Nullification: A Terrible Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Come

Tuesday, January 25, AD 2011

There’s been some buzz lately about states kicking the idea of nullification around.  State legislators in Nebraska have been circulating a little tome by Thomas Woods on the subject, and there’s been some news reports of states considering the idea with regards to health care.  Before conservatives go trumpeting this idea as some way of saving the republic, let’s keep in mind something: it’s a bad idea that happens to be unconstitutional.

Whenever the idea of nullification comes up we inevitably hear about Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution and James Madison’s Virginia Resolution.  They were penned in response to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  The key passages from Jefferson’s resolution is as follows:

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62 Responses to Nullification: A Terrible Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Come

  • Maybe something far better would be a constitutional convention called by some states to do some Spring cleaning in the form of several amendments:

    Clarify the limits of the 10th amendment and declare several dozen laws that violate that amendment to be null and void.

    Draw up a list of the top 100 federal judges who abuse the constitution and eject them permanently from the bench. Their failure as judges to do their job is what caused this in the first place.

    Clarify the 1st amendment, in particular that the free exercise and no establishment part means free exercise and no establishment. Establishment being along the lines of the Church of England.

    Put some sort of absolute size limit on the Federal Register–if one page goes in, one must come out.

    Just some ideas, but at this point, the country is clearly off the rails as far as the constitution goes. Short of leaving the union to one degree or another, maybe it is time for the fly-over states to band together and settle some issues. Sounds like a good cause for the tea party, and would place the constitution in front of the public debate. Was that more along the lines of what Madison would have endorsed?

  • Madison in his letter to Trist cited by Paul goes on in the next paragraph to state as follows:

    “It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr. Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, vol. 2,1 with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force; and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion; and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject.”

    Scholarship in support of nullification then as now, was unbelievably shoddy. This is a case of knaves seeking to lead fools.

  • Mr. McClarey, it is you whose scholarship is shoddy. As Kevin Gutzman showed in the Journal of the Early Republic, Madison obviously changed his mind. Clearly, in the Report of 1800, he was indeed saying what everyone at the time took him to be saying. Madison also, in his later years, tried to pretend Jefferson had never even used the word “nullification” When the draft of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 in Jefferson’s own hand was presented to him, he had to back down.

    Anyone citing the Supremacy Clause against nullification is not even entitled to an opinion on the subject. Yes, I realize nullification does not fall along the spectrum of approved opinion that ranges from Hillary Clinton to Mitch McConnell, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong — or, laughably, “unconstitutional.” If you understood the nature of the Union you would see why Jefferson’s position is so compelling. Instead, you repeat a few left-wing talking points and leave it at that.

    For an extremely basic primer, see http://www.StateNullification.com.

  • Presented with the actual words of the Founding Fathers, Mr. Woods resorts to name-calling and laughable assertions about the ideology of his interlocutors. I guess I know which historian to leave off my Amazon wish list.

  • Paul,

    Your statement about the Supremacy Clause is inaccurate for a few reasons.

    One- You left out the fact that the Supremacy close is only valid if the law passed by Congress is among those allowed Artcle I-Section 8. If the Congress wants to pass something outside that section, it isn’t Constitutional, thus null and void under the Supremacy Clause.

    Two- The 10th Amendment also limits the Supremacy Clause. Since it is an Amendment, it takes priority over the original text therefore it takes precedent. So again, anything not mentioned in Article 1-Section 8 falls back to the individual states and the people.

    We can debate on the interpretations of the Article 1-Section 8, but I do think the modern belief in these various clauses makes no sense. Everyone at the time of the founding believed the Federal Government should be limited. However, modern interpretations doesn’t limit the government.

    If the government can control what I grow on my own land even when I am not selling it and just using it for personal use, I believe that is a government that isn’t limited as the founders envisioned.

    You have another problem with your point of view. How does one make the case that these individual colonies that became individual states would give up the sovereignty you are suggesting when they just fought a war for their independence? Why would just turn around and create another nightmare government too much control over them without holding the belief that they can be a voice when the Federal Government oversteps it’s Constitutional authority.

    Sorry Paul, your point of view makes no sense.

  • Paul:

    It seems that it is the Federal government is the only party that can nullify treaties and laws that were made in good faith. The case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock is evidence to me that Congress can break their word with soveriegn indian nations with “plenary power.” Maybe it is high time that we have “chaos” and nullify laws of the federal government. Turnabout is fair play.

  • One- You left out the fact that the Supremacy close is only valid if the law passed by Congress is among those allowed Artcle I-Section 8. If the Congress wants to pass something outside that section, it isn’t Constitutional, thus null and void under the Supremacy Clause.

    Sorry, I didn’t realize there was a sub-clause to Article VI. Was this also written in the same invisible ink that guaranteed the right to privacy and abortion?

    If a law passed by Congress is unconstitutional, there are several remedies to addressing this issue. As a conservative it’s understandable to be irate at the massive growth in the powers of the federal government, especially when aided and abetted by one of the institutions designed to check Congressional action (the Supreme Court). The solution to unconstitutional aggression is not to resort to further unconstitutional aggression.

    If the government can control what I grow on my own land even when I am not selling it and just using it for personal use, I believe that is a government that isn’t limited as the founders envisioned.

    Again, we agree. But if the states become 50 unique arbiters of constitutionality, where does that leave us? What if the state acts unconstitutionally in deeming a perfectly legitimate law unconstitutional? Where does it end? There is one sovereign authority – not 50.

    You have another problem with your point of view. How does one make the case that these individual colonies that became individual states would give up the sovereignty you are suggesting when they just fought a war for their independence? Why would just turn around and create another nightmare government too much control over them without holding the belief that they can be a voice when the Federal Government oversteps it’s Constitutional authority.

    Sorry Paul, your point of view makes no sense.

    Take it up with the Founders, John. Read through the Federalist Papers and the other assorted documents. The revolutionaries didn’t throw off one form of government just to embrace the sort of democratic despotism that they feared, rightly or wrongly, was being created by the Articles of Confederation government.

    As I wrote in this post, the Constitution was specifically designed to increase the powers of the federal government. The Confederation government, the Framers argued, had grown ineffectual. What the Constitution did not do was grant unlimited authority.

  • I rather suspect that James Madison understood the Constitution somewhat more accurately than Mr. Woods. Of course Mr. Woods is not a dispassionate scholar. He is a paladin of a point of view that was defeated at Appomattox. His views of Nullification would no doubt be lustily cheered at a meeting of the League of the South, less so by non neo-Confederates.

  • Yeah Donald, and I guess breaking treaties with Indians was OK and that our occupation of those lands settled the issue. Why don’t you replace Appomattox with Sand Creek or the Battle of Washita.

  • My point Efrem is that like the Confederacy which is the apple of his eye, (don’t accept my statement for that, read Mr. Woods’ Politically Incorrect Guide to American history), Mr. Woods holds to doctrines which have been rejected in theory, in practice and on the battlefield. You cannot have a country where a state can unilaterally determine which laws of the Union will be followed within its borders and which ones will not. That is to replace government by anarchy. Mr. Woods uses a very strained view of American history in order to try to reach libertarian\paleocon ends as can be seen by reading some of his columns at Lew Rockwell. He is not engaged in academic debate, but is rather attempting to help raise support for his political point of view. He certainly is entitled to peddle any brand of politics to which he adheres. He is not entitled to twist the history of this nation to do so.

  • Because that would be a non-sequitur.

  • Mr. Zummo,

    I think we can agree that chasing the quotes of our founding fathers is ultimately a dead end here. You can quote Hamilton while Woods quotes Jefferson; and Woods can quote ‘1798 Madison’ while you quote ‘1835 Madison’. It’s going to be a wash.

    In light of this, I think it might be useful to try relying on our own brains/morals here.

    In that spirit, I have a genuine question for you: You say in this article that the states have “innumerable devices at their disposal to fight back against unconstitutional legislation.” I assume these “devices” to be elections, constitutional amendments, the Supreme Court, activism, etc. Now, nevermind the fact that the Federal Government has run roughsod over the states throughout the 20th Century… Let’s just consider the following scenario: The U.S. Federal Congress passes a law banning elections, the U.S. Federal President signs it into law, and the U.S. Federal Supreme Court confirms it’s constitutionality. Under this circumstance, are we simply resigned to the fate of a dictatorship?

    I don’t know about you, but a government that can mandate the kidnapping of slaves, the internment of over 100,000 people, that growing food for your own consumption is “interstate commerce”, and (now) that we purchase products from private companies, is not a government that you “play ball” with. It’s a government that you resist.

    History has shown us the horrors of centralized political power. Woods’ grasp of history is excellent, but his grasp of the inherently dangerous nature of centralized political power is what makes him great. I hope that you’ll consider the implications of Woods’ position in that context.

  • The point is Donald is that the question of nullfication is not settled with force like the Civil War just like the issue of Indian land soveriegnty was not settled with force via fraudulent taking of their lands.

  • “This brings us to the expedient lately advanced, which claims for a single State a right to appeal agst. an exercise of power by the Govt. of the U. S. decided by the State to be unconstitutional, to the parties of the Const, compact; the decision of the State to have the effect of nullifying the act of the Govt. of the U. S. unless the decision of the State be reversed by three-fourths of the parties.

    The distinguished names & high authorities which appear to have asserted and given a practical scope to this doctrine, entitle it to a respect which it might be difficult otherwise to feel for it.

    If the doctrine were to be understood as requiring the three-fourths of the States to sustain, instead of that proportion to reverse, the decision of the appealing State, the decision to be without effect during the appeal, it wd. be sufficient to remark, that this extra constl. course might well give way to that marked out by the Const, which authorizes 2/3 of the States to institute and 3/4. to effectuate, an amendment of the Constn. establishing a permanent rule of the highest authy in place of an irregular precedent of construction only.

    But it is understood that the nullifying doctrine imports that the decision of the State is to be presumed valid, and that it overrules the law of the U. S. unless overuled by 3/4 of the States.

    Can more be necessary to demonstrate the inadmissibility of such a doctrine than that it puts it in the power of the smallest fraction over 1/4 of the U. S. — that is, of 7 States out of 24 — to give the law and even the Constn. to 17 States, each of the 17 having as parties to the Constn. an equal right with each of the 7 to expound it & to insist on the exposition. That the 7 might, in particular instances be right and the 17 wrong, is more than possible. But to establish a positive & permanent rule giving such a power to such a minority over such a majority, would overturn the first principle of free Govt. and in practice necessarily overturn the Govt. itself.

    It is to be recollected that the Constitution was proposed to the people of the States as a whole, and unanimously adopted by the States as a whole, it being a part of the Constitution that not less than 3/4 of the States should be competent to make any alteration in what had been unanimously agreed to. So great is the caution on this point, that in two cases when peculiar interests were at stake, a proportion even of 3/4 is distrusted, and unanimity required to make an alteration.

    When the Constitution was adopted as a whole, it is certain that there were many parts which if separately proposed, would have been promptly rejected. It is far from impossible, that every part of the Constitution might be rejected by a majority, and yet, taken together as a whole be unanimously accepted. Free constitutions will rarely if ever be formed without reciprocal concessions; without articles conditioned on & balancing each other. Is there a constitution of a single State out of the 24 that wd. bear the experiment of having its component parts submitted to the people & separately decided on?

    What the fate of the Constitution of the U. S. would be if a small proportion of States could expunge parts of it particularly valued by a large majority, can have but one answer.”

    James Madison to Edward Everett, August 28, 1830

    http://www.constitution.org/jm/18300828_everett.htm

  • Paul,

    The federal government is out of control and ALL mechanisms to curb it have failed. It has run a muck to the tune of trillions in debt, rights are routinely trampled, even to the point that they state they give us our rights (in direct defiance as to what was written in the Declaration of Independence). We have even gone so far as to institute a patriot act that shreds the last semblances of the document. We should be marching on DC with our torches and pitchforks but, barely a word is spoken and now we get articles like this berating us that this is not the way. We as a people no longer have any semblance of sovereignty or of our republic, we are surfs to a huge monopolistic plutocracy that is for sale to the highest bidder. I don’t care if nullification is constitutional or is unconstitutional, whatever will help try to put this monster back in its box or kill it! One or the other.

    I also think that your even addressing nullification as an “unconstitutional” idea is laughable. Like anyone even pays attention to the Constitution, ESPECIALLY in our own government. Like most, your article only calls on the document to make some inane point much like people who call on the Bible to justify their adulterous behavior or their sins in general. You have no reverence for the document otherwise, you would look at every angle to try to insure its preservation. Everyone has some idea that this doctrine (nullification) will create chaos…our country is IN chaos and when the dollar crashes, it’s only going to get worse.

  • Like anyone even pays attention to the Constitution,

    So the answer to unconstitutional action is to engage in more unconstitutional action? That’s like incurring more debt in an effort to pay down one’s current obligations.

    I think we can agree that chasing the quotes of our founding fathers is ultimately a dead end here. You can quote Hamilton while Woods quotes Jefferson; and Woods can quote ’1798 Madison’ while you quote ’1835 Madison’. It’s going to be a wash.

    The people I am citing were actual authors of the Constitution. Madison’s writings from 1798 does not contradict what he said in 1835. If that’s your idea of a wash, then you are clearly not a very good judge.

  • Brett, the rest of your hypothetical assumes a rather far-fetched example of government over-reach. Obviously all human beings retain the right of revolution in case of true tyranny. But if this is the best example you can come up with to defend Woods’ train of thought, then I’m quite comfortable maintaining my position.

  • It worked for OJ Simpson — sorta.

  • Paul,

    Excuse me, I’m quite sure that I listed some very real examples of tyrannies that have already been perpetrated against the American people—(the Fugitive Slave Law, the internment of over 100,000 human beings during WWII, the confiscation of farmers’ personal produce, and now, the requirement that we purchase a private product).

    Let’s get this straight, Paul: If you were a state governor and the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to intern your fellow citizens, you would do it? Or would you refuse to enforce (nullify) it?

    Simple question. I cant wait to read your answer.

  • Oh and, for the record, the purpose of my (ostensibly hyperbolic) hypothetical scenario was to demonstrate the fundamentally flawed nature of the system that you appear to be defending—and to bring your logic to its proper conclusion. (Though, unfortunately, for many Americans there is nothing hyperbolic or hypothetical about it—eg the Japanese during WWII.)

    “The people I am citing were actual authors of the Constitution. Madison’s writings from 1798 does not contradict what he said in 1835. If that’s your idea of a wash, then you are clearly not a very good judge.”

    Extraneous. But you ignored Jefferson, why, exactly? Hamilton v. Jefferson = a wash, insofar as the opinions of the founders really comprise the point on which this issue pivots for you (which I highly doubt).

    You can’t just claim erroneously that you *know* the hearts & minds of the founders and then substitute that claim for actual arguments, especially when it comes to an issue as crucial as this.

    My point was that we should actually think about this issue for ourselves. I don’t think that that’s an unreasonable request.

  • What about the fact that nullification has been used, successfully at that, in the past. I wonder if the people that criticize Dr. Woods have even read the book or are they like the government, almighty and all knowing?

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  • One of the many hilarious things about this latest boomlet for nullification created by Woods and his cronies in crankdom, is how it flies in the face of American history, not only in theory but in practice.

    They seize upon the Kentucky Resolutions and the Virginia Resolution of 1798 without really understanding what was going on. These were part and parcel of the ongoing political war of the Republicans against the Federalists, and as political theater they were quite successful in helping rouse public fury against the Alien and Sedition Acts which led to Republican victory at the polls in 1800. Once the Resolutions had helped achieve success at the polls, they were quietly abandoned by the Republicans since they had served their political purpose.

    In the Nullification Crisis of 1832, South Carolina’s first attempt to destroy the Union and start a civil war, a compromise was ultimately worked out in Congress to lower the tariffs and the nullification movement in South Carolina collapsed, much to the chagrin of some fireeaters like Rhett who would still be around to help start the Civil War in the secession crisis of 1860-61.

    Modern day advocates of nullification attempt to dragoon the personal liberty laws passed by some Nothern states to attempt to get around the fugitive slave law into the nullification debate. (I suspect that this example is drug in to get around the fact that throughout the history of this country nullification has often been allied with racist movements.) Of course such attempts were futile as the US Supreme Court ruled in 1842 that such laws were unconstitutional, as they clearly were at the time. What of course ended the fugitive slave law was the Civil War and the constitutional amendments that resulted. Mr. Woods, to show his thanks for this, is welcome to join me and my family next summer when we go to Lincoln’s tomb to pray for the repose of his soul.

    Nullification was often brought up by segregationists in their “massive resistance” campaign against Brown v. Board of education. As in the rest of American history, nullification went nowhere fast in this less than stellar moment in our nation’s history. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this in his I Have a Dream Speech in 1963:
    “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

    What made nullification more than a historical footnote today is of course ObamaCare, and the justified opposition to it, which I fully share. However, the political process is working. The Republicans took the House,made gains in the Senate, and control most governorships and state legislatures, largely because the Democrats acted completely fecklessly with no concern for the public opposition they were building. Suits against ObamaCare are proceeding with some success in the federal courts. Crack-brained nostrums like nullification are not needed in America, while our political and legal systems are functioning, which they are.

    I do confess however, that I almost hope that one of the States is foolish enough to think that nullification could work. The first federal lawsuit over the issue would rapidly establish that nullification has as much standing in the federal courts as a flat earth has in a geography class. The state government would then be in a position of obeying the ruling of the federal court, or calling the national guard to arms. One guess as to which course they would choose. Of course if they chose to attempt armed revolution I assume that Mr. Woods and his friends will be on the barricades, although that would be somewhat more dangerous than writing books or debating on the internet.

  • Good points, Donald. It is almost a form of right-wing utopianism. Also, if you look at the arguments made on this thread it seems that even the advocated for nullification concede that it’s not really a constitutional measure – just that the system is so broken that we have no other recourse. Well, I’m not ready to give up on the legitimate means at our disposal to fight back against an encroaching federal government.

  • Brett,

    Thomas Jefferson was in Paris during the writing of the US Constitution. Alexander Hamilton was an actual participant of the constitutional convention, was one of its leading proponents (despite mis-givings about the end product), and an author of a series of essays that provides more insight into what the Framers were thinking than any other resource. So yes, I do take his interpretation more seriously than Jefferson.

    You can’t just claim erroneously that you *know* the hearts & minds of the founders and then substitute that claim for actual arguments, especially when it comes to an issue as crucial as this.

    I cited their actual words. I didn’t just make blustery comments making up imaginary interpretations of what they said. That’s what you guys do.

    My point was that we should actually think about this issue for ourselves. I don’t think that that’s an unreasonable request.

