April 11, 2005

focus on the tautology

First, let me candidly admit what a valuable resource Focus on the Family and Dr. James Dobson has been to my family. I remember well the films shown at my Church back when Dr. Dobson was relatively unknown and I was a young adult with a great need for Dr. Dobson’s wisdom. Since then, I have purchased and read a number of Dr. Dobson’s books, and my Son’s video library has a generous selection of the wonderful Adventures in Odyssey videos that Focus on the Family produces. I am grateful and will continue to be grateful for the professional wisdom Dr. Dobson has shared.

This gratitude, however, does not extend to the ever-increasing political activities of Dr. Dobson and the Focus on the Family organizations.

In the Focus on the Family Action April newsletter, Dr. Dobson wrote an article entitled Life, Death and Judicial Tyranny extolling the perils of the judiciary and calling the faithful to action with respect to the administration’s effort to get its judicial nominees confirmed in the senate. In his view, the Terri Schiavo imbroglio was solid evidence of an Imperial Court imposing its will on a Moral Majority and the way to set things right is by getting more right minded jurists to the bench.

It seems to me that the greater imperialistic risk of that episode came from a Federal Government intervening in a matter that was well adjudicated in Florida Courts. And while I am concerned with the make-up of the jurists on the Federal bench, I have trouble imagining how Dobson’s purposefully expanding upon the politicization of judicial nomination process can be calculated to improve the jurisprudential temperament of the courts. But the most disturbing thing Dobson wrote does not clearly tie to a specific public issue, but rather involves an extraordinarily misleading and erroneous "analysis" of the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison .

In Dobson’s view, Marbury v. Madison is the root of all evil. Indeed, Dobson’s pièce de résistance in that newsletter was the argument that the founders never intended judicial review as a Constitutional power. Disingenuously he effusively quoted Thomas Jefferson’s remarks that possession by the courts of such a power would lead to oligarchy. His clear implication that this was the position of all the founders is clearly not so.

As you can imagine, there has been much ink spilt in the last two centuries on this very point, however absent from Dobson’s argument is even the scarcest hint of an objective inquiry into the arguments for and against judicial review. But then, I would not expect such a thoughtful analysis from someone who is so blinded by a political agenda that they omit from their diatribe the essential fact that when Jefferson was writing in criticism of judicial review, he was opining from the losing end of a political struggle.

And perhaps it might be worth noting that the man that opposed the Constitution with greater vigor than any of the other anti-ratification voices might not necessarily be the best citation on a point of Constitutional law in the first place. It seems worth at least a mention that in Federalist Paper number 78, Alexander Hamilton, one of the staunchest advocates of the new Federal Constitution, put forth a vigorous argument in favor of judicial review as being essential for the protection of the individual’s rights. Whatever happened in Marbury it is clear that Justice Marshall was not simply creating the doctrine of judicial review out of whole cloth as Dobson is suggesting.

Sadly, in the political realm, omitting inconvenient facts and demagoging on those found more useful has become the norm.

But in the process of demagoging this issue, Dobson has seldom been more out of his element. That he self-righteously calls on the name of Jefferson, a somewhat dubious source for Original Meanings, evidences a radical contempt for his listeners ability, or more likely willingness, to investigate the evidence for themselves.

If you have sympathy for Dobson’s view, I would urge a personal examination. Judicial review at one time troubled me too because on its face it smacks of judicial over-reaching. I am a big believer in courts deciding the cases before them and going no further than necessary to discharge their duty. But after some study I came to the understanding that judicial review is in fact a logical extension of a court’s inherent authority to apply law to facts. A logical extension of the founder’s desires to put the Constitution and the Courts above the political process in an endeavor to preserve the blessings of liberty for posterity.

Federalist No. 78 is actually quite compelling on this point.

Digging into the matter, you will discover that no matter where you come out on judicial review, there are a lot of tough questions you have to answer to get a clear understanding of how this should in fact work. Who would you choose to be the final arbiter of Constitutionality? And what sources are the arbiter to consider in determining Constitutionality? I for one do not consider it wise to submit our human rights to the Legislature or Executive for arbitration but those of you who believe in the virtue of the majority may feel otherwise. And anyone who tells you that constitutional interpretation is as simple as applying “strict construction” is either blowing political smoke or has not seriously studied the issue.

It is clear that Dobson does not expect to be questioned by his followers with any intellectual rigor.

As you might imagine, I have only just touched on the most abrasive of Dobson’s misleading arguments. The genuinely disturbing thing is that so few of my brothers and sisters in Christ will question the word of Dobson and I have no doubt that the bumper-sticker phrase “Judicial Imperialism” will be on the lips of many evangelicals for many weeks to come.

Fortunately for Americans, we still cling to the tatters of a body of law that knows no equal in history. Time will tell whether this audacious power grab by the majoritarian wolves, cloaked as Christian sheep, will run its course before the last vestiges of Liberty are wrested from We the People. Sadly I fear that in an age when politicians like Dobson get so much traction, perhaps we do deserve what we are getting.

Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.


Blogger someone else said...

I really admire people who are willing to politically criticize organizations that have meant something to them but are not doing good. Thanks for the post, Tony.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

What'd really scary is the alliance of politicians and preachers. I don't think that some of the preachers who have joined this current wave understand that while their intentions are good, politicians may not share their intentions. The Tom Delay's of this world are bent on fulfilling an agenda to control government unfettered by the constraints put in place to limit governance by fiat.
The attack on the judiciary is sinister in that it appeals to religious zealots who have for the last 30 yrs, blamed the judiciary for the Roe v Wade decision, a decision that can be easily overturned by legislation.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Yep... Federalist 78, and I also read 76 and 77 again. Hamilton got it right over 200 years ago, and most of us don't get it in 2005. Pretty sad. Dobson should stick to what he's good at (whatever that is)... obviously being a historian isn't it. The "activist judge" charges are ludicrous. The judiciary was the weakest branch of goverment in 1787, and still is in 2005. It took lifetime appointments (during good behavior) and judicial review to give the judges a fighting chance. If the theocracy crowd really think they want a US where the DeLay's could control the court... all they have to imagine is a US where the Ted Kennedy's control the court. When you are part of the 51%, you might like having the legislative branch in charge. If you are part of the 49%, the judges in charge seem like a very good concept.

Class... repeat after me... Pluralism.

It not very smart to go against Hamilton and company, but I still say the judge nomination process should change (as you said, would require a constitutional ammendment). I would have the Senate nominate and confirm, alternating nominations between parties. I would required a super majority. Hamilton made compelling reasons for nominations to come from the executive branch, but based on what I've observed as basically one-party presidents (we don't get a president for all of us anymore)... I think I would just leave it up to the Senate. As long as we elect the Bush 43's rather than the Mario Cuomo's... we need to rethink executive powers... particularly that voting to go to war thing. :(

9:37 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

As long as we elect the Bush 43's rather than the Mario Cuomo's... we need to rethink executive powers...

This is a dangerous path to go down. I understand that there are certain times when political interests and my opinions on what kind of structural change would be good overlap; for e.g., I'd really like to see Democrats embrace federalism and other forms of local rule. However, I think it's dangerous to let our political calculations affect certain core institutions of any functioning society--like a relatively independent judiciary, relatively independent news sources, etc.

I know that's not exactly what you were saying (I think), but it trips alarm bells for me, conservative that I am :)

8:12 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Well, I think every time I hear structural reform put forth, I always conclude that whatever the merits of the structural reform, we need political reform if we are to have any hope of making progress.

If you want a reform that I think would really matter, lets look at a Constitutional Amendment instituting term limits and campaign spending limits. How about an Amendment striking down the ballot access limits that the Democrats and Republicans have imposed on Americans and which make it very difficult for third parties to get a start. How about stiff criminal sanctions for corrupt practices such as Supreme Court judges that go on hunting trips with litigants?

Don’t misunderstand, I think changing the judicial nomination process can make sense, but it isn’t at the top of my list on urgent problems. That says more about the urgency of other issues than it does the importance of judicial system reform.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Saurav and Tony,

Don't get me wrong... I think all constitution changes should be done with caution. It also goes without saying, IMO, that term limits is at the top of the list of what should be changed immediately. I just assume that one. That said, I think it's time to face reality that our government has taken an ugly turn towards "winner take all". Different rules are needed depending on the level of "winner take all" mentality in Washington. You need one set of rules/laws when a president is a president of the entire population, and a different set of rules when the presidents are just presidents to 50% of the nation. In 43's case, I don't think he really cares what anyone thinks. I believe he sees himself as a total free agent. Nothing like a C student making decisions for 280 million people... or I guess billions when you consider the impact of his decisions on the rest of the world. So all I'm suggesting is facing the reality of our current political animals in Washington. It just seems nuts to give the keys to the kingdom to the party who won 51% of the vote... and claims a mandate. Why would/should we allow any majority party to control the agenda 100%. It makes no logical sense. It would be fine if these guys all worked together, patted the back on the other side when a good idea was recognized, etc. That's not the current reality, however. The judge nomination process and the nuclear option threat is a perfect example. Forget the details of the fight for a moment (i.e. Dem filibusters, etc.) and just consider the result if the GOP follows through on their threat. The result, simply put, would be to remove the intended check of the Senate on the judge nomination process. Fact: The GOP will vote in block to confirm anyone 43 puts forward... that's just a fact. In the Federalist Papers Tony referred to, there was great debate on where to place the power of nominating and confirming judges. Many thought it should be solely the exectutive's power (which is what we will get if we kill the filibuster). Many thought it should only be the Senate's job (that's where I am leaning now, alternating nominations between parties). However, in Hamilton's own words, he talks about the constraint a President would feel regarding avoiding the embarrassment of a Senate rejecting his nominations. This president goes out of his way to pick a fight... doesn't even talk to the other party before putting up a nomination. I just have to assume this is what we will get going forward regardless of which party gets the presidency. It's time for corrective measures. Tony is right when he says there are bigger problems at play, but that doesn't seem a good reason to avoid making common sense law changes that could help. Simply put, "winner take all" in a polarized nation is a recipe for disaster... and we are living the 8 year disaster right now.

Maybe in 2008 we can find a president for all of us... but I doubt it. In the meantime, the nation needs help changing our "winner take all" goverment. The Kerry/Bush election represented a real sickness of our nation. It almost felt pre-civil war like. If the 49% losing side at least felt is was still in the game (judge nominations, participated in agenda, etc.), then the tension would be reduced. At the end of the day, we will still be polarized... not even on the same page regarding what we want the US to be, but we have to look for ways to get through that reality by reducing the tensions. Some tensions are good and needed in a democracy, but I see no upside in the "51% winner take all" current practice.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You are getting there if you understand that the next election is calculated to make nearly zero impact on our downward spiral as a nation. As long as we limit ourselves to the two parties and continue ratifying their bogus agendas, financial corruption and contempt for the general welfare, nothing significant will change.

Oh, if it is a Dem in office, the issues under consideration will be couched differently. And maybe there will be liberal program here or there that succeeds. But in the grand scope, by sticking with what we have, no significant progress can be made.

My hope is that perhaps we can become sufficiently deadlocked as to prevent further action by the Federal government. That would be a sad situation, but not nearly as sad as the stupid legislation we have been getting for some time that on balance does more harm than good.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"You are getting there if you understand that the next election is calculated to make nearly zero impact on our downward spiral as a nation."

I'm pretty much convinced we will continue to elect the Shrubs and not the Cuomos. The type of constitution changes I'm proposing could reduce the boil within the population ... it won't cure the corruption in Washington. In the current environment, the only chance for the type of law changes I'm talking about has to be proposed from the "winning" side. We have to finally find one President, one Senator.... just one from the winning side to step up and say... enough already. Let's recognize the ugly polarization that exists (in America)... and change the constitution to mitigate the "winner take all" deficiencies.

"As long as we limit ourselves to the two parties and continue ratifying their bogus agendas, financial corruption and contempt for the general welfare, nothing significant will change.

Oh, if it is a Dem in office, the issues under consideration will be couched differently. And maybe there will be liberal program here or there that succeeds."

It's more than just "couched differently". Having a national conversation right now about the health care crisis rather than Social Security isn't just "couched differently". Of course, in the end, they probably wouldn't get anything done on health care, just like they won't get anything done on SS. That said, I will take health care being front and center in the "not getting it done" .... admin after admin than the other BS passing for priorities these days.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You said, Of course, in the end, they probably wouldn't get anything done on health care, just like they won't get anything done on SS.

Exactly my point. Hey, if it makes you feel better to have the issues you care about “front and center”, I’m glad that works for you. Here on planet Earth, what matters is what actually gets done. And nothing will happen under the current regime.

When I advocate a regime change, I mean far more than just removing Shrub from the Oval Office.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

My name is TexasConservative and I am an evangelical.

Therefore, not only do I disagree with you, but evidently I need to search within myself to see why I am wrong. That's funny.

