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Archive for July, 2008

Recently I have read on Crystal Clear Conservative, Bearing Drift, and other blogs, the debate over abortion between two of the Republican Attorney General choices, John Brownlee and Ken Cuccinelli.  Rather than focus on the two candidates, (which many others have done), I’d instead like to examine the issue of abortion itself.

As many of you know, prior to the dual Supreme Court decisions of 1973, Roe v. Wade and the less well known Doe v. Bolton, abortion was considered a state issue rather than in the federal jurisdiction.  The reasoning for this outcome was based upon an interpretation of the 14th Amendment.  For the record, the 14th Amendment reads,

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No one shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Now I have a number of complaints against the 14th Amendment both in its ramifications and in its manner of ratification, but as those issues are not the focus of this piece, I shall save them for another time.  In the decision of Roe v. Wade, as many activists of either side of the abortion debate know, the justices found that state abortion laws violated a right to privacy as established in the due process clause in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.  Personally I cannot understand how the phrase “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” grants a person the right to an abortion, but I guess the justices to the Supreme Court knew something that I do not.  Frankly (and I’m sure that you wouldn’t be surprised if you have read my earlier posts) I think that these cases were yet another example of the Supreme Court violating the 10th Amendment by overruling the laws of the states.  Yet, it is strangely ironic I think for the court to uphold abortion through the 14th Amendment by denying life and liberty to another.  And that very point brings us to another issue.

Typically those who define themselves as social liberals ardently defend a “woman’s right to choose” while those who are socially conservative believe “abortion is murder”.  Despite what some weak-kneed politicians might say, there is and can be no common ground between these two camps.  The reason for this divide is due largely to a difference in terminology and understanding.  For liberals (and if any liberal who is reading this post wishes to correct or improve my generalization, please do so), they believe that the government has no right or authority to regulate what goes on between consenting adults or what a person can or cannot choose to do with his or her own body.  The right to privacy trumps the rights of the government.  To some extent, I can appreciate this stance, as I do not want the government to mandate what religious beliefs I hold, what weapons I may or may not own, what doctors I must visit, illegally monitor my activities, or search my possessions without a warrant.  However, abortion is a different kettle of fish.  For most, if not all conservatives, it is an issue first and foremost about life.  They view an unborn child as a person and abortion as means to kill that person.  Therefore, the government (both state and federal) has an obligation and duty to defend that person against all who seek to do it harm, even if the person in question is the victim’s mother.  How can it be illegal for a person to kill a child the day it is born, but be legal the day before?  As long as one side views the issue as privacy and the other views the issue as life, there is no middle ground.

The nation, of course, is not simply clustered into these two camps where either abortion should always be legal or illegal.  For example, you have the viability crowd who say that abortion should be legal up to the point where a child has reached viability such that he or she could live on his or her own outside the womb (20 to 27 weeks depending).  Or the people who favor banning partial-birth abortion in which the child is partially delivered early before its termination.  Others favor banning or permitting some abortions based on the establishment of some sort of other timetable.  Then you have the myriad of abortion exceptions.  Except when the life of the mother is in danger, except in the case of rape or incest, except in the case of known, likely, or probable birth defects, except in case of socioeconomic status, except when the woman’s health is at risk.  Many citizens who declare themselves to be pro-life hold to these exceptions, the most common being like John Brownlee who has the life of the mother and rape and incest exceptions.  Some pro-lifers condemn those who hold to such exception clauses as impure and not truly pro-life.  I, on the other hand do not vilify my brothers, but do pose this simple question.  How does the awful crime of rape or incest justify the additional crime of abortion? Committing an additional wrong does not somehow mitigate the first.  Now some might argue, you’re not a woman and can never really understand, and they are right.  I can never have a child nor have an abortion performed on my body.  However, during my work in the state of Tennessee I had the honor of meeting a brave person who was raped and decided to have the child rather than seeking an abortion.  That is indeed a tough situation, but, in the end, it allows good to come from an otherwise horrible situation.

Lastly, I encourage all people on both sides of this terrible conflict to discuss the issue calmly and rationally.  Sure, as a pro-lifer, you can shout names like “murderer” and “baby killer”, but I expect that doing so would have little impact on a vast majority of those who have abortions and those who commit them.  Until and unless you can convince a person that an unborn child is a person too, success will be exceedingly difficult.  You must prove that it is an issue of life over privacy.  This is a conflict not only to be fought in the courts, Congress, and state legislatures, but in the hearts and minds of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.

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Author’s Note: As promised in my first post, some of my writings will deal with the topic of religion. Although this is the first one to omit politics, I do hope my regular readers find this discussion to be of interest.

