Campaign Contributions to be Revisitied by the Supreme Court

In January of 2010, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,  the Supreme court ruled that portions of the McCain-Feingold act (BCRA) along with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and one other court ruling were unconstitutional, in that they restricted political  expenditures by corporations.

In an upcoming case, the Supreme court will decide in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission whether individual caps on contributions are constitutional.  The current caps that exist state that an individual may not give more than $46,200 to  federal candidates over a 2 year period and that individuals may not give more than $70,800 to other political entities , such as national and local political parties and non party committees, such as 501(c)(4) organizations.

The CEO of Coalmont Electrical Development Co., a man named Shaun McCutcheon, wanted to give over a 2 year period according to the Reuters story a total of $55,500 but was not allowed to because of the legal restrictions placed on individuals by federal law.  The story goes on to state that the rationale for the legal challenge, as delineated by Mr. McCutcheon and the RNC’s counsel in this case, James Bopp,is as follows:  Federal limits on individual donations force those that want to give more to go outside the system and give to superpacs rather than to the candidates they wold prefer to give to.

I want you to look closely at that last sentence.  While not Mr. Bopps words (to read them go to the Links page for the link to read them yourself) they accurately speak what Mr. Bopp said.

When I roll that thought around my head, I am greatly dismayed by what I see.  In large part because it would give wealthy people a more direct route to the halls of power than they already have. And they already have a huge advantage over the poor in this nation.

If the court agrees with McCutcheon here what will happen to the electoral process?  I am not sure.  The man, McCutcheon says he only wanted to give a few thousand dollars more than the legal limit.  But the court is not restricted by the wants or needs of that one individual. The worst case scenario, and the one I think both parties, Democratic and Republican alike are rooting for is to completely do away with individual limits.

The legal challenge to the law does NOT seek to amend the number of dollars that individuals may give. What it seeks to do is completely wipe the law off of the books and make the specific portion of law that limits individuals contributions unconstitutional.

The rub here is simple.  If McCutcheon wins this case what is bad now about campaign finance will become worse.  If he wins, then millionaires and billionaires will, until new legislation is passed, be able to buy elections lock, stock and barrel.

And will we be able to fix this should the system break this way and take power from the people?  Let me put it this way; Have we been able to fix the damage done by Citizens United in the courts and Congress?

About that much.

So the answer is simple.

Nope.

And who gets pinched out of the scene there?  The little guy.  This would be yet another blow to freedom for the poor and disenfranchised in this nation. We will become even more than we are now a nation where money is speech.

And if money is speech, does that not make poverty silence? How can people like us, the millions who live paycheck to paycheck, keep up?

We won’t be able to.

And there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.

Hope they don’t do it, we can only wait until the Supreme Court decides this in the next session, which begins in October.

Have a nice day.

225 Years Ago Today

Pic of the day:  The Constitution of the United States of America.

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In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.

Benjamin Franklin, Speech to the Constitutional convention, June 28th, 1787

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225 years ago today was the scheduled first day of the Constitutional convention in 1787.  They could not begin this day, unfortunately.  Inclement weather kept a great many of the delegates away early on, and it was not until the 25th of May 225 years ago that a quorum was actually present and the delegates could actually begin to debate the birth of a new government of the United States of America.

But they were scheduled to start today, and several members did in fact make it there for the first day’s proceedings.  James Madison, while waiting for the rest of the delegations to arrive drafted a plan which called for 2 separate houses of congress, according to population,  which gave most of the power to the larger states.  This was not, of course, received well by states with smaller populations, Like Georgia, Rhode Island, Delaware and New Hampshire.

Neither side budged.  William Patterson of New Jersey came up with an alternative plan, that had congress as a one house congress, with one vote for each state, with powers granted on top of the ones that existed in the Articles of Confederation. It took a blending of the two plans by two members of the Connecticut delegation to create a compromise that was at least somewhat appealing.

Though even that was not enough to get the plan through.  It took Benjamin Franklin adding to it that the lower house would originate revenue bills, and that the upper body would not vote as instructed by the states that sent them as representatives.

More on the Constitution as I see fit.  With this being the 225th anniversary of the convention, there will be ample opportunity to dissect the document, it’s good and bad points in fine detail.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Section 4

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, section 4

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The debt ceiling has been used by both sides of the political divide in order to try to protect it’s agenda while at the same time using it as agitprop against the other party.  But there is an argument that is far above the political crap that has been going on here.  The argument is that section 4 of the 14th amendment of the constitution protects the government from defaulting on it’s debt.  It makes the point that the government is obliged to pay it’s debts.  To ignore our debt, or to let the debt ceiling lapse (for lack of a better term) causing the government to default is unconstitutional.

