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Old and outdated?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)