Declaration vs. the Constitution

I’m sure you could find examples of Democratic politicians not knowing the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but it’s more fun when it’s Republicans.  Ezra Klein catalogs some recent “misstatements” on the matter:

Oh, Herman Cain.

We don’t need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, we need to re-read the Constitution and enforce the Constitution. … And I know that there are some people that are not going to do that, so for the benefit of those who are not going to read it because they don’t want us to go by the Constitution, there’s a little section in there that talks about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That bit about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. So perhaps “some people” aren’t the only ones who need to re-read our founding documents.

But Cain isn’t the first to make this mistake. During health-care reform, then-minority leader John Boehner took to the steps of the Capitol to argue that the ghost of George Washington would clearly vote against the Affordable Care Act. “This is my copy of the Constitution,” he said, waving it in the air, “and I’m going to stand here with our Founding Fathers, who said, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ”

As Ezra points out, it is interesting that they use such a vague formulation as somehow in support of their particular view of government.  Of course, when you are a conservative ideologue, everything supports the rightness of the conservative world view.  On a quasi-related note, I also enjoy asking my Intro students about Locke’s Natural Rights of Man and hearing them say “pursuit of happiness” after I start with “life, liberty…” Of course, Locke wrote: life, liberty, and property.  I’ve never actually read an explanation on why Jefferson made that particular substitution.

Photo of the Day, part deux

From the front of, this one is just too good to pass up:

(President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron play table tennis at Globe Academy. / AP)

Regrets, I’ve had a few

Really interesting graph in the Times’ Economix blog about what college graduates regret about their education:


It’s good to know that only 4% chose not attending college.   I also think they should have put the 26% “none” i.e., change nothing, into the graph.  I’d love to see the breakdown of that 48% by majors.  Something tells me there’s a lot of humanities majors (and not an insignificant amount of social science majors) there.

Photo of the day

In yesterday’s Plata v. Brown decision, a 5-4 majority ruled that California’s prisons were so over-crowded and inhumane, as to violate the 8th amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment (yes, Kennedy went with the good guys on this one).  Of particular note, Kennedy actually included 3 photographs of conditions along with his decision.  I found this one, the most compelling:

Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting piece discussing the history and potential implications of using this kind of argument in a decision.  Short version: she’s against it.

On a related note, I find Alito’s dissent, shocking weak:

In a second dissent, Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., addressed what he said would be the inevitable impact of the majority decision on public safety in California.

He summarized the decision this way, adding italics for emphasis: “The three-judge court ordered the premature release of approximately 46,000 criminals — the equivalent of three Army divisions.

Justice Alito acknowledged that “particular prisoners received shockingly deficient medical care.” But, he added, “such anecdotal evidence cannot be given undue weight” in light of the sheer size of California’s prison system, which was at its height “larger than that of many medium-sized cities” like Bridgeport, Conn.; Eugene, Ore.; and Savannah, Ga.

“I fear that today’s decision, like prior prisoner-release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims,” Justice Alito wrote. “I hope that I am wrong. In a few years, we will see.”

These are legitimate concerns for sure, but they have absolutely nothing to do with the 8th amendment.  Either the treatment as exists is cruel and unusual and needs to cease, or it does not.  What the absolute size of CA’s prison system had to do with it is beyond me.  California’s a lot bigger than Connecticut, Oregon, and Georgia.  This is a great example of justices finding a result they want, and then trying to back it up with case law (what actually happens), than actually following through on the law and the Constitution.

Stupid pundit tricks

Somehow, Mark Halperin is a greatly respected political pundit.  I’ve never paid much attention to him, but when I do, I’m not impressed.  I was all set to write a post about his unrealistic odds on the Republican field— Bachman is definitely better than 100o to 1, there’s no way Huntsman is within 20-1– especialy if Pawlenty is 18-1, etc.

Anyway, that was worth a post of its own, but flipping through the hardcopy of the magazine yesterday, I came across this:

With Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee out, what is the current condition of the GOP battle?

Anarchic. The true contenders break down into three pairs: embattled heavyweights Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, ill-defined welterweights Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman and potential superstars Mitch Daniels and Sarah Palin. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum can scuff up (or knock out) one of the real contenders, but neither can win the crown.

Seriously?  Gingrich as one of the heavyweights?!  Give me a break.  Likewise, Pawlenty is infinitely more electable than Huntsman, but for some odd reason Halperin insists on grouping them together.  And lastly, why exactly is it that Daniels is a “potential superstar”?  Anyway, it’s just ridiculous that people look to Halperin to analyze elections.  Game Change, while entertaining, had to be one of the least insightful political books I have ever read.  Full of detail yet utterly lacking in meaningful analysis and big-picture understanding.

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