Denver Gentleman

Commentary, Arts, and Letters from the Heart of the Rocky Mountain Empire.

I’ll take some Marxism with my Merengue: The Local Voice of the Bolivarian Revolution

Jack+Mudry+WEB
My early memories of radio programming are of listening to weekend edition on NPR as I rode to church with my family on Sunday mornings. Playing the puzzle was a weekly family event. These days I drive to church with my own sons. Sometimes I play the puzzle but often tune into the community supported jazz station, KUVO, to listen to Jack Mudry’s show La Nueva Voz, which is on from eight to nine. I have a strange love-love-hate relationship with the show. I love the music and I love to hate the politics.

The music is folkloric tunes from Latin America; cumbias, guarachas, and many other genres spawned from the fusion of cultures; with catchy rhythms that give a hint of tropical warmth on even the iciest Colorado mornings. The set lists follow a theme, either the music of a certain country or artist, often coinciding with national days of celebration. It’s music that is impossible to find on any other stations, and I am grateful that Mudry has found a place for it on community radio.

The non-musical part of the show is where things really get interesting. Mudry, like many white people who graduated with degrees in Spanish and Political Science, fancies himself a Latin American revolutionary. He conducts his radio show bilingually (his Spanish suffers from the slight stiltedness of the non-native speaker, but is still quite good) and uses it as a format to spread the revolution, smash capitalism, and liberate the working class from bondage.

His biography explains a lot about his perspective. A baby-boomer who finished college in 1972, he studied abroad then came to Denver where he worked “with community and non-profit groups, like the Common Market Food Cooperative, and as a substitute teacher.” He was the Director of the Study Abroad Program for the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked in DC for the Independent Press Agency of Central America, before becoming a court interpreter and getting his show on the radio. As anyone who has known anyone who has studied abroad can tell you, the effects of reverse-culture shock can be destabilizing and long-lasting.

Occasionally the show will feature interviews with Left-wing radicals who are supporting various causes, either pressing for war-crimes prosecution for disliked politicians, yelling about the effect of global warming on indigenous cultures, or demanding the expulsion of foreign investment from the countries that could use it the most.

When not featuring the rants of fellow travelers, Mudry provides his own commentary on current events that he thinks the “corporate media” is either burying or misrepresenting. He is very concerned about anything he believes to be supported by the evil “Republicons” (who are sometimes no worse than the “Dummycrats”) and his opinions on every topic are totally predictable to anyone familiar with Mother Jones, Amy Goodman, and the Occupy crowd. Some of his statements so comically parrot the stereotypical armchair Marxist that they appear to have been lifted from an Onion article. Though his show is not archived, here are a few gems taken directly from his Facebook page as I would not want the reader to think I was exaggerating for comic effect:

“Remember that the military industrial corporate pharmaceutical surveillance state exists to sell you more STUFF, and to intimidate you so you won’t question their motives. This crosses party lines and labels !”

“During the last election the billionaire Koch brothers contributed AT LEAST $400 million to attempt to elect far-right wing Republicons and defeat Democrats. If you think they are doing this to help working families, students and seniors, you are OUT OF YOUR MIND !”

“In the corporate misinformation media, there are a hundred reasons for NOT extending unemployment insurance, but they are ALL bogus !”

(Why he puts a space before his ever-present exclamation point is unclear).

An exhaustive review (believe me, it’s exhausting) of his posts suggests that Mudry has never had an original opinion that diverged even slightly from the pre-approved party line. It would be nice to think that most people who are passionate about politics have thought things through, considered the arguments, and arrived at their particular stance with the recognition that ideology does not solve reality, but it’s hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt when there is no evidence that they have considered the arguments. Take his statement about unemployment insurance. Let’s unpack this. He states that ALL (emphasis in the original) reasons for not extending unemployment benefits are bogus. Well, one reason might be saving money. I think people can agree that saving money is a good reason to do things. Often the reasons for doing something outweigh the benefits of saving money, but saving money itself is not “bogus.” Some studies say unemployment benefits prolong the job search and that cutting them would motivate people to find work sooner. Again, motivating people to work is not “bogus,” but it might be outweighed by other factors. The only valid way to make the point is to make the argument.

