Unequal Pandering

The Jawa Report lands a torpedo under the stacks regarding President Obama weighing in on the Zimmerman/Martin incident in Florida:

Obama said he supported the investigations, noting: “If I had son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

[A White House Mouthpiece] said Obama “was speaking powerfully about this as a parent.” [He] added that “no matter gender or race, this is a tragedy.”

That does make sense. It was very similar to comments President Obama made about Allen Coon, the white 13-year-old who was set on fire by two black classmates [On Feb 28, 2012 -- Strat]. Obama said then, “If I had a son, he’d look like Allen.”

Oh wait, Obama didn’t say anything about Allen. My bad.

Some Enfranchised Evening…

There was a time when only people of the male persuasion who owned land could vote. I suppose a general disdain for the mental faculties of women in Europe in the 1700’s carried over to their disenfranchisement on these shores during the same time, but for whatever reason, that’s the way it played out. I also suppose owning land was seen as important in that it tended to make a stakeholder out of the voter; it is neither profitable nor easy to divest oneself of land holdings in a hurry. So — voters originally tended to be at least tolerably educated and rooted fast to their local environs, supporting a reasonable expectation that they would cast ballots intelligently with an eye to their community’s long-term benefit.

This is not to say that every voter back then was either intelligent or selfless. Education is no certain mark of smarts, nor is holding real estate any indicator of a sense of civic duty. I feel sure that no small number of educated, land-owning morons could be produced in short order with only moderate effort. Similarly, the mere possession of a Y-chromosome is hardly an accurate barometer of wisdom. I only wish to convey that the requirements for voting back then rested on the assumption that a literate voter pool with substantial ties to the community would be more likely to produce intelligent, altruistic voters.

Fast-forward to the present.

Everyone can vote. Sure, there are restrictions barring convicted felons and minors (which are too-often overlapping categories, sadly), but this is mitigated somewhat by fictitious and/or dead people casting ballots, depending on how close a particular contest is and which political party is losing. The problem is, there are huge swaths of folks who tend to vote themselves color televisions — or at least, for whichever liar convinces them s/he can deliver said consumer electronics (Feel free to substitute any bauble in the place of a television; health care/welfare/retirement benefits, it matters little). There is no sense of civic duty, there is no sense of responsibility, there is no sense of what might be good for the Republic; just a nagging notion that cookies remain in the cookie jar, and if you don’t get your share, somebody else will.

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” — ┬áThomas Paine

A wide range of endeavors require some demonstration of proficiency before they may be pursued. Doctors’ offices and day-care centers, plumbers and pest-controllers, attorneys and air-conditioning installers, all have to be trained and pass examinations confirming their competence to perform work in their respective fields. What would be so horrible with requiring prospective voters to demonstrate a basic understanding of what a constitutional republic is, what this particular republic is all about, with maybe a little national history thrown in so voters won’t be fooled into supporting things that have already been tried and failed? Would it be so bad to require a little investment from the populace in time and effort to become eligible voters, instead of just being declared eligible by dint of reaching an arbitrary age while simultaneously avoiding prison time?

The Nature of the Bench (or, Duty Shmooty)

It has occurred to me of late that the frequent 5-4 decisions of the Supreme Court indicate a basic malfunctioning of our judicial branch.

Let us consider the apple:

If we were to show nine people at random an apple, I believe there would be a unanimous nine-person consensus that it was an apple. There might be disagreement over whether it was a Red Delicious or a Braeburn, and some might opine that they don’t even like apples. But by and large, I believe that we could run our nine-person test a hundred times and get nine “apple” decisions almost uniformly, with maybe an occasional 8-1 or even 7-2 split, depending on the sobriety and/or mental impairment of the participants.

Now let us charge our nine-person panel to compare a tomato to an apple:

Would we even approach a 5-4 split in deciding whether these are the same items? Even considering that both items are red, spherical, and ostensibly fruit or vegetable products, I just don’t think there would be that big of a schism.

Some Justices like apples a lot. I mean, they really, really, like apples, and feel apples should be promoted heavily, even though the constitution doesn’t even mention apples. So when an apple/tomato (or apple/cherry, or even apple/wildebeest) comparison crops up, they try their damnedest to find for the apple.

What they should do, of course, is what they swore to do in the first place: compare the case before them to the constitution. I don’t even mind if they throw in some pro-apple language, like, “whereas tomatoes suck, and whereas apples are a healthy treat, the court must nevertheless conclude that what we have here is a fucking tomato.” That would be the honorable thing to do, and it’s what they’re supposed to be doing already. It would engender respect for the judiciary, because people could see that the Justices were honestly evaluating things instead of performing legalistic acrobatics to justify their pet opinions.

Alas, it is not so. Depending on who retires or croaks and when they do it, the Supreme Court swings this way and that in the political spectrum, and Congress seems more interested in getting nominees from their own team appointed than demanding objectivism and fealty to the constitution.