Phone it in Friday XI: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part IV: Liberty in the Age of The Virus

The Age of The Virus is unprecedented.  Well, not entirely—major plagues and pandemics have swept the world before.  What’s unprecedented this time is the wholesale closure of the most commerce, along with rigid governmental and social admonitions to “social distance” and “shelter-in-place.”  Tin-pot municipal tyrants and State governors are engaged in a virtue-signalling race to see who can curtail liberties more rapidly and completely.

Pointing out this reality opens one to social scorn.  It’s amusing—and a bit frightening—to see the earnestness with which some Americans cling to their new mantras, the articles of faith handed down from the CDC and various government apparatchiks.  Even as our knowledge of The Virus seems to change daily, these public health acolytes cling to the every pronouncement from so-called “experts.”

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Yes, we should be vigilant about washing our hands and avoiding the accidental infection of one another, especially the elderly.

What concerns me is how quickly so many of us have been willing to accept greater degrees of control over our lives in the name of combating an invisible threat.  But now it feels like we’re living in the episode of Sliders called “Fever,” in which a totalitarian CDC cracks down on Los Angeles because, in that universe, penicillin was never discovered.

We’re not at Sliders levels—yet—but with that acquiescence has come an expansion of government power at nearly every level. I am not a libertarian, and I fully expect a robust federal response to a difficult international situation (remember, The Virus came from CHI-NA).  But that doesn’t mean local, State, or even federal authorities can simply hand-wave away the Constitution.

The Framers surely knew disease and death in their time.  When the Constitution was drafted in 1787, there was no capability for directing society with relative efficiency; even if there were, though, they would not have wanted to use it to suspend liberties.  The Framers surely knew there would be plagues and sickness in the United States, yet they included no clause such as “in the event of widespread sickness, these Articles contained heretofore in are, and of right to be, suspended until such time as the Congress shall deem suitable for public safety and the common welfare.”

Yet we see officials at the lowest levels of government telling people not just to stay home, but threatening to shut down churches and other assemblies.  Doesn’t that violate the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly?  Again, the prudent approach is for churches to accommodate the health of their congregants with remote services or other workarounds, but shouldn’t they be allowed to hold traditional services if they so choose?

The critics and medical scolds by now are howling with rage.  “What do these gossamer rights mean when we’re dead?”  Is that all anyone cares about?  What happened to Patrick Henry’s fiery cry of “Give me liberty, or give me death?”  What’s worse:  death from worshiping the Lord, or life in a soulless, gutless, freedom-less world?

I’m not alone in my assessment here.  Bill Whittle ripped into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this week, arguing that His Dishonor’s promise to shut down churches that continue to congregate would represent a high-handed assault on the First Amendment.  Even Whittle’s colleague Scott Ott thought Whittle’s defense of the Constitution was a bit rich, basically arguing that the Constitution can take a break during this outbreak.

I’m perceiving similarly expedient arguments among others on the Right.  It’s disgusting how many folks on our side are running like slavering dogs to lap up the crumbs of authoritarianism.  Whittle in the video above makes the compelling point that the Constitution functionally means nothing if any government official at any level can simply ignore its protections.  He also correctly points out that these rights are God-given, part of our very human nature.  No government can legitimately deprive us of them.

Another one of the saner voices is RazörFist, who also sees a great deal of big government chicanery in this pandemic (warning, Razör’s videos often contain strong language):

Z Man has also expressed skepticism about The Virus—or, at least, our draconian responses to it—and has received his share of scorn and dismissal.  But in his post Wednesday, “Fermi’s Paradox,” he made an interesting allusion to E.M. Forster’s novella “The Machine Stops,” originally published in 1909.  That short story (which I highly recommend you read—it has the same chilling effect as Kipling’s “The Mother Hive”) details a world in which humanity exists in a state of mindless, perpetual comfort, its every need attended to by The Machine.

