Conservatives Are Liars: Ends Justify Means

PinocchioLast week, Donald Trump announced that women who get (or try to get) abortions should be criminally charged. His campaign quickly walked back the claim. But Katha Pollitt made an excellent point about this in an article in The New York Times, Abortion and Punishment. Basically, she says, “Why not?” If conservatives really believe abortion of a zygote is murder — that a 2n diploid cell is a full human being with complete Constitutional rights — then shouldn’t any woman who attempts to get an abortion at least be guilty of attempted murder?

As Pollitt noted, the anti-choice movement gets around this problem by claiming that the women are victims. They don’t really want to get abortions, it is just all of us pro-choice advocates who push them into it. I would take this argument more seriously if these same anti-choice proponents were for a strong social welfare program. But in general, they want women to have no choice in when they have children and then to abandon them to a Dickensian life. But regardless of that, Pollitt said, “If you consider how determined a woman has to be to get an abortion in much of the country these days and how much energy states expend trying to dissuade her, it’s hard to see her as a frail flower.” Indeed.

So the anti-choice movement will use their “states’ rights” argument right up to the point that they get them. Once Alabama can outlaw abortion, the conservatives will turn on a dime and claim that states should have no right to allow women to have abortions.

But the truth of the matter is that the anti-choice people are just liars. What they want right now is to overturn Roe v Wade — either in the courts or through a Constitutional amendment. In other words, they want to allow the states to decide. But how does that make any sense? So abortion is murder in Alabama but not in California? The truth of the matter is that they don’t want to overturn Roe v Wade, they want the opposite of it; they want abortion to be considered murder everywhere.

It’s just like with the old (and still quite common) conservative complaint about liberal activist judges. Well, there pretty much are none of them. The activist judges are almost entirely conservative. But conservatives didn’t care about activist judges then and they don’t care about them now. They only care that the judges provide decisions that they agree with. And I’m not against that. I want the same thing! But I don’t go around claiming that I alone know what the Constitution means and therefore any decision I don’t like is the result of a conservative activist judge.

So the anti-choice movement will use their “states’ rights” argument right up to the point that they get them. Once Alabama can outlaw abortion, the conservatives will turn on a dime and claim that states should have no right to allow women to have abortions. This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about conservatives: there is no consistency. The ends always justify the means. When it came to same sex marriage, they thought it shouldn’t be up to the states and we got the Defense of Marriage Act. But when it is about abortion, it is just the opposite — for right now.

As for me: I’m a federalist. One of the biggest problems with Scalia’s death is that it can end up with different federal law in different areas of the country. It has the potential to turn us into a confederacy. And we’ve tried that and it failed. When people talk about states’ rights and when libertarians claim that local control is always better, what they are really saying is that they want their own little preferred laws — usually really vile ones. My friends, the conservatives represent the most unpatriotic movement we have in this country.

Morning Music: Louis Armstrong

Louis ArmstrongAs we continue on with songs that I’ve used fragments of in my videos, we come to Louis Armstrong’s version of “What a Wonderful World.” When I was younger, I loved the song. Now it kind of makes me sad. I do love his voice and there are times that I quite agree with the lyrics of the song. The world is wonderful in many ways and we need to remember that and be grateful.

Just the same, I don’t like the fact that even for people my age, Louis Armstrong is only “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello, Dolly!” Armstrong was, in fact, one of the most important figures in the development of jazz. I understand: that New Orleans jazz music can sound dated. But try to listen to it fresh. It sounds amazingly modern. And when they go crazy, you hear counterpoint that you won’t hear on Top 40 radio.

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five

I want to highlight Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five. The band consisted of Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Johnny St Cyr on guitar/banjo, Lil Hardin Armstrong (Louis Armstong’s wife at the time) on piano. All of them are legends in their own right. One thing that comes across really well in all those Hot Five recordings is that it is a collaboration. Sure, Louis Armstrong is the star, but they are making music together that is incredibly pleasing, and so much more interesting than most popular music that came before.

There’s a curious structure to the arrangements too. The piano and the banjo work as a team, but interestingly, mostly it is the banjo that holds things down. Lil Armstrong gets to play a lot around what St Cyr is doing. Similarly, the horn players act as a unit. It’s lovely to listen to. Here’s Lil Armstrong’s song “Droppin’ Shucks.”

Anniversary Post: First Presidential Veto

George Washington VetoOn this day in 1792, President George Washington issued the first veto in the history of the United States. And it’s a curious law. It had to do with how many voters were represented by each member in the House of Representatives. Congress was trying to figure out how to give out representatives, given that, you couldn’t just take the Constitution’s number of 30,000 (or more) per Representative given that none of the states had populations that were equally divisible by that number.

What they ended up with was a system that ended up giving northern states more seats in the House. And this was already a touchy issue because the south didn’t have many citizens in it because it remained agrarian with a large percentage of its population labeled as property rather than human. This brings to mind the 3/5ths compromise. If slaves really were property, there was absolutely no justification for giving the southern states any representation based on their slaves. But then, isn’t that just like conservatives: whatever is convenient to get their way.

Congress did finally work out a deal that the president signed, Apportionment Act of 1792. In fact, it was just 5 days after the veto. It’s interesting that the rest of life has gotten astonishingly faster, but Congress has gotten astonishingly slower over the last two centuries.

What I find interesting about it all is how now this problem of apportionment works to help the slave red states. For example, Wyoming gets one Representative. In 2014, it had a population of 584,000 people. The same year, my home state of California had a population of 38.8 million. We have 53 Representatives. So: we have one Representative for every 732,000 people. That means that each person in Wyoming gets 25% more representation in the House than each person in California. And don’t even get me started on the Senate. (Fun fact: it’s a 65-to-1 ratio.)

Now one could say that Washington made his historic veto because he was trying to protect his fellow vile slaveholders. But I suspect that it was actually the same issue that would be dealt with by every president through Lincoln: dancing around the south’s peculiar institution and not wanting to set them off. Have you noticed that most conservatives try to claim that the Union started the Civil War? The truth is that from the ratification of the Constitution, the south was itching for a way out. They knew their days were numbered. But oh, all the suffering that went on in the mean time.

But hey: first veto.