February 2013

Conservatives love to wallow in “originalism” and reverence for the Constitution. But their philosophy is often at odds with both the words of the Constitution and the intent of the founders. Let’s start with religion.

The founders were not against religion – nor were they for it. They only believed that public policy shouldn’t be based on it. Nor should any one religion have primacy.

So fundamental was this to their political philosophy that The Bill of Rights starts, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

But conservatives, while they imbue the 2nd amendment with mystic qualities, are ambivalent about  the 1st.  The founders didn’t want a state religion. Today’s religious conservatives do.

Jefferson gave us a “Creator” once in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution left God out completely. It even allowed for the President to “affirm” (secular) his oath of office.  “So help me God”, “In God we trust” and “Under God” are all modern affectations.

Jefferson illustrated the rationalism of the founders by creating his own Bible. He cut out the magic bits, such as the miracles and the Resurrection, leaving in just the biographical details and Jesus’ moral philosophy.

The founders not only barred religion in government, as educated men in the Age of Enlightenment they rejected religion in science. They would have embraced evolution and thought that Creationism – by any name – was a vestige of the Dark Ages. They would never have ignored the consensus of climatologists to make a political point.

The so called “originalists” have also perverted the original intent of the 2nd amendment. You may argue that it guarantees a universal right to bear arms, but you cannot argue that it is a right granted to individuals to protect themselves against a tyrannical government.

Let’s trace the thinking. The 2nd amendment says, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” 

Is the “security of a free state” a call to arms against a tyrant? The founders didn’t think so. In Article 1 Section 8, Congress is charged with raising money, “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”. The founders weren’t worried about an overreaching government; they were worried about civil disobedience and citizen/slave revolts.

Further in Article 2 section 2, it says that “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States”. Clearly the intent of the militia could not have been to protect the individual against the government if its Commander was the President

Conservatives claim that the Constitution requires a strong military, but makes no mention of a social safety-net. They are wrong.

In Article 1 Section 8 the Congress is charged, “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years” and “To provide and maintain a Navy”. Notice the impermanence of the Army.

But the article also charges Congress to raise money for the “…general Welfare of the United States” – which clearly allows for social programs.

No budget for it in the Constitution

We may spend more on both social programs and defense than the founders did. But if “originalists” want to return to the social spending of those days, to be consistent, we would have to cut our defense budget by 75% and get rid of the Air Force.

The biggest misreading of the Constitution – and the one that would disgust the founders the most – is the idea that money is speech and that corporations are people. It was certainly not the intent of the founders to shed the chains of tyranny only to don the chains of corporatism.

To be an “originalist” you have to honor the Constitution as it was written, not as you wish it had been written. But first you have to read it – for yourself.



Which is worse – ignoring history or getting it wrong?

February 27, 2013

The Tea Party is telling the faithful that they “Cannot ignore American History” and imploring its followers to read a piece by Scottie Nell Hughes called “Ignoring American History”. It is unsurprising that Hughes’ view of our past is shaded by her right-wing politics – and she is entitled to her opinions – but she should […]

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Bigotry dressed up as religiosity.

February 26, 2013

Catholic Answers Forum – a group that supports Catholic fundamentalism – is concerned that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA and Prosition 8 in California, paving the way to universal gay marriage. So concerned that they have filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting the status quo – in which gays remain second class […]

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Are knives as deadly as guns? Of course not, unless you are a gun extremist.

February 24, 2013

Recently a panel of “experts” were discussing the week’s events on a local Hudson Valley TV news station  The conservative pundit – in defending gun rights – pointed to a recent series of attacks at Chinese schools by assailants armed with only knives and axes – wow! I suppose he was trying to say that there is no […]

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Libertarianism, as a cure for society’s ills, is worse than the disease.

February 23, 2013

There are some conservatives who think that Libertarianism – freedom from rules and regulations – will cure what ails us. But if you think we should give it a try then be prepared to accept polygamy as the natural state of marriage. Without laws, wealth and women accrue to the alpha male – the rest […]

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A cautionary tale for the average voter.

February 19, 2013

  A politician dies and finds himself in a small room in front of a young woman seated behind a standard office desk. “Hello”, she says to him, “My name is Stella, and my job is to guide you through your orientation to the after-life.” “First a representative from upstairs will come and give you […]

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How many 3-year-olds have to shoot themselves dead before we have a meaningful conversation about gun violence?

February 18, 2013

  In the gun debate we sometimes think of murder victims as actual people whose actual lives were cut short. But we rarely personalize the victims of accidental shootings. Here are some of their stories. (All this in the last few days) The Baltimore police commissioner has suspended some training academy staff after a campus […]

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Drinking and driving suburban Chicago style.

February 15, 2013

File this under – “This is an idea that needs to rethought”. It would seem reasonable to assume that the cop who pulls you over for a traffic violation would not have been drinking, but if you live in suburban Chicago the cop may well have pounded a few. While some communities have a zero […]

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The Tea Party makes things up – again.

February 11, 2013

I try to keep things civil on this blog. But the Tea Party’s casual disregard for the truth is so shameless that I can only call them what they are – big fat liars. When will the Tea Party realize that lying is not a Christian virtue? Their latest fib is their claim, posted to […]

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