Category Archives: Constitution

Foreign Agents Bills Moving and Immobile

While the news is full of Government Shutdowns, payments to porn stars, and the assorted detritus attached to this federal administration, one rather important topic related to meddling in American politics is resting between parts.  When the  TV types mention Paul Manafort, think of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Perhaps instead of machinations to protect the occupant of the Oval Office members of the 115th Congress could be addressing several bills intended to change the way we deal with foreign businesses, especially those with close ties to foreign governments, and those foreign governments themselves.

Several bills were introduced in the wake of Mr. Manafort’s arrest, and these deserve more daylight than they are getting in congressional pigeon holes.

HR 2811 and S 625:  The House version of this legislation was introduced on June 7, 2017 by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and has three co-sponsors, two Democrats and one Republican.  It falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee.  S. 625  is an identical bill sponsored by Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH).  The official title is phrased as follows: “To preserve the integrity of American elections by providing the Attorney General with the investigative tools to identify and prosecute foreign agents who seek to circumvent Federal registration requirements and unlawfully influence the political process.”  The bill text includes the revisions:

“Whenever the Attorney General has reason to believe that any person or enterprise may be in possession, custody, or control of any documentary material relevant to an investigation under this Act, the Attorney General, before initiating a civil or criminal proceeding with respect to the production of such material, may serve a written demand upon such person to produce such material for examination.”

The intent of the legislation is to require more transparency in communications inserted into public discourse from foreign countries and those agents who act on their behalf.  Or, to put it less delicately,  to make it more obvious when foreign governments (read: Putin) are inserting themselves into American media.  As the paragraph above says, the rules of the game are changed to allow the Department of Justice the power to demand the materials (tapes, written media, etc.) before there is a civil or criminal case.  The current statute only allows for accessing media items after a case is opened, thereby making it a bit more difficult to get a case underway.

If a person would care to contact a Senator or Representative in support of these bills it might be phrased: “I would hope you would co-sponsor and support (HR 2811 or S 625)  to make it more difficult for foreign countries and those acting on their behalf to insert themselves in our political processes and institutions.”

HR 4170 sponsored by Rep Mike Johnson (R-La) was introduced on October 31, 2017 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.  Its official title:

To amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 to promote greater transparency in the registration of persons serving as the agents of foreign principals, to provide the Attorney General with greater authority to investigate alleged violations of such Act and bring criminal and civil actions against persons who commit such violations, and for other purposes.

The bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on January 18, 2018 on a 15-6 vote.  As indicated by ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) there has been no oversight hearing recently on FARA, and the Committee hadn’t yet considered HR 2811.  In short, the bill went from introduction to mark up without a hearing in between.  Democratic members of the Committee objected to the lack of detailed consideration such as an analysis of potential conflicts with the 4th Amendment, and wanted further discussion of HR 2811.

The intention of the bill is laudatory, but the “haste makes waste” commentary by Rep. Nadler should be given more careful consideration.  It doesn’t do all that much good to enact legislation which has rather clear conformance issues with Constitutional provisions like the 4th Amendment.  Better to amend the bill at this stage than to go through the judicial process only to find that revisions which could have been made at the outset have to be made after a conviction or civil penalty is challenged in court.

Granted there are other priorities at the moment — DACA, CHIP, and community health centers,  but we should also be tracking legislation in the 115th Congress which is pertinent to the Russian interference in our political institutions and processes.  Investigations are both welcome and beneficial (when they aren’t partisan and protective) but they don’t directly address issues about which we are already all too aware.

FARA should be modernized and improved.  As carefully, and as promptly as possible.

Members of the Nevada congressional delegation should hear from their constituents about these bills.

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Filed under Constitution, Foreign Policy, Politics

Tarkanian’s Racist Rhetoric

The Nevada Independent article on the Nevada Senate primary race indicates how this might be a referendum on Donald Trump if Perpetual Candidate Danny Tarkanian  has his way.  However, the portion of Trumpism to which Tarkanian the Lesser is clinging most vociferously is one of the least attractive — good old fashioned racism and xenophobia.

“He also laid out his priority on immigration policy, saying he supported the president’s effort to build a wall along with border with Mexico, and wanted to see an end to chain migration, expressed opposition to the concept of birthright citizenship and expansion of the E-verify system used to root out undocumented workers from the labor pool.

