Monthly Archives: January 2013

Live Not By Lies

 

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Live Not by Lies is the last thing Alexander  Solzhenitsyn wrote before his exile to the West in 1974.  Solzhenitsyn was one of the giants of the last century.  Thrown into the Gulag while he was an artillery officer in the Red Army during World War II, he tirelessly, at the constant risk of his life, fought a lonely battle for freedom for three decades in the Soviet Union.  His courage and literary skill inspired people around the globe, including me as a teen-ager and a young man.  I never thought what he wrote would be applicable to the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Alas, in the Age of Obama Solzhenitsyn’s writings have an increasingly unpleasant contemporary ring to them.

 

So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood–of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one’s family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies–or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one’s children and contemporaries.

And from that day onward he:

  • Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.
  • Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.
  • Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.
  • Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.
  • Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.
  • Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.
  • Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.
  • Will immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.
  • Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook.

No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.

But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul- don’t let him be proud of his “progressive” views, and don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a merited figure, or a general–let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and warm.

Even this path, which is the most modest of all paths of resistance, will not be easy for us. But it is much easier than self-immolation or a hunger strike: The flames will not envelope your body, your eyeballs, will not burst from the heat, and brown bread and clean water will always be available to your family. Continue reading

History is Boring!

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No, History is not boring, but it certainly is usually taught in a boring fashion.  The main culprits:

1. Badly Written Textbooks-Usually drafted by committees of fairly untalented hacks, they frequently make the reading of technical manuals seem exciting by comparison.

2.  Politicized Drek-Textbooks often have a strong ideological slant.  These days that slant is usually, although not always, driven from the Left.  Therefore students are likely to read quite a bit on the treatment of women in colonial America, with the military history of the American Revolution left to a scant two pages.  This distorts History and usually drains the life out of it, as the study of the past becomes yet another opportunity to deliver a twenty-first century political diatribe.

3.  Ignorant Teachers-Too often History is taught by teachers who have little knowledge of it and no passion for it.  When I was in high school back in the early Seventies, coaches often were  assigned to teach History, under the assumption that anyone could teach it.  There were exceptions, and I still have fond memories of Mr. Geisler who taught American history and Mr. Vanlandingham who taught European history, but the usual level of the teaching of History was quite low.

4.  Laundry Lists-States often mandate inclusion of certain subjects in History.  This results in a laundry list approach of teaching History in which so many topics must be covered that short shrift is given to understanding a period as a whole. Continue reading

By What Right?

The ongoing health care debate, specifically the mandate by Health and Human Services that Catholic employers provide insurance coverage that includes artificial contraception, has spurned a renewed discussion of basic human rights.  On the one hand, the Catholic Church claims that the fundamental right to religious freedom is being violated by the current administrative order.  On the other hand, the government claims that people have the right to basic affordable health care, and that an employer who refuses to provide services that fit the definition is in violation of this right.  The Church then rejects the idea that contraception is part of “basic human health care.”  The administration disagrees.  And the conversation hits a stale mate.  The whole debacle fails precisely insofar as it ignores the discussion of rights in general.  The discussion, rather than being stranded in a limbo of competing “rights,” should begin by revisiting the very question of rights themselves.  What is needed is a complete rethinking of this question, and in some way, a return to a past that was not marred by the modern rights language that has led to this whole debate.

Perhaps the most adamant proponent of the position that rights have no real place in medieval or ancient philosophy is the French jurist Michel Villey.  While Brian Tierney1 has called his work “idiosyncratic,” there is no doubt that Villey has made great contributions to our understanding of legal history.

“The modern idea of subjective rights, Villey asserts, is rooted in the nominalist philosophy of the fourteenth century, and it first saw the light of day in the work of William of Ockham.  Ockham inaugurated a ‘semantic revolution’ when he transformed the traditional idea of objective natural right into a new theory of subjective natural rights.  His work marked a ‘Copernican moment’ in the history of the science of law” (Tierney, page 14).

