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.

The awesome majesty of the state’s power — thoughts for Constitution Day

Nobody believes more strongly in defense attorneys than Progressives.  This is ironic, because the whole point of defense counsel is to be a bulwark against Big Government.  I was reminded of this fact when one of my children, out of the blue, wondered how defense attorneys could bear to represent their clients . . . the really bad ones, she hastened to add.

What an excellent question and one, I think, that goes to the heart of a citizen’s relationship to the state.

It all starts with the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Bill of Rights:

Fifth:  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

Sixth:  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.  (Emphasis added.)

These rights are inherent in each citizen.  Being Mirandized doesn’t create the rights; it simply reminds citizens in stressful situations that they have these rights.  Each of these rights has as its purpose protecting the citizen against the awesome majesty and power of the state.  With the Constitution in place, gone are the days of trials by fire or drowning; lengthy imprisonments before a trial; repeated prosecutions; and coerced testimony.  No matter what information we have about a criminal defendant’s conduct outside of the courtroom — no matter that a hundred people saw him stab the knife into someone’s heart — when he stands before the court, the law presumes him innocent and therefore entitled to every right that goes with that innocence.

In this context, a criminal defense attorney stands as the knowledgeable friend of an innocent man who would otherwise have to face alone everything that the state can bring to bear against him: its coercive power against witnesses; its wealth; its resources; its ownership of the judicial system; its familiarity with rules, law, and procedure; and, most importantly, its capacity to imprison or even to kill the person who stands before it.  A criminal court is Big Government made personal.  A criminal defense attorney is an honorable man (or woman) who stands as a necessary bulwark against potential tyranny.  The attorney represents not only his (or her) client, but all citizens.

Progressives are rightfully fanatic about making sure that an accused person has counsel.  At my law school, it was always the left of Left students who went on to become public defenders.  Most of them burned out, of course, because absent the presumptive assumption of innocence, the people defense counsel work with are for the most part not very savory.  Sure, there are the fools, the innocents, the dupes, the careless ones, the one-time, unlucky DUIs, and the victims, but for the most part, criminal defense work entails representing criminals.

Given their fealty to the notion that the government is an extremely dangerous entity, the power of which must always be constrained, it’s quite peculiar that Progressives are so enamored of Big Government.  One would think that they, more than others who don’t routinely think about our justice system, recognize how monumental government is and how dangerous it can be without our zealously reminding it of its limits.

The fundamental unconstitutionalism of Obama’s presidency

Much has been made of Obama’s statement that the gun rights crowd should stop worrying, because Obama contends that he is “constrained” by the system the Founders put in place.  If you don’t read his actual words with great care, it sounds as if he’s saying he’s contractually constrained — or, to put it in political language, he’s constitutionally constrained.  Without actually listening to him, we assume he’s saying, “Stop worrying, because even I understand that the Constitution stops me from grabbing your guns.”

The reason that there’s been such an uproar, though, is because that’s not what he’s saying.  Here’s the entire statement:

You hear some of these quotes, ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away.’  Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.

That short paragraph breaks down into three distinct thoughts:

Thought one:  Crazy gun rights nuts fear the government.

Thought two:  People elect their government.

Thought three:  Those who are elected “are constrained by a system that our Founders put into place.”

Obama’s nasty language (and it is nasty, to the extent it calls at least 50% of Americans paranoid and ill-informed) says two things that are wrong.

The first wrong thing Obama’s implication, in thoughts two and three, that politicians are charged with taking care of our Constitutional rights.  That’s bass ackwards.  We are charged with taking care of our Constitutional rights — they’re natural rights, inherent in us, and the Second Amendment exists to make sure that if too many elected officials forget that those are natural rights, and begin to think they’re merely legislative rules that legislators can change, we can rid our country of these politicians’ tyranny.

The second wrong thing, which is more subtle, is that Obama is implying in thoughts two and three that, if a sufficient number of Americans elect anti-gun politicians, that majority overrides the constitution.  What he says in those last five sentences (“the government is us,” “you elect yourselves,” “the election is for you”) is that, if a majority of people elect politicians who support an unconstitutional idea, those politicians get to move forward enacting that idea irrespective of the Constitution.  That is a staggering misreading of the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.

All of which gets me back to gay marriage and abortion, not because I’m specifically concerned with gay marriage and abortion, but because I’m concerned about the Constitutional implications when the Left takes on gay marriage and abortion.  First, neither is in the Constitution.  In 1973, Supreme Court justices used an emanation of a penumbra based upon an inference to find a “constitutional right to abortion” in the first trimester, with that individual woman’s right decreasing steadily until the third trimester, when the viable fetus became the state’s responsibility.

Since 1973, that trimester by trimester calculation has been abandoned so completely that a Planned Parenthood representative felt comfortable telling the Florida legislature that it was okay to “continue” an abortion if the baby manages to emerge alive.  In some places, that’s called murder.  Indeed, that’s why Kermit Gosnell is being tried for murder.  In Planned Parenthood’s world, however, his work was constitutionally legitimate.

As for gay marriage, it’s being cast as an inchoate civil right because no one can contend the Founders thought about it.  They certainly knew about abortion, although they made no mention of it, but they definitely didn’t consider the possibility of gay marriage.

In the Founders’ time, marriage was thought to be only one possible thing:  the joining of man and woman.  If the Constitution had made mention of it (which it didn’t), that it is what it would have meant.  The Left, though, is now recasting marriage as the uniting of two people who love each other.  The Founders would have been surprised.  In those days, after all, marriage was still very much a business proposition, one that gave a woman children and the assurance of care for those children, and one that gave a man the right to his wife’s financial estate, and the promise of progeny to inherit that combined estate.  If a marriage included love, such as John and Abigail Adams had, or George and Martha Washington enjoyed, that was a pleasant byproduct of a sexual and economic transaction sanctified by religion and sanctioned by the state.

The Obama administration has already used ObamaCare as a bludgeon by which to force conservative religious organizations to sponsor abortion. Before, those organizations preached against it; now, they’re being forced to pay for it.

What happened with abortion matters because the same thing is happening with gay marriage.  During the gay marriage debate’s first iteration, when California’s Prop. 8 was on the ballot, and before ObamaCare, we were promised that there was no way that the State could force religious institutions to perform gay marriages.  “After all,” said Prop. 8 opponents airily, “the state doesn’t force churches to perform abortions.”  Well, in Obama world — secure in his sufficient majority — the State does force churches to perform abortions.

The same will be true with gay marriage.  People dismiss the fact that religious institutions in other countries have been forced to perform gay marriages, or been punished for not performing gay marriages. Those countries, they say, don’t have a constitution.  We know, though, that this constitutional argument is meaningless in Obama’s America.  Last year, his administration made clear that it is unconstrained by Constitutional concerns.  And last week, Obama explained why:  if he feels he has the power, that power overrides the constitution.

At least now we know where we stand.

The question is whether, by 2014, we can convince a majority of American voters that their constitutional rights are at risk and that, even if they agree with the Obama plans so far (abortion, gay marriage, gun control), they may not like the next plans he has lined up down the road.  If I were Obama, I’d go after the 4th and 5th Amendments next.  After getting Americans to understand this comes the harder task:  keeping their focus all the way through 2016.

The problem when it comes to educating Americans is that these ideas are so horribly complex.  They don’t reduce to a poster.  It’s not going to resonate with most Americans to see a poster of a sad priest being forced to perform a gay marriage ceremony.  They’ll probably just say that the priest deserves to suffer because his organization once turned a blind eye to pedophiles.  (Under that standard, of course, the University of Pennsylvania should be razed and the earth sown with salt.)

When the liberals in my world catch hold of the fact that I don’t support gay marriage, they attack me as a homophobe.  I’m really not.  What I am is someone deeply concerned by the Constitutional implications of a mad rush to create implicit constitutional rights where none existed before, and then to use those inferred rights to destroy explicit ones.  They should be just as concerned.  If they want gay marriage as a Constitutional right, they should amend the Constitution, rather than trying to destroy it.  For all they know, they may be the next in line when the Obama state turns its destructive beam on yet another constitutional right.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Found it on Facebook — ranking Constitutional rights

For copy right reasons, I can’t produce the image here, but I can describe the cartoon that Joel Pett drew.  It shows two young, earth-mother types sitting at a coffee shop.  One is reading a newspaper with a headline stating “Restrictive abortion laws.”  She turns to her friend and says “I’ve changed my mind…  We may well need high-capacity fire arms to protect our rights…”

This cartoon is wrong at two very profound levels.  The first thing that’s wrong is the constitution hierarchy.  In the cartoonist’s world, which is the Left’s world, the lower ranked right in the Constitution is the Second Amendment, despite the fact that the Founders came up with it and the fact that it explicitly states that nothing and nobody can infringe in any way on the People’s right to bear arms.  For Pett and his crowd, it’s still subordinate to a “right” that doesn’t show up anywhere in the Constitution but that is, instead, a judge-made emanation of a penumbra of an inference.  He could just as easily have had his cartoon character state “I will reluctantly, and temporarily, support an explicit right in order to kill those who would try to deny me a “right” that can only generously be called implicit.”

The second reason that the cartoon is profoundly wrong is because it essentially advocates a sickening world view.  It says that the right to kill a fetus is so overarching that it’s okay to drag out a stale, old, white-men created Bill of Rights doctrine in order to enable abortion supporters to kill their opponents.

The same people who protest against the death penalty (which is also explicitly acknowledged in the Bill of Rights, provided that it is neither cruel or unusual), believe that the judge-made right to kill fetuses should be reinforced by killing those who oppose killing fetuses.

As always, I’ll pause here to say that I remain somewhat ambivalent about abortion.  I recognize circumstances where it is appropriate, and I still can’t entirely shake my old pro-Choice leanings.  Nevertheless, I continue to be sickened by the way in which the Left advances abortion.  You cannot have an honest debate on the subject without acknowledging that the fetus is a life, and then further acknowledging that society has always recognized instances in which one life is allowed to trump another.  That’s a worthy debate.  The game the Left plays, however, is disgusting.  “I’ll see (or rather, ignore) your Constitutional rights and raise you two mob rules.  Hah!  I win.”

Charles Krauthammer has been reading Bookworm Room about gay marriage

That post title is, of course, a wild leap of faith.  But there’s no doubt but that Dr. Krauthammer has come to exactly the same conclusion I’ve been trumpeting forever at this blog:  making gay marriage a civil right protected by the Constitution will cause a headlong crash into the First Amendment’s promise that government will leave religious doctrine and practice alone.

