Monday, August 29, 2005

Griswold - "penumbras formed by emanations"

Rich Lowry in National Review Onlineon the cornerstone of the Left's jurisprudence:

The mischief began 40 years ago in the case Griswold v. Connecticut, when the Court struck down a prohibition on contraceptives on the basis of a "right to marital privacy." The bit about "marital" was quickly dropped, and the new discovery became a general right to privacy.

In Griswold, the Court suggested the right might be found in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and/or Ninth Amendments. In other words, it must be there somewhere, anywhere. But since the right to privacy is nowhere mentioned, the Court had to contend that it resides in "penumbras formed by emanations." In layman's terms, that means in partial shadows formed by emissions, which it doesn't take a constitutional scholar to conclude sounds pretty vaporous.

If Connecticut's contraceptive law was outdated and purposeless, the answer was simple: for voters to overturn it. Both the dissenters in the case, Justices Hugo Black and Potter Stewart noted that they opposed the Connecticut policy, but that didn't make it unconstitutional.

Roe v. Wade relied on the same amorphous right to privacy and featured the same tenuous or nonexistent constitutional reasoning. In his decision, Justice Harry Blackmun cited the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Bar Association and - but, of course - the "Ephesian, Soranos, often described as the greatest of the ancient gynecologists."
Griswold was also the subject of "The Bad Decision that Started it All" by Robert P. George and David L. Tubbs in the July 18th edition of National Review. In that article (reprinted here on the Catholic Educators Resource site, the authors track the line of cases leading from the constitutional right of "marital privacy" found in Griswold, through the constitutional right to abortions found in Roe v. Wade to the constitutional right to same sex marriage found in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in Massachusetts.

The authors argue that whether or not you believe abortions should be regulated, Griswold was bad law and a shaky foundation on which to build your case. Regarding this, the authors cite the dissenting opinions:

In fact, two widely respected and sensible jurists, Justices Hugo Black and Potter Stewart, dissented in Griswold. Black was a noted liberal and, like Stewart, recorded his opposition to Connecticut's policy as a political matter. Yet both jurists insisted that the policy was a valid exercise of the state's power to promote public health, safety, and morals.

To Justices Black and Stewart, the "right to privacy" cloaked a naked policy preference. Justices in the majority were, without constitutional warrant, substituting their own judgments for those of the elected representatives in Connecticut. This, according to jurists across the political spectrum, is precisely what had brought shame on the Court during the "Lochner era", from roughly 1890 to 1937, when in the name of an unwritten "liberty of contract" the justices invalidated state social-welfare and worker-protection laws.
The article is invaluable in dispelling other myths about the decsion as well.

Overturning Roe v. Wade will not make abortion illegal. Instead, since the Constitution is silent on the matter, it will put the decision back under the purview of state legislatures where it should be.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

All Cultures Are Not Equal - New York Times

Will Globalization lead to a single culture? Maybe not - David Brooks in the New York Times looks at the puzzle of why cultures seem to be diverging as global economies converge - All Cultures Are Not Equal :

Not long ago, people said that globalization and the revolution in communications technology would bring us all together. But the opposite is true. People are taking advantage of freedom and technology to create new groups and cultural zones. Old national identities and behavior patterns are proving surprisingly durable. People are moving into self-segregating communities with people like themselves, and building invisible and sometimes visible barriers to keep strangers out.

If you look just around the United States you find amazing cultural segmentation. We in America have been "globalized" (meaning economically integrated) for centuries, and yet far from converging into some homogeneous culture, we are actually diverging into lifestyle segments. The music, news, magazine and television markets have all segmented, so there are fewer cultural unifiers like Life magazine or Walter Cronkite.

Forty-million Americans move every year, and they generally move in with people like themselves, so as the late James Chapin used to say, every place becomes more like itself. Crunchy places like Boulder attract crunchy types and become crunchier. Conservative places like suburban Georgia attract conservatives and become more so.
In Power, Terror, Peace, and War : America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk, Walter Russel Meade argued that we're seeing a move away from a statist "Fordist" systems that arose after WWII to more entrepreneurial, market-driven views of the role of government driven in part by the rise of consumerism - just as people want a choice in the products they buy, they now want choice in their retirement plans, etc.

Maybe what we're seeing here is that consumerist ethos at work in cultural issues as well - rising prosperity has given people exposure to different cultural values and the means to adopt them. As Brooks points out:
The members of these and many other groups didn't inherit their identities. They took advantage of modernity, affluence and freedom to become practitioners of a do-it-yourself tribalism. They are part of a great reshuffling of identities, and the creation of new, often more rigid groupings. They have the zeal of converts.
Brooks also points out groups that reject Globalization:
Meanwhile, if you look around the world you see how often events are driven by groups that reject the globalized culture. Islamic extremists reject the modern cultures of Europe, and have created a hyperaggressive fantasy version of traditional Islamic purity.
In The Pentagon's New Map, Thomas P.M. Barnett described a worldview that included a "functioning core" and a "non-integrating gap" and discussed efforts by totalitarian governments to take their countries "offline", which is exactly what Brooks describes.

I enjoyed both books and thought that they were describing the same phenomenon through two different perspectives. Brooks seems to be tackling the same issues when he asks why certain cultural traits endure and why others (like Arab nationalism) fade. Is there a Darwinian "market" for cultures and ideas and is there more movement in that market lately?