Villey begins his presentation by examining the Latin word ius, which roughly translated can mean “right.”  However, in the classical world, ius was never a power possessed by an individual, as in the right to own personal property.  Rather, to the classical mind, ius was a thing, a legal thing in fact.  It was the proper end to the virtue of justice.  It was that reality towards which a jurist strives.  Villey’s somewhat well-known example comes from the writings of Gaius.  The ancient legal writer speaks of a ius altius tollendi, or “the right of building higher.”  This is in reference to the right of raising a house and blocking the lights of a neighbor’s house.  At first glance, it seems that Gaius is in “Locke” step with the modern understanding: a man has the right to add to his house if he so desires.  This might be true but for the subsequent ius non extollendi.  What could it mean to have a right not to build a house higher lest a neighbor’s house be blocked?  Rather than seeing a right as something inhering in a subject (in this case a homeowner), Gaius is simply pointing out the obvious: in some cases what is fair and just (“objectively right”) is for a homeowner to add a story to his house, while in other cases what is fair and just is the opposite.  It is the role of the judge to exercise the virtue of justice in specific cases.  The object of his decision is ius, “the right.”

Ius, as the root of the word justice, is first that which is rendered as the object of justice, or the just due given to an individual, rather than a power enjoyed by a particular subject.  This is why Ulpian, when speaking of suum ius cuique tribuere (“to render each his right”), gives the example a parricide who had the “right” to be sewn up in a sack of vipers and thrown into the Tiber.  This is hardly the kind of right envisioned by modern human rights commissions.  As Ralph McInery2 puts it, “It is difficult to imagine a Human Rights Commission coming to Lizzie Borden’s aid to insure that she be given her rightful sackful of snakes and a dip in the river.”

Aristotle understands the term ius (dikaion in Greek) in two ways.  The first is as the object of a virtue, an act proper to the human person.  The other is as an “objectively right state of affairs” (Tierney, page 22).  Neither of these are equivalent to the modern concept of inalienable rights possessed by an individual subject.  Much of this stems form the fact that Aristotle sees the universe as ordered towards a particular harmony.  It is the virtue of justice that brings about this harmony.  Human society, too, is intended to be ordered towards this harmony, and it is the moral virtue of justicethat allows humanity to accomplish this.  For Aristotle, then, and we will see the same thing in Aquinas, ius is defined primarily as a thing in terms of relationship rather than a personal power held by an individual.

“The just, what’s fair, the dikaion or iustum is a thing, a relation or proportion, out there, to be objectively determined by the judge so that the contentions of the parties to a suit are adjusted” (McInery).

It should be noted here, as pointed out by Tierney, that Villey criticized many of the early Christian Church Fathers, who he saw as distorting the classical sense of ius into something of a divine command, effectively equivocating it with lex (law).  In Villey’s opinion, it was Aquinas who rescued the concept.  “[Villey] thought that one of the great achievements of the Dominican master was to restore for a time the objective, classical meaning of ius, a meaning that would be lost again by Ockham and the nominalists” (Tierney, page 23).

Villey is not alone in his critique of subjective rights.  Alasdair MacIntyre3 too has expressed reservations about their existence.  MacIntyre’s argument is different though.  He claims that the existence of a right apart from human relationships conceives of a human person existing prior to such relationships.  But for MacIntyre, such an individual does not exist.  All human persons exist within a particular social narrative.  In other words, the human person does not exist apart from social relationships.  Even in traditional natural law theory, we are talking about man in relationship, specifically in relationship to God.  This is why the virtue of justice (what is “right”) is a virtue of relationship, not a particular power possessed by an individual.

“Lacking any such social form, the making of claim to a right would be like presenting a check for payment in a social order that lacked the institution of money” (MacIntyre, 65).

Aquinas continues the work of Aristotle, though as expected, he frames everything within a Christian perspective. Like Aristotle, ius is a thing for Aquinas, not a power possessed by an individual subject.  Aquinas sees it as either quod iustum est (what is just) or ipsam rem iustam (the just thing itself).  Even in his derivative meanings of ius we find nothing of a subjective definition.

While there is always the danger of pulling a particular question from Aquinas out of context from the holistic structure of the Summa, we feel fairly safe in examining Question 57 from the Secunda Secundae as representative of Aquinas’ presentation on ius.

