Tag Archives: Constitution

An Administration Based on Falsehoods


trump-clown-kingThe Trump team has done nothing but lie to us. His people would tell the most outrageous lies throughout the election and transitional period. Now they are continuing their outrageous lies from the White House.

On day one of the Trump administration, Saturday, January 21, Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave his first official briefing. In it he berated the media for “distorting” the crowd numbers at the inauguration, and then proceeded to list a series of “facts” that were nothing more than fabrications. There are numerous pictures, videos, and statistics to support the media’s version of events. Then, Spicer spewed out a torrent of lies. In this case Spicer simply made up numbers such as mass transit ridership that had no basis in fact. These utterly false statistics were disputed by the transit authority. According to CNN, four of the five main statements made by Spicer at that event were totally fallacious. The Orwellian notion herein being enacted is that falsehood becomes truth when trumpeted loud and long.

Kellyanne Conway went on television the next day to explain that Spicer had not lied, but only presented “alternative facts”. I do not know about how this works in your world, but in my world an “alternative fact” is simply a lie.

And of course the larger issue here is that Trump, on his first day in office, must have higher priorities than arguing about attendance figures at the inauguration. This raises the problem of his extreme narcissism which will be a topic for a later chapter.

Trump during the campaign would hammer the same lies over and over, often times repeating each lie multiple times in one sentence. The Trump people routinely tell more lies than can even been debunked. While the press and pundits are trying to analyze the first lie, the Trump team has issued a hundred more. Trump complained about unfair media coverage even when the media did nothing more than show video clips of Trump’s prior pronouncements.

The Donald wants to suppress freedom of the press under the First Amendment. He wants to decide what is news and to punish those who publish otherwise. This is not the thinking of a democratically elected leader. It is rather the rantings of a dictator seeking absolute power and control.

The Trump team refuses to answer questions, and instead pivot and distract by changing the subject. During the campaign the standard pivots were to Hillary’s emails and Bill’s sex life. Neither of these are relevant now, so get over it.

Kellyanne Conway was just one of dozens of Trump spokespersons who lied to us throughout the campaign and transition period. There was also Kayleigh McEnany, Katrina Pierson, Jeffrey Lord, Chris Christie, Paul Manafort, Corey Lewandowski, Rudi Juliani, and more. Paul Manafort is now under investigation for the Russian connection. All of these spokespersons spread an endless barrage of lies, distortions, pivots, and distractions. All of them would pivot and throw red-herrings in order to not answer questions. Now it looks like the Trump administration will continue in the same vein.

Apart from lies The Donald’s other rhetorical techniques includes bullying, heaping abuse on others, and scapegoating problems. He would also promise much but never provide any plans or solutions. Real solutions must be grounded in facts and not fantasy. No one is going to build a wall. No one is going to deport 12 million people, breaking up millions of families in the process. No one is going to be excluded from the United States based solely on their religious affiliation.

The inaugural address was despicable. Rather than addressing the nation Trump only addressed his supporters. Part of being “presidential” is to realize that a president must serve all of the people, and not just those who voted for him or her. Trump attacked all those who oppose him, blamed the media for under reporting the inaugural crowds, and then whined to the CIA that the media was biased. Trump acts more like a playground bully that anyone who could govern this country.

Trump is now and will always be in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution which forbids the president to take any money from foreign powers. Trump has business entanglements in at least 50 countries, and many of these involve foreign governments. Trump denies having any business interests in Russia, but the record is clear that he has been working to establish businesses in Russia for the past thirty years.

Trump’s lease of his hotel in Washington from the federal government is now illegal and must be terminated. Sean Spicer has told us that as president, Trump is above the law and can have no conflicts of interests. But Spicer is describing a dictator, not a president bound by a constitution. More lies from Spicer. More lies is all that we can expect from The Donald and his rabid attack dogs.

The White House website now has a plug for Melania’s ongoing jewelry business. Trump will use every opportunity to abuse the office he holds for personal gain. Spicer two days before the inauguration told everyone to stay at the Trump hotel in Washington. The Trump administration will be marked by endless scandal and corruption, so get used to it.

And let us remember Trump’s tax returns. Trump promised over and over that he would release his tax returns 1) if he ran for election, 2) when the IRS audit was completed, 3) when he was elected to office. This, like everything that the Donald has told us is simply a self-serving lie. We can only assume, along with Mitt Romney, that Trump will never release his tax returns because they are toxic if not radioactive. Without his tax returns we cannot even begin to grasp what is needed for the Donald to be free of conflicts of interest. What we know about his businesses is bad enough. What we do not know is potentially horrifying.

