The Bookworm Beat 7-25-15 — the Lazy, but interesting, edition

Woman-writing-300x265As you may have gathered from the number of things we did every day on our recent trip to Virginia and environs, ours was not a restful vacation. I capped off the fatigue with a cold and, since our return, have been having a very hard time motivating myself to do anything. My theme song for the week has been Irving Berlin’s Lazy, although I’d have to add fatigue and inertia to the laziness mix:

Still, despite my laziness, I have managed to peel myself off the couch and find my way to the computer occasionally, so I do have some posts to share with you:

Made You Laugh

Before I get to the depressing stuff — and, lately, all the news seems to be depressing — I wanted to tell you about a weekly column my long-time friend Gary Buslik is starting at The Blot. I first introduced you to Gary a few years ago when I reviewed his outrageously funny book Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood. I’ve since read, though shamefully neglected to review, his delightful travelogue, A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it’s Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen. In both books, and in the various travel articles of his published in anthologies, Gary’s voice is true: erudite, wry, mordant, snarky, self-deprecating, Jewish, and very, very funny.

Since Gary just launched his weekly column, there’s only one week’s worth of writing, but I think you might enjoy it: The Great Jewish Dilemma.

Yes, Martin O’Malley’s link between ISIS and climate change is crazy

Democrat presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley came in for a good deal of derision for saying that ISIS’s rise can be tied to climate change. The obvious reason this is a laughable point is because the most direct tie to ISIS’s rise is, of course, Obama’s retreat, which created a giant ISIS-sized vacuum. My friend Wolf Howling sent me an email which I think nicely summarizes the Obama/ISIS link:

A fascinating article in the NY Review of Books states that it is the Iraqi organization originally founded by Zarqawi, the utterly sadistic terrorist we sent off the mortal coil in 2006. The movement obviously survived him, and this really throws into stark relief the wages of Obama and the Left cutting and running from Iraq in 2010. ISIS is like a bacteria that survives a stunted course of antibiotics. Had we stayed in Iraq, there is no possible way that ISIS could have had a rebirth.

The author of the article tries to make sense of the rise of ISIS. You can read his ruminations. My own theory is two-fold: One, ISIS is preaching the true Salafi / Wahhabi purist doctrine that makes of the world a thing of black and white, where all things that support Allah are pure, while everything that does not is evil and can be dealt with without regards. Thus it is a draw to young Arab men. If you want to see how, here is a fascinating article by Tawfiq Hamid, a doctor who became a terrorist, who discusses the lure of Salafism / Wahhabism and all its deadly toxins.

Two, the ISIS ideology is a draw because it is utterly without bounds in its sadism or cruelty. This also is a draw to a particular segment of Arab men. It is the Lord of the Flies. It is going into a scenario where you will have the power of life, death, and pain with virtually no restrictions.

The fact is that ISIS should not be around today. My word, but Obama has so totally f**ked us in the Middle East . . . . He makes Carter look like Nixon by comparison.

I only wish I’d written that, but at least I can share it with you. So yes, O’Malley is an ignorant moron.

Still, never let it be said that the Left doesn’t protect its own, so The Atlantic has tried to throw a life saver to O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Link Between Climate Change and ISIS Isn’t Crazy. The article’s premise is that there’s a connection between drought and unrest. To which I say, “Well, duh!”

Any student of history knows that in primitive societies (and Muslim Middle Eastern countries are extremely primitive when it comes to food production, due to natural limitations, societal factors, and the transfer of food crops to biofuels) anything that interferes even marginally with food production has devastating effects, with war one of the most common ones.

However, as my reference to “students of history” makes clear, droughts have always happened. O’Malley wouldn’t have been a moron if he’d said “the drought they’re experiencing in the region no doubt was a contributing factor to unrest in the Syria – Iraqi region.” But instead, he had to throw in “climate change” — and what makes that so laughable is that we’ve come to the point  which climate change is responsible for everything. I’m awaiting the day when we get an article saying that Caitlyn Jenner’s unfortunate transgender habit of dressing like a male chauvinists’ dream 1950s pin-up girl is also due to climate change.

[Read more…]

The Humpty Dumpty remedy for the Church’s gay marriage problem

vintage-bride-and-groom-illustration-modern-design-7-on-cake-wedding-ideasThe fact that I’ve been too busy to blog does not mean I’ve been too busy to think.  My thoughts of late have turned to gay marriage.  I predicted a long time ago that turning gay marriage into a Constitutional right would open the way for a direct attack on religion — or, more accurately, on traditional Christian faiths — and I was entirely correct.  NRO’s David French has been busy tracking the immediate legal, political, and financial attacks aimed at the church in the wake of the execrable Supreme Court decision. It no longer matters that the Court could have reached a similar, constitutionally correct, outcome without destroying religious freedom. The reality is that the Court did what it did, and the Left is armed and ready to fire.

Another thing I observed back in 2008 or 2009 is that the gay “marriage” problem is, as much as anything, a question of semantics.  Although America long ago constitutionally separated church and state, our concept of marriage remained stuck in the British tradition, one in which church and state were the same thing.  Marriage was seamlessly a civil and a religious event.

In the past century, and with accelerating speed in the past two decades, Americans have turned to the word “marriage” to represent two entirely different events:  The first is the religious, or quasi-religious, coming together of a man and a woman before their friends, their God, or their New Age guru; the second is a bureaucratic process notifying the government that a couple wants the economic and contractual benefits and burdens the government bestows on those who live together with the presumptive intent of having children.  The word “marriage,” therefore, has two fundamentally unrelated meanings, one purely religious and one purely civil.

Because this semantic difference is causing real problems thanks to same-sex and polygamous “marriage” demands, I have been arguing since 2008 that America’s federal and state governments should get out of the marriage business entirely and, instead, sanction only “civil unions.”  Under this scheme, states can sanction whatever the heck “civil unions” they want — man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, cow/pig, man/women, etc..  Each state would be an experiment in determining what unions most benefit society as a whole, the state’s economic well-being, and, most especially, children’s ability to thrive.

But that’s not what Justice Kennedy did.  Instead, he looked at the U.S. Constitution and found hidden in it, hidden behind the unicorns and rainbows, a constitutional right holding that everybody’s dignity is such that they can marry whomever or whatever they want.  Most of the Founders would be horrified about this hitherto unsuspected “civil right,” although I suspect old Benjamin Franklin would have been amused.