“I do not think that anyone who came to our country illegally should be provided with the greatest gift our country has to offer — citizenship,” he said.” [NVIndy]

There are several items to unpack from this mashup of racist rhetoric.  And it is racist.  Do I see any reference to securing the northern border?  No. This is all about that southern border, the one we share with Mexico. The one over which at the present time we have a net zero immigration from Mexico.  However, as we all know this argument isn’t about net migration statistics — it’s about the US becoming entirely too brownish. Too many phone centers offering instructions and information in Spanish, too many Spanish speaking people in the supermarket, too many Hispanic people holding jobs, having children, buying houses, and sending their kids to school. Too many monolingual white Americans “feeling uncomfortable.”

One of the inferences deserving of additional notice is the concept Tarkanian introduces of the Gift (of living in America) or (applying for American citizenship.)  There isn’t much difference between this concept and the less attractive version, “I got mine now you try to get yours sucker.”

Lost in this version of the immigration issue is the notion that immigrants bring their gifts to the United States.   Einstein was an immigrant.   Accepted not every immigrant is an Einstein, however, if a person happens to be putting yogurt on the breakfast cereal or in the blender with some fruit — perhaps a nod to Hamdi Ulukaya might be in order. He’s the Kurdish ex-sheepherder who popularized Chobani.  Using Google today?  Thank another immigrant Sergey Brin.  And by the way, should one be clad in the most popular American article of clothing — denim jeans — thank another immigrant Levi Strauss.  At this point one the right wingers bluster something like “we’re not talking about those kinds of people, we’re talking about — you know, the ‘others.”

There are at least a couple of ways to perceive this rebuttal. First, as a bit of good old fashioned racism — “they” are brown skinned, Spanish speakers… and, secondly ‘they’ are ‘working class.’  Read: Less than a bonus to American society.  Except as reported last summer and fall, there were vegetables rotting in California fields because of a lack of experienced farm workers to harvest them.  Growers offered higher wages, and there were still shortages of farm workers with the expertise to know what to pick and when to pick it.   Just a few hours ago the Ventura, CA newspaper was asking a grower about the recent crop report, his response:

“I wouldn’t say that it’s been a good few years, but it’s been OK for us,” Tamai said. “I would just say that it’s getting more difficult (and) it’s getting more expensive to grow in the county. It’s pretty pricey here, and there’s always a fight for enough labor.”

Thus much for the immigrant farm workers, (and retail clerks, and restaurant workers, and hotel maids, and pool service workers, and home health aides, and medical technicians, and delivery drivers….) not being a ‘bonus’ to the American way of life.  Unfortunately, the only way to rationalize the idea that immigrants are a “burden’ is to see them as non-productive human beings, instead of witnessing and recognizing the economic value of their work, and appreciating the value of the cultural additions they bring to the country.  There’s nothing new about this contemporary rendition of the old Know Nothings who decried Irish and German migrations.  The era, the languages, and the clothing may change, but it’s the same old racist rant.

Another point in Tarkanian’s disturbing comments needs a mention:  We do have a `14th Amendment,” for a reason.  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State in which they reside..”

That’s all persons.  And if Tarkanian the Lesser is calling for the end of the 14th Amendment he might need to come to the understanding this means African Americans, who were to be made citizens not only of the US but also of the states which formerly allowed chattel slavery.   There’s usually a stammer or two from advocates of abolishing the 14th Amendment about merely modifying the Amendment when this point come up. Modify it how?  The devil is indeed in the details, and one of the details involves how one perceives babies.   Advocates of amending the Amendment often cite “abuses relating to anchor babies.”  The term itself in inherently offensive.

“Children are widely seen as innocent and pure … yet there is an unspoken racial element there, for children of color are all too often pictured as criminals or welfare cheats in training,” said Haney Lopez, author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked The Middle Class.”

Dog whistle is a term used to describe coded language that means one thing in general but has an additional meaning for a targeted population.

The racializing of children of color is “the ignoble tradition that finds voice in the phrase ‘anchor babies,’ which tarnishes even the tiniest infant with the stain of being one of ‘them,’ the dark and dangerous who invade our society,” Haney Lopez said.” [NBC]

We could do without the epithets like ‘anchor baby’ and related emissions from the racist bull horns.  Or we might ask: Does Tarkanian the Lesser think infants are tiny nefarious invaders?”

Sadly, there is an audience for Tarkanian’s racist campaign rhetoric.  They are white, they are frustrated, they are racists, and they will applaud his rantings.  They will vote for him because he will say aloud what they’ve been thinking — Mexicans are drug dealers (as the Chinese were characterized more than a century ago) — Mexicans are a burden to society (as the Irish were a century and a half ago) — Mexicans are filling up our neighborhoods (like the Eastern European Jews and Italians of the early 20th century).

