Thomas Jefferson says a colon follows the word “happiness” in the Declaration of Independence

United States Declaration of IndependenceDanielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., is claiming that, for 238 years, everyone has been misreading the Declaration of Independence. According to her, a floating period, missing from some drafts but not from others, establishes that the Founding Fathers believed that it was the government’s, not the individual’s, responsibility to make sure we get our self-evident rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original.

That errant spot of ink, she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a “routine but serious misunderstanding” of the document.

The period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she says. But as intended by Thomas Jefferson, she argues, what comes next is just as important: the essential role of governments — “instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” — in securing those rights.

“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen said. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”

So, according to Allen, the Founders weren’t committed to individual liberties. Instead, they were statists who wanted to vest power in the government, not the individual.

Let me just say as a predicate that the Founder’s own behavior when the established the Constitution and the Bill of Rights puts the lie to Allen’s contention.  Had they been the statists she believes, they never would have established a limited government in the first place, one made even more limited when the Bill of Rights vested in the people specific powers that should have made the government, at all times, subordinate to the people.

But if Allen wants to play little games, by all means, let’s play little games.

The best way, of course, to determine the author’s intent, is to ask the author. Thomas Jefferson may have been dead 189 years, but he’s left us a document in which he compares his original draft of the Declaration (his preferred version), with the one that Congress eventually enacted.  This document is Jefferson’s 1821 autobiography, in which he carefully spells out how the Declaration came into being.

Here is the pertinent material from Jefferson’s autobiography:

Congress proceeded the same day to consider the declaration of Independance [sic] which had been reported & lain on the table the Friday preceding, and on Monday referred to a commee of the whole. The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. The debates having taken up the greater parts of the 2d 3d & 4th days of July were, in the evening of the last, closed the declaration was reported by the commee, agreed to by the house and signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson. As the sentiments of men are known not only by what they receive, but what they reject also, I will state the form of the declaration as originally reported. The parts struck out by Congress shall be distinguished by a black line drawn under them; & those inserted by them shall be placed in the margin or in a concurrent column.

[Editors note: text in boldface was removed for the final version of the Declaration, and text in italics was added].

A Declaration by the Representatives of the

United States of America, in General

Congress Assembled.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate & equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and [certain] inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, & 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 abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles, & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses & usurpations begun at a distinguished period and pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, & to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge [alter] their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting [repeated] injuries & usurpations, among which appears no solitary fact to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest but all have [all having] in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.

So, parsing the sentence, what does the colon mean?

Traditionally, aside from following the salutation in a business letter, colons have four primary usages. Wikipedia has as good a summary as any:

Syntactical-deductive

The colon introduces the logical consequence, or effect, of a fact stated before.

There was only one possible explanation: the train had never arrived.

Syntactical-descriptive

In this sense the colon introduces a description; in particular, it makes explicit the elements of a set.

I have three sisters: Daphne, Rose, and Suzanne.

[snip]

Appositive

The colon introduces an appositive independent clause. In other words, the sentence after the colon is in apposition (grammatically parallel) to the one before the colon. Please note that this could also be simply considered an explanation of why Bob could not speak, and written without the capital He after the colon. Both would be technically correct.

Bob could not speak: He was drunk.[6]
Bob could not speak: he was drunk.

[snip]

Segmental

Like a dash or quotation mark, a segmental colon introduces speech. The segmental function was once a common means of indicating an unmarked quotation on the same line. The following example is from the grammar bookThe King’s English:

Benjamin Franklin proclaimed the virtue of frugality: A penny saved is a penny earned.

This form is still used in written dialogues, such as in a play. The colon indicates that the words following an individual’s name are spoken by that individual.

Slut: Doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.
Doctor: Because you’re always open!

So let’s break down that all important clause as Thomas Jefferson himself wanted it to be, with a colon.

The colon could mean a syntactical-deductive, meaning that the words following “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” are the logical consequences of that phrase:

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. The logical consequence of these unalienable rights is that, in order to ensure that they are given proper deference is the men create governments, the sole authority of which comes from men willingly subordinating themselves to a government entrusted to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means that, if the government ceases to serve this function, it is a failed government, which the people can abolish.

