Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Fubar the Constitution - No deals with Glenn Beck's con-con.

Don't Fubar the Constitution.

Anything you want to make significant changes to something, you have to prepare for unintended consequences. One of the most frustrating things I deal with in politics is when people with good intentions fail to see things coming that even a bat should see. 

There's a push from Mark Levin and Glenn Beck and some of their allies for what some call an Article V Convention of the States. While I respect Mark Levin as an attorney, (don't have much use for Glenn Beck), I can not disagree more with this push. My disagreement is to the point where it may significantly impact my vote in the primary if a state rep or state senator supports this extremely dangerous project.

Convention of States is the main site pushing for this. 

First off, this is Article V of the Constitution.

Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate. 

That is the original text. As far as conventions go, there isn't any history there under the current government. Anything Levin or Beck say is pure conjecture at best. That's the biggest danger. Anything could be on the table, just like what would happen with a full con-con. If 3/4 of the convention supports it, we could be in a bad way.

The original constitution came from a con-con that was supposed to "amend" the Articles of Confederation. Instead behind closed doors, they wrote a new constitution. That didn't just happen. That was the plan, at least by some like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. That's the only history we have in the US with anything close to a con-con. It was a whole new constitution.

The proponents of this "convention of states" say that there's four reasons why we need this project.

1. Spending and debt.
2. Regulatory issues.
3. Attacks on State Sovernity
4. Federal Takeovers.

There's a solution to all of these problems. Good elected officials. Get a new senate and president. The problems with government are caused by people. Any system is as good or bad as the people there. This group points at the federal agencies being a gigantic problem with regulations. They are right. They are. The problem is due to Nixon era congresses giving that power to these agencies. Congress gave the power away. It never took back the power of these admins to stop the regulations. That's the problem in the first place.

They close on that page by saying this.

This is not a partisan issue. Washington, D.C., will never voluntarily relinquish meaningful power—no matter who is elected.
We have elections for a reason. That's an assumption. A con-con won't change that assumption, because by their logic, these amendments won't change because they will be in DC (or DC will go to them). 

The only rational conclusion is this: unless some political force outside of Washington, D.C., intervenes, the federal government will continue to bankrupt this nation, embezzle the legitimate authority of the states, and destroy the liberty of the people. Rather than securing the blessings of liberty for future generations, Washington, D.C., is on a path that will enslave our children and grandchildren to the debts of the past.
There is a political force out of DC. Voters. That's the rational conclusion. DC has the power because people put them there. What difference will con-con representatives do when they draft these so called "amendments?" You're still dealing with a government class selected likely by politicians. Do you trust them?

They SAY that they can have a Article 5 Convention on a 'subject' and assume it would be limited to a subject.

1. We want to call a convention for a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. Instead of calling a convention for a balanced budget amendment (though we are entirely supportive of such an amendment), we want to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

That can mean anything.  The key word is "purpose." Laws in Congress state a "purpose" all the time and do not always limit themselves to that purpose. Sometimes, it doesn't go near the supposed "purpose". Go back to Article V actual text, not what they think it is.

shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress

Valid to ALL intents and purposes. Once again, anything is on the table.

What Sorts of Amendments Could be Passed?
The following are examples of amendment topics that could be discussed at a convention of states:
  • A balanced budget amendment
  • A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
  • A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines--not all the economic activity of the nation)
  • A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
  • A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
  • Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court
  • Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
  • Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes

Of course, these are merely examples of what would be up for discussion. The convention of states itself would determine which ideas deserve serious consideration, and it will take a majority of votes from the states to formally propose any amendments.

I'll add these proposed amendments:

1. The Second Amendment shall be repealed and firearms shall be banned. (reduce BATF paperwork would "reduce government.")
2. Abortion is a fundamental right and all regulations against it shall be repealed.
3. With the passage of ACA/Obamacare and obesity being a major problem, harmful substances such as alcohol, soft drinks, and red meat shall be taxed at 50% to reduce costs. 

I can argue about any of those with the "purpose to limit government." It's not what this group has in mind.

The biggest problem however is this, and even their group admits it.

How Do States Choose Their Delegates?
States are free to develop their own selection process for choosing their delegates—properly called “commissioners.” Historically, the most common method used was an election by a joint session of both houses of the state legislature. 

That's the biggest problem of all. Who is actually going to vote on the amendments? Nobody has any idea.

This thing needs to be DOA. There are too many unintended consequences and too much potential for bad actors to destroy the constitution. Even if this succeeds, the results will always be as good as the people elected to office. The constitution as it is now should constrain bad reps. It doesn't. Why would this be different. Get rid of the bad reps, and you solve the problem. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

School Searches in Howell

I'll start with this. I hate drugs. I hate the War on (some) Drugs more. The price to pay in the War on Drugs isn't worth the cost. 

It's a different era of school security since I was a student. We didn't have lockdown drills in my day. Things changed heavily after Columbine. Today there is an era of zero sense, I mean zero tolerance, students being arrested for pointing fingers like a gun, police involvement and criminal charges for everything, and comparisons to prison. I'd hate to be a student these days. I'd be lucky to avoid expulsion and spent enough time in the principal's office back in the day as it was. I've never been good with authority. It's why I'm not a democrat. Too many authoritarians.

One thing we all need to remember with the public school system is that these are government officials, and they all have direct lines to the police. If you are a student reading this and are accused of something that could in ANY way be a police matter, don't cooperate with the administration. You have rights, and should use them in a respectful manner. Treat them as cops, and use your 5th Amendment rights. TALK TO A LAWYER. You do not want to end up with a felony or misdemeanor on your record and following you for the rest of your life affecting your future. If it costs you a suspension for insubordination, it's a smaller price to pay than a criminal record. This is a great video here on why you don't talk to the police.

