A more perfect union

The Second Amendment — probably one of the most sloppily written rights ever endowed to a people.

a more perfect union
From here: https://www.alumni.hbs.edu/stories/Pages/story-impact.aspx?num=7033

I came across an article modifying absolute adjectives. Think “more unique.”

“The general rule is that absolute adjectives can’t be modified. And yet … sometimes writers do it.”

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…” — The Preamble to the United States Constitution.

“To form a ‘more perfect Union’ is different from forming ‘a perfect Union.’ The accurate version implies that the People are attempting to get closer to perfect, not that they have created something perfect. It’s a subtle but important distinction.”

I thought about this as we suffered under the myth of Originalism from the current Supreme Court. If a right wasn’t enshrined by our very perfect founders in 1787 or 1791, it isn’t a “real” right?

You say you’ll change the constitution.

In The Boston Globe, Abdallah Fayyad noted that FDR argued “for what he called a second Bill of Rights — guarantees from the federal government for a base level of economic comfort for every American. Among those rights were health care, employment, housing, social security, freedom from monopolies, and more. Roosevelt did not go so far as to say that these rights required constitutional amendments; they had already become economic truths that the nation ‘accepted as self-evident’ as a result of the New Deal and therefore had to be guaranteed by the government if it sought to truly fulfill the political rights enshrined in the Constitution.”

FDR’s ideal was that we would become freer people. Instead, SCOTUS, in the last decade or so, has gone backward. The “logic” of Alito in overturning Roe is tortured. As I feared, post-Roe may be, in some substantial ways, worse than pre-Roe. At what precise point might the woman’s life be endangered, and will the courts agree with the doctor’s assessment?

A2

Fayyad continued: “Take a look at the Second Amendment — probably one of the most sloppily written rights ever endowed to a people. There are many people, including conservatives, who believe that the Second Amendment is unclear, but too few who speak seriously and earnestly about updating and clarifying it. As a result, the United States has the distinction of having the most heavily armed population in the world.” Kelly, too, noted how weird A2 is.

The Fifth Amendment is very important, even as djt mocked people who would embrace the right not to self-incriminate in the fall of 2016. I think it’s unfortunate that people assume the guilt of a person doing so. Still, I took some pleasure in reading that the case against djt may have become “immeasurably stronger” because he pled the 5th.

Understandably, confidence in SCOTUS has sunk to a historic low. I don’t know how to right the ship in the near term. Packing the court, which gets bounced around, is not going to happen because even people who would agree with the outcome would wince at the process.

Other than wringing our hands…

Ultimately, to create justice, we need to fight for it. Jon Meacham says, “The battle begins with political engagement itself.” Humanities Washington offers a “media project that explores the complexities of our democracy in order to help strengthen it.”

Adam Russell Taylor, president of Sojourners, wrote in his book, A More Perfect Union: A New Vision for Building the Beloved Community: “It is time to choose a path that acknowledges and repents for the ways we have failed to live up to America’s promise. It is time that we boldly pursue a shared vision of a future rooted in our most deeply held religious and civic values.

And “it is time to embark with even greater urgency on the task of building the Beloved Community, which will enable us to achieve a more perfect union and a radically more just nation.”

It won’t be easy. Happy day before Constitution Day.

Indian Citizenship Act centennial: 2024

What it means to be an Indian Nation today

CitizenshipBannerThe status of the Native American or American Indian in the United States is most peculiar. This article reminded me that the centennial of the Indian Citizenship Act is coming up in 2024.

As you may know, Article I, Section 2 reads: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons.”

Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power To… regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

Even the Fourteenth Amendment notes: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

Silent Cal

From the article: “The Indian Citizenship Act [was] signed into law on June 2, 1924, by President Calvin Coolidge. As the very title of the legislation states, the act made all Indians in the United States citizens of the United States.”

According to the act, … all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided that the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.

“The debate [following the 14th Amendment] was so pronounced that the Senate Judiciary Committee pondered the issue. In 1870 it rendered its verdict:

… the 14th amendment to the Constitution has no effect whatever upon the status of the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States…

“Strangely enough in the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, the frequently reviled Chief Justice Roger Taney had argued that American Indians could, in fact, become citizens. The caveat was that it had to be under congressional and legal supervision. In 1924, that is exactly what Congress did.”

This leads to some interesting arguments about how “to address what it means to be an Indian Nation today in the 21st century.” Read some more about the implications of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

Building confidence in US elections (2005)

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections”

“I wish that we could just have someone out there say in 2005, Jimmy Carter and James Baker did the Carter-Baker Commission to both tried to expand voting and make it more secure. They had 87 recommendations. Adopt them all. It means you won’t have ballot harvesting, but it means it will be easier to vote.”