Still, as the old saying goes, if the mountain won’t come to Mohamed, than Mohamed most go to the mountain.  Because Kennedy has insisted that government “owns” marriage, it’s time for the church to let go of marriage entirely and try something new.  Now, don’t get too upset.  Hear me out, because I think the Left has shown traditionalists the way to go. You need to think about the stories that have been dominating news headlines for weeks, even years, of late.

Rachel Dolezal has shown us that all people, no matter their genetic racial make-up, can be whatever race they prefer. Of course, this can be a bit of a double-edged sword as the media showed with George Zimmerman.  Race becomes a fluid concept depending on whether you’re the right kind of victim or not. If you’ve been beaten up by a white guy, you’re undoubtedly black or Hispanic (or gay, or all of the above), but if you’re a light-skinned Hispanic who killed a murderous black man in self-defense, you’re first white and, when that fails, you’re that new breed of race called “white Hispanic.”

Of course, successful racial re-identification isn’t limited to blacks and Hispanics. In academia, the favored racial “borrowing” is Native American. Andrea Smith, Elizabeth Warren, and Ward Churchill have shown us that, no matter the absence of a single drop of Native American blood in your body, if you think you’re an Indian, then you’re an Indian.  (Actually, Irving Berlin had already figured this one out a long time ago.)

The most exciting type of re-identification, of course, has to do with sex.  Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner has shown us that anyone, no matter his or her X and Y chromosomes, or the conspicuously present or absent dangly bits in a person’s crotch, can be whatever sex he or she prefers.

This ability to define reality to suit oneself isn’t limited to ones own body.  It can also apply to events.  For example, despite overwhelming proof to the contrary, poor deluded Emma Sulkowicz is a rape victim.  Lena Dunham’s drunken, consensual hook-up?  Rape and she’s a victim too.

The important thing to remember with all these re-imaginings of ones self is that, no matter how ludicrous they are, everyone else is honor bound to accept them as truth. Despite Caitlyn’s massive upper body, missing waist, present penis and testes, and absent (but not surgically removed) ovaries, uterus, and milk ducts, Caitlyn is henceforth a man.  That’s reality.  You’re not allowed a gracious, polite accommodation of her delusions.  Instead, when you use those feminine pronouns to describe Caitlyn, you’d better mean them.  Anything else, any doubt about reality, is grotesque cisgender heteronormative sexism. Oh, and while you’re at it, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

What’s scary is that this kind of delusional thinking (of the “we have always been at war with Eastasia” stripe) is not limited to lay people.  A doctor I know insists that Caitlyn Jenner, having undergone breast augmentation and hormone treatment (although the dangly bits apparently remain intact), has actually “changed” from one sex to another.  The fact that the changes are superficial or transient, and that they do nothing to alter Bruce/Caitlyn’s gender-based bone structure, internal organs, and DNA is irrelevant.  To the doctor, the magic is real:  Caitlyn and others similarly situated are truly changed, rather than merely having undergone procedures bringing their physical shape into greater conformity with their personal desires and sense of self.

I’ll add here, as I often do, that I have no particular beef with Caitlyn Jenner, although I find distasteful her relentless exhibitionism. If you want to have me pretend you’re a woman, and are not insisting that I abandon reality and my society’s stable social structure to do so, I will happily refer to you as “Miss.” Heck, I’ll call you Loretta or perhaps I’ll call you a cab — anything you like as long as your delusion isn’t foisted on me.

What the Left has done is put its imprimatur on the Humpty Dumpty school of defining words. As H-D famously said to Alice in Through the Looking Glass,

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

It seems to me that, now that the Church faces the threat extinction at the hands of Leftists with the Obergefell bit in their teeth, it’s time to go Humpty and turn the Left’s tactics back upon it.

I once said that the state should get out of the marriage business. Since that’s not going to happen, traditional religions need to get out of the marriage business. The big announcement should go out: In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, it’s become too financially risky for traditional religious institutions to conduct marriage ceremonies any longer. To the extent Obergefell governs a constitutional right to “marriage,” the traditionalists are taking their marbles and going home.  They simply won’t play the marriage game any more.

That’s not as draconian as it sounds.

Just as Columbo always turned away, only to turn back again with that one last question, religious organizations might have a tag end to that “end of marriage” announcement:

“Oh, by the way . . . . One more thing. Having searched through our religious texts, we’ve discovered that what God actually requires of the faithful isn’t ‘marriage’ at all, but a “covenanting ceremony.”  And in case you’re wondering, it’s just a coincidence that this covenanting ceremony looks precisely like the weddings of old, right down to the one man/one woman aspect, the prayers and blessings, the officiating priest, minister, rabbi or imam, or anything else. No matter what you, the Leftist might think, these are no longer marriage ceremonies, any more than Caitlyn is still a man, George Zimmerman is Hispanic, or Emma Sulkowicz is a delusional girl rather than a rape victim. They have been transformed.”

I’d like to add one other point while I’ve got your attention.  Straight people, when they marry, proclaim their love and commitment to each other in the presence of God, their family, and their friends.  The civil aspect is simply a pragmatic step to obtain the benefits of civil marriage, irrespective of some of the corresponding civil burdens.  The Left, with its “#LoveWins” battle cry has made clear that, when it marries, it wants Big Brother to proclaim its love for them. That’s really kind of sad when you think about it, isn’t it?

How the Supreme Court should have ruled on the gay marriage question

Supreme CourtAs we all know to America’s cost, when confronted with the question of gay marriage under the Constitution, Justice Kennedy found the right lurking in the heart of the Constitution, right between the Amendments about unicorns and leprechauns.  In other words, he made it up out of whole cloth.  

The correct ruling, of course, would have been to say that the Constitution is silent on all marriages, let alone gay marriage, but is quite loud about religious freedom. Therefore, to the extent that “marriage” is inextricably intertwined with religion, the answer isn’t to add gay marriage to the Constitution but, instead, to take all state-sanctioned marriage out of the Constitution, reserving it solely for religious institutions. The states would have to be content with issuing licenses for “civil unions.” These unions would be subject to each state’s determined about what is best for the state’s (and its children’s) overall well-being. End of story.

Of course, the sad truth is that not a single one of the Leftists on the Supreme Court (and that includes Justice Kennedy) is either as intelligent or as principled as I am. 😉 That’s a shame too, because we’re going to have one Hell of a mess in this country in the coming years (as I predicted long ago) thanks to the Supreme Court’s inevitable bow to political correctness and delusional takes on reality.

A phenomenal talk about the Constitution and how to make it meaningful to America’s young people

David BobbI had the great pleasure today of attending a phenomenal talk by Prof. David Bobb, president of the Bill of Rights Institute. BRI uses original source documents to help teachers ans students understand America’s founding document and to see how it’s still relevant today. Its ultimate goal is to bring to an end our nation’s intellectual disengagement from the Constitution and to lead young people to “think the vote,” which is mindful, informed approach to elections, rather than to “rock the vote,” a mindless, drone-like approach to important issues that profoundly affect America’s young people.

