Thursday, December 05, 2013

Debating Liberty Amendments (by Mark Levin)

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Mark Levin's latest book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic , proposes and discusses 10 Constitutional amendments that Levin believes will restore a more balanced constitutional republic. Each chapter opens with the proposed amendment and then goes on to discuss the merits of the amendment, including historical facts to bolster his case. I assume that Levin would want these to be added to the Constitution as written, but he could also be setting them out as discussion points. While I disagree with his amendments (see below), I do strongly recommend the book for the historical and contemporary information used to discuss the proposed amendments.

I want to take a moment and remind our readers that any tinkering with the Constitution is fraught with peril. One only needs look at the Prohibition mess and react with horror anytime an amendment is proposed.

Let's take a look at each amendment (briefly) and why I do or don't think it should be part of the Constitution.

1) Term Limits - disagree - the first amendment proposal is a 12 year term limit for Congressmen. This seems to be a favorite of conservatives (and perhaps progressives, too). Whenever something doesn't go their way, political talking heads immediately resort to term limits as though limiting one particular person will rid Congress of a particular "roadblock" or other obstruction to getting the people's work done. Does anyone stop to think that the next guy running in place of a termed out Congressman may be even worse (either further to the Left or further to the Right)? While I can see some merit to term limiting the President, look at the generally disastrous results we've gotten since that amendment was passed over 60 years ago. The second administration of each President since passage has basically been a disaster, from Nixon's Watergate to Reagan's Contra affair to Clinton's sexual dalliances to Obama's health care rollout fiasco. The voters will naturally cleanse themselves of poor choices over time. Yes, there will be entrenched Congressmen, but at least they will always be answerable to the people if they have to face re-election every few years. Make them lame ducks and I think the situation will only be worse. A far better idea, in my opinion, is to increase the size of the House to at least double the current number of Members. This will have the affect of decreasing the influence of money and allow a broader set of voices (ie, political parties) to be heard.

2) Restore State Legislatures choosing Senators - agree - the second proposed amendment is to basically repeal the 17th Amendment and add a few features to ensure each state is properly represented in the Senate (apparently there were short periods in the past when states didn't have representation in the Senate - check the book for the history behind the 17th amendment).
 I can certainly agree and support this amendment. It's time to go back to basics with this one. We always talk about all the money being sloshed about in political campaigns. Let's get rid of the popular vote for Senator and allow the state Legislatures to choose 2 Senators. Senators will be more in line with their states' wishes instead of their parties' wishes.

3) Term Limits for SCOTUS and Congressional override of SCOTUS decisions - disagree - This third proposal is a complicated one of splitting the SCOTUS into three classes based on years of service and then term limiting the Justices to a 12 year term. Another part of the amendment allows Congress to overturn a SCOTUS decision with 3/5s of each House supporting an override. I feel this is just overly complicated and reactionary. It's a conservative's dream to believe that if such an amendment had been in place, then the abortion decision by the SCOTUS (or perhaps the Obamacare one) would have been overturned by Congress. It's a pipe dream. Having Congress vote in the heat of emotion after a SCOTUS is just bad governing. We see this all the time when we are attacked (ie, 9/11) or similar situation. We need to step back, read the decision, think about it, then take action. I don't necessarily disagree that SCOTUS has run amuck with its powers and perhaps needs to see some revisions in the way it works, but I don't think this amendment is the one to do that.

4) Two amendments to limit taxing/spending - disagree - This set of amendments basically calls for a balanced budget and taxing limits. My personal belief is that the Constitution should contain one of two kinds of amendments - either granting the people MORE freedoms or limiting the government's ability to restrict said freedoms. I generally don't like "economic" amendments being added to the Constitution. There are slimy ways around these kinds of amendments and even if they were "ironclad" what would happen if Congress and the President openly disregarded their provisions? Why put into writing something that basically has no teeth? Ironically, I do believe in the "line item" veto amendment. I know there are some caveats to that idea too so I wouldn't strongly advocate it until I've read enough about it, but in general granting a line item veto to the President is something I support.

5) Limit the Federal bureaucracy - disagree - there are basically two parts here - re-authorize each bureaucracy every 3 years and any regulation that results in an economic burden of $100 million or more needs to be approved by a new standing committee of Congress. Again, this is an "economic" amendment so I don't support it on face value. Of course the GAO and CBO (these two bodies would have to certify the economic burden of each new regulation) will bend to political pressure and make sure that any regulation the President's team wants comes in under the magic $100MM mark. What happens if one agency says it's over $100MM and the other says it's under? Does it go to committee? What if both agencies says it's well under and then when the regulation takes effect we find out it's well over?? It's a silly amendment that has no teeth. More conservative wishful thinking.

