The Wages of Sin Is… Higher Taxes?

Wednesday, January 12, AD 2011

A few months ago I wrote this reflection on the idea that bad leadership can be seen as a punishment or consequence of sin, and how the ethical and fiscal train wreck that is Illinois state government might serve as an example of this concept.

Now we are seeing further evidence of this concept. In the waning hours of their own lame-duck session, the Illinois General Assembly early this morning passed one of the most drastic tax hikes in state history.

The measure raises the individual income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent (thereby increasing each individual’s total tax liability by 66 percent) and the corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent. Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign the tax hike into law as soon as possible.

The corporate income tax, combined with an existing 2.5 percent tax that replaced an old personal property tax, means corporations in Illinois will be taxed at a total basic rate (not accounting for any exemptions or deductions) of 9.5 percent, the fourth highest rate in the nation. Although the tax hikes are supposed to be in effect only for the next four years, most residents expect all or part of the increases to end up being permanent.

The reason for this action is the state’s cataclysmic $15 billion-and-mounting budget shortfall. The growing deficit threatened to lower Illinois’ bond rating to junk status, possibly within days. In response, lame duck legislators in the last 12 hours of their term voted to approve the tax hike. A loose spending cap was approved along with the tax hike, but no specific or significant budget cuts accompanied this legislation.

Needless to say, the impending tax hike has many residents angry and feeling betrayed yet again by their elected officials.  Gov. Quinn, elected to a full term by a very narrow margin, had said prior to the election that he would not approve of raising the income tax for individuals beyond 4 percent. However,  this measure goes a full percentage point higher. Many predict a significant loss of jobs and residents as a result.

But what does this have to do with the “wages of sin” spoken of by St. Paul?

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9 Responses to The Wages of Sin Is… Higher Taxes?

  • There is much to what you say. Our experience of this in Nevada was the re-election of Harry Reid – a corrupt and incompetent tool of gaming and real estate who played a large roll in ensuring our State’s economic catastrophe when the economic lights went out in 2008. While Sharron Angle had many flaws as a candidate I do believe she was done in by scare tactics – could hardly turn on the TV for three months without seeing an ad claiming that Angle was going to force women to bear a rapist’s child…as if one Senator, even if she wanted to, could ban abortion. But, it worked. In the end, if you talked to Independent voters you found that they voted for Reid because Angle was “too scary”…as if national and State bankruptcy courtesy of Reid wasn’t a bit alarming.

    But what, in the end, were these voters scared of? They were scared of living in a society where actions have consequences which the actor has to pay for. Boiled down, many thousands of men and women – enough to tip the election to Reid – were more afraid of having to take care of themselves than having to deal with utter collapse because of bad policy…and so they voted for Reid. And in California they voted for Brown; and in Illinois they voted for Quinn…

    On the plus side, some people showed they know the score and acted like men and women – even in some quite liberal States, voters opted for governors and Senators who told the truth and who promise pain as they work their way out of the mess. We’re not quite dead, yet, as a society…but we do have at very large minority which is so used to living in sin (as it were) that they are afraid to give it up. We mustn’t get angry about this – after all, which of us has not had to struggle mightily against our own, personal sins? – it is a hard task to resist the easy temptation and take the hard virtue. But it is, also, time for Christian men and women to stand forth – as Christians! – and attempt to convert the world to our views.

  • Bravo Elaine! For residents of the Land of Lincoln who are boiling about this now, and who voted for Quinn and for Democrats in the legislature, my reaction is quite simply, “What did you expect?” Heaven knows that the GOP has played a large role in this disaster. Who can forget JailBird Governor Ryan and his “Build (Bilk) Illinois” program which wasted billions of dollars that the state did not have. However it should have been obvious to anyone that Quinn and the Democrats would never cut spending and that they would do something immensely stupid like this: ram through a midnight largest increase in taxes in the country in the midst of the worst post-war recession the nation has experienced. Now we have the new Republican Governor of Wisconsin inviting fed up Illinois businesses to move north of the border. Rest assured that our other neighboring states, especially well-run Indiana, will benefit from this consummate folly, as Illinois businesses and talented individuals in what is rapidly becoming a failed state, flee from a sinking ship. Well Quinn and his Democrats have proven one thing: Illinois has arguably the worst political leadership, totally short-sighted and immensely foolish, in the nation.

  • From the Quincy News blog an excellent overview of just how insane this tax hike is:

    “Despite lllinois’ leading exports being its residents and businesses, the General Assembly has proposed raising the state income and corporate income taxes by 75% each. If this tax monster passes, at least two things are certain: one, Illinois businesses would pay the highest corporate income taxes in the free world; two, Illinois would see the largest mass exodus of productive people since the Israelites fled Egypt.

    The data points about Illinois’ economic death spiral have been repeated so often as to have been stripped of their shock value. Bottom line: Illinois is a bigger default risk than Bernie Madoff and has created fewer jobs in the last decade than record stores.”

  • “Now we have the new Republican Governor of Wisconsin inviting fed up Illinois businesses to move north of the border.”

    The irony is that just a few weeks ago, Quinn was actively courting a railroad equipment manufacturer that had vowed to leave Wisconsin because they had lost out on a planned state-funded high-speed rail project that was being canceled by the new WI administration. This company now faces quite a dilemma: if they move they get hit with higher taxes, if they stay, they lose out on a potentially lucrative project. It will be interesting to see what they decide.

    Yes, the GOP did indeed play a large role in this disaster (although not a single Republican in either chamber voted for this tax hike, so they can’t be directly blamed for it) and it goes to prove that the kind of bad leadership that only tells people what they want to hear isn’t limited to one party. Nor is it necessarily limited to high-tax blue states, as Mark’s comment above shows — Nevada has no personal income tax, and one would think it should be an economic mecca, but it currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

  • Advice: Emigrate to a red state.

    A famous Catholic blogger says, “Sin makes you stupid.”

  • (although not a single Republican in either chamber voted for this tax hike, so they can’t be directly blamed for it)

    Count me unimpressed. Does the Republican caucus (the whole caucus, not the designated Sancho Panza a-la-Paul Ryan) have a serious set of proposals for spending reductions on the table? How about structural reforms (i.e. the end of collective bargaining for public employees, conversion of public pensions to defined-contribution plans, funding of public pensions entirely out of payroll deductions, &c.) which will modify the trajectory of future spending?

  • Interesting that the state from whence our Dear Leader hails is one of the bankrupt, but the state which Palin governed is one of the only four that is not facing a budget shortfall. If only actual results counted for more than paper degrees and vague words.

  • There is a price to pay for being the most corrupt state in the union. I can only hope a political earthquake is coming.

    The public sector unions will reap what they have sown.

  • I understand why people are upset about this — hey, it’s going to take a noticeable bite out of my paycheck too, and that’s AFTER factoring in the Social Security tax “holiday”. This could have been dealt with a lot differently. But, it’s not the end of the world either.

    The real problem, as referenced in one of the stories I linked to, is that Illinois had gotten so far into debt and so dependent on short term borrowing that it had no choice but to ask “How high?” when the bond markets said “Jump!” And a lot of other entities are in the same boat.

    I personally believe that no matter who was elected, some combination of tax increase and spending cuts was going to have to be done — the only difference is which would have come first. With Democrats, tax hike comes first and maybe some cuts later; with Republicans, cuts come first and a (smaller) tax hike much later.

Would Repealing ObamaCare Break the Budget

Wednesday, January 12, AD 2011

One of the priorities of the new Republican majority in the House is to repeal ObamaCare — though this would in effect be a purely sympolic move since a repeal would have no chance of passing the Senate, much less surviving an Obama veto. Nonetheless, pundits are having their say over the matter, and one of the odder arguments being advanced is that repealing ObamaCare would result in increasing the budget deficit. This has allowed Democrats to accuse Republicans of not only wanting sick people to go without treatment, but of wanting to spend more money than it would cost to insure them. How exactly does this math work?

As Ruth Marcus points out in the Washington Post, there’s a lot of funny math going into the CBO projection that repealing ObamaCare would increase the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the health care law, if implemented as promised, would save $230 billion over the next decade. There are two important words in that sentence: projects and if.

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3 Responses to Would Repealing ObamaCare Break the Budget

  • The repeal bill should keep the cuts in place.

  • Repeal is also about reducing government control over our individual persons and finances.

    I read about a report that pegged repeal SAVINGS at $540 billion. Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

    “Educated economists”???? More like comprehesively ignorant, clueless professors out of touch with reality and infallibly ignorant of how things work in the real world.

    Of course, paying for health care for 30,000,000 documented and undocumented dem voters will cost we the taxpayer a ton . . .


    WSJ editorial: “ObamaCare’s Reality Deficit”

    I quote, “The accounting gimmicks are legion, but we’ll pick out a few: It uses 10 years of taxes to fund six years of subsidies. Social Security and Medicare revenues are double-counted to the tune of $398 billion. A new program funding long-term care frontloads taxes but backloads spending, gradually going broke by design. The law pretends that Congress will spend less on Medicare than it really will, in particular through an automatic 25% cut to physician payments that Democrats have already voted not to allow for this year.”

    “The CBO budget gnomes are required to “score” what’s on paper in front of them, no matter how unrealistic, and that’s the method its Congressional masters prefer. The political class makes believe that CBO’s forecasts are carved into stone tablets through divine revelation, but all they really show is that politicians have rigged the budget rules to hide the true cost of entitlements.”

26 Responses to Palin On The Giffords Shootings

  • Haven’t seen the video, but the quoted statement is outstandingly good.

  • I hope her fans take her advice and don’t overreact in reverse.

    People can also get a lesson in civility from Glenn Beck:

  • I hope her fans take her advice and don’t overreact in reverse.

    Yeah, that’s the problem here.

  • You don’t put out a fire by pouring more fuel on it. While well-intentioned, Palin is only opening herself up to more ridicule. She should go shoot a moose or something to relieve the stress.

  • How much may I donate to without her getting viciously and dishonestly attacked by Paul Krugman?

  • “A spoiled child (Bush) is telling us our Social Security isn’t safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here’s your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little b*stard. [audio of gun being cocked].” — A “humor bit” from the Randi Rhodes Show

    Lovely liberals . . . Making the world a better place . . .

  • “President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them”

    Ironic that Palin could see the beauty of a Catholic mass, but not the beauty of Catholic teachings on original sin, the structures of sin, and the common good (not to mention common sense — i.e., proper attention to the psychotic in our society could reduce psychotic violence).

  • As soon as you start getting civil with lies and hate, you become a permanent victim of oppression.

    That’s not God-like or Christ-like. Palin’s speech is about as civil as a rational human being can be while having the rhetorical equivalent of burning feces shoveled at her at high speed from 12 different directions.

  • Nate,

    It strikes me that one of the major differences between progressives and conservatives is the extent to which they believe in free will.

    Obviously, everyone agrees that actions of society have some effect on the actions of individuals. I’m not aware of anyone holding the position that the actions of individuals occur in a total vacuum, uncause and unaffected by outside actions.

    However, progressives generally tend to focus nearly entirely on societal causes, to the point of suggesting that if someone is poor or oppressed or abused as a child, etc, they must commit crimes and can’t be blamed at all. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to emphasize that while someone may be motivated by such outside forces, each person decides himself whether to commit a crime or not, and those who choose to do so should not be excused because of those motivations.

    The same divide applies, to a great extent, to discussion of “structures of sin” within Catholic circles. Progressive Catholics often seem to feel that all one ever need focus on is structures of sin, and that if they can somehow be eliminated (how exactly this is going to happen is never exactly clear) no one will sin. Conservative Catholics acknowledge the power of temptations and occasions of sin in driving people commit sins, but they at the same time hold that it is the individual person’s responsibility not to sin.

    I suppose that, out of context, one can worry that Palin’s comment (and the quote from Reagan it includes) suggests that the wider society has no effect on a criminal, but I think that pretty clearly her actual intent. For instance, many (especially on the right) have observered that given that this fellow had been making death threats against various people in his community for several years and the police had done nothing about it, there was a very clear opportunity for this whole tragedy to be prevented. I don’t think anyone is against such an idea.

  • And I agree with her 100%, by the way. Maybe she should be the president – nothing would make the left finally make good on their promises to move to France or Zimbabwe than a Palin presidency.

  • Nate,

    I don’t know that Palin can’t see the beauty of the Church’s teaching on original sin and the structures of sin or not. I don’t think the remark follows from what was said by her or the Reagan quote. While I will agree with you that our societal handling of the psychotic appears to be lacking, I’m not so sure that it constitutes a genuine structure of sin. Nor do I think that because societal sin exists, that there is no such thing as personal sin. If we were to weight structural sin and directly connect it to every personal sin there would be no personal guilt, a denial of free will and original sin even. In fact, I would consider a system that faults itself for every person’s choice to be a structure of sin!

