Steve G.

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Earl Ofari Hutchinson Scares Me

In Drug War, History, Immigration, Libertarian, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Minorities, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Republican, Ron Paul, US Government, War on February 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Three days ago, Mr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson posted a piece at The Huffington Post concerning Ron Paul, the man who won the straw poll at the 2010 CPAC thanks largely to the huge number of young people who attended the event.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hutchinson’s post contains a number of errors as well as a number of rather disturbing comments and implications.

Before I address those concerns, however, I wanted, simply as a point of objectivity, list some things on which I disagree with Dr. Paul:

(1) Although Paul does supports gay marriage (as he made clear in interviews with Elliot Schrage and with John Stossel), he unfortunately also supports the so-called Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is both unconstitutional and heterosexist. I do not understand how Paul can rationally defend his support for this legislation, since it creates a federal definition of marriage which the federal government has no authority to create, and since it is, once again, heterosexist.

(2) Ron Paul unfortunately does not support open borders, even though government regulation and planning of human migration is both economically backward and unconstitutional.

(3) Ron Paul supports copyrights and patents, whereas I do not.

(4) Ron Paul does not share my nuanced (and difficult to describe in short passages) view on abortion.

And, finally, (5) Ron Paul is not an anarchist, and as such, is simply not radical enough.

These are all flaws that Ron Paul has, but compared to other politicians, these flaws are so few in number that I’m willing to look past them and throw my support to Ron Paul. He is one of the few politicians in either establishment party for whom I would not feel uncomfortable voting.

With these points dutifully addressed, I believe it is now appropriate to detail the flaws I find with Mr. Hitchinson’s post.

Mr. Hutchinson comments on what he calls Ron Paul’s “controversial off beat quips on race matters,” but fails to give even one quote to illustrate what sort of “quips” Paul allegedly makes.

It is possible that Mr. Hutchinson is referring to the Ron Paul Newsletters from the ’80s and early ’90s, but I believe it has been fairly-well demonstrated that Ron Paul did not author these, and was likely unaware what the specific articles in his newsletters even said. Of course, this isn’t to say we should not hold Paul to task for being an irresponsible editor; we most absolutely should. There is no defence for his irresponsible failure to even read what was being published in his newsletters. But, at the same time, there is not one shred of empirical evidence I have ever come across to indicate that Ron Paul himself is in any way racist or has ever said anything disparaging about other “races.” (I have opted to put the word “races” in quotation marks for, in my opinion, “race” does not actually exist; it is nothing more than a social construct. I regard myself as a member of the human race.) In 2007, I conducted a detailed analysis of the Newsletters. The results of my analysis are available here.

Mr. Hutchinson also references “a 30 second TV spot that ran in New Hampshire during the 2008 campaign,” an ad that was not particularly tasteful, nor particularly individualistic. What Hutchinson fails to mention is that many grassroots Ron Paul supporters disliked the ad and made their discontent known. I should know: I was one of them. Here is what Justin Raimondo, another Ron Paul supporter, had to say of the ad.

I suspect that Paul issued this ad to appeal to those conservatives who viewed him, ignorantly enough, as “soft on terrorism.” I actually approve of Mr. Hutchinson’s critique of the ad itself, but it would have been nice if he had presented a balanced acknowledgement of its negative reception amongst Paulians.

Then, shockingly and disgustingly, Mr. Hutchinson attacks Ron Paul for not being bloodthirsty enough. Ron Paul had correctly asserted that slavery could have been and should have been ended without war. Paul had also correctly asserted that no other country that abolished slavery engaged in civil war to do so. Mr. Hutchinson refers to this as “historical dumbness” but fails to show even a shred of evidence to the contrary of Paul’s claims.

I don’t if Mr. Hutchinson has ever studied in detail the civil war era, but I have studied it to some degree, and what I discovered had caused me to lose all respect for Lincoln. Growing up, I had considered Lincoln a hero. But upon studying the matter, I discovered (1) that the war was not even fought on the grounds of ending slavery, and that the slavery issue was not even brought up until halfway into the war; (2) the slavery issue was only brought up as a means of enticing the South to rejoin the union, and Lincoln made it abundantly clear that he was willing to keep slavery going if it meant the union would be reunited; (3) the abolitionists of the day were not fans of Lincoln, and were the first to point out that his Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave; (4) Lincoln engaged in a form of enslavement called conscription; (5) Lincoln jailed dissenters for speaking out against war, and even suspended habeas corpus; and (6) Lincoln made openly racist statements about black people that ought to sicken any modern American, liberal or conservative.

I must admit, I find it downright scary that Mr. Hutchinson dismisses Paul’s claim that we can make meaningful change without resorting to war.

Mr. Hutchinson claims that Paul “asserted that blacks are criminally inclined, political dumb bells, and chronic welfare deadbeats.” I would like to see Mr. Hutchinson present one verified quote from Paul on this. Again, while there were indeed disgusting, racist comments that made their way into the Newsletters, there is no evidence that Ron Paul wrote or even read said comments. If any evidence were to arise, I would be the first to denounce Paul; yet empirical evidence remains un-presented.

While there was indeed a few white supremacists who supported Dr. Paul, there is no evidence that a “hobnob” occurred with them. Moreover, the vast majority of Paul supporters were extremely embarrassed when it came to light that there was some racist scumbag who was planning to vote for Paul. This is why so many Ron Paul supporters in 2007 came to Paul’s defence, saying that Paul was not a racist and that the tiny number of white supremacists ought there planning to vote for Paul did not represent the rest of us.

Hutchinson scares me when he criticised Ron Paul for correctly pointing out that “[g]overnment as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry.” Does Mr. Hutchinson not know that government is a particularly racist institution? It was an institution called “government” that murdered innocent Jews simply for being Jewish; it was an institution called “government” that sent innocent Asians into dirty camps in California; it was an institution called “government” that instituted Jim Crow laws, which systematically infringed upon the rights of a people simply for looking a little different; it was an institution called “government” that protected and defended the institution of slavery centuries. In fact, the U.S. government is still racist: just look at how the war on drugs is used to attack blacks so much more often than whites, despite the fact that whites use just as much drugs as blacks. Government is racist, government is patriarchal, government is evil. Mr. Hutchinson cites a few tiny examples of a government doing some less-indecent things, as though this somehow undoes or excuses governments around the world for all the horrors they have unleashed upon people. It does not! Moreover, if Paul errs in any way on this matter, it’s in not being even more opposed to statism than he is.

Mr. Hutchinson also writes that “Paul’s views are a corn ball blend of libertarianism, know-nothing Americanism, and ultra conservative laissez faire limited government.” I hold, however, that there is nothing “limited government” about conservatism. Perhaps this is a minor complaint, since so many people do define the term in so many different ways; but, I nevertheless desire to state my position on the matter, and in so doing, to promote the definition I employ for the term.

More importantly, Mr. Hutchinson makes the error of describing Paul’s foreign policy as “neo-isolationist.” In reality, Paul’s foreign policy is far more similar to that of the classical liberal Richard Cobden, as Dr. Thomas Woods has pointed out. Paul has nothing against employing diplomacy and open dialogue with other countries, nor has he anything against trade with other countries; in fact, it is still the popular liberal foreign policy view that open trade between countries diminishes or eliminates the tendencies for war-making between said counties. Paul isn’t supporting the goal of cutting America off from the rest of the world, he simply opposing American imperialism in other countries. I do not know if I should infer from Mr. Hutchinson’s comments whether or not he supports imperialism, war-mongering, and militarism, but if he does, then I should hasten to add that such an aggressive foreign policy scares me.

Finally, Mr. Hutchinson says that Paul’s speech at CPAC contained “a pinch here and there of racial baits,” but again Mr. Hutchinson fails to give even one example.

In conclusion, Hutchinson’s piece is poorly researched and poorly argued. While I believe there are legitimate criticisms one can make about Paul, this article reiterates many of the unfounded ones that have been demonstrated to be false time and time again. While Hutchinson does make a couple good points, these are unfortunately overshadowed by his veiled militarism and other statist viewpoints. Thus, I would hope to see less articles of this nature from The Huffington Post in the future.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Margaret Chase Smith’s “Declaration of Conscience” (1950)

In Communism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Republican, US Government on February 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I was recently reminded of this speech by Margaret Chase Smith, the legendary female moderate Republican from Maine (she served in BOTH the House and the Senate). The only thing which Maine’s two current female Senators have in common with her is that they are female and Republicans. The link is to the text of Chase’s incredible “Declaration of Conscience” speech. It is as applicable today as it was when she delivered it 60 years ago, and I believe that it should be required reading in every introductory course on American government. Margaret Chase Smith was still in the Senate when I was a child in the 1960s and is one of the remarkable politicians and leaders who, in my opinion, made the Senate in the 60s arguably the greatest collection of Americans in service to their nation since the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The example that was set by those men and women are why I believe so strongly that government CAN be a good thing in all of our lives.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/margaretchasesmithconscience.html

Mr. President:

I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as briefly as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to any American who is not a Senator any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American—and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us—yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul-searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America—on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.
I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

The right to criticize;

The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases, such as the Amerasia case, the Hiss case, the Coplon case, the Gold case, to cause the nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation—in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself—and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic Administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic Administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic Administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances–that show the people that our Democratic Administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic Administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia though key officials of the Democratic Administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could—simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.

As members of the Minority Party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in the Senate debate—and I use the word “debate” advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from the side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the Floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the Floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide, and conquer.” As an American, I don’t want a Democratic Administration “whitewash” or “cover-up” any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican “Fascist” just as much I condemn a Democratic “Communist.” I condemn a Democrat “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Republican “Communist.” They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts that I have drafted what I call a “Declaration of Conscience.” I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye, and Senator Hendrickson have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.

Constitutional Oaths and A Plea to President Obama

In Barack Obama, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Protest, Republican, US Government on January 30, 2010 at 1:25 am

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

This simple thirty-five word Oath of Office is specified by The Constitution of The United States as the one, single oath which much be taken by every person who will serve this nation as our President. After this oath is taken every four years, however, no one seems to ever pay much attention to it, but it is important enough that it is the ONLY oath spelled out word for word in The Constitution. There are also only two specific obligations it places on a President; to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of their ability.

While no other oath is specified in The Constitution, it DOES state in Article VI, clause 3 that:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

For other federal officials, including members of Congress, it specifies that they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.” By federal statute, the oath which must be taken by all members of The House of Representatives and The Senate, as well as by The Vice President, members of the Cabinet, and all other civil and military officers and federal employees other than the President is:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

The taking of oaths by all other federal officials in addition to the President dates back to the fourteen word oath created by the first Congress in 1789 (“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support The Constitution of the United States.”), but the current wording is based more on the oaths written during The War Between the States which were intended to allow treason charges to be leveled against those who supported the south or didn’t support the Union.

The first Congress also specified in The Judiciary Act of 1789 the oath which would be required of all federal judges in the United States:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

In fact, federal judges are currently required to take not just one, but TWO different oaths:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _____ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

And:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Federal statute specifically states that this second oath “does not affect other oaths required by law.”

Within the military forces of The United States, the oaths required of both officers and enlisted men are statutory and are prescribed in Section 3331, Title 5 of the United States Code. The oath which officers are required to take is:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

While enlisted men are required to take this oath:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

An important distinction between the oaths required of officers when compared with that required of the enlisted ranks is that the oath taken by officers does not include ANY provision to obey orders. While enlisted personnel are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice to obey LAWFUL orders, officers in the service of the United States are bound by their oath to disobey ANY order that violates The Constitution of the United States.

As far as I can tell, these are all of the oaths required by our federal government for any person who is in any way obligated to serve The United States of America (I am obviously not aware of any secret oaths which might exist within the shadowy corridors of secrecy which our country tries to keep hidden from its citizens). I am also not including the oaths taken by the National Guard or officials of the various states, counties and communities as doing so could fill a small book, needless to say, all of those oaths must meet the same Constitutional requirements as these federal oaths do.

At this point you are probably wondering why I have spent almost a thousand words just to tell you want the different United States federal oaths are. It is very simple. OATHS MATTER! Whether we pay attention to them or not, our Constitution requires them and many people take them, which means MANY people are BOUND by them. Now, as you read through them, you might have noticed that there is only one thing which they ALL have in common (aside from all being very short). I’ll give you a minute to look back through them in case you haven’t noticed it yet.

Every single oath proscribed by or contained within The United States’ Constitution and/or federal statue, EVERY one, obligates the taker to preserve, protect, defend, uphold, support and/or administer justice agreeably to The Constitution of The United States, not the nation, not the people, not the business interests, not any person, concept, idea or entity other than THE CONSTITUTION itself. Furthermore, where any of the oaths mention enemies, it specifies enemies foreign AND domestic, ALL enemies of The Constitution, not enemies of the nation or the people but of THE CONSTITUTION. Thus, by my personal interpretation (and, I assume, that of everyone who demands a strict, literal interpretation of The Constitution), while the economy, national security, foreign, etc. are important concerns of our federal government, as provided for WITHIN The Constitution, the SINGLE most important duty of the President and every member of our federal government is to ensure the health of and obedience TO that constitution. ALL other considerations come after that one and NO duty or obligation is higher than it.

Every time I hear our President say that he “wants to look forward”, I want to cry. We cannot look forward or move forward by ignoring the past. What he is trying to do is build a wonderful new house upon a foundation that is very badly damaged. In such a case, it doesn’t matter how well you construct the house, it will not last because it must have a solid foundation. In fact, the bigger the house, the more important the integrity of the foundation is. Oaths matter, but so do the principles demonstrated by those who take those oaths. No matter what words we might choose, words are not actions and principles are demonstrated by our actions. A principle is only a principle if it is something you do even when it is difficult, inconvenient or could cause you, yourself, damage. If principles only required us to do things when they are easy or convenient, when there is no real cost associated with following them, then EVERYONE would be principled. Principles DO matter and what is shown to us by a person’s very real actions is what tells us what their principles truly are, not the words they tell us.

Therefore, I call upon Barack Obama, the 43rd President of the United States to uphold his constitutional oath of office and preserve, protect and defend The Constitution. I call upon him to repair the damage done to our constitutional government by past administrations and officials, elected and appointed. I call upon him to define what his powers are as President under The Constitution and to specifically repudiate those which are not consistent with the provisions of The Constitution, including the power to single handedly declare that he will not obey and uphold laws or treaties enacted by Congress simply because he doesn’t like them or to claim dictatorial powers to dispense with constitutional provisions (like habeas corpus, cruel and unusual punishment, right to speedy trials, legal advice and hearing all evidence presented against the accused.) upon his own whim. I call upon him to publicly repudiate the entire concept of The Unitary Executive and acknowledge the Constitutional invalidity of all exercises of such by ALL Presidents going back to the administration of Harry Truman. I call upon him to investigate and prosecute all officials and officers of The United States, in every branch and department of The United States who have ever done harm or damage to The Constitution, including by refusal to abide by legal and treaty obligations, up to and including war crimes committed within The United States and/or in the name of The United States by anyone in or working on behalf of The United States, up to and including former Presidents and Vice Presidents of The United States.

 To Mr. Barack Obama, 43rd President of the United States, I would like to personally say this:

Mr. Obama, I know that you were elected to be President of The United States for many reasons… our economy is bad and people thought you could fix it; our national reputation is tarnished and people thought you could improve it; we needed hope for the future rather than fear of it and people thought you could give that to us; and for so many other reasons both important and trivial. However, there were many people in this country, including me, who voted for you because our Constitution and our constitutional government have been horribly damaged over the course of the last eight years, if not over the last quarter of a century, and we believed that you could and would work quickly and aggressively to fix it, as well as to prosecute and punish those guilty of violating their own oaths to it and of doing harm to it.

No damage has EVER been done to our Constitution by any EXTERNAL enemies of our nation. Those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001 might have hurt our nation and killed our citizens, but they did not hurt our Constitution. The same is true of Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. He attacked the people of the United States but he did not threaten or harm our Constitution. No external enemies of our nation ever did any damage to our Constitution in the 50s, 60s or 70s. All of that damage was done by domestic enemies who were attacking The Constitution from within… McCarthy, The House Un-American Activities Committee, J. Edgar Hoover, the Nixon Administration and many others. No damage was ever done to our Constitution by the Soviet Union or ‘international communism’ but rather by those Americans who thought that the Soviet Union was so dangerous that they had the right to violate our own laws as well as our Constitution. But in fear of communism, many threats to our Constitution result from the actions of our own Congress and administrations from Truman to Reagan. No foreign enemy has EVER harmed or even threatened our Constitution over the entire course of our history as a nation, but many domestic enemy have, and they have done so while wrapped tightly in the flag of and holding the symbols of The United States, going back to at least 1798 with The Alien and Seditions Acts. America may have been threatened many times in its history by enemies foreign and domestic, but no threats to our Constitution have ever come from external forces attacking us, they have ALWAYS come from our own internal rot.

I know it will be difficult to do. I know that it will cause political problems and turmoil. I know that it could precipitate a political civil war within this country. I know it would detract from other areas which you need to address, such as our economy. None of that matters however. The oath you took obligates you to do this. It isn’t a choice, it is a duty, and no one gets to pick which duties they will fulfill based on which ones are more difficult or unpleasant than others. Remember though, you are the person who is charged by the Constitution to execute the provisions of and laws according to it. In the end, your most important legacy will not be our economy, our wars, or our energy policies, or our healthcare system; those things are all transitory. In the end, your most important and lasting legacy will be what you demonstrate to the American people about what our Constitution and our constitutional government really mean. There is no one else, Mr. President, except you upon whose shoulders this duty falls. Please, do not let our nation, no, not our nation, please, Mr. President, do not let our CONSTITUTION down. I don’t think we can survive if you do.” 

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas 

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

John Dough, Inc. — Legal Person and Citizen of The United States

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Democracy, First Amendment, Fraud, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Protest, US Government on January 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

With its January 21, 2010 decision in the case of CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf), The Supreme Court of The United States issued a ruling as wrong as any it has made since the infamous “Dred Scott decision” and more activist than any judicial legislation that those on the far-right have ever cried out about. Overturning over 120 years of precedence and legislation, the five conservative justices alone have given body and breath to the “corporate person” which was created, not by legislation but rather by another decision of The Supreme Court, Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886). (see http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/05/07/2789966-the-corporate-person-re-edit for more information).

 

In response to this horrifying and unjustifiable ruling, I have sent to the office of the Texas Secretary of State, a check for $25 and a Certificate of Formation Nonprofit Corporation, signed and dated by me on January 21, 2010 to create “John Dough, Inc.”. Clearly stated on the application for certification, the corporation is created with the purposes of:

 

1.) To function as a legal corporate person in the United States of America, based on decisions by the SCOTUS, beginning with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co. (1886) through Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) which conferred the legal status of “personhood” on American Corporations.

 

2.) To seek to achieve legal and judicial recognition of all of its citizenship rights and privileges as a native-born “person” of The United States of American, including the right to vote, the right to run for office, the right of free speech, the right of gun ownership and every other right which belongs to any and every native-born American.

 

3.) To create challenges, through the judicial authorities and courts of The United States of American, to the legal concept and standing of a “corporate person” as having the same rights and powers of flesh and blood citizens of The United States.

 

It further states in the application that:

 

This corporattion shall not exist or function to profit any individuals, and its membership shall be open to any other persons who wants to support the efforts of this “corporate person” to challenge the standing and status of corporations as legal “persons” under The Constitution of The United States, as created and defined by decisions of The Supreme Court of The United States since 1886.

