BEING SILENT ON THE THINGS THAT MATTER on Daily Kos

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17 comments posted
Great words indeed

Very eloquent truths, those.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 1 March 2005 - 7:17pm
Nice sentiments

But many of her sentiments are unworkable ... or her premises are shaky. I'm particularly bemused by this quote:

I read a book by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois) titled: "A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights" which I recommend everyone to read if you are trying to muster up courage to find your voice and not remain silent. The book makes compelling arguments for healthcare, education, the environment, housing, jobs, to be an inalienable, fundamental, Constitutional right of every American in this country. None of these factors should be given to the few, or the privaleged, if you read and interpret the U. S. Constitution on its face.

I've been through the Constitution more than a few times, and I've studied a lot of case law ... and I have yet to see a right to healthcare, education, environmental conditions, housing, or jobs anywhere in the Constitution or its penumbras.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 2 March 2005 - 11:24pm
Understanding the Constitution

The Preamble talks about promoting the "general welfare." Much, although not all, New Deal legislation passed muster with the Supreme Court, so it would seem the constitution does cover these fundamental human rights.

Being an ex-neo-con, I know the arguments, but truncated the post in keeping the length of yours.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 March 2005 - 7:56am
Constitutionality

Matsu:

I hardly argue that the various New Deal programs are unconstitutional. However, I dispute the contention that the Constitution guarantees health care, standards of living, and similar provisions.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 3 March 2005 - 10:43am
Like arguing scripture

As I cited, to "promote the general welfare" is in the preamble.

But let me ask: are you saying it's un-American, or at least non-Constitutional, to assert these as inalienable right?

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 March 2005 - 11:03am
Afternoon Constitutional

Inalienable right? In what sense? Do you propose there is some sort of civic duty from one citizen to another? Do you propose that housing, etc., is a constitutional obligation of the federal government under "general welfare?" Each of these arguments requires a different rebuttal.

If you'd like to have a philosophical discussion about obligation, I can do that. If you would like to discuss the relevant efficiency of delivery mechanisms, we can do that. If you would like to make a Constitution-based argument, I would like to see some elucidation of your point. I am confident that, given a bit of research, I could successfully counter your Constitution-based argument with relevant case law. But I'm not willing to commit to that level of research and debate unless you are willing to do the same.

Neverheless, I will respond to your query in the spirit of goodwill and open debate:

But let me ask: are you saying it's un-American, or at least non-Constitutional, to assert these as inalienable right?

Un-American? Hardly. However, I assert the following:

  1. No element of the U.S. Constitution, in the original document or its amendments, can be interpreted to obligate the government to provide social services;
  2. The Preamble of the United States Constitution is primarily a rhetorical construct and statement of purpose and therefore does not bind the federal government in any way, shape, or form. Obligations are created only within the rest of the document; and,
  3. Even if the Preamble has more status than a mere rhetorical construct, no interpretation of "promote the general welfare" can be construed to obligate the federal government to provide social services.

I await your response.

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 3 March 2005 - 2:13pm
Obligations

What obligations does the government have, if any?

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 March 2005 - 4:01pm
Objection

Question is vague and burdensome. Please clarify.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 3 March 2005 - 6:24pm
Clarification

The term "obligation" was used. As I understand it, the theory of the US government and the Constitution of 1789 comes out of the Declaration of Independence that early on says,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

If we speak at all of "obligations," I wonder what, if any, obligations the government has except to stay out of people's private business AND to make sure that the majority does not become despotic over the minority.

"Obligations" is an important word and I just am asking, since you said,

However, I dispute the contention that the Constitution guarantees health care, standards of living, and similar provisions.

No element of the U.S. Constitution, in the original document or its amendments, can be interpreted to obligate the government to provide social services;

I have to ask, what does the Constitution of 1789 obligate the government to do, at all?

Not a trick question or lure. I am interested in how we see this instrument and how we may differ.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 March 2005 - 7:22pm
Obligations

For example, where in the Constitution does it say the government is obligated to come and fight a fire that is out of control at your house, or come and arrest the murderer who threatens your family? Where does it say children should be educated? Where does it say rape is wrong? Where is the government obligated to do anything about any of that?

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 March 2005 - 7:42pm
Obligations

Thank you for the clarification. Among other things, you clarification implies a severe misunderstanding of obligations versus discretion, not to mention a misapprehenshion of the nature of federalism.

For a prime example of government's discretionary powers, I urge you to examine commerce-clause jurisprudence. Under this clause, Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and it does so at its own discretion, not because it is held to an unenumerated responsibility. When the federal government becomes involved in many of these reasons, it does so at its discretion, not because of constitutional obligation.

In fact, all of your hypotheticals -- education, law enforcement, and firefighting -- are undertaken by state and local governments, not by the federal government. And it would be patently unconstitutional for the federal government to intervene in such local matters directly unless they are of crisis proportions or they pass muster under Commerce Clause jurisprudence.

Matsu, this discussion has been distressingly one-sided. You offer up questions, and I counter with hypotheticals that are grounded in the Constitution and in the relevant jurisprudence. You, in turn, have utterly failed to answer the questions I put to you satisfactorily. You wave the "general welfare" clause of the Preamble as if it provides all the support you need. When I dispose of that, you fall back to critiqueing my argument with questions ... which I have addressed.

Again, I ask you, what jurisprudence supports your position? Where do you draw your spurious conclusions about the federal government's obligations? Can you cite any precedent whatsoever that thrusts upon the federal government the obligations that you say it has?

