29 April 2010

S. 3217 - Financial Regulations

It's being billed as banking and financial reform, but like so much else, we seem to be going about it backwards. There's all this talk about "too big to fail" and how do we keep the financial situation of the last couple of years from recurring. Perhaps the answer is not how do we prop them up so that they don't collapse but to bust them up. If they're that closely related that when one falls they all fall, isn't that a pretty good sign that there's collusion going on. And wouldn't that collusion indicate that these "megabanks" are running afoul of the country's antitrust laws?

As to the apparent delaying tactics being used to not open debate on the bill, grow up. I've been following the debate, unedited by the media, on C-SPAN and have yet to hear anything that could not properly be handled by an amendment. You're grown ups, stop throwing a temper tantrum and get on with it. Your toddleresque antics are not moving us forward.

27 April 2010

Immigration - Is there an answer?

Immigration has been hotbed issue my entire life, but it seems to be taking on a renewed urgency. Is this a result of 9/11? Have we become so fearful of everyone that the pendulum is trying to swing back towards isolationism? And what is the answer?

I've heard some ideas recently on this issue that bring fear to my heart. One is requiring the police to question anyone who looks like they don't belong and if they cannot present the appropriate documentation then they're arrested. We are melting pot; how do you tell if somebody doesn't belong? How is this different from racial profiling? And as added bonus, if the police don't, they can be sued.

Another is sending our military troops to patrol our boarders.

Is this freedom?
Are we to become prisoners in our own country?
Is this what is going to bring down this great experiment in democracy?
Is there an answer?

26 April 2010

Meet the Signers - Convention Secretary, William Jackson

William Jackson was born March 9, 1759 in Cumberland, England. He immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina upon the death of his parents and was raised by Owen Roberts.

Jackson’s military service began early when he was appointed as a cadet to the 1st South Carolina Regiment in June 1775. A quick study he was commissioned as an officer in May 1776. At the age of 20 he was appointed aid to Major General Benjamin Lincoln and was promoted to captain on October 9, 1779. Because of his staff assignment Jackson’s promotion allowed him to hold rank as a major. Jackson was captured at the siege of Charleston on May 12, 1780. He was paroled to Philadelphia and was exchanged on November 9, 1780. After completing his parole, Jackson left the field of battle and became secretary to Washington aid, Lt. Col. John Laurens. An appointment from Congress as special Minister to the Court of France to negotiate the shipment of war supplies from Europe followed. Upon his return from Europe, Jackson became the Assistant Secretary of War, a position he resigned upon the end of hostilities.

He would be in and out public service for the rest of his career. After leaving the military, Jackson settled in Philadelphia and studied law under William Lewis but wouldn’t be admitted to the bar until June 9, 1788. In May 1787, he applied for and was granted the position of Secretary of the Constitutional Convention beating out one of Benjamin Franklin’s grandsons. After a return to business and law and another stint in Europe, Jackson became secretary to the first President of the United States. On November 11, 1795 he married Elizabeth Willing, daughter of one of Philadelphia’s most successful merchants. He served two presidents as the surveyor of customs for the port of Philadelphia before retiring from public service and becoming the editor of The Political and Commercial Register.

He died December 17, 1828 in Philadelphia and is interred at the Christ Church Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth, and four of their six children, Ann Willing, Caroline, William, and Mary Rigal. Elizabeth died August 5, 1858 and was buried next to him at the Christ Church Cemetery.

19 April 2010

Meet the Signers - Convention President, George Washington

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 to Augustus “Gus” Washington and his second wife Mary Ball in Virginia. His father died when Washington was just eleven; his mother never remarried. His half-brother Lawrence, who had married into one of the colonies most prominent families, became a paternal influence on Washington. Washington received many opportunities at a young age due to his brother’s in-laws, among them becoming a surveyor of the Virginia frontier and later his post in the adjutancy corps.

Washington was discouraged from joining the regular British military on the grounds that he didn’t have the connections to make a successful career out of it. With his surveying background and knowledge of the Virginia frontier, the Virginia militia was fortunate to acquire his services. He served the Virginia militia well and when revolution came would be perfectly poised to become commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. During his surveying and militia days Washington was also amassing land, but would not have much time to devote to agriculture until much later.

