Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 4, AD 2011

John Trumbull’s Declaration of Indepenence, commissioned 1817.

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6 Responses to Happy Independence Day!

The Declaration of Independence

Monday, July 4, AD 2011

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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4 Responses to A Pledge

  • Nice but God didn’t get much mention.

  • Did you miss the ending Joe?

    The addition of under God to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

    “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln specifically in mind:

    http://acheritagegroup.org/blog/?p=12

  • I just put the flag out with my two sons and we said the Pledge of Allegiance. The musical 1776 is playing on the TV. Cathy has some tasty ribs for our lunch and then our family reading of the Declaration. The Fourth is off to a traditional start at House McClarey!

  • I admit, Don, I quit watching after about 3 minutes because I figured he was through with his definitions.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Without Morals A Republic Cannot Subsist Any Length of Time

Sunday, July 3, AD 2011

 

 

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

                                           George Washington, Farewell Address

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as he signed his name when he added his signature to the Declaration of Independence, was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  When he died at the age of 95, he was the last of the Signers to depart this vale of tears.

The scion of perhaps the richest family in the colonies, Charles Carroll was initially uninterested in politics and, in any case, was debarred by his religion from participating in politics in his native Maryland by his religion.  However, in his thirties he became a passionate advocate of American independence from Great Britain and quickly became one of the chief leaders of the Patriot cause in his home colony.  It was only natural as a result that he was sent to Congress, in spite of his religion, where he was one of the chief spokesmen for independence and happily placed his signature on the Declaration even though by doing so he risked not only his fortune but his life if the British had prevailed.  By the end of 1776 the revolutionary government of Maryland had issued an act of religious freedom, and Carroll and his fellow Catholics in Maryland enjoyed the same civil rights as Protestants.

In 1778 he returned to Maryland and helped draft the state constitution and in setting up the new state government, serving in the State Senate until 1800, and briefly in the United States Senate.

A slaveholder, throughout his career Carroll spoke and wrote of slavery as an evil that must come to an end as soon as possible.  He attempted, but failed, to have Maryland implement a plan of gradual emancipation.  At the age of 91 he took on the task of being president of the Auxiliary State Colonization Society of Maryland, part of  a national movement to have free blacks voluntarily colonize what would become Liberia in Africa.

Something of a Renaissance man, he had a strong interest in science and in his nineties helped set up the B&O Railroad, lending his prestige to this new technology in his native Maryland.

Throughout his life his two main passions were the American Revolution and his Faith.   Like most of the Founding Fathers he regarded the idea of political liberty divorced from sound morality, derived from religion, as an absurdity.  He set forth his ideas on this subject in a letter to Secretary of War James McHenry in 1800 in which he lamented the then current American political scene:

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amongst us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only source of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree from the turbulance of passions may be virtuous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most wanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

Carroll didn’t think much of John Adams as President, but Adams had precisely the same views on this subject as he stated in an address on October 11, 1798 to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the militia of Massachusetts:  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Most of the Founding Fathers left similar sentiments in their writings.  Something to ponder as we celebrate the Fourth tomorrow.  Here is the full text of the letter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton to James McHenry: 

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14 Responses to Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Without Morals A Republic Cannot Subsist Any Length of Time

  • Chesterton said morality consists in drawing the line somewhere. The problem in America is that the line keeps moving. And, Don, your old pal Thoreau said, “Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

    Does one need to have religion to be moral? An old question that defies an answer. As the resident troll, let me aver that as an agnostic or an atheist can still know the difference between right and wrong.

    Enjoy the holiday!

  • The basis of all morality Joe is religion. Without that basis one merely has opinion which does sway with the times. A great Fourth to you Joe!

  • ‘The basis of all morality Joe is religion.’

    Don, the defense will stipulate if the prosecution will stipulate that the definition of ‘religion’ is open to interpretation.

  • Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
    Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
    Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

  • Oh there have been many religions Joe. Today the two main schools of thought tend to be that they are equally true or equally false. I of course adhere to the belief that Catholicism is true with elements of that truth contained in some other religions.

    Western man, particularly in Europe, is living off the capital of Christianity when it comes to a common moral code. As that capital wanes over time, so does the common moral code. Winston Churchill, a believer in God but probably not a Christian, once said that something was as impossible as a law legalizing sodomy. We see in regard to homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and contraception how quickly morality shifts once the religious basis of a moral code fades away. That is also why Europeans, most of them, have such a difficult time standing up to challenges from Islamic immigrants to what were once thought to be bedrock Western ideas such as tolerance, freedom of speech, etc. Quite a few people are willing to die in defense of something that they view as eternally true; very few over a difference of opinion that might cause them to risk physical harm.

  • Albert Camus, as conflicted a man as there ever was, considered himself an atheist but wrote: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

    So it’s always good to leave oneself a little spirtual wiggle room. 😆

  • Pascal’s wager in modern dress. A shame that such a promising work in progress as Camus came to an untimely end in a car crash.

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  • One can safely say that a society that abandons its religion-based moral code often loses its civilized state. Compare the French, American, and Russian Revolutions. The US was the only country to emerge healthier. The other two descended into chaos. So, on the macro level, I think that Carroll is right.