    I would take that claim more seriously if you didn’t just blindly accept Thomas Woods’ shoddy research as as Gospel truth.

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  • ***Paul,

    Excuse me, I’m quite sure that I listed some very real examples of tyrannies that have already been perpetrated against the American people—(the Fugitive Slave Law, the internment of over 100,000 human beings during WWII, the confiscation of farmers’ personal produce, and now, the requirement that we purchase a private product).

    Let’s get this straight, Paul: If you were a state governor and the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to intern your fellow citizens, you would do it? Or would you refuse to enforce (nullify) it?

    Simple question. I cant wait to read your answer.***

    P.S. I didn’t take any of Woods’ research as “Gospel truth”. If you recall, I said that it’s a wash. But completely discounting arguably the most influential founding father simply because he wasn’t physically at the Convention seems “shoddy” to me.

    In any case, I’ll cede the point—for lack of authority and sake of argument. You evaded my first (more important) comment (see above). I hope you’ll respond. Thanks.

  • Thanks Brett. I saw the question, but I thought my response was fairly obvious based on my previous comments. Maybe I need to type slower. In the case of clear government tyranny, we do reserve the right to revolution. If you can’t see the difference between your extreme hypothetical and the examples you cited, you clearly lack common sense and can’t be helped.

    Hamilton and Madison are more relevant because they would have a better understanding of the true intent of the Framers, seeing as they were actually there when the Constitution was written. Therefore I think they are in better position to interpret the Constitution than Jefferson.

  • Mr. Zummo,

    Tom Woods and John Lambert are correct. And for a respondent to say that Woods does not know his history demonstrates ignorance on the respondent’s side. Woods is a well-recognized scholar on the subject.

    As for Mr. McClarey’s comments about Madison, he is referencing a letter written nearly 35 years after the events in question. It is a well-known historical fact that in his later years, Madison contradicted much of what he, himself, had said in his earlier days, and also spoke and wrote much else that contradicted the recorded history of his own lifetime. Today we have a name for that: senile dementia.

    AT THE TIME OF ITS WRITING, the Virginia Resolution was clearly understood to advocate states “interposing” themselves between a usurping Federal government and The People. In effect this IS a call for nullification. Madison’s comments in his later life are simply not germane.

    The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions did not carry the political weight of the day, which statists are quick to seize as justification for saying that nullification is a failed doctrine. But what they consistently fail to mention is that a very few short years later, the Alien and Seditions Acts were actively being opposed by the people and their respective states, which refused to support the Acts and in some cases passed legislation rendering them of no effect… BEFORE the laws expired when Adams left office.

    McClarey also has his facts about the “nullification crisis” of South Carolina wrong. Or at least very distorted. For one thing, S.C. was not trying to “destroy the Union” at all. It was merely trying to assert its right to nullify a law that it perceived to be unconstitutional: an unreasonable tariff. (And in fact they were right: the tariff was an intentional attack on the economy of the South on the part of the then Northern-dominated Congress).

    The fact of the matter, which McClarey actually states before going on to contradict himself, is that South Carolina did not back down, even under military threat, until AFTER Congress changed the tariff to something more to South Carolina’s satisfaction. That puts it among the first SUCCESSFUL cases of state nullification. Let’s make no mistake about that.

    As has been stated here before, the States were concerned with an overweening Federal government, and insisted on protection from it before ratifying the Constitution. The intentions of the Founders in the Bill of Rights, and the Tenth Amendment in particular, which was intended to solidify that protection, are very clear in light of the writings of the day, including the Federalist Papers.

    Brett also makes good points, about later (actual, successful, and historically unequivocal) nullifications of the Fugitive Slave Law and other such situations. And then we have modern examples of same: effective (25 states) nullification of Real ID. There also have been ongoing nullification of other unconstitutional acts of the Federal government, such as marijuana laws.

    There is no mistake about this, and true scholars of history like Woods understand the historical meaning of the documents, and their words and wording. (And he is far from alone: true students of this period of our history are in general agreement about the matter, which makes me wonder what Kool-Aid Mr. Lummo has been drinking.)

    Revisionist history, like that presented by Mr. Lummo, will never prevail unless or until they manage to re-write the actual history books. Which I do not think will ever happen. Too many people respect the actual facts.

  • Pardon me, I wrote “Mr. Lummo” when I clearly meant “Mr. Zummo”. Those were unintentional typographical errors, not an intent to slight the author.

  • Woods is a well-recognized scholar on the subject.

    You are mistaking book sales for expertise.

    It is a well-known historical fact that in his later years, Madison contradicted much of what he, himself, had said in his earlier days, and also spoke and wrote much else that contradicted the recorded history of his own lifetime. Today we have a name for that: senile dementia.

    Ah yes, let’s make stuff up in order to disregard all the stuff that contradicts what we believe. Who can contend with such scholarly arguments?

  • Paul,

    Maybe *I* need to type slower. I made no mention of my (ostensibly hyperbolic) hypothetical in my last comment, did I? I asked you about a real-world historical event.

    I’ll try one more time, since you seem at least somewhat receptive: If you were a state governor and the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to intern your fellow citizens, would you do it or would you nullify it?

    If the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to kidnap slaves so that they may be returned to their owners, would you do it or would you nullify it?

    If the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to force your fellow citizen to purchase a private product that he or she did not want to purchase, would you do it or would you nullify it?

    There is nothing hypothetical about these examples and, call me crazy, but I *do* happen to believe that interning over 100,000 human beings without due process is “extreme”. Apparently you disagree?

  • Oh, and I’m glad that you at least believe that human beings reserve the right to revolt against government.

    And nullification is a form of contained and peaceful revolution. We don’t need a blood bath every time the U.S. Federal Government oversteps its bounds. We can, instead—relying on our healthy and rational fears of centralized power—refuse to enforce blatantly unjust Federal laws.

    Look at what happened to the Real ID Act of 2005. States are simply refusing to enforce it! Is that unacceptable? (http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com/nullification/real-id/)

    Is this OK, or would you rather wait until the government becomes a full-blown dictatorship before you would grant us permission to resist?

    I think you would do well to give these questions serious consideration. You’re coming off as a bit flippant towards this issue.

  • “As for Mr. McClarey’s comments about Madison, he is referencing a letter written nearly 35 years after the events in question. It is a well-known historical fact that in his later years, Madison contradicted much of what he, himself, had said in his earlier days, and also spoke and wrote much else that contradicted the recorded history of his own lifetime.”

    Completely untrue. Contrary to Woods and his fellow myth makers, Madison was never in favor of nullification. He merely restated late in life what he had always held. As to your comment about senile dementia, I have absolutely no doubt that Madison on his worst day was sharper than you on your best. His writings attest to this.

    “McClarey also has his facts about the “nullification crisis” of South Carolina wrong. Or at least very distorted. For one thing, S.C. was not trying to “destroy the Union” at all. It was merely trying to assert its right to nullify a law that it perceived to be unconstitutional: an unreasonable tariff. (And in fact they were right: the tariff was an intentional attack on the economy of the South on the part of the then Northern-dominated Congress).”

    Where to begin. The “Tariff of Abominations of 1828″ was actually, wait for it, the brainchild of John C. Calhoun. In order to head off an increase in tariffs, Calhoun decided to craft a tariff increase laden with increases on imports popular in New England, assuming that the New Englanders would vote against it. Enough voted in favor of it to pass it. I think that Calhoun was so hot for nullification partly out of embarassment that he helped bring about this tariff. The tariff was a perennial battle field and the divisions were often not purely regional. There was a fair amount of opposition usually to tariff increases in New England, and often a fair amount of support for tariff increases in the border states and Tennessee.

    At any rate South Carolina, rather than engage in the usual political wheeling and dealing that surrounded tariff battles, decided to begin a campaign touting nullification and the necessity of the South to unite and possibly secede. The problem for the South Carolinians is that their position had little support throughout most of the South. Oh, white Southerners generally hated the tariff, but they weren’t ready to start a war over it. Jackson of course threatened to lead an army against South Carolina and hang every nullifier he could get his hands on. In the face of this South Carolina repealed its nullification ordinance on March 11, 1833. This resolution was helped by the Compromise Tariff of 1833 which set forth a gradual reduction in tariffs to the rates of 1816.

    A tariff reduction had been passed in 1832. It helped take some of the steam out of the nullification movement, but was unacceptable to most of the South Carolina nullification radicals.

    Robert Barnwell Rhett spoke for most of the most radical nullifiers when he spoke after the repeal of the nullification ordinance:
    ” Every stride of this Government, over your rights, brings it nearer and nearer to your peculiar policy. …The whole world are in arms against your institutions … Let Gentlemen not be deceived.It is not the Tariff – not Internal Improvement – nor yet the Force bill, which constitutes the great evil against which we are contending. … These are but the forms in which the despotic nature of the government is evinced – but it is the despotism which constitutes the evil: and until this Government is made a limited Government … there is no liberty – no security for the South.”

    Rhett believed that slavery was not safe until a Southern Confederacy was established. Rhett helped bring about the Confederacy in 1860 and lived to see slavery destroyed as a result.

    Contrary to present day devotees of nullification, the nullification crisis was not responsible for the reduction of tariffs. Tariff increases and reductions were part of the political landscape both before and after the crisis. Just before the Civil War the tariff of 1857 set tariffs at the lowest rate for the century. If anything, the hullabaloo created by the nullification crisis probably delayed a reduction in tariffs by temporarily stopping the normal give and take of politics and leading the competing factions to dig in their heels.

  • Maybe going back to the Confederacy of nearly sovereign states isn’t such a bad idea. The alternative tends toward union aggression and tyranny and, while good on paper, hasn’t worked in reality. In less than a hundred years after the Revolutionary War, we had Lincoln and the North, backed by the big business of the day, waging war against the South in order to take their riches to pay for their big government.

    I say let there be sovereign and free states who are linked by free trade and a very, very loose central government responsible largely for organization and management during times of crisis, such as war.

  • Mr. Zummo-
    Would you please enlighten us as to what made Madison change his mind so drastically? That would go a long way in determing whether Madison’s change of heart was for reasons to serve himself or for legitimate objections he felt.
    I doubt highly that any proponents of nullification truly believe that it is some method by which a utopia could be created. And if anyone has then I would seriously take issue with it. I could talk about how that is impossible considering the human condition, but would not hold relevance in this discussion.

    Mr. McClarey-
    So because the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were nothing more than a means to a political end, they have no modern application? What about the Tenth Amendment? It seems highly questionable to maintain that we have recourse within a government that has failed, that we should depend upon a Supreme Court that has done much to inhibit liberty. Why would I want a branch of the Federal Government(the Judiciary)to be the final arbiter of the Constitutionality of any of my rights? When does protest and redress become futile? I can agree that we should work with in the system, but much like the health care law foisted on the American people, when does it become futile to carry on with a government that will not listen? This goes for Republican governance as well.
    If nullification is a viable solution because of it association with segregation, then neither is free speech, because segregationist made full use of their freedom of speech to stand behind their bully pulpit and rail about “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” I think we can agree that though there may exist a rub, what is to keep us from expanding on the thoughts and ideas of those who influenced and even wrote our founding documents? Should we depend solely on the words of the Founders, no. But it certainly does hurt to use them as a starting point.

    As far as the Civil War is concerned, I suppose if the government went to war with the people over a cherished liberty and won, then the issue is settled and the cherished liberty is no more.

    If the fear of nullification is based on the fear of anarchy, then what of the Tenth Amendment? If we have no right to decide, through our state representatives that a law passed by the Federal government is not Constitutional, then why the Tenth Amendment? Is not this an evisceration of the Tenth Amendment, and the 9th as well.

    Mr. Zummo and McClarey,
    Interesting question would you gentlemen be willing to see the repeal of the amendment to the Constitution allowing for the direct election of senators, as means to bring the closer to their representatives not in Washington, but in their own state capitals?

  • If anything I would base my personal views on nullification on this.

    1. That the Constitution of the United States said quite clearly that the Federal Government is one of limited powers. That all other rights belong with the States, or the People. To me this clearly implies that there are rights that the people retain, but obviously those rights are not delineated because they are potentially many. If I take this to be true, which I do, it is no great leap to assume that the States(People) have the right to review laws emanating from the Federal Government, and if they so choose to choose to refrain from enforcing those laws which are judged to be in contravention of the Constitution.

    The argument here seems to be based on what James Madison, or Alexander Hamilton did or did not say, and how James Madison changed his mind years after the fact. Should we be ultimately considering the words of a man who changed his mind, or the document to which he worked to create? I would judge that much of what is being argued here is very conflicting, 1798 Madison, or 1835 Madison, so much so that we should consider not the mans words in certain periods, but the document he worked on, and to me it is no real stretch to consider the right of a sovereign state to judge those laws, especially those which might contravene their rights under the Constitution, and to refuse to enforce them, thereby making them NULL, VOID, and of NO EFFECT.

    JDB

  • THis article makes a decent attempt to be honest but it confuses nullification with seccession. One is the void of federal laws within a state while the other is the departure from the union of states to be its own country. The south tried that. It never once did nullification.

    “The pausibility of this objection will vanish the moment we advert to the essential difference between a mere non-compliance and a direct and active resistance. If the interposition of the State legislatures be necessary to give effect to a measure of the Union, they have only not to act, or to act evasively, and the measure is defeated. ”

    THis was made when the federal government completely relied on the states to enforce federal law. Not acting, as this implies is the proper course, is nullification since that law can’t be enforced in that state since the state is simply not enforcing it.

  • Quote Mr. Zummo: “Ah yes, let’s make stuff up in order to disregard all the stuff that contradicts what we believe. Who can contend with such scholarly arguments?”

    What evidence do you have that this is “made up”? If you like, I can find numerous examples of exactly what I asserted. If you would like me to post them here, I would be happy to. Just say so. It will likely take up a lot of space.

  • @theunknown:

    Actually, South Carolina did do that, during the so-called “Nullification Crisis”. They attempted to nullify a Federal tariff on trade that was too high. (There is evidence that the Northern-dominated Congress had done that on purpose in order to hurt the economy of South Carolina and other Southern states.)

    South Carolina decided that the tariff was excessive and therefore unconstitutional, and refused to enforce or obey it. The Feds sent in troops.

    Statists are fond of saying that South Carolina then backed down. But the fact of the matter is, despite the military threat, they held their ground until AFTER Congress changed the tariff to a more reasonable figure that South Carolina was willing to live with. So in fact it was the first unequivocal case of SUCCESSFUL state nullification of a federal law. There have been many since. Mr. Zummo is loathe to acknowledge them, but they exist nevertheless.

  • No, there was no successful nullification of any federal law. The actual history is as I cited earlier contrary to your fevered imagination. No federal troops were sent in. Congress passed a force bill but no federal troops were sent to South Carolina since the nullification ordinance was repealed by South Carolina after both the Force Bill and the Compromise Tariff of 1833 were passed on March 1. As I also indicated in my earlier comment in the years to come the tariff both went up and down uninfluenced by South Carolina’s first attempt to start a Civil War. As before the nullification crisis, the tariff remained a subject of conventional politics and would go up and down depending upon shifting political coalitions in Congress and election results. The nullification crisis was completely unnecessary, probably delayed a lowering of the tariff and brought South Carolina close to war for the sake of an idiotic stunt. This is truly a foolish example for modern day nullifiers to cite as a “success”.

  • @ Donald R. McClarey:

    Pardon me. You are correct in that troops were not sent in. I was confusing that situation with another. Nevertheless, South Carolina did make military preparations to defend its decision, anticipating that Federal troops would be sent in, and which no doubt would have been sent in had not the tariff been lowered. As you state yourself, a Force Bill was passed authorizing just such a measure, however the tariff was also lowered to a point that met South Carolina’s satisfaction, which made the point moot.

    These facts remain: South Carolina did vote to nullify the law, the Federal government did authorize military intervention, and South Carolina was prepared to go to war, before they ACTUALLY GOT WHAT THEY HAD DEMANDED.

    If you don’t call that success, I would like to know what your definition is.

  • @Jonathan D. Boatwright:

    I would say that your assessment is correct.

    Later in his life, some 30 or 35 years after his involvement in forming the Constitution, Madison did not just “change his mind”, but denied he had even said or written much of what he in fact did say and write, according to the clear public record. He also denied the occurrence of events that were also clearly in the public record. Whether he did this just because he was a stubborn, headstrong ass, or because he had lost his mental faculties, is a matter for debate. I am inclined to believe the latter, because of the way his later statements so directly contradict the records. I do not see how a fully sane person could make such denials of demonstrable truth and expect to be believed.

    And Hamilton, it should be noted, was an avowed Statist (to use the modern term), fully in favor of a strong central government that would have unchecked power over the states. Hamilton helped to back the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention, which would have, among other things, given the Federal government the power to veto legislation by the states. It is of considerable interest that this idea was soundly rejected by the Convention, and also my the strong majority of those who later participated in writing the Federalist Papers, before the Constitution was ratified. It is easy to show that Hamilton’s voice, while clear, was only that of a small minority.

    The Founders were of the opinion (with the exception of Hamilton and perhaps a couple of others) that the Federal government was nothing but a compact between the States, which delegated a small set of their OWN sovereign powers to the Federal government, in order to better carry out the common interests of those States, and that all other powers would be retained by those States. Note the word that appears in the Constitution and repeatedly in many other historical documents: “delegate”. It is impossible to “delegate” authority that you do not yourself possess.

    Further, along the lines of your last statement: the Federal government was never intended to be the sole judge of its own powers. That includes the Supreme Court, which of course is part of the government. That would be “putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse”, as it were. I refuse to believe (and historical documents back me up) that our Founding Fathers were that stupid.

    I think you may find some of the following quotes to be of interest. Madison’s quotes here are from well before he “changed his mind”, as you put it. That is to say, they are from when he was actively involved in governing Virginia and helping to form the Constitution. The first one is from his Report of 1800, to the people of Virginia:

    “The resolution of the General Assembly [the Virginia Resolutions of 1798] relates to those great and extraordinary cases, in which all the forms of the Constitution may prove ineffectual against infractions dangerous to the essential rights of the parties to it. The resolution supposes that dangerous powers, not delegated, may not only be usurped and executed by the other departments, but that the judicial department also may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution; and, consequently, that the ultimate right of the parties to the Constitution, to judge whether the compact has been dangerously violated, must extend to violations by one delegated authority, as well as by another; by the judiciary, as well as by the executive, or the legislature.

