“So, Thomas, do you think we need to add that clause to prevent wardrobe malfunctions on the currently-non-existent nationally broadcast television, also known as the Nipp-Slip Addendum?”
“Of course not, Benjamin. People aren’t stupid enough to read every little detail of this thing to the letter. I mean, I can’t even read this letter.”
“Yeah, wtf is that? Is it a Q?”
“No, wait. I think it’s an S with a really long tail attached. Yeah, definitely an S.”
“Right, I see it now. Definitely an S.”
“God, that Adams is such a dickhead with his signature.”
“Yeah, really. What a dick.”
Is the great division between Republicans and Democrats one based on differing interpretations of the Constitution? No, probably not. But examples are quickly at hand to show how they both manipulate the document to pursue their own political agendas, thereby manifesting these ideological rifts. No doubt each side is guilty. But as my own political beliefs lie with the middle-left, I am obliged to take a position. And in this case, I am most happy to do so, screaming out a massive ‘What the fuck?!‘ to my neighbors on the right for their mock-worthy belief in a purely textual reading of the Constitution. Let me try to be more reasonable and explain how I have arrived at this blogging juncture.
Browsing the usual news outlets, I came across a
ludicrous story on the Huffington Post, called Scalia: Women Don’t Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination. [Did I just give away the milk for free?] A recently published interview from a stupidly-obviously-named magazine, California Lawyer, details Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s thoughts on the extent of the 14 Amendment’s reach regarding civil rights in the US. He argues that the Constitution, in its most literal sense, does not prevent discriminatory legislation on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. His statement begins reasonably enough and, upon first reading, is acceptably progressive with one particularly fraught aspect of these Constitutional debates. “[I]f indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society,” he says. There is no disagreement from me on this point; he is right, in my own view. The Constitution is an instrument to guide progression; a tool made of malleable substance; a careful, but not strict, blueprint. Like a parent’s warnings to drive more carefully, phone home very night, or avoid eating junk food: these are pieces of advice intended to be interpreted, whether we may be making a mistake or not. So when he accepts that society may have different viewpoints than the American Ancients, it seems a little too obvious to be a basket on which politicians score cultural points. Right? Right.
Ah, but I spoke too soon. Immediately after making this (perfectly rational) statement (that I wish other Republicans would believe too), he plays the conservative fiddle, espousing traditional rhythms sweet on far-right ears. The Post quotes him (with my own emphasis), “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.” Oh dear, Mr. Scalia. Well, the fight for appropriate behavior is not lost yet. Add something like ‘that was then, this is now‘ or ‘at least we now accept that these quote-unquote minority groups are intrinsically protected.‘ Don’t just leave it there!
And then he went on: “If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. […] Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.” To me, the last line is the death sentence to the American political system and shows Justice Scalia’s deep misunderstanding and underestimation of the structure of the American government. Essentially to claim that the court is not responsible for taking initiative and making plain what is an obvious intention of the malleability of the Constitution is despicable. Making such impractical and downright discriminatory statements, while devaluing his own position and its authority, Justice Scalia does nothing less than to threaten American-style democracy at its core. This is not an hyperbolic statement. He undermines his own political base by making these statements, which suggest the unraveling of every precedent-setting court decision providing a better America. Whether the ruling was for beneficial for one party or the other, we all win with this system.
Critics are right to move forward, such as Marcia Greenberger: “In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that’s up to them. But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there’s nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them.” Jack Balkin, a legal scholar, disagrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of history and instead finds that there was some protection clauses inherent in the formation of the 14th Amendment:
“First, The central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to guarantee equal citizenship and equality before the law for all citizens and for all persons. It does not simply ban discrimination based on race. The fact that the word race is not mentioned in the text (as it is in the fifteenth amendment) was quite deliberate.
“Scalia argues that the fourteenth amendment was not intended to prevent sex discrimination. That’s not entirely true. The supporters of the fourteenth amendment did not think it would disturb the common law rules of coverture: under these rules women lost most of their common law rights upon marriage under the fiction that their legal identities were merged with their husbands. But these rules did not apply to single women. So in fact, the fourteenth amendment was intended to prohibit some forms of sex discrimination– discrimination in basic civil rights against single women.
“Moreover, the Constitution was subsequently amended. After the nineteenth amendment, the common law coverture rules made little sense. If married women had the right to vote, why did they not have the right to contract or own property in their own names? If we read the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of civil equality in light of the Nineteenth Amendment, the guarantee of sex equality should apply to both single and married women. The conservative court during the Lochner era thought as much in a case called Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, decided immediately after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.”
