Sunday, November 29, 2009

More free music

I am continuing to post free music for viewing or downloading on my new website. From now on I will not be announcing new posts on this blog, so if you are interested just check the website once in a while.

Republicans for single payer health care

At church this morning I was talking with Frank Hall about the medical reform debate upcoming in Congress. I noted that at a recent meeting with the "Mad As Hell Doctors" Mike Huntington had suggested that the legislation currently oozing its way through Congress would probably be worse than nothing. He thought if enacted it might place even bigger obstacles in the path to a single payer system of insurance in the United States. I agree, even though I do know thoughtful people who think that even bad legislation would be a foot in the door and would make genuine reforms later somewhat easier.

I opined that the key to real reform is not the current Republican politicians but Republicans and conservatives at the grass roots, and that a well-thought-out campaign to convince a lot of these people that a single payer system is a good idea after all (or at least a less bad idea than either the status quo or the currently proposed reforms) might be very possible. The rapidity with which George Wallace went from campaigning on a "segregation forever" platform to a friendship and racial togetherness stance after the Voting RIghts Act of 1965 brought large number of black people into voting booths in the southern states suggests that Republican politicians could change their tune on a dime if public opinion swung towards single-payer.

Frank suggested I start a group on Facebook called "Republicans for single payer" insurance, which sounded like an excellent idea to me. But before rushing off to do this, I took the precaution of googling "Republicans for single payer." I got 359,000 hits!

I still think it is a good idea, and am glad that a few people have already picked it up and run with it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two parts of free horn concerto now available

Just go to my website if you want to view or download this music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Free choir music now available

To access the three free introits for church choir that I promised to post earlier, you need to go to my new website.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Panel discussion by Plato, Thomas Paine and E.E. Schattschneider

Scene: Heavenly seminar. Panel discussion by Plato, Thomas Paine, and E.E. Schattschneider [a 20th century political scientist with an even weirder name than deLespinasse]:

Plato: E.E., did you ever meet that fellow Charles Tilly while you were alive?

E.E.S: I don’t think so. I didn’t get into New York City very often. What do you think of his essay, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime”?

Plato: Perhaps he is too blunt. Why, his very first sentence reeks of contempt for government:

“If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making---quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy---qualify as our largest examples of organized crime.”

E.E.S: But don’t you think he is on to something? As I pointed out in my 1969 book, “Philosophers have beguiled us with tales about the origins of government about as convincing as the fables we tell children about where babies come from . . . . In the literature of political science and political theory there is no serious theory of the formation of governments or the cause of government.” Professor Tilly is certainly trying to give us such a theory.

T. Paine: I must agree with E.E.. Only it seems to me that I beat Tilly into print by nearly two hundred years. This is what I said in my Common Sense:

This is supposing the present race of kings in the world to have had an honorable origin; whereas it is more than probable that coujld we take off the dark covering of antiquity, and trace them to their first rise, that we should find the first of them nothing better than the principle ruffians of some restless gang, who savage manners or pre-eminence in subtlety obtained him the title of chief among plunderers . . . .”

E.E. S. Oh, my, that was well-put. I’m afraid when I spoke so derogatorily about philosophers, I was not thinking of you as a philosopher.

T.Paine: Under the circumstances, I am forced to interpret that remark as a compliment. I was always a practical man, not a woolly-minded theorist.

Plato: I beg your pardon! Mao Tse-tung and I were having tea together recently, and he confided that he is more convinced than ever that there is nothing so practical as a good theory. And he was “practical” enough to control a huge country for several decades. With all deference, Thomas, you couldn’t even persuade the French Assembly that it would be folly to execute Louis XVI!

T. Paine: I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough. It is never easy to talk sense to Frenchmen. As General DeGaulle has said, how can anybody hope to govern a country that has so many different kinds of cheese? But at least I talked sense about how governments originate well before Charles Tilly.

E.E.S. Plato is a modest man, and may hesitate to blow his own trumpet. So let me do it for him. Thomas, he beat you into print by over two thousand years. I grant you, he didn’t come right out and say that government originates as organized crime. But he did speak of the two things in the same breath and in a very suggestive way. After what happened to Socrates, we can’t blame him for not being more explicit. But you don’t have to be a Straussean to see what he was getting at:

“Do you think that a city, an army, and band of robbers or thieves, or any other tribe with a common unjust purpose would be able to achieve it if they were unjust to each other?”
“No, indeed.”