I’m going to quote myself from March 2009, long before gay marriage got to the Supreme Court:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religion organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis.  What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages.  It also ignores the fact that abortion is a legal right, not a constitutional one, while gay marriage proponents have been framing it in the opposite way:  they say gay marriage as a constitutional, rather than a mere legal right.

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march.  Instead, it’s a sacrament.  A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God.

So imagine this scenario:  Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them.  The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level marry them.  The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights.  Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues.  It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

The only thing that’s changed now is that, thanks to ObamaCare, which requires that Catholic institutions pay for birth control and abortifacients, the Obama administration has already managed to create a Constitutional crisis with regard to abortion.  I hadn’t seen that one coming back in 2009.

Ted Cruz’s question to Dianne Feinstein regarding the constitutionality of her gun law should be required reading for conservatives

Ted Cruz

Every day, I am more impressed with Ted Cruz.  He’s smart, he’s courageous, he’s knowledgeable, and he’s deeply loyal to the Constitution.  I understand that he went to Harvard Law School, rather than my alma mater, The University of Texas School of Law in Austin, but I can forgive him that failing because he’s so damn smart and intellectually brave.

Cruz couldn’t have asked better questions yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Dianne Feinstein’s proposed gun control bill.  You’ve already heard those questions.  DiFi’s huffy, offended response was the only one available to her, because he’d shut the door on her intellectually.  Thus, all she could say was “Who do you think you’re talking to, little boy?  I was writing unconstitutional laws before you were born!”  That was fun.

(Let me be catty for a minute. DiFi says she’s not a sixth grader. Hoo-boy, is that obvious! She looks like a mummy. She was once a very attractive younger woman, but she’s morphed into a creepily scary old woman. Okay, I needed to get that out of my system.)

Typically, though, it was Rush Limbaugh who summed up most perfectly what Ted asked, what it meant, and why DiFI had just enough firing brain cells to realize what a devastating attack Cruz had leveled at her bill.  Here’s what Rush had to say this morning, which started with him playing a tape of Cruz’s brilliant question:

CRUZ: The question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is: Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment? Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?

RUSH: Are you applauding, folks?

Are you standing up and cheering here?

This is just not done! These people are never called on this. Here’s Dianne Feinstein with her list of approved guns. Dianne Feinstein, California senator, former mayor of San Francisco. Okay, fine. Great resume. You and you alone are gonna determine what kind of guns we can have all? So Cruz said, “Well, are you going to determine what books we can all read? Are you gonna determine what words can’t be said and what words can?” and liberals are not used to this. This is effrontery. This is lecturing. This is disrespect, as far as the left is concerned.

Dianne Feinstein was not happy with this, and she told Cruz not to lecture her.</blockquote>

It’s hard to believe that Cruz and Obama attended the same law school.  Cruz actually learned something.  Obama was probably too busy organizing communities and hobnobbing with Ayers & Co. to pay attention in class.  Or, given Cruz’s accurate statement about the Leftists’ in charge of the Harvard Law School classrooms, may Obama was paying too much attention.  Either way, one student graduated knowing American law, while the other student graduated knowing Karl Marx.

Coming soon — your constitutional right to bestiality?

A face that only a zoophile could love

I know this isn’t my usual blog fare, but I had so much fun writing up this story at Mr. Conservative that I’m reprinting it here in its entirety:

When Carlos Romero was tried in Marion County, Florida, for having sex with a donkey, he mounted an unusual defense:  It’s unconstitutional to ban donkey love or, indeed, to ban any sexual relationships between humans and animals.  Carlos eventually plea bargained his claim, although he still plans to appeal the judgment holding that his conduct was illegal.

It all started when Carlos was caught last August in a compromising position with a female miniature donkey named Doodle.  (Doodle was, apparently, a very pretty donkey.)  The state charged him with sexual activities involving animals, a first-degree misdemeanor.  Rather than copping a deal after copping a donkey feel, Carlos insisted upon going to trial in order to defend his constitutional right to have sex with animals.

 In papers filed with the Court, Carlos public defenders (who must have been fresh out of, or still in, law school) argued that Florida’s statute banning mixed species sexual relations infringed upon Carlo’s due process rights and violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. More specifically, said Carlos’ council, the Florida law infringed Carlos’ “personal liberty and autonomy when it comes to private intimate activities.”

Further, said the lawyers, “By making sexual conduct with an animal a crime, the statute demeans individuals like Defendant (Romero) by making his private sexual conduct a crime.”

Carlos’ enthusiastic defense counsel didn’t stop there. In case Carlos’ privacy rights weren’t enough to make a constitutional argument, the attorneys also argued that the statute was deficient in that the state was not required to prove either that the animal was injured or that it did not consent. “Therefore, the only possible rational basis for the statute is a moral objection to sexual acts considered deviant or downright ‘disgusting,’?”

(The lawyers really weren’t thinking when they made that argument. Florida’s anti-bestiality statute is the animal equivalent of statutory rape laws, which also do not rest upon the absence of injury or the presence of consent. The law presumes that children are injured when an adult has sex with them and it also states that children cannot legally give consent. Same goes for animals.)

Despite the intellectual and legal weakness of their arguments, Carlos’ attorneys were on a role:

The personal morals of the majority, whether based on religion or traditions, cannot be used as a reason to deprive a person of their personal liberties. If the statute were to require sexual conduct with animals to be nonconsensual or to cause injury in order to be a crime, then perhaps the State would have a rational basis and legitimate state interest in enforcement.

[snip]

The classification of zoophilic acts as first-degree misdemeanors is grossly out of proportion to the severity of zoophilic acts.

One has to admire the zeal Carlos’ attorneys showed when they afforded Carlos’ his constitutional right to an attorney. He is a most unappealing character. According to the Gainesville Sun,

Romero admitted that he gets sexually aroused around animals more so than humans and allegedly masturbated with Doodle in his room. He claimed that he would have had sex with the miniature donkey eventually, but that she wasn’t ready and was “blooming into maturity.”

“Blooming into maturity?”  Funnily enough, that’s exactly what pedophiles say when they groom their child victims for rape, both statutory and otherwise.

On December 14, Carlos Romero pleaded no contest and was sentenced to a year of probation, including psychiatric counseling, testing for STDs, and a prohibition against getting anywhere near children. Probation rather than jail was important to him, Carlos said, because it would have been difficult to mount an appeal challenging the law if he had been sent to jail.

Carlos’ promised appeal means that there is still some likelihood that the Supreme Court will one day have to decide whether states may criminalize bestiality. Insurers already struggling with the increased costs resulting from ObamaCare may discover that there’s a whole new class of federal rules controlling medical and veterinary insurance coverage for mixed-species marriages.

What I’d like to write to my child’s teacher about his gun control advocacy in class

As a matter of professional ethics, public school teachers should not use their classroom to advance a specific viewpoint.  It’s not just that teachers receive their pay from taxpayers who don’t wish to see their money used to indoctrinate captive children in views antithetical to some or all of the taxpayers.  It’s more subtle than that.  Teachers are also authority figures whose opinions color a child’s mental development and whose power over those all-important grades may coerce a student into believing that academic success requires that he must accept the teacher’s views.  To force feed a specific political ideology on a vulnerable, captive audience is a violation of the public trust.

Sadly, these ethical constraints do not weigh heavily upon many teachers, especially teachers who have a Leftist political ideology.  Just yesterday, my son came home from high school and shared with me two New York Times articles that his English teacher had distributed to the students.  One article was by Elisabeth Rosenthal and the other by Nicholas Kristof.  Each advocates a significant increase in gun control.  The teacher was unable to explain to the students why he believed those articles were in any way relevant to the book they were studying.

Letter

When me son told me about this breach of public school ethics, I immediately sat down and wrote a long letter to the teacher.  I didn’t castigate.  I simply pointed out errors in Rosenthal’s and Kristof’s work, and then offered the other side of the gun control argument, which he had apparently forgotten to share with his students.

When I read my letter over, though, I realized that, while I had written an excellent blog post, the teacher probably wouldn’t view my letter as an invitation to open classroom debate.  Instead, there was a distinct chance that he would turn on my son, who is effectively a hostage in his classroom.  Teachers know that parents and students in our affluent community direct all their efforts to getting into the “best” colleges, and that a single bad grade can jettison those academic plans.

NRA Logo

I still intend to approach the teacher, but I will do so in “dumb blonde” mode, which sees my looking winsome and asking sweetly if he could please explain to me why he handed out documents that touch only upon one side of a very strongly debated issue (and, moreover, on a side that sees Americans in greater sync with the NRA than with the Obamites.).  However, since I hate to let a good piece of writing go to waste, I offer here my letter challenging Kristof’s and Rosenthal’s views, and offering an opposing argument in favor of only the most limited gun control laws. If my child wasn’t a hostage (figuratively, if not actually), I would have said this to the teacher:

Dear Mr. English Teacher:

I appreciate that you are encouraging your students to engage in analytical thinking.  I therefore thought I could help begin the dialog by reviewing the factual and logical fallacies that underlie those two opinion pieces and by offering an opposing viewpoint.

I’ll begin by examining Dr. Rosenthal’s “news analysis,” which relies upon failed Latin American countries to argue that “More Guns = More Killings.[1]  As you’ve probably already realized, Dr. Rosenthal, despite purporting to present news, includes almost no data in her article.  For the most part, she relies on anecdotal evidence and strong opinions.  When she does introduce data, she drifts from one country to another to make her points, without ever anchoring her facts to a statistical analysis of rising or falling gun crime within a single country.

Rosenthal’s inability to stick to one data set is a common fallacy.  People who argue in favor of strict gun control like to point out that England, which has extremely strict gun control, has a lower gun homicide rate than the United States.  The logical conclusion, gun-control proponents imply, is that if the United States enacted English gun control laws it too would have an equally low homicide rate.

The problem with this syllogism is that England and the United States have never had comparable gun homicide rates, a situation going back to the 19th century, when England had no gun control (although poaching was a capital offense) and America’s gun control was primarily limited to keeping guns out of black hands.  Nineteenth-century America, a newer, rougher frontier country with a heterogeneous population was already more violent than England, which had an old civilization, a homogenous society, and a vast Empire to act as a safety valve for criminals and malcontents.