    What about the micro level – can individuals be moral without religion? Well, that depends what you mean by “moral”. If you’re referring to objective standards, well, some people without religion deny that objective standards exist. Those people may act morally, but it’d be difficult to say that they are moral. As for those who deny religion but claim that morality consists of objective standards, how are we to judge their actions? By our shared standards, by those that they hold that we don’t, or by those that we hold but they don’t?

    Take a simple case – non-religious people commit a sin every Sunday that they don’t go to church. If we criticize them for it, we’re judging ther actions on our standards. If we accept their standards in assessing their morality, we lose the ability to judge a murderer’s actions by our code. And lest this seem like a trivial matter, recall that Aquinas found religion to be connected to justice, a natural virtue. Natural law and human experience tell us that it is morally good to recognize and worship the divine to the extent that you understand it. So on this basis one can argue that the irreligious are immoral.

    Just a first crack at the question.

  • Don – I’m hoping that this thread hasn’t dried up. I read this article this morning, and I haven’t been able to shake this particular sentence all day:

    If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France.

    Do you know what he means? I can imagine he’s thinking about the overthrow of property rights in France, but he seems to be implying that he sees the parties of his day pushing in the same direction. The idea that a Founder was worried about pillaging of the wealthy intrigues me, given what we’ve seen in the US since the Great Society. Any insight you can provide would be most welcome.

  • Pinky, Federalists like Carroll were concerned that the followers of Mr. Jefferson would replicate in America the French Revolution. Their concerns were overblown on that score to say the least, although the vitriol of some Jefferson’s fiercer acolytes in the press gave adequate reasons for the fear of the Federalists.

    When demagogues decide to engage in class warfare rantings there is always the possibility that liberty will be diminished by the use of governmental power to seize private wealth and bring it under government control. The Communist states of the last century were the prime examples of what disasters resulted from these policies. I do not fear such an outcome in this nation. What I do fear, and what I think is coming to pass, is that the use of deficit spending to pay government benefits by churning the money out of thin air, is having a devastating impact on the ability of our economy to be productive. This simply cannot go on much longer, and whenever the benefits cease or are greatly devalued, I would not bet against significant civil unrest.

  • What I do fear, and what I think is coming to pass, is that the use of deficit spending to pay government benefits by churning the money out of thin air,

    Although there has been some currency erosion, the resources have not been ‘churned out of the air’ but borrowed from other components of the public and (since 1982 or therabouts) from the sovereign wealth funds and such in the Far East (where income routinely exceeds consumption).

    Congress and the President have been for months playing chicken games which may lead to either a sovereign default or to a government shut down far more consequential than we have seen to date. All of this is in the service of public posturing, gamesmanship, and certain idees fixes. Morals figures into this in the deficit of civic virtue amongst our political class, sometimes manifest quite brazenly and sometimes intermediated through a tendency to see reality as optional.

  • “churned out of the air’ but borrowed from other components of the public and (since 1982 or therabouts) from the sovereign wealth funds and such in the Far East (where income routinely exceeds consumption).”

    And which we have little expectation of paying Art in the absence of a severe bout of inflation lasting years, or currency devaluation. This is all heading towards debt repudiation although I am certain that a prettier term will be used to conceal the reality.

  • The ratio of public debt to domestic product has been as high as 119% in living memory. Were the debt to rise to 90% of domestic product (as it is expected to ‘ere too many years), service charges given common and garden interest rates on Treasury securities might be 4% of domestic product. (IIRC, service charges during the Reagan Administration were as high as 3.2% of domestic product). Devoting around 1% of domestic product to debt retirement would allow the serviced debt of 90% of domestic product domestic product to be liquidated within four decades. (Given normal growth rates of nominal domestic product). We can service and retire this debt, but it would require concerted action to balance our books over the next four or five years and a general policy of running small surpluses over the course of the business cycle for decades thereafter. ‘Tis possible, but ’tis not what our (federal) politicians are the least inclined to do (and Obama, Reid, and Boehner are alike in this regard).

Supreme Court Term in Brief Review

Saturday, July 2, AD 2011

This wasn’t the most fascinating of terms. Much of the speculation around the Court centers around cases it hasn’t received yet: namely, Obamacare and gay marriage. The most controversial case, I think, was decided much earlier in the term (Synder v. Phelps, 8-1 that the First Amendment protects the Westboro Baptist Church from being sued in tort for infliction of emotional distress when their speech involves matters of the public interest). But there are a few worthy of note. But there are a few cases of note, even though they may not be the headline grabbers.

(I’ll also apologize to all legal scholars for this not being close to Bluebook format. I tried to water it down for a general audience and so I may be guilty of gross oversimplification)

ATT v. Concepcion-the Court by a 5-4 margin enforced the agreement to arbitrate found in the AT&T customer contract and therefore a class action had to be dismissed. This decision could significantly curtail class actions, as customer agreements can now include arbitration agreements in order to protect companies. However, the ATT agreement was one that was very favorable in the sense that ATT would pay costs and some attorneys fees in many situations. Thus, one can speculate about whether an agreement which provides much less incentive for lawyers to prosecute in arbitration would also be upheld (Scalia’s opinion suggests it would).