In the story, humans have become so accustomed to cloistering in their little cells that they abhor face-to-face interaction, instead communicating via blue discs across great distances.  They are so dependent upon The Machine, they come to worship it (an interesting development, as their society has “advanced” beyond the “superstition” of religious belief—another subtle point from Forster).  They only travel on rare occasions, and avoid it unless absolutely necessary.

Eventually, The Machine deteriorates, with disastrous results; I will likely write about the story in more detail next week.  For our purposes, it sounds eerily like our current society:  shelter-in-place, “Stay at Home” (as digital signs on the Interstate tell me, implicitly scolding me for being on the highway), watch Netflix, #AloneTogether, etc., etc.—we’re told to be comfortable and to crave safety and comfort above all else.  They are the highest goods.

We’re through the looking glass here.  I’ve been pessimistic that we’re even living under the Constitution anymore, especially after the intelligence agencies attempted to overthrow a sitting President.  Vestiges and scraps of it still reign, but they seem to be the exception.  And most Americans don’t seem to care, so long as they can watch TV, the WiFi is working, and there is pizza.

We’re no longer the Roman Republic, but we’re not the Roman Empire in the 5th century, either.  We’re more like the Roman Empire in the 2nd or 3rd centuries:  coasting along on the remnants of a functioning system, with a play-acting Congress shadowing the motions of republicanism.

I hope I’m wrong.  Regardless, wash your hands.

TBT: The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding

My high school American history classes are getting into the American Civil War—or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War for Southern Independence, or whatever you’d like to call it—this week, so we’ve been talking about beginnings a good bit.  The Civil War had deep roots that go back not just to the 1840s or 1850s, and not even to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Indeed, the fundamental division dates back to the English Civil War in the 1648, when the Puritan Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell ousted and beheaded Charles I, and established the English Republic (which—the English having little taste for radicalism or dictatorships, fortunately collapses in 1660 with the restoration of the Stuart monarchs).  Loyalists to the king and the monarchical order were the aristocratic Cavaliers.  Those same Puritans of East Anglia settled heavily in Massachusetts following the Pilgrims’ famous landing at Plymouth Rock, and the Cavaliers—in body and spirit—dominated the tidewater plantations of the South.

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TBT: Mueller Probe Complete, Trump Vindicated

Remember when the Mueller probe ended, then Robert Mueller gave bumbling, incoherent testimony to Congress?  For two years the Democrats engaged in major psychological projection, accusing President Trump of malfeasance akin to what Secretary Hillary Clinton actually committed.  The Deep State scrambled to overthrow the duly elected President of the United States.

After a brief reprieve—even Democrats have to take time off from playing Marxists to splash about at Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months—the progressives are at it again with a ginned up impeachment inquiry.  Trump talked to the new Ukrainian president and mentioned Joe Biden’s son.  GASP!  POTUS is colluding with scary Eastern Europeans to get dirt on a political opponent!

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TBT: The Left’s Cluelessness on Gun Control

The Left is totalitarian in nature.  As such, it seeks to utilize whatever means possible to deprive individuals of their liberty, and to amalgamate Americans into a faceless collective—all the easier to rule over us.

Gun control—by which the Left always means “total gun confiscation and disarming of American civilians”—then, is a logical goal for Leftists.  Deprive Americans of their guns, and you’ve taken away their ultimate line of defense against the lockstep, persistent march against their liberties.

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America’s Roman Roots

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Armchair historians and dime-a-dozen political pundits (like yours portly) love to compare the United States to the Roman Empire, usually during its decadent latter-day decline.  The comparison is an easy one to make; just like Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries, the United States possesses an underclass of wage slaves; an obsession with mystery religions and spiritualistic fads; an immigration crisis; a decadent, self-indulgent quasi-morality; declining birth rates; and a sense the precious liberty of the old Republic has been lost.

Yet for all those declinist comparisons—apt though they may be—Americans should extend their historical gaze back further, to the Roman Republic.  That is what Dr. Steele Brand, Assistant Professor of History at The King’s College, urges Americans to do in an op-ed entitled “Why knowing Roman history is key to preserving America’s future” (thanks to a dear former of colleague of mine—and a regular reader of this blog—for sharing this piece).

