“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
[This is repost of a guest editorial for the Daily Bell, January 25th, 2011]
I am pleased that the Constitution has received a lot of attention in recent weeks, thanks to the tea party movement. The 112th Congress kicked off with a reading of the Constitution on the floor of the House. It goes without saying that Members of Congress should have read the Constitution many times, and should continue to study it.
Citing the particular clause of the Constitution that authorizes newly introduced legislation is a reasonable suggestion, yet in reality it will do little to restrain unconstitutional growth of the federal government. We have had such rules in the past and no benefit came of it.
The laws that are passed reflect the preferences and personal agendas of those in charge. For too long those agendas have expanded government at the expense of personal liberty, regardless of which political party was in charge. This expansion of government clearly violated the Constitution, yet it was always argued that this or that program somehow conformed to that “living” document.
By misinterpreting the general welfare clause, the interstate commerce clause, and the “necessary and proper” clause, Congress has justified every conceivable expansion of the federal government. Congress also has misinterpreted the 14th Amendment and legislated as though it had repealed the 10th Amendment. Sadly, Congress has also systematically abdicated its prerogatives and responsibilities to the executive branch over many decades.
Too many people, in and out of Congress, grew up being taught that the Constitution was a “modern living document.” Though the authors allowed for flexibility through the amendment process, this process has been ignored for the sake of speed and convenience. As a result, the Constitution now has little actual meaning.
Our Constitution should be viewed as law, and Members of Congress should be expected to follow, respect, understand, and uphold the law. But a document is just a piece of paper if those who represent us and promise to obey it ignore it instead. Celebrating the Constitution without this understanding will do nothing to restore the greatness of America.
Simply praising the document distracts from the need for Members to resist special interests, political self-interests, emergency needs in times of crisis, fear-based economic myths, and the persistent temptation to seek security over liberty while ignoring personal responsibility and self-reliance.
I wonder: will this welcomed renewed interest in the Constitution lead to a healthy reassessment of all of our policies? Will there be no more wars without an actual congressional declaration? Will the Federal Reserve Act be repealed? Will only gold and silver be deemed legal tender?
Will we end all unconstitutional federal departments, including the Department of Energy, Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor?
Will the Patriot Act be repealed and all warrantless searches stopped?
Will the TSA be abolished?
Will the IRS’s unconstitutional collection powers end?
Will executive and judicial quasi-legislative powers end?
Will we end the federal war on drugs?
Will we end the federal government’s involvement in medical care?
Will we end all of the federal government’s illusionary insurance programs?
Will we ban secret prisons, trials without due process, and assassinations?
Will we end our foreign policy of invasion and occupation?
For America to once again become the standard for a free society, our love of liberty and desire for peace must far surpass any public display of fidelity to the Constitution. We must first look to strong moral character, respect for the rule of law, and an understanding of the proper role of government in a free society.
Note: This entry is for the purpose of enlightenment. It should not be received as an endorsement by the Staten Island Libertarian Party of Representative Ron Paul, his policy positions, or the Republican Party. In the true spirit of individual liberty and self-determination, we respect that all political preferences are left to your own discretion.
That said, we do very much support the principled sentiments expressed here in his writing. The good doctor from the great Republic of Texas has long been at the forefront of the fight for constitutional liberty.
I want to offer my most sincere thanks to the membership for their participation at our 2011 planning meeting this past Wednesday–and for all the great ideas you have brought to the table this past year.
Also sincere thanks to our newest friends, CF and RF. We definitely hope to see you back at the table. The People need more smart, talented people like you in their corner, and on the front line.
As agreed, the Staten Island Libertarian Party will concentrate its collective energies this year on being the change we so desperately need in this nation, the state of New York, and our beloved community.
We have much to do. Let’s go make it a reality.
Our next forum will be February 9th.
Stay tuned for more details.
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Fueled by an unprecedented assault on our Liberties, last year the Staten Island Libertarian Party burst onto the scene with an energy and ethos simply unrivaled in local politics.
By Independence Day, 2010, four young candidates had stepped up and stepped into the midterm fray with a campaign of courage and commitment to defend our Constitutional Republic, and bring reform to the corrupt and ineffectual legislature of New York State.
By any libertarian party measure, the results were indeed historic. No libertarian candidate, for either congress or assembly, had ever before achieved this kind of voter support in our districts. Not even close.
While we did not win those electoral contests in the end, theses candidates won the respect and gratitude of thousands of Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites.
And they did so through a principled platform of limited government and personal liberty, along with thoughtful, actionable solutions to the ills that plague our community and state.
It was a great beginning, but it was only a beginning.
Tonight, Wednesday, January 19, the Staten Island Libertarian Party will reconvene at Karl’s Klipper in historic St. George at 8pm to discuss our plans for 2011 and beyond. The address is #40 Bay Street, across from the post office.
We’re always welcoming of new members and visitors, too. You also don’t have to be a registered Libertarian to participate. We attract registered Democrats and Republicans alike, plus Jeffersonians and a host of other independents.
Please join us tonight. This is not your father’s Libertarian Party.
