Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Originalism and Judicial Activism

The Constitution says I have the right to bear arms. Does that mean a) a musket (which is what the Founders surely had in mind, 2) a handgun, 3) a machine gun, 4) an assault weapon like an AR-15, or 5) a hand-held nuclear device? We are supposed to look at the original meaning of the words and just go by that. But the founders had no idea what types of weapons would be in existence 200 + years after they wrote. So, no matter what we decide aren't we stuck with some damn activist judge, liberal or conservative, deciding what is in the spirit of the Second Amendment? Originalism offers no answer that I can see.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Is it OK to use deceit in opposing abortion?

 Here is an interesting problem. Working from the point of view of pro-life politics, putting a replacement for Ginsburg on the court with the present President and Senate would be a victory, as was refusing to the nomination of Merrick Garland and leaving the seat open to be filled by Neil Gorsuch.  It could have been done on the basis of straightforward power politics, we have the majority in the Senate, we want a conservative majority that will overturn Roe and do other things we want, so we are leaving the seat open. We will do it because we can.  But they didn't do that. 2016, like 2020, was an election year, and they specifically argued for the Garland refusal by insisting that in an election year the people should decide. They used this rhetoric,  no doubt, to help Republican candidates in tight Senate races look good. And they didn't qualify it, that is what they said. They didn't say it applied only if the President and the Senate majority were of opposite parties. Lindsey Graham said if this happened with a Republican President the same principle would apply, and if he changed his mind, you could use his words against him. Well, he changed his mind, and he is in a re-election race. Or maybe he didn't, maybe it was power politics from the beginning for him, and he was gambling on this never coming up. In any event, Jaime Harrison should be able to use it this to his advantage. 


If we act on principle, the idea of this is that we are going to be willing to employ the principle when it is convenient for us as well as when it is inconvenient. 

But we can also ask this question: If you are a pro-life Christian, should you be happy about the use of deceit to promote the prohibition of abortion? In this context there is also the payment of a huge sum of money to Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v. Wade, who was paid that money because her support for the pro-life cause was thought to be wavering, who really didn't support the pro-life position, and who wrote a book convincing millions of people that she had changed her mind. It was called "Won by Love," but was she really won by money? A committed pro-lifer could say that the deceit involved was a small price to pay considering the fetuses that were (presumably) saved. And they might say that same thing about deceitfully implying that Republicans were following principle, as opposed to practicing power politics, in refusing to allow Merrick Garland's nomination to be considered. 

One response would be to say that people on the other side are deceitful in this or that way, so it's hypocritical to bring this up. But hypocrisy arguments are inherently weak and are often beside the point. But what that suggests is that if a rule is being violated on the other side, it is no longer valid. What you are saying is that deceit in the interests of pro-life is justified, since people on the pro-choice side practice deceit. But does that follow in any sort of logical way?

And this ties in with the whole Trump issue. How many deceits and transgressions of basic Christian values are Christians willing to tolerate because, after all,  he's "pro-life." (This is in scarequotes because I find it impossible to believe he cares about fetuses. This is a transactional deal with the pro-life movement--you scratch by back and I'll scratch yours.) This is a man who straightforwardly mocked the fundamental value of loving and forgiving one's enemies, something the Bible says a lot more about than it says about abortion. 

Some evangelicals, if confronted with the news that Trump had just shot three people to death on Fifth Avenue, would just say "Well, I still support him. At least he's pro-life." 

But let me ask this question as pointedly as I can. If you are pro-life, to what extent is deceit justified in pursuing that goal. If the right to life is a good end, what means are justified in pursuing it?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Anscombe's final response to Lewis's revised chapter in Miracles

 This is a paper Anscombe did for the Oxford C. S. Lewis society, which I have not seen until recently. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Will reversing Roe save fetuses? Maybe a couple.

Reversing Roe will NOT outlaw abortion, unless you use legal arguments that say that we can show that fetuses are persons in every relevant sense and that laws permitting abortion are in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. That is what the argument would be if you follow pro-life logic out to its logical conclusion, but that is not the argument that people like Scalia use against Roe. They claim, not that the fetus's right to life was denied by Roe, but rather that a woman's right to privacy is not as absolute as Roe implies that it is. Hence, Scalia says, abortion should be decided by democratic choice. He may be right, but democratic choice in most states is going to be on the side of the pro-choice position, except in some Bible Belt states, and even there I doubt that such strong abortion laws are going last very long.

 I've also found it somewhat puzzling that since 1980, most of the Supreme Court Justices have been nominated by Republican Presidents who have been pro-life, and yet Roe is still going strong, supported in many cases by the decisions of those justices put there by Reagan, the Bushes, and Trump. Even Brett Kavanaugh, who did vote with the dissenters in the Louisiana case, tried to send it back to the lower courts to avoid having to rule on it, which is not the actions of someone eager to overturn Roe. And Roberts, well, he didn't even want to overturn precedent on a ruling he opposed a few months earlier, because of stare decisis. What chance is there that he would overturn Roe? I conclude that maybe if Roe had not happened, fetuses might have been saved, but overturning it now would save two fetuses in the State of Mississippi. The horse is out of the barn and not coming back.

I would add that the abortion rate DROPPED during both the Clinton and the Obama administrations. In real practice, Republicans do worse than Democrats at keeping fetuses from being aborted. 

Who are the police defunders?

 Republicans keep accusing Democrats of wanting to defund the police. But Biden, in particular, has been crystal clear about his opposition to violence. And his running mate has spent most of her career putting people in jail. So, you have Biden saying that he opposes defunding the police, and wants more money devoted to them because better police training will prevent police brutality, and that takes funding. You have the Republicans refusing to fund state and local government, which is causing a money crunch for the very entities who FUND the police. Republicans TALK about Democrats wanting to defund the police, but they are not helping state and local governments because they don't like the ideology of governors and mayors. But state and local government is how police get funded. Period. There's no other way they get funded. The pandemic has created a fiscal crisis for state and local government, and while the Democratic House has passed legislation supporting state and local government, the Republican Senate under Mitch McConnell has said no. So, let me ask again, who are the real defunders of the police?

Sunday, September 06, 2020

I support Obamacare--for selfish reasons?

 I would never have been able to get get cancer prevention surgery in 2017 under the old system. It would have been sufficiently "emergent" only if I had come in with cancer, which means I might be dead now if the Affordable Care Act had not been passed. I contracted a chronic auto-immune disease at 23, and no one has wanted to sell me health insurance since. Unfortunately, I haven't had employment situations that allowed me to get health care through an employer, so I was on self-pay through much of my adult life. Until Obamacare.

I suppose you can say my reasons for supporting Obamacare are self-centered, though I no longer need Obamacare. If you could show me that the interests of others as a whole would be improve by a repeal of Obamacare and a return to the old system, I am more than willing to consider it.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Do you believe in the physical world? Where's your evidence?

 If we need proof for a belief, then we will need proof for the proof, and then proof for the proof, and then proof for the proof for the proof, ad infinitum ad nauseum. The demand for evidence has to stop somewhere. Take your belief that there is a physical world. Suppose I told you that only minds exist, and the you need to prove that there is something physical in existence. Lots of people think they don't have to prove the existence of the physical world, but belief in the physical world is a belief just like any other belief. If we must accept NO belief without supporting evidence, then we ought not to believe in the existence of the physical world without evidence.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Wingnuts of all faiths

 This is a wingnut anti-masker who happens to be a Christian.  But wingnuts come from all religions, including the atheist religion.