Prof. Bobb could not be a better spokesman for his organization. To begin with, his bio is impressive:

David earned his Ph.D. in political science from Boston College, where he was the recipient of fellowships from the Pew, Earhart, and Bradley Foundation, as well as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

[snip]

David joined the Bill of Rights Institute in December 2013. Previously he was the founding director of two national centers for Hillsdale College, the Washington, D.C.-based Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, and the Hoogland Center for Teacher Excellence, a civic education program. From 2001 to 2013 he also was lecturer in politics at Hillsdale College, where he taught courses in American politics and public policy.

David is the author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and a contributing editor to The U.S. Constitution: A Reader (Hillsdale College Press, 2012). He has written articles and reviews for the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Washington Times, Boston Herald, and the Claremont Review of Books, among other publications. He has spoken widely to audiences in twenty-five states on topics including education reform, civic engagement, and the American Constitution.

In other words, Prof. Bobb knows his stuff and he is a natural communicator and teacher. His speaking style, something that always matters to me, is the essence of clarity. No fudging, no obfuscation, no blathering. Frankly, it was a challenge to take notes, because Prof. Bobb had no spare words or sentences in his speech. Every sentence was interesting and to the point. Since I don’t do shorthand, of necessity I had to condense some ideas and I know that I missed others. This means that, to the extent there are any errors in this post, they are definitely mine, not Prof. Bobb’s. With that warning, here goes:

If I were a more detail-oriented person, I would undoubtedly have noticed long ago that, on our one dollar bill, under the pyramid, there is a Latin inscription stating “novus ordo seclorum“:

Novus ordo seclorum

And if I were a more curious person, I would have gone online to translate that phrase. For those who, like me, don’t remember their Latin and or who aren’t too curious about our dollar bill, the phrase means “New Order Of The Ages.” It is the Founders’ announcement to the world and to posterity that they were embarking upon a grand governmental experiment, one that had never been tried before. In the Federalist papers, Alexander Hamilton noted that Americans were about to take a step no other people had taken before:

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

Back in the day, then, the Founders, with a great deal of trepidation, were about to embark upon a planned government, one that would vest the maximum amount of power in the people and that, at the governmental level, would guard against the possibility of tyranny. After all, only a few years before, they had declared themselves free to part ways with England because, in their eyes, George III had become a tyrant by taking upon himself the powers of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. They understood that human frailty is such that no one person should ever hold that much power over others.

The unique aspect of the new Constitution was the notion — the product of one hundred years of Enlightenment thinking (powered by an increasingly humanist Christianity) — that each person comes into the world with certain rights vested in him (or her). These are not gifts from the government that the government can then take a way. Instead, when a government infringes on these inherent rights, it’s the people who have the power to destroy the government and initiate a better one — and our Constitution was intended to define that better government.

The most exceptional thing about the Constitution — which is a contract between government and the American people — is the notion of separation of powers. England, of course, led the way with that idea, wresting from the King certain powers reserved for Parliament. This was a notion that was first institutionalized in the Magna Carta; was then tested under Charles I (who lost his head for picking “King power,” rather than “People power” when asked the question “who’s in charge here?”); and was re-tested under George III, who kept his head but lost America because he too thought that he could vest in himself the full powers of government.

The Articles of Confederation, the governing document that preceded the Constitution, did not have a tripartite approach to power. It created an executive office, but had no judiciary or legislature and, significantly, it did not give the executive office the power to tax. The office had, on the one hand, too much power and, on the other hand, no way to put all that power into effect. The Constitution would do better.

At this point in his talk, in light of the upcoming 2016 election, Prof. Bobb narrowed his his focus to the executive office. He noted that, although Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the intellectual powerhouses behind the Constitution, devoutly believed in diffuse power as a bulwark against tyranny, they also understood that, to the extent they vested power in a specific institution, that power had to be meaningful. To that end, they didn’t try to create a weak executive by splitting that power among different individuals or groups.

It was Hamilton who envisioned as president an individual who, while hedged about with constitutional safeguards, could act with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.” After all, in times of national emergency, one can’t have a committee laboriously working its way to a tame and untimely bureaucratic response.

While the president could be active, decisive, and secretive, he still had to have limitations — and control over these limitations had to be placed in an organization equally invested in protecting and advancing its power. Or, as James Madison said, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” The Constitution decided that three entities, each jealously protecting its power, would ensure that no single part of that trio would be able to aggregate too much power, the inevitable path to tyranny.

At the Constitutional Convention, George Washington sat quietly in the room as the Founders hashed out the separation and balance of powers. They all knew that Washington would be president under this new Constitution, and they all trusted that this man of extraordinary rectitude and hard-won humility would not abuse that power. But they also understood that they were writing a Constitution, not for one man, but for the ages, and that there was no guarantee that another Washington would emerge any time soon — or ever.

For every power that the Founders granted the new executive, they included an important countervailing limitation. They wanted ambitious people, so there were no term limits, but the president had to make his case to the people every four years.  They wanted visionaries, but if the visions veered into unconstitutional territory, the president could be impeached (a better end than that which Charles I experienced). They gave the president a veto over legislation, but granted Congress the power to gather together most of its force to defeat that veto. They made the president the Commander in Chief, but denied him the authority to declare war.

Significantly, the Founder explicitly denied the president “spiritual jurisdiction” over the American people. Unlike their former monarch, the King of England, there was to be no national church in America. Government was to stay out of affairs of faith. (Bookworm here, speaking on her own behalf and not trying to paraphrase Prof. Bobb: Let me add that Americans have always recognized some limits on religious practice in our borders. Historically, the most aggressive fight to limit religion was the all-out-attack on Mormon polygamy. Currently, of course, the big fight is to determine how far the government can push traditional religions by demanding that they pay for abortions or marry same-sex couples. Now, back to my attempt to summarize Prof. Bobb’s speech.)

Significantly, the goal was to make a president who was responsible to the people, but not responsible for them. His job was to mind the government and the People’s job was to mind themselves, secure in a stable framework with maximum individual freedoms.

Having summarized the Founders’ goals and the steps they took to institutionalize these goals, Prof. Bobb then looked at the situation today, which he characterizes as the inverse of the Founders’ plan. Nowadays, at townhalls across America, after a President has heard a citizen’s sad story, he’ll almost invariably say something along the lines of “I’ll help you. I’ll get my people to be in touch with you and fix your problem.” In other words, rather than being a statesman responsible for the nation and subservient to the Constitution (the Founders’ goal), the president has come to define and even supplant the Constitution.

