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Archive for September, 2010

Here we go with the Senate

30 Sep

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Article 1 section 3:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof (This was changed by the seventeenth amendment), for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies (This was changed by the seventeenth amendment).

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

The change made by the seventeenth amendment was monumental.  No longer does the Senate represent the State.  Why does that matter?  Because representing the voters, making it like the House of Representatives, completely changes what the founders had in mind.

For example, let us say that this issue comes up: A law that will require each state to pay for everyone’s college tuition.  That sounds good from the perspective of potential college bond students.  Therefore, one could expect that both houses of Congress would approve it since they all represent the people.

Now lets say that should that bill pass and be signed into law, each state would now be faced with how to pay for it.  They would be faced with either raising taxes or cutting back on something that the state has chosen to fund.  This may not be desirable from the state’s perspective.  In effect the federal government is running roughshod over the states.  Therefore if the Senate represented the state’s legislatures, it would have a chance to block the legislation.

One significant check in the check and balances system the founders felt important is eliminated.  However, the change was made constitutionally

rather than by Judicial mandate, which is, in itself, good.

More on this issue later, but for now, let’s see what we can see.

 

Numbers count and counting matters

29 Sep

Well, did you figure out which issues I thought might deserve some further study?

The first isn’t really controversial, but it doesn’t make sense when looking at today’s reality.  It has to do with the total number of members in the House of Representatives.  It is found in the third clause:  “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand…”  If this still defined the number of representatives that filled the House chambers, it would total well over 10,000.  Can you imagine trying to get anything done with that many differing views?

Realizing that chaos would prevail, Congress in 1929 set the limit of Representatives at 435.  While Congress acted in 1929, the 435 limit had been in existence since 1913.

The upside to this limitation is that, although difficult at times, the nation’s work can be accomplished.  The downside, instead of trying to represent only 30,000 people, the desires and wishes of over 500,000 people have to be considered.  There are still several states with populations less than 500,000 that have only one representative.

Probably one of the most controversial issue that is most often used to try to discredit our founders is this:

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Compromises are difficult to come by at times.  This claus is an example of one of the issues that nearly prevented the establishment of the United States.  It was of coarse, the struggle for power between the “free” northern states and the “slave” states.

The issue was controversial on two fronts.  How much each state was taxed depended upon how many citizens it had. Also, the influence on the makeup of the nation’s laws were at issue.  The way that the slaves (considered property by the southern states) were to be or not to be counted was particularly critical.  The industrial power in the north overpowered the agricultural strength of the south.  In the end the 3/5ths rule was established, putting off the real decision until later.  Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree and move on.

There is no end to the number of sources that discuss this issue.  Two brief summaries can be found on the following websites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_congressional_apportionment

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/documents/documents_p2.cfm?doc=306

Next post we’ll look at section 3.  Let’s see what we can see.

 

The meat of the House of Representatives

28 Sep

Article 1. Section 2 reads:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, elected, be an Inhabitant of the state in which he shall be chosen.

[Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.]  (my note: this was changed by section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment)  The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.  The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three.  Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware One, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the representation for any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of election to fill such Vacancies.

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

Basically this section gives the qualifications of each Representative and how they would be chosen.  It also calls for a census to be taken every ten years to determine how many representatives each state would have.  It also deals with what to do when there is a vacancy, and it assigns the number of representatives each state would have until the first census is taken.

It also contains a very controversial clause and one that needs some clarification to reconcile with the number of representatives each state has today.  I’ll spend the next post on those two issues.  If you have some time you might see if you can figure out which two issues I’m thinking of.  Try to find out a bit about those two issues if you have some spar time.

Let’s see what we can see.

 

It all starts with Article 1, Section 1

27 Sep

Article 1, Section 1:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Why two units?

The House of Representatives would be representative of the people.  The Senate was to represent the states.

The House of Representatives would be elected to represent individual segments of the country based on population.  The country would be divided into representative districts each containing approximately the same number of people.  This body would tend to be more volatile because it represented the whims of the population.