The colon could mean a syntactical-descriptive, meaning that the words following “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” expand upon and explicitly define the preceding clause. This grammatical usage, however, which is most closely aligned to Allen’s interpretation, actually reduces the sentence to nonsense:

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: What we mean by “unalienable rights,” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is that creating and destroying governments is the essence of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, or perhaps we mean that governments are the essence of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The colon could be introducing an appositive, independent clause, which an artsy way of tying somewhat independent thoughts together using grammatical parallelism. This makes for hideous, awkward writing, but again makes clear that government is subordinate to man, meant to sustain him, not control him:

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: Self-evident too is that government’s are endowed by man to ensure those unalienable rights and that government’s are destroyed by man when they fail to ensure those unalienable rights.

What the colon cannot do is serve as a segmental purpose, with the material following the colon being a quotation voiced by the material preceding the colon — unless we want to pretend that Jefferson was quoting the Creator:

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: [The Creator said] “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….”

The one thing that’s clear to me is that, no matter how one parses it, one can never escape the fact that the material following the period, dash, or colon is manifestly subordinate to the material preceding that period, dash, or colon. The best way to understand that is through one of my beloved outlines:

I. SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS

A. All men are created equal

B. The Creator endows all men with certain unalienable Rights, which include, but are not limited to:

1. Life,

2. Liberty,

3. The pursuit of Happiness

II. ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

A. Men create governments

B. Limitations on these man-created governments:

1. They exist to preserve self-evident truths

2. They have no power independent of that which men vest in them.

3. If they fail to protect self-evident truths (and presumably, if they seek to destroy those truths), men can

a. Alter the government

b. Abolish the existing government and create a new one that exists to serve man

Again, the above is just grammatical game-playing. The Constitution, which establishes a very limited representative government, with power doled out amongst three branches, so as to prevent the tyranny of any single branch; and the Bill of Rights, which establishes vast zones of human behavior that government cannot touch, establish unequivocally that Jefferson’s “colon” was intended to protect individuals, not to make them subordinate to the government.

Reagan 180: Spending And Bureaucracy

The entrenched DC Republican establishment is obsessed with “electability” – good and Constitutional governance be damned. They insist that the only road to electoral victory is through big government glad-handing.


Reagan 180: Spending And Bureacracy

It’s what I call “DC solutionism,” an irrational belief that all real answers and solutions naturally begin and usually also end in the cavernous halls of Washington bureaucracy and legalese. We used to call them liberals and, sometimes, less-specific identified as just Democrats. Now we call them simply “incumbents” without the silly archaic need for specific party reference. The centralized DC mentality has indeed infected the Republican club as well.

The Republican establishment [aka "The Club," (TM)] is in fact more liberal than many of the milquetoast candidates they parade your way every four years. Their livelihoods are in elections, and they churn their own elections by pedaling “DC solutions.” (Read: Someone else’s money.) The longer they are in DC, the more unmoored they become from both localized economic reality and the ideas of Constitutional governance that they maybe, just maybe, might have arrived in DC with originally.

And this drift towards centralized government “solutions” and the necessary accompanying centralized government control has blurred the lines between once distinct political parties.

So when the RNC, its anointed and preferred candidates, their supporters and donor bandwagons cry out about “electability,” what they mean without saying forthrightly is that the key to winning an election is being likable and handing out stuff from the big DC trunk.

How’s that working for “The Club”? For you? For Constitutional governance? Well, let’s see… Aside from two nail-biter wins by George W. Bush, we will have had 16 years of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama in four asswhippings. “The Club” keeps giving us their old guard liberal Republican Senators in Bush 41, Bob Dole and John McCain. Breaking the mold, we end up with a non-Senatorial member of “The Club” in Governor Romney, the inventor of Obamacare. (Yeah, whatever. Save your breath, defenders. You people bore me with your distinctions that don’t resonate with anyone who isn’t a political junkie – the 97% of the country too busy working.)

The last time a Republican really won an election with a confident mandate was also the last time a true Conservative ran. And the blueprint is so simple it inspires disbelief. Yet there it is: Believe in (and understand) The Constitution and its limits on government overtly designed to preserve Liberty, believe in the American people and our uniquely American sense of individualism, and be able to speak in complete sentences.

In this second edition of Reagan 180, a three minute excerpt from Ronald Reagan’s 1979 announcement of his candidacy for president is a short sample of what proved to be the blueprint for two massive electoral landslides. He didn’t promise to give this program or that program. He promised to get Washington the hell out of the way. He wanted to go to Washington to affect it’s doing less, not more.

