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Oct. 23 2002 3:05 PM

Barry-ing the Lede

The Fray finds Slate's World Series coverage predictable.

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Was it "devious" to de-fund the program rather than change the actual legal code? Give me a break. Funding decisions are 75% of what Congress does. The most important thing a Member of Congress does is decide what to do with your tax dollars. Where to spend the people's money is a policy decision, and to decide to not spend it on programs that give felons the right to carry guns is a perfectly legitimate policy. This is not something underhanded this is what the Founding Fathers' intended. The Executive may run the bureaucracy, but not without the money the Congress gives him. The power of the purse is the ultimate Legislative check ... 9:20 p.m.


Lorne rangers: In the Book Club Fray discussion of the Saturday Night Live oral history, Slate's film critic David Edelstein weighs in on the SNL vs. SNTaped question with this:

SNL would have been better on tape—but barring that, it would have been better if the cast (especially the writing cast) had more freedom to be spontaneous. Early on cast members with a yen for improvising are told (not so politely) that it's verboten to go outside the script or the established blocking. Musn't screw up the pre-planned camera angles! Musn't run into the commercials! The irony is that the very "live-ness" of the show is what deadens it.

The question of improvisation is provoking much discussion of the SNL vs. SCTV variety. Perhaps the most informed post is doodahman's paean to Del Close here. … 12:50 p.m.

Jumping Bean: Responses to Dahlia Lithwick's attack on Fray gun freaks have been predictable—there are both the intemperate responses she would expect and thoughtful critiques of the ad hominem, especially Will Allen's here. There is also a terrific response from Eric, "the anonymous Congressional staffer that wrote the amendment to the appropriations bill that de-funded the ATF program that decided which felons get their guns back." He provides ample evidence here  of the Congressional intent Justice Breyer (and Lithwick) assume "everyone knows":

To answer (the) Chief Justice's question about why we de-funded the program as opposed to eliminating the section of law that created the program, I have an analogy about the making of laws and the making of sausages. Passing laws is hard. Passing gun laws is almost impossible. Congress's intent was to get rid of this program without stirring up the firestorm that usually comes with gun law debates. It was simply easier to do this in the Postal and Treasury Appropriations bill than as a stand-alone bill.

In my mind, the irony is that the Chief Justice, and most of the conservative members of the court, get upset when Congress avoids its responsibility for passing laws and leaves it to the courts to decide. In this case, Congress acted clearly it did not want any money spent by the ATF to put guns back in the hands of convicted felons. If Congress decided that it did not want any more money spent on the construction of the Space Station, nobody would bother to sue NASA saying that there were previous laws on the books to authorize the construction of the Space Station. Congress acts by making laws and it acts by allocating money. One action is not intrinsically more powerful than the other.

As for poor Mr. Bean, it was exactly Congress' intention to deny him his gun rights. As the NRA often puts it "Don't get tough on guns, get tough on criminals." This issue (which is admittedly symbolic in nature) sought to take the NRA at its word. The only people who this law affected were convicted felons. It was fun passing a gun restriction law AND putting the NRA in the position of defending criminals.

I quote at length because Eric's blandly titled post has received no responses as yet, and because judicial theories about intent rarely hinge on mischievousness. ... 7:50 a.m.

J.D. Connor is assistant professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard. He is working on a book about neoclassical Hollywood.