The Senate had two members from each state.  In this manor no state, regardless of the number of people they had would have any more power than any other state.  This took care of the problem that less populous states had.  They wanted an equal say and this gave it to them.  The theory was that this body would make more measured decisions, that it would be more deliberative.  It would operate more slowly, less affected by emotional issues.

Any thoughts so far?

So on to the next post: Article 1. Section 2.  Let’s see what we can see.

 

The Preamble of the Constitution

26 Sep

This post deals with the preamble of the Constitution. It reads:

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Pretty clear isn’t it? This is a obvious break from Great Britain. From now on, it spells out that we’ll stand on our own.

Justice, common defense, general welfare, and the blessings of liberty were paramount above all others.

I note that Justice is for all, not a select few. It doesn’t call for a higher level of justice for some over that of others. It speaks against the use of profiles, either for positive or negative effect. The government should not seek out ways to favor one segment of the population at the expense of the others.

Protecting the citizens of our country from aggression, arising from other nations or coming from within our boarders was clearly a responsibility of the federal government.

The common defense is without a doubt a responsibility of the government. However in so doing it must not infringe upon the right of citizens to protect themselves.

While “general” welfare was established as a fundamental right, “individual” welfare was not mentioned as a responsibility of the government. Indeed, it laid out a framework that allows everyone to rise above welfare on their own. Compassion for those incapable of managing their own affairs does allow for some level of basic welfare.

Any ideas or comments?

Next post will deal with Article one, Section 1.

 

Letter to the Editor–Statesman Journal

26 Sep

SEPTEMBER 26, 2010

President Obama is pushing the Senate to ratify a treaty that would undermine American security.

The START treaty is perfect if your goal is to reduce our level of security until it falls below the other major powers of our troubled world.
Most glaringly, the treaty will place significant limitations on America’s ability to field a missile defense system capable of protecting us against a nuclear missile. And it does nothing to stop North Korea and Iran from developing and deploying those weapons.
These flaws (and many others) are real and pose a serious threat to American national security.
This is worse than President Obama’s goal to redistribute the wealth of our country. START redistributes our national defense. Our senators should not play the game. They must reject the treaty.
— Robert E. Royer, Salem

http://tinyurl.com/2codp8d

 

Political Musings

26 Sep

From time to time, I’ll venture into the realm of the unexplainable, i.e., politics.   It won’t take too long for you to figure out my political bent.

 

My vision of the United States of America

25 Sep

I’d like to start by sharing my vision of the United States of America:

America stands like a majestic mountain, its snow capped summit kissing the boundaries of space. Towering above all other nations, not as a threat but rather as a symbol of freedom and safety.

America’s splendor is unique, indeed unequaled. Yet its compassion stands ready to share its wealth and fortune with the downtrodden wherever they might be.

America personifies the precept that the rule of law prevails. No person is above the law no matter how powerful or popular.

America is a land of opportunity, where dreams can be achieved and lives can be lived in harmony with each other.

America welcomes immigrants wishing to share its values. Its strength bubbles up from the melting pot of diversity. Welded together as one, yet retaining pride of one’s heritage but always being faithful to the Constitution of their adopted country.

America’s military might secures its safety from invasion and when needed, helps to suppress aggression of any nation against another.

God blessed America. God bless America.

Many years ago, our founders fought to break the shackles of a tyrannical government. Many laid down their lives toward this end; others suffered unimaginable circumstances. Through this struggle the chains shackling the colonies were broken, enabling a better life for all willing to stand ready to defend their newfound freedom.

The founders knew full well that to protect this precious freedom ironclad safeguards must be carved in stone. For without them misguided, seemingly well intentioned foes of democracy and capitalism could set in motion the framework to destroy all they fought for. Fighting so hard and sacrificing so much to gain their freedom, that possibility was simply unimaginable.

Aware that each law, each regulation, indeed each tax, forced upon individuals would insidiously chip away at their freedom. In effect they will become slaves of government once again. They dared not repeat the lessons that history taught them to avoid.

Our founders drafted a way to safeguard their hard fought freedom. To them, it was imperative that the power of government be limited. The guarantor of that premise was a Constitution that clearly enumerated the prerogatives of the federal government.

