Saturday, September 24, 2011

Morgan Freeman: More Fun with Words

Long ago Morgan Freeman began honing those acting skills that would make him the popular Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Award winning actor that he is today. Below is a clip from his "Fun with Words" duet with Hattie Winston on The Electric Company:

But Morgan Freeman still enjoys fun with words. Most recently, he amused himself and at least some of the viewing audience with a word less appropriate for his old children's television gig: racism. He contributed a small number of additional paragraphs to the ongoing liberal narrative that the Tea Party movement's hostility to President Obama is based upon his race.

He claims that the Tea Party movement is "controlling the Republican Party." Well, not quite yet. It actually consists of several organizations--some officially Republican, some officially non-partisan--that seek to reduce the scope and cost of the federal government. Because some segments of the Republican Party profess sympathy for those goals, even the non-partisan tea party groups gravitate to the Republicans. Some establishment Republicans such as Karl Rove  have expressed skepticism about the movement. Although Rove recognizes weaknesses in the tea party movement and some of its candidates, he knows also that the triumph of the tea party probably means and end to his policy consulting career.

Freeman notes that the tea party movement plans to do "whatever it takes to make Obama a one term president." He quotes Sen. Mitch McConnell, not exactly a tea partier. It would serve his case better to quote Michele Bachmann on that point. In fact, his quoting of McConnell illustrates something very different: that mainstream Republicans, too,  want to make Obama a one term president. But every opposition party seeks to make the sitting president a one term president. Is Freeman unaware that this occurs every four years regardless who is in office?

Freeman's fun with words reaches its comedic climax when the paraphrases the tea party goal as "screw the country. We'll do whatever we can do to get this black man out of here."
The underlying assumption  behind "screw the country", of course, is that whatever the President wants strengthens the county; therefore, whoever opposes the Obama administration wants to harm the country. Freeman's statement contains just a small hint that a conflict about political philosophy and public policy might lie behind the differences between the Tea Party movement and the Obama administration. The hope that  Freeman might allude to those differences dissipates into the air, however, after he transmogrifies "one term president" into "get that black man out of here." In other not so fun words,  the opposition is based upon race.

When confronted with the obvious--that Republicans wanted to get rid of Clinton, too--Freeman asserts that circumstances differ because of Obama. He asked viewers to consider all those people crying after the election about how far Americans have grown in that they have elected a black president.  According to Freeman,  Americans have lost that emotional elation. Now the tea partiers have bubbled up from the brackish waters of the swamp to poison our politics.

The election of President Obama does speak to how far Americans have grown. Not everyone, however,  wept tears of joy that night. Nearly sixty million Americans voted against him.

They became even less happy when they learned after the next series of  bail outs that what the election campaign really gave us was Bush III.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Palin's Full Court Press of Glen Rice

Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin is in the news again--if this really qualifies as news.

Author Joe McGinniss, who camped out next door to the Palins to research what Todd Palin called McGinnisss' “creepy obsession” with his wife, finally published his book. McGinniss cites the usual unnamed sources to claim that years ago she smoked pot, snorted cocaine, and committed adultery with her husband's business partner. The charge that seems to have attracted the most interest is that shortly before her marriage Palin hooked up with University of Michigan All-American and future NBA star Glen Rice. He alleges that Sarah  had an inordinate interest in black men and that she “full-court pressed” Rice in her sister's college dorm room.

Below is sports reporter Sarah Heath on the tournament in question:

If true, the story illustrates the continuing erosion of the private lives of public officials. Until a couple of decades back, the press ignored private indiscretions of public officials, even when they occurred while in office. Gradually the press began to report on these indiscretions, at least when they happened while in public service. Now the press appears open to reporting the indiscretions of public officials even when they occurred when these officials were unknown private individuals.

If false, it demonstrates the length to which writers and their unnamed sources will slander those with whom they despise.

But why does McGinnis stop where he did?  Why settle for some salacious speculation? Why not tap into the left-wing conspiratorial readership and offer something really big?

Remember, in that Alaska tournament. Michigan opened with a 106-76 trouncing of Miami, in which Rice scored 22 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Then after Palin wore him out in the sack so that he lost his legs, Michigan lost to Arizona 79-64, when Rice scored 15 and made 6 turnovers.