It made me sad, actually. It made me feel like the human race is evolving into something unrecognizable to me. How far have we strayed to miss the forest for the trees on something as basic as the Schiavo case? What would our greatest generation have done with this case? What would an even more respectable, more prudent, more "American", more [best adjective here] generation have done with this case? The fact is, I agree with Dr. Dobson. It IS emblematic of what is happening in many (not all, of course) of our courts today. I try to avoid the bumper-sticker mentality of "judges should interpret not invent" but it boils down to that basic premise. Many judges are choosing to impose their opinions as opposed to discerning what the constitution has to say about something. They DON'T see it as a "contract" but as a "living breathing document." Justice Scalia hit it right on the head. I wish I could say it more eloquently.

I don't believe it's all judges, of course, there are many good ones. But when you think of some of the cases, dear goodness, the pledge of allegiance, prayer in school, same-sex marriages (AGAINST THEIR OWN STATE CONSTITUTIONS), it leaves me with little hope for that branch of our government producing no figs.

And geeze, Curmie, if you admire him so much, why do you publicly castigate him for some supposed "political agenda". Have you stopped to think that maybe for him, as for you, it's deeper than a two-party system and he's doing everything he can to further the cause of Christ in our nation? Are you the sole owner of a cause that transcends a political party or agenda? Surely there are at least 100 other people more worthy of your laser-like scorn. Have you exhausted all the people more deserving of criticism that you are now on the list of people that have contributed more to the cause of Jesus Christ than, let's face it, you and I ever will - put together? I'm not sure how I'm going to explain this to my son one day. "Well you see, a judge can order someone to not be fed even though they are not in a coma, nor on life support, even if they don't lack the assistance of family." How are you going to explain it to your son? I could use some advice, really. What, is more important than life?

When did laws usurp the sustenance of innocent life?

2:34 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Welcome back to the disagreement side of the Curmudgeon ledger. I think the planets are indeed back in their courses!

First, where I think things went wrong in the Schiavo case. I totally believe that the law should be that absent a prior written expression of an individual's desires while incompetent, that there should be a legal presumption favoring continuing life. Now, absent that presumption, Florida had a procedure for determining what her choice would be. It was fully litigated and from what I read, I find their conclusion problematic but then I wasn't privy to even a small fraction of what the judges where. Courts are not a perfect finder of fact-this is certain, but neither is the court of public opinion. Either you trust our court system or you don't. If you don't trust the courts, we have all kinds of problems. (I don't, but that is another discussion.)

Now if Terri made the choice to commit suicide in this situation, I think she made a morally incorrect choice, but I do believe that it is fundamental to our freedom that she be allowed to make that choice. That there is no perfect mechanism for determining her will is why I believe that a presumption of life is desperately needed.

On jurisprudence. I have no trouble with the summary phrase "judges should interpret not invent". It is an accurate description of my own point of view. What bothers me is that people are so certain that they know how to do that or that by taking a sound jurisprudential approach, certain outcomes would necessarily follow.

Now, I would disagree with not only the fuzzy minded leftists on the nature of the Constitution, but Scalia as well. It isn't a living document in the sense of malleability. And it isn't a contract: it is something much more significant. The constitution sets above all other law and while it represents a contract in a sense, there are no clauses that get anybody out. No doctrine of Force Majure or Impossibility. I'd call it something more akin to a covenant. Nobody gets more irritated than I about the judiciary running roughshod over the law.

But I've read many of Scalia's opinions and for all his fine words about judicial temperament, he is as result oriented as they come. Read the Sacramental Peyote case sometime (I'm getting old and the citation escapes me this second)-no judicial restraint there let me assure you.

Left or Right our judiciary has become far to politicized and that is the root of the problem. Judges now have political interest rather than being committed to sound jurisprudence. Activists from either the left or the right will cause a breakdown in the rule of law. My desire is for genuine legal conservatism. A real return to the constitution. Not the phony version the Right is pushing.

On singling out Dobson. I have avoided writing to directly criticize him for some time strictly out of respect. It has been hard to resist as I have listened to his strident tone over the years and I really do get saddened by his vitriol. But when I saw the overt dishonesty of this latest push, I had to speak my mind.

Now you are correct, I am not the final arbiter of Dr. James Dobson or anybody's position with God. While I may not solely own knowledge of what constitutes a heart for Christ as opposed to a political agenda, I can speak out about facts. When Dobson starts inviting politicians on his radio show (Mark Levin) and adopting their arguments without any apparent independent research, I think it is a fair conclusion that he is playing a political game. And he isn't just adopting Levin's argument, he is doing so uncritically. He is laying out half-truths in furtherance of a political agenda no matter what his motives may be.

The truth is that Dobson should retract his statements on Judicial Review and Marbury v. Madison. If he wants to argue against Judicial Review, I think that is fine. A lot of fine people disagree with the concept. But he should make a reasoned argument and get his facts straight.

You suggested that there are others more worthy of my condemnation, and perhaps there are. But the fact of the matter is that Dobson is the key voice in a very dangerous movement that threatens the Constitutional protections such as the Free Exercise of Religion. I honestly directed my argument to his specific article and which was at best misleading. But if I were to write a general Critique of the Religious Right, it would be hard to avoid naming his name anyway because he is such a central player. But, I have avoided naming him in the past because he has not ever gone public with anything quite this absurd before.

As to how to explain this all to Joshua, I’ve given that a fair bit of thought. We have started discussing this stuff to some extent because we just finished a biography of Frederick Douglass. We have been over the difference between the laws of God and the laws of men and how they are different things. I think he will be well educated that the law often works for evil. And I will continue to encourage him to work to set things right while we await Christ’s return and the true healing that will bring.

You concluded by asking, “What, is more important than life? When did laws usurp the sustenance of innocent life?

Under the US system of laws, the right to life is of first order importance. To adequately vindicate this right, the law should protect an individual’s right to make choices that will result in their death as well. Terri Schiavo’s sustenance was not usurped. If I felt it had been, I would be as outraged as anyone. The Florida courts adequately litigated what Terri’s will on the matter was to the best of its ability. I might disagree with that choice, but by upholding her choice, the courts were in fact protecting her right to control her own life, not impairing it.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


A couple of questions:

Are you aware that the Florida law allowed the courts to try and determine an individuals wishes regarding the right to die, even if they didn't have it in writing?

If yes, why the charge of judicial activism? Why wouldn't your disagreement be with the legislature that created the Florida law, rather than the judge?

Do you accept that those with living wills in Terri's condition have the LEGAL right to die if that is the individual's, spelled out wishes? If not, what are your rules for keeping someone alive... for example, against their will, to the full extent of technology, ??

Do you feel obligated to "further the cause of Christ" with OUR government? If so, aren't you claiming the government for yourself (one faction)?

Did you just tell us you don't believe Dobson is political?

4:14 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Courts are not a perfect finder of fact-this is certain, but neither is the court of public opinion.

It’s not so much the court of public opinion, it’s the public responding to events taking place that are in the public’s interest; nay - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Either you trust our court system or you don't.

The montra of people on the right is always “choose life.” I know that tends to wear thin on people because it IS on so many bumper stickers. I think of the Simpson’s character that frequently interjects in unrelated situations “What about the children? Won’t somebody PLEASE think about the children!” Butt, when the courts get it wrong, we NEED some kind of instant replay to make sure the best call available is made when it comes to someone’s life. It doesn’t help when it’s someone like Delay, whom has a lot to answer for, but nevertheless, there are motives that transcend self-interest and I think even Pres. Clinton is guilty of some of them.

Seems like the courts got it wrong:

She had no will stating to not care for her.
Why would he take care of her at all if she did not want it?
How can a man living with the mother of 2 of his kids be the guarding of his real wife while her parents are still alive?

Ok, so you don’t know for sure what she wants, that’s fair, but preventing her from having ice chips during her last hours is not something you would even to to a dog. I know, I know, won’t somebody please think about the children.

What bothers me is that people are so certain that they know how to do that or that by taking a sound jurisprudential approach, certain outcomes would necessarily follow.

This is a very valid argument, but the premise should be that we can trace decisions that deviate from 200-year traditions to the constitution in some way. Do you agree?

How can you say:

The Florida courts adequately litigated what Terri’s will on the matter was to the best of its ability.

And STILL say we should error on the side of life? Again, if there was a living will, the point would be moot and I don’t believe it would have made it past CNN’s Monday-morning round table.

Yes. And it is up to them to make their determination based on ALL information available to them. Did the judge even visit her? Ok, I’ll ask this, is it reasonable for a judge to visit a patient in Terri’s condition (or worse) in these types of cases – Yes. If she WANTED to die, why did Michael S. take care of her to begin with? If she WANTED to die, why was Michael so adamant about physical therapy in the beginning? Why didn’t he mention it before? I understand 100% that after all that time, he would move on emotionally, I do, believe me. The idea that a court would not take that into consideration in awarding/maintaining guardianship is akin to a computer program that can’t learn from new information. It’s programmed a certain way and does not respond to changes in the environment. They should have chosen to error on the side that kept her alive and allowed her parents to take over responsibility for her. Why is that so horrible to let her live? Why does that violate the rule of law? Again – NOT KNOWING HER WISHES.

Explain to me why that is so wrong? What laws do we violate by letting her live? These aren’t tax dollars? Why are we discarding the rule of law by letting someone live? We’re not apes, here. We’re capable of rationale.

Yes, I believe someone has the right to die. Bikers not wearing helmets do it every day. I don’t believe a court has the right to kill an innocent person when that person is not in a position to make that decision.

I think that as a society, we took a step back.

As for Dobson being political, I could see how you could see that. What you seem to be missing is that he subscribes to an ideology that is almost completely unrepresented by one of two parties. Adhering to an ideology that is a footstool to one party doesn't make you political. Don't you KNOW that?

Won’t somebody, please, think about the children?

6:09 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"They should have chosen to error on the side that kept her alive and allowed her parents to take over responsibility for her. Why is that so horrible to let her live? Why does that violate the rule of law? Again – NOT KNOWING HER WISHES."

I don't know if you read Tony's previous blog when we discussed this, so I'm going to repeat some things here. First, I think as soon as someone is in Terri's situation without written instructions, it's a total crap shoot to figure it out. I'm always the one on this blogsite that doesn't generally believe much in States rights. Turns out many conservatives all of a sudden didn't believe in States rights on this issue... I agree with this time... weird. I posted as much, suggesting we need a Federal standard when these cases occur without written instruction... and Tony pretty much said it was a stupid, or trivial idea... something like that (he can be very mean). IMO, we should get on with whatever that Federal standard is regarding "dying people without written instructions". I don't think it will solve everything, and the RR's right yelling that this was state sanctioned murder proves it. That argument just isn't rational. It can be a very rational argument to make that the Florida law was wrong, but one just looks silly when people turn this into a Judge bashing. Florida law is what it is... if you can prove they broke Florida law, then bring it on. Be mad at the law if you will, but judge bashing is evil... one of these guys will get killed some day by a crazy. The stunt pulled by the Congress should send shivers down your spine. A conservative Florida judge said as much.

The charges of murder are ludicrous. Polls showed that 80% of us would not want to be kept alive in Terri's situation. If I was in that situation, and you were in charge, you would be standing on your holy soap box proclaiming that you have protected me and our nation by force feeding me for several decades. All the while, I may be cussing you in my mind because you are torturing me without my consent. Let me repeat.... 80% of us wouldn't want to be kept alive in that situation. Your cause is likely something other than the individual in that case... it's ideological, religious, whatever... it's not protecting most of those folks rights. It is very likely.... 80% likely just meddling and force feeding one of the 80% that want no part of your forced lab experiment.

I guess that's the main point... the "err on the side of life" is an insufficient answer to these types of problems. Like I posted before.... the conservatives sure better back off their no-taxes ideology if they intend to house every human shell in the future Matrix pods. It's kind of ironic that the main faction postponing Terri's chance to meet her creator is the one's who believe in the creator. Here is a question for those who see this situation so clearly... How do you know if God worked his will when Terri had her heart attack... and man is working against his will by using man-made technology to keep her alive? Is the thinking God provided the technology, so use it to it's full extent... no matter the consequences? It's just dumb to say all of the families that face these issues every day is choosing murder... and if you don't believe individuals letting a love one pass on is murdering, then stop the stupid talk about state sponsored murder. The courts did the best they could with the current laws, and then honored what they concluded to be Terri's wishes. The zealotry shows it's ugly head when the zealots turn on anyone that stands in their way... judges, Michael's personal life, etc. Battle for a different law... I think it should be federal. The nation didn't take any step backwards... but addressing this type of case on a Federal basis could be a step forward. I proposes some other steps forward. Required living wills to get drivers license or to get married. Yet another example where this society is just to self-interest/individual rights based. Many conservative would start out believing Federal intervention into personal lives or the states is the devil himself. However, make it anything related to the so called "sanctity of life"... and they turn full circle and yell of Federal action... Ironic.

I will agree to let you keep all folks alive in the pods that don't have living wills if you agree to universal healthcare. Deal?

9:00 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Finished Perfectly Legal yet? I keep waiting on the Prof book review.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...


Polls showed that 80% of us would not want to be kept alive in Terri's situation.

I need to correct you. Perhaps you are referring to the ABC poll which asked:

"Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Do you support the decision to remove Terri's feeding tube?"