 

The Corporation shall exist be an instrument with which its members will register for any and all rights which, by nature, belong to a legal and native-born person in the United States, including its standing as a legal citizen of The United States, a registered voter of its home state and districts, to apply for licenses as a legal person, to run for political office as a legal person, to possess a passport of a citizen of The United States, and of any and all other tactics by which it can be used to challenge the legal “personhood” status of corporations within The United States.

 

I will be registering John Dough, Inc. to vote as a resident of precinct 15, Liberty County, Texas.

 

Once John Dough, Inc. is certified as a non-profit corporation, I will seek donations and membership within the corporation by any and everyone who supports this effort to challenge The Supreme Court of The United States. If The State of Texas refuses to certify John Dough, Inc. as a nonprofit corporation, then I plan to challenge that decision. Anyone with legal training who is a member of the Texas Bar Association and, thus, eligible to practice law within The State of Texas are also welcome to help with this cause.

 

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

 

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

 

© Copyright 2010 by Rhys M. Blavier

 

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Why Redistricting is the Most Important Issue for Texas in the 2010 Elections

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Fraud, Green Party, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on January 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

What good does it do a man to have the vote if he has only one person that he can vote for?

All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.
Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Texas

In 2011, the next Texas legislative session will tackle the subject of redistricting for the first time since Tom Delay and his partners in political crime forced the people of Texas to live with our incredibly gerrymandered map. Its purpose was to benefit the Texas Republican Party, harm the Texas Democratic Party and, as much as possible, remove the niggling little possibility that Texas voters might actually have the power to affect or influence the results of major elections here. Even the Democratic districts that were left were pretty much safe seats. Delay, Dick Armey and the rest of their merry little band of Machiavellis stuck their grubby little fingers into the mix and, like gods manipulating their computer game minions, succeeded in putting every voter in Texas into “political reservations”. No longer would the simple voter be allowed to mess up control of our state by dominant political machines. In short, what we have in Texas is Party-controlled government. In practical terms, the state of Texas and the two major Parties (preferably the Republican Party) would be (and are) the same thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that political machines haven’t always been in charge of Texas (anyone remember Archer or George Parr, “The Duke of Duval County”?). It is simply that before the 1990s, they weren’t as obvious, and they didn’t really care about national influence. It was corruption by Texans, of Texans, for Texans. Any influence that could shovel federal money to us courtesy of our Congressional leaders like John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn, LBJ, Jim Wright and all of the rest was still corruption by, of and for Texans. There was no intention or desire to tear the rest of the nation down or rip it apart as it seems like is happening now. The thing is, for corruption to flourish, the politicians must be able to promise that they will continue to hold power and maintain the corrupt systems. That is what we have now; entrenched Party corruption. This is why I believe that, regardless of the economic crisis, the healthcare crisis, the ethical crisis, the war crisis, and every other of the many crises faced by Americans, as a whole, and Texans specifically, the single most important issue for Texas voters in 2010 is: “What the Hell will our political districts look like now?

I love Texas. I really do. It is the land of my birth and, no matter how many times I leave it, it’s the land I always return to. Unfortunately, Texas politics often embarrass me. I am not alone in this. There is an old saying here that goes: “Lock up your house and barn; watch your wife and children. The Texas Legislature is in session and nothing is safe.” There are too many things in Texas politics about which to be embarrassed (if not to laugh out loud about in their ridiculousness), too many to list, or even count. Our state constitution, itself, is probably the main one; a document so badly written that the only thing which keeps it from being the single worst one in The United States is the fact that Alabama’s state constitution might actually be the worst one on the entire planet. It is easily the worst one in The United States (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/04/06/2646073-we-must-amend-the-constitution-now-), but having the 50th worst constitution out of 51 contenders is nothing to be proud of. A close second to the embarrassment which is the Texas Constitution is arguably our propensity to re-elect incumbents to pretty much any office that they run for.

Texas is a land whose people pride themselves for their fiercely independent spirit. Texas is also a state which avows its hatred of the very idea of a professional political class so much that the annual “salaries” for all legislative offices (including that of the Lt. Governor) is only $7,200 (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0205_01/compensation.html, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/TT/mkt2.html). Keep in mind that it wasn’t until 1975 that Texas voters voted to raise those salaries from $4,800 up to $7,200… an increase of 50% (it was also at this time when members of our legislature were given a per diem AND could get mileage reimbursement at the same rate that state employees do). Texas government was designed to discourage the rise of a professional political class. Of course, in reality, it also keeps people without other sources of income (i.e. – the poor and the lower middle class) from being practically able to hold such offices. Thus, our fondness for keeping people in elected office is not only an embarrassment, it is rank hypocrisy on a statewide level. Now, I have so far basically said that we here in Texas have a “tendency” to re-elect the same people into government offices time and time again but, at this point, it is merely undocumented hyperbole. Fair enough. Go to the restroom, get yourself a nice beverage and make yourself comfortable because this is going to take awhile. Ready? Good.

(NOTE: If you are not interested in reading through the statistical information I have compiled, please feel free to skip the paragraphs between the two lines below and the two lines after the statistical paragraphs. The information in those paragraphs is included in this article (1) for those who, like me, find such information interesting, and (2) to cut off the need for comments such as “how do you know”, “what are you basing you opinions on”, and “prove it”. Thank you for your understanding on this.)

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To start with, here are some statistics about state level elections in Texas from the 2008 General Election:

The Executive and Judicial offices up for election that year were Railroad Commissioner, three places on the Texas Supreme Court (and yes, we actually elect our Supreme Count members which, of course, makes them political creatures who need to raise election funds instead of allowing them to neutral arbiters of the law) and two places on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (in fact, we elect ALL of our judges here). All seven of them were retained by the incumbents. For those of you who want to keep track, that is seven for seven, so far, or 100%.

For the Texas Congressional delegation, we had one U.S. Senatorial and thirty-two U.S. House seats up for grabs. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that for those seats, all thirty-three incumbents ran for re-election. Want to know how many of them won re-election? Thirty-two of them were sent back to Washington. One of the incumbent Representatives (a Democrat in his first term, if you want to know) was voted out. The score now is thirty-nine out of forty, which comes out to 97.5%.

In the Texas legislature, there were fifteen seats in the Texas Senate and all one hundred and fifty seats in the Texas House up for election. For the Senate seats, all fifteen incumbents ran. Five were re-elected and one was defeated. If you wonder about the other nine seats, don’t worry. For those seats, the incumbents were completely unopposed and, under Texas law, didn’t even need to show up to the actual elections because they are automatically declared the victors (Texas does not have a “none of the above” option for our ballots). Score, fifty-three out of fifty-five now, giving us an incumbent ratio of 96.4%.

For the Texas House seats, one hundred and forty-tw0 out of one hundred and fifty incumbents ran for re-election. After the primary results were in, nine incumbents had been defeated for nomination by their party. Five more were voted out of office in the General Election. One hundred and twenty-eight incumbents were then returned to the Texas House and, out of those one hundred and twenty-eight, seventy-four of those “won” their elections without facing any challenges by their major opposition party, which means that 49.3% of the total seats in the Texas House were filed by people who simply walked into the House unobstructed. This makes our incumbent win record one hundred and eighty-one out of a possible one hundred and ninety-seven (91.9%). With all of these Texas races, out of two-hundred and five elections, one hundred and eighty-one continued to be held by the person who held them before the election, which is a total ratio of 88.3%. (http://www.bipac.net/page.asp?content=texas_elections&g=TEXAS)

Now, let’s take a look at our candidate line-ups for the 2010 election cycle, shall we? Before we even start, I want to point out that, out of 219 races I have analyzed, only two, yes TWO, will have primary contests from all three parties (Democratic, Libertarian and Republican). Only 0.9% of the highest offices in Texas will have the nominees for each race selected from more than one contender in each party. Those two races are for the nominees of each party for Governor and for District 5 on the State Board of Education. Really! Take a moment to think about that. Out of all of the state’s Executive, Judicial and Legislative offices, only one will have three nominees who will actually be determined by the people. (NOTE: For the sake of accuracy, I want to point out that the Texas Libertarian Party selects its nominees by convention but, for simplicity’s sake, I will use the term primary through this article to indicate the need of any party to select its nominees from a slate of several contenders.)

The Texas Executive offices up for grabs this year are those of Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner. Now, not only is the race for Governor the only Executive office in which there will be three nominees chosen by primary elections, the incumbent in the office of Comptroller (the State’s only financial officer after our elimination of the office of State Treasurer) is only going to be challenged because a Libertarian (our own Mary Ruwart) has filed to challenge the incumbent. The Democratic Party is not running ANYONE for the office. This means that if it wasn’t for the Libertarian Party, the person who is responsible for all financial duties for the entire state of Texas would be the guy who turned in his notarized form; that would have been all it would have taken.

On the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, two of the incumbents are also only being challenged by Libertarians. For the eight seats on the Texas Board of Education, only three of the races have candidates from all three parties. Three of seats only have the incumbent party challenged by Libertarians, although the incumbents in all three of those seats do face primary challenges from within their own Party. The District 4 seat is only being sought by the incumbent… no challenges by either the Democratic or Libertarian Parties and no primary challenge, so he gets to simply walk in.

Neither of our two US Senate seats is up for election this year and, out of out thirty-two seats in the US House, all of the incumbents (20 Republicans and 12 Democrats) are seeking re-election. Of those thirty-two races, only the Republican and Libertarian Parties have candidates for all thirty-two. The Democratic Party only has candidates in twenty-four of those races (which means that one out of every four of these races, the Democratic Party isn’t even showing up for), and in one race, the Constitution Party also has one candidate running.

Of the thirty-two Congressional races, only twelve of the incumbents will face primary challenges from their own party (38%), nine Republicans out of twenty (45%) and three Democrats out of twelve (25%). Of the combined thirty-two races, the only challenges to seven of the Incumbents or the Incumbent’s Party are from Libertarians (22%), and one is from the Libertarians and the single Constitution Party candidate (03%), for a combined eight of the thirty-two seats… again, one out of every four. For all of the Parties, there are eleven Republican Party primaries (34%), five Democratic Party primaries (16%) and twenty Libertarian Party primaries (63%). Thus, out of a total of ninety-six possible primaries, there are thirty-six (38%) and, if you only count the sixty-four possible primaries for the Republican and Democratic Parties, there are only sixteen…which is, yet again, only one out of four. Out of THESE, there are only two races which will have primary challenges for all three parties (2.1%).

For the Texas State Senate, out of sixteen races, fifteen incumbents are seeking re-election (eleven Republicans and four Democrats). Of the sixteen races, the Republican Party has at least one candidate in all of the races, while the Democratic Party is only competing in eight of them, which (for those of us who can count) is only one out of two (50%). The Libertarian Party has candidates in nine of the races for a 56% presence. Of the incumbents running for re-election, only six out of fifteen (40%) face Primary challenges in their own party; four Republicans out of eleven (36%) and one Democrat out of four (25%… again).

In none of these races is there more than one candidate from any of three Parties facing a primary election… which is exactly 00%. In only one of the races (06%) are there two parties which will have primary contests. Out of a total of forty-eight possible primary contests there are only eleven (23%). This means that of sixteen possible primaries for each Party, the Republican Party has six (38%), the Democratic Party has two (13%) and the Libertarian Party has three (19%). For the General Election, only two of the races (13%) will have candidates from all three Parties, six (38%) will have only Republican and Democratic candidates, seven (42%) will have only one of the two major Parties (Republican or Democrat) running against a Libertarian candidate, and one (06%) will have a completely uncontested incumbent.

Finally we get to the Texas State House of Representatives with its one hundred and fifty seats at stake. 94% of the incumbents (one hundred and forty-one out of one hundred and fifty) are running for re-election. There are seventy Republicans and seventy-one Democratic incumbents running, which means that only nine of the seats are guaranteed to have a new person in them. The Republican Party is fielding candidates in one hundred and twelve of the races (75%), the Democratic Party is running in ninety-three of the races (62%) and Libertarians are contesting sixty-four of the races (43%).

Out of the one hundred and forty-one incumbents running, only twenty-three (16%) face primary races…sixteen Republicans (23% of seventy) and seven Democrats (10% out of seventy-one). Of the potential four hundred and fifty possible primary elections, there are only fifty-nine (13%), which is thirty-nine Republican primaries (26% of one hundred and fifty), ten Democratic primaries (07% of one hundred and fifty) and ten Libertarian primaries (again, 07% out of one hundred and fifty).

From all of the one hundred and fifty races, only twenty-seven (18%) have at least one candidate from all three parties. Twenty-nine of the races (19%) have only candidates from both the Republican and the Democratic Parties. Thirty-seven of the races (25%) only have one or more candidate from the Libertarian Party opposing one of the two major Parties. Of the one hundred and forty incumbents running, forty-six of them (33%) of them are completely unopposed (twenty-one Republicans out of seventy for a 30% ratio and twenty-five Democrats out of seventy-one for a 35% ratio). Out of the one hundred and forty-one incumbents running, eleven of the races have the incumbent’s party unopposed by candidates from either of the other two parties 08%). This includes six Republican contests out of seventy (09%) and five Democratic races out of seventy-one (07%).

Now, can you figure out what is the most horrifying statistic which can be made from the above paragraph? I’ll give you a couple of minutes to re-read it. {da da da da da dum} Have you figured it out yet? If it wasn’t for the Libertarian party, ninety-four out of the one hundred and fifty races for seats in the Texas House (63%) would have either the Incumbent or the Incumbent’s Party with no, let me repeat that, with NO opposition. Out of all of the two-hundred and nineteen total races in 2010 that I have broken down, that comes to one hundred and fifteen races (53%) in which there is only a challenge to an incumbent or an incumbent’s Party because of candidates from the Libertarian Party. Do you, like me, think that percentage is WAY too high?

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So, why have I written almost 2,000 words in eighteen paragraphs taking up most of three pages to numb you with statistics that barely a handful of people would even think about? Why have I spent most of my waking hours over two full days making myself blind(er) and giving myself a migraine to have these statistics to write about? It is very simple. Political districts in Texas are so frighteningly gerrymandered (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering , http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gerrymander) that almost every seat for every state office in Texas (by which I mean, every elected office which has a specific political district that is smaller than the entire state… US House, Texas Senate and Texas House) is basically considered a safe seat for either a particular candidate or a particular political Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_seat) . They are considered so safe that few of them are challenged for and MANY fewer of them still are lost. That should be unacceptable to any person who believes in a democratic form of government.

Both the Republican and the Democratic Parties (especially the Republican Party over the last decade) have worked and legislated to not only make it infinitely easier to stay in office than it would be in a system in which voters have the true power over our government, they make it almost impossible for any new parties to challenge their political hegemony. Even if the two major parties hate each other, it is still in the best interest of both of them to keep the playground closed to other kids, as it were.

The Texas state Constitution makes these requirements for legislative districts (Article III, sections 25 and 26):

(25) “The State shall be divided into senatorial districts of contiguous territory according to the number of qualified electors, as nearly as may be, and each district shall be entitled to elect one senator, and no single county shall be entitled to more than one senator.

(26) “The members of the House of Representatives shall be apportioned among the several counties, according to the number of population in each, as nearly as may be, on a ratio obtained by dividing the population of the State, as ascertained by the most recent United States census, by the number of members of which the house is composed; provided, that, whenever a single county has sufficient population to be entitled to a representative, such county shall be formed into a separate representative district, and when two or more counties are required to make up the ration of representation such counties shall be contiguous to each other; and when any one county has more than sufficient population to be entitled to one or more representatives, such representative or representatives shall be apportioned to such county, and for any surplus of population it may be joined in a representative district with any other contiguous county or counties.

Now, take a look at (1) the current c0ngressional districting map for Texas (http://congdistdata.tamu.edu/USCongressionalDistricts.pdf), (2) The current Texas Senate districting map (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0400_04/plans01188.html), and (3) the current Texas House districting map (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0400_02/planh01369.html). You tell me whether or not you think that these districts are gerrymandered or if they meet the requirements of the Texas Constitution.*

[*By the way, when I was doing my Google searches for the Texas state government district maps, two of the results that popped up were “Dante’s Inferno – Circle 8 – Subcircles 1-6 – Cantos 18-23” and “Dante’s Purgatorio – Terrace 5: Avarice And Prodigality”. Do any of my readers find that as unbelievably funny as I do? Just curious.]

To have a functioning democracy, it isn’t enough to have the right to vote. We must also have both a selection of candidates from which to chose AND the power to determine who WE want in office rather than who the Parties want. Right now, for all practical purposes to be a candidate for any of the offices which I have covered, you must have all of your paperwork in the hands of the Texas Secretary of State on the first business day of January. This allows candidates to be listed on the ballots in time for the state primary elections. Parties like the Libertarian Party have to use conventions to determine their nominees which use a slightly different schedule than the primary schedule, but the filing deadline is the same.

So, what is it about our elections, as described by me up to this point, which rob voters of power over our elections? First, there is no opportunity for citizens to see which races do not have any competition and then work to raise more candidates. This means that even the two major Parties are stuck with whoever met the filing deadline. Second, while minor Parties (Libertarian, Green, etc.) have to use a convention method to choose their candidates, those candidates STILL have to have their paperwork filed by the January filing deadline. This means that the convention delegates can ONLY “choose” candidates who met the filing deadline. They have no opportunity to control the process and, except in elections when they have more than one member of their party to choose from, are stuck with whoever had their paperwork in on time. There are processes to declare a write-in candidacy or to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated / Independent candidate, but are not practical means in the state of Texas to give the voters more choices or options besides those who handed in a notarized form by the first business day after New Year’s.

To truly be in control of who represents them in their governments, the process has to be designed to remove the power of the Parties over the process. We need districts which are completely non-partisan and politically neutral. We need to make it easier for more candidates to get on the ballots. We need enough candidates running for every office that all of the Parties will need to actively campaign to win their Party’s nomination in the primaries and conventions before they campaign for the actual office. We need to examine different methods of voting which put control of the outcomes in the hands of the electorate. (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/04/21/2714028-the-laboratory-of-democracy-alternative-voting-methods-approval-voting-re-edited) We need to reduce the costs of filing for office by independents and others who do not have the backing of a Party which has ballot access, and of running a campaign for office. We also need to remove the bureaucratic barriers which make it difficult to even be on the ballot.

The thing is, if we were to solve all of the issues which I have raised, we will end up with better people in office. While many people complain about the lengths and costs of campaigns by candidates for the office of President, there is one good benefit of the process, which is that it hones a candidate’s skills and message, AND gives the press time to learn more about the candidates than the candidates might want us to know. Winning an election to become the President of The United States does not make a candidate a victor, it makes them a survivor. The other main benefit to the voters making changes to our election process is that we will end up with officeholders with a wide range of beliefs, skills, and knowledge. Diversity is not found in the color of someone’s skin, their gender or their sexual orientation; it is found when you have people with differing beliefs working together to create our laws and operate our governments. Homogeneity of ideas is the worst enemy of true diversity.

As much as people of any particular ideology might think that having people holding the same ideological beliefs as they do in every office would create a perfect government, they are wrong. Good decisions are not made when everyone agrees; they are made when people with differing beliefs can work together and challenge each other to make the best decisions. (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/11/2918292-groupthink-as-a-political-mental-illness-part-i, http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/15/2933680-groupthink-as-a-political-mental-illness-part-ii) I recently ran across a blog, called ‘Divided We Stand, United We Fall’, which has apparently been around since 2007. It has some very good stuff in it but I want to point my readers to a particular article on that site (http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/2007/07/curing-libertarian-political-impotence.html).

