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Important Enough To Read, But Not Important Enough To Listen To January 8, 2011

Posted by Bill in Constitution, Current Events, Politics, Right wing.
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First the House Republicans make a huge production about the importance of reading the Constitution on the floor of the House.  Then when they read it, most do not stay all the way through.   Attendance was rather sparse for this supposedly important event. 

In fact the speaker of the House, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, second ranking Republican in the House, could not even make time to stay and respectfully listen to the document they supposedly hold in such high regard and whose reading was so important. 

Now I am not going to state whether this was just a political stunt on the part of the Republicans or not.  If it was it was clumsily done.  If it was generated by a sincere appreciation of the Constitution and an honest belief of the importance of reading it aloud in the House – well that sincerity and honesty must be only half felt.  Otherwise they would all have attended and stayed throughout the reading. 

And would have read the complete Constitution. 

They left out the bit about slavery and also omitted the 18th amendment.  Even though both were later changed they are still part of the original historical document.  The Original…. that is something that Republicans have made into a bit of a fetish. 

For example, take their mantra of original intent.  That sounds nice –  just look at how our founders understood the Constitution and follow along.  However there is a huge problem with this, that being when you cite original intent you must also ask which founder’s original intent. 

A quick look at history shows that our founders, many of whom were at the Constitutional Convention and helped write this document, disagreed vehemently with each other on the meaning  of what they wrote and how best to implement it.  In fact, at times the rhetoric of their disagreements reached truly Glen Beckian proportions in terms of its vitriol.   

Republicans are fond of quoting just one of the founders and ignoring the voices of the other founders who disagreed.  For example, I recently carried on a conversation with a very conservative Republican individual who argued that our social security, welfare, and many other such programs were unconstitutional since they were not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.  In fact, he was for eliminating about 90% of our government as unconstitutional.

He further stated that liberals and the courts have erred in their reading of the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution that has been used to justify some of these programs and cited Jefferson and Madison as the basis of his views.  He seemed to believe that their beliefs on how to interpret this clause was shared by all of our founders.

Before I post my response to this claim let me point out that it should be fairly obvious that the Constitution was meant to be interpreted.  It is too short to be an effective guide to forming and running a government without being interpreted.  Just think of government policies or even private industry policies and how long they are as they try to deal with every circumstance.  Now compare that to the length of the Constitution, even with the amendments, that is our guide to running a complete national government. 

It is an conceit born of ignorance to think that the Constitution can work without interpreting it.  Especially since this greatest of all political documents has to deal with a changing world – internet, easier travel, better communications, improved technology and medicine, etc – all of which create issues our founders never had to deal with. 

I was pleased that in doing research for my response that this point had been brought up in previous Supreme Court rulings. 

As for my response to my very very conservative Republican: 

You seem to overlook the fact that our founders did NOT agree with each other.  This holds true both for the meaning of and how to properly implement “the general welfare” clause as it does for every other section of the Constitution. 

In fact, Madison’s co-author of the Federalist papers, Alexander Hamilton, disagreed with Madison and Jefferson and took a much broader view of what this clause meant.  This broader view was one that at least two other of our founders, Washington and Monroe, shared.  

Now, while it was not until the 1936 U.S vs. Butler ruling that the Supreme Court ruled explicitly that Hamilton’s more literal and broader interpretation of the “general welfare” clause was the correct one there were several other rulings that laid the foundation for a  broader interpretation of the Constitution along the lines that Washington, Adams, Monroe, and Hamilton argued for.  

For example, Jefferson and Madison argued against a national bank by stating that it was not explicitly allowed by the Constitution.  Hamilton, with Washington’s concurrence, argued that it was necessary in order to carry out the provisions of the Constitution.  Hamilton won, both in the Congress at the time and later on in a Supreme Court ruling – McCulloch vs. Maryland in 1819.

In that ruling, Chief Justice Marshall argued that Congress can act on both explicit and implied powers.  He stated that this must be so just as a matter of pragmatism; that if all the means of implementing the explicit powers were listed the Constitution would become much too lengthy to be practical or to be understood.

In other words, the Constitution was a framework of basic ideas that would need interpretation to be fleshed out into a working government. 

