Zera's Blog

A Citizen's View from Main Street

Becoming Aware of Civic Unawareness


education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The United States was founded on the premise that the people could rule themselves without theocracy or aristocracy. Government of, by, and for the masses – int the rich and powerful. It is called The Great Experiment, and its success depends on a well-educated electorate. Sufficiently educated to understand not only  the system that we have, but why we have it and how it works. And how it doesn’t.

The preparation of the voter so that he might express his opinion by means of the ballot, thus insuring political liberty, was one of the main goals of Jefferson’s plan for education which asserted four basic principles:

  • that democracy cannot long exist without enlightenment.
  • that it cannot function without wise and honest officials.
  • that talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth, birth or other accidental condition.
  • that the children of the poor must be thus educated at common expense.

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/winter96/jefferson.html

Jefferson believed the elementary school was more important than the university in the plan because, as he said, it was “safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe” (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 241). He had six objectives for primary education to bring about this enlightenment and which highlighted what he hoped would make every person into a productive and informed voter:

  • To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  • To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
  • To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  • To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  • To know his rights; to exercize with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  • And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

The state of Jeffersonian enlightenment in the realm of civic responsibility and the promotion of a healthy democracy is deplorable. The country is full of jingoists and poser patriots, passionate to defend what they do not understand – and are therefore easily mislead.

We have been encouraged to value wealth over community, and the accumulation of wealth over patriotism. Citizenship has ceased to be a code of honor and is now reduced to simply a legal status.

The problem of civic illiteracy is not something new, but it is finally getting periodic bursts of recognition.

Asserting that democracy is not inherited at birth but rather learned in school, O’Connor founded the educational nonprofit group iCivics in 2009 to secure America’s governance and prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor seeks to reverse America’s decline in civics

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Plans are being developed to “address the problem”. I say that with a hint of sarcasm because they are still treating it as a mere lesson to be learned. I think the solution will need to stress participation as much as scholarship.

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May 29, 2012 Posted by | Education, Elections, Governance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Susan G. Komen Hires Consulting Firm To Assess Damage To Reputation


Damage control? How about a little introspection and root cause analysis. I’ll help you get started:

  • You put a political activist in a position of authority.
  • You let her use SGK for political purposes, attacking women’s health.
  • You offered excuses that were not credible.
  • You only took corrective action when that didn’t work.

You broke a trust, which will take a lot of work over a long time to earn back.

So what do you do? You hire a PR firm stupid enough to distribute a questionnaire asking how best to play people. Their questions alone make SGK appear even more callous and disingenuous than ever. And more untrustworthy.

To quote Tank Girl:

“Now you’re workin’ my tits.”

Stop thinking like a business and start thinking like a humanitarian organization!

Modify your charter to prohibit political activism. Limit political advocacy to promoting women’s health issues.

If you want to assess damage, don’t just try to schmooze the big donors. Keep an eye on event participation levels. All your support begins at ground level. If you lose the feet on the ground, well, don’t think you’re irreplaceable.

My answer to your questionnaire. Now go learn to be a conservatism survivor.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Ethics, Health Care | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

With Newt in Virginia


Cover of "With Lee In Virginia: A Story O...

Cover via Amazon

In response to Newt Gingrich‘s allusion to Pearl Harbor as a parallel to his campaign failure in Virginia, I offer the preface to a book called “With Lee in Virginia (A story of the American civil war)”, written by G. A. Henty. Published by Hurst and Company, New York, it does not identify a publication date or claim a copyright. The inscription indicates that this copy has been in the family since January, 1901. Antiques Roadshow type stuff. It doesn’t look anything like the cover from Amazon.

I found Gingrich’s comparison to an infamous attack to be arrogantly dismissive of the tragedy and horror of war. His scapegoating was an insult to the courage and sacrifice of our citizen soldiers and their families, as well as a testament to the empty rhetoric of “personal responsibility” that is fundamental to the conservative desire to re-engineer America. He also demonstrated ignorance of relevant laws and outright contempt for rules that hinder his agenda in any way.