Aka the Supreme Court is good. Undermining it is dangerous. And, according to how our government is set up, is illegal to not have a Supreme Court making these kinds of calls. So really, strict constructionism of this form makes strict constructionism impossible and anarchistic.
The itch this story caused days ago was only made worse when I read a similar one, entitled Mike Lee: Federal Child Labor Laws Are Unconstitutional, also from the Huffington Post. A Utah-based and Tea-Party-backed Senator, Mike Lee, has recently claimed that laws implemented to protect children (and essentially ensure that they are educated to a certain age) are not Constitutionally founded:
“Congress decided it wanted to prohibit [child labor], so it passed a law–no more child labor. The Supreme Court heard a challenge to that and the Supreme Court decided a case in 1918 called Hammer v. Dagenhardt. In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress. […]
“This may sound harsh, but it was designed to be that way. It was designed to be a little bit harsh. Not because we like harshness for the sake of harshness, but because we like a clean division of power, so that everybody understands whose job it is to regulate what.
“Now, we got rid of child labor, notwithstanding this case. So the entire world did not implode as a result of that ruling.”
This is simply ludicrous. Child labor was a very contentious issue prior to its eventual regulation/ban. The National Child Labor Committee formed in 1904 and attempted to get legislation through that would abolish child labor altogether. One law did pass via them, but it was inevitably struck down by the Supreme Court on the basis that even a child had a right to contract their own work. While further attempts were made for Congress to abolish the institution, it was not until the Great Depression that child labor was eventually done away with. This was a direct result of the great competition between children and adults for jobs and the lowering of pay wages for adults as a result. FDR added additional restrictions to forms of child labor after.
In any case, it is illegal now, so why the hell even bring it up? This is a non-issue and should not even be addressed by our legislators, particularly as dredging it up as a states issue and size of government dispute. In fact, it shows how out-of-touch and backwards these tea-party newbies stances on strict constructionism are. So, we should read the Constitution literally in order to allow individual states to make decisions on whether children can work? The framers of the Constitution purposefully left out that children shouldn’t work in order to secure states’ rights?
ThinkProgress will help me tell why this whole nonsense stinks:
“The Constitution gives Congress the power “[t]o regulate commerce…among the several states,” and to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” this power to regulate commerce. Even ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia agrees that these powers give Congress broad authority to regulate “economic activity” such as hiring and firing. Which explains why the Supreme Court unanimously overruled Hammer v. Daggenhardt in a 1941 decision called United States v. Darby.”
Both Congress and the Supreme Court have the authority to ensure the best interests of all by overruling state decisions and asserting national policy. So basically, and make sure you read this Mr. Lee since you clearly didn’t before, the US Supreme Court took over this decision because it was vital to America as a whole, a statute that needed to be unanimously defended against individual state arguments. Senator Lee admits child labor is wrong. If the US government had not protected it federally, the institution could still continue. So to address both Justice Scalia and Senator Lee: the Supreme court is necessary, the Constitution is malleable, and people need to let what happens happen.
It is not as though these two believe and preach every single detail in the Bible. It’s adaptable, right, or at least enough to create moral lessons and account for changes in culture and economic ability? If not, I want to know where is that race of giants, the one that survived the Great Flood? And I certainly hope there’s no wool mingling with linen in those Justice robes…according to Leviticus 19:19, it’s a no-no.
January 7, 2010
This appears to be the day of unfortunate updates to previous entries. This one accompanies a previous entry I made, called Gay marriage in Latin America (& Springsteen).
Excuse the outright expletive, but WHAT THE FUCK, NEW JERSEY. Not you too.
CNN reports that gay marriage legislation has been defeated by the NJ Senate in a (hardly close) 14-20 vote. Advocates for same-sex marriage in the state had hoped to pass the bill prior to current Governor Corzine’s exit from office. He will be succeeded by an asshole Republican who has voiced his opposition and refusal to introduce or sign any bill that would approve gay marriage. In essence, he is a douche intent on denying equal civil rights to all NJ citizens.
I do not understand my own country anymore. Not only has New York voted down our marriage equality bill, but New Jersey too. And did you hear about Rhode Island’s current (pile of shit) governor? Gov. Donald Carcieri vetoed funerary rights legislation, which would have:
“allowed same sex couples to claim their partner’s bodies at the mortuary and bury them. He said he wouldn’t allow that to happen because it is part of a ‘disturbing trend of the incremental erosion’ of HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGE.” – Justin Bond, JustinBond.com
Grow up, America, and think. Does this hatred and cruelty represent the way you feel? Compassion for your fellow (wo)man surely permits you to empathize more than this man would lead me to believe. Who is so hateful that they would deny others the happiness they have and force the them to become (trite phrase approaching) second-class citizens? Read the scriptures, Bible-bound bastards: that is not the message of Jesus.
