Monthly Archives: August 2010

Aug 28

A Good Day to Read The Famous “I Have a Dream Speech”

By kevin | Current Affairs

Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honorpalooza, on the anniversary day and location of one of the 20th century’s most famous speeches, seems a fitting last act to the summer of our great mid-term discontent. Depending on which of Mr. Beck’s many ringing defenses you heard . . .

  • It was an incredible coincidence: The date was open and he had nothing planed that day.
  • Black people don’t own Dr. King (so by implication does that mean white people do?) so what’s the big deal?
  • The civil rights movement was really about white people (he actually says all people which is another way of saying that it wasn’t about black people which by process of elimination means white people).
  • Dr. King’s big message was about personal responsibility and character and that’s what he wants to celebrate.

Among the many ironies is that Beck and Palin, in the name of taking back the country, are celebrating and honoring our service men and women. While that’s never a bad thing, recall that the famous MLK speech came on the heals of uniformed men shooting, gassing, and beating black people who were . . . wait for it . . . trying not to take back their country but just get a piece of what they were promised. Or in Dr. King’s words “cashing a check.” Recall as well the date of the original speech . . . 1963.  This was the same year (and just two months after) a Buddhist monk named Thích Quảng Đức famously set himself on fire in Vietnam (not something you could imagine Glenn Beck doing). Just two years later there will be 200,000 GIs in Vietnam fighting an undeclared war that haunts us to this day.

While we’re noting ironies, here’s another. In the same season where the screaming right throws fits over the calumny of placing an Islamic cultural center two blocks from the former WTC (ignoring the fact that there already is a mosque just four blocks away), they take issue when others question the wisdom of the exact same group holding a white wash of one of the seminal moments of the civil rights movement.


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Does that seem harsh? Betting that few people have actually read the famous speech, here is the complete text of I Have a Dream. You decide if Mr. Beck, along with Rushbo and Sean the collective Father Coughlin of our time, is right: That the speech and the day was not about race and was not about black people. You decide if Dr. King’s enduring message was about taking back the country from the evil progressives.  You decide if Dr. King had a Tea Party dream of personal responsibility, personal ownership of gold coins, lower taxes, and free markets run amok.

History is how we remember it. Meaning is what we make of it. Mr. Beck, you are the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Aug 16

The Numbers Are Against Good Government

By kevin | Current Affairs , Decision Making

I have been in a running debate with a friend and colleague generally about the topic of whether or not our elected officials are able to vote knowledgeably given the large number of bills they need to track, the size of their staff, and the competing need to raise money and attend to constituents. It got me to wondering about what kind of numbers are we really talking about so I went looking.

Here are the raw numbers for the 111th Congress according to the Library of Congress:

  • House Bills: 6097
  • House Concurrent Resolutions: 100
  • House Joint Resolutions: 95
  • House Resolutions: 100
  • Senate Bills: 3751
  • Senate Concurrent Resolutions: 71
  • Senate Joint Resolutions: 38
  • Senate Resolutions: 100

That’s a lot of bills and resolutions, particularly given our legislators spend only about 140 days a year on the business of the people. Obviously there is a big difference between the number of things that are introduced and the number that our elected officials need to pay attention to. So let’s check out a couple of those.

One of the bills that has gotten a lot of attention lately is H.R.4173 – Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: “A bill to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end “too big to fail”, to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes.”

Bills go through a number of iterations from the time they are introduced to the time they get passed. Checking in over at OpenCongress here’s what we find:

Version Word # Changes From Previous % Change
Introduced in House 223,783 n/a n/a
Engrossed in House 301,214 2,502 43%
Referred in Senate 299,585 8 0%
Engrossed Amendment Senate 283,985 9,370 90%
Enrolled Bill 383,013 4,478 50%

The big health reform bill is H.R.3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As passed it weighs in at 327,911 words. Keep in mind that both of the bills cited contain vast tracts of language the direct the relevant regulator or agency to promulgate hundreds of thousands more words in the form of rules and regulations to sort out what those original 700,000 words really mean.

Just as an aside on this one, check out this link if you want to see the stunning amounts of money that were given to various of our elected officials, I assume in order to influence their votes (could there be another explanation?). The one I like the best is Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. He managed to be on the job for a few weeks before role call. That didn’t stop him from taking in $997,923 from parties specifically interested in this bill.  But I digress.

Those seem like pretty hefty numbers to me.  All those bills. Two big ones adding up to 700,00 words all by themselves. But surely our elected officials have a big staff to help? So off I went to check out one of my senators, Patty Murray.