His failure in Virginia, and his response to it demonstrate conclusively that he should only enter the White House with a visitor’s pass and a Secret Service escort.

On a more personal note, I have called the present ideological battles a political civil war. I thought it would be appropriate to momentarily revisit that point in our history.

Yes, it really is all one paragraph in the book…

“My Dear Lads:
The Great War between the Northern and Southern States of America possesses a peculiar interest to us, not only because it was a struggle between two sections of a people akin to us in race and language, but because of the heroic courage with which the weaker party, with ill-fed, ill-clad, ill-equipped regiments, for four years sustained the contest with an adversary not only possessed of immense numerical superiority, but having the command of the sea, and being able to draw its arms and munitions of war from all the manufactories of Europe. Authorities still differ as to the rights of the case. The Confederates firmly believed that the States, having voluntarily united, retained the right of withdrawing from the Union when they considered it for their advantage to do so. The Northerners took the opposite point of view, and an appeal to arms became inevitable. During the first two years of the war the struggle was conducted without inflicting unnecessary hardship upon the general population. But later on the character of the war changed, and the Federal armies carried widespread destruction wherever they marched. Upon the other hand, the moment the struggle was over the conduct of the conquerors was marked by a clemency and generosity altogether unexampled in history, a complete amnesty being granted, and none, whether soldiers or civilians, being made to suffer for their share in the rebellion. The credit of this magnanimous conduct was to a great extent due to Generals Grant and Sherman, the former of whom took upon himself the responsibility granting terms which, although they were finally ratified by his government, were at the time received with anger and indignation in the North. It was impossible, in the course of a single volume, to give even a sketch of the numerous and complicated operations of the war, and I have therefore confined myself to the central point of the great struggle – the attempts of the Northern armies to force their way to Richmond, the capital of Virginia and the heart of the Confederacy. Even in recounting the leading events in these campaigns, I have burdened my story with as few details as possible, it being my object now, as always, to amuse, as well as to give instruction in the facts of history.
Yours sincerely,
G. A. Henty.”

As a bonus for those who were curious enough to slog through this post, I shall include an excerpt from the last page of the book (covering reconstruction):

“For the next three or four years times were very hard in Virginia, and Mrs. Wingfield had to draw upon her savings to keep up the house in its former state; while the great majority of the planters were utterly ruined. The negroes, however, for the most part remained steadily working on the estate. A few wandered away, but their places were easily filled; for the majority of the freed slaves very soon discovered that their lot was a far harder one than it had been before, and that freedom so suddenly given was a curse rather than a blessing to them.

Thus, while so many went down, the Wingfields weathered the storm, and the step that had been taken in preparing their hands for the general abolition of slavery was a complete success.

With the gradual return of prosperity to the South the prices of produce improved, and ten years after the conclusion of the rebellion the income of the Orangery was nearly as large as it had been previous to its outbreak.”

I found it an interesting glimpse into the past, but with points that still resonate today. It would be interesting to explore just how closely the book parallels the plantation-era ideology of the modern republican party, if I had the time. What is one of the most surprising things for me was to find that the book is still in print, on tape, and even Kindle.

[UPDATE 12/26/2011]

Paul Goldman helps Newt Gingrich with Virginia ballot
Now that Slacker Newt has failed to meet the minimum requirements for getting on the Virginia primary ballot, he has decided that it would violate someone else’s rights if they did not get to vote for him. How modest.

All he needed was 10,000 valid signatures. Signatures vetted by his own party. That’s less than half of the population of the suburb I live in. In WI, Democrats are collecting an average of about 25,000 signatures/day to recall Walker. Even a minor politician should be able to collect 10,000 signatures in their own home state.

Basically, he is embracing every derogatory mis-characterization conservatives have aimed at liberals, and justifying liberal cynicism toward conservatives at the same time. IOKIYAR.

