Category Archives: Democracy

Do We Need A New Constitution?

Larry J. Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, seems to think so, and he’s even written a book about it. However, some of his complaints indicate that he simply doesn’t understand that the document was designed for different purposes than he wishes it to be:

The Senate is horribly undemocratic. Because each state elects exactly two senators, thinly-peopled rural states wield disproportionate influence. If the 26 smallest ones stick together, they have a majority of votes despite representing only 17% of Americans. Mr Sabato wants to restore some fairness by giving extra senators to big states.

Actually, Larry, the Senate was designed for the system of federalism, where the goal was for States to keep Washington from running roughshod over their jurisdiction just because more populous states wanted something. Granted, the 17th Amendment and most of the New Deal and beyond have turned the States into little more than lines on a map, since everything now IS run from Washington. But the point of the Senate was not to be “democratic”, it was to offer a place where more cool-headed people beholden to State interests rather than directly to the public could temper the fluctuating flame of shifting public demands.

Not content with rejigging the building blocks of government, Mr Sabato also wants to lay constitutional obligations on individual citizens. All able-bodied young Americans should have to do two years of national service, he argues, either in the army or pursuing some other public good.

Ahh, I see, because his desire is to ensure that, beyond all the conditioning that our students receive in the [unconstitutional] public schooling they endure until age 18, the needs to brainwash them further into the “social contract” by imposing unnecessary obligations onto them. After all, if you start them young enough, you can teach them that freedom means only what Larry Sabato believes it means. If he really wanted to solve this one, he could do so quite easily be repealing the 13th Amendment. Not that I think Larry would get a lot of love if he put that on a bumper sticker, though!

But all this dances around the second problem. A few of Sabato’s suggestions were good, such as finding a way to reduce gerrymandering of districts, which turn House seats into fiefdoms. And his call is not for some halfway approach to the problem.

But Mr Sabato does not want us to pick one or two of his suggestions. He wants to call a second constitutional convention to rethink the entire document bar the Bill of Rights. The current approach of piecemeal amendments is not working, he says. Very few pass, and many that are proposed are foolish: think of the amendment to ban flag-burning. No, what America needs is a grand meeting of clever and high-minded people to draw up a new, improved constitution better suited to the 21st century.

A “grand meeting of clever and high-minded people”? I’m sure a lot of “politics professors” will be invited to such a thing.

I thought, a year or two ago, that perhaps the answer is another Constitutional Convention. I thought that we’ve misinterpreted the document so horribly that it might be time to spell out the limits on government that our Constitution enshrines explicitly, to take these decisions out of the hands of Supreme Court justices that constantly stretch the meaning of the document to fit ever-wider government. But there’s a problem with that approach. The type of people I would want to write the new Constitution probably wouldn’t be allowed in the room, and we’d end up with a document that enshrines “positive liberty” and obligations on individuals that make our current Leviathan seem like the Ritz Carlton.

We don’t need a new Constitution, and the call to create one is an invitation to velvet-gloved tyranny.

Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter: Oklahoma’s Political Prisoners

Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter could face up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines for “conspiracy against the state” in the State of Oklahoma. Perhaps the three were conspiring to commit an act of terrorism? Or maybe they conspired to commit welfare fraud? Sold counterfeit tickets to a Sooners game? Nope. The trio now known as “the Oklahoma 3,” their alleged “conspiracy” was circulating petitions to amend the state constitution to include a taxpayer’s bill of rights. It’s illegal in Oklahoma for Jacob and Johnson to circulate petitions since they are not Oklahoma residents (a claim they both dispute).

OKLAHOMA CITY — A multicounty grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court names three key figures in the failed effort to put a taxpayer bill of rights on state ballots last year.

Tulsan Rick Carpenter, president of Oklahomans in Action, faces one count of conspiracy to defraud the state and one count of filing a false, fraudulent, felonious and fictitious initiative petition.

Oklahomans in Action circulated the initiative petition.

Susan Johnson of Michigan, president of National Voter Outreach, and Paul Jacob of Virginia, of Citizens in Charge, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the state.

Jacob is a leader of the term-limits movement.

National Voter Outreach, a Nevada corporation, was responsible for the circulation and signature collection process, according to the indictment. The group was paid by Carpenter and Jacob for signatures gathered in support of the TABOR petition, according to the indictment.

On October 7, 2007, Paul Jacob wrote an article at Townhall.com explaining his experience and his side of the story:

I was placed in hand-cuffs and leg-irons before my release on bond, and am threatened with a ten-year prison term for that oh-so-violent crime of helping others petition their government.

I wasn’t alone. I was cuffed to the other two bewildered citizens that make up The Oklahoma Three, my alleged co-conspirators, Susan Johnson and Rick Carpenter.

Susan is a mother and grandmother who lives in Michigan. She’s also the president of a petition management firm called National Voter Outreach. She started on the streets as a petitioner many years ago, learned the business and is now at the top.

Seeing this sweet lady (and I mean “lady”) in leg-irons as we were being processed is something I’ll long remember — whenever I think I’ve had enough, whenever I doubt that my extra effort is needed or wonder if freedom can be guarded without personal sacrifice.

