Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More Goodies from STACLU

My only regret about STACLU is not discovering them sooner; their usefulness as blog fodder is virtually unmatched. Only the Worldnutdaily comes close, and for most of the same reasons. They’ve got two delightfully wacky posts up right now. The first, from jonjayray, may have shattered the world record for most absurd violation of Godwin’s law. Not only does he compare an innocuous phrase from a politician to nazi propganda, but to communist propaganda too. At the same time. It all started when he read this article from AP about a new liberal catchphrase. He quotes the following passage from it:

“Ned Lamont uses it in his Connecticut Senate race. President Clinton is scheduled to speak on the idea in Washington this week. Bob Casey Jr., Pennsylvania candidate for Senate, put it in the title of his talk at The Catholic University of America – then repeated the phrase 29 times. The term is “common good,” and it’s catching on as a way to describe liberal values and reach religious voters who rejected Democrats in the 2004 election. Led by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think-tank, party activists hope the phrase will do for them what “compassionate conservative” did for the Republicans. “It’s a core value that we think organizes the entire political agenda for progressives,” said John Halpin, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.”


Now, if you want to argue that this is a silly and trite catchphrase that could mean virtually anything and therefore means practically nothing, I’ll happily back you up. Like virtually all political catchphrases, it’s a vacuous, amorphous concept that makes for good rhetoric but shoddy thinking. But jonjayray can’t say that because it would apply just as well to all the empty catchphrases from the right that he uses as a substitute for actual thinking. So instead, he seizes on the word “common” and finds translations of nazi and communist concepts that included that word and – voila! – Mr. Godwin, call your office:

What would Hitler have to say about that? We don’t need to guess. The term can be translated into German as “Gemeinnutz” and that lovable German-speaking rogue used the term a lot — as encapsulating what HE stood for: “Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz!” was one of his great slogans (“Common use before personal use!”, literally).

And who preceded Hitler in such ideas? Friedrich Engels (Karl Marx’s co-author) at one stage ran a publication called Gemeinnuetziges Wochenblatt (“Common-use Weekly”). The Democrats sure make it clear where they fit into history.

Boy, they sure do. They used a word that could mean the same thing as a word in German that was used in an entirely different phrase. Obviously, then, the Democrats are Nazi Communists. To rational people, of course, “common use” bears virtually no relationship to “common good”; he might as well have compared it to “common law” and accused them of being British barristers. This, ladies and gentlemen, actually passes for thinking in the STACLU crowd. And if that doesn’t make you laugh, then nothing will.

The second post is from Jay, and he’s praising Scalia and quoting him from the debate with Nadine Strossen. But the quote he takes is so blatantly and obviously hypocritical for Scalia that it’s astonishing that Jay can’t spot the problem with it. Here’s the quote:

I’m in the business of enforcing democracy. What democracy means is that on controversial issues; even stuff like homosexual rights, abortion, whatever; we debate with each other and persuade each other and vote on it. Either our representatives or through a Constitutional amendment in the states, we decide the question. Now there are some exceptions to that in any liberal democracy, and in ours most of those exceptions are contained in the bill of rights. But that bill of rights was adopted by the majority which is why it is proper in a democracy to have a bill of rights, because the majority adopted it. Now when they adopted it what did they take out of that general principle? What did they take out of that general rule of democracy? That we allow open speech, we persuade each other and we vote. What did they take out of it? They never took out these issues…abortion, homosexual conduct. Nobody ever thought that they had been included in the rights contained in the bill of rights which is why abortion and homosexual sodomy were criminal for 200 years. Now whether thats a good idea or bad is not what I’m talking about. Thats not my job to say that. It is my job to say whether the bill of rights has taken it out of the realm of democratic debate. Just because you feel strongly about it…it isn’t neccessarily in the bill of rights.

Jay responds, “I think Scalia is right on the issue. These should be state issues decided by the people, not pushed on them through the courts.” But has it escaped him how utterly hypocritical Scalia is being? If he is in the business of enforcing democracy and ensuring that, where the Constitution does not explicitly provide for a given right or authority, it must be decided democratically, then how in the world does he explain the ruling in Raich or in Gonzales v Oregon?

The people of California, by popular referendum, passed the medical marijuana initiative, the most democratic means possible of adopting a policy. Yet when that policy was challenged, Scalia was on the side not of enforcing democracy, but of stifling it. And on what constitutional basis? None whatsoever. There is no provision in the Constitution that justifies that exercise of Federal authority. The government claimed to have the authority under the interstate commerce clause, but here it involved a product that was neither transported between states nor bought or sold as commerce.

And Scalia, allegedly an originalist, completely ignored the original meaning of the commerce clause. Why was he not “enforcing democracy” on that “controversial issue”? Because he doesn’t really believe what he’s saying. When these same arguments lead to an outcome he disapproves of, then he completely jettisons his often expressed mode of interpretation and does exactly what he accuses his political opponents of doing.

