Category Archives: Governance

Essays on the topic of governance, American government, and American foundation documents. Politics – campaigning and political statements – is a different category.

Let’s Make Some Laws

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Just for fun, pretend that non-Republicans (many of whom refuse to call themselves Democrats for reasons too complex to go into here) elect an entire governing majority in the United States. Say, 227 members of the House, 64 Senators, and a President of your choice. Then what?

For starters, in order to elect a House majority, voters in districts in a sizable number of states would have to elect non-Republicans. Exactly what the distribution of states might be would depend on how the voting played out. 

If we won every district in CA, we would still need 174 more. Throw in every district in New York, we’re still 147 short. Sweep Illinois and we need another 129. The second and third most populous states, Texas and Florida, have 65 Representatives between them, and there is not much likelihood of not-Republicans taking a majority of those 65. Any way you shake it, it will take numerous Representatives from lesser populated states to get the required minimum. That would have to include dreaded Red States.

And given that there are two Senators from each state it would take an absolute minimum of 32 states to give us 64 Senators. Again, depending on distribution, it might take more than 32 states but not less.

Astute readers might wonder why I picked those particular numbers, 227 and 64. It’s partly arbitrary. It takes 218 Representatives – Members of the House – to elect a speaker and pass a bill. Given that no two humans agree entirely, I put in 9 more than the minimum to improve the odds of getting a majority vote for our proposals.

Technically it only takes 50 Senators plus the Vice President to pass a bill, but traditionally our Senate has allowed minorities to block most actions. It takes, at a bare minimum, 60 Senators to pass any bill which has opposition, and getting 60 on board can be difficult. As an example, one of the reasons the ACA doesn’t offer a public option is because there were exactly 60 not-Republican (58 Democrat, 2 Independent / Socialist) Senators who would vote for any sort of health care bill at all, and not all 60 were willing to support a public option. So for the sake of this essay I have given us 64 – room to lose a few and still get things done.

I am proposing real numbers. The minimums I give here are absolute. Any group, by whatever name you call them, party or faction or – I don’t know what other terms might apply – any group must muster 218 votes in the House, and 51 (or 60 in case of opposition) in the Senate, to enact any idea or policy into law.

That means that Representatives of some number of Americans who choose to not live in crowded states or megalopolises absolutely must actively support and vote for any law or it will not pass. There is a vast number of Americans living crowded together in huge cities and urban corridors, but not enough to legislate for the nation.

Under our Constitution, in order for any bill to become law, it must satisfy a majority of the members of the House of Representatives, a majority of the Senators, and satisfy the President. If it doesn’t satisfy the President it must satisfy two-thirds of all the members of the House and Senate. My imaginary numbers for the two chambers do not reach the two-thirds threshold for either House. But that shouldn’t be a problem, because we have both Houses and the Presidency. Just like the Republicans do now. It would surely work at least that well.

Oops.

So we want to make some laws. What laws do we want to make?

Based on what I read on Twitter I’d say the number one priority of most not-Rs would be “get rid of the Electoral College,” but that’s not a law, that’s an amendment, and they’re harder.

First, the proposed amendment has to be passed by 2/3 of each House of Congress. The very optimistic numbers I have proposed here don’t give us 2/3 of either House. But presume, just for discussion, that both Houses choose to pass it.

The next step is ratification by 3/4 of the states. That’s 38 states. All but 12.

California contains more people than the smallest 21 states combined.

If I were betting my own money, I wouldn’t bet that 9 of those 21 states would vote to give up their amplified voice in Presidential elections in order to please the people of California. If at least 9 didn’t so vote, the amendment would not pass. Period. You can’t get to 3/4 without them.

Another popular – and important – desire is to get the power of money out of our political process. Reverse the Citizens United decision. That’s another amendment. While there is less obvious reason for small states to stand together against that one than there is against repealing the Electoral College, I’m not that confident. I suppose it is remotely possible. To even find out Congress would have to pass the 2/3 of each House threshold.

You could make a convincing case that our Constitution is irretrievably flawed, but I don’t think a reasonably non-Republican Congress and Presidency would be in a position to fix it. I’m going to disregard amendments for the duration of this essay.

What could we realistically fix with conventional legislation? Remember, we have the power. Anything the President will sign, my hypothetical Congress has the power to pass.

My recommendation would be to begin with a strong Voting Rights Act to repair the damage done by recent Supreme Court decisions. In the first place it would be fair. Racial equality in voting is a long held, but not yet realized, goal for America’s republic. The 15th Amendment, ratified in April of 1870, was an attempt to codify that Americans have the right to vote regardless of race. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before it had been swept under a carpet of lies and tricks, poll taxes and rigged tests. We tried again 95 years later, and for a short time that attempt appeared to have been successful, but forces of racism, white supremacy, and wealthism have whittled away at it until today we have returned much of the way back to the bad old days.

We not-Republicans have a fifty-plus year tradition of being the party of racial equality. For fairness we should pass a voting rights act with teeth. Beyond fairness, it is clear that the Republican party has, for now at least, a pretty solid lock on the racist / white supremacist vote. If we wish to remain competitive in the quest to govern the United States, we have to insure that our voters can go to the polls and vote. Not all our voters are blocked by racial voter suppression, but too many are.

Continuing on the voting rights line, we should and could immediately legislate that election day is a National holiday. We could and should legislate other policies which insured widespread access to the ballot box, from extended voting hours to registration based on Social Security number.

Additional legislation to prohibit racial and otherwise biased gerrymandering would be equally important.

If we had, for just one Congress, entire control of the legislative process, as we did during 2009 and 2010, the fairest, smartest thing we could possibly do would be to guarantee all Americans access to the ballot box, with as unbreakable legislation as we could possibly fashion.

While it would take a Constitutional Amendment to directly overturn Citizens United, it is possible that Congress could pass a law that the terms “speech” and “money” as used in the Constitution were exactly as defined in the standard dictionaries of the English Language. If the Supreme Court did not overturn that law, a challenge to Citizens United would be possible without an amendment. It is obvious that the Citizens United decision is the most destructive single act by a Supreme Court since at least the Dred Scott decision. A wise Congress and Executive would do everything in their power to overturn it by legislation, as averse to amendment.

I propose the above recommended legislation to restore the United States government to some semblance of Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” If the people writ large are not allowed to vote, they cannot govern themselves. The government “of” them will not be either “by” them nor “for” them. Voting is the foundation.

Unfortunately, voting can only assure this ideal government to the extent that it is informed voting, based at least broadly on fact and on the legitimate powers of government. Roughly half of the American people today literally believe things which have no basis in fact, and disbelieve provable, empirical fact. When a sizable portion of the electorate votes against a candidate based on the accusation that she is secretly running a pedophile sex business out of the basement of a pizza restaurant which has no basement, the entire process of holding elections is invalidated.

Congress has passed laws requiring truth in commerce, and forbidding outright lies in commercial advertising. Electing a government is no less important than choosing a toothpaste or an automobile; Congress has every right, long established, to establish reasonable limits on free speech. Our Congress, our majority, must be used to prohibit the promulgation of outright lies as news. We can do this.

From the early days of electronic media to the Reagan Administration the United States operated under a Fairness Doctrine. No broadcast media outlet could operate as a house organ for one political party. Ronald Reagan halted that doctrine.

Congress could, and should, restore it.

The United States, and indeed the world, faces major, possibly existential, threats, and in spite of that I have spent over 1500 words so far addressing only legislation insuring fair governance for the nation. That is because without fair governance the people cannot work toward solving broader, real problems. The reason that oligarchs have seized control of our government is because they know that only government can address national and worldwide problems, and they do not want those problems addressed. So now that we have (hypothetically) provided for a fair government, what next?

I would propose that the biggest problem, external to our right to govern ourselves, is global warming. It is already here; it is having the predicted violent effects. We need to do two things about it: we need to address surviving it in the short term, and we need to move quickly toward halting the increase of heat energy stored here on earth. This is possibly the greatest threat humans have ever faced. While we do not know exactly what the outcome of increasing temperatures and available free energy might be, we know for certain that the ecosystems with which we evolved are those which exist and operate at the current energy and temperature levels. Rather than argue about what the resultant, different, higher energy ecosystem might look like, we should do everything in our power to preserve the one that has supported us for the recent few hundred millennia.