Out of the multitude of people in the Old Testament, one person that has consistently held my interest is Balaam son of Beor. Who, you might ask? Certainly he is not a very well known figure, but he still played an important role in the history of the Israelite people. He primarily appears in Numbers chapters twenty-two through twenty-four. I encourage you to reread (or read) the passages if they are not fresh in your mind; however, for the sake of everyone I will be paraphrasing the events in question.

For a bit of back-story, if you will recall, the Israelites left captivity in Egypt and were heading to Canaan, the land promised to them by YHWH (commonly referred to as The LORD). As they traveled, they came upon the kingdom of the Moabites. Now the king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor and his people were afraid of these foreigners and did not want them passing through their territory. Here is where Balaam enters.

“…So Balak, king of Moab sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor, who was living in his native land of Pethor near the Euphrates River.” Numbers 22:4-5 (NLT). Apparently Balaam possessed the power to both curse and bless with very noticeable results. Interestingly, when the messengers of the king approached Balaam with this request, Balaam replies that he must ask YHWH first. Note that he is asking the same god as that of the people of Israel. Apparently understanding of The LORD was not restricted to just the Hebrew people and others too not only knew of him, but claimed him as their god (or one of their gods). Balaam then engages in a dialogue with God. He is told not to go to Balak and not to curse these people. Balaam willing complies. So King Balak sends more messengers asking Balaam to reconsider, “but Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak were to give me a palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God.” Numbers 22:18 (NLT) Note that for some undisclosed reason be it for love, respect, or fear, Balaam refuses to go against the command of God.

Now we come to a very curious part. Afterward, at night, God told Balaam to go with the messengers of Balak. However, when Balaam did go, it made God very angry. Why would God be angry with Balaam for following his instruction? As you might remember from the most famous portion of the story, an angel blocked Balaam’s path causing a significant vocal and physical quarrel between Balaam and his donkey. After Balaam finally sees the angel too, the angel threatens Balaam with death for his sin. Balaam repents and offers to return home, but as before, the angel tells Balaam to continue on his journey. This encounter only poses further questions. If it was a sin for Balaam to travel here, why was he permitted to continue? When Balaam arrives, he again professes his loyalty to God saying; “…I will speak only the messages that God gives me” Numbers 22:39 (NLT). Next, on three occasions, after either meeting God or being filled with the spirit of God, he blesses the people of Israel instead of cursing them as Balak intended. Needless to say, Balak is quite displeased by Balaam’s efforts and sends him home without any payment.

Although Balaam is not mentioned in the next section, we are not yet finished with him. Here is where things get even more interesting. First, in chapter 31, it is written that the Israelites “…also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.” Numbers 31:8. (NLT) Later, Moses says, ‘“Why have you let all the women live?’ he demanded. ‘They are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people.’” Numbers 31:15-16 (NLT). Why would they kill Balaam? Apparently, he was killed because he encouraged idolatry and marrying with the native women, which was forbidden to the people. When did these events happen? Why are these details not to be found? Now Balaam appears again sporadically in the Old Testament, but the main gist of his story is here.

You may be asking, why would a man who blessed Israel three times want to lead them astray? The New Testament offers several clues to the fate of Balaam as well as presenting a darker version of his character. For example, Peter writes of false teachers, “They have wandered off the right road and followed the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.” 2 Peter 2:15-16. (NLT) Then in Revelation, “And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin” Revelation 2:14 (NLT).

How could a man like Balaam, who supposedly revered God and even spoke to him, turn against him? If he did so, he would not be alone. The Bible is filled with this kind of behavior. For example, foreign wives led King Solomon, who knew so much, into idolatry. Previously the lust of his father, David, caused the death of an innocent man and his own child.

I cannot help but feel, however, that the story offered by the book of Numbers does not tell the whole tale. Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that Balaam follows God’s command to go to Balak only to be rebuked for it later? Why would a man who refuses to speak as only God commands, a man who blesses Israel three times, later try to turn them away from God? Would a man who refuses a reward in order to speak the truth fall so easily to avarice? Why would a man who lives near Euphrates River have anything to do with the people of Israel once he returned home? Now perhaps something was lost in my translation, but I think from the way they wrote, the authors of Numbers, Peter, and Revelation knew a bit more to the story of Balaam than I. Was he motivated by self-interest rather than pleasing God?

The best answer I can find to these questions so far comes from the historian Flavius Josephus in his work Antiquities of the Jews written several years before 100 AD. As he was obviously not present at the events himself, he would have written in accordance with Jewish tradition or some other related source. Balaam appears in Chapter VI of Book IV. Apparently in an effort to win favor from Balak after he was unable to curse the Israelites, as a temporary solution Balaam advises the king to send Midianite women to the Israelites in order to seduce the men. Presumably he was motivated by the desire to regain at least some small portion of his promised reward from King Balak. As a result, the men began to worship the Midianite gods, and therefore incurred the wrath of YHWH. In section 13, Josephus writes,

This was the cause why Moses was provoked to send an army to destroy the Midianites…although this Balaam, who was sent for by the Midianites to curse the Hebrews, and when he was hindered for doing it by Divine Providence, did still suggest that advice to them, by making use of which our enemies had well nigh corrupted the whole multitude of the Hebrews with their wiles, till some of them were deeply infected with their opinions…

Accordingly, this affront led to the death of many Midianities and Balaam himself as described in the beginning of Numbers, Chapter 31.

