Are We Ready for a Constitutional Convention?

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The case against a Constitutional Convention is starting to surface from the right side of the American political ledger now that 39 states have officially filed applications for such a meeting with the esteemed House of Representatives. The main rub of the argument is that such an unprecedented event doesn’t have the “trial and error” experience necessary to ensure an orderly procedure which doesn’t threaten to completely re-write the Constitution and topple our solid political order. Such experimenting would be wise in order to constrain convention delegates (by law of course) in their collective role of improving the language of our founding document. On the other hand, most of the states (22 of the 39) simply charge a Convention with the relatively straight-forward task of writing the 28th Amendment to remind the federal government not to spend more money than it makes in a given year. This seems easy & innocent enough an assignment for any group of educated & honest Americans to take on. Justice Scalia doesn’t quite agree with my assessment though, famously shouting at the C-SPAN cameras last month that, “I certainly would not want a constitutional convention! Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it!?” What would come out of it indeed?! Any seemingly practical political process/goal steeped in common sense can be auctioned off and perverted a few times in the course of all the necessary trading before it’s final distorted product is laid in front of us by a gang of Congressmen who smile crookedly into the camera lenses. Think then of the possibilities of corruption among a swath of unknown delegates who are (no doubt) chomping at the bit to get a piece of the American Pie. We can’t trust them! That’s why the latest two states to jump aboard the Balanced Budget gravy-train have handed their autonomy over to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in their “Compact for America”. In passing their respective petitions on to the U.S. House, Alaska and Georgia have explicitly authorized ALEC to do all the heavy lifting. Specifically, “(t)he Compact itself would unite the 38 signing states into proposing, voting on, and ratifying a Balanced Budget Amendment at a convention and appoints all delegates for the signing states, defines the convention rules, and prohibits any signing state from ratifying or participating in any convention that disregarded it’s state assigned agenda.” If one cares to do a few minutes of research on ALEC, then one can rest-assured that a constitutional convention will be safe in their hands. Risk-averse conservatives like the Honorable Justice Scalia will have no more reason to fret about the doors being blown off the convention hall.

Not all twenty-two states calling for a balanced budget amendment have signed the “Compact for America” though. In fact, only Alaska and Georgia have promised ALEC the whip of the over-seer. All twenty-two have, however, specifically stated their purpose of making sure the federal government only serves what it can afford on it’s own merit. Another seventeen states have applied for various other amendments. The potential for political chaos is very real, given these numbers, and I don’t think anyone or anything could handle all the hub-bub when the iron starts to get hot. Some of the other amendment proposals that are out there include term-limits for Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices, revenue sharing amongst the States, right to life for the un-born, limits on income tax rates, and federal debt limits. I, for one, would love to see the pile-on effect in regards to a constitutional convention, which could happen if the right team of lawyers gets their way. Think of the panic that would strike at the heart of every largely unknown federally-elected official who never had a real job before landing head first into Washington, DC, when they learn that Congressional term-limits are being considered by a meeting of politically frustrated delegates somewhere in Kansas. While they’re at it they can throw in a few that will make the rest of the swamp-hermits sing, like, “Amendment XXXV: The Capitol of these United States shall not occupy any One jurisdiction for more than fifty years OR until the People of the given jurisdiction of the Capitol shall bring articles of eviction of the Government, whichever comes first.” That should shake the boys up enough to at least to get them to open an eye-lid. Amendment XXXV sounds reasonable enough, and of course it MUST be done. What we’ve learned since the founding of our Republic (also known as the great human experiment) is that greed is the most enduring human trait, and a permanent role such as the assistant to the chief administrator of the V.A. will turn the most pious New England Quaker into a fat, slobbering menace to society within the time span of a one-term President. Everybody knows this, but the problem is too hard to solve, even with the help of ALEC and it’s corporate owned state legislators there to push along every measure of austerity known to man. It’s all mere window-dressing. The “sequester” has taught us that.