6) Promote Free Enterprise - possibly - this short amendment basically limits Congress in its ability to over broadly legislate using the Commerce clause as an excuse to do so as it has in the past. I like the idea behind the amendment, but just like Congress has repeatedly abused the Commerce clause, this amendment will be twisted and turned by SCOTUS decisions and render it useless. It's a worthy effort though.

7) Protect Private Property - possibly - this short amendment basically wants government to compensate property owners if government action causes the property owner to lose $10,000 or more in property value. Again, nice on the surface but wishy washy underneath. SCOTUS basically scuttled the eminent domain clause of the Constitution - what's to say they wouldn't do it here? And why not make the damages threshold $1 or more?

8) Grant States Authority to Amend the Constitution - disagree - this amendment would allow States to pass a Constitutional amendment then forward that amendment on to the other states to ratify it (instead of having to go thru Congress as the Constitution requires). There are many Constitutional amendments that are submitted by Congressmen every year. It seems most never see the light of day for whatever reason. Imagine 50 states passing tens of Amendments every year and passing them on to other states for ratification? Ugh. It would be a mess and get us no where. Or we'd have 10, 20 amendments to the Constitution every year. Crazy stuff. Best not to think about it. This one is a political nightmare and stinker.

9) Grant States Authority to Check Congress - disagree - this amendment basically formalizes the idea of "nullification" of Federal laws by the states. Apparently Levin believes that state legislatures have no other work to do than vote on overriding Federal laws. This one and the above amendment are just too much to ask of the individual state legislatures. They have their own pressing needs to address. Let's not burden them with more matters that are best left to the Federal politicians who we vote for and send to D.C.

10) Amendment to Protect the Vote - possibly - this amendment covers two things related to voting - photo IDs and the time to vote. On the time issue, Levin makes a good point that too many people are voting by mail at odd times thus creating a haphazard voting system. For example, some people may vote for a candidate after seeing a debate or some such public forum while others who wait for national election day vote (presumably) with full knowledge of the candidate's campaign behavior and positions. I think having a set standard voting for national elections is prudent (ie either no early voting or a limited early voting window closer to election day). The photo ID part of the amendment is on thinner ground. I do support having to show a proper photo ID before being allowed to vote, but I don't think we need a Constitutional amendment for this. We want amendments that can last for a hundred years or more (think "Bill of Rights"). We have no idea what kinds of technology can be used in the future to correctly identify someone before he/she votes. Why limit ourselves to photo IDs? We need to have a national conversation about "the vote" and then come to conclusions and satisfactory methods of implementing those conclusions. Until then, we can run around in 20 different directions and make no difference between the "before" and "after" concerning voter fraud.

So there you have it - Levin's proposed amendments and my counterpoints. I consider myself a Libertarian conservative for the most part. I understand where Levin is coming from, but I think some of these ideas are half-baked solutions to symptoms not problems. Conservatives (like progressives) believe that if you tinker a little here and tinker a little there, you'll get the right balance and surely the "right" solutions will bubble to the surface - that is, we'll get SCOTUS justices that hew the line on the Constitution, term limited Congressmen will be elected that only serve the public interest and right on down the line. I think we need to do lots more than that. We need to shrink government, get a robust private sector moving again and generally adhere to the founding principals and ideas put forth from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution (including ancillary publications such as the Federalist Papers).

What do you think? Comment below!

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Americans (Gordon Sinclair, 1973)

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

This editorial was written by a Canadian in 1973. It became so popular it was recorded and released as a hit tune. You can read its history on the Internet.

While it still holds up today, for the most part, there are some outdated things like the American dominance in airplanes. It's interesting to listen to it and think how far the US has gone downhill these past 40 years (in some regards, not all).

I'd really like your thoughts about this editorial. Would we see something similar today from a Canadian or any other nationality? Is it still true what it says about us in light of recent revelations (ie spying on our allies, war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc)?

Please share your thoughts!

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

Welcome to Tony Island blog1

1812 Overture, Fireworks and Stars & Stripes Forever --- enjoy!

Happy Independence Day!!

The Bill of Rights (Rap version)

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Here's the Bill of Rights sung by "Rhythm, Rhyme and Results". Lyrics below video are by Evan Amick (from whose YouTube posting this video comes from)

Good version of the song.

It's the Bill of Rights, it's the bill of your rights
It's time to take your knowledge up to unfamiliar heights
The thrill of your life, just like riding a bike
You're never, never, never going to forget the Bill of Rights

Verse I
The right to free speech and religion and press
Are guaranteed by Amendment One
Amendment Number Two says it's true, that it's all up to you
If you choose to possess a gun

The government can't force you to house and feed a soldier
Says Amendment Number Three
Amendment Number Four we adore says without a warrant
Your stuff can't be searched or seized

Chorus (x2)

Verse II
Amendment Number Five says the court can't try you
With evidence they already used
It also says that nobody can make you self-incriminate
You're allowed to stay silent if you choose.

