Unpacking the choir

Whether in politics or life, inconsistencies and contradictions both intrigue and frustrate me, but fortunately I have this blog to help me see them more clearly.
I guess I could use the politically loaded term "double standards" instead of "inconsistencies" but that seems more argumentative, and I really dislike arguments because I do far too much of it with myself!

Anyway, I thought I'd start with some recent thoughts from Alan Keyes on limiting jurisdiction of the Supreme Court:

Keyes said that if the Supreme Court steps out of its constitutional jurisdiction, the Congress has constitutional authority to curtail that breach of constitutional boundaries. Congress has authority to regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the Court--as Keyes mentioned in his speech--an authority I was unaware of. But there I find it obscurely tucked away in Article III: "...the Supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both to law and fact, with such restrictions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make."

Does this mean that Congress may pass a law that the federal courts may not take a case on appeal from the states concerning prayer in schools, abortion, sodomy, the Ten Commandments, and the Pledge of Allegiance? Yes it does!!! Keyes told me that many congressmen and judges are ignorant of this constitutional power. "Many do not read the Constitution any more," Keyes remarked to me.

Keyes warned the crowd that our timid Congress is too politically opportunistic and too intimidated by the Court to curtail judicial power on their own. Only a popular uprising from their constituents will awaken a slumbering legislature to do battle with a court that is seizing arbitrary powers, drunken with its life tenure and its arrogated god-like powers to create law by fiat.

The Senate has impeachment powers of the judiciary. Article I, Section 3: "When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation." I assume the oath of the senators pertains to upholding the Constitution. If this be so, I assume that the purview of the Senate impeachment hearings of a judge may include whether he went outside the constitutional jurisdiction of his office--which is against the law. Remember, the constitutional restrictictions on judicial power are law. Breaking the law can be an impeachable offense.

This argument is very much in vogue right now, and I've addressed it before. While I've speculated that the real goal might be something else, I do concede that the Constitution appears to allow Congress to limit the court's jurisdiction.

Hell, there's really nothing new about this. FDR's notorious "court packing plan" is an excellent example:

In his 1993 book FDR: Into the Storm, 1937-1940, Roosevelt biographer Kenneth S. Davis said commentators of the 1930s described the battle between Roosevelt and the Supreme Court as "the gravest constitutional crisis since the Civil War." A confrontation of some sort seemed inevitable, but few people, even among those closest to Roosevelt, expected what came next.

On Jan. 30, 1937, Roosevelt's 55th birthday, the president disclosed to his closest aides a draft bill to reorganize the federal judiciary. The measure -- mischievously linked to a long-ago proposal by 75-year-old Justice James C. McReynolds -- called for all federal judges to retire by age 70. If they failed to do so, the president could appoint another judge to serve in tandem with each one older than 70.

The practical effect of the proposal: Roosevelt could have appointed six more Supreme Court justices immediately, increasing the size of the court to 15 members. A Congress dominated by Democrats undoubtedly would have appointed judges friendly to Roosevelt and his New Deal agenda.

While the court packing plan never made it through Congress, it nevertheless worked as a form of intimidation:
Roosevelt's biographers generally agree that his court-packing scheme robbed him of much of the political capital he had won in two landslide elections. It also hindered his all-out war on poverty. But to some extent, the president won his war with the Supreme Court.

First, the court's philosophy began to change even as Congress debated the merits of judicial reform. Owen J. Roberts, the youngest jurist, began to vote Roosevelt's way in close decisions, giving FDR 5-4 wins rather than losses by the same margin. Then before long, the "Nine Old Men" began to retire of their own volition, enabling the president to appoint a "Roosevelt court."

FDR got what he wanted without having to pack the court, and VOILA! Unconstitutional legislation was suddenly ruled constitutional. So why aren't Alan Keyes and the people now championing the right of Congress to control the Supreme Court also rediscovering (or at least rehabilitating) FDR, the unsung hero of their cause?

Beats me!

I'm glad I don't subscribe to the views of Michel Foucault. Otherwise I'd just say this is all about power, and the laws, the courts and the Constitution don't mean a damned thing.

I also wouldn't be foolish enough to be frustrated by inconsistencies.

It isn't just court packing that's bugging me. I'm seeing more and more anti-gay bigotry on the left. The more subtle variety (discussed infra here and here) is the ongoing accusation that gay conservatives are guilty of "self-loathing." This attempted diagnosis of a mental disorder is condescending at best, and I think the fact that it is so easily lobbed at homosexuals by leftists belies the claim that only the left is free of antigay prejudice. Over the years, I have seen that unacknowledged bigotry can be more rabid than the deliberate, conscious variety. Support for "gay marriage" among such people strikes me as a contrivance, as Official Certification: Anyone Who Supports Gay Marriage Simply Cannot Be A Bigot. Period.

A bit like 1960s rich white liberals who wanted inner city black children bused into white neighborhood but not theirs. We Are For Busing To Achieve Integration So We Are Not Bigots! (The meme has since been upgraded to offer affirmative action or reparations as recent plugins.)

Yet when a member of a patronized minority group gives political offense, the reaction is an old-fashioned smear.