This is why I say that the SINGLE most important issue for the Libertarians in the 2010 election is the redistricting which will be done by Texas (and the other states) in 2011. Unless we can literally change the political map next year, we will simply spend another decade as a fringe party which has no REAL impact on our laws or on the operation of our government. This is the case that the Libertarian Party needs to be making to the citizens of Texas, as well as to voters all across The United States. We need to make sure that the voters in every district know that, while they have no power to determine who gets elected by voters in other districts, they can still have an impact by choosing to send Libertarians, in those districts which have Libertarian candidates, or people of differing ideologies that the current prevailing ones as their representatives in Austin and in all of the other state capitals. NONE of many problems can be fixed if we don’t have the best people in office to work on them. If we cannot make them understand the importance of redistricting as a way for THEM to have more power over those in political office, then we will fail them. Voters may get the “government that they deserve” but, if we can’t give them real choices about who they can vote into office, they will never have to opportunity to deserve a better government.

For more information, please see http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/6_printable.html.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2010 by Rhys M. Blavier

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

“Mommy, why is Daddy so angry… and insane?” (The Internal Breakdown of the Republican Party in 2009)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, George Bush, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on October 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm

There are many archetypes for the father figure. The most disturbing one is probably the domineering task master whose “love” comes at a cost that can never be paid. That cost is absolute deference, obedience, compliance and respect and, to him, deference, obedience and compliance are the proof of proper respect. He finds humor in ‘jokes’ which categorize and belittle others because they support his own view of his natural superiority over “lesser” (i.e. – different) people. This archetype believes that his children also begin their life owing him a debt that can never be paid back, life itself. As such, his children are his property, chattel that he has paid for. He sees himself as all-knowing, all-powerful and always right. He is focused on rules and control. He will not tolerate backtalk or even being questioned. He not only wants to instill fear in his children, he wants them to fear that, even if they somehow do something that he sees as wrong without his knowing about it, they will still face retribution and punishment for eternity from a vengeful God; the same God who gives the father-figure his authority by giving him children. This father-figure believes that his right to have power over others is given to him directly by God; that his power and authority cannot be questioned or limited by anyone, and that few in the world are his equals. His God has also given him the ultimate power, the power to banish to the wilderness those who violate his given order. What he gives, he can (and will) take.

This archetype is what the Republican Party has become.

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Like most political observers, I have watched with fascination the Republican Party’s rapid descent into madness throughout the course of the year. In fact, that breakdown has been so spectacular that even people who DON’T widely follow politics or news are aware of it, whether they recognize it or not. While I have heard much discussion of what they are doing, I have not, however, heard anyone pinpoint a single core cause of that breakdown. We have plenty of “what” being talked about but little to none of “why”. As I have spoken of before, people are focused on the “symptoms” of a disease without identifying the “disease” itself. Two recent incidences with my own brother gave me a clue about what that “disease” actually is. The core of the Republican Party is simply an authoritarian “father” who is mad that their “dependents” (the American People) aren’t respecting or listening to them anymore. They are angry because they have no control over their “children” and authoritarians THRIVE on being in control.

The Authoritarian Personality was a 1950 book written by UC-Berkeley psychologists Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswick, Daniel Levinson,, and Nevitt Sanford. In their book, they first described the “authoritarian personality” theory of personality. Their research lead them to the conclusion that this personality is developed by psychodynamic, childhood experiences which make them predisposed to follow the dictates of a strong leader and traditional, conventional values. They identified nine traits, which they hypothesized were clustered together as a result of those experiences, which identified this personality type:

     • Anti-intraception;
     • Authoritarian Aggression;
     • Authoritarian Submission;
     • Conventionalism;
     • Destructiveness and Cynicism;
     • Exaggerated Concerns over Sexuality;
     • Power and “Toughness”;
     • Projectivity; and
     • Stereotyping and Superstition.

In 1981, Canadian psychologist, Bob Altemeyer, gave us a refinement of the authoritarian personality theory, which he introduced as the concept of “right-wing authoritarianism”. Altemeyer found that only three of those nine traits correlated together:

     • Authoritarian Aggression (a general aggressiveness directed against “deviants”, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.)

     • Authoritarian Submission (a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.); and
     • Conventionalism (a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms.)

The “right-wing” in right-wing authoritarianism does not necessarily refer to someone’s politics, but rather to their psychological preferences and personality. It means that the person tends to follow the established conventions and authorities in society. In theory, the authoritarian personality could have either conservative or liberal political views.

In his 1996 paper, The Authoritarian Specter, Altemeyer reported that his research indicated that right-wing authoritarians tend to exhibit cognitive errors and symptoms of faulty reasoning. Specifically, they are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold contradictory ideas that are the result of compartmentalized thinking. They are also more likely to uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs, and they are less likely to acknowledge their own limitations. The RWA-scale reliably correlates with political party affiliation, reactions to Watergate, pro-capitalist beliefs, religious orthodoxy, and acceptance of covert governmental activities such as illegal wiretaps. Altemeyer found that those who scored highly on the RWA-scale are likely to exhibit several common traits. These personalities tend to:

     • Be Highly Nationalistic;
     • Have Conservative Economic Philosophies;
     • Not value Social Equality;
     • Oppose Abortion;
     • Oppose Gun Control; and
     • Support Capital Punishment.

In role-playing situations, Altemeyer found that authoritarians tend to seek dominance over others by being competitive and destructive instead of cooperative. In his study, sixty-eight authoritarians played a three-hour simulation of the Earth’s future entitled the “Global Change Game”. While a comparison game played by individuals with low RWA scores resulted in world peace and widespread international cooperation, the simulation by authoritarians became highly militarized and eventually entered the stage of nuclear war. By the end of the high RWA game, the entire population of the earth was declared dead.

Research by D. J. Narby, B. L. Cutler & G. Moran (1993) found that authoritarians are generally more favorable to punishment and control than personal freedom and diversity. For example, they are more willing to support the suspension or abolishment of constitutional guarantees of liberty such as the Bill of Rights… at least where those guarantees protect others who they, themselves, have judged to be inferior. They are also more likely to advocate strict, punitive sentences for criminals. Researches by J. Duckitt & B. Farre (1994) and by M.B. Goodman & B. Moradi (2008) found that people with high RWA scores report that they obtain personal satisfaction from punishing those who they perceive as criminals, and that they tend to be ethnocentric and prejudiced against racial and ethnic minorities, and homosexuals.

The modern Republican Party has been dominated by individuals who are not just authoritarian personalities; they are right-wing authoritarian personalities. Since the period following the War Between the States, they have moved steadily away from being a populist party to being a party focused on being able to exert their will on others, even while in the minority. Money, power and political manipulations made them a corrupt party of “elites” who viewed themselves as being superior to those they “governed”. They used demogoguery as a strategy to gain political power by appealing to the public’s prejudices, emotions, fears, and expectations. They mastered the use of impassioned rhetoric, propaganda and abductive reasoning, often through the use of nationalistic, populist, moralist and / or religious themes.

The current schizophrenic behavior of the Republican Party began, in my opinion, with the almost worshipful attitude of the conservative and Christian far-right to their mythology of Ronald Reagan. They see him as their Moses, who was leading them to their conservative “Promised Land”. In 1994, this Promised Land seemed to be within sight with their takeover of both Houses of Congress. Suddenly, the Republican Party was filled with average, everyday people who not only viewed themselves as being elite, but also as being responsible for “fixing” what they saw as the broken soul of America. The big problem is that, by definition, average, everyday people cannot BE elite. This was the political equivalent of the common people of France deposing their nobility and establishing their “committees of the people” to rule instead. As happened in France, once they were in power, they also eventually turned on those among themselves who they did not see as supporting the orthodoxy or dogma of their revolution. Their equivalence was creating the label “Republican In Name Only”, or RINO. With that label they would work to purge their own ranks of those who were not “pure enough” in their belief in the “correct” orthodoxy, essentually removing the very real existence and accomplishments of the historical moderate and liberal wings of their party from their mythology.

Regardless of what the Republicans “promised” in their infamous Contract With America, once they gained the power and positions they believed were ordained for them, they moved to solidify their control over our government by making the Party (rather than the individual elected members) the dominant feature of American Government. They changed rules for determining committee chairs from being based on seniority to being based on how well members followed the dictates of the party. They collectivised their party to minimize the power of individual members and maximize the power of the party itself. Again, the similarities (in action, if not degree) to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror are remarkable. At this point, they became “Daddy”, saying to America “Do what I tell you to do or I will punish you.”

Following in the footsteps of their mythology’s greatest human hero, Ronald Reagan (under whose administration, for example, federal funds and tax dollars were withheld from states which would not comply with federal demands for conformance on issues like drinking, drugs, speed limits, etc. – essentially blackmailing the states), the Republican controlled Congress with a view to its own dominance, power, and control over the “misguided” states and the people who did not want to do what “Daddy” told or expected them to do. They also envisioned an America under their rule in perpetuity (Karl Roves infamous “permanent majority”). Regardless of their often espoused support of states’ rights (an idea which is not found in The Constitution, contrary to the beliefs of many), they only want the states to be independent of their federal government when the states are ruling as the Party wants them to. In all other cases, they believe that their obligation as the “rulers” of our federal government is to impose THEIR will upon the states when the states aren’t “competent enough” to agree with them.

Even with the 1995 Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, their first since 1955, they were still “impeded” in their movement towards creating the America they envisioned by having a moderate Democrat, Bill Clinton, as President. Thus, much of their effort was to limit, if not remove altogether, political resistance against their power, including their impeachment of Clinton. In 2000, however, all of their wet dreams o be on the verge of coming true with elevation of George W. Bush to the Presidency. Not only did they get a majority in the House, once seated, on January 20, 2001, Dick Cheney, as President of the Senate, turned an evenly split Senate into one with a majority controlled by the Republican members. During this period, there was, of course, no talk or consideration of working with the members from the Democratic Party and their ideal of bipartisanship was the Democratic members doing what their Republican masters wanted them to do. This, of course, went so well that Republican Senator Jeffords (Vermont), holding the Senate seat that had been continuously held by Republicans for the longest period in American history (144 years), quit the party and became an Independent who caucused with the Democrats. This was the first time we, as a nation, got to see how the modern Republican Party would react to being challenged in its holding political dominance and absolute power. How many of us remember THAT little brouhaha?

Starting in 2003, the Republican Party did have complete control of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress… and they had their eye on having the opportunity to also stack the Supreme Court with those who shared their vision of America. I won’t rehash what those of us who opposed Bush and the far-right conservatives believe about how he governed and what was done to damage The Constitution under their period of dominance. Suffice it to say that we welcomed the slight shift in power which gave the Democrats narrow control of both Houses of Congress a mere four years later. It was at this time that “Daddy” really started to go seriously insane. What happened in 2008, of course, drove “Daddy” completely over the edge of reason.

What I see now in the Republican Party is the equivalent of Cole Oyl, Olive Oyl’s father in the Popeye cartoons and movie, running around telling everyone “You owe me an apology!” The Republican Party has become politically impotent and its impotence has caused rage among the far-right wing of the Party. They are trying to find something, ANYTHING to latch onto to demonstrate to others that they aren’t impotent. Their quest, however, keeps getting more and more trivial, pedantic and ridiculous with each passing week. They are so blinded by their impotent rage that they are once again attacking those among their own ranks who question the power that they believe is their divine right by not ascribing to the “proper” orthodoxy, dogma and “tenets of faith” as the “true believers”. Like any angry, old authoritarian confronted with their impotence, they are searching for a political orgasm.

Yes, that is what I believe it comes down to… they can’t get themselves off politically. That is, in my opinion, the only explanation for their increasingly erratic and dangerous actions… impotent rage. They have a collective need to not only feel that they are vibrant and virile but also that they can reproduce. I believe that all sociological creations of Man (governments, clubs, businesses, etc.) can be viewed and understood by seeing them as living organisms. They all have the same needs and desires of a living organism and, as a living organism, the far-right Republicans see themselves being replaced by other organisms that do not come from their own seed; they suddenly see themselves as mortal and approaching an ignoble end. Unfortunately, there is no little blue pill that they can take to compensate for their electile dysfunction.

Like a once vibrant and dominant man reduced to wearing diapers and drooling; like an alpha-male pack animal who has lost his teeth, those members of the Republican party who are making ever greater fools of themselves are filled with rage against those who robbed them of what they see as their rightful place in American life. In their rage to reclaim their “rightful” place in society they will use any and every means at their disposal to destroy what they can’t have for themselves. If they can’t be in control of our country then they will reduce it to ashes so that there won’t be a country for anyone else to be in control off. It is an attitude that the world has seen before. That is the final lesson that “Daddy” has to teach his errant and ungrateful children… that it is easier to destroy a nation than it is to build one.

Vive’ la Revolution.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier
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Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

This is a link to Bob Altemeyer’s book ‘The Authoritarians’ which you can read on-line:
http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

The American Vice Presidency… Graveyard of the Constitution

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Politics, Republican, US Government on August 27, 2009 at 7:12 pm

America’s first Vice President, John Adams, described the office as “the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived”. When Daniel Webster was offered the nomination of Vice President, he said “I do not intend to be buried until I am dead”. Perhaps the most succinct assessment of the office was given by Texan John Nance Garner, a former and powerful Speaker of The House of Representatives and Vice President under FDR for two full terms, who claimed that the office wasn’t “worth a bucket of piss”.

In many ways, the office of Vice President of The United States can be seen as the most singular indication of the noble goals and yet practical failure of The United States Constitution, and its fate was sealed before the 19th Century even began. While there might have once been a chance for the Vice Presidency to have been an office of viable contribution to the functioning of The United States’ government, there are five key moments in early American history which, I believe, combined to relegate the office itself to impotence and insignificance only moderated by either the good will of any particular President or by the vacation of the office of President and subsequent elevation of a Vice President to that office. The first of these moments was the creation of the office itself (1787).  The idea was that it would be held by a major statesman, the candidate for President who came in second and who would, for the greater good of his nation, join the administration of the victor.  Yet within this idea was still recognition of the reality of opposition and the understanding that you would not want to give the primary challenger of the President any real power with which to work against the Chief Executive.  Thus was an office created in which the primary requirement was, apparently, to have a pulse. 

While, primarily because of their revolutionary credentials, Washington’s Vice President, John Adams succeeded him as President, and then Adams’ Vice President, Thomas Jefferson succeeded him, the office of Vice President has not been seen as a natural stepping stone to the Presidency.  After Jefferson, and after the adoption of the 12th Amendment to The Constitution (which provided for the direct election of the Vice President) the only Vice Presidents who have been elected to be President WITHOUT FIRST having already assumed the office through the death or resignation of the previous holder of that office have been Martin Van Buren (1836), Richard Nixon (1968), and George H. W. Bush (1988).  Furthermore, of those three men, Richard Nixon was not the current Vice President when he was elected, having lost to John Kennedy in 1960.  Thus, the two men after Jefferson who were elected to the office of President while holders of the office of Vice President served only two terms between them for a total of eight years, and the three men combined for 4 terms and less than 14 years out of the whole of the history of The United States.  By contrast, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan (the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 15th Presidents) all served as Secretary of State and served as President for eight terms and a total of 32 years, while several others served as Ambassadors or envoys to other sovereign nations.  So, we can see that diplomatic credentials have been seen as better qualifying a candidate to be President than serving as Vice President has been.

The second moment in history’s conspiracy to insure the insignificance of the office of Vice President was George Washington’s view that the office was a part of the Legislative branch of the government rather than part of the Executive branch (1789). As a result, Washington not only did not include Adams in his cabinet meetings or consult him very frequently on matters within the Executive Branch. He believed, in fact, that he was not ALLOWED to do so as part of The Constitution’s requirements for separation of powers. It is impossible to minimize the influence Washington had on establishing the precedents and operational functions of The United States government as established by The Constitution. If any man in history had it in his power to make from nothing a relevant constitutional office of the Vice Presidency, it was Washington; but he did not do so. As aware as the Revolutionary generation was that they were making history, they seemed to have had no awareness of the importance of the precedents which they were establishing every day as part of a continuity of history which would last for centuries.

In many ways, they were making it up as they went along and the openness of the Experiment they had initiated would have permitted them to follow almost any vision that they could have put into practice.

The third moment in this sorry tale was the decision of The Senate to forbid the Vice President from being part of the debates and deliberations of their body (1789). We can never know how much of this decision was inspired by the personal rancor and dislike felt by many members of The Senate for the person of John Adams and how much was an inevitable course which would have been followed no matter who had been The Senate’s first presiding officer.

In the end, it makes little difference. While Washington did not consider the Vice President a member of the Executive Branch, The Senate did not consider the officeholder a contributing part of their august body or, therefore, of the Legislative branch of government. While a man with more people skills and a more stable temperament might have been able to make the Senators accept the Vice President as a full member of The Senate, John Adams was not that man. As Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, “It is to be sure a punishment to hear other men talk five hours every day and not be at liberty to talk at all myself, especially as more than half I hear appears to me very young, inconsiderate and inexperienced.” If Washington had made the Vice President insignificant as a member of the Executive branch, The Senate itself made him insignificant as a member of the Legislative branch. All of this, of course, reaches new heights of irony in the person of our former Vice President, Dick Cheney, who has used this ‘confusion’ to declare himself the beneficiary of the rights and privileges of both branches while, at the same time, free of the obligations or restraints upon either branch. The burden of the fourth moment in our tragic history of the establishment of the role of the Vice Presidency falls squarely on the shoulders of the second holder of that office, Thomas Jefferson (1797).

Adams, for all of his faults of personality, truly cared for what was best for the nation he served. He did not plan to treat Jefferson, as Vice President, as he had been treated himself (or, as Tom Lehrer put so humorously in his satirical song about Hubert Humphrey and the treatment of Humphrey as Vice President by Lyndon Johnson as President, “I’ll do unto you as they did unto me.”).  As Joseph Ellis tells so well in his Pulitzer Prize winning book ‘Founding Brothers, Adams fully desired to work with Jefferson to create a bipartisan administration which utilized both of their talents and skills (Chapter Five: The Collaborators). 

He wanted Jefferson to be a functioning member of his cabinet and an active participant in foreign policy efforts. Jefferson, influenced greatly by the advice of James Madison, chose to be a party man and watch the Adams administration fail without him. Jefferson, at this time, chose the good of his party over the good of his nation. After Adams’ desire to give the office a ‘place at the table’, it wasn’t until Warren G. Harding took office in 1921 that a President again made the choice to include his Vice President in his cabinet meetings, and it wasn’t until Richard Nixon’s service under Dwight Eisenhower that a Vice President was given a substantial and public role by the President but, in all cases, up to and including the present, the role and power of a particular Vice President has been dependent upon their President to give it to them.

If the damage done to the office of Vice President was not already irreversible by the election of 1800, that election itself ensured that it was permanent, and the blame for it can be placed on the personage of Aaron Burr. If one wants to make the case that the Adams’ Vice Presidency was not a standard to judge by because of the newness of the office, or that the Jefferson Vice Presidency cannot be used because he was of an opposition political position to his President, then there is no excuse for the damage done to the office by Burr before he was even inaugurated, damage so great, in fact, that the first substantive change to The US Constitution was made to prevent the circumstances from ever again even being possible through the adoption of the 12th Amendment. For the election of 1800, the supporters of Jefferson and his Republican / Anti-Federalist movement conspired to maneuver the election so that their candidates would end up holding the offices of both the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. While they succeeded in the goal of having all of their electors vote for both Jefferson and Burr, they apparently never considered the ramifications of this actually happening. They believed that somehow, without any need to orchestrate it as well, some random elector would cast his vote for Jefferson but not cast their second vote for Burr. The conspiracy, however, was too well planned and the soldiers followed their marching orders without deviation…and Jefferson and Burr ended up exactly tied in the electoral vote totals.