Global warming is a bigger threat to human civilization as we know it than any other we have ever faced. Virtually no approach to it is too extreme. Look at the changes the United States made in our economy and lifestyles at the onset of World War II. Global warming is a bigger deal than World War II. The question is not whether we will have to change our lives; the question is whether we choose the changes or have them imposed on us.

I have written some essays on particular avenues I would recommend we take, facing this inescapable, obvious threat. I am only one man and have no claim to particular expertise and specifically no claim to omniscience. I cannot see all the possible solutions. America has some brilliant people, scientists, legislators, designers, sociologists, It is imperative that a Congress with the interests of a majority of the American people in mind make a top priority of modifying our current lifestyle to minimize the damage and suffering caused by global warming weather, and of moving us away from a carbon-emission based economy. We have already jumped off the bridge; the question now is whether we open the parachute.

Having discussed a few laws I would recommend, consider for a moment what it would take to pass them. Let’s consider legislation to provide relief in advance for global warming damage.

Coastal states are obviously threatened by global warming. By a quick count, there are about 18 coastal states of the lower 48, plus Alaska and Hawaii makes 20. We have already established that we must have Senators from 32 states, so at a minimum we have 24 Senators whose states do not have anything to lose if coastal states are flooded. Taking the House, elections are by district, not by state. There is no guarantee that a Representative from, say, upstate New York is totally committed to spending tax money to protect Manhattan Island from flooding. Nor is there any guarantee that a Representative from the Central Valley of California is deeply concerned about sea level rise in Malibu.

There is an old saying attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” (Sausage makers object, saying this isn’t fair to their industry.) Even if we have not-Republican legislative majorities, the needs and desires of the individual legislators are going to differ. The legitimate needs of the voters in the differing legislative districts are going to differ. It might be possible to get widespread agreement on legislation to improve the honesty and fairness of our voting system, since each and every not-Republican member of Congress could see advantage for themselves, but when it comes down to spending money to alleviate and reduce global warming, it is reasonable to expect every single member of Congress to say, What’s in it for my district? That is, after all, why we vote for members of Congress: to represent us. Not some vague “Americans” but: us.

Remember: 218 Representatives must agree to pass any bill. The member-elected Speaker of the House must, in most cases, agree to bring a bill to a vote or it will never get voted on regardless of how many individual Representatives might favor it. It is highly unusual for a bill in Congress to get voted on unless a majority of the controlling committee approves. An absolute minimum of 50 Senators plus the Vice President must agree to pass a similar bill. It is not unusual for it to take a minimum of 60 Senators to even bring said bill to a vote.

Legislation is a messy process. Observe the paralysis of the United States Government under Republican control in 2017. So far they have been unable to enact nearly any significant legislation whatsoever aside from a few critical bills to keep the insane President from giving away the store while they were out of town. They have not been blocked by Democrats, but by members of the same party.

This legislating business is harder than it looks.

Could we not-Republicans elect majorities in both houses? Under current conditions among our ranks I am not that confident, but it is possible.

If we succeeded in electing majorities in both houses could we accomplish anything with our majorities? Given, again, the current condition among our ranks, I am dubious.

Politics, it has long been said, is the art of the possible. In modern, disputatious America, is anything possible at all?


Supporting essays:
Global warming
Addressing Global Warming
Rational Transportation
A Repairman Looks At Weather
and others, see Table of Contents, No Package Deals

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The View From Here Late August, 2017

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This is a work of speculation. I do not have any sources; I do not have any inside knowledge; everything I'm looking at today you can probably see on Google whatever day you're reading it.

Say Mueller goes to the Supreme Court with incontrovertible evidence that the Executive and Legislative branches at the highest levels engaged in careful systematic fraud and treason with Russia to, in the gentlest possible terms, install themselves as a Russia-friendly government in the United States. Then what?

From here as I look out over possible futures I see many. It is like sitting at the hub of a wheel and looking down the spokes. I am not offering a prediction; I am painting you a picture. I’m not trying to tell you that things are now or are going to become some specific way because I don’t know. What I am saying is, the things I see could support these results.

I am of the opinion that the end of the Constitutional Presidential system republic which was the United States is in the past, not the future. The country we knew is already over. It no longer exists. I have written of the event which, in my opinion, marked the end of the First Republic. If you haven’t already you can read that essay here, as well as one speculating about the people involved, here. 

I’m not going to bore you with details of all the ways the Executive Branch is blowing off not only established norms but the clear instructions in the Constitution. It’s out there. That follows the overthrow of a Democratic President by a Republican Congress. The only intervening event was an election during which Russian propaganda was disseminated over a complicit media by our governing oligarchy in cooperation with the Trump Organization and the elected Republican Congress. Senate Majority Leader MItch McConnell told President Barack Obama to shut up about it and he did. This last is not in dispute: it is a matter of public record. Not by any stretch of language or meaning could we be said to be living under the Constitution. The Republic is not here today.

From here one possibility is that the forces of good led by Bob Mueller III find evidence and trigger some action that frees us from the entire coup; I don’t think that is very likely but it is possible.

It is also possible that Mueller takes incontrovertible evidence of Trump coordination with Russia to Congress and they say, Yeah, so what? and go on about their business. No impeachment. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds: Congress is already looking at incontrovertible evidence. They’ve got most of the same documents Mueller has. They’re OK with it.

What next? Would he take it to the Supreme Court? I believe that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction but I’m just reading the Constitution. Lawyers were made expressly to argue about this stuff and I’m not one. But say he does, and the Court takes it, and he’s got the whole ball of wax. Say Mueller goes to the Supreme Court with incontrovertible evidence that the Executive and Legislative branches at the highest levels engaged in a careful systematic fraud and treason to, in the gentlest possible terms, install themselves as a Russia-friendly government in the United States.

Taking that road further, say that the Court finds for the republic and calls for new elections, appoints George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as caretaker President & Vice President, and fires Congress pending new elections. A bunch of particularly corrupt members of Congress – McConnell and Ryan and their cronies – would be, at a minimum, banned for life from public office, but the rest would be allowed to run again. Without some institutional memory it would be much harder.

That would be my personal ideal outcome. Except: What if they all refused to leave? The orange guy is currently living in blissful disobedience of a court order that he not block American citizens on Twitter, and everybody says, (hold your nose and make your voice weird) “Oh, that’s Trump.” and ignores him ignoring the court. His pardon of Joe Arpaio was a dictator’s thumb in the eye to the concept of an independent judiciary. One member of the Supreme Court is also a member of the coup. Nobody can stop him.

Nobody can stop him because our Constitution is fatally flawed: there is no provision to keep a President and a Congress from working together to take America private. If the easiest way to accomplish that is by signing up with Russia so be it. I suspect that it wasn’t technologically possible to have done this in 1800. With today’s money, computers, and communications it’s not only possible, it’s almost inevitable.

There’s an assumption that if the Supreme Court fires them they’ll leave. I’m not that confident. When he stops being President he’ll probably go to jail. Ryan and McConnell too I would think. Along with a bunch of others. I doubt if they’re up for that.

If they all (Trump, Ryan, McConnell, Trump’s pet generals) look at the Supreme Court and say, Nope – then what?

Then either they stay in command or the military throws them out. If they don’t leave by their own power it will come down to force. Historically Presidential System Republics tend to end in military coup. If we step into that morass it will be grim, but I’m going to proceed from here based on the assumption that even if that happens an almost genetic memory of self government will eventually win over and we will throw the bums out. I’m going to tag that – the throw the bums out day – as point A. I’ll come back to that.

Another whole possible road follows from some power – Mueller or Congress or even the Supreme Court – taking out Trump or even the whole Executive Branch but leaving the original Congressional Coup in place. Things may quiet down, but the republic is still over. We’ll be Red China, more or less, with a semi-command economy worked by technoserfs, governed by a self selected Central Committee. Or a Russia variant. Or Mexico. One party rule, abject poverty and incredible wealth, with a big empty space in between. We already have one characteristic of Soviet Russia in our economy: as they used to say in Russia, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” America hasn’t had a raise in 40 years. Most people have had a cut in pay. It shows.