“According to press reports over the weekend,” continued Pascoe, “the Chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, per Section 24.2-545 of the Code of Virginia, has indicated that he will be certifying only two candidates for inclusion on the 2012 GOP presidential primary ballot. Based on our collective knowledge and understanding of the state’s election laws – including a previous successful legal action by Mr. Goldman as concerns a Democratic Party nomination process – we intend to formally challenge such certification for specific reasons to be detailed at the appropriate time.

Yet once again, the law should not apply to a republican. It’s just not fair. The dog ate his petition.

“Our mutual goal is to ensure that the voting rights of the citizens of Virginia are fully protected.”

So they have turned against the GOP voter suppression agenda?

“As with everything we do in the field of public policy, CFTR’s goal is to empower the individual, in the belief that a free choice in the marketplace of ideas is what Virginians want to have their leaders achieve in time for 2012 presidential primary.”

Whatever they are trying to say seems to have gotten lost in the confusion of ill-fitting catch-phrases. This is just meaningless BS.

If he had been applying for a job (which he was), and he failed to fill out the application before showing up for the initial interview, they would have shown him the door without wasting any more time on someone who had already failed key tasks and started making excuses.

Cirque du GOP is coming to Virginia. Enjoy the show, folks.

December 26, 2011 Posted by | 2012 Candidates, 2012 Election, Candidates, Elections | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Great Flabbergasting”: Rachel Maddow’s (Surprising) Blind Spot



“disingenu­ous” is the word I have been looking for. Yet I remain flabbergas­ted at the disingenuo­usness of the republican party. It shows utter contempt for the democratic process, the foundation of our national identity.

“A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation­.”
~ James Freeman Clarke, Sermon

By their own admission, republican­s have been focused on the next election since the beginning of Obama44. This has directly resulted in bad policy and bad government­.

It is hard to believe that conservati­ves care about this country. They seem to believe in something that few people would recognize as America, or want to live in.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

August 23, 2011 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marilyn Davenport’s Racist Email Denounced By OC GOP


We have seen this before. The images were different, but the intent to denigrate was the same. The “sense of humor” was the same. And the excuses were the same. The counter-ac­cusations were the same. The pursuit of the whistle-bl­ower, the refusal to consider that they may have been wrong, the refusal to consider the possibilit­y that they should resign for the good of their cause. Pride and arrogance control them.

“I only sent it to a few people–mo­stly people I didn’t think would be upset by it.”

Admitting that there are others who think like her is not going to help their efforts to build a non-racist image. Every cause attracts it’s loons, but the honorable causes do not install their loons in positions of power or responsibi­lity – and remove them when discovered­.

Defaming President Obama is hardly the only monkey business incorporat­ed by the GOP:

SD 56 GOP web video prompts call for ouster of district chair
http://min­nesotainde­pendent.co­m/64086/jo­e-salmon-s­d-56-gop-v­ideo (The “Who let the dogs out?” scandal.)

The republican party needs to show less “family values” intoleranc­e and more respect for the rights of others and the basic social necessity of respecting human dignity.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Ethics, GOP | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Labor Battles Heat Up In Florida Against Gov. Rick Scott


The GOP war on the middle class has reached a critical stage, where even republican­s are beginning to see direct harm from the GOP agenda.

As more people realize that driving down working class wages is part of the GOP plan for job-creati­on, they will also realize that the GOP is attacking the financial resources of the vast majority of consumers – and attacking them from all sides. This will cripple 70% of the economy and kill millions of jobs. Republicans never have been very good at creating jobs.

As we can no longer borrow enough money to bail out conservati­ve failures, this will lead to far more than defaulting on our debts and driving the world into another depression­.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

“Moreover, fiscal consolidation programs that decrease the number and compensation of government workers increase the availability and reduce the cost of skilled labor to private firms. The combination of improved expectations about taxes and lower labor costs increases the expected after-tax rate of return on new business investment in non-residential fixed assets in the short term.” (page7)

http://www.speaker.gov/UploadedFiles/JEC_Jobs_Study.pdf

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Labor | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

112th Congress HR1255 – Government Shutdown Prevention Act of 2011


HR1255 provides a learning moment in the annals of American civics, for those who would learn…

It certainly leaves the tea party republicans no incentive to seek compromise or negotiate in good faith. In fact, it also gives them incentive NOT to raise the debt ceiling.

