Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Published in Progressivism

Men and Women

Defending Julia

Defending these other Julias--and not the woman in Orwell's 1984. From Robert Herrick:

WHENAS in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

... Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;
O how that glittering taketh me !

You really wanna get rough with Julia, try John Donne's "Julia," Elegy 14:

Her hands, I know not how, used more to spill
The food of others than herself to fill ;
But O ! her mind, that Orcus, which includes
Legions of mischiefs, countless multitudes
Of formless curses, projects unmade up,
Abuses yet unfashion'd, thoughts corrupt,
Misshapen cavils, palpable untroths,
Inevitable errors, self-accusing loaths.
These, like those atoms swarming in the sun,
Throng in her bosom for creation.
I blush to give her halfe her due ; yet say,
No poison's half so bad as Julia.

Finally, try Julia Shaw, who unfavorably compares Obama's Julia to Tocqueville's American woman, whose superiority was responsible for American greatness.

Categories > Men and Women


Obama as Composite

While autobiographies don't need to be factual in order to be worthwhile reading, the notion of self-creating persons as presidents strikes at the core of what it means to be a self-governing America. Andrew Malcolm rose to the occasion. See his portrayal of the young Obama, together with his then-lover, as a composite. Sample:

He had lived in exotic foreign places, he claimed, consumed strange foods and painfully recounted his longing for an absent father that caused him to wildly over-spend other people's money, desperately seeking to fill some hidden void by repairing bridges and hiring union teachers. He regularly talked of receiving dreams from his father.

Categories > Presidency

Health Care

Sebelius Brushes Off Religious Liberty

At a congressional hearing, HHS Secretary Sebelius has to admit she did not consider constitutionally protected religious liberty when she issued her now infamous HHS mandate on insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception. Congressman Gowdy pins her down. Her worst excuse was that she is not a lawyer.

Categories > Health Care


A Largely Forgotten Man

A hero to many contemporary conservatives and libertarians, William Graham Sumner (who penned the phrase "the forgotten man," which was then misappropriated by FDR), takes a beating from Steve Hayward. Sumner joined the attack on Progressive Darwinists who, along with this Social Darwinist, renounced the Declaration of Independence.

Categories > Conservatism


Facing Death

The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy article on the breaking trend of providing end-of-life patients with drugs. Psychologists are effectively administering magic mushrooms and hailing "the healing power of psychedelics." One of the leading researcher's reports:

On psychedelics you have an experience in which you feel there is something you are a part of, something else is out there that's bigger than you, that there is a dazzling unity you belong to, that love is possible and all these realizations are imbued with deep meaning. I'm telling you that you're not going to forget that six months from now. The experience gives you, just when you're on the edge of death, hope for something more.

The role which psychedelics are hoped to serve at the end of life is pretty much the same as that supplied to most people by religion. One doubts that the writers at the Times know any such people. So, the substitute for faith is hallucination. Perhaps the Times sees them as one and the same. But I suspect most people comprehend the difference.

My first reaction is that this is a cowardly way to approach death - just as drug use is a cowardly way to approach life. Such a solution has always been available. Re-branding it as science, medicine or progress changes nothing. Those of faith have nothing to fear and everything for which to hope. Atheists at least have nothing to fear. And sinful sorts can benefit from a little fear and trembling.

This is not medical advancement. It is social regression.
Categories > Progressivism


Pelosi's "War on Civil Society"

Many Republicans wryly welcomed the reign of Madam Speaker Pelosi, as the gaffe-prone San Franciscan representative was sure to provide a spectacle of liberal lunacy. She is surely a crusader for the far left and perceives the world through a peculiar lens. For example, on Thursday she declared:

The fact is this president has been so respectful of the Republicans in Congress. He has given them every opportunity for the executive and the legislative branch to work together, to have a solution that has bipartisan support. He's been criticized by some for taking the time that it takes to find out that they're never going to give him a break, which is a compromise

These must be new definitions of respect, bipartisan and compromise of which I was previously unaware.

