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Context of 'December 24, 2011: New Hampshire Republicans Introduce Bill Requiring New Legislation to Cite Magna Carta'

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Thom Hartmann.Thom Hartmann. [Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Author and talk show host Thom Hartmann issues a call for the repeal of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) (see October 17, 2006). He frames his argument with a quote from the revered British Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill: “The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.” The MCA is “the most conspicuous part of a series of laws which have fundamentally changed the nature of this nation, moving us from a democratic republic to a state under the rule of a ‘unitary’ president,” Hartmann writes. The MCA is an “attack on eight centuries of English law,” the foundation of US jurisprudence that goes back to 1215 and the Magna Carta. While the MCA’s supporters in and out of the administration give reassurances that the law only applies to non-citizens, Hartmann notes that two US citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, have already been stripped of their habeas corpus rights. Habeas corpus, Hartmann writes, is featured prominently in Article I of the US Constitution. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was flat wrong in saying that the Constitution provided “no express grant of habeas” (see January 17, 2007), Hartmann writes. “Our Constitution does not grant us rights, because ‘We’ already hold all rights. Instead, it defines the boundaries of our government, and identifies what privileges ‘We the People’ will grant to that government.” The authors of the Constitution “must be turning in their graves,” Hartmann writes, quoting the “most conservative” of those authors, Alexander Hamilton: “The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus… are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains.… [T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.” Hamilton’s colleague Thomas Jefferson said that laws such as habeas corpus make the US government “the strongest government on earth.” Now, Hartmann writes, the strength of that government is imperiled. [CommonDreams (.org), 2/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Alberto R. Gonzales, Alexander Hamilton, Jose Padilla, Magna Carta, Military Commissions Act, Yaser Esam Hamdi, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Hartmann

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

After President Obama exhorts Congress to pass his jobs legislation package, which he calls the “American Jobs Act of 2011,” during his address to a joint session on September 8, some Republican lawmakers note that no legislator has officially submitted the bill and thusly there is no legislation to pass. Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) submits his own quickly written “American Jobs Act of 2011” hours before a Democratic House member can submit Obama’s 155-page, $447 billion legislative package. Gohmert’s bill is two pages long and would “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the corporate income tax.” Gohmert issues a press release that reads: “We have heard a lot of rhetoric about job creation from President Obama over the last several days. After waiting to see what the president would actually put into legislative language, and then waiting to see if anybody would actually introduce the president’s bill in the House, today I took the initiative and introduced the ‘American Jobs Act of 2011.’ It is a very simple bill, which will eliminate the corporate tax which serves as a tariff that our American companies pay on goods they produce here in America. This bill will actually create jobs in America. Right now, American manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas. What is really insidious about this tax is that corporate taxes are paid by the consumer—built in to the cost of the good or service. Corporate taxes are paid for by people in the form of lower wages to American workers and less money paid out in dividends in everything from 401K retirement accounts and to those who would risk their capital in business ventures. This type of capital investment is where jobs come from. Unlike President Obama’s bill, which clocks in at 155 pages, the ‘American Jobs Act’ is only two pages. The American people want to see jobs and economic growth and this bill guarantees that outcome. America would instantly become a safe haven for businesses resulting in an explosion in revenue increases. If we really want to create jobs and grow the economy, we must pass ‘The American Jobs Act’ now.” [Daily Caller, 9/14/2011; Louis Gohmert, 9/14/2011; Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2011] Gohmert objects to a provision in the Obama legislative package which would forbid employers from discriminating against unemployed workers, accusing Obama of trying to create a “new protected class” of Americans and saying that the point of the anti-discrimination language would be to give “trial lawyers… 14 million new clients.” The National Employment Law Project (NELP) says that Gohmert is wrong in his accusations, and that the legislation “would not make employment status a protected class like race or sex,” but “simply bans hiring discrimination against the jobless.” Employer discrimination against unemployed job applicants is well-documented and on the rise, according to NELP. [Huffington Post, 8/11/2011; Huffington Post, 9/14/2011] Kirsten Boyd Johnson of the satirical political news Web site Wonkette calls Gohmert’s legislation “childish,” and says that, according to recent polls, Americans largely blame Congressional Republicans for, as she writes, “destroying America with their petulant refusal to govern like a dignified body of elected lawmakers in favor of running around like naughty children stealing other peoples’ homework.” Bloomberg News, which reports on the polling, quotes retired New York citizen Ray DiPietro as saying: “I’ve been a registered Republican for 50 years or more, but I don’t like what they are doing. [Republicans] are more concerned about getting Obama out of office than with making things right.” DiPietro says he receives emails on a daily basis from Republicans who denigrate Obama and “tear him apart, and that’s no way for grownups to talk.” Indianapolis Republican Nicole Olin agrees, saying: “I do put the majority of the blame on the Republicans, because they seem to be the least willing to give up anything. Just because a majority votes you in doesn’t mean you don’t have to compromise in one way, shape, or form to make sure you do what’s good for everyone.” Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) warns of the dangers of taking any set of polls in “isolation,” and says the poll result “highlights a broad dissatisfaction among the American people with the way their government has been operating.” [Wonkette, 9/15/2011; Bloomberg, 9/15/2011] David Weigel of Slate writes that Gohmert “prank[ed]” the White House in submitting his legislation, which has no real chance of ever being enacted. Although House Democrats have not yet formally submitted the actual American Jobs Act, it has been posted online by the Obama administration. [Slate, 9/12/2011; Slate, 9/15/2011] Democrats can submit the bill under its original title, as House rules do not forbid two separate pieces of legislation having the same name, though as Los Angeles Times reporter James Oliphant notes, “[I]t could result in a lot of Democrats and Republicans shouting on the floor about two different bills.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2011] In the past, Gohmert has accused the Obama administration of orchestrating the deaths of “one in five” Americans through its health care legislation (see July 16, 2009), of implementing “eugenics” and creating Nazi-like “youth brigades” (see July 24, 2009), and of lying about the likelihood that failing to raise the debt ceiling would lower the nation’s credit rating (see July 13, 2011).