Even though I didn’t find all the answers to my questions, I still think that Balaam is a multifaceted person who should be remembered and studied in greater detail for both good and ill. If you are more familiar with this particular historical and biblical issue than myself, I encourage you to enlighten us all through the comments section.

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Hello once again. I wanted to give you all an update concerning my earlier post about the AARP group, “Divided We Fail” which is pushing for greater government intervention in healthcare and retirement. In the early part of this month I wrote a letter to both Representative Goodlatte (VA-6) and Representative Garrett (NJ-5) as a follow-up to my earlier post about the subject called “Divided We Succeed?” Just the other day, I got a response from my Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Unfortunately, as I am not a constituent of Congressman Garrett, I assume by this point I will not get any answer from him, which is a bit of a disappointment but not entirely unexpected. Should I get a letter or email from the New Jersey Congressman, I will be certain to let you know.  Rather than comment right now, I wanted to post both my letter and Representative Goodlatte’s response.

To: The Honorable Representative Bob Goodlatte
Of the 6th Congressional District of Virginia

Good afternoon to you, Sir.

I am writing you today as a result of my research concerning the group Divided We Fail. Although I have seen their efforts, including their booth at the Republican Convention in Richmond in May, I never gave them much thought. Recently, however I decided to find out what they are all about, and I found the results troubling. According to their own mission statement, they believe that “all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care”, “all Americans should have peace of mind about their future long-term financial security”, and “We stand as strong champions for the new American dream — to build a 21st century America where these issues are paramount so that all people can have the opportunity for a prosperous future. We also believe that individuals, businesses, health care providers, non-profit organizations, and government must work together to find solutions – personally, privately and publicly. We represent tens of millions of Americans and we believe that all of us share a responsibility for making our society work and restoring peace of mind to all Americans.”

If I understand them correctly, they are pushing for greater Federal government involvement in the areas of retirement and health care. The problem as I see it is twofold. First, as Americans, do we not have faith in the individual and the free market to plan for his or her own future, free from the tendrils of utopian Socialistic schemes? Second, and perhaps far more troubling, is the continued and blatant disregard for the U.S. Constitution for it does not grant such power to the National government. Although not as celebrated as the rest of the Bill of Rights, doesn’t the 10th Amendment reserve such authority to the states and the citizens? Is my comprehension of this unconstitutional effort led by the AARP the same as your own, sir? And if so, how is it that some supposedly conservative members of Congress support such a blatant move toward a liberal welfare state?

Thank you for your time. May you continue to promote the values and principles of the people of the 6th district.

Sincerely,

Joshua

To follow would have been Congressman Goodlatte’s letter in reply, however, after speaking with Congressman Goodlatte’s Chief of Staff a few moments ago, I was asked not to post the letter out of concern that it may be taken out of context.  Apparently it was not written for general consumption, just for me.  Therefore, out of respect for the Congressman, I will not be including his letter, truly sorry about that readers.  Nevertheless, I will mention that he does address the issues of health care choice, federal spending and a balanced budget amendment, and the 10th Amendment and the Enumerated Powers Act. I do want to point out though that the Congressman stated that he indeed did not sign the “Divided We Fail” pledge nor was he planning to do so.

Now, as voters in this great commonwealth, or perhaps another state, if you agree with my above letter, I strongly recommend that you write your Representative or Senators.  Perhaps your Congressmen or Women adhere to the principles of the Constitution, or maybe they do not, but I strongly believe that if enough of their constituents demand accountability, they will listen.  For myself, I think I’ll try contacting our newest Senator, Jim Webb.  He hasn’t signed the “Divided We Fail” pledge yet.  Let’s see what he says…

Until next time,

The Virginia Conservative

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Although you’ve likely seen it already, I want to direct your attention to the latest political short by the folks at Jib Jab called “Time for Some Campaignin’”.  If you haven’t watched it yet, or don’t remember it, I direct you to www.jibjab.com.  Once you’ve done so, I wanted to give my two cents on this amusing piece.  I can wait.

While you’re gone, I’ll be busy whistling an off key tune…

…So you’re back then?  You’ve seen it now?  Good.