If the Congressional Coup stays in place, McConnell and Ryan and the Koch Brothers will stuff some other, hopefully less colorful, stooge in there and we’re still an oligarchy. The Republic is still gone.

In that case – Trump out, the Republicoup Congress in – elections are probably hopeless. Every dictatorship on Earth holds elections. You let the people you want to vote, vote. They elect you. Return to top.

I do a lot of rooting for elections, but personally I don’t expect to see the formation of a functional, actually voting, Democratic coalition big enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and take Congress back amidst the propaganda storm. I like to root for it because it is theoretically possible and would be a wonderful outcome. Please do go vote for Democrats, it might work. But otherwise…

There’s no telling how long it will last. In Mexico they’ve been doing it for I think ninety-some years. One party oligarchy, sham elections, the people get so poor they’ll risk their lives to come to The United States to make a little bit of nothing doing hard dirty work. Well, before Trump’s Troopers. Amongst the poverty Mexico has at least one candidate for Richest Man on Earth plus a handful of other billionaires, most of whom are professional criminals but that’s to be expected. We could go that way. We’ve got a good running start. But.

But say Americans in large numbers notice they’ve been had. The bottom 2/3 to 3/4 of everybody really are natural allies. Believe it or not, we and the rednecks ought to be voting for the same things. We’re all getting screwed together. Many everyday Americans have fallen for a propaganda storm that has turned them against one another. Mostly it has been done by focusing on religion, race, and guns. The Central Committee might just come and take away their guns after they are no longer needed to intimidate the rest of us. Or we might study and outwit the Propaganda War. I don’t know. It may be, by whatever road we travel, we all reach point A. We throw the bums out. We get past it. I feel confident that eventually we will, again based on history. People have stood up to kings since at least 1200 or so. So once we get to point A, once we throw the bums out, then what? Now what?

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A Well Regulated Militia

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

Everybody knows those words. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights.

More lies have been told about that simple sentence than about anything else in American history with the possible exception of sex and gas mileage.

The most pernicious lie of all is that the 2nd Amendment somehow justifies the people in taking up arms against their government. The framers of the Constitution did not write in a clause that said it would be acceptable for the citizens to murder them while they went about the business of governing the new nation. Forget that.

As of when this screenshot was taken this tweet had been retweeted nearly 8,000 times.

Senator Rand Paul, of the governing Republican Party in the United States, sent this tweet: He claims that he was quoting her, but the format of the tweet doesn’t look that way to me. But it’s real: his account sent it. Real men don’t make excuses.

Steve Scalise is paying the price. Rand Paul, some Fox News TV “judge”, and a million other Conservatives, all stood together and held the gun that forever changed Steve Scalise’s life. His wounding is in their hands. Some dim bulb took Rand Paul’s word, and Rush Limbaugh’s word, and Alex Jones’s word, that he had a right to do it, and shot at his government. It’s called Stochastic Terrorism

In the first place, all that fancy talk about overthrowing tyrants isn’t in the Constitution. It’s in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson meant those other tyrants in England. (Of course, Rand Paul meant those other tyrants the Democrats.) At no place did Jefferson mean to imply that the same rules would apply to the Good Guys, the United States Government that they were fighting a war to create, after the Revolution was over. To say so is the purest form of lie.

The blurring of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution undermines the stability of the nation. It is a serious failure of education and a powerful tool in propaganda. The Declaration of Independence is specifically a challenge to the validity of government by King and Parliament over 13 faraway colonies. The Declaration of Independence was written to justify the colonies’ overthrow of that government.

Not this government.

The Constitution was written to create, codify, and hopefully operate into perpetuity this government. The United States of America.

The Declaration of Independence does not apply to the duly constituted government created after the Revolution. I have had dozens (at least) of misinformed people tell me that the the 2nd Amendment was written specifically to permit the overthrow of the United States government by force of arms; that the Constitution says so. I think that these people, without exception, believed that they were telling the truth. Violent overthrow of the government, these people believe, would be not a side effect of the Second Amendment but literally the framers’ reason for creating it. We are to believe that the framers, in Philadephia in the summer of 1787, said to themselves “we’ll make this Amendment so that if we annoy the people between elections they can come with guns and kill us all.” I cannot express how absurd this is.

The American people have been told, over and over, that they have a Constitutional right to overthrow their government by force of arms. Rand Paul, a sitting Senator told them that, on his United States Senate Twitter account which exists for official communications with his constituents.

Why would an average American even think that his Senator was lying to him?

Many of the people who have told them this currently are the government. Most of the remainder support the current government in various media and financial ways. By a marvel of misdirection that same government, the Trump Regime working together with the Republican Congressional Coup (with propaganda support from most of commercial media) has flipped the 2nd Amendment propaganda upside down and backward: Now they are saying that the 2nd Amendment gives some portion of the American people the Constitutional right to enslave the rest, to conquer all the people who would otherwise vote against them, again by force of arms. People who call themselves (but are not) militias claim a Constitutional Right to march down the streets of our cities in their camouflage suits and bulletproof vests with their (maybe semi-) automatic rifles and their war paraphernalia and order us around and kill one or two of us.

The President of the United States, The United States Congress, and most of the United States’s allegedly free press sees that same redefined Constitutional right in flaming letters written across the sky and bows down before it.

The party controlling the government today and the people who own over 99% of the money and media outlets in this country have spent 40 years pushing that lie. We are, today, in grave danger.

I have claimed that there is no Constitutional right to overthrow the government or enslave other Americans by force of arms. Why, then, do we have the 2nd Amendment, and what is a militia, anyway?

The “well regulated Militia” referenced in the 2nd Amendment is not an abstract, otherwise undefined armed group. The militia is defined clearly in the base Constitution. The 2nd Amendment, written after the base document, has its foundation in the Constitutionally defined militia.

Under the Constitution the Militia is primarily a creature of Congress and the States. The first reference to it is in Article I Sec 8. Article I creates the Congress; Sec 8 spells out several of Congress’s specific powers and duties. Par 15 says,

“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”

The Militia works for Congress. There are no self-employed militias in the United States.

The very next paragraph continues to define Congress’s duties regarding the Militia:

“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”

If Congress didn’t organize it it’s not a militia.

If Congress didn’t arm it it’s not a militia.

If Congress doesn’t discipline it it’s not a militia.

During such times that the militia might be activated for duty service to the country, Congress would directly govern the militia.

If the state of Virginia did not appoint officers for, and train, those thugs on the streets of Charlottesville, they were not a militia.

As envisioned under the Constitution, the United States of America did not have a standing Army. The only somewhat permanent army would be the Militia, organized by Congress but operated by States except in times of invasion or insurrection, when Congress (only) could call them up, after which the President would command them.

Article II of the Constitution creates and defines the Presidency. Section 2 defines his or her powers and obligations. The first paragraph of Article I Section 2 begins with

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;…”

Notice that the President only commands the militia after Congress calls them up.

Why does some huge majority of Americans think that little bands of armed thugs are militias? Because virtually every reporter in my lifetime has told them so. The thugs in Charlottesville were reported to be one or more militias. The difference is not a semantic quibble. A militia is an armed force in service to one of, or all of, the United States. A militia is to serve and protect the United States. These bands of thugs are specifically threatening war against the United States. Some – the Bundy mob comes to mind – have taken up arms against the United States more than once. The difference is as significant as the difference between birth and death.

The groups on the streets of Charlottesville may have been called militias by every TV and radio station and every newspaper in the country. If not, it was close. They were not, by any definition of the term applicable in the United States, militia.

Those groups were one of the following:

  • Armed gangs
  • An insurrection

If in fact the United States had a militia – and some believe that the National Guard is exactly that, our Constitutional Militia – it would have been Congress’s duty to call them out to preserve the peace in Charlottesville. Again:

“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”

The thugs on the streets of Charlottesville, VA, on the 11th and 12th of August, 2017, were not militia. They were an insurgency. Congress, every single member sworn on their honor to uphold and defend the Constitution, failed their duty and violated their oath.

