Constitutional cross purposes

It seems that, in every session of Congress, there are always Constitutional amendments suggested.

It’s Constitution Day again.

I didn’t need the results of a June 2011 Pew poll to know that there is an ideological chasm over the interpretation of the Constitution.

I was reminded of this past summer when some House Democrats recommended that President Barack Obama should invoke a “little-known constitutional provision to prevent the nation from going into default if Congress fails to come up with a plan to raise the debt ceiling.” The 14th Amendment states that the validity of the nation’s public debt “shall not be questioned.” Could you imagine the drama if the President, THIS President, had invoked that clause, for which there was no historic precedent?

Meanwhile, there was talk by some House Republicans calling for a balanced budget amendment. It seems that, in every session of Congress, there are always Constitutional amendments suggested. Most don’t even make it out of committee, and not everyone that passes both Houses of Congress will be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Now here’s a Constitution amendment I could get behind; it too shall never pass in this political climate.

Anyway, I urge Americans to read their Constitution. It’s not usually filled with pretty words like the Declaration of Independence. In fact, people, including at least one running for President of the United States in 2012, have confused the documents. (Hint: the Constitution is NOT the one with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”) But, if you’re looking for a shortcut, know that the 18th and 21st Amendments cancel each other out.
Til the 19th Amendment Struck Down That Restrictive Rule from Schoolhouse Rock.


Computer problems gave me, quite literally, such a raging headache that I went to bed Sunday night at 9 pm, which is VERY early for me.

I see that Arthur is cranky; maybe it’s the summertime blues for him.

I’m cranky too, and it’s not just the cold and snow.

*The shooting of nearly two dozen people, including a Congresswoman, with six deaths, including a guy who shielded his wife from gunfire, and the nine-year-old granddaughter of a former MLB pitcher who was the only girl on her Little League team, made me more than just cranky; I found it emotionally devastating.

What made me extremely cranky, though, is the attempt by that so-called church from Kansas to picket the girl’s funeral today.

Earlier, I was also appalled by the insistence of several news organizations to pronounce the Congresswoman dead, when, in fact, she was not. Somehow, in the throes of the chaotic situation, the need to be first trumped the need to be accurate. It’s an error for which “oops” just doesn’t cut it.

I wrote a little something for our local newspaper’s blog, more as a way for me to cope than anything else. I used the now-infamous graphic targeting members of Congress, including Gabrielle Giffords, but the text, I thought, was rather restrained. In any case, all I needed to do was post and (mostly) get out of the way.

I did note in the comments, however, that the First Amendment-protected right to free speech is not absolute. What I didn’t say, because I did not know the facts at the time, is that the Second Amendment right to bear arms can be limited as well; the weapon the assailant used was banned in the US until 2004. Somehow, I DON’T feel safer now.

Incidentally, I found the most useful information about the shooting on C-SPAN, the website dedicated to Congress. For at least part of the time, it was using the feed of the ABC-TV affiliate in Tucson, the unfortunately named KGUN. Oddly, I had been watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy that afternoon, in which a young gunman shot up a campus; miraculously [spoiler alert], no one died, which, unfortunately, did not extend to the real-life drama.

*I get these e-mails about 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy. Most of them are pretty lame, such as “Quote G. Gordon Liddy: ‘A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.'” Or “Always refer, in pitying, sympathetic tones, to the ‘Liberal psychopathology.’ This implies that liberalism is a form of mental illness. Which it is.” Or “If it’s cold outside, deploy Global Warming Fun…Say to every liberal you meet, at every opportunity: ‘Brrr, it’s cold. Makes you think we could do with a bit more global warming.'”

Oh, I’m SO crushed by these mean comments. What makes me cranky is the notion that 1) it should be one’s goal to annoy others, just because of political differences, and 2) that the examples are so reductivist.

*We’ve had a real winter this season, with weather forecasters having to do some heavy lifting (figuratively, at least). And, from my vantage point, they’ve been reasonably accurate. Yet I heard just this week that meteorologists are paid “$80,000 to be wrong 90% of the time.” Unfair, and untrue. What is particularly difficult in this particular region, is that, because of the topography, the snow amounts in the area, even in certain counties, could vary by half a foot.

*I’m having computer problems. When we (OK, I) got a virus in the laptop, it got scrubbed by the techie at the purchasing locale. Suddenly, we don’t have any word processing applications. The techie at Staples says we need to bring in the installation disc, but my friend says that Windows Vista doesn’t come with an installation disc, that I have to find the info on the computer and burn it onto a disc. Well, I can’t find it in there; maybe it got wiped, too. In any case, this gave me, quite literally, such a raging headache that I went to bed Sunday night at 9 pm, which is VERY early for me.

*The stationary bike is broken. One of my church buddies took it apart and found what seemed to be the broken part, but getting all the information necessary to identify the problem has turned out to be more laborious than I could have imagined.

*Sooner or later, we’re going to have to buy a new television, my first new one since 1987. When the volume is up moderately, it just kicks out periodically. You have to crank it up high enough for the set, which is downstairs, to be heard upstairs for the volume to be sustained.

P is for Polly Ticks


(With apologies to Anthony North):

Some largely nonpartisan things that have been bugging me about the electoral process in the United States recently, and not so recently.

MONEY: It has long been an issue, and there have been a series of legislative actions, Such as McCain-Feingold trying to limit the effect of money on the campaign. However, in January 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided that corporations and unions have the same First Amendment rights as individuals, and as such may now directly and expressly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for federal office, as long as they do not coordinate their efforts with campaigns or political parties. Without getting too wonky here, social welfare organizations may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not their primary activity. As a result, there is a lot more election spending this cycle than ever before. GOP political operative Ed Gillespie said last week on ABC News, and someone said similarly on NBC’s Meet the Press, that the American people do not care about outside spending; I care– a lot.