Though he often goes off on typical lefty topics, where he really out-shines other liberal media types is in his defense of Marxist strongmen. While pretending not to be explicitly supportive of terrorist organizations like FARC or the Zapatistas, he is consistently defending their causes and insisting that they are being demonized and that the full story is not being told. He especially loathes American ally Álvaro Uribe who almost single-handedly wrested Colombia off the brink of disaster and reduced crime and violence to previously unthinkable levels.

Last week, Mudry addressed the growing unrest in Venezuela where a popular movement is in revolt against government mismanagement which has created shortages of basic supplies and turned over state security to the once hated Cubans. Instead of siding with “la gente” he insinuated that the protesters had illegitimate motives and opined that Maduro was democratically elected and thus the country just had to live with him. It doesn’t seem to bother Mudry that Maduro has jailed opposition leaders and continued Chavez’s policy of permitting only state run media to operate within the country. But why would it? David Mamet nailed it in his book The Secret Knowledge when he wrote:

If Fidel Castro and Che Guevara rob a few banks, and shoot a few landowners, they may or may not be considered criminals, but if they put up a flag, and proclaim a new Government, and remember to characterize this Government as ‘For the Workers,’ they become, in the assessment of the Left, immediately worthy of respect. This hides the deep-seated wish of the Left for the existence of a wise and all-powerful State, a State which will Take Care of the individual, saving him from worries not only about health care, but about every other choice in his life.

Mudry always adds a disclaimer to his political rants, saying that, “of course, the views expressed on this program are those of the host and not of the station or its sponsors.” This is true to a certain extent. Mudry would likely be the first to agree that the fact KUVO allows him to inject divisive political discussion into his program suggests a degree of tolerance which is not universal among radio broadcasters. It is great that KUVO does. Unlike Maduro, the racial grievance lobby, the gay rights crusaders, and the global warming cultists, who think speech with which they disagree should be banned, true believers in freedom think all viewpoints (no matter how inflammatory) should have some outlet (no matter how obscure) to maintain the free exchange of ideas that is vital to a free society. Free market ideology embraces not only free markets of goods and services, but also free markets of ideas. Even the most wacko conspiracy theorists offer some benefit to an open society. As Jonah Goldberg put it: “[w]hen I see hipsters wearing Mao hats or Lenin T-shirts, I’m grateful. It’s like truth-in-labeling. For now I know you are: Woefully ignorant, morally stunted, purposively asinine, or all three.”

The same goes for baby-boomers who are still trying to impress their Latin-American studies teachers: at least we know where you stand.

Marijuana, State’s Rights, and Rule of Law

troops
On September 24, 1957, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard in order to enforce the Supreme Court’s desegregation order after the decision in Brown v. Board of Education held that segregated schools were unconstitutional.

On January 1, 2014, drug dealers in Colorado opened brick and mortar pot shops to openly sell a Schedule I controlled substance in defiance of federal law. They did so, confident that they would face no opposition from federal law enforcement because Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo stating that closing down recreational marijuana stores would not be a priority.

This decision by the executive branch to ignore federal law can be added to a long list of lawless decisions of the Obama administration from refusing to deport a certain class of illegal aliens to refusing to enforce provisions of the ACA which the administration finds politically inconvenient.
The administration’s decision to turn a blind eye to Colorado’s blatant violation of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause is not surprising given its other options. There were two legitimate courses of action open to the feds: either do what Eisenhower did and send in federal marshals or the US Army to kick down doors, confiscate inventory, and lock up Colorado’s “green entrepreneurs;” or, order the DEA and FDA to remove cannabis from the Schedule I category of the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.

Neither of these options were politically palatable. If Obama fulfilled his obligation to enforce federal law, he would have alienated young voters who helped elect him and for whom legalization is popular. Additionally, sending in armed troops to thwart the will of the people of Colorado would have made for bad optics on the nightly news and would have given more ammunition to vocal critics of a heavy-handed federal government. If, on the other hand, Obama ended the federal ban on cannabis, he would forever be known as “President Choom Gang” and have reinforced the image of his administration as unserious amateurs intent on reshaping America into a hippy dream land.

