How to fix it.

Discussion in 'Clean Debate Zone' started by candycorn, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. candycorn
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    candycorn Alis volat propriis

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    How to fix it:

    As many, if not most, of you know I am a big proponent of further perfecting the Constitution. It was written by men so, therefore, it is imperfect. Furthermore, it was written during a period in our nation’s history when the threads that were weaving the American fabric were not yet tested for strength; much less how they would fit together to form the parent cloth. It is even true that the framers of the Constitution recognized that their first gambit in the birth of the American nation was not working a mere eleven years into the experiment. The Articles of Confederation were judged to be unsuitable by the cadre of leaders so they sought to forge a new document that would correct the mistakes of the past. Why is it then that we, 225 years later, are too timid to make such an observation? Certainly the eleven year span between 1776 to 1787 witnessed miniscule changes when compared to the massive transformations our country has seen in the last 225. So why not seek to further perfect the document from our advantageous position that comes along with being a witness to history; from learning from one’s mistakes and making the simple realization that the men of those first formative years of the American experiment could not possibly have forecasted the metamorphosis that has transpired over the last two and a quarter centuries?

    At the top of the list is the admission that politics is a prevalent force in our nation’s governance. Once political considerations are put on the table and are addressed, the methodologies of mitigating what Washington called the “baneful effects of party” can be addressed. Put another way, the first step in solving a problem is to admit that there is one. We have a problem; its name is politics and it will not go away.

    What steps do we take to mitigate the effects of politics? The Constitution gives us a great system of checks and balances where one branch of the government can check the intentions and actions of another branch. It is genius. The rivalries that are born out of the document are, perhaps, the greatest thing about the Constitution. The founding fathers—through the adoption of the document—clearly did not want Congress to trust the President or the Courts to trust the rule of Congress or that the President to be totally restrained in effecting either—thus giving the Chief Executive the veto power and the power to appoint judges. Yes; the founder put in place a system of checks and balances. But while they wanted distrust; they didn’t want—from all indications of the Constitution—is the disrespect between the bodies and, in the case of Congress, within the bodies themselves. The Constitution needs to be further perfected to ensure that one house of Congress should be required to hear the full work of the other house in a timely fashion; a straight up or down vote on the work submitted by the other house. Currently, the party leadership makes the determination of what bills are considered and the result has been unparalleled gridlock and the people’s business languishes as a result. A straight up or down vote may merely result in more bills being voted down than ever before. This is fine. That is what representatives do in a republic such as ours. However, when doing the peoples’ business, the record of the representative’s votes will be more detailed and there will be no more hiding behind party leadership to shield a member of the body from having to take a stand. A vote of “present” should be done away with. The member is elected to serve the people of his or her state or district. Surely it isn’t too much to ask that they read the bill and make an informed decision as to whether or not they support the bill. Where the matter isn’t brought up by the other chamber of the Congress, the Congress should be forced to hold floor votes to conduct the nations’ business. When the President nominates federal judges, the Congress should have to consider those appointments in a timely fashion. It is a sign of disrespect to the jurists and to the people that nominations languish for months while the Senate refuses to hold nomination hearings.

    What is of equal disrespect to the nations’ citizenry is that Congress quite often is in session for less than one half of the calendar year. While this isn’t always the blight that it can be made out to be—members should be home in their communities as often as possible—most Americans are given ten federal holidays from work where businesses are closed. There are generally 104 weekend days in a year so 114 days out of 365 are non-session days. Comparatively few Americans work on weekends and while Congressional representation is a privilege that should only be bestowed on the best qualified; we shouldn’t expect the members to not have a life outside of their service to us. So 114 days are off the books without consideration. However, of the remaining 251 days in the year, Congress should be required to be in session no less than 167 of those days or 2/3 of the time. Another quarter of the remaining time—21 days—should be devoted to time spent in the community working to uncover the issues in their states and districts; holding hearings in the local chambers of commerce, meeting with community groups, etc… Members of the Senate may use the 21 days to visit foreign embassies, meet with other world leaders or do work that is otherwise in accordance with their more generalized office if they wish. The point is that for most of the time; 300-302 days, Congress should be doing the job they were elected to do; be it in Washington or in their communities.