Now comes news that Pelosi has endorsed a constitutional amendment to strip free speech rights from everyone but individual persons. The People's Rights Amendment reads:

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

As Eugene Volokh notes, Pelosi's amendment would deprive newspapers, churches, non-profits and all corporate entities of free-speech.

So just as Congress could therefore ban the speech of nonmedia business corporations, it could ban publications by corporate-run newspapers and magazines -- which I think includes nearly all such newspapers and magazines in the country. ...

Congress could also ban the speech and religious practice of most churches, which are generally organized as corporation. It could ban the speech of nonprofit organizations that are organized as corporations. (Congressman McGovern confirms this: "My 'People's Rights Amendment' is simple and straightforward. It would make clear that all corporate entities -- for-profit and non-profit alike -- are not people with constitutional rights. It treats all corporations, including incorporated unions and non-profits, in the same way: as artificial creatures of the state that we the people govern, not the other way around.") Congress could ban speech about elections and any other speech, whether about religion, politics, or anything else. It could also ban speech in viewpoint-based ways.

This is not an attack on evil corporations. It is an attack on "civil society" - defined as the "mediating layer between the individual and the state." Pelosi's strategy dovetails Obama's war on the Catholic Church, in that they are attempting to dismantle and eliminate all non-governmental entities which share power and influence over individuals. Churches, private societies and all other such organizations in which individuals gather together provide alternatives to - and therefore dilute the authority of - the leviathan of government.

There is a reason that so many people deride liberal democrats as socialists and communists - they both have a seemingly unlimited deference to the state and a concomitant distaste for any other form of public assemblage. They view society as individuals under the state bureaucracy with no room for light between the two. Conservatives rightly view individuals and the state as commingling in public (that is, "political") forums. But we also recognize that the majorities of our lives take place outside the realm of politics, within a variety of religious, social and private venues collectively known as civil society. 

Pelosi's and the like have no appreciation that they would cripple society - in the same manner that communism invariably crippled societies - by deteriorating the non-political social bonds of civil society.
Categories > Progressivism


Eugene Robinson's Rhetoric is Over the Top

Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Eugene Robinson by commenting on them. But today's article is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.

Not all overheated political rhetoric is alike. Delusional right-wing crazy talk -- the kind of ranting we've heard recently from washed-up rock star Ted Nugent and Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) -- is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.

Let me be clear: I'm saying that the extreme language we hear from the far right is qualitatively different from the extreme language we hear from the far left -- and far more damaging to the ties that bind us as a nation. Tut-tutting that both sides should tone it down is meaningless. For all intents and purposes, one side is the problem.

Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Nugent or West by commenting on them.

As a rule, I believe nothing Eugene Robinson says, but his absurdities today reveal a particularly delusional pathology. The rants of Nugent (referring to the Obama administration as "coyotes in your living room") and West (referring to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus as communists) do not hold a candle to the daily incendiary language of the left.

Here's a bit from yesterday's Forbes Magazine:

We know who the active denialists are - not the people who buy the lies, mind you, but the people who create the lies. Let's start keeping track of them now, and when the famines come, let's make them pay. Let's let their houses burn. Let's swap their safe land for submerged islands. Let's force them to bear the cost of rising food prices.

They broke the climate. Why should the rest of us have to pay for it?

That didn't take long to find.

The very suggestion that the most vitriolic rhetoric comes from the right is absurd. This same assertion was made after the Arizona shootings and was equally fallacious. I'll happily compare the rhetoric of the Tea Party to the Occupy Wall Street thugs - or, for that matter, any conservative group (pro-life, NRA, religious) to any liberal group (labor unions, environmentalists, secularists).