Rick Carpenter of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the head of Oklahomans in Action. He was the legal proponent of two Oklahoma initiative campaigns launched back in 2005, neither of which amused the political elite. One was designed to end eminent domain and regulatory abuse by governments and the other measure would have capped the rate of government spending growth, allowing greater spending only with voter approval — a measure similar to Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

[…]

Unlike most initiative states, Oklahoma has a residency requirement allowing only Oklahoma residents to circulate a petition. But when the petition company checked with state officials to determine what constituted a resident, those officials said that a person could move to Oklahoma and immediately declare residency — and begin petitioning.

Just to be safe, since sometimes simple law can be made amazingly complicated, I asked for any relevant legal precedent. The ruling in a recent challenge to an Oklahoma petition to ban cock-fighting seemed clear: residency was determined by an individual’s intention to be a resident.

[…]

Then, the various forces of big government that had worked so hard to block the vote, joined by a who’s who of corporate CEOs and the heads of energy companies and banks (can you say “daddy welfare”?), challenged the petition. And the Oklahoma Supreme Court came to their aid, providing a much different standard for residency than in the past. The judges now equated residency with a “permanent home.”

How permanent was “permanent”? One petition circulator, who moved to Oklahoma in September of 2005 and was still living there in July of the following year, was ruled not to be a resident.

[…]

Yes, it was a terrible injustice. But it was trumped this past week by further injustice, the indictment charging Susan Johnson, Rick Carpenter and me with conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma for allegedly “willfully” violating the state’s residency statute. For this alleged crime Attorney General Drew Edmondson seeks to imprison us for up to ten years.

Susan says she can’t even remember ever getting a speeding ticket. Rick and I have both admittedly sped before . . . but our occasional automotive misadventures did not quite prepare us for the current prosecution.

If we are to believe Mr. Jacob, it appears that he had done his due diligence to avoid breaking this stupid law. Unfortunately for Jacob and his co-defendants, the opponents of their ballot petition are not shy about using the police power of government against them. As powerful as these political opponents may be, surely the courts would not convict 3 American citizens to a 10 year prison sentence for petitioning a state government with such weak evidence?

Perhaps this isn’t about convicting Jacob, Johnson, and Carpenter. Maybe this has more to do with intimidation? Jacob continues:

The goal is to scare, to intimidate, to silence; it is happening more and more in Oklahoma at the hands of Attorney General Edmondson — and throughout the country as our politics becomes increasingly regulated, controlled, and criminalized. Politics has lurched off the highway of democracy, off the curb and back into the old insider system, the gutter method of accumulated power.

Once upon a time you could participate in politics without a battery of attorneys. Once upon a time you could lose an election without fear that one’s opponents would use the power of their office to imprison you. No more.

Well, it is definitely scary. Personally, it’s not fun to think of what impact this legal truncheon to the head could have on my wife, kids, grandchild. But we’ll not allow our rights to be bullied away. Nor will we stand idly by while the one process capable of reining in corrupt politics — citizen initiative and referendum — is threatened into non-existence.

We, the Oklahoma 3, didn’t conspire to break the law. Instead, we sought to understand it and abide by it, even as we sought to change other laws. We now face the full onslaught of the state of Oklahoma. It is apparent that this retaliation is not for any crime, but for our political beliefs and our audacity to put them into action.

Maybe it’s time for all Americans — conservative, liberal, populist, libertarian — to “conspire” together to take back our political system from the gutter.

Before it’s too late.

However one thinks about the Oklahoma 3’s political goals, we should all agree that this injustice cannot stand.

Government Funding of Science: Inherently Susceptible to Junk and Superstition.

I recently discovered the thoroughly enjoyable podcast put out by Skepticality magazine, and was browsing through some past ‘casts, when I stumbled across an interview (in Podcast #59) with Lori Lipman-Brown, a lobbyist in the employ of the Secular Coalition of America. The interview was pretty wide ranging, but at one point it focused on a battle in the U.S. House of Representatives concerning stem cell research. She recounted how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had attempted to use an interpretation of Christian theology to buttress her position. She criticized Nancy Pelosi as follows:

“We were flabbergasted when we heard her start saying that ‘stem cells are a gift from God’ and that ‘stemcell research is biblically based’ in her arguments. I mean she was going to vote the right way, but this was her argument to get other people to vote the right way. And the reason this is really horrific is-our argument is whether or not you allow stem cell research to progress shouldn’t be based on your theology, because if it is just a competition between whose theology is right. I mean President Bush, when he vetoes these bills, he bases it on God and the Bible also and his interpretation. … Making this a competition of whose theology wins is not appropriate. What you need to do is to say ‘Look this is science, this is not – we can’t have the government imposing anyone’s theology – you know, this is research, this is not about what someone’s religious belief is.” – I transcribed this myself – any deviation from what was actually said is a mistake rather than malice – tarran

In effect, she was opposed to a minority being able to block some bit of government funding for research based on moral objections rooted in superstitious beliefs.