“When we speak of a powerful achievement by unjust men acting together, what we say isn’t altogether true. They would never have been able to keep their hands off each other if they were completely unjust. But clearly there must have been some sort of justice in them that at least prevented them from doing injustice among themselves at the same time as they were doing it to others. And it was this that enabled them to achieve what they did.” [Plato, The Republic]

Plato: How can I disagree?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another heavenly dialog: Justice Jackson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scene: Somewhere in heaven. A couple of dead Americans have been getting acquainted.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: I think that the second most important thing I ever said was in that letter I wrote from the Birmingham jail cell in 1963. May I quote myself?

Justice Robert Jackson (U.S. Supreme Court, 1941-1954): By all means!

MLK: “An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself.”

Jackson: I totally agree. I talked about this same idea my concurring opinion in Railroad Express Agency v. N.Y. back in 1949. With your permission, I will also quote myself:

“There is no more effective practical guarantee against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principle of law which officials would impose upon a minority must also be imposed generally. Conversely, nothing opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as to allow those officials to pick and choose only a few to whom they will apply legislation and thus to escape the political retribution that might be visited upon them if larger numbers were affected. Courts can take no better measure to assure that laws will be just than to require that laws be equal in operation. …. [W]e are much more likely to find arbitrariness in the regulation of the few than of the many . . . “

MLK: Right on, brother!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A heavenly dialog on the origins of government

I recently discovered some things I was playing around with back in 1994. I thought I would share one of these writings with interested readers here, written in the spirit of Fred Allen's old TV program, Meeting of the Minds.

Origins of government

Scene: A Small neighborhood tavern in heaven. Three dead white European males are sitting together. A half-empty bottle of white wine rests on the table.

Karl Marx: I am still convinced that governments are simply mechanisms for ripping off the governed. In their original form, at any rate, governments cannot be distinguished from organized crime.

Adam Smith: Except for one major detail, my dear Karl, you could convince me that the motives inspiring the people who created the first governments were less than noble.

K. Marx: And what is the “major detail” that interferes with my ironclad historical proof?

Smith: Surely, if governments originated in the way that you contend, as protection rackets, we would have some historical record of such an unpleasant beginning.

Sigmund Freud: I’m not so sure of that. Perhaps our collective memory has repressed the bad news.

K. Marx: Oh, Siggy, is repression all you can ever think about? To hell with all that psychobabble! The truth is the historians at the time knew which side their bread was buttered on. If you irritate city hall, they’ll cut off your water.

A.Smith: And what if you were totally correct, Karl, about the origins of government? Don’t you see this tells us nothing about the governments of today? Why can’t you understand that even actions taken for totally selfish purposes may turn out to benefit people in general? If this is true in economics, why can’t it be true also in politics?

S. Freud: It is not all that easy to grow from an unhappy childhood to a happy adult life. The original governments may be dead and gone. But they are like the fish in the immortal cantata by P.D.Q. Bach, Ephigenia in Brooklyn: “All around him, fish were dying, …. And yet their stench did live on . . . .”

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I am posting the following article because I want to post the letters I wrote in response to it and to the response the author, in turn, posted to my response, in The Oregonian (Portland). As my first letter, following, indicates, I am horrified by the attitudes and proposals expressed in the article. But it would not be seemly or meaningful to print my letters without also including the context in which they were written.

Illegal immigrants burden Portland-area schools
Guest Columnist
October 03, 2009, 5:01PM

By Richard F. LaMountain

In 1982, in its Plyler v. Doe ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court obligated America's public elementary and secondary schools to educate children who are illegal immigrants. Since then, Americans have doled out untold billions to this end.

With a new school year recently begun, let's look at what Plyler costs taxpayers in one Portland-area school district: No. 48 in Beaverton. As children from Latin America comprise the great majority of students here illegally, we'll start by examining some national statistics regarding Hispanics and work our way down to the local level.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 34 percent of the more than 45 million Hispanics residing in America are under 18. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that Mexico and its southern neighbors contribute four-fifths of our illegal immigrants (commonly believed to number 12 million to 20 million); the Federation for American Immigration Reform, that some 15 percent of illegal immigrants are school-aged children. However sensitive the fact may be, what all this means is that between 9.4 percent and 15.6 percent of Hispanic children in America are here illegally.

