Walter Shapiro on the repeal of the Second Amendment

My friend The Liberal Avenger pointed to an article on Salon calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. While I certainly disagree that the Second Amendment should be repealed, I applaud the honesty of the author in recognizing that the Second does guarantee our right to keep and bear arms, rather than attempting to weasel our way around it.

The author of the Salon article, Walter Shapiro, wrote (in part):

Looking at the Bill of Rights with more than two centuries’ hindsight, it is simply irrational that firearms have a protected position on par with freedom of speech and religion. Were Americans — liberal or conservative — writing a Constitution completely from scratch today, they probably would agree that something akin to “freedom to drive” was more far important than the “right to bear arms.” The rights of state militias (which many liberal legal theorists argue is the essence of the Second Amendment) are as much a throwback to an 18th century mind-set as restrictions on quartering soldiers in private homes during peacetime (the little-remembered Third Amendment). . . .

Times change, generations pass and attitudes evolve. As fears of crime recede in many places, nervous homeowners may no longer be obsessed with having a .45 by the bedside to blow away phantom intruders. There is also an implicit racial component here with the bygone Archie Bunker generation having a specific image of exactly whom they feared climbing in a window at night. Even the fearsome NRA may well sharply decline as a political force, much as once-fierce-jawed interest groups like the American Legion and the labor movement have grown increasingly toothless over the past quarter-century.

Oh, I’m certain that if we were writing the Constitution today, it would be very different. Mr Shapiro argues that we would probably not include the right to keep and bear arms, and he’s probably right I can think of a few other things we’d omit: freedom of religion would certainly be curtailed, freedom of speech restricted via a politically correct vision, looking at the Democrats’ attitude toward judicial nominees, I’d guess that the “no religious test” part would be, if not discarded, at least amended, and we’d probably wind up with something like the moribund European Union constitution: a document hundreds of pages long, specifying details to the nth degree, banning everything from smoking in public to the use of transfat in food preparation to regulation of nude beaches. (Of course, if we could get the Sixteenth Amendment repealed, our country would be much better off!)

Looking at what the Framers produced, compared to what modern constitution writers in Europe wrought, I’d judge the men of the 18th century to have been wiser than those of the twenty-first.

Against this backdrop, liberals should look at the firearms issue from a long-term perspective, instead of going into a fetal crouch over how gun control will play in the next election. A repeal movement would at best take 15 to 20 years to reach critical mass, so this is not the moment to play litmus-test politics and require White House contenders to take self-defeating positions guaranteed to be excoriated in attack ads in West Virginia. But this would be an appropriate time for overly earnest gun-controllers to rethink their tone and their rhetoric to better understand why their opponents are so politically adept at tarring them as elitists. After all, hunters and marksmen no more need the Second Amendment to practice their sports than archers and race-car drivers require similar constitutional protection.

Rather than ducking a debate with the conservatives over the eternal primacy of the Second Amendment, gun-control backers should embrace it. Since right-wing Republicans are zealously championing constitutional amendments on everything from abortion to a balanced budget, it would take intellectual jujitsu for them to explain why the First Amendment is worthy of improvement (by severing flag burning from free speech), but the Second Amendment unquestionably must remain sacrosanct. For only in Tom Clancy-esque mythology are weekend hunters carrying assault weapons a bulwark against tyranny. Only in a nation forged by 18th century concerns about liberty and states’ rights do firearms have a hallowed place in the Constitution.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Any more than we as Americans have to continually face the real-life meaning of that gruesome, blood-soaked, gun-toting word “massacre” because of the outmoded language of the Second Amendment.

Again, I applaud Mr Shapiro for stating his case honestly (though I suspect that his concern for both hunters and NASCAR crivers is somewhat limited), and I’d like to see our liberal friends take his advice, and offer a repeal of the Second Amendment. They should, as he advises, stop trying to fudge their way around it, stop trying to sidestep part of the Constitution. If they don’t like the Second Amendment, our Constitution does provide an amendment mechanism.

No Catholics need apply

Patrick Frey, the Los Angeles County prosecutor who “blawgs” under the name Patterico, had a brief notation on University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone’s article critical of the Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart. Mr Frey calls it “this jaw-droppingly incompetent analysis,” noting that were Professor Stone’s article a law school examination, Mr Frey would give it an “F.”

