Archive for the ‘convention of the states’ Tag

Why Aren’t We Addressing This?   15 comments

VolunteerI find it fascinating that the only Hispanic ethnics in the race for President are both calling for stronger immigration reform than Hillary Clinton, but I am dumb-founded that the socialist is the race is actually proposing that we secure the borders. Of course, Sanders has done the math and knows that socialism only works in countries with way more resources than people who use government services and at the rate we’re going, due in large part to the influx of illegal Mexican immigrants, we won’t be able to achieve his socialist ideal because of too much pressure on the system from low-skilled “citizens”.

Let’s reiterate a point. I am FOR immigration. My grandfather was from Stockholm. My mother’s grandparents were from Canada. I support LEGAL immigration. You decide you want to work in the United States, you apply for a visa, you wait your turn, you enter at a point of embarkation, you submit your periodic paperwork, maintain employment, and in five years (or however long it takes you so long as you don’t break the law and keep submitting your paperwork) you take a test and sit for an interview and you become an American citizen, laying aside your allegiance to your country of birth to take up allegiance with other American.

If during your period of resident alien status, you break the law, you are deported, no discussion. We should treat immigrants no better than we treat our own homegrown felons, who lose their civil rights, can’t get jobs, etc. If you forget to file your paperwork, some leniency should be given, but if you’ve moved houses, jobs, etc., in a way that suggests an attempt to defraud, then you should return to your country of origin and wait for your next legal opportunity to come to the United States. If we followed this system strigently, we could allow many more LEGAL immigrants into this country, but we have to address the issue of illegal economic migrants first.

If you entered the country illegally, you are by definition a lawbreaker who is taking jobs away from low-skilled American workers. (There is a fairly direct correlation between the unemployment of American teenagers and the numbers of economic migrants in any given community). I feel sorry for the otherwise good people who have chosen to violate our laws by entering our country without our permission, but I might also feel sorry for the burglar I find eating out of my fridge some morning. That doesn’t mean I won’t call the cops on him. Sorry, but if you entered the country illegally, you should be deported, no discussion.

But what about the children these people had while living in our country?

What about them? Children belong to their parents. They don’t belong to the government of the country they were born in. If their parents choose to return to their country of origin, the children go with them. The United States government doesn’t try to stop them. So why are we conversely allowing lawbreakers to remain in our country because they managed to squeeze out a kid on the US side of the border. The United States government is the only first world nation that allows automatic citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants within their borders. European countries have specific laws stating that children born to foreign nationals within their borders are NOT citizens.

But the United States wants to be compassionate and the 14th amendment ….

I am not altogether certain that the 14th amendment requires birthright citizenship for the offspring of illegal migrants. Anyone reading the 14th amendment with their logic cap on knows that the persons being discussed there were born on US soil to parents who were born on US soil. They had been slaves and there’d been a slave importation ban in the United States for 60 years prior to the Civil War. Like most Constitution amendments written during times of national stress, the 14th was not well thought out. It’s the 19th century equivalent of the 18th amendment, which we later repealed with the 21st. It meant to solve a problem and created dozens more. We learned from that mistake. I don’t know why we can’t learn from this one. It could be repealed or amended.

Congress won’t touch it! They’re afraid of it being said that they’re trying to institute slavery once more. They will continue to ignore this and many other issues until our country is destroyed by the unaddressed issues of national debt, a burdensome health care regulation, crushing regulatory interference in commerce, loss of checks and balances, a growing felony class, refusal to reform entitlements, and uncontrolled illegal migration and the resultant economic consequences. Congress is surrounded by 3rd rails and they’re not going to act.

That’s why Article 5 allows the states to call a convention to discuss amendments, because our Founders were prescient enough to recognize that government always grows out of control to the point where the people must once again restrain it. An Article 5 convention of the states is not without risks, but it is preferable to the civil war that will eventually happen if we continue the way that we have been.

Balanced Budget Amendment Folly   Leave a comment

There are plenty of amendments that a convention of the states might propose and forward to the states for ratification, but the balanced budget amendment is the only one that is about to pass the application threshold.