Both sides of the political debate have made this point, albeit to themselves more or less. It is no surprise then, that the combination of bumping into the debt ceiling, and the breakdown in negotiations due to the political hostage taking that the political right has been foisting on the American people, has brought this argument to the fore.

Any attempt by congress to even attempt to drop the ball here is blatantly and simply against the law, entirely unconstitutional. Any argument that allows our debts to go unpaid goes against the law of the land, of the Constitution of the United States itself.

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Viddy of the day: Breakingviews: U.S. default argument–it’s unconstitutional.  The first two minutes are about the debt ceiling argument, the second half is about tech stocks.  Good stuff.

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I do find it curious, but not surprising, that with this little piece of knowledge about the 14th amendment floating around that there are people, even people in the know, who continue to argue about this subject like the debt ceiling is somehow important.  How could it be, if the law simply states that DEBTS GET PAID, NO IF’S ANDS OR BUTS?  I find it curious indeed.

But then again, with the amount of arguing that people have been doing on this subject, and knowing that when people invest that much sweat into an argument, they are generally loathe to give that argument up, it isn’t a surprise that this debt ceiling horse-crap has lasted as long as it has.

Most people usually think they are right simply because they hold an opinion.  Usually up until the point that the wrongness of their points are rubbed, figuratively, in their faces (and sometimes even that won’t suffice.)  So, it really isn’t a surprise that the debt ceiling, as an argument used to score political points, or as anything but the anachronistic thought that it is, is still here.

One wonders why those who knew this, who thought about this issue in it’s proper light from the beginning didn’t simply scream this from the mountaintops.  I for one never even thought about reading the constitution when thinking about the debt.  Silly me.  Why I do not know.  Perhaps because I was reading this as a news and economic event, rather than in it’s true light.  Which is that it is a legal matter.

That is what I get for attaching myself too closely to my normal sources of information.

And this whole story begs other questions, on which I may write on at a later date, one which I will ask but not answer, not yet anyway.

Why have we worked with and lived with the idea of a debt ceiling for the better part of 90 years, when it is clearly unnecessary horse manure, when it hasn’t kept us from spending, hasn’t made us more fiscally responsible, and hasn’t had any real legal strength since it’s inception?

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Bullsh*t isn’t Illegal

Strange it is that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free speech but object to their being “pushed to an extreme”, not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

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Viddy of the day: Westboro Wins In Court; Marine’s Family Saddened

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No surprise that the loons from the Westboro church won the Supreme court case they were involved in. 

It’s really simple, actually. 

Yes, the language that the Westboro church protesters use is ugly, nasty, and evil, but that doesn’t mean they should not be allowed to use it.  Most, but not all speech is protected against government interference. To stop the Westboro churchgoers from speaking their piece, no matter how vile, would be to say, here we will stop free speech.  And once you argue for stopping free speech for one group, how long before other groups are silenced by the government? 

Regardless, this is a thorny road to travel down, and the supreme court made the right decision in deciding this particular free speech case as broadly as possible.

Are the people from westboro evil, immoral, anti-social, and rude?  Damn right.  That doesn’t mean that their speech should be deemed illegal.  These closeted ass-clown right wing nut bags who hate America really can’t help themselves, but that is no reason for the court to shut them up.  The hate in their hearts is clear and it is about as un-christian as can be.  But that does not mean that “we the people” should somehow ask the court to cut into the first amendment rights of anyone just to shut these few nuts up.

Not that I don’t feel for the petitioner here.  This man has been truly hard done by, and if anyone deserved to win a case of this nature, it is him.  Mr. Snyder, the man who filed suit against Westboro was burying his son, a fine young man, killed in Iraq.  These nuts protested at this young mans funeral, approximately 30 minutes before the actual funeral, according to the writ of certiorari filed by the court.  Mr. Snyder said he didn’t realize what the signs said until he saw it on the news.  He claimed in the suit that, among other things that the protest was an intrusion on his privacy. He won millions from a lower court winning this case.  The westboro church claimed this was excessive and sought to have the cases reversed on free speech grounds.

The appellate court agreed with Westboro.  They held that the signs held at that protest were protected by the first amendment because they were: statements on matters of public concern; not provably false, and; were expressed solely through hyperbolic (but apparently not obscene in the eyes of the court) rhetoric.

Matters of public concern, stated, as in this case, on public property, which are not provably false and hyperbolic, are legal free speech. 

It is up to the states to make their laws more stringent to protect the families of the soldiers, not the federal government.

These loons can hold those signs for the same reason that tea party patriots can hold signs that speak to their opinions on health care, and left-wing protesters can carry anti-war or anti-tax cuts for the rich signs.   It’s speech, political speech, which means free speech.  It might be a stupid bullshit opinion on the part of the westboro ass clowns, but it’s  protected stupid bullshit.

Moral of the story:  This is America, and in America, bullshit isn’t illegal. 