Wal-Mart v. Dukes: another class suit was brought down, this time because its theory was based on a “culture of discrimination” against women. The class alleged that Wal-Mart discriminated against women, but the Court found that without a policy and without more evidence that the decentralized business culture demanded discrimination that the claims were too individualized to make up a class.

Expect both Wal-Mart & ATT to have a slight impact on politics. These cases together could curtail class actions, which are the bread and butter of many plaintiffs attorneys. As plaintiffs attorneys make up a significant funding wing for the Democrats, I would expect Obama to have to formulate some kind of policy response in order to please them, though I doubt he has the political will to fight the GOP on it. More likely he will use Wal-mart (which grabbed more headlines) and Citizens United to paint a picture of the Supreme Court as conservative judicial activists (as the NYT has done already) and thus appease his base.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett-the Court continued to signal a strong distaste for campaign financing laws, striking down a scheme whereby public funds are given to match private funds given to candidates. Although more money is theoretically more speech, the Court held the opinion that this law in essence punished people who exercised their first amendment right to engage in political speech through political donations. It becomes harder and harder to imagine a scheme which the current Court would uphold.

Finally, Brown v. Enterntainment Merchants Ass’n saw the Court strike down a California law which restricted the sale and rental of violent video games to minor. This case saw an odd alignment with Scalia, Kennedy, Kagan, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor as the majority, with concurrences by Alito & Roberts with dissents from Breyer and Thomas. In brief, video games were found to be protected speech, and for purposes of the First Amendment no different from say violent literature (and Scalia analogizes to Dante’s Inferno). Alito & Roberts concur, but only because the statute was vague. Altio’s concurrence notes that video games may be fundamentally different b/c the act of simulating violent acts is different from say merely viewing or imagining them. Alito is quickly becoming a strong dissenter in many First Amendment cases, suggesting a unwillingness to embrace the vast First Amendment protection the other justices promote (See, e.g., US v. Stevens, Synder v. Phelps). Also of note is that Archbishop Chaput weighed in against the decision based on his personal experience in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy.

I know I said finally, but I should add one of the cases earlier in the term that has upset many: Connick v. Thompson. In this case, the court held the Orleans Parish District Attorney office was not liable for the offense of one of its prosecutors who withheld evidence in a murder trial (which had a death penalty conviction). It makes for a sensational headline, but in reality all the Court said was that one example of a Brady violation is not sufficient to make a case for systematic indifference to constitutional rights, which is the theory the plaintiff proceeded under. One imagines that a plaintiff could easily meet this burden if other examples were shown (which in Olreans parish would only present a difficulty in deciding which examples to use). Also of note is footnote 21 and the accompanying text of Ginsburg’s dissent, in which she bashes Tulane Law school for its poor curriculum, something well known to all those who attend LSU Law. 😉

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5 Responses to Supreme Court Term in Brief Review

  • In fairness to Tulane, Criminal Procedure (unlike Criminal Law a/k/a Criminal Justice) is an elective at most law schools, including LSU. I took Criminal Procedure at Duke back in the day, but do not recall it being required. Not sure I find Justice Ginsburg’s footnote very convincing on the merits though.

  • And what happened to the prosecutor in the case — censured, disbarred, what?
    If his actions weren’t due to DA Office policy then they were due to incompetence or malice on his part. Too bad no lawyer take Thompson’s case to sue him personally.

  • Oh yeah, I’m being mean to Tulane. I don’t know why it would have to be required; if you don’t do criminal law you don’t need the procedure.

    The prosecutor in the case confessed on his death bed that he withheld the evidence, so nothing happened to him (and presumably there was nothing for a lawyer to go after).

  • I took Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure from Wayne LaFave at the U of I, probably the two most useful classes I took at the University of Illinois for my future legal career, not only for the numerous criminal defense cases I have undertaken over the years, but because of the introduction to the manner in which appellate courts can radically reshape an area of the law fairly rapidly.

  • In fairness to Tulane, Criminal Procedure (unlike Criminal Law a/k/a Criminal Justice) is an elective at most law schools,

    What’s non-elective? Here in New York, the Criminal Procedure Law is the fattest and most extensively annotated component of the Consolidated Laws, bar the Civil Practice Law and Rules. Upstate, about 50% of the manpower of the Unified Court System was devoted to processing criminal cases. I think it was higher Downstate.

If Not Guilty, Still Not Innocent

Saturday, July 2, AD 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF head and potential Socialist candidate for the French presidency who has been under house arrest for the last month due to charges of forcibly raping a hotel maid while staying at a ritzy hotel in New York, is now out on bail and word is that the prosecution case is “crumbling”. While physical evidence gathered in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel suite and from the maid herself shows unambiguously that an encounter between him and the maid occurred (Strauss-Kahn’s defense no longer denies this, but insists it was not forced), law enforcement officials have found that she lied on her immigration application, she has a boyfriend in prison in Arizona for drug dealing, and her account of the order of events surrounding the incident has varied over time. None of this necessarily indicates that she wasn’t raped, but it does allow a crack defense team to raise a lot of reasonable doubt.