I don’t believe in panaceas. A balanced budget amendment would be a step toward reining in the stupid course our government has been on for a long time, but by itself I don’t expect it to work any miracles and it might cause a host of larger problems through setting off unintended consequences.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, provided that step is not off a cliff.

On the face of it, forcing the federal government to balance its budget sounds like a great idea. I’m all in favor of DC spending no more than it takes in. When House Republicans drafted a version of the amendment in 2012, I was hopeful, but there’s a pros-and-cons process that can make a great idea not seem so great.

Forcing the government to live within our means is a wonderful idea. Controlled spending might return Congressional elections to a choice of character over the bribery of special interests. It could limit new spending and reduce current spending. Of course, it would also reduce the government’s flexibility in dealing with crises. While there are folks who think that would be the end of the world, I see it as an opportunity for the market to move toward free enterprise once more rather than relying on government bailouts.

But ….

The 2012 House version of the amendment required spending not to exceed 18 percent of GDP and required a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.  It also allowed waivers in case of a declaration of war against a nation-state or if three-fifths of Congress agrees there’s an imminent and serious threat to national security. Congress and the Executive Branch could drive a truck through the exceptions.

In reality …

If we want to take in enough revenue to cover the current spending levels, all Congress would need to do is increase taxation levels to 60-65% of taxable income (about 30% of GDP).

To keep it within the 18% of GDP would be more difficult, but there are those exceptions after all. Congress could declare war on a country that can’t fight back or claim that terrorists are hovering and about to strike, so the exceptions are required. And, then the Supreme Court (appointed by the Executive Branch and confirmed by the Legislative Branch) will mount their high holy seats and speak down from the heavens to announce that it’s unconstitution to balance the budget and ….

The impulse behind the amendment is laudable, but a balanced budget amendment by itself isn’t going to work in the way that we the people would want it to. Congress is never going to pass it anyway, so it will have to come from an Article V convention of the states and it can’t be implemented by itself because it’s not a magic bullet. It’s a brick that will unweight the scales.

But if an Article V convention were to propose a slate of amendments meant to work together ….

And, yes, there’s precedence for that. We call it the Bill of Rights.

What Amendments Do We Need?   Leave a comment

When I first did this series, I was frankly bored of the subject by the time I reached this point, so I didn’t really explore the proposed amendments. Mark Levin came out with The Liberty Amendments as I was writing, so it seemed best to just let him take care of that. I started the series, btw, mildly apprehensive of a “constitutional convention” and ended as a supporter of a “convention of the states to propose amendments.” But what amendments?

I don’t believe in panaceas. I don’t think there is a single amendment that is going to fix all our national woes. I’m not even sure that an Article V convention can fix our problems. It may already be too late to save the United States of America. That doesn’t meant that we the people cannot survive and move on …

but that’s a subject for another day.

The following several posts will be new material looking at some of the proposed amendments a convention of the states might look at. I believe such a convention would need to propose a slate of amendments in order for reform to be effective and those amendments would need to be targeted at repealing/modifying the Progressive Era amendments and constraining the federal government more than was done with the original constitution. Some of the suggested amendments out there are … well … probably ill-considered, but there are arguments for and against all of them and it’s worth taking a look at them.

Making Congress Equal to the People   Leave a comment

There is a large variety of Constitutional amendments that have been proposed as the 28th amendment.

“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”

Yeah, that might not be a bad idea. Do you see Congress voting that amendment through? No! Only a Constitutional convention could bring it to pass.

There are many ideas for proposed amendments that are never going to see the light of day out of Congress. Do we the people have a right to make changes to our system of government or do we wait for the loss of liberty to finally reach a boiling point and take up arms against our government?

When change is not possible through the ballot box, it risks bullets … unless we choose a third way.

Why We Must Use Article V?   Leave a comment

Did I mention that an amendments convention is not a constitutional convention?

It is a convention of state-authorized delegates called to propose amendments to the constitution. It doesn’t make laws and the state legislatures are not required to ratify the amendments produced by that body.

The Founders put Article V in the Constitution for a reason. They foresaw a time when Congress might refuse to act on needed reforms and they wanted to provide the states a method to go around Congress when needed. The states-application-for-convention has not been used, but there are times when it probably should have been. Avoiding the Civil War comes to mind.

