Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air

Cliched as it might be to choose this one, my all-time favorite Shakespearean soliloquy is from Act V of MacBeth, where the title character muses on the life and the passage of time:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

While out of context (and at the risk of stepping on the toes of William Faulkner), I was reminded of the end of this quote today when I saw Senate Resolution 31, filed by Senator Jason Rapert.  SR31 is the boldly titled resolution “CLAIMING STATES’ RIGHTS UNDER THE TENTH AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.”  In what can charitably be called a Quixotic quest (and less charitably, a waste of time, paper, and bandwidth), Sen. Rapert asserts:

WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that “[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”;

WHEREAS, today the states are too often treated as agents of the federal government;

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992), that Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states;

WHEREAS, a number of proposals from previous administrations and some now pending from the present administration and from Congress may violate the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,

Ultimately resolving:


THAT the State of Arkansas hereby claims rights under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

Um, ok.  Think about that for a second in a more general fashion.

1. Here’s this statement from the Constitution.
2. Here’s a statement that is absolutely meaningless, using terms like “too often” and asserting a conclusion for which there is no legal basis.
3. Here’s a citation to a case that Rapert is going to make sound more forceful than it was by omitting that the Supreme Court also said the federal government could “encourage” states to adopt certain regulations through the spending power or through the commerce power.
4. Here’s an bland statement that some actions “may” violate the Tenth Amendment (meaning, of course, that they also “may NOT”).
5. Be it resolved, then, that Rapert is going to insert Arkansas’s name into the first statement and restate it without specifying what rights he’s even talking about.

Ben Franklin got it wrong: there are three certainties in life — death, taxes, and there was zero chance we would get through this legislative session without some Tea Party politician filing a bill screaming about the Tenth Amendment and states’ rights.  I assumed, apparently naively, that whatever resolution was filed would at the very least list the rights that the state was “claiming;” Rapert’s resolution only serves to say, at best, “hey, federal government, we want you to know that we are no different from any other state vis-a-vis our Constitutional rights!”

Going back the Bard and the opening of this post, the resolution is certainly full of sound and fury, speaking about “claim[ing] rights” and possible Constitutional violations.  It also signifies nothing, inasmuch as it won’t change anything or do anything or prevent the passage or enactment of any federal laws.

As for whether it is “a tale told by an idiot,” well … I’d hate to impugn Benjy Compson.

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.