Mr Frey is an attorney, and I am not; I’ll leave the legal analysis to him. But it did lead me to do something radical like actually read Professor Stone’s article, in which I found these repugnant paragraphs:

    What, then, explains this decision? Here is a painfully awkward observation: All five justices in the majority in Gonzales are Catholic. The four justices who are either Protestant or Jewish all voted in accord with settled precedent. It is mortifying to have to point this out. But it is too obvious, and too telling, to ignore. Ultimately, the five justices in the majority all fell back on a common argument to justify their position. There is, they say, a compelling moral reason for the result in Gonzales. Because the intact D & E seems to resemble infanticide it is “immoral” and may be prohibited even without a clear statutory exception to protect the health of the woman.

    By making this judgment, these justices have failed to respect the fundamental difference between religious belief and morality. To be sure, this can be an elusive distinction, but in a society that values the separation of church and state, it is fundamental. The moral status of a fetus is a profoundly difficult and rationally unresolvable question. As the Supreme Court has recognized for more than thirty years, when the fundamental right of a woman “to determine her life’s course” is at stake, it is not for the state — or for the justices of the Supreme Court — to resolve that question, and it is certainly not appropriate for the state or the justices to resolve it on the basis of one’s personal religious faith.

This treads on the edges, if it doesn’t step right in the middle, of the debate during the last part of 2001 and into 2002 concerning whether Catholics Need Not Apply and the apparent, even obvious, discrimination against Catholic judicial nominees by the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Tony Auth cartoon, from The Philadelphia Inquirer, (above left) makes the same point for the liberal editors of that newspaper.

    Yes, They’re Anti-Catholic
    by Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review

    The Republicans’ latest gambit in the judicial confirmation battles — accusing the Democrats of applying anti-Catholic litmus tests — has been politically productive, but also provocative. It has been criticized by such Democratic senators as Richard Durbin, by the liberal journalist Richard Cohen, and, closer to home, by my colleague Byron York, writing on NRO.

    York is the best conservative journalist on the judicial-confirmation beat. Actually, the “conservative” modifier in that sentence may be superfluous. It is no exaggeration to say that Republicans on the Hill and in the Bush administration have relied on York’s reporting to know what’s going on, not least within their own ranks. By objecting on principle to the Republicans’ tactics, York has shown an admirably independent cast of mind. In this case, however, I think the Republicans are basically right and York is wrong.

    York believes that it is unfair, and even dangerous, to charge Senate Democrats with anti-Catholicism. He points out that the Democrats are not against Bush nominee Bill Pryor because he is Catholic; they’re against him because he’s against abortion. They would also oppose an evangelical Protestant who opposed abortion as vigorously as Pryor does. They would oppose an atheist pro-lifer, for that matter. The Committee for Justice, a Republican group that has run ads accusing the Democrats of imposing a “No Catholics Need Apply” test for judges, says that Democratic senators who complain about Pryor’s “deeply held beliefs” are making a veiled reference to his religion. York thinks that’s a real stretch. Pryor has said that Roe v. Wade has led to “slaughter.” You don’t need to know his religion to infer from that comment (among others) that he has deeply held beliefs on abortion, whatever the route by which he came to them. . . .

    It is true, however, that the Democrats have adopted the next best thing. They have a viewpoint test for office that has the effect of screening out all Catholics faithful to their church’s teachings on abortion. The fact that the test screens out a lot of Protestants, too, makes the problem worse, not better. It really is true that faithful Catholics “need not apply” as far as most Democrats are concerned. A Catholic can win their support only by ceasing, on the decisive issue, to be Catholic — by breaking from his church’s teaching, as Senator Durbin has done. (It is rather disgraceful for a man who went in six years from supporting the Human Life Amendment to supporting partial-birth abortion to keep carrying on about the extremism of people whose beliefs have been less supple.)

“Whose beliefs have been less supple.” A good way of putting it, that. Senator John François Kerry was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and an abortion supporter; he also claimed to be a devout Roman Catholic. That real Roman Catholics had, at best, doubts about Mr Kerry’s sincerity concerning his faith is demonstrated by the fact that 52% of Catholic voters cast their votes for George W Bush, a Methodist; Catholics are normally slightly Democratic in the aggregate.

Mr Ponnuru has missed one point, however. While it may be that the Senate Democrats, despite their denials, are anti-Catholic in the sense that they are anti-real-Catholic, there is another side to the coin: by claiming, as Professor Stone does, that opposition to abortion from people who happen to be Catholic is the attempt by Catholics to impose their religion on everyone, the liberals are seizing the separation of church and state argument. You don’t have to be a particularly good debater, you don’t have to be able to refute your opponents’ points, if you can hammer them with an imposition of religion argument, even if they’ve made no reference to religion.