In this particular case his ruling said that since Congress had the explicit powers to issue and borrow money, collect taxes, and maintain armies then they had the implicit power under the “necessary and proper” clause to establish a National Bank.  

In this decision Justice Marshall wrote that:  “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional…” 

He also stated that the Constitution “…intended to endure for ages to come, and, consequently, to be adapted to the various crisis of human affairs.”

In other words this unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in 1819 stated that the Constitution had to be interpreted to be a workable document and may have to be “adapted” to changing times.   

As a side note I should mention that Daniel Webster argued this case before the Supreme Court and argued brilliantly for a broad view of the Constitution.  He obviously won the case. 

Perhaps I should let Alexander Hamilton now have the last say here. 

 [A] criterion of what is constitutional, and of what is not so … is the end, to which the measure relates as a mean. If the end be clearly comprehended within any of the specified powers, and if the measure have an obvious relation to that end, and is not forbidden by any particular provision of the Constitution, it may safely be deemed to come within the compass of the national authority. ”

In other words, broad readings of the Constitution are Constitutional.  And have been argued to be so by many of our founders from the beginning.

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Flower Power Has Given Way to Mob Power March 24, 2010

Posted by Dindy in barack obama, Current Events, health care reform, Obama, Politics, Right wing, Uncategorized.
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I love living in Texas for many reasons– if nothing else it’s always good for a laugh– but after listening to the furor that has arisen since the passage of the Health Plan, it’s enough to make me long to live in a place where the sun hasn’t scalded everyone’s brain. It can be dangerous, however, to make generalizations based on where people live, and it is becoming ever apparent that Texans are not the only ones in need of an icepack on their heads.

Seriously, folks, when did it become okay for one member of Congress to yell “Baby Killer” at another member of Congress on the floor of the House, as the GOP Congressman from Texas, Randy Neugebauer shouted at Bart Stupak? When did it become okay for crowds to scream the N-word at minority members of Congress? When did it become okay for another member of Congress, Representative Joe Wilson, to shout, “You lie!” to the President of the United States while he was making a speech to a joint session of Congress? When did it become okay for people to go on Twitter and call for the assassination of our president?

I have to wonder what is truly behind this increasing rancor. We’ve had political disagreements in this country before, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything like this. Certainly there were plenty of ticked off people when Dubya was president, but it never rose to this level of discord. Probably the closest thing we have had to this were the war protests of the late sixties and seventies– if we’d had Internet then, we might have gotten out of Viet Nam much sooner than we did.

Much of this must be attributed to the instantaneousness of the Internet– and the anonymity. You can hide behind a fake identity, set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and whip people into all kinds of a frenzy without anybody ever knowing who you actually are. Not only that, but you don’t even have to tell the truth because it’s real hard to sue for libel or slander for things that are said on that vast frontier of lawlessness that is the Internet. Do you really think that the whackos who claim Obama isn’t a US citizen would ever have gotten a foothold if they couldn’t send their lies to everyone with a working email address?

And there are people who have a vested interest in maintaining this frenzy– the Fox Talk Show hosts wouldn’t have near the ratings they do now if they came on the air and told everyone, “Hey, Obama is really a good guy and even though we don’t agree with him on everything, we know he wants what is best for this country.” If Sarah Palin got up and told everybody the truth about issues such as the so-called Obama death squads, she wouldn’t have her lucrative new contract with Fox TV as well as crowds of people urging her to “Run Sarah run!”.

And let’s face it, these guys have a ready audience because the conservatives out there are just plain mad. They’ve been mad for a long time. In fact, I think they might have been born mad. They were mad when Clinton was elected, and they got madder when Obama was elected. They are so mad that they have forgotten that other people  have a right to think differently and vote differently than they, which is what the Liberals did in the last election because they were mad as well. The trouble is, Liberals just don’t get mad as effectively as Conservatives.

What we’ve got is a mob– a large group of crazies who are feeding on each other and getting whipped into a frenzy by savvy manipulators who are out for their own personal gain. As Deep Throat once said,  “Follow the money.”