Indeed, when polled, American students routinely say that the man (or woman) occupying the Oval Office is of greater significance than the Constitution. To them, the “will of the President” is the most powerful, significant aspect of American government. This faith in a single human, rather than in the limited office, is not the rational, reasonable approach to government that the Founders desired.

If you want to know who to blame for this situation, you only have to look back a single century to President Woodrow Wilson, one-time dean of Princeton University. While in this role, Wilson wrote disparagingly of the restrictions the Constitution placed on the president. As he saw it, natural rights and law, and the separation of powers, all of which gave a say to the unwashed masses, were bunk.

(It occurs to me, Bookworm, that Wilson’s view was the result of immigration and emancipation. A committed racist, a eugenicist, and a xenophobe, the thought of all these “inferior” people having a say in government must have appalled him. Had he lived one hundred years earlier, in a time of limited suffrage, he probably would have been less dismissive of the Constitution.  

Were Wilson alive today, he would still be completely at home on any American college campus. He believed that an educated elite knew better what would benefit the masses than those masses knew themselves. Wilson believed, as professors and journalists across America believe, that this cadre of intellectuals and fellow-traveling elites shouldn’t be bound by an antiquated document giving inherent rights to those with dirty or melanin-rich skin. If you want a good rundown of what a disgusting, fascist, racist guy Wilson was, check out Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change. And now back to Prof. Bobb.)

The three Republican presidents who followed Wilson (Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover) managed to restrain their ambition and, as is especially true for Coolidge, none tried to expand executive power. Franklin D. Roosevelt, though, was cut from exactly the same cloth as Wilson. Having used his government power aggressively in ways that prolonged the Depression, Roosevelt used WWII as the opportunity to create a “Second Bill of Rights,” one based not on rights inherent in all people but, instead, on government handouts. Thus, in January 1944, at the start of his fourth term as President (a little taste of tyranny there, right?), Roosevelt laid out his Second Bill of Rights (emphasis mine):

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

Every president since Roosevelt has actively encouraged or passively accepted the above “add-ons” to the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution.

The original purpose behind the Bill of Rights Institute was to peel away 100 years of Constitutional “add-ons” and to enable teachers to understand our actual Founding documents and to appreciate why those principles are timeless and do not need reinterpretation.  As Prof. Bobb said, most teachers love America, but they are unable to understand fully what makes this country lovable and therefore they are unable to pass that love on to their students.  Students, of course, need substance, not platitudes to realize what makes America unique and why this uniqueness is a blessing, not a Howard Zinn-esque curse.

Currently 50,000 American history teachers subscribe to BRI’s mailing list.  (Bookworm here:  I have my doubts about Marin teachers’ participation in the list, but maybe I’m unduly cynical.)  BRI sends emails to these teachers directing them to source documents (all of which are accessible through the BRI website) and giving them questions about current issues that they can ask students to debate in light of the intersection between those source documents and these current issues.  For example, immediately after the grand jury decision in Ferguson, BRI had an email on its way to America’s history teachers offering source documents and topical questions.

Prof. Bobb said correctly that high school students are routinely shortchanged because we deny them these debates.  (As I, Bookworm, often say, we teach our kids the “how” of learning, packing them with data like geese being stuffed for nice pate livers, but we routinely forget to challenge them with the “why” questions:  Why does the information we’re feeding you matter?)  Prof. Bobb and BRI want to give the kids those “why” questions and to let them use those “why” questions, in the context of our Constitution as written to piece together their world into a coherent whole.

BRI’s work is especially important at this junction in history.  This may be our last chance to reach young Americans.  When young people in the 18-24 year old age cohort were polled, only 1% said that they were worried about losing their Constitutional rights.  Mostly, in light of the relentless headlines about events in Ferguson or Baltimore, young people have lost confidence in our justice system.  Even more importantly, they believe that the justice system is irrelevant to them.  No wonder 40% of America’s young people are willing to ditch the Constitution.  (Bookworm here:  It seems appropriate to link here to my post about the way in which people have also lost faith in free market capitalism, despite the fact that the system currently failing in America isn’t free market capitalism at all, but is more akin to fascism-lite.)

For decades, our classrooms have been controlled by Howard Zinn version of history, one that says that the Founders were “evil” rich, white men who were concerned only with guns and greed.  Prof. Bobb made the completely unnerving statement that for years, every year, Zinn’s books and their spinoffs are more popular than they were the year before.

With this relentless anti-Americanism — and anti-Constitutionalism — rife in our system, young people don’t believe that our system can offer hope.  Hope lies only in the president, who is viewed as a “savior” but too easily becomes a demagogue.  (Bookworm here again:  You all remember back to 2008 with its newspaper riffs about “magic negroes” and the endless photographs of a haloed Obama.)  Moreover, despite government’s obvious failures, young people look to all government — local, state, and federal — for money, which they believe, if it rains down on them, will somehow remedy their personal ills.

Prof. Bobb sees the election of 2016 as one that pivots on constitutional issues and hopes that the crowded Republican field debates those issues in a meaningful way, without the candidates cancelling each other out.  Before Prof. Bobb started his talk, he and I discussed the fact that several of the candidates bring interesting constitutional questions to the table:  Ted Cruz wants to abolish the IRS and have a purely constitutional government; Rand Paul advocates a form of libertarianism that waivers between hardcore conservativism and, funnily enough, extreme Leftism; Ben Carson discusses the intersection between individual-responsibility and government handouts; while Carly Fiorina is attacking the crony capitalism that is morphing into fascism-lite.  Both Carson and Mike Huckabee have suggested that a president is not obligated to implement Supreme Court rulings that are blatantly unconstitutional (unlike President Obama, says Bookworm, who feels he’s not obligated to implement Supreme Court rulings he doesn’t like).

As all of us have noticed, the current president has aggregated greater power than ever before, but it’s not entirely his fault.  Congress, whether under Democrat or Republican control, meekly rolls over and allows him to go forward with blatantly unconstitutional initiatives.  Prof. Bobb says that, whenever Senators put proposed bills in the hopper, they’re supposed to attach a piece of paper explaining the Constitutional authorization for the bill.  Too often, their reasons are nonsensical (e.g., “right and proper clause”) or, even worse, they completely abdicate any responsibility — “let the Supreme Court decide.”  The ambition that Madison believed would keep the tension between the three parts of government, preventing tyranny, is gone, as lazy legislators can’t be bothered to look beyond their little club.

