Saturday, July 27, 2013

Signing off

I have moved my thoughts to a new location, The All American Politico.  This is a new blog that has writers from across the political spectrum and encourages polite dialogue among them.  My latest post can be found here.

Hail and farewell!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ted Cruz gets lesson on the Bill of Rights….

…from Antonin Scalia.

By now everyone must have seen Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Canada) give his condescending lesson on the Bill of Rights to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Planet Earth).  (If not, you can see it here.)  Of course, he disregarded the response from a mere hysterical woman (who had tried to plug the bullet holes in her friend with her fingers.)  So, for a more “educated” and “serious” rebuttal, I give you the honorable Justice Antonin Scalia.
Cruz:  “Would she [Sen. Feinstein] deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment, namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?”

Scalia:  Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

“…nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

“ It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment ’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty.  It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.”

     District of Columbia v. Heller  [Emphasis added.]


Thursday, December 27, 2012

I can see clearly now

Due to several (2) requests, I have changed the format of this blog.  Apparently, some people expect the posts to be legible as well as intelligible.  We aim to please.

The Cobernicus Theory of the Constituion

One of the inspirations for this blog is a series of conversations I have been having over the past two years with my friend, John White, one of the leaders of the Cheshire Tea Party. He is, as am I, an amateur of the US Constitution, Although our interpretations rarely coincide or even come close, these talks have always remained cordial,  a spirit I hope to maintain here.

I anticipate that many posts will deal with various aspects of the Constitution, so I would like to begin with my general theory of Constitutional interpretation.  I have been greatly influenced by the New Textualism Theory championed by Doug Kendall and others.  For a good lay summary of the approach, I recommend Jeffry Rosen's article in The New Republic.  While these writings have influenced me, I make no claim to represent this legal theory, merely my own view, which includes the following foundations:
  • The drafters of the Constitution (and the Bill of Rights,) but not necessarily all the delegates. were the intellectual giants of their era, on either side of the Atlantic.  They were steeped in the political, moral and religious theories of the day.  They could rightly say, as Humpty Dumpty could not:, "When I use a word, it means just what I want it to mean - neither more nor less."  It is also true that when they left out a word or words from earlier documents, they had a purpose in so doing.
  • While these were truly wise men, the Constitution was not a result of divine inspiration, but rather emerged from heated, and often raucous, debate and negotiation: the large states vs. the small, free vs. slave, etc.  No one looking at the 3/5 Compromise (Article I, Section 2) could believe otherwise.
  • Given the two conditions above,it is important that some wording is very specific (e.g., the ages required for service in Congress or as President), while other were left vague (e.g., "general welfare.")  They should therefore be understood according to their drafting, with general conditions giving leave for broader interpretation.
  • While the Declaration of Independence was designed to overthrow the status quo, the Constitution sought to "create a more perfect Union" and "insure domestic tranquility."  It represents an effort to create a more orderly life than had existed during the Revolution or under the Articles of ConfederationIn a bit more than a decade, our Founders had evolved from revolutionaries to true "small-c" conservatives, rather than the Directoire.  Amazing!
  • Those drafting the Constitution understood it to be a lving document, to be reinterpreted by each succeeding generation.  Jefferson stated that all laws should "expire" in 19 years, when a new generation takes power.
  • Despite their differences, the Founders were able to agree on the larger issues. The key to understanding their intentions is the Preamble.  It does not merely "walk before" the Constitution, it defines where it is going. In just 52 words, it summarizes the future they desired  for our country.  

The Preamble

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

We the people:  While the Articles of Confederation was, as it name says, an agreement among the States, the Constitution set up "a government of the people, by the people and for the people."  The States were to have a more limited role as defined in this document.

...a more perfect Union:   To my mind, "more" is the most critical word in the Constitution; it implies movement, and specifically progress.  The first goal of the Constitution was, and is, to make our Union "more perfect"... than what?  Obviously, more perfect than a loose Confederation of States that preceded it.  The movement in the Constitution is clearly toward giving greater, defined powers to the Federal government. This new structure was not yet a "perfect Union." a complete fusion into a single entity, but was meant to be a step in that direction.

... establish justice:  Here there is a small echo of the Declaration, noting that the goal of a just society of free men it envisioned, had not yet been achieved.

... ensure domestic tranquility:  The echo above is followed immediately by a call for order.  No more revolutions, please!  This will be critical in understanding the intent of the Second a later post.  Note that domestic peace is placed before international security.

... provide for the common defense:  This is obvious and essential role for the central government, but one that caused concern for some of the Founders, and led to the Second Amendment.

... promote the general welfare:  The meaning of this phrase has been the source of more debate than any other.  In my mind, its ambiguity was deliberate, as the Founders intended that each generation redefine it.

... secure the blessings of liberty:  Again, the gains made by revolution were to be secured by law and government.  We were to have the liberty to act within their constraints, but not the complete freedom of anarchy.

... for ourselves and our descendents: The Constitution was built to last, despite the changing times.  To do so it had to adapt, as Jefferson demanded.  In my mind the Constitution was meant to be a framework on which our nation could grow, rather than a cage to contain the government it established.

Of course, while I agree with the originalists that we should consider what the Founders said in their time, how they said it is as important as what they said.  I await a reply from them.

This is enough too much for a first blog on this subject.  If I didn't chase you away, the discussion will continue, later.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yet another opinion about Les Miserables

Since everyone in the world who has seen the new movie version of Les Miz has expressed an opinion, why not join in.  My perspective is as one who saw the London show, with its original cast, and the New York version (inferior to the former), and the various concert versions and reunions on PBS.

Overall, I think this version outdoes the stage musical for several reasons.  
  • The music is much more personal. As it was done live and generally in extreme closeup, the actors need not employ the operatic voices needed on the large theater stage.  Much has been made of this approach, but it works.
  • The sole exception, of course, is the block of wood that clogs up and slows down any scene in which it appears.  I refer, of course to Russell Crowe.  He can neither act nor sing to the level required by this part.  His Javert lacks the passion needed, and thus his doubts and epiphany at the end make no sense.  To be fair, I felt this a bit even on stage, as the part is the weakest in the cast, but his performance make it so obvious that it hurts.
  • On the grander scale, the large action sequences and effects were quite amazing, especially the reverse zoom from the barricade to an aerial view of Paris. Gavroche's self-introduction in "Look Down" is a visual gem.
  • Sasha Baron Cohen and Helen Bonham Carter ham it up appropriately as the Thenardiers.  I rather liked the "Master of the House" number and definitely did not miss "Dog Eat Dog," which was cut.
  • The minor changes to the plot sequence, and additions of short expository songs help as well.
  • I was struck (oddly for the first time), by the amazing similarity of "One Day More" to the "Tonight" ensemble number in West Side Story.
  • I was very pleased to see Colm Wilkinson, the original London Jean Valjean, in the role of the bishop.  This was a very classy touch.  I sense the hand of producer Cameron Mackintosh.
 Despite my best efforts, I did cry during the final scene.  This is one I may go see again.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcome to Cobernicus Theory

Cobernicus Theory is a very idiosyncratic view of politics, religion, science, energy and technology from a unique perspective - the Center of the Universe.  According to my college classmates, Cobernicus Theory postulated that I am the center of the my Universe.  And that is the perspective you will find here.

While I will always give proper attribution to my sources. I take full responsibility for the opinions herein.  Feel free to attack them or discuss them as you please.