Well, yeah, a large number of people answered 'yes' but that is a leading question (and I don't have to have a law degree to know that.) Zogby asked a better question from which the results were a better reflection of how people felt about this:

“If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water?”

79% of people answered that nourishment should NOT be withheld.

The fact is it was THE COURT that brought this about. To agree with you would be to suggest the court had its hands tied by some law that prevented them from re-inserting the tube.

THAT, CommonGood, was NOT the case.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I'm off to vacation, so I will have to leave you in Tony's hands. :)

btw... on the dog analogy. I think we often treat dogs much better than people. We take our pets in for a humane shot when we have to put them down. We do it because we love them, not because we want to murder them. We do it when they are in pain... not necessarily measured with when their last natural breath would be. Many in the RR have a different standard... a more cruel standard for humans. They are suppose to accept their suffering to honor some religious belief. Sorry... many of us won't sign up for that nonsense. Calling Terri "just disabled" pretty much speaks for itself.

Blog on CurmLand dwellers....

8:43 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You said, “when the courts get it wrong, we NEED some kind of instant replay to make sure the best call available is made when it comes to someone’s life.”

I believe in the old John Adams line that we should be a nation of laws, not of men. The problem with your statement is that you are taking things outside the rules. Much like my criticism in the original post, I would ask you who is to be the final arbiter of such things? And what does this say about the court system?

The fact is that substituting the majority opinion for that of our judicial system undermines the very basis of our legal protections because suddenly all human rights are subject to the whims of the majority. As I have said many times and many ways, I can think of nothing more immoral than defining human rights by majority vote. You only have to look at our own history to see this.

You asked a question that I did not understand: “…but the premise should be that we can trace decisions that deviate from 200-year traditions to the constitution in some way. Do you agree?” I can give you a rather long list of clear deviations from the legislative intent of the founders. I think those deviations are wrong and should be rethought and fixed by the Supreme Court.

Next you asked, “How can you say: ‘The Florida courts adequately litigated what Terri’s will on the matter was to the best of its ability.’ And STILL say we should error on the side of life?” Very easily. I want the law to be changed so that it will always err on the side of life. Florida courts have been disturbingly comfortable with euthanasia over the last four decades. I actually researched this in some detail in law school. But, whether you or I like the law is not germane to what the law actually is. As I said above, I have a rather long list of bad law. Bottom line is I believe on balance that respecting the rule of law is the best way to protect our individual liberties.

Understand me on Schiavo: I am NOT saying that if I were a Florida judge that I would have found the facts the way they did. I am saying I don’t know without seeing all the facts. From the limited reports that you and I have, the best you can say about Terri Schiavo’s will is that we do not know.

Again, I would take this out of the courts hands and create a presumption for life in the absence of a prior written expression. And I’m genuinely sad that this is not the law. I’d be happy to work with you to support this change.

I do not share your view that we took a step back because Terri Schiavo died. We are pretty much already in the toilet. It is a matter whether we can have the guts and gumption to reclaim our heritage and move forward. The Schiavo imbroglio is a symptom of greater problems.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

I am not advocating a system of majority rule. I do not ascribe to a notion that we should be a nation of men and NOT laws. Also, you're preaching to the choir when you speak of the fact that our framers constructed a system based on the minority to avoid majority rule. You've taught me more about that but I had that premise drilled into my brain by a very good high school poli-sci teacher. When I refer to the "public" or "most people" it is because I'm always thrown the comments purporting "the Religious Right thinks", "Evangelicals say" or "Conservatives insist" and my retort most often is "hey, it's more than just conservatives." THAT is why I (I is in uppercase) speak of what the majority of people think.

It's a defense mechanism more than some obfuscated belief on how our system of government was founded.

I think those deviations are wrong and should be rethought and fixed by the Supreme Court.

Thank you. So you admit that there have been wrong decisions. THAT is what I am saying in THIS situation. You can't argue that "this decision was right because the judge was right but the law is wrong but sometimes the law is right and the courts decisions are wrong but not in this case."

I want the law to be changed so that it will always err on the side of life.

Do you not believe that the judge had the ability to do this? Do you think the judge had his hands tied and HAD to come to this conclusion? If you say you do, then I'll know that your interpretation of the FL law is different than mine.

Dobson is the key voice in a very dangerous movement that threatens the Constitutional protections such as the Free Exercise of Religion.

What? Maybe you can post a link in case you've already written about this to avoid a long exchange. How is Dr. Dobson threatening the 'Constitutional protections of Free Exercise of Religion?' By exercising HIS rights?

10:04 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well, I’m glad we agree about majoritarianism. I see to remember a very long post from you once upon a time that sounded like you were miffed about the homosexual marriage because the majority opposed it. If I have lept to conclusions, you have my sincere apology.

As to bad jurisprudence, I didn’t “admit” to anything new or different suddenly. I’ve been decrying the state of affairs loudly for over ten years. It is pretty messed up.

Next you characterized my position as, “this decision was right because the judge was right but the law is wrong but sometimes the law is right and the courts decisions are wrong but not in this case.”

I’ll take it clause by clause just for clarity.

1) this decision was right because the judge was right but the law is wrong

This happens all the time. Judges should not make law.

2) but sometimes the law is right and the courts decisions are wrong

Well, this happens all the time too. In fact this is the category I’d put most of the Constitutional stupidity of the Supreme Court under.

3) but not in this case

What I am saying that about the Shiavo case is closest to #1. I’m saying the law is wrong. The judges applied the law correctly. And you and I are unable to ascertain whether the lower courts found the facts correctly.

Next you asked, Do you not believe that the judge had the ability to do this [change the law to err on the side of life]? Do you think the judge had his hands tied and HAD to come to this conclusion?

Great question. No, I do not think judges should make law. They were charged with determining Terri’s wishes. Their hands should be tied and that would be the only issue before them.

Now, what you are touching on is the fact that courts go outside of appropriate judicial reasoning all the time. I saw and Oklahoma Supreme Court opinion once where a judge wrote up a statute and stuck it right in the opinion. I think this is just as broken as anything can be. The irony here is that you are arguing that the judge should have made new law while claiming to side with those who want to treat the Constitution, and by extension legislation, as situational and malleable. My view is that it is the Legislature’s sole prerogative to promulgate positive law.

Next you ask the even better question of, How is Dr. Dobson threatening the 'Constitutional protections of Free Exercise of Religion?' By exercising HIS rights?

Gotta love a softball. I actually have only this one time singled out Dobson. I don’t mind when discussions go off topic, but if you will remember my primary purpose in the original post was to call Dobson on the carpet very specifically for his misleading arguments on Judicial Review and Marbury v. Madison. I have no interest in addressing Dobson specifically on this point except to the extent that he is one of the key leaders.

Instead, I charge the entire Religious Right with threatening their own free exercise of religion. There are two ways this is a concern.

First, by encouraging legislation on things like gay marriage. I don’t want to go into that specific issue because it will obscure my fundamental point that by pressing religious doctrines into our law, especially at a human rights level, we will set a precedent where the government can and should regulate religious practice. Now technically, this is unconstitutional, but we as a society have chosen to wink at all kinds of unconstitutional things. Perhaps, one might argue, this is a small intrusion on civil liberties compared to the other things are out there. And that might be so. But I fear the cumulative effect of ignoring our Constitutional protections leads to haphazard and uncertain law.

Second, the Religious Right is by its militant tone inviting (and receiving) a backlash of negative public sentiment. Now that by it’s self would not dissuade me. If the price of having an unpopular opinion is oppression, then we as Christians must stand up for truth. But the negative backlash is quite unnecessary. If we adopt the traditional rhetoric of love and compassion, recognize that the United States is but a part of an evil world system that will not fall until the second advent of our savior, and back off from unseemly political entanglements with corrupt politicians, then I believe the backlash will moderate. As it stands, we are inviting more negative legal and social consequences in the near term.

Part of me thinks that perhaps that I should remain silent on this point because I think perhaps a bit of real persecution might help remind us all that we are strangers in a strange land.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

So Tony,

What I hear you saying is - although you do not have sympathy for Dr. Dobson's RR view, you do see that in some instances what he is saying does have merit. I think what you are trying to say is-his point has merit he is just going about it the wrong way, and instead of solidifying a peacefull movement, he is kicking a bee's nest and stirring up a whole lot more resistance to his forcalbe pushing.

Did I paraphrase well?

12:30 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Sort of. I do think the tone of Dobson is a greater problem than the substance. But I have a substantive problem as well with his attempt to further politicize the judicial nomination process. Now, he didn’t start that and if you are in the blame game, we can go back to the Robert Bork nomination. But regardless of how we got to this retarded nomination mess, I don’t think further politicization is helpful.

I have substantive issues with Dobson in other areas as well.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


You know this is coming, care to elaborate on the issues that you disagree with Dobson on.

I do take into account that you mentioned in the "post" that you have labelled him as a valuable resourse.

I do agree with you that I was somewhat dismayed by his newsletter, although I could not get there via your link, it seems to send you somewhere else. He is just stating what he believes and I have to think that after the years of good advise Focus on the Family has been able to give to families, he seems to be a voice of Christian reason, and things should be said over and over. Sometimes. We do not know all the details of the several judges that have been philibustered, but maybe there is good reason, maybe not. I tend to support the shrub, even though I do not agree with him on several issues.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well, I’d have to say the biggest substantive issue that I have with Dobson on is the homosexual rights issue. It is pretty clear to me that in a free society, people should be treated equally. We have covered all this ground before.

Next, I’d say the issue of his using highly manipulative and misleading arguments on the judicial review thing is suddenly really huge for me. Keep in mind, I’m not dissing the viewpoint per se (although I do disagree) but more importantly I am criticizing his method of argument. It was at a minimum irresponsible.

I’m sure there are other issues we are at odds over and that I am not remembering, but really, these specific issues are far less significant than is my abhorrence of his close alignment with political figures and the Republican Part specifically. He makes great claims about holding them accountable, but continues to cozy back up. I think allying so closely to politics is unnecessarily damaging to the great commission.

And when you couple this with an attitude that usually comes off as condescending and arrogant, and you have a real problem. We are to reach out to the World in Love. But then, I’ve never been real happy with the Hell, Fire and Damnation approach to Evangelism. Best I can tell, Jesus seldom took that approach. I have no problem with speaking the Truth at all. But speaking the Truth in a way that guarantees it will not be heard is no more useful than just keeping your mouth shut.

Dobson has been a great resource at times. And frankly, the family information from Focus on the Family is stuff I still trust. But I think the great Christian voices do us a great disservice when they cross over into the public political realm.

Let me also add that I know a few Christians who think my criticism is right on the mark, but who are reluctant to go on the record being critical of this man. For whatever reason, they choose to correspond with me privately and I understand that.

Finally, let me ask those of you who think I am being too hard on Dobson: doesn’t his dishonesty in his argument on judicial review bother you at all?

3:55 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

I do not think you are being difficult on this issue of judicial review, I agree with you. From everything I have read he has not quoted things accurately or seem to have done any research on the subject. I do wish that things could have been different in the Schiavo case, but I do not believe that the Judge had much to work with and did what he thought was correct.

On the Homosexual issue.

It is possible and you would agree that although he is arrogant, and condesending he is correct in saying that homosexuality is wrong. That being said we have been dealing with this issue greatly since the wonderful 70's. Do you not think that there has to be a voice out there that speaks the truth. He is talking about a very scary dilema here that has taken root in places like California and will continue to spread. I do agree that it is difficult to justify leaving the gay community out of things we have counted as freedom. I am very divided about all this

5:31 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I have said consistently that I have no problem with Dobson saying homosexuality is wrong. This is what the Bible teaches. If you have any interest in what I have said in the past about it, I wrote about this a little less than a year ago in a post entitled shouting down the world.

I don’t think it is necessary to feel divided on this issue. The reason for the internal conflict that some Christian’s feel is because of the phony notions that they have inherited regarding some supposed special position that the United States has in the eyes of God. I too was sucked in by the notion when I was very young. But with maturity I have come to understand that the United States is just another cog in the world system. Sure, we have the greatest legal system ever developed and more wealth and freedom than the World could’ve ever imagined 150 years ago. I actually am a big believer in America, within appropriate limits.

But increasingly it becomes evident what Jesus was talking about when he said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. We have become a nation of rich men and we are spiritually poor as a result. In so many pious places in this land, legalism passes for Christian virtue. I grew up in these types of places so I know first hand of what I speak.

When it finally dawned on me how ordinary the United States is in the eyes of God, things became much simpler to understand. For one thing, I could see more clearly, as did our founders, why freedom of religion is such a crucial thing. My libertarian notions on civil liberties arose from a sincere fear for my own personal freedoms. In my view, granting people the room to live freely is a small price to pay to protect my own freedoms. Nobody loses.

For me the final pieces fell into place as I reflected on what God would have to say about all of this. And I began to see that God did not lock away the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but rather granted unto man the free will to sin. God was the first libertarian.