Did the five justices in the majority vote as they did because they are Catholic? I’m not a mind-reader, so I have no way to know. But Professor Stone and Mr Auth apparently are telepathic, to know that the five justices in the majority, all Catholics, imposed their religious views rather than expressed their legal ones; the notion that their religious views could be conterminous with their legal ones without their faith directing their legal opinions seems not to have occurred to Professor Stone — or he’d rather simply have a separation of church and state argument, regardless of what the facts might be.
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Cross posted on Red State.

This is what not doing things the right way gets you

I received the following e-mail from Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

    Dear NRSC eMember,

    Congressional Democrats unveiled their first budget since taking control of Congress in last year’s elections. In it, they propose the single biggest tax increase in American history — over $730 billion, raising taxes on every single American — all in the name of increasing federal spending.

    The “Tax and Spend” Democrats have returned!

    It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, married or single, retired or working, rich or poor — the Democrats have set in motion a tax increase that will affect you personally.

    You can help counter the Democrats’ tax-and-spend agenda today by supporting the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Please join me in supporting the NRSC today by making a contribution of $25, $50, $75, $100 or even $250.

    If the Democrats succeed in turning back President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax relief, millions of American families will face punishing tax increases. Families with the lowest incomes will experience the largest increases to help pay for the Democrats’ budget-busting spending.

    In addition to burdening families, the failure to extend the tax relief will also have a crippling effect on our economy. Since August 2003, thanks to President Bush’s historic tax relief, our economy has created more than 7.5 million new jobs and unemployment has fallen.

    Meanwhile, last year, the deficit dropped to less than two percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is well below the historic average for budget deficits. The deficit will continue shrinking until it disappears entirely in less than five years if we keep our economy growing, reject the Democrats’ tax increases, and keep government spending under control.

    In the lead-up to last year’s elections, Democrats talked a lot about their commitment to fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget, but their budget proposal this year demonstrates that they’re still committed to the same old tax-and-spend policies.

    Help us fight back. Support the NRSC today and you will help expose the Democrats’ budget and stop the largest tax increase in American history. I ask that you make a contribution of $25, $50, $75, $100 or even $250 to the NRSC today.

    Thank you,

    Jon Kyl

This is what comes from passing “temporary” tax cuts, tax cuts which are scheduled to expire.

In 2001, the Republicans held the barest of majorities in the Senate, a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Cheney’s tie-breaking vote providing the majority. And with then-Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) about to commit treason switch to an independent, and give the Democrats control of the Senate, the best the Republicans could do was a “sunsetted” tax cut.

But the Republicans did very well in the 2002 elections, and had a 55-44-1 advantage starting in 2003 — yet they still did not make the tax cuts permanent. This does two things:

  1. It means that the Democrats do not have to do anything to raise taxes; if they simply do nothing at all, tax rates will rise automatically; and
  2. It provides the psychological notion that the pre-tax cut tax rates are somehow the “normal” or “natural” rates of taxation, and that the tax rates during the Bush Administration were some sort of abnormality.

In the end, if the Democrats simply hold the line on spending just a little bit (which is more than the Republicans did), and allow the automatic tax increases to take effect, they’ll be able to say two things:

  1. The Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility, their evidence being that the budget was last balanced under President Clinton (something they already say), and that the budget was balanced again, the good of which makes the pain of the regrettable but necessary relinquishing of the abnormal Bush tax cuts both bearable and responsible; and
  2. Since we now have a surplus, we can do those things for the people that the Republicans neglected to do during their tenure in control.

The Democrats will be able to play to their base, with increased social spending, and appeal to the fiscal conservatives who might not like increased taxes but will applaud a balanced budget, without ever paying the price of having a recorded vote to raise taxes!

What conservatives wanted with a Republican Congress and a Republican President was the cutting of both taxes (which we got) and spending (which we did not, rather spectacularly). By not being fiscally responsible in 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006, the Republicans have surrendered the real advantage that they had claimed, that they were not the “tax and spend” Democrats. Rather than become the “tax less and spend less” Republicans, which would have guaranteed their control over suburban taxpayer votes for a quarter-century, they became the “borrow and spend” Republicans, something which appeals to voters no more than the “tax and spend” policies of the Democrats.

Hence the GOP political theme of the 2006 elections: “Vote for us, ’cause we don’t suck as bad as the Democrats.” We all saw just how well that worked. The Democrats threw in some of what Art Downs calls “pseudo-con” candidates, and we now have the abominable Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

The Republicans played the Democrats’ game, and tried to buy the electorate with more and more government spending, but they can never beat the Democrats at the Democrats’ own game. As long as the Congress is about who can spend more money, it will always be a game which favors liberals.