    Directly to the our deficiency with the mentally ill, I think it’s a very hard call. Currently the default is to err on the side of a person’s will rather than the needs of the collective. It may help ensure justice for individual people, but could lack the the justice due the common good. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible to create a system to benefit the common good at the expense of justice due to individual persons. I think the most unfortunate thing is that state funding for mental health services is not sexy and not something politicians are likely to prioritize. OTOH, stuff like that is prone to become unnecessarily bloated, expensive, and abusive. I think ideally what we need are some specialized charitable orgs that states can contribute funding to and maintain some generally reasonable regulatory oversight. Of course, there are always pitfalls to that too!

    See…that something is not perfect, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is bad. It may be not as good as some, or better than others, but to think there could be any sort of mental health system (or any system for that matter) that could not be accused of being a structure of sin is not dealing in reality. It all hinges on the free will, knowledge, intelligence, and selflessness of these things we call fallen man.

  • While well-intentioned, Palin is only opening herself up to more ridicule.

    How so?

  • My respect for her went up, not down.

  • Yeah, the statement is actually one of the best written and most balanced ones that has come out from a major politician. I was pretty impressed.

    Well, okay, I’ll admit that I also thought, “Wow, I wonder who her writer is,” but then, that’s the case with any politician. Even the notoriously silver-tongued Obama writes virtually none of his own stuff.

  • “Ironic that Palin could see the beauty of a Catholic mass, but not the beauty of Catholic teachings on original sin, the structures of sin, and the common good…”

    Of course authentic Catholic teaching on original sin teaches that one can avoid mortal sin in all cases (murder included.) It also teaches that structures of sin are the result of individual, personal sin and not impersonal forces that one is overwhealmed by. It also teaches that even in the face of structures of sin, the person is free to resist sin and live a life guided by grace.

    That is the beauty of Catholic teaching.

  • The Catholic teaching on structures of sin:

    “Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (December 2, 1984), n. 16: “Whenever the Church speaks of situations of sin, or when she condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world, and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of a higher order. The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals. A situation – or likewise an institution, a structure, society itself – is not in itself the subject of moral acts. Hence a situation cannot in itself be good or bad”

    I find it interesting that identified as contributing to structures of sin are those who “exploit” evil. That is certainly the case of those seeking to make political hay out of this event. Even some of our fellow Catholics.

  • The last major politician I can think of to write most of his own speeches was Reagan. He would use speech writers, but he would almost alway use their efforts as first drafts, and he would make extensive changes and revisions, not counting the changes he would make often as he was giving the speech. Most politicians act as if they haven’t even read the speech written by staffers before they deliver it.

  • the structures of sin

    Nate, I am not sure that phrase means what you think it means. Some of the biggest “structures of sin” are perpetuated by progressives – the legality of abortion, the twisting of freedom into license, the attempt to destroy the family structure, the promotion of the culture of death, and on and on. It seems many progressives are the ones who fail to the the beauty of the Church teachings on the structures of sin.

  • I wish that all the sons and daughters of the Church who hold elective office in this Country had the same position on abortion as Palin does. If they did, abortion would be illegal before the end of the year. When it comes to abortion, Palin is a lot more “Catholic” than many people who claim the title but don’t walk the walk.

  • The whole “the right is to blame because of its vitriol” is classic projection by the left.

  • Art, by taking the bait, Palin will spark yet another round of name-calling (see separate post with twitter comments), ratcheting up the rhetoric. However, I understand her reaction and I suppose it is necessary to counter the ‘blood libel,’ as she puts it. In defending herself, however, she will be recast as the ‘aggressor’ in the eyes of some. Either way, she can’t win.

  • The problem is that she has already been cast as a bad guy in the minds of her detractors. Nothing she can say or do is likely to change their minds or hearts. However, to the degree that she states the truth it matters not what else they say or how they think of her.

  • Palin 2012!

    Sarah Plain is pro-life, pro-family, pro-personal responsibility, pro-economic growth and development. She is closer to true Catholicism than the hypocrites that habitually vote for abortion; gay privileges; brainwashing public school children into ignorant, useless, immoral hellions; class hatred and warfare, i.e., any dem candidate, e.g., Obama.

    I’m pretty sure you won’t be getting into Heaven if you vote for all-abortion, all the time dem candidates . . . Lord, have mercy.

  • On Intrade, Palin’s odds of winning the GOP nomination is down 25% since the shooting and is now at the lowest point since resigning as governor. Romney’s up over 20% but still well below his high. The odds of a 2nd term for Obama are also up sharply but well below its high.

  • Art, by taking the bait, Palin will spark yet another round of name-calling (see separate post with twitter comments), ratcheting up the rhetoric.

    And you’re holding her responsible, you poseur. She is not under any obligation to adopt the psychology of the wife-beater.

  • Excuse me, the psychology of the battered wife.

Civil Litigation: The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Wednesday, January 12, AD 2011

Well, even the New York Times is reporting what a dismal choice law school tends to be for so many would be attorneys these days.  Read all about it here.

My favorite passage in this story is this quote from a jobless law school grad who owes 250k :

“It’s a prestige thing,” he says. “I’m an attorney. All of my friends see me as a person they look up to. They understand I’m in a lot of debt, but I’ve done something they feel they could never do and the respect and admiration is important.”

I had a root canal done yesterday and I really appreciated the roar of laughter that paragraph elicited from me.

I have written several posts in the hopes of giving people thinking of law school some idea of the debt ice berg they are probably sailing towards.   This is the start of a series to give some idea of what the practice of law tends to be in reality, rather than in theory as set forth in law schools. 

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18 Responses to Civil Litigation: The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

  • Is there any avenue more appeasing for the young law student today?

    I’m planning on starting in the fall. Preliminary plans were that I’d maybe focus on Con Law, and/or estate planning/tax?

  • I have always had a deep love for Constitutional Law and have found it almost completely useless in the actual practice of law, outside of my criminal law practice. Tax law there is always a demand for, especially if you also have an accounting degree. Estate planning less so, unless you are dealing with very large estates indeed. In reference to Constitutional Law, a firm that specializes in appellate work would be the ticket, although there aren’t many of them. Most large law firms will have a section devoted to appellate work, but do not count on landing a position with such a firm in this economy. I would spend the summer with a law firm if at all possible seeing what they do. If it doesn’t cost them anything, I think you will find that a lot of attorneys wouldn’t mind showing you the basics of what they do. That is a piece of advice I would give to every would be attorney. A state’s attorney’s office or a public defender’s office would also be a great place to observe quite a bit of actual court room procedure. Cout hearings are usually open to the public. Just sitting and listening would be beneficial if not inspiring.

  • My own observation is that foreign language skills are in heavy demand for law grads and paralegals. Immigrants, especially those with poor English skills, stay away from police, the criminal justice and the civil courts. If immigrants were to contact lawyers with the same frequency as fluent English speakers, there would upswing in business, so lawyers who communicate well with them are well-positioned to reach out to that untapped market.

  • My wife has a master’s degree in Spanish and is fluent in that language, as well as a few other languages. She has assisted me with Hispanic clients in the past, and knowing Spanish would be a plus for attorneys in areas with a heavy Hispanic population. I have received referrals from Hispanic clients I have represented in the past, and that is a market that can be tapped by an enterprising attorney.

  • I, too, love learning about, reading, teaching, etc. constitutional law. I have never used it in practice in six years. Most con-law cases come up to bigger firms or specialty defence firms (Alliance Defence Fund, for instance), or indirectly, as when I had a client sued in Texas with little to no jurisdictional contact with the state.

    Tax is likely to land you a better position than con-law. If you enjoy the tax, and especially if you do well and go on and get an LLM in tax, you will likely be hired, and maybe even by a tax consulting firm (Deloitte, for instance). Estate planning is up in the air right now – the law changes by the day, and is becoming increasingly complex. Many firms do not view it as a “money” area of the law, and do not devote resource to it. I interviewed with two firms where there one and only estate planner was retiring, and they were not interested in the estate planning aspects of my education despite that fact.

    In this day and time, I would seriously consider avoiding law school. The market is flooded, and the nearly 100k in debt that most students graduate with comes up VERY quickly.

    Speaking of con law – Donald, did you ever get a look at my video on Xtranormal? (I keep pushing it, because I think it’s good – no legal ego here….much….. :P)


  • I have watched it Jonathan and enjoyed it. I am designing a post around it, which will arrive in due course.

  • “In this day and time, I would seriously consider avoiding law school. The market is flooded, and the nearly 100k in debt that most students graduate with comes up VERY quickly.”

    Amen. I would only go to law school today on a full ride scholarship, if the military were paying for it, or I had a parent willing to pay for it. I graduated in 82 with only 7k in debt, and I paid for the entire thing through loans and part time work. The days when it was possible to pay for a large portion of law school through part time work are as dead as Julius Caesar unfortunately.

  • Thanks, Donald!

    BTW, I am a solo practitioner because of a law firm layoff, running my own firm since January, 2009. I can confirm what you say about trial work. I would add that if one is interested in courtroom work, doing domestic work will result in being in court quite a bit. I defend against forced adoptions as an appointed attorney, work in divorce matters, custody matters, and so on. The work is steady, but usually consists in “one offs” – non-repeating clients, and can be very gut wrenching.

  • Oops – make that “January, 2010” – laid off in late 2009.

  • Ah family law, Jonathan, the bane of my existence! I am often appointed to be GAL for children in dissolution and adoption cases because I am “good with kids” in the words of one Judge who appoints me to such cases. Seeing kids go through that mill is indeed gut wrenching. I often threaten to refuse appointments and sometimes do, but usually I accede thinking I can do some good for the kids, although often I wonder if anything good ever comes from cases where the law attempts to sort out the fallout after parents decide to go to war with each other.

  • The most I have used Con law as a civil litigator in the past 16 years has been in combox arguments. Occasionally (like maybe 7 times in the last 16 years) I have had a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

    I would imagine criminal law practices would run into con law issues more often. My typical day is spent figuring out how not to answer discovery and looking through thousands of pages of irrelevant documents to find the 5 or so that really matter. Oh, and drafting the same motion to compel/response to motion to compel over and over and over again for each case. I love my life.

  • People who wish to attend law school cmatt would benefit from hearing what attorneys really think about practicing the law, a staple of conversation whenever attorneys gather. We give them only a taste of how unpleasant the practice of law is for so many of the brethren and sistren of the bar.

  • “but usually I accede thinking I can do some good for the kids, although often I wonder if anything good ever comes from cases where the law attempts to sort out the fallout after parents decide to go to war with each other.”

    I have had debates with people on this very issue, concerning the law and courts. We usually reach a point where we agree that there is very little the law can do. One fellow (a lawyer and counselor) with whom I dicussed this (not a Catholic), said that the parents had to try and co-parent – that is, had to try and do whatever was best for the children regardless of their feelings for each other.

    Given ToTB and other writings recently, my own thought is that the parents hate each other because what is going on is really the attempted murder of a third person, the married body, and each parent hates the other because they blame the other (usually unjustly) for the death. In addition, as the law does not take fault into account, people’s sense of injustice is aroused because while one parent may have stayed with the child, worked hard, been sober, not cheated, the other parent may STILL get custody because of a better job or keeping the house, or whatever, and rage arises because, truly, it is unjust to reward misbehavior and bad parenting.

  • Back when I practiced law, I worked on exactly one case that involved a Con Law matter, and that was as a summer associate in which I wrote an extensive memo on the Lord Mansfield Rule for the partner who was lead counsel on a case in which a man with whom a wife had an affair before reconciling with her husband was trying to assert his paternity over a child that may or may not have been his. Beyond that … zip. Big-time Con Law matters are just far too rare an occurrence to decide to practice law in hopes of doing Con Law stuff. I suppose constitutional issues arise more often in criminal matters, but hardly the stuff to write home about.

    Donald, didn’t you post one of these videos a few months ago in which the experienced attorney told the young lady who was thinking about law school that, unless you went to Harvard or Yale and graduated at the top of your class, you had a zero percent chance of ever doing extensive Con Law work? That’s probably a 100 percent accurate assessment.

  • I suppose it’s also pretty darn difficult to make it to the academic side of things as a law prof?

    I’m going to have to seriously weight scholarship money in my decision of where to go. Applied to 10+ schools, 5 of them top 14, 7 or 8 of them top 20. The tension, then, is that the lower ranked school is likely to give me more money, and the higher ranked school is likely to land me more opportunities and greater earning potential. This is terribly general, but which side would y’all tend to err on: better ranked school or better scholarship package (while still being “tier 1”)?

  • Francis,

    If you want to teach or pay back debts with any rapidity, go to the highest tier school you can, and graduate in the top 10% or better of your class. Be on the law review and publish articles. Then, you might have a chance at a good firm position or clerkship, and might have a chance of teaching afterward.

    If you plan to practice with a small firm / local firm, or solo, then don’t amass the debts, and get as much scholarship money as possible. Still try and graduation in the top 10% of your class, though.

    Good luck!


  • “Donald, didn’t you post one of these videos a few months ago in which the experienced attorney told the young lady who was thinking about law school that, unless you went to Harvard or Yale and graduated at the top of your class, you had a zero percent chance of ever doing extensive Con Law work? That’s probably a 100 percent accurate assessment.”