At this point, a good party man would have fallen into line and worked to finish what had been started, but Burr was an opportunist whose personal desires completely overshadowed any belief he may have had in the greater good. When the election went to The House of Representatives, Burr fought to win the Presidency for himself. He almost managed to pull the feat off as it took 36 ballots in The House before Hamilton intervened and one member chose to abstain. Well, after that, what President would trust the man he was stuck with as Vice President? And so, Burr alienated himself from any role in Jefferson’s first administration and The Constitution was changed…and changed VERY quickly.

The new nation went through only four elections, three administrations and 12 years before the first substantial flaw in the design of the governmental structure of The United States had to be addressed. 46 men have been dumped into the graveyard of The Constitution, including 2 men who each served under two different Presidents (George Clinton under Jefferson and Madison, and John C. Calhoun under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson). Except for the ones who eventually became President themselves or who have served in a person’s own lifetime, how many people can name even one of them? The Vice Presidency is a unique office with a unique role in government. If we want evidence of the lack of experience which burdened the men who created The Constitution, all we need do is look at the Office of The Vice President of The United States. However, if we do look at it, we will have done more than most people ever do.

P.S.– It might also be of interest, for anyone who wants to consideration how truly UNimportant the office of Vice President has been to our nation over the entire course of its history, for me to point out that, while we have never had any real period without a President since Washington first took the oath of office in 1889, between the years 1812 (when the office was vacated upon the death of Vice President George Clinton) and 1974 (when the office was vacated by the elevation of Vice President Gerald Ford to the Office of President) (a period of 162 years), there were 18 different times when we were without a Vice President totaling more than 426 months (35.5 years, an average of 23.666 months per vacancy). This includes two periods when the office was vacant for 47 months (out of a 48 month term of office), but does NOT include any periods when the holder of the office just left Washington and ignored his role in government (as, for example, Richard Mentor Johnson did during Van Buren’s administration).

As an indication of how little impact the absence of a Vice President has meant to the functions of our government, I would simply ask how many of you reading this have ever even wondered just how often the office has even been vacant because there WAS no holder of the office?

As a point of useless trivia from an infomaniac, did you know that the first Vice President to die in office (George Clinton) died about a year before the end of his second term (Clinton had served one term as President Jefferson’s second Vice President and his second term as Vice President was consecutive to his first when he was elected to be Vice President under Jefferson’s successor, President James Madison, for Madison’s first term.  For Madison’s second term of office, he ran and served with Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who THEN proceeded to die in office after about a year and a half into his term.  As a result, President James Madison served with a different Vice President for each of his two terms in office and neither of them lived to complete their own terms.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas 
 

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor

© copyright 2008 by Rhys M. Blavier
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Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

My take on the ‘Independence Day’ Lesson.

In Democracy, Fraud, History, Iraq War, Libertarian, Middle East, Politics, Republican, Taxation, US Government, War on July 6, 2009 at 5:39 pm

On July 4th we celebrate “Independence Day” in the US. This is the day that American’s celebrate the end of British oppression and unjust taxes on the American colonies. At the time Britain was the strongest Empire in the world. There are many nations who have Independence days which celebrate the day they ripped themselves from the clutches of British colonial rule. I believe the lesson from that day is that all Empires fall. Even if they seem strong and invincible, the people in their conquered territory will eventually find the means to push the invader out of their land. America is an example, India is an example, Barbados is an example, and Sri Lanka is an example. Though people have to give their occupier ‘HELL’ they will eventually gain their freedom from them. The best example of this is the Pashtuuns in Afghanistan/Pakistan. There has never been a power who’s been able to subdue these people and hold on the their land for any long period of time.

Even though America seeks to celebrate this holiday with vigor we have not learned the lesson. In fact, we are the modern day empire that future countries will (one day) declare their independence from. Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan,  all of these countries (and more) will have their day to reflect back and say, “This was the date when the last American soldier/diplomat/puppet dictator/military contractor left our soil for good.”. The only question is how we will leave these foreign lands. Will it cost us the lives of young men and women who wanted to build a future for their families? Will our fraudulent monetary system have to crash for us to leave these places? Will it take a 100 year rebellion? Will it take a larger empire to push us out? Could the American people elect someone smart enough to pull the troops out of these countries? Regardless of how it happens, the only certainty is that it will happen. When it does then we’ll give some other country a reason to wave their flag, shoot their firecrackers, and have a big barbecue.

Happy 4th of July.

Peace…

A reply to Rabbi Dr. Pomerantz

In Barack Obama, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Iran, Libertarian, Middle East, Military, Minorities, Protest, War on June 18, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Greetings, Last Free Voice community:

Recently Newsmax.com distributed this essay from Rabbi Dr. Morton H. Pomerantz, which accused President Obama of “‘creating a climate of hate” with his “‘code” creating a “danger as great as that posed by the Nazis to the Jewish people”. The Rabbi even insinuated a connection between Obama’s Mid-east trip and Cairo speech with the murder at the Holocaust Museum. While I find many of the President’s actions immoral and unwise, these accusations (and the distortion of the relative threat posed by Israel and Iran to each other) prompted the following reply:

The Rabbi’s conspiracy theory regarding Obama, the Holocaust Museum murder, Israel and Iran is so twisted, off the mark and devoid of reality that it calls his good judgment, and yours, into question. One should be critical of Pres. Obama on many scores, but any suggestion that he is in some way culpable for yesterday’s (06/10/09) unprovoked assault by the loathsome criminal is insulting and absurd. The Statue of Liberty deserves better than to be attached to such an unconscionable screed.

How ironic that as the Likudniks continue their efforts to manipulate America for the benefit of another country and to our detriment, becoming vengeful and petulant at the first hint of the possibility of our country waking up you publish this vile disinformation, meant to gin up hatred and war fever against Iran. Unlike Israel Iran is a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty, has not invaded or occupied it’s neighbors and has allowed complete and open inspections of nuclear facilities by the IAEA which has declared it to be in full compliance.

How many WMD are they hiding in Israel? How many innocent Iranian – as well as Israeli – civilians and American service personnel would die as a result of an unprovoked Israeli and / or American attack on Iran?

America’s foundation is the recognition that all human beings are born with unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, as granted by our creator.   Theocratic states of all religious affiliations violate these rights and are, contrary to American values. Since “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion..”, according to the First Amendment, it is illegal for Congress or the US Government to support any theocracy anywhere of any faith – Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Private, non-governmental, voluntary support of a foreign cause that does not put the rest of the nation at risk is everyone’s right to pursue to the satisfaction of their own conscience.

Our Founders, including George Washington, urged us to not become entangled in permanent foreign alliances and to not go abroad ‘in search of monsters to destroy’. Considering the harm done to our nation by intervening in quarrels that did not impact our security until after official US Government. involvement, and in light of the outrageous hijacking of American military personnel, safety and tax dollars by advocates for various foreign countries (including, but obviously not limited to, Israel) we can see the wisdom of their admonitions. The American peoples’ blood, treasure and safety are not anyone’s to give on behalf of a foreign country or cause.

Suggesting that is anti-Semitic or hateful to recognize the need for a change in policy that would benefit America is ridiculous, though history suggests we have a long way to go before such a providential change actually takes place. If Rabbi Pomerantz is concerned about dangerous hate activities, he may want to cease slandering Muslims as a group and to challenge these practitioners:

1. Chabad rabbi: Jews should kill Arab men, women and children during war.
2. Prosecution drops indictment against settler filmed shooting Palestinians.
3. Netanyahu Promises Lieberman Pivotal Ministership.
4. Gaza war rabbinical edict draws protest in Israel.

I was part of a group that visited the Holocaust Museum on Memorial Day Weekend. Naturally, it was a very moving experience. All those innocent victims of Man’s Inhumanity to Man! We should never forget what has been done to so many (Turkish Genocide of the Armenians, communist destruction of the Kulaks, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the holocaust of European Jews, all the victims of the Nazis, Soviets, Mao, etc..etc ) by statist and/or racist collectivists.

We should also never let the terrible crime committed yesterday (6/10//09) against the helpful and courteous Stephen Johns be used to smear innocent people or to promote collectivist political agendae. There are good and bad people of all religious faiths and also, those of no faith. Each human being must be judged on their own personal merits and not as part of a racial, ethnic or religious group.

This response is not an endorsement of the Obama regime, which is continuing which is continuing the bad policies of its predecessors overseas (including terrorist attacks AGAINST Iran by Sunni extremists allied with Al-Qaeda) and is intensifying the socialist, fascistic policies which are creating so many problems at home. God Bless America – and all His other children, too.

Hadji

Groupthink as a Political Mental Illness (Part I)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, Science, US Government on June 18, 2009 at 1:53 pm

[When I was researching information for my Master’s Paper in 1989, I was looking into the subject of how Greek students being involved in student activities impacted the ability of independent students to be equally involved. What I quickly discovered was that, apparently, NO ONE had ever written anything about this. I was teaching myself how to use a computer while I was doing this and on-line research was rather limited back then. Never-the-less, in trying to find information which would even relate to my topic I discovered studies on groupthink, conformity and shame theory… three areas of psychology that I could also not find any evidence of having been studied together. I was creating my own database on the subject.

I had no knowledge about these things before I started doing my research but, one day that Fall, it all came together in my mind. When it did I was literally stunned and shaking in fright. I called a friend of mine in California and it took me around four hours of talking (pretty much me talking and rambling for four hours and him listening) for me to even calm down. These things haunt me to this very day. While I was doing my research with regard to application within the field of Student Activities and College Unions, I also immediately saw its implications within politics. My entire research paper was close to 90 pages long, but a year later I took a portion of it to create a smaller article to try to get published. Unfortunately, I never heard any response from any of the researchers or student activities / college union journals I sent it to. And so it was all put away in a box and carried around with me for 20 years.

Not too long ago, I found the box the papers were in (hard copies only, of course) and have been wanting to transcribe them so that I could have them computerized. I am starting with the shorter article and, because I reference it or base portions of other articles on what I learned for it, I have decided that I would post it on here… in two parts because it is still too long for a single article on here, and with references to student activities changed to ones about politics… to see if it can help others understand aspects of social psychology within politics that they might not be consciously aware of.  I sincerely hope that this disturbs you, the reader, as much as it has disturbed me.

P.S. — I also developed a method that I thought could successfully combat hazing in schools, especially in Greek systems but, when I would try to get ANY school to let me try them, once it was learned that I, myself, had been an independent student… mostly by administrators who, themselves had been Greeks, I was always told that since I hadn’t been a Greek then I didn’t have basis upon which to make claims to understand them. They would tell me that only other Greeks could understand their ‘culture’ or fix what was broken in it… a classic example of groupthink in action. I eventually let it go, as I did my career in student activities.

P.P.S. — After reading this, can anyone NOT understand why I hold the entire Bush Presidency and administration in contempt? I would like to see someone write a book about the Bush Presidency SPECIFICALLY as a study of groupthink and how it illustrates every indication of the phenomenon.]

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In 1972, Irving Janis, in his book Victims of Groupthink, added a new dimension to the study of group behavior and group dynamics when he described “groupthink” as:

… a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are involved in a cohesive in-group; when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative course of action… Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.

(Janis, 1972, p. 9)

That single work seems to have had an immediate and almost historic impact on the study of group behavior.  Since the first publication of Victims of Groupthink, many researchers have been moved to study, to support, or to refute both Janis’s theories and the implications of groupthink.  Whatever has motivated any of these people, one thing is clear; that single work has been the starting point for many, if not all of these studies, and research on this phenomenon uniformly refers to Janis as the originator of the concept of groupthink, as well as its definer.

Early in his book, Janis gives the following story as an example of groupthink:

Twelve middle-class American men and women wanted to stop smoking, and attended weekly meetings at a clinic to discuss the problem.  Early in the sessions, two people stood up and declared that cigarette smoking was an almost incurable addiction.  The group agreed.  The, one man stood up and said “I have stopped smoking and, with a little willpower, so can the rest of you.”  Immediately, the other group members began to abuse him verbally, and the meeting ended in chaos.  The following week, the dissident stood up again and said that he could not both attend all of the required meetings and stop smoking; so he had returned to smoking two packs of cigarettes as day.  The other members welcomed him back into the fold with enthusiasm but no one mentioned that the original purpose of the group was to help each other stop [emphasis in original] smoking.  Their new aim was maintaining the status quo at any cost.

(Ibid, p. 9)

Janis illustrated his theories by using seven recent major historical events; five of which he labeled as fiascoes and the other two which he termed successes relating to the resultant outcomes of those events, based on the decisions that were made.  He argued that the decision making processes in the five fiascoes were faulty, regardless of the outcomes, and, likewise, the decision-making processes used in the successes were effective, even if the events would have not turned out positively.  He stresses that it is the processes used in a group’s decision-making that determines whether or not that group is a victim of groupthink and not the outcomes because bad-decision-making processes can result in good or successful results or outcomes, just as good decision-making processes can result in bad or unsuccessful results or outcomes. (Janis, fig. 10-1)

In his original work (Janis, 1972), Janis identified six major defects in the decision-making process which result I groupthink and which, in turn, result in poor quality decisions.  In the 1982 edition (Janis, 1982), he added a seventh defect to his list.  These seven defects are:

1.)    Discussions are limited to only a few alternatives without surveying all possible alternatives;

2.)   The originally preferred solution is not re-evaluated for non-obvious drawbacks or risks after its initial evaluation;

3.)    Alternatives which are initially discarded are never re-evaluated for non-obvious gains;

4.)   There is little or no attempt made to obtain information or advice from experts on alternative courses of action;

5.)    Where advice IS presented, selective bias on the part of the members is used to evaluate that advice and, thus, they use information which supports the group’s preferences and ignore evidence which is counter to the group’s preference;

6.)   Members fail to consider how groups external to the focal group might react and, therefore, fail to develop contingency plans for possible setbacks or failures; and

7.)    There is a failure to consult all members regarding the objectives to be fulfilled and the values implicated by their choice.

(Janis, 1972, p. 10; Janis, 1982, pp. 9 – 10)

Janis then went on to identify several antecedent condition which are necessary for groupthink to exist, and which relate to structural faults of the organization and the decision-making context.  The primary antecedent condition necessary for groupthink is a highly cohesive group.  The secondary conditions (which relate to the organization’s structural faults) are:

1.)    Insulation of the group;

2.)   Lack of a tradition of impartial leadership;

3.)    Lack of norms requiring methodical procedures; and

4.)   Homogeneity of members’ social background and ideology.

The tertiary conditions (which relate to the decision-making context) are:

1.)    High stress due to isolation of the group (usually for security reasons instituted because of perceived external threats);

2.)   Low hope of a better solution than the leader’s; and

3.)    Low self-esteem temporarily induced by the group members’ perceptions of:

A.)   Recent Failures;

B.)   Moral dilemmas; and

C.)   Excessive difficulty in current decision-making.

Finally, Janis postulates that the existence of these conditions generates eight symptoms of groupthink, which were evident in the fiascoes studies and which serve as the primary means of identifying the occurrences of groupthink.  These eight symptoms are:

1.)    An illusion of invulnerability that is shared by most members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages the group to take extreme risks;

2.)   Collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to past policy decisions;

3.)    An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, which makes the members inclined to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions;

4.)   Stereotyped views of enemy leaders, usually considering them as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too stupid and / or too weak to counter whatever attempts are made to defeat their purposes;

5.)    Directed pressure on any member who does not conform to the group’s norms, who express strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, decisions, or commitments, thereby making it clear to all that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

6.)   Self-censorship of individual deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to him or herself the importance of his / her doubts and counter arguments;

7.)    A shared illusion of unanimity concerning the judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, and augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent); and

8.)   The emergence of self-appointed mindguards – members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter the group’s shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

(Janis, 1972, pp. 197 – 198)

While Janis’ theories are not perfect, nor even necessarily complete, he has still provided a very strong starting point from which to begin exploring this issue.  Regarding the studies on groupthink which have been reviewed, there are some weaknesses which have been noticed in them, at least as far as their being of any potential benefit to the study of larger groups or political parties. Among these weaknesses are:

1.)    The studied laboratory groups are very small, usually three to five people (six reports studied).  These sized groups do not allow for the effects of internal cliques or sub-groups within a main group to be incorporated within the studies, or to arise independently over the course of the studies.  Thus, while there may be dissension (and / or other such factors) which is created / controlled by the researchers, or which arises independently, these studies groups are still small enough to leave individual subjects as each being a significant percentage of the entire group (33.3% — 20%) and, thus, more individually significant to the group.  Theories and research on ‘diffused responsibility’ indicate that when individuals are such a significant portion of the group, they are more likely to feel that they are more individually important to the group and are, even alone, able to have an impact on the group.  This generally means that they are more likely to retain their personal feelings of responsibility for the decisions and / or actions of their group, as a whole.  If there is dissent, etc., within the group, it can still be dealt with on a person-to-person basis.  In these small groups, if the ‘group’ puts pressure on dissenters, it cannot do so and ‘disguise’ the fact that it is made up of distinct individuals by their being a ‘force’, ‘it, or ‘them’ instead of ‘Mark, Jody, Bill, and Mary’, or ‘those four’. The group dynamic in groups within such a size range is dramatically different from the group dynamics within groups the size political parties, or even local communities.

2.)   There is little, if any, attention placed on what the members of the laboratory groups have to lose if they should feel inclined to dissent from the group’s decisions or actions.  In politics, we deal with the day-to-day lives of average citizens and, while citizens might be able to hide their personal discomfort levels when they are simply, for example, at work by leaving that ‘life’ behind them when they leave work for the day and enter back into their ‘outside-of-work social-life’, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to retreat from pressures and discomforts in their social lives in any way other than by withdrawing into themselves and isolating themselves away from inter-personal contact which causes them discomfort.  Therefore, if all that individuals risk losing in a study is closeness with others in that laboratory setting, are they more or less likely to risk that closeness and acceptance by retaining their individuality and dissenting from group pressure than they would be to risk being socially or professionally ostracized from, or losing prestige among their peers (prestige here can mean status but does not necessarily; it is more related to levels of confidence, respect and / or acceptance which an individual feels from their peers) if they should attempt to retain their individuality and dissent from the majority views in a social or political environment?

3.)    There is little mention mad of the emotional or intellectual comfort levels of the subjects when they are within the confines of their group situations.   It would seem to be obvious that these are important factors which need to be considered in such studies.  The more uncomfortable a person feels, or feels they will become if they take a particular dissenting decision or action, shame theory, as well as common sense tells us the more likely they are to do, say or go along with whatever they have to do in order to remain or to once again become comfortable.

4.)   Those studies which use dominant leadership as a factor or variable do not also use group leadership or dominance which comes about through the backing of, or support from, a clique or sub-group within the main group or even, as far as can be told by reading their studies, recognize it as being different from charismatic or personality-based leadership or dominance.  However, in real-life, such group leadership or dominance is a common occurrence, such as the promotion of those who are incompetent to lead or manage, or a ‘puppet’ leader put in place so that those with real power can stay behind the scenes.

