Because when you go three weeks between blogposts, things sort of build up in the queue.
Typically brilliant insight from Simcha Fisher about the sudden conservative and Christian appreciation for Mother Russia – you know, the authoritarian state run by the corrupt, narcissistic, kleptomaniac.
Fascinating documentary in Great Britain where welfare recipients are forced to live on 1949 allotments. If your primary concern is making sure those on welfare have every last need and want met, then the modern system is the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re into old fashioned concepts such as human dignity, maybe things were better once upon a time.
Leave it to a mediocre pop artist to really get to the heart of the issue. John Legend has decreed that the newly passed voter ID law in North Carolina is the new Jim Crow. Because having to show a picture of yourself before voting is totally the same as segregated schools.
Republican Congressman would totally love to hold town hall meetings during the summer recess to discuss the immigration bill, but they like got that thing that they gotta do. You know. That thing. Right Vinny?
The usual cheerful article from Kevin Williamson. President Obama has essentially handed over the management of government to bureaucratic functionaries. If anything Williamson undersells the painful reality of life in Washington. Our government is in the hands of well-meaning, well-credentialed, but power-hungry managerial type so perfectly depicted in CS Lewis’s masterpiece, That Hideous Strength. Basically it’s the N.I.C.E. minus the scary head thing. What’s worse is that President Obama is using these agencies to bypass that pesky little thing known as Congress. As Williamson puts it:
IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party. Barack Obama is the first president of the democracy that John Adams warned us about.
And on a lighter note, a look back at a rather questionable hiring decision.
Joseph Prever, who has blogged under the pseudonym Steve Gershom, (and who is Simcha Fisher’s brother), has written a rather intimate post discussing being homosexual and a practicing Catholic. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the key point:
You probably know this already, but I’m celibate, because I’m Catholic. You will not hear me talking about When Oh When Will The Church Get With The Times, because that kind of talk is boring nonsense. Guys, the whole point of having the Church is having one thing, just one!, that you can depend on to always be the same. Thank God for that.
If you want a church that constantly changes to fit in with whatever’s fashionable this decade, there are a bazillion options, and you’re bound to find one that is custom-tailored to your particular set of prejudices. Happy shopping.
It’s actually harder to come out as celibate than to come out as gay. Various people have pitied me, or tried to convince me that my life is vewwy vewwy sad, or tried to talk me out of it, or even surreptitiously tried to set me up with their gay friends. If you do this shit, I will not spin-kick you in the face, but I will very badly want to.
Now as is typical for the Catholic blogopshere, while many if not most have been supportive of Joseph, there is a rather vocal undercurrent that is more critical. Some of the more vitriolic, and frankly unhinged comments are simply not worth the time to respond to. There are a couple of more rational criticisms, expressed in many circles, that are worth addressing.
That Joseph uses the word “gay” to describe himself has bothered many. You’ll hear this complaint on many topics related to same sex attraction, particularly if you ever use the term “gay marriage.” There is some merit to this objection, as words do have significant connotations. Even Prever himself is uncomfortable with the word, and says so himself:
Some people have a problem with the word “gay”. That’s okay; I get it. I have a problem with it too. I’ve written a little about that. It’s not a perfect word, but words are like that. You have to know the context. My life is the context. Get to know me first, and then we can argue about it.
Unlike most who have read this paragraph I gather, I bothered to look at the link Prever provided, and it opened to his about page where he writes this:
So are you gay, or what?
You could say that, if you wanted to, although I don’t like the term and don’t identify with it. I’m attracted primarily
and almost exclusivelyto men, and have been since I was about fourteen; but I don’t date men or have sex with them, so where does that leave me? I’m a faithful Catholic, so a romantic relationship with another man literally doesn’t fit into the way I see the world. I don’t see myself as different in any essential way from heterosexual men, so describing myself as “gay” doesn’t seem to fit.
On the other hand, “homosexual” sounds clinical, “queer” certainly isn’t me, and “man who’s attracted to other men” is cumbersome. So, “gay” is a useful sort of shorthand, and I’ll use it from time to time until a better word comes along. SSA (same-sex attraction) is a useful term too, as in “He has SSA” rather than “He is SSA.”
Okay, but can’t you please use some other word besides “gay”? People are going to get the wrong idea.
People have made the point that, by using the same terminology used by those who hold the view that homosexuality is a normal, natural, healthy, super-wonderful sexual variant of human behavior, I’m implicitly legitimizing that view.
This is a valid point. Over and against this point, however, I weigh the fact that the word “gay” is immediately recognizable. If anyone cares enough to read what I’ve written on the blog, they’ll find out what I think about it. And — let’s be honest — “gay” is much better for SEO purposes.
Scandal! Well, not really. This is an eminently reasonable argument. If you want to quibble, feel free, but to me it seems rather pedantic, and I’m not about to cast Mr. Prever into the hellfire for using the term.
The more serious criticism is basically this: it is wrong for Prever to identify as gay (or homosexual or SSA) publicly, as he is giving tacit support for the lifestyle. Essentially, his public profession gives scandal.
This is wrongheaded for a number of reasons. As he makes abundantly clear, he lives a chaste life. No one who reads what he has written could claim with any level of intellectual honesty that he has given tacit support for the homosexual lifestyle, or that his admission of being gay somehow implies that identifies as gay above being Catholic, or that it is his sole defining identification. I would like to believe that this audience is familiar enough with the Catechism to understand that nothing that Prever wrote contradicts in any way the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
More importantly, the calls for Mr. Prever to, for lack of a better term, stay in the closet strikes me as stupefyingly boneheaded. We live in a culture where homosexual behavior is not only accepted, it is largely celebrated. Here we have an amazing testimony that goes profoundly against the grain. Here we have a gay man (sorry, homosexual) who proudly testifies to the truth of Holy Scripture, affirms the magisterial teaching of the Holy Church, and conforms his life to these teachings. And he should shut up? This magnificent sign of contradiction shouldn’t evangelize to the truth? Are you kidding me?
