In a piece entitled, "Mr. Trump, Meet the Constitution," the editorial board of The New York Times betrays a failure to grasp the distinction between the U. S. Constitution and Supreme Court rulings about it. In the 1989 case "Texas v. Johnson," SCOTUS handed down a 5-4 ruling according to which flag burning was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Now if you read the amendment you will find no reference to flag burning. The subsumption of flag burning under protected speech required interpretation and argument and a vote among the justices. The 5-4 vote could easily have gone the other way, and arguably should have.
So Trump's tweet, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag . . . ," does not show a lack of understanding of the Constitution. After all, SCOTUS rulings can be overturned. On a charitable interpretation, Trump was advocating an overturning of the 1989 and 1990 flag burning rulings.
Ought flag burning come under the rubric of protected speech? Logically prior question: Is it speech at all? What if I make some such rude gesture in your face as 'giving you the finger.' Is that speech? If it is, I would like to know what proposition it expresses. 'Fuck you!' does not express a proposition. Likewise for the corresponding gesture with the middle finger. And if some punk burns a flag, I would like to know what proposition the punk is expressing.
The Founders were interested in protecting reasoned dissent, but the typical act of flag burning by the typical leftist punk does not rise to that level. To have reasoned or even unreasoned dissent there has to be some proposition that one is dissenting from and some counter-proposition that one is advancing, and one's performance has to make more or less clear what those propositions are. I think one ought to be skeptical of arguments that try to subsume gestures and physical actions under speech.
The First Amendment also mentions religion. If flag desecration counts as speech, what would not count as religion? Is godless communism a religion? Why not, if a majority of the black-robed ones say it is?
The Constitution is a magnificent document worthy of great respect and a sort of secular reverence, attitudes one might hesitate to cherish with respect to certain members of the Supreme Court.
Am I saying that there should be a flag burning amendment? No. Let the states decide what to do with the punks who desecrate the flag.
As for Hampshire College, pull their federal funding if they refuse to fly the flag. That should get their attention.
So what else is new? That the sky is blue? The trouble with Trump is that he doesn't know enough about the issues to punch back effectively when Mrs. Clinton lets loose with one of her whoppers. He let her escape several times during their third and final debate. Sean Davis:
In her answer to a question about her views on gun rights, Clinton said she opposed the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which recognized the constitutional right for individuals to own and carry firearms, because it was about whether toddlers should have guns.
[. . .]
So what was the Heller case really about? It was about whether Dick Anthony Heller, a 66-year-old police officer, should be legally allowed to own and bear a personal firearm to defend himself and his family at home.
[. . .]
If Clinton opposes an individual’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms to protect his or her family, she should just come out and say so instead of blatantly lying about the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter. But it gets better: after claiming that the Heller decision was all about toddlers, Hillary then claimed that the Constitution guarantees a right to partial-birth abortion, a practice that requires an abortionist to rip an unborn baby from the womb, stab or crush her skull, and then vacuum out her brains. Because Hillary Clinton’s top priority is protecting innocent children from violence.
Hillary is a stealth ideologue who operates by deception. This is what makes her so despicable. If she were honest about her positions, her support would erode. So not only are her policies destructive; she refuses to own them. She is an Obamination both at the level of ideas and at the level of character.
“You shall not do injustice in judgment; you shall not show partiality to the powerless; you shall not give preference to the powerful; you shall judge your fellow citizen with justice." Alternate translations here.
In the third and final presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said the following about Supreme Court nominations. "And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing on behalf of our rights as Americans."
This is the sort of leftist claptrap according to which the judiciary assumes legislative functions and the Constitution is a tabula rasa on which anything can be written. The purpose of the court is not to stand up to the powerful or take the side of the powerless, but to apply the law and administer justice.
There must be no "partiality to the powerless." Might does not make right. But neither does lack of might.
(Credit where credit is due: I am riffing on a comment I heard Dennis Prager make yesterday.)
To all the “conservatives” yammering about my supposed opposition to Constitutional principle (more on that below) and who hate Trump, I say: Trump is mounting the first serious national-political defense of the Constitution in a generation. He may not see himself in those terms. I believe he sees himself as a straightforward patriot who just wants to do what is best for his country and its people. Whatever the case, he is asserting the right of the sovereign people to make their government do what they want it to do, and not do things they don’t want it to do, in the teeth of determined opposition from a managerial class and administrative state that want not merely different policies but above all to perpetuate their own rule.
If the Constitution has any force or meaning, then “We the People” get to decide not merely who gets to run the administrative state—which, whatever the outcome, will always continue on the same path—more fundamentally, we get to decide what policies we want and which we don’t. Apparently, to the whole Left and much of the Right, this stance is immoderate and dangerous. The people who make that charge claim to do so in defense of Constitutional principle. I can’t square that circle. Can you?
So argues Dennis Prager. For Trump alone among the Republican candidates is willing to stand up to the thuggishness of the Left. The other candidates including Ted Cruz are blaming Trump and his rhetoric. The latter is admittedly less than presidential and Trump is well-advised to tone it down. But which is worse, some harsh language or the total disruption of a speaking event in which thousands are prevented from hearing a speaker they came to hear? The latter obviously since it is an attack on free speech, a central American value.
What enrages so many conservatives is that the typical Republican simply will not fight the Left as it must be fought. You cannot urge civility when you are dealing with leftist scum. Civility is for the civil, not for the enemies of civilization. As for the routine thuggishness of leftists, Prager is right on target, except for a mistake I point out after the quotation (emphasis added):
And the truth is that the left-wing attack on Trump's Chicago rally had little, if anything, to do with the incendiary comments Donald Trump has made about attacking protestors at his events. Leftist mobs attack and shut down events with which they differ as a matter of course. They do so regularly on American college campuses, where conservative speakers -- on the rare occasion they are invited -- are routinely shouted down by left-wing students (and sometimes faculty) or simply disinvited as a result of leftist pressure on the college administration.