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Government Tasks / Actions

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This page is not so much an essay as a reference. I recurrently need this information inserted into something else I am writing; rather than write it a thousand times I am going to put this doc here to link to.

There are some 330 million Americans. The United States covers 3.797 million square miles / 2.27 billion acres of land and water.

The Government of the United States has responsibilities to every one of these citizens over every single acre. The government’s duty to the citizens, per the United States Constitution (2 separate mentions) is to “…provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare…”

Virtually none of the things the government does are specifically spelled out in the Constitution. It’s not that sort of a document. Instead, we were given the above broad statement plus, under the specified powers of Congress, the following instructions:

1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, DutiesImposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all DutiesImposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

(16 specific groups of responsibilities, and)

18: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

So that is how the Government of the United States came to perform, among other things, the following specific tasks:

The Federal government manages and maintains over 164,000 miles of highway, among the over 4 million miles of highways and byways in the United States.

The Federal government built, regulates, manages, and maintains over 12,000 miles of navigable, freight carrying waterways. There are 29 locks and dams on the Mississippi river and another 21 on the Ohio. Waterway freight is the most energy efficient freight system in America. The vast majority of the United States’s agricultural exports travel down government built and maintained waterways.

The entire United States, every square mile, is covered by air traffic control radar. Every square mile of radar coverage is monitored by 15,000 living, human, federal employees, 24 hours of every day.

If that radar and those air traffic controllers were not there the 87,000 daily flights of the United States air transportation and freight system would have to shut down immediately. The only alternative would be mass carnage in the skies and on the ground.

It appears that not even the Pentagon knows exactly how many military bases the United States Government operates worldwide, but here is a map of the nations where we have a military presence.

GPS satellite network

We have satellites in space; we have submarines beneath the oceans of the world. We have nuclear powered aircraft carriers ranging the oceans of the world.

The GPS in your phone or your car gets its location information from satellites launched, maintained, and operated by the United States Government.

The Department of Energy is responsible for the safety and security of enough nuclear weapons to end human life hundreds of times over. I have seen the number of nuclear warheads the department is responsible for variously reported as 64,000, 77,000, fewer and more. I’m not sure anybody knows exactly. Besides the active nuclear weapons the Department of Energy manages three nuclear laboratories and all the fissionable material and nuclear waste in the country, with the objective of keeping it out of the hands of our enemies. One small error could spell the end of one or more large cities.

Besides all this the Department of Energy is responsible for cleaning up the nuclear wastelands left over from over 50 years of nuclear weapon design, testing, and manufacture. This government agency decontaminates and decommissions nuclear facilities which have outlived their usefulness and attempts to keep the radioactive materials out of the water, land, and air which American citizens require to live.

Just one Federal agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, operates and maintains some 340 major dams in the American West, providing drinking, irrigation, household and commercial use water for virtually the entire half the nation between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, along with outdoor recreation for millions of Americans each year.

Before the Bureau of Reclamation existed nearly all the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean – the western half of the country – was sparsely populated desert. This desert could not support any more people than it already had because there wasn’t any water to drink, to wash in, or to grow food. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt got Congress to create the Bureau of Reclamation with the idea that the west could be turned into farmland. With the exception of California’s Central Valley that’s not exactly how it turned out.

The cities that make up today’s US West could not exist without the Bureau of Reclamation. Not only could they not have been built, they could not exist for one week, starting right now, if the Bureau of Reclamation were shut down.

Aerial view of the Phoenix downtown skyline with the midtown skyline behind as well as North Mountain and other mountains in the background.

Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles – gone. If the Bureau of Reclamation were shut down overnight, there is no guarantee that Phoenix could even be evacuated in an orderly fashion before water stress hit. All the water, all the time, every day, that makes these giant cities possible, is delivered by the federal government through taxpayer-supported plumbing.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has been providing flood control for private property in the Mississippi and Sacramento River valleys since 1928, including tributaries of the Misssissippi, which include such rivers as the Missouri and the Ohio. The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers alone count for some 4,000 miles of flood control structures (with the Missouri, by the way, slightly the longer of the two.) The Missouri River is impounded in six places along its main stem, vast lakes over a thousand miles in total length.  These six dams provide flood control, electric power generation, recreation, and irrigation water for people from Canada to St. Louis. They are, needless to say, parts of the Federal Government.

That’s just one river. The Corps of Engineers manages flood control and water projects across the nation, from the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Columbia River. Each of these major systems is comparable to the description above.

When that flood control fails (which it always has done from time to time) the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) comes in and feeds people, houses them, and keeps them alive. While FEMA is the butt of a million jokes, it has also saved easily a million lives.

The United States Government provides assistance to farmers across the nation and has since the Lincoln administration. This assistance comes in the form of insurance, land management information, research, educational materials – if you’re not hungry and thank a farmer, thank the Federal Government too, because they’ve been helping that farmer produce since the Civil War.

Besides assisting farmers the United States Department of Agriculture inspects for safety and cleanliness the meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and egg products eaten by American consumers. Without an equivalent agency, China a few years ago experienced mass child deaths caused by contaminated milk. The United States government works to prevent events like that from happening here.

Federal Civil Service employees maintain the runway lights on every major airport in the United States.

 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) invented the Internet.

The United States Government interacts on behalf of its citizens with the other 194 nations on Earth. Our State Department maintains 307 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world, where besides interacting with the local governments they provide services and assistance to US citizens should they find themselves in need or distress.

The government operates 168 VA Hospital / Medical Centers and 1,053 outpatient facilities, caring for some 8.9 million veterans a year. (As of July, 2016)

The Food and Drug Administration inspects and assures safety of food, drugs, our blood supply, nuclear medicine products, medical devices, cosmetics, and animal and veterinary medicines. Before the FDA we had snake oil salesmen and “medicines” containing mercury.

About 35.3 million, or over 10%, of Americans use Corps of Engineer recreational sites and facilities every year. The Corps provides and manages over 12 million acres of recreational land, with 4,263 separate sites at 423 different projects. The corps maintains over 55,000 miles of shoreline, 91,000 campsites, over 4,600 miles of trails, almost 3,500 boat ramps, and one-third of all the freshwater fishing in the United States. Corps lakes host 20,000 fishing tournaments a year.

The Corp, at its recreation facilities alone, has about one billion dollars worth of fixed assets. There are 500 private businesses operating concessions on Corps lands, 350,000 jobs associated with Corp-operated recreation, and 18 million dollars spent every year by visitors enjoying the facilities.

The United States government shares operation of an international space station 250 miles above us, rounding the earth every hour and a half, moving some 17,000 miles an hour. Although private contractors now get paid for providing launch facilities to move scientists and material up and back, without the federally operated space station up there they wouldn’t have much business.

The Meals on Wheels program provides over 215 million meals a year to some 2.5 million homebound Americans.

The federal government operates 102 federal prisons and employs about 120,000 law enforcement officers.

The United States Postal Service provides letter and package pick-up and delivery service to every address in the United States. The Postal Service operates 31,585 post offices, at least one in nearly every city and town in the nation. Postal employees visit nearly every address in the entire nation every day, six days a week, to deliver mail and pick up any outgoing mail the resident may have. The Post Office directly employs over half a million career employees.

It is interesting to note that, of all the services in this list, the Post Office is directly required by the Constitution. “Establishing Post Offices and Post Roads” is one of the 16 Congressional responsibilities I skipped over earlier in this essay. In spite of this, Congress has semi-privatized the Post Office and indulges much public hand-wringing over the cost of providing this required service to Americans.

The United States government owns and manages some 640 million acres of land. The United States already owned land before the Constitution was written, and this ownership, like the Post Office, is expressly provided for in the Constitution, where Article IV Section 3 par. 2 reads,

2: The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

The United States government secures over 5,500 miles of land border with neighboring nations and 12, 383 miles of coastline which, with its twists and turns,actually consists of over 95,000 miles of shoreline.

