Friday, May 16, 2008

Basic Civics: Pertinent Documents

I know we all took Civics back in the 8th Grade. Well, judging from the general state of the electorate in some respects, a review is called for. This post will address the documents used as the basis of our government.

The Declaration of Independence:

On the 4th of July in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Six, Independence from the rule of the British Empire under the reign of King George was declared.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
With that opening, fifty-six men boldly told the world on behalf of the people of the colonies that Good King George could pound sand. Imagine today what would happen if such a concise statement were released to the world. Because, while it is a powerful story in and of itself, it really is the equal of a modern press release.

That "press release" has no legal authority in todays USA. It is a one-trick-pony. As the title boldly states, it is a DECLARATION of Independence. So, on the day it was released, it's mission was completed. The world was altered and the lives and fortunes of the signers were forever enshrined in history.

Homework: On the 4th of July, listen to channel 144 of Sirius Satellite Radio. Mike Church will be doing a documentary titled "The Road to Independence". If you can listen to the program and your heart doesn't swell with pride, you are either not an American or your blood runs so thin that you cannot be allowed to breed.

Extra Credit: Read about the Signers and see who paid dearly and who didn't for their act of "treason" against the Crown.

The Constitution of the United States of America:

The Constitution is the sole basis of all Law written in the USA. As legal documents go it is short, sweet, to the point, and often twisted out of shape. Let's get one thing straight. The document is a marvel of simplicity. There is a Preamble, Seven Articles, and Twenty-Seven Amendments. If I recall correctly it's about twenty full size pages and somewhere to the tune of 4500 words in the original.

The key point here is that the Constitution clearly tells us what the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Government are. In other words: You do not have to be a judge to actually read and understand the Constitution.

I carry mine on my old Palm Pilot. You can get a free pocket copy of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution at the Heritage Foundation.

The Preamble is the "Mission Statement" of the Constitution.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Homework: Read the Constitution. On Monday read the Preamble and Article 1. On Tuesday read Articles 1 and 2. Then 2 and 3 and so forth. On the first reading, simply soak it in like a Superman Comic Book. On the second reading, really dig it. Get it into your mind. When you have completed the readings, then re-read it again from front to back. As you are doing this, note where each item in the preamble is discussed in the Constitution proper.

Extra Credit: Where in the Constitution do we find the authority to establish the following: The Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Interior.

Extra Extra Credit: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)is a part of what department and why is it or is it not Constitutionally authorized.

The Law:

A Law is Legislation properly passed by congress & signed by the President. All law must logically point back to the Constitution. For example, all laws relating to national defense point back to the clauses within Articles One and Two. A Federal Law concerning the humane treatment of animals could be argued to be unconstitutional since the constitution is silent on the subjet. Silence means that the power to make law on that subject is left to the states.

Currently there is a bill in Congress which would require the Congress to cite which of the enumerated powers specifically authorizes the Congress to make law on that subject.

Homework: Check out the Enumerated Powers Act. Why do you think it will or will not ever become law? Here is one persons view. Do you support that view or oppose it? Why?

For more discussion of the relationship of the Constitution to the Laws passed by Congress, read "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America" by Mark Levin. You can also listen to his talk show. Fair Warning: The word Acerbic in the most current dictionary redirects to a wikipedia entry titled "Mark Levins Sense of Humor". Learn the phrase, "Get off the phone..."


The next rung down the ladder is Regulation. The process of the law is not normally written in the law. Instead, we write regulations which tell us how to apply the law. Regulations must clearly point back to a law which in turn must point back to the US Constitution. The idea is that as needs change we can simply change the regs to allow for it. Regulation allows standardization of process. It makes it easy to ensure compliance with the law.

Uh huh, and Santa Clause is a skinny Rastafarian. The above is regulations greatness if they were written by perfect men who had no need for power or ambition. What we actually get is a spaghetti pile of rules that often conflict and each has the power of law if not the title. Even worse, there is no requirement for congress to be involved, no requirement for debates, etc. In many cases, the authorizer is an appointed civil servant. Beware of Regulations.

That is enough for now. In a day or two, we will cover historical documents related to the above. But for now this will do. Everyone needs to know and understand these concepts in order to be a minimally qualified citizen who can vote without consulting Cleo the phychic.

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