A couple of weeks ago conservative writer and speaker Ben Shapiro was disinvited from California State University, Los Angeles. When he nevertheless showed up, 150 left-wing demonstrators blocked the entrance to the theater in which he was speaking, and sounded a fire alarm to further disrupt his speech.
In just the last year, left-wing students have violently taken over presidents' or deans' offices at Princeton, Virginia Commonwealth University, Dartmouth, Providence College, Harvard, Lewis & Clark College, Temple University and many others. Conservative speakers have either been disinvited or shouted down at Brandeis University, Brown University, the University of Michigan and myriad other campuses.
And leftists shout down virtually every pro-Israel speaker, including the Israeli ambassador to the United States, at every university to which they are invited to speak.
Yet the mainstream media simply ignore this left-wing thuggery -- while reporting that the shutting down of a pro-Trump rally is all Trump's fault for his comments encouraging roughing up protestors at his events.
That the left shuts down people with whom it differs is a rule in every leftist society. The left -- not classical liberals, I hasten to note -- is totalitarian by nature. In the 20th century, the century of totalitarianism, virtually every totalitarian regime in the world was a leftist regime. [Hitler? Mussollini? Franco?] And the contemporary American university -- run entirely by the left -- is becoming a totalitarian state, where only left-wing ideas are tolerated.
Tens of millions of Americans look at what the left is doing to universities, and what it has done to the news and entertainment media, and see its contempt for the First Amendment's protection of free speech. They see Donald Trump attacked by this left, and immediately assume that only Trump will take on, in the title words of Jonah Goldberg's modern classic, "Liberal Fascism."
And if these millions had any doubt that Trump alone will confront left-wing fascism, Trump's opponents seemed to provide proof. Like the mainstream media, the three remaining Republican candidates for president -- John Kasich, the most and Marco Rubio the least -- blamed Trump for the left-wing hooligans more than they blamed the left. It is possible that in doing so Senators Cruz and Rubio and Governor Kasich effectively ended their campaigns and ensured the nomination of Trump as the Republican candidate for president. The combination of left-wing violence and the use of it by the other GOP candidates to wound Trump rather than label the left as the mortal threat to liberty that it is may clinch Trump's nomination.
And if the left continues to violently disrupt Trump rallies, they -- along with the total absence of condemnation by the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate -- may well ensure that Donald Trump is elected president. Between the play-Fascism of Trump and the real Fascism of the left, most Americans will know which one to fear most.
Prager speaks of "the First Amendment's protection of free speech." But if you read the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution you will see that it protects freedom of speech from the federal government: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . . The First Amendment does not protect freedom of speech from the canaille (the rabble, the riff-raff, literally a pack of dogs, from the Italian canaglia) or from any other non-government entity.
Nevertheless, free speech is a cherished American value essential for anything worth calling 'civilization' and we are going to have to have it out with these vicious leftist bastards sooner or later. I don't expect it will be pretty.
Trump may well flame out. But the revulsion to RINOs and those who tolerate leftist and Islamist scum is not going away and successors to Trump, better equipped to carry on the fight, can be expected to appear.
. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Does it follow that the U. S. Constitution allows a Muslim citizen who supports sharia (Islamic law) to run for public office? No! For the same Constitution, in its First Amendment, enjoins a salutary separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, though not in those words. Sharia and the values and principles enshrined in the founding documents are incompatible. On no sane interpretation is our great Constitution a suicide pact.
It is important to realize that Islam is as much an anti-Enlightenment political ideology as it is a religion. Our Enlightenment founders must be rolling around in their graves at the very suggestion that sharia-subscribing Muslims are eligible for the presidency and other public offices.
I just heard Marco Rubio refer to "no religious test" and Article VI in connection with Muslim immigration. But this shows deep confusion on his part. The U. S. Constitution affords protections to U. S. citizens, not to non-citizens.
From a reader:
I don’t follow your reasoning in the “’No Religious Test’” post. I have no idea what “…no religious Test shall ever be required” means if not that someone is permitted to run and be elected regardless of his religious views. It doesn’t mean we have to vote for him, or that his religious views can’t be criticized, or that his own attempts to give state sanction to his religious beliefs and practices can pass Constitutional muster. As you allusively note, the Establishment clause prevents Sharia law or any other distinctively religious practice from becoming the law of the land. But legally preventing the pro-Sharia Muslim from getting what he wants doesn’t legally prevent him from getting elected in the first place.
My reader assumes that no restriction may be placed on admissible religions. I deny it. A religion that requires the subverting of the U. S. Constitution is not an admissible religion when it comes to applying the "no religious Test" provision. One could argue that on a sane interpretation of the Constitution, Islam, though a religion, is not an admissible religion where an admissible religion is one that does not contain core doctrines which, if implemented, would subvert the Constitution.
Or one might argue that Islam is not a religion at all. Damn near anything can and will be called a religion by somebody. Some say with a straight face that leftism is a religion, others that Communism is a religion. Neither is a religion on any adequate definition of 'religion.' I have heard it said that atheism is a religion. Surely it isn't. Is a heresy of a genuine religion itself a religion? Arguably not. Hillaire Belloc and others have maintained that Islam is a Christian heresy. Or one could argue that Islam, or perhaps radical Islam, is not a religion but a totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. How to define religion is a hotly contested issue in the philosophy of religion.
The point here is that "religious" in ". . . no religious Test shall ever be required" is subject to interpretation. We are under no obligation to give it a latitudinarian reading that allows in a destructive ideology incompatible with our values and principles.
My reader apparently thinks that since the Establishment Clause rules out Sharia, that there is no harm in allowing a Sharia-supporting Muslim, i.e., an orthodox Muslim, not a 'radicalized' Muslim, to become president. But this is a naive and dangerous view given that presidents have been known to operate outside the law. (Obama, for example.) It seems obvious to me that someone who shows contempt for our Constitution should not be allowed anywhere near the presidency.