Some of his allies are taking this as an exoneration:

Martine Aubry, the Socialist Party leader, was quoted on the Web site of the magazine L’Express as feeling “immense joy” that the case seemed to be faltering. “Speaking as a friend of DSK, I hope the American justice system will establish all the truth and allow Dominique to get out of this nightmare,” she said, using the initials by which Mr. Strauss-Kahn is widely known here.

Here in the US, some on the opinion pages are tut tutting that this is a prime example of how we need to be careful not to rush to judgement when someone is publicly accused of a crime.

I’m sure someone will think this is an example of class envy and middle class morality, but I for one am not feeling all that sorry for what Strauss-Kahn has been put through.

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13 Responses to If Not Guilty, Still Not Innocent

  • It’s a he said/she said. No pity here for DSK but when an accuser loses credibility (see Tawana Brawley) then a reasonable doubt is raised. Or another possibility is an “out of court settlement” (see Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson). As Clarence Darrow famously said, “there is no justice in or our of court.”

  • DSK is a bounder and not a rapist apparently. I weep little for him. However, if it can be established that the maid fabricated the story of the rape, she should be prosecuted for it. Rape is one of the most serious criminal allegations imaginable, and people who do so falsely should not simply be left to go about their business.

  • “her account of the order of events surrounding the incident has varied over time.”

    Yes, and in such a way as to cast serious doubts about her credibility, particularly having 1. Lied about being raped previously, 2. lied about the events surrounding DSK: if I remember, immediately reported a rape versus going and cleaning DSK’s room AND another room before discussing the matter with her supervisor.

    “If a wealthy and powerful banker/politician is going to solicit low paid employees at their hotels for sexual favors, I don’t really have a problem with throwing him in Riker’s Island for a couple days and publicly humiliating him for a while if said hotel employee wants to claim that the encounter was less than voluntary.”

    Could you have made this a bit more emotionally evocative? Perhaps “monstrously powerful, vampiric, blood-lusting, sexually charged capitalist bankers soliciting low-paid, poor, innocent, Christian, socially-disabled slaves”?

    As evidenced, I have very little sympathy for lines of reasoning that imply, somehow, that because one individual is powerful and another “low paid”, there is some sort of pity to be had for the less well-off, etc. Sin extends both ways – lust for power and money one way, lust for flesh and domination another.

    While I do not weep for DSK, I agree with DMc that if the maid is found to have perjured herself on her immigration process and found to have lied to prosecutors to make her own case stronger and elicit sympathy, then she should face some sort of legal action.

  • From the police reports at the time of DSK’s arrest, it’s apparently 100% clear that DSK had sex with the maid and that she showed physical signs of rough handling, the question is simply whether he solicited her and she said yes, or whether he solicited her, she said no, and he forced her.

    That said:

    – I agree that if the maid made a false accusation, she should be prosecuted for it.

    – I do, on the other hand, think that there is a significant abuse of power (not to mention hypocrisy) in someone with DSK’s wealth and power soliciting a hotel maid. Aside from the obvious sexual sin involved, it seems to me that that necessarily involves an attempt to abuse social class and power in order to use someone else in a way that would not be the case if DSK were soliciting someone of similar class and wealth.

    Of course, the sad thing is: It may very well be that DSK raped her, but that it will now be impossible to bring him to justice because the victim is someone with criminal connections and a tendency to lie when in a bad situation. In which case, I guess the moral for rich and powerful Socialist politicians is: make sure you rape someone marginal, not someone in your own class.

  • Jonathan,

    I suppose she might have some sort of kink that renders fat old men irresistible, but I tend to doubt that. Either the man made use of his status to seduce her, promised her some sort of consideration, or forced her. The second is a class b misdemeanor in New York, the third is a class b felony, and the first is most unbecoming of a member of the elite and most unbecoming of an old man. The patriciate has certain responsibilities that do not adhere as strongly to the rest of the society and if the French chatterati cannot figure that out, to hell with them. The thing to do with members of the elite who abuse their positions is to strip them of those positions and send them packing to San Clemente, or at the very least to wherever B-list celebrities are to be found.

  • It’s even more complicated– apparently she lied about some portion or all of the gang rape she got refugee status under because she was trying to save her 8 year old daughter from mutilation. The same mutilation she’d suffered. A friend apparently told her that gang rape was sure grounds to get asylum. (Anyone know if protecting your daughter from FGM was sufficient reason in ’04?)

    What she told her boyfriend over the phone, in their native language, about the DSK rape matches what she told police.

    Didn’t DSK originally claim there had been no contact? If that story has changed, then I really don’t see this changing the over-all balance. I’d also like to point out that DSK’s allies were trying to make this all go away before.

  • “I do, on the other hand, think that there is a significant abuse of power (not to mention hypocrisy) in someone with DSK’s wealth and power soliciting a hotel maid.”

    And this is what I am not sure about – a significant abuse of what power? DSK was not her employer, her father, her guardian, her….etc. I am lower middle class (if not lower) myself in terms of wealth, power, etc. and cannot believe that there would be some sort of abuse of power if I were solicited by, say, Hillary Clinton.

    “Either the man made use of his status to seduce her, promised her some sort of consideration, or forced her.”

    Or perhaps what Phillip’s link reports about the maid is true, and she offered some sort of consideration. If that is the case, then they are both liable for some sort of criminal charge.

