New Sherwood

Thursday night minutiae

Today I drove to San Francisco – 3.5 hours each way – for a meeting I should have conducted over the telephone. Live and learn. I’m always impressed by “the City”, as many call SF. Despite it’s well-deserved notoriety, it’s still a world class city that once was supremely Catholic and still lives in the shadow of the Church. Driving through the old Irish district was a feast for the eyes. Anyway, SF being SF, my potential client was a sweet lady who belongs to the Unitarian Universalist Church, which I am told expends a great deal of effort “ministering to animals”. I met her dog, rescued from Hurricane Katrina, and sat in an office surrounded by pictures of various non-human ministerial prospects. This reminded me of a former employer (also female) who was a radical animal rights activist (they all seem to be female). She wouldn’t tolerate the slightest affront to the “dignity” of animals, but she also believed that the virtual extinction of the human race was something to strive for.  Literally.

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Our “new” home in Chico was originally built in 1950, underwent some remodeling and expansion over the years, and was partially rebuilt after a fire in 2005. The house is sort of cobbled together in a very amateur way. There are odd steps from one room to the next, light switches that don’t make a lot of sense, a luxurious Roman tub that is completely out of character for the place, and dozens of other eccentricities. I like that.

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We’ve had contractors here for three weeks repairing doors, ceilings, walls, floors, electrical abnormalities, and so forth.  I think we’re finally coming to the end of it. The plan was to turn a three-unit structure into a two unit structure, the second unit being upstairs, and to make the house minimally functional for a semi-large home schooling family. Now that our bookshelves and family altar have been re-installed, it’s really starting to feel like home.  We transported 65 boxes of books in a borrowed horse trailer. They are mostly back on the shelves but still need organizing.

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We just concluded our apricot harvest this week: 50 trees in all, full of mostly unblemished and tasty fruit. Yesterday, I delivered the final pickings to a Christian homeless shelter in town. At the time one of the staff was involved in a confrontation with a belligerent client, the latter of whom was being told to leave permanently. He wasn’t taking it well. Spewing profanities and making threatening gestures, the client appeared to be on the brink of violence. I don’t know if the staff member – a man in his late 30s or early 40s – was paid or was one of many volunteers, but it occurred to me that confrontations like this must be fairly common, and that homeless shelters need the services of able-bodied men who know how to handle things.  I paused at the door of my truck before leaving, silently wondering if some back up might be necessary. It wasn’t.

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My eldest son writes on his Google+ status: “Another amazing day, here at the Colloquium. Went for a long walk through the city tonight with a couple other young people, and said the rosary at a park on the way back. That was quite nice, albeit tiring. Salt Lake City is very scenic.”  That put a smile on my face. 

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Yes, I was stunned by today’s SCOTUS decision, especially Roberts’ incomprehensible vote and bizarre rationale. More evidence, I suppose, that the Constitution is deader than dead. That’s unfortunate but hardly unexpected: the rule of law is always contingent upon the rule of just, wise, and competent men in the end. What was he thinking? Perhaps consistent originalism isn’t even possible anymore. Roberts is right about one thing, though: as he noted in his decision, the American people voted for the President and for the Congress responsible for this law. I would add that the American people also voted for the presidents who appointed the Supreme Court justices and the congressmen who approved them. The law is bad, and the Court’s decision was wrong, but the American people were wrong first. This is a democracy, right? Let’s take care to prioritize our outrage.

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June 29, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. ” Roberts is right about one thing, though: as he noted in his decision, the American people voted for the President and for the Congress responsible for this law. I would add that the American people also voted for the presidents who appointed the Supreme Court justices and the congressmen who approved them. The law is bad, and the Court’s decision was wrong, but the American people were wrong first. This is a democracy, right? Let’s take care to prioritize our outrage.”

    Jeff, I’m afraid I just completely disagree. And if I may say so, I think you are letting your own, shall we say, ambivalence about the very nature and structure of our country bias you into finding “something right” in what Roberts has said.

