Archive for January 2014

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https://aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com/a-well-in-emmaus/

This is a work of fiction that explores many of the political, spiritual and cultural issues that I pontificate on in my blog. It is currently appearing here in serialized form.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Article V   2 comments

Many people do not realize how close we are to an Article V convention of the states. Article V of the US. Constitution allows for 2/3s of state legislatures to petition Congress for a convention. Thirty-two states have asked for such a convention over the issue of a balanced budget amendment. Two more states and the threshold has been reached. (Since I wrote this, another state has submitted an application on the same issue. Usually, by now, Congress would have acted, but instead it is dithering and suggesting that some of these applications may no longer be valid because it’s been a few years since they were submitted).

 We’ve never had such a convention, not since the one that tossed out the Articles of Confederation and replaced them with the US Constitution. There are a lot of people who are terrified of such a circumstance. They’re right to be circumspect, given that history. Article V puts no limits on the topics, so “anything goes” is a possibility. On the other hand ….

We are at a point in our history where the ballot box no longer works. It especially doesn’t work if you’re a conservative because neither of the two major parties really represents us. Ideas like the balanced budget amendment or term limits for Congress cannot make it through the current Congressional system, so we the people become increasingly frustrated. We vote for meaningful change, but we get the same reshuffling of partisan professional politicians that has been going on for decades. Many of us know it should be different, but peaceful solutions don’t appear to work. So, increasingly, people are starting to discuss revolution.

I’ve just finished going through the Declaration of Independence, drawing parallels between the patriot complaints about King George and our current situation. This is not about President Obama. Yes, I think he’s been a dismal failure as a president. He took a country mired in debt and dug the hole twice as deep. He’s racially divisive, dismissive of anyone who doesn’t agree with him, and he’s expanded the surveillance state beyond even George W. Bush. But, ultimately, he is not the problem. The whole government structure as existing in the 21st century is the problem. He’s just the current face-man for the dictatorship. When he exits stage-left, he’ll be replaced by another.

The problem is that the United States of America was founded upon the simple, radical idea of self-governance, but we’re at the wrong end of a century of liberty restrictions. It’s not the foundation of the country that is the problem, but the superstructure that has been added to it that is threatening to bring it all down. The Constitution and the first 10 or 11 amendments are fine, but slip-shod, short-sighted, and ill-conceived latter editions have expanded government power and circumscribed citizen liberty.

When the ballot box no longer works, the alternative is usually the bullet-box. Fortunately, we have alternatives. I’m just suggesting one for now.

Currently, 32 (33) states are calling upon Congress, pursuant to Article V of the Constitution, to send a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification. A similar attempt in the 1990s revolved around term-limits. It didn’t make the threshold and Congress has not voted for an amendment to limit itself even slightly in the 15 years since. Wow, are we surprised?

The merits of terms limits or balanced budgets or discontinuing the federal income tax aside, constitutional conventions are scary. The last time a con-con was threatened, it was the early 20th century and it resulted in the Progressive Era amendments being passed – direct election of senators, the income tax, and prohibition of alcohol. One was so bad it’s already been repealed and the other two …. These amendments were passed by Congress to avoid a con-con. Enough states had already petitioned on the subject of direct election that the only way to avoid it was to pass the 17th amendment. Congress put out the idea that a con-con would be fraught with peril because it would essentially set aside the Constitution and operate by rules set by the delegates.

It’s not true! The Constitution does NOT provide for a Constitutional Convention such as was held in 1787. It provides for a “Convention for proposing Amendments” to the Constitution. That is NOT a trivial difference. Yes, such a convention would make its own rules and Article V does not provide limits on the topics. There is no part of the Constitution, including the amendment provisions themselves, that a convention might not try to amend. Congress and state legislatures could not limit the agenda. However, a convention may only “propose” amendments. No proposal becomes constitutional law until it is ratified by the states.

There is a great deal of difference between a free-standing “Constitutional Convention”—authorized to write even its own rules of ratification—and a convention for proposing amendments to an existing constitution that already prescribes how any such amendments are to be ratified. In no way does Article V authorize the former. Any proposals to amend the existing Constitution that proceed by either of the methods prescribed in Article V must be ratified by the procedures prescribed there. Even a proposal to change the ratification procedure itself must be ratified by the existing ratification procedure.

It’s no accident that in 230-odd years there have only been 27 amendments ratified for ratification must be by the concurrence of “the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof.” Given the unlikelihood of the latter method, the numbers alone tell the story. It takes majorities in 75 of the 99 state legislative bodies in America to ratify any change in the Constitution.  Only 13 such bodies to block any change. You do the math!

Are there not 13 bodies in the states united that would rise to block all but the most popular of proposals? A generation ago, not even the Equal Rights Amendment—which enjoyed wide support—was able to make it through the ratification process.

