Quote of the Day, post-July 4th zinger edition

July 5, 2014

Bullseye!

From a Ukrainian journalist meditating on his country and ours:

Why don’t we use the American Constitution? It was written by really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and they’re not using it anymore.

Ouch! It stings because it’s so close to the truth.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


(Video) Must-viewing: Daniel Hannan at CPAC 2012

February 14, 2012

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was held this last weekend in D.C. I didn’t attend, sadly  (1), so I’ve been working my way through the speeches I would have attended, looking for some to share.

Boy, have I got a good one for you.

Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament from SE England, spoke to the assembled conventioneers and gave them a warning from the future: America is on the way to becoming a statist mess like the EU, but there is still time to change direction. (Unlike Europe?)

He also spoke with an outsider’s admiration for our political accomplishments and evincing a knowledge and understanding of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution that I daresay few Americans could match. And also a sadness that his own homeland, the birthplace of our common heritage, is well on the road to chucking it all away.

But, enough. Watch and enjoy:

Two final questions:

Is there any way we can kidnap Hannan, grant him citizenship, and force him to serve in the Senate? And, be honest, how many of you watched this, imagined Hannan debating President Obama and started giggling?

I did.

RELATED: Earlier posts featuring Daniel Hannan. In this video, which made him a star among US conservatives, Hannan shreds then-PM Gordon Brown.

Footnote:
(1) Generous donations for next year gladly accepted!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Justice Ginsburg: “Don’t use the US Constitution as a model”

February 4, 2012

Old and outdated?

Pardon me, but …ahem… WTF??

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, on which she sits to rule on constitutional matters, gave an interview to Al Hayat TV on the revolutions overtaking the Arab world and the prospects for democracy. (Video here.) She starts off fine:

Let me say first that a constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom. If the people don’t care, then the best constitution in the world won’t make any difference. So the spirit of liberty has to be in the population, and then the constitution – first, it should safeguard basic fundamental human rights, like our First Amendment, the right to speak freely, and to publish freely, without the government as a censor.

Can’t argue one bit with any of that. If there’s one thing fundamental to genuine democratic rule (and one reason why Sharia-based societies can never be truly democratic), it’s the guarantee of freedom of speech.

But then she runs off the rails and into WTF-land:

You should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone one since the end of World War II. I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary… It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the US constitution – Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights. Yes, why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world?

“But, for God’s sake, don’t use only the most successful governing document in Earth’s history. It’s so… old!”

I wonder if she and Ezra Klein are related?

Now, to be fair, there is a “this wasn’t a stupid thing for a SCOTUS Justice to say at all” argument. It runs something like this:

The Constitution of the United States arose under conditions unique to the time and place in which it was written, and to the people who wrote it. The traditions of British Common Law and Whiggery with its limitations on the power of government and protection for the  rights of the individual; the Classical examples of Greek democracy and the Roman Republic, which the Founders knew by heart; the Judeo-Christian traditions that separated government from God; and the Enlightenment, which applied reason to government. Thus all Justice Ginsburg is saying is that this mix was unique to 18th century America, and that the new Arab governments should look to examples reflecting more current conditions.

But I don’t buy it.

When she refers to a “charter of rights,” I have to wonder if she’s ever heard of this little thing called the Bill of Rights. It secures the political rights of the people (free speech, free assembly, the right to a jury trial and habeas corpus) and their rights to their own property. (1) Beyond that, it leaves the people to take care of themselves as free citizens.

In that lies the problem, I suspect, for Justice Ginsburg: the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are negative charters. They grant limited powers to the general government and largely circumscribe what it may do, restricting it to those things necessary to the general welfare.

All else is left to the people and the states.

And I suspect that bugs the heck out of progressive liberals, such as Justice Ginsburg. They want government to do more for the people, because the world is too complex and just too difficult for people to take care of themselves:

This isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. It’s old, going back to the roots of American progressivism in the 19th century, what we now call, incorrectly, “liberalism.” It’s fundamental thesis is that the modern world is too complex for a governing system designed in the 18th century for a rural, isolated republic; that legislatures were too fractious and trapped by partisan interest to do what was best; and that these complexities were best handed off to boards of experts and technocrats who could make the correct decisions with scientific dispassion — Orszag’s “depoliticized commissions.” Woodrow Wilson crystallized this contempt for democratic governance when, before becoming president, he argued in essence that the Constitution was obsolete. (See also Goldberg’s excellent “Liberal Fascism.”)

Politically, it’s represented in modern times by FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” and its modern promoter, Cass Sunstein, as well as the idea of the “Living Constitution” — a document that “evolves” with changing times and needs. Justice Ginsburg would be its judicial exemplar.

Take a look at a portion of one of the documents she praises, the South African Bill of Rights. It speaks not only of political and property rights, but health care, housing, the environment, and linguistic and community rights. That is, welfare state-style economic and social rights, far beyond what we understand as “unalienable rights.” I suspect that she would love to see the courts in the US step in to provide those economic and social rights when the legislatures fail to do so, acting themselves as a sort-of legislature.

But, to get back to Justice Ginsburg’s assertion that the US Constitution is not a good model for new Arab governments, I’d say quite the opposite. The danger in societies under Sharia is repression and the loss of individual rights, especially if one is a woman or a non-Muslim — or both. Sharia is totalitarian, governing every aspect of daily life, and its adherents are a threat to the liberties of others wherever they gain control of government.

And even if not Sharia-based, Arab governments have shown themselves far too willing interfere in their economies in the name of “fairness” (and to keep control for themselves), with results that have ranged from mediocrity to outright wreckage.

