April 4, 2012

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From The Tablet, the story of another diary contemporaneous to the Holocaust. The description here of Himmler is interesting. 

David Koker’s fate was in many ways no different from that of the nearly 6 million other Jews who died in the Holocaust. The eldest son of an Amsterdam jeweler, he was arrested by Dutch police in February 1943 and transported to Vught, a concentration camp built by the Nazis in the southern Netherlands. After being shuffled between other camps, he died on the way to Dachau in early 1945, where he was buried in a mass grave at the age of 23.

Before he died, however, Koker authored what may be the most extraordinary diary ever written inside a concentration camp. “In my opinion, it’s considerably more interesting than Anne Frank’s diary,” said Michiel Horn, a historian at Toronto’s York University and the book’s translator. At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944, was first published in Dutch in 1977 as Diary Written in Vught. Despite immediately being recognized as a classic in the Netherlands, it has never seen publication in English, until now.

Part of what makes At the Edge of the Abyss so astonishing is that it survived at all. As the historian Robert Jan van Pelt writes in the book’s introduction, “While the number of postwar memoirs written by Holocaust survivors is enormous, and the number of diaries and notebooks written during the Holocaust by Jews while they were at home, or in a ghetto, or in hiding is substantial, the number of testimonies that were written in the inner circles of hell, in the German concentration camps, and that survived the war is small.” Those few that do exist are often fragmentary, and nearly all lack Koker’s extraordinary powers of observation and analysis. …


John Fund leads off our look at the, “President Petulant.”

I spoke last night at a symposium on “The Obama Presidency” at the University of California at Berkeley. In a radical city known sometimes for its liberal anger, it won’t surprise you, many of those in the audience were upset at the prospect of the Supreme Court’s overturning part or all of Obamacare. After all, Berkeley voted 88 percent for Obama in 2008. But almost no one present at the symposium was as petulant as President Obama was yesterday, when he incorrectly claimed that if the Court rules against his landmark legislation it would be taking “an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” 

The implication of his statement was that he hasn’t heard of Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of judicial review in 1803, and by which the Court can strike down unconstitutional laws. Indeed, since 1981, the Court has struck down 57 specific legislative acts of Congress, an average of two per year. 

The president’s statement was so extraordinary that a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the administration indeed respects the right of court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. As CBS’s Jan Crawford reported, Judge Jerry Smith became “very stern,” telling the lawyers arguing a separate case on the constitutionality of Obamacare that it was not clear to “many of us” whether the president believes such a right exists. He also noted Obama’s remarks yesterday in the Rose Garden about judges being an “unelected group of people.” The court was clearly not amused.

There appear to be few limits on how far President Obama will distort facts. In truth, his health-care plan passed the House by only 219 to 212, despite that body’s overwhelming Democratic majority. It was the first major piece of social legislation within memory to pass Congress without a single vote from the opposition party.

Even some liberals believe the president went too far yesterday. Ruth Marcus, an editorial writer who covers the Supreme Court for the Washington Post, said Obama’s assault “stopped me cold . . . for the president to imply that the only explanation for a constitutional conclusion contrary to his own would be out-of-control conservative justices does the court a disservice.” It was a mistake for Obama to “declare war” on the court, says Jon Meacham, a contributing editor of Time magazine. Voters don’t like hearing assaults on the Supreme Court itself, probably because Americans believe “life needs umpires, even ones who blow calls now and then.”

So it is surreal for Obama, a former constitutional-law professor and president of the Harvard Law Review, to go after the court as if he were a demagogue seeking reelection. As the Wall Street Journal put it: “Obama’s inner community organizer seems to be winning out over the law professor.” …


Steve Hayward continues the theme.

I’m grateful for the favor Obama did for us yesterday of exposing his extreme constitutional ignorance, with his comments on how it would be “unprecedented” for the Court to strike down a law passed by a “strong majority” in Congress.  (As if a House margin of seven votes is a “strong” majority.)  True, he walked back the comment today, but surely because his statement was not merely indefensible but outright embarrassing to his media defenders.

I’ve been growing weary of hearing people mention that he’s a “constitutional scholar,” since he never published a single thing on the subject either as editor of the Harvard Law Review or as a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School.  But hey—he taught constitutional law, didn’t he?

Not really.

His course on constitutional law, one of several constitutional law courses on the U of C curriculum, dealt exclusively with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment—the favorite, all-purpose clause for liberal jurists to use to right wrongs and make us more equal by judicial fiat.  There is no evidence that Obama ever taught courses that considered other aspects of constitutionalism, such as executive power, the separation of powers, the Commerce Clause, or judicial review itself.

I have a copy of one of his final exams.  It is a long hypothetical involving civil rights, which begins thus: …


We stuck a relevant cartoon in the text, perhaps because Bart Simpson stars in it.

John Hinderaker has more.

… Is there any truth to Obama’s claim that the Supreme Court hasn’t invalidated any statutes that are “economic” and relate to “commerce” since Lochner v. New York, which was in 1905? Of course not. To name just a few examples a great deal more recent than 1905, the Court ruled unconstitutional provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that had permitted only “for cause” removal of members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board in 2010; the 1990 Mushroom Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act in 2001 (this case was actually quite similar to Obamacare because the Court held unconstitutional provisions that required mushroom growers to contribute to mushroom promotion programs); provisions of the Patent and Plant Variety Remedy Clarification Act, the Trademark Remedy Clarification Act, and the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act in 1992; the Harbor Maintenance Tax Act in 1998; the Transfer Act which authorized the transfer of operating control of Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport from the Department of Transportation to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in 1991; and many, many more dating back to 1905.

One could be charitable and say that Barack Obama is a bullshitter who makes stuff up whenever he is in a tough spot, or one could say that he is a habitual liar. Take your pick.


Michael Walsh thinks it is all of one piece.

Jonah’s cited this below, but be honest: Tell me you ever expected to read a second-day lede like this on an American news site. From CBS:

In the escalating battle between the administration and the judiciary, a federal appeals court apparently is calling the president’s bluff — ordering the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the Obama Administration believes that the courts have the right to strike down a federal law, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom.

“In the escalating battle…” Even making allowances for normal journalistic hyperbole, this is a remarkable admission that something is seriously amiss in our politics; it’s like we’re suddenly living back in 1937. The president of the United States is actively waging a war of words against the federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular. And, right on cue, comes a horde of lefties suddenly concerned about “unelected” justices, whether Marbury v. Madison was properly decided back in 1803, and whether it’s not time to revisit it in the interest of, you know, “social justice.” You don’t have to be a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows — especially when the hot air is emanating from the White House. Good for the 5th Circuit to call them on it.

Many have commented that last week was the worst week (so far) for the Obama administration, but I don’t think the apparatchiks have quite yet realized how bad things are going to get for them. The decision to insult and attack the Catholic Church was spectacularly stupid, even as a crass political tactic, since there are some 77 million Catholics in the country, representing about a fifth of the population. True, Catholics tend no longer to vote as a bloc (the old FDR coalition has splintered as the Irish and Italians moved out of the cities and up in the world), but a thumb in the eye to one is a thumb in the eye to all, especially when that one is the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York. …

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