    State’s rights are not spelled out by the Constitution except to say that rights not defined should be given to the states. What is “defined” or not has put many people through law school in this nation. The States have been, at times, poor stewards of their responsibilities. Never more so has this been true when drawing Congressional boundaries or Gerrymandering as it is called. The word processor on which I am typing this recognized the word “gerrymandering” so it is a thing that has become part of our lexicon. For those who do not know, the word comes from the root “gerrymander” which was a mythical creature. Someone once used the term to describe the shape of a congressional district that was drawn to either favor one group or injure another. The Constitution needs to be further perfected to stop this practice. It’s hard to imagine a system that is less respectful to the nation as a whole than to have these districts drawn to ensure a seat in the House of Representatives remains in the hands of one party or the other. District lines should be abolished all together. In their place, a non-contiguous grouping of persons by population needs to be implemented. I recommend it be done by zip codes via a lottery system. Call the more populous zip codes category A, moderately populated, category B, rural as category C. Then you take all of the A’s, B’s, and C’s and assign a district numbers via a lottery system as to where each district has roughly the same number of people. Then assign a legislator to a district every 10 years based on the census. He or she may have a district that has both Miami and Jacksonville neighborhoods but what we have now isn’t equitable and is seemingly totally at the whim of whichever party happens to hold the pen that draws congressional boundaries.
    “Safe” seats will be a thing of the past in most cases. And seats that have historically belonged to one ethnicity or another will vanish over time as well. If this can be combined with campaign finance reform; there will be significant process into amplifying the voices of the voters over those of special interest.

    Constitutional perfections need to be added to the Court system as well. I do not feel that 30 year terms for Supreme Court Justices is out of the question.

    I would urge the Constitution to be further perfected to abolish Presidential pardons and bestow that power to the Supreme Court so that legal experts can consider the cases that are truly in need of review without the election cycle being a consideration. In an election year, those who are being considered for a pardon are often at the whim of the Electoral College since a President who gets a second term is more conscious of political fallout than one that doesn’t have a second term coming their way. These extraordinary circumstances that are by definition matters of law should be decided by the high court. A simple 5-4 majority would be needed to overturn part of a conviction or commute a sentence.

    Where the Constitution is currently silent, voice needs to be added. Where the Constitution speaks, silence should be advised in some cases. In the last seventy years, Presidents have moved troops in and out of harm’s way totally without Constitutional authority outside of the stipulation that he is Commander in Chief. Congress shall have the power to declare war. It says so in the Constitution. The document needs to be perfected to mean just that; we don’t move troops into harm’s way without Congressional approval. This can be done with proxies given to party leaders as to expedite the decision or if the members do not wish to give proxies, they have to be notified for a vote on whether or not to commit troops. Wars fought for convenience or with murky goals in mind should be abolished all together.

    There are endless avenues to travel down to further perfect the document. I think it should be regularly perfected. I wouldn’t be comfortable with anything more often than seventy years or so with the understanding that the amendment process will still be available in the meantime. We do not know what the founders didn’t write in the document. We can speculate on their intent but the document we have is ill-suited to the 22nd century realities.
     
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  2. Amelia
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    Amelia BANNED

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    Bump. Still reading and digesting.

    Quick note: Gerrymandering was named for Elbridge Gerry -- Gerry + Salamander.

    Hope that doesn't seem like a hit and run correction. I'm really thinking about your post. ( :
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2012
  3. flacaltenn
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    flacaltenn USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Many good and debateable fixes here. But about 1/2 are not contraindicated by the Constitution and most of the other half just demands STRICTER adherence to the Constitution. See notes above..

    A new Constitutional Convention would result in mass casualties, several declarations of war and a draft big enough to strip Yosemite of trees. So I'd rather leave a Document that very simply enumerates the Powers of the Fed Govt and modify it sparingly.

