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Monday, March 06, 2017

Happy Town Meeting Eve!


Freedom from Want was published on this date in 1943, but tomorrow is Town Meeting Day, so I'm posting this one instead.  For my part, it's more fun than draft day, baby!

ntodd

March 6, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Yes, Let's Compromise With The Forces Of Evil

Missouri Compromise signed into law on March 6, 1820.  Dred Scott decided on March 6, 1857.  The Party of Lincoln announces their plan to free Americans from healthcare on March 6, 2017.

ntodd

March 6, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

“God send you a good deliverance.”

John Adams did not note the Boston Massacre in his diary in 1770, but remarked upon its memorials years later.  You never know what will become a touchstone for revolution...

ntodd

March 5, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

The First 13 Stars Begin To Shine

In New York, Congress assembled for the first time under our new Constitution.  The House record on that historic date:

This being the day fixed for the meeting of the new Congress, the following members of the House of Representatives appeared and took their seats...A quorum of the members not being present, the House adjourned until to-morrow at eleven o'clock.

A quorum materialized on April Fool's Day.  And the Senate:

This being the day for the meeting of the new Congress, the following members of the Senate appeared and took their seats...The members present not being a quorum, they adjourned from day to day...

After agreeing to write a few letters to absent members requesting they actually show up, the Senate formed a quorum finally on April 6.  Everybody was probably late because of ICE kept intercepting their carriages and demanding their papers...

ntodd

March 4, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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The 14th Star Begins To Shine

United States, March 4th, 1791:

Gentlemen of the Senate:

The act for the admission of the State of Vermont into this Union, having fixed on this as the day of its admission, it was thought that this would also be the first day on which any officer of the Union might legally perform any act of authority relating to that State. I therefore required your attendance to receive nominations of the several officers necessary to put the Federal Government into motion in that State.

For this purpose I nominate

Nathaniel Chipman, to be Judge of the district of Vermont.

Stephen Jacobs, to be Attorney for the United States, in the district of Vermont.

Lewis R. Morris, to be Marshal of the district of Vermont; and

Stephen Keyes, to be Collector of the port of Allburgh, in the State of Vermont.

Go. WASHINGTON.
...
Ordered, That the rule be so far dispensed with, as that the Senate proceed, at this time, to the consideration of the message of the President of the United States, and the nominations therein contained, of Nathaniel Chipman, to be Judge of the district of Vermont;

Stephen Jacobs, to be Attorney for the United States, in the district of Vermont;

Lewis R. Morris, to be Marshal of the district of Vermont; and Stephen Keyes, to be Collector of the port of Allburgh, in the State of Vermont. Whereupon,

Resolved, That the Senate do advise and consent to these appointments, agreeably to the respective nominations.

Happy Birthday to our Brave Little State!

ntodd

March 4, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, March 03, 2017

The Nature Of Compromise

Missouri and Maine, 1820:

A message from the House of Representatives, by Mr. Dougherty, their Clerk:

Mr. President: The House of Representatives concur in the amendment of the Senate to the bill entitled "An act for the admission of the state of Maine into the Union," made in conformity to the report of the committee of conference. And he withdrew.
...
Mr. Wilson reported, from the committee, that they had examined and found duly enrolled the bill entitled "An act to authorize the people of the Missouri territory to form a constitution and state government, and for the admission of such state into the Union on an equal footing with the original states, and to prohibit slavery in certain territories;" the bill entitled "An act for the admission of the statue of Maine into the Union;"...

MAGA!

ntodd

March 3, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Consensus On The Census

Made law on this date in 1790, one of my faves: An Act providing for the enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States.  Will Lord Dampnut make America Great Again by distinguishing free persons from all others?

ntodd

March 1, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Influence is no Government

Happy Birthday to our first imperfect frame of government!

According to the order of the day, the honble John Hanson and Daniel Carroll, two of the delegates for the State of Maryland, in pursuance of the act of the legislature of that State, entitled "An act to empower the delegates of this State in Congress to subscribe and ratify the Articles of Confederation," which was read in Congress the 12 of February last, and a copy thereof entered on the minutes, did, in behalf of the said State of Maryland, sign and ratify the said articles, by which act the Confederation of the United States of America was completed, each and every of the Thirteen United States, from New Hampshire to Georgia, both included, having adopted and confirmed, and by their delegates in Congress, ratified the same...

