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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lost In Translation

Briefly noting the contretemps between IOZ and La Goldstein, just for the entertainment value. Pound for pound, Goldstein is probably as solid a juggler of deconstructivist chainsaws as anyone out there, I'll wager. But that's primarily because I generally don't have the patience to sift through such flummery unless there is clarity and utility in its ultimate deployment.

While I tend to agree with the principle of originalism as far as acknowledging that the founding fathers said what they meant, it seems that too often people find themselves in the weeds, hacking away and thinking that interminable bouts of semiotic glossolalia won't actually burrow them further into said weeds. Look, even if we acknowledge the infallibility of the FFs' intent and ability to circumscribe said intent with definable permanence, we also have to acknowledge that not all of what they meant was worth keeping, and that grown-ups are able to deal with those verities.

They meant to only give white male landowning gentry a full vote. They meant to subjugate Africans and keep them as slaves; they meant to keep women disenfranchised. They could not have anticipated AR-15's and 90-round banana clips of armor-piercing bullets, nor the creeping authoritarianism of an unapologetic doofus tragically entrusted with the responsibility of steering the ship of state. What is so difficult to understand about the urgency of rectifying situations such as those, without having to dither in tenuous slippery slope arguments, and without discounting the preponderance of rightness that resided in their original arguments?

What makes it a sound exercise in futility is the column itself whence Goldstein's discursion originated, particularly this excerpt [emphasis in original] intimating Obama's pending judicial radicalism.

"Barack Obama," explained spokesman Tommy Vietor, "has always believed that our courts should stand up for social and economic justice, and what's truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves."

Really? Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago, knows full well that the Supreme Court isn't charged with upholding subjective world views on "economic and social justice" — quite the opposite, in fact.

Justices solemnly swear to "administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich." So judges, incredible as this may sound, are not prohibited from "protecting" the powerful if the powerful happen to be right on the constitutional issue.

To suggest otherwise, as Obama has, is to suggest they should ignore their oath.


Harsanyi lamely "concedes" that "both sides" are "posturing", a noncommittal "no shit, Sherlock" moment if ever there were one. And to call the above excerpt a willful misreading of what Vietor said (or signified, if you must) would be an understatement roughly equivalent to pointing out that George W. Bush is not a terribly skilled orator.

Implicit in all this is that there has heretofore been some (hell, any) imbalance in favor of the poor and disempowered, or even equity between the protections they receive and the protections the powerful receive. You know, the Kelo decision didn't endanger the property of anybody powerful, it merely made it easier for cities and developers to skull-fuck little old ladies if they got in the way of their gentrification efforts. (And yes, Kelo is one decision where the sacred liberal SCOTUS braintrust got it wrong, big time.)

If Roe and then perhaps Griswold were to get repealed because Preznit Straight Talk filled Stevens' and Ginsburg's seats with another couple Combover Tony clones, the wayward coed daughters of the powerful would still get their abortions, still cherish their many opportunities to go out and look for a new mistake without someone looking over their shoulders. You don't even have to tally up wealth discrepancies to discern class distinctions, you need merely to comprehend the consequences each faces when they fuck up, whether in terms of actual criminality or merely trespassing the moral boundaries of the folks who spend their waking hours worried that someone else might be having a good time.

The idea that even the vague hint of economic and social justice automatically signifies the onset of barbarians at the sacred gates says a lot about the predominant mindset at work. It's as if, usual misgivings about their foreign policy acumen set to one side for the moment, this gang hadn't already done its damndest to reinstate a socioeconomic outlook right out of the Gilded Age, an outlook that has infested even their foreign policy adventures. It is all of a piece, and has been since day one, since well before 9/11. These fuckers would have had Ken Lay running the DoE if they could have gotten away with it.

The cliché is that we are a nation of laws rather than men, which never fails to make me laugh. But even if you accept this premise at face value, the fact is that laws are here to facilitate the quality of the lives of humans, and not the other way around. This does not mean, contrary to the lurid fables originalists like to gull and prod one another with, a deluge of communal hedonism and redistributive theft. It might -- and, given the rational skepticism anyone should have about Obama's ability or even will to follow through on so many rhetorical promises, I emphasize might -- translate into some semblance of accountability from people who are otherwise exempt from such an outmoded concept.

It's something when anyone can muster such energy at the shadow of a rhetorical abstraction, and compose elaborate plaints about the sanctity of the Constitution and its inviolable constructs, without so much as a mention of the current occupants' scorched-earth treatment of the very same document. There is no neoclown who would have sat idly by while people were kidnapped on the other side of the world, held without charge, and violently force-fed for half a decade in Guantanamo, not under a Democratic president. Hell, they took turns mounting their high horse when Clinton bombed Serbia for a couple months (though, of course, they have fuck-all to say about the hub for drug and human trafficking the area has turned into since then). There is no self-satisfied fiscal conservative who would have put up for a goddamned second with dropping pallets of hundred-dollar bills into the Iraq desert, to be disbursed and skimmed at will, under any pretense, much less the Wilsonian one that has been consistently presented. It's going to take a generation to remove Cheney's shit-stains from the Constitution, and they can scarcely be bothered. But one of Obama's lackeys said something about social and economic justice. I mean, holy fucking shit, Batman.

All laws are meant, in principle, to ensure accountability, to grant redress, and yes to protect the weak from the predations of the powerful -- which, by definition, does not typically happen in the other direction. The state, and by extension the entities who propagate it and profit from it, have the monopoly on use of force, Hume's paradox notwithstanding. And if laws to do not protect individuals' right to be left alone, if they don't demand accountability for outright murder, then they -- and the humans who interpret and enforce them -- are not doing their jobs.

The idea that only Obama and his putative acolytes are responsible for shadowing and encoding their own meanings and intentions into the clarity of the legal codes, whether civil, criminal, or military, is intellectually and morally obtuse, and worthy only of the most contemptuously cynical regard as to motive. They're incapable of good-faith efforts.

1 comment:

Joe Blow said...

Heywood, J. you are a shining star of reason on a sea of bullshit.

You are an exemplar of logic and discernment.

All hail the Heywood!

May the Diety preserve us if the commie pinko leftists EVER get to appoint anyone to the supreme court.

THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT will end in RUIN!!!!