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#MAGAWeek2019: Alexander Hamilton

It’s #MAGAWeek2019 here at The Portly Politico.  Each day’s post will be a SubscribeStar exclusive.  For a subscription of $1/month, you gain exclusive to each day’s posts, as well as exclusive content every Saturday throughout the rest of the year.  Visit my SubscribeStar page for more details.

Last year for #MAGAWeek2018 I highlighted several of our great Founding Fathers, including obvious picks like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  I also threw in the less-obvious son of a Framer, John Quincy Adams.  One key Framer I left out:  the ubiquitous Alexander Hamilton.

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Somali Shenanigans

Mass immigration and open borders are huge problems, but their costs are sometimes difficult to see.  Generally, Americans take a rosy view of immigration, as it conjures up images of plucky Irishmen crammed onto ships, chuffing past Ellis Island.  We’re the melting pot—people of different creeds and races come here, each contributing some distinct spices to the stew, but ultimately subsuming into the larger cultural heritage and mores of the host country.  Learn English, learn the Constitution, follow the rules, and you’re golden.

Of course, that all assumes the assimilability of the immigrants.  Back in those rose-tinted Ellis Island days, waves of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants (not to mention Chinese and Japanese migrants to California) caused great consternation, as each ethnic tribe and nationality stuck to its own.  With the National Origins Act of 1924, that great wave of migration trimmed to a trickle, with quotas favoring immigration from Western Europe.  Combined with the national struggles of the Great Depression and the Second World War, those migrants had time to get “baked in” to the national pie, and emerged full Americans.

Consider, too, that these immigrants came to the United States at a time when there was significant friction by doing so.  Many of them would never return to their home countries, or would do so only many decades later.  Lacking the access to mass, global communications networks, many of them never saw or heard from their relatives and families again.

Today, immigrants are able to communicate seamlessly with their relatives back home—a wonderful marvel of our modern-age.  They can also hop a jet plane and be back in hours (or get here quickly).  That same friction is no longer present to the same extent as it was 100 years ago.

Couple that with massive legal and illegal immigration, and the push to assimilate begins to vanish rapidly.  That push becomes more of a gentle nudge, if that.  Why learn English and the local customs when you can be surrounded by your hombres from back home?

Let’s go a step further:  what if your host culture no longer promotes or defends the rightness of its own beliefs and values?  Instead, it promotes multiculturalism and diversity as self-evident goods.  The official and cultural messages are no longer “assimilate” and “respect our laws, values, and God,” but instead become, “do your own thing” and “we’re nothing special—we don’t even really believe this stuff.”  Suddenly, there’s no compelling reason to assimilate into a culture that lacks confidence in itself.

Take all of that and add in a culture that does have some conviction in the rightness—and righteousness—of itself, and you’ve got the makings of a cloistered, insular community of unassimilable immigrants in your midsts.

Such is the situation in Minnesota with the Somali “refugees” living there.  They are, almost universally, devout Muslims.  They are also what the cool kids call “visible minorities”—they’re black—which serves as a further impediment to assimilation.  Islam in its most fundamental form is, essentially, at odds with Western civilization.  The very existence of Sharia law conflicts directly with the Constitution.  It’s all a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, the situation in “Little Mogadishu“—the Somalian neighborhood in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area—is a miniature form of the Islamic migrant crisis Europe has endured for years now.  Like the banlieues of France and Belgium, Somalian Muslims have created their own ethnic enclave in the heart of a State once dominated by Swedes and Germans.

Little Mogadishu is, sadly, following the pattern of other Muslim-dominated areas in the West.  It’s crime rate is through the roof, growing 56% in 2018.  Most of that increase is due to gang violence between competing Somali street gangs.