The Bill:

[Congressional Bills 112th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 1255 Introduced in House (IH)]

112th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 1255

To prevent a shutdown of the government of the United States, and for
other purposes.

_______________________________________________________________________

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 30, 2011

Mr. Womack (for himself and Mr. Woodall) introduced the following bill;
which was referred to the Committee on Appropriations, and in addition

to the Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, House
Administration, and the Budget, for a period to be subsequently
determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such
provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

_______________________________________________________________________

A BILL

To prevent a shutdown of the government of the United States, and for
other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act
of 2011”.

SEC. 2. FUNDING THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE REMAINDER OF FISCAL YEAR 2011.

(a) Deadline for Consideration of Legislation Funding the
Government for the Remainder of Fiscal Year 2011.–If the House has not
received a message from the Senate before April 6, 2011, stating that
it has passed a measure providing for the appropriations for the
departments and agencies of the Government for the remainder of fiscal
year 2011, the provisions of H.R. 1, as passed by the House on February
19, 2011, are hereby enacted into law.

(b) Publication of Act.–In publishing this Act in slip form and in
the United States Statutes at Large pursuant to section 112 of title 1,
United States Code, the Archivist of the United States shall include
after the date of approval, if applicable, an appendix setting forth
the text of the bill referred to in subsection (a).

SEC. 3. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN PAYMENTS TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT.

(a) Treatment of Members During a Government Shutdown.–The
Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the
House, respectively, shall not disburse to each Member or Delegate the
amount of his or her salary for each day that

(1) there is more than a 24-hour lapse in appropriations
for any Federal agency or department as a result of a failure
to enact a regular appropriations bill or continuing
resolution; or

(2) the Federal Government is unable to make payments or
meet obligations because the public debt limit under section
3101 of title 31, United States Code, has been reached.

(b) Treatment of the President During a Government Shutdown.–The
President shall not receive a disbursement of basic pay for any period
in which–

(1) there is more than a 24-hour lapse in appropriations
for any Federal agency or department as a result of a failure
to enact a regular appropriations bill or continuing
resolution; or

(2) the Federal Government is unable to make payments or
meet obligations because the public debt limit under section
3101 of title 31, United States Code, has been reached.

<all>

Analysis

First of all, it appears to be assigned to no less than 4 committees simultaneously. I’ve always understood that bills have to go from committee to committee sequentially. Otherwise, amendments could leave you with multiple versions of a bill – which cannot be. Unless, of course, no amendments are to be allowed – which in turn means that all discussion and debate is aimed not at the legislation, but at persuasion.

UPDATE: H. Res. 194 blocked any path for Democrats to alter the bill.

“All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. The bill shall be considered as read. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived.”

The “hear no evil, speak no evil” resolution.

UPDATE: H. R. 1255 has been passed by the House, making the number of simultaneous committees a rhetorical question.

“and for other purposes.”

Always a warning flag. It means that there is more to the bill than is reflected in the title.

Section 2:

“Deadline for Consideration of Legislation Funding the
Government for the Remainder of Fiscal Year 2011.–If the House has not
received a message from the Senate before April 6, 2011, stating that
it has passed a measure providing for the appropriations for the
departments and agencies of the Government for the remainder of fiscal
year 2011, the provisions of H.R. 1, as passed by the House on February
19, 2011, are hereby enacted into law.”