Because politics, like nature, abhor a vacuum, Congress’s abdication is creating a perfect space within which an all-powerful administration has room to grow.  Without any input from “We, the People,” federal agencies are implementing Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights and, willy-nilly, superseding the original Bill of Rights.

We should all worry about this trend, and we should all act to educate our children, grandchildren, and friends.  So, check out the Bill of Rights Institute’s web page, where you can find source documents and useful texts, all aimed at informing the citizenry about their unique rights — rights that, once can, can probably never again be recovered.

(I sent Prof. Bobb a link to this post.  I hope he checks it out and corrects the mistakes I’m sure I’ve made.  If his busy schedule precludes doing so, let me reiterate — all mistakes are solely my responsibility.)

The Bookworm Beat 5-4-15 — the “technology hates me” edition and open thread

Woman writingMy post caption to the contrary, this post has nothing to do with technology — except that technology explains why I started writing at 10:30, not 8:30. My computer apparently had a sudden yen to pretend that I had a dial-up modem and to start downloading information at speeds that would already have been slow in 1995. I think I’ve finally got my electronic ducks in a row, though, so let the blogging begin.

A jihad in Texas and a cheerleading media

In the wake of the attack against the Texas American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Draw Muhammed contest, Ace, Noah Rothman and I noticed the same thing: The media immediately went into “they had it coming” mode. Geller and Co., the “pun-deads” implied, should have known better than to offend Muslim’s delicate sensibilities.

The reality is that Geller’s free speech celebration is not the same as telling young women that it’s stupid to walk naked into a biker bar at 3 in the morning. (Although do note that the same pundits who castigate Geller for offending Muslims would never dream of daring to tell a young woman it’s dangerous to parade drunk (or sober) in Malmo, Sweden, a ferocious Muslim enclave.)

Two different things are at stake: When it comes to the dumb bunnies and their cheerleaders who are all for nubile women taking to the streets in underwear, we’re talking about the opposite of ordinary common sense, given that some men, despite being taught not to rape, still rape. When it comes to Geller’s initiative, however, we are talking about a religion that has announced that, if we exercise our Constitutional right to free speech, it will kill us — and the Dhimmis have all said, “Great, let’s abandon free speech.”

I routinely tell my children to choose their battles. Don’t end up in a fight to the death over a parking space. However, I’ve said, if it’s a matter of an important principle, you cannot back down. Geller has chosen the right battle, which is to stand up against the murderer’s veto, especially when that veto is directed at America’s core freedoms. Hurrah for her, and hurrah for former-Muslim Bosch Fawstin, whose artistically beautifully and intellectually powerful image won first prize:

Bosch Fawstin's winning picture of Mohamed

Carly Fiorina on crony capitalism

Elizabeth Warren (ick), Carly Fiorina, Wolf Howling, and I all agree on one thing: crony capitalism is a terrible thing for America. (And, incidentally, it’s why the stock market is soaring under Obama, even as actual wealth and real jobs vanish on his watch.) Where Carly, Wolf, and I part ways with Warren is that, unlike her, we don’t believe that even more government is the answer. Instead, as Carly says:

“The dirty little secret of that regulation, which is the same dirty little secret of Obamacare or Dodd-Frank or all of these other huge complicated pieces of regulation or legislation, is that they don’t get written on their own,” she said. “They get written in part by lobbyists for big companies who want to understand that the rules are going to work for them. . . . Who was in the middle of arguing for net neutrality? Verizon, Comcast, Google, I mean, all these companies were playing. They weren’t saying ‘we don’t need this;’ they were saying ‘we need it.’”

Fiorina suggested that large companies, by backing such regulations, have emerged as an enemy of the small businesses run out of people’s houses and garages. “Google started out that way too, in a dorm room, but they seem to have forgotten that,” she said. They also comprise part of a “political class” that is “disconnected” from most Americans.

“The vast majority of people . . . believe there is a political class that is totally disconnected from their lives and that’s stacking the deck against them,” Fiorina said. It’s a diagnosis of American politics that is appropriate to her biography. “It’s interesting, people out there are not at all troubled that I haven’t held elected office; in fact, the people I run into consider it a great asset,” Fiorina said.

It’s a myth that illegal aliens would vote Republican on social issues

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Republican “thinkers” are lying to themselves when they say that amnesty is good because immigrants are actually conservatives at heart. They’re not. They want government hand-outs and, if you watch their children at action in the schools, whatever’s being taught at homes has less to do with family, faith, and hard work, and a great deal more to do with sex and greed.

The demeaning vagina voter

I’m not much given to crudity, but I’ve made the point at this blog that those who vote for Hillary on account of her putative sex (remember, we live in a world of fluid sexual identity) are “vagina voters” and that their attitude is demeaning and disgusting. Brendan O’Neill, bless his heart, agrees with me (slight, but appropriate, language and content vulgarity):

The bigger problem with such unabashed declarations of “vagina voting” is that they confirm the descent of feminism into the cesspool of identity politics, even biologism, and its abandonment of the idea that women should be valued more for their minds than their anatomy.

Kate Harding, the vagina voter in question, isn’t only going to vote with her vag—she’s also going to tell everyone about it. “I intend to vote with my vagina. Unapologetically. Enthusiastically… And I intend to talk about it,” she wrote in Dame.

She thinks Hillary would be a great president because she “knows what it’s like to menstruate, be pregnant, [and] give birth.”

So you’re going to pick your leader on the basis of her biological functions, the fact she’s experienced the same bodily stuff as you? Imagine if a man did that. “I’m voting for Ted Cruz because he knows what it’s like to spunk off. And he knows the pain of being kicked in the balls.” We’d think that was a very sad dude indeed. Why is it any better for a female commentator to wax lyrical about voting on the basis of her biological similarity to a candidate rather than any shared political outlook?

We clearly have become a nation stupid enough to sink first to Obama’s level because we judged someone by the color of their skin, not the content of their character, and now it appears that we Americans — especially the women — are going to debase ourselves further by voting for someone based upon the contents of her underpants. (I gagged writing that.)

Conservative thinker Guy Benson gets it

I’ve read Guy Benson’s writing for years, and always enjoyed it. He’s a witty, committed conservative. It’s therefore exciting that he and Mary Katharine Ham have a new book coming out that attacks the crude, brutal censorship inherent in Progressivism: End of Discussion: How the Left’s Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun). I plan to read it, and I hope a lot of people do, both because I want Benson and Ham to make money, and because it’s a message that voters need to learn.