    Let’s spell this out a bit: The American people who elected the President who nominated Roberts were, insofar as they had any ideas at all about judicial nominations, attempting to get justices who would *never* do the kind of lying fakery that Roberts has done here. It is a particularly bitter irony that you should blame “democracy” for Roberts’s existence on the court given the extreme indirectness and the deliberate refusal to tell anyone involved in the process “what they’re getting” when it comes to a Supreme Court nominee. Indeed, it would be far more just to think of the court as a *non-democratic* institution. Roberts didn’t tell Bush clearly where he stood on anything (that was noted by many at the time), and it was considered wrong and unprofessional for Bush to ask! Nothing could be further from a political candidate running for office on the issues. The people elected Bush (through the electoral college) and Bush appointed Roberts for life to a semi-oligarchical office on the basis of apparently little information, which Bush felt in honor bound not to try to increase, about Roberts’s approach and philosophy. To call this “democracy” in action is a kind of joke. But as I say, insofar as the people elected Bush with any ideas at all about Supreme Court nominees, it was in the hope of getting principled and honest people *exactly the opposite* of what Roberts has turned out to be. That we, the voters, could not guarantee this outcome is scarcely the voters’ fault! Hence it is, frankly, almost angering for you to be blaming Roberts’s unprincipled decision–the responsibility for which lies on Roberts himself alone–on voters.

    Next: Our country was founded as a representative democracy with *very specific and clear* limits on the power of the federal government. This history of the bill of rights and the constitution makes this very clear. Americans who know their civics (of which, I grant, we could use a lot more, but I’ve seen plenty of them on-line since Roberts’s decision, condemning it) do not go about mindlessly praising democracy as if it were direct democracy with no limit on the powers that could be taken by an elected federal Congress. Very much to the contrary. Roberts attempted to get himself off the hook by pompous talk about “not protecting people from the consequences of their political decisions,” but that was not “something right” in his opinion. It was something wrong. It was more of his dishonesty, more of his pretense that he had no role to play here and that he was being professional, instead of just the opposite, in letting an unconstitutional power-grab stand. This country was founded with limits on what the elected federal congress could do, but Roberts, for apparently reasons of wanting political approval from the left, refused to join *even Kennedy* (for goodness sake) in upholding those limits. He and he alone is to blame for subverting his own legal conscience and foisting sophistry on the American people, sophistry which has immense power for evil. Let’s not let him off the hook with talk about the alleged badness of our democracy. This is not what America was meant to be.

    So let’s prioritize our outrage: Justices who lie and pervert their too-powerful office have been in the forefront of the ruination of this country–both in striking down laws and in upholding them. Right up there with them are leftist power-hogs who connive with them to undermine the Constitution. The media which acts as a powerful propaganda arm and deceives the people can share their place in the circle of hell reserved for those who have deliberately destroyed a brilliantly designed and once great country. The ignorant and miseducated masses who want “goodies” and are manipulated by the third group into voting for the second come in a fairly distant fourth. And I didn’t even bother making a slot for left-wing educators, who would maybe have bumped the people down to fifth.

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    Comment by Lydia | July 4, 2012 | Reply

  2. Lydia, it’s not that the American people were thinking about judicial nominations when they voted for President Bush. Rather, they voted for a stuffed-shirt empty-chested president who made stuffed-shirt empty-chested appointments. Forgive me, but lately you don’t seem to be very strong on nuance. I prefer that interpretation of your recent comments to that of believing you just aren’t paying attention to the things I write. Procedure matters, indeed. When you find the idiot who told you that procedure doesn’t matter give him a good swift kick for me.

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    Comment by Blogmaster | July 5, 2012 | Reply

  3. ” Rather, they voted for a stuffed-shirt empty-chested president who made stuffed-shirt empty-chested appointments.” He also appointed Alito, who appears to be much less of an empty-chested stuffed shirt, though doubtless not perfect. And Reagan, who was no stuffed-shirt empty chest, gave us both Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, as well as of course the great Antonin. A real mixed bag. It may be argued somewhat fairly that the best Republican President in your and my lifetime gave us as many if not more bad judicial nominees to the SCOTUS as Republican Presidents who came after and who were far less worthy than he. Clarence Thomas has turned out to be quite good (though, again, not perfect), in some ways as principled as Scalia. He was appointed by Bush, Sr., who was not a very strongly conservative President.

    The fact is that the the chances and changes of this mortal life and the deliberately undemocratic nature of the appointment process, plus the (in a strange way, admirably chivalrous) determination of Republican Presidents to apply a misguided notion of professionalism in not asking pointed questions of potential nominees, makes the long-term results of Republican appointments somewhat of a crap shoot. Plus, of course, the deliberately undemocratic, oligarchical nature of SCOTUS itself which prevents us from throwing the bums out when we find out what they are really like. I would say that that line about a stuffed-shirt empty-chested President, etc., is by no means long on nuance, for the reasons I have just given. Democracy is not to blame for Roberts.

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    Comment by Lydia | July 7, 2012 | Reply


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