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.
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.
“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.
Last night was a night to forget in terms of looking for a candidate at the debate to reduce the size of government and give us more liberty. It is a given that serious cuts will have to be made, but with no commitment to reduce Social Security or eliminating gargantuan programs, the only only place that one could cut is the military. Yet, what we heard from the candidates was the cacophonous refrain of “We need to rebuild our military.” I must ask “with what?” We are in serious debt to the tune of almost $19 trillion and going up every day and we are in areas of the world that we should have left over 25 years ago once the Cold War was over. Why are we subsidizing the defense for Western Europe? South Korea? With their economies, they could very well handle more spending in their budgets for their defense. Should we be in the position of supreme leadership in the world as Jeb Bush suggested? His suggestion that “We have to eliminate the sequester” is a a sign that this game is over. As Mark Kreslins stated so well: “DC cannot save DC.”
Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas proposed a convention of states to reconfigure the Constitution to stop the growing centralization of government in the hands of Washington politicians. Some in the media are skeptical of this effort with the Dallas Morning News calling Abbott’s plan “part civics lesson, part anti-Obama diatribe.” The fact is that the states have been losing power for many years dating back to the end of the Civil War. It has been only in the last half-century that the concentration of power on the Potomac has shot up in earnest. For some, there is a concern that such a convention would unleash more power from the central government. However, as it is clear to many of us, Washington has not been restrained by the “parchment barrier” in a very long time. Perhaps this convention might do some good as it would be a proper response to desire a return to a more localize government, however imperfect it might be. Governor Abbott’s plan can be read here.
One of the greatest things that I have experienced in my forays in online listening was coming across the Mike Church Show which is now part of the new Veritas Radio Network. Some of the archived material is available by paying for a Founder’s Pass, but at around five dollars a month, it is well worth it. On the network, one can listen to Mike Church, Mark Kreslins and Kevin Gutzman give you the straight skinny on the history of our country’s founding and how it all went awry. One thing is for sure; much of what is being proposed from Washington as solutions to make our nation great are rightly derided by these people. Only a return to limited government with a base of morality can this country turn around.
I have been waiting to read the new biography of Russell Kirk by Brad Birzer for many months and am hopeful to read it very soon. Russell Kirk was one of the old style conservatives who wrote The Conservative Mind in 1953 which was a trend setter for the modern conservative movement. According to Brad Birzer, Kirk was rather disinterested in politics with two lone exceptions. The first was in the late 1950s and 1960s when he advised Barry Goldwater who was in his early terms as a senator for Arizona and supported his nomination for President 1964 which was unsuccessful. Dr. Birzer wrote a piece in the Imaginative Conservative that goes into detail on how Kirk supported Goldwater. The next time he involved himself in the political realm was toward the end of his life when he chided the neoconvervatives for their support of the First Gulf War. As Gerald R. Russello stated in 2004 in the New York Sun:
He did not believe that the complex of customs, traditions, and norms we know as constitutional democracy could be packaged and exported to other cultures, especially under force.
Kirk died in 2004, but not before he left us with a great legacy and a pile of wisdom that will take years to pore over. Brizer’s biography on Kirk is available from Amazon.com in hardback and Kindle formats. It is an essential read and I hope many will enjoy its pages.
As of the writing of this post, over 120 people were gunned down or were killed in explosions across Paris. Apparently, this dastardly deed was done by members who are sympathetic to the ISIS group which has occupied vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq as well as small portions of the Mediterranean coast in Libya. Little is known about the men themselves, but it is clear that events that led to this event have developed over many years dating back to the unwise actions of the United States in Iraq beginning in 1990 and interventions from other nations dating to the end of the First World War.
Ever since the end of the First World War, the Middle East has been a cauldron of instability with either leaders ousted in violent coups (Iraq and Syria) or emirs and their decedents holding power for decades (Saudi Arabia and Bahrain). Some good books to read on the early years of this transition from Ottoman rule to countries ruled by strongmen are John Hulsman’s fine book “To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad” which is a short book that explains how we got to this tragic situation and “Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations” by Georgina Howell. The West’s refusal to heed the counsel of Gertrude Bell and Lawrence of Arabia with regards to post-Ottoman rule has led to unnecessary interventions by the West to stabilize that part of the world. There is much more to this story on how events of a century ago led to the shootings in Paris, but suffice to say, it all began with the Sykes-Picot treaty which is mentioned in Hulsman’s book.
In the latest news from the environmental world, Volkswagen was found to have rigged the emission programs on their vehicles. This has caused a stir among the minions of the EPA and the agency has vowed to crack down hard on the German automaker. In a recent episode of the Tom Woods Show, Eric Peters addresses the issue as well as sharing his thoughts on autos that we Americans cannot buy.
The GOP once again failed to take advantage of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous policy in Libya. Going through hours of testimony, the GOP did not press for Hillary’s explanation of why she urged President Obama to go ahead and aide rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi, who ruled this North African nation for over 40 years, was ousted with the help of the Americans and suffered a summary execution at the hands of his captors. Hillary’s boast of “we came, we saw, he died” has been rightly excoriated by a number of journalists and commentators including Glenn Greenwald, Michael Scheuer and even Joel Gillin of the New Republic. That such a disaster, with the resulting waves of refugees entering Europe and the killing of Ethiopian Christians along the Mediterranean Sea by ISIS forces having failed to put a dent in Hillary’s march toward the White House, seems to indicate that the GOP is just along for the ride.
Once again, we have had another case of political theater inside the Beltway where players from the opposing parties engage in mock battle without much substance being accomplished. More misery in North Africa will come for many people, including Christians whose ancestors have dwelled there for over thousands of years. As they are being killed and their monasteries suffer destruction, Hillary will probably be dancing with her mate Bill in 2017 at the Inaugural ball if all goes according to plan. The voters who will put her in power should heed the late H.L. Mencken’s wisdom when he said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”