Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Amber Frey: A willing victim

Some of you may be as tired as I am over the constant buzz attending the trial of Scott Peterson. Whether or not he is guilty will be determined in due course. I am at a lost to explain the interest in every detail of the trial.

The most annoying aspect of the whole thing is the supposed victimization of Amber Frey. She and her feminist handlers, notably Gloria Allred, are playing the victim card for all it is worth.

What are the facts of the case? We have a woman who sleeps with a strange man on their first date and gives him a key to her house 3 days later. Do these actions seem prudent? If Scott Peterson was an evil predator taking advantage of a poor defenseless woman, it appears he did not have to work very hard at it.

One wonders if the fault doesn’t lie with Ms Frey. A question I would like answered, would be who is the father of her 3 year old, another victimizer?

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Alan Keyes understands Constitutional Issues
Popularly Elected Senators: A very bad idea

By Robert Wolf

According to John Patterson's article in the Daily Herald State Government Editor
Posted Friday, August 13, 2004, Alan Keyes wants legislators, not you, to pick Senators. "If Illinois voters elect Alan Keyes to the U.S. Senate, he'd prefer they not get another chance. Keyes, a Maryland Republican who just moved to Calumet City for the campaign, supports returning to a system abolished nearly a century ago of letting state legislators pick U.S. senators rather than voters. In fact, he's dubbed the constitutional amendment that switched to public election of senators one of the country's greatest mistakes, vowing in past campaigns to re-examine it if voters ever sent him to Washington, D.C."

Finally a political candidate that has heard of the Constitution. Now that the vaulted financial reforms of political campaigns are a disappointing reality, and the river of special interest monies flows between the banks of its new tributaries, it might make sense to think again about the 17th Amendment to the US constitution. The old adage that it takes the right tool to get a job done might be in play here.

A great many ants get stirred up over campaign finance reform, but few become energized about the 17th Amendment. After all, they reason, it is a footnote in American history and it matters little in the grand scheme of things. What difference does it make whether Senators are elected or appointed?

To James Madison it meant a great deal. He wrote in Federalist No 51:
“In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is, to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them by different modes of election, and different principles of action, as little connected with each other, as the nature of their common functions and their common dependencies on the society, will admit.” and in Federalist No. 10, “Before taking effect, legislation would have to be ratified by two independent power sources: the people’s representatives in the House and the state legislatures’ agents in the Senate.”

The difficulty inherent in getting two very different constituencies to concur was designed to thwart the machinations of special interests. When the 17th Amendment was ratified that safeguard was eviscerated. Now, instead of Senators representing the interests of their states, they spend their time milking special interest groups for the cash it takes to get them elected, devoting little time to anything else.

Recent scholarship by Todd Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University, points out that the most ardent promoters of the 17th amendment’s passage were the special interest groups themselves, frustrated over their inability to influence legislation in a diffuse Senate. He makes the equally convincing argument that it was the 17th amendment (along with the 16th, which created the federal income tax also adopted in 1913) that was responsible for federal expansion, which grew exponentially after its passage.

Both amendments came about in the so-called Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Contrary to popular opinion, Progressives did not favor more political power for the disenfranchised; progressives favored the status quo. Their movement was a knee jerk aversion to the rising political power of newly arrived immigrants. Elections, for example, were moved from Saturday to Tuesday in an attempt to reduce the working-class immigrant vote. Progressives centralized the government, making it more professional and less personal. By the end of the 1920s, most cities had adopted some form of municipal civil service and members of school boards and city councils were elected citywide rather than on a district-by-district basis. This made it exceedingly difficult for ethnic groups to elect their own representatives and significantly increased the cost of campaigning, thus empowering wealthier special interest contributors.

Zywicki is convinced that the two conventional theories for the adoption of a 17th amendment, i.e., that the amendment was a result of the Progressive movement, or that it resulted from problems in state legislatures ranging from bribery to unbreakable deadlocks, fail under scrutiny. He thinks that trying to explain the 17th amendment as part of the Progressive movement is a weak argument because nothing else of that movement, i.e., direct elections, recalls and referendums, was ever adopted as part of the Constitution, and his research reveals that state corruption was nominal, and infrequent. Zywicki reasons that requiring a simple majority to elect a senator could easily have solved deadlocks, which was a far easier remedy than amending the Constitution.

Our Founding Fathers gave us a Constitutional government that did not grant rights, but guaranteed them. It is no accident that neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence contain the word democracy. Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution “guarantees to every State in this Union a republican form of government.'' The 17th Amendment defeated those republican aims.

The Founders equated democracy with mob rule. America was never intended to be democracy. We are (or were meant to be) a Federal Republic, a collaboration of autonomous states headed by a deliberately shackled Federal government. As Ben Franklin remarked, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” If government is based on the desires of fifty-one percent of the people individual rights are not secure. Your right to vote does not give you the right to violate someone else’s rights.

James Madison, known as the father of the U.S. Constitution, wrote “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." In Essay No. 10 of The Federalist Papers he wrote, “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property. '' Alexander Hamilton said, ``Real liberty is never found in despotism or the extremes of democracy.'' A republic is a government under a Constitution established to solidify the rule of law, not of men.

Zywicki likes the idea of repealing the 17th Amendment but feels, “Absent a change of heart in the American populace and a better understanding of the beneficial role played by limitations on direct democracy, it is difficult to imagine a movement to repeal the 17th amendment.” I agree with him.

But, now that it is apparent to one and all that convoluted laws will not stem the pernicious tide of soft money to political campaigns, let’s resolve to do the job right and restore balance to Congress by repealing this amendment.
© 2003 by Robert (Davison) Wolf. All Rights Reserved.

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