November 4, 2007


Our friends at FSB Associates have kindly offered up some books for a giveaway and we have a few others kicking around, so a contest appears to be in order. We realize those of you in the benighted rest of the country have little reason to follow sports these days, what with the Sox, Pats, and Eagles going wire to wire, so we thought we could give you a vested interest in the real Super Bowl this Sunday:

You pick the winner of the Colts/Pats game, the final score and the number of catches for Wes Welker and we'll give out books until The Wife gets the Post Office to stop accepting our debit card to pay for postage.

Six Constitutional Reforms (Larry J. Sabato, A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country

From the separation of powers to the Bill of Rights, the United States Constitution remains brilliant in its overall composition. Since 1787, however, we have seen tremendous growth in our technologies, economy, population and military strength. Our founding document no longer addresses the complicated issues that affect our government and our citizens. If we really want to make progress and achieve greater fairness as a society, it is time for elemental change. And we should start by looking at the Constitution, with the goal of holding a new Constitutional Convention.

Sound radical? If so, then the founders were radicals. They would be amazed and disappointed that after 220 years, the inheritors of their Constitution had not tried to adapt to new developments that the founders could never have anticipated in Philadelphia in 1787.

James Madison, George Washington, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson all insisted that the Constitution should be updated by future generations. Those sentiments were best expressed by Jefferson, who wrote to Madison that "no society can make a perpetual Constitution. ... The Earth belongs always to the living generation. ... Every Constitution ... naturally expires at the end of 19 years" (the length of a generation in Jefferson's time).

Among the 23 proposals for Constitutional reform suggested in my new book, A More Perfect Constitution, here are six to start the debate.

* Restoring the war powers balance. The framers split authority concerning matters of war-making between the president (commander in chief) and Congress (declaring war). Does anyone seriously believe that they would have approved of the executive department waging years-long wars without the explicit approval of the legislature? Yet the advantages accruing to any president -- the unitary nature of the office, the swift action that only he can take in a hair-trigger world, his dominance of the televised public forum -- have created an emperor as much as a president. The constitutional balance of shared war-making must be restored.

The president should have the freedom to commit troops for up to six months, under procedures similar to that of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. But a new constitutional amendment should require that after six months -- and every six months thereafter -- both houses of Congress, by affirmative vote and without filibusters, would have to approve any extension. If one house votes no on extending, all combat troops must be withdrawn within a year.

This is an institutional reform, not a partisan attack on George W. Bush. Harry Truman on Korea and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon on Vietnam were every bit as stubborn as Bush has been on Iraq. It is in the nature of the single-minded, victory-insistent presidential beast.

* Creating a more representative Senate. Stunningly, just 17% of the current American population elects a majority of the U.S. Senate. This is because even though California has about 70 times the population of Wyoming, both states get two U.S. senators. The larger states may have 83% of the nation's people, but they get nothing without the approval of the lightly populated states. In the beginning of the republic, the population differential between the large and small states -- and thus the unfairness -- was far less.

But today, the structure of the upper chamber of Congress is completely outmoded. Let's build a fairer Senate by granting the 10 states with the greatest population two additional senators each, and the next 15 most populated states one additional senator each.

* Transforming presidential elections. Americans don't have to be convinced that our presidential election system is broken. The nation needs a sensible system of rotating regional primaries so that it would no longer be subject to the selfish whims of a few states.

The electoral college also must be overhauled, with more populated states receiving additional electors so that a candidate who loses the popular vote can no longer become president. Why not abolish it entirely? The state-based electoral college isolates and simplifies recounts. Imagine how hopeless our predicament would be if the 2000 Florida recount had to be conducted nationwide.

* Ending second-class citizenship. We promote the cultural myth that any mother's son or daughter can grow up to be president, but it isn't even literally true.

The founders were concerned about foreign intrigue in the early days of an unsettled republic, so they limited the presidency to those who were "natural born" citizens. But the melting pot that is now the United States includes an astonishing 14.4 million Americans who were not born on U.S. soil and are therefore ineligible for the presidency -- a number sure to grow substantially. Among them are 30,000 members of the U.S. armed forces who risk life and limb to defend those enjoying first-class citizenship.

Any American who has been a citizen for at least 20 years should have the right to aspire to the White House.

