Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Personal Aside: “Tribune’s” Steve Chapman Explains it All for You: See, Obama’s Redistributive Regret is Something Justice Scalia Might Say. Sorry, No Cigar.

Chapman in for Bentham.

The “Chicago Tribune” has leapt into the fray to be the first publication to defend Barack Obama’s redistributive remarks with an essay by Stephen Chapman that should be entered into competition with those of Doug Kmiec for blatant sophistry. Chapman masquerades as a libertarian but is really a liberationist radical nihilist who pioneers in trying to repeal the ancient principle of contradiction. The principle, devised by Aristotle and refined by Aquinas, has taught Western thinkers that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time under the same aspect. It is self-evident; no rational person can doubt it. Thus it is good for a hungry man to eat a sandwich but not a barbed wire sandwich since it would ruin the human stomach. Gasoline is good for the car engine; not sand or sugar which will ruin it. Chapman follows the dictum of “whatever” under the false rubric of “liberty.”

The first self-evident principle of practical reason is that good is to be done and promoted and evil is to be avoided. Kmiec, an intellectual giant in a pique because he was passed up for high judicial appointment by Reagan and the two Bushes despite his earlier support of pro-life, knows the principle totally. Willfully however he has endorsed Barack Obama and has written extensively that an opponent of abortion can support Obama because…while he does not deny that under Obama Supreme Court and other appointments will advance abortion—and his candidate has pledged himself to sign as a first order of business a “Freedom of Choice” Act which will nullify all other programs to restrict the practice…abortions can be reduced by a flurry of increased appropriations for liberal programs such as more funds for maternal care. Thus the Kmiec demonic false rationale fails the barbed wire sandwich test: with a president who would advance abortion by legislative and other means, the counsel to provide more federal funds for maternal care while abortion proceeds apace with radical steps and judicial appointments fails the test of rationality.

Kmiec understands his argument to be duplicitous; he knows its falsity full well. He knows the history of jurisprudence and has told me much of it, going back to Sir Edward Coke. His argument, then, falls into the classification of demonic…and the priest who refused him the sacrament was correct (just as the malleable, political accommodationist Roger Cardinal Mahony who rebuked the priest was not). If he were just to have erred intellectually, he would not have been the very cogent man whom not long ago as a pro-lifer wrote eloquently about constitutional means and until a few months ago was a leader of the Mitt Romney campaign for president. Knowing evil and willing it as truth is the definition of demonic strategy.

Not so Chapman. I don’t know him but in reading him it’s clear he’s just a sophist: trying to answer one phase of the argument while skipping the major. To perceive Stephen Chapman’s sophistry, one must first study the Obama statement the then state senator made on WBEZ-FM, the Chicago public radio station in 2001. Unlike his plea to be let off the hook on the Billy Ayres friendship and patronage…that he was eight years old when Ayres bombed the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol for which he has never expressed regret…Obama has no answer to this. When he said these things he was an adult, 40 years old, and a lecturer in law at the University of Chicago. In the extensive interview, he explains that the civil rights movement failed to create a “redistributive change” in its appeals to the Supreme Court. “And I think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the conditions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that,” said Obama.

Chapman argues that in describing how Obama felt the courts should not get into the business or redistributing wealth, Obama shares the view of Antonin Scalia. He stops there and is satisfied he responded to the challenge, ignoring or forgetting the fact that Obama’s goal is redistributive change through “conditions of power.” Obama never says the Supreme Court’s refusal to redistribute was correct; he merely cites it as a fact of history. He says “one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement” is that it spent too much time in the courts and not enough time organizing
”conditions of power” i.e. politics to gain redistribution.

Nice try, Chapman but no cigar. Your boss, R. Bruce Dold, whom I have known somewhat but not well, a pro-abort Catholic, has shown himself smart indeed to send you to do public battle with a red hot poker rather than go himself. He knows too much to even try. As a philosophical innocent, Chapman had no way of knowing how philosophically Aquinas described a bad law…such as abortion or forced redistribution against wage-earners’ will…can be proved unjust in two ways.

“First, by being contrary to human good…either in respect to the end, as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory; or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him; or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good…Secondly, laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry or to anything else contrary to the Divine law; and laws of this kind must nowise be observed because, as stated in Acts v. 29, we ought to obey God rather than men.”

Chapman, the philosophical innocent wouldn’t know, but perhaps Dold would know from his long neglected Catholic theology that we do not ask whether a human law achieves the greatest good for the greatest number ala Jeremy Bentham which we discussed yesterday—but as with the history of earlier jurisprudence—whether a human law is in accord with natural law. Our senses and intellect tell us what is. A thing is not known through the senses alone but through the intellect with the aid of the senses. The intellect abstracts and takes into itself the thing in its essence.

My saying this blog is a car does not make it so. It is a judgment only and whether it is true or false depends on whether it conforms to reality. Try to put a key in this blog and try to start its supposed engine and you will discover it is not a car. So the first act is simple apprehension: this blog is a blog. The second is judgment, a simple cognitive action “in which” says Aquinas “something is known to be in a certain manner, or not to be so.” Example: this blog is composed of words.

The third is discursive reasoning—i.e. all men are mortal; Stephen Chapman is a man therefore Chapman is mortal. Remember this reasoning was phrased by Aquinas but not invented by him but by ancient non-Christian philosophers: Aristotle who wrote of “natural justice”; Cicero who wrote “law is the distinction between things just and unjust, made in agreement with that primal and most ancient of all things, nature.” Cicero was the first one to write, “if the principles of justice were founded on the decrees of peoples, the edicts of princes or the decisions of judges, then justice would sanction robbery and adultery and forgery of wills, in case these acts were approved by the votes or decrees of the populace.”

Again, Chapman is ignorant of these things; I doubt Dold is. I KNOW Kmiec is not. And Obama, who has not heretofore exhibited the slightest understanding of Judeo-Christian thinking, can well be…as either invincibly or vincibly ignorant ala Chapman…but in any event the worst example of our modern decadent, lawless society wrapped up in a genial young man on the make—a legal positivist who shirks absolutes of any degree--who will certainly do all he can to wrench the law from its arm socket and redistribute the wealth...to “spread it around” as he said…whether we like it or not.

Chapman is ignorant; Dold is a Catholic corporate trimmer; Catholic Kmiec’s actions are demonic. All represent the failings of this decadent age.

Which is why I echo that ancient slogan:

Nobama! Keep the change!

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