The implications of this decision are far-reaching, yet thus far obscured by a haze of Doritos jokes in the national media. Essentially, Colorado has called D.C.’s bluff and showed the rest of the country that the feds don’t have as good a hand as they would have us believe. This has massive implications for federalism, state’s rights and the rule of law. If the executive lacks the guts to enforce the supremacy clause, what is to stop states from simply going their own way on all sorts of other issues ranging from firearms regulation to immigration to abortion restrictions to environmental standards?

Another question that the anti-legalization advocates must ask is: what do they expect the next administration to do? Whoever is elected will face the same options Obama had but the marijuana industry will have had three years to entrench itself, making a federal crack-down that much more distasteful.

This weakening of federal power might seem a positive development to conservatives who value local control and yearn for a 10th Amendment revival of state’s rights. But it should worry even the staunchest believer in decentralization that this is occurring in a chaotic, ad hoc manner with states simply acting in defiance of the supremacy clause and daring the feds to do anything about it.

If Eisenhower had backed down in 1957, it would have signaled to the southern states that the federal government was not serious about desegregation and could have led to a much more prolonged struggle for civil rights or even a constitutional crisis of insurmountable magnitude. I predict that the effects of Obama’s cowardice will be felt long after his administration is replaced.

An Argument for Canceling Christmas

The annual December debate in the United States about how America should recognize the holiday season seems to have grown stale. Although the usual contenders in this battle continue to become indignant and hysterical, the rest of the country seems to be doing its best to ignore the fracas and get on with business as usual. And business is really what people are getting on with, buying enough goods to support stores for much of the year, booking flights, sending packages, advertising, fundraising etc., until the country shuts down for the federal holiday still nominally known as Christmas.

Conventional wisdom on the holiday debate is that liberal secular humanists play the part of the Grinch, doing their best to limit public displays of religiosity. Conservative Christians on the other hand are expected to defend the use of taxpayer money to erect manger scenes and keep Christ in the public arena. Upon reflection on this expectation there seem to be many compelling reasons for Christian conservatives to come down on the side of not only preventing endorsement of Christian Christmas symbols, but canceling the federal holiday altogether.

The first reason for stopping the federal, public observance of Christmas is that it is supposedly unconstitutional and discriminatory. Christmas is a Christian holiday. By enforcing a federal mandate that this day be a respite from work shows a bias towards Christianity, which arguably violates the establishment clause of the US constitution as interpreted today. To be fair, we would have to establish federal holidays recognizing the holy days of every heathen and infidel in the country such as Al-Eid, Yom Kippur, Chinese New Year etc. Any attempts to secularize Christmas do not solve this problem. First, any winter holiday that is instituted near the 25th of December would be unable to deny its Christian roots as a replacement for Christmas. Secondly, the government would then be endorsing secular humanism as a kind of state religion. Secular humanism has its own set of dogmas and saints that should not be forced on the citizens of a free society. Endorsing any kind of belief system becomes deeply discordant in a pluralistic society. Most federal holidays are somehow connected to religion. Thanksgiving was established by puritans and implies that there is some higher entity that we owe our thanks to. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister. Presidents Day honors the cult of personality that surrounds the practice of patriotism and July 4th is obviously a blatant form of country worship, insensitive to immigrants living within our borders. If we truly want our government to embrace cultural relativism, all federal holidays should be abolished.

Canceling all federal holidays is a splendid idea. First of all, it would reinforce the American work ethic. Many allegedly socialist secular countries in Europe function on a calendar that is absolutely riddled with religious holidays. Even in Germany, where the churches are empty, one can add Whit-Monday, Ascension Day and Corpus Christi to the already vast stretches of federally protected paid vacation enjoyed by workers there. In Spain , universities stop classes in honor of the patron saints of their schools and academic departments have their own saints on whose holy days classes are cancelled. In cultures where church attendance is almost non-existent, it seems that the logical explanation for continuing to recognize these holidays is an aversion to honest labor. America ’s relatively few pauses in the typical workweek allowed us to become the prosperous, productive country that we once were up until recently. Canceling the remaining holidays that we do have would perhaps help to find the competitive edge we once held over the slacker countries in the rest of the world. Conservatives especially should be eager to embrace this. Who is the government to interfere with the business of America ? When the postal service shuts down, that is one more delay in getting things done efficiently. When public schools close, that is another week or two that our children are falling behind or getting into trouble. The massive amounts of traveling cause delays in the air and on the roads and workers with their minds on vacation are rarely working at full capacity. The government should purge itself of self-serving lay-a-bouts and find people who are actually interested in serving the needs of the people all year round.

