Separation of powers protects freedoms

Separation of PowerHas there even been a point of time in which so many public controversies rest on a single, abstract principle of constitutional government? I can’t think of one.

The principle in question is the separation of powers. Here are only some of its recent political manifestations:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has just blocked President Joe Biden’s attempt to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars in debt from student borrowers to federal taxpayers. The federal constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, not the president, and the statute Biden cited as giving him sweeping authority to transfer debt did no such thing.

  • The Supreme Court also struck down the racial preferences used by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other highly selective institutions to discriminate against white and Asian students.
    In her dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson argued that if her colleagues believe “preventing consideration of race will end racism,” their intention will “be in vain.” But as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision, the judiciary isn’t authorized to pursue policy intentions of any kind. Its job is to decide whether specific acts are lawful. Racial discrimination isn’t. If you think there should be exceptions, your proper course is to rewrite the relevant federal statutes and constitutional provisions. Courts can do neither.

  • In yet another decision with North Carolina connections, Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional language giving “state legislatures” the power to determine the time, place, and manner of federal elections does not exclude such legislative decisions from review by state courts. As you may recall, the North Carolina Supreme Court intervened before the 2022 elections to strike down a congressional map drawn by the General Assembly. The state court, then composed mostly of Democrats, drew from general language in the state constitution about “free elections” and “equal protection” to invent a new rule against partisan gerrymandering. Then it authorized non-lawmakers to draw congressional districts for 2022. After the midterm elections, which produced a 5-2 GOP majority on the N.C. Supreme Court, this abuse of the separation of powers was (properly) reversed.
    In the meantime, however, Speaker Tim Moore had appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that under the federal constitution, state courts may exercise no legitimate oversight of congressional redistricting. Chief Justice Roberts disagreed, writing in this majority decision that Moore’s argument “does not account for the Framers’ understanding that when legislatures make laws, they are bound by the provisions of the very documents that give them life.” There is ample precedent for Roberts’ interpretation, such as a 1932 decision upholding the power of governors to veto congressional districts if that’s what their state constitutions permit. When the U.S. constitution refers to state legislatures, the court ruled, it does so in full knowledge that legislatures must act “in accordance with the method which the state has prescribed for legislative enactments.”

  • Finally, on several occasions this session the North Carolina General Assembly has sought to strip the executive branch of significant influence over the enforcement of state laws and the administration of state agencies. As I’ve previously argued, you can be sympathetic to the legislature’s concerns without endorsing an unconstitutional remedy for them. Like the federal one, our state constitution specifically requires that the “legislative, executive, and supreme judicial powers of the state government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other.” Why? Because checks and balances are essential to freedom and effective governance. The English philosopher John Locke argued in 1689 that in any “well-formed government,” the “legislative and executive powers are in distinct hands.” The man who coined the phrase “separation of powers,” Charles de Montesquieu, wrote in 1748 that “when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty.”

Process matters. That’s what we can learn from all of these disputes. Few lessons are more important.

Editor’s note: John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, Mountain Folk and Forest Folk, combine epic fantasy with early American history (

Cucumbers are a cool treat

CucumbersCucumbers are a summer favorite for me, and I love them so much that I think I could eat my weight in this low-calorie fruit!

Cucumber (Cucumus sativus) is a family of fruit, not vegetables, including watermelon, pumpkin, muskmelon and squash. They are native to India and are one of four ancient fruits that have been grown as a food source for over 3,000 years.

Early cucumbers may have been bitter because of compounds that were natural defenses to repel insects and other pests. Over the centuries, great strides have been taken to eliminate the bitterness with cultivation, but we occasionally can bite into one with a bitter taste.

Cucumbers were eaten in ancient Egypt, but the Egyptians made weak liquor out of them by cutting a hole in the ripened fruit and stirring with a stick on the inside to liquefy it. After it was liquefied, they plugged the hole and buried it for several days. The result was said to be a weak form of liquor, but I suggest that you do not try this!

They were also grown in Italy in the 8th and 9th centuries and later spread to western Europe. During the reign of King Henry VIII, his first wife (Catherine of Aragon) often demanded cucumbers for her Spanish salads.