Displaying salaries for time period: 10/01/09 – 03/31/10

Payee Name Start date End date Position Amount
Stephanie S. Arnold 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Aide $19,500.00  
Jared E. Axelrod 10/01/09 03/31/10 Mail Administrator $20,070.13  
Sheila M. Babb 10/01/09 03/31/10 Deputy State Director $39,666.64  
Sherri A. Berdine 10/01/09 03/31/10 Staff Assistant $16,333.28  
Jennifer M. Berg 10/01/09 03/31/10 Constituent Services Representative/Grants Coordinator $19,666.64  
Steven F. Bergsbaken 10/01/09 03/31/10 Mail Manager $22,833.28  
Shawn L. Bills 10/01/09 03/31/10 Northwest Washington Regional Director $27,999.92  
Jeff E. Bjornstad 10/01/09 03/31/10 Chief of Staff $78,833.33  
Sarah W. Bolton 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Aide $18,499.92  
Kim A. Brown 10/01/09 03/31/10 Constituent Services Representative $20,999.92  
Paula J. Burg 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $44,666.60  
Mary J. Conway 10/01/09 03/31/10 Community Outreach Representative $22,333.28  
Carole S. Cory 10/01/09 03/31/10 Systems Administrator $25,333.28  
Sergio R. Cueva Flores 10/01/09 03/31/10 King County Director $22,999.96  
Carrie E. Desmond 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $25,124.95  
Alexandra S. Glass (Alex) 10/01/09 03/31/10 Communications Director $60,333.28  
Mary Kay Glenn 10/01/09 03/31/10 Front Office Coordinator $18,666.64  
Adam S. Goodwin 10/01/09 03/31/10 Staff Assistant $16,666.64  
David M. Hodges 12/16/09 03/31/10 Constituent Services Representative $10,602.91  
Joshua D. Jacobs 10/01/09 10/02/09 Legislative Assistant $2,999.99  
Geoff Kirkwood 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Aide $18,499.92  
Amaia P. Kirtland 10/01/09 03/31/10 Office Manager $7,166.65  
Brian L. Kristjansson 10/01/09 03/31/10 State Director $52,166.64  
Samuel Kussin-Shoptaw 03/30/10 03/31/10 Staff Assistant $77.77  
Grant W. Lahmann 10/01/09 01/15/10 Legislative Aide $10,997.17  
Travis T. Lumpkin 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $43,166.60  
Jennifer C. Martinez 10/01/09 03/31/10 Eastern Washington Representative $17,749.92  
Matthew W. McAlvanah (Matt) 10/01/09 03/31/10 Press Secretary $38,000.00  
Mary E. McBride 10/01/09 02/26/10 Sounth Sound/Olympic Peninsula Director $24,944.36  
Rebecca L. Mengelos 10/01/09 03/31/10 Central Washington Director $21,666.64  
Evan D. Miller 10/28/09 03/31/10 Director, Specialty Media $11,124.93  
Miriam D. Mina 10/01/09 03/31/10 Constituent Services Representative $17,749.92  
Sean James Murphy 03/01/10 03/31/10 Regional Director, South Puget Sound $4,000.00  
Carey R. Nickels 11/04/09 12/04/09 Staff Assistant $2,411.08  
Edward J. O’Neill (Ed) 10/01/09 03/31/10 Deputy State Director $36,500.00  
Lauren R. Overman 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Aide $19,166.64  
Jason A. Park 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $40,833.28  
Maribel Peralez 12/08/09 01/13/10 Staff Assistant $2,877.06  
Nathanael David Prestwood (David) 10/01/09 03/31/10 Senior Policy Adviser $6,500.00  
Kristine M. Reeves 10/01/09 03/31/10 Kitsap and Olympic Peninsula Director $22,583.30  
Stacy L. Rich 10/01/09 03/31/10 Leadership Adviser $6,500.00  
Grace E. Rooney 10/01/09 03/31/10 Executive Assistant/Scheduler $7,499.99  
Andrew Rowe (Andy) 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Aide $19,499.96  
Evan Tyler Schatz 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Director $77,250.00  
Jaime L. Shimek 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $41,666.64  
Neely Marcus Silbey 01/14/10 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $17,111.09  
Michael D. Spahn (Mike) 10/01/09 03/31/10 Press Secretary $6,861.44  
Anna K. Sperling 10/01/09 03/31/10 Deputy Scheduler $17,166.60  
Erin K. Vincent 10/01/09 03/31/10 Eastern Washington State Director $22,999.96  
Anne Walden-Newman (Annie) 02/01/10 03/31/10 Staff Assistant $4,666.64  
Theresa Weil 10/01/09 03/31/10 Southwest Washington Director $27,999.92  
Erika A.O. Whinihan 10/01/09 03/31/10 State Scheduler $25,499.96  
Bethany R. Works 10/01/09 01/06/10 Southwest Washington Regional Representative $8,666.62  
Kathryn H. Young 10/01/09 03/31/10 Legislative Assistant $41,833.28  
Eliezer O. Zupnick 10/01/09 03/31/10 Deputy Press Secretary $27,333.28  
55 results

