Pursuit of Truthiness

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Archive for the ‘the constitution’ Category

Dennis Hastert and the Wisdom of James Madison

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If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.  –Orin Kerr

It turns out that during the late ‘90s both parties were lead by lying philanderers. My first reaction is to mock the idea of “public service”, and say we have seen one more example of how the worst get on top. But upon further consideration, I’d say this is evidence of just how well our political system works- as Madison said, we want a system of government that can deal with the fact that men aren’t angels. The late ‘90s featured leaders very far from angels, yet it is remembered as a golden era for the country- peace, balanced budgets and a booming economy.

Written by James Bailey

May 31, 2015 at 2:57 pm

States Rights: Learning How to Lose

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I’ve been reading some of the Anti-federalst papers and was pretty quickly convinced that sticking with the Articles of Confederation would have led to better outcomes on most issues. Of course, it would probably have led to a worse outcome on one really big issue: slavery.

Race seems to have always been the bane of states rights in the US. Southern states seeking to protect slavery and Jim Crow ultimately led to major gains in federal power in general, and a major loss in credibility to “states rights”. Even if the Southern states weren’t willing to do the right thing on moral grounds, it seems they should have let this one pass simply on pragmatic grounds.

Look at how the power of the Supreme Court has grown over the past 226 years even as the power of states relative to the Federal government has faded. How has the Court accomplished this? Largely by learning when to lose. They have consistently preserved and enlarged their power over the long run by being willing to lose one today. This is how they established judicial review, fought off court-packing, and maintain a good deal of independence from Congress and the President today.’

Conversely, states fought to the death on slavery and lost much of their power, then fought hard to preserve Jim Crow and lost much remaining credibility. It will take a long time to restore the power of arguments for states rights. I hope that the recent history of state versus federal legislation on gay marriage, marijuana, and health insurance has begun to convince liberals that states rights are not so bad after all.

4th of July Ideas- Celebrate with Style

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Here are some ideas I’ve come up with.  I look forward to hearing some others from you.

1) Tea Party (the drinking kind)- Throw a tea party.  But instead of tea, serve coffee with a dash of Kentucky bourbon.  And instead of crumpets, use deep-fried apple pies.  Then watch an appropriate movie like 1776, the Patriot, or Red Dawn.

2) Tea Party (the ship-attacking kind)- What is the modern equivalent of highly taxed tea in British ships?  I would say supertankers filled with oil from OPEC countries.  We don’t need their oil!  Take over a ship and dump its oil in the harbor! (ok, perhaps we should find a more water-soluble product to feel oppressed by)

3) Down with the Brits!- Take over your nearest British consulate or embassy, then present the British government with a document detailing their “long train of  abuses” and a list of your demands.  If you’re feeling really ambitious, kidnap the royal family instead.

4) Fight for our Freedom- on a more serious note, the real restrictions on our freedoms nowadays don’t come from the British or from foreign enemies; they come from ourselves and our government.  The 4th is a great day to work to protect existing liberties and regain new ones.  Donate your time or money to a liberty-enhancing think tank, legal foundation, political action committee, or other NGO (say, Wikileaks).  If this constructive approach to enhancing liberty sounds too boring or difficult, you can simply celebrate in classic style by breaking some oppressive laws- like those against fireworks and marijuana!

Happy 4th to all however you celebrate.  I spend much of the year thinking about how the country could be better but its nice to think every once in a while about how good things already are.

Written by James Bailey

July 4, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Why I Love America: John McCain, Barack Obama, and the Internet

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Election night reminded me once more what a crazy, wonderful country I live in.  Barack Obama gave an incredible, uplifting victory speech to match his great accomplishment.  John McCain’s concession speech was literally jaw-dropping.   His eloquence, graciousness, and humility were inspiring; a few more performances that good and he may not have had to concede!  For him, on the very night of the election, to refer to his opponent as “my president”, after an ugly campaign this year and such divisive elections in 2000 and 2004, blew my mind.

It made me think of just how unusual our political system is.  Our presidents and presidential candidates have, again and again, given up the most powerful office in the world without coups, civil wars, violence.  This is not how human beings naturally work.  That we do so is an awesome achievement of our constitutional system, culture, and continued vigilance.  John McCain did one better, giving up not only without violence, but without hard feelings.

In a democratic society, though, we cannot depend only on having great leaders; they will not emerge except from a great people.  Ordinary Americans, using the latest greatest American technology, give the best showing of supporting democracy and being kind-hearted.

I give you 52 to 48/48 to 52, with love!

Written by James Bailey

November 10, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Fourth Amendment Shipping Tape

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Is a wonderful idea. Maybe Homeland Security employees will feel at least a little guilty searching your stuff with no probable cause.  I haven’t seen the case law that allowed these checks, but they do seem to be the one modern interpretation more blatantly contradictory to the Constitution than about any other.

Written by James Bailey

August 21, 2008 at 3:46 pm