There are two issues here:

  1. “the provisions of” is not terribly explicit. If they had at least stated “DIVISIONS A through C”, it would have shown at least a little legislative skill. I seriously doubt the legitimacy of a law that references or attempts to enact the language of another bill, which never became law in it’s own right.
  2. This is the same sort of back-door legislative legerdemain that the republicans cried foul over, but without the cover of House/Senate rules. This is not the “deem and to pass” procedure despite the apparent similarities. The self-executing rule is a House rule that can only effect the authority of the House. It cannot speak for the Senate. The Senate already said no to the language of H. R. 1, so trying to enact it through the back door carries a decidedly anti-constitution stigma.

“(b) Publication of Act.–In publishing this Act in slip form and in
the United States Statutes at Large pursuant to section 112 of title 1,
United States Code, the Archivist of the United States shall include
after the date of approval, if applicable, an appendix setting forth
the text of the bill referred to in subsection (a).”

This is a sure sign that they know they are not doing this right, and need to tell the Archivist how to clean up their mess.

Section 3 has it’s problems as well:

shall not disburse to each Member or Delegate the amount of his or her salary for each day that”

Let’s check the Constitution:

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”

U.S. Const., Amend. XXVII

Oops, those “Read the Bill”/”Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.” people just gave themselves an egg facial.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

“The President shall not receive a disbursement of basic pay for any period in which”

Another trip to the Constitution:

“The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

U.S. Const. Art. II, sec. 1

The republicans aren’t even bringing their “C” game. If this is their best effort at “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution”, then they need classes from non-conservatives. Whatever they learned from the conservatives does not pass muster. Or maybe they just do not understand the meaning of “shall”.

shall (merriam-webster)

“used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory”

UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

“the Federal Government is unable to make payments or meet obligations because the public debt limit under section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, has been reached.”

This is the most insidious part of all. Even if an appropriations bill is passed into law, they could still shove H.R.1 down our throats just by thwarting efforts to raise the debt ceiling.

What is their justification?

By Mr. WOMACK:
H.R. 1255.
Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following:
Section 2 is enacted pursuant to the rulemaking powers provided in clause 2 of section 5 of article I of the United States Constitution in furtherance of the appropriation power provided in clause 7 of section 9 of article I of the Constitution and spending power provided in clause 1 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution.
Section 3(a) is enacted pursuant to the rulemaking powers provided in clause 2 of section 5 of article I of the United States Constitution. Section 3(a) is consistent with article XXVII in that it does not vary the compensation of Members and Senators but only seeks to regulate its disbursement during certain periods.
Section 3(b) is enacted pursuant to clause 18 of section 8 of article I of the United States Constitution. Section 3(b) is consistent with clause 7 of section 1 of article II of the United States Constitution in that it does not vary the compensation of the President but only seeks to regulate its disbursement during certain periods.

And what do those clauses say?

“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”

U.S. Const, Art I, sec 5 – second clause

This clause has no applicability to section 2 of H.R. 1255. Law cannot be enacted by House rules. If H.R. 1 had been incorporated into H.R. 1255, then this would be a stand-alone bill. As it is, I do not see any “deemed to pass”  type language here. This is of particular concern because the Senate has already rejected the language of H.R. 1.

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

U.S. Const, Art I, sec 9 – seventh clause

No problem here.

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

U.S. Const, Art I, sec 8 – first clause

No problem here either.

Personal Note: The preamble states promote the general Welfare while this clause states provide for the general Welfare – interesting variation in language.

Concerning section 3 of H.R. 1255:

The rules made by each House to proscribe the punishment of it’s Members do not withstand provisions in the Constitution.

It is not clear that “punish its Members” includes economic actions. Furthermore, “punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour” applies only when there is – DISORDERLY BEHAVIOR. Burning a budget on the House floor would be disorderly behavior, failing to pass one is not.

This section is intended to impair the people who would have to take action to start funding the government again. While most of them have their own funds to live on, not all have that kind of personal reserves. Just ask Sean Duffy. Not paying Congress or the President while they are working to fund the government could impair that effort. These are the people who MUST be on the job when nobody else is, if we are to have a government – and a country.

Also, there is no language to make up the missed payments. The bill explicitly states “shall not disburse” – which means that, contrary to Mr. Womack’s assertion, this does indeed “vary the compensation”.