Amendment Number Six won't let the criminal clock tick
The rights of the accused continue here, and then
Amendment Number Seven gives you one plus eleven:
A right to a trial by a jury of your peers

If it's cruel and unusual punishment
It's ruled out by Amendment Eight
Amendment Number Nine says that other rights are fine
And Ten gives the rest to the states

We should keep in mind that some Framers of the Constitution thought that a Bill of Rights wasn't needed - that the Constitution itself was enough protection. Little did they know how wrong they were or how far we'd devolve from their original intentions.

Learn your Rights. They may come in handy some day!

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Happy 4th of July!

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Happy 4th of July!

Here's another inspiring video - Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood.

Cherish this never know when it will end.

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Declaration of Independence (read by the NFL)

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Happy Fourth of July!

In 2008, the NFL read the Declaration of Independence before the Super Bowl. If you missed it or would like to see it again, here it is:

This is what our Fore Fathers fought and died for. Isn't it time we respected that and got our current tyrannical government off our backs?

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

America (My country Tis of Thee)

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Here's a wonderful rendition (with lyrics) of America (My Country 'Tis of Thee) sung by a children's choir.

Isn't that inspiring?

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Holiday Week - Inspirational Videos

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

I thought I'd try to be inspiring this week and reignite the passion that is America with some videos.

The first one is a classic rousing edition of God Bless America by Kate Smith.

Feel the passion building? I hope so!

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Open a CapitalOne360 Online Savings Account and Get a Bonus!

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Looking for a competitive rate? And an opening account bonus? Look no further than CapitalOne360 Savings and Checking! You can open either or both account and get a bonus. I also get a bonus!

Use this link:

CapitalOne360 Online Account Bonus

Please note the following:

1) CapitalOne360 was formerly INGDirect;

2) I have NO access to your account or any personal information - I simply am credited a bonus (and have NO clue who the bonus is from);

3) Please read CapitalOne360's privacy policy and any other pertinent policy related to the account - Tony Island blog is not responsible or involved in any way with CapitalOne360 other than promoting this bonus.

Feel free to share your comments below!

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog! See you soon!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Do You Make Your Bed?

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

On the lighter you make your bed each day before going off to work?

It's rare that I do - I tend to leave it as from day to day. Usually when changing the sheets, I'll make it up but other than that...nope.

How about you? Let us know, by leaving a comment below, if you make your bed religiously every day or let it go. Do you feel better climbing into a made bed or does it not matter?

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Marathon - Suspect Photos/Video Released! Please help!

Welcome to Tony Island blog.

Tony Island blog is posting the FBI photos and video of the Boston Marathon Massacre suspects in an attempt to get this information out as far and wide as possible.

If you have ANY information on these two suspects please call the FBI hotline at:
Please note: ALL available pictures (including HIGH RES) are available here:
Please take a moment to review the pictures below AND to check the additional pictures available at the link above.
Suspect 1
Suspect 2
Suspect 2 - HIGH RES

To Provide Tips in the Investigation

If you have visual images, video, and/or details regarding the explosions along the Boston Marathon route and elsewhere, submit them on No piece of information or detail is too small.

You can also call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), prompt #3, with information.

All media inquiries should be directed to the FBI’s National Press Office at (202) 324-3691.

Thank you for reading Tony Island blog.

Monday, April 15, 2013

God Bless Boston and the USA

Welcome to Tony Island blog.

"I'm Proud to be an American", by Lee Greenwood.

We are one with Boston!

Please pray for all those involved: victims, families and first responders.

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Help me get some additional DropBox space!

Welcome to Tony Island Blog!

Just wanted to ask my blog readers to help me get some additional (free) space on Dropbox by signing up for a free Dropbox account using the following link:

Dropbox is "cloud-based" storage. You initially get 2GB of storage space (for photos, documents, etc). You can upgrade by inviting others (as I'm doing here) or paying. It's a good service to keep your photos safe. You can also upload documents you may need to access when away from home.

Thanks for helping out!

Thank you for reading Tony Island blog!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Welcome to 2013!!

Welcome to Tony Island blog!

Happy 2013! Well, I'm a little late, but better late than never!

I have some thoughts I want to share with you, but first I'd like you to look at the upper right hand corner of the blog.

See that new poll I posted? Would you mind voting to give me some feedback on the future direction of Tony Island blog? Thanks!

Keep your eyes peeled for some all new entries for 2013!

Thanks for reading Tony Island blog - be sure to come back again!