Minnesota—in a suicidal display of “Upper Midwestern Nice”—has encouraged the accumulation of Somalis into its State, creating a powerful ethnic voting bloc that holds increasing sway over the Democratic-Farm-Labor Party (the technical appellation for the Democratic Party in Minnesota).  Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who can barely speak English without an anti-Semitic accent, is a troubling figure to have walking the highest corridors of power.  She’s a political figure ripped straight out of sub-Saharan

That’s had lethal consequences, too, such as Somali police officer Mohammed Noor’s fatal shooting of Australian Justine Damond.  That killing drew attention to what was likely an unfortunate diversity-hire.  The Minneapolis Police Department is, apparently, attempting to hire more Somali officers to improve community outreach in Little Mogadishu, but why did the city allow such an alien enclave to develop in the first place?

That incident at least received coverage from the mainstream media.  What didn’t was this piece from InfoWars, which details (with police documents) the antics of a group of eight or ten Somali teens.  It seems these precocious, vibrant youngsters were spreading diversity with hammers and pipes in an attempt to rob elderly white people.

Some of these attacks are, no doubt, the result of typical inner-city gang violence.  But the insidious influence of radical Islamism is alive in well in the environs of this Minneapolis banlieue.  Fox News calls it “the terrorist recruitment capital of the US.”  Ami Horowitz, in a jaw-dropping YouTube video, demonstrates that Somali Americans believe Sharia law is preferable to (and, by implication, should replace) America’s constitutional law.

So, how does the United States avoid replicating the errors of Europe and Minnesota?  Tighter immigration restrictions would be a key first step.

Another would be more drastic, and unlikely politically.  Indeed, were it to succeed, the precedent it established could be destructive in the long-run to religious liberty.  I’ll elaborate:

Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.”  That is a beautiful statement in favor of religious liberty.

That said, Islam may very well be the grand exception.  It is a faith that is fundamentally incompatible with the faith, culture, and laws of the West.  It has no desire to reform (indeed, it may lack the ability to do so), and it contains within it no separation of church and state.  The faith of Islam is the law code.

As such, one could argue it may be necessary to amend the Constitution to ban Muslims from serving in higher office.  That is a bold step, and one that I shrink away from even as I ponder it.  But can there be any guarantee of loyalty from followers of a religion that is so hostile to American and Western values?

Of course, the flaw in this approach is that individual Muslims are, like lapsed Catholics and Protestants, sometimes easygoing about their faith.  At the same time, even lax Muslims have a tendency to radicalize quickly.  Just look at the Boston Marathon bomber, who went from being a pot-smoking loser to killing innocent people in the blink of an eye.

Regardless, the West has to wake itself up to the real, existential threat Islam represents.  We’ve spent nearly 1400 years fighting against its aggressive expansion—the Battle of Tours, the defense at the gates of Vienna, the Reconquista—only now to invite the invaders in with open arms?

A few hundred Muslim immigrants a year is no big shakes.  But if we adopt Europe’s “come one, come all” approach, we’ll lose everything that makes our country great, and free.

Reblog: Practically Historical on the Electoral College

A quick (and late) post today, as the Internet is still out at home (although this time it’s not entirely due to Frontier’s incompetence).  SheafferHistorianAZ of Practically Historical posted another classic piece yesterday defending the Electoral College.  Rather than rely solely on abstract arguments, he went to the primary sources:  in this case, the words of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury.

Here is an excerpt from SheafferHistorianAZ himself, taken from before and after quotations from Madison (writing in Federal No. 39) and Hamilton (Federalist No. 68; emphasis is Sheaffer’s):

Plurality is part of the Federal electoral process, but integrated to meet the needs of federalism.  States matter in our compound republic.  Madison wanted them involved in the process of choosing the executive.

Think of the electoral vote this way…  In the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates 55-27  and out-hit the hapless Pirates 91-60.  Using the rationale of plurality as demanded by the national popular vote crowd, the Yankees were clearly world champs that year.  But runs are integrated into games, and in 1960, the Pirates won 4 games, the Yankees 3.  Runs and hits are part of a process, but the process integrates all parts of the sport into choosing a winner[.]