Having defeated injustice and perverse strictures from their homelands, our founding fathers adopted a Constitution wherein the God given rights of the individual could not be trampled upon. For rights emanate from God, not governments. This Constitution, the bedrock foundation of our nation, subscribes to this notion.

The inspired wisdom of its authors allowed a process to modify, not redesign the Constitution. Changing social and environmental issues were bound to arise as the nation grew. A process was defined that could amend the document when necessary.

Three co-equal branches of government assures a system of checks and balances. Each empowered, yet limited by a Constitution that keeps government subservient to the rights of the individual. One branch makes the laws, one enforces them and the third interprets them, always guided by the parameters penned by our founders.

This is what the United States of America is, and God willing, will continue to be.

On to the Preamble. Let’s see what we can see.

 

Transforming the nation isn’t the answer

24 Sep

Some in this country are intent on “Transforming” our great country. What exactly they mean by that is not clear. What is clear though is that they seem to think our Constitution is outdated or at the very least, too limiting; even too negative. They contend that times have changed (and indeed they have); that the founders had no way of knowing what future generations would face.

True enough. But they didn’t have to. They provided a method to adjust the Constitution to fit the times.

What they did know though, was what principals they thought important. These are the bedrock of our country. Principles should not change, no matter what.

Clearly there is a measure of negativity through out its articles and amendments. The reason, I believe, is our founder’s overwhelming desire to limit the size and power of a central federal government. To accomplish this, they clearly stated what the government can’t do.

They had just fought a revolution to shake free from a government that controlled every aspect of their lives. They knew they didn’t want this any longer and they crafted a constitution that assured a limited government.

I’m not a lawyer, baker or candlestick maker. I’m not a scholar or even a particularly wise man. I have no extraordinary grasp of the issues surrounding the Constitution. I do, however, have some underlying feelings of what I think it says and why I think that it must not be “transformed.”

I hope to link to sites that are more scholarly or legal based so you can get other perspectives. Perhaps you can suggest others.

So what I will attempt to do over the next several weeks or months is to go over the Constitution word for word and give my impression of what it means to me. Or to confess my inability to figure out what is meant. I encourage your thoughts and comments. After all, I might want to change my mind.

The number and timing of the posts will depend to a large extent on the comments you make. There are no deadlines here. Most of the time I’ll attempt to make a weekly post.

Next up–the my vision of our great country. Let’s see what we can see.

 

This is what we’re all about

23 Sep

The mission of this blog is to explore the Constitution of the United States of America.

The blog’s target audience is the sixteen to twenty-three age group.  However, anyone is free to jump in and make a contribution.

I want to focus on the Constitution because I feel we, as a country, have lost touch with why our Constitution is the single most important political document in existence.

I fear too many question how a document that is over two hundred years old can be relevant in this day and age.  I suspect many of its distractors haven’t ever read it.  Others just don’t like it.

So who cares anyway?  Well, you should.  It is the foundation of our country.  You should know what it says, for without that knowledge you are at the mercy of anyone that wants to disrupt our way of life.

Don’t just take my word for what it means.  I’m not expecting nor even suggesting that you should.  What I am hoping to accomplish is to “feed” you bite sized chunks of the Constitution so you can mull it over with your friends and to make comments on this blog.

It may seem difficult at times.  After all, my generation has been tempered by WWII and all that followed.  I realize you have a whole different language and understanding of words and phrases than I do.  Let’s not let that get in the way of a good give and take.  I feel it is a good way for me to invest a little of my time in you.

I hope you’ll work with me and let me know what you think.  Even though the Constitution protects free speech, the policy of this blog is to keep it civil.

You really don’t need to have the Constitution handy.  However if you contact the Heritage Foundation at http://www.askheritage.org/Premium.aspx they will send you a free copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  You can also find it on line at http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html

My next two posts will provide a little more framework, then we’ll plunge into the Constitution beginning with the preamble.

Think about it.  Tell your friends about it.  Okay then, let’s see what we can see.

 
 

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