Traditional defenders of crèche scenes should embrace the canceling of Christmas because the federally recognized holiday is bad for Christianity. The American government has done more for the re-paganization of Christmas than Wiccans could ever have hoped to achieve. By ridiculously trying to reformulate Christmas to be inclusive of believers and non-believers alike, they have irreparably damaged the observation of Christ’s birth. The government has decided that public nativity scenes are only acceptable if they include menorahs and plastic Santa Clauses. That is to say, public religious displays are acceptable only if besmirched by outside traditions. Far from defending them, religious people should be adamantly opposed to such displays. The secularization of Christmas distorts the entire holiday. The four weeks of advent leading up to Christmas are supposed to be a penitential season of reflection and quiet anticipation. Instead, they have become a frenzy of materialism and familial obligation. A holiday that is nationalized, just like the nationalization of any aspect of life, loses its independence and effectiveness. Christmas has lost much of its mystery, mysticism and majesty at the hands of those for whom it has no meaning other than to profit monetarily or use it as a day of drunken overindulgence. Holidays that have not been nationalized yet, such as Ramadan, allow its observers to stand apart from society as holy people. Christians should keep this holiday as their own and not allow it to be co-opted by hostile forces.

The conservative defense of the recognition of Christmas in the public sector is ultimately against the values that conservatives hold dear. Conservatives should want less government involvement in private matters, especially religion. Spending taxpayer money on anything, much less the tacky decorating of public buildings, is something to fight against and limit as much as possible. Government regulation of a celebration that transcends this world should worry Christians. Its our holiday and we should take it back. Make Advent the model, a quiet, reflective time packed with meaning that nobody who doesn’t go to church regularly ever pays any attention to. If Christians would withdraw from the worldly hullabaloo that the season has become they might be more inclined to remember the true meaning of Christmas: that the Lord Almighty came into the world as the helpless newborn child of two Middle-Eastern Jews to redeem a fucked-up broken world. Amen.

Another Arrow in the Quiver

Two-women-participating-in-archery-1937

When it comes to politicizing tragedies, both sides of the gun debate are typically ready to pounce whenever violent events fit into their respective narrative. It usually works in the following way. Every time a single mom at home alone with her baby blows the head off an intruder, the pro-gun folks point to her as an example of how the cops would never have gotten there on time and it is because this lady was a responsible gun owner and knew how to aim and shoot that she and her child remained alive and unmolested. And they are right. And every time a loser whose been playing too many video games and reading too much Nietzsche goes on a spree and shoots a few, or a lot, of people, the anti-gun people point to him as a reason why we need to ban guns from private ownership. And they are wrong.

This weekend the anti-gun people responded predictably to to the weekend murder-suicide by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. During halftime of NBC’s coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles versus the Dallas Cowboys, NBC Sports analyst Bob Costas made a plea for gun control quoting a column by Jason Whitlock.

“‘Our current gun culture,’ Whitlock wrote, ‘ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy. And more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?  But here,’ wrote Jason Whitlock, ‘is what I believe — if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Cassandra Perkins would both be alive today.’”

But another less publicized act of violence occurred the same weekend at a community college where a murder suicide ended the life of instructor James Krumm.

Krumm’s 25-year-old son, Christopher Krumm, stabbed Arnold to death at the home she shared with James Krumm. Passers-by found her dead in the gutter of her street. The younger Krumm then went to his father’s computer science class and shot him with an arrow in front of a handful of students, who escaped unhurt in the ensuing chaos. Christopher Krumm also stabbed his father and himself. They both died in the classroom.