It seems that so often we Catholics strive diligently to be our own worst enemies. We do our best to shout down the very people who are the greatest testimonies to the awesome love of our Lord.
I understand to a point the almost reflexive anger demonstrated by some Catholics when it comes to homosexuality. We feel we’re banging our heads collectively against a wall, battling a culture that seems (and is) outright hostile to our values. The Gestapo-like tactics employed against those who oppose this cultural transformation sickens us all. But can we just take a minute before becoming the caricatures we’re portrayed to be? Can we display that love of Christ here on Earth and embrace those who are the very exemplars of courage and sacrifice? Or would we rather obsesses over semantics and condemn to hell the very people who most need our support?
When the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) passed it was touted as one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history. This was going to make health care affordable to every living person in this country. It was of such monumental importance that left-wing Catholics assured us all that it was worth throwing over the unborn in order to continue supporting President Obama. This was the stuff that was gonna help stop the oceans from rising and help create a new Heaven and a new Earth.
In the words of our Catholic Vice President, it was a big effin deal.
Yeah, about that big effin deal:
The Obama administration will delay a crucial provision of its signature health-care law, giving businesses an extra year to comply with a requirement that they provide their workers with insurance.
The government will postpone enforcement of the so-called employer mandate until 2015, after the congressional elections, the administration said yesterday. Under the provision, companies with 50 or more workers face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don’t offer affordable insurance.
It’s the latest setback for a health-care law that has met resistance from Republicans, who have sought to make the plan a symbol of government overreach. Republican-controlled legislatures and governors in several states have refused funding to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor and declined to set up exchanges where individuals can buy insurance, leaving the job to the federal government.
The delay in the employer mandate addresses complaints from business groups to President Barack Obama’s administration about the burden of the law’s reporting requirements.
“The administration has finally recognized the obvious — employers need more time and clarification of the rules of the road before implementing the employer mandate,” Randy Johnson, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, said in an e-mail.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, said in a blog post announcing the move that the administration decided on the delay so officials could simplify reporting requirements and give employers a chance to adjust their health-care coverage.
It’s such a ground-breaking, vitally important law that full implementation keeps getting pushed back further and further in the future. The original provisions largely weren’t even slated to take effect for four years after initial passage. On top of the number of institutions that have requested – and were granted – waivers, this latest news hints at the fact that this law might not be the signature achievement of the human race after all.
It is fitting that this announcement should come on the anniversary of the date in which the Continental Congress voted to declare the thirteen colonies’ independence from Great Britain and King George. After all, imagine the horrors of living under the rule of an administration that could, for example, decide which laws of the United States to defend in Court, or could decide when laws passed by Congress actually took effect.
(By the way, speaking of our establishment of self-rule, Bloomberg should be chided for using the term “fees” above. Chief Justice John Roberts would be very displeased to see such language in reference to Obamacare.)
If nothing else, perhaps this latest development will caution us against passing behemoth-sized legislation that no one has read and that we are urged to pass in order to know what’s in it.
On an unrelated note, the House will take up the Senate’s immigration bill after the recess.
With the special session of the Texas legislature set to soon vote on legislation to ban abortions past 20 weeks, the Death Eaters who seek to beat back this legislation have come upon a can’t miss strategy to garner support: chant “Hail Satan.”
The same orange-clad abortion rights supporters who sent children to #StandWithWendy in Texas today holding signs like “Stay out of my mommy’s vagina” didn’t limit themselves to strictly scientific arguments for unrestricted access to abortion. Groups of protesters also countered pro-life groups’ prayers with chants of “Hail Satan.”
There’s a full rundown at Twitchy.
As one bard tweeted, at least they get points for accuracy.
NB – this was originally posted at the Catholic Stand.
I would like to use this space to talk with you about an issue of the utmost moral importance. It’s an issue where no clear-thinking, righteous Catholic could possibly differ in judgment. Yes, it’s time that Catholics united and stood up for legislation that outlaws the use of incandescent light bulbs. Not only would such legislation help protect our environment, but it is actually mandated in the Bible. Are you not familiar with Mathew 25:35?
For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:
If you’re wondering what this Scripture passage has to do with banning incandescent light bulbs, well, it’s as applicable to this issue as it is to the Senate’s attempts to pass an immigration reform bill. Yet our Vice President has cited this passage to shame Christians into supporting immigration reform.
You’ll pardon me for failing to see how this biblical injunction means that I must support a bill that allows those who have entered the country illegally to jump ahead of those who desire legal passage into this country.
Unfortunately it has become something of a game to misappropriate bible verses in order to justify either legislation or, in some circles, to actually defend behavior or attitudes that contradict most other Bible passages. How often have you read a blog post criticizing, say, Nancy Pelosi for defending abortion rights, only to see someone in the comments to said post utilize the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” non-argument? It’s not enough to just cite the passage, you actually have to demonstrate how the passage you’re citing actually links to the position you’re taking. Sure, not every Bible verse will literally match up and you do need to interpret according to the proper context, but there should be at least a reasonable nexus between the Scripture quotation and your position on a semi-related issue.
What’s also infuriating about Biden’s sudden adherence to biblical literalism is that he glosses over, say 1 Corinthians 6:9 when it comes to same-sex marriage, and that pesky 6th Commandment when it comes to abortion. Yet strained references to unrelated Bible passages are perfectly acceptable according to ole Joe when it’s a piece of legislation his boss and his party are really desperate to pass.