This list only scratches the surface of federal government activities and responsibilities.

The United States Government is big. It is always going to be big. The United States is a big country.

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Congressional Dereliction of Duty

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06/29/2017

I have read several comments in the past few days stating that Donald Trump, as President of the United States, has a duty to defend the United States from invasion, and that his refusal to take any action regarding Russia’s past and ongoing cyber invasion of the nation is a failure to do his duty.

He is a failure in every way, but under our Constitution repelling invasions is not his duty.

In Article I of the United States Constitution, in Section 8, which specifies responsibilities of Congress, the 15th paragraph reads as follows:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

This is the only reference in the Constitution to enforcing the laws by force of arms, to suppressing insurrections, and to repelling invasions.

Repelling invasions is a clear Congressional responsibility.

The Congress, if they were to honor their Oath of Office and obey their Constitutional direction, would be passing legislation to deal with the Russian invasion.

  • They would address Russian hacking
  • They would address the public dissemination of hacked materials
  • They would address the security of voting which, although a State task, is done under the auspices of the Constitution.

These are bare minimum actions which Congress would take. There are undoubtedly more which, if Congress were faithful, they would feel necessary.

Every intelligence organization in the United States has specifically told Congress that we have been invaded.

Virtually every intelligence organization among our allies in the Western world agrees. Many have said to publicly.

The 115th Congress is acting in complete, total, and unceasing disregard for their Oath of Office. The United States Constitution is not, as of this date, in operation by any measure.

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Constitution, Why and What

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It appears from here that many Americans have a very strange view of their Constitution.

The United States Constitution, although frequently mentioned in our public discourse today, seems to occupy a spot in the public mind somewhere between holy writ and Delphic oracle. People attribute to it all manner of meanings, concepts, and statements that simply aren’t there. People also assign profound meaning to certain things expressly because they are not in our Constitution, claiming to understand the founders’ intent in terms of what they did not write. This is bizarre.

What the Constitution is, and all that it is, is a detailed manual of the design, structure, and operation of the United States Government. More on that soon.

Theoretically most Americans have at least a vague idea of how and when we came to have this particular document, but allow me to  touch on the historic high points briefly.

The same Continental Congress which adopted and signed the Declaration of Independence wrote and adopted a document called the Articles of Confederation, which was an attempt to codify the relationship between the 13 independent colonies who were joining together to fight the coming war.

Union between the colonies had never existed before except through England, Parliament and King. They were 13 separate colonial nations agreeing to join together and throw off their shared colonizing power. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about “my Country,” as he often did, he meant Virginia. He used the terms almost interchangeably. Maryland was no more part of his country than France was. So the Continental Congress wrote up a paper that said, in short, we’ll do this together but nobody can tell any of us anything. We are equals. Each of us is independent states, which in 1776 meant nations, but we’ll fight this war together and afterward, we’ll meet from time to time and talk.

The United States won the revolution. They threw off the English. Afterward they operated as 13 independent nations for 10 years, by which time the political leaders in each of those 13 states knew that the nation they had attempted to create was not working. A broad overview can be found on Wikipedia here and in histories of our nation.

So they trudged back to Philadelphia to work the issues out. The stated plan was to fix the Articles of Confederation so they would work. The articles turned out to be, like a poorly designed and rotting building, harder to fix than to replace. Instead, the 50 to 90 (roughly) men spent that summer designing a new government which would bind these 13 formerly free and independent nations together as subordinate units under one nationwide federal government. The government they designed was unlike any which existed, or had ever existed, anywhere on earth.

As might be expected with Version 1.0, there were a few bugs.

They did not write poetry. They did not write philosophy. They wrote a detailed how-to manual. After they finished the manual they wrote one great piece of philosophical prose, the Preamble to the Constitution for the United States, but the preamble is the only artwork in there.

The Constitution says, in a nutshell:

First, in Article One: The Congress will run the country. They will make all the laws, spend all the money, raise all the taxes. Congress will raise and equip the Militia, in a nation without a standing army. (The Constitution provides that no money can be appropriated for an army for longer than two years.) Congress will decide if and when the new nation will go to war. Congress will have the power to remove by impeachment and conviction any member, elected or appointed, of any branch of the federal government including their own.

The Constitution gives Congress these specific powers, and others, plus the world’s biggest fudge factor: Congress may pass whatever laws they might need to provide for the general Welfare and the common defense.

The Constitution lays out in detail what the two Houses of Congress will be, how they are formed, how long they serve, how often they must meet (at least one day a year). It provides an overview of the process of electing Congress , which has been amended some. General housekeeping is in there, like how often we’ll have censuses in order to apportion Congress among the states, plus the shameful and legendary pro-slavery “3/5 of a person” clause, long amended out of operation but still there to read.

There is quite a bit of text specifying how the Congress will function, including that both houses may make their own rules.

Also in Article I is the express rule that officers of the United States may not take anything of value from any foreign government. This is to prevent larger and wealthier nations from bribing United States officials. It is not at all complicated. It says, No foreign nation, king, or prince may give any gift, pay for services rendered, or title of nobility to any member of the United States government. It was the framers’ way of making sure our weak new government did not get bribed into subjection by some foreign power.

Article Two of our Constitution creates and defines a President and specifies his powers.

The President will oversee the Congress, but he can’t overrule them. If he doesn’t like a bill they have enacted it he can force them to reconsider it, and require that they pass it by 2/3 majority in order that it become law. He cannot veto it outright; if 2/3 of both houses agree that some bill should be law they can enact it over the President’s objections.

The Constitution expressly provides that the President shall be the public face of the United States to the world. He (now it can also be she) speaks for us to all people and negotiates all agreements. The Senate can say yes or no on an agreement with another nation, but only the President may negotiate it.

The President is required to tell Congress from time to time how the nation is doing, and what laws they ought to pass to help it do better.

The President appoints all judges, ambassadors, and certain other public officials. The Senate has the power to “advise and consent” to the appointments. The Constitution doesn’t address lunacy like a Senate just refusing to seat any judge a President might appoint because they are denying that President his Constitutional power; our Founders were more-or-less honest men and didn’t foresee a time when we would be governed so dishonestly.

After Congress sends us to war the President commands our forces. He (or, again, she) is Commander in Chief.

And finally, the President of the United States is charged with seeing that the laws Congress passes – specifically all the laws – be faithfully executed. This is what makes the President look so powerful: He or She has the Constitutional obligation and power to make every single American obey every single law Congress ever passed.

It’s absurd, of course. No single human has the reach. However, even an approximation makes him look like a Pretty Big Dog.

Article II also contains the rules for electing a President.The electors are in here, although technically the term Electoral College is not. There have been numerous attempts to eliminate the Electoral College by amendment; none have succeeded. The Electoral College is a deep and emotionally charged topic; I am not going to address it here beyond acknowledging its existence.

Article II contains a second clause about taking money from governments, a clause that applies expressly to the President: The President will be paid a salary for his services, and otherwise may not receive any money in any way from the United States government or from any state government.

While the first emoluments clause was to prevent bribery, this clause prohibits theft by corruption. A President would be in a unique position to steer treasury money to his own pocket so the framers specifically prohibited that.

There are some other details but that is the main focus of the President’s job.

Article Three creates a supreme Court (lower-case “s” in original) and gives Congress power to create lesser courts. It provides that judges will serve “during good behavior.” Then our Constitution grants our supreme Court jurisdiction over absolutely everything that ever happens period. Congress has the power to do anything; the supreme Court has the power to undo anything.

The supreme Court has jurisdiction over “all cases” in “law and equity.” No limits whatsoever. The supreme Court is the final judge over Fact and Law. The supreme Court has specific, Constitutionally spelled out authority over all cases where any state or the United States is involved, over all cases on land or sea, everything. The supreme Court has absolute jurisdiction in the United States.

The rest of the Constitution is simple rules for managing a nation made up of semi-independent states, defining in broad terms what those states may do and may not do, and for doing things like amending itself. Our Constitution states that the nation through its government owns its land and owns its debts. There are important issues there. The only way to actually know the rules of life in America is to read the Constitution; that’s where they start.