Oh, and Benson is gay — like I care. Fortunately, Benson understands that I don’t need to care about his sexuality. Buzzfeed cares, though, so instead of focusing on important issues, such as free speech, free markets, national security, media monopolies, etc., it focuses on “he’s gay and a Republican,” and then works hard to imply that Benson must be [insert something negative, along the lines of “race traitor”].

To the people at Buzzfeed, I have only one thing to say: Get a life, you sleazy little voyeurs!

More failed climate change predictions

In my world, everyone is still deeply, deeply committed to the idea that humans are responsible for turning the earth into a fiery ball composed solely of swamps and deserts. I could tape their eyeballs open and force them to read Elizabeth Price Foley’s pithy piece on the myriad ways they’re wrong — not just a little wrong, but fantastically, incredibly wrong — and they still wouldn’t change the minds. “They have eyes but cannot see.”

You all, though, have eyes and brains and reason and intelligence, and you will appreciate what Foley has to say, so go forth and read — and then decide whether it’s worth doing battle with the blind or, as Weird Dave (writing at Ace of Spades) says, whether we should just tell them to “Eff off” and get out of our way.

As for me, I agree with Weird Dave, but only up to a point. I’d like Congressional Republicans to say “eff off,” while the rest of us act “eff off,” while still making sure we have intellectual principles to justify our positions and that we politely keep our friends and families apprised of those principles.

Unfortunately, the only phrase Congressional Republicans seem to have mastered is “May I lick your boots, please, before you kick me?”

Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.

The above caption comes from the lyrics to the theme song to the old All In The Family show. As with so many other things, Norman Lear was wrong about that too. In fact, we should have been singing and dreaming about “a man like Calvin Coolidge again.”

I first learned something about Calvin Coolidge when I read David Pietrusza’s enthralling 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents. Before reading that book, everything I knew about Calvin Coolidge came from the Progressives who hated him and wrote subsequent history books. He was the silent moron who slept a lot, wore an Indian headdress, and did nothing.

And it is true, as the video below shows, that Coolidge did nothing. But it wasn’t the “nothing” of a moron. It was, instead, the nothing of a highly principled man who understood completely that government’s job is to create a stable environment in which people can be free.

Unlike our current president, who bemoans how unfairly the Constitution limits him, Coolidge said “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.” Coolidge also fully understood that it was his inactivity that allowed the Twenties to roar: “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.”

Amity Shlaes expands on Coolidge’s own intuitive understanding of relationship between true freedom from government control and prosperity:

American Christians are the new blacks; and Leftists own the new Jim Crow movement

Christians and homosexuals gaysI’m reprinting here a post I wrote almost five years ago about the fact that the problem with Jim Crow wasn’t Southern racism, it was the fact that governments in Southern states had institutionalized that racism. The problem, I pointed out, wasn’t one of bigoted individuals; it was one of government taking sides.

I think many of the principles I stated then apply very well now, except that the gay mafia is demanding that the government exert its considerable weight, not against blacks, but against Christians. (Interestingly, to the extent many Christian blacks are hostile to gay marriage, there’s an irony in Democrats once again urging the government to go after them.)

***

Civil rights are much discussed lately, primarily because Progressives with bully-pulpits are furious that Glenn Beck held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous civil rights rally at that same location.  To hear them tell it, in the wake of the “Civil Rights Movement,” civil rights are entirely a black thing, and whites who parade around in the civil rights mantle are manifestly racists.

It says much about the Orwellian twists the Progressive mind takes that its spokespeople can, with a straight face, confine civil rights to a single race.  The whole Progressive concept is oxymoronic, because civil rights, by definition, extend to all citizens within the civitas, not just citizens of a specified color.  (And isn’t that the point King was trying to make?)  The idiocy emanating from the Left might be merely amusing, but for the fact that the Left is working hard to ensure that this definition applies to all future generations.  After all, it was Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Secretary, who appeared at Al Sharpton’s poorly-attended counter rally to announce that education is “the civil rights issue of our generation.”

All of this points to the fact that, in the years since Martin Luther King’s pivotal moment in the sun, the Left has redefined civil rights into a concept that would be utterly alien to Martin Luther King — and that is alien to most people who aren’t Progressives or self-styled “liberals.”  It’s therefore time, in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ memorable words, for some “reeducation.”

To me, and perhaps to you, “civil rights” are those inherent rights that automatically extend to all citizens in a free country.  Thomas Jefferson articulated the broadest outlines of these rights in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson stated unambiguously that these unalienable rights — the ultimate civil liberties, if you will — do not come from government.  They exist independent of government.  Government’s job is not to create those rights, but to safeguard them.  Government cannot hand them out, not can it take them away.  They just are.  And if government fails to provide the proper safeguards or, worse, itself threatens these unalienable rights, it is not the rights that are illegitimate, it is the government.

Very soon after the American Revolution ended, our Founders recognized that the federal government needed some guidance if it was to maintain its legitimacy and provide a stable structure for its citizens without destroying their rights.  To that end, in 1791, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution).  They are short and sweet, and are notable for the way in which, rather than extending government power, they severely restrict its power over citizens:

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 2 – Right to Bear Arms.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers.

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment 6 – Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 7 – Trial by Jury in Civil Cases.

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

To summarize in modern English, our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” “unalienable rights” that come from “the Creator,” are preserved only if we have a federal government that, as to the citizens within its borders:

  • has “no desire to make windows into men’s souls” (1st Amendment);
  • allows them to speak freely, whether the government likes that speech or not(1st Amendment);
  • allows a press unconstrained by government threats or requirements(1st Amendment);
  • let’s them to rally together (1st Amendment);
  • listens to their concerns (1st Amendment);
  • lets them arm themselves (2nd Amendment);
  • protects them from the reach of the government’s own military and police (3rd and 4th Amendments);
  • makes the home inviolate, with the burden on the government to prove a pressing need to breach that privacy (4th Amendment);
  • ensures that a citizen suspected of a crime is held only subject to a clearly stated charge, is prosecuted only once, is brought swiftly to trial, has a fair trial, may have the facts of his case judged by his peers, and cannot be bullied to convict himself out of his own mouth (5th, 6th and 7th Amendments);
  • establishes that, in any case, not just a civil one, the citizen may have a jury of his peers and may not lose his life, liberty or property without a full, fair trial (7th Amendment);
  • prevents the government from stealing private property (5th Amendment); and
  • never inflicts cruel or unusual punishment on any citizen (although the reference to capital crimes in the 5th Amendment indicates that execution does not fall within those parameters) (8th Amendment).