Hence what is needed and what new Arab governments should look to, if they want to guarantee liberty and prosperity, are precisely those governing philosophies and documents that limit the power and reach of government.

Gee, something like the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. (2)

It’s a shame that a Justice of the United States Supreme Court doesn’t understand that.

via David Freddoso, Phillip A. Klein, and Weasel Zippers

RELATED: Justice Ginsburg, eugenicist?

LINKS: More at The American Spectator and Hot Air.

Footnotes:
(1) Yeah, I know these have been eroded to one degree or another, here, especially after Kelo. Bear with me.
(2) No slight meant to South African or Canadian readers, though Canada is a bit dodgy from a US point-of-view on free speech.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bill Whittle: “How to steal power” or “Turning the Constitution upside-down”

October 31, 2011

Bill’s back with another episode of Afterburner, this time taking a look at how progressives (including Supreme Court justices) have regularly twisted (and even tortured) the plain meaning of the Constitution to get what they want, rather than what the document allows. Bill focuses on two much-abused clauses in Article I, section 8, “General Welfare” and “Commerce,” to show that, interpreted in the progressive manner, as part of a “Living Constitution,” (1) these clauses stop being limits on government’s power and instead become grants of unlimited power.

My own view is that of originalism, that the document has to be read as the Convention and the ratifying states intended. Where the language is plain, as in…

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

…then the argument ends. In more ambiguous sections (often due to 18th century grammar and style), we can use our reason (2) and examine primary sources of the time, such as the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, the records of the Constitutional Convention, and the contemporaneous state constitutions to figure out what was intended.

And where the powers delegated to the federal government under the Constitution are inadequate to meet a truly national or multi-state issue, there’s this little thing called Article V that provides a means to rewrite the rules in a manner best-suited to creating consensus — unlike diktats from imperialist judges divining the current meaning of the living constitution from its penumbras and emanations.

Any other way is just stealing power.

Footnote:
(1) Just to be fair to the other side, Strauss’ recent book, The Living Constitution, has been receiving good reviews. It never hurts to know the other guys’ arguments.
(2) Contra Ezra Klein, it’s not hard.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Meet Jim Moran (D-VA), anti-democratic Democrat

October 24, 2011

Let’s be blunt — Democratic pols are having a breakdown as they are forced to face three things: their treasured statist, social democratic policies are an abject failure (1); only a fifth of the nation identifies with the Democrats’ statist philosophy and policies (2); and their leader is a schmuck who is leading them to a massacre in 2012 that will make the Great Shellacking of 2010 look like a walk in the park.

So, having to face the fact that the general voting public doesn’t like them and their policies much and is working within the democratic system to stymie their plans and (eventually, we hope) undo the damage they’ve done, we shouldn’t be surprised when their inner progressive comes out and they decide to say “to heck with the democratic system and the Constitution itself (3), we’ll just rule by decree!

Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran told The Daily Caller on Thursday evening that President Obama should “refinance every home mortgage” without congressional approval in order to “reset the economy.”

“Absolutely, I think [Obama] should do that but there are not a lot of places where he can act unilaterally,” Moran told TheDC during Conservation International’s Oct. 20 dinner in Washington, D.C.

“If he chooses to act unilaterally,” Moran said, “the likelihood is that there will be language in the appropriations bills that will prohibit him from spending money for that purpose. That’s just the political reality. But notwithstanding that, I think he should do everything he can do on his own to stimulate jobs.”

Obama has already asked his Council on Jobs to identify areas of the American Jobs Act that can be implemented without congressional authorization.

Moran told TheDC that he would “like to see” the Obama administration “refinance every home mortgage at three-and-a-half to four percent” interest, which he said can be accomplished without approval from Congress.

“The banks aren’t doing it, but the federal government can borrow money at three-and-a-half percent today. They should use that money to refinance every home mortgage, and that would put $750 billion into homeowners pockets,” he said. “It would reset the economy, and I think it’s the one thing that would most quickly get this economy back on its feet.”

*sigh* 

Not only does Representative Moran want Obama to spend money without authorization, but he wants Obama to borrow nearly another trillion dollars. Let me remind Congressman Moran of Article I, section 8, clause 2 of the United States Constitution, which defines the powers of Congress:

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

Only Congress can borrow money on the credit of the United States; that power is granted to no one else.

And yet James Moran, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Virginia’s 8th district, wants the President of the United States to usurp powers granted only to Congress, because the meanie Republicans are doing what their constituents elected them to do and blocking any more idiotic ideas — such as Jim Moran’s.

May I suggest to Congressman Moran, since he finds the Constitution he swore to uphold and defend such a pain in the rear, that he do the honorable thing and resign?

First it was Governor Perdue (D-NC) advocating suspending congressional elections in 2012. Then it was Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., urging Obama to declare Congress in rebellion. And now Jim Moran wants Obama to borrow and spend money without any concern for the people’s elected representatives.

Professional Democrats have a real problem with democracy, don’t they?

via Ed Morrissey, who exposes the economic stupidity of Moran’s “plan.”

Footnotes:
(1) Cash for Clunkers. The Stimulus act. The CLASS program. The Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank. The earlier mortgage bailout.  Their loan programs to the “green companies” of tomorrow (See: Solyndra. Tesla and Fisker). And I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch more.
(2) It’s hard to claim to be the “party of the people” when only one-in-five will even admit to aligning with you.
(3) Well, who can blame them? The document is over 100 years old and it probably confuses the poor dears.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: “Time to declare Congress in rebellion”

October 13, 2011

Because they’re acting like seceding states, or something.

