Monday, September 13, 2010

Shorter Half expresses an opinion regarding a Constitutional Convention

Shorter Half received the following e-mail traffic, titled "Proposing that the legislature have to live with same rules as we". The first message said: 

I know there are dangers with a Constitutional Convention but this is worth considering.

Attached was this (and it was unattributed)

The Time Has Indeed Come!

Governors of 35 states have already filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them. It only takes 38 (of the 50) States to convene a Constitutional Convention.

This will take less than thirty seconds to read. If you agree, please pass it on.

An idea whose time has come!

For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest was to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform ... in all of its forms. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law.

I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop.

A Constitutional Convention - this is a good way to do that. It is an idea whose time has come. And, with the advent of modern communication, the process can be moved along with incredible speed. There is talk out there that the "government" doesn't care what the people think. That is irrelevant. It is incumbent on the population to address elected officials to the wrongs afflicted against the and me. Think about this...

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this Email to a minimum of twenty people on their Address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

Someone responded with:

When I first saw this one going around the emails, I thought it was a good idea. But then I thought about it and I thought this won’t do a thing for me personally. Nor will it help restore Constitutional governance. I believe our legislation we will be unveiling at the convention will be much more effective than the one below. It too will require a Constitutional Convention but put the powers back where they belong. It will also beat back these regulations from these ever-growing and over-reaching agencies like the EPA who are getting more powerful and gaining a stranglehold on our lives. I would rather have their power reduced and defunded. That will change my life. The bill below will not as I believe Congress would only find new ways to spend our money to get themselves the power and the entitlements. A good point is the automatic raise in pay they get. We can’t do a convention for each of these affronts. Instead, we can defund their ability to do it. I dunno – still thinking about it. I’m just sharing the point at where I am on thinking through this.

And then Shorter Half responded with:


One way to handle the Congressional pay issue would be to decouple Congressional pay from military and civil servant pay – right now, NO employee of the Federal Government (excepting the President and Vice President) is allowed to make more than a Congressman. And, to make sure that senior officials get paid more than junior officials, the pay tables are pretty much all calculated off that max base pay, with each step down getting less, with the pay ratios painstakingly established to try and make the pay increase match the responsibility increase, while staying competitive enough that we don’t lose all the good troops to the civilian economy about the time they get fully trained up. The fact is, right about the time they are a true master of their specialty is about the time that the reality of family expenses really hits home. . . and the civilian economy is willing to pay handsomely for their technical skills.

This pay rule currently provides leverage other politicians can use against Congressmen – “My opponent claims to support the troops, yet he repeatedly voted against fair pay raises for our troops in combat!” As it stands right now, you can’t vote against a pay raise for the Congresscritters without voting against a pay raise for PVT E-1 Snuffy in Afghanistan with a pregnant wife alone at Fort Bragg, ¾ of a continent away from her hometown of Goat Path, Montana (Pop. 100).

However, there are two things to recall when proposing changes: 
  1. Anything that can be done via statute can be undone by statute the very next day if both houses vote it through and the President signs it. So, simple statutory law will not restrain Congress (and Congressional Rules are even weaker).
  2.  If it goes into the Constitution, it had better be important enough a principle to send boys off to die over it. Because that’s what their oath says.
 So, to use the Congressional pay issue as a thought experiment. . .

If you decoupled COLA increases from base pay (the rule about staying below Congressional pay rates only affects base pay automatically) altogether by statute, you could decide how to best implement a prohibition on Congress receiving any COLA increase, ever. (If they need a pay raise, they would have to pass it as a base pay increase – but anyone wishing to give the troops an across the board pay raise could do it via a fat COLA increase without raising Congressional pay. That little game of using the troops to politically blackmail people into voting for a Congressional pay increase just became unusable.)