If only Joe Biden were the only Catholic stretching logic in order to justify Senate action. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, authored this letter encouraging support for the Senate’s bill. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the Bishops supporting immigration reform, it’s just that the arguments deployed in defense of the bill are, well, indefensible, starting with this:
Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system. Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert.
This is a very unfortunate choice of words. Note the use of the passive voice: families are separated, migrant workers are exploited. What this passage does is essentially deny any agency in the migrant worker. In fact, the wording actually dehumanizes the worker in a certain sense because it takes away any moral culpability on his part. Those who have chosen to immigrate to the United States – legally or illegally – have largely not done so against their will (I will not discuss here those who have been forced to leave the country against their will thanks to our lack of effective border security). If families are separated, then that responsibility adheres to the individual or individuals who have knowingly entered the country illegally.
There is more:
We can continue on our current path, which employs an immigration system that does not serve the rule of law or the cause of human rights, or we can create a system which honors both principles.
I have admitted that the current immigration system could use improving, but this is complete hyperbole. Even if one grants – as I do – that the current system is overly restrictive, how does it not serve the rule of law? Is the system unjust? No. Moreover, Archbishop Gomez fails to recognize where the rule of law is not being respected. It’s the person who has entered the country illegally who has flouted the rule of law. If the system is broken, then perhaps we should point the fingers at those who have broken it by overrunning it.
We can maintain a system that fosters illegal behavior and undermines the law, or fashion one that provides incentives for legal behavior and is based upon fairness and opportunity.
Again, in trying to defend the migrant worker the good Archbishop is effectively dehumanizing him by suggesting that the person just has no other recourse than to break the law. Furthermore, the very bill that Archbishop Gomez and his fellow American Bishops are promoting creates dis-incentives for legal behavior. Those who are already here illegally will not be punished other than in the most minimal way, and most of the supposed restrictions being placed on them can easily be disregarded. In essence, they will have an opportunity to gain legal status ahead of those who have played by the rules. Where is the fairness in that? Where is the respect for the rule of law in that?
I am growing tired of those who misuse Scripture and who offer empty platitudes in an attempt to convince Catholics they are morally obligated to support certain public policies. Of course Jesus’s words and teaching should always be at the forefront of our minds as we’re formulating political opinions. What I find offensive are efforts to appropriate those teachings and infer a certain pre-determined end.
At some point I’m sure I’ve read a better post than Kevin Williamson’s today on National Review about abortion. But, for the life of me, not a single one comes to mind.
I guess I’m somewhat obligated to highlight some passage or another, so here it goes:
There are many religious people in the pro-life camp, but it is not a religious question. It is a question about the legal status of an entity that is under any biological interpretation a 1) distinct, 2) living, 3) human 4) organism at the early stages of development. Consider those four characteristics in order: There is no scientific dispute about whether an embryo is genetically distinct from the body in which it resides, about whether the tissue in question is living or not living, about whether the tissue in question is human or non-human, or whether it is an organism as opposed to a part of another organism, like an appendix or a fingernail.
The pro-abortion response to this reality is to retreat into mysticism, in this case the mysterious condition of “personhood.” The irony of this is that the self-professedly secularist pro-abortion movement places itself in roughly the same position as that of the medieval Christians who argued about such metaphysical questions as “ensoulment.” If we use the biological standard, the embryo is exactly what pro-lifers say it is: a distinct human organism at the early stages of development. If we instead decide to pursue the mystical standard of “personhood,” we may as well be debating about angels dancing on the head of a pin.
The main biological question at issue is the question of “viability.” But viability is a standard in motion, thanks in no small part to the fact that in every aspect of medical practice save abortion we prefer scientific standards to mystical ones. And the viability standard is in the end an intellectual dodge as well: You will never discover if an organism is viable by setting out intentionally to kill it.
There is a great deal of vacuity in the debate. The usual pro-abortion platitudes are so far from being intellectually respectable that they are answered only out of a sense of duty, not because they deserve to be answered. “I’m personally against abortion, but . . . ” would rightly be laughed out of existence if it were “I’m personally against murder/slavery/robbery, but . . . ” Which is to say, it is a statement that is defensible only if one assumes beforehand that abortion is not a species of homicide. Similar examples of begging the question include “It’s the woman’s body,” etc. We simply must answer the question — which is a biological question, not a mystical one — of how many bodies there are in question. I count at least two in the case of abortion. “People will still have abortions, only they’ll be dangerous.” People will still commit homicides, and crime would be less dangerous if we disarmed the police and forbade victims to defend themselves. The statement, like the others, makes sense only if we ignore the salient facts of the case.
Now go read the rest. Like right now. Go.
All right. A little more.
Encountering the architectural monuments and administrative sophistication of the Incans and Aztecs, the Europeans were confounded that such marvels could be done by cultures practicing human sacrifice. Huitzilopochtli may have faded away, but career, vanity, and sexual convenience are very much with us, and they, too, are jealous gods, who apparently insist on being served in the same way. The metaphysical explanations may be radically different, but the physical facts of the cases are not entirely dissimilar. If our descendents one day wonder that savages such as ourselves flew to the moon, it will speak well of them, even as they wonder that such brilliant engineers had so impoverished a conception of what it means to be human.
I was going to provide an analysis of both of the Supreme Court decisions today related to gay marriage, but instead I will focus on Hollingsworth v. Perry, which was concerned with California’s Prop 8. But first a couple of thoughts about US v. Windsor, the DOMA case. The immediate short-term impact of the case is somewhat limited in scope. Federal benefits will be conferred upon same-sex couples who live in states that recognize their partnership as marriage. The long-term impact, however, is much starker, as will be explained in a moment.