What’s infinitely more interesting than this false equivalence is to compare English crime rates before gun control to English crime rates after gun control.  That analysis – comparing like to like – yields more useful data; namely, that England’s violent crime rate, including its murder rate, skyrocketed in the wake of the strict gun control enacted following the Dunblane School massacre.[2]  While England still has fewer per capita gun homicides than the United States, it’s the EU’s leader in robbery, muggings, rape, and people being beaten to death.

Things are just as interesting when one compares violent crime rates between American states.  William Landes and John Lott, two university economists, published a peer-reviewed, long-term study examining the twenty-year impact of various public policies upon multiple shootings in all fifty states.  They concluded “that the only policy factor to have a consistently significant influence on multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws.”  Perhaps I should add here is that the “significant influence” was a decrease in mass shootings.

For Dr. Rosenthal to offer anecdotal comparisons between war-torn, crime-ridden Latin American countries, on the one hand, and the more stable, but still heterogeneous United States, on the other hand, is as ridiculous as it is to compare pre- and post-gun control statistics in the United States and England without first adjusting for England’s historically low crime rate as compared to America’s historically higher crime rate.  A logical analysis must begin with a “before” and “after” look at a single country:  Did violent crime go up or down in that country when the government either prohibited or allowed private citizens to carry guns?  Only when one has established this base-line data can one begin to draw conclusions about gun control generally, or about trends that are common to a variety of nations.

Dr. Rosenthal’s erroneous analysis is a classic case of confusing correlation with causation.  The fact that the Latin American countries she visited have both sturdy defenses against crime (including those armed guards) and high crime rates doesn’t mean the former caused the latter.  Indeed, it’s more reasonable to believe that the former resulted from the latter.

In addition to committing logical fallacies, Dr. Rosenthal relies upon faulty statistical data about gun control in Australia.  Without linking to any study, Rosenthal blithely quotes a Ms. Peters, who contends that Australia’s extremely strict gun control led to a 50% drop in homicide and suicide rates.

Actual studies show a different story, one that makes Ms. Peters look like a liar by omission.  It is true that there was a drop in homicide and suicide rates,  The available evidence, however, indicates that gun control had nothing to do with those drops.

Beginning in 1969, gun homicides in Australia started a consistent decline.  After the gun ban, barring a single uptick in gun homicides the year after Australia enacted the ban, gun homicides continued to decline at almost the same rate as before (meaning that the gun ban made no difference to the decline).  What changed in Australia wasn’t the guns, it was the culture.

The claimed drop in suicides is equally fallacious.  What Dr. Rosenthal fails to note is that all forms of suicide dropped in Australia.  Not only were people no longer shooting themselves, they also stopped swallowing poison and jumping from high places.  In this context, it’s worth noting that Japan, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the world (not to mention the most law-abiding population), has the highest suicide rate in the First World.

Rosenthal is equally careless with statistics when she baldly asserts that “[b]efore (the gun ban), Australia had averaged one mass shooting a year. (Since then,) there have been no mass killings.”  What she doesn’t point out (or maybe doesn’t know) is that mass murders are extremely rare, so rare that one cannot discern annual or even decennial trends.

One can, however, discern trends over a span of several decades, and that analysis reveals that mass murders are no more common in America now than they were forty years ago.  The difference today isn’t the murders’ scope; it’s the media’s frenzy.[3]

The one thing that has been remarkably consistent when governments ban private citizens from carrying arms is that the violent crime rate increases.  I already noted the increase in England’s violent crime rate with the gun ban.  One needn’t go so far from home, though.  Both Washington, D.C. and Chicago, which enacted the strictest gun control laws in America, saw their violent crime rates skyrocket.

Beleaguered Washington, D.C. residents eventually filed suit, alleging that the gun control laws violated their constitutional right to bear arms.  The Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller agreed, striking down the gun control laws.  Gun control proponents then predicted that Washington, D.C.’s already high crime rate would reach apocalyptic heights.  They erred:

But Armageddon never arrived. Quite the contrary, murders in Washington plummeted by an astounding 25 percent in 2009, dropping from 186 murders in 2008 to 140. That translates to a murder rate that is now down to 23.5 per 100,000 people, Washington’s lowest since 1967. While other cities have also fared well over the last year, D.C.’s drop was several times greater than that for other similar sized cities. According to preliminary estimates by the FBI, nationwide murders fell by a relatively more modest 10 percent last year and by about 8 percent in other similarly sized cities of half a million to one million people (D.C.’s population count is at about 590,000).

Dr. Rosenthal might have more to say on guns in other articles.  One hopes she does, because her arguments in this article do not hold up to closer factual or logical scrutiny.

Nicholas Kristof’s article (Lessons From Guns And A Goose) is equally riddled with logical non sequiturs and factual errors.  Proving that he is a savvier advocate than Dr. Rosenthal, though, Kristof starts by proving his bona fides:  He used to shoot a .22 caliber rifle and he took an N.R.A. safety class.  Kristof apparently hopes that this childhood moment will disguise the fact that he has no expertise when it comes to either statistics or gun crimes.

Having established himself as a knowledgeable gun-lover, Kristof then tells a comfy little story about foolish farmers squaring off with their guns over a goose.  “See,” he says,  “Guns are bad because they cause escalation!”  It doesn’t seem to occur to Kristof that the farmers could have squared off equally well, and equally lethally, with other weapons, such as cars, knives, fists, bats, acid, pitchforks, or whatever else their imaginations and surroundings could supply.  Anecdotes, no matter how cute, are not data.

Having set the stage (“expertise” and “data”), Kristof then dredges up the usual talking points about suicides and gun violence in the home.  As I noted above, though, suicide statistics do not track neatly with gun statistics.  In Australia, they declined across the board, while in Japan, suicide rates are horrifyingly high, despite stringent gun bans in a compliant society.

As for domestic violence, it seems appropriate here to point out that in tightly gun-controlled England, domestic violence is steadily increasing, with a 35% increase in one year alone.  Two points can be made from this statistical fact:  First, humans are ingenious and, baulked of one way to commit mayhem, will invariably find another.  Second, guns are a great equalizer when it comes to a small woman and a big man.

As must be quite obvious by now, one can nitpick forever when it comes to the erroneous facts, false comparisons, baseless anecdotes, and other logical fallacies that plague both Kristof’s and Rosenthal’s articles.  These nitpickings, however, are negative arguments that refute inaccurate information, without then providing an affirmative case for gun rights.  In that regard, there are two positive arguments in favor of gun rights that it would be interesting to see Kristof or Rosenthal address.

The first positive argument, which both Kristof and Rosenthal ignore, is that the right to bear arms is one of the premier constitutional rights.  Too many Americans take our Constitution for granted, without considering its centrality, not to government, but to the individuals being governed.  Unlike the various federal statutes which impose laws on the people of this land, the Constitution imposes its restrictions on the federal government itself.  The predicate to these individual rights is 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.

Without this acknowledgement of our unalienable status and dignity, the explicitly listed Rights in the Bill of Rights are meaningless.  These unalienable rights – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — are the abstract foundational concepts that justify a citizen’s more concrete “right” to have spheres of activity (or inactivity) upon which the government cannot impinge.

Which gets us to the Bill of Rights.  What exactly is it?  I mean, we all know what’s in it, but I don’t think most people stop and really think about how important it is to them, as individuals.

The Constitution is a contract between the People (acting through their state-elected representatives) and the government.  The main body of the Constitution, however, has nothing to do with the People, and everything to do with defining a functioning government.  Thus, while it seeks to make sure that the executive can’t overwhelm the legislature or that the courts can’t overwhelm the executive, there’s nothing in the Constitution about whether the government as a whole, or any of its individual parts, can overwhelm the citizens under its rule.

The Founders realized in the wake of the Constitution’s ratification that creating a government is not the same as protecting the People’s unalienable under that government.  If the government can “giveth” something and then “taketh it away” again, that something is not a right, it is, instead, a mere privilege.

Rights, on the other hand, belong to the People independent of government.  Rights have nothing to do with government control over people, and everything to do with the People’s right to control government.

That rights are independent of government does not mean that the government cannot use its aggregated military, police, and taxing power to destroy those rights.  Our rights’ fragility is what drove the Founding generation to create the Bill of Rights.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution describe rights that are fundamental to the individual and, therefore, transcend government.  The Founders stated them explicitly, however, because they refused to assume that a beneficent government would automatically protect these rights.  It was therefore necessary to err on the side of caution and warn the federal government away from touching the People’s core liberties.

The net result of adding a single extraordinary sentence in the Declaration of Independence and the first ten amendments to the Constitution is pure magic:  For the first time in history, a government exists that respects the bright line of human inviolability into which government cannot intrude.

On the People’s side of that bright line are the freedoms to speak, worship, and assemble.  And of course, the right to be armed, for whatever the heck reason you want, is also one of those unalienable right.

Contrary to what gun control advocates would have us believe, the Founders did not toss the right to bear arms into the Bill of Rights just because people were marching around with slow-to-load, hard-to-aim muskets or because people liked to hunt.  Instead, they included this right because they viewed it as an important bulwark defending individual liberties:

Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself.  They are the American people’s liberty teeth and the keystone under independence….  The rifle and pistol are equally indispensable….  The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference  –  they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.  When firearms go, all goes – we need them every hour.  (George Washington)

False is the idea of utility. . . that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction (of liberty).  The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws o’f such nature.  They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . such laws serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.  (Thomas Jefferson ‘Commonplace Book’ 1775, quoting 18th Century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in on Crimes and Punishment (1764))

No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.  The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny in government.   (Thomas Jefferson, June 1776, Thomas Jefferson Papers, (C. J. Boyd, Ed., 1950))

Although our rights are inviolable in principle, in fact the government can impose restrictions upon them – but if it does so, the government must prove that these restrictions are absolutely necessary.  The opposite is not true.  That is, the People do not bear the burden of proving that the government cannot impinge upon these unalienable rights.

For example, although we Americans have the right to free speech, that right can be limited in very specific situations.  We all know that one cannot go around falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  That’s certainly speech, but the downside risk of a panicked rush to the exit far outweighs the right to free speech in that specific instance.

Those who favor strict gun control argue that, by showing that guns kill innocent people just as surely as false cries of “fire” do, they have satisfied their burden of proving that gun control is as much a necessity as speech limitations on falsely shouting “fire.”  This argument is wrong for two reasons.

