal justification for last year's U.S. drone strike on American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

I have been critical of Holder's tenure as attorney general, particularly in regard to his seemingly racist view of civil rights in light of the Black Panthers litigation, his politically-motivated opposition to Arizona's immigration law and the still-stonewalled Fast and Furious debacle. His arrogance and thin-skinned spitefulness have also failed to ingratiate the man to my fond reflections.

But today - to the dismay of liberals everywhere - Holder is correct.

"'Due process' and 'judicial process' are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security," Mr. Holder said. "The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

Holder went so far as to confirm pre-emptive drone attacks against American citizens anywhere in the world as necessary and constitutional:

"When such individuals take up arms against this country - and join al Qaeda in plotting attacks designed to kill their fellow Americans - there may be only one realistic and appropriate response.  We must take steps to stop them - in full accordance with the Constitution.  In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out - and we will not."

Like military tribunals and enhanced interrogation techniques, pre-emptive strikes are just the latest example of Obama's grudging adoption of Bush-era policies for the Global War on Terror. Not that Obama will admit - or the media will report - this continuing trend. The only question remains: Did Obama know that he was lying when he criticized these policies as a candidate, or was he truly so naive that he wasn't aware that they were necessary for American national security?

For a fine dissection of Holder's speech, see Lawfare's commentary.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Romney will take Ohio

It seems pretty certain now that Romney will take Ohio.  Momentum is on his side, and has been for days.  I talked to two people who were lukewarm in their support of Romney until the Rush Limbaugh comment (combine that with Santorum bringing up things the people have decided on their own a generation ago); now they are sure they want someone who is stable and predictable and conservative enough.  Obama has to be beaten, they say. And I just remind you that he was the conservative candidate against McCain last time around.  For what it's worth, I predict he takes Ohio by five points.  The rest of the states on super Tuesday are just numbers, but Ohio is a moral victory.  The rest of the primaries are mere details to this.  From now on Romney should talk only about his programs and why Obama should lose.

Categories > Elections

Health Care

The Economics of the HHS Mandate

In connection with Justin's posts below, note Wheat&Weeds on the economic benefit to big pharma (a brouhaha over Rick Perry's mandate) concerning the HHS birth control mandate.
Categories > Health Care

Health Care

The Bishops Against Obama

George Weigel contends "the Struggle over the HHS mandate isn't over" in today's NRO.

Despite the White House's rather successful efforts to reframe the media and congressional debate over the HHS "contraceptive mandate" as a right-wing jihad against "women's health" -- a cynical ploy aided and abetted by Rush Limbaugh's one-man circular firing squad -- the real battle against the mandate and in defense of religious freedom has continued.

Weigel cites heavily from Cardinal Dolan's letter (PDF here and USCCB news release here) to American bishops. The letter resists Obama's efforts to demagogue the issue, explores legislative and judicial remedies to the mandate and, "at last, take[s] aim at those within the Catholic family urging an acceptance of the administration's bogus 'accommodation.'" Required reading for those following this incredibly important issue.

Categories > Health Care


Liberals: You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Part 2

I previously mocked the Obama administration's absurd argument that Obamacare would become affordable if the human race would simply refrain from procreating. Not to be left out of an absurdity, the environmental movement has now jumped on the bandwagon - even gone one further - by claiming that the world can be saved if people would just stop breeding.

During a discussion series on Monday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., speaker and activist Kavita Ramdas argued that contraceptives should be part of a strategy to save the planet, calling lower birth rates a "common sense" part of a climate-change reduction strategy.

Once again, human beings are the disease to be medically prevented or terminated in order to effectuate liberal policies. Liberalism seems to contain an inherent antipathy toward human beings. Of course, this environmental strategy is simply a repetition of the international "population control" movement which followed in the wake of the discredited "population bomb" theory (see Steven Hayward's Population Bomb Epic Fail).

Conservative and religious (especially Catholic) thinkers have consistently opposed the liberal urge to solve every problem by eliminating (literally) the human element. And history has consistently and unanimously proved the conservative (shall we call it, pro-life) position be correct and the liberals' (shall we say, culture of death) posture to be stunningly wrong. But liberalism just doesn't seem to be able to shed its addiction to human genocide. 