Then 25 years later those same Arizona boosters that engineered the Palin-Rice tryst teamed with the Koch brothers get her a sweetheart deal on her new house in Arizona.

Has McGinniss let a Pulitzer slip from his fingers?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'd Like to Plead the Tenth Amendment

Sometimes during criminal justice proceedings, a defendant will "plead the Fifth Amendment" protection against being compelled to witness against oneself.

The various Tea Party movements and their supporters would like to "plead the Tenth Amendment."

What is this amendment and how did it come about?

When the Congress under the old Articles of Confederation submitted the newly proposed Constitution of 1787 to the American people for their approval, many Americans opposed it. One widespread argument against the new Constitution was that it contained no bill of rights. Some Americans feared the stronger federal government created under the Constitution of 1787 and vowed to oppose its adoption unless it included a bill of rights.

The most prominent supporters of the new Constitution, however,  resisted efforts to amend it with a bill of rights. They made several cogent arguments.

First, the Constitution granted to the new federal government only specific enumerated powers. Moreover, it contained numerous prohibitions of other powers. Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist No. 84 argued that a bill of rights is not really appropriate for a "constitution like that under consideration, which is merely intended to regulate the general political interest of the nation, than to a constitution which has the regulation of every species of personal and private concerns." Later in that paper, he asserted that "the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, A BILL OF RIGHTS."

Second,  Hamilton suggested that a bill of rights might actually be construed to expand government powers beyond what the Constitution allows. It could be argued that the new federal government possessed the powers to act in any way not forbidden by specific provisions in a bill of rights.  According to Hamilton, provisions of a bill of rights "would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colourable pretext to claim more than were granted."

James Madison made a similar argument. In addition to representing Virginia in the Constitutional Convention, he also served as a delegate to the Virginia state convention that considered ratification of the Constitution.  At that convention, he opposed the addition of a bill of rights. He argued that "by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication that those rights which were not singled out were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government . . . "

Despite the opposition to a bill rights by supporters of the new Constitution like Hamilton and Madison,  the promise of a bill of rights eventually contributed to the ratification of the new Constitution.

The first Congress under the new Constitution subsequently worked on the creation of a bill of rights that adressed the concerns about the new stronger federal government and the natural rights of Americans. Most of the specific provisions that Congress incorporated into the first eight amendments came from suggestions proposed in the various state ratification conventions.

The the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, however, addressed those very concerns expressed by supporters of the Constitution who also opposed amending it with a bill of rights. Both amendments intended to prevent the government from construing the bill of rights to actually limit the rights of the people or from claiming powers  not specifically delegated to it by the Constitution. Those two amendments read as follows:

Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not e construed to deny or disparage other retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the Sates respective, or to the people.

These two principles seem to have been lost in the two hundred years since the drafting of the Constitution. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments have been trampled upon by Presidents, Congresses, and the justices of the Supreme Court.

During the post-revolutionary era of constitution making, the state of Virginia, too,  issued a Declaration of Rights. Article 15 reads "that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugalisty, and virtue, and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."

It is that recurrence to fundamental principles that energizes the Tea Party movment.

(And the revival on interest in the Tenth Amendment has spread to political candidates not usually identified as "tea party favorites.. See more on the Tenth Amendment at here. )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

States Rights and Human Rights

Andre Carson's recent rant on the Congressmen supported by the Tea Party is just a continuation of the liberal narrative that slanders the conservative populist movement as little more than a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

A couple of months earlier, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. made a more subtle argument along the same lines.

In the video, Jackson at least notes one substantive position of the Tea Party Movement: the return to the federal system under which the federal government confines itself to the specific enumerated powers given it in the Constitution. All other power the Constitution reserves for the states, as is reinforced by the Tenth Amendment.

He asserts that "if slavery is as state right, then state rights can never and will never be human rights.”

He adds, “Someone needs to tell the Tea Party that state rights are not human rights.”

Someone needs to tell Jesse several things.

First, he adopts the erroneous slaveholder and segregationist language. States do not really have rights. They have powers. These powers are defined in each state's constitution. Only people have rights. Some of these are natural or human rights; others are civil rights.