The entire document, although written a long time ago, is easily understood by anyone who reads at the level expected of a high school graduate and who possesses a decent vocabulary. A dictionary is useful to refresh the reader on moderately archaic but still clear terms like emolument. The Constitution is not a bunch of mumbo jumbo that only Learned Attorneys and Judges can understand. It was written by reasonably clear thinking people in as clear a language as would express their instructions. The Constitution for the United States is every American’s property; having at least a working knowledge of it could be said to be a responsibility of every citizen. Particularly now, in 2017, when so many fictions about our Constitution float unchallenged through the ether and the people running our government appear to operate above or immune to our laws, it behooves Americans to learn their Constitution.

The Constitution is not philosophy, it is instructions. And it most expressly is not some “string of pearls” from which one can pluck free standing phrases of wisdom. The Constitution – the original, pre-Amendment, pre-Bill of Rights Constitution, is one coherent whole document spelling out the details of one coherent and complete national government. The Congress does not exist without the President. Neither exist without states, and elections. Our nation does not exist without an independent judiciary. The Constitution is one thing, which must be viewed in its entirety to have any meaning whatever. Then after one obtains a grasp of the entire Constitution  one can use it as a source for verifying specific rules applicable to specific parts of our national structure. One can say, I think that particular rule is somewhere in Article III, and look it up to make sure. These are the rules of the game, just like the rules of poker. Or bridge. The Constitution is the Hoyle of nationhood.

Governing, being a nation, is like any other human activity: one can either agree on rules or squabble endlessly. Constitutions are rules for the activity of being a nation.

The above is drastically shortened from the full scope of the Constitution. There are few if any wasted words in the long document. I’m just trying to give the reader a feel for what’s in there. These men from these 13 separate nations gathered together and designed a nation, by designing one top-down, sovereign government. Now they had to go home and sell their neighbors on the idea of giving up their hard-won independent sovereignty to this new single nation. Not everyone agreed. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a big fan of the idea at all, and people listened when he talked.

That’s how all that slavery crap got in there. I’m not making excuses for slavers, but they wrote this thing in 1787 and needed to get a bunch of slave-owning independent sovereign nations to sign on. Or not. So they protected slavery from any amendment or outlawing for 20 years. Our past has its ugly parts.

The rules at the start were, if any 9 states ratify this Constitution, those 9 states are a nation. The rest of you can come or not; your choice.  All 13 ratified it.

This history matters today. Our existence as a nation is being widely challenged, by Americans, some of them perhaps well meaning. The very idea of a national government is again being challenged, expressly by the party that is running it as well as by other people. The idea of a federal government which had authority over all states and all people in the nation was never universally accepted.

Before ratification there were Federalists, who get mentioned frequently these days, and Anti-Federalists, who have mostly vanished. Thomas Jefferson was an Anti-Federalist. When the Federalists won the election he accepted that and participated to the best of his ability as Secretary of State and as President.

The men of the Constitutional Convention were so busy designing a government that they forgot to even specify what rights the people would have, i.e. limits on that government, The first ten amendments, – the bill of rights – were an afterthought. Important, but still, not the original focus. Just: write the rules for a nation and a national government, which are inseparable.

We had another round of the Federalist : Anti-Federalist argument, with gunfire, about 80 years later. We call it the Civil War. Yes, the Civil War was about slavery, but the way it expressed itself before the shooting started was in terms of states being free of the impositions of a national government. The resultant entity after secession took its name from the name of our governing document before the Constitution. calling itself the Confederated States. The justification of the war was the states’ alleged right to disassociate themselves from some busybody government who was going to take their slaves away from them. No more of this All One Country crap, we’re going back to being independent nations. With slaves.

Look around you. The concept of one sovereign nation is being challenged from both sides.

My side is legalizing pot and telling the Federal government to buzz off. The other side is working on a Jim Crow / Taliban south and midwest. Both sides, alas, have blown off the concept of Federalism.

I am a Federalist. I admit it. I think in order to survive we need to retain one Constitutional republic from sea to shining sea, out into the Pacific Ocean and almost to Russia.

If we are to succeed, it would be best we do so under our existing Constitution. Not because it’s perfect, but because it’s a set of rules everybody can read and agree on, it has functioned reasonably well for almost a quarter of a millennium, and it’s already there.

If the reader wishes more detail on our Constitution, I offer the complete text, with simple translation into modern English, here: The Annotated Constitution,

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The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and Elections

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We are in a terrible mess. Our nation has been, at least temporarily, conquered by a hostile entity consisting of the Republican Party in cooperation with the Russian government.

I’m not going to spell out the evidence. It’s out there. You can’t miss it. What I am interested in is, What now?

I still use the Constitution as my baseline or rule book. The obvious rule for getting rid of a crooked President is the part about impeachment, where in Article I Sec 2 par. 5 it says,

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

(With, of course, more detail elsewhere.) But that’s no fix for our current problem, where the Congressional leadership itself is complicit in the crime and where the entire administration is corrupt. The Succession problem is obvious: Crook -> Vice Crook -> Speaker of the Crooks… It won’t work.

The same succession problem applies to the 25th Amendment, but that doesn’t matter. His Cabinet is the body which removes him under the 25th Amendment. Have you noticed his Cabinet? OK, so that’s out.

At this point allow me to remind the reader that I do not do predictions. I cannot see one second into the future. I do make guesses, but please remain aware of the difference and distinction. I do not know what is going to happen. However:

There is Constitutional power, and 21st Century precedent, for the Supreme Court to step in.

First, the Constitution. Reading here in Article III, the Article which creates the Judiciary Branch of government.

ARTICLE III

SECTION 1

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office

.SECTION 2

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;-to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls;-to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;-to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-to Controversies between two or more States;-between a State and Citizens of another State;-between Citizens of different States;-between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

(The part above regarding States, citizens, and the Court has been altered by Amendment but the remainder of the original text stands.)

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

SECTION 3

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

If you will bear with me, I’m going to pull some clauses out of there and consider them. First,

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

So by this statement we have a supreme (notice the lower-case “s”) Court but we don’t know anything about it. But continuing,

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;

The Judiciary has power over every legal and financial topic, (“Law and Equity”) without exception. All cases.

In particular and specifically, that authority is over the following:

to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls;-to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;-to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;

Allow me to pull that very last phrase out and discuss it:

to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;

OK, so the United States, The Donald Trump Administration and both houses of Congress, are parties to this Controversy. Therefore the supreme Court specifically has authority.

In cases like these the supreme Court is the first court. This doesn’t start in your District Court.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.

The President, Vice President, and all members of Congress are, in fact, “public Ministers,” so the supreme Court has original jurisdiction.

So the authority is clear. What about precedent?

In the year 2000 there was a controversy involving the United States, specifically with regard to a Presidential Election.

The Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore in favor of Bush. The American people said, OK, them’s the rules, and went along with it. There was some grumbling, but we went along with it. George W, Bush was President for 8 years and the Republic survived.

So we have the Constitutional Authority and the precedent. What are we waiting for?

Well, Courts can’t just jump into issues and cases. Somebody has to file a suit or action before the Court can get involved. Who can do that?

The supreme Court is one co-equal branch of your government, and according to the First Amendment,

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.

Extracting for your convenience,

to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I maintain that “Russia stole my election and the Republicans helped,” is a grievance that each of us has a Constitutional right to… you know.

Although 40 states’ Bills of Rights have a specified right to access to a court as a remedy for injury, our Federal Bill of Rights does not. I maintain that, by the clear language used, our right to petition the government for redress of grievances specifically includes the Judicial Branch. I have not researched court decisions on the topic; right now I cling to First Principles as our last hope.

The trick with the Supreme Court is, they hear the cases they choose to hear. That is a specific part of their Judicial power. So yes, we can ask them to hear our case, but we’d better ask pretty darn well, because they don’t have to say anything but, Nah. They don’t have to hear it.

But there are some well lettered persons on our side, doing some careful research. Let’s say, for instance, that Robert Mueller III or Hillary Clinton brings suit, and the Court decides to hear it. Then what?