Since none of the pro-gun people have politicized this tragedy yet, I’ll take it upon myself to do so. This is the rare example of a school killing spree that the left would rather you not know about. Why? Because this spree jumped narratives. The left are constantly rolling their eyes when pro-gun advocates make the argument that if people didn’t have guns they would still find a way to go nuts and kill people. Well, (here it comes) WE TOLD YOU SO! I have now exploited this tragedy for political purposes and man did it feel good.

I know, I know what you’re going to say (you emasculated urban liberal pansy): “well it could have been a lot worse if he’d had an AR-15.” Not likely. This guy seemed to have killed all the people he was planning to kill. Presumably he could have launched a few more arrows into the class room if he was really on a rampage, but instead he stabbed himself to death.

So there it is. Point made. That crazy guy in the theater could have barred the door and burned everyone alive with gasoline. People are horrible and they don’t need guns to do horrible things.

 

 

 

Denver Post Turns Editorial Page over to Leftist Hacks Post Election

The New York Times editorial page is like a Ouija board that has only three answers, no matter what the question. The answers are: higher taxes, more restrictions on political speech and stricter gun control. –Ann Coulter

The same can be said for the Denver Post. Having bested its rival, The Rocky Mountain News, the Post has lost the incentive to maintain a level of moderate respectability. Now the last major daily in town consistently endorses Democrats and publishes the majority of its comments from left-wing loons while allowing Mike Rosen and Vincent Carol to remain as their token conservatives.

It seems that since the election, the loons have finally been allowed to take over the asylum. I draw this conclusion based on three incendiary commentaries that can only have been meant to rile the right and rub salt in their wounds after the disappointing election results. Fortunately, insulting columns advocating radical leftism are more likely to irritate than to persuade.

The first was a guest commentary, published Nov. 10, by Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, the executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, an organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.” He then goes on to criticize the Archdiocese of Denver for using its right to free speech to defend Catholics’ freedom of association and freedom to exercise their religion.

Woodliff-Stanley identifies himself as a Unitarian Universalist minister, which is telling. Just as he presumably does not require his flock to believe in the resurrection, it appears that he is also pretty lax about requiring his fellow ACLU members to believe in religious liberty.

Rev. Woodliff-Stanley never explains how forbidding people from conducting their private businesses in a way that is consistent with their religious faith does not infringe on religious liberties. Rather he labels as discrimination any reluctance to get with the program and blithely compares it to refusing service to black people in restaurants. This analogy is like comparing the Catholic Church’s policy of not ordaining women to burning witches, an argument I expect will turn up in the Post next week.

The next day, a moronic column by Rich Tosches called Romney voters morons because the states that ranked highest in college graduates went for Obama. The piece was filled with a slew of what would be considered racial slurs if liberals really expected equal respect be given to people of all colors and creeds, e.g. pork rinds, NASCAR, raccoon hunting, and possum eating to name a few.

Rich Tosches was presumably hired to replace the liberal orthodoxy of Ed Quillen, but he is not nearly as smart as Quillen as he openly admits in his dumb attack on dumb people. Incidentally, the top ten states by percentage of gay residents are D.C., New Hampshire, Washington Massachusetts, Maine, California, Colorado, Vermont, New Mexico and Minnesota. If Tosches’s logic holds, Romney voters are pretty dumb, and Obama voters are pretty gay. Perhaps the fact that higher academia is dominated by liberal professors intent on indoctrinating young minds has something to do with Toshes’s statistics.

Finally, the front page of the Nov. 18 perspective section, was given over to Meredith C. Carroll, known for her work at Disney’s online parenting magazine, Babble.com, who provided an angry hysterical demand to ban guns in Colorado which likely prompted a high number of Colorado gun owners to go out and buy a high-capacity magazine just to spite her. This column is a great example of uninformed writing produced by gun-illiterate liberals. Carroll calls for changing Colorado’s “anachronistic” gun laws, passed by bi-partisan agreement in response to the Columbine shooting.

Particularly insulting is this line:

While students on college campuses around the country have had to run for their lives too many times to count from deranged classmates firing guns, Colorado colleges and universities are forced to welcome many brandishing them thanks to a recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding a ghastly law allowing students with concealed-weapons permits on campus.

