Thursday, September 2, 2010

Constitutional Amendment

It’s a common frustration with many of us. Why is it that only we the little guys are supposed to follow the rules and the law? Apart from our inclinations to do the right thing, the answer is we simply cannot afford to break the laws and violate the rules. It costs a lot of money for that luxury.

A friend sent along a different kind of forwarded message. This was not the usual Republican/racist anti Obama disinformation. It was riding the wave of discontent over health care reform somewhat, but seemed less overtly partisan than most. Why don’t we amend the Constitution to include Congress in following the law? Good idea, eh? Well, that’s sort of what the Supreme Court’s job is.

Of course, like many, or all, forwarded messages much of it was not true.

As said, “...The supporting arguments it puts forward are all false.”

My sympathies were aroused anyway, and I decided to share my thoughts with the rest of the recipients of this message:


Proposed 28th :

Governors of 35 states have already filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them. It only takes 38 (of the 50) States to convene a Constitutional Convention. This will take less than thirty seconds to read. If you agree, please pass it on. An idea whose time has come!

For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest was to exempt themselves from the Healthcare all of its forms. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law.

I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop. A Constitutional Convention - this is a good way to do that. It is an idea whose time has come. I'm asking each addressee to forward this Email to a minimum of twenty people on their Address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one proposal that really should be passed around.

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution:

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


So I responded to everyone in the group who received this:

What, equality under the law in America? That almost sounds radical to me. But then, I may be a bit radical myself.

It’s a nice sentiment, but there’s a glaring omission or two. Shouldn’t we include the president as one also subject to the law? Bush violated the Constitution repeatedly without accountability. People who denounce Obama for wrongdoing only sound like ignorant hypocrites if they let Bush off with his crimes.

How about we include corporations like BP, Blackwater, KBR and Halliburton as well. They have all the rights of legal “personhood” but none of the accountability. If they did, someone would be doing time for the deaths of 11 Deepwater Horizon workers and the spill that followed. Somebody from Blackwater would be locked up, fined or executed for the slaughter of 17 unarmed Iraqis. Who’s been accountable for the KBR-built showers electrocuting our troops in Iraq? The list goes on...

And what about the FBI, CIA and NSA? Shouldn’t they be under legal guidelines? Maybe they should be made to follow the law too. (That includes any government agent who might be reading this.)

And while we’re at it, let’s include those governors. I bet more than a couple of them are guilty of imposing unlawful burdens too. I seem to remember a former half term governor of Alaska who was found to have been guilty of “abuse of power” by a bipartisan panel after harassing a state trooper, who happened to be her ex brother-in-law, and intimidating his boss to fire him.

Yes, equality under the law sounds like a good idea. Maybe America should try it sometime.


jmsjoin said...

Problem is you can't mandate equality like you can not mandate honesty. Maybe you can for us lawful honest idiots but as you say, Congress is above the law and they they throw it in our face daily and constantly all day long.

To me the scum we had last made it all standard and routine by his actions and declaration that the constitution was just a damn piece of paper.

Lew Scannon said...

We live in a two-tiered society now, where the elites, from politicians to celebrities aren't held to the same standards as the rest of us. Instead of passing a constitutional amendment, how about we just end special treatment and enforce equal protection?

Tim said...

Dave, I'm with you brother. Whenever we act as one, our will prevails.
An example of that was VietNam. It wasn't until the whole Country for the most part , was against the War that it was stopped. It can be done,yeah they have us by the short hairs and we put up with it. I like the idea of fighting back.
btw In the old days when I felt like this I'd just go to a bar and pick a fight. hehehe

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

I thought it was eight states that filed lawsuits.

Republicans will never allow the truth to stand in the way of a good lie.

Dave Dubya said...

You're right, but it's funny how the Right is always trying to mandate their morals.

That's a good idea, but let's remember the last time the Supreme Court invoked "equal protection". That somehow meant giving the presidency to Bush against the will of the voters.

Fighting back against institutionalized slime is like nailing jello to the wall.

Nice to see you. I'm so glad to have finally found my way over to your exquisite blog. I'll include your link out front.

For the Righties, as we well know, it's not about the truth or lies; those are oh so relative. It is entirely about cultivating and indoctrinating their herd with "beliefs".

Tom Harper said...

I like that Constitutional amendment. I'm not sure how to word it so that it would include the president, corporate executives, government agents, etc. It would have to be worded in the same simple language used in your example, or else too many people wouldn't get it and the rightwing talking heads would seize on it and say it's terrorist propaganda.

But it's an excellent idea.

Commander Zaius said...