Marriage, like voting and the right to free speech, is not of personal concern to me on a day-to-day basis. But, like voting and the right to free speech, I would still like to know they are there. My option. My choice.
I feel so negative about this issue, slowly tip-toeing toward the viewpoint held by Justin Bond. He says we need to get extreme, call people out, and demand solidarity from (marriage-bound) friends. I will quote his whole posting on this because it is THAT IMPORTANT:
Last night I was on a flight from New York to San Francisco and I read a tweet posted by my friend Julian Fleisher concerning the vote against Gay Marriage in the New York Senate which sent me on a rampage of Twitters that cause quite a stir. I thought I would put them all in order on my blog. Glenn Belvario compared me to Valerie Solanos -which I took as a great compliment. I haven’t shot anyone yet and I hope I never will, but I would not be adverse to forming a new version of S.C.U.M. -The Society to Cut Up Marriage!
Here is Julain’s tweet which got it all started followed by my response.
@Julien Fleisher Hope my straight friends in NY take this issue seriously. Consider not getting married until we all can. Watch how fast the law changes…
@mxjustinbond I’ve been saying that for years, but straight people are selfish cunts or we’d have gay marriage already.
They say nice, supportive things because it makes them feel good and they think they’re being kind and then they step on your throat. They step on your throat on the way to the alter because although they “support you” they have to live in the “real world”. So have a drink. Make cynical jokes. Sing some cheesey ass song for them at their wedding and then wait until they have a couple of ”adorable” children and get swept up in their entitled mainstream paradigm and see how much time they have to give to you.
By then they’re resenting the fact that you just won’t let it go and be happy. You’re to negative! Why not just relax? Actually all this negative agita is affecting the children. We don’t think you should come around anymore.
“We’re not college age anymore, we don’t really believe in all that naive stuff. Just let it go.”
“Why worry about getting married, you’re single anyway? Gay relationships don’t last. Not like ours -we’ve been struggling through this for years on account of the children….”
Then a few years and many tearful phone calls later…
“Oh my God, gay friend. It didn’t work out! We’re divorcing!”
“I need my gay friends so much more than ever! You are so lucky you can’t get married!!!”
We have to start aggressively picking fights socially with every straight person we know to shame them into doing something about this.
If we’re to be subjected to the tyranny of the majority. We’ve got to make each and every one of them feel personally responsible for taking care of this problem as often as possible… bring it up OFTEN!!!
Boycott married homes. When invited out, inquire if married people will be there, then decline.
Ask people to please not introduce their partner as their husband or wife -it’s offensive. Better to say, ‘Is this your friend?” NEVER let the word marriage or any of it’s derivatives pass without reminding people how thoughtless it is to bring up such a callous, hurtful topic.
Any straight person who does not actively support gay marriage is our enemy.
Personally, I don’t believe in marriage, but if they do, they should be held accountable for my lack of one!
After we get all these people to do the right thing, then we do everyone involved a great big favor and move on to something more interesting.
The church has been our enemy from the get go. They’re siphoning money to pay for gay genocide in Uganda. They’ve been sponsoring hatred of gays, and the oppression women nonstop, ad nauseum, worldwide for millenia. It’s the responsibility of decent members of these organizations take on their leaders and hold them accountable for their vicious acts or barbarity! Remind them of this.
Get decent loving straight people to back us up on this and everybody wins. Marriage doesn’t do anyone any favors. Get rid of it. But in order to get rid of it we’ve got get it first!!! This is not about destroying the family. It’s about destroying archaic institutions used to maintain a vicious, cruel sadistic power structure designed to keep the queer trouble makers and critical thinkers who aren’t willing to be blind followers either disempowered or, better yet, dead. SO until we actually have gay marriage, we’ll never be free of it.
People who don’t step up to the plate and take a stand are passive haters. I don’t want to have to feign compassion for one more person who tells me they feel awful about the way things are as they stand idly by. As if by saying they care it makes it true. FUCK THAT! Stand up to the bullies in your churches, on your streets, in your government or be honest with yourself that you actually only want to feel good about yourself while doing NOTHING to help.
From Now on “friends” can’t let “friends” hang on to the delusion that they are compassionate if they stand by and idly watch their henchmen run the show.
So the first thing single straight people can do is boycott marriage until everyone is free to marry. And at the very least people who are already married should publicly “suspend” their marriages until further notice!!!! AND BE SURE AND MAKE A POINT OF BEING LOUD ABOUT IT!
Think again, America. Twenty years from now, think what side you will have been on.