The first reason is that, unlike freedom of speech, which is a generalized right, the right to bear arms is specifically and absolutely articulated:  it “shall not be infringed.”  Although we’ve long recognized that government can, in fact, infringe on this right, the standard to do so is incredibly high.

The second reason the gun control argument cannot reach the high constitutional standard for imposing strict limitations on gun rights is because it forgets that guns don’t just take lives, they also save lives.  Until one produces an accurate risk-benefit analysis, showing that more people die because of guns than are saved by them, one cannot meet the constitutional standard for infringing  on the right to bear arms.

I promised above that there are two affirmative arguments that favor preventing all but the most limited infringement on gun rights.  The second affirmative argument is grounded in this intellectual limitation that has Progressives seeing only dead bodies, without any regard for those who do not die thanks to guns.  This myopia creates the giant intellectual chasm that exists between those who oppose the Second Amendment and those who support it.  The former see only the people who died in the past, while the latter count the ones who will live on into the future.

Logically, we know that people are going to die under any circumstances.  Even those who argue most strenuously in favor of total gun-control concede that gun control will not actually do away with guns.  They’re just pretty sure it will decrease the number of guns overall.

With a generic decrease in guns as their goal, gun control proponents ignore the fact, proven in Washington, D.C., Chicago, England, Mexico, and countless other gun control environments, that this decrease is always lopsided:  law-abiding people end up being disarmed, while lawless and delusional people are the ones carrying the remaining arms.

I started this letter with a reference to two economists, John Lott and William Landes, whose statistical data showed that concealed-carry laws are the only thing that cause a measurable decrease in mass shootinggs. It therefore seems appropriate to end this letter by looking to another economist, Frédéric Bastiat, the Frenchman who wrote the magnificent Parable of the Broken Window back in 1850.  If the parable doesn’t seem relevant at first, please bear with me, and I will explain why it matters here (emphasis mine):

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation—”It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade—that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs—I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

Just as is the case with the economic illiterate who cannot imagine that money might be spent on something more useful than fixing a broken window, a gun control advocate’s world view “is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”  He counts those who have died, but cannot even begin to imagine those whose lives were saved or never threatened.  Point such an advocate to a story about an off-duty deputy who was able to stop a mall shooter, and he will say only that “the shooter’s aim was bad, so he wasn’t going to kill anyone anyway.”

To the gun control proponent, a story without dead bodies is no story at all and it certainly has no statistical validity in the debate over the Second Amendment.  To one who believes in the Second Amendment, however, stories about people using concealed carry guns to take out mass shooters matter because we, unlike our gun-control friend, are able to take account of those people who survived what would otherwise have been a mass shooting.

In the same way, when a person who supports gun rights looks at crime statistics showing that legally-armed communities have a lower murder rate than gun-controlled communities, he thinks of all those law-abiding citizens in the first community who sleep safely in their beds at night.  To him, these “not-dead” people are as statistically relevant and important as the dead in that pathetic gun-controlled town.

You are fortunate to have a classroom full of intelligent, engaged young people.  It is a disservice to them to present them with only one side of an argument that goes to core issues about government control and individual freedom.  I urge you to hand out to the students some of the many thoughtful articles that explain (with data!) just why our American right to bear arms is so precious, and why it is so dangerous to allow emotionalism and hysteria to drive the political process.

Very truly yours,

Bookworm

 


[1] I am indebted to Ann Coulter, whose rebuttal to Rosenthal’s article gave me the jump-start I needed for my letter.  You’ll see echoes of both Ann’s essay structure and her source materials in the Rosenthal discussion.

[2] Note the article’s headline:  “Hand gun crime ‘up’ despite ban.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the BBC’s crack team of reporters that hand gun crime might have gone up, not despite the ban, but because of it.)

[3] In this regard, it’s also worth noting that the worst mass murders in America did not involve guns:  In 1927, Andrew Kehoe set off bombs at a Michigan school, killing 44 people (38 of whom were children), and injuring 58 others.  In 1995, Timothy McVeigh used a bomb to kill 168 people.  In 2001, Islamist terrorist used three hijacked airplanes and some box cutters to kill 2,996 people.

Random thoughts about the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Civil Rights, and ObamaCare

Fellow Weasel Watcher Greg, at Rhymes with Right, came up with a good poster likening every woman’s right to have a gun to a black woman’s right to sit anywhere she wants in the bus.  That poster, combined with a discussion I had with some young ‘uns about the Bill of Rights got me thinking about the expression “Civil Rights,” which is something the Left bandies about freely.

Lately, the Left has taken to calling government control of American health care a Civil Right. We all know that’s wrong, but it’s worth understanding precisely why it’s wrong.  I’m still trying to organize my thoughts here, so please bear with me as a waffle my way through this.

United States Declaration of Independence

The beginning of any discussion of civil rights must be 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.

This single sentence is the “whereas” the precedes the Constitution.  Without this acknowledgement of God-given human status and dignity, the explicitly listed Rights in the Bill of Rights are meaningless.  These unalienable rights are the abstract predicates that justify a citizen’s more concrete “right” to have certain areas of functioning upon which the government cannot impinge.  Unless we acknowledge that humans — all humans — are equal and deserving of Life, Liberty, and the ability to make their way in the world, all the other bulwarks against government overreach are meaningless.

Second Amendment

Which gets us to the Bill of Rights.  What exactly is it?  I mean, we all know what’s in it, but I don’t think most people stop and think about what it is.

The Constitution is a contract between the People (acting through their state-elected representatives) and the government.  Its sole purpose is to describe what form the federal government will take.  It’s a rather dull document that’s given over to defining the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch, and then apportioning power and responsibilities between the three of them.

The main body of the Constitution has nothing to do with the People, and everything to do with defining a functioning government.  Thus, while it seeks to make sure that the executive can’t overwhelm the legislature or that the courts can’t overwhelm the executive, there’s nothing in it about whether the government as a whole can overwhelm the citizens under its rule.

What the Founders realized in the wake of the Constitution’s ratification is that creating a government is not the same as protecting the People’s declared rights under that government.  “Rights” aren’t things that the government gives people and that it can take away from people.  Things that the government can “giveth and taketh away” are merely privileges.  Rights, on the other hand, belong to the People outside of the government.  Rights have nothing to do with government control over people, and everything to do with the People’s right to control government.  They preexist the government and will continue to exist long after the government is gone.  Rights are independent of government.

That rights are independent of government does not mean that the government cannot use its aggregated power to destroy those rights.  That they are destructible, despite being unalienable, is what concerned the Founding generation and what led them to create the Bill of Rights.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution recognize that the rights described are fundamental rights that transcend government, but that a tyrannical government can nevertheless destroy these fundamental rights.  Rather than assuming that a beneficent government will automatically protect these rights, the Founders erred on the side of caution and warned the government that it had (and has) no power to touch rights that exist in the People, irrespective of the government.

Combined, that extraordinary sentence in the Declaration of Independence and of the first ten amendments to the Constitution create a bright line of human inviolability into which government cannot intrude.  For example, from the Declaration of Independence, we have a controlling principle that explains why, even though sitting in the front of the bus isn’t set out explicitly or even implicitly in the Bill of Rights, it is still a fundamental Right that is a necessary predicate to the Bill of Rights.  Rights must be applied equally to all humankind, because humankind is created equally.

Freedom to speak, worship, and assemble are unalienable rights.  The right to be armed, for whatever the heck reason you want, is an unalienable right.  The right to have your home free from American troops in an unalienable right.  The right to be protected from torture and coercion aimed at forcing you to convict yourself out of your own mouth is an unalienable right.  The state has the right to execute you if a properly constituted trial finds you guilty of a capital crime, but you have the right to an execution that is neither cruel (death by torture) nor unusual (death by bizarre forms of torture).  There are other unalienable rights.

Let me say again what these rights are:  They are a bright line of human inviolability and power that the government, despite its concentrated strength (police forces, armies, taxing powers, etc.) cannot attack or abridge.

Once one understands the difference between Rights (which are unalienable) and privileges (which depend on the government we elect) we can see why it’s so ridiculous when the Left describes health care as a “civil right.”  It’s not.  True civil rights recognize that citizens and the government are adversaries:  the government constantly attempts to impose itself on the citizens, and the citizens have as their bulwark the Declaration and the Bill of Rights to protect them from this government overreach.  Good health is not a matter of government overreach — except, of course, when the government uses health as a means of undermining the Bill of Rights.

This then, is the problem with ObamaCare: Rather than upholding a civil right, it is created to undermine people’s civil rights.  Its death panels contravene the unalienable right to Life.  Its abortion and contraception mandates directly impinge upon the unalienable right to freedom of worship.  It’s proposed requirements that doctors ask prying questions about guns infringes upon the unalienable right to keep and bear arms.  And Justice Roberts’ decision to the contract, its penalties for inaction are a direct infringement to people’s liberty.

As I said, this is a work in progress, so I don’t have a rousing or neat conclusion.  I’m not even sure what to do with these thoughts, but I did want to get them down while they were still swirling in my head.  Please feel free to add to or refine upon what I’ve written.

Found it on Facebook: Analogizing guns and cars

Michael Ramirez pithily sums up all the deliberate or accidental hazards in American life that exceed the risks of rifle (“automatic” or otherwise) violence:

Michael Ramirez on gun violence

As you can see, cars are infinitely more deadly to Americans than are the rifles that are getting Progressives so excited. Those who wish to control guns think they’ve come up with the perfect counterargument to people who point out that we should do something about cars before we do something about guns:

Comparing guns and cars

The above poster is what happens after two generations of public school civics classes that focus obsessively on PC rights, while ignoring incidentals such as the Constitution.  Unlike guns, cars are not protected by the Constitution nor do they fall within the federal government’s purview.  The right to drive is purely a state’s rights issue, and the 10th Amendment therefore gives the individual states a fair amount of leeway.  To the extent cars travel on roads that fall within the Interstate Commerce clause, the federal government has some say too (e.g., speed limits), but cars are no more constitutionally protected than is swimming or bike riding.

Guns, however, are so important that they have their own Amendment.  Think about that for a minute.  With one other exception — which happens to be related to an armed citizenry — all of the other Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights are compound amendments, focusing on myriad issues that fall under a single subject line.  For example, free speech, a free press, and religion that is not subject to government interference, although all staggeringly important, are jumbled together in the 1st Amendment.  The Fifth Amendment has a laundry list of protections a citizen has when the state prosecutes him.

