Sunday, January 23, 2011

The poisonous gas cloud

As predicted, the poisonous gas cloud, formerly known as Jason Lewis, settled into the low spot on the Strib’s Sunday op-ed page usually occupied by Katherine Kersten, where, Scott Gillespie apparently hopes, he will provide a breath of fresh air. Kersten is, of whom it may be said in an act of generosity, a scribbler of limited reach; although, one has to admit that she has mined the narrow seam of her subject matter for much longer than most of us expected. Now, Kersten and Formerly Known As (or “FNA” for short) will pass the sputtering torch of anti-intellectualism back and forth weekly.

For his debut column, FNA selected an entirely new subject: states’ rights, or as they used to say in the Old Confederacy, stats’ rats. Yes, boys and girls, FNA has ushered in a brand new golden age on the Strib’s op-ed page. Congratulations, Scott!

We can undoubtedly look forward to FNA weighing in on subjects like the confiscatory tariffs protecting Northern manufacturers to the detriment of the Southern planters, or the tyranny of the federal revenuers against honest men just trying to make a living selling corn likker, or even FNA’s description of his interview with Haley Barbour telling FNA that Jim Crow “didn’t seem so bad” to Haley growing up in Yazoo City, MS.

Here’s the premise of FNA’s column:

In short, the genius of the framers was to craft a system of governance that would account for the diversity of human beings by allowing separate jurisdictions -- known as states -- to compete for the governed.

Free market geniuses those Framers! And all this time you probably thought it had to do with geography, the arable land, water transportation, access to markets, and new land purchased or conquered and made available for expansion by the federal government, and governed by it until Territories became states. After all, there were thirteen states when the Framers set up shop; there are fifty now. The only real competition between states to “account for the diversity of human beings” was over how to count some human beings, if at all.

This is not a marketplace of ideas we’re talking about; it’s a marketplace of human beings.

One of FNA’s conceits is thinking that all the Framers were of one mind, and that it is FNA’s mind. This is called projection, and it is why conservatives and religious fanatics are usually so comfortable together; indeed, it is why there so much overlap between the two groups. If you can borrow the mind of the Framers, or the Almighty, to think like you do, well, then the rest is easy.

Most of the rest of his column is just FNA dribbling in his lap, but there is one point I would like to make. FNA says that the Civil War amendments no way, no how were intended to incorporate all that infernal federal law:

For instance, while the Civil War amendments were appropriately designed to eradicate all forms of state racial preferences, they were not (contrary to a century of judicial activism) meant to "incorporate" federal review over every imaginable dispute.

If we were to take FNA at his word, it would mean that McDonald v. City of Chicago would have had the opposite result. It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s reading – misreading, I think – of the Second Amendment to find that it included the individual right to pack heat, and applied to the states, that resulted in the invalidation of Chicago’s gun control ordinance.

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