Run-on much? If Carroll knew the meaning of the verb brandish, she would realize the error of using it to refer to concealed carry. Many what? Seems there is a missing noun here, but it looks like an attempt to refer to all students with carry permits as deranged. Furthermore, while schools are forced to follow the constitution, they are not forced to welcome students exercising their natural right to defend themselves and indeed CU has been very unwelcoming towards them.

Carroll then suggests that students are able to call the police and have them hold their hand as they walk through campus at night. That’s the difference between conservatives and liberals, conservatives don’t want, or need, or trust, the government to hold our hands. She finishes the piece by calling all Coloradans opposed to or reluctant to demand stricter gun control “yellow”.

These three columns represent what has been happening all over the country. Gloating Democrats are attempting to use the election to shift the discourse leftwards, pushing “forward” to restrain our liberties, and taking advantage of the momentary disarray of conservatives trying to figure out what happened on Nov. 6th. Luckily, with writers such as Carroll, Tosches, and Woodliff-Stanley, the arguments are being made in ways likely to help conservatives rather than hurt them.

Concealed Carry on Campus: The Moral Choice

Join me for a moment in a thought experiment. Imagine that a killer is approaching his victim, intending to stab her. Before she can defend herself, an accomplice grabs her and restrains her while the killer moves in and murders the victim. Now ask yourself, has the accomplice committed an immoral act?

Most people would say that yes, the accomplice’s act is almost as bad as the act of the killer himself. Why is the accomplice’s act bad? The accomplice’s act is bad because the accomplice has prevented the victim from preventing the killing.

I heard this hypothetical from CU philosophy professor Michael Huemer, who was explaining the natural right to self defense.

The right to self defense has been a topic of intense discussion lately at CU ever since the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that that the University of Colorado cannot ban concealed-weapon permit holders from carrying guns on campus. This decision has not gone over well with some faculty and students who are critical of CU adapting its policies to comply with the ruling.

One professor declared that he would cancel class if he became aware of the presence of an armed student. Another professor has suggested that the contractual arrangement with students forbidding concealed-carry weapons at football games be applied to classrooms by issuing tickets at the door.

At an institution where much of the intellectual conversation revolves around equality and human rights, it is perplexing to see a continued effort to thwart students’ right to self defense.

We live in a society where guns are more easily available than in other countries. This fact is largely a result of our country’s founders having included the right to bear arms in the US Constitution. Furthermore, this right has been interpreted as an individual right that allows citizens to own and carry guns for their own protection. Whether or not this is the correct interpretation, I merely wish to acknowledge the reality of gun ownership in our society.

Some people use guns to commit horrendous acts of violence against innocent people, as demonstrated by the tragedies at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and most recently Aurora.

In a society where people have access to guns, and where occasionally disturbed individuals use guns to commit heinous crimes in public places, people who wish to defend themselves from such crimes require a gun to do so.

By creating a so-called “gun free zone” without adopting the measures necessary to truly free the zone of guns (ie. metal detectors and security personnel), a school, theater, or other establishment prevents potential victims from preventing potential killings.

Law abiding individuals in unenforced gun free zones are essentially sitting ducks.

The tragedies that have occurred over the years have changed us. I am sure that I am not the only one who finds himself in a public place, eyeing the exits and looking around for something with which to clobber a gun-toting psycho.

I do not have a concealed carry permit and do not come to school armed. I know some students at CU who do. The knowledge that I am sitting in a classroom with responsible, law-abiding people carrying guns which they have been trained to use is comforting. I feel less vulnerable.

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that university students are as equally entitled to defend themselves as the rest of the people in this state. CU has adjusted its policies accordingly. No one is allowed to brandish guns on campus, and if people see someone with a gun they should call the police. If students and faculty at CU want gun free zones, they should come up with a plan for enforcing them.

The Sound and Fury: Campaign Finance in 2012

So far this election cycle, independent groups have spent $675 million to support the campaigns of their chosen candidates. The impacts of the money on democracy aside, this represents a massive increase in outside money pouring into the election as compared to previous years. Many have pointed to the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to explain this increase in independent political expenditures. That ruling outraged liberals who felt that limiting restrictions on corporate speech would allow big corporations to influence political decision-making through large donations and drown out the voices of people lacking the resources to put out competing messages.

