Friday, July 4, 2008


Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker notes that a blogger has found a serious error in Anthony Kennedy's opinion in (Patrick) Kennedy vs. Louisiana. This was the decision handed down last week that negated a Louisiana law that made raping a child punishable by death. A 5-4 majority ruled that, in Justice Kennedy's words, capital punishment in cases where no one dies violates our society's "evolving standards."

This is factually and demonstrably incorrect, according to Feldman. In 2006 Congress, the voice of the people, voted to make rape of a child committed by military personnel a capital offense. Apparently no one on the Court was aware of this fact, and it completely undermines the rationale for Kennedy's opinion.

Feldman argues that there are now grounds for Louisiana to request that SCOTUS reconsider their decision. They have until July 21st to file for a rehearing.

Justice Kennedy is going to look pretty foolish if the decision is allowed to stand. How can he argue that capital punishment is in conflict with society's "evolving standards" when the body that is constitutionally established to reflect the will of the people declared just two years ago that the death penalty in child rape cases is appropriate?


Loser Letter #7

Mary Eberstadt's seventh Loser Letter offers some much needed advice to the Brights about how to deal with the issue of abortion, an issue they don't handle well at all.


Fourth of July Meditation

Today we celebrate our independence as a nation. Two hundred and thirty two years ago enough people in the leadership of the thirteen colonies believed that freedom to control one's own life and destiny was a sufficiently high value that it was worth risking their lives and patrimony to obtain. Not everyone agreed that we needed to be free from English oppression and one of the saddest stories of the American revolution is how it divided communities and turned family members against each other.

Today our freedom is still not secure. As in 1776 the challenge comes from both within our community and without our borders. The external threat, from totalitarian atheism and totalitarian Islamism, is perhaps more evident to some than the internal threat. Nevertheless the internal threat may be the most acute. From within our midst we face the challenge of those who believe that individual freedom is on balance a bad thing because people use freedom in ways that may be harmful to the purposes of the larger society.

The challenge of government has always been to find the proper balance between individual freedom and our wider obligation to our fellow citizens. Indeed it is this quest for balance that has sparked the political conflicts which rage in our daily newspapers and even from time to time on Viewpoint.

Some there are who say that individual freedom must be maximized as long as it harms no one else. These are the Libertarians. Others say that individual freedom must be eliminated in favor of our obligation to improve society. These are the left-wing totalitarian fascists. Most people are somewhere in between, but despite the fact that the majority does not lie at either extreme, there is a very real concern today that those who would hack away at personal liberty are in the ascendant.

There are those, for example, who wish to censor any criticism of any view which they themselves hold. One who is skeptical of global warming, Darwinian materialism, gay marriage, and the good will of resident Muslims may find himself out of work and/or in court not just in Europe or Canada but also in the United States of America. "Bad thought" can itself become criminal which is the basic premise behind "hate crime" legislation.

There are those, primarily on the left, who would take away the freedom to voice whatever opinions one wishes in public, they would take away the freedom to express and practice religious beliefs that have been extant in this country for two hundred years, they would take away the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to run your business the way you wish, to pay employees what you wish, to hire whom you please and fire whom you please and to require your employees to dress in ways you deem appropriate. The left holds that individuals should not be free to create their own business or industry but that these enterprises should be owned, or at least controlled, by the state.

The left believes that law and policy should be made by the courts, not the Congress, because Congress is beholden to the people and the people just don't know what's in their best interest. Thus lawmaking becomes an exercise in futility when the left is in power because a law which the people want but of which the left disapproves will be snuffed out by the courts which are frequently sympathetic to the leftist point of view. Congress in the hands of the left becomes little more than a tool for preventing the wrong people from getting on the bench and for making the lives of executive branch officials of whom they disapprove miserable. For the left the Bill of Rights is not a wonderful guarantor of our freedoms and a bulwark against an oppressive state, rather it's only value is as a tool to be used to undermine the traditions and will of the majority. Otherwise, it's an impediment to creating their vision of an ideal society.

To be sure, the right would curtail certain freedoms as well. In their view, the right of free speech should not give people a right to use obscenity in public and publish pornography. They think the right to do with one's body what one wishes ends where the welfare of others begins. They believe that the right to do in one's home what one pleases doesn't confer a right to let a dog bark all night or to play the stereo at full volume. They believe that a criminal's rights to due process do not outweigh the rights of citizens to be safe on their streets, and they don't believe freedom of religion applies to just anything someone wants to call his religion.

So where is the fulcrum along this spectrum of views? On this day when we celebrate the unique American experiment in liberty we might do well to reflect on what principles help guide us in deciding how we balance liberty and responsibility. Where do we place the pivot between individual freedom and our obligation to society, and why do we put it just there? Do we lean toward freedom or do we lean toward statism?