Monthly Archives: December 2012

Let’s Ignore That Pesky Constitution

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Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown (surprise!), doesn’t think much of the Constitution as he explains in an op-ed in the New York Times:

Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?       

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.       

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Of course we should still obey those parts of the Constitution that Professor Seidman likes:

This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.       

Nor should we have a debate about, for instance, how long the president’s term should last or whether Congress should consist of two houses. Some matters are better left settled, even if not in exactly the way we favor. Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants. Even without constitutional fealty, the president would still be checked by Congress and by the states. There is even something to be said for an elite body like the Supreme Court with the power to impose its views of political morality on the country.       

What would change is not the existence of these institutions, but the basis on which they claim legitimacy. The president would have to justify military action against Iran solely on the merits, without shutting down the debate with a claim of unchallengeable constitutional power as commander in chief. Congress might well retain the power of the purse, but this power would have to be defended on contemporary policy grounds, not abstruse constitutional doctrine. The Supreme Court could stop pretending that its decisions protecting same-sex intimacy or limiting affirmative action were rooted in constitutional text. Continue reading

December 31, 1862: Battle of Stones River Begins

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“Non nobis Domine! non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam.”

General William S. Rosecrans at the end of his report on the battle of Stones River, attributing the Union victory to God.

An unjustly obscure battle of the Civil War began 150 years ago today:  Stones River.  Based on the number of combatants involved, it was the bloodiest battle fought in an extremely bloody War.  The two armies involved, the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, were struggling for control of middle Tennessee.  If the Confederate Army of Tennessee could be chased out of middle Tennessee, then Union control of Nashville was secure, and it could be used as a springboard for the conquest of southeastern Tennessee and the eventual invasion of Georgia.  If the Union Army of the Cumberland could be defeated, then Nashville might fall, and the Confederate heartland be secured from invasion.  The stakes were high at Stones River.  A critical factor for the Union was that morale in the North was plummeting.  The Army of the Potomac had suffered a shattering defeat a few weeks before at Fredericksburg, and Grant and his Army of the Tennessee seemed to be stymied by the Confederate fortress city of Vicksburg.  The War for the Union seemed to be going no place at immense cost in blood and treasure.  If the Army of the Cumberland led by General Rosecrans was defeated, voices raised in the North to “let the erring sisters go” might swell into a chorus that would lead eventually to a negotiated peace, especially after election losses for the Republicans in the Congressional elections already demonstrated deep dissatisfaction in the North as to the progress of the War.

General Rosecrans led the Army of the Cumberland out of Nashville the day after Christmas and marched southeast 40 miles to challenge the Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro.  The armies were comparable in size with the Army of the Cumberland having 41,000 men opposed to the 35,000 of the Army of the Tennessee.  Both Rosecrans and Bragg planned to attack the opposing army by attacking its right flank.  On December 31, Bragg struck first.

December 31, 1862 Stones River

Confederate General William J. Hardee led his corps in a slashing attack at 8:00 AM against General Alexander M. McCook’s corps, and by 10:00 AM had chased the Union troops back three miles before they rallied.  Rosecrans cancelled the attack against the Confederate right by General Thomas L. Crittenden’s corps, and rushed reinforcements to his embattled right.  Confederate General Leonidas Polk, an Episcopalian bishop in civilian life, launched simultaneous attacks against the left of McCook’s corp.  Here General Phil Sheridan’s division put up a stout resistance, but was eventually driven back.

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By late morning the Union army had its back to Stones River and its line perpendicular on its right to its original position.  Rosecrans, who seemed to be everywhere on the battlefield that day, succeeded in rallying his troops.  The left of the Union line held against repeated assaults, the fiercest fighting centering on a four-acre wooded tract, known until the battle as the Round Forest, held by Colonel William B. Hazen’s brigade.  The ferocity of the fighting can be judged by the fact that after the battle the tract of land would ever be known as Hell’s Half Acre.  The Union forces held and by 4:30 PM. winter darkness brought an end to that day’s fighting.

Rosecrans held a council of war that night to determine if the army should stand or retreat.  General George H. Thomas who had led his corps in the center with his customary skill and determination made the laconic comment that “There is no better place to die” and Rosecrans readily agreed.  The Army of the Cumberland would stand and fight. Continue reading

William S. Rosecrans: Crusader for the Union

General William S. Rosecrans

 

Outside of his family, General William S. Rosecrans had three great passions in his life:  His religion, Roman Catholicism, to which he had converted as a cadet at West Point, the Army and the Union.  In the Civil War all three passions coincided.  Rising to the rank of Major General and achieving command of the Army of the Cumberland, until he was removed in the aftermath of the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Rosecrans conducted himself in the field as if he were a Crusader knight of old.

Raised a Methodist, Rosecrans’ conversion was a life long turning point for him.  He wrote to his family with such zeal for his new-found faith that his brother Sylvester began to take instruction in the Faith.  Sylvester would convert, become a priest, and eventually be the first bishop of Columbus, Ohio.