The first article addresses whether or not “right” is the object of justice.  From the start it is clear that Aquinas’ answer is the affirmative.  In one of his replies, he outlines the three uses of the term.  “The word ius was first of all used to denote the just thing itself, but afterwards it was transferred to designate the art whereby it is known what it just, and further to denote the place where justice is administered [a court of law].”

As a side note, the last definition provides some insight into how Thomas might envision a “court of law.”  In continuity with his ancient forerunners, it seems to me that the place where justice is administered and the manner in which it is administered would look very different from the modern court (at least at the highest levels) of law focussed around rights and their violations.  “The task of the jurist is to establish just relationships among persons and between persons and property – not to affirm absolute rights, but to determine what is objectively right” (Tierney, page 21).

Nowhere is a “right” presented as something possessed by an individual subject.  In fact, while ius is framed in terms of relationship (justice, after all is a virtue of relationship), his presentation focuses more on the moral agent and how to act rather than a claim made by the agent.  In other words, Aquinas’ conception of right looks more like an imperative placed on the moral agent, i.e., “it is right to not take the property of another,” rather than some sort of entitlement claimed by a subject, i.e.,  “I have the right to possess personal property.”  As with anything framed in terms of virtue, the presentation propels man towards good action rather than allowing him to rest on the laurels of some preexisting entitlement.  This is all to say, ius is known primarily as belonging to a relationship among parties and as the object of an obligation imposed by natural law.  From the perspective of the moral agent, it is not something I claim for myself.  It is instead something that directs my actions toward the virtue of justice.  Further, as a virtue, ius must be learned and developed in habit. In this way ius is not self-evident as is claimed by post-enlightenment “self-evident truths.”

While Aquinas doesn’t draw out this distinction, which serves to indicate that the modern sense of the term right is unknown to him, his examples throughout the question make his position clear.  For instance, a husband’s ability to beget children to his wife is an example of what is naturally “right.”

For Villey, however, it is not enough to point out the lack of connection between the modern theory of rights and ancient/medieval philosophy.  He also argues against the very existence of rights in the modern sense.  Villey describes three fundamental problems with the modern formulation.  It is Utopian, arbitrary, and sterile.  We turn to Tierney once again:

“It is Utopian because the supposed absolute rights are fictions; they usually do not exist in actual law or in real life.  Rights theories are arbitrary because the rights claimed are ultimately based on subjective whim; they lead on to a debased understanding of justice as ‘nothing but a label you attach to your own subjective preferences.’  And modern rights theories are sterile because they cannot form the basis of a coherent jurisprudence.  The rights that people assert conflict with one another” (Tierney, page 21).

We begin with the notion that modern rights are Utopian.  In this claim, Villey questions the very existence of rights seen as a subjective powers held by individuals.  Consider as a first example the claim of a right to religious freedom.  Worship, as understood by Aquinas, is a virtue of justice.  It is rendering unto God what it due to God.  Thus, worshiping God as God wants to be worshiped is the “right” thing to do.  But man emphatically does not have the “right” to worship how he sees fit anymore than man has the “right” to worship a God other than the one true God.  In other words, as with any moral situation, man does not have the “right” to act wrongly, to act contrary to objective truth.  Freedom of religion, posited as an inalienable right, implies that man, according to his nature, has the either the right to worship God, or not to worship God, or to worship a god that is something other than the one, true God.  The problem is that only the first of the three is an exercise of justice.  Since ius (right) is the object of justice, only the first of the three is, classically understood, “right.”  Lest I be misunderstood, we might agree that the best way to organize society is to prevent government intrusion into religious decisions.  We might agree that the more prudent course of action is to separate the exercise of religion from the State.  We might even agree that the best course of action is to allow man to discover and adhere to the truth of being unimpeded by human authority.  Thus, we could support a legal right to religious freedom.  We could even agree that prudence dictates a teaching motivation by proposition rather than imposition.  It is something altogether different to claim an inalienable right to religious freedom, which somehow suggests that man is entitled to believe whatever he wills, even if those beliefs are models of untruth.  In fact, seen in light of Aquinas and the ancients, man does not have the “right” to worship how he sees fit.  He only has the right to worship as God sees fit.  Anything less is a violation of the virtue of justice.