It seems counter-intuitive to today’s DC Republicans. No way anyone can campaign and win on doing and giving away less. But landslides don’t lie. They’re not close enough to be debatable.

How many are in DC today to reign it in and have it do less, returning many functions to the states to decide and carry out as constructed and instructed by the Constitution? How many “believe in (and understand) The Constitution and its limits on government overtly designed to preserve Liberty, believe in the American people and our uniquely American sense of individualism”? And how many of those left standing can communicate in complete sentences, all by themselves like big boys and girls? Talk about culling the herd.

Well, that’s all it takes to get the American public behind a candidate and his or her administration that moves inside the beltway from somewhere comfortably outside it before the election. The blueprint is right there. But if you don’t share the beliefs, you’ll resist and ridicule the example. And there you have it. In less than 3 minutes of audio.

OMG! When it comes to the Islamic faith and the First Amendment, am I prescient or what?

Earlier today, I put together a post saying that the Bill of Rights trumps the Civil Rights Act.  It is so because the Rights are inherent in individuals, meaning that Congress has no power to pass a law abrogating those rights (at least not without a very good reason).  I even prepared a nice little chart to walk people through my thinking in this regard.  As part of the chart, I noted that, in theory, Muslims can use the Bill of Rights to justify subordinating women.  Just a few hours later, a friend sent me a link to this news story out of Canada (which does not have a First Amendment):

Barbers in Toronto who refused to cut a woman’s hair have become the target of a human rights complaint, in a case that pits religious freedom against gender equality.

When Faith McGregor went into the Terminal Barber Shop requesting a short haircut, she was told the shop only grooms men.

The reason, co-owner Omar Mahrouk said, was that as a Muslim he could not cut the hair of a woman who was not related to him.

But for McGregor, the rejection of her patronage amounted to sexism.

“Fundamentally, my hair is the same as their male clients, so why would they have a problem with that,” she told CTV News.

“I felt like a second class citizen, like it was hard to hear that they refused and there was no discussion.”

So the 35-year-old filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Read the rest here.

One can make a very good argument that the reason the First Amendment had such a good run for a couple of hundred years was because, while Americans might have had doctrinal differences, they shared the same values about core issues:  marriage, sexual orientation, self-reliance, etc.  Now, though, with Leftism ascendent and an increasingly large Muslim population, the tensions being placed upon the Bill of Rights have become unsustainable.  Something’s got to give — and the Left is well-situated to make sure that it’s the Judeo-Christian tradition that cries “Uncle” first.

Bill of Rights versus Civil Rights Act 1

Jon Stewart excuses Obama’s executive overreach by attacking Republicans in Congress

Jon StewartI am watching a lot of television lately.  A lot.  Even I, a truly prodigious reader, find it hard to read every minute of the time I’m hooked up to my continuous passive motion machine.  When I finally tire of reading, I have limited mobility, especially by nightfall, when my balance on crutches seems to take a dive off the cliff.  This means that, when the rest of the family wants to watch TV in the evening, I’m something of a captive audience.

I’m not complaining.  Instead, I’m explaining why it is that I’ve been watching Jon Stewart’s Daily Show these past few days.  Usually I leave the room when he starts, because I find his mixture of genuine and faux stupidity irritating.  It’s not a witty show, which I would be able to watch even though I disagree with the politics.  It’s a witless show, and dishonest to boot.

Few things highlight these abysmal qualities more than a segment Jon Stewart did about Boehner’s announcement that Republicans would not go forward with any immigration reform because they couldn’t trust Obama to enforce it.  For anyone paying attention to the Constitution and the facts on the ground Republican fears are reasonable.  Obama, despite his job description as chief executive officer, tasked with enforcing the laws that Congress passes, has a history of refusing to enforce laws he doesn’t like, especially when it comes to immigration.

More recently, with Obamacare, despite the Lefts’ strident screams in October that Obamacare is the “law of the land” and cannot ever be touched — even by the Congress that passed it — Obama has changed the law almost 30 times.  Indeed, he’s changed the law so often, he’s even riled his supporters.  Boehner may also find it a little difficult to trust Obama since Obama lied knowingly, intentionally, and repeatedly in connection with Obamacare’s passage and implementation.  It was the biggest fraud ever committed by a government official against the American people.

