US Constitution: Article I, Sections 9-10

Just say NO!

“Section 9
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

 Section 10

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

If you read through the sections above you might have noticed the very frequent use of the word no. Well, that has to be expected right? That is always the last thing you say to the kids before you walk out the door… no parties, no loud music, no R-rated movies, and BAM – the door slams and you’re off on your date. But back to the discussion on these two No sections. Basically Section 9 is telling the federal kid what parties not to have and which friends aren’t allowed over while the parents are away and Section 10 follows up with the same riot act for the state-level kid.

The one clause that jumps out as “not like the others” here is the very beginning of Section 9, which starts out with one of the first blatant acknowledgements that there were some serious internal issues in these United States – even at the outset of the nation. The first clause basically says that the states that are OK with slavery have at least until 1808 to keep importing them at which point Congress can stop that practice if it chooses – which would lead to slavery either dwindling away beginning in 1808 or depending solely on slaves born in the US after that. The framers did make sure that the federal government could get its hands on $10 per imported person though. The more things change… the more they stay the same.

After this messy bit of business, Section 9 continues with the NO-NOs. It says Congress can’t suspend the writ of habeas corpus – legal action to release a prisoner without sufficient evidence – unless public safety requires it in cases of rebellion or invasion. Now that sounds great, and many will say that the only 2 presidents who have suspended habeas corpus are Lincoln in the Civil War (pretty clearly a rebellion) and George W. Bush for “War on Terror” prisoners who were captured (or kidnapped) and sent to Guantanamo (not nearly so in line with the rebellion thing). For that to be accurate, you’d have to draw a very thin line between “suspended” and “kept doing what the guy before you did”. Take a gander at Glenn Greenwald’s piece at Salon (link below) in which he points out that President Obama not only is doing the same thing Bush did at Bagram instead of Guantanamo, he directly opposed that as a candidate/senator and a federal court has specifically said that the executive branch has totally lost its marbles. People wonder why I’m fed up with all of the machine politicians – THIS is it. With few exceptions they are the exact same on both sides of the “spectrum” and neither side gives a rat’s rear end about our liberty. Breathe…

Now to some easy ones… attainder, ex post facto (gotta love lawyers), capitation (not decapitation), duties, and existing contracts – don’t pass a law today that says I owe taxes from yesterday, don’t make laws that impair existing contracts I have in place, don’t create taxes that aren’t evenly distributed, and whatever laws you DO pass, they have to be generically applicable – you can’t single me or a specific group out. To sum these up simply – don’t play favorites. Makes sense. Well, California, in its typical leading edge style, has a law on the books that pretty much blows off the Section 10 version of the existing contracts clause, AB X1 26. Proving that even people in Los Angeles think like many of the rest of us who aren’t on the coasts, you can read this piece – Redevelopment Law Unconstitutional Because of Impairment of Contract? – from a California law firm that points out what is becoming all too common in today’s legal world – a court battle over details in an invalid law fails to challenge the validity and constitutionality of the law as a whole. Ex post facto laws are a pretty easy one here in the states though there are some contemporary examples of laws abroad, India for example, where this concept is challenged. So I’m not too worried about that one. There are plenty of other clauses with which the government is cleaning up behind themselves, in a way, so I’ll leave this one there so I can move on to my soapbox one last time before I leave you.

Bills of attainder – Uncle Sam, you may restrict and punish behavior, but you may not restrict and/or punish mine alone. If I believe that, I have to believe that and stand up for that belief for every American, even if I really want to punch their teeth out. Let me start out by saying that I support the eradication of enemies. But imagine for a moment that you take an extended vacation to Four Seasons Bora Bora – the iconic resort with tiki huts bridged together over crystal blue sea. While there you begin to exercise your right to free speech and it incites violence (and even death) in the States (or against sovereign American soil – embassy, military base, etc). Keep going along with this thought with the assumption you proactively incited this violence and continue to try for more – to the point that you are an ongoing danger to the people of America. You have become a well-tanned death-dealing  puppet master, a crime for which the death penalty could be sought – see a weird murder case in Florida and against Al-Nashiri, the mastermind in the attack on the USS COLE (DDG 67). But you would expect, if unable to maintain your secrecy and stay in hiding, to be arrested and returned for a trial to determine your fate. You would have the opportunity to purchase the services of Johnny Cochran reincarnate to prove that the marionette does not fit so this puppet master the jury must acquit.  A bit of a wild story, I know… I’m trying to get the situation in your head – you and I expect to be tried for whatever crimes we are accused of because IT IS POSSIBLE that we will either be found innocent or not punished to the full extent of the law. Assuming you’re on board with me so far, imagine that instead of that trial, a small birdlike shadow passes overhead at 15,000 feet and drops a GPS-guided munition into the plunge pool at your over-water bungalow and you, my friend, have sipped your last Mai Tai. Well, no matter what you thought of the guy, that’s what we did to Anwar al-Awlaki. BONUS: We offed the web magazine editor (Samir Khan) with the SAME missile! SCORE ONE FOR THE 1st AMENDMENT! They were both Americans. Neither ever personally killed anyone. And we offed them without a trial. If we didn’t blatantly execute these guys without trashing their 4th amendment rights to due process, we certainly crumpled it up and played spit ball with it a bit before trying to read and apply it to this case.  The point is, experiences like this (from England) are basically why the attainder clause exists. Without it the compliant, anything-in-the-name-of-security-boss Congress could have simply passed a law stating the Al Awlaki was a traitor and should be punished to death, to which the executive branch could have responded with above noted munition. But no, we are supposed to be protected from that – and he was from a law, just not from the execution of the spirit of the law that never was. And we thought Major Kong was crazy…

Dr Strangelove

 

Reading:

Obama and habeas corpus — then and now - Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com

Obama & Holder Wrong on Law, Politics, History - Leon/Wire – Florida Courier

The Assassination of Al-Awlaki, American Citizen and al Qaeda Martyr - Azeem Ibrahim – Huffington Post

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