A few months ago, both Steve Leibo and I brought attention to an MIT study that suggested that a carbon tax could be a win-win-win solution. It would meet some Republican and some Democratic objectives, by allowing Congress to keep income taxes low, allow the Bush tax cuts to remain, yet fund Democratic social policies, all the while reducing our use and dependence on carbon based energy, which is destroying the environment, and is likely to leave an uninhabitable earth for our grandchildren. Read the rest of this entry »
What’s the NRA’s big attachment to assault weapons? Why do we have to suffer the weapons of mass murder?
One NRA member from Texas told an NPR reporter, “As far as I’m concerned, if you can afford to buy a tank, you should be able to buy a tank.” He explained: “the Second Amendment was put in not to hunt, not to go plink at cans, not to shoot at targets. If and when tyranny tries to take over our country, we can fight it.” NRA President Porter, too, wants people to be “ready to fight tyranny.” Porter, told an audience last June, when he was NRA vice-president, that “We got the pads put on, we got our helmets strapped on, we’re cinched up, we’re ready to fight, we’re out there fighting every day.” Read the rest of this entry »
It seems clear that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev exploded bombs at the Boston Marathon. Although some wanted him tried as an enemy combatant outside of the requirements of the Constitution, the Obama Administration has brought charges in the federal courts.
It’s fascinating how some Americans treat our Constitution. On the one hand, many people make a fetish about what the Founders thought and did in the eighteenth century, and on the other many, often the same people, argue that the Constitution is simply irrelevant, doesn’t apply, can safely be ignored or forgotten.
Let’s get past that one quickly. Although the evidence so far does not fit the definition, the Constitution has a very clear notion of what to call Americans who adhere to our enemies – “traitors.” And the Constitution specifies how to try traitors – in court with at least two witnesses to the treasonous acts. The Founders were careful because they understood that charges of treason had often been misused. Throughout the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Founders carefully built in protections so that we could be as sure as possible that the right people were convicted. They didn’t get careless when the crime was heinous and the stakes large. The larger the stakes, the more careful they were. Our Founders behaved like statesmen.
It took years before the U.S. Supreme Court managed to decide that the people imprisoned on Guantanamo were entitled to a decent opportunity to clear themselves of the charges against them. Sad that should be such a difficult issue in what we call “the land of the free.” And it turns out that there are a number of people who should never have been there, people the government eventually realized were not guilty of fighting us and should never have been detained. But because the Bush Administration made a fetish over being “tough,” it treated them so badly that they may well be dangerous now. Because the Bush Administraton couldn’t imagine living up to our international obligations, it refused to treat the men as prisoners of war, the better to hold them in the kind of conditions we deplored when done to our soldiers, and to make clear the hypocrisy of an American Administration that cried about rights and freedom but honored neither.
Some of us repeatedly swore our loyalty to the Constitution, and don’t think the Constitution is a fair weather document, good only when the sky is blue and we feel like basking in its sunny glow, but excess baggage when the sky darkens and our mood changes.
Some of us believed that we advanced the cause of freedom by binding ourselves together with other countries to honor human rights and liberties the world over, and standing up for those same values at home. But some of us apparently believe that freedom means you can do whatever you want to whomever you want without paying attention to the protections carefully put in place by the Founding Fathers we claim to honor. Perhaps those are the real traitors.
The current Administration, by charging Tsarnaev in federal court, stood by the legal system our Founders bequeathed us. It stands for the principles of a free society, and showcases faith in our own Constitution.
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, May 7, 2013.
I got into a discussion about a proposed 28th Amendment to our Constitution a few days ago. Turns out there’s more than one proposal calling itself the 28th Amendment. I’m talking about the one that begins, “The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.” There may be similar ones. There certainly are some calling themselves the 28th Amendment that address very different subjects and are totally misinformed. But the restriction of constitutional rights to natural persons is worth talking about. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday was the last day to file our tax returns for 2012. If you enjoyed it you are probably either an accountant who earned lots of money filing other people’s returns, or you have enough money to have an accountant file your returns, or you were getting a BIG refund. For the rest of us it was anything from a mild annoyance to a big pain.
But I’d like to reflect on why that is. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve just prepared a letter to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, urging
them to do everything possible to thwart the efforts of Senator Grassley and
others to prevent the Senate from confirming nominations by President Obama to
the D.C. Circuit and other federal courts. The behavior of Grassley and the Senate
minority to lock the federal judiciary into their ideological revision of
American law, does a great deal of damage to the integrity, fairness and
justice of law in the U.S. For more information, see Alliance for Justice on judicial
I was explaining the cost of law to one of my classes recently. A woman in Florida woke up from surgery to find doctors had removed the wrong breast. A well-respected attorney down there told her a lawsuit wasn’t worth the cost. Friends lost half their life savings to an abusive stockbroker. The best securities lawyers in their area told them that the tax deduction plus the cost of legal fees would equal any judgment, so don’t bother. A woman fired from her job for complaining about sexual harassment was told it’s not worth the cost to sue. Read the rest of this entry »