But there are two substantive amendments, both of which involve an individual’s rights against a state’s standing army, that are short and sweet:

Amendment II

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 III

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.

To be honest, I don’t see anything about cars anywhere in the Bill of Rights or, indeed, in any other section of the Constitution.

Here’s the really embarrassing thing about that poster likening driver control to gun control — I got it off the Facebook wall of a lawyer.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

There’s a greater difference between arms and abortion than a “reasonable” NYT editor will acknowledge

A friend pointed me in the direction of a New York Times article that argues that both Second Amendment supporters and Abortion supporters are too quick to panic whenever the topics come up for debate, thereby precluding all rational discussion.  After describing the way VP Biden’s mention of Obama and executive orders regarding guns got reported on the conservative side of the blogosphere as a putsch that would see Obama effectively overriding the Second Amendment, the editorial goes on:

The distance between what Mr. Biden said and what The Examiner reported gets at why it’s so difficult to conduct a national conversation on the regulation of firearms. If the gun-control camp mentions restrictions the anti-gun-control camp hears bans. If the former mentions a ban on certain kinds of guns, the latter hears all guns, plus confiscation.

Many gun-rights activists, moreover, seem to suspect that the other side argues in bad faith. In public, gun-control advocates may sound reasonable, proposing only limited regulations, but what they really want is to repeal the Second Amendment, or to overturn Heller, and force the complete disarmament of the civilian population. First they’ll come for our Bushmasters, then they’ll come for our hunting rifles.

The fear that restrictions are a Trojan horse, the prelude to outright prohibition, similarly animates the staunch defenders of another controversial right: Abortion.

Writing in Slate in 2006, during Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearings, the legal academic Dawn Johnsen argued that Senators asking whether he would overturn Roe were missing the point. He would more likely “hollow it out.” Ms. Johnsen suggested that Roe opponents have taken an “incremental” approach to eviscerating abortion rights. They’ve pushed for restrictions such as waiting periods and “informed consent” laws; restrictions “designed to sound reasonable while also limiting the number of abortions performed, ultimately as completely as would a criminal ban.”

Last December, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed an abortion bill requiring doctors to screen women for coercion (among other measures). Supporters claimed the bill was necessary to safeguard women’s health; opponents said it was a paternalistic assault on women’s rights. The same argument played out in Kansas in 2011, when the state set compulsory standards for abortion clinics. Supporters claimed the regulations were an effort to protect women from unsafe conditions; opponents said they were a ruse to curb reproductive freedom.

The editorial is certainly correct that the debate on both sides tends to be argued most loudly at the extremes, rather than in the middle.  It errs, though, insofar as it presumes a legal equivalence between the two issues.  The primary difference between the two issues is gun ownership is an explicitly and affirmative stated Constitutional right, while abortion is an emanation of a penumbra — or, in other words, a judicially created right.

Moreover, for those who actually bother to read Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court made very clear that the state has a continuing interest in the fetus.  As the fetus develops towards recognizable person-hood (meaning that it can survive outside the womb), the state’s interest increases dramatically.  Although recent(ish) Supreme Court decisions have expanded a woman’s rights over the state’s/fetus’s rights, the Court has never erased that state interest entirely.

Second Amendment

The Second Amendment, of course, vests all interests in the citizen.  What this means is that, in theory, the State has no rights whatsoever when it comes to arms.  That’s the theory.  In fact, though, the Supreme Court has long allowed local and federal jurisdictions to place some limitations on arms in order to maintain the peace.  Significantly, however, by imposing these limitations, the State is intruding on a citizen’s absolute constitutional right.  In the case of abortion, the citizen seeking an abortion is intruding upon the State’s interest in nascent citizens.

Why does this distinction matter?  Because while Roe gives the state the right, power, and duty to protect the smallest citizens, so that state interference is the appropriate way to approach the issue, the Constitution doesn’t grant the government the authority to interfere with the People’s right to keep and bear arms.  Moreover, Obama, as the nation’s chief executive, has only a subset of the powers granted to the Federal government as a whole, and this subset is limited to those executive orders necessary to carry out Congress’s dictates.  It therefore becomes a matter of supreme citizen interest when Obama’s minions announce that he intends to bypass Congress entirely and act in a way that diminishes an expressly stated Constitutional right vested in citizens, not government.

Rational discourse is a great idea.  But it’s less of a great idea when it operates off the premise that, with regard to both abortion and guns, the State holds all the power cards.  More than that, Second Amendment advocates would be fools to engage in a “gun control” debate, because framing the discussion that way automatically cedes to the government the right to control guns.  Rather, we should be talking about the government’s actual responsibility in a civilized nation, which is exert some authority over violence.  As I’ve noted before, statistical data indicates that framing the issue in such a way militates in favor of more arms, rather than fewer.

Gun control and the Nazis

 

 

 

Obama’s dangerous expansion of the use of executive orders

Years ago, during the Bush administration, Terry Gross, of NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewed a writer who was in an absolutely tizzy about Bush’s use of executive orders.  Sadly, for the life of me, I can’t find that interview.  What I also can’t find is any evidence that this author has again gone onto Terry Gross’ show to complaint about Obama’s extraordinary use of executive orders, a use that overwhelms Bush’s small efforts in that area.  Obama has vastly enlarged the nature and number of those orders, so much so that he’s becoming his own little legislature.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has written a lucid, interesting article detailing everything that is wrong with Obama’s abuse of the executive order:

Let’s focus on the supposed authority of the President to simply enact laws by the stroke of his pen. Article I Section I of the Constitution vests all legislative powers in Congress. All.  None are given to the President or the Courts.  All government acts need to be evaluated on whether they are consistent with our Constitution.

The executive branch has the Constitutional responsibility to execute the laws passed by Congress. It is well accepted that an executive order is not legislation nor can it be. An executive order is a directive that implements laws passed by Congress. The Constitution provides that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  Article II, Section 3, Clause 5. Thus, executive orders can only be used to carry out the will of Congress. If we in Congress have not established the policy or authorization by law, the President can’t do it unilaterally.

That’s pretty simple: Executive orders simply give the president the power to effectuate Congress’ legislation, not the authority to make his own. Nor can the president use executive orders to prevent legislation from going into effect (as Obama did with immigration without any opposition) or to circumvent the Constitution itself (as he apparently intends to do with guns).

I urge you to read the whole thing, and then send it along to people you know who intuitively understand that what Obama’s doing is unconstitutional, but who need more facts and argument for their intellectual armory.

A great two-fer on gun control

National Review Online is running hot today, because it’s got two great articles on gun control, both of which clearly express what I was trying to tell those Marin-ites around me who are absolutely certain that (a) gun control saves lives and (b) the Second Amendment is stupid or misunderstood.

Rich Lowry, armed with data, asks the gun control crowd questions about guns and public safety that they are going to be hard put to answer while still retaining their blinkered world view.

And Kevin Williamson explains that, Hell yes!, the Founders wanted paramilitary weapons.  As I tried to tell my friends, if you disagree with that little historical fact, your option is to amend, not ignore, the Constitution.

Sensible ideas for protecting our students *UPDATED*

Armed guard at school in Israel

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive VP, says that our violent culture is to blame for gun violence and that, as long as the culture is what it is, school children should have police protection.  Despite the fact that the majority of Americans agree with him, the drive-by media is excoriating as if he had just announced that he eats children for breakfast and urges us all to do the same.  Americans, who have been schooled out of rational thinking, will soon be referring to LaPierre in the appropriate pariah-like terms and, like the useful idiots they’ve been trained to be, mouth agreement with the same media that espouses values they reject.

Well, that’s all I have to say on the subject, because promised that I’d back off from the gun posts for a little while.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I can’t direct you to other people’s.  (Hey, I’m a lawyer.  I’m always looking for loopholes.)

First, Bookworm room friend Servo1969 put up a solid post at the Free Republic detailing practical ways to protect our children when they’re herded into public schools.  And honestly, I had no idea you could holster a gun in your bra.

Second, when it comes to the media’s performance in the wake of this tragedy, Mark Steyn says it best:

For those untouched by death this Christmas, someone else’s bewildering, shattering turn of fate ought to occasion a little modesty and circumspection. Instead, even by its usual execrable standards, the public discourse post-Newtown has been stupid and contemptible. The Left now seizes on every atrocity as a cudgel to beat whatever happens to be the Right’s current hottest brand: Tucson, Ariz., was something to do with Sarah Palin’s use of metaphor and other common literary devices — or “toxic rhetoric,” as Paul Krugman put it; Aurora, Colo., was something to do with the Tea Party, according to Brian Ross of ABC News. Since the humiliations of November, the Right no longer has any hot brands, so this time round the biens pensants have fallen back on “gun culture.” Dimwit hacks bandy terms like “assault weapon,” “assault rifle,” “semiautomatic,” and “automatic weapon” in endlessly interchangeable but ever more terrifying accumulations of high-tech state-of-the-art killing power.

Okay, I’m done for now. But please don’t tune out of this debate. Our fundamental liberties have never been more at risk. The Obama administration has now taken aim at both the First Amendment (religious freedom) and the Second Amendment (right to carry arms). With the media running interference for him, we have to be strong on facts and logic, and willing to take the fight to the Left, if we want our Constitution to be more than just a tattered piece of paper.

By the way, this bit of Israeli satire, especially the first minute or so, explains a lot.  An awful lot.

UPDATE:  One more.  You have to read this one, regarding the lunacy of the Left’s instantaneous negative reaction to LaPierre’s proposal.

Judge Roberts’ decision forces Americans to stand on their own two feet — and that’s a good thing *UPDATED*

[UPDATE:  Since I wrote this post, there is now reason to believe that Roberts issued his opinion for the wrong reasons, not the right ones.  If I were to rewrite this post today, I would be less charitable to the man.  Nevertheless, putting aside Roberts' motives, I stand by the substance of my post, which is that it forces conservatives to recognize that they cannot look to any branch of the government for succor from Big Government.]

Now that the first shock of the Roberts opinion is over, many conservatives are very busy digging through the pile of manure, confident that there’s a pony in there somewhere.  In this, we are distinct from our Progressive/Democrat counterparts, who would be busy rioting in the streets and sending death threats to John Roberts.

Having had more than 24 hours to come to terms with the decision, I’m beginning to think that there may indeed be a pony (or several ponies) hiding in there somewhere.  Moreover, I’m also realizing that Roberts, despite the apparent wackiness of his decision, stayed true to his constitutional roots.