And Jesus did not come to castigate sinners, but to extend his loving embrace. He admonished us to render unto Caesar that which is his, and to God, that which is of his Kingdom, thus clearly admonishing us to understand that the two realms are intrinsically divided. He did not rise up to throw off the yoke of Roman Rule but rather the yoke of our sin debt. And in my view we are called not to throw off oppression through political means or protect people from sin through legislation even if we can be marginally successful with that endeavor. Rather, through simply speaking the Good News of Jesus Christ, and living our lives for his glory and honor, we can achieve a far greater victory than the mere institutions of man can ever give.

You see Randy, for me, the divided state ended when I fully submitted my thoughts and ideas to God and stripped away the accreted junk of religious legalism and sacrilegious nationalism.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I am not saying that the risk of the Arizona border is the greatest one before us. Merely that it is a risk. And besides, I find it kind of inhumane. Far better to just admit these people legally and make proper provision for them.

But if you think the risk of harmful people and things crossing our border down there is as low as you describe, I think you are kidding yourself. It might not be the best or preferred route, but you can bet your life that people will exploit it.

8:33 AM  
Blogger QuietSally said...


I’m a long time lurker here. I decided to come out of the hiding. Hope I don’t regret that! I disagree with you quite a bit and I don’t totally agree with Texas Conservative either (but am closer to him on a lot of things than you). Keep up the great work TC! But as a Christian I do find what you conveyed about Dr. Dobson’s letter a bit disturbing. He has always been a hero to me, but what you said about Hamilton got me thinking. I’ve never read the Federalist Papers before but I read your link to 78. I found some other stuff that seems to back up what you are saying. I didn’t quite realize Jefferson hated the Constitution so much. Anyway, I still support Dr. Dobson but you have made me start to wonder about the politics thing. I heard what he said on the radio about judicial overruling and thought he sounded right…Now it seems weird he would be so one sided. I wish you would tone down your criticism because he is a great Christian leader. I think Christians should not be so harsh to other Christians. But I’m still listening and learning.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


First let me say welcome to the non-lurking World. I can’t imagine why you would regret posting here. We tend to be opinionated but cordial.

I’m glad that I was able to convey to you what Dobson has done with this latest campaign. It is pretty clear to me that when you mix religion and politics, both end up poorer as a result. I think Dobson let politics blind himself to the need for a substantive argument.

I don’t agree that Jefferson “hated” the Constitution. He was fearful of a strong central government. I don’t think his Contemporaries would have made him President if they had thought he simply hated the Constitution. As a body of Law, I think he greatly respected the Constitution: his practice in office bore this out. But, he was an opponent of the document in not a small way because of political reasons. And with Marbury v. Madison he lost the ability to stack the courts. The rancor between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists had been quite severe and they were anxious to assert a new order on things. Having lost an important political battle, Jefferson was unsurprisingly upset with the ruling and vented his spleen as he was wont to do (although often through third parties).

Also, can you be specific on how I should change my approach with criticizing Dobson?

As far as agreeing more with TexaCon than myself, hopefully I can be of some assistance and help provide some healing. If you have anything else specific to argue with me about, don’t hesitate to bring it up. I love a good debate.

And again, welcome!

12:53 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


Yes we are cordial with exception of you and CG, but that is another story.

I guess I am at your young more zealous stage (hopefully I am not overly zealous), although I agree that we should do all in love and not necessarily brow beat them, (speaking not just of abortion and homosexuality, but using them in that they are far and obviously left) but what I would like to see is a truth about the whole marriage deal. I do not just view these as religious wrongs, but also moral wrongs, and maybe I am coming from a religious bias, but I do not feel that I am. I am not against people’s free choice, and they can do what they want, and from this perspective I am not against some types of abortion, the day after pill, early in the first trimester. You have to agree that abortion on demand can be legislated out and should. Clinic bombings and some of the hateful picket lines are even IMO out of line. I also believe that “gay bashing” is wrong, they should be able to live in peace, we should let everyone live in peace. I do not see this as a way to bridge a gap though, and it won’t. I believe the phrase is give an inch they will take a mile. It is a conundrum though, for I do believe in the freedoms for which I would have gladly laid down my life at one time, but I do not think that just because you have the right to live together amorally or commit adultery, or abortion, I do not believe that we should give these privileges away on a silver platter. I do not see this as pushing a religious view, it is a moral view, and after all isn’t that what law is after, allowing the protection of people’s right so that society can live together without creating provocation between inhabitants of that society? Now we could break this down into a lot of minuscule particles and dissect every aspect of what is freedom and rights, and what is freedom and provocation. And what I do not agree with at all is one party using all the small group special interests to push an agenda and get votes. Kerry’s comments of the last election blasted me, he was so up and down on the issues. I truly believe that had he gotten elected murder would be legal under any circumstances. I know way over the top for exaggeration, just how I feel. Moral issues, not religious issues are my concern, the road we are traveling on will result in mayhem, when you start establishing that anything that can be done in the home should be exercised in public due to “freedom” you will find a nation that is more polarized now than ever before. The problem that I see currently is there is only one group that is willing to stand up for this, and because they are talking about how they feel and the things that have gone wrong in the past they are now labeled the RR by people like us. Like I said previously, I do not agree with the approach of Dr. Dobson on this particular issue, his fight should not be with the poor judge that is getting lambasted by the RR, but the legislature that failed to act, and probably could not have acted in time for Terri anyway. This is a test that we have failed because we did not see it coming, not because the judge handled it wrong. My problem is with how it is being handled at this time also. Everyone was so up in arms about the case. Do you think that all the people that picketed that hospice have some anything to change any of the laws that handicapped that judge? And has anyone that felt this was the wrong decision sent any word to their Reps in congress to get the fake Band-Aid they used fixed. You can’t stop the bleeding of an amputee with only a band-aid. The way I see it is there is a train a rolling down the tracks and there are a lot of people that want to stop it, but nobody is using the right equipment to do it. You know for me this all falls under why we have so many laws to begin with. People are just basically rude and do not care about others rights and will step all over them to do what they want to.

All right that is enough ranting, as I have said before I am divided about most of this stuff, I do believe in freedom. Everybody should have the freedom they want, and if it does not interfere with anybody else’s freedoms they should be able to do with that what they want. Privacy of one’s own home, I believe in greatly. And if someone wants to start a commune and do some really weird stuff up there in the hills of Montana, or North Dakota, or south or even Waco, TX. They should be able to, if only the have the fortitude to allow the people participating to have the free will to leave when they want to. We also have a constitution to keep states in line and the states should be able to do what they want, and if you do not like it leave, as long as it does not force you to do something against your will. And I think Cities should have the same rights to impart ordinances that fit with the inhabitants that live there as ling as it does not impede on the constitution, federal or state or even county. OK that is enough for today, I am sure you will feel differently, and I do not expect any comments, if you want to move on I am OK with that.

Christian Quotation of the Day

April 14, 2005

Few things are more striking than the change which has
taken place during my own lifetime in the attitude of the
intelligentsia towards the spokesmen of Christian opinion.
When I was a child, bishops expressed doubts about the
Resurrection, and were called courageous. When I was a girl,
G. K. Chesterton professed belief in the Resurrection, and was
called whimsical. When I was at college, thoughtful people
expressed belief in the Resurrection “in a spiritual sense,”
and were called advanced; (any other kind of belief was called
obsolete, and its professors were held to be simpleminded).
When I was middle-aged, a number of lay persons, including
some poets and writers of popular fiction, put forward
rational arguments for the Resurrection, and were called
courageous. Today, any lay apologist for Christianity... whose
works are sold and read, is liable to be abused in no
uncertain terms as a mountebank, a reactionary, a tool of the
Inquisition, a spiritual snob, an intellectual bully, an
escapist, an obstructionist, a psychopathic introvert, an
insensitive extrovert, and an enemy of society. The charges
are not always mutually compatible, but the common animus
behind them is unmistakable, and its name is fear. Writers who
attack these domineering Christians are called courageous.
... Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957)


Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute
you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for
my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your
reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which
were before you.
-- Matthew 5:11,12 (KJV)

1:17 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Enjoyed the post.

I assume by trying to separate “moral” issues and “religious” issues you are trying to separate those things that have a public dimension (murder, theft) from those that do not (redemption, sexual proclivity). So I’m trying to understand what exactly what moral issue you are concerned about that is going to lead to “mayhem”.

In my view, more mayhem is caused by people trying to force their views on others than the exercise of a few liberties ever could. Look at the stress over creationism in the public schools. Or Terry Schiavo. I think the mayhem comes from secular humanists attempting to impose their beliefs on others, and Christians attempting to impose their beliefs on others. Ironically both camps are in utter denial that they are doing it or want to do it.

On the Sayers quote. She ought to see how somebody like myself gets treated who attacks the hypocrisy of both Christians and Materialists. Actually, I do not mean to falsely paint myself as important, I’m just saying I tend to get it from both sides. But then, I do pretty much ask for it.

1:44 PM  
Blogger QuietSally said...


It just seems that you sound so uncharitable toward Dr. Dobson. Aren’t we as Christians to love one another in Christ? After all, he is working to advance the name of Jesus so I don’t think it is right to be so critical if you are a Christian. I guess the reason this bugs me is that there are people without Christ here that are listening and they will get a poor opinion of Christians if we are mean to each other.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I guess I would respond by saying that I am entirely uncertain of how to draw a line between criticism and meanness. For what it is worth, my attention was not to be “mean”. I thought I had stuck to the facts pretty well.

But I think the problem is that I am calling Dobson dishonest and you just can’t say that with out it sounding harsh. It is harsh on its face and you can soft pedal with other words, but it is what it is. What separates this from actual malice, in my mind anyway, is that I gave the facts to support the position.

Note that nobody has disagreed with my assertion on the merits.

Listen, I have given Dobson a lot of credit over the years. Still listen to his shows daily, though I do often turn the dial when he is on a political rant. But in this instance, who is giving the black eye to Christ? While I have done that to my own shame in the past, in this case it is Dobson.

And what would generate the poorer opinion of Christians? The body of Christ standing moot? Or if we as a body are willing to call something what it is and not brush it under the carpet?

3:30 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Your rancor against Dr. Dobson makes your compliments seem very insincere and back-handed. I won't speak for anyone else when I say that's probably the biggest problem I have with your post.

I still like you a whole lot.

Your assessment of Dr. Dobson as the purveyor of death and destruction to religious freedoms is unfounded in truth, nor facts. Even the examples you cite only go to show that Dr. Dobson is not a journalist that has agreed to sharing a balanced perspective on what those on the left and right of the issue of good jurisprudence in our country believe. He is led by a calling that demands of him to provide his perspective on issues affecting the Church today, in America.

The fact that he quoted Thomas Jefferson is not to say we should all be like Mr. J. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson is quoted by many [labeled] Americans. It was you that once responded to me by saying something like 'it doesn't matter that Saddam, Yassar and other terrorists don't like Bush, there are many other things those men believe in with which I disagree.' That's to say that you can agree with them (John Kerry on religion - being more sincere and truthful than Bush for example - remember that post?) but you can still disagree with other things they said. Your argument is disingenuous then because you berate Dr. Dobson for giving us a "half picture" knowing we'd be too ignorant (or just plain dumb) to question him. The fact is, you can agree with Mr. J on plenty and disagree with the fact that he owned slaves, for example. You can agree with his disdain/distrust of a strong judiciary but disagree with his opposition to our constitution. Dr. Dobson agreed with Mr. J on his stance related to the judiciary just as you agreed with John Kerry's position on religion in politics (that may be a bit simplified for purposes of word count). Is that really akin to a sinking of our religious freedoms?

Me thinks you doth protest too much.

I'm quite a ways from being 12 so your argument against his quoting Mr. J falls a little flat. That's mainly why I went after you on the fact that you even went after him.

Again, it makes all your compliments seem gratuitous and insincere. It also makes it sound like someone with a less verve for history such as yourself chose a staple of American history to support their argument and that offended you.

I quote history as well and I don't always present both sides of the issue because, well, that's not my job. Attacking him for supporting his argument with factual, historical references doesn't make him a cancer on our religious freedoms; in whole nor in part.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

I do not think you are apinting yourself as important. I think you have your feelings about what Christ would do and/or what we should do as representatives of Christ. He did not often show a temperment, and usually addressed every issue with love and allowed for a decision to be made on an individual account. That is where my crux comes in. Should we still not try. In love of course, but try. Or do you think we begin to sound like pharasees

5:00 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

To reply to something that someone said in a response to something I said many comments ago:

I think there's the structural reofrm goals that we have (which the American Constitution Society had a conference about this past weekend, aptly named, Constitution 2020 or something like that) and then recognizing that int he current political climate, there are going to be bad things that happened in the electoral realm. So how do we minimize them, how do we cherrypick some inadvertently decent things, etc. in addition to praying that they don't f$#k things up too much (excuse my language)?

I'm all for changing the political climate and the terms of the debate though as a primary goal--just mentioning some factors that rudely intrude from the real world into my fantasies of having a nice place to live :)

Also--i hate to plug off topic but this is important: a couple of teenage girls are being jailed and are generally being treated abysmally by the u.s. please check it out at http://detainthis.blogspot.com and think about contributing somehow if it's feasible.

sorry to coopt the space tony--i thought you'd understand.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Obviously, I haven’t been clear about a number of things I’m saying, as I don’t think your characterization of my position is entirely accurate.