Edward M. Stehlin, Chairman
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Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King with a national holiday. Per Wikipedia, he is an “iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. ” Struck down by an assassin’s bullet, he stood on the shoulders of the giants of history, and became one himself.
Like any human being, he was fallible, and there are those that would focus on those qualities. I personally think no possible good can ever come of that. Instead, on this day we should reflect on the importance of civil rights, equal rights, non-violence, and fair and impartial application of the law. These were the core values of Dr. King, and his tireless and fearless promotion of those should be are what we should remember and celebrate him for.
Here is his most famous speech. It had been some time since I had read it, and I found it worth re-reading:
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 self hood 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 snow capped 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!”
Like most people, I struggled to get around after the snow storm hit. On Monday Dec 27, I checked the MTA web site, which said “Good Service” for all express bus routes. Walking to the bus stop (Arden Ave & Drumgoole Rd), I saw one bus, stuck at the intersection, unable to get up the hill at Arden Ave. I then walked to the train station. The platform was nicely shoveled, and the waiting area was open, and there were signs that a train came by at some point (the rails themselves had little snow on them). No sign was posted about services (or lack thereof). After about an hour, myself and other people waiting started to give up. One person, after repeated attempts, got through to someone at the MTA, who said service wasn’t running at all, and they have no idea when it will be running. I stopped at a local deli (which of course was open), bought a coffee and egg sandwich, and walked back home.
The amount of work to deal with a significant snowfall is tremendous. Staten Island was reported to get between 18 and 29 inches (varying reports I’ve gotten from different news sources). A news report stated that “every inch of snow costs $1 million to remove”. Keeping trains and buses moving, and streets clear, is a lot of work for a lot of people.
It took two to three days, but things started to return to normal, thanks in part to hard-working public sector workers and hard-working residents (like me, who dug a trench through the hard-packed snow at the end of my block so the snow melt can work its way towards a sewer and not create street and sidewalk flooding). At least, MOST things returned to normal.
Garbage pickup has been suspended since December 25 (the Christmas holiday), and has not resumed until January 3 — a span of NINE days, including two major holidays. I can understand the difficulty in cleaning up snow AND picking up garbage, especially when the same group of people do both. Recycling, however, is not resuming today. The Dept. of Sanitation can not give an estimate as to when recycling pickup will resume.
My garbage pickup days are Wednesday and Saturday, with Saturday being the recycle day. So, assuming my garbage pickup resumes on Wednesday of this week, I will have gone 14 days without garbage pickup. Assuming my recycling will not be picked up this Saturday (since recycling pickup is suspended until further notice), I will have gone 21 days without recycling pickup.
I called 311 last night to find out what I’m supposed to do with my recycling. A summary of the dialog follows:
Me: “Do I put out the recycling with my normal garbage?” ”
311: “No, you still have to recycle.”
Me: “But no one is coming to pick up the recycling.”
311: “Correct, you can’t put it out with the regular garbage. You still have to recycle.”
Me: “So where am I supposed to put three weeks worth of recycling?”
311: “I don’t know.”
In the week since the snowstorm hit, I have seen plenty of private garbage companies and carting companies hauling commercial trash. They do this because (1) they get paid to do it, and (2) people who hire them get fined if they don’t do it. There’s an incentive to pick up the trash — as there should be; keeping trash off the streets is important.
Also in the past week, I have seen garbage trucks driving up and down streets of Staten Island — with a plow affixed to the front. Is there any reason why these trucks can’t also pick up garbage? They’re already going down the street, aren’t they? Even more perplexing was the garbage truck (with plow) driving in my neighborhood, with a salt truck (with plow) directly behind it. Why do you need to send a garbage truck with a plow to escort a salt truck with a plow? Can’t the garbage truck go to another block that needs plowing — or, better yet, pick up garbage?
The reason why private carting can do its job where others can’t is that there is no incentive for the Department of Sanitation to pick up trash. They don’t get fined if they don’t do it; in fact, if you put your garbage out and they don’t pick it up, and you leave it at the curb, they’ll fine YOU for leaving garbage out. They can get around to it when they get around to it, because they know the residents can’t fire them for a job poorly done.
Which is why I want out. I no longer need the services of the Department of Sanitation. I will take care of my own garbage. I’ll find a company to take it. Maybe I’ll have to transport it to them, or maybe they’ll transport it to me. In fact, one of my neighbors expressed interest in the same. So we’ll hire a company to pick up the trash on our block. I’ll take the money spent off my NYC tax bill, since I no longer use those city services. The Dept of Sanitation can now focus on keeping the city street clean (the street I pay taxes to maintain), but they don’t have to stop at my house any more — or perhaps, on my block. Maybe I’ll get two blocks, or heck, maybe my entire neighborhood to join me. I’m sure some private companies would love the opportunity to take residential garbage for a fee, and the competition would be welcome.
Does this sound crazy? It shouldn’t. Earlier in 2010, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said he wouldn’t rule out fees for residential garbage pickup. Prior to 1957, the city picked up commercial garbage; things changed in 1957 when the city opted out of that business (much to the happiness of organized crime). Crafty ways to handle residential garbage is already happening in other places (Toronto, New Jersey).
It should happen here, too.