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  1. The text: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." My first comment is that in Boolean Algebra (granted, something the Founding Fathers didn't know much about), AND takes precedence over OR. That's something that should at least be discussed. It's possible that in 1791, a string of ORs was ended by an AND - whatever was common practice at the time must be honored as intent. My first question is: Are the last two items ("the right of the people peaceably to assemble" and "to petition the government for a redress of grievances") more strongly linked (because of the AND) than any of the other two items? Or are they all considered equal members in a list? My second question is: What about the separation of church and state? Does the second clause ("prohibiting the free exercise thereof") mean that Congress is not allowed to pass a law, for example, making human sacrifices illegal, should a new religion be established (see the first clause) that calls for them? The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is *very* poorly worded - I'm sorry to say that, but it's true. These people may have known how to fight, but they didn't know how to write. Yet, here we are, slavishly following a poorly conceived and poorly written document. The Founding Fathers just weren't all that smart.
  2. I suspect most people don't have direct recall of the 1824 U.S. Presidential Election, but it was (so far) a unique clusterfuck, never yet repeated ... but it *could* be. Whether they know it or not, many people today are discussing the 12th Amendment, which was ratified on Jun 15, 1804. The 12th Amendment is our current system of electing Presidents, and each President since 1804 has been elected using it. The full text of the 12th Amendment is included at the bottom of this post, and the key provision as applied to the 1824 election is the first sentence of the third paragraph. In the election of 1824 - to determine our 6th President - there were four serious candidates: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. At the end of the election, none of the four had a majority of electoral votes - thus, the election was turned over to the House of Representatives. It bears repeating that there is nothing stopping this from happening again today, in the 21st century. Although Andrew Jackson received a plurality of both electoral and popular votes, he didn't receive a majority. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, openly hated Andrew Jackson, and threw his support behind John Quincy Adams (the Speaker of the House right now is Paul Ryan). It isn't difficult to see, given the scenario, that John Quincy Adams was elected President by the House of Representatives, and Andrew Jackson was, in a word, livid - he fully expected to be elected President given that he won a plurality of both the electoral and popular vote. Here's the *real* controversy: before the House voted on the President, accusations were made (even printed in a newspaper) that Clay sold his support to Adams in exchange for an under-the-table promise to be named Secretary of State (the Secretary of State right now is John Kerry). Not long after Adams won, he indeed offered Clay the position of Secretary of State, and Clay accepted the job - thus, one of the biggest scandals, if not *the* biggest scandal, in American Presidential Election history (see the term "Corrupt Bargain.") I repeat: There are no safeguards in place to prevent this from happening again. The time to fix your furnace is not during a snowstorm - if this ever happens again, people will be furious, but they have a chance to fix the problem - assuming there is a problem - right now. The 12th Amendment The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.[Note 1] The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.[1]
  3. "Gunman Fatally Shoots Self After Killing Journalists on Air, Police Say" by Eliott C. McLaughlin on cnn.com Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting on wikipedia.com We've all had this discussion in some form or another, but I'm genuinely interested in hearing peoples' opinions about whether or not the 2nd Amendment provides absolute freedom of gun ownership, or whether that freedom is limited in some form or another due to the wording of the amendment (and not just a "yes or no," but some underlying rationale).
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