You said, ”Your rancor against Dr. Dobson makes your compliments seem very insincere and back-handed.”

I can understand that perception. I just don’t think you gain much ground with an opinion piece directed primarily toward evangelicals and criticizing one of the most prominent and respected of their number without acknowledging the positive they have done. Plus, I am trying to write op-ed type pieces for syndication and that forces a certain amount of brevity so I purposely don’t labor points that otherwise I might spend more time upon.

In this case, what I was trying to describe was what I perceive to be a trend in Dobson’s work that has accelerated over time. I found his early work inspired. I find his recent political machinations to be made of a very different cloth. I still listen to his radio broadcast, but often flip the dial when he goes off on politics. If this seems backhanded, I suppose then it is the best I can do. I do in fact mean what I said.

And by the way, I still like you a whole lot too. I hope if I do nothing else in my life right that I can at least disagree vigorously with my friends and still share the bond of friendship. I think one of the great tragedies of modern American political discourse is that we assume that disagreement is automatically personal. That somehow the person on the other side of the argument is morally deficient. Now while the person on the other side is morally deficient, as the Bible tells us clearly, and the other side may have immoral intentions with respect to the argument, disagreement does not automatically flow to that later conclusion.

Back to the regularly scheduled programming.

You said, ”Your assessment of Dr. Dobson as the purveyor of death and destruction to religious freedoms is unfounded in truth, nor facts. Even the examples you cite only go to show that Dr. Dobson is not a journalist that has agreed to sharing a balanced perspective on what those on the left and right of the issue of good jurisprudence in our country believe.”

Obviously, if you don’t believe I have been factual before I would understand your not accepting my argument as valid, much less correct. But I do believe I’ve been truthful and factual and I’ll flesh that out later in my response. I disagree that Dobson was merely unbalanced. My key point was that he was deceptively selective in his arguments to paint a picture that was highly misleading at best.

Now I agree with your restatement of earlier things I’ve said, but I think it was somewhat misapplied. Our earlier discussion which you mentioned was in response to your assertion (and if I’m being inaccurate, please correct me…I did not take the time to reread that discussion) that terrorists dislike of the President was some kind of evidence of his doing the right thing. Something about the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is a little different than parsing logical arguments. But even if it were not, I do not think I would quote Marx on the virtues of capitalism. Now Jefferson was not that diametrically opposed to the Constitution, but still, he would not be anywhere close to a starting place to discuss Constitutional Law. I know you know this, but others may not: Jefferson wasn’t even at the convention.

You see, in print and on the radio, Dobson is taking the position that Judicial Review is an utter fabrication by the Marshall court. He isn’t making some qualified remark. Unfortunately, I don’t have a transcript of his interview with Levin, but his remarks were scathing. And he is endorsing Levin to an extent that it was embarrassing for me to listen to it.

I wish Dobson’s position was as you describe. I wish he had merely cherry picked some resources and then said that he agreed with Jefferson’s opinion. Unfortunately, he has gone much further than that.

But listen, I’m happy to moderate my tone in some way if I can. I’ll even retract anything that might have been unfairly harsh. But when somebody is not being truthful, it is just hard to come up with a way of saying that which is polite and easy on the ears. More than anything, I want my opinion on this point to be received even if it isn’t agreed to. Anything that gets in the way of that is a problem for these arguments that I feel strongly about making.

In the just so it doesn’t look like I’m ducking category: I still think that Kerry appeared in that moment more sincere about his religion than did the President. I said then, and repeat now, that this was how it appeared. I’m not able to judge hearts, only actions. Our President may indeed know Jesus as his personal savior. But the Plank paraphrase of Jesus goes something like, many will say “Lord, Lord”, but I will say “I never knew you”. I don’t know what Jesus will say, but I do know that invoking the name of Christ in and of itself is inadequate.

I also know that were I subjected to the same scrutiny, that I would come up equally short in the eyes of most people. And my critics would be fully justified in pointing out my shortcomings.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


No problem. This is a totally open blog. People can talk about whatever they choose here.

9:59 AM  
Blogger QuietSally said...


I suppose it is hard to call someone a liar nicely. It just seems that TC’s post was valid because I read the newsletter and it doesn’t seem he is saying all the founders thought that.

I want to say that regardless of disagreing with you, I really aprpeciate how open you are to criticism and discussion. I don’t think I could take some of the posts as well as you do.

10:55 AM  
Blogger David R said...

I am not an evangelical Christian, if only because most of the evangelicals I meet do not act like Christians to me.

In my opinion, Tony's writings are a credit to his faith, and those of you who claim to be evangelicals need more voices like his if you wish to reach out to those who do not share your faith. Which, I think, is supposed to be the point of evangelicism.

To portray his criticism of Dobson on this particular issue as somehow betraying the cause, or mean-spirited, (as if Dobson and most of the RR are not way more mean-spirited in their criticisms of, say, judges who make rulings they don't agree with), is to display the very intolerance, insecurity, and misunderstanding of Christian principles that turns most people like me off.

About the only people that Jesus displayed any real disdain for were the religous leaders of his day. Even the Roman occupiers were given a pass, compared to the Pharisees.

Satan uses scripture all the time, twisting the meaning into something else. That's why God gave you a brain to use so you can discern the Truth from the distortion. Why should your current religious leaders be considered sacrosanct, and exempt from reasonable cross-examination?

The idea that the Curmudgeon is making Christians look bad with this couldn't be further from the truth. If you are only interested in preaching to (and being preached to by) the choir, then you should drop the evangelical bit.

Carry on, Christian soldier.

11:34 AM  
Blogger QuietSally said...

David R,

Thanks for your perpsective on this as all this is troubling me. I am starting to see Curmudgeon’s point, but it doesn’t fit with what I know about Dr. Dobson.

Honestly, I too have found Dr. Dobson a bit preachy at times. I love Focus on the Family though. I have known Dr. Dobson through his work for many years and it troubles me that a fellow Christian could see him as so negative. When I listen to Dr. Dobson, I hear a message of love and caring for people and families. It seems to me we could use more of that in this world.

I could not tell from your post whether or not you are a Christian. If you are not I would be curious of how you perceive Dobson. You sound like you are familiar with him.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Here is an example I just stumbled across off a Nominal Christian politician’s “hypocrisy”.

This is the kind of danger that makes me warry of Christians marrying too close to politics.

2:00 PM  
Blogger David R said...


I was brought up in the Christian faith, I believe in the values taught by Jesus, but I do not attend church and I think most of the "real" Christians on this blog would consider me to be an agnostic.

I think Curmudgeon shares much of your enthusiasm for Dobson's work in general. He makes that quite clear, although the mere fact that he has any quibble with the great Dobson at all seems to disqualify him from being able to have any good feelings about the man, in the opinions of some on this blog.

He just has a specific problem with some of the political activity, and methods used in that regard. As far as that goes, I don't see why it should trouble you, or other Christians, so much to hear Dobson criticized on this specific point, either by a Christian or non-Christian. Unless you need to believe that the man is perfect and without fault, I see nothing in Curmudgeon's original post that should cause such anguish.

I am not too familiar with Dobson or his Focus on the Family work, which is why I didn't join in the discussion until now. From the original post I would gather that he does some wonderful work, but in the political arena falls prey to the temptations of demagoguery, which leads to some questionable ethical choices in terms of how he chooses to make his arguments. It's a common enough failing in powerful people.

I was mainly motivated to post on this one out of a concern that Curmudgeon was getting slammed simply for expressing ANY disagreement with Dobson, regardless of what the actual point of disagreement is about.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...



I reread the Dobson newsletter and I can see where you come from when you say that you do not see quite how he is attributing the Jefferson opinion to the whole of the founders. He certainly doesn’t explicitly do that, though I think he pretty correctly implies it. And, he did actually say it on the air. All in all his newsletter is much more reasonable on its face than was his radio program on this topic.

Here is what Dobson said immediately before the invocation of the ghost of Jefferson:

How did this happen to us? How could such a great and freedom-loving people have allowed themselves to be dominated by a handful of unelected, unaccountable, arrogant and often godless judges, many of whom receive lifetime appointments and regularly circumvent the democratic process? It is a breath-taking and ominous development. Was this the desire of the Founding Fathers when they designed this great representative form of government? Hardly!

Granted, he was speaking mere of an out of control judiciary, but then proceeds directly to his critique of Marbury. I think he is clearly implying that the founders thought that judicial review was just a bunch of junk. And if you get a copy of that transcript of a tape, you will hear that he actually said it too.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Brackenator said...

Well, I will try to chime in and not look stupid. I will have to say that this is some of the best discussion I have read in quite some time.

I would like to bring up something that the Curm was trying to respond to. In that limiting our freedom's, where does one draw the line?

I understand the polarizing nature of homosexual marriage, I believe such a thing is an abomination. However, when you start limiting personal freedom, legally the line or envelope moves with that. I will not address it, but we have already given up allot because of the (un) Patriot Act. This limited many freedom's and guaranteed privacy without amending the Constitution, which is a DANGEROUS precedent. With that, the line has moved. Now we start limiting, who can marry who, based on gender, the line moved again. With the human genome complete, and the lines blurring, the line can move to man A cannot marry woman B because their are not an optimal genetic match. It may seem a little far fetched, but with personal freedom being taken away with each new law, what is to stop that from becoming the norm?

Curm always says he loves a good debate, and he does. The more information we have, whether or not we agree with it, the better choices we can make.

Now to TC, let me state that Christians should always have love and compassion. Love and compassion for the eternal soul may not always translate to polite rhetoric in the here and now. I will not dirty my hands by going any further ;-).


4:24 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...


"although the mere fact that he has any quibble with the great Dobson at all seems to disqualify him from being able to have any good feelings about the man"

I believe your characterization of these comments is, respectfully, misguided. I certainly do not believe Dr. Dobson needs defending. I also don't believe he is without fault. I think that just because we participated in the discussion, as others abstained, doesn't mean we were somehow trying to prove that Dr. Dobson is perfect. I'll stop speaking for others and just say that for myself, the argument was not as sound as it normally is when presented by the Curmster. I enjoy disagreeing with him and when he has, what I consider to be, a moment of "inefficiency in his argument", I'm smelling blood and getting hungry. Especially since I don't get to feed very often. He disagrees and that's what makes it fun.

Still, the point of this comment is to ensure that readers don't confuse my comments as a "who do you think you are - picking on this perfect man of God" but more of a "you say you like the guy but then you say he is at the helm of a movement to destroy our religious freedoms." Not a man I could say much good about, but that's just me. It's one of the reasons I don't say much about Pres. Carter.

It’s interesting, Curmie, that you say Dobson has recently become more political. Why do you think that is? What has he seen in recent years that, maybe, he has not seen his entire life as a servant of Christ. To me, that speaks VOLUMES of what time we live in and what is transpiring today. It's much more politically correct to criticize evangelicals than it is to state facts about race demographics in federal penitentiaries.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...


Ouch! You said more by what you didn't. Not sure how I stirred you so but sincerely, I don't intend on casting a line of dispersion into this blog of murky conclusions and, oh great, there I go again. Sorry.

Love and peace, love and peace, let's live in love and peace.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I think it is pretty obvious that he has become slowly more overly political over time. Now days you can seldom hear his show without being treated to political diatribe. And I do think diatribe is the right word as he sounds kind of whacko when he goes into that mode. I don’t know if it is old age or what.

Now it is true, he has been somewhat political for some time. He was involved in the Reagan administration on some special commissions and stuff. I remember that, though I don’t in detail. I’ll admit that perhaps a bit of my perception of his change is partially a change in me, but that would not account for the daily bombardment on his program.

You say my argument is inefficient-I’ll challenge that. How do you respond to that quote I posted to Sally in light of what we all know about what the Federalists thought about Judicial Review? From where I sit, you don’t appear to have made a dent: he was highly misleading. Just admit it and you’ll feel better.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


your link on "Nominal Christian politician’s “hypocrisy”." is a perfect example of hypocricy. The same people that publish these articles are the ones that are crying for the leftist agenda, gay marraige, abortion, and Terri's death. Instead of realizing their own crys of hypocrisy the are mearly perpetuating the cycle. Neither on is the better for what they did. I also noticed in that article that there was no actual mention of whether he admitted commiting adultery. Although it does sound like he put himself into a compromising position being at a ballgame with another woman, here in Texas we all know what that means...well not really, we don't have any idea what that means, and niether does his wife. That being said I think that with a husband being gone so much and being caught in what I deem a compromising position I do not, I REPEAT, I do not blame her for how she feels or the road she has chosen to take. Funny how hypocrisy bites the one that feeds it. Really funny.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Your point is well taken. But I still believe that by inserting religion into the midst of the policy agenda, you leave yourself open to this type of attack. Sure, the person who wrote the story might have an agenda of their own. All journalists do they just like to deny it. But the good gentleman is himself responsible for putting religious practice at the forefront of policy. If it were not for that, he would be just another adulterer in a nation where the practice is more common than church attendance.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


The "(un) Patriot" act did not take any freedoms away, just your ability to cover the bad ones up. Trying to hide something? And moving the lines because a denial to allow gays to marry, what is wrong with banning their marraige. Is not marraige the institution that has been established for centuries to form a family so that men and women can have children. I do not see any reason for them to even be discussisng this "right". Anything they want to do can be done with legal means, they don't need marraige. They can't even explain why they want it correctly. IMO you are talking about lines that were not drawn in the sand and moved, they were lines in the sand and somebody wanted them moved and they haven't yet, now they are mad about it. And again I say for what?