So how does Stewart defend Obama’s lawless actions?  He doesn’t bother to defend Obama.  Instead, he attacks Republicans as hypocrites because they have also tried to change the law.  In other words, how dare Republicans complain about Obama’s changes to Obamacare when they also wanted to change it?

Is it really possible that Stewart is so stupid that he believes that Congress should not change, or attempt to change, a law if the president is not allowed to do so himself?  I find it hard to believe that Stewart is quite that dumb.  And if he’s smart, he and his team are writing shticks deliberately intended to mislead an audience that Stewart presumably knows is dumb enough not to understand that, while the president is constitutionally barred from unilaterally changing or refusing to enforce laws, Congress’s sole function is to pass, edit, and revoke laws.

Anyway, see for yourself the type of fraud Stewart commits against an audience so ignorant and ideological that it elected Barack Obama, not just once but twice:

The Left is okay with executive overreach, when it’s their guy doing it

emperor_obamaAccording to Power Line, when a Fox News Poll asked people point blank whether our system supports a president circumventing Congress, 74% of respondents said “no” and only 23% said “yes.”  That answer was only marginally different when the question was re-framed to ask people to ignore the way things should be under our Constitution and, instead, to answer whether they thought it was okay for Barack Obama to circumvent Congress.  In that case, 60% of respondents thought that it still wasn’t okay and only 37% of them approved of Obama acting as a dictator.

My very first thought when I read about that 37% was that I think I know every one of them on my real-me Facebook.  In that Facebook account, with the exception of conservative friends I’ve made in the last few years, and a handful of apolitical people, everyone else in my world — the world made up of school friends, work friends, and neighborhood people — is rabidly Progressive.

These Progressives have been silent since October, when it became clear that Obamacare was going to be an even more dismal, dysfunctional failure than Republicans predicted.  Now, however, with Obama promising to enact his agenda unilaterally, they’re happy again.  When they’re not celebrating gay rights (and I’d so that, gay or straight, 75% of their political Facebook posts are about gay rights), they’re starting to put up MoveOn.org style posters encouraging what most Americans recognize as Obama’s lawlessness.

If one were to ask my highly educated, well compensated friends to support their position, I’m sure that all would reply that (a) whatever is wrong now is the fault of Republicans in Congress and (b) that the ends justify the means.  That phrase, incidentally, is one of the scariest in the English language.

Nor would any of them be fazed if they were shown Obama’s blatant hypocrisy:

These Progressives would only say, again, that it’s not hypocrisy at all.  The problem wasn’t executive overreach, they’d say, it was Bush’s executive overreach.  When Obama does the same thing, it’s different.

Using social media to defend the Constitution and the Little Sisters of the Poor

Little Sisters of the PoorA caller to the Rush Limbaugh show today asked Rush how to get the media to change its tune. Rush’s response was that this will never happen. The media is an arm of the Democrat Party and that’s the end of it. Conservatives have to make their case outside of the media, he said. It can be done too, Rush added, pointing to Scott Walker’s success in fighting back an attempted recall and in beginning to make changes to Wisconsin’s hard Left culture.

What Rush left unspoken, since his show ended there, are the practical steps that ordinary people can take to expose other people (Leftists and non-political types alike) to facts and ideas that the media refuses to cover or contemplate. I happen to believe that Social Media is a wonderful way, both to learn what ordinary Progressives think (it’s seldom pretty) and to introduce new ideas to people whose world is contained within the four corners of the MSM.

I had a most illuminating Facebook conversation with a Progressive just today regarding the Obama administration’s full throttle effort to force the Little Sisters of the Poor – a Catholic charity staffed by nuns – to fund abortions.

On Facebook, since I’m fully aware of my liberal friends’ biases, I’m always careful to cite to sources that they belief are reliably leftist. After all, events sometimes force even the Washington Post or the New York Times to be honest about the facts.

This time, I linked to the USA Today editorial stating that the Obama administration has gone too far by attacking the nuns. I figured that, even though USA Today lacks the status of the New York Times (New York Times readers think that they’re the most intelligent and informed news consumers in America), it still has liberal street creds.

Oy, was I wrong! A Facebook friend who used to be a real friend decades ago when we were both non-political, went completely ballistic. He first offered a nasty opinion about the Church. When I politely asked him to back up his views with data, he doubled down on his attacks against the Church and stated explicitly destroying religious people’s political reach has to trump the Bill of Rights.