I heard someone suggest this on one of those talking-heads shows two months ago. It made sense in building confidence in US elections.

The Commission had “five sturdy pillars.”

“Voter registration that is convenient for voters to complete and even simpler to renew and that produces complete, accurate, and valid list of citizens who are eligible to vote.”

This means not having wholesale purging of voter lists. Voters who move more often – students, renters, e.g. – should not be disenfranchised.

“Voter identification, tied directly to voter registration, that balances election integrity without introducing new barriers to voting, including the casting and counting of ballots.”

Prior to the pandemic, I never had to show my ID when I voted. The last two times, once involving early voting at a central location, and the other in an alternative site, I did. This is not to say it might not be onerous for others.

I’m suggesting something that’s a bit of a bugaboo for some: an option for people to receive an identification card that is FREE and not onerous to obtain. Or, in the alternative, a wider array of verification documents that don’t discourage the franchise.

When requiring, say, a driver’s license/non-driver’s license and the nearest DMV is two bus rides away with long lines, THAT is a barrier to voting. Too often, the ID requirements have been used to, de facto, disenfranchise.

More participation

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections by enabling all eligible voters to have an equal opportunity to vote and have their votes counted.”

Having one drop-off box for ballots per county may seem fair in the abstract. But when one county has a few hundred and another has a few hundred thousand – well, no. People standing in long lines because there are too few polling places in “selected” communities.

I’ve been consistent in giving ex-felons the right to vote. It’s our duty as a nation to rehabilitate. How does that happen when the formerly incarcerated are denied the franchise?

“Voting machines that tabulate voter preferences accurately and transparently, minimize under- and over-votes,
restricting mail-in voting and allow for verifiability and full recounts”

This means non-hackable computers and paper records.

“Fair, impartial, and effective election administration.”

This would preclude a former elected person from asking an official to “find” him some votes.

My great fear is that if we can’t find a way to have elections that most people recognize as legitimate, the country will not exist. That may seem melodramatic, but I firmly believe it.

Amendments 15, 19, 24, 26

As I’ve noted many times, the arc of the Constitution bends towards greater participation in voting by its citizenry. Letting black people and women and 18-year-olds vote. Getting rid of the poll tax. Ultimately, we should be heading forward in making

BTW, the suggestion was offered up by Sarah Isgur, a veteran of the Trump Justice Department, who’s now a political analyst for “The Dispatch.” She suggested it on the July 11 episode of This Week

Read the 2005 report. It’s only 113 pages long, and it has pictures! What do you think can be done to create a more perfect union that enough people can get behind?

Things we learned from djt

Our democracy is fragile

On Facebook last week, I made a request. What are things we learned from djt and his last four or five years in public life?

One couple has downloaded the Constitution, referring to it often for the past 4 years. Another has learned more about the document, “in particular the 12th amendment. But also the 13th and the 25th.”

Of course, I knew about the Electoral College, but prior to the 2020 presidential election, I’d thought of the post-Election Day aspects of it as often as I’ve considered gravity. The recent machinations on December 14 and January 6 are like the wedding guests storming the officiant’s office demanding to see the couple’s license.

A friend chimed in: “The legal meanings of the word treason and what distinguishes it from sedition; and the federal statutes regarding both. How martial law works.

Also, “the structure of the United States District Courts; how and the meaning of SALT (in addition to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks).” Are you referring to that Angelina Jolie movie?

My buddy Steve noted: “The difference between simple corruption and an actual impeachable offense.” I thought when he was impeached they should have gone after him over the emoluments clause.

A friend suggests “There are innumerable norms that have provided guidelines for presidential behavior.” That’s irrefutably true. Will the other members accept djt into the former prez club? Doubtful. It got me thinking of the fact that I can’t remember half the people in his Cabinet.

Who knew the Hatch Act was so ineffectual on the highest-ranking folks? Who has violated it? Ivanka Trump, repeatedly. Kellyanne Conway, ditto.  And others.

You folks have done well

A parent noted “The names of dictators around the world, as well as names of responsible world leaders.” Yow, me too, and I hadn’t thought about it. Their child wants to know whether “there is any better leadership anywhere in the world, especially related to COVID and climate change.”

“Inherently good people can become mean and vindictive when pushed to their limits. Let’s hope that’s just a temporary condition and they can heal.” Unfortunately, the “good” and “temporary” nature I’m just not feeling.

The January 6 insurrection one can trace to a time before djt. In the last four years, it runs from Charlottesville (2017) to the planned kidnapping of the Michigan governor (2020) and beyond.

Some other responses:
Our democracy is fragile
The danger executive orders pose for human/civil rights. Methods a political party uses to suppress the vote of American citizens.
The “loving thy neighbor” commandment is frustrating and confusing. I knew that already but nothing brought it home as these four years have.