Article V was put in the Constitution to be used, but not for light and transient reasons. By overwhelming majorities, averaging 75%, Americans of every creed and color have come to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that, under modern conditions, has resulted in our being ruled year in and year out by a class of professional politicians and bureaucrats. Why don’t we just call them the Ruling Class. Oh, yeah, I have already!

The situation is neither healthy nor right in a limited, constitutional republic. Fortunately, the Framers provided a way to do something about it, a way to make fundamental change while ensuring that our fundamental principles remain in place.

Yeah, there are risks. Life entails risk. Usually, fixing something that’s broken holds risk, but fixing it also holds rewards.

Ballot Box, Bullet Box or …?   Leave a comment

Election cycle after election cycle has produced growing tyranny.

At the same time, polls show that the American people are highly (60-75%) dissatisfied with the current government and feel there is never any progress toward resolving the real issues of the country no matter which party is in control.

When the Republicans were in the majority of all three branches of government, tyrannical regulations continued to grow and so did spending.

When the Democrats were in the majority of all three branches of government, tyrannical regulations continued to grow and spending increased even faster than under the Republicans.

Now that we have divided government, tyrannical regulations continue to grow, spending has stabilized at an unacceptably high level, but the problems are mainly being kicked down the road. Solutions are addressed in one chamber to be ignored by the other and if it gets passed by the Senate, the President will veto it. If he doesn’t and it becomes law, the administrative state will bury any solution that moves toward self-government deep, deep in a vault never to be seen again.

States have good ideas, but the federal government ignores the states or threatens them with draconian action if they “get out of line”. The solution when the ballot box doesn’t work is … some would say revolution, but revolutions are bloody and result in graveyards and involve completely setting aside the existing form of government. I like the government our Founders designed. I’d like to pull it out of the swamp it’s been buried in and wipe the muck off, see if it might actually work in the 21st century if given a chance. If only our Ruling Class would allow that …

Our Constitution provides the means to peacefully correct the current mess, but Congress as currently arranged is not going to pass the REINS Act (requiring a thorough Congressional review and up-down vote on all federal regulations) or constitutional amendments requiring term limits, balanced federal budgets, repeal of the 16th Amendment (personal income tax), and the17th Amendment (direct election of Senators) and restructuring (or repeal/replace) of the 14th Amendment (where it interferes with the 10th Amendment).

Fortunately, if Congress won’t act to send amendments to the states for ratification, then the Constitution provides an alternative means to avoid armed revolution. An amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate (uh, yeah, not going to happen) or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.

I was taught in political science classes that an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution is a scary thing that never turns out well. It’s never happened in the United States, unless you count the convention that replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution. That history gives us a reason to be nervous of such a gathering, but the question we need to ask ourselves is: should we fear that gathering more than we fear the unchecked growth of governmental tyranny?

My professors, who were almost all on the moderate left, feared a conservative uprising to create a permanent ban on all abortions, relegating women to barefoot pregnant culinary servitude, imposing a theocracy, and making Ronald Reagan President for life. Today, I’m sure they worry about conservatives doing many of the same things. But let’s be honest. Those on the right fear what a liberal uprising might do on such issues, including making Barack Obama President for life, and the very real risks to the First Amendment protections for political speech, the 2nd Amendment, the 4th Amendment and 10th Amendment. Heck, I worry about the potential effect on the entire Bill of Rights. There are those who believe that the dangers of a runaway convention are so severe that we cannot risk ruining our Constitution by even allowing such a convention to take place.    

(When I wrote the following six months ago, I was not convinced. Now, I think it may well be the only way to save the republic. Lela)

For a long time, I agreed. Now, I’m not so certain. I haven’t drank any koolaid yet, but I’m re-evaluating my position, because:

  • The federal government has grown far beyond its constitutionally imposed limitations. 
  • All branches of the government have participated
  • Each exercises unprecedented control over the lives of the citizens.
  • The “administrative state” acts as a fourth, extra-constitutional branch of government that falls outside of the normal checks-and-balances of the federal structure. 

The federal kraken has grown into a leviathan that we may not be able to tame without an Article V amending convention.  We have three choices – continue with growing tyranny until we slide into a totalitarian state (yes, it CAN happen here), explode into a revolution (consistent with our national DNA), or take an intermediate step that may seem radical, but might avoid bloodshed.

In Federalist No. 48, James Madison wrote: “The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations is that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.”

Madison was prescient.  The American Constitution may be the best document of its kind ever written, but even the mighty Constitution itself has not been enough to restrain against the encroachments of a tyrannical concentration of federal government power.  Madison predicted this day and the Framers provided a safety valve for it. Perhaps it is time the citizens rise up, through a Convention of the States and restrain the federal kraken again.