Really, this isn’t parody; the idiot really said it.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. told The Daily Caller on Wednesday that congressional opposition to the American Jobs Act is akin to the Confederate “states in rebellion.”

Jackson called for full government employment of the 15 million unemployed and said that Obama should “declare a national emergency” and take “extra-constitutional” action “administratively” — without the approval of Congress — to tackle unemployment.

“I hope the president continues to exercise extraordinary constitutional means, based on the history of Congresses that have been in rebellion in the past,” Jackson said. “He’s looking administratively for ways to advance the causes of the American people, because this Congress is completely dysfunctional.”

“President Obama tends to idealize — and rightfully so  — Abraham Lincoln, who looked at states in rebellion and he made a judgment that the government of the United States, while the states are in rebellion, still had an obligation to function,” Jackson told TheDC at his Capitol Hill office on Wednesday.

“On several occasions now, we’ve seen … the Congress is in rebellion, determined, as Abraham Lincoln said, to wreck or ruin at all costs. I believe … in the direct hiring of 15 million unemployed Americans at $40,000 a head, some more than $40,000, some less than $40,000 — that’s a $600 billion stimulus. It could be a five-year program. For another $104 billion, we bailout all of the states … for another $100 billion, we bailout all of the cities,” he said.

There are so many levels of mind-boggling stupidity in this that I don’t know where to begin. “Congress in rebellion?” Um, excuse me, Congressman Jackson, but Congress is a coequal branch of the government and not subservient to a monarch. Under the Constitution (Article 1, Section 1. Try reading it.) it is Congress that has sole law-making power and that includes refusing to pass bills it doesn’t like — including another guaranteed-to-fail Jobs Bill Stimulus Porkulus program.

“Extra-constitutional action?” Seriously? You’re suggesting that the president become a dictator and appropriate money himself, bypassing Congress and Article I? Congressman, let me remind you of your oath:

“I, [Jesse Jackson, Jr.], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Of course, that oath is mandated by Article VI, so I guess it’s irrelevant since you want to suspend the Constitution.

And let’s not even dwell on the odious insult and historical illiteracy inherent in comparing legitimate legislative opposition to secessionists seeking to defend slavery. Don’t bother with economic nonsense that makes up this clown’s “program.” (Bryan Preston points out the huge flaws in the latter.)

No, what really jumps out is that this jackass (and son of an even bigger jackass) is yet another example of anti-democratic Democrats, such as North Carolina’s Governor Bev Perdue, who suggested calling off the next congressional elections. (Click through for even more examples.)

This is the fundamental contradiction that lies at the heart of the progressive elites who dominate the Democratic Party (and their Big Labor and MSM allies): for all their lip service to the Constitution, our founding principles, and the “American Way,” they really don’t like democracy. As historian Steven Hayward wrote recently when talking about liberal anti-democrats:

At the core of “Progressivism,” as it was called then and is again today, was the view that more and more of the business of individuals and society was best supervised by expert administrators sealed off from the transient pressures of popular politics. So at the same time that Progressives championed “more democracy” in the form of populist initiatives, referendum, and recalls, they also developed a theory deeply anti-democratic in its implications. As the famous phrase from Saint-Simon had it, “the government of men is to be replaced by the administration of things.” But this undermines the very basis of democratic self-rule. No one better typifies the incoherence of Progressivism on this point than Woodrow Wilson, an enthusiastic theorist of the modern administrative state who couldn’t clearly express why we would still need to have elections in the future. In Wilson’s mind, elections would become an expression of some kind of watery, Rousseauian general will, but certainly not change specific policies or the nature of administrative government.

And now that popular democracy has gotten in their way, Democratic leaders yearn for “administrative experts” — bureaucratic dictators.

Glenn Reynolds thinks Jackson should resign over this. Resign, hell. “Representative” Jesse Jackson, Jr., should be brought before the House and expelled for violating his oath.

There is a deep, deep, political sickness at the top of the Democratic Party, and it’s up to us to make sure they never have the reins of power again until it’s cured.

LINK: the YidWithLid and I think alike.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Thomas Sowell on the Constitution and its relevance

June 28, 2011

Thomas Sowell’s July 4th article at Townhall.com is a reply to the cover article in Time Magazine of that same date on the Constitution by editor Richard Stengel. In it, Stengel asks the question “Does it still matter” and then proceeds to answer with a “no,” offering a series of reasons.

Very dumb reasons, which Sowell proceeds to demolish; I’ll let you read that yourselves. What I want to quote here is Sowell’s explanation of the significance of the Constitution and why it is still a revolutionary document 225 years after its writing:

Not only did July 4, 1776 mark American independence from England, it marked a radically different kind of government from the governments that prevailed around the world at the time — and the kinds of governments that had prevailed for thousands of years before.

The American Revolution was not simply a rebellion against the King of England, it was a rebellion against being ruled by kings in general. That is why the opening salvo of the American Revolution was called “the shot heard round the world.”

Autocratic rulers and their subjects heard that shot — and things that had not been questioned for millennia were now open to challenge. As the generations went by, more and more autocratic governments around the world proved unable to meet that challenge.

Some clever people today ask whether the United States has really been “exceptional.” You couldn’t be more exceptional in the 18th century than to create your fundamental document — the Constitution of the United States — by opening with the momentous words, “We the people…”

Those three words were a slap in the face to those who thought themselves entitled to rule, and who regarded the people as if they were simply human livestock, destined to be herded and shepherded by their betters. Indeed, to this very day, elites who think that way — and that includes many among the intelligentsia, as well as political messiahs — find the Constitution of the United States a real pain because it stands in the way of their imposing their will and their presumptions on the rest of us.