How about we include corporations like BP, Blackwater, KBR and Halliburton as well. They have all the rights of legal “personhood” but none of the accountability.

That's the big one for me, these new fangled "corporate-people" have nothing holding them back now. They no longer have to hide the fact that they have totally bought and control most elected officials.

Thanks for stopping by my place and I'm adding you to my blog roll.

Dave Dubya said...

Corporate "Super Persons" are the "master race" of the fascist element in our society and culture. As those of us who pay attention know, they are not a force for democracy.

Thanks, and ditto on the blog roll.

TomCat said...

I liked what you had to say until you got to bthe part about corporations. For them, we need a separate Amendment that states:

Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT speech!

Weaseldog said...

It would be a big step forward if we could just get our representatives to obey the law and follow the US Constitution as the basis four our laws.

You can amend the Constitution all you want, and it will make no difference it no one is using it.

My experience on the internet all of these years, has been enlightening and depressing. I've met many wonderful people online, who are bright, intelligent and reasonable rational. And I've grateful for that interaction. And then I've met so many of the other folks that are incurious and strongly emotional thinkers. And this last decade when the PR Machine from the right has really gotten into gear, their numbers seem to be expanding.

Idiosyncratic and just plain idiot arguments and viewpoints, spread from annoying emails, to family dinner talk at lightning speed.

The power of the PR machine is nothing short of breathtaking. I find I can't even overcome it by referring folks to documented facts. If it doesn't jibe with what they have been trained to believe then, either the doc doesn't say that or it's liberal BS from the liberal science or liberal founding fathers, or what have you.

We have a move in My state (Texas) to remove the founding fathers from the public textbooks and history classes!

They guys were too liberal, and owned slaves! We can't let our children know that they existed or what they believed in or accomplished!

Dave Dubya said...

See TomCat's "Amendment".

THAT is the Amendment we need.

The massive indoctrination by the Right is a true horror. I'm beginning to understand what it is like for parents to lose their kids to the Moonies or some other cult. As we know, the Radical Right operates exactly like an authoritarian cult.

Jolly Roger said...

It is going to take some harsh sentencing for some corporate heads before anything changes. Once someone like Carly Failurina is doing life for her pilfering (instead of using her stolen money to run for office,) things will change.

Dave Dubya said...


As Bob Dylan sang back in the Reagan years, and is now ever more fitting:

“They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king.”

-Sweetheart Like You (Infidels)

S.W. Anderson said...

This is an appeal for feel-good nonsense, for the libertarian gummint-hating crowd.

Members of Congress can get health insurance through a program also available to federal employees and appointees that has been in place for a long time. It's an insurance exchange setup, very similar to the ones included in health care reform.

If people want to put restrictions on federal legislators' eligibility for retirement benefits they could do that through the amendment process.

I would caution people to not go too far with this kind of nonsense, though. We already make it nearly impossible for the nonwealthy to become senators. A House seat is almost as unattainable for the average citizen. If we go on a spree of holding down pay and benefits, we could fix it so both chambers are completely, as opposed to mostly, filled with the independently wealthy, and the bought and paid for.

The best way to reverse this situation is through publicly funded elections -- and only publicly funded elections -- with salaries and benefits that make it possible for average, middle-class people to run and serve.

Most people don't realize it, but D.C. and nearby suburbs are very expensive places to live. Military people stationed there receive extra quarters and cost-of-living pay. Most in Congress must maintain two residences, one on D.C. and one in their home state. They also must travel back and forth a lot, which really adds up for those from west of the Rockies.

Be careful what you wish for. It might not turn out to be what you bargained for.

Dave Dubya said...

Nothing will change until we as a people agree that: "Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT speech".

Daisy Deadhead said...

Great post, Dave.

In addition, I want me some "drug testing for corporate welfare recipients" !!! (stolen from Facebook page of the same name!) In fact, I'd settle for drug testing of the House and Senate; now wouldn't THAT be some good times? ;)

Dave Dubya said...

Drug testing would only add the "Limbaugh effect" to their hypocrisy. How about IQ tests for the lot of them? Maybe we'd see a pattern.

S.W. Anderson said...

"Nothing will change until we as a people agree that: 'Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT speech.'"

I absolutely agree. An amendment to make that the law of the land is a necessity.

Mike Hatcher said...

Hey D.D. I'd support that amendment but I'd be inclined to throw in something about term limits on Congress at the same time just as a kind of backup to the "application" to such an amendment.

Dave Dubya said...

We'd think for something as simple as: "Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT speech!", the message could get momentum. Ah, but the Congress and Senate are where momentum and democracy wither and die.