    “However true, therefore, it may be, that the judicial department, is, in all questions submitted to it by the forms of the Constitution, to decide in the last resort, this resort must necessarily be deemed the last in relation to the authorities of the other departments of the government; not in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial as well as the other departments hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power would annul the authority delegating it; and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers, might subvert for ever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy, the very Constitution which all were instituted to preserve.”

    The “parties” to the constitutional compact mentioned are, of course, the States. His meaning here is very clear: even the Supreme Court, while normally charged with deciding matters of constitutionality, was vulnerable to corruption and usurpation of powers. Therefore, the final arbiters of all were to be the States themselves, and The People.

    These other quotes are also relevant, in one way or another.

    “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.” — James Wilson (Delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence)

    “[T]he government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself.” — Thomas Jefferson, about the U.S. Constitution, in the Kentucky Resolution of 1798

    “With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.” – James Madison, letter to James Robertson, April 20, 1831

    “I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress. … Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.” — James Madison, speech to Congress, 6 Feb. 1792 (Note the intentional sarcasm. But in fact today the Federal government has usurped the power to control some of those very things.)

    “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” — James Madison

    “…the government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” — James Madison

    “A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” — James Madison

  • I apologize but I simply haven’t had the time, nor will have much time in coming days, to address all of the arguments that have been put forth. There is one particular thing I’d like to address because it does get down to the crux of this whole matter.

    And Hamilton, it should be noted, was an avowed Statist (to use the modern term), fully in favor of a strong central government that would have unchecked power over the states.

    This has been posited by both foes and admirers of Hamilton, but it is not correct. Hamilton, it is true, desired the creation of a stronger and more energetic government to displace the Articles of Confederation. So did almost all of the Framers, including Madison. And while it’s true that Hamilton was perhaps less fearful of an over-reaching government than the rest of the Federalists, he by no means countenanced a giant leviathan state that we have now. Hamilton wanted the government to be active in a few select areas, notably national defense and commerce. However, he correctly realized that a government active in all facets of life would be ineffective, and so he, like the rest of the Federalists, believed that the government’s powers should be few and defined. I would recommend reading Federalists 23-34 to get a sense of what Hamilton was about, and in particular, if you wish, reading my analyses of these papers at Almost Chosen People.. I’ve linked to all of the Hamilton essays that I’ve discussed thus far.

    On the other hand, it is my contention – and was the subject of my dissertation – that it is in fact the Jeffersonian philosophy that leads precisely to the sort of big government leviathan that exists today. Jefferson shares many beliefs, knowingly or unknowingly, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is, in the end, to the left what Edmund Burke is to the right.

    It’s easy to advocate populist mechanisms to curtail the government when the populace is to be perceived to be on your side. Unfortunately what most right-wing populists miss is that much of what has transpired over the past century has been fully approved of and sanctioned by the populace at large. The sweet song of nullification is appealing until one realizes that it can be a dangerous weapon to tear down measures that one approves of.

    This is probably going to be my last word on the subject, at least for a few days.

  • Regarding the Supremacy Clause, I think that an argument that it prohibits nullification ignores these important words:

    “…under the Authority of the United States,”

    Nullification is a solution proposed when the legislature EXCEEDS “the Authority of the United States.” Both Jefferson and Madison agreed upon one thing: that the federal government was only given authority related to specifically enumerated powers. Therefore, the Supremacy Clause would only bind the states when the federal government was acting within this authority. The document assumes that this will always be the case. When the legislature exceeds this authority, no remedy is provided in the Constitution, and therefore the parties to the contract (the states) have a right to consider it a breach of contract and not be bound by it.

  • The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it… No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law, and no courts are bound to enforce it.
    — 16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256

    Is not that in essence a form of nullification? I means interpreted properly doesn’t this mean that a law that is unconstitutional is NULL, void, and essnetially of no effect? If that is the case, then in essence for a state legislature, or the people of a state to offer an “opinion” or statement of fact that the law is in essence of no effect, is not so wrong as present academics would like to think.

    In Mr. Woods defense, the ignorant thing is to denounce him on the basis of Madison and Hamilton. Madison renounced what he said earlier, and as far as Hamilton is concerned I cannot think of one country under a central government that has all the authority that has survived.

    JDB

  • Madison renounced what he said earlier,

    NO, he did not. A lie repeated often enough does not become truth. You Woods acolytes keep aping this line without providing a scintilla of evidence. It makes it difficult to take any of you seriously when you cannot back up your ahistoric notions with actual proof.

  • Deafening, Mr. Zummo.

  • I repeat, Mr. Zummo: I can access a number of instances of Madison doing precisely that. Would you like me to post them here? It would likely take up a lot of space. The only reason I haven’t so far is that I haven’t wanted to spend the time. But you are simply wrong on this point.

    For now I will present just one example. In the early 1830s, Madison wrote a series of letters that were circulated publicly. (From “James Madison: Philosopher, Founder, and Statesman” by John R. Vile, William D. Pederson, and Frank J. Williams) In those letters, he stated that the Virginia Resolutions, “properly understood”, did not call for state nullification. Subsequently John Calhoun (correctly) accused Madison of abandoning his earlier principles.

    However, even a brief examination of Madison’s own Report of 1800 (part of which I have quoted above), 2 years after the Virginia Resolutions, puts the lie to Madison’s later claims. In that document, not only does he make it perfectly clear in that document that he *WAS* referring to nullification (or “interposition”, if you want to be technical, which effectively amounts to the same thing).

    In that Report, in fact, he called for it once again, in the case of usurpation of power by the Supreme Court. And again, the plain language of that part is quoted in my earlier post, if you care to read it and you can understand plain English.

    Madison even tried to deny that the Kentucky Resolution called for nullification, and he continued in this insistence until someone confronted him with an actual copy, containing that exact word, at which point he backed down.

    If you don’t call that denial, then what do you call it? There are numerous other examples.

    Since we are on the Report of 1800, I will go back and support some of my other points with another quote from it. He is here referring at first to England:

    “Hence, too, all the ramparts for protecting the rights of the people–such as their Magna Charta, their Bill of Rights, &c.–are not reared against the Parliament, but against the royal prerogative. They are merely legislative precautions against executive usurpations. Under such a government as this, an exemption of the press from previous restraint, by licensers appointed by the King, is all the freedom that can be secured to it.

    In the United States the case is altogether different. The People, not the Government, possess the absolute sovereignty. The Legislature, no less than the Executive, is under limitations of power.”

    And he later mentions in that same document, again as quoted above, that the Supreme Court is also under strict limitations. It’s right there in black and white.

    Mr. Zummo, you seem yourself to be somewhat in denial of facts that contradict your thesis (as evidence, your post just above). I am no amateur in this matter. When I say I can produce historical documents, I can produce them. Count on it. Even though you seem to be ignoring those I have already quoted.

    Just to be clear, here is the plain language from the Virginia Resolutions that has been the topic of discussion here:

    “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.”

    Note the word “interpose”. Madison is clearly stating that the states have both a right AND A DUTY to interpose themselves and prevent Federal usurpation of power. Thus the states MUST, logically, have the power and authority to do so.

    Madison later claimed that the state power he referred to was a collective one and not individual; this is in contrast to Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution. However, he still clearly claimed such power FOR THE STATES.

    Again, there it is in black and white. Try denying that.

    Once again, to excerpt: “… as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact;”

    There are those words again: limited; compact; ENUMERATED. Do you honestly think that is coincidence? That “limited” and “enumerated” were just meaningless words that were tossed around every day?

    Your quote, Mr. Zummo: “This has been posited by both foes and admirers of Hamilton, but it is not correct.”

    Please, show me where in the history books it states that Mr. Hamilton was NOT a supporter of the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention, or that the Virginia Plan did NOT call for veto power over state legislation. I will wait. I expect I will be waiting a very long time.

    Mr. Zummo, it appears that you have been reading history books that nobody else has seen. If they are genuine, perhaps you could assist the genuine scholarship of history by making them public.

  • The only reason I haven’t so far is that I haven’t wanted to spend the time. But you are simply wrong on this point.

    Yes, Lonny, you fellows are good at repeatedly asserting things without proof. I know researching things and citing them is hard, but really not that difficult.

    Please, show me where in the history books it states that Mr. Hamilton was NOT a supporter of the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention, or that the Virginia Plan did NOT call for veto power over state legislation. I will wait. I expect I will be waiting a very long time.

    I never denied this. I simply stated that Hamilton was not a big government statist. That’s all.

    Mr. Zummo, it appears that you have been reading history books that nobody else has seen.

    Yes, it’s called reading the actual words of the people I am talking about. I know it’s easier to rely on third rate historians who are more interested in book sales than in making carefully crafted academic arguments based on scholarly evidence, but some of us prefer to use our own brains.

  • Paul, that Phd you earned in this area, and your doctoral dissertation on Jefferson, just can’t compete with these Internet acolytes of the TRUE AMERICAN HISTORY! 🙂

  • Sheesh, can’t we all just get along?

  • Mr. Lonny Eachus

    I think it would be best to leave Mr. Zummo and his colleagues to preen their ruffled feathers in the sun of their academic understanding.

    ———————————————————–
    And Mr. Zummo……….Mr. Woods’ book is not my only source of knowledge on nullification, nor am I at the pinnacle of understanding on said topic. I am endeavoring to find further information to bolster my understanding. So, please, unless you know me personally do not make assumptions that I am Thomas Woods disciple, or that I reposed the totality of my understanding to the leafs of his book. Your “academic” attitude seems smug and off putting.

    Furthermore, I think everyone engaging in this debate would like to know why you view Mr. Woods the way you do?

    JDB

  • Mr. McClarey,

    What is that supposed to mean, Sir? That because we all don’t fawn over Mr. Zummo’s protestations and his academic prowess we are some how less capable of understanding the topic being discussed?

    JDB

  • Thomas Woods and his acolytes made this thread about Thomas Woods. My post only made the barest allusion to his book – I made no comment about it at all pro or con. I’ve barely alluded to the man myself in subsequent comments. And if my tone is off-putting I apologize, but I tire of these conversations where only one side is putting up any real evidence or citing their sources. Merely asserting things repeatedly is not a form of argument. Those of Woods’ minions who have even attempted to quote the Founding Fathers have seemingly done so without any attempt to look at what was actually said to determine if it buttresses their arguments or not.

  • Mr. Zummo,

    For the record, I would say that my initial thoughts on the Nullification are based on my understanding of the Constitution, specifically the 10th Amendment.

    As far as I can tell, interpose, nullify, one way or the other is a means of a state to stand against a federal law that is clearly of no affect because it does not fall in to the realm of enumerated powers granted the government. Either way the State(s) refuse to enforce the law.

    If I take to hear the statement of “American Jurisprudence” then a law is a null the moment it becomes a law. And that the instruments by which a state may express are purely incidental to the fact of a law being unlawful and not being enforced by State governments on behalf of the people. If your argument is that the Supremacy clause disallows this, then please explain to me the relevance of the enumerated, because it seems to me that the laws emanating from the Fed. Gov. are only valid if they are in accordance with enumerated powers.

    JDB

  • For the record, I completely disagree with the knocks on Paul Zummo concerning Mr. Thomas Woods.

    This is about nullification, not about Thomas Woods.

    Let’s put aside my love of reading Thomas Woods books, those that are trying to make an issue between Paul Zummo and Thomas Woods are off-base.

    I can be a bit more explicit, but if we are all Catholics that strive to live the love that Jesus wants for each other, then these aversions to an imaginary issue between Paul & Thomas must stop now.

    I 100% completely back Paul in monitoring the comments on this thread and his discretion on what is approved and not approved. By the guidelines that we have put out for TAC authors, and backed by all TAC authors, cease and desist from making this about something this isn’t.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito Edwards
    Chief Editor
    The American Catholic

  • Mr. Edwards,

    First off, I might be the only non-Catholic posting here, I am an Independent Baptist.

    Secondly, it is Mr. Zummo who has taken to calling those defending their personal belief in nullification “thomas woods acolytes” and “minions.” Granted he may not have engaged in this debate to talk about Tom Woods, but he certainly has done his part to keep it going.

    JDB

  • Jonathan,

    Point taken.

    And please stay here and continue to engage Paul Zummo and the rest of everyone else in this constructive and productive debate.

    In Jesus, Mary, Joseph,

    Tito

  • Mr. Edwards,

    I certainly will try to.

    JDB

  • Are all your readers here willing to read all of this?
    This really is great for those who are compiling their dissertation, but what percentage of people trying to understand this Government has the time to read or the knowledge to understand what you post here?
    I really want to know how we as citizens can stop the tyrannical advancements of our federal government.
    Would you like to help me and most other average citizens, or is your mission to throw dirt on those efficient orators that disagree with socialism?

Illinois Appellate Court Kicks Rahm Emanuel off Chicago Mayoral Ballot

Tuesday, January 25, AD 2011

The above video exemplifies the attitude that many politicians in Illinois demonstrate  to laws that stand in their way.  Rahm “Never let a crisis go to waste” Emanuel was a Chicago congressman.  Besides being noted for a fondness for a  certain four letter word which I discussed in this post, Emanuel is also noted for two things:  he came up with the strategy of running phony conservative Democrats for Congress around the country, which helped the Democrats take back the House in 2006, and pad their short-lived majority in 2008, and he was Obama’s chief of staff.  After tiring of being chief of staff, after Richie the Lesser, Mayor for life of the City-State of Chicago, decided that he didn’t wish to go on being Mayor until he died, like his father Richie the Incoherent, Rahm decided that becoming Mayor of the Windy City was an excellent escape plan from the Obama administration.  After he announced, he quickly became the front runner, facing only token opposition.  The election is set for February 22.

There was one pesky thing standing in the way of Rahm and his coronation.  A provision in the state municipal code which requires that someone actually live in a city for at least one year, before seeking office to run the place.  However, this is Illinois!  When is the last time that the law in Illinois prevented a powerful Democrat from doing whatever he pleases?  (If you regard the question as other than entirely rhetorical, I will assume you do not live in the Land of Lincoln.)  The Cook County Board of Elections determined that although Emanuel resided in DC while he was Chief of Staff, and had rented out his Chicago house, he was, mirabile dictu!, still a resident of Chicago.  A Chicago Circuit Court judge affirmed this decision.  However, in a stunning development, an Appellate Court panel ruled two  to one that Rahm is not a resident of Chicago and is not eligible to have his name appear on the ballot.  The decision may be read here.

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18 Responses to Illinois Appellate Court Kicks Rahm Emanuel off Chicago Mayoral Ballot

  • I think it’s going to be reversed, and not because of Chicago political shenanigans. Frankly, the dissenting opinion strikes me as having the better of the argument.

  • Maybe he can go back to Wasserstein Perella for another tour as an ‘investment banker.

  • Donald,

    We in Indiana thank Illinois for its anti-business insanity.

    Sincerely,

    Jonathan

  • Now comes the real fun. There are seven justices on the Illinois Supreme Court. Four are Democrats and three are Republicans.

    One of the Democratic justices is Anne Burke, wife of Ed Burke, a powerful and very wealthy Chicago Alderman who is known to support one of the other candidates for mayor (Gery Chico).

    Assuming that the three Republican justices would rule against Rahm, and that the three other Democratic justices would rule in his favor (both pretty big assumptions), that means Justice Burke would cast the deciding vote.

    However, some suggest she should recuse herself because of the potential conflict of interest with her husband being a supporter of another candidate. But if she does, the court might end up deadlocked 3-3. That would let the appellate ruling stand, and keep Rahm off the ballot. Seems to me she’s in a bit of a “damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t” situation.

  • Also, should Rahm be kicked off the ballot it’s highly likely most of those who would have voted for him will gravitate toward Gery Chico and HE will become the new front runner. Carol Mostly Fraud has VERY high negatives among white and Hispanic voters, and even to a considerable extent among black voters as well. Plus her fundraising has been really pathetic in comparison to Emanuel and Chico.

  • Well, if Obama can become POTUS without showing a birth certificate, don’t see why Rambo has to establish residency before getting on the Chicago ballot. Surely, you can’t be serious. I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.

  • In true Chicago fashion, the 3-member appellate court actually voted against Rahm 593 to 349, with 201-year old Abraham Lincoln voting with the majority.

    This is a painful lesson in how well-intentioned laws can be useless or worse. I’m convinced that one day this country will be choked to death by red tape.

  • Do not underestimate CMF Elaine. I still remember how stunned I was when she toppled Dixon, a sitting Illinois Democrat senator in the primary in 1992. Chico might be able to beat her, but my money would still be on her to pull it off.

  • You’re right about our Illinois policitians being good for very little except for entertainment. If so, why do we keep bringing them back for sequels? it’s a sad commentary on us Illinoisians, isn’t it?

  • Having now read the opinion, I have to agree with Dale. It’s pretty clear that Rahm meets the residency requirement under the law, and that the Court of Appeals got it wrong.

  • Here is an interesting look at the case from David Ellis, the prosecutor of Blagojevich in the Senate trial for removal after his impeachment:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ellis/resident-evil-the-chicago_b_813832.html

    Having practiced law in Illinois now for 28 and a half years I agree with this sentiment at the end of his post:

    “But predicting the outcome of that appeal? You might as well predict the weather in Chicago this April.”

    I would say that the stay given to the appellate decision by the Court is probably a good sign for Rahm.

  • “If so, why do we keep bringing them back for sequels? it’s a sad commentary on us Illinoisians, isn’t it?”

    The penchant for the voters of the Illinois to vote for obvious crooks is something that has astounded me for years, and it is a sad commentary on the aptly named Sucker State.

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  • I have to side with Dale and Blackadder also — the arguments in FAVOR of Rahm’s residency are stronger. If intent is key, it seems to me that by not SELLING his home, and by keeping his voter registration and driver’s license in Chicago, all that indicates clear intent not to abandon Chicago residency.

    As strange as it may seem, it’s the decision AGAINST him that reeks more of crooked Chicago politics.

  • I too lean towards the dissent but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk. As far as I can there there’s no case law on point and “reside” in other contexts like where to serve process refers to the usual place of abode, which was DC, not Chicago. All the cited cases deal with other laws in other sections of the municipal code enacted at different times. I think they’re similar enough that they should be applied here but there’s no reason why they MUST be.

  • And just in case anyone was wondering who NOT to vote for, Carol Mostly Fraud has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and Personal PAC.

Quaker Suicide Bomber Kills 31 at Moscow Airport

Monday, January 24, AD 2011

The death toll is at 31 but a Quaker terrorist group is being speculated as the possible perpetrator to this horrendous act of violence in Moscow’s most busiest airport.