There is no “article XXVII” in the Constitution. I presume this constitutional scholar means U.S. Const, amend XXVII. (Amendment 27)

Nit Pick: “Members and Senators” should be “Members of each House” if they want to be consistent with the clauses they reference. Otherwise, it should be “Senators and Members of the House” or some such. This is just mixing titles and designations.

“To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

U.S. Const, sec 8, eighteenth clause

This is a curious citation because the only application relevant to (3)(b) would be in support of paying the Debt, yet (3)(b) is about NOT paying a debt.

Again, there is no language to make up the missed payments. The bill explicitly states “shall not receive a disbursement” – which means that, contrary to Mr. Womack’s assertion, the President’s Compensation would indeed be “diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected.

Lastly, the bill would have to be passed in both the House and Senate, and signed into law, on or before 8 April 2011, or it could not be anything but an unconstitutional ex post facto (retroactive) law.

“No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”

U.S. Const, art I, sec 9, third clause

That would be a third strike on constitutionality alone.

Conclusion

With legislative sleight-of-hand, two unconstitutional provisions, a poison pill, and two ticking time bombs, this cannot be seen as a serious bill written by responsible people. It can only be seen as a propaganda tool to be used against the unwary. The most nefarious aspect is that it leaves republicans, especially the Tea Party caucus, NO reason to compromise or even negotiate in good faith. Further, it provides considerable reason NOT to raise the debt ceiling and let the government go broke. The negative consequences of this would be enormous.

You have been warned!

You have Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) and Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) to thank for wasting your time, my time, and the limited time of the House of Representatives.

UPDATE: H. R. 1255 was passed by the House with 15 Republicans and all Democrats voting against it.

UPDATE: The republicans are still pushing this through the Senate.

UPDATE: With the passing of another continuing resolution, and particularly with passage of the pending budget bill, this bill would come into conflict with the deals already brokered. This bill is now beyond repair.

112th Congress H.R. 1255

March 31, 2011 Posted by | Constitution, Government, Legislation, Strangelove | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2011 Wis SJR10 – Continuity of state and local gov. operations


http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2011/data/SJR-10.pdf

2011 − 2012 LEGISLATURE
LRB−0710/2
SRM:cjs:md

2011 SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 10

February 4, 2011 − Introduced by Senators HOPPER and JAUCH, cosponsored by
Representative BALLWEG. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.

  1. To amend section 34 of article IV of the constitution; relating to: continuity of
  2. government (second consideration).

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

EXPLANATION OF PROPOSAL

This proposed constitutional amendment, to be given second consideration by
the 2011 legislature for submittal to the voters in April 2011, was first considered by
the 2009 legislature in 2009 Assembly Joint Resolution 59, which became 2009
Enrolled Joint Resolution 14.

Article IV, section 34, of the Wisconsin Constitution provides that the
legislature, to ensure continuity of state and local government operations in periods
of emergency resulting from enemy attack, must provide for prompt and temporary
succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature and whether
filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which may be unavailable to
carry on the powers and duties of the offices. In addition, the legislature must adopt
any other measures that may be necessary to obtain the objectives of that section of
the constitution.

This constitutional amendment amends that provision in article IV, section 34,
to strike the phrase “enemy action in the form of an attack” and substitute “a severe
or prolonged, natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life, health, or the
security of the state,” thereby providing for legislative action to ensure continuity in
periods of emergency, whether resulting from enemy attack or from other causes.

PROCEDURE FOR SECOND CONSIDERATION

When a proposed constitutional amendment is before the legislature on second
consideration, any change in the text approved by the preceding legislature causes
the proposed constitutional amendment to revert to first consideration status so that
second consideration approval would have to be given by the next legislature before
the proposal may be submitted to the people for ratification [see joint rule 57 (2)].

If the legislature approves a proposed constitutional amendment on second
consideration, it must also set the date for submitting the proposed constitutional
amendment to the people for ratification and must determine the question or
questions to appear on the ballot.