More than a hundred years ago, so-called “Progressives” began a campaign to undermine the Constitution’s strict limitations on government, which stood in the way of self-anointed political crusaders imposing their grand schemes on all the rest of us. That effort to discredit the Constitution continues to this day, and the arguments haven’t really changed much in a hundred years.

Sowell focuses on Stengel’s article as just a variation on that century-old attack, but bear in mind that the Constitution and the ideas behind it and the Declaration of Independence are just as threatening to foreign despots now as they were “back then,” whether they be kings, theocrats, dictators, or dictators disguised as democrats. As Michael Ledeen often writes, we are the most revolutionary society on the planet, because we were founded and still largely believe the crazy notion not only that people are capable of governing themselves, but that they should, by right. And the dynamism unleashed by free societies scares the heck out of those who think themselves our “natural rulers,” from Riyadh to Brussels to… the House Progressive Caucus.

It’s something to think about next weekend while enjoying the hot dogs and fireworks.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Congresswoman to Congress: “Go to Hell!”

April 7, 2011

Eleanor Holmes Norton is the non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives for the District of Columbia. Even though she cannot vote, she serves as Washington’s representative. She is also a dyed-in-the-wool progressive Democrat and a fan of spending. So, when the Republicans propose to eliminate the use of all government funds for abortion in the District, she gets a wee bit upset:

The Democratic non-voting representative for the District of Columbia told MyFoxDC.com that Congress should go “straight to hell” for trying to meddle in D.C. affairs.

Norton was referring to a provision in the stopgap budget bill House Republicans are pushing that would ban federal and local taxpayer dollars in the District of Columbia from being used to pay for abortions.

“We are absolutely outraged. This is the functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians,” she said, according to MyFoxDC.com. “It’s time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell.”

Gotta love that “new tone,” eh?

Let’s set aside the laughable and fatuous hyperbole required to compare a budgetary decision to what Qaddafi has been doing in Libya. That’s par for the Democrats’ course. When it comes to “meddling in D.C. affairs,” however, Holmes needs to review the history of the district she represents. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution reads, in part:

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

Said district was created by the Residence Act of 1790, based on the cession of lands by Maryland and Virginia. The Government of the district was established by the Organic Act of 1801 and amended in the Organic Act of 1871. Both these acts (the latter of which is still in force, I believe) were enacted by Congress in pursuance of their powers under the Constitution. Far from meddling where they don’t belong, they have a specific charge under our most basic law to involve themselves in D.C. affairs, including the manner in which local money is spent.

Before she next decides to blow off steam, perhaps Delegate Norton should take the time to review the proper role of the chamber in which she serves — which includes supervising D.C., not funding abortion — and the law regarding the district she supposedly represents.

Unless, of course, she likes making herself look foolish and ignorant.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Nullification: a bad idea

January 22, 2011

There’s an interesting post over at Hot Air by Howard Portnoy about the efforts of Idaho and a few other states to pass resolutions of nullification against ObamaCare. In other words, their state legislatures would pass resolutions declaring the “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” unconstitutional and thus null and void in their states:

The doctrine, known as nullification, has its roots in the brand of governance practiced by the nation’s founding fathers. It was used as early as 1799 by then-law professor Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in a response to federal laws passed amid an undeclared naval war against France that

  • “nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts … is the rightful remedy.”

As a legal theory, nullification is grounded in the assumption that states, and not the U.S. Supreme Court, are the ultimate arbiter in cases where Congress and the president have “run amok.”

In Idaho, use of the doctrine to invalidate the health care reform bill is being championed by both state Sen. Monty Pearce and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter speech, who recently told Idaho residents, “we are actively exploring all our options — including nullification.” Pearce plans to introduce a nullification bill in the state legislature early next week.

Constitutional theory fascinates me and, while I make no claim to be the intellectual equal of Thomas Jefferson (or James Madison, who also played a role in this), I couldn’t  resist leaving a comment explaining why I think they were wrong and why nullification is just flat-out a bad idea:

  • “The doctrine, known as nullification, has its roots in the brand of governance practiced by the nation’s founding fathers.”

Not all of them. While Jefferson and Madison were the authors of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolves in 1798 in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts. Not a single other state backed them. Beyond that, many states condemned them. For example, Rhode Island, which was suspicious of the new government under the Constitution and one of the last to ratify it, declared the resolves to be a danger and that only the federal courts could decide the constitutionality of a law. Almost literally, Virginia and Kentucky’s positions on interposition and nullification represented “extremist” constitutional theory.

To amplify this a bit, bear in mind that there were 16 states in the Union at that time. Fourteen of them refused to endorse the K-V Resolves. Every state from Maryland, north, condemned them. The people of that time were members of the founding generation. They may not have attended the Constitutional Convention itself, but many, many of them closely followed and participated in the post-convention debates over ratification through their local newspapers and in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. And 88% of them, through their state legislatures, refused to endorse interposition and nullification. Those people were all “present at the creation;” shouldn’t their refusal to go along tell us something?

To continue:

Beyond any argument about the history of nullification, the idea itself is hare-brained. To allow it would create a crazy-quilt of federal law that would turn the concept of national government and nationwide rule-of-law a joke.

And I’m not being facetious here. Creating an “opt-out provision” whereby some states can say the equivalent of “nuh-uh” is a recipe for chaos. One just has to look at the history of the enforcement of fugitive slave laws to see what mischief this would work. (And, no, I’m not endorsing those laws. But the refusal of some states to enforce them did contribute to the deteriorating political climate that preceded the Civil War.) Or, for a modern example, look at the controversies over the raft of exemptions to ObamaCare being granted to companies. Imagine if whole states could chuck whatever section of the United States Code annoyed them.