    As I indicated above, I am very weary of analyses of any situation involving materialism in any of its forms. DSK may be guilty (his original story may be no contact, and now he has changed it to no rape) and the maid may not be guilty (her original story claims rape, and still does, but now varies at points). At this point, I am not given to favor one over the other for any reason. There is evidence of a sexual relationship, but so what? Search the internet – I am sure there are more than a few believable stories of hotel maids and clientele engaging in sexual relationships, especially with prostitution potentially involved.

    Prudently, as a prosecutor, I would be reluctant to bring a case where the proof was so problematic and spend the taxpayers money (see the Duke case) to produce a losing verdict. With that said, the maid is now so famous that SOME lawyer will take on a civil case for her against DSK (see the OJ Simpson case) and have a good chance at winning or settling. A “not guilty” in a criminal case would almost certainly affect a civil case negatively. It may be that the prosecutors are avoiding a prosecution with that in mind as well.

  • “DSK is a bounder and not a rapist apparently.” Mr. McClarey, as always an excellent judge of character.

  • The woman is apparently a prostiute, in which DSK’s story of consensual sex stands. Her story was always weak in particular since the sex act she accused DSK of, if forced, could have cost him his member. And how many chambermaids from Africa, have lawyer friends named Shapiro?

  • Phillip & Ivan,

    I haven’t seen any of the reputable newspapers pick up that claim yet, but if so, it makes for a simple and satisfactory solution: Deport (or jail) the maid and throw the book at DSK for hiring a prostitute.

    Both should me made an example of in such a situation, because if that’s what turns out to have happened I imagine hotel maids will find themselves being harassed even more than they are now as pervs around the country congratulate themselves that “this one may be a hooker who thinks I’m a VIP.”

    Jonathan,

    Well, it strikes me that there is a significant power relationship between a high value customer and a low pay employee. Someone like DSK is worth several thousand dollars per night to a ritzy hotel, while there are probably a pretty constant supply of people eager to clean rooms at the going rate. During the time when I was working service and retail for less than $10/hour (though admittedly never in hotel cleaning, so one could assume some industry difference) people did tend to become pretty paranoid about what would happen if some customer made a complain about them — even if the complaint was totally false. This plus employees do typically absorb a lot of abuse from customers without responding (being shouted at, sworn at, treated unreasonably, etc.) I think it’s at least arguable that a low paid hotel worker would feel at a disadvantage in responding to the advances of a wealthy customer. (And indeed, there were a number of articles that came out at the time that the accusations first surfaced against DSK from long time hotel workers talking about how its not unusual for maids to be flashed or grabbed by hotel guests — and management not wanting to press any charges against the patrons for fear of losing business.

    More generally, though, I would argue that social class does exist in America — people who are clearly far, far wealthier do have a level of implicit advantage and power in comparison to those who don’t. As such, I think it’s particularly offensive when those in the upper classes use their positions to try to take advantage of those who are less fortunate. (Where I differ from leftists on this is that I don’t think that hiring someone for their market wage is “taking advantage” of them, I think it’s giving them a job. However, while not everyone’s work is worth the same, everyone’s person is worth the same, and thus someone using their position to treat someone as an object for gratification is something which I would place as more offensive than if the same act had occurred between “equals”.)

    I am lower middle class (if not lower) myself in terms of wealth, power, etc. and cannot believe that there would be some sort of abuse of power if I were solicited by, say, Hillary Clinton.

    All other things aside (education, background, etc.) the biggest difference here is that men and women are not equals when it comes to sex. I would tend to agree that Hillary Clinton soliciting a male waiter would not be the same abuse of power as Bill Clinton soliciting a maid — but that’s because with a man of a higher class soliciting a woman of a lower one, the class and sex power relationships are both cutting against the woman, with a upper class woman soliciting a lower class man, the two are cutting in different directions and in some sense cancel each other out.

    Though, it’s certainly possible for a woman to attempt to abuse sex as a means of power in relation to a man — e.g. Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.

  • Can we please keep in mind that a lot of this is still rumor– oh, sorry, “from anonymous sources.” So rumors that someone wanted spread enough that they don’t care if folks know they’re planted, and juicy enough that the media will scramble to publish everything for fear of being left behind.

    Rumor that just happens to favor a guy who has a lot of money and a lot of powerful friends? All right at once? That smells like either piling on or planted information.

    For how she’d know the lawyer– maybe someone looked at his web site. Or maybe he contacted her, going off of the link to his TV appearances.

  • Jonathan,

    Women take advantage of men in all kinds of ways and circumstances, but not in this particular way and these particular circumstances.

    I think men are seldom if ever attracted to status per se and find the idea of being kept repulsive. Also, Bess Meyerson aside, women past a certain age have little traction with men of any age. Women are very much attracted to status, most particularly when they themselves are of an age to be earning a living. Elizabeth Taylor’s interest in Larry Fortensky was most peculiar. If Hillary Clinton seduces someone, it will almost certain be a contemporary or someone notably older, and most certainly someone accomplished.

    Deport (or jail) the maid and throw the book at DSK for hiring a prostitute.

    The maximum sentence in New York would be 90 days in jail. I would guess that johns nearly always receive probation and/or a fine, if not some lesser penalty.