Now, I hate to say this but I agree with almost all of the proposed amendments still hanging out there, some which have been flapping in the cold spring breeze since the seventies, except the Balanced Budget Amendment. It’s too stiff and inflexible a provision for an enlightened government such as ours. Why should we punish ourselves for the mistakes of our ancestors? Why should we limit the possibilities of our future? NASA landed a man on the moon, and the Department of Defense helped spur on the development of the internet! Anyway, a constitutional convention….what would it look like? Ah, just imagining the logistical nightmare makes me smile. Judge Scalia wants more of them by the way, wants to make it easier to add amendments. But like I mentioned earlier, he is scared of the reality of the thing if it were to actually come to life. It’s just that a convention has never been tried coming from this end of the federalist hierarchy: the STATES requesting Congress to call a meeting of the STATES to amend the law of the land. John Boehner recently said, given the news that Michigan was the 34th state (all-time) to file a petition for a balanced budget amendment, that he’d have to get his lawyers to look at it first. Well, who can blame him for saying that? His job is at stake, and the future of the country to boot! OK, so he’s not taking any of this seriously yet, and why should he? An unprecedented and obscure constitutional provision that most of his constituents probably don’t even know exists won’t be an issue in the Speaker’s re-election bid this fall. How many Americans have read Article V? Does it matter? When in doubt, outsource it! Only this time the outsourcing is being done to address an issue which affects the pocket-books of the People. A balanced budget? Whoa! Who will pay? I think that’s one we don’t have to do much guessing about.

Reflections on the American Dream

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“As the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch Sailor’s eyes – a fresh green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human drama; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

 

And now, 400 years later, how does it feel to be standing in the middle of American soil, a descendant of the wanderer who met his match when the vast prairie-lands began to transform along the frontier into the rugged, unsettled mountains and deserts? Did our ancestors realize their historic Place in reaching the Pinnacle of geographical Opportunity? 

“Doctors Without Borders”? or Traveling Within Reason

I’m looking up at this world map on my wall which is sponsored by a medical group that likes to travel and apparently does God’s work. The quote at the top of the poster reads, “We find out where conditions are the worst, the places where others are not going, and that’s where we want to be.” Fair enough. But how did they find where they wanted to be with this tiny map? I was trying to pin-point a couple of remote towns in the Middle East and could barely find the countries that fall between the Mediterranean, Red, and Black Sea. Just now glancing at it again to ensure my description of the geography was accurate I had to refer to the other map here which dates all the way back to the year 2004 – no doubt an outdated relic now that serves as a wealth of misinformation. I must use it however because one needs better than 20/20 to see that other tiny pea which has reduced earth to the size of one of those water-globes which encase a Winter Wonderland scene. Is this how “Doctors Without Borders” views the world? Have they reduced us to the size of ants in order to work up enough gall to proclaim that they’re the only civilized bunch who are willing to take on the grim diseases which still plague the third world? It starts to make sense if you ponder it long enough. How else could you take on such a task?

Conversely, how do those cultured, first-world travelers think about the spatial dimensions of our planet? Those old-money folks who have no more pressing business than to wonder what’s going on in Budapest at this hour, or how they would be lunching in Rome or Marseille? I can’t see how they could form such a grand notion of the world to be something they could fold up and tuck in their pocket for good measure. Those people need GLOBES: something that stands in the middle of the room and takes up half its living space so they can at least can say they never got bored looking at it, and if they ever did they could always close their eyes and place their finger wherever they feel like and spin the ball around until it finally stops. They can then go on making plans to visit whatever enchanting land that they are destined to see next.

That’s the  kind of layout of the World I need. I don’t mean that I need to go to some country I never heard of on the other side of the planet. I just want to see the whole thing in a proper Perspective.  At least my U.S. map does me some justice. While the state lines are dull and incomplete, it shows me how I can get to wherever I may want to go on this continent via interstate  highway. And I know what the terrain may look like when I get there thanks to its topographical feature. You can also fold this map into your pocket, but not as handily as the Doctor’s layout of the world. No matter though because this is a general outline, and I would never have a reason to put  it in my pocket. It’s plastered to the wall and it will stay there for me to gaze at and dream of where – in this country – I want to go next.

