Friday, July 04, 2008

charging document

The Declaration we remember is the flowery language of Thomas Jefferson, which tweaked John Locke's Two Treatises of Government to give us "the pursuit of Happiness" instead of Locke's Natural Right of private property. This is mainly due to Abraham Lincoln, who resurrected the beloved Declaration for authority to free slaves.

But the part that Jefferson, Adams, and the rest that risked their lives by signing important was the latter part of the document, which I quote now and will examine below. It in you see origins of the rights of the people/limitations on the federal government that became incorporated into our Constitution 11 years later:
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
From this we got in the Constitution (in no particular order):
  1. The Rule of Law over the Rule of Men.
  2. The Congress (and the states) being co-equal (if not superior to in some matters) to the President
  3. An independent Judiciary, with lifetime appointments and no ability of the Congress or the President to lower their salaries.
  4. Regularly scheduled elections and terms of office.
  5. Requiring Congress approve continuing to have armed forces in times of peace
  6. the Third Amendment
  7. The trial rights in a criminal trial to a impartial jury, the right to confrontation of witnesses against the accused, the right to jury for civil trials if exceeding a certain dollar amount, etc. found in the Sixth Amendment, Habeas Corpus Clause, and so on.
  8. Taxes must be first introduced and passed in the most democratic chamber of Congress--the House of Representatives--in order to become law
  9. Giving Congress, not the President (or the states) the power over commerce--and giving power to grant copyright.
  10. The concept of personal and subject matter jurisdiction (and an independent judiciary) to insure that the accused would be tried in an apt venue with some basic rules of fairness
  11. Giving Congress the power over matters of naturalization, not the President
  12. And but not least, the right oto petition the government for a redress of grievances found in the First Amendment
Have a fun filled and safe Fourth!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

in hindsight

Since tomorrow is July 4th, the day Americans celebrate our nationhood, I thought I would give you this historic gem (tomorrow I will quote from the Declaration itself).

On this day in 1776, John Adams, wrote to his wife Abigail:
The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in this history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It out be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Alighty. It out to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.
Incidentally, it was July 2nd, not July 4th that the Continental Congress voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence. It merely took two days for them to write it down neatly on nice parchment paper and get around to signing it (individually, not like this famous painting in the U.S. Capitol).

Anyway, my point was supposed to be that Adams accurately predicted what our national holiday would become: a mix of parades, fairs, baseball games, fireworks, family BBQ's, and reverence of God. The only thing he got wrong was the date, which was understandable given what I just explained above.

Happy July 3rd everybody!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Huntsman hints at Walker's corruption

The Deseret News thought the lead was that Gov. Huntsman was not concerned that Rep. Walker's alleged unethical/illegal activities might drag down the Utah GOP brand. But I found this quote far more illuminating:
"I don't think it's bad for the party," the governor said of the investigations. "Sometimes when there's smoke, there might even be fire. When people sense something may have went on during the election, they want to get to the bottom of it."
Is there something the Governor knows that he isn't sharing with us? Like the name of that legislator which has thus far remained unanimous anonymous in the ethics complaint? Or what really went down? [Thanks Mark for that catch]

Since Walker's political career is pretty much done now, will he try to drag someone else down with him? Or multiple persons? If so, Huntsman's nonchalance might have been misplaced.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

the right to make stuff up?

Free speech. Despite popular belief, the First Amendment doesn't allow the speaker to say anything with impunity. Justice Holmes put it best when he wrote, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 52 (1919). Yet corporatations and their voucher supporting front groups continue to believe otherwise.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, Inc., aired television and radio ads during last year's voucher referendum process, offering free legal services to anyone who was illegally coerced into signing petitions supporting the referendum. However, they led the ads with statements that showed they supported the voucher law and were against the effort to overturn it through a ballot question.
State law says that anyone who influences voters must file a disclosure of funds used to do so. The group did not file, and when informed of the need to do so, it refused, arguing that Utah's law is too vague and inhibits free political speech.
"That would make everything campaign-related then, including conversations . . . about political issues," argued James Bopp Jr., who represented the foundation. He said if the ads had clearly told voters to vote for or against vouchers, the foundation would have disclosed its funding.
Bopp has repeatedly attempted to argue that financial disclosure rules in campaign finance laws are somehow unconstitutional. Yet, repeatedly, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to agree (well, they never addressed it even though Bopp brought it up). In fact, Bopp won Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC (WRTL II) just last year and his allies won Davis v. FEC a few days ago, both time the court struck down portions of McCain-Feingold/BCRA/McConnell v. FEC (the blackout period for WRTL II and the Millioniare's Amendment for Davis), but not the statute's disclosure requirements.

I have met Bopp and he is, to put it gently, an overly zealous and unnecessarily rude advocate for his cause. He worked for Romney over McCain in the primary. And this case, while full of crap (According to Bopp, requiring disclosure for political TV ads means that you can't speak in public about politics without filing with the LG? Come on!), deserves a close watching. Clearly, it is Bopp's plan to take this baby all the way up to the Supremes. And this time, give corporations and their laykeys the right under the First Amendment to say one thing in an attack ad, without the public knowing who is bankrolling a group such as "Americans for Nuclear Waste Fuel Storage" ... Or "The National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, Inc.," a anti-labor pro-voucher group.

Monday, June 30, 2008

back-door vouchers?

Utahns from every county voted down vouchers, and the overall vote was overwhelming against vouchers. Yet the legislature seems to have found another way to resurect this zombie policy idea.
As the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship program continues to grow, seven more private schools have become eligible to accept students using the scholarship for the 2008-09 school year.
The Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship, which was signed into law by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2005, provides a state-funded voucher to K-12 students with disabilities.

In the 2007-08 school year, 514 students received Carson Smith Scholarships. This number continues to increase every year as more parents of children with disabilities learn that education options exist to meet their children's unique needs, PCE officials say.
Kristi Saunders, PCE's Carson Smith outreach coordinator, helps parents and schools navigate the application process. "As a mother of a special needs child, it's rewarding to see parents ecstatic because their children's needs are being met, thanks to the Carson Smith scholarship," Saunders said.

Parents can apply for the a scholarship throughout the school year, but to receive the full amount for the 2008-09 school year, applications must be submitted by Tuesday.

For information, contact PCE at 532-1448 or go to
So the group that bankrolled the pro-voucher movement, giving money campaign contributions to legislators and funding for TV ads and mailers in favor of vouchers last year basically wrote this article about the Carson Smith vouchers scholarships. The whole thing reminds me of Creationism and the debate over evolution, or privatizing Social Security. The anti-evolution groups would keep changing the name of what they were proposing, but the idea was the same. Ditto for those who wanted to phase out Social Security with a privately-funded version.

Sure, these "scholarships" might be limited to those who can recieve them. But the idea--that public education can be phased out in favor of cutting parents a check for them to purchase education in a private marketplace--remains the same. Even that the same characters are pushing the "scholarship" as a sucess story as were pushing for state-wide universal vouchers, we should expect that PCE and their allies in the legislature will point to these scholarship students as proof that vouchers "work." They will then revive the issue with Utah voters.

All of which is fine, but I think the public needs to be aware that something they disapprove of is being done in an essentially "pilot" fashion and will be brought up again and again.