I don’t write that without trepidation. I’m a federalist, so I tend to trust the states far more than I do the federal government, but the America of the 21st century is not the America of the 18th. There are risks inherent in such a gathering. California and Texas have radically different ideas of what the country should look like. However ….

The Founders made this mechanism available in the Constitution itself to avoid another blood-soaked armed revolution. Thirty-eight states must ratify any amendment. Take a look at the red-blue map and look at the states so represented. I couldn’t find 38 states that could form a radical left or right bloc. I did count 38 states that might be in favor of stuffing the federal kraken back in the cage from which it has slithered.

Each state’s legislature would need to weigh carefully the delegates to this convention and give them specific instructions on what they may and may not meddle with. Alaska is unlikely to send delegates who oppose the First Amendment protections on speech, the Second Amendment protections on fire arms, the protections on fair trial, privacy, or states’ rights. I think we might be surprised at how California and New Jersey feel about states’ rights once they realize that the power to infringe upon their rights is also part and parcel with the power to infringe upon the rights of other states. The body of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are probably safe from being heavily meddled with by 38 states – well, actually 75 of the 99 legislative bodies in the 50 states. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, by the way. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be debate at the convention on the Bill of Rights. I just can’t see 75 legislative bodies agreeing to ratify substantial changes, even on the 2nd amendment and most especially on the 10th. If anything, I think they’d want to make that one clearer.

The following 17 amendments may be a different matter. They should be a different matter because many of them were ill-conceived, enacted with era-specific agendas, resulting in unintended negative consequences that may, in some instances, outweigh the positive consequences. No, I’m not saying these amendments should all be repealed. I’m saying they want examination and reform as needed and, if Congress won’t do it, then the state legislatures must.

Else, we’re ending as a nation because what we have currently is not working.

State legislatures would need to carefully weigh how their authority would be wielded by their delegates at the convention. I’m encouraged by the December 7 meeting of state legislators that addressed this issue. Choosing delegates would be instructive in itself. Following the convention, just as in 1789, the amendments would have to go to each legislature and 38 of them would need to agree to them to make any changes our constitution. Some states might put it to a direct vote of the people. Others would probably create ratification committees. Again, the debates triggered would go a long way toward educating the public on the Constitution and (perhaps) giving our generation ownership of it. In 1787, the whole Bill of Rights was put up as a package, but that needn’t be the process for whatever a convention came up with in, say 2015. More than likely, it would be a line-item ratification just as congressionally-generated amendments have been.

Though it’s not without risk, what better example of states rights and self-government do we need in the 21st century?

The alternative is we wait for the situation to become so bad that Americans take up arms against Americans. Oh, yeah, we did that once before. Southerners started shooting at Northerners, the President declared war and, after four years of bloodshed, the “winner” forced the loser to cede states’ rights in favor of an imperial administration. The country has been on a liberty-damaging trajectory ever since.

What if we had called a constitutional convention in 1860 and resolved the slavery question through compromise and negotiation instead of bloodshed and tyrannical reconstruction?

Which do we in the 21st century prefer?

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Cut Off by Road, Valdez Alaska Copes with Avalanche   Leave a comment

The big news in Alaska right now is the avalanche that has closed the Richardson Highway north of Valdez, which is where the marine terminal for the TransAlaska Pipeline is located. About 4000 people can’t drive out of town because several massive avalanches have sealed a 300-foot-wide canyon with 40-foot-deep of ice and snow, damming a river which created a huge lake, and frustrating Department of Transportation from clearing the road. Follow the link for details and a cool (no pun intended) photo.

http://www.adn.com/2014/01/28/3295469/more-rain-falling-as-state-weighs.html

The REAL big story about this incident is that it is NOT a disaster. Nobody died. A trucker spent a couple of hours caught between avalanches and DOT “rescued” him. The pipeline was constructed with avalanches in mind. Valdez has no current road access to the world, but the Alaska Marine Highway is picking up the slack and Valdez has an airport.

Life goes on.

A part of the Alaskan zeitgeist is acceptance of extreme weather and nature trying to shrug us off. Yes, the people of Valdez want the government to do its job and clear the road, but they recognize the world has not ended and they are (mostly) comfortable with waiting until it’s safe to clear the road. I suspect that is one of the reasons why Sarah Palin didn’t mesh with many of the big city voters who currently control American national elections. They want lots of government intervention because they live in circumstances that require a lot of government intervention. One broadcast story featured interviews with Valdez residents who are coping with the avalanche. One woman said her mother is needling her because she has tons of supplies stuck in Anchorage and only has a “few weeks” left at her home. To a city dweller, a few weeks of supplies is verging on hoarding. In Alaska, that’s not well-prepared.