Today, we are in a similar situation. Our country is deeply divided and the political class appears to be unable or unwilling to address the problems that beset us at every turn. An amendments convention seems like a better idea than a civil war to deal with issues like term limits, fiscal restraint in Congress or clarifying the federal-state relationship. In fact, I believe a more broad-subject convention might provide the country with ownership of our Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t explicitly provide for that. It creates a cumbersome process and that’s a good thing. That’s right. What I want is not necessarily what we should get. Amending the Constitution should be considered tinkering with the foundation of a building. It should be done when needed, but avoided when things are sound.

Right now, we’re very close to an amendments convention on the subject of federal debt. Most Americans don’t like the idea of our children and grandchildren paying down the out-of-control federal debt over the next several decades. We’re about to tip over into the $17 trillion range, so we need to face facts – Washington is not going to fix itself. The best hope for curtailing the federal debt is using the constitutional powers of the states.

One suggested amendment is a balanced budget provision. Remember, 34 states would have to request this to trigger a convention. We’re currently at 33.  If a convention were called to propose a balanced budget amendment, 38 states would be needed to ratify it. The Goldwater Institute has suggested the proposed 28th Amendment require the federal government to obtain the approval of 26 states to approve any increase above an initial debt limit.

Yes, this is the governmental equivalent of asking Dad to cosign your car loan.

This role for states is nothing new. State legislatures used to exercise a great deal more control at the federal level before the 17th Amendment removed them from the role of appointing U.S. Senators. Senators understood that their votes on the floor were subject to scrutiny by the folks back home through the legislature and they acted accordingly. Today, they answer more to multinational corporations and lobbyists than they do to mere voters.

We really can’t blame the out of control federal government on a particular party or the President. The problem is the centralization of power in Washington D.C. The anecdote is federalism – 34 state legislatures are needed to call an Article V amendments convention, 26 states control the convention, and 13 states can block any unacceptable amendment proposal from ratification.

By requiring state approval for an increase in the federal debt, states would be reclaiming a modest portion of the authority over federal policies that the Constitution intended. If it works, it could become the prototype for other reforms that shift the balance of power back to a more equal footing, giving the states and the people real leverage rather than empty promises.

The country was at a similar crossroads in the late 1850s and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that Article V provides then. We paid a heavy price for that failure. We need to take advantage of the Founders’ wisdom before it is too late to prevent what so much frustration is likely to produce.

Although currently we’re on the cusp of activating an amendments convention for a balanced budget, and it is a good idea to have a limited subject convention, our current circumstances may require that we have a more open-subject convention or more than one convention over the next decade to clear up matters that have long been at issue in the federal-state relationship. State legislators met at Mt. Vernon in December 2013 to discuss guidance rules for such a convention. Mark Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments” contains a lot of suggested amendments for proposal. We cannot expect the federal government to reform itself. The states are all that stands between we the people and national meltdown. Do we use them as they were intended or do we come to the modern equivalent of 1860 and find we’ve no good way back from a disaster of our own making?

States Rights? No Way!   Leave a comment

Well, we’ve reached the 10th amendment and if ever there is a Bill of Rights amendment that is hated more than the 2nd amendment, it’s the 10th.

Many progressives believe that the idea of “states” is a grossly outdated concept in today’s modern world of fast travel, instant communication and cross-state commerce. Aren’t New Hampshiremen, Alaskans, and Californians really all a homogeneous population of Americans with the same shared values? And if they aren’t, shouldn’t they be in a world where you can call each other over thousands of miles in seconds and travel there in hours? Furthermore, they feel that the states can’t be trusted with issues such as gay marriage or abortion.

The Founders greater commitment was to their state, not the nation. John Adams was not alone in his sentiment that Massachusetts was his country. Having 50 states instead of one huge country has allowed those of us who are not herd animals can move away from the herd and find our own slice of paradise.

Or we could, before the Civil War repealed the 10th amendment and the 17th amendment drove a stake through its heart.

Do we believe that the states are sovereign and the federal government is supposed to be answerable to them? The federal government sure doesn’t believe that. Federal officials believe it is the other way around.