Now this story has my guard up. I don't know all the facts, so I'm admitting to speculation. From the Argus

Some Howell High School students are protesting recent lockdown drills at their school, calling them little more than random drug searches in disguise.
“The big issue is that the school is telling us something that really isn’t true,” said senior Cassie Bondie, who sent an email detailing the concerns to school officials as well as the Daily Press & Argus.
“They should just be honest,” said recent graduate Renee Augustyn of the purpose behind the lockdown drills.
But school officials say they are being as honest as they can.
During the drills, students place their backpacks in a common area for inspection.
“They are lockdown drills but we have brought drug-sniffing dogs in based on information we’ve received,” Howell Public Schools Superintendent Ron Wilson said. “Obviously, we can’t tip our hand.”
Lockdown drills are conducted to practice the procedures to be used should an intruder attempt to enter the building.
Dogs from the Michigan State Police were twice brought in this semester, Wilson said.
“A cache of marijuana” was discovered during one of the searches, he said.
“We have had searches, as have other school districts in our area,” Wilson said, adding that, other than Bondie’s letter, the searches have been conducted without criticism from students or the public.
There was not a search when there was an actual lockdown this semester when a man attempted to enter the high school after trying to enter Hartland High School.
The issue prompted a lively discussion on student Facebook pages.
Bondie and others quoted in her email say they aren’t defending illegal drug use but say the procedure violates school policy and breaks the trust between administrators and students.
Students said they were concerned that randomly searching their personal property, rather than searching suspected school lockers, was a step too far.
“I know that if it happens again, some students won’t be putting their bags out,” Bondie said.
But Wilson said the searches were well within district policies and procedures.

First off, don't do drugs or bring them into school. That said, courts have rules that dog sniffs are not a violation of the 4th Amendment as they aren't considered searches. They can lead to probable cause and a search if the German Shepherd gets a hit.

"I don't do drugs. I have nothing to hide."

If some druggie gets rid of the drugs by sticking them in your bag without you knowing, you have plenty to hide. Why would he do that? He's panicking and needs to discard evidence. Anywhere possible.

I recommend keeping the bags on you at all times in these drills or leaving them in the locker (or vehicle). If the bags are being opened up, refuse. This isn't about safety, but control.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SB661 - My own thoughts

I'm not speaking for this as LCRC chair, but as someone who works in this field. 

There's some controversy about State Senate Bill 661. I think there's some good and bad with it. My own stance overall is that I support full disclosure and unlimited contributions. If someone wants to donate $25000, that's their choice. It should be fully disclosed, and voters need to make up their own mind if they have a problem with it or not in the primary or general elections.

I have discussed this issue with my reps and a few others. I'll put things in good, bad, or needs clarification categories.

A. Raises food contribution limit reporting requirement to $1000 (from $100). - This is one of those areas hard to track. When people donate pizza, drinks, etc for other volunteers, it adds up. In higher level campaigns, it can be a pain to track down all the receipts. 

B. Codifies "Issue ads" as not election ads. This follows the current case law, and stops "McCain Feingold" chilling of free speech. I don't always like issue ads, but I like censoring the mention of candidates and voting records even less.

C. Raising donation limits - Besides my "full disclosure" and "unlimited contribution" stances, This limits the money towards "issue ads" because candidate committees are more apt to talk about their own records instead of the opponents (usually done by friends of the program and not candidate committees). 

D. Cost of living increase for requiring reporting of employment information. Frankly, I think the requirement of reporting employment information should be gone anyway. Name and address alone should suffice.

Needs Clarification:
This text was hard to follow and should be cleaned up because I didn't know the reference until I called (nor did some others). Apparently it is substituting any communications for user unfriendly MERTS if there's a bunch of $5 donations.
For contributions of $5.00 or less by an individual to a

political committee or independent committee, the secretary of

state shall accept for filing any written communication from the

political committee or independent committee that contains the

information otherwise required under this subsection. Any such

written communication does not need to contain an original

Reports in non election year in July/October.  More work, but understand the reasoning.

This language is removed. Caucus groups would not be able to get involved in primaries. That is a Pandora's Box waiting to happen.

(a) A house political party caucus committee or a senate

political party caucus committee shall not pay a debt incurred by a

candidate if that debt was incurred while the candidate was seeking

nomination at a primary election and the candidate was opposed at

that primary.

     (b) A house political party caucus committee or a senate

political party caucus committee shall not make a contribution to

or make an expenditure on behalf of a candidate if that candidate

is seeking nomination at a primary election and the candidate is

opposed at that primary.

I understand in some cases where one candidate in the primary would be significantly better than the other. I don't want to see a Sharron Angle nominated any more than the rest of the party. I also don't want to see another Pete Hoekstra (frankly non-existent) campaign either, and he was the favorite of many within the establishment. I've also seen absolute disasters on the federal level with the NRSC and to a lesser extent, NRCC.

Some good people that might get help will be tea party targets just because of "leadership" picking the candidates. This could make things harder for them. Some pet candidates who are bad news could get support due to being buddies with the right people, solely being an incumbent, or voting a certain way. Charlie Crist was originally supported by the NRSC. So was Arlen Specter before he switched parties.

The job of caucus is to increase the majority of Republicans. Money spent in primaries can be spent in general instead. The best way is to stay neutral in primaries, and support the winner. That's the fair way and best way to go.

A lot of this bill is good. The right amendment should solve the issues. 

Amended bill passed the house - The caucus provisions regarding primaries is removed. Good to see that. Thank you state house.