Both Justices Alito and Scalia provide blistering dissents, and they should be read in full. They disagree on a technical though not insignificant point about the standing of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG (and for the record, I tend to side with Alito). First of all, Scalia properly notes that, despite the rhetoric in Kennedy’s opinion, this was not a federalism case, or at least the case was not decided on federalism grounds. In fact, contrary to exhortations of some so-called libertarians on twitter, this case has the ultimate effect of further eroding states’ rights regarding same-sex marriage. Had this case been decided on federalism (10th amendment) grounds, then the outcome would have been possibly justifiable. But the majority’s reliance on 5th and 14th amendment concerns – effectively relying on the absurd legal doctrine of substantive due process – runs completely counter to the federalism argument, and paves the way for future challenges to state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage.
Justice Scalia recognizes this farce for what it is, and reminds the public of the exchange between these two very same Justices ten years ago to the date in Lawrence v. Texas. Then Justice Kennedy assured us all that striking down anti-sodomy laws would not eventually be used as a rationale for upending traditional marriage, and Scalia scoffed at him in the dissent. Well, guess who’s looking prophetic now. Even left-wing pundit David Corn (gleefully, this case) acknowledges Scalia’s prescience. Kennedy, backed up by the obtuse Chief Justice, assures us that nothing in this decision interferes with state decision-making on marriage. Once again Scalia scoffs, and, sadly, at some point in the future he will no doubt be proven right.
As for the Prop 8 case: my what a tangled web. I have been defending Chief Justice Roberts’s decision (joined, I may remind you, by Antonin Scalia along with three of the Court’s leftists) on the grounds that had the case been decided on the merits, it is quite possible that the same 5-4 majority in Windsor would have held Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, and this would have been the Roe v. Wade of gay marriage. Now, I’m not so sure.
Admittedly, I am somewhat conflicted on the ruling on standing. The majority concludes that the petitioners did not have standing because they were not official delegates of the state, and they did not experience any harm due to the appellate court’s ruling decreeing Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. From a certain point of view, this is a perfectly acceptable legal holding. Scalia made a very good case in his Windsor dissent for a blanket denial of standing to all non-state petitioners in such cases. Scalia is acting fairly consistently, thus that explains why he voted with the majority here.
That said, the Chief Justice’s opinion is very worrisome, and not just from the standpoint of traditional marriage. As Justice Kennedy (!) explained in his dissent (joined in totality by Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor), the petitioners here do, in effect, represent the state. In fact the state constitution all but says that when it comes to ballot initiatives, ordinary citizens are agents of the state. I would go a step further and suggest that Roberts offers up a very constrained view of who the state is. According to his logic, the “state” is nothing more than the Chief Executive and the bureaucracy. From a technical legal standpoint this is fine, but the very point of a ballot initiative is to bypass state officials whom the citizenry at large have decided are not acting in their best interests. I have written before about my concerns (to put it mildly) regarding ballot initiatives, but it is illogical to deny that the ballot initiative process changes the normal dynamics of who has legal standing.
The Chief suggests on page 8 of his opinion that once the proposition was approved and enacted, that petitioners no longer had a role in enactment. But if the executive branch of the government refuses to defend the amendment or statute, that leaves the citizens with no legal recourse.
The petitioners relied on the case of Karcher v. May to argue that they indeed had standing, but Chief Roberts denied that the the ruling there was applicable.
Far from supporting petitioners’ standing, however, Karcher is compelling precedent against it. The legislators in that case intervened in their official capacities as Speaker and President of the legislature. No one doubts that a State has a cognizable interest “in the continued enforceability” of its laws that is harmed by a judicial decision declaring a state law unconstitutional. Maine v. Taylor, 477 U. S. 131, 137 (1986). To vindicate that interest or any other, a State must be able to designate agents to represent it in federal court.
But in a case revolving around a ballot initiative, haven’t the voters themselves become, in essence, the equivalent of legislators?
Roberts’s reticence to grant standing in this case is understandable, and I can see why Scalia would join the majority. In his Windsor defense, Scalia admirably rails against the idea of an omnipotent judiciary that decrees on all constitutional issues just because it wants to. An overly broad interpretation of who has standing empowers the judiciary. But I think this is a rare case in which judicial deference actually damages the workings of the republican process. For good or ill, Californians have favored a much more directly democratic system, and the Court’s majority fails to factor that into its decision-making. By denying standing to the petitioners, the Court has said that citizens have no real redress should state executives defy their expressed wishes.
Which leads me back to my uncertainty over the rationale over the votes cast in these two cases. I’m in the odd position where I disagree with the person who I think has the cleaner motive, but agree with the person whose motives are perhaps suspect. I have no doubt that if this case had been decided on the merits, Chief Justice Roberts would have voted to uphold Prop 8, while I’m not so certain about Kennedy. Scalia acted consistently with his overall principles, as did Alito (who would have granted standing to BLAG). Thomas offered no opinion in either case, but I suspect his reasoning would be similar to that of Alito, and so he acted consistently on the standing question as did, quite frankly, Sonia Sotomayor. As for the Court’s three other left-wingers – well, they did what they always did and just voted for the right (in their minds) outcome, reasoning be damned.
No matter the rationale for Roberts’s decision, it has ill portents. If Roberts acted strategically, then he abdicated his responsibility to be an impartial arbiter of the law. If he acted earnestly, well, he was simply wrong. More importantly, we’re stuck in a situation where the actual wishes of a democratic majority are trivial concerns compared to the desires of a handful of unelected judges. No matter how they voted today, this is simply untenable, and there is no end to this judicial tyranny in sight.
Both were 5-4 decisions. Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court on DOMA, Roberts on Prop 8. The lineups were slightly different. The dissenters on DOMA were Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, and on Prop 8 Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and . . . Sotomayor. Prop 8 fell because of standing and not on the merits of the legal issue, so the Court lineup actually doesn’t say much on that one. Of course the end result is that California will now recognize same-sex marriage.