It’s an interesting dichotome that highlights our very different

Posted January 29, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Similarities to 1776   Leave a comment

When I ran this series originally, I had just finished a review of the Declaration of Independence. You are welcome to find those posts and read them. I am not re-running them this time. Lela

_______________

File:Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpgFinishing our review of the Declaration of Independence, we need to stop and consider where that leaves us today. We’ve found that there are a lot more similarities between 1776 and 2013 than we may have realized. I know I was surprised to find that our government may have become even more oppressive than King George and Parliament.

At heart, the first American Revolution was about self-governance. Forget the whole “taxation without representation” slogan. Taxation was one pixel of a much larger picture. Contrary to popular belief, the British Crown had only been the titular government of the American colonies for the 150 years preceding the Revolution. For five generations, the Crown had practiced “benign neglect” and the people of America had governed themselves. By the mid-1760s, following the French and Indian War, England was asserting control over the colonies and their residents. The catalyzing event was the Declaratory Act of 1766, which put the colonists on notice that Parliament considered itself in control and that body did not need to consult with the colonists, who had no representation in Parliament.

The Declaratory Act was, unlike our laws today, clear and forceful in its statement that the colonies had no right to liberty or the pretense of liberty at any level of life and certainly not in the arena of governance. Today, our politicians enact laws that infringe on our basic liberty and our ability to govern ourselves at the local, state and federal levels, while also intruding on our private lives. These laws regulate many of our activities from cradle to grave and everything in between. There’s not a legal commercial transaction not governed by regulation of business and few personal behaviors not controlled through the power of taxation.

Yes, civilized people must rightly tolerate a measure of intrusion into our lives and infringement of our liberties to live in a civil society. Compromise is necessary. My rights end where my neighbors’ begin. We can all agree there, I think. But …

How much is too much? Increasingly, polls show that most of us believe we’ve crossed that line. Like the American colonists, those of us who have known liberty recognize when our liberties are impinged without our consent or permission. Though we elect representatives, a full 60% of voters today say that the federal government lacks the consent of the governed.

In retrospect, the Declaratory Act displayed arrogance and ignorance of the colonies. We see that same arrogance and ignorance from our elected representatives today. Consider Nancy Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”. That was outrageous, but this arrogance runs throughout the political class in our country and is not limited to one party. 

In 1766, this type of arrogance started the American Revolution. In the 21st century, consider the “tea party” movement which has been pushing back against runamok government for over four years. The Occupy movement railed against crony capitalism – which has been a lesser target for the Tea Party. (Betcha didn’t know that!) Polling on issue after issue indicates the government is out of step with the majority of Americans.

Are we witnessing the roots of the second American Revolution? Perhaps the seeds of a second American Civil War?

The political class would do well to heed their own history. 

America sprang from the idea that the people can and should govern themselves.  When the representatives of the people regularly pass and impose laws, rules and regulations which the people do not support, history dictates that we need to reform the government or, if reform is not possible, remove it. When repeated elections fail to accomplish that goal, the people have a history of doing it through other means.

Luckily, the colonists who created the United States based on the principle of self-governance also gave us a Constitution which provides methods to restore liberty without bloodshed. When Congress refused to act and the states couldn’t get their heads out of their armpits in the 1850s, we set aside the Constitution as a nation and started shooting at each other. We need to remember that history and learn lessons from it. Today, we must use all of the constitutional safeguards if the flame of liberty is not to be extinguished by a political class out of touch with the citizens and apparently ignorant of history. 

Revolutions do not have to result in bloodshed. Our Constitution provides us with the means to avoid it, if we will make use of those means.

The fight for liberty and self-governance is part of our heritage.  We fought for them in 1776 when we declared our independence and officially began the American Revolution.   We fight for them today as we participate in what my grandchildren’s history books may call the second American Revolution.

Read It for Free   Leave a comment

Full CoverI just uploaded Chapter 5 “Storm Clouds” and the previously posted sections are available at the link below.

If you like it, post a comment. Let me know what you think.

https://aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com/a-well-in-emmaus/

A Well in Emmaus Chapter 5 “Storm Clouds”   Leave a comment

Chapter 5

Storm Clouds

            They met at a corner bar in a working class neighborhood. Eric heard him out, rolling a beer stein between his two palms, contemplating the dark brew within as if it might have answers. You couldn’t call it fidgeting. If you didn’t know Eric, you’d think it was just an idle gesture, but Mike recognized it as nervous energy.

            “No,” he finally said after Mike had stopped talking. His green eyes hid behind dark lashes as he kept his gaze on the table and that slowly revolving stein.

            “It’s one last job and it’s good money.”

