Beyond the Cusp

November 23, 2013

The Debate is Cloture and Not the Filibuster

The main reason that the mainstream media is talking about the Senate changing the rules on the practice of filibuster is due to their being too lazy to explain what the Senate really did and actually educate the people who might not be as up on their United States Constitution as used to be the norm earlier in American history. The Senate changed the rules on cloture which is the means by which a filibuster is ended, not prevented or even stopped dead but ended with a possibility of allowing limited debate time to each Senator if the rules so permit. So, let us take a short trip back through history, and I promise to try to be brief. When the Constitution was ratified and became the founding document for the governance of the United States in 1789 there were no rules limiting debate in any manner. Senators could talk on any legislation pending before that august body until the cows came home and beyond. That was the beauty of the Constitution and the original interpretation of the idea that the House of Representatives was a rough and tumble and coarser body while the Senate was proper and deliberative with cordial rules and mutual respect, a far cry from what we have today and even originally. Do not for one second believe that American politicking has become raucous and vile only in the recent past as it actually has become more sensitive and polite. Nobody is referring to the other candidate for President of being a hermaphrodite or of being the son of a half-breed Indian squaw. To quote the two gentlemen in question behind those remarks, and they are to this day considered gentlemen though I doubt the shorter of the two would have agreed with such a description when he was alive; the Jefferson campaign described President Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman,” and Adams in return defined Vice President Jefferson as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Yes, believe it or not these were the President and Vice President of the United States at that time as originally the candidate with the most votes became President and the candidate who came in second became the Vice President but we obviously changed that as it became a tad unworkable and obviously so. The Twelfth Amendment in 1804 put this problem to rest allowing for separate ballots for President and Vice President but did not dictate that the two office holders be from the same party, it is still possible though unlikely that the President and Vice President could come from different parties.

Back to the “nuclear option” voted on by the Senate this past week. The Senate rules call for a simple majority vote with limited debate for any motion to alter, add or deduct from the rules under which the Senate operates thus making any chance for a filibuster basically mute. Because of that the Democrats with their four seat advantage won the passage of the new rules by a 52-48 vote. President Obama took the opportunity to continue his war against the minority Republicans in the Senate in a short speech after which he delegated a person to answer any questions in what has become a normal routine of never allowing the President to be questioned by the press directly or be allowed to ever go off of the carefully scripted words on his teleprompter. Sometimes I think that it would be both revealing and educational allowing for the truthful revelation of the character and inner feelings of a President if it were required that he take a session answering press questions at least once each month and could be required when asked to appear before either branch of Congress to answer questions on any legislation brought to the floor by request of the White House or any member of the President’ own party. Any additional information that is revealed concerning a President’s inner feelings, ability to think quickly and respond to unexpected queries and situations as well as anything that fills the people with additional truths about the person supposedly running the nation and being the face of the American people and the nation on the world’s stage should be encouraged, even mandated. The Senate changing the rules such that a cloture vote which restricts virtually ending debate on appointment for judgeships and other posts to a simple majority has basically changed the process into simply the Senate being a rubber stamp for all but the absolute worst nominations, and even then it might be questionable if the Democrats would not simply bow before the President’s will. This may prove to be catastrophic or it may simply end up as a tempest in a teapot, it all depends on which appointments now gain affirmation who might have been prevented by a Republican or a single Democrat deciding to filibuster the nomination. This I just one more time will tell and I have found that time usually tells long after anybody is paying attention. A perfect example, except that people are paying attention, is Kathleen Sebelius and the catastrophic rollout of Obamacare. Had that gone relatively smoothly with only minor glitches we would have never known how vacuous that woman is and how Health and Human Services is being directed by an incompetent who appears incapable of managing a major project any better than a junior project manager in training.