Or, you could pass an amendment that states that pay earned directly from the government is tax free, except for elected officials. (It never made sense to me for the Federal Treasury to withhold funds paid from the Federal Treasury in order to pay them into the Federal Treasury as taxes, anyway.) PVT Snuffy (or the janitor at the Federal building in downtown Atlanta) would happily forgo an annual 2-3% pay raise if 100% of his pay was tax-free, even when he wasn’t in a combat zone.

However, the risks of a Constitutional Convention far outweigh the benefits. Just look at the difference between the Articles of Confederation and the original Constitution. . . and that resulted from a convention that was only supposed to “tweak” the Articles! Any future Constitutional Convention will be dragged out until it is dominated only by those who can afford to not go to work for a year or longer. Neither George Soros, anyone George Soros would be willing to pay living expenses to for attending (the man has BILLIONS, having him replace any lost income – or even double their old pay - by fellow-minded Convention attendees wouldn’t even dent his personal entertainment budget. . . and there are many mega-wealthy socialist fellow travelers like him, starting with Bloomberg and almost ANY popular entertainer), a lifelong welfare recipient, nor a 23 year kid who dropped out of college “to find himself and get his chi in balance with Gaia” are likely to write a new Constitution that I would approve of. The people who WOULD be likely to produce a Constitution that I could support are also generally the LEAST likely be able to show up in large numbers, every day, all day and often into the night, month after month.

If we could pull that kind of majority support to stick through the long haul and keep the crazy out of the new Constitution, then by definition, we would have more than enough political power to achieve anything we desire in the Constitution via the traditional amendment route. Without the risk of a Constitution that, for example, formally surrenders ultimate sovereignty of the United States to the transnational debating club called the UN. . . placing our liberty at the tender mercy of the same people who put Iran and Syria on the Human Rights Committee.

If you want to imagine a modern Constitutional Convention, think of the half dozen silliest or most dangerous Public Propositions you have ever heard about from ANY state in the Union. That’s the sort of stuff that would end up in a Convention, were it held under current social and political conditions. (“Everyone has a right to an above-average income” – there was a movement to do exactly THAT, in California a few decades ago! The first time I heard that statement my brain derailed. . . )

A Constitutional Convention is a complete reboot and from-scratch system install of the nation. Like reformatting your hard drive and putting a brand new operating system on a perfectly empty drive. I could see doing one after a successful rebellion against a truly tyrannical government. . . but we haven’t even fully exhausted the FIRST of the three options (soap box, ballot box, cartridge box, in that order) for government change. Armed rebellion isn’t even on the horizon at this time, so I would prefer to avoid altogether the reorganization procedure that generally only works well immediately after one.

Constitutional Conventions work well then, because it’s really apparent to EVERYONE that the old system was a failure, AND you generally can legally exclude the side that lost the war from participating. Not the case here.

Shorter Half

If you think he’s only a gun geek, you haven’t heard him talk military history. And even that pales in comparison to his political junkie geekery. He reads legal code for fun. Considering that when we met, I had little interest in modern firearms, and next to no interest in politics, I’m still not sure how that whole courtship thing came about. I have a feeling that if, when the time comes, Sweet Daughter has an incompetent "Government" or "Poli Sci" (or whatever they'll be calling it by then) teacher, things are going to get ... interesting.


  1. It is too soon to just shoot the bastards now, but if this whole "November" thing doesn't work out, we may be a lot closer.

    By the way, I think I've been to Goat Path, MT, aka, Winnett. Nice place.

  2. Sounds like your man has a good head on his shoulders, even if it IS too close to the ground! (I joke SH; I’m not a heckuva lot taller than my Pennsy rifle.)
    He’s right too: a Concon at this stage of the game would be a disaster all around.

    So, lessee, (carry the one, divide by eight...) SD for president in 2040?

  3. DT - oh, Lord. I can see it now, the dirt they'd dig up on me. In reference to when I used do 18th century British artillery, I can hear "So, I see here that your mother was a cross-dressing revolutionary belonging to a paramilitary organization dedicated to the overthrow of the American government."