There is an old saying which is perhaps now out-of-date. If liberals took the Second Amendment as seriously as they take the First, they would demand that gun ownership be mandatory. The point of the jibe was to highlight the absurd extremes to which liberals take the First Amendment.
But now the First Amendment is under vicious assault, by contemporary liberals no less, while university administrators and professors, in abdication of authority, stand idly by or allow themselves to be driven out of office.
Curiously, this assault on the First is yet another powerful argument for the Second.
In the wake of recent events, Rod Dreher renews his call for the Benedict Option:
It is now clear that for this Court, extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice. True, the majority opinion nodded and smiled in the direction of the First Amendment, in an attempt to calm the fears of those worried about religious liberty. But when a Supreme Court majority is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the barest protection to religious dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy.
This is especially the case, as it seems to me, given the Left's relentless and characteristically dishonest assault on Second Amendment rights. The only real back up to the First Amendment is the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the Second. You will have noticed that the Left never misses an opportunity to limit law-abiding citizens' access to guns and ammunition. What motivates leftists is the drive to curtail and ultimately eliminate what could be called 'real' liberties such as the liberty to own property, to make money and keep it, to defend one's life, liberty and property, together with the liberty to acquire the means to the defense of life, liberty and property.
Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito explicitly warned religious traditionalists that this decision leaves them vulnerable. Alito warns that Obergefell “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”
[. . .]
It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”
Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.
I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.
Last fall, I spoke with the prior of the Benedictine monastery in Nursia, and told him about the Benedict Option. So many Christians, he told me, have no clue how far things have decayed in our aggressively secularizing world. The future for Christians will be within the Benedict Option, the monk said, or it won’t be at all.
Obergefell is a sign of the times, for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert. It is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order.
There is a potential problem with the Benedict Option, however. Suppose you and yours join a quasi-monastic community out in the middle of nowhere where you live more or less 'off the grid,' home-school your kids, try to keep alive and transmit our Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman traditions, all in keeping with that marvellous admonition of Goethe:
Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!
What from your fathers you received as heir,
Acquire if you would possess it. (tr. W. Kaufmann)
The idea is that what one has been lucky enough to inherit, one must actively appropriate, i.e., make one's own by hard work, if one is really to possess it. The German infinitive erwerben has not merely the meaning of 'earn' or 'acquire' but also the meaning of aneignen, appropriate, make one's own.
So now you are out in the desert or the forest or in some isolated place free of the toxic influences of a society in collapse. The problem is that you are now a very easy target for the fascists. You and yours are all in one place, far away from the rest of society and its infrastructure. All the fascists have to do is trump up some charges, of child-abuse, of gun violations, whatever. The rest of society considers you kooks and benighted bigots and won't be bothered if you are wiped off the face of the earth. You might go the way of the Branch Davidians.
Is this an alarmist scenario? I hope it is. But the way things are going, one ought to give careful thought to one's various withdrawal options.
It might be better to remain in diaspora in the cities and towns, spread out, in the midst of people and infrastructure the fascists of the Left will not target. A sort of subversive engagement from within may in the long run be better than spatial withdrawal. One can withdraw spiritually without withdrawing spatially. One the other hand, we are spatial beings, and perhaps not merely accidentally, so the question is a serious one: how well can one withdraw spiritually while in the midst of towns and cities and morally corrupt and spiritually dead people?
We are indeed living in very interesting times. How can one be bored?
Professor Burgess-Jackson is better qualified to comment on this topic than I am.
I would now like to thank Keith publicly for all his help, advice, linkage, and support over the years. Our friendship goes back to the early days of the blogosphere. He came on line in the fall of 2003; I made my debut in the spring of 2004.
1. One's right to express an opinion brings with it an obligation to form correct opinions, or at least the obligation to make a sincere effort in that direction. The right to free speech brings with it an obligation to exercise the right responsibly.1
2. Free speech is rightly valued, not as a means to making the world safe for pornography, but as a means to open inquiry and the pursuit of truth.
3. Although free speech and free expression generally are correctly valued mainly as means to open inquiry and the pursuit, acquisition, and dissemination of truth, it does not follow that some free expression is not a value in itself.
4. The more the populace is addicted to pornography, the less the need for the government to censor political speech. A tyrant is therefore well advised to keep the people well supplied with bread, circuses, and that 'freedom of expression' that allows them to sink, and remain, in the basest depths of the merely private where they will pose no threat to the powers that be.
5. One who defends the right to free speech by identifying with adolescent porno-punks and nihilists of the Charlie Hebdo ilk only succeeds in advertising the fact that he doesn't understand why this right is accorded the status of a right.
6. The free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States constitution protects the citizen's right to free expression from infringement by the government, not from infringement by any old entity. My home is my castle; you have no First Amendment rights here, or at my cybercastle, my weblog. So it is no violation of your First Amendment rights if I order you off of my property because of your offensive speech or block you from leaving stupid or vile comments at my website. It is impossible in principle for me to violate your First Amendment rights: I am not the government or an agent thereof. And the same holds at your (private) place of work: you have no First Amendment rights there.
7. The First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press -- call them collectively the First Amendment right to free expression -- is not the same as the right to free expression. If the latter is a natural right, as I claim that it is, then one has it whether or not there is any First Amendment. The First Amendment is a codicil to a document crafted by human beings. It has a conventional nature. The right to free speech, however, is natural. Therefore, the First Amendment right to free expression is not the same as the right to free expression. Second, the right to free expression, if a natural right, is had by persons everywhere. The FA, however, protects citizens of the U.S. against the U. S. government. Third, the First Amendment in its third clause affords legal protection to the natural moral right to free expression. A right by law is not a natural right. Ergo, etc.
8. The right of free expression is a natural right. Can I prove it? No. Can you prove the negation? No. But we are better off assuming it than not assuming it.