    I did Jay and I would agree with the sentiment. One of the many problems with the law as a career is that what attracts people to it, is almost always not what they will be doing to earn a living. Fiction is partially to blame, usually giving a completely false view of what an attorney actually does. Of course I can just imagine people aching to watch a television show about a bright young attorney and her adventures working 80 hours a week at a major law firm and touring some of the more elegant document warehouses in the country in a never ending search for documents in cases that no one ever will read. As the season cliff hanger she gets to attend an 8 hour deposition to hold the briefcase for the attorney giving the deposition. Must see TV!

  • Must see TV!

    I also blame John Grisham. Did he write the Pelican Brief? The only thing worse than trial court litigation is appellate work. Your life is more in danger from paper cuts than any mind blowing argument you might come up with or secrets you may unearth (yeah right – secrets after 5 years of discovery and a two week jury trial and if it wasn’t entered into evidence it doesn’t exist in the appellate universe anyway). And Westlaw/Lexis has made things only worse. Nothing more disheartening than crafting what you think is a well pointed issue search only to come back with 1,345 results (only 4 of which will actually be relevant)! Oh joy! Or worse – nothing in your jurisdiction, so your boss suggests you do an ALLSTATES search. Why? Because you CAN, that’s why. Even though you seriously doubt a state court judge in Oklahoma is going to care much about a Puerto Rican magistrate court judge’s opinion on the intricacies of other insurance clauses under Florida law (by the way, you, not your boss, will be the one arguing said golden authority before the court if it ever comes to it – good luck with that).

    As we pan back to our hero still in front of his PC reading the 347th case from his search (tune in next wek when he decides to use the “focus” feature!!).

On the Transformative Power of Hate

Tuesday, January 11, AD 2011

Midway through college, I found myself (in part, I am sure, through my own fault) sucked into one of those interpersonal dramas of the sort that can only take place in an environment where lots of young adults with much time and little sense are living with each other in a small residential college 24/7. I had a falling out with my roommate, and since the room had become a rather difficult place to live, I arranged with the residence director to move into another room in the dorm. This was almost but not quite the end of it. For a few weeks longer there were random knocks on my door, anything I put on my bulletin board was slashed to ribbons, milkshakes had a way of happening to get spilled on my car, etc. And then all was forgotten.

But during that brief period during which the strife could not be let go, I developed a reflexive reaction to everything about the former roommate. Seeing a car on the highway the same color and model as his would make me angry. Just hearing the roommate’s name would cause a tightening feeling in my stomach. Even if one would be glad to be done with it all, being hated by someone else is something which cannot help but cause significant changes in you. Hatred is never a one-way relationship.

I think of this at the moment because our country looks increasingly like two camps that would really like to be warring, except for the fact that actual civil wars cut into work hours more than blogging does. When Representative Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured, and six bystanders were killed, by a gunman who was seriously disturbed, to say the least, it could have been a moment for the country to pull together in a sense of common sympathy for the dead and injured and outrage that violence had been brought into our civic life, where it has no place.

House Speaker John Boehner stepped forward and delivered standard unifying rhetoric for such occasions, “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society… This is a sad day for our country.”

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32 Responses to On the Transformative Power of Hate

  • Who ever you are. I don’t give a rat’s patootie whether you approve of me and my “ranting”.

  • “But either way, there are many who should be ashamed of themselves for trying to paint their fellow citizens with the blood of a crime that they are in fact united in abhorring.”

    Amen Darwin!

  • This is it for me. This event has proven decisively that there will not be, and cannot be, any sort of mutual understanding and reconciliation. The left was waiting for this, the speed at which they pounced was matched only by the audacity of the lies they told.

    This is not going to end well.

  • “it was like watching an opening at Walmart, with sweaty hacks in a tug of war over a table of identical, knee jerk assumptions.”

  • Alas, Man has proven that in 6,000 years of recorded history, hate is a more powerful emotion that love. Satan is winning. Then again, the Bible says he is the “god of this world.” Those of us who are in it, but not of it, send up cries of despair, only to wait for justice to prevail. Some days, like today and most others, I don’t think it will come in my lifetime.

  • This event has proven decisively that there will not be, and cannot be, any sort of mutual understanding and reconciliation.

    Take a pill, Joe. It is Paul Krugman, Michael Moore, Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, Pinch Sulzberger’s editorial board, and Sheriff Doofus of Pima County, Arizona. The condition of the Democratic Party and affiliated subcultures is parlous but this crew do not comprehend the whole and much of what is done by the people on this list is asinine performance art.

  • Art, if you are referring to me, the only pill I take is Ambien to try to get a good night’s sleep. Thankfully, nightmares aside (a common side effect), sleep brings the only reprieve from the daily drudgery of living. To respond to every silly attack from the Left is simply to feed the beast. Why dignify such tripe? Right now the public square is filled with jabbering idiots. By posting it, however, I risk inclusion. Paradoxically, by speaking out, we are drawn into an argument that will go on for as long as right and wrong divide us.

  • Good point Art. We should keep in mind that there have been some people on the Left who have refused to go along with this attempt to start a witchhunt sans witches. Those who have squandered all their credibility in an attempt to slander and muzzle those they oppose politically, might do well however to recall this quotation: “Ruthless people don’t understand how *mean* good folks can get when their codes are violated.”

    –From “The Prince” by Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling, p. 926.

    Sowing the wind is a dangerous pastime and far too many people on the Left in this country have been doing precisely that for the past decade.

  • Just to put this into context, there were about 16,000 homicides in the U.S. last year and more than 600,000 since 2000. Mass murder is the exception, not the rule. Where are the ‘moments of silence’ and the national headlines for those slain retail? The Columbines, Foot Hoods and Virginia Techs get all the ink, but represent but a handful of the thousands murdered every yearm which averages out to 40 per day in America — or nearly 2 every hour.

    One death a tragedy; a million a statistic, said Joe Stalin. Why suddenly this wringing of hands and national agony about man’s inhumanity to man. Thomas Hobbes said his biggest fear was that anyone might be his murderer. He was right.

  • I agree but as you said “Hatred is never a one-way relationship.” the left reacted to being hated by the right by blaming the right. If it was a Republican who was shot, do you really think the conservative blogosphere would be calm and plead for restraint while the facts come in? Or is it more likely that Joe would write a mirror piece to Krugman’s “Climate of Hate”? Today, it’s the left that is acting irrationally but that is not a credit to the right.

  • If it was a Republican who was shot, do you really think the conservative blogosphere would be calm and plead for restraint while the facts come in? Or is it more likely that Joe would write a mirror piece to Krugman’s “Climate of Hate”?

    Why not review back issues of National Review and op-ed commentary by Wm. F. Buckley, James Jackson Kilpatrick, George Will, William Rusher, and Smith Hempstone? Draw your selections from around about March 1981 and from September 1975. Those are your data points. I do not think you will find anything untoward, even thought the attribution of crimes such as this to anything and everything other than the agency of the perpetrator has a history that antedates those events by half a generation.

  • “Or is it more likely that Joe would write a mirror piece to Krugman’s “Climate of Hate”?”

    To elaborate on something Art Deco hints at: for the most part, conservatives believe in individual responsibility and therefore they are not tempted to think along the lines of blaming society or the political climate in general, not before any real facts are even inm as the likes of Kos and Krugman did.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that conservatives shy from blaming the left for violence — “ideas having consequences” and all that. But take one example of lefty violence that conservatives have made some ideological hay on — the Unabomber. They waited until the guy had his manifesto actually published and then was arrested (shortly after, as I recall) before claiming any link between the bombing and the environmentalist movement. Once you read the manifesto, however, it IS rather obvious — Kaczynski was an intelligent, lucid man who was acting out on the basis of ideas widely held if not-so-widely acted on this way.

  • “Or is it more likely that Joe would write a mirror piece to Krugman’s “Climate of Hate”?”

    Comparing me to Krugman? What have I ever done to deserve that?

  • Art, I don’t have to go go back to the pre-culture-war days. In 2009, Joe blamed Planned Parenthood and the pro-abort left for the murder of Jim Pouillon. Kudos to DarwinCatholic for a more measured reaction at the time. He can credibly say that he wouldn’t act as irrationally as Krugman and others have. Joe, on the other hand…

  • Austin Ruse,

    Who ever you are. I don’t give a rat’s patootie whether you approve of me and my “ranting”.

    Bully for you. Have fun with that.


    This is it for me. This event has proven decisively that there will not be, and cannot be, any sort of mutual understanding and reconciliation. The left was waiting for this, the speed at which they pounced was matched only by the audacity of the lies they told.

    I would tend to see it not so much that the left was waiting for us, but rather that during the Bush administration they learned to hate us so totally that nothing seemed below us, and with Obama’s victory they became convinced that conservatives would simply go away and they could proceed into the brave new world which would be allowed by total progressive rule. When the Amercian people handed them a thorough drubbing at the mid-terms, the only explanation was that it was because we had lied and cheated and stolen the country from them. Because, you know, we could never win on the issues. Only through lies.

    So when this happened, right after they’d lost so badly, in part because of the Tea Party folks, they instinctively leaped to the attack. At last, this would prove the tea party was evil.


    I agree but as you said “Hatred is never a one-way relationship.” the left reacted to being hated by the right by blaming the right.

    I was more thinking along the lines of: Given the loud and excessive extent to which the Left has hated the Right over the last ten years, they will eventually succeed in inspiring return hatred. Though one can always take it back further. The right rather unhinged under Clinton. The left was certainly very unhinged under Reagan. (I still know people who will only refer to him as “That alzheimer’s patient you elected”.) I’m not sure anyone could muster enough feeling through the malaise to hate Carter, but certainly people absolutely hated Nixon — despite the fact he looks more like a modern day Democrat than Republican. I’m not really sure where it stops.

    If it was a Republican who was shot, do you really think the conservative blogosphere would be calm and plead for restraint while the facts come in?

    I think it would mostly be a more passive aggressive form of attack: “If we were the left, we would blame leftist rhetoric, and then how would they feel. Here are ten examples. But as it is, we’ll wait for the trail and hang ‘im high.”

  • Oh please. When did I “blame the left”? I pointed out that a Planned Parenthood director called pro-life protesters “terrorists.”

    But the left does promote a Culture of Death, this is indisputable.

    I haven’t said anything that is “irrational.” I challenge you to define that word and show how it applies to me. Put up or shut up.

  • …speaking of passive-aggressive, item one: RR.

  • RR:

    1. You said, when a ‘Republican gets shot’. The late Mr. Pouillion was not an elected official or a public figure of any kind. He may not have been registered to vote, for all we know. Your parameters, not mine.

    2. No clue how you got the idea that struggles over cultural questions post-date 1981.

    3. The offending passage consists of just two sentences and is as follows:

    Jim Pouillon may well be the victim of “pro-choice”, anti-abortion rhetoric, not only of the kind one would find in a street protest but by in the outrageous public statements made by supposed professionals and leaders in the abortion industry. A vigilante, obsessed with the idea of ridding America of a pro-life “terrorist”, inspired by the hateful rhetoric of the abortionists, decided to strike a pre-emptive blow against domestic terrorism.

    No cigar, really. He uses the subjunctive, does not defame any discrete individual, and suggests no vague or occult causal pathways. He does say when you call ordinary and inoffensive people ‘terrorists’ (and, keep in mind, the usage was not metaphorical), you encourage others with motives congruent with your own to view them that way.

    4. When our friend Hargrave gets rent-free space at the New York Times op-ed page, get back to me.

  • “If it was a Republican who was shot . . . ” IF?!

    The Federal Judge that is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD was a Republican appointed by President George H. W. Bush. At least they never made a movie nor wrote a book about assassinating the elder Bush, like they did his son.

    left-Liberals are truly [fill in the blank] . . .

    Here are more incitements to violence which need to be addressed by the Thought Police.

    “Some times peace comes at too high a price.” Ben Franklin

    “Do I not hate them, Lord, that hate thee.
    Am I not aggrieved with those that rise up against thee.”

    Iliad, Book XXI, “Strong hatred , defender of peoples.”

  • We are a house divided and we will become all one thing, or all the other…all left, or all right. There is no bridging the gap – one side or the other will have to prevail. Does this mean, for certain, a violent civil war? No, but the stakes are just as high and it is possible.

  • I am reminded of this passage from the Screwtape Letters concerning the demonic strategy at different times in human history:

    “Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and it is our task to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages such as the present one (World War II) are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our task to inflame them…. The trick is to have them (humans) all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is nearly gunwale under.”

  • Joe,

    People can note when there are unstable opponents and point out that, with a continued rhetoric which leads to desperation and talks revolution, something will happen. To be able to see it will happen, and warn people to stop before it does, now makes them to be at fault?

    Just remember, Joe. YOU ARE THE ONE who has a history of praising the DEATH of people. The reason it does not end good is because YOU don’t want it to end good. You are a part of the problem.

  • It does seem like liberals went off the rails with hate during the GWB presidency, and have never come back. They’ve dehumanized the right to the point where they feel no need to engage with it, but only to deride and destroy it. In fact, engaging with it would legitimize it to an extent they can’t accept. If you really believe someone is a hateful killer of the poor and sick and an earth-destroyer, you don’t negotiate with him and look for areas of compromise; you try to end him. That’s where the left’s view of the right is today.