            “Yeah,” Eric agreed. “It’s really good money for in-country. Too good. And, my lease is up. I’m packed. So, no.”

            “I told them you’d say that, by the way,” Mike assured him.

            At the end of the bar, an old man lit a cigarette. The whole place smelled of tobacco, like a 50-year-old never-cleaned ashtray. Mike supposed most of these men spent their lives on these barstools. Why else would they be here on a Friday morning at 10 am. Wait … never mind.

            “I was hoping you were feeling better,” Mike explained.

            Eric’s shoulders slanted. Mike waited. It didn’t do any good to push him to answer. Mike had never known the definition of the word “oppositional” until he’d met Eric.

            “I started feeling better when I made the decision that I was done,” he explained. “So, no.”

            “Yeah. I’ll tell them, but they might not listen.”

            “Slavery’s still illegal in the United States, Mike,” Eric reminded. He’d never stopped the slow revolution of the stein in his hands. Now he took a small sip of the dark beer. “They can’t make me.”

            “No. They can just make you wish you’d said ‘yes’.” Eric shrugged. “So this is it?”

            “I leave Tuesday,” Eric repeated from earlier in the conversation. “I’ll call before I go.”

            “We could get together, tie one last one.”

            “Nah. I think that’s not a really good idea for me. If you and Alicia want to get together for dinner, okay, but drinking …. I think I’ll pass.”

            Mike took a deep swallow of his Dos Equis and nodded.

            “Right. I forget you don’t drink when the pressure’s on. I should know that after all this time.”

            Eric seemed relaxed, except for his hands. Mike wished he knew what that was about.

            “So, this is Alicia’s email. If you want to stay in touch,” Mike said, handing him a strip of paper.

            “I do,” Eric said, securing it in his wallet. “This isn’t me leaving you. This is me leaving the life.”

            “Right.”

            “You should think about it, too, amigo. Sooner or later, what we do, that ends in death.”

            “Or as emotional roadkill?”

            “Something like that.” Eric let a silence develop that was painful for Mike. “I am so grateful for your friendship, Mike. You have no idea how much it’s meant to me.”

            “I feel the same. It’s going to feel strange, not seeing you.”

            “BW will give up on me eventually and then I’ll invite you out.”

            “You’ll probably have a flight school.”

            “Don’t know. I’m not where I can see that right now. What is this job that BW is willing to pay so well for?”

            “I don’t know, but they’re activating a lot of us. They want me in New Mexico by Wednesday.”

            Eric set the stein down and looked at the display of his phone. He frowned.

            “I got something I gotta do. So, Alicia’s madre lives in Santa Fe, right?”

            “Yeah. I’m thinking about having her go there so we can meet.”

            “You’ve never met her? Man!” Eric shook his head, smiling at some private joke. “Yeah, you should do that.”

            “Maybe have her join me at the end of the tour ….”

            “No. Go Monday,” Eric suggested. “You’re an SOB when you get off a job. Let her meet the sane Mike before she gets to know you.”

            “Jerk,” Mike teased.

            “I’m right.” Eric tossed some bills on the table, more than generous for the one, albeit imported, beer. “Text me if you want to get together for dinner. Make it tomorrow or Sunday, because I’m out of here first thing Tuesday morning.”

            “Sure. I’ll talk to Alicia. You take care, man.”

            “You know it. One last thing?”

            “Which is?”

            “The movers come for the last of my stuff this afternoon. I’d like not to do a cross-country trip unarmed.”

            “You said you’re feeling better?”

            “I am.

            “For sure?”

            Eric looked Mike right in the eye.

            “I swear I won’t try to hurt myself … at least not before I leave town.”

            “Not the most comforting assurance I ever heard,” Mike told him.

            “I never expected to have it come to that, so …. I can’t make promises for longer than I can keep.”

            “When you get where you’re going, you have family, right?”

            “Yes.”

            “Then promise me you’ll tell them if you start having those thoughts again.”

            “Sure. I promise.”

            “Okay. It’s your name, alpha-numeric.”

            “Seriously? That easy? I never would have figured that out.”

            “That was the point.”

            They stared at each other, awkward, for a long moment before embracing, then Eric glanced at his phone again.

            “Gotta rock. Call me.”

            The last Mike saw of him was his tall athletic form and dark curling hair going out the door. Mike finished his beer and then texted Alicia — YOU WANT TO GO TO NM, SEE YOUR MOM? MONDAY? SUNDAY? DINNER WITH RIC SAT?

            Mike tossed down some bills atop Eric’s and headed for his car.

            Shane watched him headed for his car from the front window of a coffee shop across the street, a pang of loneliness pricking his heart. His moment of distraction was all it took for Rigby to slide into the seat across from him. This time he looked like a businessman with glasses and a power tie.