Letter to the Guccione Collection

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Dear Guccione,

Your magazine sounds like it has some big-time Potential and I like what I’ve seen on the site so far except for the farewell sentence of your self-description which wishes your readers ever-lasting Comfort. I for one disagree with that Sentiment wholeheartedly and wish any reader of American political journalism who has a Pulse and a Brain a special kind of Discomfort which has the eerie effect of habitual Outbursts at the dinner table and constant incoherent Mumbling at work. Let the System work for itself in all it’s infinite Wisdom and we will be there to push them over the Edge, not Prop them Up.

I have attached two condensed versions of essays written over the past year which will give you a sense of how I like to write. On-site reporting is a job I would also jump at the chance to do as my inquisitive nature seems to be the right fit for that line of work. Overall I would describe myself as externally respectful, internally fair, and well-mannered. I get into things, but it must be something I have an interest in which is why I don’t apply to small-town or even straight big-city publications.

James Sutton

On my Visit to Historical Virginia

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Going to the homes of Jefferson and Madison this past week gave me a greater sense of clarity about the Origins of our country and the true Greatness of our Founders, particularly Jefferson. I think the reverence for these men still exists today in America, but on an almost unconscious level. The real enthusiasm and adulation for the Origins of our once proud Republican traditions are held now by Foreigners & the Young: one too naïve, and the other too ignorant to realize that these ideals haven’t been practiced as much as they have been preached, thus causing the honest American to feel like we’ve “fallen from Grace” as it were. At the Virginia State Capital in Richmond, there was a large group from Turkey who toured the building with us and eagerly asked questions in their native language about the inter-workings of the state government there. Now take a look around the American political landscape: Presidential campaigns more resemble something written and produced in Hollywood than even something shrewdly devised in Washington. Is this what people want? Maybe so. The System is so outdated and corrupted that in order to save the Republican principles we were founded upon we need a complete systematic overhaul to replace the antiquated machinery (240 years running) which now only produces Big Money & “politically correct” winners. Something has to change, but how bad does it have to get? I suppose the foundation has to physically start to shake before the people on the Second Floor begin to pull the rug out on those high in the Tower above.

In any case, despite how bad it has gotten and how divided our country is right now, both politically & economically, with a concerted effort on the part of people to step back and contemplate how this whole Thing got started, and then at least vote for candidates who don’t completely contradict the American Spirit, I think we will have a better chance to preserve the freedom and prosperity that this country surprisingly still enjoys. Of course this will not be easy as the world is a much different place than it was at the time of our founding: we have pissed off a lot of people since then, and we have elected a lot of short-sighted and/or foolish Presidents. There is nothing we can do about it now though except to learn from our mistakes and know there won’t be much left after the next Big One for a Fourth Chance. It’s gotten to the point though that we’re so bloated in almost every aspect of Society, that popping any specific area will cause the whole System to collapse and take out more of the Innocent than the Guilty. I want to be optimistic, but I can’t help to see the long Road ahead is just getting rockier, and our increasing ability to see farther and farther down the line doesn’t make its navigation much easier for the simple fact that most people are looking sideways, and a few are constantly fixed to the Rear.

Winter’s Mind

To know the pain
Is to know the rain
On a warm winter’s day
With no sway to the naked, dead Forks
Which torture my mind
Like days gone by

Who knows the truth
But these tall & ancient monuments
Which are nature’s gown
And Men try to strip down

But all in vain
For through the trees
They cannot see
No matter who they hire

They will never find
The Peace of Mind
Which they eventually will seek
To free their heads
From all which they couldn’t have

But neither will I
Find enough supply
To throw off these empty shadows

And where could I go
To relieve what I know
Except anywhere that I’ve not already been