9. To say that the right to free expression is a natural right is not to say that it is absolute. For the exercise of this right is subject to various reasonable and perhaps even morally obligatory restrictions, both in public and in private. There are limits on the exercise of the right in both spheres, but one has the right in both spheres. To have an (exercisable) right is one thing, to exercise it another, and from the fact that one has the right it does not follow that one has the right to its exercise in every actual and possible circumstance. If you say something I deem offensive in my house, on my blog, or while in my employ, then I can justifiably throw you out, or shut you up, or fire you and you cannot justify your bad behavior by invocation of the natural right to free speech. And similarly in public: the government is justified in preventing you from from shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater, to use the hackneyed example. You are not thereby deprived of the right; you are deprived of the right to exercise the right in certain circumstances.
10. The restraint and thoughtfulness exhibited in a responsible exercise of one's right to free speech is not well described as 'self-censorship' given the pejorative connotations of 'censorship.'
11. To suppose that government censorship can never be justified is as extreme as the view that the right to free speech is absolute.
12. It is silly to say, as many do, that speech is 'only speech.' Lying speech that incites violence is not 'just' speech' or 'only words.'
1If one cannot be obliged to do that which one is unable to do, then there cannot be a general obligation to form correct opinions.
America is experiencing immigration problems somewhat like Australia's. The idea of 'multiculturalism' some would say is beginning to show its flaws. Who do you believe should be allowed to enter your country? Please feel free to be as politically incorrect as you like.
1. First of all, one must insist on a distinction that many on the Left willfully ignore, that between legal and illegal immigration. (Libertarians also typically elide the distinction.) Legal and illegal immigration are separate, logically independent, issues. To oppose illegal immigration, as any right-thinking person must, is not to oppose legal immigration. So, to answer one of the reader's questions, no one should be allowed to enter illegally. But why exactly? What's wrong with illegal immigration? Aren't those who oppose it racists and xenophobes and nativists? Doesn't everyone have a right to migrate wherever he wants?
2. The most general reason for not allowing illegal immigration is precisely because it is illegal. If the rule of law is to be upheld, then reasonable laws cannot be allowed to be violated with impunity simply because they are difficult to enforce or are being violated by huge numbers of people. Someone who questions the value of the rule of law is not someone it is wise to waste time debating.
3. There are several sound specific reasons for demanding that the Federal government exercise its legitimate, constitutionally grounded (see Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. constitution) function of securing the national borders, and none of these reasons has anything to do with racism or xenophobia or nativism or any other derogatory epithet that slanderous leftists and libertarians want to attach to those of us who can think clearly about this issue.
There are reasons having to do with national security in an age of terrorism. There are reasons having to do with assimilation, national identity, and comity. How likely is it that illegals will assimilate, and how likely is social harmony among citizens and unassimilated illegals? There are considerations of fairness in respect of those who have entered the country legally by satisfying the requirements of so doing. Is it fair that they should be put through a lengthy process when others are allowed in illegally.
There are reasons having to do with the importation of contraband substances into the country. There are reasons having to do with increased crime. Last but not least, there are reasons pertaining to public health. With the concern over avian influenza, tuberculosis, ebola, and all sorts of tropical diseases, we have all the more reason to demand border control.
Borders are a body politic's immune system. Unregulated borders are deficient immune systems. Diseases that were once thought to have been eradicated have made a comeback north of the Rio Grande due to the unregulated influx of population. These diseases include tuberculosis, Chagas disease, leprosy, Dengue fever, polio, and malaria.
You will have noticed how liberals want to transform into public health issues problems that are manifestly not public but matters of private concern, obesity for example. But here we have an issue that is clearly a public health issue, one concerning which Federal involvement is justified, and what do our dear liberals do? They ignore it. Of course, the problem cannot be blamed solely on the Democrat Party. Republicans like Bush and McCain are just as guilty. On immigration, Bush was clearly no conservative; he was a libertarian on this issue. A libertarian on some issues, a liberal on others, and a conservative on far too few.
4. Many liberals think that opposition to illegal immigration is anti-Hispanic. Not so. It is true that most of those who violate the nation's borders are Hispanic. But the opposition is not to Hispanics but to illegal entrants whether Hispanic or not. It is a contingent fact that Mexico is to the south of the U.S. If Turkey or Iran or Italy were to the south, the issue would be the same. And if Iran were to the south, and there were an influx of illegals, then then leftists would speak of anti-Persian bias.
A salient feature of liberals and leftists -- there isn't much difference nowadays -- is their willingness to 'play the race card,' to inject race into every issue. The issue of illegal immigration has nothing to do with race since illegal immigrants do not constitute a race. There is no such race as the race of 'llegal aliens.' Opposition to them, therefore, cannot be racist. Suppose England were to the south of the U. S. and Englishmen were streaming north. Would they be opposed because they are white? No, because they are illegal aliens.
"But aren't some of those who oppose illegal immigration racists?" That may be so, but it is irrelevant. That one takes the right stance for the wrong reason does not negate the fact that one has taken the right stance. One only wishes they would take the right stance for the right reasons. Even if everyone who opposed illegal immigration were a foaming-at-the-mouth redneck of a racist, that would not detract one iota of cogency from the cogent arguments against allowing illegal immigration. To think otherwise is to embrace the Genetic Fallacy. Not good.
5. The rule of law is a precious thing. It is one of the supports of a civilized life. The toleration of mass breaking of reasonable and just laws undermines the rule of law.
6. Part of the problem is that we let liberals get away with obfuscatory rhetoric, such as 'undocumented worker.' The term does not have the same extension as 'illegal alien.' I discuss this in a separate post. But having written thousands of posts, I don't quite know where it is.