Categories > Environment

Foreign Affairs

Hungarian Derangement Syndrome

In a post entitled Hungary's New Clothes, I noted that Hungary was adopting a new constitution to mixed reviews.

Proponents celebrate the document as a final break with Hungary's communist past, whereas critics argue it establishes an authoritarian regime in Europe.

Since that time, liberal alarmists have increasingly raised the pitch of their screeching accusations of tyrannical autocracy, even as Hungary's governing conservative party (and proponent of the new constitution) has proved rather moderate and democratic. At NRO, Mario Smith observes that liberals have now gone round the bend in their absurd obsession with Hungary's conservative majority.

In stark contrast to the Left's timidity in the face of actual authoritarian regimes such as China and Russia, the liberal media's treatment of Hungary has aggressively crossed the line. Paul Krugman ... foresaw a post-Soviet "re-establishment of authoritarian rule" in Hungary. The British Guardian fell into line, describing Hungary's new prime minister, Viktor Orbán, as an "autocratic leader." The Washington Post, not to be outdone, compared Hungary to Belarus and Putin's Russia. Not long after, and with great satisfaction, Hungarian émigré professor Charles Gati announced in an op-ed in the Times that Hungary is "no longer a Western-style democracy." Having been drummed out of the West by left-wing editorialists, Hungary became fair game for the next phase of the liberal crusade: U.S. intervention. Slander has turned into absurd policy prescriptions, intent on destroying one of the most electorally effective center-right parties in Europe.

A central pillar of Obama's foreign policy is the self-determination of peoples - that is, a restraint on arrogant (especially unilateral) attempts to force our way of life on other people. Liberals took sacred oaths to the doctrine of political non-intervention during the Bush years. But in the case of a relatively stable Western democracy which has simply decided to enact conservative policies, lofty principles are suddenly worthless and liberals are comfortable attempting to disrupt another country's domestic politics and influence a democratic election.

As Vernon Lowe correctly observes, Hungary's conservative government has become a whipping boy for the international liberal punditocracy, which sees a fascist tyrant lurking underneath every coffee table with a Bible on top.

Yes, Hungary's constitution has embraced the country's heritage of Christianity, defined marriage in a traditional way, and proclaimed that life begins at conception. Hungary's constitution also introduced a debt cap and reaffirmed Hungary's 700-year-old forint as the national currency, to the chagrin of Brussels. These provisions reflect values held by most Hungarians and are therefore appropriately secured in their fundamental law. That Hungarians have decided to protect their traditional values unsurprisingly rankles the sensibilities of liberal pundits and bureaucrats in Europe and America, but it is hardly cause for crying "Dictatorship!"

The article accurately concludes that "the actual leftist mission" is "stamping out conservative parties in Central and Eastern Europe altogether."

Krugman and crew are calling for the American government to take an active role in usurping Hungarian politics, simply to ensure the election of a liberal party. This is a stunning disrespect toward Hungary's sovereignty - which liberals obviously feel is in violation of some unwritten, progressive international norm which requires all nations to continuously list leftward. Nations which stray from this path are obviously the "rogue" nations of the liberal world order and undeserving of basic international rights. This is just another glimpse of "internationalism" under liberal supervision - which is really nothing more than a supra-national means of forcing progressivism on uncooperative nations.  

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Energy Subsidies and Cronyism

Allow me to follow up on my post on the Volt and its $250,000 / car taxpayer-funded subsidies by citing John Hinderaker's Power line post on ExxonMobile's good citizenship. He notes:

The Obama administration has devoted more energy to demonizing the oil and gas industry than just about anything else over the last three years. It has done this partly to deflect blame for its own lousy performance on the economy in general and energy costs in particular, and partly to justify transferring wealth from taxpayers to its cronies and supporters in the "green" energy sector.