So, since the amendment has already be repealed in action, why are we afraid that it might be repealed by a convention of the states? We might discover, if we were actually to look at it, that people have an intense commitment to the 10th amendment and that validation may be just what is needed for states to stand up on their hind legs and tell the federal government to go pound sand when it violates state sovereignty.

Or maybe they’ll propose to repeal it and 38 states won’t agree to ratify it, so it will have the same effect. Or they will repeal it and nothing will really change because it was functionally repealed before any of us were born.

Remember what I said about James Madison believing that the “parchment protections” could serve as a means to rally the people to protect their rights when a future government infringed the list? Well, lots of people in America don’t even know what rights the Constitution protects, but a convention of the states might give them the opportunity to become educated and that knowledge might drive them to do something to reclaim our infringed rights regardless of how an Article V convention might work out.

Rights Not Listed   Leave a comment

In looking at the Bill of Rights and the risks to it by a convention of the states, I’ve reached the 9th amendment, which essentially says “if we forgot any rights you can think of, those exist too.”

Our Founders were wise men who had given a great deal of thought to the subject of liberty and natural rights. Most of them recognized that government was always a risk to the liberty of the individual and most of them believed passionately in the liberty of the individual. Individual citizens had formed the state governments which were now forming the federal government. The Constitution was being written to put restrictions on the government, not the people. Some of the Founders (we call them the anti-federalists) were concerned that people might get the wrong impression and think that government was granting us our rights when in reality, the Constitution was acknowledging our pre-existing rights and saying the government should keep its hands off the sovereignty of the people. It should be noted the “federalists” agreed with this. That’s why the 9th amendment was forwarded to the states for ratification.

The 9th amendment’s purpose was to restrict government power by recognizing the people’s sovereignty. The Founders recognized that they could miss something important in being too close to the subject for too long, so they put the 9th amendment in to assure that the government wouldn’t get the idea that the people only had the rights enumerated. The people held all the power, they were just delegating some of it to the government to get things done, not to tyrannize the people. This did not mean government gave us our rights. We also didn’t give any up when we agreed to form the government.

There’s never been a serious direct attempt to repeal the 9th, but let’s face it, the federal government increasingly acts like it has been repealed. So … you get it …

Let’s have the conversation and provide this generation with ownership of our rights  and our constitution in the hopes that we will encourage the citizens of the United States to put the federal government back in the box it was originally framed in so that we can get back to living in liberty. We have become so afraid that “they” will make changes to our most precious rights that we have forgotten that the Constitution doesn’t protect our rights. It merely acknowledges them. We have to protect our own rights … by exercising them.

Article V is one way we exercise our rights.

Cruel, Unusual … Misunderstood?   2 comments

In my rundown of the Bill of Rights and whether or not they would be at risk in a convention of the states to propose amendments to the Constitution, I have reached the shortest and most hotly debated of the Bill of Rights amendments.

The 8th amendment forbids “excessive bail”, “excessive fines” and “cruel and unusual punishments”. I am not in favor of repealing it and I doubt very much that a convention would seek to repeal it or modify it heavily, but again, it would be a great opportunity for needed conversation about what the above terms really mean.

What is excessive bail? Doesn’t that sound like you should be able to post bail? Many cases in Alaska these days are being denied bail from the get-go. I’m not talking about murder cases, either. One man was denied bail for a drunk driving charge because the prosecutor said they couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t drive while on bail. Others have bail set so high that no ordinary American could post it. A case could be made for high bail for a millionnaire, but surely it’s a violation of the 8th amendment to set an unreasonably high bail for an ordinary American.

What is cruel and unusual punishment? Does the 8th amendment prohibit the government from authorizing the abortion of a baby with a fully developed nervous system? How about killing a nightclub manager in cold blood? Wait, government didn’t do that. But when government executed the man who did, it took 34 minutes for him to die. Anti-death penalty forces want us to believe that was cruel and unusual. Some would like us to believe that any death penalty is cruel and unusual.