  1. Whereas, the 2009 legislature in regular session considered a proposed
  2. amendment to the constitution in 2009 Assembly Joint Resolution 59, which became
  3. 2009 Enrolled Joint Resolution 14, and agreed to it by a majority of the members
  4. elected to each of the 2 houses, which proposed amendment reads as follows:

    SECTION 1. Section 34 of article IV of the constitution is amended to
    read:

    [Article IV] Section 34. The legislature, in order to ensure continuity
    of state and local governmental operations in periods of emergency
    resulting from enemy action in the form of an attack a severe or prolonged,
    natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life, health, or the
    security of the state, shall (1) forthwith provide for prompt and temporary
    succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature
    and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which
    may become unavailable for carrying on the powers and duties of such
    offices, and (2) adopt such other measures as may be necessary and proper
    for attaining the objectives of this section.

  5. Now, therefore, be it resolved by the senate, the assembly concurring,
  6. That the foregoing proposed amendment to the constitution is agreed to by the 2011
  7. legislature; and, be it further
  8. Resolved, That the foregoing proposed amendment to the constitution be
  9. submitted to a vote of the people at the election to be held on the first Tuesday in April
  10. 2011; and, be it further
  11. Resolved, That the question concerning ratification of the foregoing proposed
  12. amendment to the constitution be stated on the ballot as follows:
    1. QUESTION 1: “Continuity of government operations during an
    2. emergency. Shall section 34 of article IV of the constitution, which requires the
    3. legislature to ensure continuity of state and local government operations during an
    4. emergency, be amended to change the definition of emergency from ‘enemy attack’
    5. to ‘severe or prolonged, natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life,
    6. health, or the security of the state’?”
    7. (END)

Summary

“periods of emergency resulting from enemy action in the form of an attack” is a pretty specific condition, one that strongly implies chaos to a degree that would physically impair the normal functioning of government. It was clearly meant for a moment when political agendas had to be set aside and emergency measures taken to address immediate problems. This section of the Wisconsin Constitution dates back to 1961, before 21st century communications like cell phones, satellite phones, and the Internet. It was a time when the possibility that key people could be unreachable for extended periods of time was a reasonable concern. A time when phones were relatively few and land wired, although there were more pay phones. A time before the resources of a staff could be squeezed into a portable device.

Today, the concern must be for the physical impairment of the key individual, and less for the breakdown of communications. In the current environment, it would be unrealistic to expect that the republicans would set aside ideology long enough to deal with an emergency.

“severe or prolonged, natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life, health, or the security of the state” is a very broad, ill-defined condition for authorizing the “temporary” alteration of an elected government.

“provide for prompt and temporary succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which may become unavailable for carrying on the powers and duties of such offices”

This was written to authorize extreme measures to avert the complete breakdown of government at a time when control of the territory itself would be brought under question. The threat of foreign invasion is less likely than ever. But is invasion what this amendment is about?

  • severe or prolonged
  • natural or man-made
  • threatens life, health, or the security of the state

A hurricane is severe, natural caused, threatens life. It fits the requirements. But is it grounds for replacing government officials who “may become unavailable”?

The recession is severe and prolonged, man-made, and threatens the security of the state. Does it justify replacing government officials, including elected officials, who may just be on vacation or out of state on business, or maybe just a legislator when the legislature is out of session?

The budget crisis is severe and prolonged, man-made, and threatens the security of the state. This amendment could be used to replace one or more Democrat senators and eliminate what little balance of power there is in the state government.

Unanswered questions/undefined terms:

  • How severe is “severe?
  • How long is “prolonged?
  • How many lives must be threatened to say a situation “threatens life”? What kind of threat?
  • What kind of threat to health? How widespread? Bird flu? Salmonella? Poisoned ground water?
  • What constitutes a “threat to the security of the state”? Illegal immigrants? Corporate lobbyists? The Koch Brotherhood?

