The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Once more, Cal Thomas has it wrong

Cal Thomas is a man whose columns in the Washington Examiner never fail to strike me as full of fallacies. To anyone who considers me to be of the political Right and Thomas likewise, this may be surprising, but it goes to show how much is encompassed by the term “right-wing.” Today's column, entitled “The ‘Oprahfication’ of America,” shows how far apart we are. It begins:

When asked at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 what the Founders had wrought, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

That question might also be put to the five Supreme Court justices who voted last week to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which mandates health insurance for most Americans, based on twisted logic that it is a tax and thus within the power of the Congress to impose on an already overtaxed people.

In fact, Mr. Thomas needs to read the Constitution more carefully. Yes, I would have preferred that the PPACA be ruled unconstitutional, but Chief Justice Roberts' reasoning that (1) it is a tax and (2) therefore constitutional is hardly “twisted logic.” It is certainly a collection by the IRS of money from the public, which needs to be declared on the income tax return. To argue that therefore it is a tax, even though it was declared by its sponsors not to be one, is certainly a way of reading the law, even if not the way I would have done so. Then, Mr. Thomas goes on — I've omitted some words:

Among the avalanche of post-mortems delivered by “experts” and pundits to the court ruling, one may have gotten closest to answering the question about what was in the mind of Chief Justice John Roberts and how it reflects on what our nation is becoming.

Paul Rothstein, a professor at Georgetown Law School, taught Roberts when he was a student. In an interview with Washington radio station WTOP, Rothstein said it was empathy for the uninsured and disdain for partisanship that swayed Roberts, making his the decisive vote.

”It's a very odd decision,” said Rothstein. “The conservative guy went liberal.”

Rothstein further speculated about Roberts' motives when he said the chief justice's experience with his own health issues and working in big business might have contributed to his decision. Rothstein said Roberts had good health care when he needed it and that “He was probably thinking about the millions of people who are less fortunate than he is.”

Rothstein said Roberts needed to land on “the right side of history and morality,” and these, too, probably influenced his vote.

Notice in all of this there is nothing about the Constitution. And what's this about morality? Whose morality would that be? Is it a fixed morality or one based on opinion polls and wanting to land on “the right side of history,” whatever that means? Liberal justices regularly decide cases based on such nonconstitutional irrelevancies. Why must a conservative?

This is the “Oprahfication” of America in which feelings trump truth and personal experience and class guilt rule, not the Constitution. Oprah Winfrey, who endorsed Obama in 2008, might head a new cabinet department should Obama win a second term: the Department of Feelings.

The Supreme Court didn't worry about morality and which side of history it was on when it decided to make prayer and Bible reading illegal in public schools a half-century ago -- and what about the “morality” of ripping constitutional protection from unborn babies? Whose moral code decided that case?

This sounds like selective morality by those academics who will write history. Such reasoning is not based on sound legal principles like the Constitution, much less a moral code created by One more “supreme” than the Supreme Court.

Well, first Mr. Thomas quotes Prof. Rothstein on Chief Justice Roberts' motives, then remarks, “Notice in all of this there is nothing about the Constitution.” Now first of all, Prof. Rothstein may have taught Chief Justice Roberts, but this does not make him clairvoyant about the Chief Justice's motivation. Just because Prof. Rothstein did not mention the Constitution does not mean that Chief Justice Roberts did not keep it firmly in mind. And in fact his decision is firmly grounded in that document. He mentioned that PPACA was not authorized by Art. I Sect. 8 Clause 3 (the Commerce Clause) or Clause 18 (the “Necessary and proper” clause), but fell under Clause 1 (the Taxing Clause). If Mr. Thomas actually read this decision, he would find this out.

But it is clear that to Mr. Thomas, the governing document is not the Constitution, in any case, but his reading of the Bible. Certainly, when he says, “what's this about morality? … The Supreme Court didn't worry about morality and which side of history it was on when it decided to make prayer and Bible reading illegal in public schools a half-century ago -- and what about the “morality” of ripping constitutional protection from unborn babies? Whose moral code decided that case?” he reveals this. Prayer (which cannot be other than according to some religion's ideas) and Bible-reading (Whose Bible? Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant Bibles do not agree, not to mention Moslems and other religions, who have other scriptures that are not to be found in Cal Thomas's Bible) cannot be other than part of an establishment of religion. And if Cal Thomas claims otherwise, I would love to debate him. And his gratuitous reference to “unborn babies” is even further afield, as even within his own precious Christian religion, denominations differ as to when a “baby” begins to be. As I say, it's not just the Bible that he is trying to elevate above the Constitution, but his reading of the Bible. And it is not the job of the Supreme Court to base their decisions on the Bible — even less their job to base them on Cal Thomas's reading of the Bible. So I praise them for just those acts — “mak[ing] prayer and Bible reading illegal in public schools a half-century ago” — for which Mr. Thomas condemns them. But when he speaks of “One more ‘supreme’ than the Supreme Court,” he clearly oversteps his bounds. Cal Thomas has every right to act in accordance with his own religious beliefs — the First Amendment gives him that right. And if he wants to defer to “One more ‘supreme’ than the Supreme Court,” as an individual he can do so. But to the Justices of the Supreme Court, this is not an option. They have sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution — oaths to whatever Supreme Being they respect. And their failure to uphold that Constitution, in consequence, as a violation of their oath, is an abomination before that very “One more ‘supreme’ than the Supreme Court” to whom Mr. Thomas refers.

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