Saturday, July 02, 2005

 

Looking forward

With the recent retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'connor, the first female justice appointed to the Supreme Court (by Ronald Regan in 1981), the coming weeks will certainly offer heated debate and a good bit of political controversy as President Bush determines whom he will nominate for this prestigious position. That having been said, I intend to devote my next several posts to analyses of several of the prospective nominees and offer my humble opinion on each candidate's worthiness for such a position. For right now, in this abbreviated column, however, I would like to briefly summarize Justice O'Connor's tenure and highlight a few key points of policy:

Appointed by a conservative republican and confirmed by a 99-0 vote in the Senate, Justice O'Connor was anything but controversial as a nominee. The trouble, however, was that she was female; this provides for a direct problem with which President Bush will have to contend in that it will now be unlikely that he will replace O'Connor's seat with a white male. Rather, now that a woman has retired the seat will likely be reserved for either a minority nominee or another female, in order to maintain the 'ethnic balance' on the court to which so many colleges and universities aspire in their respective admissions processes. The chief issue at stake here is constitutional interpretation; will the next justice act as a strict constructionist (a la Clarence Thomas), or rather will he act as a more liberally interpretive justice (a la David Souter)? The importance here holds far greater ramifications than many other nominated positions because the Supreme Court has grown so very powerful over the last half century. With that power, Justices have shifted ideologies. O'Connor is no exception; while often siding with the conservative bloc, she has proved an effective swing vote especially in matters of personal rights; she sided with the majority, despite a few misgivings highlighted in her opinions, in virtually all cases concerning abortion and affirmative action. At the same time, she sided with the minority in one of the msot important recent cases concerning property rights and eminent domain laws. O'Connor's legacy is a mixed one, hopefully her successor will prove to be more reminiscient of the types of justices the founding fathers would have desired to interpret their Constitution.

Monday, June 27, 2005

 

On the Federal System

Allow me to respond to some current events in regards to the Supreme Court. As most of you will know by now, the Supreme Court ended its session today by passing judgement on several important cases. Many expected a resignation or two, but were dissapointed. . . . at least for the time being, there will be no concern over the impending necessity of the replacement of Chief Justice William Rhenquist or Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I don't know how to respond to this; this court has been populated heavily by republican presidents (primarily by Regan and Bush Sr.) but has continually dissapointed the socially conservative with rulings that shy away from efforts to uphold the Consitution's letter of the law. Rather, the Rhenquist court has opted to shy away from many controversial cases, and those cases which it does hear they tend to decide with a sense of judgement so inconsistent that few can ever speculate as to what the decisions will be. It is unfortunate to have a court so full of talented and brilliant legal minds so unwilling to see the law of the land as it is and so eager to pass the buck to later courts so that theirs will not be held accountable for any miscarriage of justice. The Rhenquist court will undoubtably be remembered as the court of shirked responsibility, where the justices were simply too eager to appeal to public desire (or, in some cases, to avoid offending anyone at all (see the Pledge of Allegiance Case)).

At any rate, todays judgements once again yielded an upholding of the now century-long practice of totally separating church and state; this is unfortunate because Jefferson's intention was not to effect a totally impassible wall between the two entities but rather to disuade a system of religious politicism which ran rampant in England at the time of the revolutionary war. It is important to note that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely restrictions on FEDERAL power; they do not stand as affirmations of individual rights (ie, you do not have the right to free speech, rather, congress does not have the right to limit your speech) but rather on restrictions on what the federal government can do. Specific and enumerated powers, says the Constitution, is what the Federal Government has, but today we see a congress totally immersed in the private sector. Taxes are out of control. Welfare is out of control. Federal mandates are out of control. They all provide for federal involvement in situations which ought to by right be governed specifically by states or individuals. Ideas like homosexual marriage need not be considered by the federal government, nor should right to die cases like Terri Schaivo, nor should the 'war on illegal drugs.' These issues, and many others, are all key issues that voters in states ought to have direct control over. What works well for citizens in California does not work so well for citizens of Virginia. We are not nearly so unified of a nation as many would have you believe; and to paraphrase Robert E. Lee in his address to the Virginia House of Delegates at the dawn of War in 1861, we are all citizens of our respective states first and of the union second.

Do not give my rights to a federal government which is too far removed from me to consider what I need. For further clarification, see the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The one that says "all powers not granted specifically to the federal government shall be remanded to the state governments." Where the powers of the federal government are specific and enumerated, the powers of the state governments are infinite and expansive. The time has come to relinquish such power back to the states which is, of right, their to begin with.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

 

On Sarcasm

Humor happens in a whole lot of different ways. But the most important thing to realize about humor is that it occurs entirely through interpretation. That is to say, what is funny to me may well not be funny to you. This can be a tiresome problem, especially for people who think they are vastly hilarious but fail to make their humor apparent or able to be appreciated by the people to whom they speak. The reason I bring this up is because of some experiences I have had with my own use of sarcasm. Sarcasm is my vessel through which my humor flows; the irony of situation or context can be a powerful well from which invaluable humor can be drawn, and yet, this humor can often be misunderstood and misinterpreted as insult or disrespect. Sarcasm, however, is most effective when its presentation is of utmost seriousness; this causes a rift between the jokster and the 'victim' of the joke, a chasm of misunderstanding which, if resolved through the punchline, can be a powerful source of humor but, if left unresolved, can drive a wedge through the channel of communication between the two people. Without that invaluable sense of communicated understanding, no humor is possible; all jokes, sarcastic or otherwise, require some level of intelligence, some level of understanding of previous situations or stereotypes in order to be appreciated. Consider, for instance, a joke that begins "A priest and a Rabbi walk into a bar. . . ." Such a joke requires an understanding of the differences, stereotypical and factual, between Priests and Rabbis which must be assumed on all parties privy to the joke. Other examples of this are readily available to be sure, but are unnecessary to illustrate the point.

So why do I write on this topic this evening? Because I feel ultimately that a lack of understanding of the English language possessed by most of the people with whom I come in contact, augmented by a lack of understanding of history and culture, contribute to an ever-growing divide between myself and the people I meet. Intelligent humor has fallen by the wayside, overcome by the slapstick inanity of sexual innuendo and farcical humor. In reality, certainly, these jokes can be overwhelmingly entertaining and certainly have a place in close-knit groups; but on the whole, such jokes commonly replace the more intelligent humor of past generations. So many jokes in the present are based entirely in the present; there is no contextual irony to speak of in many jokes told today. Humor tends to be in-your-face obvious, so as to require the least amount of thought possible in effort to understand and appreciate it. And while such 'obvious humor' certainly can be appreciated in its own right, it is important to maintain the high level of intellect necessary for success in a cutthroat world such as our own. Education can only take us so far; truth be told, intellect cannot be developed but rather must be refined. Intellectual refinement knows know greater advantage than the witty, satirical joke which requires knowledge, interest, and understanding to open a clear channel of communication; to understand and employ sarcasm is to fully grasp irony, and to fully grasp irony is to be truly humorous. Thus, intellectual humor leads to more fully refined understanding of culture and history as well as a more advanced appreciation for life in general.

Here's to sarcasm, the bedrock of societal growth!

Friday, June 24, 2005

 

A Blog for the mastah

Welcome, everyone, to my blog. Livejournal was a craptastic way of telling all of you about how silly my life and emotions are, but here, hopefully, I can share with you what REALLY goes on inside my brain. I welcome this forum for discussion on the political, apolitical, opinionated and accepting, and whatever other randomness comes across the brain waves as I think about life on this Earth. Happy reading!

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