I’ll be back much later with a full analysis. What the Windsor (DOMA) case means is that the federal government cannot prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriage, and those married in states allowing SSM must receive federal benefits. States are still free to not recognize same-sex marriage, but Kennedy’ s use of the Equal Protection Clause to underpin his argument means that the handwriting is on the wall. Scalia’s dissent is a must-read, but Alito’s is perhaps more significant – particularly footnote 7.
In the meantime, here’s some happy reading for you to ponder for the rest of the day.
Update: I think my explanation of the DOMA decision’s results is a little shaky. This was never about what the states could do, but it simply relates to granting federal benefits to same sex couples who claim to be married.
This is, in a sense, a two-part post. The first part examines the decision handed down by the Court in Shelby v. Holder, and the second looks at the hysterical over-reaction.
The decision itself is fairly restrained. In a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts delivering the opinion of the Court, the Court ruled as unconstitutional Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Actually, it really just ruled that Congress’s application of a 48-year old formula for determining which states and counties had to seek clearance from the federal government for any changes in its voting laws was lo longer justified. States subject to pre-clearance were those states which had poll tests and other restrictive measures in place at the time of the law’s enactment, and which also had enormous gaps in white versus black voter participation. This formula has remained unchanged for nearly half a century.
As the Chief explained in the ruling, the Court permitted a very wide abrogation of state authority in its decision upholding the Voting Rights Act (Katzenbach v. Morgan). The Court permitted what it termed “an uncommon exercise of Congressional power” due to “exceptional conditions.” As the Chief further explained, those exceptional conditions no longer applied, and indeed in those states and counties subject to pre-clearance there has been increased racial parity in terms of registration and participation. In fact, if one were to construct a list of states that should be subject to pre-clearance based on disparities in voter participation, there would be more justification in including Massachusetts instead of, say, South Carolina.
Justice Ginsburg in her dissent quips, “In the Court’s view, the very success of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy.” By the standards established by the dissenters, the formula established in Section 4 could never be deemed unconstitutional. Further, as Chief Justice Roberts says in his opinion:
The dissent treats the Act as if it were just like any other piece of legislation, but this Court has made clear from the beginning that the Voting Rights Act is far from ordinary. At the risk of repetition, Katzenbach indicated that the Act was “uncommon” and “not otherwise appropriate,” but was justified by “exceptional” and “unique” conditions. 383 U. S., at 334, 335. Multiple decisions since have reaffirmed the Act’s “extraordinary” nature. See, e.g., Northwest Austin, supra, at 211. Yet the dissent goes so far as to suggest instead that the preclearance requirement and disparate treatment of the States should be upheld into the future “unless there [is] no or almost no evidence of unconstitutional action by States.”
Ultimately, the decision is of somewhat limited scope:
Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.” Presley, 502 U. S., at 500–501. Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.
Of course this hasn’t stopped the left from completely over-reacting. A post on the Corner compiled the most over-the-top reactions. Melissa Harris-Perry’s tweet of “Damn, that citizenship thing was so great for awhile,” certainly was cute, but no one is touching Minnesota state rep. Ryan Winkler, who tweeted, “SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court’s backsliding.” Winkler soon deleted that tweet, and followed up with this whopper:
@atrupar I did not understand “Uncle Tom” as a racist term, and there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however.
— Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) June 25, 2013
It’s difficult to determine the most disgusting part of this exchange. Either Winkler is historically illiterate or a liar, though of course nothing necessarily precludes both being true. What’s worse, this white legislator from one of the whitest states in the Union seems to think he knows better than a black man raised in the South about how to deal with racial prejudice. Moreover, whitey has declared himself the judge of authentic blackness. Charming.
Finally, and I realize this is something of a nitpick, but the very term “Uncle Tom” is offensive not just because it carries with it the implicit notion that all African-Americans must think and act a certain way, but because the term itself is based on a character in a historical novel who was the opposite of what the term is meant to imply. I have a feeling that no one who has ever used the phrase has actually read the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, because if they had they would have a hard time justifying referring to the character as a race traitor. Then again, we live in a world where Al Sharpton is given legitimacy as a political analyst on a cable news network, so perhaps I underestimate the stupidity of large swathes of the American public.
Last week Jason Hall posted a column at the Catholic Stand that somewhat snarkily takes on the question of why illegal immigrants don’t just come here legally. Jason rightfully points out that it’s not exactly a piece of cake to legally immigrate to the United States. The process is terribly cumbersome, and it takes years for most people to finally gain legal residence, and that’s the case for people who have more connections and resources than the typical migrant worker.
That being the case, while Hall’s column does a good job at highlighting the inefficiencies of the immigration system, what it does not do is provide justification for the comprehensive immigration reform proposal being discussed in the Senate. As I said in the comments to his post, the question of whether the current process of legal immigration is cumbersome is not germane to the question of what to do with those individuals who have nonetheless entered the country illegally.
Now some have addressed this by stating that the current system is unjust, and therefore those who have entered the country illegally should not be punished for breaking an unjust law. I should emphasize right up front that Hall himself does not state this, at least in the column, but I have heard other immigration reform supporters make this claim. There are a couple of problems with this argument.
First of all, as admittedly burdensome as the immigration process is, that alone does not make the system unjust. Yes, it’s a bureaucratic mess, but unjust? I am not quite sure that an excess of red tape is an injustice that justifies blatant disregard for American laws and the violation of our sovereign border.
Furthermore, if our system were unjust, those who have immigrated illegally are in fact themselves guilty of committing an injustice, and any legislation that effectively rewarded their behavior would be an even graver injustice. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have begun the process of legally immigrating. The current proposal would effectively grant legal status to millions of people who cut in line, and would do so with minimal punishment. So now some ten million people would have been granted legal privileges ahead of those who respected the laws of this country. Moreover, the already over-loaded immigration bureaucracy would undoubtedly be stretched to even greater degrees in the process of legalizing or normalizing the statuses of those here illegally. I have a hard time believing that the overall immigration process would be smoothed out by such a dramatic change.