How dare this uppity faggot disagree with we are Officially Certified as non-bigots? Might it be time to remind them that much as we pity them, there are certain things which will not be tolerated? Ahem. "It is well known, Mr. Finkelstein, that all homosexuals hate themselves, and while we normally are very tolerant and willing to look the other way, you have pushed us too far." What would otherwise have been garden variety antigay rhetoric takes on a veneer of political correctness, as it's always right on to condemn "hypocrisy!"

And of course, not only is any open homosexual who dissents from the left subject to gay bashing as a self-loathing homosexual hypocrite, but the smear is so beautifully righteous, so pure, that even dissenters who aren't known to be homosexual may now be targeted with impunity. I'm not just talking about the grotesque practice called "outing," either.

It is my thesis that these "self-loathing" and "hypocrisy" memes supply a perfect cover for a vintage form of antigay bigotry: simply calling someone a homosexual or imputing homosexuality to him because you disagree with him. I remember that such nonsense was a standard form of argument (left and right) in the 1960s, and one of the things I liked about Huey Newton was that he was one of the first to condemn it on the left.

While it is a logical error (of the ad hominem variety) to assert that an opponent is gay in order to discredit his argument, I think another purpose is simple intimidation grounded in manifest antigay bigotry. That is because the person accused either is gay (or bisexual) or else he is not. If he is gay, then why accuse him of being what he is unless the common assumption is that it's a terrible, discrediting thing to be accused of? And if he is not gay, then once again, unless being gay is a bad thing, trying to turn that into a smear makes about as much sense as accusing someone who isn't Jewish or black of being Jewish or black.

While much of this "left wing homophobia" is motivated by simple, garden variety anti-gay bigotry, some of it is actually coming from gay sources, like this comment left at Atrios:

One Thumb (I won't ask where your other one is, though I have my theories), you are offbase. The humorous play on "L-G-F" was not at all demeaning to gays like me. What on earth is homophobic about joking that LGF stands for Loving Gay Friends??? Now, maybe if you'd take your thumb....well, never mind.
Richard | Email | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:02 am | #
The problem with that argument is that the other comments are loaded with statements which show the clear context is to impute homosexuality not as praise, but as antigay criticism -- something this comment pointed out in reply:
Richard: The humorous play on "L-G-F" was not at all demeaning to gays like me.

Fair enough. How 'bout any of these posts?

That's so gay.
Smitty Werbenmanjensen 04.13.05 - 5:03 pm

He looks FAB-ulous!
Holden Caulfield 04.13.05 - 5:10 pm

I didn't realize LGFers are gay bikers? Is Gannon/Guckert part of this group?

Seriously. No snark.
Yoshimi 04.13.05 - 5:18 pm

little green fabulous
focus 04.13.05 - 5:24 pm

No...what would be better would be to catch them at their favorite gay leather bar and take photographic evidence of their hypocrisy.
mothra 04.13.05 - 5:30 pm

No he is a fascionist. A big gay fascionist.
Yoshimi 04.13.05 - 5:50 pm

All of these posts came before the little "humorous play on L-G-F." I think it's a bit of a stretch to NOT find any of these demeaning to gays.

There's a lot of intolerance of pan-Islamic terrorists at LGF. But I guarantee you, there's no way in hell you'll ever find as much insinuation-of-homosexuality-used-as-insult on any thread at LGF as I've seen here.

Some people need to look in the mirror before slinging accusations of intolerance.
Lewis | Email | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:56 am | #

Nothing like having the best of both worlds.

That's the nature of inconsistency. None of it matters, of course, if the goal is power and the audience is the choir.

posted by Eric on 04.15.05 at 09:44 AM


Keyes told me that many congressmen and judges are ignorant of this constitutional power. "Many do not read the Constitution any more," Keyes remarked to me.

If Mr. Keyes sincerely believes that the Constitution is sacred, I suggest he take a peak at The Federalist Papers, particularly No. 78, and attempt to understand the rationale behind giving life terms to judges and the importance of judicial review.

Of course, my suggestion presumes that he's an honest citizen looking for a free, effective, good government, and not a firebreathing charlatan out to steal all the power he and his buddies can grasp so that they may impose on the rest of us. I assume he'd be quite interested in what Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay -- the former two in particular, as they helped write the Constitution -- have to say, considering his own pledge to base his political views on "America's founding ideals, those in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution."

Elizabeth   ·  April 15, 2005 10:45 AM

I find it interesting that you start out with a case against a right-wing lunatic like Keyes, and then segue into the completely unrelated issue of left-wing anti-gay bigotry.

A lot of conservative blogs have been doing this recently, especially in the wake of the Schiavo mess: when faced with the obvious extremists and charlatans on their side, keep on changing the subject to those of the other side.

Raging Bee   ·  April 15, 2005 10:55 AM

Changing the subject?

I didn't have to write about either subject, as its my sole prerogative what I write. In this case, it's about inconsistencies I perceive.

But be sure to let Alan Keyes know that you think I'm on his "side." (Maybe he'll help fund this blog!)


Eric Scheie   ·  April 15, 2005 12:57 PM

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Search the Site


Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link


Recent Entries


Site Credits