What “deplorables” can accomplish when they work together and by extension what any group can accomplish when they work together.
Some people are happily embracing their prejudices, and that empathy is a quality to be embraced.
Misogyny is our biggest problem. The majority of folks would rather have a racist president than a woman President.
There are more bigots and haters than I could ever imagine. And it makes me sick

Our culture is suicidal.
There are no checks and balances in our government.
The process of the transition of the president on inauguration day.
How is it that nearly one-half of the country could support after living through 4 years of narcissism, bigotry, and daily lying?

[“I learned…”] Not everyone who lives in America loves America and respects the Constitution. The symptoms of malignant narcissism. How easily we could go from a democracy to an autocracy. That I could really hate someone with every fiber of my being.

His accomplishments

Someone I do not know says, “Anyone saying Trump didn’t do a good job as President is full of Fake News BS…Pelosi is promoting sedition and Treason…this Congress is a Malcontent Group of vindictive people…Hillary Lost…period…now listening to PBS. I’m beginning to think the Durham Durham investigations have found out WASHINGTON is Corruption…and the best way to avoid exposure is for the Corruption to Cheat and Lie. Shame on Congress…”

If you’ve read my blog over the past quadrennial, you’ll note that I have a different POV. I will give him credit for two things, though. The First Steps Act. “The act was… an effort to improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population…”

The other is to pour money into getting a COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, he totally undercut that effort by denying the pandemic’s seriousness, contradicting CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, failing to provide any federal coordination for PPE acquisition, and holding superspreader events, among other failures.

The big lie

Unfortunately, lies can trump the truth.

There was a bit of dialogue:
“I have learned is how effective ‘The Big Lie’ technique can be.”
“A man said the bigger the lie, the more people believe it because a big lie has the quality of being unbelievable, therefore people don’t believe that someone would make it up. So they believe it’s true.”
“If everyone believes it then it must be true. I have been debating the election fraud story with believers of it. I have shown and proved how everything they believe is not factual but even then, they won’t admit to the lie or acknowledge even a part of the truth.”

And in fact, part of that quote is attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It probably wasn’t him, though he is cited on millions of webpages.

Conversely, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That’s a quote by Maya Angelou

Back in August of 2020, he said, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”‘ He was announcing his strategy for undermining the election, attacking the postal service, et al. That was the birth of the series of baseless post-vote challenges.

In the midst of a 2020 election debated, he made a statement to the Proud Boys. “Stand back and stand by.” That dog whistle was blown just a few months later. Afterward, he tells the insurrectionists, “We love you. You’re very special. Go home.” How sweet.

The new US citizenship test

obsession with battles and wars

constitutionYou may have heard about the new citizenship test that went into effect in the past month. Immigrant advocates have called it more difficult than previous versions. “Iit is longer, more nuanced and, in some questions, has a tinge of politics.” According to Politico, it’s full of conservative bias – and dotted with mistakes.

“The previous iteration of the test, last revised in 2008, required applicants to answer six of 10 questions, drawn from a pool of only 100.” Now it’s 12 out of 20. “Several new questions call for biographical details about Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Dwight Eisenhower.” “Another asks for ‘the purpose of the 10th Amendment.'” Please go to the nearest intersection and ask random people to describe Amendment 10. If you get more than one in ten, I’ll be shocked.

Let’s say your first citizenship test question is “Who does a U.S. senator represent?” In 2020, “the only approved answers from the USCIS study guide, now embodying the [regime’s] revisionist approach to government. ‘No, it’s not all people of their state — the ONLY acceptable answer has been changed to CITIZENS of their state.'”

Even more rights than that

65. What are three rights of everyone living in the United States?

• Freedom of expression
• Freedom of speech
• Freedom of assembly
• Freedom to petition the government
• Freedom of religion
• The right to bear arms

“Notably missing from the UCSIS answer list are the rights to counsel, due process, equal protection, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment or unreasonable search and seizure. An aspiring citizen who gave one of those responses could presumably be marked wrong” on the oral test.

“There are other problems with the civics test, including its unnecessary complexity, its obsession with battles and wars… Only a single answer set includes any women by name (there are 11 naming men). The word ‘democracy’ appears just once. The first section on the 2008 test was titled ‘Principles of American Democracy,’ now ominously replaced by ‘Principles of American Government.'”

The regime’s discriminatory legacy on immigrant rights is intact.

I should note, once again, that immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy in many ways. “They work at high rates and make up more than a third of the workforce in some industries… Immigrant workers help support the aging native-born population, increasing the number of workers as compared to retirees and bolstering the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. And children born to immigrant families are upwardly mobile, promising future benefits not only to their families but to the U.S. economy overall.”

Oh, yeah, What IS the purpose of the 10th Amendment? (It states that the) powers not given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people.

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