Saturday, January 14, 2006

James Madison Speaks

There has been a lot of concern lately about the threats to our Constitution and Bill of Rights. These are not threats from terrorists, but from tyrannists. James Madison played a critical role in developing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Some scholars consider him the 'Father Of the Constitution'. Posted by PicasaHere are a few things he said about it, and their intentions when they wrote the document.

“Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”
[Note from Pam: George W. Bush might want to consider this as he makes his 'unitary executive' argument.]

Factions, Especially Religious
“ A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.”

President and War
“The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.”

Prediction about Foreign Enemies:
“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

“It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

The quotation below is from Federalist Paper 51 Complete Text:
You can find links to all the Federalist Papers on that site.

Separation Of Powers
“…But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates...."

Balancing Executive and Legislative Branches
"...An absolute negative on the legislature appears, at first view, to be the natural defense with which the executive magistrate should be armed. But perhaps it would be neither altogether safe nor alone sufficient. On ordinary occasions, it might not be exerted with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions, it might be perfidiously abused. May not this defect of an absolute negative be supplied by some qualified connection between this weaker department and the weaker branch of the stronger department [power of Veto--pam's note], by which the latter may be led to support the constitutional rights of the former, without being too much detached from the rights of its own department?"
Posted by Picasa
Checks and Balances
" In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence, a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other; at the same time, that each will be controlled by itself.

Second. It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. "

“…Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. … “
From Federalist Paper #10, most scholars believe it was written by Madison:

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:
In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.
In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.
It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures…”

Friday, January 13, 2006

Patriot Or Politician

This is a letter I am sending to every member of the House and Senate:

Dear ___________,

When you first decided to run for office were you idealistic? Were you hoping to make the world a better place? I hope that you started out that way.

I worry that in making us 'secure' we are destroying our fundamental values. Terrorism may be more frightening because it's a less identifiable target than Russian nukes or Japanese bombers. But I fear we are not 'seeing the forest for the trees'.

In our current system I’m sure you had to ‘go along to get along’. Perhaps you justified it to yourself that you would at least get a few things done while you were there. I believe that some things have gone terribly wrong in the last few years.

In the aftermath of 9/11, a Patriot Act was passed without anyone really reading it or debating its implications. Extraordinary powers were given to the executive branch. We are learning everyday that even that was not enough. Other regulations such as FISA have also been ignored. The President signs congressional bills such as the Torture Bill, and then he tells us all why he plans to ignore the regulation. All of this done in the name of protecting us Americans from the threat of terrorism.

I am just a plain American citizen. I have always been fascinated by politics and history but am far from any kind of activist. I don’t want to destroy the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that I can be protected.

Especially when it is a war on a word/idea. The War on Terror may last for generations. When the President has stated that these extraordinary means must be utilized until this war is over—to me that says forever. Because there will always be threats, and always justifications for taking rights away to ‘protect’ us. Hey, as far as I know I think the War on Poverty and War on Drugs are still going on too. I’m sure future leaders will declare wars on other words. Do you see how it will create an impossible and never-ending justification to destroy our rights and liberties?

I am a middle-aged white woman and I am not that soft. None of us should be. We come from a proud heritage of independent thinkers. Of people who left everything familiar to create new lives in a new place. Of people who have fought and died over the centuries to create and keep the privileges that the Constitution and Bill of Rights have given us. If I have to step up to the plate for future generations to have those rights I will gladly do so.

Somewhere along the line, you must have read Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. In the book, there are great examples of how one person can stand against the odds and make a difference. Please just ask yourself, deep down in your soul—are you a patriot? Do you really truly love your country?

Then please honor your oath to the Constitution. You did not swear to protect and defend and uphold me or any other person. Your promise is to the Constitution, to our system of government and its laws. Please start today to do whatever it takes to get us back on that track.

These are the issues that scare me the most:

FISA, wiretapping, and similar illegalities
Our executive willfully ignored the system in place. Why? It just smells of something very shady. In addition, I do not want to hear any more lawyers talking about unitary executive. We have three branches of government. We do not have a monarchy. No other President has so willfully broken the law. The unitary executive concept should have been opened up to public debate if they wanted to go that route. Not secretly as it has been done.

Patriot Act
It was passed in a time of high emotion. Today, every line, every right ceded or manipulated needs to be re-evaluated and debated. Not among politicians. But as citizens and patriots

War on a basis of lies and/or manipulated information
Bad intelligence or dishonest people? And why the intelligence was so bad if that was the case. There must be accountability for all of this.

Guantamano, Torture, Foreign Prisons, Ignoring Geneva Conventions
I am EMBARRASSED as an American that this behavior continues. Have any of these people actually been tried?

When you look at all this, it seems almost ironically funny that we are claiming to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East when we are ripping it to shreds at home.

But it is not funny. Because this is my country and it hurts to see what we have become. Please be a Patriot, not a Politician. And from this day forward let’s work together to put our country back together the way that it should be.

Thank you.
Pamela Lach