Even that most fundamental right championed by our Constitution’s Preamble, the right to life, is worth examining.  Does man have an inalienable right to life?  If so, is God in violation of this right when he takes a man’s life?  Seen through the lens of virtue, we can emphatically claim that it is a grave violation of justice for one man to take an innocent human being’s life.  Yet from the perspective of the divine, God has given us our life gratis, and when he decides that our time on earth is done, it is well within the bounds of justice for him to end that life.  In fact, given that the wages of sin are death, the entire Paschal mystery is an act of mercy and grace that transcends the virtue of justice.

Second, Villey claims that the modern presentation of rights is arbitrary.  It will inevitably lead to moral relativism, and the right to religious freedom is case in point.  If man has an inalienable right to religious freedom, then by what measure do we evaluate religious truth?  If the right is inalienable, then the exercise of the right to pursue something objectively true is indistinguishable from the exercise of the right to pursue something objectively false.  Further, there is no mechanism by which we can decide whether or not a particular claim actually is a right.  Some authors, McInery included, have tried to ground the concept of rights in the natural law tradition.  Granted, if we are to adopt a rights-language, then it must be grounded in the nature of the human person.  However, the nature of the human person includes being a creature, which brings us back to the first point: as creature, we do not possess any power by way of entitlement, but rather by an act of grace.

Third, Villey notes that modern rights are essentially sterile, that they cannot form the basis of a coherent jurisprudence.  When rights are seen as objective, inviolable powers possessed by individual subjects will inevitably lead to competing rights.  This makes sense if “I have the right to x” is indistinguishable from “I desire x.”  What I want will inevitably come into conflict with what someone else wants.  The most recent example of this is the one with which I opened: the conflict between the right to religious freedom and the right to affordable health care.  Yet we could brainstorm countless hypotheticals in which two rights come into conflict.  In the perennial paradox of the father who steals bread to feed his family, the right to own personal property conflicts with the right to life.  The right to bear arms conflicts with the right to a safe environment.  In the classic case of the crowded theater, the right to free speech conflicts with the right to safety.  Even the most fundamental rights can come into question.  The abortion debate is essentially a debate about the right to life conflicting with the rights that women have over their own bodies.  In fact, there are even cases where a right can come into conflict with itself.  Take for instance the right of a parent to educate their kids in the way that they see fit.  If Parent A’s ideal educational environment is in the home, but Parent B’s ideal environment includes being in a classroom with all the neighborhood kids, including Parent A’s kids, we have a conflict.  There are only two ways to resolve these conflicts.  The first is to prioritize the rights, which is essentially what most modern systems of jurisprudence do.  Yet this contradicts the very definition of rights as inalienable.  The second is to question whether one or both of the claimed rights are in fact rights in the first place, but then we have come full circle to the first issue. Rights discussion will necessarily come to an abrupt halt when such conflict arises, and the conversation is rendered sterile.

We should pause here to recognize that the Church has, in modern times, adopted the language of rights in some of its teachings.  “As a devout Catholic, Villey could not have missed the way in which such documents of Vatican II as Gaudium et Spes and so many other magisterial documents employ without hesitancy the language of human rights” (McInery).  While I would never want to presume to question the prudence of the Church in her official statements, I will simply point out two things.  First, the manner in which the Church uses the term “right” is founded on the Thomistic notion of natural law.  Utterly absent from its discussion are any hints of moral relativism.  Second, the infallible truths of our faith in no way rely on the language of natural rights, and can all be framed in terms of natural law.  In other words, rights language is in no way necessary for the Church.  Quite the contrary: she functioned perfectly well for 1500 years with it.  This would be the fourth adjective that I would add to Villey’s critique of modern rights language.  It is quite unnecessary for a functioning system of jurisprudence.  History has produced thousands of years of political organization without the need of subjective rights.  It is helpful to repeat that the modern notion of rights was utterly absent from political philosophy until Ockham’s innovations.

