Friday, November 21, 2003

O'Reilly Slanders Plumbers

Bll O'Reilly is so upset that the Democratic National Committee is promoting Hilary Clinton's new book that his November 7 column makes a truly bizzare charge that slanders plumbers."

"Now the danger is that DNC Chief Terry McAuliffe is using and paying professional hit men to demean and denigrate political opponents. That's exactly what President Nixon did when he used the plumber's union to harass his opponents. " (emphasis added)

But there were no plumbers in Nixon's plumbers unit. The unit was made of lawyers and others assigned by Nixon to punish Daniel Ellsburg who had leaked the Pentagon papers.

The plumber's unit didn't write books critical of Nixon's opponents. They broke in to psychiatrist's offices, stole files, discussed blowing up the Brookings Institution, broke into the Watergate, forged documents, etc.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The Politics of the 3/5 Clause

Americans are not so much taught the Constitution as taught to idealize the Constitution. Conservatives ritually invoke the "original intent" of the founders, hoping that we will overlook that the intent including slavery. Even those who learn that the founders counted slaves as 3/5 of a person react primarily with moral condemnation. Often overlooked is the crucial role of the 3/5 clause in augmenting the politcal power of the slaves owners. Congressional seats and electoral votes were dis-proportioned.

Even professional historians exhibit a curious amnesia about the impact of the 3/5 clause as Gary Wills documents in a recent New York Review of Books essay. Without the extra voting power provided by the 3/5 clause, Thomas Jefferson would not have been elected President in 1800. But the subject is barely treated, if at all, in several recent books on Jefferson and his era.

It doesn't stop there Wills writes, "Without the federal ratio as the deciding factor in House votes, slavery would have been excluded from Missouri; Andrew Jackson's policy of removing Indians from territories they occupied in several states would have failed; the 1840 gag rule, protecting slavery in the District of Columbia, would not have been imposed; the Wilmot Proviso would have banned slavery from territories won from Mexico. Moreover, the Kansas and Nebraska bill outlawing slavery in Nebraska territory and allowing it in Kansas would have failed."

Birchers were halfright

The John Birch Society and other far rightists used to insist that the US is "a republic, not a demorcracy." Well, the were half right. The distinction The US Constitution contains many undemocratic provisions. Two writers on the democratic left, Robert Dahl and Daniel Lazare have examined the limitations in recent books. Nathan Newman recently pointed out that GOP protestations about the Demoratic minority filibustering right-wing judicial nominees vanishes into fresh air if the Senators are "weighted" by their states population.

A modest proposal Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone would write a program that would "weight" critical historical and current Senate by population rather than states. Would the League of Nations have been ratified? Would labor reform have passed in the Carter years?