            “How are you doing?” Rigby asked.

            “Better. Packing the last of my boxes seems to have helped.”

            “Don’t confuse busy-ness with euthymia,” Rigby responded. Shane grimaced. “I know I said you’d have no responsibility beyond packing, but something’s come up.”

            Shane grew guarded. Rigby had always been more or less straight with him, but his first handler had given him every reason not to trust and that had never worn off.

            “What’s that?” he asked.

            Rigby pushed one of the two coffee cups toward Shane.

            “What I’m giving you is vital. I don’t need you to do anything more with it than put it in your safety deposit box when you get to Emmaus. Someday, someone will come and ask for it. He’ll say Chavez sent him or else it will be Chavez. Or it might be me. Be careful who you give it to. Make sure I don’t have a gun to my head.”

            “Why? What is it?” Shane asked even as he took a sip of the coffee and felt the thumb drive under his hand. How did Rigby know that Shane drank green eye?

            “Now don’t go asking uncomfortable questions at this juncture. You’re out of here Tuesday morning?”

            “Maybe earlier. Once my stuff leaves today, I’m open.”

            “Make sure you are out of here by Tuesday morning. This conversation would usually involve you turning in your work phone and tablet, but I’m not deactivating Eric.” He pushed a portfolio toward Shane, who was surreptitiously sliding the thumb drive into a pocket. “He leaves International for Los Angeles headed to Thailand Tuesday morning. Shane hits US soil in Las Vegas Tuesday night. Your car arrives at Fashion Valley this afternoon. Key and plate number are in the packet. Make sure you’ve headed out before the sun comes up Tuesday.”

            They’d done such car swaps before, but this time Rigby had “laundered” Shane’s Jeep that he’d left parked in a storage unit when he’d gone to South American five years ago. It had been “sold” three times and currently belonged to Joel Rhys, the owner of Jericho Springs.

            “Okay.” Shane slid the portfolio into his inside pocket.

            “I’m serious. No later than Tuesday morning. What are your travel plans?”

            “Spend the night in Barstow, push onto Denver Wednesday, maybe spend the night –.”

            “No! Look at me, Shane!” He always called him Eric in public, so Shane’s gaze came up to meet Rigby’s. “You need to be in Emmaus or at least east of Denver by sundown Wednesday. Don’t be anywhere near any large cities. Got it?”

            “Yeah. Something’s up, isn’t it? BW is activating huge numbers according to Mike.”

            “You know I can’t tell you. Remember to treat this as a job until you get through Denver and swap out your license plates. You gave good advice to Mike about his mother-in-law. Timing’s good. This may well be the last time we speak for a long long time, so I want to say it’s been a pleasure working with you.”

            “How do you know what I said to –?” Shane read Rigby’s expression and shook his head. “There’s no such thing as privacy anymore, is there?”

            “Not in large cities, but maybe where your folks live. Some, anyway. Take care of yourself, Eric. When you get to where you’re going, let it heal you.”

            “Uh, yeah, I don’t think … it’s always been a place to take a break between adventures.”

            “Trust me. Life itself will be an adventure soon enough.”

            Rigby stood.

            “Keep your wits about you,” he advised and then he was gone. Shane shivered. Damned air conditioning! Taking the coffee with him, he headed for his truck.

All rights reserved Laurel Sliney dba Lela Markham 2014

Maybe Politics Can’t Fix This   Leave a comment

Although I vote in every election, I am not all that interested in partisan politics … hence the non-partisan designation on my voter registration card.

Consequently, I’m not really all that focused on who is going to replace Barack Obama in 2016. I waver back and forth between believing he’s going to refuse to leave office (like the supreme leader I believe he wants to be) or he’s going to essentially be replaced by someone of his choosing (like the totalitarian party leader I believe he wants to be). I can think of a few liberty-leaning candidates I would like to see run, but as we’re in the 20-year Democratic portion of the American psychotic political cycle, I’m thinking they’ll never be nominated by the GOP and third-parties just can’t make the ballot under current ballot access laws. So why get all lathered about politics? It won’t matter what we the people want. We have no control over the political cycle.

Maybe it won’t matter, though. Maybe we the people are going to seize control of our own government by doing something we haven’t done in over 200 years.

December 7, 2013, nearly a hundred state legislators, representing 32 states, assembled at Mount Vernon, the homestead of George Washington, just outside the nation’s capital city.

Why? To discuss how to safely revive an overlooked, but invaluable, provision in the United States Constitution that would allow a supermajority of states to rein in a power-drunk federal government.

According to a press release issued after the Assembly’s adjournment, “They emphasized the importance of any convention being done in a way that accomplishes the will of the people while protecting the sanctity of the Constitution, as this action could ultimately lead to proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as authorized under Article V. The subject matter of what those amendments would be was not discussed.”