This amendment goes very far beyond the scope and purpose of the original section of the state Constitution.

Unbelievably, this resolution does not offer the slightest reason or justification for such a drastic alteration of a section of their constitution that is largely obsolete and irrelevant.

This suggested amendment does not simply beg to be abused, it seems designed for the sole purpose of laying the foundation for an usurpation of power.

It paves the way for a coup d’état. I guess that is one way to “take back the government”, but it is not the democratic way – not the American way.

I rate this amendment a corruption of the Republican form of government and anti-American.

Update: I have noticed that they tried to do even worse in the last session:

2009 Wis SJR39

In the previous attempt, all they did was strike “resulting from enemy action in the form of an attack“, leaving the authorization for ANY “emergency”. There was a requirement that it be posted 3 months before the election, which was dropped this time, but no wording for the ballot was specified.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Constitution, Legislation, Strangelove | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Madison Protests: It’s Not About the Money



Over the past few years, I have likened the ideologica­l divide to a political civil war. The Democrats still embrace the Federalist view of government while the republican­s now embrace the anti-Feder­alist perspectiv­e.

“The accumulati­on of all powers, legislativ­e, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary­, self-appoi­nted, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
James Madison, Federalist 47

I am hoping that in this attack on the working class, people see the republican­s as going a bridge too far. That this turns into a Ft. Sumter moment for working America.

The country cannot function with this much conservati­ve extremism and hostility. The checks and balances have all broken down. The country is in decline. The political conversati­on has become all about picking sides and bundled agendas. We are facing a Constituti­onal crisis.

We need a major event. Something to rally around. Something that can push us past the propaganda­. Something that can be used to make us take a serious look at ourselves and our future.

9/11 involved an external threat. It was irrelevant to a constitutional crisis.

We have two diverging interpretations of the Constitution. The liberal view is a more principled interpretation, which has benefited the general welfare of the country far better but still needs better definition of it’s limitations. The conservative view is a more literal interpretation, which is more appropriate to a sparsely populated isolationist society with an agrarian economy. Conservative policies have done real harm to this country for decades, and threaten to make our current problems insurmountable.

We need an event that will lead to something like a town hall constitutional convention. A widespread and in-depth public conversation on what we want and need the Constitution to mean. Only then can we decide with confidence how we want to enforce or amend it.

Ignoring the Constitution, or pretending it says something it does not, are not options in a nation of laws.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Direction, Economics, Government, Labor, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scott Walker, Wisconsin GOP Poised To Start Economic Border Wars


The state capitol of Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Capital

“He’s also signed into law tax cuts for businesses that relocate to Wisconsin”

“The competitio­ns of commerce would be another fruitful source of contention­. The States less favorably circumstan­ced would be desirous of escaping from the disadvanta­ges of local situation, and of sharing in the advantages of their more fortunate neighbors. Each State, or separate confederac­y, would pursue a system of commercial policy peculiar to itself. This would occasion distinctio­ns, preference­s, and exclusions­, which would beget discontent­. The habits of intercours­e, on the basis of equal privileges­, to which we have been accustomed since the earliest settlement of the country, would give a keener edge to those causes of discontent than they would naturally have independen­t of this circumstan­ce. WE SHOULD BE READY TO DENOMINATE INJURIES THOSE THINGS WHICH WERE IN REALITY THE JUSTIFIABL­E ACTS OF INDEPENDEN­T SOVEREIGNT­IES CONSULTING A DISTINCT INTEREST. The spirit of enterprise­, which characteri­zes the commercial part of America, has left no occasion of displaying itself unimproved­. It is not at all probable that this unbridled spirit would pay much respect to those regulation­s of trade by which particular States might endeavor to secure exclusive benefits to their own citizens. The infraction­s of these regulation­s, on one side, the efforts to prevent and repel them, on the other, would naturally lead to outrages, and these to reprisals and wars.”
Federalist 7

The Founders understood the dangers of pitting one state against another. A lesson the republican­s have failed to learn.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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