The clip opens with George Bush and Dick Cheney departing the White House while lamenting their legacy of “war, recession, and bad mortgage loans”.  The question is, in twenty years or more how will historians, and, more importantly, the general public view the Presidency of George W. Bush?  Obviously right now the vast majority have a negative opinion.  Like it was said during the Clinton years, “it’s the economy stupid!”  Unfortunately in general, people will tolerate a lot of poor and unconstitutional governance assuming the economy is doing well.  Right now our economy has been rather weak and coupled with a heavily devalued dollar, there is uncertainty and underemployment.  In addition, so many people these days believe that the conflict in Iraq was a mistake.  If these factors hold steady, it will certainly spell trouble for Republicans at the ballot box in November.

Next, it moves on to John McCain, Hillary, and Barack Obama.  The Bush sound-alike calls McCain “liberally prone” which isn’t very far from the truth.  Be it the issue of illegal immigration, McCain-Feingold, or his big government environmentalism, conservatives do have a good number of complaints against McCain.  Hillary, on the other hand, is painted as a power hungry politician who will resort to just about any tactic to win.  Although she failed to win the nomination, one has to wonder how much of the dirt she found against Obama will resurface in the general election.  You should remember that Michael Dukakis’s Willie Horton was first brought to the national attention by one of his primary opponents, Al Gore.  I think it is very likely that should Obama not win, Hillary will make another stab at the presidency in 2012.  Notice the Communist-looking campaign sign she carries.

The clip then switches again to McCain portraying him as a very heavy-handed militarist.  It also suggests that he is too old to be president and that he would likely become incapacitated while in office.  This viewpoint is not uncommon, as I have heard listeners call in to radio talk shows claiming the caller will not vote for McCain due to his age.  I think that this is a very weak argument as issues should be far more important that age.  If age does indeed become a campaign issue though, McCain should redouble his efforts to find a suitable Vice President/replacement.

Then comes Barack Obama. I think it is quite funny that he is shown in a Disneyesque nature scene continually spouting the nondescript rhetoric of change. Although he says he wants change, what sort of change does he want? Certainly his kind of change would not make any kind of conservative happy. His caricature is little more than an empty suit.

The folks at Jib Jab next make a few digs at political campaigns saying that in order to get elected, politicians will “promise you anything you wanna hear”. Some citizens vote for pork and more social programs and say to hell with the costs, consequences, and the Constitution. It is also true that spending for federal elections in this country, especially for the presidency, have ballooned to astronomical levels. I think both conservatives and liberals alike can agree that so much of this gross amount of spending could be allocated to far better purposes.

Lastly, I wanted to mention Jib Jab’s plug to put you in many of their pieces. I think this is a neat idea that should cause significant additional interest. Honestly, who can say no to someone who sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger commanding you to “click it NAOUGHW!” I know that I, for one, couldn’t resist.

Overall, I think that Jib Jab has captured a humorous and telling criticism of politics in this country. I’m pleased to say that both their production values and their substance have made great strides since their 2004 Bush/Kerry episode. I may not agree with everything they offer, but they do make it entertaining to watch. I hope you enjoyed it too.

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When deciding what I should write about next, I first thought about the 3/5th compromise and then about Reynolds v. Sims.  Undoubtedly, the sarcastic reader would comment, “gee, that’s topical” as Reynolds v. Sims was decided in 1964 and the 3/5ths compromise was agreed upon in 1787.  Ultimately, I decided to include them both to discuss the fallacy of the concept “one man, one vote”.

For some reason, the idea of “one man, one vote” (or taken in the modern PC term “one person, one vote”) has been lifted up to just about sacrosanct terms.  I shudder to think of the millions of children in government schools who have had the thought drilled into their brains and now parrot the mantra ad nauseam.  Although on the surface “One Man, One Vote” seems to be fair enough, it was really a manufactured invention of the Supreme Court rather than a constitutional right.  The case which led to this principle was, as hinted at above, Reynolds v. Sims.  Prior to this case, many states apportioned representatives to the upper house of their legislature (most often called Senators) based partially or wholly upon county boundaries so that each county was given at least one.  The Supreme Court thought this idea was unconstitutional.  The justices, in their decision, drew upon the first section of the 14th Amendment.  It reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” They took this text to mean that if a citizen of one county’s vote was not roughly equal (when considering population) to that of a citizen of another county, then they both do not have equal protection under the law.  Although the Alabama Constitution required for each county in the state to have a representative, the justices declared that “one man, one vote” trumped the state law.  This idea was further enhanced and clarified in 1964 with Wesberry v. Sanders.

Now an astute observer of the Constitution might ask, how can the Supreme Court rule in issues like apportionment?  Is that a power granted to the court?  The answer, like unfortunately so many others, was that the court itself decided that it had that power.  When the watchdogs have no oversight above them, this sort of things is bound to happen.  In a previous ruling, Baker v. Carr, 1962, the court granted itself the power to oversee reapportionment when beforehand it had been the authority of the states, not the federal government and its courts.  It was yet another shameful example of how the 10th Amendment has been cast aside and federalism has been, and continues to be, undermined.