5.)    While some of the studies try to create artificial cohesive in-groups in some of their laboratory groups, there is no mention made of the effects which real social relationships between group members has on their responses within a group setting.  For example, if group members do not know each other from outside of their group environment prior to their joining it and, thus build any in-group cohesion, friendships or inter-personal relationships with other group members, are they more or less likely to be a strong group member, concerned with the greater good of the group, than are group members who know each other from outside of the group, or who were friends with or colleagues of other group members prior to their becoming a member of the group?  Are group members who know other group members or are friends with them before becoming a member of the group, especially those who join the group BECAUSE they already know, or were friends  with other members (in fact, who might have been specifically recruited into the group by friends, etc. who are already group members), more or less likely to be conscientious group members who are willing to dissent from or even question the group’s decisions or actions (since their outside acquaintances with other members can be affected positively or negatively by their own personal words or actions within the group) than are group members who became acquainted with other group members only through membership in the group?  What about those who know other group members outside of the group and have pre-existing animosity of them, or who become a member IN SPITE OF members they already who they dislike or who try to keep them out of the group?  What about those who join for social acceptance by people that they know outside of the group?  These possible variables are numerous and are important considerations within our political groups or organizations because a common way for new members to be brought into a group or organization is for them to be recruited by friends and / or acquaintances.  We need to know what effects such membership recruitment has on the very real functioning of those groups and organizations.

6.)   When a study makes ‘getting input from group members about possible decisions to be made or actions to be taken’ a factor or variable of the study, is there any assessment about whether or not there is any difference between input which is sought and / or received under a ‘glaring spotlight’ or in a situation of possible derision or resistance, and input that is sought and received in confidence and / or in a situation of respect and / or openness?  If not, have any of the researchers given any consideration within their studies to the effects that the manner in which input is sought has on the input that is received?

7.)    While Janis gives us examples of, and specifications about groupthink, it would be helpful if, to demonstrate the point that the presence of groupthink is determined by the decision-making PROCESS, itself, and not of the outcomes of that process (good processes can still result in bad outcomes and bad processes can still result in good outcomes), it would be helpful if examples were included of such good / non-groupthink processes which resulted in negative outcomes AND of bad / groupthink processes which resulted in positive outcomes. The theory is stated regarding this, but the case is never made.

(This Article will be concluded in Part II, which will include information on conformity studies and on shame theory)Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 1989 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [c]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Section 6, paragraph one deals with Congressional compensation for their services.  Many years ago, Congress enacted standing legislation to provide them with regular pay raises UNLESS Congress, at the time of EACH particular raise, actively raises the issue and votes against it.  This is one of the examples I was referring to when I talked about how Congress makes what will be their path of least resistance be what benefits them, rather than the people.  Thus, if Congress does NOTHING, is silent and doesn’t even raise the issue, they get their raise each year.  In ADDITION, they get unbelievable pensions based on how long they served as well as life time healthcare.

To me, this is another simple issue to deal with.  Tie the salaries of ALL federally elected officials to the median incomes of the American people, not counting bonuses or other backdoor ways of hitching things a little higher for them. Based on the real and reported income of all citizens who file income tax reports, divided by ALL citizens, let’s say that (as a starting point for discussion), members of the House would receive an annual salary based on what 60% of the median incomes of all Americans equals to, with Officers of The House getting 62.5%.  Members of The Senate would get a salary based on 65% of the median income, with Senate officers getting 67.5%.  Members of the Supreme Court would get 70% of the median, with The Chief Justice and The Vice President getting 72.5%.  Finally, the highest salary allowed would go to The President, with the salary of that office being based on the 75% of the median incomes of all Americans.

Now, I want everyone to notice something.  I did NOT say that these salaries should be based on mean, or AVERAGE incomes (the total of all incomes divided by the total number of people), I said that they would b based on the MEAN incomes.  The mean is a statistical average based on the individual numbers which are ranked from highest to lowest.  Thus, Bill Gates is only one statistical number, while a disabled elderly person who has an annual income of $5,000 is another individual number equal to Bill Gates.  A median average would give a much more accurate picture of how much average Americans earn and tie the salaries of Constitutional and elected Federal officials to that average.

So, what would THIS accomplish?  Several things; for one, it would make elected Federal officials more caring about how much money the American people have because their own welfare would be improved by having more people earning (and reporting) higher incomes.  In fact, the more income earned by those at the bottom quarter, half and three-quarter marks of the social ladder, the higher the income they would make themselves.  For another, it would increase their focus on eliminating loopholes which allow people to underreport their own incomes. The fiscal conservatives tend to support theories which state that there is a finite amount of REAL income (as opposed to, say, capital income) which is available.  Thus, to raise the income levels of those at the lower ends of the social ladder would mean that the additional monies would have to come at the expense of the earnings of those at the top of the social ladder.  For yet another thing, the more money earned by AND KEPT by corporations and businesses is money that is NOT increasing the income levels of the bottom three-quarters of the income bracket.  This would make Congress more likely to support higher individual wages and eliminate more corporate loopholes.  Again, the more money earned by the most people would benefit them personally… and if the incomes of average Americans goes down, so does theirs.  We would all swim or sink together.  Their pay rates would be worked out and modified every two calendar years to coincide with election cycles.

As for pensions and permanent healthcare, I do not believe that people should make holding elective or political offices their primary livelihoods.  I am against, as I have said before, a professional political class.  I believe in the founders’ idea of people who would make sacrifices in their own lives of short periods of time to serve their nation with their public service and would then go back to their public lives.  Thus, ANY elected official, or any official who is subject to Senate approval would not earn ANY pension or retirement benefits for their time in service.  Regarding members of The Supreme Court, I will deal with them in the part(s) of this article which deal with Article III of The Constitution.

Section 6, paragraph two is the one that says that no Senator or Representative can hold another civil office in The United States during their tenure in their respective House, and that no officer or official of The United States can serve as a Senator or Representative while they hold their other office or position.  This, among other things, is what prevents us from having a Parliamentary system of government and ensures that the membership of each branch of government will be totally and completely distinct and separate from the others.  It also says that:

No Senator or Representative shall… be appointed to any civil office under the authority of The United States which shall have been CREATED, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been Increased during such time [as they served as a Senator or Representative]…”

THIS portion of The Constitution does need to be addressed to clarify, one way or the other, what authority the Executive branch does or doesn’t  have to appoint sitting or recently sitting members of Congress to other civil positions … especially with automatic pay raises being provided for all such civil offices.  Either our Constitution very specifically prohibits this and it is accepted by all members of our government or we change it.  I personally would rather leave it as it is and expect our government to abide by such limitations.

Well, I think this is a good place to end this part of this article.  When we come back, I will address the rest of Article III, including legislation to raise revenue, the budget, and the enumerated powers and authorities of Congress.

(This article will be continued in Part III [d], which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [b]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 11, 2009 at 1:52 am

From Article I, Section 3, paragraphs six and seven, the portions of the provisions for either House regarding impeachment require no changes other than possibly the provision that the threat of and right to impeach is a constitutional DUTY of Congress and it cannot surrender its willingness to implement that duty when it is called for.  To do so is malfeasance in the performance of their constitutional duties and should subject any members of Congress who are willing to agree to surrender their willingness to fulfill ANY of their obligations and duties under The Constitution.

Section 4 of Article I deals with the times and places of elections of Representatives and Senators, and with the requirement for Congress to meet at least once every year.

I think that the provisions for periods of adjournments and recesses by Congress are not appropriate to our modern day government.  For those who argue that they do not want Congress in session any longer than it has to be, while I don’t entirely disagree with them, I think the larger and more important issue is how just adjournments and recesses empower the Executive branch as the expense of the Legislative branch.  While I will deal more with such things as ‘recess appointments’ in the part(s) of this article which deal Article II of The Constitution (The Executive Branch), I am against ANYTHING which serves to make the Legislative branch less than equal to the Executive branch, much less subservient to it.  Thus, I think that Congress should never be considered in recess and only be adjourned by standing legislation which provides for pre-defined periods of adjournment, focused around legal federal holidays (not religious holidays) and, say, a single one week-long adjournment each  quarter of the year… each one, preferably centered around an appropriate federal holiday each quarter.  At ALL other times it would be required to be in session (and remember, I would not allow for any member of Congress to hold office for more than a single term, so there would be no NEED for Congress to be in adjournment during election cycles).

Section 5 deals with various procedural matters (such as judging their own elections, the power to compel attendance by absent members, and the prohibition against adjourning for more than three days while in session).  Paragraph two deals with allowing each House to punish and/or expel its own members.  It also states that each House shall determine its own rules for proceedings.  Paragraph three covers the requirements of each House to keep a journal of its proceedings ad periodically publish those journals, as well as the requirement of each House to record the ‘Yeas and Nays’ (i.e. – the votes) of each House and to publish those totals for either House upon the request of one-fifth of the membership of that House.

While The Constitution should not get into the minutia of establishing all of the rules for either House, there are some which I think it would be appropriate to enact, enshrine and enforce within The Constitution.  Among these are:

1.)   No office created by either House of Congress can be specific to any particular political party.  While any party can choose to elect its own leadership by whatever methods it wants, it does not mean that those elected to such offices are deserving of extra pay by the nation or extra privileges and powers within Congress for holding an office restricted to the members of that Party.

2.)  All officers elected by either House should be selected by secret nomination and secret ballot.  I would also recommend the use of Approval Voting for the actual elections.  Again, this would be to try to help break the stranglehold on power which any party holds simply by having more members that any other party.  This provision would probably result in most offices being held by less extremist party loyalists.  If our nation can succeed in establishing a viable third-party, it will throw the current methods of selecting Congressional offices in the toilet anyway.  Let’s do what we can to speed that process up a bit.

3.)   All ballots casts by members of either House should be cast in secret and the individual results of any vote kept but only revealed (published) 25 years later for historical purposes.  Now, I know that this one is going to be met with shock by most people.  After all, how else are we supposed to keep tabs of what these people actually do?  Well, stop and think about this one for awhile.  Let me explain my reasoning for this idea.  Why do WE cast OUR ballots in secret?  So that no one WILL know exactly how we voted which, among other things, limits to ability of anyone else to threaten or intimidate us.  Open balloting in Congress does not help ‘we the people’, it helps the parties, lobbyists and special interest groups keep members of Congress in line with what benefits THEM the most, not what benefits us the most.  Open balloting in Congress allows the political parties, the lobbyists, the special interests groups, the media and, yes, even the people to threaten and intimidate individual Congress who might otherwise have the will to vote their according to their conscious as they believe is right rather than how others want to compel them to vote.   This is also one of the major ways that the two parties effectively prevent other viable parties from having a voice in our system of government (the other major way that they accomplish this is by the maintenance of our current Majoritarian / Plurality election system). (Please see my earlier article on ‘The Laboratory of Democracy — Alternative Voting Methods (Approval Voting) [Re-edit]’ for a more detailed explanation of this idea.)  It is also what allows small groups of extremists to move the politics in Congress in extremist directions and which makes moderate or centrist positions untenable to maintain.

With a provision that, in an investigation, a select independent committee can review specific votes and make them public IF they show evidence or a pattern of corruption, malfeasance or negligence, but also with a protection provision that baseless accusation for no purpose other than to discover what a personal voting record is will be a felony, this provision could provide safety and protection for those legislators who do want to go along with their party’s line on any particular issue.  So, how is a member of Congress judged if their individual votes are not known?  They would be judged in two ways. First, they would be judged by what they say on the record and, second, they would be judged by what their House accomplishes or FAILS to accomplish.  Under this method, ALL members of a House are collectively responsible for what that House does or doesn’t do… they rise or fall together.   This means that their motivation which change to being how can they work together to make them all look good.  Just think about it for awhile, ok?

4.)  Right now, most legislation includes meaningless introductions which tell us how wonderful it is and how it will single-handedly make the world a better place to live (and they are capped off with some kind of sensationalist title which will make those who vote against it sound like they are bad Americans for voting against it… especially those who don’t actually read the proposed legislation that they are voting on.  I believe that ALL legislation proposed and voted on in either House of Congress should include measurable and quantifiable goals, and specific objectives to indicate what will be considered a successful result of the legislation.  Goals and objectives, strategies and tactics.  I also believe all legislative objectives should include a time frame by which the legislation must accomplish its goals or it will automatically cease to have legal standing.  This is not a meaningless point.  The example I like to use has to do with Civil Rights legislation.  Under the legislation as written, neither side of the debate has an actual motivation to see the objectives of the legislation accomplished.  Each side uses it as a weapon with which to attack the other, and leaders on both sides have built their power bases upon the on-going conflict it engenders.  There is more political power to be gained by keeping the conflict going than there is in accomplishing its purposes.  Now, imagine if that legislation had included measurable, definable and quantifiable goals AND it had an objective of accomplishing those goals in, say, 25 years.  One way or the other the legislation would end; the only question would be “when” it would end.  Those who are fighting for the achievement of those civil rights would have been motivated to make sure that the goals were achieved before the end of the 25-year deadline so as to get them in place, and the side which was not in favor of the penalties and restrictions imposed by the legislation would be motivated to accomplish those goals as quickly as possible so that the legislation would go away as quickly as possible.  In either case, if the goals were either not achieved or led to the consideration of additional goals, new legislation could be crafted and proposed at that time which would better meet the needs of that time and that generation.  The purpose of this proposal is to give ALL sides reasons to work together to accomplish things rather than give them reasons to fight against each other endlessly.

To justify why this should be import, keep in mind all of the calls by the people and politicians for, and interpretations by the courts based on what the ‘intention of the founders’ was.  Intention is difficult to know, and impossible to speculate on to determine law when those intentions are never officially, and reliably set forth and documented.  The fact that the founders destroyed all OFFICIAL minutes and notes from The Constitutional Convention can only leave us with one of two ways to make such judgments; either the founders did not WANT us to base our interpretations and decisions based on what THEY intended (which means that we do, in fact, have a LIVING Constitution), OR, they did not understand how important it would be to us to be able to discern their intentions when we try to interpret what they intended.  We need to not only insure that the present generation fully understands what we are trying to do and what we want to accomplish, we need future generations to understand why we felt each specific law was necessary… our intentions, in other words.  Goals and objectives would make legislation easier to interpret and less likely to be twisted and MISinterpreted by other.  It would also allow those who read a law thoroughly to see if the actual content and execution of the law is true to its goals and objectives.

5.)  That idea leads us to Thomas Jefferson’s theories of generational laws.  He said “[B]etween society and society, or generation and generation, there is no municipal obligation, no umpire but the law of nature. . . . [B]y the law of nature, one generation is [therefore] to another as one independent nation to another.”  He also said “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.” (http://www.conlaw.org/Intergenerational-II-2-9.htm) I believe in the idea of generational laws (with all laws having a natural expiration deadline of either 25 or 50 years (generations being longer now that they were when Jefferson wrote that, and some laws being more important than others), depending on the law, with 25 being the norm and 50 being the exception, for several reasons.  First, laws seem to work conversely to the adage that it is easier to destroy than it is to build.  With law, it is easier to pass one than it is to get rid of one.  When politicians or officials come along later and try to have a law removed from the books, the tendency is to wonder what ulterior motives they ‘really have (no matter how bad or irrelevant the law might be) and political inertia tends to win.

As a result, our legal systems end up cluttered with an unbelievable number of laws which are either (a) no longer of any value, (b) no longer in sync with the progress of our culture or, (c) just plain stupid.  A generational law standard would mean, first of all, that no one would have to actively campaign or fight to have laws actively removed piecemeal.  By doing nothing the laws will just go away.  If they still have value or there is still a need for them, they can be re-written and passed again. Secondly, the future will not be bound by considerations or standards of the past which no longer apply to them.  Thirdly, politicians are, by nature, egomaniacs who want to be immortal, and the way a politician becomes immortal is by sticking us with their own ideas of how we should live (i.e. – with laws).  When all of the basic laws are already in place, they have to go farther and farther to find their own immortality.  I would rather have them continually working on and improving basic legislation than to have them spending their time finding cruel and unusual ways to torment, punish and control ‘we the people’.

6.)  I think that all of us, all of us who are not in Congress, at least, would agree that the Legislative Amendment process is out of control and all too easily abused by politicians who cannot get their own moronic ideas passed into law on their own merits; or who want to ‘game the system’ by attaching bad legislation to other legislation that, itself, cannot be voted down.  Riders and amendments are a bane to good legislation which can be (a) understood, (b) respected, and (c) followed by everyone.  This would be simple to deal with.  Any amendment or rider which has nothing to do with the primary legislation AND / OR which does not have the support of the primary author of the legislation (not sponsors or co-sponsors, the primary author) can only be attached to the proposed legislation by a super-majority vote of two-thirds of the House in which it has been proposed in.  Any rider or amendment which does relate to the primary legislation AND has the support of the primary author can be attached if it gets a majority vote in the House in which it has been proposed.  Note: these votes would NOT be to approve the amendments or riders, only to allow them to be attached to the primary legislation before IT was voted on.  For those who want the President to have a line item veto authority, all that would have to be done here would be to say that he has the power and authority to approve or veto the results of such votes before they can be attached to the primary legislation (as provided for in Article I, Section 7, paragraph four of The Constitution).

7.)   Congress has made themselves exempt from abiding by the laws that they force on the rest of us.  This is one of the (many) reasons why it is so easy for Congress to hypocritically impose legislation on ‘we the people’ that is harsh or intolerable… because THEY don’t have to also live with the consequences of their decisions.  This blanket exemption needs to be removed and, any individual exemptions that they want to pass for themselves should be stated publicly, be required to undergo a full and open debate, require a two-thirds super-majority of BOTH Houses AND be subject to Presidential  vetoes for which it would take a three-fourths super majority of both Houses to override.

8.)  As in all things, politicians will take the paths of least resistance.  If their path of least resistance in legislation is to maintain the status quo by not voting for something, they will do that.  Conversely, if they have to actively vote for the status quo to maintain it, they will let it change.  As an example of what I mean by this, consider automatic Congressional pay raises.  Those raises will automatically take place unless Congress actively votes to stop them.  Thus, the path of least resistance is to maintain the status quo by doing nothing and, as a result, allow the raises to happen.  If the legislative process required on-going legislation to require active votes to keep it going, and the path of least resistance is to not vote for something (like the pay raises), they will not vote for them and they won’t happen.  The direction of how Congress votes for on-going legislation needs to be changed so that the path of least resistance is what benefits ‘we the people’ and not what benefits Congress or the government.

(This article will be continued in Part III [c], which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [a]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 1, 2009 at 1:35 am

Congress, The Legislative Branch of The United States of America was, as ‘the people’s house‘, intended to be the most powerful of the three branches of government created by The Constitution… a ‘first among equals‘, as it were.  Of the 4,543 words of The Constitution, the 2,312 words of Article I constitute just over half of the total (50.89%).  Unlike Article II (The Executive Branch) and Article III (The Judicial Brach), Article I deals very much with the actual workings, duties, powers and authorities of Congress.  A primary reason for this, I assume, is that the founders had a long history of experience with operating a working, functioning Congress or Legislature.  They also had more trust of a strong legislative branch than they did of a strong executive branch.