    Again, if you are on top, you are kind to and appreciative of the help. That’s class. It is simply part of the vocation of the patriciate.

Remember

Saturday, July 2, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  Scenes from the American Revolution set to the music of the film National Treaure.  This Fourth of July weekend we should recall our heritage, especially the eight long years of war it took to achieve American independence.  We should also remember these words of our second President John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail on April 26, 1777:

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2 Responses to Remember

  • “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom!”

    Amen!

    Divine Assistance, their blood, their courage, their faith . . . combined to bring forth our blessed nation. Lest we forget.

  • The Founding Fathers were always thinking about their descendants and how their actions today would impact their posterity tomorrow. One of the many comparisons between the Founders and our current leadership which would lead one to conclude that we have learned little in the past two centuries and forgotten much.

Top Pixar Movies (Updated)

Friday, July 1, AD 2011

As is usually the case on the internet,  my previous post on environmentalism sparked a side-discussion in the comments about Pixar movies.  I wasn’t able to enter the fray because I was a little busy helping deliver my second-born daughter into this world, but I couldn’t let the topic go without comment.  So what better way to get my blogging feet wet again after a little bit of a lay-off than a light post about the best Pixar movies.  So though this is neither a political or religious post, I ask for your indulgence.

It would be nice to say that my interest in Pixar movies was sparked because of my two-year old, but I saw all of these well before she was born.  We have most of the Pixar collection, but it’s not exactly a parental chore to have to sit through these over and over and over and over and over and over again.  Of course now she’s really into Shrek, which happens to be a Dreamworks production.  We also have a few movies from the Disney collection: The Princess Frog and Tangled being among her current favorites.  And her first love will always be Pooh, that silly old bear.  By and large, though, Pixar has been churning out the best of the 3D animated flicks.  In fact I’d put every movie on the Pixar list ahead of any movie on the Dreamworks list save Shrek (1 and 2) and Wallace and Gromit.

So with that in mind, here’s my rundown of the five best Pixar animated films.  I’d just mention that the only one I haven’t seen is the one that sparked the entire discussion: Cars (and now Cars 2).

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20 Responses to Top Pixar Movies (Updated)

  • Congrats on your newborn!

    I like all but Monsters Inc. (during which I fell asleep) and Toy Story 3.

    Ratatouille is my favorite.

  • Incredibles is at the head of my list. What does it say about the topsy turvy times in which we live that in the past decade the best depiction of a normal loving family is an animated flic about a family of superheroes?

  • Perhaps it is a testament to the high quality of Pixar’s product that people on both sides of the ideological aisle enjoy and find deeper meaning in the movies, but there seems to be a compelling case that there are “hidden” messages supporting the transhumanist or everything’s-a-person-except-the-unborn crowd. From Discover Magazine:

    The message hidden inside Pixar’s magnificent films is this: humanity does not have a monopoly on personhood. In whatever form non- or super-human intelligence takes, it will need brave souls on both sides to defend what is right. If we can live up to this burden, humanity and the world we live in will be better for it.

    An entire generation has been reared with the subconscious seeds of these ideas planted down deep. As history moves forward and technology with it, these issues will no longer be the imaginings of films and fiction, but of politics and policy. But Pixar has settled the personhood debate before it arrives. By watching our favorite films, we have been taught that being human is not the same as being a person. We have been shown that new persons and forms of personhood can come from anywhere. Through Pixar, we have opened ourselves to a better future.

  • Something I pointed out to my better half some time ago was that, although Pixar’s animation is stellar, what makes the movies popular is the story they tell. The animation could have been 2D and the movies still would have been successful because of the stories.

    My little boy loves Cars. I previously posted about how many things he has with Cars on it. I am partial to Cars because when I was a little boy, I loved playing with toy cars and watching Speed Racer.

    Toy Story 2 is the best one, followed by Cars, Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 3.

    Most of Dreamworks’ stuff isn’t as good, but their Penguins of Madagascar characters are the best of any of the new 3-D animation, by far.

  • Josh,

    There is clearly more than a subliminal message being pushed by Pixar.

  • Congratulations to you and your wife, Paul, on the new family member! Keep up the good work repopulating our society with good Catholic citizens!

    Great post, but I have to give you a big raspberry for completely forgetting the BEST Pixar movie ever made, especially for pro-life, pro-family Christians: UP! :mrgreen: Yes, it may have been distributed by Disney, but it is a Pixar film, through and through.

    I would agree on The Incredibles being the second best, as well, and for the same reasons I stated above, as did Paul in his original post.

  • Grats on #2!

    I still say The Incredibles was the best new movie I’ve seen in a very long time. The betrayal suspicions were beautifully done, and it’s a shame that such work doesn’t show up in “real” movies.* You might enjoy Cars– I half-watched it with Elf, he enjoyed it, I wasn’t hugely annoyed by it. (I really don’t enjoy most movies, or even TV shows. Not sure why, just feels like there’s no purpose to watching most of them.)

    *on a slightly related tangent, the Ricochet podcast mentioned after a lot of talk about the lack of pro-American movies that there IS a director who is pro-military, openly, and is hugely popular for it– his latest movie is “Transformers 3.” Reminded me that I fell in love with the Iron Man movie when they manged to get pitch perfect with the military kids at the beginning. Why do we have to go to fantastic fiction movies to get this kind of decent writing?!?!?