He did the exact same thing in Gonzales v Oregon. Let’s apply his argument above: it’s a controversial issue, debated and voted on not once but twice and passed by popular referendum, and the Constitution is absolutely silent on the issue. Clearly, then, Scalia should be on the side of “enforcing democracy”, right? Nope. He filed a dissent to overturn that law based upon…well, nothing. The Constitution doesn’t mention the issue at all and the issue falls under the category of traditional police powers that were always reserved to the states.

Talk about an anti-democratic decision, he didn’t even vote to uphold one democratically passed law over another; he voted to uphold a single unelected man’s interpretation of a single phrase in a law passed decades ago over the policy voted on by popular referendum. Which means that all of this is nonsense. He only “enforces democracy” when he likes the outcome that leads to. When he doesn’t like what it leads to, to hell with democracy and up with the power of unelected Federal officials to overturn their will based solely on his own interpretation.

Comments

  1. #1 Herb
    October 19, 2006

    Wait, so was my 3rd grade math teacher a Nazi for teaching us about the “common denominator”?

  2. #2 Dave S.
    October 19, 2006

    Some more Nazified documents…

    The Declaration of Independence: We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

    The Constitution: 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.

  3. #3 Russell
    October 19, 2006

    Some STACLU ignoramus writes, “which is why abortion and homosexual sodomy were criminal for 200 years.”

    Abortion laws didn’t start making their appearance until the 19th century, mostly the late 19th century. English common law made abortion a misdemeanor after “quickening,” and arguably that applied in the colonies and then states that lacked specific law otherwise. If so, that didn’t seem to make a difference to the practice of abortion or to the sale of abortifacients.

    It would not be hard to fashion an argument, from the fact that women in all thirteen colonies were free to practice abortion at the time the Constitution was ratified, at least prior to quickening, and from its personal nature, that this should be included as one of the unenumerated rights of the 9th amendment. Of course, the freedom-hating right wing wants to read that amendment as an “inkblot.”

  4. #4 Skip Evans
    October 19, 2006

    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.

    Can anyone under 50 years of age read these words without singing them to the tune of Schoolhouse Rock? I simply cannot.

    Incidentally, when living in New York City I got a chance to see jazz pianist and composer Bob Dorough, who wrote the SH Rock ditties, perform at a nightclub. He was awesome.

    But by the end of the evening enough scribbled napkins had been slipped up to his piano that he had to give in. He performed Conjunction Junction as his final number while a house full of martini sipping liberal New Yorkers joined in on the chorus.

  5. #5 DuWayne
    October 19, 2006

    And who preceded Hitler in such ideas? Friedrich Engels (Karl Marx’s co-author) at one stage ran a publication called Gemeinnuetziges Wochenblatt (“Common-use Weekly”). The Democrats sure make it clear where they fit into history.

    ARRGGHH! The socialists are coming! Run Away! Run Away!

    Whether one is for or against public education, medicaid/medicare, social security, welfare, public parks or any other socialist programs quite prevelant in American society, we should at least be willing to admit that socialist ideas have a very legitamate place in public policy debate. It would be nice if Americans came out of high school with enough education to at least not cringe at the mention of the “S” word.

    I often wonder just how people who have such a dire fear of socialist principles would feel if we actually stripped away every last vestige of socialism from our country. I mean, what a great place this would be if we stopped stealing from the rich to provide kids with a semblance of an education. Or if we could quit providing health care to anybody without private health insurance – hell, we could even turn them away from the ER, I love the smell of a corpse on the streetcorner. And damn, if we could turn over our public parks to corporations and private entities, the could charge exhorbiant fees and keep out all the rif-raf.

    I was discussing politics with my pastor a few months ago and made the error of bringing up socialism. You would have thought I had made a comment about the sexual repression of the virgin Mary, by his reaction. When we boiled it all down, his major issue with socialism is that Marx was so vehemently, anti-religious. Being a fiscal conservative, he also has issues with high taxes – but his biggest fear of allowing any sort of socialist principles to infiltrate our society, is the fundementalist qualities of Marx’ atheism. As my pastor is a wonderful pastor in so many regards and is not an intellectual, I decided at that point to avoid discussions of politics in the future and refrained from pointing out all the ways socialism has influenced public policy in ways that he supports. As he already spends more time in hospitals and the homes of our elderly or ill parishoners, than he does in his office, I didn’t want him to have a stroke.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    October 19, 2006

    Skip Evans wrote:

    Can anyone under 50 years of age read these words without singing them to the tune of Schoolhouse Rock? I simply cannot.

    Oh that’s hilarious. And spot on, you’re absolutely right, when I read that my brain automatically sets it to the tune from Schoolhouse Rock. And now it’s gonna be in my head all day long too.