As is always the case with me, I build my argument slowly, so please bear with me.  I’ll try to maintain some tension and excitement as I go.

Speaking of tension and excitement, my first point involves a screaming fight some colleagues of mine got into yesterday.  Because they’re nice folks, it wasn’t a vicious, personal, ad hominem fight.  They just kept making the same points over and over again, at ever-increasing volume.  They seem to have locked into the same line of reasoning that says that, if you speak really LOUDLY to someone who doesn’t understand English, you will make yourself understood.

The topic my friends were debating was whether heroin should be legal or not.  One side staunchly opposed legality because heroin is so dangerous; the other side equally staunchly advocated legalizing the drug, because it has benefits that go beyond the medicinal.  (I’ll take the other side’s word for it, since recreational heroin seems merely self-indulgent to me.)

What was fascinating was that both sides laid claim to the government to support their argument.  Those who feared heroin’s risks felt that only the government could protect Americans from the drug’s dangers.  Those who believed it should be legalized, after pointing out correctly that making heroin illegal doesn’t stop either its use or the societal downsides, believed that only government could manage heroin.  These people envisioned corner dispensaries, apparently along the line of the DMV.

At a facetious level, I have to agree with the guy who wants to put heroin in government hands.  Can you think of anything that would make heroin less appealing than having to deal with government functionaries a la your local DMV?  I can just see it now:  Long lines, rude clerks, poor quality service, mountainous bureaucracy and, to make it worse, you’ve got the joneses the whole time.

At a more serious level, both sides were right and both were wrong.  Making heroin illegal hasn’t stopped heroin use, just as it hasn’t stopped marijuana use, or underage drinking.  Putting it in government hands, however, is a recipe for corruption and still won’t stem abuse.  It will just make the government the pusher, which is a sleazy and awful idea.

Perhaps the smartest thing is to legalize heroin and put it into the free market.  Then, as we do with alcohol, we punish behaviors that stem from the abuse, such as driving under the influence or, less directly, any robberies, assaults, etc., that results from someone’s need for the drug or use of the drug. Let individuals make their choices.

Of course, some individuals aren’t in a position to make a choice.  They get the burdens, not the benefits.  Which leads me, inevitably, to Prohibition.  (Believe it or not, I’m still on track to a rip-roaring conclusion about Justice Roberts’ opinion.)

Prohibition was not the result of whacked out Church ladies, anxious to destroy all joy in the world.  Instead, it arose in response to an alcohol-soaked culture, one that saw working men instantly spending their paychecks at the local saloon.  “Father, dear Father, come home with me now,” wasn’t just a maudlin song; it was real life for tens of thousands of children, begging their father to leave the saloon and bring what little remained of his week’s pay home to the family.  Of course, when father came home, there was always the risk that he’d beat the living daylights out of Mama and the kids, but as long as he brought some money with him, what could you do?

The Dry Movement was a direct response to America’s sodden state.  But here’s the thing:  the reason Prohibition passed was because the culture changed so radically that a critical mass of Americans could force a change to the Constitution.  By 1920 — and this is something no one at the time realized — the paradigm shift in American culture was probably sufficient to change its drinking habits without coercive pressure from the federal government.  Drinking was no longer morally acceptable in many communities, which were already dry by 1920.  Local values controlled.  People who hated alcohol could move to a Dry town or they could agitate to change things within their own communities.

Once the government stepped in to control alcohol (and it was controlled, rather than completely prohibited, as certain religious or “medicinal” brews were still allowed), all Hell broke loose.  We became a nation of scofflaws, organized crime, and corrupt law enforcement.  Yes, drinking did continue to diminish, but it had already been diminishing before the Feds stepped in.  All that happened with government-control is that bad things happened too.

You can see an analogous situation with Johnson’s Great Society.  In the years leading to it, two things happened in America:  The Civil Rights movement, which focused on the serious wrongs done to black Americans, and which was a topic that dominated America’s intellectual airspace; and the rise of the black middle class, which happened behind the scenes as the culture changed.

Laws banning discrimination rightly addressed the Civil Rights crimes.  However, the Democrats added to the mix huge changes in welfare, i.e., Government-involvement in black lives.  As is so often the case with the government good intentions, the massive legislative intervention into American life — and, specifically, into black American’s lives — reversed black folk’s economic advancement.  If the government could just have stopped itself with leveling the playing field, it’s questionable whether today blacks would consistently rank among America’s poorest, least educated, and crime-ridden population.  The problem was that, in the 1960s, as in the 1920s, Americans, especially educated Americans, couldn’t conceive of an organic solution to a visible problem.  Government had to “fix” things.

Which, at long last, gets me back to health care and Justice Roberts’ decision.  (And you doubted that I would ever loop back to my main point.  Oh, ye of little faith!)  Roberts wrote the decision at the end of a 90 year continuum holding that Government fixes problems and the Supreme Court fixes Government.  This approach makes “We, the people” unnecessary.  Rather than elections being the corrective, the Court is the corrective — except that the Court’s make-up is controlled by the Government.  (Remember the Bork debacle?)

Roberts refused to play this game.  He slapped back the Democrats’ hands when it came to the Commerce Clause, telling them that the federal government cannot legislate inactivity.  And he held — quite correctly — that if there’s any possible way for the Court to salvage a law, it must do so.  His salvaging was to say that, this particular law, written in this particular way, with these particular controls over the people, can be salvaged by calling it a tax.  It’s an ugly decision, but probably a correct one.  And then he tossed the whole thing back to the American people.

I can just see Roberts’ thought-process (although he might have thought in more polite terms):  You idiots elected a Congress and president that used every kind of political chicanery known to man in order to pass the biggest tax in American history and one that, moreover, completely corrupts the free market system.  It’s not the Supreme Court’s responsibility to correct that kind of thing, provided that the judges can, as I did, find a smidgen of constitutionality in it.  There’s an election coming up in November.  Let’s hope you’ve wised up enough to figure out that my Supreme Court is returning power to “We, the people.”  We will not pull your chestnuts out of the fire.  We will not legislate from the bench.  We will construe things as narrowly as possible.  If you, the people, don’t like it, you, the people, elect different representatives.

In the short run, this is an enormously painful pile of manure for American conservatives.  In the long run (a run that, I hope, includes November 2012), if we Americans are smart and genuinely believe in our liberties, we’ll find so many ponies in that manure we’ll be able to have a pony parade right up to the steps of White House and both Houses of Congress.

 

Should people who oppose war be obligated to pay for it via taxes?

Don Quixote and I were talking today about the Commerce Clause.  We weren’t saying anything original.  We were simply wondering whether the Supreme Court, in ruling on ObamaCare, will address the vast reach of the Commerce Clause and whether it will (a) reaffirm that reach; (b) reverse that reach entirely (which requires reversing the 1942 decision Wickard v. Filburn); or (c) chip away at Wickard because destroying it in one fell swoop would create a constitutional crisis.

Right now, the pro-ObamaCare people are actually correct when they argue that there’s no real difference between Wickard and ObamaCare.  In the former Congress forced a farmer to grow wheat, and the Supreme Court gave that coercion a judicial nod.  Under ObamaCare, Congress is forcing Americans to buy insurance, so why shouldn’t that get the nod too?.  We can parse the difference by saying that the real issue is whether the federal government benefits from the forced activity (which is essentially a tax) or whether third party companies profit (making the coercion a form of something else).

The real issue, though, isn’t where the money goes.  It is, instead, determining how far Congress can go in dictating American activity.  After all, to the extent our money supply is federal, every decision we make, including the pennies we toss into a Salvation Army pot, implicates federal monetary policies.

That talk led DQ and me to the intersection between taxes and religion.  The Constitution guarantees that the Federal government will not establish a religion and then force Americans to yield to that government church’s doctrines.  That right has been understood to mean that citizen’s religious beliefs are excluded from Congressional oversight.

The Constitution, however, also authorizes Congress to extract taxes from American citizens and nowhere does it say that citizens can withhold those funds based upon their religious beliefs.  To the extent that the Quakers were already a pacifist organization at the time the Constitution was first ratified, it cannot have escaped the Founders’ notice that, by specifically authorizing War powers in the Constitution, they were requiring pacifists to fund any war started under that constitutional power.

Beginning with the Vietnam War protests, peace activists of all religious and non-religious stripes have objected to having their tax dollars spent on War.  Two constitutional principles — the federal government’s authorization to wage war and the individual’s absolute right to freedom of worship — are in permanent opposition.

What do you think?  Does the natural right of the individual to freedom of worship trump the government’s power to tax and wage war?  Or is taxation and war such an inextricable aspect of government that civilization functions only when people cannot opt out?

My feeling is that, to the extent we have a republican democracy, those who don’t like war have the option of voting into power others who share their feelings.  If a sufficient majority of anti-war activists enter Congress, Congress can refuse to fund wars (as it did when a Democrat congress abandoned the South Vietnamese); or it can enact laws allowing people to deduct a certain percentage from their taxes, equal to the percentage cost of war in the federal budget; or, if the anti-war crowd has sufficient numbers, it can amend the Constitution to turn America into a pacifist nation or one that sees only pro-war people pay for war.

For me, this is an idle (albeit enjoyable) mental exercise, but in the larger scheme of things it’s not.  It is, instead, the real deal in determining whether, when it comes to core religious or moral beliefs, the government or the individual prevails.

In the context of the ObamaCare debate, it ties back into the mandate requiring religious institutions and organizations to pay for insurance that will provide birth control and abortifacients, even if those practices are antithetical to the payors’ core doctrinal beliefs.  I can understand how there could be a battle royale when it comes to asking pacifists to pay for war, since there are two conflicting constitutional rights involved.  I do not understand, though, how the government can force people to abandon an explicit constitutional right (freedom of worship) in favor of a right there is nowhere mentioned in the constitution — women’s alleged right to free birth control and abortions.

All of which leaves me very curious as to the ultimate outcome of the ObamaCare decisions.

As always, I love hearing your opinions, especially since so many of you are better informed or more analytical than I am.

In attacking Marine Week, Democratic Underground again displays its disconnect from reality

I wish I could be in Cleveland right now.  I have to admit that it’s not the City of Cleveland itself that calls to me, although I’m sure it’s a very nice place.  Instead, it’s the fact that the City is playing host to the 4th annual Marine Week.  Previous years’ events were held in Boston, Chicago and St. Louis.  The event’s purpose is to give those Americans who do not live near a Marine base the chance to meet this all-volunteer military organization:

The Marines found their Ohio recruits two centuries ago, and they might pick up a few more during their upcoming visit to Cleveland.