His most precious possession was his Rosary and he said the Rosary at least once each day. In battle the Rosary would usually be in his hand as he gave commands.  He had a personal chaplain, Father Patrick Treacy, who said Mass for him each morning and would busy himself the rest of the day saying masses for the troops and helping with the wounded.  In battle he exposed himself to enemy fire ceaselessly as he rode behind the General.   Rosecrans, after military matters were taken care of, delighted in debating theology with his staff officers late into the evening. Continue reading

Predictions 2013

cracked crystal ball

 

Well, it is time for me to boldly go where angels fear to tread and make my predictions for 2013.

1.  No new gun control legislation-Whenever either party wins a presidential victory for a second term, they begin feeling their oats and tend to overestimate both their popularity and their power.  The Democrats are in that condition now, and I predict that the beginning of the path to what I anticipate will be a bad election year for Democrats in 2014 will be a bitter, and failed, attempt to pass new gun control legislation.

2.  Recession-The Economy will slip back into a recession with the unemployment rate rising above nine percent by the end of the year.

3.  Kerry seat-John Kerry will be confirmed as Secretary of State, God help us, and Scott Brown, the pinch hitter of the Senate, will win the special election for his seat in icy blue Massachusetts.

4.  Virginia and New Jersey-The Republicans will retain the governorships in both New Jersey and Virginia.

5.  Contraceptive Mandate-The contraceptive mandate will be ruled to be unconstituional on First Amendment religious freedom grounds.  Go here to the Becket Fund, which has been waging the court fights across the country in regard to the mandate, for the decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals which begins  setting the ground for ultimate Supreme Court review in 2014. Continue reading

Inevitable and Despicable

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On this blog I sometimes have written harsh words about my profession.  Sometimes I suspect I have been too harsh.  Then a story like this appears and I realize yet again that I have not been harsh enough:

 

A $100 million claim on behalf of a 6-year-old survivor is the first legal action to come out of the Connecticut school shooting that left 26 children and adults dead two weeks ago.

              The unidentified client, referred to as Jill Doe, heard “cursing, screaming, and shooting” over the school intercom when the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, opened fire, according to the claim filed by New Haven-based attorney Irv Pinsky.

              “As a consequence, the … child has sustained emotional and psychological trauma and injury, the nature and extent of which are yet to be determined,” the claim said.

              Pinsky said he filed a claim on Thursday with state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., whose office must give permission before a lawsuit can be filed against the state.

              “We all know its going to happen again,” Pinsky said on Friday. “Society has to take action.”

              Twenty children and six adults were shot dead on December 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The children were all 6 and 7 years old.

              Pinsky’s claim said that the state Board of Education, Department of Education and Education Commissioner had failed to take appropriate steps to protect children from “foreseeable harm.” Continue reading

Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memory

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Something for the weekend.  The song Thanks for the Memory made immortal by comedian Bob Hope.  One of the great stand up comedians of all time, Hope was also a true patriot:

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For fifty years Bob Hope entertained US troops, from 1941-1991, from World War 2 to the Gulf War.  He brought old jokes, delivered in an unforgettable style, beautiful starlets, and a touch of home to troops far away from home.   As long as there is a US military Bob Hope will never be forgotten.  I have had many veterans tear up when recalling attending a Bob Hope show in a war zone, a bright moment in a fairly grim period of their lives. Continue reading

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

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Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas: Continue reading

What to pray for on the 2013 World Day of Prayer for Peace: Some facts and some perspective…

 

With the “World Day of Prayer for Peace” just around the corner, what should people be praying for?  Perhaps a few facts along with a bit of perspective will provide a better focus for answering that question.

First: some facts.

Since its inception, the State of Israel has been a social democracy and, for decades, the American Jewish community has supported both the Jewish state as well as the Democrat Party.  Noteworthy is the fact that 78% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and, as reported by JTA, 69-70% did the same in 2012.

Yes, that’s down approximately 10%.  But, still, a pretty substantial majority.

Why do so many American Jews support President Obama whose support for the State of Israel during his first term was tepid, at best?  Perhaps the majority of the American Jewish community is prepared to support Israel as long as none of them has to pay the ultimate price.

"Now you listen here, Bibi."

“Now you listen to me, Bibi.”

Then, too, many in the U.S. Catholic community have for decades supported the Jewish state as well as the Democrat Party.  Like the American Jewish community, 51% of Catholics favored the President in 2012 while 54% favored then-candidate Obama in 2008.  Not as substantial a majority, but substantial enough.

Yet, among those on the American catholic left, support for the Jewish state has been declining during the past two decades, shifting to the Palestinians.  Citing so-called “human rights abuses” by successive Israeli governments, many on the American catholic left have been promoting Yasser Arafat as the poster boy for freedom fighters across the globe.

Interestingly, this pro-Palestinian bent in the American catholic left increased during the closing decades of the Cold War when the United States supported Israel and the then-Soviet Union supported the anti-Israel, Arabic world.  It culminated in  the “Arab Spring,” as many of the American catholic left supported this so-called “pro-democracy movement.”  In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was driven from office and made the poster boy of all brutal dictators.  Many on the American catholic left rejoiced in his departure from the scene.