    But MOST importantly -- the stalemates and frustrations you have are simply because having 2 parties causes a NATURAL roadblock to the function of Congress and allows each party to SWEAR it's gonna resolve the Congressional rules and open up the process. When they achieve power -- nothing happens. Even a token amount of 3rd party and Independent representatives would shed light on the issues. A disloyal party member right now has no where to go if they defy Party leadership. If they speak out or don't toe the line, they will be operating out of closet 5 blocks from Capitol Hill and facing a Party backed candidate in the next primary.. This party ALLEGIANCE would be broken down as soon as Americans understand there is no REQUIREMENT to vote either REP or DEM. You make easier for representatives to DEFY their party and run as INDEPENDENTS or 3rd party and a lot of your problems here simply go away... Better politicians, Better Voters, Better parties. Don't blame the Constitution.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2012
  4. C_Clayton_Jones
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    C_Clayton_Jones Diamond Member

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    That would be ill-advised, the Supreme Court is the final appellate Court in the Federal system; it addresses conflicts between and among the many Federal courts of appeal, the state supreme courts, and between and among the states themselves. It would be inappropriate and unworkable to expect the justices to re-examine a lawfully adjudicated criminal conviction outside of the appellate process. Pardons are a political, not legal, matter – hence the Framers’ intent to invest that authority in the Chief Executive.

    One must remember that the Constitution is not ‘the beginning’ of a thing, but the culmination of nearly 1000 years of Anglo-American judicial tradition, representing a long and brilliant process resulting in greater freedom for our Nation and ensuring the liberty of each individual in the context of the rule of law.

    As with the Federal courts and the Supreme Court, it was neither the function nor design of the Constitution to address and resolve all problems vexing our Nation; it is therefore the responsibility of the people, through the democratic process, to compel Congress and the Executive to act in a manner responsive to the people’s needs, not the courts or judiciary.

    In Dellums v. Bush (1990), the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that there was no Constitutional provision to determine when military action by the Executive is actual war subject to Congressional approval or an act appropriate for the Chief Executive per Article II, Section 2:

    How then by amendment might we so define the difference between an ‘act of war’ requiring Congressional approval and that of an ‘offensive military attack’ in the context of national security. Would, for example, the president need approval from Congress to kill Usama bin Laden? Or to kill the pirates who attacked the Maersk Alabama?
     
  5. bigrebnc1775
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    bigrebnc1775 Diamond Member

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    I would

    term limits House
    The Senate will be elected by the state houses of each state.
    The Vice President would have to be voted on by the public in the general election not picked by the president.
    limit campaign contributions
    Balance budget
    Give the power back to the states for domestic issues and the federal government maintain foreign issues
    Kill the income tax
    Kill all unconstitutional gun laws.
    Place the national guard back in the hands of the states
    Insure the vetting system for our national elected officials is maintained

    This is a start.
     
  6. flacaltenn
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    flacaltenn USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

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    RE: Dellums v Bush

    Vagaries of war ends -- when you unlawfully project military power over a border without permission and start blowing things up without permission.. DC court must have had a stash of something left over from Marion Barry...

    Quick reaction strikes are really no different -- IF THEY ARE OFFENSIVE. CLEARLY TWO prez-s had PLENTY of time to get tacit Congressional Approval to take out bin Laden. Probably 10 years worth. A raid on Iran -- same observation.. Plenty of time. Guess what a public Congressional vote on use of military force to take out Iran's weapons manufacturing would do? It MIGHT actually get Iran to stop laughing.

    It's DEFENSIVE operations that need C in C flexibility.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2012
  7. candycorn
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    candycorn Alis volat propriis

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    I reject the premise that the document is flawless and the practicioners are what is flawed. Where the constitution is silent it often needs a voice is my stance. The way I know this is because where it does have a voice, it allows for modern day legislative subterfuge if not modern day sabotage. Take the filibuster for example. Nowhere is it mentioned in the Constitution yet both major parties utilize it now to hold up bills and impede the will of the majority. Having a third or fourth party will only lead to more filibusters. A great many people here claim to speak for the founders. That always makes me chuckle because they actually speak for the founders they agree with. But if we can discern something from their work; the filibuster not being mentioned obviously means that they didn't consider it prudent enough to include. Nowhere does it mention that the Senate may or may not decide to hear legislation from the House of Representatives or purposely place a hold on federal Judges nominated by the President.