Terror analysts are surmising that it could very well be the work of the Quaker extremist group called “The Real Quaker Faith”.  A minority of analysts are insisting it is the work of the “Reformed Amish Fellowship of Unsmiling Dutch”.  But most agree it is Christian sect of believers that are being credited (sic) for these latest bombings in Russia.

The attacks look very similar to the acts of terror committed by the “Religious Society of Friendly Russia” terror group as well as the “Russian Friends Religious Society” terror group where recent suicide bombers set themselves off at Unitarian-Universalist Churches as well as Tony Robbins seminars.

President Obama has already issued a statement of not jumping to conclusions and is urging caution in rushing to judgment and laying blame.

Sarcasm off/

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Vatican Bank Chief Condemns Keynesianism

Monday, January 24, AD 2011

Current fiscal and monetary policies in the United States and Europe risk increasing government control over national economies, resulting in weakened political strength throughout “the whole of the western world,” the Vatican’s top banking expert said.

Writing in the Jan. 14 edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Tedeschi warned of the growing influence of “Keynesian” economic theory on both sides of the Atlantic.

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic, he said, are committed to Keynes’ policy of increasing public debt to sustain levels of economic production, consumption, and employment.

He said artificially low interest rates are another key to the strategy of increasing spending and discouraging saving. With no incentive to keep money in the bank, those who would have otherwise been savers are pushed to spend.

“Zero interest rates factually equal a de facto transfer of wealth from he who was a virtuous saver (although not for Keynes) to he who has become virtuously (for Keynes) indebted,” he said. “Practically, it’s about a hidden tax on poor savers, a tax transferred to the wealthy, (that is), over-indebted states, business people and bankers.

More. That sound you hear is Morning’s Minion’s head exploding.

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5 Responses to Vatican Bank Chief Condemns Keynesianism

  • That sound you hear is Morning’s Minion’s head exploding.

    LOL. Maybe unsurprisingly that’s the first thought I had when I read the title of this post.

  • “If QEII is successful increases in the money supply will be matched by increases in output (as millions of currently unemployed workers find jobs), so the purchasing power of savings need not be degraded. And if you are one of the millions of unemployed, you will in fact be much much better off.”

    This seems quite problematic to me. Isn’t it somewhat “perfect world” analysis? “If all the money trickles down to the right people, who spend it on the right things, productivity will up, people will be employed” and so on. However, looking at it simplistically, it seems to me that employment is created by others’ need (or, more darkly, desire). If I want a wagon wheel, and I do not have one, I can either make it, or buy it. Therefore, we need wheelwrights (or car makers). If the needs do not exist, trickling down funds will create jobs temporarily, but demand may not necessarily rise.

    Daniel Goldman noted in First Things, here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/05/demographics–depression-1243457089, that the recession we are experiencing is directly related to downfall in demand, especially for housing:

    “Housing prices are collapsing in part because single-person households are replacing families with children. The Virginia Tech economist Arthur C. Nelson has noted that households with children would fall from half to a quarter of all households by 2025. The demand of Americans will then be urban apartments for empty nesters. Demand for large-lot single family homes, Nelson calculated, will slump from 56 million today to 34 million in 2025–a reduction of 40 percent. There never will be a housing price recovery in many parts of the country. Huge tracts will become uninhabited except by vandals and rodents.”

    I would argue that as demand for housing falls and has fallen, so will demand for other material assets. Current fiscal stimulus (soon to be paying for growth in China’s military), combined with our individualistic and obsessive focus on no children / 1 child families, will sink us.

  • Jonathan,

    1. That is David Goldman, not Daniel Goldman. He is untrustworthy.

    2. Housing prices per the Case-Shiller index are almost precisely what they were in February 2009.

    3. That index has been criticised as exaggerating volatility in housing markets due to its national indices being derived from some of the most overheated markets.

    4. The 30% drop in the Case-Shiller 20-city index during the period running from August 2006 to February 2009 had nothing to do with demographic factors. Family structure was not revolutionized in that 30 month period.

The Real Fighting Irish: A Review of Notre Dame and the Civil War

Monday, January 24, AD 2011

The peaks of Notre Dame history are shrouded in the mists of war.

Father Hugh O’Donnell, President, Notre Dame-1941

I think it was in 1964 when I read my first book on the Civil War, The American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War, and I immediately thereafter developed a life long passion for the subject.  Over the intervening 47 years, I have read hundreds of books on the War.  Truth to tell, more than a few of the books I have read on the Civil War have left me with a ho hum feeling, not telling me much that I haven’t read many, many times before.  I am therefore always pleasantly surprised when a tome on the Late Unpleasantness can give me lots of new information, and such is the case with Notre Dame and the Civil War, by James M. Schmidt.  Mr. Schmidt, knowing of my interest in US Catholic Chaplains in the military, was kind enough to send me a review copy, and I am glad that he did, as he has brought forth facts and new pieces of information about Notre Dame and the Civil War that I have not read elsewhere.

Many Protestant denominations in the country were ripped asunder North and South by the Civil War and the decades of turmoil leading up to it.  Not so the Catholic Church in America.  As a global Church, it was not unusual for Catholics to find themselves on different sides in civil wars or national conflicts, and there was never any threat to the unity of the Church in America.  Individual Catholics fought bravely for both the Union and the Confederacy.  The Catholics of Notre Dame, except for a few students from the South, were whole heartedly for the Union.

Even before the Civil War, as Mr. Schmidt brings out,  Notre Dame students were preparing to fight.  Two student military companies were organized in 1858, part of the craze for militia companies, well drilled, in fancy uniforms that swept the nation in the late Fifties.  It was fun being a part time soldier:  drills, nice uniforms, parades, pretty girls cheering on the side lines.  Many of the students of course were soon to have first hand knowledge of darker aspects of military life.

Schmidt skillfully relates the fever to enlist in the Union army that swept through the students of Notre Dame after Fort Sumter.  Along with their students, Notre Dame priests also served as chaplains.  Most famous among them was of course Father William Corby, who marched and fought with the Irish Brigade and who gave them mass absolution on the second day at Gettysburg before they charged into battle.  The book relates the adventures of Father Corby, but also relates the stories of other Notre Dame priests who served as chaplains, including Father Paul E. Gillen, Father James Dillon, Father Joseph C. Carrier and Father Peter P. Cooney, all of whom will be featured in posts in the future.

The Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame also got behind the war effort.  Sixty of the Sisters would serve as nurses during the war.  The role of Catholic Sisters as nurses in the Civil War is one of the great largely unsung stories of the War.  Usually nursing Protestant soldiers, the Sisters, through their bravery, skill at nursing and simple charity and kindness, often turned fairly anti-Catholic men into friends of the Church and not a few converted to the Faith.  Mr. Schmidt gives these heroic women their due.

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5 Responses to The Real Fighting Irish: A Review of Notre Dame and the Civil War

  • Thanks for posting this! I can’t wait to read it!

  • Pat,

    Glad to see you here on The American Catholic!

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • Thank you!

    ND has helped train gallant officers for America since.

    Today, the University offers Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC commissioning programs. In 2006, 62 ND grads entered commissioned officer service, including three Marines.

    My son served with an ND grad officer/PL in Afghanistan. He had played football there, too. I met him when they came home. Another great grandson of Ireland serving America . . .

  • Don – I am humbled and gratified at the wonderful review. Thank You so much. One of the great things about this book – and the goal I was shooting for – is that it appeals to different audiences: the typical Civil War enthusiast, Notre Dame alumns (bona fide and “subway”), people interested in American Catholic history, and more. Hopefully I did that.

    Thanks so much to the commenters for their enthusiastic response.

    I’m an avid reader – and hopefully a more frequent commenter – here at THC.

    God Bless!

    Jim Schmidt

  • Thank you Jim for your hard work in writing this fine addition to Civil War and Notre Dame scholarship.

John Adams’ Finest Hour

Sunday, January 23, AD 2011

The HBO miniseries John Adams brilliantly recreates, in the above video, what has always struck me as John Adams’ finest hour.  Adams, an ardent patriot, was sickened by the carnage caused by British soldiers when they fired into a crowd of Boston rioters on March 5, 1770.  Nevertheless, when approached by the soldiers to defend them he agreed, realizing that thereby he would make himself hated by his patriot friends.  He did this because he believed the soldiers were innocent of the homicide charges against them, the soldiers being under attack by a mob when they fired, and he wished to ensure them a fair trial, notwithstanding the high emotions running against them throughout Boston and Massachusetts.  As Adams wrote three years late on March 5, 1773:

“I. . .devoted myself to endless labour and Anxiety if not to infamy and death, and that for nothing, except, what indeed was and ought to be all in all, sense of duty. In the Evening I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my Apprehensions:That excellent Lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of Tears, but said she was very sensible of all the Danger to her and to our Children as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought, she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust in Providence.”

Adams conducted a brilliant and successful defense of the British soldiers.  Go here to read his closing argument to the jury, and always recall this ringing line:  Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

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4 Responses to John Adams’ Finest Hour

  • Donald,

    Absolutely beautiful. What a moment for a lawyer and gentleman!

    Have you read John Quincy Adams’ argument for the Amistad defendants? The movie is beautiful, and the real argument is almost as stunning.

    http://www.historycentral.com/amistad/amistad.html

    “Little did I imagine that I should ever again be required to claim the right of appearing in the capacity of an officer of this Court; yet such has been the dictate of my destiny—and I appear again to plead the cause of justice, and now of liberty and life, in behalf of many of my fellow men, before that same Court, which in a former age I had addressed in support of rights of property I stand again, I trust for the last time, before the same Court— ‘hic caestus, artemque repono.” I stand before the same Court, but not before the same judges—nor aided by the same associates —nor resisted by the same opponents. As I cast my eyes along those seats of honor and of public trust, now occupied by you, they seek in vain for one of those honored and honorable persons whose indulgence listened then to my voice. Marshall—Cushing—Chase—Washington—Johnson—Livingston— Todd—Where are they ? Where is that eloquent statesman and learned lawyer who was my associate counsel in the management of that cause, Robert Goodloe Harper? Where is that brilliant luminary, so long the pride of Maryland and of the American Bar, then my opposing counsel, Luther Martin? Where is the excellent clerk of that day, whose name has been inscribed on the shores of Africa, as a monument of his abhorrence of the African slavetrade, Elias B. Caldwell, Where is the marshal—where are the criers of the Court I Alas! where is one of the very judges of the Court, arbiters of life and death, before whom I commenced this anxious argument, even now prematurely closed? Where are they all I Gone ! Gone ! All gone!— Gone from the services which, in their day and generation, they faithfully rendered to their country. From the excellent characters which they sustained in life, so far as I have had the means of knowing, I humbly hope, and fondly trust, that they have gone to receive the rewards of blessedness on high. In taking, then, my final leave of this Bar, and of this Honorable Court, I can only ejaculate a fervent petition to Heaven, that every member of it may go to his final account with as little of earthly frailty to answer for as those illustrious dead, and that you may, every one, after the close of a long and virtuous career in this world, be received at the portals of the next with the approving sentence—’ Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'”

  • I have written about the Amistad case at the link below Jonathan:

    http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/amistad-closing-argument/

    The film Amistad is marred for me because Steven Spielberg, a typical Hollywood liberal, gave Harry Blackmun, of Roe infamy, a cameo as Justice Story. I could almost hear the grinding of Justice Story’s teeth from the world beyond at this mockery!

  • Agreed, Donald. One cannot read Roe in combination with Story’s Commentaries and get anywhere useful at all.

    I must say, however, that despite that appearance, the combination of Williams’ music and Hopkins’ rhetorical flair is wonderful.

  • In defending those soldiers, Adams actually helped the partiot cause. By proving that Redcoats could get a fair trial in Massachusetts of all places, the Crown couldn’t easily portray the partiots as a bunch crazed rebels.

3 Responses to Shiloh’s Hill

Gosnell, Abortion and Reality

Saturday, January 22, AD 2011

 

“What we want, and all we want, is to have with us the men who think slavery wrong. But those who say they hate slavery, and are opposed to it, but yet act with the Democratic party — where are they? Let us apply a few tests. You say that you think slavery is wrong, but you denounce all attempts to restrain it. Is there anything else that you think wrong, that you are not willing to deal with as a wrong? Why are you so careful, so tender of this one wrong and no other?  You will not let us do a single thing as if it was wrong; there is no place where you will allow it to be even called wrong! We must not call it wrong in the Free States, because it is not there, and we must not call it wrong in the Slave States because it is there; we must not call it wrong in politics because that is bringing morality into politics, and we must not call it wrong in the pulpit because that is bringing politics into religion; we must not bring it into the Tract Society or the other societies, because those are such unsuitable places, and there is no single place, according to you, where this wrong thing can properly be called wrong!”

Abraham Lincoln, speech at New Haven Connecticut, March 6, 1860

Thirty-eight years ago today, the US Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade struck down the laws against abortion throughout the country on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.  The decision was, as Justice White noted in his dissent, a “raw exercise in judicial power”, as there was no basis at all in the Constitution to support the ruling.  Since that day approximately a million, on average, unborn children have been put to death each year, and a large and powerful faction has championed these deaths as right and proper and opposed all efforts to ban or restrict abortion.

It is fitting that as we observe this dreadful anniversary, the nation is shocked by the revelations at the murder mill run by abortionist Kermit Gosnell for over three decades.  As Paul noted in his post on Gosnell here last week the grand jury described his activities in gruesome detail and noted that he was able to do this only with the complicity of the local authorities:

We discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.

The State Legislature has charged the Department of Health (DOH) with responsibility for writing and enforcing regulations to protect health and safety in abortion clinics as well as in hospitals and other health care facilities. Yet a significant difference exists between how DOH monitors abortion clinics and how it monitors facilities where other medical procedures are performed.

Indeed, the department has shown an utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable. State health officials have also shown a disregard for the laws the department is supposed to enforce. Most appalling of all, the Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design. …

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6 Responses to Gosnell, Abortion and Reality

  • Why am I not shocked?

    Those people hold the “trump card.” They totally support the “preferential option” for the poor . . . they (such as IL Sen. Obama who voted to de-criminalize this form of infanticide) get to orate at The University of Notre Dame . . .

  • Sorry, I don’t buy the line that “the nation is shocked” about this. In fact, the pro-choicers are all but defending the guy, as their comments on websites like Slate and Salon make it clear. Of course, they wish the place had been a little cleaner. But they have no problem at all with the purpose it served.

  • You are wrong Ron. Some of the pro-aborts are shocked:

    “Again, I am pro-choice but this tragedy occurred because the left violently resisted even the least regulatory oversight of even the most extreme late term abortions. The left has made abortion the highest good that trumps every other concern, and the resulting real-world policies border on the surreal.

    A school nurse cannot give a child an aspirin but any stranger can legally talk a 13 year old into an abortion at almost any term with no oversight whatsoever. The FDA paternalistically denies adults medicines and procedures that the FDA judges “unsafe” but allows children to decide about invasive medical procedures? WTF?

    All prominent Democrats claim to oppose third-term abortion except for cases that endanger the physical or psychological health of the mother. Of course, they leave out who the courts said gets to decide whether a necessary degree of physical or psychological danger existed: the woman and her doctor. So, after all the posturing, in the end the decision to kill a 8-month-and-29-day fetus rests in the same hands and has the same oversight as killing a two-week fetus.

    That’s insane.

    Hell, according to leftists, Gosnell’s only moral or technical crime was in not killing the babies inside the womb. Had he snaked a surgical instrument inside the womb and killed the viable baby there, he would be morally in the clear in the eyes of the left.

    That is insane.”

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/19228.html

    Additionally, the pro-aborts are not the nation. Their view of an unlimited abortion “liberty” is becoming an increasingly smaller viewpoint in this land. Gosnell and his murder mill will help make it even smaller.

  • Governor Tom Corbett is launching a probe, and what a fortuitous moment to have a newly elected pro-life governor of Pennsylvania:

    http://hotair.com/archives/2011/01/22/corbett-demands-probe-of-failure-to-regulate-abortion-clinics-in-pennsylvania/

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  • I’ve never seen those Lincoln quotations before. Excellent.

Bankruptcy Coming Soon to a State Near You

Friday, January 21, AD 2011

4 Responses to Bankruptcy Coming Soon to a State Near You

  • Actually, methinks someone is attempting to float a trial balloon that is likely to be shot down. Note the nearly complete lack of attribution in the story — not to mention it’s so vague (what “policy makers” are they talking about?) that any journalism instructor worth his or her salt would give it a failing grade or insist it be rewritten.

    Is it possible that this story might also have been leaked or planted in an attempt to manipulate bond markets?

    As bad as giant budget deficits are, a formal “state bankruptcy” proceeding would mean in effect surrendering state sovereignty and control of state finances over to the federal court system — and that would be a cure far worse than the disease. It would raise gigantic constitutional issues that would take decades to resolve.

  • It’s certainly possible that it is a trial balloon Elaine, and I agree with you that bankruptcy raises big constitutional issues. However I think it is coming. Some states, Illinois and California, have gotten themselves into such a fiscal mess that they are in de facto bankruptcy already. De jure bankruptcy will follow when a state can no longer muster the resources to continue basic state services. I think Illinois will reach that point sooner rather than later.

  • According to current projections per the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, these are the states with the worst proportionate revenue shortfalls, rank ordered:

    Nevada
    Illinois
    New Jersey
    Texas
    California*
    Oregon*
    Minnesota
    Louisiana
    Connecticut

    Nevada has had the most wretched real estate crash in the country and suffers 14% unemployment. The situation in California has been much the same, with the addition of an appalling legislature. Texas is a puzzle, however, given its general prosperity.

  • “Texas is a puzzle, however, given its general prosperity.”

    Texas has a two-year budget cycle. Their last budget (2009-10) was probably based on revenue projections and receipts made before the worst of the recession hit, and during the oil price spike in 2008. Only now (and convieniently, only after Gov. Perry got reelected) has the recessionary decline in revenues become evident. Note also that only 20 percent of their state workforce is unionized, so public employee unions aren’t the culprit there.

    I’m kind of surprised to see Minnesota on the list also, given that it has a reputation for extremely “clean” government, and (to my knowledge) is not renowned for having a high number of unionized employees or persons dependent on expensive social programs either.