There is plenty of room for honest disagreement in this country, but when did disagreement get to the point where we can’t even listen to each other? Where we can’t accept that other people have different views that may be as valid as their own? Okay, we get that you don’t like the Health Plan. We get that you are afraid that it is leading to socialism or that you think people should not be required to buy health care or that you think people should take care of themselves and not expect a handout from the government. We disagree, but does that mean it is okay for you to stand up and yell “N—–!” at one of us?

Whether you like it or not, the Health Plan has passed, and as the Liberals who hate the Faith Based Initiative and the Iraq War have learned, it’s real hard to stuff the crickets back in the jar after it’s been opened. (Those conservatives who have been trying to get rid of the Education Department certainly ought to know that!) I suggest that those of you who are opposed to the Health Plan come to the table to discuss what comes next in a rationale manner rather than throwing colossal temper tantrums and acting like two-year-olds. It’s here. Now you need to figure out how to deal with it.

The Remark Heard Round the World September 11, 2009

Posted by Dindy in Obama, Politics.
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“You lie!”

Two words. Two small words. A challenge to be sure. An insult.

And in uttering them  Joe Wilson, a  lawmaker from South Carolina may have unwittingly ensured that health care reform will happen.

The last few months have seen a real break down in civility in the American political process. Not that it’s ever been particularly civil, but since Obama took office we have seen a huge deterioration of political civility  unlike any we’ve seen before. From town hall meetings that look more like a barroom brawl to the lies and claims about senior citizen death panels, it’s enough to make you wonder if everyone remembers that we are actually all living in the indivisible United States.

What is impossible not to see is the fact that an incredible amount of antipathy and hatred has been focused against one man, Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and I am truly at a loss to explain why. After all, his detractors keep claiming it’s not because he is black, so it surely MUST be something else.

Obama  faced uncivility and rudeness long before he took office. When Obama visited a North Carolina barbecue joint in late October, a woman at the back of the restaurant yelled, “Socialist, socialist, socialist — get out of here!” Another woman actually refused to shake hands with him. Just stop and picture this for a moment. Picture walking into your local Tony Roma’s or Spring Creek Barbecue and as you do, a voice from the back yells, loudly enough for all to hear, “Socialist! Socialist! Get out of here!” Despite this you continue to walk into the restaurant. You go from table to table and stop to speak to the folks sitting there. As you extend your hand to one woman, you politely ask, “How are you ma-am?” and she pulls her hand away and refuses to shake yours.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine the guts it took to walk into that restaurant? Yet, Obama not only went into the restaurant, but he went around and spoke to each of the diners- at least the ones who WOULD talk to him. Blazing Saddles anyone?

Since Obama was elected, we’ve been treated to the harangues by the birthers, a group of nitwits who insist that Obama is not actually a US citizen and have actually tried to file lawsuits declaring his election invalid. Earlier this week we saw a protester greeting the presidential motorcade at a school where Obama had gone to speak. The protester held a sign saying, “Mr President, stay away from our kids.” And now we have a lawmaker who broke the decorum of an address to a joint session of Congress to directly challenge the President. “You lie!”

Can you imagine sitting in a meeting with your boss and the CEO with all of the stockholders of your company watching? Imagine your CEO talking, laying out proposals for the upcoming year and all of the sudden you just feel compelled to burst out with, “You lie!”

What on earth would ever make ANYONE think that this kind of behavior is permissible? Sadly, a lot of people not only seem to think it is okay, but they welcome it. GOP leaders have been quick to criticize Representative Joe Wilson, but Wilson’s SC constituency had some different opinions to offer:

“He’s the only one who has guts in that whole place. He’ll get re-elected in a landslide,” said John Roper, an insurance agent, as he sat among patrons at a diner near Columbia. ~ AP Yahoo News

However, the remark seems to have galvanized Democratic lawmakers who seem, finally, to have realized that enough is enough. Nobody likes a bully, and Wilson’s remark, combined with images of hysterical right-wingers demonizing the President for daring to tell kids to stay in school and study hard, makes it clear that Obama’s opponents are just, plain and simple, bullies.

Now the Dems have finally found their voice- and their spine. They’ve finally realized that they are in the same party with Obama and are vowing to pass health care reform with or without the GOP. The Dems are voicing their support for the president and speaking out against the rudeness. They are finally realizing that civil discourse does not mean that anything goes.

It’s about time.