    Yes, some on the right got pretty loopy during the Clinton presidency. But they tended to be on the fringe, people running conspiracy web sites and the like, not the well-known spokesman of the movement. There was no equivalent of the NY Times/Olbermann/Krugman responding like those organs of the left have in this case. In this case, the few exceptions on the left who didn’t jump on the hate bandwagon only prove the rule.

    The claim that the same thing would happen in the other direction is simply a lie. A conservative judge in Arizona was shot by a guy with Communist sympathies, and will now be replaced by an Obama appointee. So why haven’t we seen all the major figures of the right claiming this was all setup by Obama’s people, and the congresswoman was shot for cover? (Note that I’m not claiming that, because it’s stupid; but that’s the sort of thing we get from the left now.) When Reagan was shot, did the right immediately blame the entire left? There’s no equivalence here, not matter how above-the-fray it makes people feel to say there is.

  • Henry,

    In the spirit of the post, allow me to point out that when you accuse people (indeed ALL IN CAPS) of praising the death of others, and say that they are “part of the problem” when it comes to random mass killings in this country, you are bringing more hate to the table than anyone else has shown in this thread. This is a perfect example of allowing your strong dislike for a person’s views and tone turn into a dislike for the person which is so strong that it apparantly interferes with your ability to construct coherant sentences.

    If you really care about reducing the violence of political rhetoric, ceasing to accuse your opponents of advocating for death would be a really good start.

  • Mark,

    We are a house divided and we will become all one thing, or all the other…all left, or all right. There is no bridging the gap – one side or the other will have to prevail.

    I’m not aware of any other periods in our history where one side of the political debate has simply vanished and the other has completely prevailed. Even the civil war did not result in that — far from it, indeed. Why should we expect to see that now?

  • The Tories come closest to being a side that completely lost a political debate in this country during the Revolution. Many of them left the country and went to Canada where they were known as United Empire Loyalists. A fair number of them eventually did return to the US. Other than that I agree with you Darwin that complete victories in US politics are almost non-existent. We see even apparently defeated political factions like the Federalists emerging later under new guises.

  • T.Shaw I would pay to see you debate Karlson! No sharp items would be allowed in the room however.

  • Be thankful that no one side wins completely. Balance can be a great thing. I think the compromise of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists serves as a premier example of how it can make for a better product. Of course, both parties were very forward thinking and concerned about ensuring that their decisions would not lead to tyranny generations down the road. Can’t really say that these days.

  • All this noise is hurting my ears!

  • testing, testing

  • Mac, 8:19AM:

    Never happen. I become viscerally ill when I come in close proximity to pure evil. In fact in 1992, I walked past Bryant Park when Clinton was bloviating there and I nearly had a seizure.

An Analysis of the 2010 House Elections

Tuesday, January 11, AD 2011

I’m a bit late with this post, but it seems appropriate now as a sort of follow-up to my previous post regarding the House of Representatives.  When someone is both a political junkie and a stats nerd like I am, it’s hard to resist the temptation to delve into the numbers of any election.  So I am going to take a closer look at some of the more interesting figures from last November’s election results for the U.S. House of Representatives.

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One Response to An Analysis of the 2010 House Elections

  • The Democrats have been able to win seats in GOP areas for years by running conservative Democrats. The last two years demonstrated how ineffectual Blue Dog Democrats were in moderating the course of their party when the Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House. The destruction of the idea that conservative Democrats have any meaningful role in the modern Democrat party is probably the greatest single blow to the Democrat party since the South stopped being a Democrat stronghold. I think this makes it much harder for Democrats to win house seats outside of the coasts, New England and major urban areas.

2 Responses to Feeling Cranky

First Amendment? What First Amendment?

Tuesday, January 11, AD 2011

The above video is a stirring rendition of a campaign song for Abraham Lincoln in 1860:  Lincoln and Liberty Too, probably the most effective campaign ditty in American political history.  It was sung everywhere by Republicans in 1860, from huge campaign rallies to small gatherings of Lincoln supporters.  Lincoln Wide Awakes would hold torch light processions throughout the North singing the song at the top of their lungs.  The type of enthusiasm generated by the song helped give Lincoln a popular vote plurality in 1860 and an electoral landslide. 

I think the song would probably be illegal under legislation proposed by Congressman Robert Brady (D.Pa). 

“Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.” 

Critics originally took Palin to task for the apparent use of the crosshairs of guns to identify the districts. The controversy re-ignited Saturday after the shooting, since Giffords’s district was included on the map.  

Brady singled out the map as the type of rhetoric he opposed. 

“You can’t put bull’s-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official,” he said. 

However, a Palin spokeswoman denied Sunday that the image was intended to depict gun sights. Palin offered condolences to the Giffords family and other victims of the shooting on her Facebook page Saturday. 

 Here is the ad from SarahPac that has Congressman Brady so worked up:  






The crosshairs on the map indicated members of Congress targeted for defeat by SarahPac.  Such targeting imagery of course is commonplace in political campaigns.  Only a moron, or a partisan hack, would think that violence in any way was implied by the use of this image.  As far as American political speech goes, this was pretty tepid stuff. 

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3 Responses to First Amendment? What First Amendment?

  • Liberalism is a psychological disease.

    Would that bill inclusde imprisoning ARTISTS for producing movies about assassinating curent president (Booosh at the time), or a novel covering same murder?

    I probably will be among the first 1,000 sent to the democrat re-education camp of NY Soviet Socialist Republic.

  • If the Congress did pass legislation so manifestly unconstitutional, I can’t imagine it being upheld by the courts.

    You have a higher opinion of the appellate judiciary than I do.

  • I probably will go to jail for the following. But, here goes nothing . . . No, wait! Bombs away!!!

    Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Clintons, the so-called liberals, are foisting a gradual devolution to post-enlightenment collectivism. Enlightenment/modern man once emphasized individual or natural rights, e.g., life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The liberals’ acts and agendas indicate that their goal is establishing and maintaining the collective, which they will rule. To them the collective is one and indivisible. The individual is nothing more than a part of the collective. The individual functions for the good of the collective, in which he is a small element. Chairman OBama’s regime is out to advance the collective and demote the individual. Health care reform, environmentalism/cap and economic ruin have nothing to do with reform or saving the planet. They are the means to seize control and subordinate the individual to the collective.

    When I was in school, and among the rare times I was thinking instead of drinking, they made us study the “Inquisitioin in the Middle Ages” by Henry C. Lea. The book revealed that, like today’s liberals, the medieval Church made it a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death to believe and/or think differently. The perp didn’t need to do anything to be condemned.

    Lea, “ . . . no one can rightly appreciate the process of its development and the results of its activity without a somewhat minute consideration of the factors controlling the minds and souls of men during the ages which laid the foundation of modern civilization. To accomplish this it has been necessary to pass in review nearly all the spiritual and intellectual movements of the Middle Ages, and to glance at the condition of society in certain of its phases.” Henry C, Lea, Preface.

    St. Thomas de Torquemada, pray for us.

Former Planned Parenthood director tells her story.

Monday, January 10, AD 2011

Next Tuesday, January 11th, Ignatius Press will launch a new book by former Planned Parenthood director and 2008 “employee of the year” Abby Johnson.

Unplanned is a behind-closed-doors expose of one of the biggest providers in the abortion industry, and a testimony of how Mrs. Johnson went from directing an abortion facility to working for the prolife cause. (And not just any abortion facility but the place at which the first 40 Days for Life campaign was launched in 2004).

As expected, Planned Parenthood isn’t taking this lightly. They filed a lawsuit to shut her up — but had their case dismissed.

Get all the details here, and purchase Unplanned from Ignatius Press at 35% off. You can also read the first chapter of Abby’s story in its entirety.

Abby also blogs at:

Please join her prayer campaign for the conversion of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the most experienced second & third trimester abortion providers.

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6 Responses to Former Planned Parenthood director tells her story.

  • She is going to be speaking at a 25th Anniversary banquet for the crisis pregnancy center, of which I have the honor of being the president of the board of directors, in my county later this year. Insider testimony like hers is a damning indictment of how the abortion industry in this country is solely about literal blood money.

  • Abby- you tell em….expose the inner workings of Planned Parenthood. For those interested , i would also recommend this documentary which also exposes Planned Parenthood- called- Maafa21…pass the word, http://www.maafa21com

  • Hmmmmm Lets see. It took the abortions of two of her unborn children and eight years to “smell the coffee.” While I applaud her decision to quit, whatever her motives, I think I’ll wait another eight years before I buy her book. After all, her next one may be an expose of 40 days for Life…The organization she cited specific examples of lying. But no matter, the fall out is that many children will have life, and how ever it comes about, I am grateful.

  • Antonio,

    After reviewing her own writings and the fruits of her current pro-life work to date (engaging and seeking the conversion of others involved in the industry) I see no question the integrity of her conversion.

    “It took the abortions of two of her unborn children and eight years to “smell the coffee.”

    I suppose one could snidely remark that it took “thousands of abortions” before the spiritual conversion of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, founder of NARAL.

    However, when a sinner is convicted and embraces the truth, I simply see this as a cause for rejoicing.

  • “However, when a sinner is convicted and embraces the truth, I simply see this as a cause for rejoicing.”

    Remember we are all sinners and never stop sinning. So unless she has reached sainthood, I wouldn’t get all choked up about this sort of thing. She wouldn’t be the first opportunist who wraps themselves in the bible.
    I don’t say she is, nor do i judge her as you have done, rather, I don;t judge, I wait and see. But for now, the consequence is that children live. That is a reason for rejoicing.

  • “Remember we are all sinners and never stop sinning.”

    Of course there is no denying this. I just see no reason to impugn and cast doubt on her motives with speculation about lying and conspiracies.

    We will both know by her actions and the fruits of those actions — and thus far her actions have been laudable.

Increasing the Size of Congress: Would It Work?

Monday, January 10, AD 2011

One of the main objections that critics of the Constitution had was that the proposed U.S. House of Representatives would be too small.  Article I, Section 2 decreed that the number of representatives should not exceed one for every thirty thousand.  Critics feared that such an enumeration would mean that the districts would be far too large, and the representatives would not be close enough to the people they represent.  State ratifying convention offered up several amendments to this plan, and the first Congress included a revision to this section as one of the twelve original amendments to the Constitution.  In fact, if it had been ratified it would have been the first amendment, and it so read:

Article the first … After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

As it turned out, this was only of the original twelve never to be ratified by the states.  Ten were immediately ratified and became known collectively as the Bill of Rights, and an 11th – dealing with Congressional pay raises – was ratified in 1992 and became the 27th Amendment.

If critics were outraged at congressional districts of 30,000, imagine their horror at today’s apportionment.  After the 2000 census the average size of a congressional district jumped to 646,952, a number that has swelled to just over 700,000 in light of the recent census.  In other words, Congressional districts are roughly 23 times larger than originally planned.

So if the states ever got around to ratifying what would have been the first amendment, Congress would increase about fifteen-fold, or to 6,525, as opposed to the current total of 435.   And if we went with the original number prescribed in the Constitution, there would be just over 10,000 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Yee-haw!

It’s probably safe to assume that we will not be increasing the number of representatives by that margin anytime soon.  But as something of a fun little thought experiment, what would happen if we “merely” increased the House by triple it current size?

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17 Responses to Increasing the Size of Congress: Would It Work?

  • A few thoughts –

    – A good portion of Congressional staffs deals with constituent services. Smaller disticts would mean smaller staffs per Congressman.
    – Smaller districts would practically eliminate gerrymandering and other reapportionment abuses.
    – Campaign spending per race would have to decline because there’s only so much money to go around, but also because it’s easier to get your name out to a smaller number of people. The advantage of incumbency would be reduced. There are all kinds of related issues about candidates and Congressmen interacting with citizens, but they seem like a creepy thing to talk about today.

  • Here is a list of legislatures by size. Throw out the supersized legislatures of dictatorships like China and you end up with the largest being the EU (with 736 members) and the UK (with 646 House of Commons). My guess is that once you get passed the 600-700 member mark it becomes impossible to run a legislature according to currency practices. Either the members would have to cede effective control to party leaders (in which case the effective size of the legislature might actually be smaller than now), or party politics would break down, and you would end up with something like the Landsgemeinde one level removed.

    My guess is that you would end up weakening the power of Congress relative to the Presidency. You might also end up weakening federal power relative to the states, though this is less clear.

  • The number of local communities to be represented does not increase in step with population size. The size of a legislature should bear a mathematical relationship to the size of the population represented. One problem we have right now is that districts are not assemblages of identifiable communities, but are drawn for member interests or for purposes of judicially imposed racial patronage. (Compare Louise Slaughter’s district as is to what it should be and you will see what I mean). Another is that our legislatures are populated by people with no other vocation than (of which Sen. Schumer is an extreme example) and permanent incumbents (of which Robert Byrd was an extreme example). These are the problems you need to address.