On the other hand, Schaeffer Cox got 26 years for venting, for conjecturing about what he would do if society collapsed and government agents came for him. Our government routinely locks up prisoners of all sorts in administrative segregation (euphemism for solitary confinement), sometimes for months and years. It’s recognized by almost everyone involved that this leads to mental deterioration and may contribute to future anti-social behavior. Is that cruel and unusual? My gut says that it is, but the question is greater than that. If we can’t answer these questions, it’s an indication that we do not have a clear understanding of the 8th amendment.

And we should!

The government routinely violates the 8th amendment, like it does so much of the Bill of Rights. So, again, why are we so afraid that someone might suggest repealing or revising it that we cannot even consider a convention of the states?

From where I sit, the 8th amendment has already been repealed in practice. So why not have a discussion about whether this amendment is important to us? Do we really believe we have these rights as a natural product of being human? Then if we do, we need to define these terms and hold the government to operating within them.

We Must Protect the 6th Amendment?   Leave a comment

Mark Dice managed to get people to sign a petition to repeal the 6th Amendment, proving that Californian Americans are not terribly bright.

criminal jury trial in california, criminal trial lawyer in california, california criminal lawyer, california criminal defense lawyer, closing argument to jury, media presentation to juryThe 6th amendment recognizes the right of American citizens accused of a crime to a speedy and public trial before a jury (rather than a judge or some other agent of the government), in the area where the alleged crime took place. The accused must be told what the charges are against him/her and who is accusing him, so that he can cross-examine these people — even if they don’t wish to be questioned — and the accused has a right to legal counsel of his own.

The idea is to prevent the government from arresting someone “suspected” of a crime and holding him forever without a trial. It introduces a neutral non-governmental party (the jury) into the proceedings and it forces accusers to “go public” with their evidence rather that whispering from behind a curtain.

Shaeffer Cox went a year and a half in administrative segregation (essentially solitary confinement) from his arrest to his trial. The venue was moved 400 miles from Fairbanks (where the alleged crimes took place) to Anchorage , thus allowing the federal government to select a biased jury. Thanks to Frank Turney here in Fairbanks, jurors here know their rights to judge the law as well as the evidence and we’re much more likely to hang a jury because of it. Federal juries are not fully informed of their rights as jurors, so the tainted jury in Anchorage found him guilty because they were told to find him guilty. I’m not saying Schaeffer wasn’t guilty of shooting his mouth off without thinking and, yes, he had a non-functioning semi-auto rifle that he had tried (and failed) to convert to full-auto, but talking about what you might do IF society collapsed around you is not the same as plotting the actual deaths of actual government officials, which is what the federal goverment insisted he was trying to do. Schaeffer had the best lawyer he could afford, but that’s not saying much since he was in jail for 18 months prior to trial and unable to earn any income. His more-recent court-appointed attorney was openly hostile to him, which makes total sense since she works for the federal government … as does the prosecutor and the judge.

Cox is one man among thousands who face the same system stacked against them both at the federal and state level every day.

Is the 6th Amendment still functioning in the United States?

dog rolling on backAgain, we can be afraid these protections will go away if we open them to discussion, but they’ve already been infringed, so what are we losing by having the discussion? The state legislatures probably wouldn’t ratify a substantial revision and the discussion of the 6th amendment might give the American people ownership of it so that we’d stop letting the government abuse our right to fair trial.

Sure, the problem is infringement of our rights, but the infringement wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t allow it.

Obama Seeks Repeal of the 5th Amendment   Leave a comment

Nobody can accuse President Obama or his supporters of  loving the Constitution.

The 5th Amendment says that “no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury … not be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ….”

When President Obama and his administration killed American-born Islamic terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011 with a drone strike, the 5th amendment was repealed in a very real sense. Awlaki was a bad guy, but as an American citizen, he had a right to trial, but the Obama administration found him guilty and executed him without any pretense of a defense.

So, while some of us are worried that a convention of the states to amend the constitution might see some of our cherished rights restricted, we ought to admit that those rights are already restricted, in violation of the principle of natural rights. They’re not rights if the government can violate them with impunity and people act like it’s okay.

So let’s use Article V to have that discussion and see if it does any good, because the 5th Amendment has already been set aside, so we really have nothing to lose.

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