You’ll notice as you read our Facebook conversation that I was relentlessly pleasant, and that was true despite his frequently offensive statements. I also left on the table several issues that he raised as part of his attack on the church and the constitution. That was deliberate.

It quickly became clear to me that nothing I could say would change his mind. (And it will become clear to you too as you read on.) However, I was mindful of the fact that about 150 other people, almost all Progressives (because of the liberal enclaves in which I’ve always lived) would also be reading this back and forth.

Given the invisible audience I could reasonably assume I had, given that many people have told me that they sign on to Facebook solely to read what I post, I stuck to a very narrowly focused goal. I wanted to provide a reasonable intellectual foundation supporting the nuns’ position. I live in hope that Democrats who are beginning to feel uncomfortable about the administration’s decision to bully nuns will think about what I said. I was therefore worried that if I got too confrontational or started following red herrings with a die-hard ideologue, I’d lose my more important, albeit invisible and silent, audience.

The following is a non-verbatim rendering of my Facebook conversation. I’ve carefully retained the gist of what he and I said, but have changed the words to protect his privacy. He was a jerk, but even jerks deserve privacy. He wrote on my Facebook wall assuming that his identity wouldn’t be broadcast far and wide, and I have to honor that.

So, to set the stage, I linked, without comment, to USA Today’s editorial about the Obama regime’s overreach in its demand that nuns fund abortions and birth control. The following written dialogue ensued.

Him: They shouldn’t get any special treatment just because of their beliefs. None of the rest of us do.

Me: I’m not clear what you mean about “special treatment.” This is the first law ever that’s forced religious organizations and people to fund something that’s doctrinally prohibited.

Him: I don’t get why, just because they’re religious Christians attacking birth control, their beliefs trump other strongly held religious beliefs.

Me: I’m still confused. What are some examples of the government forcing people to act in opposition to strongly held religious beliefs or to fund others to commit those same types of acts?

Him: Okay. It’s not fair that religious organizations are tax exempt, which means I have to pay more taxes, essentially funding them. Lots of states won’t allow gay marriage because these tax-exempt churches have campaigned against it. Also, just because the Hobby Lobby owners don’t like birth control, they refuse to provide it to their employees.

Me: Given how political churches have gotten, you’re right about doing away with those tax breaks. [When I wrote those words, I was actually thinking about how political Leftist churches have gotten, but the point is the same.] Still, your other examples seem to me to miss the point. The editorial is talking about the fact that the government is using its taxing authority to force religious groups or individuals (or business owners) to engage in or fund activities that are antithetical to core belief systems. As far as I can tell, that runs directly counter to the 1st Amendment’s promise that the government cannot interfere with Americans’ freedom of worship.

Him: You’re trying to pick and choose your arguments. Religious people aren’t trying to defund that military. After all, don’t a lot of religions prohibit killing?

Me: [I made the decision here to ignore the red herring about religions and killing.] Your argument ignores the Constitution, which expressly contemplates a military as a core government function. There is a way to change that so as to allow conscientious objectors to refuse to pay taxes designated for the military, but you’d need a constitutional amendment. Unlike funding a standing army as part of the government, though, there’s nothing in the Constitution that mandates that private citizens are entitled to contraception and the morning-after pill, or that other citizens must pay for those services. That means the people and groups opposed to the ACA mandate have the stronger constitutional argument.

Him: The Constitution is irrelevant to this. What enrages me is that powerful people use religion to manipulate and control other people.

Me: I’m confused again. The nuns aren’t manipulating or controlling anyone. They’re asking that the government refrain from manipulating and controlling them by forcing them to pay for something that their religion prohibits. The Church has been opposing abortion and birth control for thousands of years, while the ACA’s demand that all Americans pay for all other Americans’ birth control and morning after pills is just four years old. Isn’t it unreasonable to ask the Catholic church to give up two thousand years of faith just because of the ACA, especially when the church as the 1st Amendment on its side?

Him: It’s obvious that the church never cares about death and suffering until it suits them. At that point, nothing stops the church.

Me: You’re entitled to your opinions about the Church, but it seems to me that, no matter how you look at it, the constitutional edge on this question lies with the Little Sisters and with Hobby Lobby.

At which point he gave up.

My point isn’t that I made the best arguments in the world. I know I didn’t. I also know, as I stated before, that I let a lot of his mean-spirited or uninformed statements go by without comment. Looking at what I said, though, I feel that I succeeded in my initial goal, which was to appear reasonable and to present to passive onlookers solid arguments that might give them food for thought if they dislike seeing the President beat up nuns.