This year, the outrage continues unabated. In Colorado, supporters of Amendment 65 are asking Colorado voters whether they want to join eight other states which have passed legislation in opposition to Citizens United. Montanans also face a similar question in the form of voter initiative I-166, 4 months after the Supreme Court summarily reversed a provision of the state constitution limiting corporate campaign spending.

Amendment 65 and similar legislative measures are largely symbolic protests that challenge the Supreme Court’s role as ultimate arbiter of the Constitution.

The language of both Amendment 65 and I-166 contain pleasant sounding value statements such as “the interests of the public are best served by limiting campaign contributions, establishing campaign spending limits, full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions, and strong enforcement of campaign laws,” and “the people of Montana establish that there should be a level playing field in campaign spending, in part by prohibiting corporate campaign contributions and expenditures and by limiting political spending in elections.” I-166, however, confronts the Court more directly by declaring state policy to be that corporations are without constitutional rights.

The proposed changes to state law direct elected and appointed officials to support a constitutional amendment allowing congress and the states to enact campaign finance reform and strip corporations of constitutional protections. Both initiatives contain language that “instructs” and “charges” state legislatures to pursue a federal amendment to the Constitution that would reverse Citizens United.

Such attempts to “instruct” elected officials on how to vote have no force of law nor should they. The point of representative government is to give different communities of interest a voice and not subjugate them to the will of larger majorities. Allowing a bare majority of Coloradans to pass a constitutional amendment that would mandate the decisions of officials in every legislative district in the state would subvert the representational nature of government. The drafters of these resolutions clearly recognize this, hence the use of the words “instruct” and “charge” rather than “mandate”. Representatives’ primary charge is to look out for their constituents’ interests. Those interests should not be trumped by the interests of a larger majority.

It is even more presumptive to claim the authority to direct the individual decision-making powers of elected representatives. Edmund Burke, in his Speech to the Electors of Bristol, proclaimed that an elected representative clearly owes a duty to constituents “[b]ut his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or any set of men living. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.”

If these measures have no force of law, then what is the point of passing them? Why should Colorado incorporate what amounts to a temper tantrum by sore losers into its constitution? Supporters say that by passing anti-Citizens United measures at the state level they can develop the momentum needed to pass a federal constitutional amendment. That may be so, but the adverse reaction of liberals to Citizen’s United has deeper roots and implications for constitutional law.

In Citizens United, the majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy states that the Court “has rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not ‘natural persons,’” and affirmed the court’s previous conclusion in Buckley v. Valeo that a “restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.”

The open resistance to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution raises the assertion that it is the Constitution itself which is the supreme law of the land, not the decisions of the Court. Amend 2012, one of the main groups advocating a federal constitutional amendment, succinctly articulates this position: “The U.S. Supreme Court said in the Citizens United decision that corporations are people and money is free speech. We know—and you know—how ridiculous that is.” This light-hearted mission statement contains a profound question of constitutional theory: what happens when the court “gets it wrong”?

In his controversial critique of the Court’s dictum in Cooper v. Aaron which characterized one of its decisions as equivalent to the supreme law of the land, Edwin Meese wrote that the logic behind that assertion “was, and is at war with the Constitution, at war with the basic principles of democratic government, and at war with the very meaning of the rule of law.” Meese, citing Lincoln’s response to the Dred Scott case, argued that we, and the other branches of government, owe our allegiance to the Constitution and that when the Supreme Court makes unconstitutional decisions, it is our duty to offer up some form of resistance.

Amendment 65 and I-166 appear to be expressions of the kind of resistance that Meese advocated coming from the states. Between these measures and the voter initiated attempts to legalize marijuana at the state level in Washington and Colorado, it seems the left has rediscovered federalism as a tool for challenging the federal government. This is all well and good, but the left should remember that extra-judicial constitutional interpretation is a double-edged sword. Corporate personhood was not the only personhood referendum proposed for this year’s ballot.