All of the above are the explicitly stated limitations the Founders placed upon the federal government.  It took eight amendments to drive those points home.  But to reiterate just how severely constrained the United States’ federal governments’ power is vis a vis the citizens within its borders, the Founders made two further points:  While the amendments are to be understood to control the federal government, they cannot be read to mean that American citizens have only those rights enumerated in the first eight amendments (9th Amendment).  Instead, those ostensibly stated affirmative “rights” are actually limitations on the government.  All else remains to a free people.

And if that isn’t clear enough, the 10th amendment says that, unless the Constitution specifically reserves an affirmative right for the federal government, or prohibits it to a state, all other rights — the universe of rights, whether or not articulated — belong to the states or the people within those states.

This is small government writ large.  Civil rights mean small government, with the government limited primarily (although not entirely) to protecting citizens from itself.

Martin Luther King understood this.  The Civil Rights movement was a stand against overt government encroachment on the rights of black people.  The Southern States, ignoring the Declaration’s acknowledgment that all men inherently possessed civil rights, used the government as a weapon against the black people within its borders.  The real problem blacks faced wasn’t that their fellow white citizens behaved hostilely, and even murderously, towards them.  Had the government fulfilled its policing responsibilities and stepped forward to protect those citizens, Jim Crow would have been a short-lived phenomenon.  The real problem was that Southern government itself encroached on citizens’ freedom.

It was Southern government that legislatively segregated schools, segregated housing, segregated business establishments, segregated marriages and enacted barriers between blacks and ballots.  It was Southern government that was a “Form of Government [that had become] destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for black people],” making it the civil  “Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

In the sixty years since the Civil Rights movement, the Left has entirely perverted the whole notion of civil rights.  Civil Rights as the Founders intended meant the right of all citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual, gender, etc., to be free of government constraints (although the government’s police powers certainly required the government to protect citizens when others amongst them worked to injure them or constrain their basic freedoms).  Civil Rights as the Left demands it has become an all powerful government that is responsible for redistribution wealth, property, access to government and even happiness, from whites to blacks.

[VIDEO] Bill Whittle on the rot at the heart of American politics

Hillary emails corruptionI always enjoy Bill Whittle’s videos.  He has a knack for describing social and political issues with tremendous clarity.  I’m convinced that ordinary Progressives (not the True Believers, but the knee-jerk voters), would change their views if they would make themselves watch a steady diet of Bill Whittle and Prager University videos.

This latest Bill Whittle video, however, is something special — which is why I emailed it to all of my local conservative friends and family.  In it, Whittle describes not just a particular bad act, but a particular mindset that goes to the heart of the contract between America and her government (a contract more commonly known as the Constitution).

As you watch the video, keep in mind that, while it’s directed at Hillary Clinton and the Democrat establishment from Obama on down, it’s also an indictment of Republican politicians who are complicit in this lawlessness in so many ways.  They too engage in it, profit from it, ignore it, strike deals with it, etc.

At least in the old days, members of the nobility could convince themselves that their blue blood meant being above the law.  Nowadays, though, American politicians truly seem to believe that getting elected is carte blanche for white-collar crime and political malfeasance.  And while it’s true that Republicans are less likely to commit these crimes (in part because Democrats are more likely to prosecute them in politically inspired witch hunts), the fact is that they all do it.

The Tom Cotton letter usefully highlights Leftist stupidity

1364477366-tom-cottonI side with the people who think that Tom Cotton and the 46 senators who joined with him in an open letter to apprise the Iranians about the way our Constitutional system works did the world a great service.  As I’ll discuss at greater length below, the letter is a simple, beautifully written exposition about the American Constitution and its effects.  In addition, it’s a wonderful honey pot for calling stupid Progressives out of their dark caves and exposing their ignorance to bright sunlight.

The Cotton letter is really nothing more than an elegant primer about the balance of powers and the way in which Congress, which more closely represents the American people than does the president, gets to have a say in foreign policy.  For those of you who haven’t yet read the letter, or for those who would enjoy re-reading it, here’s the text:

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.

There are a few things you need to notice about the letter to appreciate just how terribly Leftists are beclowning themselves. First, its tone is extremely respectful. It says nothing derogatory about anyone. Second, its content makes no reference whatsoever to the terms of Obama’s negotiations with the Mullahs. The only thing it does is offer information readily available to anyone who bothers to read the United States Constitution. (Reading the Constitution, of course, is as easy as plugging the words “United States Constitution” into Bing.)

This lucid, respectfully-stated summation of publicly available information has started a hysterical firestorm on the Left. The first cries were directed to all 47 Senators — Traitors! Logan Act violators! Both these insults were the products of stupid minds.

With regard to the treason claim, the letter certainly didn’t give aid and comfort to an enemy, which is the definition of treason. We’re not at war with Iran and the Mullahs do not appear to have received either aid or comfort ftom learning that Obama was over-promising. Indeed, they seemed angered and disappointed, which is how we like it when we’re dealing with people who, even though we’re not at war with them, have been at war with us since 1979.

The hysterics do not fare any better with the Logan Act claim. The Logan Act forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments having a dispute with the U.S. An example of the type of conduct contemplated under the Logan Act occurs when a member of the armed forces travels to a foreign capital to engage in peace talks with an enemy that is facing off against our troops in a hot war on the battlefield. That’s a Logan Act violation.

The Logan Act, however, does not apply to United States Senators who send an open letter summarizing the Constitutional balance of powers. There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents Senators from visiting with, talking to, or trading information with foreign powers. Senators do it all the time, whether to gather useful information or to make nice with dictators. As long as they’re not entering into negotiations for international agreements, it’s all good — and if the Senator in question who does that is a Democrat, it’s still all good.

The Leftists seem to have figured out that, despite getting almost 300,000 signatures on their petition seeking Logan Act charges against the Republican Senators, that petition isn’t going anywhere — except that it will force the White House, when it responds to the petition, to concede that the Republican Senators had the perfect right to act as they did.

Balked in their quest for a collective spill of Republican blood, the Lefties have a new tactic. They’re now pointing to members of the armed forces and accusing them of having violated the military code.

Ground central for loony Leftist lies is the Daily Kos, which is suddenly extremely solicitous about the whole military code of conduct.  (Keep in mind these are the same people who still think John Kerry is a hero for having thrown someone else’s military medals over the White House fence and who include in their Big Tent  the whole cohort of screamers who spent the entire Iraq war calling our troops “baby killers.”)