There are no easy solutions to this mess, and there are legitimate arguments to be made on behalf of some kind of comprehensive immigration reform plan. Of course it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we’re being sold a bill of goods by disappointingly dishonest politicians. But if we’re going to lament having a broken system, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that those we are trying to help played a large part in breaking it in the first place.
Rich Lowry has written a brilliant article (and also evidently a book) defending Abraham Lincoln from his critics on the right. He meticulously goes through the charges that certain people on the fringe right level at Lincoln and rebuts them one by one. For example, on the charge that Lincoln was a great centralizer out to destroy the states, Lowry notes that Lincoln’s view of the nation was little different than James Madison. Madison, like Lincoln, fought against the ideas of the likes of John Calhoun, who had defended the doctrine of nullification and asserted the supremacy of the states. As for secession, Lowry makes a point that I have often made regarding the right of the confederate states to rebel:
In his anti-Lincoln tract The Real Lincoln, Thomas DiLorenzo argues that secession is as American as apple pie. “The United States were founded by secessionists,” he insists, “and began with a document, the Declaration, that justified the secession of the American states.” No. The country was founded by revolutionaries and the Declaration justified an act of revolution. No one denies the right of revolution. Madison said that revolution was an “extra & ultra constitutional right.” Even Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address, concedes the point: “If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution — certainly would, if such right were a vital one.”
The friends of secession aren’t eager to invoke the right to revolution, though. For one thing, when a revolution fails, you hang. For another, the Declaration says a revolution shouldn’t be undertaken “for light and transient causes,” but only when a people have suffered “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” What was the train in 1860 and 1861? Seven southern states left the Union before Lincoln was inaugurated. The South had dominated the federal government for decades. Abuses and usurpations? It’s more like lose an election and go home.
He also takes on the likes of Ron Paul, who has asserted that Lincoln could have used the power of the purse to free the slaves rather than fighting a bloody civil war. Lowry writes:
They come up with fanciful alternatives to military conflict. Ron Paul wonders why Lincoln didn’t forestall the war by simply buying up and freeing the slaves. With his usual sense of realism, Paul ignores the fact that Lincoln repeatedly advanced schemes for just such a compensated emancipation. Lincoln argued for these proposals as “the cheapest and most humane way to end the war.” But except in the District of Columbia, they went precisely . . . nowhere. The border states weren’t selling, let alone the South. Even little Delaware, which was selected as a test case because in 1860 it had only 587 slaveholders out of a white population of 90,500, couldn’t be persuaded to cash out of slavery. One plan proposed by Lincoln would have paid $400 or so per slave and achieved full abolition by 1893. A version of the scheme failed in the state’s legislature.
Lowry addresses Lincoln’s war measures, and notes that Lincoln simply used the legitimate powers that were prescribed in the Constitution.
When it comes to the idea that Lincoln’s administration birthed the welfare state, Lowry destroys that argument.
Yet another favorite count against Lincoln on the Right is that he was the midwife for the birth of the modern welfare state — a false claim also made by progressives bent on appropriating him for their own purposes. The war necessarily entailed the growth and centralization of the state, but this hardly makes Lincoln a forerunner to FDR or LBJ. The income tax required to fund the war, instituted in 1861 and soon made into a progressive tax with higher rates for the wealthy, was a temporary measure eliminated in 1872. Wars are expensive. In 1860, the federal budget was well under $100 million. By the end of the war, it was more than $1 billion. But the budget dropped back down to $300 million, excluding payments on the debt, within five years of the end of the war.
To see in any of this the makings of the modern welfare state requires a leap of imagination. In the midst of the war, the State Department had all of 33 employees. The famous instances of government activism not directly related to the war — the subsidies to railroads, the Homestead Act — were a far cry from the massive transfer programs instituted in the 20th century. The railroads got land and loan guarantees but were a genuinely transformational technology often, though not always, providing an economic benefit. The Homestead Act, as Lincoln historian Allen Guelzo argues, can be viewed as a gigantic privatization of public lands, which were sold off at a cut rate to people willing to improve their plots.
In the North during the war, historian Richard Franklin Bensel points out, the industrial and agricultural sectors ran free of government controls. The labor force, although tapped for manpower for the war, was relatively unmolested. The government became entangled with the financial system, but that system was also becoming more modern, sophisticated, and free of European influence. Given its vitality and wealth, the North could wage the war without subjecting itself to heavy-handed command-and-control policies. Compared with the overmatched Confederacy, it was a laissez-faire haven.
Indeed federal government spending as a percentage of GDP increased to approximately 15 percent at the height of the Civil War, but came crashing down to about a 5 percent level immediately after its conclusion, where it remained until the Wilson administration. (Correction – see comments, spending was even lower, and remained low but for WWI until the Great Depression.)
If anything Lincoln was a Hamiltonian conservative. He believed in a strong national government to be sure, but one essentially limited in scope. It’s rather fitting considering that it was Hamilton’s political enemy – Thomas Jefferson – who Lincoln held up as a hero. It is also rather ironic that often those on the right who deride Lincoln are the same who glorify Jefferson. Perhaps that is a subject also worthy of deeper study.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Msgr. Charles Pope offers a meditation the Feast of the Holy Trinity that explains it about as well as any resource I have ever seen.
There is an old Spiritual that says, My God is so high, you can’t over him, he’s so low, you can’t under him, he’s so wide you can’t round him, you must come in, by and through the Lamb.
Not a bad way of saying that God is other, He is beyond what human words can tell or describe, He is beyond what human thoughts can conjure. And on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity we do well to remember that we are pondering a mystery that cannot fit in our minds.