Finally:

We all agree that ObamaCare is bad medicine, but the proper way to deal with it it what’s being done right now: defeating its supporters in elections, dismantling it in Congress, and fighting it in federal court. And, if need be, calling an Article V amendments convention. But for Idaho and other states to revive the so-called “Principles of Ninety-eight” is a distraction and a dead-end, and downright harmful to the cause by making our side look unserious.

This, I feel, is key: we already have the remedies to the problem available to us and we are using them. In fact, we scored a great victory last November and we’ve had our first real victory in court. The House has passed a repeal bill, and a vote can be forced in the Senate. Obama can certainly veto a repeal measure, but 2012 isn’t that far away. And there’s a growing movement in favor of the passage of a Repeal Amendment, which would be the right way to handle anything resembling nullification, since the law would still apply to all states equally.

With all due respect to people intrigued by the idea of nullification, to engage in an act of political necromancy in order to revive a bad doctrine that should stay forever in a sealed tomb is the height of folly. It is political chest-thumping designed to make one feel good — all show and no substance.

ObamaCare, on the other hand, is wholly substantial and a very real threat to our economic health and individual liberties. The effort to undo it will require all our focus and effort, and we should resist any temptation to be sidetracked and dissipate our energies by tilting at constitutional windmills.

UPDATE: A related article at the Washington Post.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


So ignorant, it’s scary: the sequel

January 19, 2011

Last summer I wrote a post about the mind-numbing witlessness of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).  Now, on top of her ignorance of History and Science, she’s shown herself to be devoid of any understanding of the Constitution*, too, by declaring that a repeal of ObamaCare would be unconstitutional:

Arguing that the Commerce Clause provides the constitutional basis for ObamaCare, Jackson Lee said repealing the law by passing Republicans’ H.R. 2 violates both the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“The Fifth Amendment speaks specifically to denying someone their life and liberty without due process,” she said in a speech on the House floor moments ago. “That is what H.R. 2 does and I rise in opposition to it. And I rise in opposition because it is important that we preserve lives and we recognize that 40 million-plus are uninsured.

She continued, “Can you tell me what’s more unconstitutional than taking away from the people of America their Fifth Amendment rights, their Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the right to equal protection under the law?”

Jackson Lee mentioned the names of several people who she said would be helped by the national health care law, including a schizophrenic, a dialysis patient, and somebody whose mother cannot otherwise get dental care. “I know they would question why we are taking away their rights,” she said.

Actually, I should think they would more likely question whether she has two firing synapses in her head. And does anyone seriously think she’d even be giving constitutionalism a passing glance, if her party hadn’t been massacred in the last election by voters sickened by the Democrats’ cavalier disregard for the Constitution?

She won’t understand it, but I’ll try.

Dear Sheila,

The US Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. That means –try to keep up, now– it limits what the federal government can do, assigning it specific powers and reserving the rest to the people and the states. It does this to protect the individual liberty of Americans from tyrannical power-grabs by a distant government. (If you had paid attention in History class, you’d recall we fought the Revolution for that very reason.) This is why the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, the Second the individual right to bear arms, and so on.

What the Constitution does not do, regardless of what Franklin Roosevelt and Cass Sunstein say, is mandate that the government give you stuff. It is not required to give you food, clothing, a place to live, a new TV, gas for your car, a pony on your birthday, or insurance coverage. Your twisting of the Fifth Amendment to say that the government must mandate insurance coverage lest someone’s life be taken from them is… bizarre. If that’s the case, then the government should buy everyone a gun, too, since otherwise someone might lose his life and property in a robbery. You know what happens when you rely on the government to give you everything you could want? The citizen becomes an infantilized servant.

And “due process?” I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean. Are you really saying that the government cannot deny someone insurance coverage without a court hearing? Wait. I don’t want to be giving you any ideas…

Sigh. What’s the use? She’s a progressive through and through, dedicated to the proposition that all Men are to be made equal by the government and are endowed by the government with whatever rights the government makes up that week**. And it’s not a coincidence that handing out goodies and calling them “constitutional rights” is a good way to bribe her constituents*** into reelecting her, which they seem quite willing to do.

But it doesn’t change the fact that she’s dumber than a box of rocks.

*Of course, that’s a common problem among Democrats. Some Republicans, too, but it’s pandemic on their side.

**I’d suggest she read the original, but why bother? It’s over 100 years old and probably too confusing for her.

***Can’t wait to see what reapportionment does to her district. Schadenfreude, baby!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Constitution is just too confusing!

December 30, 2010

Well, it is for Ezra Klein, one of the Washington Post’s bloggers. You see, it’s over 100 years old and the language is just too confusing:

Click the image to watch.

Newsbusters provides a transcript. Here’s the relevant part:

[MSNBC HOSTESS NORAH] O’DONNELL: You heard all the different politicians talking about the Constitution. Well, this is what’s going to happen. When Republicans take over next week, they’re going to do something that apparently has never been done in the 221-year history of the House of Representatives. They are going to read the Constitution aloud. Is this a gimmick?

KLEIN: Yes, it’s a gimmick. [Laughs] I mean, you can say two things about it. One, is that it has no binding power on anything. And two, the issue of the Constitution is not that people don’t read the text and think they’re following. The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done. So, I wouldn’t expect to much coming out of this.