Another question you should ask yourself is, does the principle of “one man, one vote” have roots in our Constitution and history?  The answer is, not really. Now it is true that representation to the House of Representatives is based largely upon the population of each state, and therefore somewhat resembles “one man, one vote”, but the comparison really ends there.  For the record, when it comes to the House of Representatives, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 reads, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.”

Look you might say, that’s pretty close to “one man, one vote”, but look closer at the text.  See the line “including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons”?  That comes from the 3/5ths compromise of 1787.  The issue of the 3/5ths compromise came about before the ratification of the Constitution resulting from the issue of slavery.  Should slaves count as persons for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives?  Personally, I don’t think so, as it is one of the many hypocrisies of slavery.  How can a person be denied so many freedoms that are enjoyed by man in his natural state (life, liberty, and property) and still be counted as a person?  If one is treated like chattel, should your masters enjoy the benefits of you counting as both a person and property?  From the moment of your birth to your eventual death, chances are that you will never be able to vote, so how can you truly be represented?  Nevertheless, the delegates to the Convention disagreed and settled upon counting slaves as 3/5ths of a person for enumeration.  I ask you, does this compromise embody the ideals of “one man, one vote”?  I think you would agree that it certainly does not.  Let’s move on to the issue of the United States Senate.

Article 1, Section 3, Clause 1, of the Constitution of these United States reads, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”  Now is that “one man, one vote”?  Of course it is not.  If each state is given two Senators, and thus two votes, the opinion of a citizen in a small state carries much more weight than that of a large state.  For example, in the 2000 Census Wyoming had a population of 515,004, while California had 36,457,549, thus a citizen from Wyoming has roughly seventy times more influence in the Senate than a Californian.  The Senate certainly does not follow “One Man, One Vote”, but that was intentional.  When the Constitution was created, large states (like Virginia) wanted representation in both the House and Senate to be based upon populations.  Smaller states (like New Jersey) wanted each state to have the same number of votes.  Each of the two states created a plan to benefit their own interests and thus neither was acceptable to the other.  The end result of this wrangling was the Connecticut Compromise, which created the House of Representatives based upon population and the Senate based upon state equality.  The question now becomes, how is it that representation in United States Senate resting upon the equality of the states is Constitutional while representation in the upper houses of state legislatures based on legal and geographic areas like counties is not?

When taken in the larger scope of history and the Constitution, I believe that one can clearly see that the representative government of these United States was never truly intended to be under the guise of “one man, one vote”.  The 3/5ths compromise and the representation in the United States Senate clearly illustrate this point.  Are not the states allowed to determine their own rules for representation, even to follow models proscribed in the Federal Constitution?  As long as they adhere to a republican form of government, doesn’t the 10th Amendment afford them that right?  And yet, as was done in other Supreme Court cases (see Roe v. Wade) the court continues to grab power for itself and invent new laws placing itself above the people, the states, and even above the Congress itself.  So, the next time someone spouts the line, “one man, and one vote!” don’t be afraid to challenge him or her.  Sure, they may have the court on their side, but we know the court is not always right.

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After a good recent comment by Mr. Ballance, I wanted to interject my thoughts about the movement.  This is a letter to Ron Paul supporters and other lovers of liberty.   Although a vast, vast majority of the targeted audience will never read this note, I hope that those who do will find it of value.

Point one.  Join the mainstream.
First of all, I should point out that I am a bit different from the majority of Ron Paul supporters that I have met.  For starters, not only am I a conservative, I am also a Republican.  Although I have been a conservative for as long as I can remember, I’ve been involved with the Republicans for over a decade.   Now I know that many in the movement believe the party is either corrupt or worthless, but I assure you that many ordinary members of the GOP have similar concerns to your own.  In recent years, I have seen the party break free of its limited government moorings and drift toward more spending and less restraint and am deeply concerned.  Does that mean the party cannot be corrected?   Certainly not.  After all, Ron Paul is a Republican, is he not?  Where I am going with this point?   I would highly advise just about any supporter to get involved with your local GOP.  So many Ron Paul supporters want to make a difference, but the simple fact is that you cannot do so alone.  You need an organization with ties to local communities and political leaders.  Although the Republicans do have their flaws, at the end of the day, you will find their ideology far closer than that of the Democrats.  But, Joshua, I can’t stand the GOP for reasons x, y, and z.  In that case fine.  Here again I’ll insert a plug for the America Patriots Committee. Join a third party, join the Democrats if you must, but get involved with an established organization somehow.  I’m reminded of a passage in Matthew, 4:21, “Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed to shut out the light?  Of course not!  A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.” (NLT). Although you freely spread your message, unless you reach out to the general public, you have kept this light hidden and no one will see it.