Second, even if one concedes the language issue, Jackson appears to commit an informal logical fallacy called the fallacy of composition. It occurs when one applies the attribute of one member of a class to all members of that class. Contrary to Jackson's claim, just because we agree that slavery was not a human right, it does not follow logically that no other rights reserved to or protected by the states are human rights.

Third, if we correct the language problem, Jesse forgets that the federal system and the Tenth Amendment, or states rights, were designed to protect human rights. Many Americans in 1787 feared the powers delegated to the new federal government. All the amendments, including the Tenth, were designed to protect natural rights more fundamental than property in humans. (The next post will show how.)

Finally, Jesse forgets that slaveholders not only asserted “states rights” to protect their property in humans, but also--when their interest demanded it--asserted federal power. When it came to enforcing the federal fugitive slave laws that empowered federal law enforcement officials to capture and return runaway slaves, slaveholders quickly threw “state rights” out the window

That's a lot of history forgotten by a man invited to dedicate a museum devoted to our collective historical memory.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tea Party Lynch Mob

The Tea Party movement is in the news again.

But not for any rallies or conventions that it organized. At a townhall meeting in Miami, Congressman Andre Carson accused the movement of racism.  Tea Party movement has consistently directed its fury at corporate bailouts and the national debt incurred to fund them. Nevertheless,  liberal purveyers of " the paranoid style" continue to treat the Tea Party as modern resurgence of the old White Citizens Councils of the 1950s  that opposed integration, obstructed voting rights, and warned young people about the dangers of that "niggra" rock music.

Carson's charge that racism lies behind the Tea Party Movement by itself is just another stilted paragraph in the liberal narrative about the conservative populist movement. Obama represents change; he is black. Tea Party opposes change, they are racist.

 Carson's delusional rant went way over the line. For he directed his obscene comments not to the Tea Party movement itself, but to fellow members of the House of Representatives supported by the Tea Party.

Does he really believe that his fellow Congressmen want to see black citizen hanging from tree? If he knows any such representatives, then he needs to name them.

And how does he know?

Has Carson secretly witnessed  them burning crosses at Tea Party townhall meetings?

Has Carson seen any of these representatives sending out their Klan robes  to be laundered?

Has Carson himself suffered from attempts at intimidation?

Maybe its time for John Boehner to appoint a special committee to investigate.

A Desultory Dedication

The official dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial had to be postponed because of Hurricane Irene. Harry Johnson, Sr, president of the memorial foundation, consulted with Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and the National Park Service and made the decision to postpone the ceremony until late September or early October.

That did not dissuade Martin Luther King's old fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, from holding their own dedication. The event turned into a desultory dedication, filled with gaffes.

First, the ceremony was sparsely attended. The National Park Service anticipated 250,000 for the official dedication. The Alpha Phi Alpha event was attended by . . . well . . . hundreds. Thousands of empty fold out chairs filled the Mall.

Second, the Reverend Bernice King, daughter of the civil rights leader, delivered a disjointed dedication speech that possessed none of the rhetorical flair of her father.

Third, during the speech King alluded to Lincoln and his signing of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, of course, wrote and signed the Declaration. Lincoln used the Declaration's core ideas in his speech dedicating the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, PA. Although conservative pundits noted the error, mainstream media outlets gave her the pass that they never allow for conservative female speakers.

Finally, the symbolic location of the King Memorial eluded Ms. King. The memorial sits between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials because King sought to remind Americans of their ideals as articulated by those two men and how we needed to starting living up to those ideals.

Instead, Bernice King tried to create her own symbolism and only confounded traditional symbolism in the process. In an effort to elevate her father at the expense of Lincoln, she somehow found meaning in the fact that King is standing and Lincoln is seated in their respective memorials.

Traditionally, however, the symbolic significance of a seated leader is not deference but authority. That is why kings have thrones. While the United States is a republic and not a monarchy, Lincoln's seat represents judgment and justice.

One standing near the authority is a mere attendant. Sorry, Ms. King, despite the great achievements of your father, Lincoln is not taking a “backseat” to anyone.