Ezra, dude, let me help. You have this thing called a “brain” and access to a wonderful process called “reason.” If you use them, then many confusing things, such as the basic governing document of the United States, actually become comprehensible. Try it some time; you might be surprised at the results.

Okay, snark aside, his argument is just plain silly. Sure, language changes over time and words develop new definitions. Changing usages of punctuation can shift meaning. But it’s not as if the Constitution exists in a vacuum, without any context. Nor has English changed so much from 1787 that our poor brains can’t parse it. (Just curious, Ezra: do you have problems with Shakespeare, too? I mean his plays are over 400 years old…)

See, Ezra, we have these marvelous resources available to help us understand what was meant way back then: the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers present us with the arguments of both sides for and against the ratification of the Constitution, and they went on at great length about what the words meant. (In fact, our Bill of Rights was produced largely as a compromise with the Anti-Federalists, who were gathering momentum to call a second Constitutional Convention to fix what they saw as problems with the core document.)

If those aren’t enough, we also have state constitutions from the time, showing us how already existing governments understood their roles and power, and the records of the debates in state conventions prior to their ratification votes. And we also have Supreme Court decisions from the early republic showing us how learned men much closer to the Founding interpreted the Constitution. Okay, so maybe their language will confuse you, too. I can but point the way.

Sure, there are are vague patches in the Constitution: the “necessary and proper” clause forces us to think about the nature and scope of government, and what is necessary to its operation. The “general welfare” and “commerce” clauses have been badly misinterpreted over the years (largely by progressive judges). But it’s not as if we’re left with nothing to do but throw up our hands and say it’s so confusing that it makes our brains hurt. We can use the resources available to figure out those vague parts — you know, reason.

Honestly, what Klein is saying, and what his fellow progressives have been saying for over 100 years, is that government is simply too difficult, too complex, too confusing for the common folk, and that we need experts to guide us and make decisions for us. They know what’s best, so stop fussing over a centuries-old and obsolete piece of parchment.

But that’s the beauty of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights: so short that any citizen can carry it in his breast pocket and plain enough that most parts are readily understood, while those that aren’t can be reasoned through. That’s one of the things that empowers the citizen, that he can check the owner’s manual when he likes to see how things should be done. Your vision of a Constitution that’s too confusing for the modern day instead turns citizens into subjects dependent on the dispensations of the elite.

The Constitution is a challenge, Ezra; it is not confusing.

LINKS: Klein explains himself on the confusing Constitution and Republican gimmicks.

UPDATE: Iowahawk skewers Klein on the lance of satire. At Liberty Pundits, Dr. Melissa Clouthier lays bare what Klein and his fellow progressives really want.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Barney Frank: “It’s not my job to know what I’m doing” or something

December 26, 2010

Unbelievable.

Congressman Bawney Fwank (D-MA) says it’s not his job to know whether a law he votes on is constitutional or not — that’s the Supreme Court’s job, silly!

In the next Congress, Republicans will require every bill to cite its specific constitutional authority, a reminder to color inside the lines drawn long ago by the Founding Fathers.

The rule is a mostly symbolic overture to the Tea Party, for which an animating cause was that much of the congressional agenda over the last two years, including the president’s health care law and the bailouts for Wall Street, has been unconstitutional.

But some House Democrats are steamed at the charge their agenda has gone beyond Congress’s constitutional authorities.

“It’s an air kiss they’re blowing to the Tea Party,” said Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Barney Frank about the rule. “Anything we’re doing that’s unconstitutional will be thrown out in court. Some of them interpret the constitution very differently, but no, that will not be a problem.”

In other words, “anything I’m do is going to be checked by those guys, so why should I bother to understand the driver’s manual?  Just because I have the keys? Oh, please.”

Bawney, there’s a big difference between accepting judicial review and just throwing up your hands and saying it’s not your danged problem. In fact, it is your danged problem, like it or not. Allow me to remind you of your oath of office — you know, that thing you recited between accepting fat envelopes from lobbyists:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Those highlighted parts are there for your benefit, Bawney. It’s a fair bet that carrying out your oath means understanding the document you swear to protect and defend. You might try it sometime, and try less of the arrogant jackass routine.

Be sure to read the whole article, folks. It’s just chock-full of charming quotes like that from “Representative” Fwank’s fellow oligarchs Democratic colleagues.

BY THE WAY: I have a question for the voters of the 4th congressional district of Massachusetts. What were you thinking? How in God’s name could you people ever choose that spiteful, arrogant, contemptible toad over Sean Bielat last month? Enlighten me, please; I’m really at a loss here.

h/t Jennifer Rubin via Gay Patriot

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Getting it backwards: the legislative veto

December 1, 2010

At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey writes about the efforts of the Republican minority in the Senate to defeat the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to gain via regulation what the environmental left couldn’t achieve via legislation: a cap-and-trade system and other onerous, economy killing “environmental” regulations. Their strategy involves the use of a little known procedure created in the 90s, called the Congressional Review Act. Ed quotes from a Politico article; see if you can spot the problem:

The law lets sponsors skip Senate filibusters, meaning Republicans don’t have to negotiate with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for a floor vote or secure the tricky 60 votes typically needed to do anything in the Senate.

The House doesn’t have the same expedited procedures, but it’s assumed the GOP majority would have little trouble mustering the votes needed to pass disapproval resolutions.

A spate of contentious EPA rules that are soon to be finalized could be prime targets, including the national air quality standard for ozone, toxic emission limits for industrial boilers and a pending decision about whether to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste.

We’re not going to let EPA regulate what they’ve been unable to legislate. And if I’m chairman, we’re going to have a very aggressive, proactive schedule,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the likely incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told POLITICO.