On day one there is enough to impeach The Donald based on the emoluments clause alone. His ties to Putin and his relationship to Russia is further grounds, but this will take more time to substantiate.

And finally, the election irregularities, most of them predicted by The Donald, are grounds for his resignation. Nixon was right. Watergate was indeed a “third-rate burglary” compared to what has happened now. The Russian connection and the various election irregularities will take several years to sort out. But the emoluments clause and the numerous financial conflicts of interest are immediate grounds for impeachment.

We need to trust a Republican Congress to impeach Trump and to put an end to this obscenity that is the Trump administration.

 

The Electoral College Has Failed Us Again


It’s time to dump the Electoral College (November 2016)

statue-in-grief

For the second time in recent history, the Electoral College has thwarted the will of the American voter. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, as did Al Gore in 2000. That is twice in 16 years that the Electoral College has failed us. The Electoral College is an 18th Century anachronism that may have made sense back then. But is the 21st Century it has become a disaster.

No one wants to see another Electoral College tragedy like the one that occurred in 2000.  George W.  Bush was elected by a handful of votes in Florida that overrode the choice of millions of voters across the country.  In truth, the election was decided by one vote when the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision gave Florida and the election to Bush. Now it has happened for a second time and the results will be even more devastating.

The Electoral College is full of mathematical aberrations which make for unfair elections.  Wyoming has a population of 563,626 and 3 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 187,875 people.  California has a population of 37,253,956 and 55 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 677,345 people.  Thus the vote of a Wyoming resident counts 3.6 times as much as the vote of a California resident.

But there are even more to worry about. The rules are not even consistent from state to state. Maine and Nebraska split their votes according to congressional districts. While this might actually make sense, the rules should be standardized across the nation.

Even more troubling is the potential for an “unfaithful elector.” One of the electors from the state of Washington declared that he would refuse to cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton out of personal conscience. On election night there were some scenarios that pointed to an Electoral College tie vote at 269 each. In such a situation, one unfaithful elector could change the results of the election out of personal whim, and not be accountable.

The Electoral College system disenfranchises those who vote for the losing parties in each state.  If you are a Republican in California or a Democrat in Texas you need not even bother to vote for president.  Your vote for president will not even be counted in this winner-take-all system.  The only way to make your vote count is to move your voter registration to a swing state, like Florida, where it just might make a difference.  But such shenanigans are shameful and ought not to be necessary.

The Electoral College made sense in Eighteenth Century America.  Back then America was much like Europe is today.  The European Community is still a collection of nations, even though there is the beginning of a European government. In the Eighteenth Century colonial America was also a collection of nations.  People were Virginians or Georgians or New Yorkers.  No one thought of us as a federation.  In the Eighteenth Century it made sense to vote for the president by states.

The name “The United States of America” comes from the Declaration of Independence.  But what the Declaration of Independence really says is, “… the thirteen united STATES OF AMERICA.”  The emphasis was on the individual states and not on a union.

It was the Civil War that finally fused this collection of states into a nation.  The Spanish American War in 1898 marked the birth of the American superpower, capable of influencing events beyond our borders.

Now in the Twenty-First Century the Electoral College is a dangerous and destructive historical anachronism.  We are one nation and we need to vote as one nation.  The elected president should be the person who commands the most votes regardless of the states in which those votes were cast.

 

 

Our 18th Century Constitution


Our Eighteenth Century Constitution

The world, and this nation, was a much different place back in 1787.  The changes over the past 225 years are  indescribable.  It is hard to understand the passion of the Tea Party and other conservatives to return to an 18th Century viewpoint of government.  Do these antiquarians realize that the original Constitution allowed for chattel slavery? And that suffrage was limited to white, male, property owners?  Have we learned nothing in the past 225 years?

Even in its amended state, The Constitution is still showing its age.  What made perfect sense back in the 18th Century makes little or no sense today.  In the 18th Century America was much like the European Union of the 21st Century; it was a collection of sovereign states struggling to work together for security and economic development.  It took the newly minted Unites States of America until after the Civil War to decide that it was one nation, and not a loose collection of states.

The Constitution never mentioned such things as NASA.  We spent much of the 19th Century arguing over whether we could have a central bank or not.  George Washington kept the entire Executive Branch of the federal government in two filing cabinets.  The only communications network was the post office, as established in Article I Section 8.

Some would say that the Constitution has served us well over the past 225 years.  However, there are distinct signs of its increasing dysfunction.  If the Constitution were to be written today it would be a much different document.  Listed below are some highlights of changes that might be in order.

