Friday, August 21, 2009

Mencken's Timeless Truths

Spotted by Arms/Law.

In discussing the (mostly) execrable Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mencken made a side-observation about the other pack of hyenas:

"There is, in fact, no reason for confusing the people and the legislature: the two, in these later years, are quite distinct. The legislature, like the executive, has ceased, save indirectly, to be even the creature of the people: it is the creature, in the main, of pressure groups, and most of them, it must be manifest, are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle- a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism."

Well, H. L., some lawmakers ARE in favor of polygamy; they just don't bother with the second (or third) formal ceremony. See, e.g., Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, John Edwards (etc.)

Back to Holmes--with a far more devastating indictment.

In three Espionage Act cases, including the Debs case, one finds a clear statement of the doctrine that, in war time, the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment cease to have any substance, and may be set aside by any jury that has been sufficiently alarmed by a district attorney itching for higher office. In Fox v. the State of Washington, we learn that any conduct "which shall tend to encourage or advocate disrespect for the law" may be made a crime, and that the protest of a man who believes that he has been jailed unjustly, and threatens to boycott his persecutors, may be treated as such a crime. In Moyer v. Peabody, it appears that the Governor of a state, "without sufficient reason but in good faith," may call out the militia, declare martial law, and jail anyone he happens to suspect or dislike, without laying himself open "to an action after he is out of office on the ground that he had no reasonable ground for his belief." And, in Weaver v. Palmer Bros. Co. there is the plain inference that in order to punish a theoretical man, A, who is suspected of wrong-doing, a State Legislature may lay heavy and intolerable burdens upon a real man, B, who has admittedly done no wrong at all."

"Over and over again, in these opinions, he advocated giving the legislature full head-room, and over and over again he protested against using the Fourteenth Amendment to upset novel and oppressive laws, aimed frankly at helpless minorities. If what he said in some of those opinions were accepted literally, there would be scarcely any brake at all upon lawmaking, and the Bill of Rights would have no more significance than the Code of Manu."

It strikes me that Holmes will be oft-cited by AG Holder in the future. After all, it worked for Roosevelt and the Progressive Fascist Icon Wilson (may a camel s^%$ on his grave.)

And that reminds me:

BUY MORE AMMO!!! Remember that the 2A is what actually protects the rest of the Bill of Rights.

1 comment:

John Foust said...

Think of all the moments when the defenders of 2A were shooting at the defenders of the 1A.