Second: some perspective.

With a democratically elected, constitutional, radical Muslim regime soon to be ruling Egypt, those on the American catholic left who supported the Arab Spring and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak will find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.  This new regime is likely to end up being even more unjust and violent than Mubarak’s.

How so?  Just check out what’s been transpiring in places where radical Muslims are in control and backed by Sharia law, places like Iran and Nigeria.  Pope Benedict XVI cited the latter in his 2012 “Urbi et Orbi,” calling for “concord in Nigeria” where “savage acts of terrorism [by the militant Muslim Jihadist group Boko Haram] continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.”

A Catholic Church destroyed by the militant Muslim Jihadist group Boko Haram

A Catholic Church that was bombed by the radical Muslim group Boko Haram

Will these facts matter to the American catholic left?

Probably not.

After all, the American catholic left was pretty much silent when it came to President Obama’s nifty little war (aka, “Overseas Contingency Operation”) in Libya.  Then, too, they have been pretty much silent about the injustices being perpetrated by radical Muslims in Africa.

Third: prayer.

Sadly for those who have been suffering these horrific injustices for the better part of the past decade, what the American catholic left prioritized during those year are the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, for which an American catholic left social justice group—the Center of Concern—published a special prayer:

Prayer for the Millennium Goals:

In a world where so many go hungry,
Let us make the fruits of Creation
available for all.
In a world where one billion of our brothers and sisters
do not have safe drinking water,
Let us help the waters run clear.
In a world where so many children
die so young,
And so many mothers die in childbirth,
And so many families
are ravaged by disease,
Let us bring health and healing.
In a world where women carry
such heavy burdens,
Let us recognize and restore
the rights of all.  (by Jane Deren)

Noble humanistic concerns, but far short of the mark during a period when Catholics  are being brutally terrorized and murdered by radical Muslims under the disguise of democratic reforms.

In seeking to right the injustices caused by man’s inhumanity against man, what Catholics and all people of good will should be concerned with is true and abiding peace which is pure grace, God’s gift to mankind.  This grace should be the focus of prayer this 2013 World Day of Prayer for Peace.

 

 

To access the American Jewish community’s voting record, click on the following link:
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/11/07/3111381/fighting-over-every-percentile-arguing-about-the-jewish-vote-and-exit-polls

To access the Catholic vote in 2012 and 2008, click on the following links:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/08/us-usa-campaign-religion-idUSBRE8A71M420121108

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/07/catholic-voters-heavily-favored-obama-analysis-sho/?page=all

To read the text of Pope Benedict’s “Urbi et Orbi,” click on the following link:
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/popes-2012-urbi-et-orbi-address-open-the-door-of-faith/

To learn more about the Center of Concern, click on the following link:
https://www.coc.org/about-us 

To learn more about Catholic social justice, check out “Education for Justice” at the Center of  Concern:
https://educationforjustice.org/taxonomy/term/336

 

 

Predictions of Times Past

 

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Well, each year I make predictions for the coming year and the following year I eat some crow.  Here beginneth the crow eating:

 

1.  The GOP will retain the House in the 2012 elections.  Both parties in the House assume that is going to happen, as nine Democrats, most of them  veteran members, are retiring, to zip for the GOP.

The GOP did retain the House.  Would that all my predictions had been as accurate.

2.  The GOP will gain the Senate.   21 Democrats, 10 Republican and 2 Independent seats are up, and the GOP only needs to flip 4, or 3 if they win the White House.  I see the GOP flipping Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska and North Dakota, with possibles in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.  I see the Democrats flipping Massachusetts with a possible in Nevada.

Nope the Republicans actually managed to lose 2 seats with the Senate now 53-45 with 2 independents.

3.  Despite a lacklustre group of candidates I do believe that the GOP will gain the White House.  The economy is simply too dismal for this election to be anything except a referendum on Obama’s stewardship of the economy, and I do not think that all the campaign money and friendly media in the world can transform this particular pig’s ear into a silk purse.  Jay Cost, one of the best political analysts extant, has a good article here detailing the odds against Obama.  Heaven knows that missteps by the GOP could help Obama a great deal, but at the end I think there are just too many people who believe the country is on the wrong track for Obama to win.

Alas no.  Obama ran a base election and Romney never succeeded in firing up the Republican base and just barely managed to get more votes than McCain in 2008.  Obama was off several million from his vote total in 2008 and a competent Republican campaign should have defeated him.

4.  A repeat from last year:  either North Korea or Iran will go through a violent revolution that will topple one of the regimes in 2012.

Nope, both regimes are still hanging on, although I would not be surprised to see one or both go the way of Syria eventually.  With nuclear weaponry in North Korea, and soon to come in Iran, that would make for interesting times for the entire planet.

5.  A major terrorist incident will occur in the United States during the coming year as the jihadists attempt some payback for Osama, and as the factions among the terrorists jockey for power.

No, the major terrorist incident occurred in Libya instead on the anniversary of 9-11.  The American people, shamefully, largely yawned. Continue reading

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