Electoral College

In 2000, the will of the nation as expressed by the voting population was thwarted by the dangerous and antiquated Electoral College.  There were a whole series of problems in the election in Florida.  Because of the Electoral College, Florida got to decide on its own who was to be president.  Just to cite one of the many problems, “butterfly ballots” in Dade County caused 35,000 votes for Al Gore to be mistakenly cast for Patrick Buchanan.  Even Buchanan himself conceded that these votes rightfully belonged to Al Gore.  But there was no way to fix them.  In the final tally George W. Bush won the state and the presidency by 537 votes in the state of Florida.

With a tight and hotly contested election underway now in 2012, the Electoral College may once again thwart the will of the people and elect the candidate that came in second in the popular vote.

There are so many issues with the Electoral College that one scarcely knows where to begin.  One issue is the “unfaithful elector,” who may fail to vote his state’s preference.  This could be done for partisan reasons, or perhaps just to throw a monkey wrench into the entire proceedings.

If you are a Republican in California or a Democrat in Texas there is no need to vote for president at all in 2012 as your vote will not be counted.  The only way to make your vote count would be to transfer your legal residence to a swing state such as Florida or Ohio.

Gun Control

As recently as the Reagan Administration, the Constitution was thought to link the “right to bear arms” to “well regulated militias”.  Indeed, the very wording of the Second Amendment seems to make that point perfectly clear.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. 

More recently, the Supreme Court on the urging of the National Rifle Association has taken that passage to mean the private use of  unlimited firepower under any circumstances.  While it is understandable that some people would want to own hunting rifles, and guns for home defense, there can be no justification for military assault style weapons, armor-piercing bullets, or large 100-shot magazines such as was used at the Aurora, Colorado shooting.

For the sake of argument, even if we accept the NRA’s position that there is no link between the “right to bear arms” and “well regulated militias,” it seems inconceivable that the “right to bear arms” was ever meant to be an absolute.  Freedom without restrain is anarchy.  The Supreme Court has drifted towards anarchy in the issue of gun control.  What will our future hold if this drift continues?

There must be balance in all things.  We must always balance freedom with control to create a well-regulated society where all of us can pursue our own dreams in safety.  What kind of society do we create if we have to worry about being shot to death in a movie theater, or in a house of worship?

The Preamble to the Constitution sets out one goal of government as being to “promote the general welfare,” and to “insure domestic tranquility.”

If we allow private citizens to amass and use military style assault weapons then we risk the loss of government control altogether.  We could become a “failed state”, such as Somalia, Columbia or Pakistan, where power is held by heavily armed war lords and their soldiers, where government is either non-existent, as in Somalia, or unable to govern much of its territory.  Surely not even the NRA would want such an outcome.

Free Speech

Free speech is another area in which we need to balance freedom with restraint. Free speech, very much like the “right to bear arms,” is often construed as an absolute right in the eyes of the Supreme Court.  And such absolutism has created many senseless and preventable instances of abuse that could have been prevented.

Free speech as found in Amendment I of the constitution clearly seems to be tied to political speech.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

My background is not in law, but rather in theology, biblical scholarship, and sacred history.  As a biblical scholar I learned to do exegesis on ancient texts so as to discover their deeper meanings.

When I use my exegetical tools on this passage I find that it is clearly talking about political speech.  It is tied to petitioning the government for the redress of grievances.

There are a few things that should not be considered “free speech” under the constitution:

  • Commercial speech
  • Symbolic “Speech”
  • Hate speech
  • False speech in the public arena

Commercial Speech

If the speech is for commercial purposed than clearly it should be regulated.  There should be regulations preventing specious promises, distortion of facts, and all sorts of deceptions in the public marketplace.

Symbolic Speach

The courts have ruled many form of action are permissible under the rubric of “symbolic free speech.”  Examples include everything from panhandling, to flag burning, to going topless.  Panhandling should be seen as a commercial activity and hence subject to regulation.  Going topless does not seem to be “speech,” and does not seem to involve the redress (no pun intended) of grievances with the government.  Flag burning is the kind of topic that should be discussed as we seek to explore the boundaries of legitimate free speech.

Hate Speech

Europe has very tough laws against “hate speech.”  Hate speech in the US is tragically allowed under the rubric of “Free Speech.”  Hate speech involves such actions as marches organized by white-supremacy groups in order to harass, threaten and intimidate minorities.  Hate speech is made by a sick “church” that disrupts military funerals in order to protest the presence of gay persons in our society.  Can you imaging the pain of losing a loved one who has made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country.  And then, can you imagine the horror of an anti-gay protest turning a memorial service into a firestorm of abuse?