  • Hello,

    I enjoyed reading your piece on the monks of Tibhirine (Feb 27, 2011) as I was researching the film, OF GODS AND MEN, which comes out for digital download on Tuesday. Then I saw this discussion on Pixar movies, and I figured I found a film-loving crowd.
    I work for Film Fresh, and I wrote the short description for OF GODS AND MEAN that will be on our website on Tuesday (when the film will be released for home viewing), so I found some great background information on that entry. I was moved by the descriptions of the film and I look forward to seeing it on Tuesday since I missed it in the theaters. I thought I’d drop you a note to let you know we have it available. We’re an independent website that sells films for download – we’re so much smaller than Amazon and Blockbuster that we really make an effort to get great films like OF GODS AND MEN noticed by communities of people who care about the power of film with substance. Thanks!

    Katie
    [email protected]

  • I’ll leave Ratatouille alone for right now, but there’s no way Monster’s Inc is a better movie than Wall-E. Wall-E is a tremendous film in part because it escapes the vapid environmentalism Cars 2 falls into at times (though having seen it, I think it’s less pro-environment then the reviews suggested). Simply put, Wall-E is not about the environment but more about consumerism and how a desire to fit in with the culture and consume what we’re told is dehumanizing. While this has an impact on the environment, the potency of the movie is more in exploring how the humans lost their humanity. It’s very well done artistically.

    AND HOW IS “UP” NOT ON THIS LIST!!!! Talk about a beautiful movie. I can understand why you may not like Wall-e, but Up’s as good a movie as you can get. I’m curious why you don’t like it, or don’t like it as much

    If I had to do a Pixar list, it would be:
    1. Up
    2. Toy Story 2 & 3
    3. The Incredibles
    4. Wall-E
    5. Cars
    6. Finding Nemo

  • First of all, thanks all for you well wishes.

    As for Michael, well I like both movies you mentioned a lot. As I said, there’s not a stinker in the Pixar lot, and I would agree with your assessment of Wall-E. I debated putting Wall-E ahead of Finding Nemo, but flipped a coin (not literally) and went with the Nemo. As for Up, it might be a case where I simply didn’t watch it as much as the others and it hasn’t quite reached my favorites list.

  • Penguins Fan, I think you’re referring to Madagascar, which was a Dream works production.

  • Although I generally say Pixar consistently performs better than Dreamworks, there are a few cases where it’s pretty close between them; for instance, Prince of Egypt rivals the best Pixar films, and Road to El Dorado comes pretty close. Of course, these were classic painted cell animation productions.

  • I can respect that. I’m also going to say that Cars 2 is not a bad movie, but it is a bad Pixar movie, which is why it was skewered. Pixar was an exception in the mindless movie making that has dominated the summer (see Transformers) and to see it come down a lot for what was plainly an effort to makeup for lost merchandising with “Up” was disappointing.

  • I have trouble ranking them because they’re so different, but my favorite Pixar films roughly ranked would be:

    1. The Incredibles
    2. Ratatouille
    3. Up
    4. Wall-E

    I enjoy the Toy Story movies, but somehow the travails of old toys don’t do it for me as much as the others. (How a rat and a robot rate higher, I can’t provide a rational explanation, I’m just more into the priorities of the Wall-E and Remy characters than I am into any of the Toy Story ones.)

    Bugs Life and Cars I would definitely rate the lowest of the Pixar movies, with Monsters Inc. being a better movie than those two but generally pretty light weight.

  • The linked Toy Story scene:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy-1xI1nbao

    has always brought to my mind this Teddy Roosevelt quote:

    “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  • Josh: Are you being serious? Is Discovery being serious? Because if so, then A.A. Milne was there a LOT time ago with Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore; and Beatrix Potter was there before that — as was Frank Baum (a tin man — oh horror!) and Lewis Carrol. Not to mention Herman Melville and that giant whale.

    Wall-E is my absolute favorite. I didn’t think it was environmentalist at all. It seemed obvious to me that the giant mess the world was in was an exaggeration about how children need to learn to clean up after themselves and take care of their things, just as all the people were like fat little children, drinking milkshakes and riding around on toys and watching television. The end was beautifully moving, not just the message about love, but the message that — no matter how messed up the world was — people belonged on it and not flying around playing games forever, no matter how much fun they were having. Being back on the world was a far greater adventure than space, and life is always worth hard work and risk.

  • Gail-
    Heck, forget Pooh, the Catholic Church was there a long time ago, with the whole rational soul thing. (ignoring special cases like the Trinity)

    I seem to remember one of the big thinkers did a section on dog-headed men being people, as a sort of thought experiment…..

  • And naturally this weekend my father-in-law did some DVD shopping and we’re watching Cars. Yep, definitely the weakest of the bunch. The “oh for the days when it took ten times as long to get places, dang you interstates” scene is the pinnacle of absurdity.

    What galls about such scenes is that you know 95% of the people associated with the film couldn’t give two figs about small towns, but at least it gives them all an excuse for moral preening.