Racial revanchists have been among us since time out of mind — however, it would be nice to get through one election cycle without a blatant reminder of their proximity.

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Filed under Constitution, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

The Bundy Boys Join the Circus

AB 408

Remember the Bundy Boys?  Wonkette hasn’t forgotten the Fiore Forays into governmental mismanagement, nor have too many other people.  Now, the flags are flying again, for Freedumb!, in the form of AB 408, a singularly silly bill put forth by the usual group of Tea Partying Fanatics: Assemblywomen Fiore, Dooling, Shelton, Titus, and Seaman. Yes, it’s Ladies’ Day for AB 408, with some fellows tossed in as co-sponsors.  The ladies would like to kick the Feds out of Nevada:

“AN ACT relating to public lands; prohibiting the Federal Government from owning or regulating certain public lands or the right to use public waters; requiring the State Land Registrar to adopt regulations that provide for the appropriation and registration of grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial use rights on public lands; requiring the State Land Registrar to sell permits for grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial uses on public lands for which such rights are not registered and appropriated; requiring the board of county commissioners of each county to impose a tax on profits from the beneficial use of public lands;…”

Translation: Any rancher who doesn’t want to pay grazing fees for the use of public lands doesn’t have to.  And, we can go one step further – any mining company or logging enterprise can have the State Land Registrar sell off Nevada’s minerals and timber resources at will.  It’s privatization, as they say, on steroids.

What the Tea Bag Biddies seem to have forgotten is that there are other people using those lands too – not just the likes of Cliven “I want to tell you one more thing I know about The Negro” Bundy – and they aren’t hikers and tree huggers, they’re other ranchers.   If the Bundy ilk are allowed to over-graze range lands the land isn’t just Bundy’s problem, it becomes a problem for other ranching operations in the area which might want to use the land eventually.  This isn’t the only thing the Tea Bag Biddies seem to have overlooked.

There is more to BLM land management operations than protecting wildlife, there’s the part wherein the BLM is involved with wildland fire fighting, fuel mitigation, and related issues; combined with programs to manage energy resources, communication right of way and access, and hunting and fishing access.  Then, there’s that pesky bit of Constitutional History, in the act admitting Nevada into statehood:

“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …..”

So, the terms of AB 408 are ultimately selfish, deliberately narrow, and most probably unconstitutional – and Ammon Bundy, litigant in a relatively new phony lawsuit against the Feds, is gathering support from the Tea Bag Biddies in the Legislature. [LTN]  And, they’ll be hoping for some company. Company who share the Bundy fictional version of the country:

“The natural resources of America are being stolen from the people and claimed by the federal government. Everything we eat, wear, live in, use and so on comes from the earth. If we lose access to the land and natural resources we become beggars to those who control access. Without doubt this is the greatest immediate threat to the individual person and people as a whole. More lives, liberties and property can be taken under this threat than any other we see.”  [RReport]

No statement could make it more abundantly evident that the Bundy Brigade sees itself as separate from the other 320,000,000 people in this country.  For all the blathering about Constitutional-ism, the Brigade appears to have forgotten the first words of the hallowed document: We the people of the United States, on Order to form a more perfect Union…”  We the people form the government. Not “we the Bundys.”  A rough translation of Bundy-ism might be: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too.

And lest we forget, it was this same general philosophy which attracted support from the two Bundy-ites who killed Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, in Las Vegas, NV in June 2014. 

The bill will get its hearing, and should get nothing more. 

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Filed under Constitution, Hate Crimes, Interior Department, Nevada, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public lands, Rural Nevada

Cresent Hardy Retrospective

Hardy 2 Stumbling candidate for Nevada’s 4th District in Congress, Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) is the subject of a very interesting retrospective compliments of Steve Sebelius.  Mr. Hardy’s adopted as his very own the 47% argument first inartfully set forth by Mitt Romney.  Then things got worse as Hardy attempted to conflate the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and whatever right wing rants to which he’s been listening, when speaking of the Cliven Bundy Ranch standoff between Bundy’s Brigade of radicals and cop killers and Federal officials attempting to get Bundy to pay up like every other rancher.   Undaunted, Hardy tumbled down the rabbit hole of “segregation laws” during an attempt to explain his position on discrimination in hiring.

