Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Quam Semper Tyrannis
30 feet tall. Stalinist sculpture, you think? Nah. FDR-inspired, at the Hoover Dam.
Something about the divine wings of government 'cause well-meaning bureaucracies
are, you know, divine. Because they, you know, love us so darn much or something.
HE PRETTY MUCH HATED DEMOCRATS. SAID HE KNEW WHERE IT WAS ALL LEADING. Now that I seem to be moving into full-blown pneumonia, I have a confession to make. Toward the end of his life in 1999, my dad -- pushing 80 -- started doing the then equivalent of blogging, which is to say writing letters to the editor of his local newspaper. He annoyed me no end by recapitulating arguments I had made to him in terms of growing federal totalitarianism almost word for word except that he kept substitutiing the word "socialist" for my more accurate "totalitarian." It didn't help that his letters came after discussions between us in which he had bitterly objected to views that were subsequently transformed by his magic vocabulary improvements.
Well. You know. What's a little plagiarism among family members? And in the broadest American sense he was right. He had never forgotten the FDR source of the enervating idea that government could somehow replace individual effort, aspiration, and meaning.
Okay, Dad. We were both right. Today, everyone is flinging around the word 'socialism' the way you did, including me at times, which makes you right in your ear for idiom, but I'm the one who's right about what's really been going on all this time. It's not really about politics. It's about philosophy, our consensus understanding of what a human being is. You were an Episcopalian, as was I when there was an Episcopalian theology. It's taken me a long time to understand that this unique denomination never used to require irrational declarations or acts. Its principal purpose in this country was to embody the separation of church and state simply by being there, a respected institution that was not the government, science, or the acolytes of either. After almost 50 years of watching my dad close up, I still could not swear in a court of law whether or not he believed in God, the Nicene Creed, or life after death. What he believed at base was that government might have authority to limit your actions and require certain kinds of obedience. but what went on in your head and heart were entirely up to you. On these latter points, the Episcopal Church was for him more fortress than consolation.
Which means that he also had an instinctive skepticism about rationality. Yeah, he was a chemical engineer, and a good one, but he also knew that the real danger of science is what are called the social sciences, that peculiar process by which those who think they know better than everyone else reduce the definition of humanity to "Chimps Plus," so that they can get the job of running the monkey cage. The old Episcopal Church could never have countenanced "Chimps Plus." The new Episcopal Church has not only assimilated the idea but moved on to a much more self-destructive and totalitarian conception we could call "Chimps Minus."
Chimps Minus? We're physical creatures, don't you know. What we like to think of as mental activity is merely a physical reaction of the brain that has no more meaning than chimp grooming behavior or, for that matter, a gorilla fart. It's just activity.
Agree or disagree, you're probably thinking, it doesn't actually matter to our form of government, does it?
uh, yeah it does:
Federal Judge Rules Congress Can Regulate
"Mental Activity" Under Commerce Clause
By Philip Klein
A federal judge has upheld the national health care law, making it the fifth ruling on the merits of the legal challenges to the individual mandate.
The ruling by the Clinton appointee, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia continues the pattern of Democratic-appointed judges siding with the Obama administration and Republican judges siding with the plaintiffs in ruling the mandate unconstitutional. Kessler's ruling comes in a case brought by individual plaintiffs, where as the two decisions striking down the mandate have come in cases brought by 27 states, based in Virginia and Florida.
Like the other decisions upholding the law, the logic of Kessler's ruling demonstrates how broadly one has to interpret congressional powers to find the mandate constitutional. In something right out of Harrison Bergeron, Kessler notes that Washington has the authority to regulate "mental activity":
As previous Commerce Clause cases have all involved physical activity, as opposed to mental activity, i.e. decision-making, there is little judicial guidance on whether the latter falls within Congress's power...However, this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance. It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not "acting," especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.
Since I'm slip-sliding away toward being genuinely ill, I'll skip the whole Naked Woman argument about the amendment that gave women the vote. But humor me in one particular respect. Who the hell wants women to be lawyers and judges, given that they start with the answer they want and work their way back to an argument that just sounds rational? No, I'm not being sexist. That's exactly how I've always done it myself. But I had the good judgment not to go to law school. And I certainly never aspired to be a justice on the Supreme Court. Because I know exactly HOW tyranny comes to be in the first place.
Bye bye Blackbird...