Keep in mind that this is half the term so the payroll for a fiscal year is roughly double. A couple of things stand out on this one.

Ms. Murray spent nearly $4 million in one month in her campaign for reelection. Not to worry, she still has another $3.2 million in the bank. If I were more ambitious I would go looking for her total campaign spend but those two numbers are impressive enough . . . and they’re trivial in comparison to some of the big bucks campaigns going on in California and Connecticut. Juxtapose that against her total pay of $174,000 and her entire payroll of about $2.6 million. Representative Scott Murray of New York took in half that amount of money just from spenders with an interest in one bill relating to health care reform.

On purely dollars and cents basis, Senator Murray spends considerably more money to get the job than she does on doing the job.

Of the 55 names I count just 15 with the word “legislative” in the title. The highest paid is the Legislative Director who is raking in $145,000 which is less than a first year associate makes at a front line law firm.  There are a couple of others who make $80,000ish, and the rest are making less than $20 an hour. The staff of the various House and Senate committees are paid similar (low) dollars and are stretched every bit as thin . . . the ones I know work punishing hours, don’t take vacations, and don’t get outside nearly enough.

I’m not picking on Senator Murray. She is no worse than representative of the other 99 Senators when it comes to the size of her staff, what she pays, how much money she raises, and how much she spends on her own election as well as those of her Democratic colleagues. In fact, she probably comes off as cheap.

Maybe it’s just me, and I say this with all due respect to the smart, motivated, hard working members of our legislators’ staffs, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of firepower you need to deal with the blizzard of bills and resolutions yet alone face off against all the big money players who are trying to influence the direction, course, and outcome of legislation.

Aug 10

You Say You Want A Constitution

By kevin | Current Affairs , Decision Making

Beatle fans may already be humming  . . .

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We don’t love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well you know
We’re doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, al…

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

As I write this the 2010 election marathon has taken another step forward, echoing yet another cultural touchstone, with “something old, something new . . .”  I’m not sure which is which but it’s impossible not to notice at least two features of the current season of discontent:

  1. The reappearance of the perpetual dog whistle (currently most loudly blown by conservatives) of the need to amend the Constitution: Often around balanced budgets, recently about marriage, and now about birth rights.
  2. The palpable populist anger on the right in the form of the Tea Party (you decide if it’s coherent or not).

There are many lenses to put on the current political doings, mine is decision-making. One of the important thoughts in decision quality is giving yourself a good set of choices.  Another is to separate out the consideration of choices from values (another word for preferences, criteria, or what you want).  Only then can you make rational trade-offs. An important feature of modern political discourse is to do the opposite of both of those things: frame decisions as polemics with only two “choices,” one of which is a value masked as a choice, the other of which is framed as patently evil and therefore not a choice.

The US Constitution is a study in brevity and in the history of the Republic, there have been only 27 amendments, 17 depending on your point of view on the Bill of Rights (part of the original?).

The first 10 amendments fall broadly into the “oops” category (more accurately, they were the punt required to get the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution): The Bill of Rights was clearly and demonstrably meant to round out the Constitution, so “oops, we didn’t get this right the first time.”  Depending on your point of view, there are other amendments that fall into that category. Here is the cheater’s guide to the first ten:

  1. Freedom of  Religion, Press, and Expression
  2. Right to bear arms
  3. Quartering of soldiers
  4. No unreasonable search and seizure
  5. Rights relating to trials, punishment, takings, and compensation
  6. Right to a speedy trial and to confront your witnesses
  7. Trial by Jury in civil matters
  8. No excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishment
  9. Construction of Constitution doesn’t deprive you of rights retained by the people
  10. Powers not delegated by the Constitution to the United States reserved for the States and the People

Personally I find the first two especially interesting.  Why is it that Liberals fight for the broadest possible interpretation of the First and the narrowest possible of the Second (if not total disregard) and Conservatives do the opposite?  One polarity thinks the establishment clause was an “oops” while the other parses commas and wants a militia mulligan. What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander. Just wondering.