What a great idea? Plan for an Article V convention, but don’t discuss the possible amendments because the first priority ought to be establishing how to safely conduct this amendment process.  Once prudent ground rules are established, then delegates can consider substantive proposals.

They picked a great venue as George Washington presided over the original Constitutional Convention. Now, lawmakers from a majority of states assembled at his estate to address the issue of how to bring Washington DC back into alignment with the vision of Washington and his fellow founders.

The Mount Vernon Assembly is a noble exercise in federalism. They plan to meet again later this spring, so the present tense is appropriate.

Some will argue that the United States of America is a single nation that is indivisible, but the very title suggests we are 50 states cooperating with one another. The founders didn’t name us the Republic of America. We are 50 states cooperating under a federal government.

Is the federal government out of control?  

Well, there’s evidence that we are. From 1789 to 1900, the federal government spent $15 billion cumulatively. In 2011, the federal government spent $10 billion a day. Sure, you can adjust for population and inflation, but the very fact that we spent more every two days than we did in our entire first century as a nation should make you pause and ask if this is what our Founders set forth and our early statesmen delivered.

Thoughtful Americans of all political stripes find this profligacy sobering. Some of us are sickened by it. Even after adjusting for inflation and population, it is impossible to argue that the federal government has not ballooned well beyond the scope contemplated by the founders. Moreover, students of history and political science recognize that such spending and the debt we’re accumulating with it has destroyed other nations.

What can we do about it? Collapse, revolution … or a third way. Enter the Mount Vernon Assembly.

Some, especially on the left, are attempting to blame federal government dysfunction on the Constitution. Google “Our Broken Constitution” by Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker, a stroke through a myriad of somewhat justifiable complaints about America’s founding document.  In it, he argues that the Constitution is old and out-of-date and we should just toss it off and start letting the President call the shots by tossing dice on the White House steps. Okay, that last part is my interpretation of his words. I think the federal government is what’s broken and the Constitution provides the means to bring it back into alignment, because the US Constitution can be amended.

Many Americans feel thwarted by their federal government, feeling the federal government is out of touch with the “consent of the governed.” The Declaration of Independence cites the “consent of the governed” as the source of government legitimacy. Does Congress, with a 9% approval rating, still have the consent of the governed?

Our Founders foresaw a time when Congress would have a 9% approval rating and be unwilling to do anything about government dysfunction. They wrote a mechanism into the Constitution designed to rectify this very problem. Article V allows a supermajority of States – 34 to call a convention to propose amendments, 38 to ratify proposed amendments — to trump an obstructionist federal government and amend the Constitution. The Constitution states:

on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which … shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof….

This provision was inserted at the insistence of liberty-minded Virginia delegate George Mason. According to the Convention records, Mason thought that, if left up to Congress itself, “no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.” In response, Gouverneur Morris and Elbridge Gerry made a motion to amend Article V to introduce language requiring that a convention be called when two-thirds of the state legislatures petitioned Congress.

This authority of the states to amend the constitution was praised by James Madison multiple times in Federalist #43 — “It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the [Constitutional] amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.” 

Wisconsin state Representative Chris Kapenga conceived and chaired the Mount Vernon assembly.  Kapenga said in an interview with Forbes:

About a year ago, I visited Mount Vernon for the first time.  I sat on the same porch where George Washington sat with companions such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.  It inspired me and made me think about how we are dealing with issues now similar to those they were dealing with then: issues of balance.  Then, America had to strengthen its federal government.  Now, the federal government’s power has grown excessive.  The states need to step up and re-balance matters.

That sounds like federalism at its finest, but Phyllis Schlafly responded in Human Events with: “Alas, I don’t see any George Washingtons, James Madisons, Ben Franklins or Alexander Hamiltons around today who could do as good a job as the Founding Fathers, and I’m worried about the men who think they can.”

I found that sort of insulting to the intellect and integrity of the state legislators who participated and led the Mount Vernon Assembly. I greatly admire those who wrote and ratified the US Constitution, but I don’t think greatness died when they did. 

Harry Truman once observed, “A statesman is a politician who has been dead ten or fifteen years.” The jurist Learned Hand gave an immortal speech, The Spirit of Liberty, before a million-plus crowd in Central Park in 1944 on “I Am an American Day, ” observing: “I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.”

An Article V amendment process is a function of citizen dignity — ‘power to the people.” It leans neither left nor right.  It is federalism at its finest, which is why it has opponents among progressives of every party.  Almost a hundred citizen-legislators, hearts filled with love of country and of liberty, seek to restore liberty in America.  These are the very hearts upon which Judge Hand advised us to rely and they want to set up inviolable guardrails and guarantees to permit us safe access to the Constitution’s emergency brake — contained in Article V — to stop the runaway federal locomotive before it leaves the rails completely.