5:10 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Yeah, but Tony I think that these are not issues that are being inserted to force religion onto the unsuspecting public. They are morals and the loudest people defending them are the RR at the moment. And frankly the morals are already there, 38 states have marraige protection acts, and we are seeing that these are not good enough. This is in effect what Dobson is trying to say. There are some activist judges out there, and the supreme court has it's fair share. To start quoting foreign countries judicial laws to overturn laws of this country and states to me is an outrage. And I think that this is the message that Dobson is trying to convey. I do agree with you though on the Terri case. It was not that judges fault that he followed the law. He should be chastising the legislature of Florida for sitting on it's hiney and watching her die, and still they have not moved on the issue. perposterous......I think?

5:18 PM  
Blogger Brackenator said...

TC, there was no intent of meaness. I just ask that people to think. Yes I implied a great deal, but no harm was meant.

So RandyP, do you like being put into a category because of what you majored in college? Guess what, the government now has you so marked. Do you like being put into a category because if your credit card and banking transactions? The goverment tracks that now as well. The problem with the Patriot Act is that it essentially makes everyone in the USA, resident or citizen, a person of interest. We are not talking about your tax return.

How about this case in point. I have a couple of friends of Pakistani descent. They were born in this country and have US citizenship. They keep in contact with their family. From time to time they would send MODERATE amounts of cash to the family back home. After the Patriot Act, they are being harassed by the FBI. All of their finances have been examined by an FBI forensic accountant. They love this country as much as anyone I know because of how good it has been to their family. Now this so called Patriot Act HAS taken away any remanants of privacy we used to have. ANYTHING from large purchases of fertilizer, sending a cousin a few dollars, what you majored in college now puts you on a list of people of interest. It sounds like anything BUT free.

In the military there is a statement that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. If there is little freedom left, why bother posting anyone to watch.

Some racists would say, they are from or have Pakistani blood. They must be hiding something.

If running a business, paying taxes accurately, and being fair in all situations is hiding something, then I must be blind.

I admit that is a more extreme case. How about this one. I have a friend who is searched everytime that he board the plane, without exception. Why? That person majored in something that could be used as knowledge to make explosives or biological weapons. Has that person shown any purchases or tendencies in that direction? No. And that person is a WASP.

Ok, after droning on about the Patriot Act, let me conclude on civil liberties. Obviously you did not read how I find the idea of gay marriage abhorrent, as I called it an abomination. Once people start qualifying and quantifying the civil liberties we extend, then what is to stop them from qualifying or quantifying you into a concentration camp, or judging your life is superfluous.

Not that long ago inter-racial marriages were looked on with much disdain and where not-legal. We held that racial purity was needed, we did not need to dirty our blood lines. That type of thinking was racist and it denied civil liberties to many.

RandyP, the warning is this. You say that those lines are drawn in the sand and moved for no reason. Becareful what you want or you will find yourself on the wrong side the next time the lines are redrawn. The more you cede, the more they will take.


6:10 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

This is way off subject but here goes.

I'm writing a 30 page paper on the causes of sub-Saharan poverty. It's interdisciplinary, meaning I'm trying to create a comprehensive understanding using different theories from various disciplines. I've got Economic and Political and Geographical reasons covered, even historical ideas about the effects of the slave trade on the African population.

I'd like to add something else in.... just curious if anyone has any other "reasons" Africa is underdeveloped. Theological? Of course, I have to cite this stuff, so no weird, wacky ideas about the black man being the seed of Cain or something.

Any theory you might have is interesting. I'll compare and contrast them with my other ideas, and then integrate them all together at the end.

Thanks for any help in advance....

7:02 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

So Brack,

What I hear you saying is forget morality, and we should welcome the loss of it, allow it into our society and schools, so that as we try to teach our children about life and "right or wrong" we are being backstabbed by the system that we send our kids for an education. Here is my point, and let me say this first. I appologize for any mistreatment you Pakistani friends may be going through. As with any great disaster, the pendulum is going to swing a bit to other side, but that is what our system is for. We will always have some over zealous types that will harrass people for how they are, or where they were born, getting rid of the patriot act is not going to stop that. I would also ask, if they have been inconvenienced or have they lost something, jobs, houses, businesses. Your friend, with the degree that puts him on a watch list at airports the "wasp". I do not want to be offensive, but could this be coincidence. I have friends that travel a lot and they complain that without fail they are picked to be searched. Look I am not trying to minimize what is happening to your friends, but they are not losing freedoms because of the patriot act, they are being inconvenienced because we were attacked several years ago in a horrific way. I think that we can say one thing for sure here though. Masses of mideasterners were not locked up in camps like the Japanese were during WWII, we have come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Will there be mistakes, sure, there are mistakes everyday. The police make mistakes all the time, accuse the wrong people, shot suspects that did not need to be shot, taser people and kill them with the "non-killing" method of subdueing. Now I know that the patriot act was a knee jerk reaction to something horrible, but there is a reason for it. The people that hurt us before still want us dead, not hurt, dead. Totally, this is not a hostage situation where if we give them what they want it will stop. They want us dead, even if we were to convert to Islam, they would still try to kill us, unless we were helping to further the cause of killing other people. I know that not all Islamic persons are violent, and it could be said that the violent ones are a small group in comparison, like a cult, once you get in, you don't get out. Hey I have been detained by the police for 4 hours once because I left my drivers licence at the house. Was it fun, no, was it an inconvenience, yes. Did I get mad and feel like my rights were being taken....NO. If for every five or six people detained for this reason, one is caught that needed to be caught, all the better for everybody.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Has anybody heard any more word on how they are going to deal with the philibuster issue. Dr Dobson, who I might add has been most of the focus of this discussion, has mentioned that this is coming up for vote soon. Any opinions on the matter. Dr. Dobson has stated that any nominee that has come up that openly professes faith in Christ is being philibustered. I find that in the 200+ that have been nominated, and the only what 12-15 that have been philibustered he is trying to say that 185 of the Bush nominees were not of faith. I have to agree with Tony, it just seems that he is exagerating and going overboard. Although I do not agree with the philibuster, and find it to be as chickenS*** as when the Dems left Texas for the redistricting line vote I do think something should be done about the philibuster

7:45 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well, I don’t know if the inmates at camp X-ray would agree with you that we have come so far from Manzanar. Perhaps we have made some progress-I’ll take your word for it. What I remember is the little posters and bumper stickers right after 9-11. The ones I remember most vividly were the ones about nuking Afghanistan. Lake Afghanistan was a pretty popular concept. The hatred for Arabs I heard coming out of the mouths of friends and family stopped me in my tracks and I am still aghast. When people are afraid, the ordinary rules of decency can and did get thrown aside.

You said, “Did I get mad and feel like my rights were being taken....NO. If for every five or six people detained for this reason, one is caught that needed to be caught, all the better for everybody.”

This is the very thinking I find so scary and dangerous.

I have written about the unconstitutionality extensively, including my post entitled evil in our midst, so I’m not going to elaborate again right now. To some extent my concerns are technical in dimension, though Brackenator summed it up pretty well in his last post. My wife is among the dangerous people who get the extra scrutiny for her sin of having an advanced degree in an area of concern. I have no idea whether this statement would apply to you or not, but I have observed that people who are actually imposed upon by these sorts of draconian measures tend to not be nearly as offended as those who actually are imposed upon. Funny how that works.

On education, let me say I share your concern about how the public educational system is assaulting the values of many, if not most Americans. This why I have consistently called for school vouchers or and end to the public educational system. There is no other way around this problem. The religious right’s attempts to “fix” things by imposing their viewpoint on the general public is no more useful than the secular left’s insistence that they do not deny religious freedom by imposing a modern definition of tolerance on our children.

On the filibuster. I do not keep track of most political topics in detail because they get lost in the incompetent media coverage that allows politicians to define the terms of the debate. Personally, I am split on the filibuster. It has never struck me as a reasonable parliamentary rule, but then it has been around a while and tends to slow the creation of law which I generally view as a good thing.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


No great theories on Africa. I personally have always attributed the hotter climate to part of the problem. There is no question that a hotter climate impairs the ability of people to get work done. But then, it clearly isn’t that simple and tons of progress and innovation have come from hot climates.

I think you have to look at political development. I do not know why Africans did not evolve past tribalism. I know there was some attempts at building larger kingdoms, but unlike Asia, the Middle East and Europe, they were not successful This would be an interesting study. But what I am getting at is that progress has tended to come out of politically well-organized societies. China, Islam and Europe have had there respective success in this regard and their high points seem to be at the points of there greatest political organization.

I also vaguely remembered reading one analysis a long time ago that attempted to tie such things to physical geography. I remember not finding the argument compelling, but was interesting and left me with an appreciation that such things can be very important.

10:11 AM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

Tony wrote: "But what I am getting at is that progress has tended to come out of politically well-organized societies"

I am writing about this, particularly about the diversity of ethnic groups competing against each other and thus being disorganized. In democratic societies such as ours (go ahead, attack me someone), diversity can be dynamic and positive, but in societies with autocrats, lack of freedom, etc., ethnic divides and political favoritism can even cause civil wars, if not just an inefficient govt.

I'm also writing about the psychological colonialism where African natives were disempowered politically, setting the precedent for the last few decades of dictators.

Of course geography plays a role. Climate is part of that. Sparsely populated regions (despite the notion of millions of Africans spawning all day) keep markets separated from each other.

I think I've got plenty of reasons.... I guess I want Professor Ricardo or someone to help me put more blame on Africans themselves...... I have to much of the blaming us parts.....

1:05 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Note: still no serious attack on the substance of my argument.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


i agree with what you are saying in regard to the patriot act, I do think that we have to put some reins on the issues that is does not provide for and the durations of what that entails. I do not think that indefinite lock up is the answer to calming our fears, and I do think that there needs to be a better way to track and listen in on people if they are under suspicion. I also believe that there should be accountability for the outside actions of individuals that overstep their boundries. I however have never been a fan of the "throw the case out of court" because a Cop made a mistakae and forgot the miranda or over stepped his boundry of illegal search and seizure. I do think that if it can be proved that the "knife" was taken from the house of the accused and it was his knife and he was the only one that could use it, it should be in the case. The Cop should be punished for stepping out of line. How severly depends on how often he does it and his senority, based on whether or not he knew better than to make a rookie mistake. I do not see these as reasons for letting felons out on the street. If you fine the officer and put him on unpaid leave at the discretion of the judge I hope they would be less likly to make that mistake twice, and they wouldn't do it and hope that it can be covered up. I think what is lacking is a thing called accountability, I see it slipping everyday. Even in instances like Mr. Delay of the Great State of Texas. If he is wrong the hammer him, if not those that trumped the charges for political gain should be hammered. If there did look like it could be a concern then everyone should walk away happy....accountability, it seems that easy to me

6:46 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


First let me say that all of you who have heard me repeat this over and over, go ahead and tune out.

The problem with the Patriot Act is much more than just the ridiculous infringement on civil liberties that it imposes on its face. If the only issue was trading a few rights short term for some security, as it is constantly, dishonestly portrayed, then I would not be nearly so angry over it. The major problem is that it is a legislative act that claims the power to encroach our human rights. This is against both the letter and spirit of our Constitution. The legislature was not given these powers in the Constitution, and if any one of our “leaders” actually cared about their oaths to defend the Constitution, they would raise the issue. These are matters that clearly need a Constitutional amendment. And it isn’t even a close call on whether the amendment should be necessary: this is way, way, WAY over the line.

But now we are stuck with what we have wrought in fear. All of those freedoms that so many have fought and died for exist only at the whim of the majority and legislature. The legal protections are gone. That copy of the constitution you have at home: just chuck it in the trash can because it is now officially worthless.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Wow… you guys have been busy. I spent part of my vacation reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Benjamin Franklin (Tony has also started reading this book recently). I’m down to the last 150 pages… what a great book. Dr. Franklin is now officially my favorite founder… although far from a perfect man… (no such thing… maybe some perfect women, but definitely no perfect men). If Dr. Franklin was here, I believe he would have a few comments related to the discussion on this blog. Since I go by the handle Common Good, Ben has allowed me to relay some of his opinions on liberty, religion, government and common good. J

One of the section titles in Chapter Five “Public Citizen” is Organizations For the Common Good. The first paragraph starts as follows: “The essence of Franklin is that he was a civic-minded man. He cared more about public behavior than inner piety, and he was more interested in building the City of Man than the City of God. …..”. Franklin was a Deist who believed any salvation to be had could be had through good works. He rejected the religious leaders of the day (including his lifetime fight against the Pennsylvania Puritan Propietors) who put religious filters on liberty. Franklin changed Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence from “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” to “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” This was significant, because the basis of “the equality of men and their endowment by their creator with inalienable rights” became rationality rather than religion. Franklin’s life was a lifetime fight for “the middling people (middle class)”, regardless of religious beliefs. BTW… for those who like to use the phrase “the intention of our founders”, consider the major difference between Jefferson and Franklin on the core of our constitution… i.e. the source of our rights. Even our founding documents represent major compromise, and vast difference of opinions. To be against considering our constitution as a living document, you pretty much have to view the end result (i.e. Constitution) of these major compromises among men as some form of deity immaculate creation… IMO.