The Democrats’ lawlessness

Charles Krauthammer gets to the heart of the matter:

The violence to constitutional norms here [with the filibuster's destruction] consisted in how that change was executed. By brute force — a near party-line vote of 52-48. This was a disgraceful violation of more than two centuries of precedent. If a bare majority can change the fundamental rules that govern an institution, then there are no rules. Senate rules today are whatever the majority decides they are that morning.

What distinguishes an institution from a flash mob is that its rules endure. They can be changed, of course. But only by significant supermajorities. That’s why constitutional changes require two-thirds of both houses plus three-quarters of the states. If we could make constitutional changes by majority vote, there would be no Constitution.

As of today, the Senate effectively has no rules. Congratulations, Harry Reid. Finally, something you will be remembered for.

Read it all.  I doubt you’ll find a better exposition of the profound damage the Obama administration is doing to the Constitution and to America.

What authority does Obama rely upon to “improve” a law?

Constitution

The Constitution is very clear:  Congress writes the laws; the President enforces them.

In light of Obama’s announcement today that he was unilaterally “improving” a law by ignoring its terms (i.e., the time limits contained within Obamacare), Veronique de Rugy asks a good question:

What authority does the president of the United States have to decide that he will or will not enforce some parts of the law that have become inconvenient for him politically or that are proven to have been a terrible idea?

There’s a simple answer to this excellent question.  The limit to Obama’s authority lies in the Senate.  The only thing that can stop a rogue president is impeachment — and a Senate with a Democrat majority will not allow conviction.

The real power to control Obama’s unlawful activities lies with the voters. So far, though, they’ve chosen not to exercise this power.  Although Obama had been manifestly re-writing laws to suit his purpose before the 2012 election (e.g., immigration laws and Obamacare), the voters shrugged and kept the Senate in Democrat hands.

If voters in 2014 again return Democrats to the Senate in sufficient numbers to block impeachment, the voters have granted Obama the authority to ignore the limitations that the Constitution places upon him.  It’s obviously not an express grant of authority, because the president is still violating the Constitution, but it’s an implicit grant of authority.  Like the bribed police officer at the scene of a crime, voters will simply be looking the other way.

And speaking of 2014, there’s a Ricochet thread thinking about campaign slogans.  This is the top suggestion:  “If you don’t like your Democrat. you don’t have to keep him. Vote for ______.”  I think it’s on the right track, but somehow a little unwieldy.

Given the record on which Obama and the Democrats will be running in 2014, what catchy slogans would you guys and gals suggest?

I am losing patience with idio . . . er, progressives on my Facebook page

Normally, when I see the usual liberal talking points on my Facebook page, I try to ignore them lest I damage my blood pressure.  Today, though, I got a wall of stupid.  I’ve already written here about the profound ignorance that lies behind the progressive masses’ repeated claim that Obamacare is the “law of the land” and that the Republicans can do nothing.  Aside from being grossly hypocritical coming from a party that refuses to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, it’s also ignorant.  The House has the power of the purse precisely because, as a representative body with a two-year turnover, it is the best reflection of the will of the people at any given moment.

I probably could have tolerated that stupidity if I hadn’t also gotten a boatload of dumb about the gun shots fired in Washington, D.C. today.  Early reports indicated that a driver who tried to slam into the White House was the shooter.  Instantly, people went on their anti-gun tirades.  Of course, when the dust settled, it turned out that the only shooters were the cops and that the person driving the car had a long history of mental illness.   (Warning:  site has autoplay video.)  When I passed this information on to the Lefties claiming that guns were at the root of this, at least two of them made the identical risible argument:  Even though the gal didn’t have a gun, she’s still a poster child for gun control, because she could have had a gun.

Honestly!  How in the world can you counter that kind of monomania?  It transcends reason and fact, and is an article of faith as profound as the Democrats’ historic belief that blacks are an inferior race who need either slavery or government welfare to function.

Given this type of irrational anti-gun lunacy, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that a Phoenix-area police officer was asked not to wear his uniform when he picked his child up from elementary school, because parents were frightened by his gun.

I love Ace’s take on this story.  The article that originally reported the story presented the school’s point of view:

A district spokeswoman told the station that “some parents” voiced concern about seeing a fully armed police officer on the school’s campus. The spokeswoman apologized that Urkov perhaps took the discussion the wrong way.