The first representative legislative body established in the American Colonies, in fact, in ANY of the British Colonies, was Virginia’s House of Burgesses, which was created in 1619… 170 years before the creation of Congress under The Constitution.  Before and during the Revolutionary Period, ALL of the American Colonies had functioning state legislatures and, at the national-level, the first Continental Congress had been called in 1765.  Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress ran the nation with a VERY weak Executive, who was appointed by Congress itself to preside over ‘A Committee of The States‘.  The delegates to the Constitutional Convention well understood what a legislative branch could do, although, prior to The Constitution, members of Congress for any state were appointed by the legislatures of that state.  As such, apportionment by census and direct elections of the members of The House of Representatives was their great experiment with a representative legislature.  Members of The Senate, of course, continued to be appointed by each state’s own legislature until the passage of Amendment XVII, which was ratified in 1913 (although some states had been providing for the direct election of their Senators by the people of those states as early as 1907).

It was never the intention of the founders to create a permanently ruling political class.  They envisioned men, who would, for a short period of time, leave their private lives, take up the burden of public service for the good of the nation and then go back to their private lives.  This idea was only one of many visions of theirs that did not survive our national transition from our ‘first generation‘ to our ‘second generation‘ [see ‘Part I‘ of this article for an explanation of my theory of the first and second generational effects].  Many Americans have the mistaken belief that the founders created a two-party system.  This is patently false, but still many of our children are taught it.  The founders tried to create a NO-party system, with the idea that individual members of Congress would band together is short-lived coalitions for each separate issue that came before them.  This is another idea which not only did not survive our nation’s first generation; it did not survive the Washington administration.  This is probably the biggest reason that party politics dominates our government, because The Constitution did not provide any guidelines for or controls / limitations upon them.

Several of my suggested changes will be attempts show how I think that we can restore the founders’ original concept of public service to our government, and show a way to end or, at least, make it more difficult for the continuation of our professional and permanently ruling political class.  These suggestions will be made to try to minimize the amount of time elected officials have to spend in their continuous cycle of staying elected, to maximize their learning curve and effectiveness in office, and to reduce their susceptibility to the corrupting effects of long-term office holding.  They will also have a goal of wanting to breaking the stranglehold which the two major parties have on our government, at all levels, as well as minimizing the power and effect which those at the extreme ends of any political spectrum have on our government.  This is crucial if we are to return our government to a rational level of moderation.

As a general change for ALL elected offices, no one would be allowed to campaign for one office while they are holding another.  If people think that such an allowance is necessary, they could be allowed to run for as MANY offices at one time as they want, but they have to be campaigning on their own time (they, of course, could only accept election to one office if they should win more than one election at the same time… if they do win more than one, though, maybe they should have to pay for any special elections which they necessitate by winning an office they have intention of serving in).  Since all elected officials are elected to serve their constituents by doing a specific job, and not to spend their time on that job trying to keep their current job or trying to get a new one at our expense, once a public office holder is officially a candidate for any national office (the point at which they start raising funds or operating a campaign), they will be REQUIRED to immediately resign any elected office, at ANY level, that they might hold at that time.  This would also help keep the lengths of campaigns down to more reasonable amounts of time as elected officials would be less likely to give up an office in their hand too long before they run for the office in the bush that they want to seek.

Section 2 of Article I lays the groundwork for the composition of The House of Representatives.  Paragraph 1 of Section 2 sets the term of office for members of the House of Representatives at 2 years.  I would change this to 6 year terms, with one third of The House being elected every three years and a one term limit.  This would allow an on-going House with regular turnover and without the turmoil of having to elect ever member of The House and recreating itself every election cycle.  Former Representatives could be elected to additional terms by the people of any particular state that they have served when they have been out of The House for the length of a full term between each term.

Paragraph 2 sets the minimum age for eligibility for election as a Representative at 25.  I would lower this to 20, although with the requirement that being a Representative is a full time job (i.e.  – if someone is a student and is elected, they would have to leave their studies for the duration of their term of office).  We allow citizens to vote at age 18, we let them serve in our military, we require them to pay taxes (which they have to do at ANY age when they earn any money), etc., there is no reason that citizens of that age should not be allowed to elect Representatives of their own age range if they are able to.

Paragraph 3 of Section 2 deals with apportionment of Representatives among the various states.  As we have seen all too frequently, the abilities of modern computing to pinpoint every voter has given the supposedly forbidden practice of gerrymandering an even more frightening and insidious power than it has had in a long time.  That same computing power can allow us to create congressional districts that are of the most compact size and even shape as possible without ANY regard to the politics, or any other discriminating factor, of the citizens of any particular district.  Every state has corners and edges.  All that would have to be done is to program the same computers to start at each corner and create evenly shaped and compact districts as they work in towards the middle of each state.  Alternatively, the first district could start in the middle of a state and work outward.  This would still allow for differing proposals, depending on starting points and merging points, but the test would still be which proposal presents the most precise and evenly shaped districts possible.  Basically, if districts can be created within a smaller or more compact area of a state, you go for the most compact districts possible.  This would not only prevent the parties from manipulating districts in the way that is most advantageous to them, it will prevent them from creating both ‘safe‘ districts (which protect members of either party), and ‘reservation‘ districts (which isolate and limit ethnic voting power overall to specific limited areas).

Paragraph 3 also provides for the total number of Representatives the House.  Its original provision of “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative;” has been modified by legislation passed in 1911, which capped the total number of Representatives in The House at 435.  One man, one vote‘ was NEVER an intention of the founders (as seen by their plan of equal apportionment of Senators, the guarantee of at least one Representative from each state, and the fact that Congressional districts must be fully contained within their home state) because it was never their desire to allow high population areas to dominate the government at the expense of the rural areas by the simple fact of having more people.  However, it was also not their intention to let rural areas have excessive power by limiting the numbers of Representatives to be divided among the more populous states.  As was seen when Alaska and Hawaii entered the union (the total number of members in Congress was temporarily increased by one for each state UNTIL the next apportionment, at which time it was returned to the 435 Representatives level), the current total is seen as a hard and fast one which is not increased by the admission of additional states.  As a result, with each shift in population and a theoretical continuous expansion of the numbers of states in the Union, the single Representative for the states with the smallest population increase in their own proportional power within Congress.  To counter this, I would propose that the total number of Representatives be equal to ten times the total number of states.  This would mean that every time a new state is admitted, ten Representatives will be added to the total number of Representatives in The House.  Right now, that would result in a total of 500 Representatives, with 50 being taken by guaranteed representation for each state and the other 450 apportioned according to state population sizes.

Paragraph 4 deals with vacancies within The House while Paragraph 5 creates the office of Speaker and allows for The House to create and choose its other officers.  The only change I would make here is that ANY officer of The House (or The Senate) has a responsibility to the nation, as a whole, as well as to their own district’s constituency.  As such, ALL officers of The House or The Senate, from any party, must equally accept feedback, requests, petitions, etc.  from anyone within the nation as they do from anyone within their district.

Section 3 of Article I deals with The Senate.  Paragraph 1 sets the length of term for a Senator at six years.  As with the House, I would increase the lengths of their terms of office to twelve years, with a limit of one term and the passage of a length of time equal to one full term before they can be eligible to run again within their state.  For those of my readers who have caught some of my specific wordings, by the way, these limits would only apply to a candidate in a single particular state if they want to run again in that state.  If someone thinks that they can just pack up and move to another state to get elected again, they would be welcome to try it.  I would love to see the spectacle of hordes of former Congressmen moving constantly between states while trying to convince the voters of their ‘new‘ home states that they are not carpetbaggers who are only looking out for themselves rather than for the citizens that they purport to serve.

Paragraph I also sets the numbers of Senators from each state at two.  I would increase this to three for each state so that every state will have an election turnover of one Senator for every equal third of a term (i.e.  – every four years), which is what is dealt with in Paragraph 2.  Paragraph 3 sets the minimum age of a Senator at 35.  As with The House, I would lower this age by five years to 25 in order to increase the chances for better representation of the younger population of the nation.

Paragraph 4 of Section 3 deals with the role of The Vice President as the President of The Senate.  While I will deal with the larger issue of the office of Vice President when I discuss The Executive Branch, the primary constitutional duty of a Vice President is to be President of The Senate.  This office needs to be a functional part of our government.  [Please see my article on ‘The American Vice Presidency…  Graveyard of the Constitution’.]  While I would still give The Vice President no vote in The Senate except in cases of ties, I would give the office political power in The Senate equal to that of The Speaker in The House.  I would also give The Vice President the freedom to address The Senate under the same rules as any Senator, but with the provision that they must temporarily give up the Presidency of The Senate while speaking on the floor, and maybe with the additional restriction that they must ask the permission of The Senate to be allowed to speak to it from the floor.

Paragraph 5 of Section 3 provides for the creation and selection of other officers for The Senate, including The President pro tempore.  My biggest issue with how Section 5 is fulfilled is that The President pro tempore, the third person in line to the office of President of The United States, has become a meaningless ego job which is simply given to the oldest, most senile member of the majority party.  This Constitutional office needs to be held by the person elected by the whole Senate to be its Floor Leader.  Tell me, honestly, would you have wanted to see a 99 year-old Strom Thurmond succeeding to The Presidency?  What about an 84 year-old Ted Stevens?  Or a 92 year-old Robert Byrd?  The President pro tempore should be the Senator who is leading the legislative agenda on the floor of The Senate, not the one singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot‘ with the Spectre of Death.

 

(This article will be continued in Part III (b), which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M.  Blavier
Romayor, Texas

 

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

 

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier
_________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

HOW I THINK THE CONSTITUTION CAN BE FIXED (Part II: The Preamble)

In Activism, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Democracy, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Military, Politics, US Government, War on May 26, 2009 at 8:00 am

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.

At 53 words (1.15% of the total words in The Constitution), The Preamble to The Constitution of The United States is, not counting any of the Amendments, the shortest section of The Constitution after Article VII (Ratification). It has never, to my knowledge, ever been used as a basis for any constitutional court case, or for any decision (majority, dissenting, or separate) made by The Supreme Court. The Preamble is essentially considered to be the ‘pretty words’ before the ‘actual’ Constitution. That is kind of like seeing it as a short, light poetry reading for entertainment purposes before the start of the ‘real business’ part of the program. I think that such a view is a tragic mistake.

First of all, The Preamble is fully a part of The Constitution, written with it and subjected to the same ratification process as every other part of The Constitution was. It is a shame, at best, and short-sighted, at worst to not give it the same respect and standing as every other part of The Constitution. For example, for the hawks and for those in the Bush administration, it provides the best justification in the entirety of The Constitution for their aggressive military views and focus on defense issues (“We the People of the United States, in Order to…, provide for the common defence). In my view, the ‘Commander-in-Chief” clause (which I will talk about in my part of this article which will deal with Article II – The Executive Branch) does NOT give the Executive Branch the power or authority that it wants to claim under that clause. Their best arguments can be made using the relevant words in The Preamble.

Unfortunately, for those same hawks and those conservatives who are against progressive social policies, if they want to use the ‘common defence’ wording of The Preamble upon which to build a case, they must also concede equal standing to all of the other provisions of The Preamble. To me, The Preamble is an active part of The Constitution which establishes objectives which our government under The Constitution is obligated to strive to try to achieve. I will discuss this idea in more detail in the part of the article which will deal with Article I (The Legislative Branch) but, briefly goals and objectives are the same as strategies and tactics. Objectives / tactics are the broad, general, rather nebulous overarching purpose of something which cannot be quantifiably measured or ever be truly achieved… we will make the world a better place, we will create a more perfect union, we will explore space, we will end sickness and disease, etc.… these are all objectives. You cannot measure them, you cannot quantify them, you can ONLY work towards them. What helps you work towards achieving your objectives / tactics are your goals / strategies. Goals / strategies are the specific, quantifiable and measurable and specifically achievable progress points which are established as as ways to help us achieve our objectives / strategies … we will reach the moon by the end of the decade, we will give the vote to eighteen year-olds, we will defeat Hitler, we will wipe out smallpox, etc…. these are all goals.

For my section on the Legislature, I will advocate, and give my rationale for making goals and objectives a specific part of the legislative process. For this section on The Preamble, I will simply say that it is where I see the founders listing the objectives which they wanted us to work towards. To me, this makes The Preamble one of the, if not the, single most important parts of the entire Constitution. All that WE need to do is pay attention to it and give it the same respect and standing that we give to any and every other part of The Constitution.

The lack of consideration given to The Preamble is yet another shining example of what I see as the base hypocrisy of those who cry and scream that The Constitution needs to be read literally and without interpretation (the second part of which is, of course, impossible) but do not practice what they demand. The Preamble is just as much a part of The Constitution as any other part is. It was subjected to the same ratification procedure and cannot be changed without such changes going through the same amendment procedure as any other changes to The Constitution would have to go through.

The only change that I would make with regards to The Preamble would not be to change any of its words, it would be to change what respect and legal standing we give those words among our other laws and constitutional provisions.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier
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Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Live-blogging: Hamilton’s Curse: Chapter 2: Public Blessing or National Curse?

In Books, Censorship, Corruption, Economics, First Amendment, History, Libertarian, literature, Live-blogging, Spending, Taxation, US Government on May 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm

It’s unfortunate that economics is such an esoteric subject, for it certainly impacts all of us.  It’s perhaps all the more unfortunate because of the ease with which the political class can confuse and dupe the public, thereby exploiting the masses.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo begins the second chapter of his Hamilton’s Curse noting that “[g]overnment debt is every politician’s dream” because it allows him or her to “buy votes by spending on government programs…that will make him popular now, while putting the lion’s share of the cost on future taxpayers, who must pay off the debt” (p. 38).

The result of this is obvious enough: we, the taxpayers, never truly grasp how expensive are the programmes with which we’re presented, and so the debt keeps mounting.  The national debt, at the time DiLorenzo was writing his book, had exceeded $9 trillion, with unfunded liabilities mounting around $70 trillion (p. 39).

Then there’s “the biggest government program of all—war” (Ibid.).  The American taxpayer would be much more likely to demand peaceful relations if they were presented with “an explicit tax bill for it” (Ibid.).  Thus DiLorenzo writes, “Taxpayers feeling the sting of gigantic wartime increases would be much more inclined to pressure their governmental respresentatives to limit their military adventures to national defense purposes, as opposed to imperialistic ventures based on more dubious motives” (Ibid.).  And this is why Jefferson held that “the perpetuation of debt, has drenched the earth with blood” (p. 40).

What has any of this to do with Alexander Hamilton? It was precisely Hamilton who “championed,” in pursuit of his goal of bigger, more centralised government and imperial glory, “the creation of a large national debt” (Ibid.).  He did this in two ways:  He (1) encouraged the federal state to assume all of the debt from the old government and (2) encouraged the central government to assume the war debts of the various states (pp. 41, 46).

His first proposal was very popular, as it allowed the political class to become much more wealthy.  Federal politicians and other New Yorkers learned of the federal government’s plans to pay off old war debts at full face value long before the information could filtrate to the rest of the country and the many holders of old war bonds.  These members of the political class, with their inside information, quickly entered the game of speculation, buying up these government bonds around the country from “haplass and unsuspecting war veterans at prices as low as 10 percent of full value” (pp. 41–42).  Republicans and Federalists alike profited from the graft.

This did not sit well with James Madison, however, who proposed that the original bondholders also be paid at full value.  Madison was denounced “as a dreamer” (p. 44).

Hamilton’s second proposal was not as popular as his first.  For one thing, this entire generation saw the various states as free and independent countries, with the federal government being merely a meeting of the states to better secure their basic and collective needs, such as defence or the coining of a uniform currency (p. 46).  For another, the states that had already paid off their debt, such as Virginia, did not want to have to socialise the debt of the other states that had not been in their opinions as dilligent (p. 47).  As such, Hamilton’s assumption plan was defeated in Congress no less than five times (p. 48).  It did not eventually pass until Hamilton struck a deal with Jefferson to allow the U.S. capital to move from New York to Virginia, something Jefferson had desired but the Hamiltonians had, until that point, been blocking (Ibid.).

The reason Hamilton wanted the newly centralised government to assume vast quantities of debt was that “he wanted to tie the wealthy to the state as a permanent, big-government lobbying class” (p. 45).  The primary government bondholders, after all, would be the more affuent citizens, and they would have an “interest in continued borrowing and continued tax increases to assure that they would be paid their principal and interest” (Ibid.).  Therefore Hamilton, not surprisingly, also rallied for higher taxes, “including the notorious tax on whiskey, a carriage tax, and a national property tax (which spawned a tax revolt in massachusetts—the Fries Rebellion)” (p. 43).

Hamilton defended the “[p]lundering of the working class with onerous taxes” because he saw Americans as too “indolent” and held that these harsh taxes would encourage the people to work harder (Ibid.).  Of course, the opposite is true.  The more people have to surrender in taxes, the less motivated they are to work hard.  What’s the point, they ask, when Uncle Sam is taking it all anyway?  Perhaps one of the worst aspect of these changes was the opportunity for a standing army of tax-collectors to be created, precisely what Hamilton had used to squash the Whiskey Rebellion (p. 44, cf. 33–36).  DiLorenzo cites this as “one of the chief reasons why the Anti-Federalists never trusted Hamilton.  A standing army of tax collectors could (and eventually would) destroy states’ rights altogether” (p. 44, cf. 48).

As I expressed in my previous entry, I’m not personally fond with DiLorenzo’s use of the term “states’ rights.”  Governments, after all, cannot possess rights.  Only individuals—and the voluntary associations they create—can possess rights.  The founders understood clearly that states did not and could not possess “rights,” and thus, when they drafted the tenth amendment, they clearly referenced powers rather than “right.”  What this Hamiltonian centralisation of power threatens, therefore, are the powers that were reserved to the states under the U.S. Constitution.

In any event, there were those who opposed Hamilton’s nationalist schemes.  Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania called Hamilton’s assumption plan “subversive of the rights, liberty and peace of the people,” a view “endorsed by the Pennsylvania legislature” (p. 47).  (Luckily for Gallatin, Hamilton was unsuccessful in his drive to “have Gallatin arrested and put on trial” (Ibid.).)  John Taylor of Virginia pointed out that the Hamiltonian schemes “would result in ‘the accumulation of great wealth in a few hands,’ accumulted through ‘a political moneyed engine.’  It would create British mercantilism in America, in other words” (p. 48).

DiLorenzo also addresses the despicable Sedition Act, which the federal government used to silence Jeffersonians and other Republican opponents of the Federalists’ nationalist agenda.  Many innocent men were arrested under this law, including at least twenty-one newspaper editors, “all of whom supported Jefferson….  No Federalists were harassed by the Sedition Act” (p. 50).  This act, along with the Alien Acts (collectively called the Alien and Sedition Acts by historians), was what lead Jefferson and Madison to author the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves of 1798, thereby nullifying these laws within their state borders.

DiLorenzo attributes the reactionary policies of the Federalists to the 1800 Republican victory.  On pages 51–53, he details the history of national debt in the United States from the time of Jefferson to the present, showing how, over time, the amount of debt the government has opted to take on at any given time has ratcheted upward.  He concludes on page 53 that perpetual government debt “essentially relies on forced labor,” turning today’s citizens into tax serfs, and points out that governments have historically relied in the “hidden tax” of inflation to pay off debt, knowing that citizens do not notice this form of taxation in the same way they notice direct taxes.  Finally he spells out the destructive effects of this approach on pages 54 and 55, and draws the connection between Hamilton’s bad policy ideas and the destructive policies of modern Keynesians on pages 56 and 57.

Overall, I found the chapter stimulating.  Authors do not often comment, especially in any great detail, on the problems with large national debts.  This is probably because historians and political theorists often do not have much background in economics—DiLorenzo does, and is able to incorporate his understanding of this otherwise esoteric subject into his historical analysis.

—Alexander S. Peak

Torture by any other name….