7. How long can a welfare state survive with open borders? Think about it. The trend in the USA for a long time now has been towards bigger and bigger government, more and more 'entitlements.' It is obviously impossible for purely fiscal reasons to provide cradle-to-grave security for everyone who wants to come here. So something has to give. Either you strip the government down to its essential functions or you control the borders. The first has no real chance of happening. Quixotic is the quest of strict constructionists and libertarians who call for it. Rather than tilting at windmills, they should work with reasonable conservatives to limit and eventually stop the expansion of government. Think of what a roll-back to a government in accordance with a strictly construed constitution would look like. For one thing, the social security system would have to be eliminated. That won't happen. Libertarians are 'losertarian' dreamers. They should wake up and realize that politics is a practical business and should aim at the possible. By the way, the pursuit of impossible dreams is common to both libertarians and leftists.
8. Even though contemporary liberals show little or no understanding for the above arguments, there are actually what might be called 'liberal' arguments for controlling the borders:
A. The Labor Argument. To give credit where credit is due, it was not the conservatives of old who championed the working man, agitated for the 40 hour work week, demanded safe working conditions, etc., but the liberals of those days. They can be proud of this. But it is not only consistent with their concern for workers that they oppose illegal immigration, but demanded by their concern. For when the labor market is flooded with people who will work for low wages, the bargaining power of the U.S. worker is diminished. Liberals should therefore oppose the unregulated influx of cheap labor, and they should oppose it precisely because of their concern for U. S. workers.
By the way, it is simply false to say, as Bush, McCain and other pandering politicians have said, that U.S. workers will not pick lettuce, clean hotel rooms, and the like. Of course they will if they are paid a decent wage. People who won't work for $5 an hour will work for $20. But they won't be able to command $20 if there is a limitless supply of indigentes who will accept $5-10.
B. The Environmental Argument. Although there are 'green' conservatives, concern for the natural environment, and its preservation and protection from industrial exploitation, is more a liberal than a conservative issue. (By the way, I'm a 'green' conservative.) So liberals ought to be concerned about the environmental degradation caused by hordes of illegals crossing the border. It is not just that they degrade the lands they physically cross, it is that people whose main concern is economic survival are not likely to be concerned about environmental protection. They are unlikely to become Sierra Club members or to make contributions to the Nature Conservancy. Love of nature comes more easily to middle class white collar workers for whom nature is a scene of recreation than for those who must wrest a livelihood from it by hard toil.
C. The Population Argument. This is closely related to, but distinct from, the Environmental Argument. To the extent that liberals are concerned about the negative effects of explosive population increase, they should worry about an unchecked influx of people whose women have a high birth-rate.
D. The Social Services Argument. Liberals believe in a vast panoply of social services provided by government and thus funded by taxation. But the quality of these services must degrade as the number of people who demand them rises. To take but one example, laws requiring hospitals to treat those in dire need whether or not they have a means of paying are reasonable and humane -- or at least that can be argued with some show of plausibility. But such laws are reasonably enacted and reasonably enforced only in a context of social order. Without border control, not only will the burden placed on hospitals become unbearable, but the justification for the federal government's imposition of these laws on hospitals will evaporate. According to one source, California hospitals are closing their doors. "Anchor babies" born to illegal aliens instantly qualify as citizens for welfare benefits and have caused enormous rises in Medicaid costs and stipends under Supplemental Security Income and Disability Income.
The point is that you can be a good liberal and oppose illegal immigration. You can oppose it even if you don't care about about increased crime, terrorism, drug smuggling, disease, national identity, national sovereignty, assimilation, the rule of law, or fairness to those who have immigrated legally. But a 'good liberal' who is not concerned with these things is a sorry human being.
I hope I have been politically incorrect enough for my reader's taste.
Given that the ubiquity of crosses all across this great land has not yet established Christianity as the state religion, why, as it declines in influence, do the cruciphobic shysters of the ACLU and their ilk agitate still against these harmless and mostly merely historical remnants of a great religion?
Yesterday I argued that atheism is not a religion. Well, theism is not a religion either, but for different reasons. Atheism is not a religion because it amounts to the rejection of the central commitment of anything that could legitimately be called a religion. (So if atheism were a religion, it would amount to a rejection of itself.) This core commitment is the affirmation of the existence of a transcendent reality, whether of a personal or impersonal nature, contact or community or identification with which is the summum bonum and the ultimate purpose of human existence.
Theism is not a religion for at least two reasons.
First, there is no religion in general, only particular religions, and theism is not a particular religion. Theism is merely a proposition common to many different (monotheistic and polytheistic) religions. It is the proposition that God or gods exist. As such, it is simply the negation of the characteristic atheist proposition. No extant religion consists of the theist's bare metaphysical asseveration, and no possible religion could consist of it alone.
Second, both doctrine and practice are essential to a religion, but a theist needn't engage in any specifically theistic practice to be a theist. He need only uphold the theoretical proposition that there is such a being or such beings as God or gods.
If theism is not a religion, then, as Tully Borland suggested to me, it is difficult to see how a reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance could be construed as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The clause reads as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."
"One nation under God" from the Pledge is at most an affirmation of theism. But theism is not a religion. So the occurrence of the word 'God' in the pledge does nothing to establsh any religion as the state religion. Understandably, atheists don't like that word in the Pledge, but the Establishment Clause gives them no ground for removing it.
Similarly with "In God We Trust" on our currency. This is more than a bare affirmation (or presupposition) of the existence of God; it brings in the further notion of trusting God, a notion that is admittedly religious. But which religion is established by "In God We Trust"? Judaism? Christianity? Islam? All three Abrahamic religions have monotheism in common. Obviously, if Congress were to establish a state religion it would have to be some one particular religion. But no particular religion has proprietary rights in "In God We Trust." So why should we think that the phrase violates the Establishment Clause.
And the same goes for the Ten Commandments as I maintained years ago when I first took to the 'sphere. The Decalogue is common to the three Abrahamic religions. So if a judge posts them in his chambers, which religion is he establishing by so doing?
Once again we see what extremists contemporary iberals are. The plain sense of the Establishment Clause is that there shall be no state religion. One has to torture the Clause to extract from it justification to remove all references to God and every last vestige of religion from the public sphere, a sphere that ever expands under liberal fascism while the private sphere contracts.
I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.