But the bit I'd like to highlight follows:

Currently, the administration is campaigning to eliminate oil and gas "subsidies." The first question is what this means; when liberals talk about "subsidies" in this context, they usually mean the same routine tax deductions that are available to businesses generally. To the extent that there may be any actual subsidies, they are extremely minor. So, by all means, let's do away with them, along with subsidies for all other types of energy. Let's allow energy technologies to compete in the marketplace on their own merits. What would the effect of eliminating all energy subsidies be? Not, I am afraid, what the Obama administration has in mind. This is a slide from my Cronyism 101 presentation:


The administration demonizes disfavored American citizens, companies and industries as a tactic to increase its own political power, and slide money to its cronies and supporters. In the long term, this may be the most destructive legacy of the Obama administration.

Categories > Environment


Alas, poor Volt, I knew thee well...

The Chevy Volt is apparently going the way of the Dodo. GM has temporarily suspended production of the electric car. No surprises there - electric cars are about as efficient as windmills and the rest of the renewable-energy scam. But if you've not been paying attention to the electric car debacle, you may be surprised to learn that, in the wake of the Volt's utter failure, Ford and Toyota are preparing to reveal their own electric cars.

What explains this madness? Liberal radicalism? Environmental extremism? Democratic sycophancy?

Try sensible profit motive. If that seems ludicrous, consider:

Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it - a total of $3 billion altogether, according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

As Ed Morrisey concludes:

Now, why would two auto manufacturers jump into a market with almost no demand and a high failure rate?  Could it be because they're looking for the same kind of subsidies that gives them somewhere around $250,000 per vehicle before the car is ever sold?

The Obama administration has no regard whatsoever for taxpayer hardships or economic sustainability. He is motivated by the purely ideological goals of environmentalism and social democracy - goals which stand in direct opposition to economic recovery and individual rights. Obama is wantonly wasting money on liberal pet-projects in the midst of a debt crisis. He has neither understanding nor concern for the plight of struggling American (would-be) workers and has obviously prioritized his radical green agenda above American prosperity. One hopes that voters will not reward him for this inverted ethic.   

Categories > Environment


Death Delivered to Your Door

The Dutch have dispatched "mobile euthanasia units" which will make house-calls throughout the Netherlands in order to euthanize the sick and elderly - free of charge.

The scheme ... will send teams of specially trained doctors and nurses to the homes of people whose own doctors have refused to carry out patients' requests to end their lives.

Set aside for the moment questions of moral culpability, warnings of a slippery slope and the shocking disregard for human dignity which leads a society to condone roving bands of doctors killing the elderly in their homes. Euthanasia is a delicate issue upon which men of good will may disagree.

Rather, consider that even the Netherlands - which allows delivery services for death in the same manner as pizza - allows for conscience protection.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia in 2002 and its legislation on the right to die is considered to be the most liberal in the world.

But doctors cannot be forced to comply with the wishes of patients who request the right to die and many do refuse, which was what prompted NVVE to develop a system to fill the gap.

How far ahead of the liberal curve is Barack Obama, who seeks to force everyone - doctors, employers, insurers - to bend before the social doctrine of the culture of death? Even the most liberal country in the world respects religious liberty. If only Obama could adopt their more moderate and just posture.

Categories > Bioethics


Liberals: You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

How does America pay for the crushing costs of Obamacare?

Acording to the Obama administration, by ending the human race.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel Thursday that a reduction in the number of human beings born in the United States will compensate employers and insurers for the cost of complying with the new HHS mandate that will require all health-care plans to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions

"The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception," Sebelius said. She went on to say the estimated cost is "down, not up."

"So you are saying, by not having babies born, we are going to save money on health care?" [Rep, Tim] Murphy asked. Sebelius replied, "Providing contraception is a critical preventive health benefit for women and for their children." Murphy again sought clarification. "Not having babies born is a critical benefit. This is absolutely amazing to me....

As I noted in my previous post on Obamacare and the Church, there is a certain logic to this liberal thesis. Abortion is surely cheaper for parents than raising a kid for 18 years (and possibly beyond, including college tuition). Pregnancy is likened to a disease among many liberals and feminists, such that preventative medicines (including abortion) ought to be available to treat the condition. The human person who is the object of the pregnancy is likewise reduced to excess matter in the liberal equation. The prevention and termination of pregnancies and excess matter thus become "health benefits."

Liberals have always taken a dim view toward the propagation of the human race and many liberal policies actively seek an unqualified reduction in the quantity of humans on the planet. The antipathy which liberals feel toward human beings, due to our transgressions against the environment, animal rights and the editorial board of the New York Times, is among the most interesting pathologies of the left.

