Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


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