Point two.  Put the conspiracy on the back burner.
Once you do enter into the mainstream, please, please, please do not beat people over the head with conspiracy theories.  You have a right to think and say what you will, but many people will disregard you if you insist upon these points.  For example, I am not a 9-11 truther, nor do I have much of an interest in the Bilderberg Group.  In my first Ron Paul Meetup meeting, I was confronted with these thoughts and frankly thought about heading right back out the door.   I know you have a fondness for movies like the Matrix and V for Vendetta (both fine movies), but if you want to “wake people up”, shocking them is not the right way.  Please do not bring up these theories the first, the second, or even the third time you meet someone.  Then, when you finally do, explain them rationally and with whatever proof you have.  The situation requires tact.  I guarantee if you follow this advice more people will take you seriously and the movement as a whole will grow.   Even if your theory is 100% correct, remember that the message of freedom is far more important than any one conspiracy.

Point three.  Stay involved.
Some of you followed step one and joined your local GOP.  Good.  Stay at it.  The truth is, however, barring some miracle, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee for President.  It’s sad I know, but it is true.  As Dr. Paul himself reminded us, the movement is far greater than he.  There are other candidates out there who share our desire for freedom.  Find them.  Research them.  Support them.  Don’t sit on your hands. Although more socially conservative than a number of Ron Paul supporters, I think Delegate Bob Marshall is an excellent statesman.  I wish more Ron Paul supporters could have gotten involved in that effort. That race could have been won.  But in any event, there is very likely a candidate nearby who needs your help.   Even your local Republican committee or the RPV would be glad to have you.  The fight for freedom is not over.  It has hardly begun.

My rallying cries are “Restore the Republic” and “Life, Liberty, Property”.  What are yours?

For Liberty!

The Virginia Conservative

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Well…I’m back. Yesterday, I drove up to Washington D.C. to participate in the Freedom Rally. I don’t know how many people were there, but it was a good-sized crowd. There were even some folks there that I met in South Carolina. As for the rally itself, let me tell you that it went a long time. I was expecting a handful of people to speak prior to the main speaker, Rep. Paul, but I had no idea how many there would be. Most were interesting, a few were not, but as time ticked past the four-hour mark without any end in sight, I admit I was growing tired and hungry. I left to grab something to eat and when I returned, the event was over. Oh well. In any event, I figure pictures are better than words, so here you go.

A view of the crowd from a distance

A view of the crowd from a distance

A view of the crowd (1)

A view of the crowd (1)

A view of the crowd (2)

A view of the crowd (2)

A view of the crowd (3)

A view of the crowd (3)

A view of the crowd (4)

A view of the crowd (4)

As you can tell by the signs in the picture, along with my comments above, the rally’s main focus was Congressman Ron Paul and his message. Despite what you may think, Ron Paul supporters are diverse groups that come for many differing spectrums of the population. Although the media often chose to focus on the more radical elements, many of which I do not agree with, we are all drawn together with the hope and desire for greater freedom.

Update: If you’d like a more detailed perspective on the events of Saturday, (with videos and everything!), I’d recommend reading Scenes from a Revolution.

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I’m sure you have all seen and participated in those blind taste tests. I know that I have. But last night, I thought a bit more about the subject. About a year ago, I tried one of the ketchup tests that compared Heinz to Hunts. Unlike soft drinks which I think are easily distinguishable, (Coke and Pepsi don’t taste a thing alike); I haven’t been in the business of comparing ketchup and cannot readily identify them by taste. As a result of the test, I found that I preferred Hunts’ Ketchup to Heinz. When I looked into the fridge to see which ketchup I purchased last, I found out it was Heinz, not Hunts. How could this be? As stated, I discovered that I liked the taste of Hunts better and yet I did not buy it when I had the chance. Why? The answer is brand loyalty. When I think of ketchup, I picture in my mind’s eye the familiar Heinz bottle and then, if I don’t take time to think about it, I instinctively picked up the most familiar bottle. When I think of tissues, I think of Kleenex, paper towels Bounty, toothpaste Aquafresh, the list goes on. They may not be the best products, but if I buy these products without thinking, I assure you I will buy these brands each and every time. That’s nice, you might be thinking, but what does shopping has anything to do with politics, the primary topic of this blog? Believe it or not, I think the concept of brand loyalty unconsciously goes through your mind when it comes to both politics and religion.