* Instituting Judiciary Term Limits. Excessive authority has accrued to the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court—so much so that had the founders realized the courts’ eventual powers, they would have limited judicial authority. The insularity of lifetime tenure, combined with the appointments of relatively young attorneys who give long service on the bench, produces senior judges representing the views of past generations better than views of the current day.

A nonrenewable term limit of 15 years should apply to all federal judges, from the district courts all the way up to the Supreme Court.

* Universal National Service Requirement. The benefits of living in a great democracy are not a God-given right. In exchange for the privileges of American citizenship, every individual owes a debt of public service to his fellow citizens. The Constitution should mandate that all able bodied Americans devote two years of their lives to serving their nation
—and whether the service is civilian or military, domestic or foreign, would be up to each individual. The civilian, military, and nonprofit options would have to accommodate the varied talents of the population, as well as our diverse dictates of conscience.

No thoughtful person will rush to Change the Constitution. This is a careful process that will take many years to work, but we must start to consider these long-delayed reforms if we are to incite change and reform. This is the beginning of the debate, the beginning of a generational conversation, both of which will lead to long-delayed Constitutional reform. It is this that will ultimately lead to better government, citizenship and society.

EXCERPT: An Extraordinary Accomplishment (Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes, The Genius of America How the Constitution Saved Our Country -- and Why It Can Again)

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law!

--Katherine Lee Bates, 1893

The United States of America is an extraordinary accomplishment. It is the richest, most powerful nation that has ever existed. From a handful of farmers and merchants on the edge of the known world, it has grown, endured, agonized and prospered. Millions have flocked to its shores, and millions more continuously hope to come. Saying that this has become something of a cliché does not make it any less true. Nor does the fact that some people in other parts of the world have come to resent the way America asserts its wealth and power make America's rise any less remarkable or significant. Even America's fiercest critics don't argue that.

But why did this success visit itself on the United States? Certainly it is a land blessed with enormous resources and intrepid people. They have been celebrated many times. But there are other nations with great resources and excellent people. Our purpose is to focus on something so apparent it is often underappreciated. America's extraordinary success is directly related to its unique form of government. Not just to its freedom or its democracy, but to its singularly American form of democracy.

Indeed, one of America's first and greatest inventions was the United States of America itself. This was something wholly new in the annals of government. There had been democracies before. There had been republics before. But what the framers invented was something no one had ever seen before.

They built a system of government entirely self-contained. They looked to neither God nor king for higher authority. This was, as they said, a government of "We the people." Every piece of it represented the people and drew its authority from the people, not, as for example in England, where the king or queen owed their power to the will of God, and the then powerful House of Lords to the lineage of its members.

But for government of the people to really work, the framers had to recognize what people were really like and then design a government around that reality. Through trial and spectacular error, they came to understand that anything less realistic was doomed to fail.

This, then, was their radical breakthrough: their recognition that government had to be designed around a cold-eyed acceptance of men as they really are, not as we might wish them to be. What was that cold-eyed view of human nature? They recognized that people pursue their own self-interests. And in this pursuit, they often regard what is good for them as good for all.

Other political thinkers had, of course, noticed this from time to time before the American Revolution. But before America, proponents of democracy (when they could be found) generally solved the problem of selfishness by suggesting that citizens could rise above their own interests to join in achieving some larger good that they would recognize through reasoning together.

Copyright © 2007 Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes from The Genius of America How the Constitution Saved Our Country -- and Why It Can Again
Published by Bloomsbury USA September 2007;$23.95US; 978-1-59691-199-4

DISCUSSION: Larry Sabato author of "A More Perfect Constitution" and Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes authors of "The Genius of America" (BookTV)

Larry Sabato, "A More Perfect Constitution" and Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes, "The Genius of America" maintain that the U.S. Consitiution should be a document that inspires change. Mr. Sabato has included twenty-three proposals to alter the Constitution to reflect what he argues are today's political and social issues, from a six year term for the presidency to mandatory national service. Mr. Lane and Mr. Oreskes relay a history of the document and analyses the American populations right to alter the Constitution. Larry Sabato, Eric Lane, and Michael Oreskes discuss their books at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2007 3:44 PM

Okay, I'll try

Colts 35, Patriots 31

Wes Welker - 6 receptions

Posted by: Brandon at October 31, 2007 10:54 AM

Patriots 34, Colts 20

Wes Welker: 5 catches

Posted by: Dave P. at October 31, 2007 11:11 AM

The Patriots will win 45-41.