Unlike Robinson, I'm not arguing the conservatives are better human beings. I'm not even arguing that a bit of toxic rhetoric is all that bad. I'm only observing that, by way of comparison with the right, the rhetoric of the left is far more vitriolic, violent and ... poisonous.
Categories > Progressivism


Mourning Tocqueville

Yesterday marked the 153rd anniversary of the death of Alexis de Tocqueville, the extraordinary biographer of America, in all its splendor and its deficiencies. His principal virtue was his insight that liberty-smothering bureaucracy--what he termed "centralized administration"--was at the core of contemporary ills, and it would worsen, as this scandal  (more serious than the GSA) reminds us.

This Tocqueville anniversary coincides with the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson's bold attack on the American founders and his celebration of the administrative state, "What is Progress?" The presidential campaign address also proclaimed the need for Darwinian science to form the basis of our political science. The contrast between Wilson--who equated democracy and socialism--and Tocqueville, who denied such equivalence is most instructive.

Obama's ill-informed attribution of "Darwinism" to Paul Ryan, et al. flies in the face of his own Progressive, Darwinian assumptions, which repudiate constitutional government and justify tyranny.

A few years ago Diana Schaub penned a typically elegant essay on the anniversary of Tocqueville's death.

Categories > Conservatism


The Constitution Liveth (And it Keeps on Living)

President Obama is probably just trying to work the refs in his comments suggesting he is  "confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

Since Progressives have long praised the Court for taking away from the people the right to make law on may subjects, the comment might seem striking.  But I actually think it is entirely consistent with the Progressive understanding of the "living constitution." Whatever furthers the Progressive agenda is good, and whatever blocks it is bad.  Living is only supposed to be in the direction of "progress."  If the Court strikes down laws Progressives like, they will decide that judicial review is passe.

But what if the country is divided about what is "forward" in history? And what if some (many, I suspect) Americans are not living in an Hegelian world in which History has direction?

More evidence that a living constitution is impossible absent a consensus about what's next.

P.S. Obama's criticism of Paul Ryan for "thinly veiled Social Darwinism" draws out a related point. Uncle Barry's moral ideas are from fifty years ago. His Progressivism is trapped in the past. His living constitution is the prisoner of 20th century Progressivism.

Categories > Courts


Who Does the European Left Hate?

Not the Eurozone PIIGS who have plunged the EU into economic ruin. Not the former soviet bear who yet strives to embrace a sphere of oppression in Europe's backyard. Not the Islamic sponsors of terrorism vying for nuclear arms to trade on the global market. Rather, the EU - which is generally synonymous with the European left - has focused its ire on Hungary. As Alex Alexiev correctly explains:

Technically, at issue is a quarrel between the European Commission (EC) and the government of Hungary over some obscure laws on judges' retirement ages, ombudsman roles and whether or not Central Bankers ought to swear an oath to the constitution of the state they serve. In reality, the conflict is over fundamental issues such as who decides what European values are, from whence does democratic legitimacy derive in the EU and should a democratically-elected national legislature or the European bureaucracy ultimately decide what legislation is legitimate and what's not.

. . .

It is an irony worth noting, that the democratically-elected government of Hungary is being judged by the unelected EC bureaucratic mandarins, who among other recent deeds, denied a democratic referendum to the Greeks and forced on them and the Italians unelected governments, to say nothing of imposing on the Europeans thousands of rules and regulations on which no one has been allowed to vote.
The real viciousness of this conflict, however, goes clearly beyond economic policy and political reform and cannot be explained except by realizing that what the Hungarians have done is to commit the mortal sin of challenging the prevailing political culture of the European Union establishment today and thus the very legitimacy of its leftist, multi-cultural Weltanschaung. Much more unacceptable than [Hungary]'s economic policies, to its adversaries, are its political philosophy as exemplified by the new constitution's insistence that Hungary is a Christian nation and proud of it, that marriage is between a man and a woman and that life begins at conception. Commonsense propositions to most Europeans as these are, they make the politically correct EU elites go truly unhinged.
Categories > Progressivism