In Civil Liberties, Crime, History, Human Rights Abuses, Iraq War, Libertarian, Terrorism, Torture, US Government, War on May 17, 2009 at 10:14 pm

The April 19th edition of the New York Times Scott Shane summarizes the now infamous 2005 CIA memo on torture. Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were between the two of them waterboarded 266 times. Am I the only one who’s outraged by this? The same article conceeds:

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

So why the need to waterboard him after he confessed in the first 35 seconds? Why should he have been tortured in the first place? For a possible answer, three points:  first, a brief history of this form of torture; second, the effects of  torture on the human body; third, a look at how other countries have used and finally, some thoughts on why this issue doesn’t bother Americans.

Waterboarding has had many names over the many centuries that it has been used. A variation of it was used in the Spanish Inquisition under the name “toca“:

“The toca, also called tortura del agua, consisted of introducing a cloth into the mouth of the victim, and forcing them to ingest water spilled from a jar so that they had the impression of drowning”.William Schweiker claims that the use of water as a form of torture also had profound religious significance to the Inquisitors.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterboarding

The Dutch East India company used a variation of it as well. Pay special attention to the physical affects it had on the victim:

…Agents of the Dutch East India Company used a precursor to waterboarding during the Amboyna massacre, which took place on the island of Amboyna in the Molucca Islands in 1623. At that time, it consisted of wrapping cloth around the victim’s head, after which the torturers “poured the water softly upon his head until the cloth was full, up to the mouth and nostrils, and somewhat higher, so that he could not draw breath but he must suck in all the water”. In one case, the torturer applied water three or four times successively until the victim’s “body was swollen twice or thrice as big as before, his cheeks like great bladders, and his eyes staring and strutting out beyond his forehead”…

This next instance occured in more recent times in 1852 at Sing Sing prison:

…’hydropathic torture.’ The stream of water is about one inch in diameter, and falls from a hight [sic] of seven or eight feet. The head of the patient is retained in its place by means of a board clasping the neck; the effect of which is, that the water, striking upon the board, rebounds into the mouth and nostrils of the victim, almost producing strangulation. Congestion, sometimes of the heart or lungs, sometimes of the brain, not unfrequently [sic] ensues; and death, in due season, has released some sufferers from the further ordeal of the water cure…

And again in WWII by the “Evil Axis Powers”:

…During World War II both Japanese troops, especially the Kempeitai, and the officers of the Gestapo,[66] the German secret police, used waterboarding as a method of torture. During the Japanese occupation of Singapore the Double Tenth Incident occurred. This included waterboarding, by the method of binding or holding down the victim on his back, placing a cloth over his mouth and nose, and pouring water onto the cloth. In this version, interrogation continued during the torture, with the interrogators beating the victim if he did not reply and the victim swallowing water if he opened his mouth to answer or breathe. When the victim could ingest no more water, the interrogators would beat or jump on his distended stomach…

It sounds very barbaric but it’s still something that we “had to do” to get “intelligence” out of “high value detainees”. I will concede that we might not have stomped on the stomach’s of detainees when they could not swallow more water but we have done things just as bad or worse.

…In the memos, released Thursday, the Bush Administration White House Office of Legal Counsel offered its endorsement of CIA torture methods that involved placing an insect in a cramped, confined box with detainees. Jay S. Bybee, then-director of the OLC, wrote that insects could be used to capitalize on detainees’ fears…

…The memo was dated Aug. 1, 2002. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children were captured and held in Pakistan the following month, according to a report by Human Rights Watch…At a military tribunal in 2007, the father of a Guantanamo detainee alleged that Pakistani guards had confessed that American interrogators used ants to coerce the children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into revealing their father’s whereabouts…

http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/04/17/bush-torture-memos-align-with-account-that-911-suspects-children-were-tortured/

A few of the effects of drowning on the the human body:

…A conscious victim will hold his or her breath (see Apnea) and will try to access air, often resulting in panic, including rapid body movement. This uses up more oxygen in the blood stream and reduces the time to unconsciousness. The victim can voluntarily hold his or her breath for some time, but the breathing reflex will increase until the victim will try to breathe, even when submerged.

The breathing reflex in the human body is weakly related to the amount of oxygen in the blood but strongly related to the amount of carbon dioxide. During apnea, the oxygen in the body is used by the cells, and excreted as carbon dioxide. Thus, the level of oxygen in the blood decreases, and the level of carbon dioxide increases. Increasing carbon dioxide levels lead to a stronger and stronger breathing reflex, up to the breath-hold breakpoint, at which the victim can no longer voluntarily hold his or her breath. This typically occurs at an arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide of 55 mm Hg, but may differ significantly from individual to individual and can be increased through training…

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

When water enters the lungs

…If water enters the airways of a conscious victim the victim will try to cough up the water or swallow it thus inhaling more water involuntarily. Upon water entering the airways, both conscious and unconscious victims experience laryngospasm, that is the larynx or the vocal cords in the throat constrict and seal the air tube. This prevents water from entering the lungs. Because of this laryngospasm, water enters the stomach in the initial phase of drowning and very little water enters the lungs. Unfortunately, this can interfere with air entering the lungs, too. In most victims, the laryngospasm relaxes some time after unconsciousness and water can enter the lungs causing a “wet drowning”. However, about 10-15% of victims maintain this seal until cardiac arrest, this is called “dry drowning” as no water enters the lungs. In forensic pathology, water in the lungs indicates that the victim was still alive at the point of submersion. Absence of water in the lungs may be either a dry drowning or indicates a death before submersion…

…The brain cannot survive long without oxygen and the continued lack of oxygen in the blood combined with the cardiac arrest will lead to the deterioration of brain cells causing first brain damage and eventually brain death from which recovery is generally considered impossible. A lack of oxygen or chemical changes in the lungs may cause the heart to stop beating; this cardiac arrest stops the flow of blood and thus stops the transport of oxygen to the brain. Cardiac arrest used to be the traditional point of death but at this point there is still a chance of recovery. The brain will die after approximately six minutes without oxygen but special conditions may prolong this (see ‘cold water drowning’ below). Freshwater contains less salt than blood and will therefore be absorbed into the blood stream by osmosis. In animal experiments this was shown to change the blood chemistry and led to cardiac arrest in 2 to 3 minutes. Sea water is much saltier than blood. Through osmosis water will leave the blood stream and enter the lungs thickening the blood. In animal experiments the thicker blood requires more work from the heart leading to cardiac arrest in 8 to 10 minutes. However, autopsies on human drowning victims show no indications of these effects and there appears to be little difference between drownings in salt water and fresh water. After death, rigor mortis will set in and remains for about two days, depending on many factors including water temperature…

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed experienced this 183 times. You think he felt that we were a proverbial “Shinning City on a Hill”? No, instead a bet he felt like he’d been captured by savages. I’m personally ashamed and appalled that my taxes paid the CIA torture this man.  They used our tax money to kill, torture, and humiliate people who we don’t even know. They coerce the complicity from each one of us living in America and Britain.

Historically speaking, there have been many other people persecuted for war crimes. America has even persecuted other people for waterboarding.

…McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as ‘water cure,’ ‘water torture’ and ‘waterboarding,’ according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning.” Politifact went on to report, “A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps…

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2007/dec/18/john-mccain/history-supports-mccains-stance-on-waterboarding/

Remember that they killed Saddam’s sons and one of their “justifications” was that they tortured Iraqis. This is ironic because we’re the ones torturing Iraqis now and nobody has been executed for it yet. This page outlines Saddam’s “Crimes Against Humanity”. It’s funny how we use these slogans against everyone except Americans even when our government commits the same crimes. Carl Clauberg experimented on over 300 woman and sterilized many of them. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Doihara Kenji was sentenced to death for his part in the Pearl Harbor incident. There are many other war criminals that can be found here.  Why no American presidents are on this list?

We want to believe that the American government is incapable of torturing people even though it’s exactly what we’re doing. Does the government have that much of a hold on the media?  They play word games  to cloud our view. They say that we’re in a “credit crunch” when we’re in a “recession“.  When they admit to  “recession,” we’re really  in a “depression“. They played the same game in Iraq. According to the news we were dealing with a few “foreign fighters” when it was an “insurgency”.  Called it “insurgency” when it was really a “civil war“.   Now that Baghdad has been separated among sectarian lines we’ve declared victory. Likewise they now call “harsh interrogation” what is “torture”.

I want  to remind people of the horrors of torture. When McCain was caught and tortured then sang like a bird but torture is only successful at getting the captor to say what he thinks the torturer wants him to say. Torture inevitably gives the torturer incorrect intelligence because the tortured just wants the pain to stop. It is also a double-sided sword  because the enemy becomes emboldened by the barbarism of the side that uses this disgraceful tactic. It reminds them of the immoral and merciless nature of their enemy and only makes them fight harder. In the case of religious fanatics they are emboldened even more when they see that their brethren are being tortured by people of a different faith.

So I think we just need to endorse Peace and do away with states who carry out atrocities in the name of all the people that live within its borders.

Peace…

A BRIEF HISTORY OF PIRACY: PART FOUR

In Crime, History, War on May 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm

PART FOUR: THE BUCCANEERS

The 1600s witnessed the birth of a new phenomenon, the buccaneers. These men were a frontier subculture, akin to the Gauchos, Trekboers, or Cossacks. The buccaneers were West Indian frontiersmen, drawn from runaway servants (white slaves, after a fashion), outlaws, deserting sailors, adventurers, and assorted drifters. They lived by hunting, logging, and smuggling. Their favorite dish was barbecue, called in the local patois boucan, thus boucaniers or buccaneers.

The principal base of these “Brethren of the Coast” was the island of Tortuga off Haiti. The lumberjack groups called the “Baymen” favored the mainland around the Gulf of Honduras and others associated with a short-lived Puritan colony on Providence Island.

French and English colonial governors found these well-armed hoodlums to be just the thing to confront Spanish might. The barbecue-men became privateering mercenaries and looted ships and cities across the Spanish Main. With their canoes and hunting muskets the Brethren of the Coast were a formidable, if rag-tag, force. Armed with actual warships and generously supplied with cannon, they were a major threat capable of seizing Spanish cities. In 1678 A Dutchman named Alexander Exquemelin penned a memoir of life among the buccaneers. He immortalized buccaneer leaders such as L’Olonnais, Rock the Brazilian, Bartholomew the Portuguese, and Henry Morgan. Exquemelin paid tribute to their cunning and courage without understating their treachery and cruelty.

The wild and woolly frontier days waned as English and French colonies became more established. The Baymen in the Gulf of Honduras began settling down as planters and formed the basis for the English colony of Belize. The buccaneer hang-out of Port Royal in Jamaica suffered a devastating earthquake in 1692 which sunk it to the bottom of the harbor. Successful raiders such as Henry Morgan, Laurens de Graaf, and Jean Ducasse found comfortable berths in the planter elite.

By the 1690s what was left of the buccaneers were almost entirely associated with the French colonial establishment. When Tortuga was incorporated into France’s empire, the buccaneers went with it. In 1697 buccaneers spearheaded a French naval task force that seized the colonial city of Cartagena. It was the last great buccaneer raid. Dynastic politics made France and Spain allies in the 1700s. But by then Spain was no longer the dominant colonial power. The buccaneers had worked themselves out of a job.

-Dave Hardy

PART I: An Introduction to American Involvement with War Crimes Trials

In Activism, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, George Bush, Guantanamo, History, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Military, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Terrorism, Torture, US Government, War on May 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.

 

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of The United States
Robert H. Jackson

 

Justice Jackson was asked by President Truman to represent The United States in establishing the process for trying German war criminals after Germany’s surrender in World War II. The above quote was made by him in 1945 during the negotiations of The London Charter of The International Military Tribunal (IMT) which established the legal justifications and basis for the trials. He later acted as the Chief Prosecutor for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (IMT) of the major war criminals.

 

I was probably only 12 years old when I first saw the movie ‘Judgment at Nuremburg‘ (based on the Judges’ Trial of the twelve subsequent Nuremberg Trials held after the one for the major war criminals). Even at that age, several things about the trials didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t have much more of an understanding of law or philosophy than that of any other child of my age, but I have always had a very natural understanding of logic… especially in my ability to recognize what ISN’T logical. The main question I have always had about the Nuremberg Trials is: “Why didn’t the losers get to file any charges against the winners?” That, to my mind, would be the primary aspect of a war crimes trial which would keep it from being simply ‘victors’ justice’

 

As I got older, more questions came to my mind about the Nuremberg Trials. The two most prominent of these questions are:

 

(1) We judged that those who were indicted and tried should have resisted or refused to obey laws and/or orders which they thought were immoral. However, what about those who did not have personal moral objections to those laws and/or orders? If they agreed with them but had no hand in giving or enacting them, weren’t they operating both within the law AND within their own moral codes and, if that was the case, then why weren’t they protected from prosecutions such as those at Nuremberg?; and

 

(2) If we wanted to establish that “I was just following orders” is NOT a valid defense, why doesn’t The United States put procedures and practices into place for our own soldiers and citizens who hold such objections to laws and/or orders which they are expected to follow and for which they would face court-martial and/or civil prosecution if they did refuse to obey.

 

In World War II, while there were several localized instances of American War Crimes which could be truthfully judged to be individual aberrations which could be properly, adequately and legally dealt with internally through courts-martial (the Biscari massacres, the Chenonge massacre, and the Dachau massacre, to name just three), there were no attempts to try larger scale incidents against any of the Allies for potential war crimes which originated at a command level or higher. Examples of these would include: the Dresden fire bombings of a non-strategic civilian city for the psychological effect it would have throughout Germany; the re-designation by the Allies of some German POWs (who were protected by The Geneva Conventions) to ‘disarmed enemy forces‘ (who, allegedly, were NOT protected he Geneva Convention) and their subsequent use as forced (i.e. – slave) labor by the French to clear minefields in France and The Low Countries (while this was provided for by the Armistice, the French government conceded that the practice was ‘perhaps‘ not in accordance with The Geneva Conventions. By December of 1945, the French government estimated that 2,000 German prisoners were being killed or maimed each month in accidents); and American food policy in post-war Germany which directly and indirectly caused the unnecessary suffering and deaths, from starvation, of large numbers of civilians and POWs in occupied Germany in violation of Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Rules of Land Warfare.

 

As we look at the debates our nation faces today about war crimes, it is ironic that, at the end of World War II and during the post-war period, it was The United States which took the lead in demanding legal actions and prosecutions to establish both guilt of those who would be punished AND legal precedence for the future. As early as December 1941, British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, was a vocal advocate for summary executions of war criminals, even to the point of being willing to use Acts of Attainder to circumvent any legal obstacles. It was leaders in The United States who eventually dissuaded him from this stance.

 

In 1943, at the Tehran Conference, Stalin proposed summarily executing 50,000 – 100,000 German Staff Officers. President Franklin Roosevelt tried to lighten this attitude with the suggestion that maybe only ‘49,000’ would need to be executed. Churchill followed this up by denouncing the “cold-blooded executions of soldiers who fought for their country”. In 1945, America’s Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, and his staff at The War Department drafted a plan for the ‘Trial of European War Criminals‘, which was strongly approved by President Truman. This plan formed the basis for negotiations of The London Charter.

 

While there may have been legitimate criticisms of the Allied war crimes trials, including by at least three other members of The United States Supreme Court… Chief Justice Harlan Stone (who called the Nuremberg trials “a fraud” and a “high-grade lynching”), Associate Justice William O. Douglas (who said that the Allies were guilty of “substituting power for principle” and that “law was created ex post facto to suit the passion and clamor of the time”), and Associate Justice Frank Murphy (who said, in protest of the war crime trial of Japanese General Masaharu Homma, “Either we conduct such a trial as this in the noble spirit and atmosphere of our Constitution or we abandon all pretense to justice, let the ages slip away and descend to the level of revengeful blood purges.”), it was The United States of America which led the path to the establishment of norms of public international trials for war crimes. Now we face showing ourselves as a nation of hypocrites who are quick to judge others but unwilling to have judgment turned on our own.

 

The war crimes trials of World War II may have utilized ex post facto laws and rules to judge and condemn Axis war criminals but, thanks in large part to The United States, they establish the precedent for holding accountable those at any and all levels of military, political, civilian AND economic structures for both actions AND decisions which lead to the systematic rule of brutality, terror and violence of both the German and Japanese regimes.

 

The United States considered such trials so important that after growing differences between the four major Allied Powers made additional international trials under the International Military Tribunal impossible, that they held 12 subsequent trials on their own at Nuremberg. Under Control Council Law #10, which empowered any of the occupying authorities to try suspected war criminals in their respective occupation zones, The United States alone, between December 1946 and October 1948, conducted:

 

01.) The Doctors’ Trial (Medical doctors and Nazi officials)

 

War Crimes: Performing medical experiments, without the subjects’ consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Also planning and performing the mass murder of prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, stigmatizated as aged, insane, incurably ill, deformed, and so on, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums during the Euthanasia Program and participating in the mass murder o concentration camp inmates.

 

Crimes Against Humanity: For performing those same acts on German nationals.

 

02.) The Milch Trial (Field Marshall of the Luftwaffe, Erhard Milch)

 

War Crimes: Knowingly committed war crimes as principal and accessory in enterprises involving slave labor and having also willingly and knowingly participated in enterprises involving the use of prisoners of war in war operations contrary to international convention and the laws and customs of war. Also, knowingly and willfully participated in enterprises involving fatal medical experiments upon subjects without their consent.

 

Crimes Against Humanity: For slave labor and fatal medical experiments, in the same manner as indicated in the first two counts, except that here the alleged victims are declared to be German nationals and nationals of other countries.

 

03.) The Judges’ Trial (German jurists and lawyers)

(Held responsible for implementing and furthering the Nazi “racial purity” program through the German eugenic and racial laws)

 

War Crimes: Abuse of the judicial and penal process, resulting in mass murder, torture, plunder of private property.


Crimes Against Humanity: The same grounds, including slave labor charges.

 

04.) The Pohl Trial (Employees of the SS Economics and Administrative Department)

(Held for active involvement in and administration of the “Final Solution”; they also handled the procurement for the Waffen SS and the administration of the SS ‘Totenkopf’Divisions)


War Crimes: Administration of concentration camps and of extermination camps, and the mass murders and atrocities committed those camps.

 

Crimes Against Humanity: The same grounds, including slave labor charges.

 

05.) The Flick Trial (high-ranking directors of Flick’s group of companies)

(Charges centered on slave labor and plundering, but Flick and the Otto Steinbrinck, were also charged for their membership in the “Circle of Friends of Himmler”, a group of influential German industrialists and bankers for the purpose of giving financial support to the Nazis. Its members “donated” annually about 1 million Reichsmark to a “Special Account S” in favor of Himmler.)


War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Participating in the deportation and enslavement of the civilian populations of countries and territories under the belligerent occupation of or otherwise controlled by Germany, and of concentration camp inmates, for use as slave labor in Flick mines and factories.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants both in the west (France) and the east (Poland, Russia). Crimes Against Humanity: participation in the persecution of Jews and the ‘aryanization’ of their properties.

 

06.) The Hostages’ Trial

(Regarding the taking of civilian hostages; wanton shootings of hostages and ‘partisans’)


War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia by having ordered hostage taking and reprisal killings.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Plundering and wanton destruction of villages and towns in Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, and Norway.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Murder and ill-treatment of prisoners of war, and arbitrarily designating combatants as “partisans”, denying them the status of prisoners of war, as well as killing them after such a designation.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Murder, torture, deportation of, and sending Greek, Albanian, and Yugoslav civilians to concentration camps.