--|PW|--

Pennywit's picture
Posted by Pennywit (not verified) on 3 March 2005 - 7:59pm
We're probably not going to get anywhere with this

The government is involved in education at the Federal level and there are capital crimes that the government will prosecute. I asked you to discuss what you meant by "obligations." You sidestepped me and when I offered to work with you on this aspect, you came back redoubled in the use of the term and implied bad faith on my part.

Among other things, you clarification implies a severe misunderstanding of obligations versus discretion, not to mention a misapprehenshion of the nature of federalism.

We can go on with this. I know the John Birch Society rhetoric, cold, so I know its warp and woof, but usually it ends in a stalemate where I say "Ayn Rand was not one of the founding fathers."

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 March 2005 - 8:13pm
Estimates

Matsu,

It's clear to me that you either refuse to distinguish between "discretionary" and "obligatory" activities, or that you are incapable of making that decision. I have tried three times now to point out to you that certain things are discretionary, but you continue to cling to your misapprehension of constitutional law.

Let me dispose of your next assumption:

We can go on with this. I know the John Birch Society rhetoric, cold, so I know its warp and woof, but usually it ends in a stalemate where I say "Ayn Rand was not one of the founding fathers."

You grossly underestimate with whom you are dealing. First, you are clearly unfamiliar with my writing, or else you would not toss out this John Birch allegation. Second, you assume that I am reciting somebody's rhetoric like a parrot with no independent thought of my own. Wrong again. I'm not going to go deeply into my biography, but suffice it to say that I am deeply confident in my own interpretation of constitutional law and in my ability to research and apply jurisprudence.

Now, if you truly wish an answer to your question, read your Constitution. You will notice that many federal obligations are phrased in the negative. The obligation not to infringe on freedom of speech or religion. The obligation not to conduct unresonable searches and seizures.

There is a a general obligation to govern, encapuslated in Article I and Article II. There is an obligation to resolve disputes in law and equity that arise under federal law. That would be Article III. There is an obligation to provide due process and equal protection of the laws, encapsulated in the Fourteenth Amendment.

There is also a great deal of discretionary power. Congress has the discretion to regulate interstate commerce. The president has the discretion to use the military, subject to declarations of war. The Supreme Court has the discretion to hear cases that are appealed from lower courts. Congress has the discretion to make certain federal laws or to provide assistance to communities.

In answer to my previous comment on "discretion," you opine:

The government is involved in education at the Federal level and there are capital crimes that the government will prosecute.

You will find, first, the federal government's involvement in education is a creature of statute, not of the Constitution. Congress could dismantle the Department of Education tomorrow, ending all of its programs, and be totally within its rights under the Constitution.

Likewise, the capital cases to which you refer arise either becuase they affect interstate commerce or because they are ancillary to ongoing federal investigations. These cases arise not because of an obligation enshrined in the Constitution, but because of laws that Congress, at its discretion, passed.

Now Matsu, you opened this debate by claiming that the federal government has an obligation to provide social services. I have challenged you on this, disposed of your silly Preamble argument, and met, even exceeded, your counter-challenge. I have drawn a distinction, founded in jurisprudence, between obligatory and discretionary powers enumerated in the Constitution. You attempted to assert discretionary activities as obligations, and I disposed of that contention as well.

Now, I reiterate my challenge: Show me where in the Constitution or in related jurisprudence you find the federal government's obligation to provide social services.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 4 March 2005 - 7:23am
Name calling

Discourse is based on ideas and not pejoratives.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 4 March 2005 - 7:50am
Epilogue

I'm truly sorry that you're not going to meet me in rhetorical combat. I often relish the clash of blades, but if it is not to be, it is not to be. I would point out that I turn strident in part because I expected this to be a strident argument ... especially after that John Birch crack.

But if this is to end, it is to end. Time to move on.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 4 March 2005 - 9:11am
Best take it up with the author

The [url=http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/3/1/16957/65251]Daily Kos[/url] is the best place to take up what the author, Leutisha Stills, has to say, not with me.

Having once been for Barry Goldwater, I know this rhetoric inside and out and watched the Christian right and wingnuts take over the Republican Party by using this line of reasoning.

Johnson offered us the "Great Society" and had he not drained our national treasure in Vietnam, he might have pulled it off. I listened to the words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and I knew he understood what had to be done. Or, when in the film "Nixon," the President asks his valet, if the valet cried when Kennedy died. Yes. Why? "He made us see the stars."

Too bad the Republican's aren't asking [url=http://www.lilesnet.com/patriotic/music/abraham_martin_john.htm] Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?[/url] Turn your MIDI player on and speakers up to hear the tune on that site. For those who can't, here are the words.

Abraham, Martin and John

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?

Can you tell me where he's gone?

He freed a lot of people but it seems the good die young

I just looked around and he's gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?

Can you tell me where he's gone?

He freed a lot of people but it seems the good die young

I just looked around and he's gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend John?

Can you tell me where he's gone?

He freed a lot of people but it seems the good die young

I just looked around and he's gone.

Didn't you love the things they stood for?

Didn't they try to find some good in you and me?

And we'll be free

Someday soon

It's gonna be one day

Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?

Can you tell me where he's gone?

I thought I saw him walking up o'er the hill

With Abraham, Martin and John

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 4 March 2005 - 9:32am
Rhetoric

I may very well take it up with the author piece's author. I checked into the book she cites, and I think she grossly misinterprets it.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit (not verified) on 4 March 2005 - 9:49am