In fact, the Church herself, while recently more sympathetic to the notion of rights language, has also issued extreme caution.  Pope Pius VI called attention to this very problem when decrying the madness of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man.  He said, “This absolute freedom is established as a right of man in society.  It not only guarantees him the right to no be disturbed because of his religious opinions, but it also gives him license to think, speak, write, and even print with impunity everything which the most unbridled imagination can suggest about religion.  It is a monstrous right which seems nonetheless to the Assembly to result from the innate quality and freedom of all men … a chimerical right … contrary to the right of the supreme Creator.”

Without rights, then, what does the moral conversation look like?  That is, if we don’t cling to something like religious freedom, how shall we frame our response to the HHS mandate?  More specifically, if we dispense with the language of natural inalienable rights, will the conversation deteriorate into relativism?  Not only is the answer emphatically negative, but what’s more, it is the undefined and ambiguous language of subjective rights that has us in this mess of relativism to begin with.  The language itself has no defense against relativism.  If one person claims a right, another person will claim a different right, and the process will inevitably spin out of control.

However, it seems to me that Aquinas and his forerunners have given us a viable framework: natural law.  To be clear, natural law is something distinct from natural rights.  Aquinas actually begins with the concept of eternal law (lex aeternae).  This law is of God’s making and is coeternal with His own nature.  It is promulgated from time immemorial by the act of creation by which creatures are endowed with a spontaneous inclination to move towards their own perfection and the cohesive perfection of the universe.  For humans, who can either accept or reject this law, the eternal law is received from within.  When humans act in a manner consistent with God’s eternal law, they are not inventing laws of their own, but rather discovering this law and appropriating it for themselves.  This, for Thomas, is the natural law (lex naturalis).  It is our participation in the divine law held in the mind of God.

Of course, for Aquinas natural law is much broader than ius.  Natural law commands the practice of all the virtues, whereas ius concerns only the virtue of justice.  It begins with a couple self-evident principles.  First, anything good must be pursued and anything evil must be avoided.  From this first and most basic principle we derive others such as, “bodily health, knowledge, and friendship are good to be pursued, and their opposites are evils to be avoided.”

In addition to the natural law, we have positive human laws to help in the organization of society.  However, any human law must be in conformity with the natural law.  If it is held to be in violation of it, that law must be struck down or otherwise disobeyed as an unjust law.  If it is not in violation of it, then the virtue of prudence serves as the mechanism for determining whether or not a particular law advances the organization of society and its purpose: to maximize the possibility of all men being able to advance in virtue.  This distinction, by the way, is precisely the distinction made by the Catholic Church on the “non-negotiable” issues (abortion, marriage, etc.) and matters of prudential judgement (how best to reduce poverty, etc.)  The former collection contains violations of the natural law.

The HHS conversation must begin here.  To what degree does the regulation implement or negate the natural law?  It is not my intent to answer this question in this article, but instead to properly frame it as we go forward.

The point of this article, rather, is to reframe these questions in terms that are more familiar to our philosophical patrimony.  To the degree that we claim for ourselves inalienable rights, we become a people of entitlement.  Instead, we are called to recognize that everything we have, everything we are, we receive by the grace of God.  We don’t deserve any of it.  Virtue-based ethics and natural law theory is a much more robust framework to promote this understanding.

 

References

1.  Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law, and Church Law, 1150-1625 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997).

2.  Ralph McInery, “Natural Law and Human Rights,” American Journal of Jurisprudence vol. 36 (1991).

3.  Alisdair MacIntre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981).

Sarah Palin on Roe and Obama

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Forty years ago today the Supreme Court rendered its Roe v. Wade decision. Those who believe in the sanctity of human life and long to see America embrace a culture in which innocent life is honored and protected continue to look for a day when humanity is again deemed valuable, where we cherish even those who would be born in “less than ideal circumstances.” Children are our most precious resource and remain the greatest symbol of hope God has given us. This is just one reason why the annual March for Life has been such a powerful aspect of the pro-life movement. This year’s event is Friday, January 25th, and once again a multitude of Americans will gather in Washington, D.C. to show their support for precious little ones.