Senator Jefferson Smith, the Tea Party and America

Friday, January 21, AD 2011

My colleague Michael Denton has a thought provoking post which may be read here, in which he contends that the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington does not stand for the ideals of America, but rather that the Christian message of Love Thy Neighbor is what saves Senator Smith.  Michael makes many valid points in his cogent post, but I respectfully disagree that the film is as negative about America as Michael contends, and I think that if the fictional Senator Jefferson Smith were brought to life in our day, he would be a leader of the Tea Party movement.  Here are my reasons for making these statements:

1. The Founding Fathers:  Like the Tea Party movement, Jefferson Smith takes his inspiration and his political principles from the Founding Fathers (with Lincoln thrown in).  We see this clearly in this scene:

Smith is a reminder to a jaded world that, “Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”

When he momentarily loses his idealism about these principles he is reminded that the principles are true by his formerly cynical secretary Clarissa, stunningly portrayed by Jean Arthur, who he, unbeknownst to himself, has converted to his point of view:

“Your friend, Mr. Lincoln had his Taylors and Paines. So did every other man who ever tried to lift his thought up off the ground. Odds against them didn’t stop those men. They were fools that way. All the good that ever came into this world came from fools with faith like that. You know that, Jeff. You can’t quit now. Not you. They aren’t all Taylors and Paines in Washington. That kind just throw big shadows, that’s all. You didn’t just have faith in Paine or any other living man. You had faith in something bigger than that. You had plain, decent, everyday, common rightness, and this country could use some of that. Yeah, so could the whole cockeyed world, a lot of it. Remember the first day you got here? Remember what you said about Mr. Lincoln? You said he was sitting up there, waiting for someone to come along. You were right. He was waiting for a man who could see his job and sail into it, that’s what he was waiting for. A man who could tear into the Taylors and root them out into the open. I think he was waiting for you, Jeff. He knows you can do it, so do I.”

2.  Faith in the People-This of course is an axiom of democracy.  Democracy makes absolutely no sense unless one believes that most people do wish to do the right thing most of the time, once they are sure of what is right.  Jefferson Smith has this faith as does the Tea Party with its populist appeals.  He believes that once the people of his state know the type of political corruption that controls their state, they will rise up to crush Taylor and his machine.  The villains of the film agree with him:

James Taylor to Senator Paine:  “If he even starts to convince those Senators, you might as well blow your brains out, you know that, don’t ya? This is the works, Joe! Either we’re out of business or we’re bigger than we ever were before. We can’t miss a trick. We can’t stop at anything until we’ve smashed this yokel and buried him so deep…”

Taylor fears the people of his state and that is why he uses gangster tactics to keep the news of what Jefferson Smith is saying on the floor of the Senate from getting to them.

When Smith is confronted with Taylor’s astroturfed messages denouncing him, he refuses to give up, his body giving way, but not his spirit.  Ironically, I think if a vote were cast thereafter in the Senate, Smith would have won.  The Senators are viewed in the film as listening to him intently towards the end of the filibuster and are portrayed in the film as increasingly sympathetic to him:

Senator:  “I didn’t like this boy from the beginning. But most of us feel that no man who wasn’t sincere could stage a fight like this against these impossible odds.”

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17 Responses to Senator Jefferson Smith, the Tea Party and America

  • This works as a feel-good movie and Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur are wonderful in this flick, but it’s so far removed from reality as to make it almost parody. There never has been a senator, or U.S. politician in any office for that matter, who remotely resembles the ideas of Jefferson Smith. Can anyone truly imagine ANYONE in either chamber today, or in recent memory, who comes close to expressing the ideals that Smith evoked?

    Sen. Joe Payne (Claude Rains) comes a lot closer to reality — a puppet on a string pulled by the James Taylors of the world, who are the real power wielders.

  • I tend to be cynical about cynicism Joe. There are many politicians who remind me of Jefferson Smith. Rick Santorum for example, who realized that his strong opposition to abortion and his strong support for the war in Iraq were unpopular in blue Pennsylvania, but who stuck to his convictions and lost his Senate seat in 2006. Sarah Palin who rose to the governorship of Alaska by taking on a corrupt old boy network in her state in her own party. Governor Casey of Pennsylvania who suffered the wrath of his party for his pro-life convictions. The late Congressman Henry Hyde, ever the champion of the unborn. Christopher Smith, Congressman from New Jersey, ever a tireless champion of the unborn, although he is from one of the bluest states of the Union.

  • My cynicism — more skepticism and realism — stems from more than 30 years in journalism, often with a front row seat to political chicanery at all levels, from the town supervisor to the POTUS.

    I would not disabuse you of your choices — although none would make my list (particularly the adulterer and hypocrite Hyde), which is otherwise countable on the fingers of one hand after a bad lawn mower accident of those who merit standing in the pantheon of political heroes. Lincoln for starters.

    If memory serves — and I have a good one — let us recall the 2008 “financial coup d’etat,” as some have called it, engineered by BOTH PARTIES, in which $700 million in taxpayer money was used to bail out Goldman, Sachs, et al. First defeated in Congress after 70% of the American people vehemently objected, it was passed 3 days later, thanks to Hank Paulson and his Goldman pals crafting a 3-page bill that eliminated any possible challenge by the courts. Your government and mine at work. Part credit goes to Machiavelli and John Maynard Keynes for the inspiration to the gang of crooks that run Washington. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman CEO, was at Obama’s Chinese dinner the other night. A million-dollar “political contribution” buys you a lot of friends.

    Harsh words, but there are so many other examples of political corruption and misrepresentative democracy (Prop 8, Obamacare, ad nauseum) that one wonders how you can find any nobility or honesty in, collectively, a venal bunch, then and now.

    I no longer, though I once did, share your idealist view — it is admirable and one that I held many years ago, but since have discarded despite hopes that notions of honesty, fairness and justice might prevail in the conduct of the people’s business. Lincoln warned that this nation could only be defeated “by the vandals within.” Nearly century earlier, jefferson, Madison & Co. sounded similar jeremiads about veering from the Founding principles. Also, a little H.L. Mencken wouldn’t hurt to keep from taking it all too seriously.

    God bless.

  • Whoops, make that $700 BILLION.

  • Hyde was not a hyprocrite Joe, and I am surprised that you fell for the Clintons digging up an affair from the sixties to attempt to discredit one of the true heroes of Congress of our time. Whatever damage that Hyde’s adultery did to his marriage did not destroy it, his wife and he staying together for 47 years until her death in 92, and to dig it up was simply the type of petty cruelty associated with the Clintons. Hyde, in the face of this, successfully completed his task of having the House vote to impeach the worst man ever to sit in the White House, another reason I honor his memory.

    In regard to the bailout swindle of 2008, there were a fair number of Congressmen and 25 Senators who kept their heads and did not panic in a situation of crisis, when they were told that the economic system was near collapse. I think those who voted for the bailout were gravely in error, but I do not think that most of those who voted for it did so out of bad faith.

    As for H.L. Mencken, he was a good writer, but as a human being he deserved only a punch in the nose.

  • ‘As for H.L. Mencken, he was a good writer, but as a human being he deserved only a punch in the nose.’

    ———————————————————-
    Perhaps, but that could apply to many good writers. : )

    That I am a regular followers of TAC suggests I am not totally jaded.
    There’s a sliver of the idealist left in me.

  • The Tea Party is the mob George Washington and the Founding Fathers feared.

  • Why of course they are John! Why didn’t I see that. The Founding Fathers regarded as a “mob”, assemblages of citizens, peacefully petitioning the government for redress of grievances, exercising their freedom of speech and voting for candidates who reflect their views. How terrifyingly “mob-like”. That of course is why the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Non-rights denied freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right of the people to petition for redress of grievances. Thank you much John. That is also why the Constitution begins “We the Elite”. Now I understand!

  • The January 2007 edition of Godspy had an article by Bod Bennet about Frank Capra’s vision that explains his work. I extracted the key sections here

    This is why Frank Capra, contrary to popular opinion, is one of the most challenging of all filmmakers and in some ways the most disturbing. Most “serious films”—the “hard-hitting” “uncompromising” films—ask us only to accept, for example, that poverty is bad, relationships are hard, that politics is corrupt. In short, their “challenge” consists precisely in asking us to accept ideas that we already accept anyway, even if we struggle to know just what to do about them. In these comedies, Capra asks us to accept that the old-fashioned American ideals are still good, that David really can whip Goliath, that our prayers do not go unheard, that the meek shall inherit the earth. In other words, he asks us to accept things about which we have grave, grave doubts. And he is uncompromising in his asking: he doesn’t ask us to accept these propositions as nice or inspirational or comforting or helpful—he asks us to accept them as true. That, my friend, is a challenging filmmaker. That is serious, avant-garde cinema, if you will.

  • Your comment is way off topic Adrian, and I have removed it.

  • Did you ban Adrian Wainer from posting in this site simply because he posted a posting in the wrong thread by accident ?

  • He isn’t banned, and I believe he intended the comment for this thread. I simply removed the comment because it was off topic.

  • Are you sure about that Mr McClarey, that he is not banned ?

  • Positive. I did precisely what I said I did.

  • Genuinely I was confused as there are two articles which reference to the film.

  • By the way, Charles was right in so far as I genuinely could not post. But Mr Donald R. McClarey I accept you are being perfectly honest as does Charles. Sometimes, there are additional features built in to software, which are not explained to users and there could be a lock which kicks in when a posting is deleted which stops a poster from posting for a couple of hours as an auto-spam protection, so that could be an explanation.

  • I only saw one comment which mentioned the ground zero mosque. I agree with you in regard to the mosque but I didn’t want the thread going off on that tanget. I didn’t see another comment by you on this thread. Sometimes akismet can get cranky and for no apparent reason toss a comment into the spam file, but I saw nothing there either.

The Magical Mystery Glock

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

In the wake of the Tuscon shooting, there have been renewed call for gun control. This is hardly surprising, and while from my own point of view it seems like an attempt to make political hay out of widespread shock and fear, and I can certainly understand that for those who believe that our current gun laws make violence more common, this sort of event would seem to confirm their thesis. What is not, however, reasonable from those who believe that gun control would be a good thing for our country, is the odd fixation of the anti-gun lobby on the Glock brand.

The Glock 19

One common question from gun control advocates in the wake of the shooting was, “Why would any reasonable person think that civilians should need or want to own Glocks?” New York Times columnist Gail Collins summed up this line of thinking well in a column entitled “A Right to Bear Glocks?” Collins writes:

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.

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20 Responses to The Magical Mystery Glock

  • Granting that the Glock isn’t any more deadly than other handguns and granting that past gun control laws haven’t done much, what’s wrong with advocating an extended magazine ban? Loughner would have shot more people had his gun held more rounds. That’s undeniable.

  • Well, we’ve had extended magazine bans in the past, and they’ve neither prevented mass killings nor made an impact in the murder rate. It’s true that Loughner was tackled when he had trouble changing magazines, but a lot of mass killers (including Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and Columbine) used standard size magazines and changed them repeatedly before being tackled.

    I have no great attachment to extended magazines; I’m just not clear that banning them would achieve anything other than making gun control advocates feel good.

  • The Glock 9 mm. is light.

    Real men carry something effective like the M1911 .45 Government issue, or whatever.

    Heck, a rolled up magazine or newspaper is an effective weapon when intelligently employed. Thing is: need to keep alert and be ready to act at all times.

    PS: If that were a GOP gathering, someone would have stopped him before he got off three rounds.

    Fight gun violence! Shoot back.

  • If gun control had won, Loughner would still be shooting sheeple.

    This is not 1994. Tucson is similar to the 1993 LIRR raison d’etre for the 879th thru 902nd gun control laws, and Carolyn McCarthy and her 100% promotion of abortion and common snese socialism.

    Then, a white-hating, Jamaican immigrant shot up a commuter RR car. Mayor Dinkens (first and last black NYC mayor) was boss in NYC. So fellow-racist Colin Ferguson waited until the train was outside NYC to open fire. He was safe. No one in NYC and Nassau can carry a weapon except the murderers and cops that respond in 20 minutes.

    The sheeple had gun control to protect them!

    They were blessed with security and safety and got to experience how it feels to sit in their and cringe in their seats while the GUN calmly walked the aisle pumping rounds into sheeps’ heads.

    Fight gun violence. Shoot back.

    [T. Shaw — I take your point, but I’m going to ask you to avoid the sheep/sheeple kind of terminology when talking about shooting victims. It comes off as seriously heartless.]

  • “I have no great attachment to extended magazines; I’m just not clear that banning them would achieve anything other than making gun control advocates feel good.”

    Bingo. That has usually been the only good achieved by gun control legislation. However, in this political environment even this type of empty symbolic legislation is going nowhere quickly.

  • That has usually been the only good achieved by gun control legislation. However, in this political environment even this type of empty symbolic legislation is going nowhere quickly.

    I would just point out that it is often difficult for a sociologist to ascertain the effects of incremental policy changes. That does not mean that the policy changes are worthless, merely that their effects are difficult to isolate and discern. (And if I am not mistaken, hauling people in on weapons offenses was one of the salient features of ‘broken windows’ policing. ‘Symbolic legislation’ can have some salutary spill-over benefits.

  • I would just point out that it is often difficult for a sociologist to ascertain the effects of incremental policy changes. That does not mean that the policy changes are worthless, merely that their effects are difficult to isolate and discern.

    True — though I as regards to my own support or opposition to something I think I’d tend to feel it’s necessary for me to see a clear cause and effect relationship, at least when it comes to instituting a legal ban on things. I think a lot of gun enthusiasts would fear that the primary incremental result from an extended gun magazine ban would be more restrictive gun bans in the future.

    I guess my attitude toward extended magazine bans is:

    If a ban were suggested against 20+ round magazines, I wouldn’t support it (and if I were in congress I wouldn’t vote for it) but it wouldn’t worry me much and I wouldn’t bother opposing it much either.

    If the 10+ round magazine of the “assault weapon” ban were brought back, I would bestir myself to oppose it a bit, but I still wouldn’t be extremely upset if it passed.

    I don’t really think either one of these is a good idea or would save a discernible number of lives — to be honest the main effect might be to increase the paranoia of the more extreme band of gun rights enthusiast — but I don’t think the loss of magazine size beyond ten would be a major problem for legal gun owners. Of course, that’s mainly because I think such a ban would do absolutely nothing to change the overall effectiveness of guns. It would just remove a completely surface level aspect of “bad-assery” from the gun store.

  • Mac,

    Sorry.

    I was out with arthroscopic knee surgery or I would have been on the LIRR train that that bad man shot up. I was also present at the (1993/2001) WTC bombings.

    Maintain a low profile, stay alert, keep moving, don’t get silouhetted on a military horizon, etc.

    Sorry, again. In doesn’t mean anything. One more such incident and I’m “packing it in.”

  • T. Shaw,

    Actually, that was me stepping in as editor — we each edit the threads on our own posts.

    Definitely understand. There are much lesser scares that have made me very glad to be a gun owner over the years. I just want to make sure we keep a level of discussion here at TAC that stays within certain bounds. Kind of the online version of broken window policing. 🙂

  • The 1994 ban on extended magazines didn’t ban existing magazines.
    The V Tech killer used a Glock with 15-round magazines. It’s very possible that he would’ve shot fewer people had it been 10-round magazines. One of the guns used in Columbine was a TEC-DC9 with a pre-ban 32-round magazine from which 55 shots were fired.

    It’s true that criminals will adapt to a ban by buying more magazines, guns, or recruiting accomplices. But every additional level of complexity is a place where criminals can get tripped up and it doesn’t affect law-abiding gun owners at all.

  • I think you kind of need to think about what you’re proposing here versus the size of the theoretical benefit. “Banning existing magazines” may sound very easy on paper, but in fact it would mean trying to confiscate tens of millions of magazines from legal gun owners — magazines that were bought legally and which have only an infinitessimal chance of every being involved in any crime. You’d doubtless have a lot of people who would (for one reason or another) defy the law, and so you’d have law enforcement tied up with enforcing it and the justice system tied up with prosecuting people for crimes (I’m assuming you’d have to make this a fellony to get any compliance) related to the law.

    And all of that chaos in hopes that maybe in the handful of crimes each year in which more than a dozen shots are fired, that changing magazines (assuming that the law succeeded in keeping these incredibly plentiful things from ending up on the black market) would trip up a criminal and thus result in fewer shots being fired?

    I can seriously see how, at first pass, the idea seems like a well intentioned way to “do something” about violence in the face of a news story about one of the exceptional events in which a lot of shots are fired, but it seems to me that once you think about it a bit the whole thing becomes both ineffective and untennable.

  • There are very few things impossible policy wise. Offer a $50 bounty on magazines with a capacity over 10, and you would see a significant number of magazines out of circulation. Combine that requiring a permit to transport after 180 days, and the problem would seem to be solved. I’m not claiming such a thing is prudent; I’m simply claiming it is a policy obstacle that can be overcome.

  • I wouldn’t want to spend much more than the recycle value to take illicit magazines off the streets. After a ban, I’d prefer that private charities do that. I think the most effective part of the ban would be making them unavailable at legit gun stores like the ones where Loughner and Seung-Hui Cho bought theirs. Marginal benefit for sure, but also marginal cost.

  • But if a “complete” ban actually left tens of millions of the things floating around the country on the grey market (which is seems to me either RR or MZ’s proposals would) then you might as well save the money on collection and enforcement and just have a ban on manufacture and sale of new ones.

    Which, yeah, might mean that some crazy intent on shooting a lot of people shot them with a 2-3 second pause every ten shots. I’m just not clear that’s a huge benefit.

    Like I say, I don’t see a huge downside to a “high capacity” magazine ban (though I see exactly zero chance of such a thing passing any time in the near future) I just don’t think there would be much upside other than annoying gun owners and making gun control advocates feel mildly better.

    If there was to be a piece of legislation taken out of this whole tragedy, I’d think the most obvious choice would be trying to come up with a way to make it harder for someone who has been reported to police repeatedly for issuing death threats and generally unstable behavior to walk in and buy a gun and ammo without having to answer a few questions or get put on a waiting list or something.

  • “If there was to be a piece of legislation taken out of this whole tragedy, I’d think the most obvious choice would be trying to come up with a way to make it harder for someone who has been reported to police repeatedly for issuing death threats and generally unstable behavior to walk in and buy a gun and ammo without having to answer a few questions or get put on a waiting list or something.”

    1. Make it easier to involuntarily commit crazy people who are a danger to themselves and to other. 2. Create institutions to treat and care for said crazy people. The civil libertarians would howl at one, and the cost would make most people howl at two. Until we bite the bullet on this, we will still have the odd massacre by someone who is deranged, and clearly mentally ill people living homeless on our streets.

  • Make it easier to involuntarily commit crazy people who are a danger to themselves and to other.

    We had a case in Brooklyn where a student was involuntarily committed for weeks. Turned out the student was completely sane. If anybody supports this now, they won’t once more stories like that come out.

    Create institutions to treat and care for said crazy people.