If the Obama Administration whose Attorney General is Eric Holder can get away with killing by drone an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, without owning up to it, what is to stop such a mendacious and power-hungry administration from killing U.S. citizens in the homeland without due process?
Even the shysters of the ACLU and the bunch at The Nation are on the right side of this issue. It would be nice if we could convince the aforementioned crapweasels that it is the Second Amendment that backs up the others, including the Fifth, but they are too morally corrupt and intellectually obtuse for that.
Here's the gun grabbers' slippery-slope agenda, laid out by Nelson T. Shields, founder of Handgun Control Inc.: "We're going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily -- given the political realities -- going to be very modest. ... Right now, though, we'd be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal -- total control of handguns in the United States -- is going to take time. ... The final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition -- except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors -- totally illegal" (The New Yorker, July 1976).
There have been people who've ridiculed the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, asking what chance would citizens have against the military might of the U.S. government. Military might isn't always the deciding factor. Our 1776 War of Independence was against the mightiest nation on the face of the earth -- Great Britain. In Syria, the rebels are making life uncomfortable for the much-better-equipped Syrian regime. Today's Americans are vastly better-armed than our founders, Warsaw Ghetto Jews and Syrian rebels.
There are about 300 million privately held firearms owned by Americans. That's nothing to sneeze at. And notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.
It's not about hunting. It's about self-defense. Against whom? First of all, against the criminal element, the same criminal element that liberals coddle. It apparently doesn't occur to liberals that if there were less crime, fewer people would feel a need to arm themsleves. Second, against any political entity, foreign or domestic, substate or state, at any level, that 'goes rogue.' A terrorist organization would be an example of a substate political entity.
You've read George Will and Charles Krauthammer, no doubt, but perhaps you haven't seen the piece by George Weigel in which we find:
I have no special insight into the mind or motivations of the “human author” of the Obamacare majority opinion; Chief Justice Roberts is certainly not God, and Supreme Court decisions are not “revelation.” But just as the insights that come from history and experience can unveil in biblical texts truths that their authors were only dimly aware of (or that they could not imagine in their own time and context), so there may be truths embedded in the chief justice’s opinion that have implications far beyond the Affordable Care Act — truths that could in fact presage the demise of Obamacare and the beginnings of a new national commitment to building the responsible society.
If the former is hopeful, what should we call the piece by Steve McCann in which a series of recent blows to the conservative cause is taken as sealing the fate of the Left?
Rather less of a stretch is the opinion proffered by R. Emmet Tyrrell:
All things considered we conservatives did not come out so badly, which should demonstrate once again how dangerous Obamacare is. Prior to Chief Justice Roberts' juggling actThursday, the conservative majority on the Court was going to bounce Obamacare and the Liberals could continue their noble work of deauthorizing an entire branch of the federal government, the courts. They could smear the Supreme Court as but another locale where crass conservatives play politics. You know how the otherworldly Liberals disdain mere politics! Now Chief Justice Roberts has responded to the better angels of his nature, and the Liberals are applauding. As I have said, Liberalism is dead.
Is there anything to celebrate this Fourth of July? Not much. Maybe there will be cause for celebration in November. But I'm not sanguine about that either. Our founding documents have become merely ornamental. They are interpreted to mean whatever those in power want them to mean.
The Commerce Clause is to be found in Section 8, Article I, of the U. S. Constitution. It reads," The Congress shall have Power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
Congress, then, has the constitutionally-based power to regulate interstate commerce. But it seems to this concerned citizen -- who is no constitutional scholar -- that one cannot regulate what does not exist. If there is some interstate commerce taking place between, say, California and Arizona, then congress by the above clause has the power to regulate it. But if no commerce is taking place, then there is nothing to regulate. Now if I choose not to purchase health insurance, then my not buying it is surely not a bit of commerce. So there is nothing to regulate, and my non-buying does not fall under the Commerce Clause even if, by some argumentative stretch, the buying of health insurance involves interstate commerce.
Or do you think something can be regulated into existence? Can my buying of health insurance be regulated into existence? The very notion is incoherent.
Ah, but "The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes . . . ." (Section 8) and so all we have to do is call the Obamacare individual mandate a tax, and we get what we want. After all, the PoMo Prez and his enablers can use words to mean whatever they want depending on what promotes their agenda.
The underlying principle here is the lack of any principle limiting governmental expansion. The essence of the totalitarian Left -- and of course the Left is totalitarian by its very nature -- is the lack of any limiting principle. And so, if the individual mandate cannot be rammed through via specious reasoning from the Commerce Clause, then some other justification must be found, however specious and mendacious it may be. Instead of evaluating for constitutionality a law that is presented for evaluation, one can simply rewrite the law, changing the mandate to a tax.
James N. Anderson has a thought-provoking post entitled Ecclesial Activism. A key idea is that the Bible is to the Christian faith as the U. S. constitution is to the U. S. government. And just as judicial activism is a Bad Thing, so is ecclesial activism. The Roman Catholic Church comes in for a drubbing as the main engine of ecclesial activism:
If the Bible didn’t say something something that the bishops wanted it to say, or thought it should say, they could claim to “discover” new doctrines in the Bible — purgatory, indulgences, apostolic succession, papal infallibility, etc. — and no one would have power to overrule them.
Adapting the candid statement of Chief Justice Hughes, today’s Roman Catholic might well put it thus: “We are under the Bible, but the Bible is what the Pope says it is.” In fact, that’s exactly how things stand in practice. Functionally the Pope has become the highest governing authority in his church: higher even than the Bible. The church has been derailed by “ecclesial activism”.
I find it rather ironic then that in recent years a number of politically conservative evangelicals (J. Budziszewski, Francis Beckwith, and Jay Richards are three prominent examples) have swum the Tiber. Presumably they take a dim view of judicial activism. Shouldn’t they be equally averse to ecclesial activism?
When it comes to ecclesiology, Protestants are the true conservatives and the true constitutionalists.