Our Founding Fathers declared: “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.” However, since 1973, millions of children have been denied the basic right upon which all the others hinge: the right to life.

Lately, President Obama has taken to boldly highlighting children in his speeches. Using kids as the backdrop for his gun control speech, the President claimed his commitment to young ones. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” he said. He then outlined why gutting our Second Amendment is the means by which he believes we accomplish this. Every law-abiding citizen’s heart is broken when children are the target of men hell-bent on committing acts of evil, and we agree that the safety and protection of innocent life is paramount. Continue reading

Nothing Says Romance Like Genocide!

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Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  Nope the above ad is not a parody, but was actually put out by The Center for Reproductive Rights.

Doctor Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., mother of six and a strong pro-life advocate, provides all the commentary this ad needs:

Abortion is genocide.  It’s killing populations. It’s killing generations and certainly the population that is most impacted by abortion in America is the black community. So I feel that as a civil rights leader I have responsibility to proclaim that black Americans are being exterminated by the genocidal acts of abortion. Continue reading

Abortion Q & A

On my blog.

Thanks to the efforts of Ron Paul and other pro-life libertarians, I’ve found that it is no longer automatically assumed that libertarians are pro-abortion. This is as it should be.

 

Trembling for my Country

Abortions since Roe

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Thomas Jefferson, 1785

I have always agreed with this sentiment of President Abraham Lincoln:

“Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

If the Civil War was the punishment visited upon the nation for slavery, what plague will visit us for celebrating the “right” to abortion?

Who Laughed During the Roe v Wade Arguments?

Sarah_Weddington.jpgIt is a little known fact that there was laughter in the United States Supreme Court 40 years ago during the Roe v. Wade hearings. Thought to be the youngest person ever to win a Supreme Court case, then 26 year old Sarah Weddington, the attorney for “Roe”, briefly lost her composure in a choked bout of chuckles before the court. She laughed alone that day, however, and every single citizen in our nation ought to hear what was said, particularly in light of this month’s Alabama Supreme Court ruling that “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”

When Justice Harry A. Blackmun asked whether Mrs. Weddington felt there is any “inconsistency” in Court decisions against the “death penalty with respect to convicted murderers and rapists at one end of lifespan, and [her] position in this case at the other end of lifespan,” she replied that it has “never been established that the fetus is a person or that it’s entitled to the Fourteenth Amendment rights or the protection of the constitution.” It was clear to the court, even back then, that the case depended on the “fetus” having “constitutional rights.”

Justice Potter Stewart pressed further, “Well, if it were established that an unborn fetus is a person within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, you would have almost an impossible case here, would you not?” Mrs. Weddington replied, “I would have a very difficult case.” And then she laughed nervously. Justice Stewart, not laughing at all, continued that this is akin to ruling that if a “mother thought that it bothered her health having the child around, she could have it killed.” Mrs. Weddington said, “That’s correct,” and declined any further response.

Our laws still, chillingly, reflect this inconsistency. On the one hand, we have the almost decade long 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act which federally recognizes a “child in utero” as a legal “victim” if he or she is injured or killed by crimes of violence, and laws such as the one decided in Alabama this month that recognize “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.” On the other hand, we have abortion for all nine months of pregnancy and impunity for the ones that kill those children, children who are not even guaranteed the protections given to convicted murderers and rapists in some states. It was not funny 40 years ago, and it is still no laughing matter. These are children being killed. Aren’t children people too?

Have you ever listened to the Roe vs. Wade arguments?

Click the play button, it will start at ~20:00 minutes into Mrs. Weddington’s arguments (the attorney for Roe). The clip is only ~4 minutes, but be sure to listen from 23:30 – 24:30. The whole recording is found here. It is a piece of history, a tragic one. This is how it was argued that a mother has a right to kill her own child 40 years ago.  Continue reading

Why the West is Bankrupt

Welfare Queen

John Hinderaker over at Powerline has a story from The Sun that helps explain why the West is bankrupt:

Ms. Belova could find work if she wanted to, but it isn’t worth her while. She is too well-educated, she thinks, to accept a low-paying job:  