    Again, in NY, back in the 60’s and 70’s, notoriously underfunded mental institutes arguable made matters worse than no funding at all because it gave people the impression that something was being done. There is no public support for increased funding and politicians would rather dip into the coffers to buy votes than help non-voters.

  • In this political climate, political dissidents would end up in the mental institutions just like in the USSR.

    “Oh, you think that blob of cells is a human being, do you Mr. McClarey? Well that is clearly an insane belief, and you may be a pro-life terrorist. 3 years in a psychiatric ward! Next!”

    Besides, didn’t that incompetent left-wing sheriff know about Loughner in advance? Wasn’t it is professional failure that really is to blame here?

  • No Joe, I assure you that by the time I was done in the courtroom those who sought to involuntarily commit me would find themselves buried in litigation for the remainder of their existence. Contra One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest it is very difficult, certainly in Illinois, to have manifestly mentally ill people committed against their will. The streets and jails are currently where the majority of seriously mentally ill people are “housed” in this country. The fortunate ones live with long-suffering relatives who are often at their wits end as to what to do.

  • I don’t know RR, I think the student in question might be a few screws loose:

    http://gothamist.com/2011/01/14/brooklyn_college_student.php

    In Illinois a legal hearing would have had to have been conducted, with appointed counsel for her prior to her committment.

  • Glock 19 “not suited for… personal protection.”
    Thanks! I needed a good laugh.
    And thank you for posting the picture of the Beretta, which aesthetically blows the polyGlock out of the water.
    Oops. Violent rhetoric. Mea culpa.

Is A Preferential Option for the Poor Bad for the Poor?

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

Admittedly this sounds like a silly question, but it is effectively one that Kyle Cupp is asking over at Vox Nova:

Putting aside whether or not the theory actually works in practice, a question I don’t here wish to debate, does trickle-down economics embody what has been called in Catholic circles the preferential option for the poor?

I’m inclined to answer that it does not, that while helping to generate pools of capital at the top may benefit the poor through a process of “trickling down,” the theory itself embodies a preferential option for the rich.

Kyle wants us to put aside the question of whether “trickle-down” economics actually works, so for purposes of considering the question we can assume that trickle-down does make the poor a lot better off than any alternative. So what Kyle is really asking here is whether a preferential option for the poor might require us to make the poor worse off (e.g. by rejecting trickle-down economics).

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50 Responses to Is A Preferential Option for the Poor Bad for the Poor?

  • It’s really depressing that you even have to make this argument.

  • It’s really depressing that you even have to make this argument.

    Indeed, but I always appreciate Blackadder’s posts on these type of things. He does common sense and objectivity justice and I think his style may lead some people think things through a little more. Well done, BA.

  • I am afraid that many people on the Left, I trust that Kyle is not in this category, hate the rich much more than they love the poor.

    The attitude is described well in an old Russian tale. A poor peasant lived next to a rich peasant who had a cow. The poor peasant found a lamp that had a genie in it. The genie granted him one wish. The poor peasant didn’t hesitate: “I wish the cow of my neighbor would die.”

  • And speaking of cows:

    “Feudalism: You have two cows. The lord of the manor takes some of the milk. And all the cream.

    Pure Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

    Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one of your cows and gives it to your neighbor. You’re both forced to join a cooperative where you have to teach your neighbor how to take care of his cow.

    Bureaucratic Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as its regulations say you should need.

    Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

    Pure Communism: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

    Russian Communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

    Communism: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for you share of the milk, but it’s so long that the milk is sour by the time you get it.

    Dictatorship: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

    Militarism: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

    Pure Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

    Representative Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

    American Democracy: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate.” The cows are set free.

    Democracy, Democrat-style: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being so successful. You vote politicians into office who tax your cows, which forces you to sell one to pay the tax. The politicians use the tax money to buy a cow for your neighbor. You feel good. Barbra Streisand sings for you.

    Democracy, Republican-style: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You move to a better neighborhood.

    Indian Democracy: You have two cows. You worship them.

    British Democracy: You have two cows. You feed them sheep brains and they go mad. The government gives you compensation for your diseased cows, compensation for your lost income, and a grant not to use your fields for anything else. And tells the public not to worry.

    Bureaucracy: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

    Anarchy: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to kill you and take the cows.

    Capitalism: You have two cows. You lay one off, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when she drops dead.

    Singaporean Democracy: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment.

    Hong Kong Capitalism (alias Enron Capitalism):
    You have two cows.
    You sell three of them to your publicly-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute an debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows.
    The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Isands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows’ milk back to the listed company.
    The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
    Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the Feng Shui is bad.

    Environmentalism: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

    Totalitarianism: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

    Foreign Policy, American-Style: You have two cows. The government taxes them and uses the money to buy a cow for a poor farmer a country ruled by a dictator. The farmer has no hay to feed the cow and his religion forbids him from eating it. The cow dies. The man dies. The dictator confiscates the dead man’s farm and sells it, using the money to purchase US military equipment. The President declares the program a success and announces closer ties with our new ally.

    Bureaucracy, American-Style: You have two cows but you have to kill one of them because the government will only give you a license for one of them. The license requires you to sell all your milk to the government, which uses it to make cheese. The government pays lots of money to store the cheese in refrigerated warehouses. When the cheese spoils, the government distributes it to the poor. The poor get sick from the cheese, go to the emergency room, and are turned away because they have no health insurance. The President declares the program a success and reminds us that we have the finest health care system in the world.

    American Corporation: You have two cows. You sell one to a subsidiary company and lease it back to yourself so you can declare it as a tax loss. Your bosses give you a huge bonus. You inject the cows with drugs and they produce four times the normal amount of milk. Your bosses give you a huge bonus. When the drugs cause one of the cows to drop dead you announce to the press that you have down-sized, reducing expenses by 50 percent. The company stock goes up and your bosses give you a huge bonus. You lay off all your workers and move your production facilities to Mexico. You get a huge bonus. You contribute some of your profit to the President’s re-election campaign. The President announces tax cuts for corporations in order to stimulate the economy.

    Japanese Corporation: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You teach the cows to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Your cows always get higher test scores than cows in the U.S. or Europe, but they drink a lot of sake.

    German Corporation: You have two cows. You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent milk, and run a hundred miles an hour. Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year and are very expensive to repair.

    Russian Corporation: You have two cows. You have some vodka. You count your cows and discover you really have five cows! You have more vodka. You count them again and discover you have 42 cows! You stop counting cows and have some more vodka. The Russian Mafia arrives and takes over all your cows. You have more vodka.

    Italian Corporation: You have two cows but you can’t find them. While searching for them you meet a beautiful woman, take her out to lunch and then make love to her. Life is good.

    French Corporation: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want another cow, more vacation and shorter work weeks. The French government announces that it will never agree to your demands. You go to lunch and eat fabulous food and drink wonderful wine. While you are at lunch, the airline pilots and flight controllers join your strike, shutting down all air traffic. The truckers block all the roads and the dock workers block all the ports. By dinner time the French government announces it agrees with all your demands. Life is good.

    Political Correctness: You are associated with (the concept of “ownership” is an outdated symbol of your decadent, warmongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender. They get married and adopt a calf.

    Counterculturalism: Wow, dude, there’s like . . . these two cows, man. You have got to have some of this milk.

    Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.”

    Distributism: You name one of your cows Chesterton and one of them Belloc, and argue with them about what distributism means. Nothing much else ever gets done.

  • “Distributism: You name one of your cows Chesterton and one of them Belloc, and argue with them about what distributism means. Nothing much else ever gets done.”

    Hilarious and so true!

  • Now Don, that was as egregiously off topic as I’ve ever seen anything.

    But I laughed. Frequently. 🙂

  • On topic:

    A lot of what I came away from that post with is the conviction that I’m not sure much of anyone is all that sure what exactly “preferential option for the poor means”. It seemed like, to the extent we got closer to such an idea, people agreed that it meant both intending to benefit the poor with one’s actions (perhaps specifically one’s actions in designing “the system”) and also that one’s actions really did succeed in benefitting the poor.

    In this sense, it seems to me that if “trickle down” works all one has to do is summon up the will do keep doing what one is doing for the benefit of the poor and one is all set.

    But if so, that seems to give the phrase a rather trivial meaning. I’m not sure if that’s a bug or a feature.

  • You can’t ask whether trickle-down economics is consistent with a preferential option for the poor without asking whether or not it works.

    The first commenter on my post, John C. Médaille, raised the same problem, and I concede that answering the first question may not be possible without answering the second. Perhaps I was too hasty in laying out my initial question. My aim was to focus the discussion, but my means seems to have wounded my argument. No pain, no gain though, as they say.

    The example you give of paying doctors to provide free health care to the poor clearly embodies (at least in intent) a preferential option for the poor because the policy is designed to help the poor. Helping the poor is the end, the goal, whereas paying the doctors is the means. Does trickle-down* economics do this as well? That’s my question. I think.

    *I didn’t mean to use trickle-down economics as a negative description, and I will happily use a more favorable term in the future. What do you suggest?

  • I’m rarely sure of the meaning of any word, Darwin, and I want to take that uncertainty as a feature rather that a bug, but I’m not sure even of that.

  • The example you give of paying doctors to provide free health care to the poor clearly embodies (at least in intent) a preferential option for the poor because the policy is designed to help the poor. Helping the poor is the end, the goal, whereas paying the doctors is the means.

    But if a doctors’ lobbying group was a big supporter of the plan, because they believed it would result in more money for doctors, surely the plan itself would (all other things being equal) remain a good idea even if the motives of the biggest supporters were in fact nothing to do with the poor, wouldn’t they?

    Perhaps, the doctors would derive no moral benefit if they were self interested about it — but wouldn’t the objective worth of the policy be the same either way?

  • I didn’t mean to use trickle-down economics as a negative description, and I will happily use a more favorable term in the future. What do you suggest?

    Voodoo economics.

  • The example you give of paying doctors to provide free health care to the poor clearly embodies (at least in intent) a preferential option for the poor because the policy is designed to help the poor. Helping the poor is the end, the goal, whereas paying the doctors is the means. Does trickle-down* economics do this as well?

    I think that the intent that matters here is one’s own intent. If I think that a given policy helps the poor but is being supported by others for bad reasons the thing to do is not to oppose the policy but to try and get people to support it for the right reasons.

  • Before we talk about preferential options for the poor, how about we define poverty? How about we discuss ways to measure it?

    I read in one of Thomas Sowell’s books the other day that only 3% of people considered “poor” in the United States remain so for longer than 8 years. In this country, people go in and out of poverty all the time by their own efforts.

    I don’t think poverty is really the problem in this country. It is the supposed injustice of vast disparities in wealth. I have a problem with that when it is the result of government intervention, but I have no problem with it when it is based on honest work and voluntary exchange.

  • As I understand it, “preferential option for the poor” means that as Christians, we should prefer actions and public policies which ACTUALLY benefit the poor and vulnerable over those which merely benefit ourselves or benefit people who already have wealth or power.

    However, what appears to benefit the poor in the short term may not be what benefits them in the long term. For example, if anti-poverty programs result in the government going broke trying to fund them, then one can plausibly argue that the “preferential option” requires an honest assessment of the state/nation’s ability to continue funding these programs.

    Here’s another example of how the preferential option might work. In many states, agencies are required to consider “regulatory flexibility” affecting certain classes of individuals or entities when rules and regulations are proposed. These may include small businesses, small municipalities, non-profit or charitable organizations, families, schools, etc. The idea is to insure that the effect of such rules upon these entities — which may not have the same ability or “clout” to lobby for or against a rule as others — is considered and not ignored. In that sense, you could say there is a preferential option for small business, etc. in these rulemaking processes.

  • ‘Trickle-down economics’ is a rhetorical thrust and only vaguely defined. When you assert it ‘works’, the appropriate response is, ‘toward what end?’.

  • Darwin writes:

    But if a doctors’ lobbying group was a big supporter of the plan, because they believed it would result in more money for doctors, surely the plan itself would (all other things being equal) remain a good idea even if the motives of the biggest supporters were in fact nothing to do with the poor, wouldn’t they?

    Perhaps, the doctors would derive no moral benefit if they were self interested about it — but wouldn’t the objective worth of the policy be the same either way?

    Yes and yes. The ulterior motives of big supporters may be cause for some suspicion, but ultimately the policy does or does not embody an option for the poor, and I think one can come to some conclusion about that without considering the motives of every supporter–even the big ones. In fact, I’d say the policy writers would be prudent to appeal to the self-interest of those affected and involved. There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily, and it would most likely be vital to the success of getting the policy implemented.

  • Black Adder writes:

    I think that the intent that matters here is one’s own intent. If I think that a given policy helps the poor but is being supported by others for bad reasons the thing to do is not to oppose the policy but to try and get people to support it for the right reasons.

    Well said.

  • “…If we paid doctors to given free health care to the poor, this would benefit the doctors..”

    You joke, right? 🙂

  • The term “supply-side economics” is as good as any. It describes the same thing: that lower taxes on the rich will encourage the development of productive capital, which will increase the supply of goods and trickle down to the lower-income people.

    I think Kyle’s question is valid, and it’s one I’ve wrestled with. I think that supply-side economics can be morally acceptable, but it’s tricky. For example, if you say that present injustice is to be encouraged if it leads to better conditions in the future, how is that not consequentialism? That has some ugly implications in terms of means and ends, as well as a tradeoff between morality and comfort. It’s a delicate question.

  • Cutting taxes on the wealthy to zero would help the poor. The preferential option requires that policies actually prefer the poor relative to the rich. That doesn’t mean any one proposal must prefer the poor but overall the system must help the poor more than the rich.

  • Strictly speaking supply side economics has to do with marginal income tax rates (not just taxes as such) on high income earners (not the rich as such). The real idea is that a reduction in marginal rates yields more productive behavior, resulting in a vibrant economy including job creation. Indeed one tenet of supply side theory is that a reduction of marginal tax rates can in some circumstances result in greater tax revenue without any reliance on the Keynesian multipier effect. To understand this one need only imagine a world with a tax rate of 100%. Such a world would yield exactly the same tax revenue as a world with a 0% tax rate — i.e. 0, at least in a free society. It is axiomatic to most free market theorists that no one would work or invest if 100% of one’s compensation for such work or investment was paid to the government. Plainly, a curve exists (albeit one that is much easier to understand in principle than identify or apply in practice) which describes the relation between tax rates and government revenue, and only one place on that curve is optimal for maximizing government tax revenue. Of course, maximizing government tax revenue is not necessarily a dispositive objective of tax policy, but reasonable people should agree that it is not sensible to set rates beyond that optimal point (although Obama suggested otherwise in the presidential campaign in regards to capital gains rates).
    Also, while there is a relationship between the “rich” and high income earners, in this country that relationship is pretty weak. Most high income earners are not rich by any reasonable standard.

  • Mike, nearly every economist agrees that we’re no where near the Laffer peak.

  • Mike – All good points.

  • I also think the fuzziness and newness of the term “preferential option for the poor” makes it insufficient grounds for altering an economic system.

  • I think you need to be careful how you justify purchases or other actions with the trickle-down effect. For example, is it preferable for the poor for you to justify buying a yacht assuming the yacht makers employ poor people or is it preferable to give that money to a charity who feeds and educates the poor so that they can find a better job than yacht making?

    I think it’s dangerous to assume that selfish purchases are also benefiting the poor. Preferential option for the poor is preferring the needs of the poor before all other needs and wants including your own.

    From the compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

    The principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force. “This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods. Today, furthermore, given the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed, this love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future”

    As Jesus tells us, “whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.”

    Do you want to tell him that you cared for the poor by buying a yacht (or some other selfish purchase)? or would you rather say that you fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and educated the uneducated?

    If you say both, then how do you know? How do you know it actually trickles down? The current income inequality in America with the lowest progressive taxation we’ve had in decades shows that it does not.

  • RR, I never suggested otherwise. But even if true (I honestly don’t know) it does not follow that it is good economic policy to raise taxes. Only a true statist would say that it is axiomatic that tax rates should always be set to maximize government revenue. All the Laffer Curve really suggests is that rates should never be set higher than the point at which revenue maximizes. It does not suggest that that point is “optimal.” That question is as much normative and prudential as it is positive and computational.

    Unlike libertarians and some conservatives, I have no problem in theory with government acting as a charitable social agent. But in evaluating what would be effective (leaving aside fair), one must have a pretty sober understanding of human nature and how real people will respond to various conditions. My experience suggests that government programs are viewed as entitlements, and entitlements have a very perverse effect on the behavior of their intended beneficiaries. Private charity does much better.

    Also, there will always be a tension between those who view poverty through a fairly absolutist lens and those who see it through a relativist one. Some of us believe that access to very basic housing, food, and health care is sufficient; others will always be uncomfortable with disparity. I’m kind of in the middle but do acknoledge that much of the sentiment of the latter group is grounded in plain old envy.

  • “Do you want to tell him that you cared for the poor by buying a yacht (or some other selfish purchase)? or would you rather say that you fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and educated the uneducated?”

    What if you tell Him that by establishing a yacht selling business you provided employment for 50 men and women so that they could feed, clothe and educate their families? These questions are a good deal more complicated than many people make them out to be. The best anti-poverty program for most folks is a good education, a stable family and a good job. Government programs tend to be rather poor at supplying any of these.

  • Can anyone give me a chapter and verse citation where Jesus uses the term “preferential option for the poor?”

    I’m working from Mark 14:7.

  • Jesus never uttered that phrase.

    I think this whole idea has been understood too materialistically.

    There is also spiritual poverty. But we think that if people are materially well-off their chances of becoming spiritually wealthy increase. I don’t think that is that case.

  • RR,

    Cutting taxes on the wealthy to zero would help the poor. The preferential option requires that policies actually prefer the poor relative to the rich. That doesn’t mean any one proposal must prefer the poor but overall the system must help the poor more than the rich.

    I’m a little confused here. Are you saying that if a policy helps both the poor and the rich, it is only acceptable under the “preferential option for the poor” if it helps the poor more than the rich?

    What if some policy helps the rich more than the poor, but still helps the poor more than the alternatives? Should one avoid it on the principle that it would help the rich more than the poor, and that this would add to inequality and thus be unjust?

    Also, if “the system” as a whole benefited the poor more than the rich, should that simply mean that the former poor should be poor anymore and that someone else (the old rich?) were now poor?

    More generally,

    – Maybe it’s just a vague feeling from the terms used, but I have the general feeling that “preferential option for the poor” is used to mean some sense in which someone has their thumb on the scale to tilt some system more in the direction of the poor than would otherwise be the case. That we’re not just talking about some policy which in some sense benefits them, but that in some way you take “a system”, then sque it towards the poor and go with that. Is there any basis for this or am I being led down a wrong path?