A mystery though, is not something wholly unknown. In the Christian tradition the word “mystery,” among other things, refers to something partially revealed, much more of which lies hid. Thus, as we ponder the teaching on the Trinity, there are some things we can know by revelation, but much more is beyond our reach or understanding.
Lets ponder the Trinity by exploring it, seeing how it is exhibited in Scripture, and how we, who are made in God’s image experience it.
As the saying goes, read the rest.
I wish I had something cheerier to start the Memorial Day weekend, but Mark Steyn, as usual, knocks it out of the park with his weekend column.
This passivity set the tone for what followed. In London as in Boston, the politico-media class immediately lapsed into the pneumatic multiculti Tourette’s that seems to be a chronic side effect of excess diversity-celebrating: No Islam to see here, nothing to do with Islam, all these body parts in the street are a deplorable misinterpretation of Islam. The BBC’s Nick Robinson accidentally described the men as being “of Muslim appearance,” but quickly walked it back lest impressionable types get the idea that there’s anything “of Muslim appearance” about a guy waving a machete and saying “Allahu akbar.” A man is on TV dripping blood in front of a dead British soldier and swearing “by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” yet it’s the BBC reporter who’s apologizing for “causing offence.” To David Cameron, Drummer Rigby’s horrific end was “not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam. . . . There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”
How does he know? He doesn’t seem the most likely Koranic scholar. Appearing on David Letterman’s show a while back, Cameron was unable to translate into English the words “Magna Carta,” which has quite a bit to do with that “British way of life” he’s so keen on. But apparently it’s because he’s been up to his neck in suras and hadiths every night sweating for Sharia 101. So has Scotland Yard’s deputy assistant commissioner, Brian Paddick, who reassured us after the London Tube bombings that “Islam and terrorism don’t go together,” and the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, telling NPR listeners after 19 Muslims were arrested for plotting to behead the Canadian prime minister: “You know, in Islam, if you kill one person you kill everybody,” he said in a somewhat loose paraphrase of Koran 5:32 that manages to leave out some important loopholes. “It’s a very peaceful religion.”
That’s why it fits so harmoniously into famously peaceful societies like, say, Sweden. For the last week Stockholm has been ablaze every night with hundreds of burning cars set alight by “youths.” Any particular kind of “youth”? The Swedish prime minister declined to identify them any more precisely than as “hooligans.” But don’t worry: The “hooligans” and “youths” and men of no Muslim appearance whatsoever can never win because, as David Cameron ringingly declared, “they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values.” Actually, they’ve already gone quite a way toward eroding free speech, as both prime ministers demonstrate. The short version of what happened in Woolwich is that two Muslims butchered a British soldier in the name of Islam and helpfully explained, “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.” But what do they know? They’re only Muslims, not Diversity Outreach Coordinators. So the BBC, in its so-called “Key Points,” declined to mention the “Allahu akbar” bit or the “I”-word at all: Allah who?
As always, be sure to read the rest.
Douglas Murray also has a must-read column on the subject.
Not even a month after moving down to Atlanta to start college I was asked to attend a wedding in eastern Alabama near the Georgia/Alabama border. As I piled into my friend’s sisters’ car, I explained that I was an Italian Catholic from New York City.
“Oh boy,” was the immediate response.
So naturally I spent the rest of the trip before the weeding envisioning some gentle folks in white hoods rounding me up and stoning me.
Despite my wildest fears, the most abusive thing said to me that weekend was “Yeeeewww taaalk kinda fuh-neee.” Otherwise a weekend in rural Alabama made me realize that the good folks down south, who seemed so alien to me, weren’t so bad after all.
*For the record, I guess I do talk kinda funny, what, with a lifetime of sipping cawfee on Lawn-guy-lund.
That being said, it still took some getting used to being in an environment where practically everyone I knew wasn’t Catholic. Even though I spent the formative years of my life in the nation’s largest city, surrounded by a multitude of people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, all but a handful of my friends were Catholic. And living in a borough (Queens) where it seemed there was a Roman Catholic Church on every corner, it was difficult to conceive I could ever live in a location where I would be a distinct minority.
That was nearly twenty years ago, and though things were already changing down south, it’s still impressive to read these kind of reports.
The story of St. Dominic’s Monastery’s southern move may be the story of U.S. Catholicism. New data shows that some of the fastest-growing dioceses in the country are deep in the U.S. South.
The third-fastest-developing diocese is Atlanta, which saw the number of registered parishioners explode from nearly 322,000 in 2002 to 1 million in 2012 — an increase of more than twofold, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Atlanta also has the largest Eucharistic Congress in the country, with an annual attendance of about 30,000, according to an archdiocesan official.
Atlanta is not alone. Charleston, S.C., has seen a 50% increase in parishioners over the last decade. Charlotte, N.C., grew by a third, as did Little Rock, Ark. The Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., established just 25 years ago, is now the 25th-fastest- growing diocese in the nation — and would rank near the top if those official figures counted as many as 60,000 unregistered Hispanic congregants, according to a diocesan official.
Dioceses like Knoxville stand in stark contrast to former Catholic strongholds like Boston and Philadelphia, where parish consolidations, school closures and dwindling priests are the norm.
“Instead of us closing parishes and closing schools, we’re doing the opposite. We’re in total growth mode,” said Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor for the Diocese of Knoxville.
This growth is very visible when I visit my Godchildren’s parish in suburban Atlanta and other parts south as well. These parishes are literally teeming with vibrant young communities, and it’s very heartening. Not every aspect of southern Catholicsm is exactly to my taste – Church in the round is a common feather of suburban parishes – but I won’t nitpick too much. I would also agree that the insularity of northern parishes is a stark contrast to the ever-increasing Catholic south.
There’s more at the link on the changing landscape, and it’s definitely worth a read.