From these figures, how many Hispanic illegal-immigrant students can we estimate are enrolled in the Beaverton School District? In the most-recently completed (2008-09) school year, according to the district's Website, student enrollment was 37,552; 7,702 of the students were Hispanic. Between 724 and 1,202 of those Hispanic students -- 9.4 percent to 15.6 percent of their total number -- likely were here illegally. What did they cost taxpayers? According to the district, in 2008-09 Beaverton schools' base per-student expenditure was some $8,400 (the general-fund operating budget of $315.6 million divided by student enrollment of 37,552). Each English-language learner -- which, by very conservative estimate, likely included half, or between 362 and 601, of the district's Hispanic illegal-immigrant students -- cost taxpayers another $3,000.

More, each child participating in the free- and reduced-lunch program got a federal subsidy of some $260. Washington County's Hispanic children, according to the county's Commission on Children and Families, are four times more likely to live in poverty than its white children; possibly three-quarters of the district's Hispanic illegal-immigrant students, then, received taxpayer-subsidized lunches.

So the total estimated cost of Beaverton School District's Hispanic illegal-immigrant students in the 2008-09 school year: between $7.3 million and $12.1 million. Add the estimated one-fifth of illegal-immigrant students who are other than Hispanic, and taxpayers likely spent between $9.1 million and $15.2 million educating and feeding all the district's illegal-immigrant students -- an amount equal to 2.8 percent to 4.8 percent of the general-fund operating budget.

Now, to counter recession-induced budget shortfalls, in the past year Portland-area schools have reduced teaching staffs, increased classroom sizes, and slashed extracurricular activities. It must be asked: If not for illegal-immigrant students, how many new teachers could have been hired and existing ones retained? How much more attention could teachers devote to their other students? How many arts and athletic programs could be saved or expanded?

The bottom line is this: Americans do not owe educations to illegal immigrants. Our first, foremost, and most sacred responsibility is to our own children. And we beggar our children's education -- and future -- when we spend scarce tax dollars on those who are in our nation illegally.

Portland-area school boards should lobby Oregon's Congressional delegation to introduce legislation to overturn Plyler, and to allow America's school districts to require proof of U.S. citizenship or legal U.S. residence from their students.

Richard F. LaMountain is a former assistant editor of Conservative Digest magazine. He lives in Cedar Mill.

My letter in response to LaMountain came out several days later:

Richard LaMountain wants Congress to overturn Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court decision prohibiting public schools from excluding children who are undocumented immigrants. Since Plyler held that excluding such children violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, it cannot be reversed by Congress alone.

It would take a constitutional amendment.

More fundamentally, excluding these children would be horrible public policy, as even the four justices who dissented in Plyler recognized.

"Were it our business to set the nation's social policy, I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children --including illegal aliens --of an elementary education," wrote the four dissenting justices in the Supreme Court decision, including Chief Justice Warren Burger. "I fully agree that it would be folly --and wrong --to tolerate creation of a segment of society made up of illiterate persons."


DeLespinasse is an emeritus professor of political science at Adrian College in Michigan.

LaMountain then replied to my letter as follows:

No amendment needed

In his Oct. 7 letter rebutting my recent commentary ("Costs come at expsense of programs, other students, Oct. 4), Paul deLespinasse claimed that a constitutional amendment---and not mere legislation, as I asserted in myh commentary---would be necessary to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe . . . .

As per the Constitution's Article III, Section 2, Congress determines the subjections over which federal courts have jurisdiction. To overturn Plyler, then, Congress would need merely to pass a law doing so--a law that invoked Article III, Section 2 to exempt the law from federal courts' review.

Richard F. LaMountain
Northwest Portland

I then tried to get the Oregonian to publish a letter explaining why LaMountain's take on Article III, Section 2 is profoundly incorrect as a matter of constitutional law. However the Oregonian, after much hemming and hawing, decided not to publish my letter even though they had originally agreed to do so.

The text of my proposed letter follows:

In his recent letter to the editor, Richard F. LaMountain claims that Article II Section 2 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to take away the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear certain cases. But Article III Section 2 does no such thing. It only gives Congress the power to take away the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear some kinds of cases on appeal. If Congress were to do this, the lower federal courts would still have jurisdiction over such cases, but their decisions could not be appealed to the Supreme Court. This could result in the Constitution meaning different things in different parts of the country, a very unattractive prospect.

Paul deLespinasse