There will be some commentators and political talking heads who will go off the deep end and erroneously relate that this move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was unconstitutional and that the Constitution enumerates the right and procedures known as the filibuster and cloture vote. They are mistaken at best and intentionally misleading at worst. The truth is that the Constitution says absolutely nothing about either process by name. Under the Constitution the original Senate had absolutely no limit on the length of the debate thus allowing every Senator and thus every State to have ample time to discuss and debate the merits of legislation and even return home to get their marching orders from the State Legislatures which chose the Senators. The Senate under Article I, Section 5, Clause 3 was empowered to write its own rules concerning debate and the procedures which govern the same. The Senate adopted its first anti-filibuster rule in 1917 calling such a procedure cloture. Traditionally the cloture vote has taken some form of supermajority in order to shut down debate. The rules of the Senate, according to the writings of the Founders, was to be a more deliberative body which fully debated legislation thus allowing the Senate to reject any legislations which was passed under emotional or other reaction to momentary events and to represent the individual States within the Federal Government such that the States would be protected from the rapacious appetite for power and dominion by any Congress or President. It is interesting that the initial limitation to debate came in 1917, four years after the ratification of one of the most destructive laws to ever make its way onto the books, let alone the Constitution, the Amendment XVII which forever changed the Congress and permitted the unrestrained expansion of the powers, reach, and oppressive abilities of the Federal Government. Under this amendment the States no longer appointed their own Senators in any manner they saw fit, be it appointed by the Governor, appointed by the Governor and ratified by some branch of the State Legislature, appointed directly by the State Legislature or even directly elected by the people which any State could have enacted as their method had they so chosen. This was a direct assault on the rights of the States and took place under a wave of humanist excitement where it was believed that the people, if allowed to voice their combined will, would reach a more reasoned and duly proper decision than any that could be reached by the corrupt and despicable State Governances. The members of the Federal Government even back then looked upon the State Governments, from which many of them had originally served, with contempt and disdain. They saw them as incapable of reasoned thought or honest debate. Looking at the Congress of today one might come to the conclusion that a monarchy might be preferable, but surely I jest. It is likely certain that had the Senate remained as intended a product of the individual State Governments deciding their selection process that the vast majority of States would have decided to allow for the direct election of their Senators in the Federal Government anyways, so there is probably little difference today that if the Amendment XVII were never passed or ratified. One note on history, both the Amendment XVII and the Amendment XVI, which enacted the income tax, have both had claims made that they were not truly ratified by the necessary States within the time limited by the Constitution and are therefore not enforceable. Thus far nobody has won a court case challenging either Amendment. Given my personal choice, I would prefer ridding the United States of the Amendment XVII as returning a greater amount of limiting force by the individual States would do more to limit and turn back the growth of the Federal Government than anything else I have ever heard promoted. The one item that would cease to exist immediately would be the imposition of unfunded mandates on the individual States by Federal legislation as that has become a nasty and not all that uncommon way that the Federal Government passes legislation while forcing the States to finance the implementation and continue maintenance of the legislation and not burdening the Federal budget with such costs. Imagine a Federal Government which was forced to pay for every consequence of their legislative agendas. They would soon go on a legislative diet which the press would label gridlock and the Representatives and Senators would label sticker shock from seeing the financial consequences of all of their actions and being unable to pass the costs off on the States. That was an imagine that Mr. John Lennon missed in his song, but being British I guess he should be forgiven.


Beyond the Cusp


December 21, 2012

If the Anti-Firearms Adherents Universally Applied Their Standards

There are some central arguments used by those proffering gun bans as the solution to prevent such horrific murder sprees like the latest such grievous attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We wondered what our world would look like if their central arguments were to be applied universally across the entire spectrum of modern life. Some of these arguments will immediately be observed to be absolutely unthinkable and insane. The truth is that the arguments as applied to gun ownership is just as absurd as any of the other examples we will list in this article, it is just that firearms have been vilified so severely that they are viewed with fear of their ability to harm rather than respect for their ability to protect.

We often hear the argument that the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment at a time when the most advanced firearms were muskets and thusly their intention was simply to allow people to own single-shot weapons. The Founding Fathers did not intend for citizens to own assault weapons, machine guns or any paramilitary weaponry. First thing is that the Founding Fathers included cannons under the Second Amendment which changes the attitude and view they took drastically. Cannons are of a class of weaponry referred to as crew served weapons which means that a group of troops with definitive and separate functions being shared by each member of the team in order to load, aim, and effectively fire the weapon. This would imply that the Second Amendment would allow a much wider range of weapons than are currently legal. Some of the additional weapons that would be made available under this broad interpretation intended by the Founding Fathers are mounted heavy machine guns, anti-tank rocket launchers, mortars, and even artillery. But what would it look like if one were to restrict other rights to be restricted by what the founding Fathers had available in their day and its accompanying society?