Entity Tags: Kirsten Boyd Johnson, Obama administration, Nicole Olin, Louis Gohmert, Michael Shumway (“Mike”) Lee, James Oliphant, National Employment Law Project, David Weigel, US House of Representatives, Barack Obama, Bloomberg News, Ray DiPietro, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises, Domestic Propaganda

An illuminated letter from the Magna Carta.An illuminated letter from the Magna Carta. [Source: University of Maine at Farmington]Three freshman New Hampshire Republican House members submit a bill that would require all new legislation proposed in the New Hampshire Congress to source itself in the Magna Carta, the English declaration of rights written in 1215. Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia), Tim Twombly (R-Nashua), and Lucien Vita (R-Middleton) write a bill that consists of the following single line: “All members of the general court [the New Hampshire legislature] proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.” Most legal authorities recognize that the Magna Carta, compiled of 63 demands laid down by feudal barons to England’s King John, is one of the sources of inspiration for the US Constitution, but consider it quite outdated for modern use. Some of the Magna Carta’s demands are: “No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband”; “We shall straightway return the son of Llewelin and all the Welsh hostages.… We shall act towards Alexander King of the Scots regarding the restoration of his sisters”; and, “If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age.” Kingsbury says he is primarily thinking of bills concerning the judicial system, and cites the Magna Carta’s clause that states that “no freeman” shall be imprisoned or harmed “save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Ray Buckley says he is “mostly speechless,” and adds: “I appreciate all the hard work the Republican legislators are putting into the effort to make them look like extremists. Saves us the trouble.” Kingsbury tries to downplay the importance of the legislation, saying its primary intent is to honor the Magna Carta’s upcoming 800-year anniversary in 2015. Vita admits that he needs to “bone up” on the content of the charter, but adds, “it’s a document that still functions.” He says the Magna Carta bill is similar to bills in the US Congress requiring all legislation to cite constitutional authority. “This is a little bit older than the Constitution, but the same thought is there,” Vita says. Kingsbury says that concerns of legal problems deriving from any such requirement are “interesting,” adding, “Everything has an analog, everything has an origin, and this is part of the origin of what we have in our country.” Twombly says “no way in heck” was his intention in backing the bill to prevent progressive civil rights legislation from being introduced. “That’s not my thought whatsoever,” he says, acknowledging that the Magna Carta does not address issues like gay rights and abortion. “Our society has changed a lot since then. There are issues that need to be resolved that weren’t a problem years ago.” Kingsbury says even if the law passes, no punitive measures would entail if legislation did not actually cite the Magna Carta. “It’s a recommendation that would be nice to be followed,” he says. [Concord Monitor, 12/24/2011] Think Progress reporter Marie Diamond writes of the bill: “Conservatives have long prided themselves on being constitutional ‘purists’ who want to strip government down to the basic form they say was laid out in the country’s founding document. But requiring textual justification from another country’s founding document, which has no legal history or authority in the US, is a curious extension of that principle.” [Think Progress, 1/4/2012]

Entity Tags: Marie Diamond, Bob Kingsbury, Lucien Vita, Ray Buckley, Magna Carta, Tim Twombly

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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