Amendments 11 and 12 have a similar “oops” clean up element, one dealing with election of a Vice President and the other with limits of jurisdiction.

The next three specifically relate to the Civil War. The 13th abolished slavery.  The 14th is a doozy: The first paragraph deals with citizenship rights of people born here (and is the subject of much chest beating in the current poisonous political season). The rest is a serious smack down aimed at secessionists. The 15th states that race is no bar to voting.

Of the rest, two deal with booze (18 and 21), a total of nine, so more than half of the remaining 17, deal with voting rights  (12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26), one creates an income tax (16), one deals with Presidential succession (25), and one with Congressional pay (27).

Temperance and the abolition of temperance is the clear outrider. It came and went for two reasons: The federal government needed the tax revenue and sensible people realized that enshrining religious morality in the Constitution was a bad idea. The other 25 define and clarify the rights and obligations of the people and the people that act in our behalf.

People spend careers studying and litigating the Constitution and I’m not one of them. But I think I’m safe in saying the following . . .

  1. That’s not a lot of ammendments
  2. Getting an amendment across the finish line is a big, big deal. It doesn’t happen very often, BY DESIGN.
  3. The Constitution is fundamentally an exercise in making clear the rights of the people and the limits of the people acting on our behalf. Our rights are natural, not granted by a sovereign or by a non-terrestrial power, and everything flows from our consent.
  4. The Constitution is no place for imposing one group’s religious beliefs or morality on another. Lots of people have tried, they succeeded once, and their success was an abject failure. It is not a document meant to tell the people what we can or can’t do.  It is a document designed to tell the government what it can and can’t do.  That is a massive and important distinction.
  5. Any politician who campaigns on the idea of amending the Constitution is doing little more than pandering. It almost certainly won’t happen, and if it does, not in a time frame that matters. Remember the Equal Rights Amendment?  It passed, right? No. After 70 years of trying it died. Talking about amending the Constitution is a smoke screen to avoid talking about something real.

In every Congressional session presumably well meaning people from both ends of the political spectrum propose buckets of changes to the Constitution.  Some of these proposed changes show up every session like a bad penny.  Here’s the current list if you care. Here’s a list by recent sessions of Congress. Some of them will scare you. Many fall into the category of saving the people from the manifest inability of our elected officials to act like adults. Others follow in the path of the temperance movement, looking to do through legislation what apparently can’t be done through moral suasion. Many others seek to undo the previous 27 leaving me to wonder if amending the Constitution is the act of a conservative or a radical followed by the inverse question, is undoing a previous amendment an act of a conservative or a radical?

In these times of discontent, lots of people are mad about the decisions made by others.  The Tea Party populists think the current crop of legislators have made bad decisions when it comes to spending our money and telling us what to do.  Cultural conservatives think the rest of us make bad decisions when it comes to the thoughts we think, the prayers we do or don’t say, who we have sex with (and how), and whom we want to marry. Gun controllers think the rest of us make bad decisions when we seek to exercise our Second Amendment Rights.  Liberals are mad at the President for not being liberal enough. Many are now mad at the ratifiers of the 14th Amendment. It seems we’re all mad about something.

And the answer:  Use the Constitution as a cudgel to force people to do (or not do) what laws, codes, promises, ethics, and church edicts obviously can’t do (why else revert to constitutional thermonuclear war?). It’s another sad example of magical thinking . . . if we can just fix this one thing, if we can just invoke a power higher than ourselves (in this case the Constitution), all our ills will be cured.

In general, I buy the thought that if we want people to make different decisions, we need to do one of two things: Change the question and/or change the values they use to make trade-offs. In this case, the values that the fixers want to tinker with aren’t the small kind.  This is the founding document of the Republic. It belongs to the people.  Not just to the people who are alive today, but to our ancestors dating back to the 1700s and the generations that will follow us.  The good news is that the fixers won’t prevail any time soon or at all. In the mean time, may I ask as politely as possible that the fixers, whoever you are, put down the bong, step away from the ledge, and leave our Constitution alone. There are plenty of opportunities to mess around with laws and regulations to attempt to do what you want to do. If you can’t get it done that way, maybe that’s a sign.