As if his position weren’t crystal clear he added a reference to a “welfare district” which doesn’t leave much room for re-interpretation.    There’s a lesson in all this somewhere.  That lesson is probably not to plead illiteracy and a paucity of vocabulary: “I’ve never been slick or polished. I grew up on a ranch and learned to stand up for what I believe and to speak my mind respectfully even when others may disagree.”  [Hardy]  

Growing up on a ranch doesn’t explain away being inarticulate, nor does it offer any justification for being a practitioner of slip-shod logic and rhetoric. The reference is simply an appeal to the Common Folk brand of political propaganda.  The Plain Folks technique is as old as propaganda itself, and it demands that the listener ask: What are the speaker’s ideas worth when they are divorced from the personality of the speaker himself?

In Hardy’s case, not much.

The 47% Myth is a pure Republican creation, and about as self serving a concept as can be imagined.  If a person is not paying Federal Income taxes that’s because the person isn’t earning enough to have a tax liability – as contrasted with, say, Mr. Romney who managed to pay about 13.9% in taxes because most of his income is derived from interest and capital gains.  However, that doesn’t mean the individual isn’t paying any taxes.  Of the current 43.3% who are not liable for Federal Income taxes about 28.9% pay Social Security/payroll taxes.  That leaves 14.4% who don’t pay either Federal Income or Payroll taxes.  Who are these people? 

About 9.7% of these people are ELDERLY with incomes less than $20,000 annually.  3.4% of them are people who are not elderly, but whose income is less than $20,000, and there are 1.3% in the “others” category.  [Tax Policy Center] That “others” category often includes the disabled. Surely, Mr. Hardy is NOT trying to bemoan the lack of federal tax liability for the elderly poor? Or, the disabled? Or, both?

History Lesson – the Federalist Papers were written as newspaper opinion pieces on behalf of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  They are NOT part of it, any more so than the anti-Federalist papers written by “Brutus” between October 1787 and April 1788 in New York. [mmisi pdf]  The Federalist Papers have become a cause for the conservatives, some of whom read them (or don’t) as a guideline for original intent; and, as with any documents the interpretation of them is often found in the eye of the beholder.  However, the ideological underpinnings for modern conservative thought are quite often more in line with the arguments offered by “Brutus” in the Anti-Federalist collection than in the contentions and ideas set forth by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.   Consider this example from “Brutus” (Robert Yates)

“This government is to possess absolute and uncontroulable power, legislative, executive and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section 8th, article 1st, it is declared “that the Congress shall have power 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 office thereof.” And by the 6th article, it is declared “that this constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and the treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution, or law of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” It appears from these articles that there is no need of any intervention of the state governments, between the Congress and the people, to execute any one power vested in the general government, and that the constitution and laws of every state are nullified and declared void, so far as they are or shall be inconsistent with this constitution, or the laws made in pursuance of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States.” [Const.org]

And, after this and several more paragraphs, Yates declares his opposition to the adoption of the new Constitution.  This excerpt from Yate’s publication is far closer to the modern States’ Rights/Limited Government than anything one might find in the Federalist Papers.   It must be very trying to purport to be a Constitutionalist while sounding ever so much like the Anti-Federalists who argued against the original ratification.

About those “segregation laws?”  No, it’s not inarticulacy which ties a politician up in knots when trying to explain that opposition to employment discrimination is tantamount to creating “segregation.”  It’s the sheer unalloyed nonsensical illogical construct itself.  What Hardy, and altogether too many others, are trying to say is that they opposed adding members of the LBGT community to those having standing to file a lawsuit for employment discrimination as a protected class. To “segregate” these individuals would be to continue along the current course – to separate them from those who have the opportunity to resort to litigation in the face of employment discrimination.   The essence of Hardy’s argument, such as it is, is that employers should have the right to separate themselves from those people they don’t wish to hire predicated on gender discrimination.  It’s discrimination which begets segregation, not the other way around, and that explains Hardy’s inability to express an acceptable position – not his “ranch bred inarticulateness.”  [See also NVProg]

About that “Welfare District?”  This isn’t so much a dog whistle as a fog horn.   He might as well have quoted one of the more infamous residents of southern Nevada:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do. “And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” [Cliven Bundy, WaPo]

Would the North Las Vegas public housing project be that “Welfare District?”  Mr. Bundy and Mr. Hardy apparently have bought into the Welfare Queen Myth lock, stock, barrel, and ramrod.   There is probably no convincing them that the 2011 consumer expenditure survey (BLS) thoroughly debunks the myth.   Equally unproductive would be any attempt to convince them that only about 20% of welfare recipients are categorized as “long term,” some 80% get out of the system and stay out for at least five years.   No, for Mr. Bundy and Mr. Hardy, the face of welfare is Black, the cars are always Cadillacs, and they’d not listen even if CNBC told them the whole system has changed.