For those of you who just finished doing your taxes, enjoy them while you can; it won’t be long before you’ll look back on Income Tax Day of 2007 fondly. Come April 15, 2010, you’ll be cursing the Republicans for not doing the job they said they would do.
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Cross posted on Red State.

Move over, Donovan McNabb! There’s a new quarterback in town!

Team owner Jeffery Lurie and head coach Andy Reid had put together the perfect team for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The only thing missing was a good quarterback. They had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but couldn’t find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl victory.

One night while watching CNN, Mr Lurie saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghani soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a window from 80 yards away. Then he threw another from 50 yards down a chimney, and finally hit a passing car going 80 miles per hour.

“I’ve got to get this guy!” Mr Lurie said to himself. “He has the perfect arm!” He brings the young Afghan to the States and Coach Reid teaches him the great game of football. Sure enough, the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl. The young Afghan is hailed as a hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants to do is call his mother. “Mom,” he says, “I just won the Super Bowl.”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” the old Muslim woman says. “You deserted us. You are not my son.”

“Mother, I don’t think you understand,” pleads the son, “I’ve just won the greatest sporting event in the world!”

“No! Let me tell you,” his mother retorts, “At this very moment there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble… Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn’t get raped!” The old lady pauses then tearfully says,

“I will never forgive you for making us move to Philadelphia!”

A lefty tells the truth — unintentionally

I came across an interesting little article on Rob Kall’s OpEd News:

April 19, 2007 at 04:53:25

    CNN — The Most Twisted Name in News
    by Sheila Samples

    Thanks to the complete nervous breakdown of the US media, it’s been a long, hard six years for those of us who believe that journalism exists for one reason only — to hold those in power to account, and to speak truth to that power.

Well, that’s an odd definition, but, from Miss Samples, probably a truthful one.

Most professional (and even amateur) journalists would say that the purpose of journalism was to gather the news and present it to the public. It takes an ideologue, an agenda-driven ideologue, to admit that she believes that the sole purpose for journalism is to attack the people who hold political power. Continue reading ‘A lefty tells the truth — unintentionally’ »

Cho Seung-Hui and gun control laws

While most of our liberal friends have been quiet on the notion that gun control laws would have kept Cho Seung-Hui from obtaining the handguns with which he killed 32 innocent people, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Monica Yant Kinney isn’t one of them:

    N.J. gun laws would have frustrated shooter
    By Monica Yant Kinney, Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

    There is little about life and death of which I’m certain, but after the rampage at Virginia Tech, it’s safe to say Cho Seung-Hui could not have purchased his weapons of mass destruction legally in New Jersey. There’s just no way a young man as obviously troubled as Cho would have survived one of the nation’s toughest and most thoughtful gun laws. That is, presuming he submitted himself to the close scrutiny.

    I did, when my colleague Tom Ferrick and I set out to arm ourselves on the same day last May for a project comparing gun laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

    After popping into Lou’s Pawn Shop in Upper Darby, Tom bought two handguns in 40 minutes.

    After being told all I could do was look at Ed’s Gun Shop in Deptford, I spent $61 and waited eight weeks and six days just to receive my Firearms Purchaser Identification Card and handgun purchase permit.

    Talk about a cooling-off period. It took half the summer for my new pals at the Haddonfield Police Department to do their duty to serve and protect.

At least Mrs Kinney had the good sense to add the qualifier, “presuming he submitted himself to the close scrutiny.”

Mrs Kinney continues, to describe the efforts of the state of New Jersey to put impediments in the way of people seeking to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The notion of a “handgun purchase permit” strikes me as an appalling violation of people’s rights.

Naturally, I can’t simply reproduce Mrs Kinney’s entire article, due to copyright laws; the most that I can do is to summarize the hoops through which a law-abiding citizen had to jump to purchase a handgun, legally, in the Garden State. Continue reading ‘Cho Seung-Hui and gun control laws’ »

I Thought People Went to College to Expand Their Minds

Evidently, the University of Rhode Island Student Senate needs a lesson in free speech. You would think that by the time kids got to college they would understand that freedom of speech includes speech you don’t like.

But I guess the dorks running this Student Senate didn’t get that lesson in government classes. How could they? If the teachers actually taught students about free speech, they wouldn’t have enough time cramming political correctness down their throats.

Would that this were a joke, but the University of Rhode Island Student Senate voted April 16 to defund the College Republicans student group. Why? you might ask. Because the College Republicans had the audacity to exercise free speech…and their speech was insensitive! Continue reading ‘I Thought People Went to College to Expand Their Minds’ »