“It was not the intent of the principal to offend him,” the spokeswoman said.

To which Ace provided the only response possible:

Yes yes yes yes yes. He took it the wrong way. It’s on him. He didn’t understand your intent. He’s got the problem; not you.

Of course you don’t have a problem. Hysteria is not only natural, it’s preferable.

Shall we ban Cowboy Hats next? I mean: Cowboys. They carry six-shooters.

A few short observations regarding the shutdown *UPDATED*

Unlike past shutdowns, which were indeed quibbles about this or that, the current shutdown is a big deal.  The question posed is a fundamental one about the very nature of this nation:  Is the federal government the servant or the master of the American people.  Our Constitution says the former; sixty-years of federal expansion says the latter.

The WWII Memorial showdown in Washington makes concrete this abstract battle.  It forces us to ask whether a government separate from and dominant over citizens owns that open air memorial, or whether a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has gotten too big for its britches and needs to be knocked down a peg.

There can be no doubt that what the House is doing is constitutional.  Having said that, they are doing a terrible job of selling it, and that’s separate from the fact that the drive-by media is doing its best to tar and feather them.  It’s a reminder of something I’ve learned in the 12 years since I crossed the Rubicon and changed political affiliations:  Republicans are the party of smart ideologies and poor strategies.  Democrats/Progressives, while their ideas may be disastrous, as is proven by every time and place in which they been put into effect, are master strategists.  (And in that regard, Saul Alinsky is definitely their Sun Tzu.)

This problem is, in part, built into the system.  To the extent there are still conservatives in the Republican party, their individualism makes them as easy to herd as angry cats.  Democrats, on the other hand, find meaning in collective action.  Even when their ideas are bad, their monolithic front gives them power.

UPDATE:  James Taranto notes that, in this go-round, the usually tactically disciplined Democrat party  has been unusually maladroit.  Hubris or something else?

UPDATE 2:  David Stockman sees also sees what’s happening as a determinative moment, but for different reasons.

The House’s refusal to fund Obamacare is entirely constitutional — and James Madison personally approves this message

lincoln-memorial

My stock response to all those liberal Facebook friends who have insisted that the House is “unconstitutionally” holding Obamacare hostage, is that the Founders named it the “House of Representatives” and gave it the power of the purse for a reason.

The House’s members serve for much shorter terms than Supreme Court justices (life terms), executives (minimum 4 year terms) and Senators (minimum 6 year terms).  This means that, if people are not pleased with the decisions made by those more entrenched bodies, they can make their displeasure known through the House, where new representatives can be rotated in every two years.

Making their displeasure known is precisely what the People did in 2010 and again in 2012, when they “shellacked” the House Democrats, which was a clear rebuff to Obama and his “care.”  (It’s also entirely possible that Obama would also have been shellacked right out of office but for the IRS’s unconstitutional, illegal, unconscionable interference with free speech.)

In addition to the short term of office, which means the people can quickly punish or reward legislative conduct, the House of Representatives mirrors population dynamics.  The Senate is fixed at two representatives per state, there’s only one president, and there are nine Supreme Court justices.  The House, by contrast, is reconfigured every ten years to represent accurately the number of people in various population centers and deserts throughout the U.S.

The Founders deliberately gave the power of the purse to the federal branch most closely tied to American citizens, both in numbers and responsiveness:  The House is meant to use that power to put the brakes on schemes cooked up by members of the other branches of government who are elected or appointed in numbers unrelated to the American population, and who have job security unrelated, or less related, to their immediate conduct.  If the Founders were alive today, they’d say the roadblock inherent in the power of the purse is a feature, not a bug — and a pretty damned important feature too.

The above response came off the top of my head.  If I had studied the Federalist papers recently, however, I could simply have quoted James Madison. one of the Constitution’s primary architects, writing in Federalist No. 58 (and a groveling h/t to Tom Elias, of The New Editor, for this brilliant find):

The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.  (Emphasis added.)

What the House is doing is entirely constitutional, and we conservatives should be doing our best to trumpet that fact.  Moreover, given the federal takeover of the Lincoln Memorial, we should remind everyone that we live in a nation guaranteed “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Unlike a monarchy, the federal government doesn’t own the properties it is denying us.  Instead, we own the federal government.  The government is merely a caretaker, and a pretty damn surly, ineffectual, greedy, and tyrannical one at that.