Only took four years to ratify, which isn't bad considering there was an existential war going on.

ntodd

March 1, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, February 24, 2017

The Judiciary: How Does It Fucking Work?

[T]he federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.

 - Cooper v Aaron (1958)


True, Judicial Review was not, actually, born with Marbury, but the ruling sure did cement the weakest branch's role in American constitutional law.  Somebody alert the unpopular fascist pretenders in our Executive branch.

ntodd

February 24, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, February 20, 2017

What Tyranny Of The Minority?

Madison in Federalist 10:

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

Proof positive that the Framers weren't, in fact, all that.

ntodd

February 20, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Check's In The Mail

[The Post Office] is perhaps the only mercantile project which has been successfully managed by, I believe, every sort of government. 

 - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (Book V, Ch 2)


The Post Office has been around since before we had even declared independence--with Ben Franklin made the first Postmaster General--showing just how important communication in general and the postal service in particular is.  The Articles Congress passed An Ordinance for Regulating the Post-Office of the United States of America in 1782.  

Once the US Congress ramped up under our Constitution in 1789, the House wanted to continue the existing regime: 

[U]ntil further provision be made by law, the General Post Office of the United States shall be conducted according to the rules and regulations prescribed: by the ordinances and resolutions of the late Congress, and that contracts be made for the conveyance of the mail in conformity thereto...

But the Senate had other ideas, and on September 11:

Mr. Butler, in behalf of the committee appointed on the tenth of September, on the resolve of the House of Representatives, providing for the regulation of the post of flee, reported, not to concur in the resolve, and a bill upon the subject matter thereof;

And, on the question of concurrence in the resolve of the House of Representatives:

It passed in the negative.

Ordered, That the bill, entitled "An act for the temporary establishment of the post office," have the first reading at this time.

It's not apparent from the record how much, if any, debate there was on the bill.  It zipped through the Senate, and was passed even more rapidly by the House.  The act was extremely brief and its operation was limited through the next session, though it had to be renewed the following August, and again in March after that (when service was also extended to Bennington in the new state of Vermont!).  It appears the Legislative branch has always had difficulty addressing some issues and needed to extend "temporary" solutions time and again.

Anyway, Congress put the Post Office under the Executive branch, which makes sense.  What they didn't do was provide the department much power except basically making contracts for transport of the mail.  The further expansion of the system, and delegation of authority to do so, was an unresolved constitutional question.  Because, you know, it is the Legislative branch who was granted this power in Article I, Section 8To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.  

Which brings us to the Second Congress.  President Washington lit a fire under legislators on October 25, 1791:

I shall content myself with a general reference to former communications for several objects, upon which the urgency of other affairs has hitherto postponed any definitive resolution. Their importance will recal them to your attention; and, I trust, that the progress already made in the most arduous arrangements of the government will afford you leisure to resume them with advantage.

There are, however, some of them of which I cannot forbear a more particular mention. These are: the militia; the post-office and post roads; the mint; weights and measures; a provision for the sale of the vacant lands of the United States.
...
The importance of the post-office and post reads, on a plan sufficiently liberal and comprehensive, as they respect the expedition, safety, and facility of communication, is increased by their instrumentality in diffusing a knowledge of the laws and proceedings of the government; which, while it contributes to the security of the people, serves also to guard them against the effects of misrepresentation and misconception. The establishment of additional cross posts, especially to some of the important points in the western and northern parts of the Union, cannot fail to be of material utility.

So the House finally got to work in earnest on December 6.  Mr Sedgwick started things off with a motion to have the president establish postal routes, as opposed to Congress' specifying each road in legislation.  There was objection:

Mr Livermore observed that the Legislative body being empowered by the Constitution "to establish post offices and post roads," it is as clearly their duty to designate the roads as to establish the offices; and he did not think they could with propriety delegate that power, which they were themselves appointed to exercise. Some gentlemen, he knew, were of opinion that the business of the United States could be better transacted by a single person than by many; but this was not the intention of the Constitution.