First let’s tackle the issue of religion. Although I’m aware a significant portion of folks don’t go to church while on vacation, or when simply out of town, but chances are that if you do, you’ll be attending a church that’s a member of your regular denomination. I’ve noticed this trend most often with Catholic friends, but I think it holds true across the spectrum. For example, when I attended college I went to a PCUSA church. For those familiar with the Presbyterian denomination, you may ask incredulously, “the PCUSA? Aren’t they the liberal ones?” And yes, you would be correct, they are the liberals. So why would a conservative be a member of such a church? The answer again deals with brand loyalty. Sometime before my 11th birthday, my family became members of the local branch. Believe it or not, the hometown church was quite conservative and, as I knew little of the denomination, I assumed that all PCUSA churches were like the one in which I grew up. Like ketchup, you figure one bottle (or church) bearing the label is more or less the same as any other. After several conversations with the local clergy and members in Williamsburg, I found that indeed the assumptions I held about the PCUSA were in error and the denomination was far too liberal for my theological beliefs. And yet I still attended the church, although admittedly very sporadically, until the tail end of my senior year when I found a much more conservative church. It is interesting to note that as my hometown church colored my opinion of the brand, so too did this college church. It’s like what happens when you consume a heavily expired product. That unexpected and distasteful flavor dissuades you from trying the product in the future. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of my hometown church, I haven’t ever gone to another PSUSA church since then. Unfortunately, the extreme liberalism of the denomination has tainted that brand.

Let’s move on to the topic of politics. Brand loyalty is extremely important here and I believe that both the Republicans and Democrats cultivate the notion in order to maintain their voter base. In fairly recent times (since FDR) Republicans have been viewed as small government conservatives and Democrats are big government liberals. Do these assumptions apply to all Republicans and Democrats? Certainly they do not, but it is far easier to stereotype the brand. Why do I have to research the candidates for any office? Who best represents my values? These questions nag us in the back of the mind. What answer comes to the rescue? Brand loyalty! It’s easy, it’s always the Republican, and they are the conservatives. Now I admit it, more than once I have voted for a candidate who branded an R beside his or her name even though I knew nothing of the particular person. The great danger with such brand labeling in politics is that you can get an uninformed electorate who are more devoted to party labels than principles. In such a case, a person may vote for a candidate who stands in stark contrast to the voter, or even the perceived image of the party itself. For example, there are regional differences. In general, a Republican from Virginia is far more conservative than a Republican from Vermont. In addition, parties do change over time. Consider the words of Barry Goldwater. “I don’t necessarily vote a straight ticket in my own state because there are sometimes Democrats out there who are better than Republicans. It is hard to believe but it is true.” (Jan. 8, 1964) Despite what you may think, the Republicans and the Democrats of the 1880s are not quite the same as the parties of today. Although some politicians like to draw a point of continuity between their principles and their supposed founders, one should not be drawn in by such simplistic rhetoric. The “party of Lincoln” and the “party of Jefferson” have routinely held viewpoints that are radically different than their namesakes. Did not Thomas Jefferson himself say, “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all” (Mar. 13, 1789)?

I suppose the take-home message from this article is that one should be a conscientious consumer whether making purchases in the store, choosing one’s church, and deciding for whom to vote. Don’t misunderstand me, I still plan to vote Republican in most elections, and if the PCUSA is your cup of tea, then by all means don’t let me stop you. But we must remain vigilant or else our brands can radically change under our noses. Regardless of your personal feelings toward President Bush, hasn’t the Republican Party significantly strayed from its conservative moorings lately? How many new government agencies have come into existence? How much has federal spending and the deficit grown? How many of our liberties have been sacrificed in the name of security? How has the Constitution been eroded? Is it no wonder that even a moderate like Representative Tom Davis recently stated, “The Republican brand is in the trash can. I’ve often observed that if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf”? And could it be that the politics, policies, and theology of your denomination differ wildly from your own? Just wanted to give some food for thought. Trust your brands, but I encourage you to verify their contents. Sooner or later you might realize what you are eating and I certainly don’t want the next bite you take to leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

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If you will recall, in my June 17th article “Winning the Veep-stakes”, I stated “Bottom line: If Obama makes inroads into the South he will win.”  I direct you to a recent article by the BBC news.

Prepare for waves and waves of mailings, TV Ads, and the like as Obama tries to crack the Solid South.

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In several recent comments, Mike D. has made a handful of points stating that conservatives should have a rather hostile view toward democracy as granting political power to the people can result in a lot of non-favorable results for the conservative mindset.  There is certainly some merit to this argument, but first I feel the need to clarify an important point.  First, you have to understand the fact that our country was not really founded as a democracy and is not really a democracy today.  “How can this be?” you ask.  Well, what is a democracy?  Historically there have been two types of democracy, direct and representative.  Direct democracy is a system whereby all voting citizens are allowed to vote individually on each law or rule that the state wishes to enact as well as create legislation.  This sort of democracy is rare by today’s standard, as a populous country such as our own would find the system to be quite unwieldy.  It does exist, to some extent, in states like California with procedures like the referendum, but it is certainly the exception, not the norm.  Obviously we do not have a direct democracy.  How about a representative democracy?  A representative democracy is one where by voting citizens elect representatives to promote their interests in some sort of national assembly.  Do we have that kind of government here? Yes, we certainly do; however, we are still only a quasi-democracy.