Columbus is credited for bringing them to the New World with other vegetables and fruits. He introduced them to Haiti in 1494 and by 1806 eight varieties of cucumbers could be found growing in America’s colonial gardens.

There are about 100 varieties of cucumbers. Many are found in supermarkets, and farmer’s markets, including English, Persian, Kirby and pickling. There are rare white cucumbers, some are “burpless” and others require a little flavoring in vinegar with salt and pepper.

There are eight common varieties:

English cucumbers are seedless, burpless cucumbers that are long with sweet firm flesh, thin and dark green. They are often preferred for cucumber sandwiches, salads and even infused with water and cocktails.

White cucumbers have a culinary interest because of the white skins. They are served much as English cucumbers.

Persian cucumbers are small and burpless, easily digestible, have very few seeds.

Garden cucumbers have thicker skin and are best when they are peeled because the skin may contain some bitterness and they have larger seeds.

Lemon cucumbers are the size of a small tennis ball. They are mild and sweet with a cool crispy texture and are ideal for salads.

Kirby cucumbers, my favorite, are small in size with bumpy skins and firm flesh and are a favorite for pickling.

Gherkins are pickled baby cucumbers that have been allowed to ferment. Pickled in brine or vinegar, they are a favorite for charcuterie boards and cheese trays.

Armenian cucumbers are long, also known as yard-long cucumber and snake melon. They are not cucumbers but fall into the category of musk melons.

The health benefits of cucumbers are many. They are about 97% water and great for hydration. The term “cool as a cucumber” is common because a cucumber can be considerably cooler on the inside. They are aids in battling immense heat and they are known for aiding with sunburn by mixing up a puree and applying it to the skin.

Cucumbers help with flushing toxins and the ability to battle kidney stones. They are also loaded with vitamins and help with weight loss with one cup having sixteen calories.

Live, love life and stay cool as a cucumber.

Mr. Science explains the universe

Pitt turtlesToday we are going to learn how the universe is arranged. It is too complicated to explain the goings-on between Putin and Prigozhin in Mother Russia. Russia’s current situation is, to quote Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

Instead we will review how the Cosmos is organized. There are a number of colorful theories about the origin and structure of the universe and Earth’s place therein. You are invited to choose the theory you like best.

The Big Bang Theory is the one that Mr. Science chooses to believe. Under this concept, once upon a time 13.8 billion years ago there was an original atom who we will call Miss Kitty. She is not to be confused with Marshal Matt Dillon’s friend who ran the Long Branch Saloon in Gunsmoke. For reasons, even Mr. Science does not understand, one day the cosmic Ms. Kitty blew up and spewed out the entire universe, planets, stars, dark matter and the Dook basketball team.

There are two versions of the Big Bang Theory, neither of which is particularly encouraging. Under the Inflationary Big Bang theory the universe will keep expanding forever until every star and planet is alone in a vast dark void. Not even the Federal Reserve raising interest rates will be able to stop the cosmic inflationary spiral into nothingness.

The other version is the Big Crunch theory which holds that at some point after the Big Bang, the universe will stop expanding like a rubber band being pulled by a three year old kid. Then, like a rubber band, the universe will snap back into its original location. This will squash everything in the universe into a Mega Black Hole which will once again explode into a new Big Bang. Nothing will be left from our universe after the Big Crunch but Twinkies, cockroaches, and Keith Richards.

There are a number of other scientific theories about the universe worth mentioning in passing. The Geocentric theory held that the Earth is the center of the universe with the stars rotating around us. Our old buddy Ptolemy came up with this theory in 2nd century AD. It was pretty much the standard theory until an astronomer named Copernicus came up with his heliocentric theory which said the Earth revolved around the sun. Galileo sided with this theory and got into big trouble with the Pope’s Inquisition in 1615.

The Earth got downgraded again in 1785 when a smart aleck astronomer named William Herschel came up with the Galactocentric theory that our very own sun was the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Not only was the Earth not the center of the universe, it wasn’t even the center of its own solar system, much less its galaxy. Now we know how Pluto felt when it got downgraded from being a planet in 2006.