If it was, we’d ALL be in prison.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night!

Constitutionality

If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.

James Madison, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, 1792

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They read the constitution on the floor of the house today.  They didn’t read the whole thing. They left the parts out that are no longer relevant, the 18th amendment, the 3/5ths compromise.  It would have, for my money, been better had they read the actual entire document, warts and all.  I don’t want some sanitized version of reality put forth of the history of the nation in which I live.  I want all of it.  The good and the bad.  Show us for the flawed people we are, a people who are a work in progress, who don’t always get it right, but always try.  Don’t show us as you wish we were, but as we were.

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A quick aside:

To be honest I can’t really make that last statement like that.  I should say,  Don’t show them as you wish they were, but as they were.  You see, I am a third generation American.  My grandparents on my father’s side came over here on a boat in the 1920’s,  1923 as I recall the story, they came from Ireland and landed at Ellis Island.  My parents on my mothers side came over earlier, not sure how much earlier, but not much earlier, from Poland.  

My family had nothing to do with it, unfortunately.  We were just simple peasants from the country side who decided that we wanted out of those two nations, and came here to seek our fortune. 

I would feel honored if I were descended from those long dead patriots, and had a blood line that went back to the initial defense of the concept of American liberty, but it simply isn’t the case.  Felt a need to say that, just to square up and be honest about myself to you, the reader. (all 4 of you)

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Viddy of the day:  House Gallery Disturbance During Constitution Reading.  There was a disturbance during the reading of the Constitution, during the reading of the bit in Article 2 section 5, about qualifications for the office of the President.  A birther started yelling about the President not being American.  Funny stuff. The chair, Rep. Simpson from Idaho, dealt with the drunken screamer correctly. 

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A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, 1822

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The entire concept of leaving out bits of the constitution simply for their own wants, regardless of reason, is to me entirely disingenuous to the concept they were trying to get out there.  They wanted to show their love for the document, for the freedom that it represents, and a “renewed sense of the limits the founders intended to place on government“(more on that in a minute).   But what kind of love of nation is it that turns a blind eye to the less than perfect parts of it’s past?  Blind love.  That is not a concept I would ever ascribe to.  I am an American.  I love America, but there is some very ugly shit done in this nation.  Accept it.  Own it.  It’s OK, it doesn’t make you un-American, as a matter of fact, it makes you MORE American.

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On the limits of power the Republicans wanted to show Americans:

One hopes that they will shut up about shutting down the fed, and all the bitching about taxation the way they do, like it’s unconstitutional.  I can talk about it, they can’t.  Why?  The document implies the power  to create the fed, and the power of taxation is not only implicit, it is actually stated as a power of congress.  Don’t believe me?  Read article 1, section 8, under enumerated powers. 

Apropos for several reasons

As given, the power to tax in the constitution is almost without limit.  The only limit on it is that it be uniform, and uniform is a word, that in the context of taxation, can be widely interpreted.  Uniform does not mean everyone should taxed equally.  It can mean that the tax burden should be progressive, since those that have more can afford to pay more, uniform by equal burden on those taxed.  If the percentage of tax on a man who only makes $10,000 is the same as it is on  man who makes $100,000,000, is that not onerous to the man who makes the smaller amount? It could even be argued the other way, if you are rich. 

There are many ways to mince words. 

And not just using section 8 article 1.  

Article 6 section 2 makes States rights, that great bulwark of anti-federal government power, a silly joke because one word in that clause.  Shall.  It is not a request that federal law is the law of the land,incapable of being superseded by local statute, it is an order that compels, with all the weight and power of the federal government. Without it, the little rock nine would never have made it to school. I could use more examples, but will not, I’m sure you can provide your own.

The government can do a great many things in just about anyway they want to, and claim constitutionality based on the necessary and proper clause and the Supremacy clause.  Why do you think the NSA exists?  Fisa courts? Because they want it.  Because they can.

There are your limits of government, Republicans.  Enjoy your power, like you always do.  Don’t let it go to your heads too much.

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That’s it from here, America.  12 notes tomorrow, methinks.  G’night!

America; Part II

Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty?

Patrick Henry

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Yesterday’s article, despite being a somewhat fragmented piece of work, was an attempt to write about a single thought, and begin a dissertation on that thought.  The thought being a simple one I think, makes it easy to write about.   That thought is this; Blind, unthinking love of America, and blind love for the forefathers and their thoughts, is silly.  They argued amongst themselves, about everything, there was not a thought that they had, be it about militias and arms, slavery, Presidential terms of office, linking taxation and representation, that was not argued and fought over.

Blind reverence for the founding documents, and for the concepts behind them, seems to be the order of the day, and has been for as long as I can remember.  It might be what everyone thinks and does, but it doesn’t show patriotism, doesn’t make you superior to anyone in any way.  It shows blind acceptance of someone else’s thought processes, and regardless of who you think of in those terms, that is an idea that should always be held in contempt. 