Well, we have established that the Court has the right and power to decide who won an election. They did that in 2000.

We have established that their verdict is sufficient to put a candidate into the White House and be accepted, albeit grudgingly, as our President. By Democrats, Independents, third party voters and non-voters.

What about Court personnel? Dying by 5 to 4 decision?

Well, what about that? It’s a risk. In my opinion it’s worth taking. We can be pretty sure that Gorsuch would vote to keep his job. Personally I am confident that Clarence Thomas is a viper, as is, in my opinion, Samuel Alito. That leaves 6, any of whom might, when the chips are down, rather live in a republic than a dictatorship. So I’m not at all sure it’s a lost case. I’d be willing to risk it.

So going all the way out on this limb and saying, Somebody (Sec. Clinton,  Special Prosecutor… I don’t know. There are some looking.) Somebody files a suit and the Court hears it. And they decide that the Russians did in fact steal our election for Republicans, in the Congress and the White House.

Say, again just making this up out of whole cloth, that the Supreme Court declares a new election in, say, 90 days, and puts Hillary Clinton in the White House as caretaker President until then. (No, this is not a prediction. It’s scenario.)

Will the armed 25% who elected Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell take it? And if they don’t, which side will the armed forces of the United States, from military to National Guard to civilian law enforcement, take?

Because it could really come down to that. Even if we get a positive Court ruling, who do the guns support?

I’d still go with the Supreme Court. I don’t see any other Constitutional option.

lightly edited 7/11/2017, changed names of possible filers

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The Machinery of Government

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I have concluded, based on numerous recent conversations I have observed and participated in on Twitter, that a significant number of good hearted, well intentioned Americans do not understand certain details of the machinery of our government.

This is unfortunate, because what we do on election days is elect people to operate that machinery on our behalf.

This is not meant as an insult. As I often say, I was born ignorant and naked, and so far I’ve gotten dressed. Anything you never learned you don’t know. We’re all born ignorant. We know how to find a tit and suck. Everything else comes later.

So I offer a few words on the machinery of government.

The machinery of government is the most important thing to understand on election day. The machinery of government is more important than your candidate’s stand on literally any specific issue except party affiliation. Because the way the machinery is configured either the Republicans or the Democrats are going to have absolute control over the government you live under. Absolute control.

The first, and most important, fact about the machinery of American Government is that the President, chief executive though he or she may be, does not control the country. That distinction goes to Congress. More on that some other day.

There are a few forms of government in which a committee or legislature calls the shots. The best known and best respected of those is the republic, but China, far from a republic, is also governed by a committee. To the extent that the United States adheres to our Constitution, we are a republic. In a republic the supreme power lies with the voters, but they only get to exercise that power on election days. On a day-to-day basis the legislature they elect runs the country.

All legislatures operate on some specific set of rules, often similar to Robert’s Rules of Order, the widely accepted rule book for enabling groups of people to resolve differences and make decisions. Robert’s Rules, in turn, were based on the procedures of the United States Congress. The United States House has their own particular rules, The Procedures of the United States House of Representatives.

One fundamental characteristic of all sets of parliamentary rules is that they give final control to the majority, loosely defined as that group of people who are able to agree to elect a Speaker, who is the presiding officer.

Control of the United States government goes to that group or party  whose voters are able to elect 50% + 1 of each house of Congress. Some rules define a larger majority, such as the dying Senate Filibuster rule, but in the House of Representatives a majority is exactly 50% + 1.

It was not intended that majorities would exercise dictatorial, absolute power. During the same era as our nation’s founding, political philosophers discussed the potential evil of the Tyranny of the Majority. Various characteristics of our government and Constitution show the influence of these discussions.

The above-mentioned Robert’s Rules of Order was written based on the procedures of the US Congress. The rules have been described as follows:

“Rules in the book are based on the rights of the majority, of the minority (especially a strong minority that is greater than one third), of individual members, of absentees, and of all these together.”

(The above copied and pasted from Wikipedia)

Obviously the United States Congress today has chosen to totally disregard the rights of the minority, especially a strong minority. That “stronger than one third” reference comes directly from the once respected rights of the Senate minority. At this time, minorities in Congress have essentially very few to no rights.

And unfortunately, the rules that give the majority absolute power are clearly spelled out, and the rights of the minority are more of an ideal embedded in the procedures than any specific written rules. The so-called Filibuster was a specific written right in the Senate rules, but both parties have whittled it away until now it is very limited. I am not confident that any remnant of the Filibuster will survive the current Senate,

If you get fanatics without honor like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, Fifty Percent Plus One have absolute control over every bill that goes to the floor. As an example, any member of Congress can submit a bill, but before that bill can be voted on by either House it is referred to a committee. The committee can, in turn, send it to the particular chamber for a vote, or not. After it comes to the floor, the Speaker or Majority Leader still controls whether the bill is brought to a vote. So the supposed power of any member of Congress to submit a bill is meaningless: the majority decides which bills will be brought to a vote.

In years gone by bills used to  get passed even though they did not have solid support by the majority. If enough members, of both parties in the aggregate, vote to pass a bill, that bill becomes law. In recent years, however, unless there are enough votes from the majority party alone to pass the bill, Speakers have refused to allow a vote. Yes, that means that bills supported by a majority of the Congress will never pass because they are not supported by a “majority of the Majority.” This is sometimes known as the Hastert Rule, in honor of former Republican Speaker (and convicted pedophile) Dennis Hastert, who made it his absolute policy.

The committees of Congress, as well, have the power to stop every law, without explanation, if the majority in the committee votes to block it. And once again, the leader elected by the majority party appoints the committee chairmen, and decides what number of members from which party will make up the committees.

There’s that 50% + 1 again. They have the votes in the committees, too. And two thirds of the staff.

These majorities are elected by the voters. Candidates identify with, usually in this country, one of two major parties. Some countries – Israel is a classic example – have candidates who identify with numerous different parties and a mechanism in their procedures which allows for parties to commit to work together as a group, therefore providing a means to manufacture a majority out of a group of more-or-less agreeing minorities. Neither house of the United States Congress has any equivalent rule. Instead, in our Congress even someone elected on any affiliation besides Republican or Democrat has to join with one of those two parties in order to so much as vote in the elections of leader, or to be considered for committee membership. By our legislature’s rules, we are a two party system, period.

The difference is moot. In any set of any quantity, be they legislators or grains of sand on the beach, there is only one majority. Even in Israel, the same small parties routinely join with the same big parties to make majorities. Calling themselves something else satisfies their voters, it appears, but their legislature still operates with one majority, with everybody else in the minority. Fifty percent plus one. All the rest can be defined as this or that subset, but one clear subset is “the minority,” which consists of all subsets except the majority.

In every legislature in the world, one majority is in charge. Everybody else is treated with more or less respect, depending on the country and level of civilization, but there are by definition two parties, the one that is running the show and the other one.

Under the rules of our Congress there is no mechanism to join parties into a majority. Under our rules if you want to be considered for a committee, which is where the real stuff happens, you have to sign up with the Democrats or the Republicans. These are the rules of the respective Houses of Congress. Our Constitution expressly gives Congress, each house, the right and power to make their own rules.

The rules, in turn are written by – are you ready for this? – the majority in each house.

So if you call yourself an Independent, and you vote for two Republicans and one Democrat or whatever, then whichever of those is in the majority party participates in government, and the other sits and watches, especially under our current brutal Congressional leadership. Was that what you wanted? Take your opportunity to be represented three places in government and say, “Nah. One or two is plenty.”

Because if you vote for people of different parties, the only certainty is that one of those parties will be in the minority.

What if you vote for the Green, the Libertarian, or whatever other fringe party candidate is out there? Well, in that case there are two possibilities. One is that your chosen candidate/party does not have enough supporters to get elected, and the other is that s/he does.

If your candidate doesn’t get elected and was never going to – say s/he got 2% of the vote in your district – then whatever you call it or however you think of it, you chose to not participate in self-government.