The Daily Kos’s particular target is Jodi Ernst. I really can’t do justice to its fulminations, so let me quote. (Since I don’t feel like honoring the Daily Kos with a hyperlink, here’s a non-hyperlinked URL if you want to see the original: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/12/1370336/-Lt-Col-Joni-Ernst-should-be-court-martialed-for-signing-the-seditious-letter-to-Iran.)

It is a privilege to serve in the US military.  With that privilege comes obligations.  Following military law is one of them. When Lt. Col. Joni Ernst signed the seditious letter to Iran, she broke a serious law.

Lt. Col. Joni Ernst, the junior senator from Iowa, serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. As such, she is bound by the Iowa State Code of Military Justice.  Her signing of the seditious letter to Iran is a clear and direct violation of Chapter 29B.85 of the Iowa State Code of Military Justice.

29B.85  CONTEMPT TOWARD OFFICIALS.
Any person subject to this code who uses contemptuous words against the president, the governor, or the governor of any other state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which that person may be serving, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

This is very serious infraction.  We are a nation governed by civilians.  Our Commander-in-Chief is a civilian.  The government officials that hold ultimate authority over our military are civilians.  This is true at the federal level and the state level.  This has always been the case since George Washington was president.  He resigned his military commission to accept the position of president.   We have never in our history had a military ruler.  Military obedience to civilian authority is critical and essential if we are to maintain the democracy we inherited.   That is why “contempt towards officials” is such a serious matter. Lincoln enforced that discipline during the Civil War. Even with the imposition of martial law, Lincoln remained a civilian commander. Truman enforced the same discipline after WWII when he relieved Gen. MacArthur of his command. Obama enforced the same discipline recently when Gen. McChrystal was relieved of his command. There is nothing anachronistic about this fundamental principle.

Let me say this very slowly because we’re clearly dealing with teeny-weeny brains here:  There. Are. No. Contemptuous. Words. Against. Obama. In. The. Tom. Cotton. Letter.  The letter’s only specific references to President Obama are as follows (emphasis added):

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

The first reference notes with complete factual accuracy, and no disrespect, when Obama’s term of office expires.  The second reference notes with complete factual accuracy, and no disrespect, that without three-fifths of Congress approving any agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei, there is no treaty, there is only an executive agreement.

Now, if the Cotton letter had gone on to add that President Obama, despite his status as a constitutional law teacher, is an ignoramus when it comes to the Constitution; or that Obama is obviously engaged in a serious fraud against Iran and others in the world to the extent they rely on him to deliver a treaty; or that Obama seems to have abandoned the limitations of the U.S. Constitution in favor of the power of a tyrant — well, any one of those statements might be deemed “contemptuous.”

That, of course, is not what our reservist Senators did.  Indeed, one could argue that reciting manifest facts about the Constitution’s language is the most respectful act a military person can perform.  It’s heartening to know that the men and women who put themselves in the front line know what they’re fight for — and it’s not the United Nations, which Obama is now trying to bring into the loop in order to bypass Congress.

Joni Ernst isn’t the only target.  Over at the Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart is just thrilled to write that a retired GENERAL also thinks Cotton was disrespectful:

I turned to retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton for perspective. He wouldn’t say Cotton and Co. were “traitors,” either. He had a better word.

“I would use the word mutinous,” said Eaton, whose long career includes training Iraqi forces from 2003 to 2004. He is now a senior adviser to VoteVets.org. “I do not believe these senators were trying to sell out America. I do believe they defied the chain of command in what could be construed as an illegal act.” Eaton certainly had stern words for Cotton.

“What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better,” Eaton told me. “I have no issue with Senator Cotton, or others, voicing their opinion in opposition to any deal to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Speaking out on these issues is clearly part of his job. But to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on, to succeed.” The consequences of Cotton’s missive were plainly apparent to Eaton. “The breach of discipline is extremely dangerous, because undermining our diplomatic efforts, at this moment, brings us another step closer to a very costly and perilous war with Iran,” he said.

Somewhere along the line, Major Gen. Eaton (clearly the very model of a modern major general who sounds erudite but actually knows nothing), has lost sight of the fact that Cotton is not an active duty military man but is, instead, an active duty American Senator.  Cotton’s obligations lie with the American people, not with the President — especially when the President is not acting in his role as commander-in-chief but is, instead, acting in his role as sell-out and appeaser-in-chief.

Incidentally, if it wasn’t immediately obvious from Eaton’s remarkably uninformed remarks, he’s also a hard core Lefty.  Considering that Eaton is not only a moron, but also a sufficiently adept political animal to have held a high position during Operation Iraqi Freedom’s lowest ebb , before General Petraeus turned it around, I can only say that I, for one, am profoundly grateful that Eaton retired and is now reduced to making little clucking noises on Leftist media rather than having direct responsibility for American troops.  As a civilian, he’s just one of a herd of similarly-situated Leftist lickspittles.  Were he still in the military, he could do real damage.

The Bookworm Beat (11/21/14) — The imperial presidency edition (plus illustrations and Open Thread)

Woman writingI keep meaning to write something profound about what happened to our country yesterday, only to discover that other, much better writers and thinkers already got there before I did. I’ll just summarize by saying that Obama behaved illegally, unconstitutionally, and undemocratically.  Having said that, of course, the really important question becomes: What next?

Let’s see if I can start this round-up by passing on some ideas.

[Read more…]

Progressives already have their sights set on Obama’s next executive order — gun control *UPDATED*

gun control ends well for those controlling gunsI’ve been reading on Facebook what my Leftist friends, and their Leftist friends, have to say about Obama’s imperial pronouncement on amnesty.  One comment struck me especially strongly, because I have no doubt that Obama already has something prepared on his desk.  I’ve changed the wording slightly to protect the Facebook author’s privacy, but the substance is unchanged:

[Read more…]

[VIDEO] House Republicans begin to strike back

I found this in my inbox:

I’m not in love with it, but I think it’s a good, smart start: It uses Obama’s own words against him and suggests that he comes back to the Constitutional fold. As I said earlier, conservatives and Republicans have two years in which to educate Americans, or else the imperial presidency will be the new status quo.

(Is that whirring noise I hear the sound of George Washington spinning in his grave?)

My response to all those liberal friends of mine who are thrilled by Obama’s amnesty order

emperor_obamaPredictably, those of my Progressive friends on Facebook who are at all politically aware, are kvelling about Obama’s executive order on amnesty.  “Best president ever!”  “I totally agree with what he did.”  “He did the right thing.”  My Facebook page is filling up with those statements.  To those Progressive friends, I have the following, initially sarcastic, response:

I have to admit that I’m impressed with what President Obama did, mostly because he’s bucking a famed constitutional scholar’s take on precisely this issue:

[Read more…]