  • Paul- if you look at it as a version of the desire for the time when people had to live, work and interact in their “community,” it makes sense. I think there was a big talk on this here a while back? I know “What’s Wrong With The World” had one about a month back.
    (Similar grouping, though– for every person who just wishes that folks would have a sense of community, there seem to be a dozen who really, really like controlling how other people are allowed to live.)

Trolley Madness

Friday, July 1, AD 2011

At last, I have come across the Trolley Problem which truly gets at the difficulties of modern life.

On Twin Earth, a brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley. There are only two options that the brain can take: the right side of the fork in the track or the left side of the fork. There is no way in sight of derailing or stopping the trolley and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows trolleys. The brain is causally hooked up to the trolley such that the brain can determine the course which the trolley will take.

On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If the railman on the right lives, he will go on to kill five men for the sake of killing them, but in doing so will inadvertently save the lives of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a bridge that the orphans’ bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans that will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant who would make good utilitarian men do bad things. Another of the orphans would grow up to become G.E.M. Anscombe, while a third would invent the pop-top can.

If the brain in the vat chooses the left side of the track, the trolley will definitely hit and kill a railman on the left side of the track, ‘Leftie,’ and will hit and destroy ten beating hearts on the track that could (and would) have been transplanted into ten patients in the local hospital that will die without donor hearts. These are the only hearts available, and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows hearts. If the railman on the left side of the track lives, he too will kill five men, in fact the same five that the railman on the right would kill. However, ‘Leftie’ will kill the five as an unintended consequence of saving ten men: he will inadvertently kill the five men rushing the ten hearts to the local hospital for transplantation. A further result of ‘Leftie’s’ act would be that the busload of orphans will be spared. Among the five men killed by ‘Leftie’ are both the man responsible for putting the brain at the controls of the trolley, and the author of this example. If the ten hearts and ‘Leftie’ are killed by the trolley, the ten prospective heart-transplant patients will die and their kidneys will be used to save the lives of twenty kidney-transplant patients, one of whom will grow up to cure cancer, and one of whom will grow up to be Hitler. There are other kidneys and dialysis machines available; however, the brain does not know kidneys, and this is not a factor.

Assume that the brain’s choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve as an example to other brains-in-vats and so the effects of his decision will be amplified. Also assume that if the brain chooses the right side of the fork, an unjust war free of war crimes will ensue, while if the brain chooses the left fork, a just war fraught with war crimes will result. Furthermore, there is an intermittently active Cartesian demon deceiving the brain in such a manner that the brain is never sure if it is being deceived.

What should the brain do?

Excerpted from:
– Michael F. Patton Jr., “Tissues in the Profession: Can Bad Men Make Good Brains Do Bad Things?”, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, January 1988

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10 Responses to Trolley Madness

  • “Imagine you can only make one of two choices, and they’re both bad, and really complicated, and have some good come of them. What do you do?”

    “I call up Spiderman.”

  • (Can you tell I really hate these sort of philosophy questions?)

  • Indeed. I really loath the “thought experiment” approach to moralizing. I thought this did a pretty good job of showing up the absurdity of trolleyology and the like.

  • *grin* Sadly, I can see someone proposing this and being serious.

    Keep in mind, this is from someone who has a scheduled post coming up about what the X-men do wrong in their PR, and how unrealistic the response to them is; I could be a bit off-norm in what I consider serious.

  • We need the pop-top can.

  • “What should the brain do? ”

    Reprogram this Kobayashi Maru scenario.

  • The moral choice is to take the left fork.

    You guys are missing the simple logic of it all. In all the complexity of body counts, good and evil, and multigeneraltional chains of events, the author gives you the ultimate clue. The guy on the left track is named Leftie.

  • I’m just glad that the guy who designed the equipment to retrofit old soda kegs into homebrew kegs wasn’t involved. We need him.

  • Play golf. Then, whatever happens blame President Bush and make up jokes about Congresswoman Bachman’s confusion over where in Iowa John Wayne was born.

    This solution assumes the trolleybrain is named Barracks Obama.

  • An issue with this type of hypothical is that it promotes rationalization and that there is no right or moral answer. These are typically given to 18-22 year olds that do not have the knowledge to dismiss them as the junk moral problem they are by professors with an agenda.

July 2, 1776: The Vote

Friday, July 1, AD 2011

From the musical 1776, a heavily dramatized version of the vote to declare American independence on July 2, 1776.  The scene is effective but historically false.   James Wilson did not dither about his vote, but was a firm vote for independence, having ascertained that his Pennsylvania constituents were in favor of independence.  There was no conflict over slavery, Jefferson and Adams having already agreed to remove from the Declaration the attack on the King for promoting the slave trade.  Caesar Rodney did make a dramatic ride to Congress of 80 miles in order to break a deadlock in the Delaware delegation over independence, but he was not dying and would live until June 26, 1784, witnessing the triumph of America in the Revolutionary War.

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One Response to July 2, 1776: The Vote

  • The movie 1776 is among my favorites, but as you note it unfortunately does not do justice to James Wilson. He was a well respected legal scholar, a leading figure at our Constitutional Convention, and one of original justices of the US Supreme Court; and notably a supporter of American independence. Thanks for an interesting article.