If it works, the big political news of 2016 will not be the presidential race.  It will be how nearly 100 citizen-legislators began a process that restored liberty to America ….

…or proved to us that we sold liberty down the river a long time ago, so we might want to get started with that revolution* now.

*By revolution, I do not mean violence. The Civil Rights movement proved that peaceful solutions can affect great changes and show the coercive nature of the state while bolstering the cause of liberty.

Why Not a Convention of the States?   Leave a comment

Slate is worried that there is a “secretive campaign by state legislatures to pass conservative amendments” and “rewrite the Constitution.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/12/chris_kapenga_mark_levin_and_article_v_the_secret_campaign_to_pass_conservative.html

When I originally posted this series on Article V, I obviously researched the subject, but the skids are greased now, so there’s been lots going on in those six months.

Slate may believe that “newest movement to save the republic” began in December at Mount Vernon, but the idea has been around since the US Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Reporters – Ben Franklin aside – were banned from that convention too because the proposals were not ready for prime time and the delegates were savvy enough to realize that their discussion would be derailed if they went public with their proposals too soon.

What those delegates 217 years ago were proposing were needed changes to a governing document that was not working. The Articles of Confederation had no means for amendment, so the entire document had to be set aside and replaced by another one, which turned out to be the Constitution of the United States. As part of reformulating our foundational document, the delegates included a means to amend the Constitution so that it would not be necessary to shred it in the future. It’s been amended less than 30 times, always be Congress, but our Founders were wary of power in the hands of an elite, so they included a means for the states to amend the Constitution when Congress refused to do so. We’ve come close to an Article 5 convention a few times in those years, but Congress has always moved before things got to that point rather than lose its control of the process.

Sadly, Congress seems unable or utterly unwilling to enact needed reforms now, so 34 states met at Mount Vernon to discuss and plan an Article 5 convention.

That is not a Constitutional Convention. What happened in Philadelphia in 1787 was a Constitutional Convention. This is a states-called convention to propose amendments. The difference matters. Nobody can rewrite the US Constitution using Article 5. They can only propose amendments for the states to later ratify … or not, as the case may be.

When I posted my series, I did not know that Mark Levin was about to come out with the Liberty Amendments. I ended up doing a post on the book when I found out about it. Levin is thinking in this direction because America is thinking in this direction. Congressional approval ratings are in the cellar, the President and Supreme Court are not well-loved, the public feels the federal government is out-of-control and a risk to our liberty, we see corruption, bankrupt entitlement programs, a tax code you need two attorneys and three accountants on speed dial to understand, and a bureaucracy that stifles economic growth and liberty.

Why shouldn’t nearly one hundred state legislators from 34 different states gather to discuss what to do about the current circumstances?

A recent Gallup poll found that 75 percent of Americans support Congressional term limits while other polls indicate 74 percent support a balanced budget amendment. More than 30 states have already asked for an amendment on a balanced budget.

As James Madison describes in his notes, many Framers were concerned that Congress alone would have the authority to propose amendments:

“Col: Mason thought the plan of amending the Constitution exceptionable & dangerous. As the proposing of amendments is in both the modes to depend, in the first immediately, and in the second, ultimately, on Congress, no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believe would be the case. Mr. Morris & Mr. Gerry moved to amend the article so as to require a Convention on application of 2/3 of the Sts.”

To amend the Constitution, two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) must pass an application for a convention to occur, then 38 state legislatures would need to ratify any one amendment for it to become part of the Constitution. Historically, it has been interpreted to mean that all 34 applications must be on a single amendment request, but the langugage of Article V does not necessarily require that. We’re within one or two applications on a balanced budget amendment, but the opposition is working to nullify some of them, so a general states-called convention may be a better option.

This group plans to meet again this spring. In preparation for that, I’m reposting my series – maybe with some new material.

I don’t think we should be afraid of confronting our national demons and dealing with them. If we continue on the course we’re on without an attempt to fix things, the economy is going to collapse under the weight of an insanely obese federal government and then …? Well, I think the nation is going to dissolve. The question is, do we do it violently (historically, that is how it happens) or do we do it reasonably (historically, that almost never happens). The third way is to avoid the mess by taking steps to fix the problems. We may find in doing this that the progressives come out with a whole bunch of amendments that take away liberty and we may find that the states eat them up like candy. It’s possible. Then we have our answer. What we want to save is a fantasy that is no longer worth saving. But ….

If a states-called convention for proposing amendments produces some real changes toward liberty, then we’ve gotten something worthwhile.

Either way, we have a discussion about what the Constitution really means and whether or not we as a people still hold to those principles.

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