Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 2013

The goofiness of fringe groups and agitators continues to creep toward the mainstream. The latest converts are three New Hampshire legislators who introduced a bill to have the state "recognize" the "original 13th Amendment to the Constitution." There was in fact a proposed amendment which would have become the Thirteenth if it had been ratified. It was passed by Congress in 1810, and submitted to the states, but it never was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states. It provided as follows:
If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.[50]
The issue of divided loyalty by way of foreign offices or benefits already had been covered by the Constitution, in Article I, Section 9.:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
It isn’t clear why anyone thought that the amendment was necessary, and in any case, it is a dead letter except among anti-statists, who concoct bizarre theories about its suppression which involve the claims that the United States was converted into a corporation in 1871 (or 1860 or 1861 or 1865 or 1868), that IRS (or is it the Federal Reserve?) is a foreign banking cartel, and on and on. (I discussed these notions on 4/5/10, 4/7/10 and 5/28/10). Here’s the version of that tale included in the New Hampshire bill:
III. The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 . . . created a corporation in the District of Columbia called the United States of America. The act . . . led to adoption of a fraudulent constitution in which the original Thirteenth Amendment was omitted.
IV. Today, what appears to the public as the United States Constitution is not the complete document, as it was never lawfully amended to remove the Thirteenth Amendment. Instead, the document presented as the United States Constitution is merely a mission statement for the corporation unlawfully established in the Act of 1871.[51]
The operative section of the bill states that its purpose is to recognize that the original Thirteenth Amendment, "which prohibits titles of nobility, is properly included in the United States Constitution and is the law of the land."
V. . . . The act is also intended to end the infiltration of the Bar Association and the judicial branch into the executive and legislative branches of government and the unlawful usurpation of the people’s right, guaranteed by the New Hampshire constitution, to elect county attorneys who are not members of the bar. This unlawful usurpation gives the judicial branch control over all government and the people in the grand juries. As long as the original Thirteenth Amendment is concealed from the people, there shall never be justice or a legitimate constitutional form of government.
Thirteenthers have two aims in reviving the "lost" amendment: to remove President Obama from office because he received the Nobel Peace Prize and, as shown by the New Hampshire bill, to exclude lawyers from all public offices, including judgeships, because they sometimes are referred to as "Esquire" which, allegedly, is a foreign (British) title. Some support that notion by claiming that "bar," referring to lawyers, stands for British Accreditation Registry (or Royalty or Regency). Here’s one entertaining version: "I do have sound reason to believe that "BAR" in BAR Association stands for "British Accreditation Regency" and that all attorneys are knights for the British or Royal Crown. After all, behind every attorney's name is the title "Esquire" which is a British term."[52] I don’t recall that anyone ever called me Sir Gerald.

One of the sponsors is Rep. Stella Tremblay.[53] This is not her first foray into the anti-government fantasy world. Last year, she sent an email to every member of the state House of Representatives containing a video that claimed that President Obama was not born in the United States. This year, she treated her colleagues to an email claiming that the federal government was behind the Boston Marathon bombing,[54] parroting that allegation by Alex Jones.

One of the sillier notions entertained by those who fear or despise the government is that we still are ruled by Britain. One David Johnson, "who advises Tremblay on historical matters," believes that the U.S. "is now under the control of Queen Elizabeth II."[55] If we have no legitimate Constitution, and it isn’t restored via adopting the lost 13th, where would we look for a statement of fundamentals? Three other New Hampshire legislators addressed that a year or so ago, in a manner consistent with Mr. Johnson’s delusion; their bill would have required that “All members of the general court [Legislature] proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.”[56]
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50. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Titles_of_Nobility_Amendment
51. http://legiscan.com/NH/text/HB638/id/719435
52. http://www.dhealthstore.com/articles/law-legal/blacks-law-dictionary.html
53. She abruptly resigned from the Legislature a few days ago.
54. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/stella-tremblay-new-hampshire_n_ 3466760.html
55. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/01/stella-tremblay_n_2791098.html
56. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/01/04/397520/new-hampshire-gop-bill-mandates- that-laws-find-their-origin-in-1215-english-magna-carta/

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013

Newspapers are in a sad state. One of their problems is that their print editions must compete with their web versions. Offering the latter free of charge only exacerbates the tendency of readers to opt for getting news on line. For that reason, digital subscriptions are in vogue. The New York Times requires a subscription to access more than ten articles a month. The Washington Post has announced that it soon will charge for access beyond twenty per month. (That number may not hold; the Times initially allowed twenty). I learned belatedly that The Seattle Times has adopted a similar policy, permitting "about" fifteen free hits per month. As we subscribe to the newspaper, that doesn’t affect us.

Various factors other than self-competition have contributed to the decline of print journalism. The trend toward on-line reading is reenforced by mobile devices, and fewer people care about news in any form. Costs of operation no doubt have increased and advertisers have options other than papers. Whatever the cause, The Seattle Times is a poor copy of its former self, even though, with the demise of the P-I, it now has no local print competition.

Presumably due to the cost of syndicated columns, the Times op-ed pages now are dominated by staff and guest writers. There have been some good columns, but the result overall is unimpressive. On June 7, the page reached a new low by including a guest column by a young woman who, after moving to Seattle, has had trouble getting a date, and blames that on timid Seattle males. However, this evidently wasn’t just space-filling; the Times invited us to enter into a dialogue by on-line chat over this burning issue, and those who couldn’t make the chat could respond to a poll asking whether they agree with her opinions. The Times probably thinks that it is reaching young readers with this nonsense.

The paper redeemed itself in part by printing on the facing page a house editorial on the recent revelations of domestic spying. Although many people have expressed opinions — covering a wide range — about the surveillance programs, it’s impossible to take many of those reactions, or the government’s statements, seriously, because all of this still largely is secret. The Times focused on that fact. It’s worth setting out its observations almost in full.

A FEDERAL document reveals a program called PRISM that scoops up email, chats, videos, photos, stored data, Internet phone calls, file transfers, video conferences and logins from nine different Internet providers. . . .

President Obama says, "There are a whole bunch of safeguards involved" in what the government did. Should we believe him? Skepticism is in order here.

The program was secret. And when the president says it does not involve reading "the emails of U.S. citizens and U.S. residents," how sure are we of that? Not nearly enough. . . .
 
Has Congress been a check on the executive power? No. Have the courts? Not in this instance, which involves a tribunal in which there never is an opposing counsel and which operates in secret. How often does this court ever say "no"? . . . 
How does this square with "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures"? The Fourth Amendment seems to define a lawful search entirely in terms of what PRISM is not. 
Two years ago, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., asked Attorney General Eric Holder the still-salient question: How can the people judge a program when they are not told what it is? . . .
The essence of the Constitution is power constrained by law. We are looking for the constraint and not seeing it.
The editorial added a more general comment, one which many of us would echo:
This page supported Barack Obama. So did the voters of Washington. Obama was for "change." But on the matter of secret killing by aerial drone, on detention without trial at Guantánamo, and now on the mass interception of mail by the national security state, where is the change?

June 17, 2013


Newspapers are in a sad state. One of their problems is that their print editions must compete with their web versions. Offering the latter free of charge only exacerbates the tendency of readers to opt for getting news on line. For that reason, digital subscriptions are in vogue. The New York Times requires a subscription to access more than ten articles a month. The Washington Post has announced that it soon will charge for access beyond twenty per month. (That number may not hold; the Times initially allowed twenty). I learned belatedly that The Seattle Times has adopted a similar policy, permitting "about" fifteen free hits per month. As we subscribe to the newspaper, that doesn’t affect us.

Various factors other than self-competition have contributed to the decline of print journalism. The trend toward on-line reading is reenforced by mobile devices, and fewer people care about news in any form. Costs of operation no doubt have increased and advertisers have options other than papers. Whatever the cause, The Seattle Times is a poor copy of its former self, even though, with the demise of the P-I, it now has no local print competition.

Presumably due to the cost of syndicated columns, the Times op-ed pages now are dominated by staff and guest writers. There have been some good columns, but the result overall is unimpressive. On June 7, the page reached a new low by including a guest column by a young woman who, after moving to Seattle, has had trouble getting a date, and blames that on timid Seattle males. However, this evidently wasn’t just space-filling; the Times invited us to enter into a dialogue by on-line chat over this burning issue, and those who couldn’t make the chat could respond to a poll asking whether they agree with her opinions. The Times probably thinks that it is reaching young readers with this nonsense.

The paper redeemed itself in part by printing on the facing page a house editorial on the recent revelations of domestic spying. Although many people have expressed opinions — covering a wide range — about the surveillance programs, it’s impossible to take many of those reactions, or the government’s statements, seriously, because all of this still largely is secret. The Times focused on that fact. It’s worth setting out its observations almost in full.

A FEDERAL document reveals a program called PRISM that scoops up email, chats, videos, photos, stored data, Internet phone calls, file transfers, video conferences and logins from nine different Internet providers.


***

President Obama says, "There are a whole bunch of safeguards involved" in what the government did. Should we believe him? Skepticism is in order here.



The program was secret. And when the president says it does not involve reading "the emails of U.S. citizens and U.S. residents," how sure are we of that? Not nearly enough. . . .


Has Congress been a check on the executive power? No. Have the courts? Not in this instance, which involves a tribunal in which there never is an opposing counsel and which operates in secret. How often does this court ever say "no"? . . .


How does this square with "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures"? The Fourth Amendment seems to define a lawful search entirely in terms of what PRISM is not.


Two years ago, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., asked Attorney General Eric Holder the still-salient question: How can the people judge a program when they are not told what it is?

***

The essence of the Constitution is power constrained by law. We are looking for the constraint and not seeing it.


The editorial added a more general comment, one which many of us would echo:

This page supported Barack Obama. So did the voters of Washington. Obama was for "change." But on the matter of secret killing by aerial drone, on detention without trial at Guantánamo, and now on the mass interception of mail by the national security state, where is the change?


Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013
Having been entertained by friends in England who enjoy wine, we thought that we would send them some Washington wine as a thank-you. We tried to order Washington wine in London for delivery, only to find that the English haven’t discovered us. They have some limited acquaintance with California and with — oh, the insult — Oregon, but not with us, so we sent French and Italian.

However, in one way Washington is famous, or perhaps notorious. The bartender at a café at Heathrow knew about the recent bridge collapse, knew that it is north of Seattle, on I-5, over the Skagit (pronounced with broad a and hard g) River. Wonderful; we’re known for the failure of our infrastructure.

When we returned, I found a column in The Seattle Times by Danny Westneat addressing reactions to the incident: "Last week I wondered if the collapse of an I-5 bridge might jar us to fix up our deteriorating old infrastructure. Or if we would crouch back into our played-out ‘no new taxes’ political torpor. The torpor it is." As he noted, and to no one’s surprise, Tim Eyman was appalled that some Democrats in the Legislature suggested that we raise funds to deal with vulnerable bridges, or in his terms, were "ghoulishly, crassly, exploitatively, and predictably demanding the Legislature unilaterally raise taxes . . . "[46] By "unilaterally," he means without a referendum; so much for representative (efficient, effective) government.

The excuse for continued neglect is that the bridge collapsed because a truck clipped one of its supports, so it’s just an unforseen event. Eyman again: " An accident is an accident and it's kind of hard to peg that on anybody else except the driver of a big truck driving at 15 feet on a 14 foot bridge. There's clearly a lot of people that are trying to exploit this bridge accident in order to push tax increases."[47]

Westneat also quoted two Republican legislators to the effect that no action is needed, even though there are many "structurally deficient" bridges in the state.[48] One of the legislators seemed outraged that there would be any response; here’s his muddled analysis: "What a joke. I said it last night when I saw the news [of the collapse, apparently]. I said, this is going to be [Governor] Inslee standing on the grandstand and saying, ‘See, this is why we need to pass the transportation package,’ and then the rest of the country will start saying look, our infrastructure is collapsing. But you could strike a brand-new bridge with a semi-truck and it will come down. I am just beside myself about how idiotic we have become."[49] In other words, if the Governor points out that collapsing bridges call for remedial action, that’s merely political posturing; having the country take note of our inability to provide safe transportation is no big deal.

The notion that we ought to build bridges that don’t fall down when bumped (not, apparently, a rare occurrence) is as foreign to him as to Eyman. The idiocy lies in sacrificing public safety on the altar of tax avoidance.

Westneat ended with this observation: "I have never bought the left-wing line that Republicans actually want government to fail. But they don’t seem to be trying all that hard to make it work." There is ample evidence that many Republicans want government to fail, or at least to shrink to the point of insignificance, but he’s certainly right that this is good example at least of indifference to making it work.
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46. http://mynorthwest.com/?sid=2281751&nid=651
47. http://mynorthwest.com/646/2283862/Antitax-crusader-says-blaming-him-for-I5-bridge-collapse-is-ghoulish-and-crass  
48. http://blogs.asce.org/govrel/2013/05/21/washington-state-report-card-released-today/  
49. http://washingtonstatewire.com/blog/inslee-warned-of-minnesota-style-freeway-bridge-collapse-on-monday-just-before-i-5-disaster/