  • The House of Commons in Great Britain has 650 members with about 20% of our population. I think we could probably increase the House up to that size. Much beyond that and I think the House size would become unworkable as per BA’s earlier comment. I think I would favor that increase, if only to see the antics when reapportionment took place and the new seats were alloted!

  • It might be wise to think about slowly raising the number of folks in the House, and also going towards electronic commuting to DC. (I’m a big fan of telecommuting for a lot of our reps just on the “dang, that’s EXPENSIVE!!!!” front. I still haven’t recovered from the notion of 60 folks losing office resulting in 2k folks losing their jobs.)

    I do sort of wonder… how often are folks actually IN the House? When my class visited, it was pretty empty….

    There’s always the notion of consolidating states into one or two offices and similar ways around the cost-worry. Or, y’know, a pay cut for them….

  • “And if we went with the original number prescribed in the Constitution, there would be just over 10,000 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Yee-haw!”

    I see the theme of Rawhide playing as the great Congress Critter drive of 2020 gets under way!

  • Maybe those critics at the Founding, looking at our system today, would say the nation has just gotten too large to be governed centrally by any size Congress. Or they might ask why we were stupid enough to take the choosing of senators away from the state legislatures — who are already closer to the people — and gave it to the commons. They might also point out that if we’d restricted the federal government to the few responsibilities enumerated in the Constitution, it wouldn’t matter much how many of them there are or how closely we can watch over them.

    I suspect expanding their numbers would have a larger partisan effect than you’re thinking, in favor of Republicans (which is why it can’t happen). I live in the 17th district in Illinois, which is a marvel of gerrymandering. It uses thin corridors of land to tie together the union-rich Quad Cities area with several conservative-leaning smaller towns in other parts of the state — but not enough of them that they’ll ever swing Republican. (Unless an incumbent becomes incredibly arrogant and incompetent and says he doesn’t care about the Constitution in a year when people are actually paying attention, but what are the odds of that?) If you split that district in half, you’d end up with a Dem district and a GOP district. Split it in thirds, and you get two GOP districts.

    Since cities are almost always more liberal than the rural areas around them, that situation should be more common than its opposite. That’s my guess, anyway; but I’d be interested to see what someone who’s studied the idea would say.

  • The emigration of people out of bankrupt blue states may be a long term solution.

    Another solution to the republic’s decline may be to disenfranchise those who live off the taxpayers’ dime, i.e., welfare/food stamps recipients and GSE and civil service employees voting themselves pay raises: talk about conflicts of interest.

  • “I live in the 17th district in Illinois, which is a marvel of gerrymandering.”

    That’s the understatement of the decade! The district was so drawn in 2001 in order to protect the Dem incumbent at the time (Lane Evans). One of those “thin corridors of land” runs through Springfield, where it’s only a few blocks wide; it exists purely to connect Decatur (very blue collar, Democrat town, 40 miles east) to the rest of the district.

    As for the size of Congress, it’s been fixed at 435 House members for over 100 years now. Perhaps it is about time to expand it a bit. Maybe assign one Congresscritter for every 250,000 to 500,000 people (the next Congress after reapportionment will have about 750,000 + constituents to every member). States that gain population can then gain seats without having to take them away from other states.

    A smaller legislative body is not always a better or more efficient one, as Illinois voters have learned since they cut back the size of their State House of Representatives by 1/3 in 1980. The smaller the body, the easier it is for their caucus leaders (Speaker/Minority Leader/Whip) to make them toe the party line. They can easily become “mushrooms” who are kept in the dark and fed you -know-what.

    Finally, I must take strong exception to T. Shaw’s suggestion that anyone who “lives off the taxpayer’s dime” should not be allowed to vote. That would disenfranchise me, of course, as I work for the state.

    If anything, people who work for the state or federal governments may have a better grasp of some of the beneficial or disastrous effects of a particular administration’s policies, since they see them from the inside, and are privy to information not always known to the general public.

    An ordinary federal or state employee cannot “vote themselves a pay raise” — only actual Congresscritters and legislators can do that.

  • A simple and passable formula would be to have the membership of the sovereign legislature equal the cube root of the population.

  • Or they might ask why we were stupid enough to take the choosing of senators away from the state legislatures — who are already closer to the people — and gave it to the commons.

    Closer to the people – and a racket. Here in New York, we have had for decades a highly gerrymandered split legisalture in thrall to its leadership. We would get a Senator appointed by Shelly Silver and one appointed by the successor to jailbird Joe Bruno. You’ll love it.

    Changing settlement patterns have made the states in their current boundaries somewhat problematic as units of provincial government. Some states (New York and Illinois among them) ought to be made confederations of their ill-matched components and some components thereof ought to be united by inter-state compact with components of neighboring states. (Among other adjustments).

  • The Senate is a bit of a different issue, but Art raises some fair points. That being said, can you really do any worse than Chuck Schumer?

    I think a slightly bigger House – out to something on the order of 7-800 seats – is doable. As for partisan breakdown, I think things would balance out. Sure you’d wind up with more representation in the northeast, but a state like Florida, with a current 24R, 5D breakdown would surely send a few more Democrats. In the end, I think the House as it is currently stands presents a fairly decent reflection of the overall partisan breakdown in the country, at least as of the last election.

  • As Robert Benchley remarked “Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I take two aspirin and go lie down”.
    Increase the number of politicians? Have you lost your mind?

  • That being said, can you really do any worse than Chuck Schumer?

    Schumer has a reputation for being an unpleasant man and also unscrupulous, but in a way that indicates contempt and malice rather than cupidity. I suspect he would need much better one-on-one people skills to make it with the legislature. Curiously, though, he survived the redistricting process in 1990, which Stephen Solarz did not.

    Schumer is also noted for the legislative equivalent of Daniel Boorstin’s ‘pseudo-events’: petty crap whose purpose is public relations. Since this stuff often trespasses on the prerogatives of more particular legislative bodies, he might be rather inclined to irritate people (or might just adopt different tactics, who knows?).

    I think you would get a string of people like Alphonse d’Amato and Dede Scozzafava (a.k.a ‘Scuzzyfavors’). Much more personable and given to pork pork pork.

  • Elaine,

    Since you work for state government, you’re probably aware that your fellow state workers vote overwhelmingly for one party. Do you really think that’s because they “are privy to information not always known to the general public,” or could it be that they know one party is better for their employment and income prospects? Did they vote for Quinn — the lieutenant of an impeached governor, for goodness sake — because they thought he’d be best for the state, or because he’d be best for state workers?

    No, you can’t vote yourself a pay raise. But when half the population gets a paycheck (or welfare check or subsidy check or grant check or some other kind of check) from government, they can vote for the guy most likely to give them a pay raise — or at least the guy more inclined to deal with the $15B deficit by raising taxes than by cutting state jobs and handouts.

  • “your fellow state workers vote overwhelmingly for one party”

    Not necessarily. Sangamon County, in which Springfield is located, is actually strongly Republican despite being home to a very large number of state employees. Blago only got 20 percent of the vote there in 2006 — his second-to-worst showing statewide. Quinn didn’t win here either (he only got 34 percent of the vote to Brady’s 58 percent) despite AFSCME and other unions pulling out all the stops for him. Believe it or not, of late I have even heard co workers who are lifelong Democrats complain that far too MANY state employees are unionized.

  • The staff of the state office I used to work in had 10 employees during my time there: 2 explicit Republicans, 1 ambivalent, 4 non-committal, 2 (non-militant) Democrats, and 1 woman who made a stink when I brought in a book by Reinhold Niebuhr to read during my break time.

    I suspect, Aaron, that if you look outside the education and social work apparat and control for demographic categories, you will find that the bias toward the Democratic Party among state and local employees is nothing compared to what it is among college faculty or journalists. The central government is a different bit of business, however, as can be seen looking at the corps of office holders in greater Washington.

The Left and the Political Blood Libel

Monday, January 10, AD 2011

As indicated by the video above, many people on the Left have been relentless, since news broke of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims, on trying to blame conservatives somehow for the actions of one crazed lunatic.  There is no evidence that the gunman was motivated by anything other than the severe mental illness that he seems to be afflicted with.  However, those on the Left seeking to demonize those they politically oppose will not let a little thing like the truth stand in their way.  Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, takes a look at all this today in a column in the Wall Street Journal:

Shortly after November’s electoral defeat for the Democrats, pollster Mark Penn appeared on Chris Matthews’s TV show and remarked that what President Obama needed to reconnect with the American people was another Oklahoma City bombing. To judge from the reaction to Saturday’s tragic shootings in Arizona, many on the left (and in the press) agree, and for a while hoped that Jared Lee Loughner’s killing spree might fill the bill.

With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s words, a “climate of hate.”

The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—”lock and load”—and talked about “targeting” opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s district on a list of congressional districts “bullseyed” for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama’s famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”—it’s just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate.

There’s a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn’t derive from the innocuous use of political clichés. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source.

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19 Responses to The Left and the Political Blood Libel

  • Two absolutely horrible conclusions that could be drawn from this tragedy would be (1) colorful speech is bad and (2) personal eccentricity bad.

    ISTM it would be detrimental for political life if bold, resolute, metaphoric, even hyperbolic speech is deemed unacceptable. There would be no more room for a Daniel Webster in public life, only for bland Hallmark greeting card sentiments of the Obama variety. Lawyers and sociologists would be the only acceptable candidates for office; soldiers and poets would be shut out. The country would suffer immeasurably.

    Even worse would be if the Jared Loughner Rule were widely adopted in higher education, to whit: anybody who makes classmates feel “uncomfortable” must be expelled. “St. Jerome, dear, your outbursts make your classmates uncomfortable, we’ll have to suspend you until you learn to express yourself more temperately.” ” Johnny Milton, the other students say your hateful rhetoric intimidates them. You are simply not college material.”

    Two terrible ideas. But don’t be surprised if they both catch on big with the “I’m OK, You’re OK” crowd.

  • The ruling elites lost the debate.

    Their dreamworld is falling apart.

    So, they grasp at the AZ massacre as “salvation”, and expound vicious lies in disingenuous attempts to reverse tea party/GOP gains.

    People (outside bankrupt/failed states like CA, MI, NY, et al) are rejecting the job killing agenda, e.g., ObamaCare, higher taxes, cap and tax, 300,000 additional rules and regulations, etc.

    The left’s answer (THANK YOU deranged pot-head with no connection to Sarah Palin, the GOP or the DREADED tea party), “You are murderers. STFU, pay higher taxes, and allow us to tell you how to live your lives.”

  • This accuse the right-wing of being behind violent acts like this one is old hat for the left. When JFK was shot, the blame was immediately fixed on a climate of hate created by the right. No matter if Oswald was a leftist who spent time in Russia and was involved in the Fair Play For Cuba group. It was the Right’s fault. No matter if nearly most of the polictical violence in this country was usually committed by leftist groups, it was the right’s fault, they created this climate of hate.

  • An example of the left pushing for revolution:

    Sounds a bit like Morning’s Minion.

  • Some more political hate from the left:

  • For many years, the evil right wing has created the climate of violence and hatred . . .

    that likely caused the World Trade Center tragedies of 1993 and 2001, Fort Hood lead poisonings, USS Coles catastrophe, Lockerbie crash landing, . . .

    it probably is the reason they hate us: evil, little Eichmanns . . .

  • Of course, professional obfuscator and Catholic Democratic apologist Morning’s Minion is attempting to abuse the memory of Robert Kennedy by linking his murder to this event.

    Unfortunately, reality is not a friend of this leftist revisionism. First, Kennedy’s assassin was angry at Kennedy’s pro-Israel stands. This position is usually associated with the left and not the right.

    This link of Kennedy’s killer and the left is further backed up by leftist terrorist and friend of Obama, Bill Ayers, who in part dedicated a book to Sirhan. Ayers’ rationale? Sirhan was a political prisoner.

    Robert Kennedy’s son was so incensed by this that he opposed Ayers receiving emeritus status from the U of Illinois.

    The sordid history of the left in relation to Kennedy’s murder cannot be airbrushed out like Stalin era photos. Sadly, MM thinks we can be duped by his own effort at revisionism and hate at the expense of a truly Catholic politician.

  • First off, I agree with Donald’s point that it is despicable and shameless for the left to be attempting to use this repulsive act of violence for political gain by pinning it on their opponents. (They may well also be doing serious violence to the truth, as it is my no means clear the killer is a right-ist of any sort.)

    That said, I’d advise folks in the comment box to also keep it cool in regards to blanket attacks on the left as the source of violence and wickedness in American politics. One can’t exactly accuse them of shamelessness in making use of this killing for political gain while at the same time trying to use the killing to score political points against them.

  • Darwin,

    Score political points?

    At this point we are fighting for our political lives against a relentless lie and slander machine.

    We are fast reaching a point at which we will have no choice but to pick a side and stick with it. When the truth no longer matters, war is immanent. Lies used in this way, Big Lie campaigns formed on a moments notice, are weapons of war. It’s psychological warfare right now.

    I think certain elements want a civil war or at least martial law in this country, I think they view the Tea Party as the last obstacle to the “better world” they want to build, and want a pretext to destroy it.