Note the highlighted portions. What’s being described is a legislative veto, a controversial procedure that was never envisioned in the Constitution by the Framers. Let’s back up a minute for some groundwork. Article 1, section 1 of the US Constitution reads:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The power to disapprove laws, the veto, is not part of the powers assigned to Congress: it is assigned to the President (oddly, via Article 1) and is considered an Executive power. Several court cases (such as INS v Chadha), have held that the legislative veto is unconstitutional because it violates separation of powers by encroaching on the Executive’s turf. At the same time, Congress, the lawmaking body, has ceded to the EPA, a part of the Executive Branch, the authority to write regulations (effectively laws; you can be punished for violating them) subject to Congress’ disapproval.

This is a role reversal that violates the Constitution both by ceding too much legislative power* to an unelected body (the EPA) and by blurring the separation of powers by claiming a veto** for the legislature. It upends the intent behind the Constitution and does violence to democratic governance by giving an unelected bureaucracy the upper hand over the elected representatives of the People.

I’m certainly not saying that all regulations are unconstitutional; it’s perfectly reasonable that, within the bounds of  enabling legislation that does not cede too much congressional authority, an administrative agency should write regulations needed to implement Congress’ will. Nor am I saying Congress shouldn’t, at this time, take advantage of the Review Act to rein in an EPA that threatens to go on a regulatory rampage.  But, if a Executive bureaucratic agency has claimed so much power that it has crossed into the realm of legislative usurpation and, because of that, the legislature feels it needs veto authority, then something constitutional is way out of whack.

This resort to the questionably constitutional legislative veto reveals a serious problem in our democracy: unelected, bureaucratic, and largely unaccountable agencies have claimed too much power from the elected representatives of the people. Once this mess with the EPA is sorted out, the next Congress (as if it doesn’t already have enough to do) should look at either amending the enabling legislation for agencies to limit their power or, if need be, eliminating altogether those that no longer serve a useful purpose. It is Congress’ job to make the laws, not to veto a bureaucrat’s diktats.

*The War Powers Act of 1973 has a similar constitutional problem.

**Here, too.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Restraining Leviathan: allow the states to repeal federal law?

November 26, 2010

The US Constitution has not been amended very often in its history – just 27 times since 1789. It’s a document that’s generally functioned well and Americans are rightly leery of monkeying with it. The 18th amendment, establishing Prohibition, is an example of a mistake that was later repealed.

However, in times of national ferment, Congress and the states have amended the document to fix serious problems: the 12th amendment reformed our method of electing presidents and vice-presidents, which had come to a crisis in 1800 under the original system. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed to eliminate the evil of slavery and protect the rights of newly freed African-Americans. The 17th amendment took the election of senators away from corrupt or deadlocked legislatures, while the 19th recognized the right of women to vote.

And so it is today, with so many people concerned about an expanding federal government, that proposals are being floated to amend the Constitution in order to bind Washington within its limits. The Daily Caller has an article about one, the Repeal Amendment, that seems to be on the rise thanks to voter anger:

Rapidly growing support for the “Repeal Amendment” –  a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states to repeal an act of Congress —  symbolizes the intense level of anger Americans have with Washington, according to observers.

In September, Virginia stood alone as the only state where leaders in the state legislature had shown an interest in passing the amendment, but that number has now grown to nine states.

State legislators in South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Georgia have since expressed interest in the amendment.

Hits on the RepealAmendment.org website have mushroomed over the past month, and the amendment has garnered support from Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, according to “Repeal Amendment” executive director Marianne Moran.

Moran also sees future opportunities for legislative support in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Dakota, among others.

“It just restores the balance of government between the states and the federal government as the founding fathers had originally intended,” Moran said. “The fact we have nine states already onboard shows the momentum, and I think the groundswell [of support] is the Tea Party.”

One might also call this the “10th Amendment Protection Act,” since it’s aimed squarely at defending the rights of the states and the people against federal encroachment.

The constitution makes the amendment process difficult, as it should when dealing with something so fundamental and important: passage by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states, or by a specially called convention, whose proposed amendments would also require three-fourths approval. And not every amendment proposed has been approved. The article rightly points out that the Repeal Amendment would have to clear this same hurdle, made more difficult by the fact that Congress would have to agree to give up some of its power.

But, it can be done. The 17th Amendment was passed after a national consensus in its favor arose and pressure was put on Congress in the form of state calls for a constitutional convention. By 1910, nearly two-thirds of the states had issued such calls and the Senate, which had resisted reform, realized it had better act before the Article V threshold was crossed. The same kind of national consensus, represented in the various Tea Parties and the recent election results, could put similar pressure on Congress to act before the states do it for them. As the article points out, state legislators would have a direct interest in seeing this amendment passed, as opposed to many others that cross their desks.

So, what do I think of the proposed Repeal Amendment? After initially being highly skeptical, as I think any conservative should be, I’ve come to favor it, especially since the Democrats and their Big Labor and other leftist allies have laid bare their progressive-statist souls for the world to see over the last few years. Their program threatens a fundamental transformation of the United States into something never intended.

Another check and balance is needed.

My one reservation is that I believe the two-thirds limit is too low. Allowing states to repeal federal law is equal in my mind to the power to approve amendments to the Constitution and should meet the same standard: consent by three-fourths of the states. (This is the same standard Professor Randy Barnett uses in his proposed Bill of Federalism, of which the Repeal Amendment is a part; I commend the whole document to your attention.) That disagreement aside, I now think this is a good and necessary change.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if, under a president who thinks the Constitution is fundamentally flawed, the people agreed and fixed the flaw by hogtying DC?