Wes Welker will have 10 catches.

Posted by: Brad S at October 31, 2007 11:16 AM

Sabato wants to eliminate the electoral college? You shouldn't be giving his book away, you should be burning it the way one might burn blankets infested with plague fleas.

Posted by: Palmcroft at October 31, 2007 11:18 AM

Colts 38-34

Welker catches six.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 31, 2007 11:19 AM

Patriots 28-----Colts 22

Welker----- 5 catches

Posted by: des harte at October 31, 2007 11:19 AM

After reading the synopsis of the book, who'd be interested in winning it?

Posted by: Patrick H at October 31, 2007 11:47 AM

Colts 31--Pats 28
3 catches

Posted by: JohnV at October 31, 2007 12:19 PM

Pats 38 Colts 30
Welker: 7 catches

Posted by: mcf at October 31, 2007 12:20 PM

Patriots 27
Colts 24

Welker: 5 catches

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at October 31, 2007 12:27 PM

Pats 31-Colts 27
Welker-6 catches

Posted by: Foos at October 31, 2007 1:07 PM

I have to go with the Colts, 38-35. Welker will catch 9 passes.

Posted by: Bartman at October 31, 2007 2:53 PM

The U.S. Constitution is the most beautiful document ever written by Man: it is concise and flexible. Sabato, a small mind believes he is better than the greatest who have ever lived. How silly!

I wonder if it ever occurs to him that the Constitutin has a safeguard against small minds. That is the beauty of the US Constitution: protects the country from blowhards and spineless power hungry politicians.

Posted by: ic at October 31, 2007 3:27 PM

Concerning the article about changing the constitution. Why would Wyoming want to be in a federal union with California, if California gets all the power. Wouldn't Wyoming want to keep some ability to influence the laws that it must abide by? Isn't this the point of the current system? And wouldn't some of the other proposed changes lead exactly to the kind of mob rule that the founders wanted to avoid?

Who is this Sabato guy, and how can he know so little about the reasoning behind the constitution? Is he some kind of Jounalist or is he a crazy homeless man who carries a crumpled picture of Che Guevara in his pocket and screams incoherently at passers-by? Is it April Fool's Day? I'm confused.

Posted by: lebeaux at October 31, 2007 3:32 PM

Baseball? Is it baseball season already?

Posted by: lebeaux at October 31, 2007 3:34 PM

What Palmcroft said.

I won't guess a score for fear of winning the book.

Posted by: Brad at October 31, 2007 3:37 PM

Sabato is some sort of academic, who after showing up as talking head in some cable networs, actually believes himself an expert.

To Sabato: it is really easy for Congress to stop an unpopular war: stop funding the war. There are no filibusters against fundings, and no filibusters against non-fundings. To stop the war, however, needs spines. If Congress has no spine to stop funding, I wonder where they get their spine to vote not to re-affirm the war.

The House is where popular representation is from. The Senate is to "deliberate". The Senate should have their eyes on the good of the country. Alas, our senators only think about themselves, their own re-election, their own power, their own pockets. Each and every Congress person becomes a multimillionaire after "serving" the country. More senators mean more people to have chances to plunder the public trough.

Judiciary: term limit for the judiciary? How about term limit for the legislature? 15 years for the judges, 15 years for the senators, 15 years for the represenatives. The "excessive authority" only accrues to the Court because the spineless Legislature refuses to write clear laws. They want to maintain deniability for their actions. Thus a law has nothing to do with patriotism becomes the Patriot Act, a law that tries to silent dissent becomes the Fairness Doctrine. The legislature wants to hide behind the judges. They passed laws: limit late term abortion, then blamed the Court for upholding the law. No judiciary term limit could stop the accuring of "excessive authority" to the judiciary.

More populous states already have more electors. Sabato should count how many electors California has, and how many Wyoming has. It is just not enough for Sabato's agenda.

Compulsory national service is compulsory servitude is slavery. Most Americans do productive work and pay taxes for their privileges of citizenships. Bill Gates does more good to the country by creating jobs than to waste a couple of his most productive years doing "national service". By the way won't these "national" service things deprive employment to those who really need jobs?