One very important feature of democracy is the idea of majority rule.  Whatever side has 50% +1 of the votes, be it through direct democracy or representative democracy, can enact whatever legislation they wish regardless of the wishes of the remainder of the population.  Believe it or not, many of the founding fathers did not want the government to be democratic and held a dim view of democracy.  As James Madison put it in The Federalist #10, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention, have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property, and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths”.  I am very thankful that we do not have majority rule, as do traditional conservatives.  But wait, we do have majority rule here.  Not so, the reasons why we do not include the constitution and its amendments, checks and balances, and federalism.  Although I run the risk of sounding like an episode of School House Rock, let’s start with checks and balances.  The United States Government as well as every state in the union (with the exception of the unicameral Nebraska) has both upper and lower houses of government.  In order for a basic bill to pass, both houses must approve it by majority.  After that, it is still not law, as the executive (be it the president or the governor) has to either sign or veto it.  If it is signed, it becomes law while if it is vetoed, it will not, unless both houses of the government can pass it again under a super majority (typically two-thirds or three-fourths).  After that, if challenged, the Supreme Court can rule the law to be in violation of the constitution and therefore it is no longer law.  This system of checks and balances serves the interests of the traditional conservative quite well, as a bill must pass through a significant number of hoops in order to become law, and defeat for any bill is quite likely.  Compare our system to that of the United Kingdom.  Their system is much closer to the democratic ideal of majority rule.  In Great Britain, they too have two houses in their parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  The real power rests with the House of Commons.  The House of Lords, unlike the Senate, cannot defeat a bill and can only return it to the House of Commons for further consideration.  In addition, their Prime Minster, unlike our President, is the leader of the majority in the House of Commons.  He, by definition, is supported by the majority in the House of Commons and therefore approves of the majority decisions.  In the U.S., divided government is quite common.  How many times in the last twenty years has one party controlled the House, Senate, and the Presidency?  It happened for a couple of years under George W. Bush, and from 1992 to 1994 under Bill Clinton, never under George H. W. Bush or even Ronald Reagan before him.  In addition, in Britain, the courts have no power to declare laws unconstitutional.  Yes, the system of checks and balances in our national government and state governments certainly stifle the prevailing winds of majority rule.

Then we come to the issue of the Constitution.  Supposedly the Constitution lays out what sort of powers the government does and does not have.  If you read the Constitution, the expressed powers of the federal government are very limited, and, as the 10th Amendment reminds us, powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people.  Should the Federal Government create laws that exceed its authority then supposedly, if challenged, the Supreme Court should declare the law an illegal usurpation of power.  Unfortunately, for the most part, the Supreme Court has fallen down on its duty.

Another stumbling block for majority rule again, closely tied to the 10th Amendment, is federalism and the power of the states.  It used to be that if a state government had determined a particular law was in violation of the Constitution or the state’s laws, the state could simply ignore the law.  John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was the most vocal proponent of this principle known as nullification.  In addition, as Mike D. points out, there was also the idea of secession.  Should a state feel that the federal government was too far out of line with the wishes of its citizens, the state could secede, or withdraw from the union.  This was an option that was not to be taken lightly, but certainly served as an ultimate check against federal tyranny and usurpation.  Regarding the idea of secession, you may not know that one of the earliest discussions of secession occurred during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson.  Unlike the more famous example in the 1860s, the states in question were in New England.  They were concerned that the purchase of the Louisiana Territory was unconstitutional and would severely weaken the influences of their respective states.  In response to this threat of secession, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1803 “God bless them both, and keep them in union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better” and in 1804 “Whether we remain in one confederacy, or form into Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies, I believe not very important to the happiness of either part” which were markedly different responses than the one given by Lincoln some fifty years later.  After the war, the Supreme Court in Texas v. White ruled secession to be unconstitutional.  Despite this ruling, the idea of secession still exists.  Secession groups exist in a number of states today, with some of the most vocal in the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

So, I suppose the take home message for this article is that we do not have a truly democratic government because we lack the critical component of true majority rule.  As to Mike’s statement, “The vote seems to be a problem for the conservative worldview because its very existence indicates a possibility for disagreement or potential change.” I would answer, sure, changes can happen, but they can do so under any form of government.  What if there was no voting?  Dictators can change the laws easier than any other form of government, but of course we are not a dictatorship.  Unitary, majority rule democracies like Great Britain can make sweeping changes too, but fortunately, we aren’t that kind of government either.  In countries where voting actually counts, voting serves as yet another critical and important check against our leaders.  Although our form of government is not by any stretch perfect, I believe the idea of quasi-democratic republic, protected from the fickle whims of the majority through the adherence of checks and balances, the Constitution, and federalism, serves both the nation and the conservative quite well.

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