Hate speech is the taunting and bullying that causes many children, youth and young adults to commit suicide.  Hate speech is the use of racial or sexual epitaphs.

The First Amendment talks about the right to “peaceably to assemble.”  There is a great difference between a protest and a riot.  Similarly, the concept of “peaceably” should relate to free speech as well.  Free speech is meant to engage (peaceably) in political discussion, not to bully, threaten, harass and intimidate.

And once again, the Preamble to the Constitution sets out one goal of government as being to “promote the general welfare,” and to “insure domestic tranquility.”

False Speech in the Public Arena

The “Stolen Valor” law was intended to prevent people from claiming military honors under false pretenses.  One candidate for public office claimed that he held the Congressional Medal of Honor even though he had never served in the military.  The Supreme Court said that his outrageous lie was protected “free speech.” The government should have the right to regulate such egregious misrepresentation of the truth.  Outrageous lies ought not to be given protection under the rubric of free speech.

We have laws against perjury.  No “free speech” defense is allowed as justification.

The Reapportionment of the United States Senate

This is one of the most undemocratic provisions of the constitution.  Individual states that modeled their upper houses after the US Senate were told by the US Supreme Court that this was unacceptable.  Iowa was one such example.  Each of the state’s ninety-nine counties had one state senator.

The apportionment of the US Senate may have made sense in the Eighteenth Century, when we were a collection of sovereign states.  But it is an undemocratic anachronism today. If this style of apportionment is illegal for the Iowa Legislature it should be illegal for the Congress as well.

The Role of Government

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.

This would be a great time to look at the role of government and what we would like to see it do in the 21st Century.  NASA once again comes to mind.  Should not one of the functions of government be to support basic research?

Our nation was made great due to a free system of public education.  And now that free public education that made us great is under attack.

Preservation of the global environment is a critical issue for our survival.  In the 18th Century the world’s resources were seen as infinite and inexhaustible.  Today we know that we are living on a small green and blue space ship with no chance of replenishment.  If we burn through our resources or poison our habitat we have no chance of survival.

Infrastructure was mentioned in the Constitution under the establishment of Post Offices and post roads.  Surely it is time to expand our language in this section.

We need to take the Preamble more seriously.  Why do conservatives skip over the wording, “promote the general Welfare.”  Does not this require a lot of government responsibilities that we should take seriously?

It’s time to …


Make voting count.

It’s time to dump the Electoral College (January 2011)

The 2012 presidential campaign will soon be underway, if it is not already.  No one wants to see another Electoral College tragedy like the one that occurred in 2000.  George W.  Bush was elected by a handful of votes in Florida that overrode the choice of millions of voters across the country.  In truth, the election was decided by one vote when the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision gave Florida and the election to Bush.

The Electoral College is full of mathematical aberrations which make for unfair elections.  Wyoming has a population of 563,626 and 3 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 187,875 people.  California has a population of 37,253,956 and 55 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 677,345 people.  Thus the vote of a Wyoming resident counts 3.6 times as much as the vote of a California resident.

The Electoral College system disenfranchises those who vote for the losing parties in each state.  If you are a Republican in California or a Democrat in Texas you need not even bother to vote for president in 2012.  Your vote for president will not even be counted in this winner-take-all system.  The only way to make your vote count is to move your voter registration to a swing state, like Florida, where it just might make a difference.  But such shenanigans are shameful and ought not to be necessary.

The Electoral College made sense in Eighteenth Century America.  Back then America was much like Europe is today.  The European Community is still a collection of nations, even though there is the beginning of a European government. In the Eighteenth Century colonial America was also a collection of nations.  People were Virginians or Georgians or New Yorkers.  No one thought of us as a federation.  In the Eighteenth Century it made sense to vote for the president by states.

The name “The United States of America” comes from the Declaration of Independence.  But what the Declaration of Independence really says is, “… the thirteen united STATES OF AMERICA.”  The emphasis was on the individual states and not on a union.

It was the Civil War that finally fused this collection of states into a nation.  The Spanish American War in 1898 marked the birth of the American superpower, capable of influencing events beyond our borders.

Now in the Twenty-First Century the Electoral College is a dangerous and destructive historical anachronism.  We are one nation and we need to vote as one nation.  The elected president should be the person who commands the most votes regardless of the states in which those votes were cast.

Greg