Thwarted early in love, he had the unfortunate luck to fall passionately in love with his best friend’s wife, Washington would finally meet his match in Martha Dandridge Custis. Martha was a widow with two young children who had married into another of Virginia’s most prominent families. With his marriage at the age of 27 came a great deal of responsibility, Washington became guardian to his bride’s two children and their extensive inheritances in addition to Martha’s and his own holdings. While he and Martha had no children of their own, Mount Vernon was always full of family including scads of nieces and nephews.

Surveyor, Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, President of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, President of the United States, and Virginia planter, George Washington had a very varied career, but after two terms as President, he fulfilled his promise to Martha to leave public life and they returned to Mount Vernon to live out their days. Washington died December 14, 1799. Martha followed him on May 22, 1802. They are interred on the hillside at their beloved Mount Vernon.

12 April 2010

Meet the Signers - James Madison of Virginia

--> I thought it would be fitting to start our journey with the man generally known as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, Jr. Madison was the son of Virginia planter, James Madison, Sr. and Nelly Conway. Born in March 1751, I found some discrepancy as to the actual date, at his grandparents in Port Conway, King George County, Virginia. Madison was raised at Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia. When it came time for the young James to go to university, his father felt that he would be better served by the College of New Jersey at Princeton than by Virginia’s College of William and Mary.

A lawyer by training, politics became his career. By the age of 25 Madison was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. A mere 5 years after graduating Princeton he wrote Virginia’s new constitution. He was a young man on his way up.

Madison was in his mid-thirties when he helped put together the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A young man, unmarried, still living off an allowance from his father, who in just a few years managed to garner the respect of both Thomas Jefferson and General George Washington as well as be a principal player in creating a new nation. While Madison was neither a formidable fellow, at 5’2” he was short even by the standards of his day, nor an engaging public figure; Madison still proved to be a powerful force. His strength lay in his ability to plan, see both sides of the issue, and quietly persuade others that his ideas would work. A master of what would come to be known as the “back room deal,” Madison arrived in Philadelphia for the start of the Convention several weeks early. He used the time to scout out the hall and to think strategically about the issues and potential compromises. He even went to so far as to develop a seating plan for the meetings. As other delegates began arriving, he took the time to get to know those he didn’t already know, sound everybody out about where they stood on certain issues, and plant the seeds that would spring forth during the Convention debates.

--> Madison would continue in politics and served in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1794 Madison would meet his match in a young widow, Dolley Payne Todd. They would marry later that same year. It’s fitting that such a remarkable man should marry such as unique woman. As Madison continued to rise in national politics; Dolley kept pace. In 1801 Madison became Secretary of State to President Thomas Jefferson. As Jefferson had already lost his beloved wife and his daughters had not yet been introduced into society; Dolley stepped in to both introduce Jefferson’s daughters to Washington society and serve as the White House hostess. In 1808 Madison was elected President. During Madison’s two terms as President, Dolley would begin defining the role of First Lady. After his presidency, Madison and Dolley returned to Montpelier and on June 28, 1836 President Madison died at the age of 85. Dolley returned to Washington after Madison’s death, where she lived in the (now) yellow house on the northeast corner of Lafayette Square until her death on July 12, 1849. They are both interred at Montpelier in Virginia.

05 April 2010

Meet the Signers - Springtime in Philly

In the spring of 1787, with the Articles of Confederation crumbling, 55 gentlemen, from 12 of the 13 states gathered in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These gentlemen had the blessing of the current Continental Congress to review the Articles of Confederation and recommend changes that could be made to the Articles that would enable the states to remain united. Four months later they emerged with the Constitution of the United States and a new political experiment was underway.

Over the course of the next several months, I'll introduce you to the 40 men who signed our Constitution. Yes, 40. The Secretary of the Convention signed the Constitution of the United States as a witness to the signatures of the 39 delegates who actually signed the Constitution they helped create. He was hired by the Convention to keep a record of the proceedings. His name was William Jackson and you'll meet him in "Meet the Signers - Convention Secretary," which I expect to be the fourth installment of this series.

There are the names you will expect to find....Washington, Franklin, Madison, and Hamilton. While others are conspiculously absent... Jefferson and Adams, both of whom were in Europe negotiating for support for their cause. And then there will be those, like William Jackson, that most of us have never heard of before. People always talk about the Convention, the compromises, the documents themselves; let’s take a different approach. Let’s meet the signers.