Categories > Bioethics


Pope Pius XII's Continuing Redemption

While I'm on my papist roll, the Vatican has released a handful of documents, hailed by The Telegraph of London as redemptive, attesting to Pope Pius XII's aid to Jews during the Holocaust. For many years, liberals and militant secularists have arrogantly denounced Pius as "Hitler's Pope." The claims have always been spurious, as I noted previously upon observing that Jewish authorities almost unanimously praise Pius' conduct during the war.

Pius XII seems to me to be one of the most maligned figures of modern history. Whereas Allied powers did nothing to directly prevent the Holocaust (except, of course, by winning the war against Germany), Pius was consistently and unreservedly critical of NAZI Germany and is credited with saving nearly a million Jews by siphoning them through local parishes into foreign nations. Jewish and world leaders fully recognized Pius' "heroic virtue" until his name was defiled by a seemingly KGB-sponsored German play which portrayed the Pope as a devotee of Hitler. The German government and Jewish leaders condemned the historical revision, but the myth (welcome among those who always welcome such derisive slurs) endures today.

[See here for a nearly-exhaustive list of articles and texts on the topic.]

One of the documents, written by interred Jews in Italy, reads in part:

While in nearly all the countries of Europe we were persecuted, imprisoned and threatened with death because we belong to the Jewish people and profess the Jewish faith, Your Holiness not only sent notable and generous gifts to our camp through the apostolic nuncio... but also showed your fatherly interest in our physical and spiritual well-being," they wrote in German.

(You) intrepidly raised your universally venerated voice against our enemies - still so powerful at that time - to openly support our rights to human dignity.

When in 1942 we were under the threat of deportation to Poland, Your Holiness extended your fatherly hand to protect us and prevented the deportation of the Jews imprisoned in Italy, thereby saving us from almost certain death.

The full archive of over 2 million documents will be released within the next year or two.

Categories > Religion

Health Care

Obama Against the Church and America

When Obama decided to attack Catholics (and religion, in general) by forcing a contraception, sterilization and abortion insurance mandate on private institution, a question arose: Did he not foresee the backlash, or was the goal of subjecting conservative religion to liberal feminism so great that it was worth the fight? I tend to assume the latter - Obama has proved a classless and spiteful president who has consistently demeaned the office by lashing out at private individuals and institutions who dare disagree with his ideology (e.g., the Koch brothers).

The issue is multi-dimensional and profound in relation to both political theory and practical consequence. On the former, see the Conference of Catholic Bishops' website, which declares absolute opposition to the president's violation of "conscience rights and religious liberty." According to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, "Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."

As to the practical consequences, Ed Morrisey at Hot Air asks, "What if Catholic bishops aren't bluffing?"

Earlier this week, Francis Cardinal George of the archdiocese of Chicago sent a message to parishioners in Barack Obama's home town that imposition of the HHS mandate to fund and facilitate contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization would force the Catholic Church to close its hospitals, clinics, schools, and all other organizations that would otherwise have to comply.  "Two Lents from now," Cardinal George warned, "unless something changes, the page [listing Catholic organizations] will be blank."  At the time, some commenters wrote that this has been Obama's plan all along -- to force religious charities out of business to make people more dependent on government.  Others, including myself, figure that Obama just thinks the bishops are bluffing, and wants to engage in a high-stakes bout of brinksmanship to force them to kneel to secular authority over doctrine.

But how high are those stakes?  In my column for The Fiscal Times today, I did a little research just on Catholic hospitals and their significance in American health care.  As it turns out, this bet involved nearly $100 billion in annual costs and about one-seventh of all hospital beds in the US -- and that's not all:

The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion. Whom do these hospitals serve? Catholic hospitals handle more than their share of Medicare (16.6 percent) and Medicaid (13.65) discharges, meaning that more than one in six seniors and disabled patients get attention from these hospitals, and more than one in every eight low-income patients as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of these hospitals are located in rural areas, where patients usually have few other options for care.