She is careful to work fewer than 16 hours a week so that the benefits keep rolling in. But her wages boost her income to more than £400 a week.   On top of that she gets free childcare, fruit and milk vouchers — and even a clothes allowance for “job interviews”.   Natalija said: “It is a strange system in this country. Basically, the fewer hours I work, the more I can earn on benefits. But that’s the way it is and it is not my fault.”   She fell pregnant by an “on-off boyfriend” after her redundancy. Natalija said casually: “We decided not to stay together.”   She insisted she would be prepared to get a full-time job — but only if the salary tops £25,000. Natalija said: “I am a highly educated woman and I speak six languages. I would never apply for a supermarket checkout job or a cleaner.   “I am over-qualified. These jobs are beneath me. They are for people who don’t have the education I do.”

 

Continue reading

Walter Butler

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For there was Walter Butler, the loyalist, who spread fire and horror through the Mohawk Valley in the times of the Revolution.

Stpehen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the third in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty and here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet.  In this post we will examine the life of Major Walter Butler.

Walter Butler was a young man of 23 at the start of the Revolution, the son of John Butler, a wealthy Indian agent and a judge in frontier Tryon Country, soon to be the scene of many desperate frontier battles between Patriots and Loyalists, and their Indian auxiliaries.  John Butler was a firm loyalist as was his son.    Walter Butler served as an Ensign at the battle of Oriskany in 1777 during the Saratoga campaign.  Shortly after Oriskany he was captured behind enemy lines.  Sentenced to death he succeeded in escaping.  When his father formed the Loyalist Butler’s Rangers, Walter served in it as a Captain.

On November 11, 1778 at Cherry Valley, New York, Butler, leading a mixed force of Loyalists and Mohawks and Seneca under Joseph Brant, easily overcame the heavily outnumbered 7th Massachusetts Continentals.  In the aftermath of the battle, 30 settlers were murdered, including women and children.  In his report Butler blamed Brant and his Indians and steadfastly insisted that he spared no effort to rescue settlers from them.  However, Patriots claimed that Brant attempted to save settlers and that it was Butler who instigated the massacre.  My estimate is that neither Brant nor Butler were directly responsible and that it was independent action by the Seneca and the Mowhawk, who had many scores to repay, that resulted in the murders.  Like many historical questions the evidence now is too fragmentary and conflicting  for complete certainty.

Butler was killed in a skirmish on October 30, 1781 and scalped by Oneidas fighting for the Patriots.  Here is a contemporary account of his death by Philip Graff, a member of the Patriot militia in Mowhawk Valley New York: Continue reading

Outrage & Disgust: Gun-Grabber Cuomo Pushes for Infanticide

I have been writing about politics, morality and religion for years now, and I often do so with a certain amount of passion and sometimes anger. I really thought I had seen it all in terms of hypocrisy and sheer moral blindness. I really didn’t think it could get much worse. But here we are.

In case you haven’t yet heard, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is aggressively pushing for a bill that would legalize late-term abortions in his state. It would allow non-doctors to perform them. It would eliminate parental notification laws – all of this, according to the Democrats for Life, who are as disgusted as I am with this man and his agenda.

And there is is plenty to be disgusted with here. Partial-birth abortions themselves are disgusting, the violent dismemberment of a tiny human being usually for the convenience of someone else. Abortion clinics are often disgusting, staffed by incompetents and criminals, the refuse of the legitimate and respectable medical profession. The rest of Cuomo’s legislation is pretty bad as well, including coercive wealth redistribution and other infringements upon liberty and property in the name of “gender equality”, something the coercive arm of the state has no business getting involved in at all.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more disgusting than the sight of this man himself, who just recently pushed through some of the most aggressive anti-gun rights legislation in the entire country, supposedly for the children. Here is what the unconscionable scumbag declared while promoting his gun policies:

“This is a scourge on society,” Cuomo said Monday night, one month after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life.”‘

What I want to know is, at what point does someone slap Andrew Cuomo so hard, so many times, that he never again has the gall to speak of “innocent loss of life” while promoting the mass-murder of infants with dirty metal tools in dirty little rooms? At what point do we, perhaps, strap him to a chair and force him to watch the scissors being jammed into the back of the child’s neck before its brains are vacuumed out? At what point do we go absolutely crazy, unable to bear for another day, another moment, a moral blindness and/or hypocrisy so heavy and so dark that you just want to to completely give up?

