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Wednesday, 13 June 2007 00:00

Feudin’ banjos and writin’ laws

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By John Armour

At the end of every week I take stock of what’s happened. Rare are the weeks which have actual bookends — something that was sublime, and something that was ridiculous. This was one of those weeks. I have Harry Reid of Nevada and David and Joel Letterman of Arizona to thank.

Let’s start with David and Joel. They were on the this season’s first show of “America’s Got Talent.” They came out, stripped off their shirts, and .... This was a moment of zen. Trust me on this; you had to see this to believe it. Go now to YouTube, in the category of America’s Got Talent, look for The Pec Brothers.

I’ll wait.

I don’t care who you are or where you’ve been, you ain’t seen nothing like that, no how, no where. And you won’t be able ta hear Feudin’ Banjos ever again without a great, big smile. Oh, it’s not “Duelin’ Banjos,” like a lot of folks think. In the movie “Deliverance” they used the second title, but they thought it was an ancient, traditional tune. Turned out it had been written recently by Don Reno and Arthur Smith, and was still under copyright in the name I used.

Hold that thought about the Pec Brothers, and let’s talk about Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. I watched a lot of Harry on C-SPAN while he was trying to ram his immigration bill through the Senate. On the last day when he had lost two efforts at cloture (so the Senate could vote), Reid gave a long speech about how hard the Senate had “worked” on this bill, and how it would “keep working” on the bill.

Think about that. Just what does Harry Reid mean when he uses the word “work”?

This “grand compromise” on immigration was an inside game in the Senate. It was the legislative equivalent of a saloon fight in a western movie. The people who wrote the bill were the ones still standing when the bar fight was over. But that is not how a deliberative, legislative body ought to make its decisions.

The problem with the Senate, under the so-called leadership of Harry Reid, is it forgot that there is a nation out there that has opinions on the subject of immigration. Reid and the other senators who were in on this bill thought their only task was to cobble together pieces of what various senators wanted, until the number of senators co-opted by this process was 60, enough to end a filibuster and pass the legislation.

What they forgot, perhaps because it so seldom happens, was that the people do have a veto power over whatever the Senate does. But this only happens when the people get up on their hind legs and yell, “no,” until even the deafest senator gets the message.

Before we get into how this bill was stopped, a word about why it deserved that fate. This was the third amnesty bill in Congress. Both of the others, also promoted by the legendary Sen. Ted Kennedy, were touted as a solution to a clear problem. Kennedy referred to “bringing [immigrants] in from the shadows.” How many drug dealers want to come in from the shadows? How about armed robbers? Or child molesters?

The polls have made it clear that a strong majority of Americans, and of all categories such as Republican, Democrat, independent, young, old and in between, want the same thing. Close the border, enforce the laws, and then we’ll talk about how to deal with the illegal immigrants and temporary work programs.

And as for how to deal with the millions of illegals here now, we have a bird feeder rule hereabouts. When you put out feed, you get birds. The more free food, the more birds show up. Or, in terms that any senator or congressman should understand, whatever you subsidize, you will get more of, and what ever you penalize, you will get less of.

Is this so hard to understand?

That’s why I conclude that Harry Reid is ridiculous when he referred to what he does as majority leader as “work.” On the other hand, the performance by the Pec Brothers was sublime. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll remember it to the end of your days.

(John Armor lives in Highlands and practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court for 33 years. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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