Good to see you! Term limits is a good idea in theory. In practice, a whole new list of problems arise. It still keeps the corruption of Big Money in place.
And it is the will of the voters to keep re-electing the same guys. As they point out, elections are built in term limits. I think it's more important to cut the source of corruption out than eliminate choices of candidates. Having said that, I am so sick of seeing those same faces for so long doing so little for the people, and so much for themselves and their crony friends.

TomCat said...

Thanks, Dave. :-)

S.W. Anderson said...

Mike and Dave, no, no, no about term limits. They're unnecessary and undemocratic.

First, we already have term limits. Voters impose them whenever a majority of them decide someone has served long enough, or decide someone else will serve them better.

Statutory term limits are undemocratic because they deny some voters their choice. Let's say you've got an incumbent you're satisfied with, but his/her time is up. You find yourself having to choose between two losers, neither of whom could hold a candle to the incumbent. You're screwed, and it's all because of an arbitrary rule.

I could also mention that term limits create whole crops of lame ducks, which isn't good. Lame ducks are freed from any need to be responsive to their constituents, because they no longer need votes and campaign contributions. Good legislators won't take advantage of this situation, but the not so good can be counted on to become worse.

Sorry to rattle on, but this recurring nonsense always gets off with me. People mean well suggesting it, but it's bad policy from every standpoint.

Mike Hatcher said...

S.W and D.D., you might be right,it may exchange one set of problems for another set, but I wouldn't dismiss the idea too fast, first of all it is a barrier to someone winning forever with ballot stuffing and/or computer hacking. I recognize if voting ever became completely rigged, the corporations or whomever was rigging it could certainly rotate one puppet for another, but at very least it would spread the wealth and power among puppets. It may depend on your view about people/politicians but generally speaking I believe in 3 types, 1) the extremely rare that are out to do as much good for the people and stick with it without ever selling out. 2) the not so uncommon power hungry greedy that from day one their intent is to feed their own desires. and 3) the type I feel is more common than either type one or two, the ones that start out with good intentions but then change by "seeing the need" to play the game and sell out for some self-perceived lofty purpose. I've got more to say but let me break it in a separate post

Mike Hatcher said...

Now, based on my premise of these three types, which you may disagree, what do term limits do? To those extremely rare golden hearted people,first to assume that doing the right thing all the time would get you re-elected often, I think is a myth, doing right is often unpopular and they wouldn't always get re-elected anyway, but even if the people recognized the gems, if they can't be a Senator forever, they can still do good as a rep in the house, or city mayor, and or contribute to a society in a zillion different ways other than being a professional voter. Now the 2nd type, the self server, term limits obviously helps keeping them from getting too deep of roots into the power base and makes the powers that pay off the politicians constantly have to re-work their deals with different people thus increasing the chance that deals will fall through or their bribery deals get exposed more easily (granted they aren't very subtle these days and exposure alone doesn't seem to stop the buy out of politicians). Then the 3rd type, which I believe are the vast majority of politicians, they start their political careers with real mission and purpose but over time, they see the need to, in order to keep doing the good they think they are doing, they have got to stay in power, in order to stay in, they have to get money,and to get money they have to sell out. Term limits, in my view keeps the politicians while they are freshest and least corrupt. I could be wrong but I think even Charlie Rangle started out as a person who was against corruption and became corrupt himself over time. One last point...

Mike Hatcher said...

My last point is to counter the idea that a lame duck is a bad thing. True, for those who are completely self serving (what I call category two politicians) that gives them the freedom to totally pursue selfish objectives, but at least it limits how much time they have to plunder, with the vast majority(IMO) it makes them free to do what they think is good for the country even if it is unpopular. Let me ask you this, if people elected their meal provider and one said, you need fruits and veggies, no cheeseburgers until you drop twenty pounds, and the other provider offered cheeseburgers every day with a slice of lettuce to make you feel better about it, which meal provider do you think would get RE-elected more often?

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

I don't have a problem with term limits. Most states and districts are reliably red or blue. The only way to get a Idiot like Boehner or McConnell out is by term limits. Scumbags like these have seniority and way more power than their limited intellects should be allowed.

THis does work both ways and I fully accept that Democrats and republicans would be affected by this.

S.W. Anderson said...

Mike Hatcher, you raise many interesting and plausible points. But your thesis fails to account for a couple of things I didn't get into.

The House is already subject to big turnovers, if voters really want that. A House full of rookies is a poor idea at any time. In really bad times, with public sentiment running high, it could be huge liability. For one thing, if the party with a House majority holds the White House, you're giving both the House leadership and White House inordinate power and influence, because they're dealing with newbie legislators who haven't had a chance to develop any sense of individual and institutional autonomy and loyalty. That's the situation we had in 1995 and from 2001-2007, and it was a horror story both times.