Al Qaeda's Woes

Amir Taheri:

Al-Zawahiri spells out their strategy in Iraq with chilling simplicity. He brushes aside the fact that Iraq now has a free elected government that represents the will of its people. He demands that the United States and its allies abandon the Iraqi people so that the terrorists can seize control in Baghdad and continue their massacre on a grander scale.

This shows that the Arab terrorist movement associated with the al Qaeda brand knows that it has absolutely no chance of winning power in Iraq or any other Muslim country through normal political means.

More importantly, al-Zawahiri acknowledges the fact that the terrorists have no chance of winning a straight military victory over the U.S.-led Coalition in Iraq. He clearly shows that his only hope of victory lies in the belief that the terrorists could turn American and British public opinion against support for building a new and democratic Iraq.

Al-Zawahiri 's entire analysis on that score is based on al Qaeda's single victory so far: the changing of the Spanish government under the pressure of the March 2004 Madrid bombings.

Islamist terrorist circles have already woven quite a few myths around what they describe as their "victorious ghazva" (raid) in Madrid. "We taught the Spaniards a lesson," says Shamsul Dhoha, who runs a pro-al Qaeda Web site from Pakistan. "Our heroes struck, and the Spaniards scattered like hens. This is the way to deal with [all other] infidel [enemies]."

Yet what is perceived as Spain's surrender to al Qaeda has so far proved to be the exception rather than the rule. Other members of the coalition in Iraq — President Bush himself, plus Prime Ministers John Howard (Australia), Tony Blair (Britian) and Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Denmark) — have been re-elected, often with increased majorities. Meanwhile, almost all those who opposed the liberation of Iraq have suffered losses in all subsequent elections — most notably France's Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Air America Scandal

IBD on the Silence of the MSM on the Air America Scandal

Public funds used to prop up a business! Just the kind of scandal that left-leaning media would die for. Yet for some reason they're giving this one a pass.
Is it because there are no mean ol' conservatives to blame?
When Limbaugh's problems with painkillers came to light, the mainstream media could hardly contain themselves. They called him a "pill popper" and hypocrite and cheered for release of his medical records. And when he returned to the air, they couldn't talk enough about his stay in rehab.
Al Franken, Air America's featured host, seized the moment and labeled Limbaugh a "drug addict" — after calling him a "Big Fat Idiot" in the title of his book years before.
Nothing wrong, mind you, with reporting on Limbaugh's woes. Nothing, that is, as long as the media cover flaws of those on the left with equal enthusiasm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mark Steyn on Cindy Sheehan

On the Left's efforts to portray the troops in Iraq as children incapable of making their own decisions...

They're not children in Iraq; they're grown-ups who made their own decision to join the military. That seems to be difficult for the left to grasp. Ever since America's all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that's her decision and her parents shouldn't get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton's Oval Office, she's a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old is serving his country overseas, he's a wee "child" who isn't really old enough to know what he's doing.

I get many e-mails from soldiers in Iraq, and they sound a lot more grown-up than most Ivy League professors and certainly than Maureen Dowd, who writes like she's auditioning for a minor supporting role in ''Sex And The City.''

The infantilization of the military promoted by the left is deeply insulting to America's warriors but it suits the anti-war crowd's purposes. It enables them to drone ceaselessly that "of course" they "support our troops," because they want to stop these poor confused moppets from being exploited by the Bush war machine...
Casey Sheehan was a 21-year old man when he enlisted in 2000. He re-enlisted for a second tour, and he died after volunteering for a rescue mission in Sadr City. Mrs. Sheehan says she wishes she'd driven him to Canada, though that's not what he would have wished, and it was his decision.
Read the whole thing here.

The troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are not children and are not dupes. They are brave and responsible men and women who have made the decision to serve and protect their country. Many of them have enlisted or reenlisted since the beginning of the fighting in Iraq and even more have done so since September 11th. This effort to portray them as children to be protected rather than as adults protecting their fellow citizens does them a disservice.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Islamism - the New Marxism?

Is the growth of Islamism due in part to its replacement of Marxism as the standardbearer of ant-Western animosity? Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online: "I Have Rights!":
Osama bin Laden's prattling about the Crusades, for instance, merely shows how poisoned Islamism is by Western Marxism and anti-imperialism. Muslims used to brag about winning the Crusades. It was only after the West started exporting victimology that Islamic and Arab intellectuals started to whine about how poorly they'd been treated.

To a certain extent, radical Islam in Europe has taken the place of third-world Marxism — hardly a big leap when you think about how many Vietnamese "revolutionaries" were trained in Parisian salons. It's all about fighting capitalism, American "imperialism," modernism, etc. Marxism no longer provides a workable model, but the Islamists think sharia might. At the same time, like fascism and Communism before it, radical Islam provides a sense of purpose and meaning for losers and misfits who blame their misfortunes on "the system" (variously defined as the ruling class, the Jews, the capitalists, Col. Sanders, etc.). In this sense, Islamism is less about religion than ideology, and less about ideology than it is about alienation and low self-esteem.

Framing the Abortion Debate

Robert George in The Corner on National Review Online:
There are three positions that can be defended without quickly falling into logical inconsistency. The first is that human beings are in no morally relevant way different from other creatures and therefore have no special dignity. The second is that human beings have an inherent and equal dignity; each and every human being possesses it simply by virtue of his or her humanity. The third is that some, but not all, human beings have dignity; those who have it possess it by virtue of some quality or set of qualities that they happen to possess that other human beings do not possess (or do not yet possess, or no longer possess).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005