My review of Shenandoah: A Story of Conservation and Betrayal

Sue Eisenfeld shares her story of her adventures at Shenandoah National Park and the unpleasant background on how the park was created. Through 162 pages, she tells the reader about the exploration of the many ruins of family homes that once dotted portions of the Shenandoah Valley that were inside the park. Families lived in that part of Virginia for many generations and were still there in the late 1920s when William Carson, head of the Virginia State Conservation and Development Commission thought that it would be a good idea to involve the National Park Service in buying up land to create a new national park that would rival the ones in the West.

Old Rag Post Office, Weakley Hollow and Corbin Hollow are places of the past that were victims of state and federal bureaucrats that did not care that people in these places would get evicted and their dwellings torn or burn down in short order to please the nature lovers and the tourists. Only in recent history has these stories of eviction come to light with the National Park Service begrudgingly acknowledging the vanishing of these peoples from the park. A very solid presentation of folk life in these mountains along with stories of hiking off the trails to reach the remnants of what once was. Four stars.

Reflections on Justice Scalia’s Passing

I was sitting and resting in bed yesterday after working at the library when I read on my Facebook feed that Justice Antonin Scalia passed away from a heart attack at a resort ranch in the town of Marfa, Texas, a small town 200 miles east of El Paso.  Scalia was not without faults (most notably his adherence to the incorporation doctrine), but he was one of the few justices on the Supreme Court who did not buy the rubbish that the Constitution was a living, breathing document that had to be interpreted with the times.

The Constitution, as envisioned by our Founding Fathers, gave the federal Congress specified powers that were enumerated in Article I, Section 8 of that document.  James Madison, in Federalist No. 45, stated the following with regards to the federal Constitution:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.

It was clear that many of the powers that the new government had would be restricted and that the states would have much to say as to how their own governments were run.  This practice was maintained for all of the 19th Century and early into the 20th Century.   Even after the convulsion of the War Between the States, the federal government was very small with budgets not even reaching $1 billion a year until our entrance into World War One.   In the aftermath of the war, the country took a decidedly different direction where power would be amassed on the Potomac and that the power of the states would gradually decline throughout the century.

The expansion of federal power greatly accelerated with the Coup of 1937, where the Supreme Court abandoned its place in applying strict construction of the Constitution and began to embrace a more progressive understanding of the document.  Men like Woodrow Wilson were influenced by the theory that law like men were evolving in Darwinian terms and that the Constitution’s meaning changed over time.

Antonin Scalia rightly saw the danger in the evolving theory and stated:

The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break. But you would have to be an idiot to believe that. The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and doesn’t say other things.

Obama will now likely replace Scalia with a man that fits his vision of what law should be.  Men like Scalia are few and precious in these days and he will be missed.

Review of “Nine Presidents Who Screwed up America” by Brion McClanahan

Brion McClanahan’s newest book truly shows that the Constitution has been a disembodied ghost for the last century. The author goes all the way back to the creation of the government under the Constitution in 1789 to show that that document was already in trouble with George Washington taking the wrong stance with regards to treaty enforcement with France.

Through the first half of the book, the author takes us through nine presidents that made decisions that caused grave damage to the rule of law under the Constitution. Each president’s transgressions are briefly described with Andrew Jackson growing bellicose against South Carolina, Teddy Roosevelt’s using his office for legislative purposes, FDR’s interment of Japanese-Americans and Obama’s work on Obamacare among the examples of legal abuse. The last chapter in Obama actually takes in the transgressions of the three presidents before him that acted in unconstitutional ways.

The second part of his book tells about four Presidents who did their best to hold to their oath to defend the Constitution seriously. John Tyler was cited as the outstanding example on how to stand against popular opinion in upholding the Constitution. Calvin Coolidge was the last hurrah for our country before things took a turn for the worse legally. Finally, the last few pages of book provides a road map (Article V Convention) on how to salvage the Constitution before it is too late.

Even though this book is just a brief overview, it does a great job in highlighting the awfulness the actions of some of our more famous (infamous?) Presidents. The bibliography in this book provides the reader with in-depth resources in case they want to study the issues further. A great book for your collection.

The ghost of conscription

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Those words were added into the United States Constitution via the 13th Amendment which ended the formal institution of slavery after the end of the Civil War (War Between the States).  The irony of this action was that just two years before, the United Stated Congress pass the first conscription act in American history.  In essence, it meant that men being were being enslaved by the government in order for the army to free others from slavery…or so we were told.  From this time forward, the draft was used at various times in our history where men had to leave their farms and places of work to fight overseas.

In 1973, President Nixon pulled the plug on the draft and service in military once again became something that was voluntary.  A holdover from the days of the draft still remains with us and that is the Selective Service Act where men ages 18 to 25 must register with the Selective Service System.  It is possible that Congress can call a draft overnight and its odious whiff  will be once again with us.

With the involvement of women in combat, a even uglier aspect of the draft has surfaced where top men in the Army and Marine Corps recommended that women register for Selective Service as well.   It is becoming clear that our country is convulsing in a orgy of egalitarianism and that the call of women to participate in the draft is a sign that our culture is becoming more degraded every day.  Let’s end this foolishness of the draft and relegate it to the dustbin of history.