    – It also seems to me that the entire idea of the “preferential option for the poor” as usually expressed assumes that there are multiple economic “systems” and that one can pick or modify “the system” in such a way as to assure that “the poor” as a class are the prime beneficiaries of ” the system”. However, I’m really not clear that this is in fact true about economies — that is, I’m not clear that there is multiple “systems” one may pick from, some of which will necessarily and always benefit the poor more than others. I think maybe this becomes easier if we assume that the “preferential option” is something to be implemented civicly rather than economically, but I’m still a bit skeptical of the idea that one can design a “system” as a whole, civicly or economically, which primarily benefits “the poor” over others.

  • Mac,

    ” . . . many people on the Left, . . . hate the rich much more than they love the poor.”

    It’s not hate. And, they do not love the rich less. They love the poor more. Jesus did not teach one should love certain of one’s brothers more than evil, rich brothers. That’s in the Gospel of Marx.

    Another name for it is class war.

  • If a given program helps both rich and poor, then it’s probably going to help the poor more than the richer (in real, as opposed to nominal, terms).

  • A question?

    Why do we keep saying a preferential option for the poor when the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and to my knowledge all Church teaching, to my knowledge, makes a point of saying not “preferential option” but “Love For the Poor”? [Note: I have never been able to find a online version of the original Spanish to see what the Latin American Bishops actually taught.]

    I suspect one reason relevant to this discussion is that “option” could be understood as a program, those unenlightened heathen who do not support it are doomed to hell. Where as “love” would imply the Cardinal Virtue of Justice Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Certainly two people could have an equally “constant and firm will” and have mutually exclusive ideas on how that applies in a given situation.

  • and to my knowledge all Church teaching

    should read

    and to my knowledge all Church teaching at that level

    The definiton of Justice above is from the Catechism

  • DarwinCatholic, I’m confused too. For example, what if a free trade agreement with Japan meant that cheap Japanese robots would replace American nannies? I would argue that this shouldn’t be done unless there is a safety net for the newly unemployed. The preferential option isn’t limited by immigration status so I’d argue that we should oppose policies that impoverish even illegal immigrants.

    I think if we had a system that provided a sufficient financial safety net and opportunities for improvement, we would have fully exercised our preferential option since there would be no more poverty except for poverty by choice. This is why I no longer view the earned income tax credit as the ideal anti-poverty program. It still keeps people in poverty since it can’t provide a 100% credit. I think the ideal safety net must bring people completely out of poverty. We can still have work requirements but then jobs must be guaranteed. Sweden has such a program. They place people in private jobs which ends up creating more unemployment. I would place people only in public sector jobs, however menial. What if instead of giving unemployed bankers unemployment benefits, we offer them a job at the SEC for minimum wage?

  • “The principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern.”

    I may be splitting hairs here but “particular concern” is not necessarily the same thing as “preferential option.” Particular concern, as I interpret it, means simply that the good of the poor and marginalized have to be seriously considered in economic decision making — which is entirely reasonable and possible. The effect of any economic policy upon the poor should never be dismissed or ignored. Even less should the poor be unfairly stigmatized or treated as unworthy of concern.

    “Preferential option,” on the other hand, seems to imply (or at least seems to be commonly interpreted to mean) that the poor are always in direct competition with the middle class and wealthy and that all economic decisions must benefit the poor to a greater degree than everyone else — which is highly impractical if not impossible.

  • If a given program helps both rich and poor, then it’s probably going to help the poor more than the richer (in real, as opposed to nominal, terms).

    Agreed. Though people who talk about the preferential option for the poor most seem to completely fail to understand the distinction between real and nominal terms and get mad at such a situation instead.

  • For example, what if a free trade agreement with Japan meant that cheap Japanese robots would replace American nannies? I would argue that this shouldn’t be done unless there is a safety net for the newly unemployed.

    By that argument, wouldn’t one ban most economic growth? The invention of the car pretty much wiped out the poor buggy whip makers.

    I think the ideal safety net must bring people completely out of poverty. We can still have work requirements but then jobs must be guaranteed. Sweden has such a program. They place people in private jobs which ends up creating more unemployment. I would place people only in public sector jobs, however menial. What if instead of giving unemployed bankers unemployment benefits, we offer them a job at the SEC for minimum wage?

    On the general point — perhaps I don’t know enough about Sweden but I’m not clear that any country has completely eliminated poverty.

    On the idea of putting unemployed bankers to doing minimum wage work at the SEC — that probably depends a lot on whether you want anything done well at the SEC. Also, many people tend to claim that the minimum wage is in fact a poverty wage. Honestly, I can’t see what exactly the attraction is of making people who are receiving a cash benefit because they ware out of work do some sort of make-work. It gets very little productive done, probably costs more to run than just giving the money, and keeps the unemployed person from being able to spend all their time looking for work or getting new training.

    General point again:

    At the risk of getting the “bad catholic” pile on from the left: It really sounds to me like “preferential option for the poor” has no clearly agreed upon meaning which wasn’t well and clearly understood in Catholic moral teaching for a couple thousand years before the phrase was dreamed up. Given this, I’m not sure how much people are adding to discussion by throwing it around as if it meant something.

  • By that argument, wouldn’t one ban most economic growth? The invention of the car pretty much wiped out the poor buggy whip makers.

    The invention of the car brought more people out of poverty than put into it. That’s why I used the Japanese robots replacing nannies hypo. In either case, the goal isn’t to ban creative destruction but to protect the poor. That can be done with things like welfare, education, and job placement. If a safety net isn’t an option, I guess you’d have to weigh the effects of the creative destruction on the poor and decide whether to ban it.

    Sweden might have poverty. There may be people unwilling to work. As for the guaranteed job placement, it isn’t intended to provide value. It’s intended as make-work but if we’re going to give out money anyway, it makes getting on welfare less attractive. Also, from a CST POV, it provides the dignity of a job. Like the Swedish program, you’d be required to submit proof that you’re actively applying to jobs.

  • “The invention of the car brought more people out of poverty than put into it.”

    No one knew that at the time. For the first few decades of the “horseless carriage”, they were out of reach of most of the middle class and all of the poor, and precisely the type of expenditure that some people in this thread would have blasted as a luxury for the rich that could have been better spent on the poor. Precisely the same thing could have been said about the early stages of personal computers and virtually of any new technology entering the economy. This is why running an economy based on fairly vague “feel good” admonitions from ecclesiastical officials is almost always going to end in economic disaster. The Church tells us to remember the poor and we have a duty to care for them, and I view that as entirely true. When Church leaders go from there to trying to tell us how to run an economy they are treading into an area where they have no expertise and their recommendations have to be examined with the same care we give to economic recommendations from any source.

  • Economic policy affects the poor. The preferential option doesn’t dispute any economic theories. It only insists that the moral problems be addressed. It doesn’t prohibit creative destruction but it requires that we try to mitigate the destruction part. Too often an economic policy that creates a net reduction in poverty ignores the fact that it can throw real people into poverty.

  • For example, what if a free trade agreement with Japan meant that cheap Japanese robots would replace American nannies? I would argue that this shouldn’t be done unless there is a safety net for the newly unemployed.

    I think you are confusing the issue of free trade with the issue of automation. Take a more realistic example: automated checkout lanes at supermarkets. Instead of having someone working at every checkout lane, you have lanes where people scan their own items and pay with a credit card. Do you think that should be banned? Or take self-serve gas stations. My understanding is that there are some parts of the country that ban self-service gas pumping on the grounds that it destroys low skill jobs. If you want to buy gas you have to wait in your car and a nice attendant will come out and pump your gas for you. Should that be required throughout the country? For that matter, lots and lots of jobs in manufacturing and agriculture that used to be done by low skill workers but are now done by machines (if you visit a car plant it’s amazing how much of it is automated). Should all of that be restricted?

  • The preferential option doesn’t dispute any economic theories. It only insists that the moral problems be addressed. It doesn’t prohibit creative destruction but it requires that we try to mitigate the destruction part.

    Okay, I don’t disagree with that. I wonder, though, why you don’t think the EITC is an ideal solution?

  • I used the free trade in robot nannies example because it would disproportionately help the rich but it doesn’t really matter. Is there a moral difference between repealing existing protectionist measures and refusing to enact new protectionist measures? The poor may rely on existing protectionism (e.g., trade barriers on Japanese robot nannies) like they rely on Medicare and Social Security. Liberalization can be just as harmful to them and helpful to the economy as taking away their entitlements. Even most hardcore libertarians don’t want to immediately cut off entitlements. On the other hand, new protectionist proposals (e.g., requiring that all gas stations be full-service) create reliances that don’t yet exist.

    I’m not for any protectionism if there is a sufficient safety net for the losers but it seems to me that if that’s not an option, the preferential option demands that we protect existing reliances.

  • As for the guaranteed job placement, it isn’t intended to provide value. It’s intended as make-work but if we’re going to give out money anyway, it makes getting on welfare less attractive. Also, from a CST POV, it provides the dignity of a job.

    I guess I wouldn’t tend to see useless make-work as providing the dignity of a job — if anything, it would seem like just as counterfeit money degrades the value of real money, so putting a significant percentage of people in make-work jobs would degrade the perceived value of real work.

  • The EITC would be my second choice. The problem is that it keeps people in poverty because you can’t provide a 100% credit of the amount they fall short of the poverty line. If you increase the income threshold under which people are eligible, people who aren’t in poverty would receive the credit too. Also, I’d like to see a work requirement which is harder to justify it if you don’t guarantee work. Finally, I think working, even if it’s a menial government job for minimum wage, is more dignified than collecting welfare.

    DarwinCatholic:
    if anything, it would seem like just as counterfeit money degrades the value of real money, so putting a significant percentage of people in make-work jobs would degrade the perceived value of real work.

    Counterfeit money degrades the value of money by increasing supply. I don’t think we should restrict jobs just because scarcity makes jobs more valuable. And unlike counterfeit money, a min wage job can’t be passed off as something more valuable. It may discourage demand for comparable min wage jobs in the private sector but there would also be job seeking requirements that require participants to take private sector jobs if offered.

  • I realized as I was typing it that it would be easy to mistake me for talking about the economic value of work, but I’m in fact talking about the societal value of work.

    It seems to me that we already have a problem of sorts in that many people do not see their jobs are particularly productive, and thus there is a societal perception of a job as being “some stupid, useless thing I go do so that corporate overlords will give me my paycheck”. If at this point in time we had 10% of the population doing work that was intended to be useless make-work, we would completely undermine any cultural appreciation for the dignity of work in our society.

    Perverse as it may sound, it seems to me that if simply paying people cash unemployment benefits lacks the dignity of work, this actually is a feature, because it underscores the social importance of getting a job in order to get off the dole.

  • Is there a moral difference between repealing existing protectionist measures and refusing to enact new protectionist measures? The poor may rely on existing protectionism (e.g., trade barriers on Japanese robot nannies) like they rely on Medicare and Social Security.

    Are there existing trade barriers to importing robot nannies from Japan?

    It seems like the main effect of banning robot nanny imports from Japan would be to move production of the robot nannies to the U.S. That would mean we’d have to give up making something else here. And presumably what we would have to give up making is something we were better at doing (otherwise there’d be no point in importing the robots from Japan instead of making them ourselves) Which means that our productivity would be lower. That the poor would be helped by this is far from clear.

    The EITC would be my second choice. The problem is that it keeps people in poverty because you can’t provide a 100% credit of the amount they fall short of the poverty line. If you increase the income threshold under which people are eligible, people who aren’t in poverty would receive the credit too.

    That’s true, but so what? Lots of existing entitlements go to some people above the poverty line, why not the EITC?

  • Protectionist policies designed to protect existing jobs as opposed to attempting to create new jobs doesn’t move jobs anywhere. Productively would remain constant though it would eventually lag other countries. Since all I’m worried about is the poor who already rely on protectionism, it can be phased out over time. I don’t care if we don’t have any more corn growers in 50 years but those who rely on it to make a living now need protection. Again, my preferred method is direct cash payments instead of protectionism but I’m assuming, for sake of argument, that that isn’t an option.

    I don’t think an EITC that fully subsidizes the poor and the near-poor is horrible but I think make-work could be better. You don’t have to subsidize anybody but the poor. There’d be additional administrative costs but they’d be small compared to more tax credits. Anyway, it’s a theoretical preference that could change if I’m shown contradictory real-world data.

  • Joe Hargrave:

    “I think this whole idea has been understood too materialistically.

    There is also spiritual poverty. But we think that if people are materially well-off their chances of becoming spiritually wealthy increase. I don’t think that is that case.”

    Very good point! The use of all earthly goods should be ordered toward obtaining heavenly goods. Charity is as much for the rich as it is the poor!

Bees in the Mouth

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

All the recent hubub  about our political rhetoric led me to re-read a book by Peter Wood called A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now. It was published in 2006, so at the time Wood focused mainly on the angry political rhetoric of the left.  He didn’t claim that political anger was solely a phenomenon of the left, but most of the examples of heated rhetoric came from left-wing sources. (This, by the way, is where I got that quote from Paul Krugman that I cited last week.)

At any rate, Wood concentrates on what he terms “new anger.”  He acknowledges that there has always been heated political argumentation, but that stylistically much has changed.  People worked hard to suppress anger – witness George Washington’s dedicated attempts to control his quick temper.  Now anger is celebrated.  It has become something of a performance art in our modern society, and we celebrate expressions of righteous anger.   As someone who titles his personal blog (tongue-in-cheekly) the Cranky Conservative, I can see the merits of his argument.

Though Wood makes many decent observations, there are two problems with his book. 

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2 Responses to Bees in the Mouth

  • Over the years, I’ve found that some folks feel that any sort of strong or critical remark is “mean-spirited” or “harsh” or “nasty”, as if rendering judgment on the logic of an idea or the veracity of an argument were was somehow an outright hate crime.

    I find that to be fairly common here in the rural Midwest. People put great store on being “nice” and not offending anyone. A person who’s conservative at heart will listen to Limbaugh (for instance) and come away arguing the liberal position — even if he himself was arguing Limbaugh’s side the day before. They feel a blunt, confident argument as an attack — usually not on them, but on someone weaker than them — and feel a need to defend against it.

    I’ve had conversations where I made the exact same argument someone else did, but because I couched it in wordy language (weasel words, sometimes) and sprinkled it with disclaimers, I got credit where the other person got condemnation. I’ve learned that if I’m going to talk about how bad the schools are, for example, I have to start and end with a disclaimer about how much I love teachers, my mom was a teacher, teachers are our future, blah blah blah. Otherwise, I can talk about grade inflation, indoctrination, sexualization, bullying — everything but the teachers — and all the person will hear is, “I hate teachers!”

  • Paul, there really is no difference between then and now except, as you suggest, we’re in a sound bite age where words travel much faster and the lack of time between expression and consumption does not allow for any amelioration. But consider, too, that angry language and accusations in the past often led to sword fights or gun duels for the sake of honor alone, which pretty much died out with the Victorian Age. Now there is a lot more shouting perhaps but after the obligatory huffing and puffing and public apologies and mea culpas, the media move on to more spats to cover.

    More recently, just as an example who can forget Bill Buckley and Gore Vidal nearly coming to blows during their famous debates — both of whom comported themselves as gentlemen otherwise.

    Interesting piece, Paul. Last word goes to Aldous Huxley, who once said, “Thanks to words, we have been able to rise above the brutes; and thanks to words, we have often sunk to the level of the demons.”

Head of CCHD Was Treasurer For Pro-Abort Candidate

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

In a dog bites man story, and an example of good blog journalism, Creative Minority Report has broken the news that the head of the CCHD, Ralph McCloud, while he was head of the CCHD, was the campaign treasurer for pro-abort Wendy Davis in her successful run in 2008 for the Texas State Senate:

 While the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has come under well deserved scrutiny for supporting groups such as ACORN and groups with ties to promoting abortion, CMR has uncovered that Ralph McCloud, while heading the CCHD in 2008, was simultaneously working as a highly placed campaign official for a pro-choice politician seeking to unseat a pro-life politician.according to public records, McCloud also worked as the Treasurer for Planned Parenthood endorsed Democrat Wendy Davis.Annie’s List,raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Davis in 2008 while McCloud worked as Treasurer. The group even gave a spirited endorsement of the pro-choice Davis, who succeeded in defeating her pro-life opponent.

As you likely know, CCHD is the bishops’ anti-poverty program which funds community organizing and economic development projects and has been at the center of a number of controversies. Ralph McCloud was named head of the CCHD in November 2007. In his first year as head of the CCHD,

Why would the director of the CCHD, during his tenure as head of an ostensibly Catholic institution act as champion and treasurer of a campaign for a pro-abortion politician seeking to oust a pro-life politician? This is the textbook definition of scandal.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website, “the CCHD fully upholds the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death.” But acting as Treasurer for a pro-choice politician means that every single yard sign, every press release, every brochure or pamphlet of the Davis campaign had Ralph McCloud’s name on it. So in short, while heading up the CCHD, McCloud was very publicly working against the stated goals of the organization he oversaw.

Isn’t that a bit confusing to Catholics? Isn’t that in itself a scandal to the faithful?

McCloud himself labeled questions about another CCHD employee John Carr’s commitment to the pro-life cause “very disturbing allegations” which he believed were unfounded. CMR believes it to be equally disturbing that McCloud would work for a campaign garnering donations from Annie’s List (a pro-choice PAC), Planned Parenthood and ACORN.

Go here to read the rest at Creative Minority Report.

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5 Responses to Head of CCHD Was Treasurer For Pro-Abort Candidate

  • Other lessons:

    Reform of the CCHD is irrelevant. It is what it was designed to be, and is fulfilling its purpose perfectly.

    Peace is a good thing. Justice is a good thing (and a virtue). But when anyone says “peace and justice ministry” with a straight face, run the other way.

  • Reminds me of something I once said…
    The Lament of a Faithful Laity
    The really sickening thing about this is to realize it could have all been avoided had a good portion of misled “Social Justice” Catholics and the USCCB who were more dedicated to political correctness than Biblical truth and more fearful of Federal lawmakers than the voices of their flocks had used common sense guided by facts and traditional values in evaluating candidates. And in particular one Doug Kmeic, (now Obama’s appointed ambassador to Malta) who used his status as and elitist in catholic doctrine to conger a guilt complex on any of the faithful who would waste a chance to vote for a minority president regardless of his lack of experience or his vague past and highly questionable background and associations.

  • Some have called the USCCB the “Democratic Party at prayer.” In view of the above, will they now call it “pro-aborts at prayer” (or PP)?

  • Tom,

    I think that is correct.