 

07.) The IG Farben Trial (directors of IG Farben)

(IG Farben was a large German civilian industrial conglomerate of chemical firms)


War crimes and crimes against humanity: Through the plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, France, and Russia.

 

War crimes and crimes against humanity: Through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

 

08.) The Einsatzgruppen Trial (Officers of SS mobile Death Squads)

 

Crimes Against Humanity: Through persecutions on political, racial, and religious grounds, murder, extermination, imprisonment, and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations, including German nationals and nationals of other countries, as part of an organized scheme of genocide.

 

War Crimes: For the same reasons, and for wanton destruction and devastation not justified by military necessity.

 

09.) The RuSHA Trial (Various SS officials of various political and administrative

                  departments)

(For implementation of the ‘pure race’ program [RuSHA])


Crimes Against Humanity: Implementing “racial purity” programs; kidnapping children; forcing ‘non-Aryan’ pregnant women to undergo abortions; plundering; deportation of populations from their native lands in occupied countries and resettling of so-called Volksdeutsche (‘ethnic Germans’) on such lands; sending people who had had ‘interracial’ sexual relationships to concentration camps; and general participation in the persecution of the Jews.

 

War Crimes: For the same reasons.

 

10.) The Krupp Trial (Directors of the Krupp Group)

                  (The Krupp Group was a collection of large German civilian industrial companies)


Crimes Against Humanity: Participating in the plundering, devastation, and exploitation of occupied countries; participating in the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and use for slave labor of civilians, German nationals, and prisoners of war who came under German control.

 

11.) The Ministries’ Trial (officials of various Reich ministries)

(Charged for their participation in or responsibility for atrocities committed both in Germany and in occupied countries during the war)


Crimes Against Peace: Planning and waging aggressive war against other nations and violating international treaties.


War Crimes: Being responsible for murder, ill-treatment and other crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents.


Crimes Against Humanity: Committing atrocities and crimes against German nationals on the grounds of political, racial, or religious discrimination.


War crimes and crimes against humanity: Participating in or being responsible for atrocities and crimes committed against civilians in occupied countries; plundering and spoliation of occupied territories; participation in the enslavement, deportation for slave labor, and ill-treatment of civilians in both Germany and occupied countries, and of prisoners of war.

 

12.) The High Command Trial (Senior Flag Officers of the German High Command)

(Charged with having participated in or planned or facilitated the execution of the numerous atrocities committed in countries occupied by the German forces during the war)


Crimes Against Peace: Waging aggressive war against other nations and violating international treaties.

(The tribunal considered all of these accused to be not guilty of this charge, stating that they were not the policy-makers and that preparing for war and fighting a war on orders was not a criminal offense under the applicable international law of the time.)


War Crimes: Being responsible for murder, ill-treatment and other crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents. Crimes Against Humanity: participating in or ordering the murder, torture, deportation, hostage-taking, etc. of civilians in occupied countries.

 

All of the judges for all twelve of these trials were American, as were all of the prosecutors. As a result of these trials, 142 out of 185 total defendants were found guilty of at least one charge. Out of the 142 guilty verdicts, those convicted received 24 death sentences, 20 life sentences, and 98 other prison sentences of varying lengths. In addition to the 35 of the accused who were acquitted, 4 were removed from the trials due to illnesses and 4 others committed suicide during the trials. All of these trials also included charges of conspiracy to commit the various crimes and to initiate and engage in wars of aggression but those charges were mostly dropped either because of poor wording in the orders which provided the legal justification the tribunals or because of beliefs among many of the judges that consideration of those charges was outside of their scope of authorization, or various other concerns. Any future war crimes trials would have to be aware of these difficulties so that they could adequately justify including conspiracy charges in those trials.

 

The United States has prosecuted our vanquished opponents in war for war crimes at least since the trial of Henry Wirz, Commandant of Camp Sumter, the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville. We also had a history going back just as long of denying full justice and fair trials to those we have accused while, at the same time, have not held our own accountable to the same standards of justice we have condemned others for. A large part of the problems at the Andersonville Prison, for example, occurred because the Union ended the policy it had with the Confederacy of exchanging prisoners in an effort to cause hardship for the Confederacy, which resulted in the massive overcrowding and food shortages at Camp Sumter (which, at its maximum occupation, held enough Union prisoners to make it the 5th largest city in The Confederacy).

 

In 1902, the Lodge Committee in the United States Senate was supposed to investigate allegations of American war crimes committed in The Philippines, which had been building until they eventually ignited when Brigadier General Jacob Smith remarked to a reporter from The Manila News that he “intended to set the entire island of Samar ablaze” and would probably wipe out most of the population of the island. At Nuremberg, Karl Dönitz Commander In Chief of the Kriegsmarine, was charged, tried and found guilty of violating the Second London Naval Treaty (1936) which prohibited unrestricted submarine warfare even though Admiral Chester A. Nimitz stated that The United States also conducted unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific Theatre from the first day we entered the war (Great Britain had also violated the treaty itself).

 

During the Vietnam War, The United States used Agent Orange and other defoliants in Operation Ranch Hand, even though the use of poison agents as weapons in war has been banned since World War I, and initiated The CIA’s Phoenix Program, which was designed to identify and ‘neutralize’ (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, or assassination) the civilian infrastructure supporting the National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Vietnam (or Viet Cong) insurgency. In addition, the files of The Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, a Pentagon task force created to detail endemic war crimes, compiled documentary evidence which confirmed 320 incidents committed by U.S. forces (NOT counting the massacre at My Lai), including seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died; 78 other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted; and 141 instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured prisoners of war or civilian detainees.

 

These examples show how The United States has not been consistent in its pursuit of international justice regarding war crimes investigations or trials, especially when such investigations or trials should focus ON Americans. However, WE established the precedents at Nuremberg that any and everyone within a nation is accountable to the world for their belligerent actions and intentions against other nations and that, once a nation has acted ON those intentions and engaged in such actions, they are also accountable to the world for their actions regarding how they treat their own nationals, citizens and those within their own borders during such international actions. The United States has also set its own precedents for the legality of removing persons who it considers to be criminals in violation of its own laws, most notably with our invasion of Panama and the forcible removal of Manuel Noriega from his own country to The United States to stand trial under our laws and then be imprisoned in our jail system. This case also demonstrates very nicely our own view that being a head of state is not a protection against international justice.

 

It seems to me that war itself is a crime not ONLY because of what one nation does to another nation and its people in the course of war but also because of what it inevitably causes any warring nation to do to its own people while it is in preparation for and engagement of such wars. This would seem to make the investigation and prosecution of war crimes to be a domestic civil necessity as well as an international criminal one. In 1945, in his opening statement before the IMF during the Nuremberg Trial of the major war criminals, Justice Robert Jackson, in his role as Chief Prosecutor said:

 

Any resort to war – to any kind of war – is a resort to means that are inherently criminal. War inevitably is a course of killings, assaults, deprivations of liberty, and destruction of property. An honest defensive war is, of course, legal and saves those lawfully conducting it from criminality. But, inherently criminal acts cannot be defended by showing that those who committed them were engaged in a war, when war itself is illegal. The very minimum legal consequences of the treaties making aggressive war illegal is to strip those who incite or wage them of every defense the law ever gave, and to leave war-makers subject to judgment by the usually accepted principles of the law of crimes.

 

The United States of America has not demonstrated itself to be deserving of the trust of its own citizens or of the world in examining our own for potential war crimes. Nor would it seem that we could be trusted conducting trials for such crimes internally. Since World War II, the prosecution of war crimes has become, of necessity, an increasingly international matter. The United States needs to cooperate with the international community to investigate and try such crimes. Part II of this article topic will cover the rise of and legal justification for international courts for conducting war crimes trials.

 

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

 

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor”

 

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

 

 

The accused and trial results of the Nuremberg Trial (IMT) of the major war criminals were:

 

Martin Bormann: Nazi Party Secretary

(Bureaucrat)

            Sentence: Death

 

Karl Dönitz: Commander-in-Chief of the Kreigsmarine / Hitler’s successor as President of Germany

            Sentence: 10 years

 

Hans Frick: German Law Leader and Governor-General of Poland.

            Sentence: Death

 

Wilhelm Frick: Minister of the Interior and Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia

(Authored the Nuremberg Race Laws)

            Sentence: Death

 

Hans Fritzsche: Radio Commentator and Head of Nazi Propaganda Ministry’s news divisions. (Tried in place of Joseph Goebbels who had committed suicide)

            Sentence: Acquitted

 

Walther Funk: Minister of Economics and head of the German Reichsbank.

            Sentence: Life

 

Hermann Goring: Reichsmarshall

(Second highest Nazi official after Hitler)

            Sentence: Death

 

Rudolf Hess: Hitler’s Deputy until 1941

(Flew to Scotland in 1941 to try to broker peace)

            Sentence: Life

 

Alfred Jodl: Wehrmacht Generaloberst

(Military leader)

            Sentence: Death

 

Ernst Kaltenbrunner: Chief of the central Nazi intelligence agency.

(Highest surviving SS official)

            Sentence: Death

 

Wilhelm Keitel: Head of the Wehrmacht command structure

(Military leader)

             Sentence: Death

 

Baron Konstantin von Neurath: Foreign Minister and Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (Resigned in 1943)

            Sentence: 15 years

 

Franz von Papen: German Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor under Hitler, Ambassador to Austria, and Ambassador to Turkey

(Politician and Diplomat)

            Sentence: Acquitted

 

Erich Raeder: Commander-in-Chief of the Kreigsmarine (before Karl Dönitz)

(Resigned in 1943)

            Sentence: Life

 

Joachim von Ribbentrop: Ambassador-Plenipotentiary and Minister of Foreign Affairs

(Politician and Diplomat)

            Sentence: Death

 

Alfred Rosenberg: Party Ideologist, later Minister of Eastern Occupied Territories

            Sentence: Death

 

Fritz Sauckel: Plenipotentiary of slave labor program

            Sentence: Death

 

Hjalmar Schacht: Banker and economist

(Admitted violating the Treaty of Versailles)

            Sentence: Acquitted

 

Baldur von Schirach: Head of the Hitler Youth and Gauleiter of Vienna

(Retired in 1943)

            Sentence: 20 years

 

Arthur Seyss-Inquart: Various political positions and instrumental in the Anschluss

(Political functionary and Diplomat)

            Sentence: Death

 

Albert Speer: Architect and friend of Hitler, later Minister of Armaments

            Sentence: 20 years

 

Julius Streicher: Gauleiter of Franconia, and the publisher of a weekly pro-Nazi newspaper

            Sentence: Death

 

 

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

The Corporate ‘Person’

In Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Democracy, Economics, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Protest, US Government on May 11, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Nowhere are corporations mentioned in The Constitution of the United States of America.  The Constitution was 32 years old before the Supreme Court even dealt with its first case regarding a private, for-profit corporation (Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, 1819) under the contracts clause of Article I, Section 10 (“No State shall…  pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.”).  It was the conservatively activist court of the period following the War Between the States which changed the landscape of corporate law in the United States with a dictum by Chief Justice Morrison Waite in his opinion on Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) stating that corporations were ‘persons’ as meant by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (…  nor shall any State deprive any ‘person’ of life liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any ‘person’ within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.)

 

Between 1890 and 1937, VERY activist courts that were VERY conservative and pro-business weakened the ability of employees, customers, state legislatures and labor unions to challenge the power of corporations in the United States.  Even under more liberal courts, corporations have been given additional rights of ‘persons’, such as with 1978’s National Bank vs. Bellotti decision which protected corporate ‘political speech’ under the 1st Amendment.  In all ways, corporations in the United States are legal ‘persons’ under The Constitution which means that, in The United States, certain stacks of signed documents are the same as, and have the same rights under the law as any living, breathing flesh and blood ‘person’ does.  Isn’t it time to challenge the legal and logical fallacies of this position?

 

A human ‘person’ is born.  You can say that a corporation is born, also, but a corporation does not go through a childhood or minority in which it is raised and educated before it is given rights and powers of equal standing with an adult.  There is no consideration of childhood for a corporation and yet for a human person, the importance of childhood cannot be minimized.  Children can be required to attend school and be subjected to curfews that do not apply to adults.  Children are restricted in purchasing or using things with which they might harm themselves or others through restrictions which do not apply to adults (alcohol, tobacco, guns, etc.).  Children cannot legally gamble or enter into contracts.  Children can be restricted from accessing information which other adults can freely access (pornography and restricted movies are two examples of this).  Children cannot vote and their rights of assembly can be limited.  Children cannot work or earn their own money except as specifically provided for by law.  Childhood places very real restrictions and limitations on human ‘persons’ before they are given all of the rights and privileges of an adult.  In addition, under The Constitution, there are even further restrictions on age…  no ‘person’ can be elected to a Constitutional office until they have the achieved the age of 25, 30 or 35 (depending on the particular office).  Corporations have no equal burdens placed upon them; rather they enter the world as full adults, like Venus rising out of the sea in a shell or Athena springing from the head of Zeus.

 

A human ‘person’ is responsible for their own actions.  A human ‘person’ who breaks a law and is brought before a court to answer to justice will be the one who pays a fine or goes to jail.  Felons also have restrictions placed upon them for the rest of their lives.  A corporate ‘person’ cannot be jailed.  A corporate ‘person’ can also just make changes in their management or their Board of Directors and make a claim for leniency or exception which a human ‘person’ who is sane cannot make…  It wasn’t us, it was others, and they aren’t here now”.  Such a claim made by a human ‘person’ would be considered proof of very real and very serious mental illnesses.  While individuals who work for a corporation can be held accountable for some of their actions (keep in mind, the purpose of incorporation is to shield individuals from personal liability or accountability to the public), a corporation itself cannot be imprisoned.  Further, while a corporation might be fined or otherwise punished by a court, the people who made decisions can go elsewhere and continue as they have.  Like a coach of a team which is sanctioned by the NCAA, if the coach can just get a job elsewhere, the sanctions don’t follow him.  Corporations can further shield themselves by creating other corporations which they own and control but which protect the greater corporation from financial or legal liability.

 

A human ‘person’ has duties to perform in their society.  A human ‘person’ can be called to serve on a jury as provided for in The Constitution.  A human ‘person’ can enlist in, or even be conscripted into a military service and sent to die for their country.  A human ‘person’ can run for political office to help fulfill the needs of leadership of their governments at all levels.  No corporate ‘person’ is capable of fulfilling the obligations or duty of service to their country of an individual.

 

A human ‘person’ dies.  How long can a human ‘person’ be part of the workforce?  How long can they provide for themselves and make their own decisions?  How long can a human ‘person’ keep death at bay?  While a corporation might go belly up, or be bought or just end by a decision of those at the top, a corporation, a corporate ‘person’, has no natural lifespan and can, in principle, go on living forever…  maybe a restructuring here and there or a name change but, none-the-less, the same legal ‘person’.

 

The logical case against considering corporations to be ‘persons’ could fill a book, however, there is also a legal flaw which should be addressed within the Constitutional framework of accepting corporations as ‘persons’…  a ‘person’ can’t be owned in the United States.

 

The idea of corporations as ‘persons’ was ‘found’ by the Court in the 14th Amendment.  If the 14th Amendment makes them ‘persons’ under The Constitution, doesn’t the 13th Amendment also apply to them?  (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”)  Now, go to any dictionary you can find and look up, in order, slavery and slave.  I’ll wait.

 

No ‘person’ can own another ‘person’ in the United States.  Therefore, if a corporation IS a legal ‘person’ under the protection and jurisdiction of The Constitution, doesn’t that mean that they can’t be owned, and that they cannot own other ‘persons’ (i.e.  — other corporations).  If The Constitution applies to the Corporate ‘person’, doesn’t that mean that the WHOLE Constitution applies to them?

 

Rhys M.  Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor…  but, above all Honor

 

© copyright 2008 by Rhys M.  Blavier
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Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF PIRACY: PART THREE

In Crime, History, Military, War on May 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm

PART THREE: THE SPANISH MAIN

The 1500s saw Europe plunge into an increasingly violent cycle of wars at home and abroad that stretched from the Habsburg-Valois Wars beginning in 1520 to the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. The 1500s were dominated by attempts by the rulers of France and England to undermine the power of the Habsburg family that ruled The Holy Roman Empire and Spain. In the early days monarchs sought to maximize their sea-power by recruiting privateers, ostensibly seeking reprisal from wrongs to king and country. Privateers proved to be quite forthcoming, lured by Spain’s American gold.

Spain’s colonies were run as closed shops. Foreign trade in the colonies, however profitable for the colonials, was regarded as detrimental to the king’s pocketbook and banned. In 1568 the Spanish shot up some slave-smuggling vessels commanded by Englishmen John Hawkins and his cousin Francis Drake. Queen Elizabeth granted Drake permission to take reprisals and the Anglo-Spanish war at sea was on in earnest.

Soon English, French and Dutch ships were scouring the seas in search of Spanish and Portuguese prey. As the sea-dogs grew in might they were able to seize and pillage lightly defended Spanish colonial cities. Havana had fallen to the French raider De Sores as early as 1555. Drake accounted for Panama, Santo Domingo, Valparaiso, St. Augustine, and Cadiz on the Spanish mainland.

The Reformation gave the new sea-marauding an ideological angle, pitting Protestant against Catholic. England and the Netherlands adopted Protestantism as the state religion. While France never formally rejected Catholicism, the growth of the Huguenot movement fueled forty years of inter-religious civil war. Protestant raiders could see themselves not simply as loot-greedy pirates, but as crusaders for the Reformation.

The growth of national identities was boosted by the sea-wars. Drake, the erstwhile privateer, became a national hero in the Armada Campaign in 1588. The Sea-Beggars, as the Dutch raiders were called, were part of modern Europe’s first national liberation struggle. The Netherlands, infuriated by heavy-handed Spanish rule, revolted in 1567. They took to the sea in “fly-boats,” an early type of schooner. The Dutch terms for flyboater were corrupted into filibuster and free-booter.

The old war between Christian and Muslim still raged in the Mediterranean. North Africa was fragmented into the semi-independent Barabary States of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and the sultanate of Morocco. The new wealth from Asia and the Americas gave the European economy a decisive boost over the barren shores of North Africa. Slavery was a major motivation for corsair raiding. While the Spanish might carry off some Moors to slavery in the colonies, the teeming population on the Christian side of the Mediterranean was a ready source of wealth for the Barbary Corsairs. That is not to suggest that the Christian realms were morally superior, rather they found easier pickings further south.

A substantial number of European pirates “turned Turk” and joined the corsairs, bringing valuable expertise in shipbuilding and gunnery. The corsairs were willing to work on installment, accepting payment to leave a particular ruler’s ships alone. These arrangements tended to suit the dominant sea-powers as they could bear the burden better than second-tier commercial rivals.

Privateers formed a sea-going militia for their countries. But a desire for loot as for love of country of religion motivated these sea-rovers. This disjunction of interest often put the privateers at odds with the authorities they ostensibly served. Privateers operated under letters of marque (for service to a ruler in war) and letters of reprisal (for wrongs done at any time) with specific limitations and expiration dates. In practice these were often ignored, frequently with connivance of officials who got a share of the loot. Privateers that attacked neutral ships or made raids in peacetime could involve their sovereigns in awkward diplomatic incidents. The end of the Anglo-Spanish War in 1605 saw King James I of England struggling to suppress the pirates who had lately been heroic defenders of the realm. King James’s efforts proved to be a rather minor interlude.

-Dave Hardy