Now, the Bill of Rights and Constitution are well thought out and beautifully crafted documents, created with the best of intentions, and well crafted at that.  All the other governments of the world would be proud to call those documents as the basis of their government, if they care at all for freedom.  Our forefathers did care deeply for freedom.  But they were merely men, flesh and blood, imperfect, mortal.  Mistakes were made.

Or why do you think there was a need for the Bill of Rights in the first place?  Or an additional 17 amendments beyond those?  Why do ” We The People” talk of adding amendments to it, even now? Because it is perfect?  Clearly not.  There were things that the founders failed to think of, things they did not do themselves (abolition of slavery comes to mind), the failings of those who came after that they could not foresee (the 24th amendment comes to mind).  It is a testament to the intellect and strength and love of freedom of those who came after our forefathers that we have much that we have in this nation.

You may reading this and thinking  “What the fuck? does this guy hate America, the way he’s talking here?”  No I don’t hate America. As a matter of fact I think this shows that I love America.  Love it like an adult, love it enough to look at every last part of it, and decide that there are parts I don’t care for, which takes a level of discernment above simple “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free”  I try to know more than that.  Children love blindly, adults never should, and I that is about as simply as I could make the point I want to make here. Plus, if I didn’t love freedom, which is what America is all about, would I write about us like this, so passionately?

Don’t just love America, search it’s heart, and your own, find out why you love it.  It’ll make the love all the stronger.

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The constitution ought to secure a genuine militia and guard against a select militia… all regulations tending to render this general militia useless and defenseless, by establishing select corps of militia, or distinct bodies of military men, not having permanent interests and attachments to the community ought to be avoided.

Richard Henry Lee

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Viddy of the day: Dennis Kucinich on the floor of the House, speaking of the abuse of  power, from last year:

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Saturday’s happy links;

An Account of George Mason Being Against the Proposal to Link Taxation and Representation, during the Federal Convention of 1787

A Freeman (May 13, 1788)

The New Litany (February 21, 1788)

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And if you couldn’t tell, I love consource.org, it is a great site, an absolute gem of insight into the thoughts and feelings of the founders, and brings on some amazing insights into what happened back then. 

Go to sleep America.

America; Part I

It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.

Alexander Hamilton

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Been reading a few of the founding documents.  I read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights every once in a while.  Not because I am some kind of super patriot, who reads the document to instill in myself a sense of awe and wonder at the greatness of the founders.  That is silliness, the founders were people, not gods, they were not perfect, and it shows in the documents they wrote.  I don’t read it because I am some scholar trying to glean some new thought out of them.  Anyone who can read anything new into the document that hasn’t already been read, thought through, and discussed ad nauseum, is simply reading into it his or her own prejudices and inclinations.  I read it to learn.  To find out what the men who wrote the document wanted to give us, and what they wanted to keep from us.

I cannot think the documents upon which our nations government was founded are perfect, close, but not perfect.  Ben Franklin, at the close of the constitutional convention famously said there were several parts of the constitution that he did not agree with.  He did go on to say that it was as close to perfect as they were capable of creating.  Patrick Henry had issues with the Bill of Rights, the entire bill of rights.  His arguments, as I recall them, were simple.  Any time a government gives a right, it means that that right is controlled by that government, and can be changed, altered as that government sees fit. 

Ask any of the Japanese who were around during WWII who lived on the west coast how they felt about what happened to their freedoms, and their rights.  Ask an American Indian, or the descendant of slaves where their rights were when they needed them. Look at the FISA legislation.  Look at the NSA’s warrantless wiretap program.   All of these point to Patrick Henry having a valid point, in each and every case, government interference took what one would think of as a basic fundamental human freedom, and squashed it for it’s own purposes. 

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Friday’s Great American Links, focusing on the second amendment;

The records of the federal convention 2; august 23rd 1787

John Randolph to St. George Tucker; September 11th, 1789

House Committee report; July 28th 1789

The congressional register; August 17th, 1789

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The constitution, and the Bill of Rights are a contract between the Government and the people, and many of the Amendments have gone under interpretive changes over time.  No Amendment to the constitution is looked upon now the same way it was when the document was first written, simply because the people who are interpreting it, whether in 1835 or today, or any time in between, live in different times and under different circumstances that those who wrote the document, and as a consequence the words mean subtly different things to different generations.

The above links show, using the 2nd amendment as an example, that what some think of as an individual right was thought of, by many at the time, as the government’s right to have a regular militia, with it’s small arms provided by the people themselves.

Things change, do they not?  Not how the 2nd Amendment is looked at now, is it?

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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Much more on this subject over the next few articles.  G’night America.