No, they’ve clutched the Heritage Foundation’s deeply flawed analysis which says that if you have a air-conditioner in your apartment you aren’t really poor.  Let’s think about this for a minute. 9.1% of Americans over the age of 65 are classified as living in poverty. [Pew]  Further, let’s exclude the fact that many apartments in hot climates come with air-conditioning included in the rental agreement.  Let’s simply focus on those 9.1% of Americans over 65 whose incomes are below the poverty line – do we want them living without air conditioning in hot locations?  Here’s a cautionary tale from the CDC:

“During June 30–July 13, 2012, a total of 32 deaths (0.11 deaths per 100,000 population) from excessive heat exposure were reported, including 12 in Maryland, 12 in Virginia, seven in Ohio, and one in West Virginia. In comparison, a median of four and average of eight (range: 1–29) heat-related deaths occurred in the four states during the same 2-week summer period each year of 1999–2009. The median age of the 32 decedents was 65 years (range: 28–89 years); 72% were male. Most decedents (75%) were unmarried or living alone.”  (emphasis added)

Is the death of a person from “excessive heat exposure” acceptable?  These people weren’t driving an Escalade, most were men living alone, without adequate ventilation or cooling in their quarters, and with a median age of 65.  Are those the Undeserving Poor who are “Takers” and thus are the  disposable parts of our social contract?   Mr. Hardy might want to hone his arguments against government assistance in light of these considerations?

It might be that for most people the tragic death of one elderly man in an un-air-conditioned apartment is one too many—but for Mr. Hardy is it better that the man succumbed to excessive heat exposure than for a single other person to game the system?

What we can gather from Mr. Hardy’s comments is a picture of a man, who isn’t really inarticulate, but whose arguments are so far from the reality of our social and political lives that they can’t be expressed without resorting to an unacceptable glossary of ideological and racial/ethnic ideas.  This has nothing to do with being “slick and polished.”  It has more to do with being humane and realistic.

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Filed under conservatism, Constitution, House of Representatives, Nevada, Nevada politics

History, Nostalgia, and the Right Wing Call to Repeal the 17th Amendment

Don't Tea Bag On Me Flag There’s a difference between history and nostalgia, and nowhere does this appear in more stark contrast than in the musings of radical conservative columnists.   We don’t have to burrow through the ideological muddle of Justice Scalia’s mind to find examples, we can simply pick up a copy of the Elko Daily Free Press and find one of their columnists opining about repealing the 17th Amendment.

The 17th Amendment calls for the direct election of U.S. Senators, removing the power of the state legislatures to appoint them to office.  By the ultra-conservative lights, however dim, this is the source of all evil, the font from which the liquefaction of Federalism flows.  The first clue that this argument is based on nostalgia not history are the citations from authority – such as George Mason and James Madison.  The Senate shall be, in their 18th century view, the bulwark of state’s rights, and the state’s rights will be protected by the state legislatures.  It just didn’t work out that way.

A system designed in the late 18th century to preserve a fragile union, with an eye toward the southern states’ inclination to maintain their “Peculiar Institution,” devolved into a license for corruption by 1913.  Author David Gans explains:

“Election of Senators by state legislatures was a disaster. Far from being “good politics” or “good constitutional design,” the system led to rampant and blatant corruption, letting corporations and other moneyed interests effectively buy U.S. Senators, and tied state legislatures up in numerous, lengthy deadlocks over whom to send to Washington, leaving those bodies with far less time to devote to the job of enacting the laws their states needed for the welfare of the people. These ills made the case for bringing the election of Senators in line with the Constitution’s fundamental values of protecting democracy and securing the right to vote to all Americans a very strong one. Once the Senate relented and approved the Seventeenth Amendment, the States ratified the Amendment in less than eleven months.”

That last sentence is important – far from being an imposition of the national government, the approval of the direct election of Senators came from the state legislatures themselves, and in only eleven months.  Something must have been going very wrong.