But that’s not the purpose of the event, according to Capt. Craig Thomas, Marine Week spokesman, who noted the Corps already meets or exceeds its recruiting goals.

“We want to create ownership, connections between the public and the Corps,” Thomas said. “It’s also our chance to get out in the community to say thank you for supporting us, and the military in general.”

Marine Week has been previously held in Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. Thomas said Cleveland was selected because “the whole idea is to pick a city without a [Marine] base or station, so people can meet their Marines.”

I think Marine Week is an excellent idea.  We are blessed to have a Constitutional military, one that serves at the will of the people, not at the will of a dictatorship.  To that end, it’s extremely important to remind Americans that the men and women who serve are their men and women, and not some ominous gun-toting strangers answering to an untouchable dictator.  It’s the Constitution — which is the people’s document — that authorizes the military, rather than a monarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship.  The military in turn answers to a Commander in Chief who is elected by the American people.  This is a military of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Because we haven’t had a draft in almost forty years, however, the American military doesn’t touch that many American lives.  In past wars, going all the way back to the Civil War, the nature of the draft meant that every American family knew someone who served.  That isn’t the case anymore.  If the military wishes to stay relevant to Americans, it must be part of their lives.  This is especially true during war time, when the military is engaged in battles that seem excessively alien in nature to a public weaned at the PC teat.

Thankfully, Cleveland seems to be very enthusiastic about the whole thing.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer has been running one supportive article after another.  My own friend America’s Sergeant Major occupied pride of place in one of those articles.  And from the running updates he’s posting at his blog, both the Marines and Cleveland’s citizens, young and old alike, are having a wonderful time as the Marines get to know Cleveland, and Cleveland gets to know the Marines.

Not everyone, though, is quite so excited about the chance to meet the Marines and their equipment.  Over at the Democratic Underground, bastion of Leftist political extremism, one person took photos that the Marines had published showing shiny, happy people examining the equipment their tax dollars bought and decided to append his own narrative:

“Trust us, children . . . using one of these to blow the beJAYsus out of sovereign nations that never threatened one American citizen is a noble and just sacrifice your country’s willing to make for your educations and futures.”

[snip]

“You just shut the HELL up, you pansy-ass, troop-hatin’ liberals and demonstrators. Freedom isn’t Free and we got enemies EVERYwhere! WELL WORTH THE COST!!! Occupy a jawb or a shower or somefin . . . haw haw haw.”

What’s so fascinating about the DU tirade is how personal the animus is.  This writer, who self-identifies as HughBeaumont, hates the Marines.  He seems to be singularly unaware of the fact that these Marines are serving under, and showed up in Cleveland by the order of, the most Leftist president ever to grace the White House.  Barack Hussein Obama is their Commander in Chief.  They go where he sends them.  And in the last three and a half years, President BO has sent them lots of places.

The last quotation, the one in which Beaumont purports to put words in a Marine’s mouth, is the most foolish thing of all.  To begin with, have you ever seen Marines speak with a lack of civility to Americans?  I know that, amongst themselves, they aren’t delicate flowers, but when they speak to the public, they speak with respect.  Better than Beaumont, they understand that they are public servants.  Even more importantly, the United States Marines pride themselves on honor and dignity, two attributes that, when they wear the uniform, are entirely inconsistent with the flow of effluvia Beaumont attributes to them.

Despite the bile spewing from him, Beaumont did get two things right.  First, Freedom isn’t free, as know from the American blood spilled over the centuries to create an independent nation, to free the slaves, the protect the world from Nazi or Communist domination, or to stem the tide of murderous radical Islam.  (Wouldn’t you love to see this DU weenie come face to face with some serious jihad-nik?)

Second, speaking of those serious jihad-niks, America does indeed have enemies wherever there are Muslims who have bought into such poisonous ideas as a world-wide ummah or a Caliphate in the White House, or who see America’s influence as dangerously antithetical to such Progressive Islamist notions as slavery, female subjugation, hanging homosexuals, routine child abuse in “educational” institutions, and Jewish genocide.   The 2,996 Americans murdered in a few short hours on September 11, 2001 are vivid evidence of that reality.

Happy Marine Week, Cleveland!  I wish I could be there with you.

Barack Obama is not the only law teacher who doesn’t know law

There’s a lot of buzz lately about an article David R. Dow, who is the Cullen Professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the Rorschach Visiting Professor of History at Rice, about the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare hearings.  In it, he insists that, if the Supreme Court justices overturn ObamaCare because it’s unconstitutional, they must be impeached.  Interestingly, in his entire essay, Dow pretty much avoids the Constitution.  As best as I can tell, his entire defense for ObamaCare is that it’s good social justice policy.  His only bow to the Constitution is to say that the Constitution protects the community, as well as the individual.

Better constitutional minds than mine have taken apart Dow’s silly argument, so I won’t address it here.  I just want to raise a single point he makes, both because it’s wrong (duh!) and because it touches upon something that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere.  Dow, of course, argues that car insurance justifies ObamaCare:

First, Congress’s authority in passing the law rests on an elementary syllogism: You don’t have to drive, but if you do, the government can make you buy insurance. The logical structure at work here is that if you are going to do something (drive, for example), the government can make you purchase a commercial product (insurance, for example), so long as it has a good reason for doing so (making sure you can pay for any damage you do).

Prof. Dow, I hate to tell you this, but there are no federal car insurance mandates, so far as I know.  Those are state laws.  Anyone with even the most rudimentary constitutional knowledge knows that, while the Constitution was written to grant the federal government only the most minimal power over individuals, with the Bill of Rights working hard to maximize individual freedom, state governments have a lot more leeway to exercise affirmative control over individuals.  (Just in case you were wondering, Prof. Dow, that’s the 10th Amendment right there.)

More than that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the Supreme Court has never examined whether the federal government has the authority to force all American citizens, whether or not they drive, to have car insurance.  Another legal principle that Law Professor Dow seems to have forgotten is a fundamental rule, not just of life, but of life:  The fact that something hasn’t yet been challenged doesn’t mean the absence of challenge proves that it’s correct.  If the Supreme Court had indeed considered federal laws forcing all Americans, whether or not they drive, to have car insurance, Dow’s point would be well taken.  To the extent, though, that no one yet seems to have challenged this non-existent law, so that the Supreme Court hasn’t opined on its constitutionality, for Dow to declare that mandatory federal car insurance is the necessary precedent to establish ObamaCare’s constitutionality is a bit presumptuous and a lot ignorant.

[Pardon typos in this one.  It falls in "the dictated but not read" category.  I have to run and will be gone for several hours.  Any comments, corrections, additions, etc., are welcome.]

A clever statement by a Leftist reveals that the Left views the Constitution as a content-free document

MoveOn.org has created an online poster that has been getting a fair amount of play on Facebook.  The page is entitled “The #1 Reminder Every GOP Lawmaker Needs To See.”  It then quotes “American Hero” Jamie Raskin, a law professor, before successfully running for Maryland’s State Senate himself, testified before the Maryland State Senate in 2006.  Back then, he had this to say:

Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution.  You didn’t place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

That sounds very clever, doesn’t it?  Nice parallelism, and a definite superficial truth:  American politicians don’t swear to uphold the Bible.  Of course, that cute little parallelism ignores a deeper truth, which is the fact that the Constitution includes this nifty little Amendment called the First Amendment:

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.

The classic religions (as opposed to recently created New-Age spiritualism) all define marriage, and they all define it as a union between a man, on the one hand, and a woman, on the other hand.  Freely exercising ones religion means that, constitutionally speaking (and lawmakers are charged with upholding the Constitution), the government doesn’t get to redefine marriage to include other sexual variations.

In 2008, during the Prop. 8 debate (when California voters were asked to, and did, pass a Proposition defining marriage as being between a man and a woman), I spoke with a very smart, very liberal friend who couldn’t understand why the Catholic Church was taking a stand against Prop. 8.  I suggested to him that the Church was concerned that there would come a time when it would be sued for refusing to perform a gay marriage and that it might lose that suit if gay marriage is deemed a civil right.  He scoffed:  “The Church is opposed to abortion, but no one sues it for that.”  What he couldn’t grasp is that the Catholic Church doesn’t perform abortions, but it does perform marriages.

The HHS fight over funding contraceptives and abortifacients proves that the concern I raised in 2008 is precisely correctly.  Suddenly, through the purse, a Leftist government was trying to get the church to perform abortions.

When Leftist government passes laws that conflict with a religion’s doctrinal points, it has no problem ignoring the First Amendment and using the power of the state and the purse to force the religious organization and its practitioners to abandon their doctrinal concerns.  In other words, Leftist government is happy to enact and enforce policies that essentially prohibit the free exercise of a religion.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  the government should get out of the “marriage” business.  The government’s control of “marriage” is residue of a time when church and state were inextricably intertwined, rather than Constitutionally separate.  Let’s leave “marriage” to the religious organizations, and let them define it as they will.  The state, which has a huge interest in promoting stable unions that result in healthy, happy children, should then bend itself to the task of figuring out how best to promote those unions.  Promoting them, of course, boils down to money.  The state needs to figure out how to entice people (hint:  tax breaks) into joining together and having stable nuclear families.  Civil unions, folks.  In this day and age, it’s the only way to keep the state’s hands off the church.

Looping back to law professor and ignoramus (oh, and American Hero) Jamie Raskin, someone needs to give him a constitutional refresher course:  When the lawmakers place their hands on the Bible and swear to protect the Constitution, they are also swearing to protect people’s rights to practice their Biblically based, life-affirming beliefs without state interference.

Anatomy of a smear; or, no, conservatives are not trying to ban contraception in America

In 1965, the United States Supreme Court decided Griswold v. Connecticut, the first case to enunciate a “right to privacy” under the U.S.  Constitution.  Before Griswold, notion of a right to privacy had only existed as a common law doctrine, applicable to ones fellow citizens.  This was the first time, however, that the United States Supreme Court anchored this common law privacy right to the Constitution — despite the justices’ acknowledgment that the Constitution makes no mention of privacy as one of the inalienable citizen rights upon which a government cannot impinge.  Instead, the justices used strained and imaginary “penumbras” and “emanations” of existing rights (the Fourth Amendment, for example, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures) to justify their decision.  So, a lousy law (and banning contraception was an exceptionally lousy law) led to something even worse:  a fake constitutional right.