It was provided that the Government should be administered by Representatives, of the people's choice; so that every man, who has the right of voting, shall be in some measure concerned in making every law for the United States. The establishment of post roads he considered as a very important object; but he did not wish to see them so diffused as to become a heavy charge where the advantage resulting from them would be but small; nor, on the other hand, for the sake of bringing a revenue into the Treasury, consent to straiten them so as to check the progress of information.

If the post office were to be regulated by the will of a single person, the dissemination of intelligence might be impeded, and the people kept entirely in the dark with respect to the transactions of Government; or the Postmaster, if vested with the whole power, might branch out the offices to such a degree as to make them prove a heavy burden to the United States.

A reply:

Mr Sedgwick felt himself by no means disposed to resign all the business of the House to the President, or to any one else; but he thought that the Executive part of the business ought to be left to Executive officers. He did not, for his part, know the particular circumstances of population, geography, &c., which had been taken into the calculation by the select committee, when they pointed out the roads delineated in the bill; but he would ask, whether they understood the subject so thoroughly as the Executive officer would, who being responsible to the people for the proper discharge of the trust reposed in him, must use his utmost diligence in order to a satisfactory execution of the delegated power?

As to the constitutionality of this delegation, it was admitted by the committee themselves who brought in the bill; for if the power was altogether indelegable, no part of it could be delegated; and if a part of it could, he saw no reason why the whole could not. The second section was as unconstitutional as the first, for it is there said, that "it shall be lawful for the Postmaster General to establish such other roads as post roads, as to him may seem necessary."

Congress, he observed, are authorized not only to establish post offices and post roads, but also to borrow money; but is it understood that Congress are to go in a body to borrow every sum that may be requisite? Is it not rather their office to determine the principle on which the business is to be conducted, and then delegate the power of carrying their resolves into execution? They are also empowered to coin money, and if no part of their power be delegable, he did not know but they might be obliged to turn coiners, and work in the Mint themselves. 

Yaddayaddayadda.  

At the heart of discussion wasn't just whether Congress could delegate such power, but was it even a good idea?  Was the USPS a business, in essence, that should be run super efficiently with substantial executive discretion and maybe even generate some revenue for the national government?  Or was it really an essential public service that needed to be more responsive to the needs of the People and thus required very particular oversight by their representatives in the legislature?

Sedgwick's motion was defeated the following day, so it appears that Congress felt the Post Office wasn't a business per se.  Something that Darrell Issa ought to keep in mind.

Finally, a bill with about 50 lines of designated postal routes was delivered to the Senate on January 10, 1792.  Senators nitpicked, then the chambers came to agreement and Washington signed the rather expansive bill into law on this date.

Now, let's take bets on how quickly Trump will try to destroy my beloved Postal Service.  How much money did FedEx and UPS execs donate to his campagin?

ntodd

February 20, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

The 14th Star

House Journal, February 18, 1791:

A message from the Senate, by Mr. Otis, their Secretary:

Mr. Speaker: I am directed to inform this House, that the President of the United States did, this day, approve and sign, an act which originated in the Senate, entitled "An act for the admission of the State of Vermont into this Union." And then he withdrew.

This is what Washington signed:

[O]n the fourth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-one, the said State, by the name and style of "the State of Vermont," shall be received and admitted into this Union, as a new and entire member of the United States of America.

Still an independent republic (yes, a republic) for a couple more weeks, but officially on the way to being in the Union for realz...

ntodd

February 18, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, February 17, 2017

There's A V For Vendetta Reference For This, I'm Sure

Chaffetz: Crowd used 'bullying and intimidation' at town hall

American History: Yes, and...?

ntodd

February 17, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

You Say That Like It's A Bad Thing

Loomis thinks the Electoral College has always been bad.  Which is nonsense, really, even though it's given us a popular vote loser for preznit twice in a generation, doing that twice, and several times overall, plus had to be fixed right out of the gate after Washington got out of dodge, and clearly favored slave-holding states before the Civil war, just the way it was intended.

ntodd

February 15, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

when all other rights are taken away the right of rebellion is made perfect

Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities?

 - Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 6


Been seeing this in memes of late:

Wealth is no proof of moral character...On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty.

All 2.667 readers know I fucking hate memes.  And ellipses set off my alarm bells.  Also, too, I hate misquoting and misusing the Framers' words, not to mention misattributing them or mistaking others' words for them.  However, I recognize that without such things, more than half my blog content would not exist.