RANCOR: With that much money, candidates are even more willing and able to run negative, misleading, even inaccurate advertisements. One can and should debate the issues, but it’d be nice if they could get along better while doing so.

Someone’s Photoshop of 2008 Democratic candidate for President Barack Obama, and Republican candidate for Vice-President Sarah Palin

NO REAL CHOICE: A growing number of people believe a third party is needed in the US. Now, there are third-party candidates legitimately doing well this political season, but it doesn’t reflect a sustained, or sustainable national organization. My sense is that there never will be without instant runoff voting.

VOTER SUPPRESSION: Latinos for Reform is running ads on television, radio and the Internet telling Nevada’s Hispanic population not to vote on election day so as to teach Democrats a lesson for failing on the promise to deliver on immigration reform. Others have reported intimidation tactics of voters likely to vote for the opposition.

Another form of voter suppression, I believe, is the overuse of polling. When one hears that Candidate X is a “sure thing” to win or to lose, voters often lose interest and stay home, skewing the results. I’m not sure what to make of poll results anyway. I’ve read that the Republicans may win 100 seats in the House of Representatives. I’ve also noticed another poll, which includes people whose only phone is a cell phone, Democrats lead by 6 points on the generic ballot.

All that said, and in particular, in response to the voter suppression tactics, I encourage people to vote at every opportunity. Not only do I believe it is one’s civic duty, but, for me, it is a personal necessity. I’ve had ancestors who could not vote, so I would be dishonoring those who fought for the ballot not to exercise the franchise.

Did you ever notice that a large number of the Amendments in the US Constitution, after the Bill of Rights, deal with voting?

Amendment 15 states that race or previous condition of servitude (i.e., slavery) is no bar to voting (1865), passed right after the Civil War.
Amendment 17 requires that US Senators be elected by popular vote, rather than by the state legislature (1913) – someone please explain to me why some candidates this year have indicated repealing this amendment?
Amendment 19 provided for nationwide women’s suffrage (1920), though some individual states had allowed women to vote earlier.
Amendment 23 gave the Presidential Vote to Washington, DC (1961) – now if they could only get a voting member in Congress.
Amendment 24 bars the imposition of a poll tax as a requirement for voting (1964), eliminating that particular voter suppression tactic.
Amendment 26 set the voting age at 18 years (1971); unfortunately, statistically, the group least likely to use it.

So VOTE! And if you’re elsewhere in the world, VOTE when your next chance occurs.

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

The One Good Thing Is That We Learn About the US Constitution

There was a truly horrific ruling by the US Ninth Circuit Court in August 2010 allowing warrantless GPS tracking by law enforcement.

Hey, kids, it’s Constitution Day again! And boy, have we learned about the application of the foundation of the United States in the past year or so, or what?

Article I, Section 8. The Congress shall have Power
[8] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The notion of “limited” gets longer every revisiting of the Copyright law, contrary, in my opinion, to the original intent of the Founders.

Article II [5] No person except a natural born Citizen…shall be eligible to the Office of President

Yes, don’t hear as much about them lately, but the birthers, who claim President Obama is not eligible to be President, are still out there.

Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

This, of course, is at the heart of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” debate; the usual line about this is that they have a RIGHT to build the Islamic center but that they OUGHT NOT TO.

There are some other interesting sidelights, such as some politicians suggesting that they should investigate the financing of the facility. This is right and proper as long as they likewise check out the funding of every new church, synagogue, and temple, and existing ones, while they are at it.

Amendment I Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech

Interestingly, action has been defined as “speech”; e.g. flag burning. So the Koran-burning controversy falls here. Again, people used the RIGHT TO/OUGHT NOT to conversation.

Amendment II A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Supreme Court’s ruling a couple of years ago protecting personal gun ownership, not just the militia part, has meant that jurisdiction after jurisdiction with gun control laws are having them challenged, forcing them to more narrowly define the restrictions on gun ownership, such as insanity of the would-be owner.

Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

There was a truly horrific ruling by the US Ninth Circuit Court in August 2010 allowing warrantless GPS tracking by law enforcement. Other courts have ruled otherwise, as this TIME magazine article notes. What’s REALLY irritating about the Ninth’s decision is this:

The courts have long held that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and in the “curtilage,” a fancy legal term for the area around the home. The government’s intrusion on property just a few feet away was clearly in this zone of privacy.

The judges veered into offensiveness when they explained why Pineda-Moreno’s driveway was not private. It was open to strangers, they said, such as delivery people and neighborhood children, who could wander across it uninvited.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month’s decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out whose homes are not open to strangers: rich people’s. The court’s ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes. People who cannot afford such barriers have to put up with the government sneaking around at night.

Judge Kozinski is a leading conservative, appointed by President Ronald Reagan…

The conflicting rulings at the Circuit level make this almost a certain Supreme Court case in the future.

Amendment XIV – The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed on June 13, 1866, and ratified on July 9, 1868.
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

This WAS initially all about slavery. This IS, suddenly, about illegal immigrants coming to the United States and have their babies here, making the children U.S. citizens. How frequently this is happening is an open debate.

There have been other fun Constitutional issues, such as Arizona’s immigration law, in probable violation of Article I, Section 8, but this has gone on long enough. US citizens: go read your Constitution, while you still can.