Another thing is the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. The former actually try to govern, and it's mostly in the interest of the public as a whole. Republicans want to rule and to use the government as a vending machine for the interests who back them. Republicans not only don't have positive programs for the whole country they want to get through, but 99 percent of the time they're hellbent on blocking any such programs. In their view, the economy doesn't exist to serve the people, people exist to serve the economy -- and the wealthy, powerful few who control nearly all of it. That's the underlying truth of the deceptively named "free market" they proselytize about like religious fanatics.

As we've seen, when a substantial minority of legislators want only to block or seriously weaken opposition legislation, they usually can succeed. The blockers won't bargain in good faith because they have no positive plans or programs they want to get through.

IMO, increasing turnover will further weaken those trying to get positive things done, but won't make any difference in the perverse effectiveness of blockers. Any half wit can spout naysayer talking points, and vote no. Coming up with helping policies and programs, investigating problems, guiding legislation through to passage, takes knowledge, talent, skill and perseverance.

S.W. Anderson said...

Mike, one last point. When you're thinking lame ducks aren't so bad, and that limiting terms will limit the harm bad ones do, consider what one lame duck, Sen. Phil Gramm, managed to do, sneakily in the wee hours one night in '99. He rescinded what was left of the Glass-Steagall Act, throwing the door wide open to the economic disaster we're suffering now.

My final point is about basic democracy. Ultimately, in our system, it all goes back to the people and their choices. That's how it should be. Taking away choice seems to me to be the antithesis of democracy. Term limits also limit people's choices.

When I think back on it, I don't see anyone better capable of being president from 1932-1945 than Franklin Roosevelt. I think the Senate and country were better off for the long service of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, imperfect though they both were. There were and are other long-serving legislators in both chambers I could name, but I'm writing too much as it is. So, I'll stop. ;)

Dave Dubya said...

I must say you're onto something with the Category 1, 2, 3 etc. of politicians. I like rating them like Hurricanes. It's a good way to measure the levels of their destructive impact on the economy, on human lives by military adventurism, and civil and Constitutional rights. It's looking pretty bad after being hit by a Category 4 like the Katrina twins Bush/Cheney. Obama is still too soon for "landfall" but it is not looking like a mere tropical depression either.

Truth and SW,
You guys and Mike make good cases for both sides of the term limits debate. I think it takes some time to build up a good senator or rep with the requisite political and diplomatic skills. An amatuer House and Senate would be disasterous; but look what we have now...

That said, I feel it is far more important to limit the corrupting influence of money rather than number of terms. Nothing will change until we understand and reverse the undermining of democracy we now have.

Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT speech! This must be our battle cry for freedom and democracy.

Mike Hatcher said...

So many ideas, so little time! S&W- you touched on so many issues that I oppose you on that I'm a little overwhelmed on where to start. Personal note: There is a chess tournament in Houston in three weeks I'm training for and my wife is pressing me to go mow the lawn. So to cut to the chase, I think your argument of freedom of choice ultimately is a stronger argument than mine for term limits. But if the game were rigged, or it ever became rigged, what would you purpose we do then, and/or what save guards do we, or should we have in place? I'll read your answer but not likely to respond for 3 weeks. During those weeks you could list all the federal government agencies and programs. Then we can plan on how many more governments and programs we need. We need more government! We need more agencies! God bless Obama for creating a zillion new government jobs to oversee the "private" running of health care. What is the initial start up cost for just the first year? 700Billion or more I believe, but thanks to government efficiency we'll get that back in savings real soon.

Dave Dubya said...

I believe we are pretty much agreed here that the system IS rigged. Between corporate money in elections, lobbying, and GOP Voting Machines Inc., fair elections are history. There really is no doubt we have the "best government money can buy" and something needs to be changed if we want to hold onto any vestiges of democracy.

If indeed Obama is "creating a zillion new government jobs" that would be good news for the people who need those jobs. Private contractors can join in too. It's not like we don't have the infrastructure projects that need to be done. Time to tax the rich and rebuild the country. It wouldn't hurt if the government understood the Pentagon works for the country, not the other way around.

Good luck in Houston. Here's a little chess anecdote for you. The band Phish would have a tour chess game with their audience. The band would make a move fore every show, and each consecutive audience would have their turn in the game.

TomCat said...

Mike, a fellow named Solon tried term limits several hunderd years before Christ. It did not work, because the pols stopped selling out for financial backing of their political careers and started selling out for post political employment. 100% public financing of national elections is the solution that will work.