Here are a couple of examples which may serve to demonstrate why the state legislatures were none too impressed with the 18th century system:

“ In 1899, the Montana legislature sent William Clark to the U.S. Senate after he personally contributed $140,000 to the legislators of Montana.  A decade later, the Illinois legislature elected William Lorimer – known as the “blond boss” – to the Senate after bribes offered to state legislators helped break a deadlock in the state legislature.  Clark ultimately resigned his seat; Lorimer was expelled by the Senate after the Chicago Tribune unearthed the critical facts.” [USCon.Org]

If we are worried about the influence of money in politics in the wake of the Citizens United decision, imagine how much more money might be effectively expended by very-special-interest in state races in order to buy-in a Senator?  Nostalgia tells us that the legislative appointment of Senators would allow the flowering of originalist federalism; history tells us that there’s a reason why only 11% of Americans like the repeal idea. [HuffPo]

There are two other considerations, the first being the concept of counter-balance.  Big Money has greater influence in smaller elections, like those for state legislatures.  Secondly, there’s the problem of stalemates and this did turn into a political reality in the early 20th century:

“A deadlock delayed the selection of New York’s senators in the First Congress, and the phenomenon became more and more common as time wore on. Between 1891 and 1905—a period of only 14 years—there were 45 deadlocked senatorial elections in 20 different states!” [Const.org

Obviously, while the legislature is deadlocked the state is under-represented in Congress.  It’s one thing to embrace the bucolic nostalgia for a simpler time and country, and quite another to face the historical fact that money + small political bodies = big problems.

By Tea Party understanding, the loss of Federalism (or the demise of States’ Rights – a term which has acquired a tainted meaning in the wake of the modern civil rights movement) has created such evils as the New Deal,  Motor Voter Laws, No Child Left Behind, and Medicaid.   Controversial as those laws may be, the Tea Party seems to have no problem with such incursions into States Rights as the Hyde Amendment, the rejection of state campaign funding reforms, or the efforts of major energy companies to defeat state’s efforts to control air and water pollution.   In short, the modern advocates of repeal are often highly selective in terms of the list of evils the loss of States’ Rights has engendered.

What might be alarming is that the fringe Right has some critical allies.  ALEC once gave serious consideration to supporting model legislation to repeal the 17th Amendment, and then dropped its advocacy in the face of significant opposition. [HuffPo]  There are still bastions of support.  Still those who would trade the nostalgia of yesteryear for the reality of 21st century America – and give yet more power to the corporate interests who have the money to go for the glory.

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Filed under campaign finance reform, Congress, conservatism, Constitution

>When is it enough?

>George III
Those who liked the idea of a Unitary Presidency, and who are just fine with Signing Statements, will love the President’s latest maneuver: Issuing a directive that each agency must have a Political Officer to analyze new rules and make sure the agency carries out the President’s wishes. [NYT] Agencies the President is particularly interested in controlling: Environmental Protection Agency, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gushing over this new exertion of presidential power.

There was another time, in another place, in which the appointment of political officers was used as a control strategy. Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin purged the Red Army in 1937, and required that no officer be moved without explicit instructions. Every unit had a political officer who monitored the soldiers for “loyalty.” [WWII database]

If this comparison appears “too strong,” consider what powers the Bush administration has already gathered to itself.

(1) The President has declared that under his powers as commander in chief he can unilaterally establish extra-legal military commissions which admit hearsay evidence, evidence derived under torture, and without the application of habeas corpus. [WHPR]

(2) The President has determined that if he believes national security or safety is at stake that he can ignore the FISA court, or at least seek blanket approval for domestic wiretapping and communication survelliance of American citizens. [UT]

(3) The President has argued that it doesn’t matter if members of Congress oppose his escalation of troops into Iraq because the money is in the pipeline and Congress has given him blanket authorization for its use. [CNN]

(4) The President has taken it upon himself to determine which parts of which enacted federal statutes he will or will not implement through the vehicle of signing statements — for which he holds the record. [BG] His signing statement attached to the Postal Accountability Act declared that his administration could read our mail. [CNN]

(5) The president’s Department of Justice has withheld the rationale for the replacement of U.S. attorneys and has utilized a provision of the Patriot Act to appoint interim attorneys without confirmation. [USAT] While President Clinton released most of the U.S. attorneys during his first term, his appointees were required to be confirmed; President Bush’s are not.

(6) The President has proposed cutting funding for department and agency inspector generals. [WaPo]

(7) The President has authorized the use of data mining technologies to collect information on the activities and private lives of American citizens. [USAT]

When do we say: Enough is enough?

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Filed under Bush, Constitution, executive powers, unitary executive