Of course this isn't the most egregious thing in the world, but it's clear people are using the meme simply as an attack on wealth (which I am not against in the least).  Paine was making a much larger point about suffrage [elided quotation emphasized]:

In any view of the case it is dangerous and impolitic, sometimes ridiculous, and always unjust to make property the criterion of the right of voting. If the sum or value of the property upon which the right is to take place be considerable it will exclude a majority of the people and unite them in a common interest against the government and against those who support it; and as the power is always with the majority, they can overturn such a government and its supporters whenever they please.

If, in order to avoid this danger, a small quantity of property be fixed, as the criterion of the right, it exhibits liberty in disgrace, by putting it in competition with accident and insignificance. When a broodmare shall fortunately produce a foal or a mule that, by being worth the sum in question, shall convey to its owner the right of voting, or by its death take it from him, in whom does the origin of such a right exist? Is it in the man, or in the mule? When we consider how many ways property may be acquired without merit, and lost without crime, we ought to spurn the idea of making it a criterion of rights.

But the offensive part of the case is that this exclusion from the right of voting implies a stigma on the moral character of the persons excluded; and this is what no part of the community has a right to pronounce upon another part. No external circumstance can justify it: wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it.

On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty; and poverty the negative evidence of innocence. If therefore property, whether little or much, be made a criterion, the means by which that property has been acquired ought to be made a criterion also.

The only ground upon which exclusion from the right of voting is consistent with justice would be to inflict it as a punishment for a certain time upon those who should propose to take away that right from others. The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.

To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. The proposal therefore to disfranchise any class of men is as criminal as the proposal to take away property.

Anyhoo, I've blogged about voting rights many a time, including once referencing an alleged Ben Franklin quotation that I now suspect might actually be an adaptation of Paine's words (since I can only find it dating back to a compendium from 1828). So now I'm really annoyed, and have to conduct more research...

ntodd

February 11, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Our Struggles Take A Long Time To Resolve

On this date in 1790:

Memorials of the People called Quakers, in their annual meetings, held at Philadelphia and New York, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, were presented to the House and read, praying the attention of Congress in adopting measures for the abolition of the Slave Trade; and, in particular, in restraining vessels from being entered and cleared out for the purposes of that trade.

Ordered, That the said memorials do lie on the table.

We did that over and over again so much that Congress gagged abolitionists.  And in the waning days of Buchanan's administration in February of 1861:

By Mr. Spinner: The remonstrance of citizens of Little Falls, New York, against any concessions to or compromises with slavery; which was referred to the select committee of five.
...

Mr. McKean submitted the following preamble and resolution; and debate arising thereon, they lie over under the rule, viz:

Whereas the "Gulf States" have assumed to secede from the Union, and it is deemed important to prevent the "border slave States" from following their example; and whereas it is believed that those who are inflexibly opposed to any measure of compromise or concession that involves or may involve a sacrifice of principle or the extension of slavery would nevertheless cheerfully concur in any lawful measure for the emancipation of the slaves: Therefore--

Resolved, That the select committee of five be instructed to inquire whether, by the consent of the people, or of the State governments, or by compensating the slaveholders, it be practicable for the general government to procure the emancipation of the slaves in some or all of the "border States," and if so, to report a bill for that purpose.
...

Mr. Palmer submitted the following resolutions, viz:

Resolved, That neither the federal government nor the people or governments of the non-slaveholding States have a purpose or a constitutional right to legislate upon or interfere with slavery in any of the States of the Union.

Resolved, That those persons in the north who do not subscribe to the foregoing proposition are too insignificant in numbers and influence to excite the serious attention or alarm of any portion of the people of the republic, and that the increase of their numbers and influence does not keep pace with the increase of the aggregate population of the Union.

A division of the question having been demanded,

The Speaker stated the question to be first on the first resolution.

Pending which,

Mr. Palmer moved the previous question; which was seconded and the main question ordered and put, viz: Will the House agree thereto?

  • And it was decided in the affirmative,
  • Yeas ... 116
  • Nays ... 14

...

