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2006 January 05 — Why Now?
On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
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Prison Reform

The BBC reports that Nigeria is going to release approximately 25,000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding.

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that Nigeria has become a liberal hot bed, they are going to release people who have been in pre-trial detention longer than the sentence their crime would have brought, and the people whose files have been lost.

The average wait for a trial is about ten years, and if you can’t make bail you sit in prison.

It’s a new criminal justice concept: “Do the time, then we’ll check to see if you did the crime.”

In the US we go one better: Bush declares you an “enemy combatant” and you are held for the rest of your life, whether you get a trial or not.

January 5, 2006   Comments Off on Prison Reform

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

The weird guys in knickers who got this country started didn’t trust a strong executive, even when the executive was a wealthy white guy and competent general [as opposed to a wealthy white guy who couldn’t handle being a lieutenant] so, while they made the President the Commander-in Chief of the land and naval forces:

Article. II.
Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

they gave Congress the power to write the rules under which the Army and Navy operated:

Article. I.
Section. 8.
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Notice that Congress is covered under Article I, the first thing they dealt with, not the President. Take special note of the last paragraph of Section 8, which charges Congress with making the laws concerning all other Powers vested by this Constitution. There are no Powers other than those granted by the Constitution, and Congress makes the laws.

If the President wants a new Power, the Constitution must be amended, and even then, the Congress defines the Power with laws. That’s the way the government was designed. Congress makes the laws; Congress declares war; Congress allocates the money.

The President can veto legislation, but Congress can over-ride a veto. The Courts balance things by ensuring that laws are Constitutional. The new government was constructed on what was known, the government of Great Britain, with modifications to deal with what were felt to be defects.

The Revolution was against the perceived excesses of the executive, the King, so the founders weren’t going to repeat that mistake with a strong executive.

January 5, 2006   Comments Off on Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodies?