Day 27 – This post is NOT about Sarah Palin

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge).

The only thing seemingly newsworthy of the Sarah Palin endorsement of Donald Trump is the fact of her increasing inability to form sentences and coherent thoughts. I didn’t think that was possible based on past appearances, but little ceases to amaze me these days. My favorite headline of the endorsement which sums it quite nicely was from Slate titled “Hot Mess Endorses Dumpster Fire”.

But I will not be talking about Sarah Palin, at least not directly. Continue reading “Day 27 – This post is NOT about Sarah Palin”

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Debt Ceiling argument by Republicans is unconstitutional

I posted on the topic of the debt ceiling the last time it came around in the political news cycle.  It seems like we keep facing these ridiculous fights over whether or not our government will or will not raise the debt ceiling.  My argument that I made a few months ago (which I have posted again below) is that Republicans’ attempt to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip is in stark violation to their oath to the Constitution, more specifically, the 14th Amendment.  This is pretty ballsy for a group that loves to tout their unfettered and pure devotion to our most important of founding documents.

I came across a video today that reiterates my point from my previous post, except this time it is from someone who has the respected credentials to speak authoritatively on the subject….Here is a link to the Bloomberg News report.

Obama and the Debt Ceiling

***(originally posted on 8/15/2013***

The debt ceiling debate is, in my opinion, much more straight-forward and simple to argue for from a Constitutional perspective than the gun control debate. Let’s get right to the Constitutional clause in question, namely Amendment XIV, Section 4, which reads in part:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including all debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned…

If there is one thing I learned from countless courses in philosophy and critical thinking, not to mention my dealings with contracts, it’s that certain words carry certain inarguable meanings. In the case of this Constitutional Amendment, the words are very clear. If one simply takes out the additional clauses from the middle part, and just focuses on the root meaning of the sentence, it reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned.” From a merely etymological perspective, this Constitutional prescription is non-negotiable. Case in point, the word “shall”. This is not an arguable term in the English language. It does not carry the same loose obligation as, say, the word “may” or even “will”. “Shall” denotes duty, responsibility, and most importantly for purposes of our current debate, obligation. It does not imply in any way, based on it’s historical definition, anything other than that which must be done. Period. End of story. Need I go on?

In other words, there is and shall not be any debate over whether or not the Federal Government should or should not pay for those services for which it has already accrued debt. As long as those debts have been previously legislated and voted on by Congress (which all current debt has), then the Federal Government has a strict obligation to pay those debts. The way that many in the Republican party are holding this issue hostage is counter to their Constitutional duties as members of Congress. They are, if one simply reads the words of the Constitution, not fulfilling their duties by “questioning” the “validity” of the United States debt.

Thoughts on the current conflict over the debt ceiling

“The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned.” From a merely etymological perspective, this Constitutional prescription is non-negotiable.

Debt Ceiling

The debt ceiling debate is, in my opinion, much more straight-forward and simple to argue for from a Constitutional perspective than the gun control debate. Let’s get right to the Constitutional clause in question, namely Amendment XIV, Section 4, which reads in part:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including all debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned…

If there is one thing I learned from countless courses in philosophy and critical thinking, not to mention my dealings with contracts, it’s that certain words carry certain inarguable meanings. In the case of this Constitutional Amendment, the words are very clear. If one simply takes out the additional clauses from the middle part, and just focuses on the root meaning of the sentence, it reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned.” From a merely etymological perspective, this Constitutional prescription is non-negotiable. Case in point, the word “shall”. This is not an arguable term in the English language. It does not carry the same loose obligation as, say, the word “may” or even “will”. “Shall” denotes duty, responsibility, and most importantly for purposes of our current debate, obligation. It does not imply in any way, based on it’s historical definition, anything other than that which must be done. Period. End of story. Need I go on?

In other words, there is and shall not be any debate over whether or not the Federal Government should or should not pay for those services for which it has already accrued debt. As long as those debts have been previously legislated and voted on by Congress (which all current debt has), then the Federal Government has a strict obligation to pay those debts. The way that many in the Republican party are holding this issue hostage is counter to their Constitutional duties as members of Congress. They are, if one simply reads the words of the Constitution, not fulfilling their duties by “questioning” the “validity” of the United States debt.

Gun control grammar: why words actually matter in the Constitution

Ever since the 2012 Presidential Election I’ve made a conscious effort to take a break from politics.  All of the constant back and forth between talking heads is somewhat fun and exciting in the build up to election day, but becomes a rather depressing reminder of the absolute political intractability we currently find ourselves in as a nation.  However, while I may have stopped watching the “talking heads”, I still read the newspaper.  I find that reading the news as opposed to watching a news entertainment show (the operative word being entertainment), allows me more freedom to decide for myself what I think is absurd, and what is not.  The fact that I have cut out the candy of cable news, and increased the less processed, albeit still fulfilling newspaper, has  refocused my mind on that which matters to all intelligent debate: words.

Based on my reading of the headlines, one of the most contentious political issues currently dividing our nation is gun control.  If one merely skims the surface of this topic; giving equal weight to opinions on all sides, even if they are absolutely bat-shit crazy, one may begin to think that this issue really is “quite difficult” and “full of grey area”.  I, on the other hand, disagree that it is all that complicated based merely on the constitutional language in which the topic is rooted.  Specifically, Amendment II of the United States Constitution.

Gun Regulation

The 2nd Amendment reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. 

Taken by itself, this short little amendment isn’t all that clear when you read it critically.  The use of commas and lack of conjunctions makes it carry a somewhat different meaning from what I think most people believe it to be.  First, take the contradictory phrases “well regulated” and “shall not be infringed”.  They exist together in the same sentence, and supposedly about the same topics.  Yet, how can something be simultaneously “well regulated” and “not infringed”? (Unless it is opposite day of course.)  It’s as if the Amendment says, “You can have guns and a Militia, but we’re going to regulate them, wait, just kidding!”

Second, what is it, exactly, that “shall not be infringed”?  Is it the Militia?  The “bearing of Arms”? Both?  I think the answer lies in the priority for how the two topics are ordered in the sentence, and the use of commas.  It is the “well regulated Militia” that is “necessary to the security of a free State”, not the bearing of Arms.  The “bearing of Arms”, at least in how it falls in the sentence, is a continuation of the idea on Militias, a secondary supporting clause, but not the main idea of the sentence.  They do not hold equal weight in terms of what, “shall not be infringed”.  In other words, if the Founders simply used the word “and” to connect the two parts; i.e., “,and right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, then it would be very clear that they intended both the Militia and the bearing of Arms to hold equal weighting for things that “shall not be infringed” upon.  But they didn’t do that.  They made it read such that the implication for the importance of bearing arms is in service of a Militia, not merely as a recreational purpose, such as the 21st Amendment is to alcohol use (which I might remind everyone is a HIGHLY regulated “right” of the people).

This point of the importance held by the Militia in the 2nd amendment is further supported when looking at other Amendments in relation to a Militias place in society.  Specifically, put in context with two previous sections of the Constitution, that of Article I, Section 8, and Article II, Section 2, colors the 2nd Amendment’s meaning in a whole different way.  Article I, Section 8 reads, in part:

The Congress shall have Power To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress…

Article II, Section 2 reads, in part:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…

In other words, the reason the right of owning a gun is afforded by the Constitution is not simply so that citizens have carte blanche access to whatever weapon they choose for whatever reason, but because owning a weapon is essential to the Government’s ability to call upon you as part of a Militia to defend the country against foreign invasions.

The way I read the mere language of the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with an individual’s right to own a gun for personal reasons, but rather in duty and service to Country.  Read literally, the Constitution would also seem to imply that instituting the draft in war time is completely in line with the spirit and word of our most precious founding document.  And yet, we’ve managed to regulate that unpopular policy right into the annals of American history, Constitutional language not withstanding.

Bottom line: context and time period are everything.  The Constitution, with all its Articles, Amendments, and good intentions, was written during a time in which guns meant muscats, where transportation meant riding a horse, and when communication meant writing a letter.  For all those who scream and lose their minds over the far-out notion that the government is “taking their guns” should more closely inspect that founding document that they so dearly, with weeping red, white and blue tears, love to hold as a self-righteous banner to individual freedom.  The truth of the matter is, the founding document is more collectivist in nature than individualistic, at least in regard to this particular topic.  The sentiment of these Amendments is not in support of the current NRA platform of “rugged individualism, with a gun”, but rather of a more collective responsibility in which citizens are afforded rights, but along with those rights, major responsibilities as well.  The purpose of gun ownership is to serve a Militia, and that Militia is under the authority of the government if needed in time of war.  Last I checked, Militia’s st0pped being a viable fighting force for the government about the same time as the musket.