That sports metaphor is one that I think will resonate with many voters, and it’s one that is intuitive.  It’s probably the best I’ve heard.  It’s a tough pitch to say, “the States have rights in our system, and without the Electoral College, LA and NYC would decide every election.”

Anti-Collegiates (the best term I can come up with on the fly for the anti-Electoral College crowd) always argue that States like Wyoming would get more attention from presidential candidates, which is numerically ludicrous—what’s 600,000 Wyomans against millions of New Yorkers?—and disingenuous.  No one arguing against the Electoral College cares about the people in Wyoming; they just want progressive elites and their urban mobs to always carry presidential elections for progressive Democrats.

But the sports metaphors takes something abstract but important—States’ rights and accounting for regional differences—and puts in terms that are more concrete but trivial.  Everyone knows it doesn’t matter if you win every game by an extra point—what matters is that you win every game (college football fans may disagree slightly, but a W is a W).

One final note before wrapping up:  I’ve recently heard proposals to reform the Electoral College to conform with congressional districts, so that it’s more reflective of the popular will, while still retaining the essential “flavor” of the Electoral College.  It’s intriguing, but I also think it’s a trap:  it’s a compromise position for a side that has no leverage.  Engaging in that debate tacitly concedes that there’s something wrong with the Electoral College, when there really isn’t.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  Yes, we occasionally get distorted outcomes.  But those “distortions” act as an important break on mob rule and the tyranny it inevitably breeds.

Reblog: Lincoln and Civil Liberties

One of the joys of blogging is the opportunity to read the work of other writers in the “blogosphere.”  Recently, I’ve been reading SheafferHistorianAZ‘s work at his blog, Practically Historical.  Sheaffer writes brief, pithy posts about various historical figures and problems, and seems to have a particular interest in both Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, two of my favorite presidents.

Yesterday, he posted a piece entitled “Lincoln and Civil Liberties” that touches on an interesting constitutional question:  did the Great Emancipator violate the Constitution when he suspended the writ of habeus corpus and arrested Americans without due process or the chance to see a judge?

Sheaffer argues that Lincoln was completely justified, as those arrested were actively seditious and traitorous.  He cites the case of John Merryman, the Marylander arrested for his attempt to spur Maryland to secede from the Union.  From Sheaffer (all links are his):

John Merryman was not an innocent victim… of government tyranny as portrayed by Chief Justice Roger Taney.  Merryman led a detachment of Maryland militiamen in armed resistance to troops in Federal service.  Taney was a partisan Democrat staunchly opposed to Lincoln and supportive of secessionist doctrine.  Ex parte Merryman is not legal precedent at all and cannot be cited as such- it is a political document designed to hinder Lincoln’s attempts to protect Washington and preserve the Union.  It was issued by Taney alone- scholars often make the mistake of assuming that the Supreme Court concurred with the ruling.

As Sheaffer points out, there is a trend in Lincoln scholarship that recasts the president as an out-of-control tyrant.  The most prominent figure in this revisionist school is probably Thomas DeLorenzo, and the idea has circulated broadly, even if it hasn’t penetrated the American psyche (remember, Lincoln enjoys a 90% favorability rating among Americans today).

No doubt the American Civil War expanded federal powers, and indelibly changed the relationship between the States and the federal government, in some ways to the detriment of constitutionalism.

Consider that, prior to the Civil War, many States assumed they could “opt out” of the Constitution, having previously “opted in” to it.  Lincoln argued that the Union predated the Constitution, and therefore could not be left; Daniel Webster earlier argued that the Union and the Constitution were “one and inseparable.”

Regardless, the American Civil War resolved by force of arms what could not be resolved in Congress or debating societies (of course, no political question is ever settled permanently).  After that, the States would never have quite the same leverage over the federal government (probably for the better, but perhaps for the worse in some ways), and would lose even more with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment.

These are interesting questions to consider.  Sheaffer’s contribution to this discussion is sober and direct.