It would be amusing, to say the least.

UPDATE: More at Big Government.

UPDATE II, 12/5/2010: Ed Morrissey is very skeptical of the proposal for a repeal amendment. My reply. Moe Lane takes on liberal lunacy over the proposed amendment.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Abusing the Constitution: health care and the case of the Commerce Clause

August 26, 2010

While we rightly agree to abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of what is and isn’t constitutional (barring changes via amendment), that doesn’t mean all its decisions are correct, or that its errors are without consequence. Among the more famous errors of the Court, consider Dred Scott v Sandford, which upheld fugitive slave laws; Plessy v Ferguson, which upheld segregation in state law; Buck v Bell, which upheld state laws mandating forced sterilizations; Korematsu v United States, which permitted the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII; and the recent Kelo v City of New London, which made a mockery of the 5th Amendment’s takings clause.

So, it should come as no surprise that another bad Court decision, Wickard v Filburn, is at the heart of the Federal government’s vast expansion of its power via an upside-down interpretation of the Commerce Clause. In the following short video essay, Reason.TV looks at the Commerce Clause, the expansion of federal power its abuse enabled, and frames it via interviews with two legal scholars: Erwin Chereminsky, Dean of the UC Irvine Law School and an advocate of the “living Constitution,” and John Eastman, Professor of Law at Chapman University and a constitutional originalist. I think you’ll find it worth the ten minutes:

I think for anyone who understands that the Constitution is a document intended to limit the Federal government’s powers, Chereminsky’s arguments are almost frightening. (Side note: Professor Eastman ran for the Republican nomination for state attorney general in the last election; I voted for him and I’m sorry he didn’t win.)

This debate isn’t just academic, as the video points out: rather, it is of immediate urgency as  Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration try to justify their statist health care plan and its individual mandate under the Commerce Clause. It also shows why Wickard, the foundation of Congress’ metamorphosis into Leviathan, needs overturning, whether through the Court in upcoming cases, or via a constitutional amendment that refines the meaning of the Commerce Clause.

If limited government is to have any meaning at all, this hole the Left has exploited must be plugged.

LINKS: More from Hot Air. Justice Scalia criticizes the theory of the living Constitution.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A young person’s guide to the Constitution

August 13, 2010

Today’s Klavan on the Culture provides a youth-oriented lesson on just what the Founders were trying to protect America from way back then … and right now:

Oh, and some laughs, too. 

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Meet Congressman Pete Stark (D-Oligarchy)

August 2, 2010

What is it with Democrat politicians, lately? They’re not even trying to pretend they’re public servants anymore; challenge them, and you get some variant of “How dare you, peasant?” A few weeks ago it was Representative Bob Etheridge (D-NC) taking offense at a young man who dared to ask him a question; Etheridge assaulted him in return. Then there was Texas Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, who was so angry at being challenged by a constituent that he smacked a newspaper on the table. (Was he going to swat her on the nose for being a bad doggy, next?) Here in California, our Democrat-dominated palace of the mandarins legislature is trying to slip past the voters a ballot measure that would reclaim for the legislature power the voters took from it just two years ago. Time and again, when talking about citizens expressing their grievances at tea parties or directly to them at town-hall meetings, Democrat politicians have revealed utter contempt for the voters.

Now it’s contempt for the Constitution and the foundational principles of our government, too, as “Representative” Pete Stark (D-CA) proclaims in response to a citizen’s question about how the Federal government can declare health care a “right:”

The federal government can do most anything in this country.

Watch and learn as an oligarch, not a representative of the people in a constitutional republic, bares his soul:

Wrong Pete, dead wrong. The Constitutional Convention, in its creation of a general government, agreed that it would be a limited government of specifically enumerated powers.  The Founders certainly did not create one that can ignore the Constitution at will and do whatever the Hell it wants. That, “Representative” Stark, is called “tyranny.” Please reread (or read for the first time) Article 1, section 8 for your job description. Note that nowhere does it give Congress the power to declare something a “right” in the way Americans understand rights, because natural rights are something we are born with, you moron.

And here, folks, we see crystallized in a moment of time, like an insect (or a congressman) trapped in amber, much of what is wrong with the American polity: representatives who do not represent, but instead rule; who have a greater connection to each other and to their big donors than to the people who elect them; and who see the greatest, most successful governing document ever devised by Man as something to which one just pays lip service, something that’s outdated.

It’s time to throw them out, folks, any and all who harbor the same kind of ignorance or disdain for the Constitution and the citizen as Pete Stark or Ciro Rodriguez. They may act like an oligarchy, they may think of themselves as a ruling elite, but they still need us to keep their jobs. Did they vote for ObamaCare? Then you have your answer. Are they in favor of card-check, which will take away the right to a secret ballot in union elections? There’s another clue for you.  Look your representative and senator over, check their record, their words. They can’t hide their attitudes anymore. You have the power to throw them out and put better men and women in their places.

I’ll leave you with the wise words of James Garfield, spoken in a speech he gave years before he became President:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. …

If the next centennial [of the Declaration of Independence] does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

Let’s send the oligarchs home.

LINKS: Blue Crab Boulevard and Big Journalism.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A congressman unclear on the concept

April 1, 2010

When asked about the constitutional basis for ObamaCare, Illinois Representative Phil Hare (D-Combine) replied: “I don’t worry about the Constitution.”

Oh, really?  Waiting

The oath of a member of the House reads thus:

“I, …, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Emphasis added, since Phil seems to need a reminder.

Sigh. So many bums to throw out of office, so little time.

(via Big Government)