Because that is all voting is. It is all elections are. Voting is an opportunity to participate in governing yourself. It is optional. Given that as the rules are written either a Republican or a Democrat is going to be running this country, if you don’t choose one of them you are not participating in governing yourself. You are letting other people choose.

Say you voted Green, and live in a ultra-liberal district somewhere, and your green candidate wins the seat.

Wherever that seat is, your chosen Green will have two choices: ally with the Democrats, or ally with the Republicans.

Because either the group called The Democratic Party, or the group called The Republican Party, is going to elect the person who runs that body.

That’s the way the machinery works.

The way American citizens govern themselves is by electing majorities in the two houses of Congress. Those majorities run as, and govern as, political parties.

It’s not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got. If you want to participate in self government in America, this is how we do it.

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Republic

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A republic is a nation in which supreme power lies with the voters. Specifically, per Merriam-Webster, “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.” (Full definition here.)

Not with the people. Never with the people. Supreme power lies with the voters.

When our particular republic was codified, voters were white males who owned land or were otherwise prosperous and educated. Today a significantly broader cross-section of America is entitled to vote. Some of them do. Voters are people over 18 who show up to vote.

I hope I don’t sound really stupid in this essay. The point I want to make is so basic, so simple, as to be hard to express without sounding like an 8th grade civics class. I’m writing it out today because I don’t think the Democratic Party as I understand it to be thinks about it. And it really matters. All the voters spread over all the country run the country.

The country we are living in today is the country that a (geographically weighted) majority of all the voters have chosen, on purpose, over all of the elections since about 1980.

The voters of America intentionally made the America we live in today. It’s pretty much the country they were promised. Their Representatives in their respective statehouses and in Congress are, in fact, representing their wishes. Now what?

Our republic has 51 separate main governments, each of them chosen by voters. 50 state governments and one federal government. The voters have chosen the Republican Party to run the vast majority of all those governments, including the big one.

Americans who don’t vote have zero power. They have no influence whatsoever over the nature of the governments they live under. Americans who don’t vote have exactly as much direct input in shaping their government as George Washington’s slaves did.

The country we are living in right now today was chosen by a majority of the voters over a majority of the nation. Not a majority of the people. Not a majority of qualified voters, or a majority of registered voters. A majority of the people who have voted.

Before we continue, allow me to address some specifics about the structure of our particular Republic. They are embedded in the Constitution and are the rules we have lived under since the day we became a nation. Some of them upset some people, but they are the structure we have. In the short term, at least, we are stuck with them. Voters exercise their power within these rules.

First, not all votes carry the same weight in Congress or in Presidential elections. This was done on purpose, giving more sparsely populated states power in the federal government closer to that of densely populated states and therefore out of proportion to their populations. That is why we have a Senate, to balance the voices of sparsely populated states more nearly equal to those of densely populated states. That is also what the Electoral College does. It’s not about slavery; it’s about geography. I understand that many of you who live in densely populated states object. Those of us who live in sparsely populated states see it differently.

Second, at each level of government, what voters actually do is choose people to represent them. Groups of voters who mostly agree about  what government should do find a person who mostly agrees with them, and they elect that person to go speak for them. They elect Representatives. Voters don’t all go to the Capitol Building in their state and hash out the highway budget, nor to the Capitol Building in Washington to decide whether to bomb another country. Instead, voters in smaller geographical subdivisions – districts – pick one of themselves to speak for them in government. Almost 140 million people’s voices (as of 2016) are consolidated down into 435 voices in our nationwide government, 435 Representatives in Congress. The wishes of those same 140 million voters, this time aggregated on a per-state basis in each of the 50 separate states, are spoken by 100 Senators, two per state. (Over 231 million people could have had their voices in there. Some 90 million of them chose to be not heard.)

So: votes are weighted geographically, and the way we exercise our power is by electing people to represent us in government. Voters elect representatives who will shape the society they – those voters – wish to live in.

It is not the point of this essay to recommend means. I do that in other work. The point of this essay is to advocate a strategic objective: Get more votes, everywhere, than the other guys.

The party which gets the most votes over most of the continent governs the country. If the Democratic party wishes to govern this country we must get the most votes over most of the country.

There is no other way to become the governing party. It really is that simple.

Aside from demanding reasonable truth and lawfulness in the effort I don’t care how we get there. I don’t care whether we choose to change current voters’ minds, whether we get the 40+ percent who are currently not exercising their power to come out and vote, or some combination of the two. Actually I do care, but that is not the point here. This is not about how we do it.

My point is one of focus. Get the most votes over most of the country. Or remain irrelevant. There is no third possibility.

Republics are governed by their voters’ representatives. Representatives are elected under a known set of rules. If you want to govern all you have to do is get the requisite number of votes under the rules.

Anything that Democrats are doing that is not focused on getting most of the votes over most of the country is not productive.

 

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Ungoverned State

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The United States has never, since our founding, been in a mess this deep.

What we do about it I don’t know, but the government is, currently, not functioning. By choice.

The United States of America is in a lawless interregnum at this moment. There is no functioning government above low-level bureaucrats. The President, although still physically present, has been overthrown by Congressional Coup. Our old enemy whose defeat we so recently celebrated has staged an invasion of our homeland and installed their chosen person in the Presidency. Although he has not yet been inaugurated, Russia’s chosen President is in clear control of our foreign policy and is demonstrating increasing power over the economy, by turns building up and tearing down American corporations. He is rapidly reducing, not least by sheer threat of violence, the power and willingness of others to speak out against him.

The members of the Congressional Coup know that Russia is involved, know that Russia has invaded us and installed their chosen candidate as President. They are not taking any action. In fact, they are denying that the invasion ever took place and denying the clear spoken words of the intelligence agencies. It seems likely although not certain that they were involved in the decision to permit the invasion.

Every intelligence agency in the US knows that we have been invaded. Russians entered American computers and manipulated data there in such a way as to elect a President of their choice. Spokespersons for the entire American intelligence apparatus have said so in public, although not in such blunt terms.

Law enforcement is an Executive branch function. Federal Law enforcement is not currently involved in preventing or correcting the Russian invasion. The sitting President has been stripped of his power. I don’t know for certain but it appears that the Coup is running Executive agencies like the FBI, but even so the FBI has stated publicly that Russia interfered with our election. They postponed the statement until well after the other intelligence agencies, but ultimately they were the odd man out and just looked incompetent, so they agreed. Yep. Russians. Yawn.

It is my opinion that the FBI Director is himself a member of the Coup. He clearly took steps which benefited the Coup’s work. It is possible that without his November letter all their work would have gone for nothing, or at least it would have been much harder for them to keep Sec. Clinton out of office. However their current chain of command is arranged, the FBI has chosen to remain not involved in the Russian invasion.

According the Constitution, defending the nation against invasion is a Congressional duty.

Article I Section 8 says, in part

The Congress shall have the power…
[some paragraphs omitted]

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Seeing the laws are faithfully executed is an Executive duty, and it is not being done. Repelling invasions (yes, I understand it was a cyber invasion. This is 2016. We were invaded.) is a Congressional duty. It is not being done. Every working professional in the field knows we were invaded.

What we do about it I don’t know, but the government is, currently, not functioning. By choice.

Oh, the President is Commander-in-Chief and all that, but there is no Constitutional provision for the President to activate troops or begin military action. Does anybody think that, one month before the end of his second term, Barack Obama could call out the troops to get rid of Donald Trump and the Russians?

Congress activates the military, the President tells them what to do next. (More or less.) So… What we have is a lawless interregnum. Everything you see in the news is my proof.

There is some possibility that during a Constitutional crisis like this the Judiciary could step in. Their power is implied rather than explicit, but they might be able to save the republic. Unfortunately, the deadlock by death of the Supreme Court appears to have been the trigger for launching the Coup. Is it possible the court could decide, 5 to 3 or 6 to 2, to repel the invasion and jail the coup? I suppose they could. It would remain to see what might happen next. Which branch controls the military? Whose authority would the military recognize in a pinch? Which branch controls the police? If the courts gave an order who would enforce it?

The United States has never, since our founding, been in a mess this deep.

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