The ancient Egyptians’ theory was that in the beginning, the universe was just a big wet puddle of nothing with the Sun God, a dude named Atum sleeping in it while floating around. One day Atum woke up and created an island because he could. Atum stood on the island and began creating the universe by inventing gods and goddesses. When he got tired of creating theological beings, he created humans to amuse himself. The rest is history.

One of my favorite theories is the Turtles all the way down proposition. A western traveler we will call Fred was in Asia. Fred met an Asian philosopher there. Fred asked what is the nature of the world?

The philosopher told him that the Earth is “A great ball resting on the flat back of the world turtle.” Fred asked “What is the world turtle standing on?” The philosopher explained that it is “Turtles all the way down.” That is a lot of turtles. It is unclear what the bottom turtle is standing upon. Like in 1950’s horror movies, “There are some things man should not know.”

I have saved the best cosmic possibility for last. Welcome the Flat Earth Theory. Flat Earthers believe the Earth is flat like a big Frisbee. No globalism for them. A poll in 2017 found that 1% of Americans believe the Earth is flat. While that does not sound like much, America’s population is about 332 million. That means over 300,000 Americans believe the Earth is flat.

The most popular Flat Earth theory holds that the Artic Circle is in the middle of the Earth. Antarctica is a circular ring around the outside of the Flat Earth Disk with a wall of ice about 150 feet tall.

Employees of NASA are stationed all along the outer ring of the ice wall to keep civilians from finding out the Earth is flat and to keep them from falling off to where the turtles holding up the Earth might eat them.

You are now free to pick out the cosmic theory that suits you, just as you are able to pick out the news silo that suits your political leanings. Have a celestial day.

Stuck in a rut? Turn to His word

Stuck in a RutSummer vacations invite exploration, and who doesn’t love to explore? According to Webster’s dictionary, “explore” is defined as traveling in or through an unfamiliar place in order to learn more about it. Whether it’s the excitement of the unknown or the thrill of learning something new, from young to old, we all enjoy taking a risk now and then.

Such was the case years ago when our young family ventured to the Cayman Islands. Renting a Jeep for the week we decided to go off the beaten path with our two young boys.

At some point we chose to ignore the road signs (those warnings meant for our safety) and found our paved road turning into a dirt road. It was then that it happened. Our Jeep got stuck in a rut quickly ending our explorations. Thank goodness God got us out of that rut — that deep track made by the repeated passage of those who had made the same wrong choice as us. But what about the ruts in life that get us stuck spiritually?

I remember once reading a road sign that said, “Be careful the rut you choose, because you will remain in that rut for the next 25 miles.” In other words, be careful with your chioces.

It’s one thing to get stuck with the people you love on a hot afternoon in the Caymans. It’s another thing to get stuck spiritually — to form a habit or pattern of thinking that is incorrect, especially in your walk with God.
Romans 12 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.”

In a world full of blurred lines, it’s easy to get stuck in thinking the way the world does, and once we get in that rut, it’s difficult to get out. But the Bible teaches us not to become so comfortable with our culture, which is usually self-centered, that we fit in without even thinking. We are challenged to let God’s Word teach us to think differently. Not an easy task considering everywhere we turn we are influenced by others defining truth for us.

It takes a deliberate, hard turn to align our thinking with God’s truth. But when we do so, we discover that God loves us so much, He will never leave us circling in deeply rutted paths of untruth.

Making the commitment to study the Bible is not a task to be taken lightly. But attempting to navigate through life with no direction, no signs, no moral or spiritual boundaries to ensure we stay on the right path — well, that will land you in a pothole. When we study the Bible, we get to know the character of God — how He thinks, His nature, His attributes, His desires for our life and for mankind.

We learn that God will go to any length to have a relationship with people, even as far as sacrificing His son, Jesus.

We learn the history of how God has reached down to mankind through the ages revealing Himself.

We learn of man’s rebellious nature, wanting to ignore the road signs and go his own selfish way.

We lament over the inescapable consequences of man’s sin, yet we are reminded that with Jesus, there is always hope for restoration.