Drew M who blogs at Ace of Spades put together this video compilation.
Of course you have to be some kind of paranoid loon to think that the ever-expanding size of our government poses some kind of threat to the liberty of American citizens. I mean it’s not like the government is tapping not only the phones of reporters who dare question the regime, but those reporters’ parents as well. Ummmmm . . .
Well, you know how it is. When a reporter misbehaves, an administration sometimes has to call his parents…or, just seize their phone logs.
Bret Baier revealed Tuesday that, according to Department of Justice documents, one of the numbers listed in DOJ’s demands “also relate to James’ parents’ home in Staten Island.” I can’t yet find a Fox follow-up story on the revelation, but the Staten Island area code, 718, shows up twice in DOJ’s filing in the Stephen Jin-Woo Kim case. The documents are posted here by the New Yorker.
There’s more video at the link, where you can also find this post from Kirsten Powers.
Turns out it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to “delegitimize” a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters. In between, the Obama administration found time to relentlessly persecute government whistleblowers and publicly harass and condemn a private American citizen for expressing his constitutionally protected speech in the form of an anti-Islam YouTube video.
Where were the media when all this began happening? With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers.
As Powers goes on to elaborate, it’s not as though Obama and his team didn’t send out early warnings that media questioning of the One would not be . . . appreciated.
“What I think is fair to say about Fox … is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party,” said Anita Dunn, White House communications director, on CNN. “[L]et’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.” On ABC’s “This Week” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Fox is “not really a news station.” It wasn’t just that Fox News was “not a news organization,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel told CNN’s John King, but, “more [important], is [to] not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization …”
These series of “warnings” to the Fourth Estate were what you might expect to hear from some third-rate dictator, not from the senior staff of Hope and Change, Inc
Yet only one mainstream media reporter—Jake Tapper, then of ABC News—ever raised a serious objection to the White House’s egregious and chilling behavior. Tapper asked future MSNBC commentator and then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “[W]hy is [it] appropriate for the White House to say” that “thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a ‘news organization’?” The spokesman for the president of the United States was unrepentant, saying: “That’s our opinion.
Trashing reporters comes easy in Obama-land. Behind the scenes, Obama-centric Democratic operatives brand any reporter who questions the administration as a closet conservative, because what other explanation could there be for a reporter critically reporting on the government?
Now if you listen to certain doyens of the left, there is only one man to blame for the administration’s slippery behavior. That’s right, it all starts at the top, and the man who really is to blame for all of this misconduct is” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
This is truly horrifying. Please pray for all those in Moore, Oklahoma.
A mile-wide tornado with 200mph winds churned through Oklahoma City’s suburbs Monday afternoon, causing significant property damage for the second day in a row, as part of a severe weather outbreak that was expected to spread in other parts of the Plains and Midwest.
Television footage on Monday afternoon showed homes and buildings that had been reduced to rubble in Moore, Okla., south of Oklahoma City. Footage also showed vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.
Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department said an elementary school in Moore suffered “extensive damage.” A Norman, Okla. regional health system spokesperson told Fox News that Moore Medical Center, the only hospital in the city, also suffered “extensive structural damage,” demolishing the second floor of the hospital and tearing off part of the roof.
Words do not do the devastation justice.
Update: This will give you some idea of the damage.
As of this writing there are six confirmed dead.
Last week Kevin Williamson did something I have often dreamed of doing, although to people talking or texting on cell phones while driving and not in a movie theater.
The show was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which was quite good and which I recommend. The audience, on the other hand, was horrible — talking, using their phones, and making a general nuisance of themselves. It was bad enough that I seriously considered leaving during the intermission, something I’ve not done before. The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical. But my date spoke with the theater management during the intermission, and they apologetically assured us that the situation would be remedied.
It was not. The lady seated to my immediate right (very close quarters on bench seating) was fairly insistent about using her phone. I asked her to turn it off. She answered: “So don’t look.” I asked her whether I had missed something during the very pointed announcements to please turn off your phones, perhaps a special exemption granted for her. She suggested that I should mind my own business.
So I minded my own business by utilizing my famously feline agility to deftly snatch the phone out of her hand and toss it across the room, where it would do no more damage. She slapped me and stormed away to seek managerial succor. Eventually, I was visited by a black-suited agent of order, who asked whether he might have a word.
The reaction has been fascinating. While a great many have applauded Williamson for his bit of cell phone vigilantism, others have been far less sympathetic and indeed think he should be brought up on charges. Personally, I called him a hero on facebook.
But is he really a hero? Technically this was destruction of personal property. While the woman was certainly rude, lack of social grace does not negate the right to property.
On one level, it’s difficult to disregard that Williamson did act in an almost (or maybe not even almost) illegal fashion, and he himself was guilty of causing a disturbance. At the same time, the absolute lack of proper etiquette is becoming a growing concern in modern society. My wife and I rarely attend movies largely due to the fact that we have small children and babysitting is expensive. Yet were it not for the children we still would likely have cut back on our movie-going as it had become something of a tedium. I vividly recall attending the third installment of the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. The sheer awfulness of the film was compounded by the sheer awfulness of the crowd attending, largely populated by shrieking girls gawking at Orlando Bloom. Cell phone abuse was hardly the biggest issue with this crowd.
All the same, the reason that so many view Williamsom with admiration is that he confronted rudeness head-on. Instead of bellyaching later in a blogpost about the obnoxious woman sitting next to him, he actually did something about it. Though the action itself is of dubious ethical value, it was an action, and in world of words any actions taken to tackle social problems seem much more meritorious.
There are obvious concerns with Williamson’s actions being replicated on a larger scale, so we should probably not completely encourage such behavior. That being said, I have a difficult time not applauding Williamson for doing what so many of us have yearned to do.