  • Well, I agree that it seems like even some pretty normally-sane leftists want to go out and get them some conservative scalps at the moment, but I think they’ll calm.

    I don’t think we’re any more in danger of civil war or martial law than we were after the OKC bombing, which was similarly mis-used.

    If I’m wrong… Well, I’ll come join you at the barricades and you can laugh at me then. 🙂

  • I think certain elements want a civil war or at least martial law in this country, I think they views the Tea Party as the last obstacle to the “better world” they want to build, and want a pretext to destroy it.

    I think ‘certain elements’ would be Ted Rall.

    Much of the political opposition has a proprietary sense about institutions: the legislatures are theirs, the newsrooms are theirs, the schools are theirs, the professional associations are theirs – by right. Possession by anyone else, even a beachhead in some circumstances, is illegitimate and a sort of fraud, larceny, or criminal trespass. They also define out of the circle of reasoned discourse what the opposition has to say. However, their self-image requires certain sorts of rubrics. It’s not going to be martial law. It will be court proceedings and such, as is going on in Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

  • “If I’m wrong… Well, I’ll come join you at the barricades and you can laugh at me then.”

    I’ll laugh at you now and keep quiet then. 😉

  • What a display of politicization we have seen since Saturday. Krugman especially turns the stomach. More than a few leftists, well before it was clear what the murderer was all about, were ready to pounce on their political enemies. Completely disguisting. And through the charge that “conservative hatred” ect. is in some measure responsible, is itself spreading hatred – actually doing to conservatives what it falsely accuses conservatives of doing to leftists! Unbelievable.

  • Maybe we won’t get martial law, but we may get the death of the 1st amendment, which could lead to it anyway. Already Democratic congressmen are calling for restrictions on political speech. Soon I fear it will be a crime to criticize the government in virtually any way, and that those who do will be forced into corrupt psychiatric wards as they were in the Soviet Union.

  • “And through the charge that “conservative hatred” ect. is in some measure responsible, is itself spreading hatred – actually doing to conservatives what it falsely accuses conservatives of doing to leftists! Unbelievable.”

    Projection I believe is the technical term for it. The modern day Left in this country has grown increasingly intolerant of those who oppose it: think Campus speech codes, bubble zones around abortion clinics, conservative speakers at college campuses being shouted down, etc. Any pretext will do for many on the Left if they can use it as an excuse to attempt to silence their crititics. Liberal is the shorthand description for Leftists in this country. Actually one would have to look hard for a more illiberal bunch on the American mainstream political scene.

  • Rather than a wholesale increase in the House to possible unmanageable size would be to split it in to two chambers.

    One to deal with passing amending and repealing laws, and another to deal with the budget, both of the size of the current House. It would increase the representation with out making unmanageable chambers. These two functions require different sorts of legislative expertise. The boundary’s between the functions are well defines. Individual congressman would be able to better perform their duties since they had less scope while overall increasing Congress’s effectiveness. The states would not have to align the districts of the two house the same which could provide a means to see that different interests are accounted for without excessive gerrymandering of either house.

  • Apparently, the Arizona shooter also dabbled in the occult and in a New Age technique known as lucid dreaming:

    So does this mean New Age thinking, occultism, or Satanism, was really to blame?

    Well, it goes without saying that Satan was to blame in the same sense that the evil one is to blame for ANY act of violence. Perhaps more so in that the perpetrator in this instance seems to have deliberately invoked some kind of supernatural help from the wrong side of the tracks. (Although it seems awfully strange to me that someone who apparently denied the existence of God would believe in Satan or other evil spirits, but then, we are not dealing with a rational mind here.)

    That said, while I have no use for New Age or occultism to say the least, and firmly believe those things are NEVER to be messed with, I also believe that to blame New Age spirituality as a whole for this crime might be just as rash as to attempt to fix blame on any particular political movement.

  • Isn’t “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” a line from the famous “Chicago Way” scene in “The Untouchables”? Which makes its use by Obama during the 2008 campaign all the more curious, since at that time, he was bending over backwards to distance himself from Chicago politics.

    Also, Hank, I like your comment and think that’s a good idea, but it belongs on a different thread….

  • Below is a link to that immortal scene Elaine. Later in the film the Sean Connery character, as he is chasing an Italian gangster, who had a knife, out of his apartment with a shotgun says, “Just like a Wop! Binging a knife to a gun fight!” Unfortunately this is said just before he is riddled with tommy gun fire from Frank Nitti, the Italian gangster having succeeded in luring him into an ambush.

Time to Drive Planned Parenthood From the Federal Trough

Monday, January 10, AD 2011

Congressman Mike Pence (R.Ind), has been a tireless advocate of driving Worse Than Murder, Inc, a\k\a Planned Parenthood away from the Federal trough.  Last week on January 7, he reintroduced his bill to defund Planned Parenthood.  Here is his statement:

“It is morally wrong to end an unborn human life by abortion.  It is also morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to promote abortion at home or abroad.

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9 Responses to Time to Drive Planned Parenthood From the Federal Trough

  • If everyone in America watched the documentary film- Maafa21- which shows the history of Planned Parenthood seeped in eugenics and racism – all funding would end immediately. Watch Maafa21 and see for yourself

  • I am Catholic. Personally, I could never support abortion. However, this is a secular society. Until the law/US Supreme Court say otherwise, abortion is no only legal it is not the killing of a person. Politicians opposed to abortion have a choice, instead of flapping their moral jaws, changed the law. Find that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Constitution.
    I’m told a majority of Americans are opposed to abortions. If so, then they can amend the constitution instead of blowing millions fighting something that only serves to distract the majority from the failures of government and has no affect on the sacrament of marriage—same sex marriage. Same sex marriage kills no one. Abortion kills millions every year. Lets get our priorities straight IF We Are Serious.

  • “Personally, I could never support abortion”
    That’s big of you.

    “Until the law/US Supreme Court say otherwise, abortion is no only legal it is not the killing of a person.”

    The Supreme Court could have a thousand rulings making abortion legal, and abortion would always be the killing of a person.

    “Politicians opposed to abortion have a choice, instead of flapping their moral jaws, changed the law. Find that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Constitution.”

    Have you been paying any attention to the battle over abortion for the past 38 years, or have you been living under a tree stump?

    “I’m told a majority of Americans are opposed to abortions. If so, then they can amend the constitution instead of blowing millions fighting something that only serves to distract the majority from the failures of government and has no affect on the sacrament of marriage—same sex marriage. Same sex marriage kills no one. Abortion kills millions every year. Lets get our priorities straight IF We Are Serious.”

    Abortion is a graver evil than same sex marriage, but I am sure that people can, and will, oppose both.

  • “The Supreme Court could have a thousand rulings making abortion legal, and abortion would always be the killing of a person.”
    You don’t understand the difference between a private opinion and the law. Those who have abortions have a “private opinion” too: that what’s inside them isn’t a human being. Their private opinion is the law. Yours isn’t. Yours wont save one fetus because as a man, you have no control over the path of a pregnancy not even of your biological fetus. –that is also the law.
    Perhaps before being aborted, a fetus will find comfort in knowing the law allowing their death continues because people who could change it are satisfied with their private opinions.

  • “You don’t understand the difference between a private opinion and the law. Those who have abortions have a “private opinion” too: that what’s inside them isn’t a human being. Their private opinion is the law. Yours isn’t.”

    Having spent the last 28 years practicing law, I believe I have an understanding of the distiction between a private opinion and a law. I also have a grasp of reality and the law. The Supreme Court can call the unborn non-persons forever, and that tribunal will not change one iota the reality that the unborn are persons.

    “Perhaps before being aborted, a fetus will find comfort in knowing the law allowing their death continues because people who could change it are satisfied with their private opinions.”

    Once again, have you been following the battle over abortion for the past 38 years, or have you been living under a tree stump?

  • Not a stump, a cabbage patch. That’s where i was 38 years ago. Then my mother found me and at 26 i am a resident in a major emergency trauma unit.
    I’m sure you talk about children and fetuses a lot and probably better appreciate the complexities of policy and law. For me, I have seen hundreds of them in every imaginable conditions–some , most folks wouldn’t know what they were looking at.
    In many cases we team with an obstetrics group, so that aspect is not within my jurisdiction any longer. I’m not judging, but I have seen them abort. We don’t.
    The “battle” you refer to has always been conducted on many different fields, legal political, medical, private. It’s all too complex for me so i tend to desire some level of fundamental agreement. I don’t see any on the horizon.

  • As a doctor you can be of great assistance to the pro-life cause. One aspect of the pro-life struggle that I have been engaged in for the past 15 years is serving on the board of directors of the pro-life crisis pregnancy center in my county. I have been president of the board for the past decade. Volunteer doctors can be crucial for such organizations. If you wish, do a google search in your city and you will probably come up with several pro-life crisis pregnany centers. As a resident I imagine you have almost no spare time now. Eventually this may be an aspect of pro-life volunteer service that you might wish to consider.

  • Spare time?? You are both sensitive and correct. I have none. I am not familiar with “pro life pregnancy centers” I hope they are loving, supportive programs that don’t scare the living bejezzus out of young pregnant women. Those that provide support to mothers, after birth and as long and as much as they need, are wonderful. I have seen a few. I sense, your work is along those lines –today’s pregnant mother will likely find themselves pregnant again. Creating an experience that will save all her children and maybe even those of her friends, is like that pebble in a pond.
    the best

  • The volunteers at the crisis pregnancy center in my county are all women, mostly evangelicals, and all unpaid, except for the director and assistant director who are paid token salaries. The kindness and care for the women who come to the center they have exhibited over the years is a wonder to behold. Several of the women they have helped have come back to become volunteers themselves.

    The pebble in the pond analogy is apt. As evil has ramifications, so good has ramifications. They keep a baby book with pictures of infants they have helped get into this world along with pictures of their proud mothers. Some of those infants are now parents themselves. It is a heartening volume to leaf through.

Fighting the Good Fight: The Father Peter Whelan Story

Sunday, January 9, AD 2011

“Fr. Whelan, a Catholic priest from Savannah came in and spoke words of cheer to the condemned and prayed for the forgiveness of their crimes. This lone priest was the only minister of the Gospel that ever came into the prison to speak a kind word or set aright our misguided souls. He made regular visits to the prison, consoled the dying and anointed the dead of his faith. Too much praise cannot be accorded this reverend gentleman for trying to turn sinners to Christ; but in the Last Day, Heaven will cry out for vengeance on ministers of other denominations for their indifference toward their kindred confined in prison.”

Charles Fosdick, Company K, 5th Iowa Volunteers

Hattip to commenter Jim Schmidt.  Faithful readers of this blog will recall my post Priest of Andersonville in which I related the story of Father Peter Whelan, a Roman Catholic priest and Confederate Army chaplain who, on his own initiative, ministered to the tens of thousands of Union prisoners of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in 1864.

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6 Responses to Fighting the Good Fight: The Father Peter Whelan Story

  • Father Corby, later President of the University of Notre Dame, was a Chaplain with the Irish Brigade during the Civil War. His “Memoirs of Chaplain Life” is a good read.

  • I hate to engage in shameless self-promotion, but if anyone is interested in learning more about the role of Catholic chaplains in the Civil War – (including and esp. Fr. Corby) – I respectfully recommend my new book: “Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory” (The History Press, 2010) which describes the role of seven brave priests that Notre Dame sent to the Union army, more than sixty Holy Cross sisters as nurses, and a greater number still of students as soldiers, one of whom earned the Medal of Honor for bravery at Chickamauga, and several of whom never returned home.

    God Bless and Keep up the Great Work!

    Jim Schmidt

  • I heartily recommend Jim’s book. I have been reading it, and it is destined to be a classic. I have read hundreds of books on the Civil War over the years and I found much that was new to me in Jim’s tome. I will be reviewing it in the next week or so.

  • Donald – Thanks so much for the kind words.

  • Father Whelan was a saint whether or not the Vatican ever canonizes him. He truly fulfilled Jesus’ expectations that Jesus announced in Matthew 25:35, “I was hungry, naked, in prison, sick and in the gravest need and you addressed all my needs with your whole being.”
    He sits with God now.

Congresswoman Shot, At Least Six Dead in Arizona

Saturday, January 8, AD 2011

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was one of over a dozen people shot today at an event in Arizona, and  federal judge John Roll was one of those killed in the shooting.  Early reports indicated that Rep. Giffords had died, but now it appears that she pulled through surgery, and her prognosis is positive.

The alleged shooter was Jared Lee Loughner, and Daniel Foster has some screenshots from the shooter’s YouTube page.  Unsurprisingly a disturbed individual.

Pray for the victims and their families.

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Marines’ Hymn

Saturday, January 8, AD 2011

Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world.? But the Marines don’t have that problem.

Ronald Reagan

Something for the weekend.  The oldest of the official songs of a branch of the US military, the composer of the Marines’ Hymn is unknown, but is thought to have been a Marine serving in Mexico during the Mexican War, hence the “Halls of Montezuma”.  The music is taken from the Gendarmes Duet from the Opera Genevieve de Brabant, written by Jacques Offenback in 1859.