  7. #7 SharonB
    October 19, 2006

    I heard Bill Clinton on C-Span last night speaking on the launch of The Common Good. What a breath of fresh air compared to the present occupant of the Oval Office. Almost made me nostalgic.

  8. #9 Russell
    October 19, 2006

    DuWayne writes, “Whether one is for or against public education, medicaid/medicare, social security, welfare, public parks or any other socialist programs quite prevelant in American society, we should at least be willing to admit that socialist ideas have a very legitamate place in public policy debate. It would be nice if Americans came out of high school with enough education to at least not cringe at the mention of the ‘S’ word.”

    Whether one is for or against socialism, ideally one would come out of American high schools having read enough history to know that public education and public parks antedate Fourier, Owen, and Marx by centuries. Or even millenia. Crediting these to socialism is no less an anachronism than crediting Cromwell for inventing the alphabet.

    The strange thing is that none of the policies you mention really get to the core argument of socialism, which has to do with the separation of labor from the means of production. Marx supported Abraham Lincoln. Did that make the Union effort socialist? Of course not. It only means that we shouldn’t make the mistake of identifying a particular program with a political ideology just because the same people support both. The wingnut brigade use this fallacy frequently. “Stalin believed in evolution, so evolution is evil.” A stupid argument. But no more so than “socialists favor public education, so we shouldn’t be afraid of the ‘S’ word.”

    Public education, medicare, welfare, and social security are all good things. And it matters how much we can support these, and what science is available to advance them. It matters not just that we have medicare, but that the US is part of the wealthy west, so its medicare program can afford to include a long list of medicines, surgeries, and prostheses, and so the technology behind these advances daily. Having a healthy capitalist economy is vital, among other reasons, to make that possible.

    As a liberal, I’m happy that socialists support public education and medicare. As a liberal, I also think it unfortunate that they still have a 19th century view of economics. Socialism isn’t about welfare. It’s about the means of production. If you want to argue about socialism, tell me about how you’re going to put the means of production into labor’s hands, and how you think that’s going to impact the economy. Tell me how you’re going to reorganize IBM, Pfizer, Microsoft, and Dow. Otherwise, you’re back to pointing to the good things Marx supported, the Union among them, without talking about what made him and other socialists socialist.

  9. #10 Bartholomew
    October 19, 2006

    I must confess that I share Hitler’s desire for trains to run on time, and I quite like dogs. The idea of “common good”, by the way, goes back to Aristotle.

  10. #11 Dave S.
    October 19, 2006

    Skip Evans wrote:

    Can anyone under 50 years of age read these words without singing them to the tune of Schoolhouse Rock? I simply cannot.

    Nope, neither can I, although as I recall the Schoolhouse Rock song omits the “of the United States” in the first line.

    It’s like trying to recite the alphabet without thinking of the Alphabet Song.

  11. #12 FishyFred
    October 19, 2006

    If he is in the business of enforcing democracy and ensuring that, where the Constitution does not explicitly provide for a given right or authority, it must be decided democratically, then how in the world does he explain the ruling in Raich or in Gonzales v Oregon?

    Jay has probably never heard of those cases.

    Can anyone under 50 years of age read these words without singing them to the tune of Schoolhouse Rock? I simply cannot.

    Schoolhouse Rock is so ingrained in me that whenever someone says the word “conjunction” in any context, I start singing in my head.

    Same with “INTERJECTION! INTERJECTION! INTERJECTION!”

  12. #13 Russell
    October 19, 2006

    Dave S, “It’s like trying to recite the alphabet without thinking of the Alphabet Song.”

    That’s not so much a problem if you recite it backwards. :-)

  13. #14 Craig Pennington
    October 19, 2006

    A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

    Damn. Those Commies and Nazis got to Madison in Federalist #10! Common good, indeed!

  14. #15 ospalh
    October 20, 2006

    Ranting about “common good” gets even sillier if you now that “gemeinn├╝tzig”, “for the common good” is a clearly defined legal term in present day Germany, not just a Nazi or Communist term.

    From the German Wikipedia article
    at de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemeinn%C3%BCtzig
    (my translation):

    When an organisation has been classed as “for the common good” it is exempted partially or completley from paying taxes. Many NGOs and cultural organizations, but sports clubs, hosipatls, building societys, banks and funeral homes profit from this.

  15. #16 Jerry
    October 20, 2006

    I wonder if this “johnjayray” is the same guy who writes dissectleft.blogspot.com . His main project in that blog has been to demonize liberals, attempting to show that they are less intelligent and more subservient to authority, and invoking all sorts of pseudoscience to support his wacky contentions. So, I’m not surprised that he’s conforming to Godwin’s law, since that’s what he does in nearly every post on his blog.