January 9, 2009
I just saw an article featuring an interview with former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Apparently, she is very upset by the way she was portrayed by SNL performer Tina Fey during the 2008 election season. As the Governor of Alaska, Fey said, “I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers.” This is the main issue Palin seems to take with SNL, that her family was used for humor. Her objections went entierly unvoiced during the election, however. At the time, Palin made an appearance on SNL to score some additional votes for the GOP. Now that the election is over and lost, I suppose it makes sense to now score some pitty points to secure a future in the GOP. Hindsight is 20-20, they say. It is good to know that she did not win the election: should a potential President be relying on hindsight to act or act in the present?
She also tried to critique her interview with Katie Couric, the all American newswoman that I love, who gained a substantial increase in ratings thanks to a series of interviews with never-prepared Sarah Palin. Palin does not blame Couric specifically, but notes that it “says a great deal about our society” that people have capitalized on her inadequacies. She left that last part out, but I knew where she was going. Interestingly enough, she blames the GOP for forcing her into the interviews with Couric. The blame-game only works when you go for the enemy in politics, and Palin better watch where her governorship goes if she picks a fight with the Republicans.
All well. What is done, is done. Here is a copy of one hilarious clip from fall 2008 on SNL.
January 4, 2009
I just switched over to BBC News and saw yet another headline involving Barack Obama. Not surprising, I realize. Yet in this one and the others like it lining the papers and websites now the new President is tangential. The story to be found on your front page today concerns the Obama family, particularly Michelle and the couple’s 2 daughters. The headline reads “Obama family moves to Washington” and goes on to detail the family’s move into the Hay-Adams Hotel before they will make their more permanent move to the White House.
The attention being paid to this story, which seems otherwise irrelevant with such issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the economic catastrophe, suggests to me an important social shift that will redistribute the political weight of the country. As occurred with the oft-compared presidency of John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy family unit took precedence. They set trends, became members of each American’s extended family, and became components of the Camelot ideal. I think with Barack Obama and his family, this is their future. Michelle Obama has already been called a style icon (maybe maverick), wearing classical looks by the best fashion houses, as well as more manageable pieces from retail-giant Target. The kids, whil avoiding the spot light, are continually used in pieces about getting ice cream with their famous father, all of which contributes to a softened image for the new President.
This could be what this country needs, a family unit to rally behind. To break the divide that seems to break the country in half every two years, we need something to soften harsh, blind politics. This could do it. And while these stories are irrelevant, I see the purpose in them. It worries me that the administration has this much control over the media or that the media is so biased. But to get that family image out there is good in the end, I suppose.
January 4, 2009
I have been impressed by Barack Obama’s White House transition. While I have never been an age to really examine the ascent of one President and the descent of another, one can assume from the great emphasis placed upon the, now-termed, Office of the President-Elect, a smoother and more efficient change can take place. One can hope, at least. I was never Barack Obama’s most fervent suporter, perhaps still holding a grudge on behalf of my primary candidate, Hillary Clinton, but I can certainly admit that I now believe in his ability to lead. Part of that has come about with his strong leadership in this transitionary period. Even on a well-deserved family vacation in Hawaii, he seemed to be working for the country. Blame the media’s bias or what you will, but to look like you are working when you are on holiday is impressive.
What I have particularly been astounded by is the great importance that has been placed upon the nomination (and investigation) of each would-be member of the new cabinet. The height of media speculation centered around the nominee for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who has since been confirmed for the position (with a quick-fix provided by the newly accommodating Bush administration). With an in-depth analysis of the breadth of hers and President Clinton’s investments and business dealings, the country saw how serious the Obama team was taking their message of change. Now it has become even more clear with former Presidential candidate Bill Richardson’s resignation from the Commerce Secretary position for which he was nominated.
I am torn with this resignation. I commend Richardson on his service to the country and acknowledge that he is a gifted peacemaker, being a former UN Ambassador under the Clinton administration and making ties with North Korea that have led to the (somewhat) deescalated tensions there. However, and this is where my grudge remains, he completely turned on Hillary Clinton during primary season to back Barack Obama. I should not be surprised: political stability often means trading personal opinions and ethics for those of the populace, meaning go with the flow. But this was such an obvious ploy to be a major player in the Obama administration by denying those who gave him the ability to be in this position. To have his finances now in question by federal prosecutors is yet another example of these same ethical values, though it must be noted that his guilt remains to be found.
I have no idea how the transition will actually run, though I think American confidence in the transition is much greater than would have otherwise occurred without these great efforts. If one poll is to be taken as representative of the entire country, nearly 75% of the country trusts the new administration’s work and thinks they are doing the right thing. Well done, marketing strategy of David Axelrod.