Prior to 1929 the first verse used to end:

” Admiration of the nation,
we’re the finest ever seen;
And we glory in the title
Of United States Marines”

which the then Commandant of the Marine Corps changed to the current lines.  On November 21, 1942,  Commandant Thomas Holcomb approved a change in the words of the first verse’s fourth line from “On the land as on the sea” to “In the air, on land, and sea”.

My favorite rendition of the hymn is in the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)  This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)  

 Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated. 

 Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers who survived the battle.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.  Go here to see the ending of the Sands of Iwo Jima and listen to the Marines’ Hymn.

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13 Responses to Marines’ Hymn

  • “Greet them ever with grateful hearts”, The Doughboys by Lawrence Stallings, chapter heading.

  • Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world.? But the Marines don’t have that problem.

    I am reading the use of “difference” in this statement as expressing something positive. And I accept this statement as probably true in a very general sense. As the son of a Marine, I have long admired the discipline and structure that the Marine Corps introduces into the life of its soldiers, and, believe me, that rigor trickles down to how a Marine raises children!

    But, as my father, who served during Vietnam, often tells me, many actual Marines harbor deep, deep regret and guilt over what their service entailed. The difference these Marines think they made is one that they wish they hadn’t made. So while I think that military training, which the saints and doctors often pointed to as an analogy for the rigorous regiment of the spiritual life, is something admirable, I equally think that we must be cautious about unqualified claims about the difference that the soldiers of the U.S. make, since, in the actual, historical world, that difference is not always one they and/or the citizens of the U.S. are and should be proud of. The reality of being a soldier is that you are not in command of yourself, which means that it is possible that you will be used in ignoble ways.

  • “But, as my father, who served during Vietnam, often tells me, many actual Marines harbor deep, deep regret and guilt over what their service entailed.”

    Considering that they were fighting to keep South Vietnam free from the Communist despots who now oppress what was South Vietnam I find that odd, except for the usual feelings of regret that many men have for actions necessary in a war, no matter how just the cause, and our involvement in Vietnam was a completely just war. The Marines I know who fought in Vietnam have told me that their only regret is that politicians lost what was won on the battlefields of Vietnam. A good recent book on this topic is linked below:

  • A Marine, and any member of the service, of course always has the right to disobey any illegal order under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

  • Considering that they were fighting to keep South Vietnam free from the Communist despots who now oppress what was South Vietnam I find that odd, except for the usual feelings of regret that many men have for actions necessary in a war, no matter how just the cause, and our involvement in Vietnam was a completely just war.

    Again, this is a far to general and naive way of thinking about war. What makes “actions necessary in a war” necessary, and who determines this? Here’s what I mean:

    Suppose Vietnam was a just war for the U.S. to engage in (I doubt any sound argument can be made that it was just, but let’s just suppose it was true for the sake of argument). It would not follow from this hypothesis that every specific action within that just war would be just. Hence, the Church has always distinguished between jus ad bellum and jus in bello. A nation could both have a just cause to go to war (ius ad bellum) and go to war for the right reason (recta ratio), while it’s soldiers nonetheless perform specific unjust actions in that war. The unjust actions would not make the war itself unjust, but the actions would nevertheless be immoral. These are very basic concepts in war ethics.

    When my father and I talk about the Marines and Vietnam, he often talks about unnecessary and horrendous actions that many Marines committed against both South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese. By our hypothesis, these actions would violate jus in bello), but not violate jus in bellum. It seems entirely possible to me that the Marines you know had different operations than my father and the Marines he knows had. So why would it be “odd” that my father personally knows many Marines with whom he served who regret their actions in Vietnam?

  • “It would not follow from this hypothesis that every specific action within that just war would be just.”

    Of course not, just as not every American action in defeating the Nazis in World War ii was just. That is why we have courtmartials to punish troops who engage in crimes during wars. By the way, if your father knows of any Marines who engaged in crimes during the Vietnam War he can contact the Pentagon, and, depending upon the offense, prosecution can be undertaken.

    As to the justness of the Vietnam War, I consider it to be self-evident. Ho Chi Minh and his Vietnamese Communists seized power in the North and kept power through the usual terror apparatus that all Communist regimes relied upon to maintain power. They sought to unify all of Vietnam under their rule. Several million North Vietnamese, many of them Catholic, fled to the South.

    Ho and his regime sponsored the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communist) movement in the South to bring this about, supplying weapons and manpower. The US aided the non-Communist forces in the South to resist. Finding that the Viet Cong were being defeated, the North Vietnamese sent regular North Vietnamese (PAVN-Peoples Army of Vietnam) units south to support the NLF (National Liberation Front) units of the Cong. On the battlefield, units of the US and ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) were largely successful at defeating both the NLF and the PAVN. America tired of the war before final victory could be obtained and Congress cut off support for South Vietnam in 1974, with the PAVN conquering South Vietnam in 1975 in a lightning conventional offensive. Since that time Vietnam has amassed an appalling human rights record with millions of Vietnamese fleeing the country, and with the Church in Vietnam undergoing periodic bouts of persecution. American attempts to prevent this outcome were not only just but noble.

  • A good website to keep tabs on the human rights abuses of the Vietnamese government is linked below:

  • As to the justness of the Vietnam War, I consider it to be self-evident.

    I think if it were “self-evident,” there be much wider agreement. And the detail of your argument suggests that it is not self-evidently just (I am thinking of the two senses of “self-evident” that Aquinas outlines in the Summa, neither of which seem to apply to your claim). But you and I can have that discussion another time, and I am especially interested in having it.

    All I intended to point out in my first comment was that a general claim such as “No Marine will wonder whether he/she made a (positive) difference to the world” should be qualified in a manner that reflects the actual service of real (as opposed to idealized) soldiers. As my father recounts, there are plenty of counterexamples to that unqualified claim. Coming from a military family, which represented three branches of the military, I do not think what I expressed in any way denigrates the military or soldiers themselves.

  • I wait with eager anticipation MJ your support for your belief that the Vietnam War was manifestly unjust. Any time you wish to address the subject I will be happy to take up the gauntlet, but I agree that I do not want this thread to become a rehash of stale debates from the Sixties over Vietnam.

    As to the Reagan quote, I think it is accurate. I believe the Marines have been a force for good in this world. This of course does not excuse any crimes that individual Marines may have engaged in, nor would any reasonable person think that it does, just as any reasonable person would not think that any praise for priests as a group would mean to include pedophile priests and the criminal bishops who protected them.

  • I think, then, we are in agreement on a number of general claims relating to your post.

  • Believe in our Country!!!

  • MJ: You and your father are in the minority.

    I am a Vietnam Era USAF veteran. I am in close contact with many combat air crewmen whom I have known for over 40 years. Our unit (I couldn’t fly) staged B52 raids that helped stop the Easter 1972 NVA invasion and the Christmas Bomb Campaign that brought the Paris Peace Accords BUT in 1975 the vietcongress refused to honor that treaty and denied supplies to the ARNV allowing the glorious liberators to take everyhthing and methodically murder 500,000 Vietnamese.

    Surveys of VN vets show 91% believe their service was positive, and 74% said they would do it again. I am not saying any of it was pleasant.

    One difference between WWII and Korea Marines and Vietnam marines was they needed to draft marines. By the end of the war, the Army was demoralized – sad. I saw it in West Germany.

    The USAF somehow stayed the course.

    Apply one huge grain of salt to anything any retired-hippy/pothead/LSD/SDS/VC symathizer prof ever told you. To wit: the comintern agents that ran the pro-VC, er, peace campaign in the US always called CONTAINMENT (US Foreign Plocy in effect since 1946) “imperialism.”

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Dating Advice From Uncle Joe Biden

Friday, January 7, AD 2011

Joe Biden gives dating advice to the daughters of new members of the Senate.  This video is a prime example of why Biden has always been a figure of fun to me rather than a figure that gets me angry.  Joe Biden is none too bright, as he has demonstrated by his endless gaffes, and a few instances of plagiarism, and I regard his policy positions, notably his pro-abortion position, as appalling.  However, the man does have a certain daffy charm, rather like a sweet old uncle who, at every family reunion, confuses the names of most of his nieces and nephews, specializes in non-sequiturs, and invariably will end up passed out on the pile of coats in the spare bedroom.  Of course, the dazed and confused sweet old Uncle isn’t a heartbeat away from the presidency, Heaven help us all, as Joe is.

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6 Responses to Dating Advice From Uncle Joe Biden

The Constitution Then and Now

Thursday, January 6, AD 2011

I have just finished a rather thorough book on the history of the ratification debates written by Pauline Maeir, titled Ratification: the People Debate the Constitution.  The recurring theme throughout the debates from the Constitution’s opponents is concern that the Framers had created a centralized state that would, especially through its vast taxing powers, become corrupt and tyrannical.  I have been over this to some extent in a previous post, and I once again highlight the words of the Anti-Federalist writer Brutus because it is one of the best expressions of anti-constitutional angst:

Exercised without limitation, it will introduce itself into every corner of the city and country. It [the national government] will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take the cognizance of the professional man in his office or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop and in his work, and will haunt him in his family and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house and in the field, observe the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States.

Fast forward 223 years later (or more than 100 years if you’re Ezra Klein), where we witness the Constitution being read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives.  Republicans have promised that in every proposed piece of legislation they will cite the constitutional authority for each provision – and contra what the New York Times may think, Congress, and not just the Judiciary,  has the authority and ability to interpret the Constitution for itself as a body (as does the President).  The reason for all this as that conservatives feel that a more filial observance of the powers – and limits to said powers – of the Constitution will reign in the federal government.  In other words, we need to more faithfully interpret the Constitution if we want the federal government to become less centralized and less tyrannical.

So were the Ant-Federalists right?  Reading Maier’s book, as well as any selection of the Anti-Federalist papers, one is almost tempted to label the constitution’s original critics as prophets as indeed many of their worst dreams came true.  Perhaps the most prescient prediction is that the federal government would, in essence, swallow up the states as state and local governments have diminished in power and authority over the years.

It’s also worth remembering that the Constitution was intentionally designed to increase the power of the federal government.  I cringe a little when conservatives claim that the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of the federal government.  Well, in point of fact the Constitution was meant to improve upon the Articles of Confederation and make it easier for the federal government to act.  Under the Articles of Confederation legislation required unanimous consent among the states.  Further complicating matters, some states refused to furnish needed funds to keep the national government solvent.  So the purpose of the Constitution was in fact to enhance federal authority.

But the story doesn’t end there.  The delegated powers were few and well-defined.  One of the principal Anti-Federalist arguments was that the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights, to which the Federalists responded that the Constitution itself was a bill of rights.  The people need not fear that the federal government would engage in actions that were clearly outside of its delegated authority.  Eventually the first Congress would adopt a bill of rights, partially as a means to placate reluctant ratifiers.

And so now proponents of limited government turn to the Constitution in order to justify a more limited state.  Are we simply wrong?  Perhaps the Constitution’s grant of authority is as broad as the Anti-Federalists feared, and we are clinging to a mistaken notion of what the Constitution does and does not prohibit.  I’m sure several people reading this would tend to agree with that notion.  Anybody remotely familiar with my writing would not be surprised when I say that part of the crisis we face is due to a neglect of the original intent of the Constitution.  The problem lies principally with a judiciary that has mis-interpreted the Constitution so overwhelmingly that they have rendered large parts of it – especially the Tenth Amendment – practically null, while expanding and twisting other elements – notably the commerce clause and 14th Amendment – to fit their needs.  Personally I think the case of Wickard v. Filburn did more damage to the Constitution than any other decision other than Roe.  If you’re not familiar with the case, do read the opinion of the Court as handed down by Justice Jackson, and see how the Court – unanimously – decreed that eating food that you grew on your farm somehow affected interstate commerce.  Once such a tenuous connection was made between private activity and interstate commerce, the floodgates were opened, tempered only slightly by narrow Supreme Court decisions in the late 90s that did not fully reverse the reasoning behind Wickard.

At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.  I suspect that conservatives and leftists will have wildly varying opinions as to what that signifies.

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16 Responses to The Constitution Then and Now

  • I found your final paragraph quite poignant, and I, too, have wondered about that shift. As someone who is very sympathetic with versions of democratic liberalism, I am a strong advocate of limited government and, more specifically, wish to preserve the integrity of the Constitution. Yet I do not sympathize with many who are, as you say, today’s “most vocal supporters” of the Constitution. I think some of the disagreement runs much deeper than a dispute over whether government should be limited. It runs down to what exactly should set the normative standards of limitation. Is it a single right? A set of rights? Is it the nature of free and rational humans beings? Is it human well-being and participation in objective goods? I look forward to continuing to discuss these questions with you and others here on the blog.

    As for the book, I asked for it (but, alas, did not receive it) for Christmas. You’ve got me motivated to just go out and purchase myself. What did you think of it?

  • I enjoyed the book, though it does get somewhat repetitive, and focuses a lot on two conventions: Virginia and New York. Then again, those were probably the most contentious debates and the ones with the best records of the debates. It provides an excellent background into the maneuverings behind ratification, and frankly the Federalists come off as looking a little shady in certain states in finagling ratification.