    Currently we have what is by all accounts an apathetic electorate. An apathetic electorate is a poor public servant's best friend in my view. But since service to the country isn't compulsory nor is taking part in the electoral process, pleading for "better voters and better politicians" is the equivalent to trying to stop the tide coming in. Until something changes that forces engagement, we will have poor public servants and party officials beholden to parties over people. I will agree with you that we get the government we deserve and not having an interest is a disgrace to both you and your community. I would suspect however that if most people were given the choice of changing the rules for themselves to require attendance of COC meetings, PTO's, and compulsory voting versus, changing the rules of the elected representatives to outlaw obvious abuses of power bestowed on a few men and women by political parties due to nothing other than patronage, the choice would be to hamstring congress into actually doing the people's work instead of tactically delaying or fast-tracking legislation due to political concerns.

    Writing rules into the Constitution for Congress is a common sense approach that needs to be enacted sooner rather than later. Argument that more political parties will furnish some sort of answer to the nation's woes is much like saying a third boxer in the ring would reduce the amount of punches thrown.
     
  8. candycorn
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    candycorn Alis volat propriis

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    I disagree.

    Caspar Weinberger was pardoned before he was charged with a crime by Bush 41. Scooter Libby had his sentence commuted because he happened to know the President; others who may have similar cases or even stronger cases do not get their pardons overturned (much less on the evening of the conviction) because they do not enjoy access.

    A dangerous precedent is set when the President (who may be guilty of a crime) can pardon someone prior to conviction to prevent a case being heard as to where that crime could be discovered.

    While it may not have been the intention of the founders to invest the power of pardon in the Supreme Court, twenty-first century America and the abhorrent abuses of the power speak to the fact that it is high time that the power was stripped from the President.

    Yes. In my view he would if we're going to keep Article I's reference to Congressional Involvement intact. Either it has the power or it doesn't. My point is that we need to spell out what powers the Congress enjoys in this matter and what powers the president enjoys as well. If we're happy with Korean Conflict style engagements (technically the war is still going on), fine; lets get rid of the pesky passage about Congress having a say so. If we want to have Congressional oversight of the power to engage in warfare; we need something stronger than what we have because after 10 years plus in Afghanistan, 10 years plus in Iraq, about 60 in Korea; 8 in Vietnam; I think we can agree that these were wars and not some "police action".

    The idea of a permanent war cabinet comprising the Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tem may be a better solution. The cabinet would have to authorize the actions.
     
  9. candycorn
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    candycorn Alis volat propriis

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    Love the Avatar.
     
  10. flacaltenn
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    flacaltenn USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I don't know what math you're using -- but having 6 or 12 INDEPENDENT votes in the Senate makes it HARDER to organize a filibuster just on the word of a major party boss. That's clear as day.. Instead of a GUARANTEE that one party can seat 60 partisians, BOTH REPS and DEMS would have to work for the INDEPENDENT representatives votes.

    And I'm loathe to making the Constitution DICTATE the work/voting rules of the 2 houses. If the Senate doesn't want to consider a House bill -- the LEADERSHIP is to blame. (and it clearly is)

    OTH -- If it's clear that there are not enough votes to CONSIDER the bill -- then the process is actually expedient. Because using time to debate something that doesn't have a prayer of passing -- is wasteful (especially with a duopoly of REP v DEM). Another reason why building in INDEPENDENTS would HELP the process. It would not be clear if the bill would pass or not without the Majority Leader consulting and REASONING with others... That's 2 strikes against you dismissing my suggestion out of hand.

    The PRACTIONERS are the problem because all the power is really concentrated in just 2 VOTES. That of the Leadership of the 2 parties. Make that 3 or 4 and the process opens up into a more democratic and deliberative process instead of a tug of war (or a boxing match).

    Right now that Apathetic Electorate of yours IS the problem because patterns of voting for Prez versus the rest of the ballot show significant INTENTIONAL splits just to HAMSTRING the process and NOT hand both Houses and the Prez to one party. They may be lazy and ill-informed but they are not stupid enough to give the keys to ONE PARTY alone.. They do this trick in "midterm corrections" all the time when the novelty of a new Prez wears off and they tire of the power they granted to someone who in a mere two years -- forgets all of their election promises..

    It's not a boxing match -- your insistence that the system is functioning correctly with just two unprincipled parties just makes it LOOK like one...
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2012

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