Let us look at Freedom of the Press. To the Founding Father the press was the printing press or the hand written bulletin. According to the Founders the people had the right to printed newspapers and the posting of bulletins at the town hall community board. These rights that we now place under the First Amendment’s Freedom of the Press are greatly removed from the original written word and have been included as understood as being in agreement with the intent and how the Founding Fathers would define Freedom of the Press if they were to make such an amendment today. But if we apply the musket rule, then Freedom of the Press only protects the printed or written word and does not apply to any of the electronic media. Freedom of the Press could not have included film, radio, television, the internet or any other electronic form of media as such was beyond the scope of the press in the time of the Founding Fathers. I realize that this argument appears to be ludicrous but much of the reason that it seems so ridiculous is because we have been told that the Founding Fathers would necessarily have included all forms of the press, defining press as media, that exist today as it was the spirit of the terms Freedom of the Press and not the literal letters of the law. So, Freedom of the Press includes radio and television even though such items were unthinkable when the First Amendment was written, but the only weapons that are protected under the Second Amendment are those which are minimally more sophisticated or modern than the weapons available to the public at the time of the Founding Fathers.

Also in the First Amendment there is the right to Freedom of Assembly. Freedom of Assembly was defined at the time of the Founding Fathers as citizen groups which could meet in person and should they live in disparate areas, then they could meet in their individual areas and then send a representative to a central meeting much as the separate states had committees that met to discuss the Constitution as it was written and ratified and sent representatives to a central meeting which included all the representatives of the separate states. So, the Founding Fathers obviously meant that citizens had the right to assemble and associate in person in groups at a physical location. They did not mean, imply, or even hint at such things as on-line virtual meetings, SKYPE, community calls or any of the plethora of electronic meeting offerings. There must be a limit to this freedom such that it only applies to face-to-face meeting in person and not via electronic mediums. The further proof of this is reinforced by the fact that the Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate, hold their meetings face-to-face in Washington DC despite the availability of electronic options which would allow for these representatives of the people to remain in their home areas and meet electronically with a dedicated twenty-four hour a day link of the separate offices allowing for continuously available means for contact. The Founding Fathers were only referencing people holding physical assemblies in a building or place with a definite location to be dedicated for such meetings.

Then there are the guarantees in the Third Amendment against quartering soldiers in one’s house without the consent of the owner. It is probably obvious that they meant abode of any kind or character but then again in the days of the Founding Fathers a home was a simple house with even the most lavish of homes not exceeding three floors and possibly a cellar. The Founding Fathers could not have foreseen huge apartment buildings standing forty, fifty, or more stories tall having the capability of housing an entire brigade of troops providing them with a central location. There were no condominiums in their day and rental housing was almost nonexistent. Where exactly this protection would cease to apply might be up for debate but it must be seen that the Founding Fathers could not have meant this to apply to all living quarters in existence in a modern city. Perhaps the government, in the guise of saving money, should take up the modern interpretation of the Third Amendment and see if there might be some manner of residential buildings in which they could station troops. This would have to save the government money as they would no longer have to spend on upkeep of bases and base housing.

We could take other guarantees from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and turn their intent and meanings on their heads by the imposition of absurdities which are merely refusing to apply these freedoms liberally to include technological inventions that have transformed our societies since 1800. Our freedom to move is not limited to horse drawn conveyance but to include vehicles, even large tractor-trailer rigs. But when we come to the right to keep and bear arms we are told that the Founding Fathers could not have seen the advances in weaponry that have taken place since they wrote and the Bill of Rights was affirmed on December 15, 1791. How can we believe that the Founding Fathers could have anticipated that weapons would suddenly explode in their manner of lethality, fire rate, types of projectiles, method of propelling the projectiles, the rapidity of rate of fire, or any of the numerous other improvements made in firearms since early 1792? There existed no previous vast improvement in weaponry previous to the last two-hundred years or even since the dawn of time. The human race had not progressed to the point of the muskets used by soldiers and the populace around 1800, those types of weapons had been available since the dawn of civilization, right? What? These weapons were a relatively new invention and had replaced the crossbow which replaced the long bow and the sling which replaced or complimented the sword which replaced the club which was preferred over a large rock. But the Founding Fathers were of such limited intelligence that they were full in their knowledge that weapons had advanced to their pinnacle of inventiveness. How could they have seen that weapons would become even more lethal with time as such had never happened before in their knowledge. Really, they were that limited in their vision of what the future might hold. Why do I find such hypocrisy to be an insult to the Founding Fathers and to my intelligence? That would be like claiming that our current lawmakers could not imagine that there will be laser and directed energy wave weapons in our future.

Beyond the Cusp

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