The Long View 2005-03-25: Good Friday

This quote is remarkable, and has colored my view of government and constitutions ever since:

Someday, a prominent person involved in the Social Security debate is going to say, in public, that the only remedy for a demographic problem is a demographic solution. There will be an immediate response from several points of the political compass, to the effect that the birthrate is no concern of government. To that, others will reply that the Griswald-Roe-Casey regime is already a demographic policy. A full response, which may be a while in coming, would be that oversight of demographics is one of the pre-constitutional functions of government. Like the police powers, or the power to acquire national territory, it is one of those things that every sovereign has to be able to do. That is true even if the sovereign's constitution gives no such power, and even if the constitution says the sovereign has no such power.

Pre-constitutional functions of government is a great turn of phrase.


Good Friday

 

Terri Schiavo does not have long now, unless some official decides to act without color of law. Lots of people are calling on the president, or the governor of Florida, or maybe the local sheriff, to do just that. Readers of this blog will also be aware that I have long been predicting, even advocating, the restriction of judicial review. Let me therefore repeat that this would not be the case to do it. The courts did not manufacture a right to euthanasia for Terri Schiavo, or perhaps for the convenience of her husband. The courts have been applying reasonable statutes in a reasonable manner. If the governor had sent Florida state troopers to take custody, he would not be defying the courts, but the legislature.

Remember the old saying, "A government that can do anything for you can do anything to you"? Do you really want to live in a country where the law can be suspended with respect to popularly designated individuals?

* * *

Meanwhile, at the other end of the sinking Roe v. Wade superliner, we have this uncomfortable truth from Mark Steyn: The strange death of the liberal West:

I am, as Tony Blair might say, deeply passionately personally deeply personally opposed to abortion. But, unlike him, I think it ought to be an election issue...the point about abortion is not that it's a "matter of conscience" for individuals to "wrestle with", but that it's a crucial part of the central political challenge of our time...The 19th-century Shaker communities were forbidden from breeding and could increase their number only by conversion. The Euro-Canadian-Democratic Party welfare secularists seem to have chosen the same predicament voluntarily, and are likely to meet the same fate. The martyrdom culture of radical Islam is a literal dead end. But so is the slyer death culture of post-Christian radical narcissism. This is the political issue that will determine all the others: it's the demography, stupid.

Someday, a prominent person involved in the Social Security debate is going to say, in public, that the only remedy for a demographic problem is a demographic solution. There will be an immediate response from several points of the political compass, to the effect that the birthrate is no concern of government. To that, others will reply that the Griswald-Roe-Casey regime is already a demographic policy. A full response, which may be a while in coming, would be that oversight of demographics is one of the pre-constitutional functions of government. Like the police powers, or the power to acquire national territory, it is one of those things that every sovereign has to be able to do. That is true even if the sovereign's constitution gives no such power, and even if the constitution says the sovereign has no such power.

You see: I am starting to sound like Carl Schmitt. Or perhaps like John Marshall.

* * *

And as if things were not bad enough, that Incorrigible Spengler at Asia Times has taken to writing light opera. To wit: The Jihadis of Penzance: Or, The Slave of Democracy. Just look:

Much of what US President George W Bush and his representatives have said lately might have been extracted from a W S Gilbert libretto. To put the matter in context, I have sketched the sort of libretto that Gilbert might have prepared for Arthur Sullivan were the pair alive today, and embedded in it some of these utterances. Links to MIDI files for the songs are provided in footnotes, and readers are encouraged to sing along with Spengler. Direct quotations from US officials are indicated by italics.

He shall bear a heavier burden in the Latter Day; particularly because he thought of this first.

* * *

About political acrimony, I am pretty thickskinned. It's stories like this that knock the wind out of me:

In a startling discovery, geneticists at Purdue University say they have found plants that possess a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents, as if some handy backup copy with the right version had been made in the grandparents' generation or earlier...If confirmed, it would represent an unprecedented exception to the laws of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel in the 19th century. Equally surprising, the cryptic genome appears not to be made of DNA, the standard hereditary material.

Actually, the suspicion has been growing for several years that DNA may be only one factor in heredity. Polymer chemistry, for instance, determines how proteins twist and bend, which has more to do with the structure of living things than does the information in nuclear DNA. And even regarding the nucleus: if information is not being stored in the DNA, then the obvious place to look is the RNA. However, that hypothesis has problems:

Dr. Haig, the evolutionary biologist, said that the finding was fascinating but that it was too early to try to interpret it. He noted that if there was a cryptic template, it ought to be more resistant to mutation than the DNA it helps correct. Yet it is hard to make this case for RNA, which accumulates many more errors than DNA when it is copied by the cell.

And if all else fails, there is always Morphic Resonance.

I jest. Mostly.

* * *

Waxing even more obscure, here is an item that will make sense only to readers of The Weekly Standard:

It is unlikely I will rent the new film, The Upside of Anger, much less that I will go to see it in a theater. Nonetheless, I found a certain fascination in John Podhoretz's review in The Weekly Standard of March 28. The film stars Kevin Costner and Joan Allen, and Podhoretz praises them to the skies (especially Costner, who is due for a little luck). The film is about the relationship between an apparently deserted wife and a gone-to-seed baseball player. It ends with a plot twist that seems plausible enough for a movie. The reviewer, however, goes ballistic, for reasons I find mysterious:

There is one upside to the anger I experienced as the closing credits rolled. It convinced me to blow the surprise ending so that you could leave the theater after about an hour and 50 minutes. When you see Kevin Costner starting to walk into the backyard with a couple of contractors, get your coat and leave. You'll think better of The Upside of Anger and not have the pleasure of seeing it damaged by the well-deserved contempt you'll feel if you stay until the bitter end.

Well, I will not give the ending away. Bad reviews are the most fun to read, whether or not you have the details. I quote it here chiefly because I find Podhoretz's reaction mysterious. Can anyone enlighten me?

* * *

Be that as it may, The Upside of Anger sounds like a chick-flick. If you want to see a real movie, or at least a real trailer, visit the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

The UFA has risen from its moldy grave and shambles amongst us.

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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