Not being a theologian, I hesitate to comment on Anderson's post. But I'll make a couple of maverick comments. First, if a doctrine of purgatory cannot be found in the Bible, then I would consider that to be a lacuna in the Bible. The doctrine strikes me as not only extremely reasonable but also necessary: at death, almost none of us will be ready for the divine presence, and yet some us will not deserve hell. Therefore . . . .
On the topic of indulgences and papal infallibility, I too find these doctrines untenable if not absurd, but not so much because they cannot be found in the Bible -- assuming that is true -- but for philosophical reasons. The idea that there is an economy of salvation that can be quantified and regulated and administered is the rankest superstition.
So you see my bias: I don't understand sola scriptura and I reserve the right to think for myself. Question: Is the sola scriptura principle itself scripturally based? I apologize if that, to the cognoscenti, is a cheap-shot question.
It is worth noting in passing that it was his inability to accept the doctrine of papal infallibility that was the main cause of Franz Brentano's leaving of the Catholic priesthood, and later, the church. See here.
Asked recently whether SCOTUS would uphold the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) or strike it down as unconstitutional, President Obama replied, "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress." Strong majority? Unprecedented? As a former law professor, Obama must know that what he said was false. Now a false statement is not the same as a lie. For a false statement to be a lie it must be made with the intention to deceive. But since the statement in question is one that one would reasonably expect a former law professor to know is false, then it is reasonable to suspect a lie on Obama's part. Thomas Sowell concludes that "he is simply lying."
James Taranto rather more charitably maintains that "The president is stunningly ignorant about constitutional law."
Peter Wehner in a seeming synthesis of Sowell and Taranto opines that Obama "jumped the shark."
Although O'Donnell comes across as an airhead, she was actually right: there are no such words as "separation of church and state" in the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." Chris Coons got it wrong when he misquoted the clause as "Government shall make no establishment of religion." Not government, but congress. William A. Jacobson explains why this matters Not "make no establishment of religion," but "make no LAW RESPECTING an establishment of religion." In other words, Congress shall not enact any law that sets up any particular religion as the state religion. (But it seems it also can be interpreted to have the further meaning: Congress shall enact no law that disestablishes any particular religion that happens to have been established.)
And another thing. I have never understood why liberals oppose the posting of the Ten Commandments in, say, a judge's chambers. (Well, I do understand why they oppose it; my point is that I can't see that they have a logical or First Amendment leg to stand on.) First, the Decalogue is not specific to Christianity or to the other two Abrahamic faiths: it is precisely common to all three in virtue of its Old Testament provenience. Hence even if its posting could establish a religion as the state religion it would be no particular religion that would be thereby established. Second, and more fundamentally, it is ludicrous to suppose that the mere posting of the Ten Commandments could have the effect of establishing any particular religion as the state religion.
What motivates leftists (and contemporary liberals whose slouch towards leftism leaves them for all practical purposes indistinguishable from the former) is hatred of Judeo-Christian religion, and with, it hatred of the morality that such religion conveys. Note that I wrote 'Judeo-Christian' and not 'Abrahamic.' For it is a bizarre fact about the Left that they are soft on that religion which is uniquely violent and uniquely anti-Enlightenment at the present time, Islam.
Sarah Palin calls the building of this mosque an "unnecessary provocation." As opposed to what, a necessary provocation? But don't let Palin's infelicitous language distract you from the serious point she is making. It is indeed a provocation, and the Islamists are testing us to see how far they can go and to see how weak and supine we are. Will New Yorkers, sophisticated liberal fools that many of them are, put up with this abomination a couple of blocks away from where their fellow citizens died horrible deaths because of a terrorist attack fueled by Islamist ideology?
The fact that the building of this mosque will be perceived as a provocation by a majority is sufficient reason to block its construction. How can its construction do anything to improve relations between decent Muslims and the rest of us?
The first clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the "free exercise" of religion. True. But is Islam a religion? You will say, "of course!" But perhaps you should be a bit more thoughtful. Islam is a political ideology as much as it is a religion, and in this respect it is unlike Buddhism, or Christianity, or Judaism. I have never heard any Jew call for the destruction of any Islamic state. Muslims, however, routinely call for the destruction of the Jewish state. When I lived in Turkey in the mid-nineties I was warned that preaching Christianity there could get one thrown in prison -- not that I was about to do any such thing. And Turkey in those days was a relatively 'enlightened' country compared to the rest of the non-Jewish Middle East.
Muslims aren't very 'liberal,' are they? They are intolerant in their attitudes and their behavior. Now the touchstone of classical liberalism is toleration. Toleration is good, but it has limits. (See the posts in the category Toleration.) So why should we tolerate them when they work to undermine our way of life? The U. S. Constitution is not a suicide pact. We are under no obligation to tolerate the intolerant.
I said above that Islam is as much a political ideology as a religion. That is reflected in the fact that they have nothing like our church-state separation. And please note that church-state separation has a good foundation in the New Testament at Matthew 22: 21: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the the things that are God's." Please point me to the Koranic verse that enshrines the same idea.
Apologists say that Islam is a religion of peace. Now 'peace' may be one of the meanings of Islam, but its dominant meaning is 'submission to the will of Allah as revealed to the propher Muhammad in the Koran.' Let us also not forget that Muhammad was a warrior. Was Jesus a warrior? Buddha? A religion founded by a warrior. An interesting concept, that. Somehow, I am more drawn to a religion whose founder says, "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword."
So here is something to think about. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. But to apply the Amendment, one must raise and answer the logically prior question, What is a religion? I rather doubt that the Founders had Islam in mind when they ensured the right to the free exercise of religion. So we need to ask the question whether Islam counts as a religion in a sufficiently robust sense of the term to justify affording it full First Amendment protection. To the extent that Muslims work to infiltrate and overturn our institutions and way of life, to the extent that they violate church-state separation, to the extent that they demand special privileges and refuse to assimilate, to that extent they remove themselves from any right to First Amendment protection.