I don’t really have much more to say about it. Not much more should be said about it. At this point you either see how completely messed up this is, or you’re hopeless and we can’t communicate. Finally, check out my new personal blog, where I will try to contain all of the foreign policy and civil liberty stuff that TAC readers can’t stand. You know, the Ron Paul echo chamber stuff.

We Will Outlast Them

Obama Joke

“That on you is fallen the shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we
scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more
tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame.

“That though you hunt
the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more
heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.

“That though all lances
split on you,
All swords be heaved in vain,
We have more lust again to
lose
Than you to win again.

G.K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse Continue reading

Now Why Didn’t I Think of This?

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Hmm, I have several complicated legal documents to draft today.  Surely I could have someone overseas do it for me?

Valentine was hired to investigate when the company, a Verizon client, saw that someone from Shenyang, China, was logging in to its computer network during every workday. The breach was traced to Bob’s VPN network, but he had to be innocent, the victim of some kind of breach, the company figured. He was a quiet family man, “someone you wouldn’t look at twice in an elevator,” Valentine writes. And Bob was sitting there, working at his desk, every day. But when Valentine’s staff looked more closely at Bob’s computer, they ultimately found the smoking gun.

Bob had PDFs of hundreds of invoices from a third-party contractor in Shenyang for developer services. Bob had been paying the contractor $50,000 a year, while he himself made hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While the developer was working 9-to-5, Bob surfed the Web. At 9, he’d roll in and surf Reddit, watching cat videos. At 11:30 he’d grab some lunch. After lunch it was time for EBay for about an hour, when Bob migrated to Facebook. At 4:30, he’d email management, telling them what he had “done” during the day, and at 5, he’d go home. Continue reading

January 21, 1985: Reagan Second Inaugural Address

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For some reason on this day I am thinking of a Presidential second inaugural, that of Ronald Reagan!  He summed up the theme of his Presidency well with this observation in his speech that day:

Four years ago, I spoke to you of a new beginning and we have accomplished that. But in another sense, our new beginning is a continuation of that beginning created two centuries ago when, for the first time in history, government, the people said, was not our master, it is our servant; its only power that which we the people allow it to have.

That system has never failed us, but, for a time, we failed the system. We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give. We yielded authority to the National Government that properly belonged to States or to local governments or to the people themselves. 

Here is the text of the speech of President Reagan 28 years ago: Continue reading

You Are the Threat!

Right Wing Extremists

 

You may never have considered yourself a terrorist, but if you are a conservative a new government study indicates that you might well be:

The report’s author is Arie Perliger, who directs the Center’s terrorism studies and teaches social sciences at West Point. I can only imagine what his classes are like as his report manages to lump together every known liberal stereotype about conservatives between its covers.

As Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times, who broke news of the report on Thursday, recounts:

[The Center’s report] says anti-federalists “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government. Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.”

The report also draws a link between the mainstream conservative movement and the violent “far right,” and describes liberals as “future oriented” and conservatives as living in the past.

“While liberal worldviews are future- or progressive -oriented, conservative perspectives are more past-oriented, and in general, are interested in preserving the status quo,” the report says. “The far right represents a more extreme version of conservatism, as its political vision is usually justified by the aspiration to restore or preserve values and practices that are part of the idealized historical heritage of the nation or ethnic community.”

The report adds: “While far-right groups’ ideology is designed to exclude minorities and foreigners, the liberal-democratic system is designed to emphasize civil rights, minority rights and the balance of power.”

The Times quotes a congressional staffer who has served in the military calling the report a “junk study.” The staffer then asked: “The $64,000 dollar question is when will the Combating Terrorism Center publish their study on real left-wing terrorists like the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, and the Weather Underground?”

This is not the first time elements of the federal government have tried to smear conservatives with sloppy work and a broadbrush analysis. Continue reading

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