Thursday, January 06, 2011

Reading "Madison" in Washington, DC

The RW foamer contingent has been making big noises about reading the Constitution out loud to start off the 112th Congress. Some have characterised this as a "nod to the Tea Party movement that swept many of the 87 new GOP lawmakers into office" (as the link above puts it). Nice of them to be so accommodating to the incoming Tea Party representatives that would have a hard time actually reading it on their own.

But I have no doubt that it is an eminently justifiable exercise.

For instance, RW talk radio foamer Mark Levin, on his radio show today, started off on some disjointed harangue about the complaint of some liberals that the Republicans were reading a Bowdlerised version of the Constitution. Missing was the "three fifths compromise" which seems to embarrass Republicans that want to offer up the Constitution like some perfect object of veneration like a Holy Bible or such:
"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."
Levin went into some 'argument' about how it was the anti-slavery people that wanted slaves to be counted as less that a full person, and the pro-slavery folks that wanted them counted as full people ... for purposes of those pro-slavery people having more of their representatives in Congress (but not "representing" said slaves, much less giving them any rights or freedom)!!! I think that Levin's twisted brain here was trying to say that the eeeeeyyyvullll Northerners (which we know as abolitionist lib'ruls, you know) were the ones that didn't want to "count" slaves as a full person, so this "three fifths" stuff is all the lib'ruls' fault, and not a blot on the Constitution (which, being divinely written, was obviously the product of conservatives). Of course, "counting" slaves as such didn't help the slaves in any way. But it's all irrelevant!!! [even though the Northern states were in fact on the right side of justice despite Levin's rhetorical twisting] Because the plain fact of the matter is that the Constitution explicitly countenanced slavery [through the "three fifths" reckoning for slaves], and it allowed for the unfettered continuation of slavery until at least 1808. The question isn't who put the slavery provisions in there (and why) but rather whether they were in there. They were.

Then Levin got even stoopider, and said that at least the Constitution required the cessation of the importation of slaves, and thus was obviously anti-slavery. Simply not true. I think that "The Great One" Levin needs to read the freakin' Constitution himself: It does not require the end of slave importation, but rather prohibited the banning of such until at least the year 1808:
Section 9 - Limits on Congress

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
Then Levin went and said that the "Fourteenth Amendment wasn't necessary to abolish slavery." Well, duh. That was the Thirteeth Amendment that did that:
Amendment 13 - Slavery Abolished. Ratified 12/6/1865. History

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Yes, Mark Levin needs to have the Constitution read to him. Over and over. Strange thing for a supposed lawyer to need, but there you are. Sad part is that it may not help ... at least for the purposes of understanding. That seems to be a congenital defect in Levin, not amenable to remedy by intensive intervention. Levin's just -- simply put -- a compleat eedjit when it comes to Constitutional law (or even coherent thought).

* * * * *

The whole idea of reading the Constitution like revealed wisdom from on high that must be absorbed bodily before anyone can be truly 'saved' and do Good Works as a legislator reminds me of nothing so much as fundies (of whatever stripe) who read their Bibles (or Torahs or Qur'ans or whatever) over and over, every day, thinking that by rereading it enough, perhaps they will catch on to what its true meaning is. Why they don't understand it the first time is beyond me; there's not too many words in there that are difficult, and repetition wouldn't be expected to give too many new insights (more likely just somnolence and headaches). Methinks they'd be far better spending their time reading other works (you know, like other religions' holy books, or other countries' constitutions and laws, or even the vast corpus of legal analysis and case opinions concerning the Constitution we have, and studying things from wide perspectives and different angles). Surely there's a point in diminishing returns (if there ever was a "return" to begin with) in such ritual reading as they seem to be proposing. But I may be expecting too much of the RW foamer contingent.


More Tea Party Follies here:
And finally: Republicans proudly led a reading of the entire Constitution on the House floor yesterday — except not quite. “During the reading of the Constitution, because of an inadvertent double page turn, Section 4 of Article IV was skipped, as was a part of Article V. (It was entered into the record later.)”
You have to wonder how they manage to get out of bed in the morning. And this is the people entrusted to "change how government works"?!?!? The prospect should be appalling.

Update 2:

As usual, Jon Stewart and company really nail the naked eedjitcy of the Republicans.

And it becomes obvious why the Republicans need to have the Constitution read to them. To put it mildly, they're clueless about the freakin' rules!!!