The political burlesque show sponsored by the Democrats with a strong supporting effort from the State of Illinois is beginning, already, to bore me. So let's talk about something that is interesting, relevant, and shocking; The Dirty Dozen.
No, I am not speaking of that 1967 movie classic directed by Robert Aldrich, based on the novel by E.M. Nathanson and starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson and Jim Brown. As described in Wikipedia "Though ostensibly about World War II, the story deals with contemporary 1967 themes of individualism vs. collectivism, cultural relativism, internal and external racism, and their meanings within patriotism and duty in war."
And I thought it was just a kick-ass war film with great action.
Who can forget the deliciously psychotic Maggot, played with great skill and adroitness by Telly Savalas (who loves ya baby) when he almost ruins the whole plan by pushing that woman into the hall at knife point telling her to scream. Just when you think he is going to let her off the hook because she did as he directed, he plunges that knife to the hilt. The Germans, partying downstairs hear her screams and assume it is a result of a passionate encounter because, after all, sticking knives in women was probably a standard lovemaking technique for the average Nazi.
But I digress
The Dirty Dozen I refer to is a book by Robert A. Levy and William Mellor. The book is an excellent examination of 12 of the worst Supreme Court rulings (or as P.J. O'Rourke stated, "...the 12 worst so far") that took away our personal liberties, increased government control, and essentially twisted the Constitution into something that would be unrecognizable by its framers.
The book is eminently readable. The 12 cases are split into two parts. Part one is on expanding government and part two concerns eroding freedom. The chapters are divided by each "case."
Promoting the general welfare (Helvering v Davis) - Congress can tax and spend to promote the general welfare. This is what started the government being able to take from one and give to another with no constitutional constraints.
Regulating Interstate Commerce (Wickard v. Filburn) - Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce was extended to activities that were not interstate, not commerce and even prohibited.
Rescinding Private Contracts (Home Building & Loan v. Blaisdell) - Despite the fact that the Contracts Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Sec. 10) states that no law shall be passed that impacts the obligation of a contract, the Court decided it was not clear enough and interceded between a lender and a customer.
Lawmaking by Administrative Agencies (Whitman v. American Trucking) - If Congress passes a stupid law they can be voted out. But is a law is unclear, Congress can assign an unelected regulatory agency to sort things out. The Courts won't do much about it and the voters can't.
Campaign Finance Reform and Free Speech (McConnel v. FEC) - A blow to the First Amendment and the basic right to support or criticize a candidate.
Gun Owner's Rights (United States v. Miller) - A slam to the Second Amendment that was based on a finding that had very little to do with gun ownership but has been used to fight individual rights to own them.
Civil Liberties Versus National Security (Korematsu v. U.S.) - The concept of liberty, fair treatment and equal protection can be disregarded during wartime, even for American citizens.
Asset Forfeiture Without Due Process (Bennis v. Michigan) - If not so tragic this would be funny. Your husband has sex with a prostitute in the front seat of your car. The Court determined that the offense (itself a bit of a question) extends to the car itself which they can and did seize. Your out the car and the value of it on top of the possible loss of your husband's income, unless you get a divorce in which case you get more than your fair share...but I digress.
Eminent Domain for Private Use (Kelo v. City of New London) - This is a recent one. You own property in which you have lived for many years but a developer sells the government that if he has it, he will create jobs and higher taxes. Bam, it's taken away.
Taking Property by Regulation (Penn Central v . New York) - The government makes a rule that crushes the value of your property but does not have to compensate you for the loss of value.
Earning an Honest Living (U.S. v. Carolene Products) - A direct blocking of the right to start your own business without unwarranted government restrictions.
Equal Protection and Racial Preferences (Grutter v. Bolinger) - You cannot discriminate based on race, unless you are a state university that sells it as part of a holistic approach to attain diversity.
Each chapter is structured by four subheadings: 1) What is the Constitutional issue? 2) What were the facts? 3) Where did the Court go wrong? 4) What are the implications? Once you read how the Court has really impacted our freedoms, you will be startled. Equally as shocking for me was how I have grown to accept the reduction and, in some cases, elimination of some of my most basic rights. It is almost as if they are gone and forgotten. This book will open up your eyes and remind you what this country has given up and what it could be today.
And as P.J. O'Rourke asked, are there the 12 worst do far? What type of decisions await us that will remove even more of our rights?
Give this book a tumble. Well worth the read.
The Dirty Dozen - How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom
Robert A. Levy and William Mellor
Sentinel Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-1-59523-050-8