Monday, January 17, 2011


It used to be that death and taxes were the only sure things in life. To that list must now be added litigation over the Mt. Soledad cross, litigation entering its twenty-second year.

Death has claimed the original plaintiff, an atheist-veteran named Philip Paulson. Unfortunately the American Civil Liberties Union continues to devote its substantial resources toward the ultimate goal of removing all religious references and symbols from the public life of a republic founded by patriots who saw life and liberty as the gift of a Creator whose justice is praised at length on the Jefferson Memorial, a structure dedicated in 1943.

Ironically, it was Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut that’s been manipulated by cultural elites who’ve constructed a society more reflective of their secular, government-saturated ideals—folks who fervently wish (as a comedian recently said) that the middle of the country would disappear.

Jefferson’s letter, not the first amendment to the Constitution, mentions a “wall of separation between church and state.” It wasn’t until 1947 that those words entered American jurisprudence via an ill-reasoned opinion by Justice Hugo Black who quoted the phrase only to conclude that New Jersey’s subsidy of transportation to parochial schools didn’t violate this non-constitutional yardstick.

It wasn’t long until justices began to employ this same standard to remove all manner of religious actions and objects (from prayer to postings of the ten commandments) from government-related property and activities.

Significantly, two days after Jefferson wrote his now-famous letter, the heterodox President attended a Christian religious service (as he regularly did) that was held in the Capitol building itself—services that took place continuously till after the Civil War.

The Ninth Circuit Court recently ruled (as they did previously concerning a small Mohave Desert cross) that the cross atop Mt. Soledad is an unconstitutional infringement of the establishment clause—a section any honest analyst would acknowledge originally proscribed only the establishment of an official national church along the lines of the Church of England. States, by contrast, were free to promote their own established churches, some of which continued to exist long after the passage of the national constitution.

Today that U.S. Constitution has become, as Jefferson ominously predicted, “a thing of wax” in the hands of an arrogant judiciary. What guides these modern demigods is their own political wishes. As with abortion rights and gay marriage, these jurists regularly exhibit contempt for a Constitution designed to limit the powers of government.

With their connivance government has grown to a gargantuan size that’s inimical to the interests of that liberty our Founding Fathers wished fervently to preserve.

[Jefferson’s Danbury Letter, his attendance of church services in the Capitol building, his view (and others' views) of the first amendment establishment clause, and the use of Jefferson’s letter by Justice Hugo Black in the 1947 Everson case is discussed at length in Stephen Mansfield’s book, Ten Tortured Words.]

Thursday, January 06, 2011


How to balance the state’s budget? That is the question.

The political class ensconced in Sacramento has made clear its preference—higher taxes. Unfortunately for these self-infatuated mandarins, California voters have defeated numerous revenue-enhancing propositions in recent years—most of them quite handily.

On the other hand, voters also soundly rejected the four ballot measures put forward by the original incarnation of Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005—propositions that aimed to restrain spending and curb the power of public employee unions.

In last November’s election, Californians reiterated their support for far-reaching environmental restrictions (Prop. 23) whose ultimate cost, in terms of jobs, lost revenues, and increased prices, will likely dwarf the benefits derived from allowing businesses to keep recently enacted tax breaks (Prop. 24).

Judging from this voting pattern, the mindset of Californians seems to match perfectly, and in spades, this cynical political aphorism: “What voters want from their government is more services and lower taxes.”

In the Golden State those services increasingly come in the form of regulations designed to improve “quality of life”—usually at the expense of economic development.

The most defensible examples of this quality-of-life objective are municipally-based decisions that concern zoning and construction of large retail stores in areas where traffic infrastructure is lacking and the secondary impact of mega-businesses on the surrounding area is uncertain. These are the primary concerns expressed by opponents of a Walmart superstore in Menifee.

The least defensible examples involve federal environmental regulations that put the welfare of critters like the delta smelt above that of thousands of Californians in the Central Valley who depend on its agricultural productivity for their livelihood.

Other laws in the same dubious quality-of-life category are state-based measures that may dramatically increase energy costs for the sake of global warming theories. Remarkably, these laws don’t make the slightest dent in hypothetical climate projections since China and India are (understandably) unwilling to forego the much more tangible, immediate, and certain quality of life improvements linked to economic growth.

Thus the principal benefit of these climate-based energy policies is psychological—to which benefit one may add the largely illusory promise of “green jobs.”

Given these delusional priorities, Californians may eventually embrace the city of Oakland’s solution for its financial woes, marijuana production and taxation—a “silver-bong” that’s been put on hold since the defeat of Proposition 19.

Given a choice between taxing reefer or reworking state pensions, developing oil reserves, improving the business climate and cutting state expenditures, the fraternal twin of the bogus “casino solution” looks pretty good—especially when you’re inhaling deeply.