Through studying the Bible we get to know God, and knowing God changes the way we think. God transforms us into a new person by renewing our minds with His unchangeable truth. After all, nothing is different until you think differently.

Looking at life through the lens of the Bible changes the way we look at everything in this life. Understanding what God loves and what God hates, grasping His holiness, believing in His sovereignty over all peoples and nations throughout all time — well, that invites a new perspective.

When we trust in God as the ultimate authority in our lives, His thoughts gradually become ours. We may still be in the rut of unmovable circumstances, but our wrong thinking does not have to remain in that rut. God invites us into a way of right thinking. We begin to see and understand His good and perfect will throughout the ages and how He brings good out of the worst of situations. And once we align our will (our thinking) with God’s will, when we prove by the way we live that He can be trusted, we are changed from the inside out. In the biblical paraphrase of Eugene Patterson, “God brings the best out” in us.

What well-worn path of your own making are you spinning your wheels in today? After all, we never arrive anywhere in this life by accident. Knowing who or what to trust nowadays seems harder than ever.

Rather than trusting your own limited, faulty wisdom, consider exploring the Bible this summer. The Bible does not gloss over hard truths, and that’s a good thing — because God knows your name and the rut you are in.

The good news is you don’t have to occupy that same rut you are existing in the rest of your life. God loves to seek and rescue all, even from the ruts of our own making.

What are you waiting for? Open the Bible and find the solid ground you have been searching for.

Editor’s note: A version of this article appears in the June issue of Women’s View Magazine.

Bringing Congress to the Sandhills

Hudson 1Six months ago, our community was attacked.

Two substations in Moore County were intentionally attacked on the evening of Dec. 3, leaving my house and 45,000 of our neighbors without power for up to 10 days.

In the aftermath of the attack, hospitals were impacted threatening medical treatments, schools were shut down, businesses were affected, stop lights were dark, gas stations were closed, cell signals were impacted, and water couldn’t be heated.

An attack like this could have devastated our community and we didn’t go without our struggles. But overall, I am so proud of our resilient response. In the days that followed, residents truly showed the best of Moore County and the best of America.

Throughout our region, churches, small businesses, restaurants, police and fire departments, local governments, and individuals stepped up to help their neighbors and showed the true strength of the community. It was inspiring to see everyone come together in our time of need.

I also thank Sheriff Ronnie Fields and our local law enforcement for their quick response during those dark days and for their ongoing investigations to determine who is responsible for December’s attack.

We must hold those responsible for this act accountable and I will continue to support law enforcement as they conduct their investigation.

Since the attack occurred, I have been in listening mode. I have heard from constituents, grid operators, community developers, the FBI and law enforcement, and business owners who have concerns with our grid’s security and resilience — all against the backdrop of historic energy costs.

As your neighbor, I share these concerns with you. And a similar, yet thankfully unsuccessful, attack in Randolph County several months ago underscores the need to address this issue.

That’s why I brought my colleagues from Congress to Moore County for a House Energy and Commerce Committee field hearing. I took my colleagues to the site of one of the attacks so they could understand the substation involved.

I introduced them to the community and people who were impacted by the attack. Just as I promised back in December, I brought Washington here and put real faces to the issues that rocked our community.

Before the hearing, we stopped at the Duke Energy West End substation, one of the two substations in Moore County that was intentionally attacked. At the field hearing, experts from Duke Energy, NC Emergency Management, NC State University, and energy security shared their testimony on the current state of our grid security and resilience and how we move forward from these attacks.

There are 45,000 stories of why Moore County — and our nation — needs greater grid resilience, and my colleagues and I welcome these testimonies and your feedback in order to help do our jobs effectively.

This field hearing was the first of many our committee will hold in our efforts to improve the security and resiliency of our nation’s energy grid. It was important to me that the first hearing be where the attack happened, and this is only the beginning of our investigations.

Being your voice in Congress is a responsibility I take extremely seriously and I will continue to make sure Washington pays attention to the concerns and needs of you and your family.

It is an honor to represent you and the best of our community — which always shines bright, even in the dark.

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