So from the very beginning, we have wrestled with the role (or non-role) of religion in our government and in defining our rights. To me, the (Falwell’s, Robertson’s, TV preachers, and recently Dobson) represent a modern day version of the Pennsylvania Quakers/Puritans/Fundamentalist. The Pennsylvania puritans had a simple answer… of course you should be considered a second class citizen if you didn’t share their religion… not to mention if you weren’t part of the Proprietor landed class. Franklin thought otherwise, and had practical reasons beyond the obvious hypocrisy of “equal rights if you share our religion”. Franklin always saw the practical good religion could serve in a society. He viewed man a social animal… and had very little tolerance for those that were not civic-minded. I believe he would echo David R’s hope that Christians would act like Christians in their community. I believe Ben would have told us all… that if we all fought for the common good of the middling people, regardless of individual religious beliefs… we would build a better society AND honor our creator (whoever that is) in the process. He believed those who taught “grace” was the only way to salvation and applied that belief to defining our rights and our government worked against the chance for men and their societies to evolve. Ben was the “Common Good” founder. It’s a shame we didn’t get more Ben in our original constitution. Of course, the original Common Good founder had a few slaves along the way… but at least he didn’t sleep with them Mr. Jefferson... as far as we know. Considering Ben’s reputation with the ladies, it’s no small matter he didn’t follow in Jefferson’s direction. :)

Interesting Franklin fact: At the same time Congress was debating the Articles of Confederation, Franklin was nominated to lead the effort to create the Pennsylvania constitution. One of his suggestions (that was not adopted) was to create Pennsylvania law to guard against concentrations of wealth. Quoting from Isaacson’s book: “Another ultrademocratic proposal Franklin made to the Pennsylvania convention was that the state’s Declaration of Rights discourage large holdings of property or concentrations of wealth as “a danger to the happiness of mankind”. I have to confess I felt real pride in my beliefs when I read that. I was blown away… after all the “communist” charges I get thrown my way, here was one of our original founders expressing the logic of guarding against disproportionate wealth gaps. Stated another way… there is no other way to interpret Franklin’s proposal other than a proposal of “collectivism”. What an opportunity lost, IMO. If only that sentiment could have become a major part of our constitution and American makeup…. Maybe, just maybe we wouldn’t have ended up in such a materialistic dead end. A Franklin quote: “The good men may do separately is small compared with what they may do collectively”.

Randy, regarding your observation of the mean-spirited debating style between the Curm and myself. Franklin started a social club for middle class (enterprising tradesmen and artisans) as a young man called the Junto. From the book: “There they discussed issues of the day, debated philosophical topics, devised schemes for self-improvement, and formed a network for the furtherance of their own careers”. Franklin was the mistro throughout life of avoiding direct confrontation when possible. He used the Socratic technique (debating by asking questions, mock debates), and anonymous letters, parodies throughout his life (didn’t hurt that he was a printer and owned the business). He believed anonymous publications were often more effective because the arguments stood on it’s own merits without the baggage that comes with others personal opinions and perceptions of the author. Anyway, the Junto used the technique of mock debates and gentle Socratic queries. “Discussions were to be conducted without fondness for dispute or desire of victory”. Franklin suggested members should at least feign naïve curiosity to avoid contradicting people in a manner that could give offense. I think old Ben was on to something here. :) Of course, he had a bit more control over the debate members than Curm does on an internet blog. Even so, it might be fun to try a bit of the Junto here in CurmLand. If you have noticed, I already use the Socratic questioning fairly often to make a point. My problem is avoiding blowing right past that and calling someone insane or stupid. :) I will try show more constraint. I may even try my hand a parody or two. :)

May the Curm Junto mock debates continue… I am curious :) to hear others opinions. :)

1:20 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You inadvertently fall into the same error as Dobson when you suggest the views of Franklin as being the thinking of the whole. The founders by and large where of the landed class and would have not had much agreement with Franklin on limiting property rights as he suggested.

But there is no question that Franklin was two centuries ahead of America in both good ways and in bad. You can see some of the bad in his whole doctrine of good works which in its essence is the extension of personal arrogance typical of enlightenment thinkers.

An amazing man that seldom gets his due.

Now I have no interest in a Junto if part of it means we “should at least feign naïve curiosity to avoid contradicting people in a manner that could give offense.” I stand for the bare-knuckled argument. That kind of discussion where nobody is left wondering what you really think. More House of Commons than House of Representatives. Were phony civility to break out, I might just have to shut down the old blog.

Not that I’m opposed to civility. You don’t have to be rude about things. But when you are just jousting with ideas, let the last idea standing claim the field.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


< Socratic, gentle, curious mock debate >

As you guys (Brack and Curm) recall, I made the foolish mistake of taking both of you on over lunch one day on the Patriot Act. I have no problem arguing as the minority, but taking on the Curm and Brack on your own, in person is just dumb. Having learned from my mistake, let me humbly (and with naïve curiosity) ask a few questions.

Brack, you included both the invasion of your Pakistani friends privacy and monitoring purchases of large amounts of fertilizer as examples of rights violations. Let me ask a question regarding the latter.

Question: Should we have changed the laws regarding tracking large purchases of fertilizer after April 19th, 1995, OKC?

Actually, I'm not sure what the laws regarding fertilizer were before OKC, or now, for that matter. So let me rephrase the question\s.

1) Is it a rights violation to monitor fertilizer purchases?

< /Socratic, gentle, curious mock debate >

btw... is there a difference between a constitutional right and a privilege? For example, we would all agree that we have the constitutional right to free speech. What about a driver's license... is that a right, or a different animal?

Curm... I had one of those "Oh!" moments reading one of your previous posts. I know your sensitivity level regarding civil liberties, but your airport rants never made sense to me. Then I put it together.... Wife's Education -> Curm's protective nature of his wife -> airport personel screening wife -> outraged husband. Doh!

1:56 PM  
Blogger David R said...

Just thought I'd pop in and point the blog's attention to a terrific essay in today's NYT about the "activist judges" debate: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/19/opinion/19tue3.html

The essay pretty much aligns with my view that the whole activist judge, runaway judiciary argument is a complete croc. The recent braying from the RR about the judiciary is also the kind of misleading, illogical, bait-and-switch argument that seems to be the norm, rather than the exception, in today's political climate.

I think that is what I find most frustrating about the state of our democracy. The complete inability of our society to have a reasoned debate about anything anymore. Everything must be about sloganizing, twisting meanings, misdirection, confusing and brainwashing the public so that they don't even understand what the debate is about. And of course, the viewing and listening public makes it all too easy by mindlessly accepting a construct like "judicial activism = bad" or "judicial activism = liberal", without ever giving any thought to the definition of the terms, much less whether the construct is true.

In the current debates on the judiciary, religious conservatives would like to install judges who will give more weight to religious values over legal and constitutional precedent when deciding cases. That's pretty much the bottom line as I see it. I only wish the country were smart enough to have that debate, instead of being snookered into these meaningless arguments over "judicial activism", which only serve to cloud the true underlying issues.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"You inadvertently fall into the same error as Dobson when you suggest the views of Franklin as being the thinking of the whole."

OK... gentle Junto already over. Equate me with Dobson again, and I will hunt you down. I know where you live. :) btw... where in the heck did you get the idea I thought his ideas represented the thinking of the whole?

"The founders by and large where of the landed class and would have not had much agreement with Franklin on limiting property rights as he suggested."

Of course. I wasn't suggesting he had a fighting chance in h*ll of getting any collectivism (i.e. getting the rich to think past their property)... just that it was a shame it didn't happen.

"You can see some of the bad in his whole doctrine of good works which in its essence is the extension of personal arrogance typical of enlightenment thinkers."

You will have to explain that one. I understand the religious belief that "good works don't count for jack". In fact, I can remember hearing that as a very young child sitting in Sunday school and thinking... that makes no sense. It would mean my dad... a very good man goes to hell, and a real arrogant a$$ like Falwell goes to heaven. As an adult, I take that a step farther, and decide any god that doesn't care about "good works" isn't a god that is worth praying to. Note, that isn't by definition the same thing as being an atheist or even an agnostic. Now that's just my personal belief... which leads to me believing good works will please any god that exists. I am sincerely curious how that is arrogant. I suspect you mean arrogant in the sense of shunning the definition of God you believe in. If so, don't you have to judge me under the banner of your religious beliefs, which is... arrogant? (Randy P... did this pass as civil... really trying).

"An amazing man that seldom gets his due."

Seldom gets his due with who? I thought he is one of the most celebrated founders in our history.

"Now I have no interest in a Junto if part of it means we “should at least feign naïve curiosity to avoid contradicting people in a manner that could give offense.”

That's to bad, because I actually think Randy P and old Ben have a point. It's unaviodable that humans are going to disagree... but the methods of those arguments/debates would seem to matter. I guess it all depends on the debaters. You and I have very thick skin and a lifetime friendship. We can go at it right up to the point of death threats over civil liberties :), and slaps against the other's religious beliefs... and never miss a beat. Not sure that works in mixed company. I guess it all depends on the audience and debate members one wishes to attract. Nothing wrong with "only thick skinned debaters" need apply here screening.... just have to recognize it does define those who will participate.

"I stand for the bare-knuckled argument. That kind of discussion where nobody is left wondering what you really think. More House of Commons than House of Representatives. Were phony civility to break out, I might just have to shut down the old blog."

Obviously no need to pull the plug yet. And for those who have never watched any coverage of the House of Commons... run to a C-Span near you and watch it. What a hoot. :)

2:41 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I pretty much agree though I do think there is some content to the term “activist” in this context, though that is pretty much diluted by current discussion. Whatever you want to call it, I do stand opposed to those people who advocate judge made law in its various forms. But I would agree that the way the term is being used, “activist judge” has no more content than the phrase “strict construction”. The terms have been co-opted for political purposes and have no place in an informed discussion.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well, I would not say it is the Christian view that good works mean nothing. Jesus said himself that faith without works is empty. Good works alone as adequate for justification in the eyes of God is the problem. I am happy to get into this theological stuff deeper if we need to, but I don’t think it is probably where we need to head in this discussion. Though the arrogance of man is an important thing to understand.

2:48 PM  
Blogger David R said...


I'm no fan of judge-made law, either. Unfortunately, much of what conservatives are looking for in the replacement of these "activist" judges is exactly that. More decisions, for instance, like the 2000 presidential election Florida stoppage, or an outcome in the Schaivo case that would invent some vague "err on the side of life" law, whatever that really means, out of whole cloth.

That's the hypocrisy that makes me see red, conservatives framing the debate as being "against judicial activism", when in fact what they want is just as much, if not more, judicial activism in favor of their causes.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Oh... I think calling Franklin's "good works society" representative of enlightened thinkers arrogance is DEFINITELY something YOU should get into. You really can't charge a belief system as arrogant without an explanation... unless the blog is only for name calling, and not debating.


Thanks for the link.

"In the current debates on the judiciary, religious conservatives would like to install judges who will give more weight to religious values over legal and constitutional precedent when deciding cases. That's pretty much the bottom line as I see it. I only wish the country were smart enough to have that debate, instead of being snookered into these meaningless arguments over "judicial activism", which only serve to cloud the true underlying issues."