    The majority probably are sanctimonious socialists, progressive humanists with nearly complete disrespect for things Spiritual.

    That (D) behind they paste behind their names; it stands for damnation.

  • I had a dream. In it I received a letter from my bishop.

    It read, in part. “The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated January 22 as a special day of prayer and penance in reparation for voting for democrat candidates without which could not have been committed millions of killings that resulted from the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (handed down January 22, 1973) which permits the murder of unborn babies throughout pregnancy.”

Is Mr. Smith in the Tea Party?

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

Now that college football season is over, Tito is going to make me write real posts again.

There was an interesting post a few days back from Stanley Fish comparing Palin’s vision of American to Frank Capra’s, particularly as embodied in his classic film (and my favorite movie) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The movie *spoiler alert* involves an young idealistic Boy Scout leader who is nominated to the Senate because the powers that be, including a sitting Senator and a large businessman, believe he can be easily manipulated to serve their interests. Mr. Smith stumbles into the corruption and attempts to expose him. His enemies mount a successful smear campaign for them, causing Mr. Smith to have to filibuster both to save his seat in the Senate and to expose the corruption. This is where Fish (who also mentions some other Capra works) comes in:

In each of these films the forces of statism, corporatism and mercantilism are routed by the spontaneous uprising of ordinary men who defeat the sophisticated machinations of their opponents by declaring, living and fighting for a simple basic creed of individualism, self-help, independence and freedom.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It describes what we have come to know as the Tea Party, which famously has no leaders, no organization, no official platform, no funds from the public trough. Although she only mentions the Tea Party briefly in her book, Palin is busily elaborating its principles, first in the lengthy discussion of Capra’s Jefferson Smith and then, at the end of the same chapter, in an equally lengthy discussion of Martin Luther King. These two men (one fictional, one real) are brought together when Palin says that King’s dream of an America that lived out “the true meaning of its creed” would be, if it were realized, “the fulfillment of America’s exceptional destiny.” A belief in that destiny and that exceptionalism is, she concludes, “a belief Senator Jefferson Smith would have agreed with.” (In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself became a believer in American exceptionalism the first time I visited Europe, in 1966.)

Exceptionalism can mean either that America is different in some important respect or that, in its difference, America is superior. Palin clearly means the latter:

I think however that the idea which Fish ascribes to Palin, namely that Mr. Smith stands for a lot of ideas of the tea party, is wrong.

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14 Responses to Is Mr. Smith in the Tea Party?

  • The only tea-party organization with which I am involved is the First Coast Tea Party (FCTP) in Jacksonville, Florida. I’m a somewhat inactive member. My opinion of the FCTP is that it has unabashedly kept social issues and Christianity in the picture. Just to mention one example, at a FCTP rally on April 15, 2010 at the Jacksonville Landings, Star Parker was the keynote speaker and testified to the saving power of Christ in her life and her use of the Bible for guidance; and she stated her opposition to abortion and the slavery of the nanny state. At least one FCTP leader also referred to her Christian beliefs and the need to put God first, as I recall. And we sang Glory Glory Alleluia!

    PS: If readers haven’t heard of Star Parker, I suggest they go to her website. http://www.urbancure.org

  • Good analysis, although I think it applies to only certain libertarian segments of the tea party movement, and not to the movement as a whole or to some of its most high profile “leaders” (for lack of a better word, as I see the tea party movement as essentially grassroots and somewhat leaderless).

    For example, I doubt very seriously that Palin is interested in divorcing the American experiment from Christian virtue (and, in fact, it is because of her putting her pro-life ideals into action that I believe she is most vilified). Another tea party favorite, Jim Demint, has even expressed on at least two occasions that, without Judeo-Christian virtue, conservatism in general, and the tea party movement, in particular, is unworkable:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2010/10/for-all-you-atheist-libertarian-types.html

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2010/11/jim-demint-you-cant-be-fiscal.html

  • Did I do or say something to be put on comment moderation? Or is it the fact that I include a couple of links in my previous comment that has me on moderation?

  • Actually there is evidence in the film A Wonderful Life that George Bailey would be prime tea party material:

    He is a sharp business man: Often overlooked is a scene in the film where a rent collector for Potter tells him that Bailey is cutting into Potter’s business by financing the building of low cost houses that are of better quality than what Potter is renting out. The rent collector, played by a wonderful character actor who died just in the past few years, tells Potter that in a few years if this keeps up he will be asking Bailey for a job.

    He recognizes that his father, a wonderful man in many ways, was no business man.

    Potter’s path to development was a dead end with the town literally going to pot. Bailey’s business acumen, sans government involvement except for the nuisance bank regulators, was ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for everyone.

    Bailey wanted to be an engineer and not tied down: an independent man who would build great structures. Bailey becomes a family man, but he is still creating a great structure: a more prosperous and happier Bedford Falls. He is doing it, no one else, as his absence in the alternate reality shown by the angel Clarence makes clear.

    I will draft a post for tomorrow demonstrating why Senator Jefferson Smith, if he were alive today, would be a leader in the Tea Party Movement.

  • Akismet will sometime get cranky Jay and hold a comment with links for moderation or toss it into the spam file. Only the gremlins of the internet know why. I approved your comment.

  • The difficulty in analyzing the tea party movement is that it is a generic description of a grassroots movement involving disparate individuals. Even the term tea party “leaders” is misleading because it signifies a a rather amorphous group of people. And to go along with what Jay said, most of the tea partiers are indeed socially conservative and make no attempt to divorce social issues from our discussion. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I believe that polls indicate that self-identified tea partiers are even more socially conservative than the GOP in general.

  • Akismet will sometime get cranky Jay and hold a comment with links for moderation or toss it into the spam file. Only the gremlins of the internet know why. I approved your comment.

    Does Akismet filter out hate speech? Jay did say “Palin”. Hopefully by me putting it in scare quotes it will pass this comment.

    😉

  • …but I believe that polls indicate that self-identified tea partiers are even more socially conservative than the GOP in general.

    I would agree with that. Evidenced by the utter contempt from the left and the left-leaning/establishment type GOP leaders and talking heads.

  • Jay,

    I think Akismet will filter a post with more than one link. At least that’s been my experience.

    Michael,

    There’s always this:

    “Now that the midterm congressional elections are over and a sizable number of conservatives—including Tea Party members—have won office based on promises to slash federal spending and shrink the government, you might think that economic issues have trumped social-cultural issues in the public mind. You might also think that that the highly charged culture wars that have raged for decades over abortion and same-sex marriage have finally been replaced by battles over government size, effectiveness, and spending.

    Not so fast. While it is true that economic issues top the public agenda—how could they not with unemployment stuck at 9.6 percent—it is also true that every Tea Party candidate, including self-proclaimed libertarians, ran on pro-life platforms.”

    I suspect as others have pointed out, that there is a mix in the Tea Party. But I don’t think it holds that social issues have been cut out.

    BTW. I will be in Baton Rouge for business. Perhaps we can get together for an Abita. What’s your email.

  • It’s true that pinning the Tea Party on anything is difficult because it is so amorphous. I do think it’s true that members of the Tea Party are more socially conservative than the regular GOP. However, I think the strategy of downplaying the social issues is not one confined to the particularities of this economic crisis. Instead, my understanding has been that it’s more of a Reaganesque Big Tent strategy: although many disagree with us on social issues, more agree with us on economic issues and so let’s hide the social issues part or make it irrelevant to our actual governance or campaigns. I’m thinking particularly of Gov. Mitch Daniels here who seems to view the social or religious issues as nuisances to his real and far more important mission of economic responsibility.

  • I will politely abstain from commenting about George Bailey.

    It’s been a long time since I saw Mr. Smith. What I remember most about it was the commentary about the influence of the press. The MSM was the mouthpiece of the corrupt political system, and deliberately deceived the people. I think a lot of Tea Partiers would see similarities with today’s reality.

  • Don’t restrain yourself Pinky. When I read this comment by you about Bailey last December I laughed until I feared I could not stop:

    “Boo hoo, George. My dad never gave me a bank, and if he did I wouldn’t have run it into the ground. Ungrateful jerk. Clarence was lying to you – the world doesn’t revolve around you, George. Your wife could have done better.

    Sorry that slipped out.” 🙂

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  • Don – Nice to be remembered. I’ll say this: George Bailey opted for a nice, private-sector bailout, exemplifying the principle of subsidiarity.

House Votes to Repeal ObamaCare: 245-189

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

The House voted to repeal ObamaCare yesterday with the vote being 245-189.  Every Republican voted for repeal and they were joined by three Democrats.  (Passage of ObamaCare in March of last year was 219-212.)  Now the bill goes to the Senate where Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, has pledged that the repeal measure will never come to the floor for a vote.  Not so fast Harry!  Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, is pledging to get a senate vote on repeal:

 

 “The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to vote on this bill,” McConnell added. “But I assure you, we will.”

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One Response to House Votes to Repeal ObamaCare: 245-189

Monsters

Wednesday, January 19, AD 2011

Every now and then we need a reminder that true evil exists in this world.

An abortionist arrested in Philadelphia faces eight counts of murder, one for the death of a patient, and the other seven for killing babies who survived his botched abortions.  The district attorney alleges that Kermit Gosnell used a pair of scissors to sever their spinal cords.

Ed Morrissey links to the Grand Jury report.  It is truly gruesome.

One woman, for example, was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus. Relatives who came to pick her up were refused entry into the building; they had to threaten to call the police. They eventually found her inside, bleeding and incoherent, and transported her to the hospital, where doctors had to remove almost half a foot of her intestines.

On another occasion, Gosnell simply sent a patient home, after keeping her mother waiting for hours, without telling either of them that she still had fetal parts inside her. Gosnell insisted she was fine, even after signs of serious infection set in over the next several days. By the time her mother got her to the emergency room, she was unconscious and near death.

A nineteen-year-old girl was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus.  As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.

One patient went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table,  and hit her head on the floor.  Gosnell wouldn’t call an ambulance, and wouldn’t let the woman’s companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.

And to cap things off: the state did nothing to stop this.

We discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.

The State Legislature has charged the Department of Health (DOH) with responsibility for writing and enforcing regulations to protect health and safety in abortion clinics as well as in hospitals and other health care facilities. Yet a significant difference exists between how DOH monitors abortion clinics and how it monitors facilities where other medical procedures are performed.

Indeed, the department has shown an utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable. State health officials have also shown a disregard for the laws the department is supposed to enforce. Most appalling of all, the Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design. …

Starting at page 99, the Grand Jury report details of the killing of viable babies.  I do not recommend you read this unless you have a very strong tolerance.  In short, these murders were so awful that even staff began to question the practices of this doctor.

These killings became so routine that no one could put an exact number on them. They were considered “standard procedure.” Yet some of the 100
slaughtered were so fully formed, so much like babies that should be dressed and taken home, that even clinic employees who were accustomed to the practice were shocked.
I’m not going to paste it here, but look at the opening paragraph on page 101 and tell me that Satan is not at work in this world.
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29 Responses to Monsters

  • We read things like this and yet are told that the “rhetoric” in the media and society are what is wrong with it. That somehow words cause people to do “bad” things. Yet, as you correctly state, evil exists and actually pervades in our country through the grusesome killing and eradication of babies.

    As you state, “Satan is at work in the world…” and yet we, the conservative and Catholics, are blamed for “rhetoric” which leads to “hate.” Battling against evil is not the problem… the problem is the evil. Swords are not evil… the monsters that they slay are the things that are evil.

  • Some people wonder why God created Hell; I admit that I have never had any questions at all on that score due to evil of this magnitude.

  • Don’t we hear from the pro-aborts all the time that Roe v. Wade saved women from unsafe conditions and “back-alley butchers?” I didn’t read much of the report because I don’t have the stomach for it, but how many “respectable” members of the Philly medical community realized what this murderous quack was up to and kept their mouths shut, or even worse, referred their own patients to him to do the filthy work they wouldn’t do? Just nauseating.

  • Obama was happy to consign the little fellows who survived to such a death.

  • Donna,

    The “back alley butchers” just hung out a shingle after Roe – decent doctors don’t perform abortions, and never will.

  • And this happens in the United States of America, today. We hold ourselves up as a shining beacon for the world to follow, but we do this… The good news is he’s being prosecuted, but the bad news is if he had simply killed the babies before delivery, there would be no basis to do so.

  • Wow. Absolutely sickening indeed.

    Not only is the content of this report gruesome indeed, but it is written very plainly, not couched in legalese or euphemisms — calling what happened baby killing and not merely “pregnancy termination”.

    I have to hand it to the members of the grand jury in this case — they state at the beginning of the report that their personal convictions about abortion differed (i.e. some were pro-life and others pro-choice) but they all did their duty under the law, and did not hesistate to name those responsible for these horrors.

    They also did not hesitate to state WHY this quack was allowed to go on as long as he was — because his victims were mostly poor and nonwhite and because pro-abortion politicians didn’t want to be accused of placing any “obstacles” in the way of women seeking abortions.

    The report also notes that when Gov. Robert Casey (pro-life Democrat) was in office the health inspection laws covering abortion clinics were properly enforced; but when Gov. Tom Ridge (pro-abort Republican, who later became the first Homeland Security director) succeeded him, that is when the lax inspection policy that permitted butchers like Gosnell to flourish began.

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  • They also did not hesitate to state WHY this quack was allowed to go on as long as he was — because his victims were mostly poor and nonwhite and because pro-abortion politicians didn’t want to be accused of placing any “obstacles” in the way of women seeking abortions.

    Elaine, from what I read in the report,Gosnell had two different standards – one for his usual poor minority patients and another well-to-do white women from the suburbs who went to him when they were so far along that nobody else would dare to perform an abortion. (Gosnell had a sliding scale – the more advanced the pregnancy, the more he would charge). The wealthy white women were “cared for” in cleaner rooms, and their anesthesia was not left in the hands of untrained high school students. Yes, tell me how much the pro-abort left cares for the poor and disadvantaged.

    I’ve visited a few of the newspapers reporting on this and the comments are maddening: “How terrible that one nut is making all abortion providers look bad.” It escapes a large percentage of the population that the end result of what happened in Gosnell’s clinic – murder – is what happens in every abortion mill, even the sterile, upscale ones with soothing music and aromatheraphy candles.

  • How is it that a country indifferent to religion – the UK – allows abortion only in the first trimester? Because they took a realistic look at late term abortions and saw what they saw, something not good, even evil.

    How is that an atheist professor at Harvard and MIT thinks that people who considers later term abortion to be merely a medical procedure, and not the killing of a human, are fooling themselves?

    These non-religious people believe that human life begins with the appearance of brain waves, roughly at the end of the first trimester. Thus abortions after that point are wrong, abortions before that point are allowable. Of course they also believe in birth control.

  • “How is it that a country indifferent to religion – the UK – allows abortion only in the first trimester?”

    Because the UK does not have a Supreme Court that confuses itself with a Council of Platonic Guardians. Without Roe, abortion would still be banned in many states and heavily restricted in most of the others.

    “How is that an atheist professor at Harvard and MIT thinks that people who considers later term abortion to be merely a medical procedure, and not the killing of a human, are fooling themselves?”

    A stopped clock being right twice a day? It is not remarkable holding that position. What is remarkable is holding any other position on that question.

    “These non-religious people believe that human life begins with the appearance of brain waves, roughly at the end of the first trimester.”

    Actually brain waves begin at six weeks, which deep sixes virtually all abortions, assuming that one is foolish enough to believe that human life does not begin at conception and instead believes that brain wave activity determines if an unborn child may be disposed of like a piece of unwanted garbage.

  • The true face of “safe, legal and rare”.

  • “Safe, legal and rare” my a$$. Only one of those has been achieved.

    As for the atheists apparently getting at least some of it – it’s only common sense. Anyone not blinded by ideology would see life begins at conception. No religious education or belief needed.

  • Will there be any indictments of the Pennsylvania DOH officials who looked the other way while this was going on?

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

    But at least this grand jury report sorta places the DOH in the position of being an “unindicted co-conspirator”.

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  • I’m already seeing this being blamed on pro-lifers, and the (under current law) murdered children ignored.

  • …And not a peep out of pro-abortion Obama, who hypocritically lectures the Chinese leader about “human rights.”

  • Lecture?

    All I heard was him praising the murdering SOBs for their great improvements in human rights.

    At least this is illegal, here, and we don’t force abortions.

  • Fox, Chinese took it as a rebuke, but you’re right that from our vantage point it was damning with faint praise, or praising with faint damns. Hardly a “lecture” in the strictest sense.

  • The grand jury seems to clearly fix blame for the total lack of clinic oversight on pro-abortion politicians who didn’t want to be accused of restricting the right to abortion in any way.

    But that raises another question. Could someone who was genuinely pro-life and worked for the Department of Public Health or the Department of State (which licenses physicians and other health professionals) even participate in the process of attempting to regulate these clinics — for example, by performing the health inspections or writing up the reports? Wouldn’t it be sinful cooperation in abortion for them to do so? And if that’s the case, then wouldn’t the task of regulating clinics, by default, have to be left to pro-aborts, who would more likely than not rather keep the issue as far under the radar as possible?

    The abortion industry seems to be the one exception to the general rule of the state or federal governments wanting to regulate industries and businesses as much as possible.

  • Interesting question Elaine, and I’m not sure what the answer is. I posed this to the Brothers in my K of C Council, and one jokingly suggested, “well, I guess if they regulate them out of business they can.”

    Technically I don’t think you would be co-operating with evil, and you’re not really giving sanction to the existence of the clinic. So my hunch is that it wouldn’t be immoral to work as a regulator of the clinics, but it is a murky issue.

  • Even some pro-aborts are beginning to have second thoughts after learning of this:

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/19228.html

    “The most disturbing thing I have read is the Philidelphia DAs statement:

    “I am aware that abortion is a hot-button topic,” said Williams. “But as District Attorney, my job is to carry out the law. A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law. A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law.”

    He’s apologizing to his deep-blue/far-left constituency for having to prosecute the guy for killing hundreds of live babies! That he feels he needs to apologize for prosecuting this case speaks volumes about the left’s extreme and irrational attitudes towards abortion regulation.”

  • How bout the death penalty for this guy? He seems to be death-eligible under Pennsylvania law: http://seeking4justice.blogspot.com/2011/01/serial-killer-abortionist-death-penalty.html

  • I would not have any problem with that at all Tom. If this fellow does not deserve the death penalty, I would have a difficult time imagining someone who does.

  • And let’s not forget that it was a pro-choice Republican who stopped the inspections of Pennsylvania abortuaries…keep that in mind the next time someone says we need to have such “moderates” around.

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