More concerning is the attempt to use decisions like Citizens United and Bush v. Gore to question the very legitimacy of the Supreme Court.  This loss of faith is what Owen Fiss refers to as a new nihilism, “one that doubts the legitimacy of adjudication.” Should the majority conclude that the foundations of legal authority are fraudulent; the future of the Republic is surely jeopardized.

The political action pushed by Amend 2012 and other groups at the state level serves no practical purpose other than as a form of resistance to a constitutional interpretation which they disagree with, and frankly that purpose is legitimate in and of itself. But advocates from both the right and the left should tread carefully when challenging the Court. Judicial review has worked reasonably well as a system for interpreting the law of the United States, but the authority of the court rests on the people’s perception that its pronouncements are legitimate. Should the legitimacy of the Court be eroded, any institution which stepped in to replace it would be far less legitimate in the eyes of the citizenry.

This comment originally published by JURIST

Matthew Skeen, Sound and Fury: Campaign Finance in 2012, JURIST – Dateline, Nov. 6, 2012, http://jurist.org/dateline/2012/11/matthew-skeen-campaign-finance.php

Justice for Jessica

The confirmation that a dismembered body found in open space outside of Denver was indeed that of Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-year-old girl missing since last Friday, was a sickening blow.

As a relatively new parent, I am still getting used to unconditional love, and the irrational yet relentless fears that something bad will happen to my child. I think it is safe to say that at the bottom of the darkest pit of dread in every parent lies the horror of some disgusting weirdo snatching their child off the streets and doing unspeakably terrible things before taking the body to a field and hacking it to pieces. Its unthinkable, but we think about it all the time. Today the unthinkable became a reality for the Ridgeways, a family I never knew existed but who live maybe 5 miles away from where I tuck my own sweet family into bed each night.

From that same sunless corner of our souls where lies this most terrible fear, a most terrible desire also lurks.

A group of men, their faces fixed in grim determination. They gather at a house, some in front, some in back. The scene is lit with torch light. A curtain moves a light goes out. Someone throws a brick which shatters the front window. “Come on out or we’ll smoke you out.” Next through the window is a lit match and a pile of oily rags. The back door opens and a man makes a run for it, but he’s roughly grabbed by several very serious people. As the fire inside grows, he is walked over to an old tree, set on a tall stool with a noose around his neck. With tears welling up in his eyes, the father looks up at the pervert’s terror-stricken face. “The sword of human justice trembles over you and is about to fall upon your guilty head.” The father kicks the stool away and the sicko drops, his feet kicking as he departs this world for Hades.

As a law student I know that this way madness lies. The rule of law protects both the innocently accused and the souls of the collective for whom justice is meted out by the state. But I would be lying were I to say: “I hope they catch the guy so he can calmly be tried by a jury of his peers.” The Israeli legal philosopher Joseph Raz said that a fair hearing is one of the most important principles of natural justice. What’s natural about a trial? Isn’t the most natural justice the mobile vulgus? Isn’t it time to put the due back in due process? Abraham Lincoln warned against the “disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts, and the worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice.” Lincoln was talking about gamblers hanged in Vicksburg, “a portion of population that is worse than useless in any community; and their death, if no pernicious example be set by it, is never matter of reasonable regret with any one. If they were annually swept from the stage of existence by the plague or smallpox, honest men would perhaps be much profited by the operation.” Despite his harsh words for speculators, he plainly states that “[t]here is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” Not even murderous pedophiles?

My college girlfriend’s cousin lived in Texas with her husband we’ll call him Rick. Rick’s sister had an abusive boyfriend. One day the boyfriend murdered the sister and Rick tracked him down before the cops did and shot the guy dead in the street with a hunting rifle. He spent some time in jail, waiting for trial, and a jury sentenced him to time served.

Swift, satisfying, and effective justice does not await Jessica’s killer. This crime was cold and anonymous rather than passionate and personal, so personal retribution doesn’t seem to be an option. If an informal justice committee wanted to find the guy where would they start? If we offered our services as a lynch mob, the Ridgeways would more than likely call the police. History has taught us that so it should be. But across the city on this cold October night, men are angry. They have been forced into the shadowy realms of their imaginations, a dangerous place to be.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.