Addendum and Corrigendum (7/22)
I made a mistake in the last paragraph that I will now correct. Although the sentence "I rather doubt that the Founders had Islam in mind when they ensured the right to the free exercise of religion" was true when I wrote it, expressing as it did a fact about my mental state, I now see that it is simply false that the Founders did not have Islam in mind. See The Founding Fathers and Islam. I thank Mark Whitten for the correction.
But I do not retract my main point, which is that we ought to give careful thought to the question whether, as I put it above, "Islam counts as a religion in a sufficiently robust sense of the term to justify affording it full First Amendment protection. " I am raising this as a question. So-called liberals, however, being politically correct and therefore opposed to truly open discussion, will no doubt haul out their list of abusive epithets: racist, xenophobe, Islamophobe . . . .
I should point out that 'Islamophobe,' a term employed by the benighted Karen Armstrong, the renegade nun, is a particularly silly expression that only a liberal could love. A phobia is an irrational fear. If you use the word in any other way you are misusing it. Fear of militant Islam is a rational fear. One would hope that Armstrong, a Brit, would have a better grip on the English language. These' -phobe' constructions are a dead giveaway that one is dealing with a PC liberal. Take 'homophobia.' Those who oppose homosexual practices neither fear it nor fear it irrationally. Some have arguments against it. In this case, then, the construction is doubly idiotic. As for 'xenophobe,' that is a real word of English, but our benighted liberal pals seem not to know what it means. It means 'irrational fear of foreigners.' It does not mean 'someone who combats liberal-left nonsense.' As one who has travelled the world and has lived for extended periods in Austria, Germany, and Turkey, I am hardly one who could be called a xenophobe. Someone who opposes the infiltration of his country by militant Muslims is not a xenophobe: his fear is rational and it is directed not at Muslims qua Muslims but at Muslims qua militant subversives.
Over at Gnosis and Noesis, Professor Richard Hennessey rather pedantically and uncharitably picks at my "Muslims aren't very 'liberal,' are they?" Do I mean that no Muslim is liberal? Of course not. A universal proposition can be refuted by a single counterexample. (And it is worth noting en passant that a necessary universal proposition can be refuted by a single merely possible counterexample.) Since it is obviously false that no Muslim is liberal, it is uncharitable to take my sentence as expressing that proposition.
One cannot assume that a sentence of the form Fs are Gs is always elliptical for a sentence of the form All Fs are Gs, or that a sentence of the form Fs are not Gs is always elliptical for a sentence of the form No Fs are Gs. For example, 'Old people go to bed early' would not naturally be taken to mean that all old people go to bed early, which is plainly false, but that most do, or that old people tend to go to be early, or something similar.
Professor Hennessey seems also to be ignoring the context of my remarks, which is the construction of mega-mosque near Ground Zero. That, I submit, is an outrageous provocation, a bit like building a Japanese Shinto shrine in close proximity to the U.S.S. Arizona. (See here.) I don't see how any rational person can fail to see that or fail to see that such a project cannot possibly bring together moderate Muslims and the rest of us. And so it is reasonable to interpret the project as an initiative on the part of militant Muslims to take advantage of our tolerance and naivete in order to spread their religion and culture whose values are antithetic both to the Judeo-Christian tradition and to our Enlightenment values.
So that is the context in which a sentence like "They are intolerant in their attitudes and their behavior" is to be read. The 'they' refers to militant Muslims: Muhammad Atta and the boys, their enablers and supporters, those who flog and stone to death adulterers, those who would would impose Sharia, the clitorectomists, the Muslim fathers who murder their own daughters for adopting Western ways. Our constitution forbids "cruel and unusual punishment." Perhaps Hennessey can point me to the passage in the Koran that does the same. And then there are Muslim taxicab drivers who refuse to pick up blind people with seeing eye dogs because of some lunatic Muslim aversion to dogs. Others won't transport a person who has an alcoholic beverage in a closed container. That sort of fanaticism has no place in America. I could go on, but the point is clear.
Just at the threat to the West in the 20th century was Communism, the threat to the West in the 21st is radical Islam. Both are totalitarian and internationalist. Both are extremely skillful in recruiting young fanatic followers. In one way the threat posed by militant Islam is far more dangerous than that posed by the Commies. The Commies, being atheists and materialists, had a good reason not to deploy their nukes. Muslims have no such reason. (And it seems clear that they will soon be getting nukes thanks to Obama the Appeaser.) They are eager to move on to their crude paradise wherein they will disport endlessly with black-eyed virgins and get to wallow in the sensuousness that is forbidden them here.
For more on this delightful topic, see my Islamism category.
Rhode Island is already doing what Arizona is fixin' to do come the end of this month. As William A. Jacobson, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, reports over at Legal Insurrection, ". . . Rhode Island already has implemented the critical piece of the Arizona law [S.B. 1070], checking the immigration status of people stopped for traffic violations where there is a reasonable suspicion, and reporting all illegals to federal authorities for deportation."
Will Eric Holder and colleagues at the DOJ be going after Rhode Island? If not, why not? I'm not legally trained, but isn't there supposed to be something wrong with selective enforcement? Isn't there something objectionable about suing Arizona for a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U. S. Constitution while turning a blind eye to Rhode Island, not to mention those sanctuary cities such as Los Angeles which are, because of their sanctuary laws, really in violation of the Clause in question?
One gets the impression that the reasons adduced in the complaint are just a smokescreen to hide venal and 'political' motives. A need to curry favor with Hispanics in order to stay in office? A desire to flood the country with potential Democrats so as to secure a permanent victory for the Left?
Actually, the latter is what this is all about to anyone astute enough to penetrate the thick veil of liberal-left mendacity. Obama and the boys have no desire to control the border or solve the problem of illegal immigration. This is why they mouth and hide behind the vacuous phrase 'comprehensive immigation reform.' Like 'change,' it means nothing definite. To them, that is a virtue allowing as it does for maximal obfuscation.