2nd class citizens: 20 years is pretty short. A natural born citizen cannot run for the presidency until he reaches the age of 35. The presidency is the only special privilege reserves to non-immigrants. Let's preserve it. I'm an immigrant, I've never felt like a 2nd class citiizen.

Sabato is silly. I'm sillier to respond.

Posted by: ic at October 31, 2007 4:29 PM

35-31 good guys, er Peytons, I mean Colts. 3 catches for whathisname, but didn't he play for the J-E-T-S back in the 80s? Guy's still around, who knew?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 31, 2007 8:26 PM

So according to Sabato we need to revise the constitution because times have changed and we shouldn't be bound by the framer's intent.

But we need to fix the war powers because it has changed with the times and we should get it back to the framer's intent.

Posted by: Keith R at October 31, 2007 9:05 PM

Pats, 35-24

Posted by: mike earl at October 31, 2007 9:26 PM

oh, and 8 for Welker.

Posted by: mike earl at October 31, 2007 9:28 PM

You're all too conservative.

Pats 45 Colts 24

Welker 8 catches.

Posted by: Islander at October 31, 2007 10:52 PM

What ic said.

The Electoral College was created to prevent semi-elitist academics like Larry Sabato from changing the 'process' in the name of 'progress'.

Colts 38 ... Pats 34 (a reprise)

Welker 4

According to Dr. Z, the big weapon for the Pats might just be their backup tight end. We'll see. Moss will catch more than Welker, I think.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2007 11:31 PM

"Stunningly, just 17% of the current American population elects a majority of the U.S. Senate."

A century ago, after the 1900 census, 18% of the population elected a majority of the U.S. Senate (see

"This is because even though California has about 70 times the population of Wyoming, both states get two U.S. senators."

After the 1900 census, New York had 78 times the population of Wyoming.

"The larger states may have 83% of the nation's people, but they get nothing without the approval of the lightly populated states."

The lightly populated states voting for Sabato's amendment would be like the turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.

"In the beginning of the republic, the population differential between the large and small states -- and thus the unfairness -- was far less."

The imbalance, and presumed unfairness, have been around for better than a century.

Posted by: Greg Hlatky at November 1, 2007 8:48 AM

Colts 38
Pats 35

Wes Welker 7 catches

Posted by: pchuck at November 1, 2007 11:11 AM

Can we spell it out for Sabato? The House of Representatives represents the people of each state. The Senate represents the states themselves. Why is that so hard for intellectuals to grasp? There is no unfairness, and no imbalance.

Posted by: Henry IX at November 1, 2007 2:36 PM

Okay....lets see.

Pats 33
Colts 31

Welker will have 7 catches.

Posted by: Andrew at November 2, 2007 10:53 AM

okay. Pats 42 Indy 35. And Walker will catch 7 passes. Alas, the Indians did not catch the Red Sox. No, I am not bitter...

Posted by: kevin od at November 2, 2007 11:31 AM

Pats 45 Colts 28

Welker: 8 catches

Posted by: Marc at November 2, 2007 12:49 PM

Patriots 23, Colts 17

Welker 6 catches

Posted by: Matt Cohen at November 2, 2007 9:50 PM

Colts 31, Patriots 30.

Mr. Welker gets the same number of catches I saw him get in 2001 against Nebraska: 4.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 3, 2007 7:10 AM

Pats 27, Colts 20. Welker gets 6 catches

Posted by: JimBobElrod at November 3, 2007 7:27 AM

Patriots 34 Colts 9
Welker 7 catches

Just don't send me the moronic book of Sabato! I'll take the OJ sovereignity book instead, or a photocopy of OJ's Catholic Baptism certificate, whenever that happens.

Posted by: Palmcroft at November 3, 2007 7:30 AM

Pats 58 Colts 33

10 catches

Go Giants

Posted by: sducks at November 3, 2007 11:24 AM

'noles won tonight. A big game by Peyton tomorrow and Boston will be put back in its place.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at November 3, 2007 11:05 PM

Welker 5 catches

Posted by: mgarbowski at November 4, 2007 12:54 PM

des, patrick, JBE & Matt look like winners. Did I miss anyone?

Email your street addresses and we'll figure out a good book for you.

Posted by: oj at November 4, 2007 8:17 PM

I'm a two time winner. Won previously on a golf prediction.

Des Harte
9535-86 Street,

Posted by: des harte at November 5, 2007 8:44 PM