    It’s also more of a narrative history – it’s not like a Forrest McDonald book that penetrates very deeply into the theoretical arguments. Maier just lays out the debates that took place, state by state, and how everything unfolded. As someone who has read a lot about this particular era, I have to say even I made some new discoveries. I definitely recommend it.

  • One could be of the view that the Articles of Confederation were useless and believe that the federal government should have more power than it had thereunder, but still be a proponent of limited government.

    Jefferson was a proponent of limited government, but wasn’t among the Anti-Federalists who objected to the Constitution. In fact, he supported the Constitution, albeit rather reluctantly unless it contained a Bill of Rights. The “Father of the Consitution”, James Madison, was, like his mentor Jefferson, also a proponent of limited government. (They both, however, seemed to be rather fond of the war powers of the presidency, at least as long as they were the ones wielding them.)

    So, I’m not sure your final paragraph is quite accurate in proclaiming that “that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters”.

  • “At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.”

    Of course it was a fairly early transformation. The Democrats from the time of Jackson tended to strictly construe the Constitution, certainly as it applied to expenditures of funds for internal improvements funded by the Federal government. The Whigs and then the Republicans were for a looser interpretation to allow for internal improvements. Since that time proponents for the expansion of the power of the Federal government have tended to be in favor of a broad, or fanciful, interpretation of the constitution, while opponents of expanded powers of the Feds have taken a strict, or narrow, interpretation of the Constitution. Since the time of the New Deal Democrats have tended to stump for what they call a living Constitution and Republicans have found virtue in attempting to stay as close to the intent of the Founding Fathers as they can. It is easy to point to examples which indicate hypocrisy on both sides, but the broad categories are basically accurate descriptions for both sides most of the time.

    The basic problem of course is an out of control Federal judiciary that has taken a fairly straight forward document and de facto “amended” it thousands of times, and pays far more deference to what courts have written about the Constitution than the actual text of the Constitution. Our Federal Scribes and Pharisees in black robes have followed a well worn path of any group paid to interpret a document and who exercise power in the name of that document: over time their glosses and decisions obscure the meaning of that document and tend to benefit the power of those interpreting the document.

  • “Personally I think the case of Wickard v. Filburn did more damage to the Constitution than any other decision other than Roe. ”

    The first time I read it, I thought to myself, “this justifies a command economy.”

    “At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters. ”

    Why amusing? A lot changes in over 200 years, and we have to take relativity into account: compared to what the social democrats in the Democratic Party have established, and would establish further if unchecked, the government established by the US Constitution IS a limited government.

    I agree that it would be useful for small-government conservatives to take the anti-Federalist case to heart, precisely for the reason you mentioned and everyone ought to know: that we would not have our Bill of Rights without their intervention. In another thread I posted Jefferson’s repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts which I think articulates a vision of limited government that is neither “anti-federalist” in the strict sense of the word, nor does it praise expanding government as today’s social engineers would have it.

    I love the work Thomas Woods has done on the nullification issue, and I’m glad that he and others are restoring legitimacy to this much maligned and misunderstood principle. I think it is through a reassertion of 10th amendment rights that the power of the federal government can be curtailed.

  • Looking back, I probably should have re-worded that last paragraph. First of all, the phrase “limited government” is itself vague. Also, the Anti-Federalists weren’t uniform in their opinions, and some of them opposed the Constitution because it wasn’t active enough.

    Maybe a better way to put it is to observe how views of the Constitution have changed among those most apprehensive about the national government, with justification as you all have pointed out.

  • That is one of my favorite anti-Federalist quotes – from Brutus #6, I believe. You edited the last sentence of that paragraph, which states, “To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!”

    I tend to agree with you that Wickard v. Filburn was and is an extremely damaging precedent, allowing interference with local and personal decision making in a brutal way. We might also note that the legislation not overturned by WvF was itself an example of poor constitutional reasoning, so the executive and the legislative share much to blame there.

    I submit that the interpretation of the commerce clause which allowed government to regulate anything which MIGHT get into interstate commerce or MIGHT affect it in some way, combined with the expansive de facto interpretation of the general welfare clause taken by Congress and the courts has, in no small part, gotten us to where we are today.

  • An excellent and thought provoking piece. I hope to read book soon.
    It is possible that those who insisted on a Bill of Rights as an express limit on Federal power may have outwitted themselves. Consider that it is through the incorporation doctrine whereby provisions of the Bill of Rights, originally forseen as a limit on Federal action, are applied to actions of individual states and localities through the language of the 14th amendment, that so much Federal judicial overreaching has occured; from restrictions on school prayer, to lawsuits over nativity scenes, to Roe v Wade. There would have been no basis to intervene in these areas at least not by Federal judical fiat where there not a Bill of Rights to be misused and misapplied in the first place; whatever else to the good that one might want to say about it.

  • Chris,

    I am not sure it was entirely intended to be limits on Federal power alone. While that holds true in some cases (“Congress shall make no law”), in others it seems that the states are implicated.

    For instance, the Federal criminal law was fairly nonexistent for much of the early union, yet you have:

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury” and “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”


    “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

  • The Constitution is an old fiddle on which you can play any tune. Endlessly interpreted and re-interpreted, according to the shifting whims of the times and the prejudices of 9 flawed human beings, the document starts out with a magnificent preamble and then descends into much ambiguity and legal mumbo-jumbo that provides much grist but little clarity on the Law of the Land.

    Right off, the First and Second Amendments, i.e., outlining “freedoms” of speech and the right to bear arms, defy clear understanding and universal agreement and have caused arguments for 200+ years that continue to this day and will never be resolved as long as lawyers, justices and academics continue to parse every word for their “intended” meaning only to fall short time and again. Say, where’s the comma in that clause, is it parenthetical or dependent, and so on, ad nauseum.

    Cue the patriotic music while we hear the majestic words uttered with all due sanctity and solemnity in the “people’s House,” as tears well up in the eyes of the Speaker.

    Next up: reading of the Federalist Papers, to be followed by assorted selections of wise musings of the on-board Framers, leaving out Tom Paine or any other dissenter who might rock the Ship of State. Give me Jimmy Stewart, as Jefferson Smith, winging it on the floor instead. At least it’s entertaining.

    Conveniently ignore antislavery crusader William Lloyd Garrison’s assessment of the 1787 Constitution as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” Forget the sins of slavery, wrought by the Founders, and Dred Scott, and the 120-year delay in granting full rights to half the human race.

    Let’s jump the the Fourth Amendment — which allegedly guards against unreasonable searches and seizure, or an inherent right to privacy by all citizens, now flouted at every airport, road block or public gathering place where citizens must prove they are not criminals.

    Several volumes await on “due process,” mentioned in the 5th, 6th, 14th, all wide open to whatever and whoever and whenever.

    Yada, yada, yada.

    Thanks, Paul, for playing some new tunes I hadn’t heard before. Always love to hear variations on a theme to keep from nodding off.

  • Jonathan, perhaps a Constitutional law expert could weigh in but my underanding is clearly that until passage of the 14th amendment, the Bill of Rights was viewed as a limit on federal not state actions. It was only through application of the 14th amendment for example that things such as Miranda warnings became binding on state and local police, not just federal law enforcement, or the principal of excluding illegally obtained evidence became binding in state and not just federal prosecutions. Likewise Federal Court decisions on matters involving local school boards or state laws governing abortion would have been unthinkable to the founders, and only crept into our law through application of the incorporation doctrine applying the protections of the Bill or Rights to state and local action via construction of language of the 14th amendment. Perhaps some learrned Constitutional Law scholar can illuminate further.

  • Chris,

    While most incorporation doctrine cases appeared in the late 1890s, textually, there is an inconsistency between the “Congress shall make no law,” included in the first amendment, and others where there is no specific limitation.

    A good place to turn prior to that time seems to me to be Justice Story’s Commentaries –, which appeared in 1833, and predates the series of incorporation cases. Story notes that, in regards to freedom of the press, “It is plum, then, that the language of this amendment imports no more, than that every man shall have a right to speak, write, and print his opinions upon any subject whatsoever, without any prior restraint, so always, that he does not injure any other person in his fights, person, property, or reputation.”

    And again, in regards to the right to bear arms, Story notes: “The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

    It seems difficult to believe, and Story does not mention the Federal government in either place (as he does in other places) that such rights could expressed for every man, yet have every state restrict the press severely or deny the right to bear arms, and not have these amendments be meaningless.

    I do think, however, that the Bill of Rights has been over-incorporated, and that a more careful jurisprudence would have incorporated some of the amendments, and not others.

  • We might also note that the legislation not overturned by WvF was itself an example of poor constitutional reasoning, so the executive and the legislative share much to blame there.

    Good point. I meant to emphasize that each branch of government has been complicit in all of these developments. In fact in the 90s cases I alluded to – US v. Lopez and another which suddenly escapes me – the Courts acted as a corrective on an over-reaching Congress.

    As for the Bill of Rights, that’s something worth untangling. One thing to keep in mind is that our view of the first ten amendments as something like a unified whole is a somewhat modern interpretation, a point which Maier helpfully makes. It just so happens that there were exactly ten at first, a convenient number that calls to mind the Ten Commandments. But they were not necessarily intended to be taken as a collective whole.

    First of all, there were twelve amendments originally penned by Madison during the First Congress, ten of which (after modification) were soon ratified. Another amendment wasn’t ratified until the late 20th century – the 27th Amendment, which concerns itself with Congressional pay raises. There was another amendment – not ratified – that dealt with representation, and which will also be the subject of my next post.

    It’s also worth keeping in mind that the entire amendment process was a result of developments from the ratifying conventions, and again Maier goes into great detail on this. After the first few states ratified, many of the later ratifying states approved the Constitution but also offered various recommendations for ratification – and there was another side debate in the anti-constitutional camp as many constitutional opponents wanted to offer only conditional ratification, but that’s another subject. There were a whole slew of proposed amendments, some contradicting the others. Finally 12 were penned, ten (and then eleven, but only after 200 years) were adopted.

    So I don’t think we should look at the first ten amendments as a collective. When it comes to the first amendment, the language couldn’t be clearer that it applies only to the federal government. However, it is certainly reasonable to interpret the rest as applying generally to the states.

  • One possibilty is that the states already had such protections in their state constitutions, and therefore the federal one just addressed fed limits. But I don’t know if that was the case. If not, then it seems your argument would be pretty strong.

  • “At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.”

    It’s not a shift at all. The worst-case scenario in the minds of the opponents of the Constitution was nothing compared to the reality of 1937 (or maybe even 1863). Let’s chart it out this way:


    A is the limited-government position around ratification, B is the expansive government position of the same era. We breezed past C in maybe the Progressive Era. Now we’re at E, and the two parties represent D and F.

    The debate still stands as to whether there’s anything in the Constitution that prevents govenment from drifting stronger (rightward in my chart). But let’s not pretend that anyone is going to debate the Constitutionality of the food stamp program.

    Likewise, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Constitution was intended to expand federal power. Sure it was, but on a completely different order of magnitude than we have today.

  • “It’s also worth remembering that the Constitution was intentionally designed to increase the power of the federal government. I cringe a little when conservatives claim that the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of the federal government. Well, in point of fact the Constitution was meant to improve upon the Articles of Confederation and make it easier for the federal government to act.”

    I am no constitutional scholar for certain, but what I remember from some articles on the Constitution’s framing, the Founders desired to build a limited government that could function, and the Articles of Confederation were simply too anarchical to allow the central government to operate effectively. A limited government that cannot act is no government at all. Advocating today for the Constitution our Founders left us is not a contradiction of limited government, but instead an embracing of it. The U.S. finds itself in the position of having a government that falls on the spectrum between the deficiency of anarchy and excess of tyranny someplace between the middle and tyranny. When the Constitution was being written, the government was between the middle and anarchy. This difference in perspective is significant.

    If we want to address the question of “right-sizing” government, I think there are two aspects to consider: form and virtue. With regards to FORM, authentic governance would be placed at the half-way point on the spectrum of forms tyranny and anarchy. With regards to VIRUE, and what all Americans seem to have no cognizance of, is that the integrity of government is built upon the integrity of the people inhabiting office. Likewise, the integrity of the office holders is dependent upon those who put them in office. This would apply to hereditary Monarchy as much as our constitutional Republic with democratic representation. It is true that there are forms of “government” that are intrinsically evil. What is also true is that good government is based more on the virtue of the members of society than it is on governmental forms.

    The danger we face now, and the deep irony is that, living in a country based on a constitution framed to protect faith and morals in temporal living (no matter the inherent flaws of it due to because of its conception in Protestant Rationalism) is seeing men use that same Constitution to erect a nation of faithlessness and immorality enforced by the very branches of government tasked to prevent such a thing from coming to pass. The need for faith and morals is so fundamental because, although God is King and Lord over all the Earth, He has given the governance of ourselves over to us – no matter the form – and we can only execute it to His glory and our good if we adhere to His Faith and Morals. What a fearful responsibility to lay upon such frail and flawed creatures! True governance can only be a gift from God.