Mr. Sherman, by unanimous consent, submitted the following amendment in the nature of a substitute for both of the resolutions submitted by Mr. Palmer, viz: Strike out all after the word "Resolved" and insert:

"That neither the Congress of the United States nor the people or governments of the non-slaveholding States have the constitutional right to legislate upon or interfere with slavery in any of the slaveholding States in the Union."

And the question being put, Will the House agree thereto?

It was decided in the affirmative.

The question then recurring on the said resolutions as amended,

Mr. Sherman moved the previous question; which was seconded and the main question ordered and put, viz: Will the House agree to the said resolutions as amended?

  • And it was decided in the affirmative,
  • Yeas ... 161
  • Nays ... 0

...

So the said resolutions as amended were unanimously agreed to.

Not long after, a little dustup that even some Quakers felt compelled to join.  Just some perspective about today's kulturkampf.

ntodd

February 11, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Gerrymander? I Hardly...

Mass Historical Society:

The practice of gerrymandering in America long predates the invention of the term, but the Massachusetts law that gave rise to the name dates from 11 February 1812, when Governor Elbridge Gerry, a Jeffersonian Republican, signed a reapportioning act that heavily favored his own party in upcoming elections in the closely divided Bay State legislature. Several different Federalist opponents of the new law are credited with coining the term "gerrymander," and the cartoon has been attributed to a number of notable early American artists including Gilbert Stuart and Washington Allston, but at the end of the nineteenth century, when there still was (almost) living memory of the origin of the term, John Ward Dean presented the text of a memorandum in the pages of the New England Historic and Genealogical Register that attributes the term to the outcome of a dinner party at the home of a Boston merchant Israel Thorndike in February 1812, where Elkanah Tisdale, a miniature painter, drew wings on the salamander shaped map of the new Republican-leaning election district in Essex County.

The gerrymander cartoon was widely reprinted often accompanied, as in the case of this broadside, with lines of comic verse or political commentary. While his Federalist opponents sarcastically noted that the "monstrous" shape of the new election district "denominated a Gerry-mander, a name that must exceedingly gratify the parental bosom of our worthy Chief Magistrate," there is little evidence that Governor Gerry was the author or even a strong supporter of the redistricting law. Ironically, the gerrymander did not save him from defeat for re-election in 1812, although it worked so effectively for the Republicans that while the Federalists won a majority of the popular vote, they won only a third of the seats in the legislature.

So when you get down to it, America is really great again, the way at least one Founding Father might or might not have intended.

ntodd

February 11, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Was there ever witnessed such a bare faced corruption in any country before?

[T]he Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver. his end will be the same.

 - Andrew Jackson to William Berkeley Lewis, February 14, 1825

Best election since 1800:

The tellers proceeded to examine and count the ballots, and having completed the same, and the votes in the two boxes agreeing, the tellers reported that the votes of thirteen states had been given for John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts; that the votes of seven states had been given for Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee: and that the votes of four states had been given for William H. Crawford, of Georgia: Whereupon

The Speaker again announced the state of the votes to the House, and declared, "That John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, having received a majority of the votes of all the states of this Union, was duly elected President of the United States for four years, to commence on the fourth of March, 1825."

Ordered, That Mr. Webster, Mr. Vance, of Ohio, and Mr. Archer, of Virginia, be appointed a committee to wait on the President of the United States, and inform him that John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts, has been duly chosen by the House of Representatives of the United States, according to the Constitution, President of the United States, for four years, commencing on the fourth day of March, 1825: As, also, to wait upon Mr. Adams, and notify him of his election as President.

Ordered, That a message be sent to the Senate, notifying that body that this House has chosen John Quincy Adams, President of the United States, for the term of four years, commencing on the fourth day of March, 1825; and that the Clerk do go with the said message.

The subsequent tweetstorm from Andy about illegals voting and Nordstrom's unfair treatment of the Cherokee was EPIC.

ntodd

February 9, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Senate's Snowflake Caucus

Republican Senators are very, very concerned about decorum.  We really do need to Make America Great Again, like back when we had actual beatings in Congress.

ntodd

February 8, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Everybody Must Go Rogue

Yeah, it's not just one rogue judge: it's an entire rogue branch, a rogue fake polls media, and a rogue majority of Americans.  We are through the looking glass, folks!

ntodd

February 6, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (1)