Roman Scientific Research Into Agricultural ForecastingThis seems a reasonable position at first blush, but is, in fact, a highly immoral and, frankly impossible proposition. Let us turn to our old friends the Nazis for a demonstration, since they make for great reductio ad absurdum argumentation. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Saw this one coming

So, for the last few years, supporters of gay marriage have pretty much given up on the legislative route; and have been depending on judges to try and impose their agenda on the states.

While I have no problem with the concept of gay marriage (the state should not be involved in religious marriage; and any two people should be able to enter any civil contract they want); if we are in fact a nation of laws, effectively re-writing the laws through judicial activism (and yes, that is very explicitly what is happening) is both morally wrong (because it abrogates the process), and a practical disaster.

Leaving aside the moral argument, we need to address the consequences of living in a federal republic. Although gay marriage advocates have repeatedly insisted that instituting gay marriage on a state by state basis would not cause constitutional and interstate compact issues; anyone with any knowledge of interstate law, or the concept of federalism could see that argument is false on its face. If anyone is interested in getting legal advice on same-sex law consider talking to someone similar to PETERS AND MAY. They have experience working with same-sex marital issues so I hear.

From the first legal same sex marriage in Massachusetts (and to a lesser extent civil unions in Vermont), there have been legal implications in other states. There are issues of marriage licenses in general being honored (full faith and credit), medical insurance, inheritance rights, property rights, medical control, and of course the big one: child custody. There is also the issue of what happens if the couple decides to look into legal separation in Georgia or any other state, due to the fact that different states have their own laws on separation. Once again it is wise to seek out legal counsel if you find yourself in a similar situation, so you can get the right advice for you.

Lawsuits have already been instituted in other states over all of these issues, in particular survivors rights; but ’til now a divorce case hasn’t hit the public eye.

Well, that just changed; and I wish I could say I didn’t see it coming, but I think we all did…


Married Gay Couple Seeks Right to Divorce in Rhode Island


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Associated press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A lesbian couple married in Massachusetts should have the same right as heterosexual couples to now divorce in Rhode Island, lawyers for the women told the state’s highest court on Tuesday.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers wed in 2004 soon after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages. They filed for divorce last year in their home state of Rhode Island, where the law is silent on whether same-sex marriages are legal.

It is believed to be the state’s first same-sex divorce case.

If the women can’t divorce in Rhode Island, their lawyers said the only legal avenue available to them would be for at least one to move to Massachusetts and live there long enough to obtain a divorce.

“It is an absolutely unfair burden,” Ormiston said outside court after Tuesday’s arguments before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. “It is a burden no one else is asked to bear, and it is something I will not do.”

Lawyers for the women told the Supreme Court the only question to consider was whether Rhode Island could recognize a valid same-sex marriage from another state for the sole purpose of granting a divorce petition.

They stressed the case has no bearing on whether gay couples could get married in Rhode Island, or on whether a same-sex marriage would be recognized for other purposes.

“You have a valid marriage in the state of Massachusetts,” Louis Pulner, an attorney for Chambers, told the justices. “No one is asking the court to address the question of whether such marriages would be valid in Rhode Island.”

In September 2006, a Massachusetts judge decided same-sex couples from Rhode Island could marry in Massachusetts because nothing in Rhode Island law specifically banned gay marriage. But the courts and the legislature in Rhode Island have not taken any action to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch earlier this year issued a nonbinding advisory opinion saying the state would recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts.

Nancy Palmisciano, a lawyer for Ormiston, said Rhode Island routinely treats as valid heterosexual marriages performed in other states and even in other countries. She said when she recently handled the divorce of a couple from China, no one questioned the validity of their marriage certificate issued there.

“Here we have two American women who have not been able to push their divorce forward because they happen to be members of the same sex,” Palmisciano said.

Chambers and Ormiston married in Fall River, Mass., in May 2004 in a ceremony solemnized by a justice of the peace. Massachusetts is the only state to legalize same-sex marriages.

Chambers filed for a divorce last October, citing irreconcilable differences.

Two months later, Rhode Island’s chief family court judge asked the state Supreme Court for guidance on whether he has the authority to handle a same-sex divorce. The court agreed to weigh in and invited Rhode Island’s legislative leaders, governor and state attorney general to submit legal briefs detailing their position.

The justices did not indicate when they would rule.

In this case, the justices are in a bit of a bind; because they can attempt to qualify their ruling all they want by declaring “we’ll give you a divorce, but that doesn’t mean you were ever really married”; but that isn’t going to fly, especially when it comes to divorce. If it’s something they want to do, they may want to get in touch with someone similar to family law solicitors so they can do it within the law and with legal support.

Such a ruling would be ridiculous on its face, and would properly be struck down as arbitrary and capricious. There would be no valid legal principle to cover this tissue thin justification, and it would head to the supreme court as a giant mess.

Tough cases make bad law; and from where I’m sitting, this looks about like 10 year old shoeleather.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Just think how much more damage they could do with less “recess”

From: http://www.unclejayexplains.com/

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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