This is a case of clear principles: a vote for Barack Obama in November is a vote against religious liberty and accessible health care in America. All men of good will and sound judgement should ensure that he does not have the opportunity to erode America's sacred liberties and public services any further.

Categories > Health Care


The Folly of Ethics

Ethics are what pass for morals among the intellectual elitists on the left who still bother with such antiquated, bourgeois notions of right and wrong. The lure of ethics as a final refuge is, of course, that they are relative, subjective and strictly a posteriori. Ethical foundations may be rooted in sound moral judgement - but that needn't be so. Hence, a leftist mind may posit any unfounded truism and commence therefrom with a corrupted, though subsequently logical, thesis. In this way, anything under the sun - even the most absurd, horrific folly - may be ethically justified.

The respected Journal of Medical Ethics, "an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in medical ethics" associated, if I'm not mistaken, with Oxford University, published this week an article entitled, "After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?" (Spoiler alert: it shouldn't.)

The authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesa Minerva, are respected ethicists. Their abstract follows:

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call 'after-birth abortion' (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

Pro-life (that is, anti-infanticide) advocates have long argued not only the basic, moral abhorrence of killing unborn children, but also the slippery-slope which accompanies the murder of society's most vulnerable. I invoked this latter fear in 2008, noting that President Obama supported "post-birth abortion" (as I coined the term) by voting against the "Born Alive Infant Protection Act," a law requiring physicians to provide medical care to infants born alive during an attempted abortion 

Ethicists have now gone a (small) step further and concluded that one need not passively allow helpless infants to die of exposure, starvation or abortion-inflicted injuries, but may rather decide at any time after birth that a child should be "aborted." And they have supplied philosophic, ethical justification - founded upon the abortion-logic premise that unborn children are morally-irrelevant non-persons. 

And they are correct. That is, given the premise which whey assume, the ethicists' logic is sound. If the unborn are not human or deserving of life, the mere act of moving from the mother's belly is of no moral relevance - the child merely changes locations, which is a profound event, but not a morally significant one.

The avenues by which to cite the folly of these ethicists are myriad and, in most cases, obvious to anyone not hindered by branding themselves an ethicist. That infanticide is now openly defended by the left should cause chills to liberals everywhere ... and horror to all other people of good will. The effects of a "new ethics" are being revealed. Mike Scaperlanda takes up this theme at Mirror of Justice - which also has worthy posts on the matter by Robert George. See more at the Catholic Moral Theology blog.

Categories > Bioethics

Health Care

In re Rush

We misheard Rush on the 30 year-old law student demanding free contraception, via Obamacare mandate.

UPDATE: Now he apologizes.

Categories > Health Care


Immune to Irony

Why is Senator Snowe hitting the road?  Because, Washington has too many people with "'my way or the highway' ideologies."
Categories > Politics


James Q. Wilson, RIP

One of the giants of contemporary political science, James Q. Wilson, has passed away. His writing displayed insightful commentary on areas of public policy--crime ("broken windows"), poverty, bureaucracy (the classic book), bioethics, marriage, and ethnic politics, plus a book on snorkeling,co-authored with his wife. I happened to use his Bureaucracy book last spring, originally published in 1989. Wilson taught us what questions to raise in examining political institutions. Some of his writings for the Claremont Institute can be found here. An appreciation of his work by Shep Melnick is here.

It is not to damn him with faint praise to say that Wilson was likely the nicest and the wisest President of the American Political Science Association. I can still recall the headshaking and denunciations of his presidential address, on "The Moral Sense."

Addendum: A conversation from 1987 with Wilson, conducted by Steve Hayward mostly.

Categories > Politics


RIP Andrew Breitbart

A conservative icon has passed. Andrew Breitbart served as a conservative beacon in the media industry, personally counter-balancing to a great extent the monolithic leftward tilt of the entire "main-stream media." He was a lion for the conservative cause and his untimely death at the age of 43 is a tremendous and truly lamentable loss. RIP.
Categories > Conservatism


Eurocentrism Rears Its Ugly Head

Were the first Americans originally from Spain? And where did those ur-Spaniards come from? I guess one bit of evidence is this artwork discovered on a dig; and then there's this. What is most distrubing about the scholarship in this field is its sheer conventionality--its lack of imagination.
Categories > History