In any event, since 1965, contraceptives have been legal all over America.  You can get them with a prescription if they’re hormonally based, and you can pick them up at any pharmacy, grocery store, vending machine, high school, middle school, etc., if they’re barrier-style contraceptives.  United States taxpayers already subsidize those that get to people through Planned Parenthood and through our schools.

Such was the status quo until ObamaCare.  Now, though, the Progressives have added a hitherto unknown imaginary constitutional right:  women have the absolute right to free contraceptives.  Of course, since nothing is free, what this really means is that women have the absolute right to contraceptives paid for by others.  Regardless of how one feels about either privacy or contraception, anyone with even a smidgen of intellectual honesty has to concede that forcing third parties to pay for women’s access to a readily available, perfectly legal product is not something one can find in the Constitution itself, or even in the Constitution’s recently discovered penumbras and emanations.

Some Republicans in Congress, appalled by this government overreach, have proposed a bill that bars the government from using ObamaCare to justify forcing third parties to pay for women’s contraceptives.  It’s important to note here that they are not banning contraceptives.  Nor are they even reversing the current status quo (because the ObamaCare ukase has not yet gone into effect).  Rather, the Republicans are maintaining the status quo that has existed in the United States since 1965:  contraceptives are legal and women (and men) are free to buy them any time, any where.  Some are more expensive than others, but none are very expensive.  The alleged annual $600 cost for the average women wouldn’t be a big deal now if it wasn’t for the rising price of fuel, something that makes everything expensive.

The above are the facts.  Here’s the spin the Progressives are using to keep the White House in 2012 and to regain the House:  “GOP officials fight to restrict women’s access to contraceptives.”  (That verbatim quotation is taken from a longer post saying that the current GOP fight regarding contraception is akin to their failed fight to keep the state of Florida from forcing Terri Schiavo to starve to death.)

Let me repeat:  The Progressives are explicitly stating that the GOP is “fight[ing] to restrict women’s access to contraceptives.”

This is a bald-faced lie.  The GOP isn’t touching the status quo on abortion, a status quo that has been in place for almost 50 years.  Instead, the GOP is fighting to restrict the federal government from creating a non-existent “right” to birth control, a right that allows the federal government to force third parties, including religious organizations, to subsidize birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization.

Facts are stubborn things, and the facts favor conservatives.  Unfortunately, as Churchill knew, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”  We’ve got the facts on our side, but this is one lie that the Progressives are making sure has legs.

Whenever my “real me” Facebook friends put up a post about the GOP attack on contraception, I politely point out that, as I understand things, the GOP isn’t challenging women’s right to contraception.  It’s just challenging a federal mandate forcing religious institutions to subsidize a doctrinally offensive product.  Interestingly, whenever I drop that indisputable fact into one of hate-filled rants regarding the GOP and women’s rights, I stop the Facebook conversation dead.  There are no arguments and no ripostes.  Facts are stubborn things.

Using the First Amendment to nullify God — Air Force edition

There are no more aggressive religious proselytizers than atheists.  They sell their religion with ferocity and would willingly burn at the stake anyone who stands in their way.

Last I looked, the First Amendment prevented the government from creating a religion from above or interfering with someone’s religion.  It didn’t nullify God.

Apparently someone forgot to explain those simple constitutional facts to the suits running the Air Force:

The patch logo was changed after a military atheist group, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, protested the reference to God on the patch. The patch has a saying on it in Latin, which is common for military patches, that tranlates [sic] to: “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.”

The saying was then changed last month to say: “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money.”

Fisking three dishonest Democrat senators on the subject of ObamaCare’s birth control mandate

The last two times I fisked, I was attacking solo acts.  This time, I get a triumvirate, as the three most liberal women in the United States Senate, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, and Jeanne Shaheen, have joined together to write an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, justifying ObamaCare’s intrusion into the realm of religion.  I cannot resist the fisk.

It was a historic victory for women’s health when the Obama administration changed the law to require private health plans to provide preventive services including breast exams, HIV screening and contraception for free. This new policy will help millions of women get the affordable care they need.

[This is simply ideology blah-blah.  Women get free stuff.  Men don't.  It hardly seems fair to me.]

Now, sadly, there is an aggressive and misleading campaign to deny this benefit to women. It is being waged in the name of religious liberty. But the real forces behind it are the same ones that sought to shut down the federal government last year over funding for women’s health care. They are the same forces that just tried to pressure the Susan G. Komen Foundation into cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screenings. Once again, they are trying to force their politics on women’s personal health-care decisions.

[The above is an impressively misleading paragraph, conflating core constitutional rights with marketplace pressures.  The ObamaCare fight is a war of religious liberty, insofar as the Obama administration, contrary to the limitation that the First Amendment imposes upon the federal government, is trying to force religious organizations to engage in practices that directly contradict core doctrinal matters.  The other fight arose from the fact that a privately funded charity wanted to stop providing money to an organization that (a) is being investigated for corruption; (b) receives massive amounts of federal dollars; (c) is one of the largest abortion providers in the country; and (d) does almost no "breast-cancer screenings" but, instead, simply refers women to other providers.  Having the facts kind of makes a mockery out the triumvirate's claim that those opposed to the ObamaCare mandate "are trying to force their politics on women's personal health-care decisions."]

We are very glad that the president has stood up to these forces while protecting religious freedom on all sides. His administration should be commended, not criticized.

[There's that new-speak again -- the president "protects" religious freedom by imposing doctrinal mandates on religious organizations.]

Contraception was included as a required preventive service on the recommendation of the independent, nonprofit Institute of Medicine and other medical experts because it is essential to the health of women and families. Access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, and is linked to overall good health outcomes. Nationwide, 1.5 million women use contraceptives only as treatment for serious medical conditions. Most importantly, broadening access to birth control will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, a goal we all should share.

[Been here, done that.  This is the big lie at the heart of the Obama administration's attack on traditional religious institutions.  These harpies constantly conflate the availability of birth control with funding for birth control.  They are not the same.  Women in America can get birth control.  The government can fund organizations -- indeed, it already does with the monies that go to Planned Parenthood -- that provide all these birth control options.  Forcing religious organizations to pay for birth control, sterilization and abortifacients, however, both exceeds the government's power and contravenes the limitations the Bill of Rights imposes on government.  This is not about whether women should have birth control; it's about with the government can force churches to pay for it.]

Proper family planning through birth control results in healthier mothers and children, which benefits all of us. It saves us money too: The National Business Group on Health—a nonprofit whose members are primarily Fortune 500 companies and large public-sector employers—estimated that it costs 15% to 17% more for employers to exclude birth-control coverage, both because other medical costs rise and because of lost productivity.

[See above.  Apples and oranges.  Even accepting as true every single statement in the above paragraph, that still doesn't give the administration the right or power to force churches to fund birth control, sterilization and abortifacients.]

Contraception is not a controversial issue for the vast majority of Americans. Some 99% of women in the U.S. who are or have been sexually active at some point in their lives have used birth control, including 98% of Catholic women, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A recent survey by Hart Research shows 71% of American voters, including 77% of Catholic women voters, supported this provision broadening access to birth control.

[Ditto.]

Consistent with other federal policies, churches and other groups dedicated to teaching religious doctrine are exempted from providing this coverage under a “conscience clause.” But the law does include institutions that have historic religious ties but also have a broader mission, such as hospitals and universities. That’s also consistent with federal policy—and with laws that already exist in many states.

[Boot strapping argument here.  The second sentence assumes that the law is allowed to include institutions that aren't dedicated solely to religious activity, and staffed solely by core religious employees, and then says that, because the law includes them, therefore the inclusion is consistent with federal policy.  And, as did Sebelius, these gals wrongly look to state law, as if the states' acts give the federal government powers denied it under the Constitution.]

Those now attacking the new health-coverage requirement claim it is an assault on religious liberty, but the opposite is true. Religious freedom means that Catholic women who want to follow their church’s doctrine can do so, avoiding the use of contraception in any form. But the millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.

[Nothing now prevents church employees from buying and using contraception.  They've been able to do so freely, in all 50 states, since the Griswold case in 1965.  What does exist now is a Big Rule saying that the government cannot force religious organizations to engage in acts that violate doctrine.  The First Amendment is explicit:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."  Right now, there are no laws prohibiting Catholic women from doing whatever the heck they please regarding their health care and contraceptive choices.  The only difference now is that never before has the federal government had the temerity to make laws, rules, and regulations that directly implicate an establishment of religion, prohibiting it from freely exercising its faith.]

Catholic hospitals and charities are woven into the fabric of our broader society. They serve the public, receive government funds, and get special tax benefits. We have a long history of asking these institutions to play by the same rules as all our other public institutions.

[Rhetorical sleight of hand.  When it comes to playing by workplace rules, the previous rules didn't attack doctrine.  This here is a different type of rule.]

So let’s remember who this controversy is really about—the women of America. Already too many women struggle to pay for birth control. According to the Hart Research survey cited above, more than one-third of women have reported having difficulty affording birth control. It can cost $600 a year for prescription contraceptives. That’s a lot of money for a mother working as a medical technician in a Catholic hospital, or a teacher in a private religious school.

[And we're right back to the cost-shifting argument.  See my discussion, above.]

Improving access to birth control is good health policy and good economic policy. It will mean healthier women, healthier children and healthier families. It will save money for businesses and consumers. We should hold to the promise we made women and provide this access broadly. Our nation will be better for it.

[Ditto.]

I was going to wrap this up by saying I’ve seldom seen a more ignorant and dishonest piece of advocacy writing. I’ve decided, though, that it’s not ignorant. These gals know what they’re doing and what game they are playing. This is simply dishonest.  It is, however, a fine piece of writing coming from acolytes of the Constitutional law professor who now discovers, seemly for the first time in his intellectual life, that the Founders wisely wanted to limit a nascent dictator’s power:

[T]his week Barack Obama proved himself once again the perfect epigone of Woodrow Wilson—the first president to criticize the Constitution and the principles of the American Founding—with his remarks to NBC’s Matt Lauer that one reason he hasn’t succeeded in fulfilling his campaign promises to transform the world is that “it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.”  It turns out?  He’s just discovering this now?  (Well, one thing that “turns out” is that the only constitutional law Obama actually taught at the University of Chicago was the equal protection clause.  Apparently he skipped over that whole “separation of powers” stuff.)