I agree. Ironic how everything comes back to religion. In a world where so much iteratively evolves over time (math, science, engineering, farming, architecture, ...) government seems to make no progress. I have said the same thing over and over... our population and our government never seems to evolve... same superficial arguments with no progress year after year, election after election. Just consider the televised presidential debates. Any democracy that picks the leader of the free world based on such drivel is heading for a bad place. Democracy seems to be more an illusion than reality. I have said several times that I think we could get better presidents from almost any major university (i.e. the professors). I have to confess I really believe organized religion is a major culprit. Bottom line is that the majority of religion in this country is by definition anti-man (society) involvement. The only evolvement that matters is the relationship (individual and nation) with God. I like Franklin's approach where you can do both... and that's what I will continue to argue for.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I totally agree. It is only activism if they don’t agree with the decision.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I meant to respond to your comment about our Supreme Court "using foreign courts/law" in order to rule on US law. That's a false argument the conservative side throw out. I watched a debate between Scalia and Breyer. Scalia and Breyer both weighed in on that issue. Breyer's argument made more sense to me. His point was (and Scalia agreed) that you are talking about a very minute number of cases where foreign law/precedent are considered. In most cases before the Supreme Court... it never comes up because all justices follow the written law. The reality is, however, that some cases come up where "decisions/judgements" are required beyond simple constitution interpretation... it's just the reality of law. In those narrow cases, Breyer is willing to include information from anywhere he can get it... including foreign courts. As he said, that's not saying he will even give the foreign case much weight... just that he sees no reason to exclude it as input. The argument is a red herring... the simple reality is strict contructionism does't answer every situation that comes up. You can make your decision like Scalia does (limiting his input to the Constitution and some perceived original intent, or you can broaden the input of information. Breyer's method makes more sense to me.

btw... regarding David R's link, and Scalia's comment that "they needed to end the Florida fiasco in one way or the other". I actually agree with him on that, and told Tony that at the time. I actually think the reality of the Supreme Court is that sometimes they do have to consider "civil unrest" in their decisions. Now you could argue that in the 2000 election, the nation could have handled a state recount... or not. IMO, we could not... and I think the Supreme Court made the right decision. Considering my current opinion of Shrub, I come to that conclusion with much pain. :)

4:07 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Still waiting for englightend thinkers arrongance definition.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


What I said on arrogance was, ”You can see some of the bad in his whole doctrine of good works which in its essence is the extension of personal arrogance typical of enlightenment thinkers.”

The arrogance of which I speak is that arrogance of certainty that as an individual, I can rise above human nature and achieve Goodness. As you know, I believe, and experience amply demonstrates, that Man is incapable, on his own, of achieving Goodness.

This is the arrogance of wisdom. Every age thinks itself smarter than all before it. They have been writing such things for well over two thousand years.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"The arrogance of which I speak is that arrogance of certainty that as an individual, I can rise above human nature and achieve Goodness."

Well, based on this Franklin book, and obviously subject to the interpretation of the author, Franklin was a very practical thinker. I doubt he would have used the words "certainty" and "Goodness" to defend a society that is "civic/common good minded".

"As you know, I believe, and experience amply demonstrates, that Man is incapable, on his own, of achieving Goodness."

Again, "Goodness" is your words. I still assume a "good works" society is looking for improvement... i.e. a striving by man to improve his world. If what I see around me is divine help... well... let's just say I conclude at least on planet earth we are on our own... which is what Franklin concluded.

"This is the arrogance of wisdom. Every age thinks itself smarter than all before it. They have been writing such things for well over two thousand years."

Well, I'm no fan of human nature.. history paints a very ulgy portrait. That said... you only have a couple of choices. You can strive to evolve, or you can just hunker down and wait for eternal salvation. I don't see why they have to be mutually exclusive. We have made some progress... quit killing Indians, ended slavery, gave women the right to vote, labor laws, social safety nets. We definitely seem to be heading in the other direction currently... government owned by business, a rush to try and dismantle any form of safety net, a gradual destruction of the middling :) class, a canyon forming know as the wealth gap, etc. Your choice... accept the status quo or the conservative rush back to the caves... or strive for more social justice, reduced wealth gap, and a refusal to ignore the needy by the nation.

I think it's possible that the planets are aligning for a destruction of the middle class due to globalization and business favortism... and a return to Puritanical America. Sounds fun... may you live in interesting times. :(

5:15 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


If you look more closely at what Franklin said and wrote, he believed in good works as the way to achieving virtue. You are arguing semantics by and large.

Christians in fact are exhorted by God to perform good works we are just taught that those works by themselves are insufficient to make one virtuous (to borrow Franklin’s terms). In my view, Franklin’s approach to virtue is wholly impracticable. Experience teaches us of the avarice of man and in my view to expect wisdom to alter this fundamental truth is to ignore what recorded history teaches us. But this is exactly the Franklin view: that by individual dedication to the common good we can attain virtue.

Christianity turns that on its head and teaches that only by God’s grace can we be redeemed from sin, and through good works we become sanctified. The good works, in my view, are a fruit of a changed being. The materialists would say that good works changes our corporate being.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I think I read Franklin just find... at least Isaacson's representation of him. Franklin obviously made a practical peace with religion, and religion in our society/government. The practical peace he made was "good works"... and rejecting those who would put a religious filter on rights or government. He spent a lifetime fighting the Puritans in charge. I salute him for that.

"Christianity turns that on its head and teaches that only by God’s grace can we be redeemed from sin, and through good works we become sanctified. The good works, in my view, are a fruit of a changed being. The materialists would say that good works changes our corporate being."

Keep in mind, I'm not discussing what it takes to make a man virtuous, or full of "Goodness". I have no interest in that. I will leave it to others to save thier souls and measure themselves and others accordingly. I brought Franklin into the discussion in regards to the role of religion in our society and government... i.e. what offers man the best chance to improve his society. I think his "good works/common good" focus was right then, and right now. I find the aggregate effect of the religious right is to limit our societies evolvement due to the religious constraints put on that progress.

That said, this is what I just heard you say regarding Christianity. Man can only improve with the grace of God. Obviously I don't believe that, but let me ask you a few questions.

1) Are you suggesting any direct involvement in our society by God, due to religious beliefs.

2) Are you suggesting the Christians in our country represent a group that are more likley to address social justice and common good due to their "fruits of being changed"? If that were only true. I always assumed I would find common cause with the RR concerning common good. Instead they are the most likely to decry taxes, any form of federal safety net, etc.

I could care less about some "virtuous" measurement. I care about everyone in this wealthy nation, regardless of religion, addressing common good in a robust nature. Common good doesn't require a religious filter... and every day it is applied is day that holds us back. Prof pretty much put a face on the problem with one of his comments. His religious beliefs restrict the delivery of common good to private, state, church methods... to honor god. It would seem to me that almost makes it impossible for a good hearted liberal like my self, and a good hearted fundamentalist like the Prof, to ever be able to address our nation's needy in an effective robust fashion. It's very, very frustrating. Franklin started many common good enterprises, obviously most from a private sector perspective (i.e. not government.. although he did introduce the concept of matching private/government funding when he started a hospital). But for those who would say... "see, the founders never intended common good to be part of government", consider the volunteer fire fighters started by Franklin. It made total sense in it's day, that community fire fighting could be best served by community volunteers. Flash forward to today. Do you really want the "volunteers" to save your high rise office building when it's on fire? Don't think so. Everything (including our Constitution) has to be measured and modified in the context of current times.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You ask a couple of questions.

”Are you suggesting any direct involvement in our society by God, due to religious beliefs[?]”

No, I don’t suggest it. Rather I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of men for his own purposes. Maybe I don’t understand the question.

”Are you suggesting the Christians in our country represent a group that are more likely to address social justice and common good due to their ‘fruits of being changed’?”

I believe that as individuals that Christians are more likely to agents for the common good. It is pretty clear that acting in concert, the record of the Church is much more spotty. This is a historical pattern and I forsee no imminent change. I, for one, am no big fan of large institutional religion of any faith including my own. I see this contrast in many, many people I know. It is altogether common for Christians in America to be some of the most personally generous people you will find while at the same time ascribing to a view on social justice in America that seems somewhat Neanderthal. I’ve discussed this many times, so I won’t go in depth at this time, but I would say that if I were to set down discreet goals for the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon, one prominent one would be to get my Christian brothers and sisters to see more clearly the error of allying too closely with the institutions of men.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

So bottom line is nobody except TexaCon was willing to even take a stab a defending Dobson on the merits. This probably says more about the readership here than it does anything else. Still, I'd love to see an attempt at a defense by ANYONE. The thing is, I just don't think that his political supporters are interested in the substance of the matter.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Randy P,

This thread is dead, but in case you catch this comment... fyi...

I heard Breyer talking about considering foreign law in US cases again tonight. He pointed that in many commercial law cases, in our globalized world, you have to consider foreign law by definition. There is a disagreement between Scalia and others in some (rare) non-commerical cases where Breyer, O'Connor, will consider foreign law as input... but not binding. I think the world is shrinking... I like the fact Supreme Court justices look outside the US to see how others face similar problems. Scalia makes very strong argument against that, I just don't agree with his position... and at a minimum, I see it as another one of those grey areas rather than black and white. Tony, Andrew (if still around)... chime in.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Tony OK I will defend Dobson,

First, FOF is a private organization that is based on phsycological findings and opinions that have a basis in Christianity. Dobson is not a preacher and does not claim tax exemption for the reason of being able to speak out politically. Although I tend to agree with him in a majority of his opinions about "activist judges" I think he is wrong about Greer(?) in Florida, I think his hands were tied and he is attacking the wrong institution. He should be going after the legislature and not the judge. I think though that there are a C*** load of these judges out there making decisions based on their political views, and I know the founders did not intend that in their version of the constitution. And if I am right, that is to say correct not RR, courts are empowered to ensure the constitional rights of the accused, and grumbliers. I think that Dobson is ahead of his time in that regard and we will see a swing in sentiment from both sides in the coming years. You can not fault the man for the general opinion that these judges are falling into party lines and not viewing the constitution as the rule of the land. There take them apples.

When dealing with international business cases, maybe there should be a tie, but for anything that the constitution does not handle, and I cannot see anything that "activist judges" could not bend to suit their political agendas it should not be up to foreign law to sway the decision, I understand that you are saying it is imput and not binding, but any imput into a supreme court case is under the category of precedent and that is a scary outcome. It will not be long before we have addicts in the streets shotting up with Govt supplied needles, so long as the police do not know who the supplier is everything is legal. I find this to be as scary a predicament as any the liberal, political agenda mongering Honors can put us into.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"I think though that there are a C*** load of these judges out there making decisions based on their political views, and I know the founders did not intend that in their version of the constitution. "

Ah yes... the "intention of the founders". I just read Ben Franklin's constitutional convention position on electing judges was to have the citizens elect them directly. Also, on June 28th... on a hot summer day in the statehouse in Philadelphia in the middle of one of the most tense times (stalemate over equal vs weighted state voting in the legislator) Franklin gave a speech suggesting that they should hire a Chaplin and start each session going forward with a prayer. Per Franklin's notes: "only three or four were in favor of prayers". IMO, "the founders intentions" argument has been way, way overused in our society. Note, I'm not disagreeing that judges aren't there to make law, but I am saying that much of the claims of judge activism really boils down to a "judge didn't factor enough God" in the law. I listened to Scalia in the Russert interview last night for probably an hour. I really enjoy listening to his argument defending is "originalist" position. He is a very bright and entertaining guy. But then he makes the case that the Supreme Court has been an activist court for 60 years and eventually the people will rise up and try and take it back. He went straight from entertaining to what appeared to me a proselytizer. Justice Breyer and O'Connor are also brilliant people, and they don't view themselves as activist. I've really come to believe much of the activist charges simply boil down to religion and god... like most tensions in this society. Actually, I was thinking about our major society ongoing fights, and they seem to come down to 1) Religion 2) Rights and maybe a very distant 3rd... 3) Social justice/safety nets.

Dobson, ahead of his time. God, I hope not.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Doh.. think I forgot a couple of US society tensions. In order of "most tense" to "least tense". :)

1) Terrorism (security, border control, etc)
2) Economy (jobs, taxes, etc)
3) Religion (abortion, religion in government, etc)
4) Rights (Patriot Act, etc)
5) Common Good (social justice, safety nets, etc... not sure this one even makes the list really).

Obviously some overlap between categories. I bet any politician could have corrected my list instantly. :)

12:43 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

yeah, but the problem with the politician correcting your list is that he is coming from what he constituants would want him to say, and he would say it in a way that gives him plausable deniablility. That is a mouthfull.

And the founders intentions, being what they were, I try not to lump them in with Christian world views, I think more from a moral objective. And I guess because I come from the RR angle (so to speak) my morals are founded in what I believe to be "absolute truths". To tell the truth though I would like a moral society, based on absolute truths, and thesse truths to me are self evident, not based on my religious beliefs, but natural factors of nature and society living as a whole. I do not mind judges that make decisions that I disagree with, heck the civil judge in my divorce and child custody cases made decisions that I disagree with, but I would not call him activist. I think my problem is that our society is based on unquestionable freedoms that every human (note that I said "human") is guarenteed by the constitution, I think the activist comes into play for me when they take things that society takes for granted and make it guarenteed freedom under the consitution. Marriage for instance, is not a freedom (no comments from the peanut gallery) it is the foundation for a man and woman to cohabitate. Is this a religious freedom only granted to christians...no, but on the other side of it, it is not a guarenteed freedom, or else religions that allow for multiple wives would be legal, so at some point this was debated and found not to be in the moral best interest of society, and it probably is not. Same for same sex marraige and beastiality. These are all(at the moment) legislated moral rights and wrongs. It is not a far step from what we are embarking on to the next few steps that are not freedoms, or guarenteed rights to being just that, and then you can not shut the flood gate.

Again, I try (and sometimes fail) to make my points not directly from the bible, because I do not see that as the benefit of discussion. Our constitution does not read word for word from the bible, and should not.

I think I just made a point, but I might have rambled

4:29 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I agree.... marriage is certainly not a freedom.

5:19 PM  

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