Balkinization  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another call for a constitutional convention

Sandy Levinson

Rudolph Guiliani is the latest person to call for a new constitutional convention--for the state of New York. "New York State government," he begins, "is not working. This has been true for some time. But the paralysis and confusion that has overtaken the capital demonstrates the need to confront this dysfunction directly and take decisive steps to solve it once and for all. That’s why I’m calling on Albany to convene a state constitutional convention." So, among other things, this means that leading political figures in both California and New York are willing to address the fact that the "dysfunction" revealed in their political systems is not simply the result of failures of vision, leadership, etc, but may indeed have something to do with the formal structures established and entrenched by the state constitutions. It should probably go without saying that I scarcely agree with all of Guiliani's recommendations, such as requiring supermajorities for tax increases, but that is really beside the point. Rather, he deserves credit for noting that it is time that New Yorkers take a sober look at their constitution and do something about it before the state is further wrecked and further entrenched in the group of states correctly deemed "ungovernable."

I was bemused, incidentally, when reading the galleys of Barry Friedman's forthcoming book, The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution, to come across the following quotation from a 1931 public lecture by then-prominent University of Chicago political scientist Charles Merriam: "There was probably never a period in history when social change was as rapid as at present and when the need for adjustment and adaptation was as great. The real difficulty lies in the unwillingness of many Americans to face in government what the meet in industry, the constant need for readjustment and reorganization." The more things change.....

As John Dinan notes in his valuable book The American State Constitutional Tradition (which is coming out in a paperback edition in August), states frequently not only amend their constitutions, but also hold constitutional conventions that may lead to fairly significant transformations. This is one area where we may indeed have something to learn from states!

So I suppose the central question is whether President Obama and Rahm Emanuel, plus the specter of Ted Kennedy's looming departure, will lead to the ability of Congress to confront the true crisis of medical care and funding. If they succeed, then everyone will issue self-serving pronouncements about the glories of the system and of "effective leadership." If Congress gets terminally mired because of the various veto points encouraged by both our formal and informal constitutions, then perhaps someone at the national level would emulate the Californians and now Guiliani who are leading the way at the state level. 'Twill be interesting to observe.



Comments:

Sandy:

So I suppose the central question is whether President Obama and Rahm Emanuel, plus the specter of Ted Kennedy's looming departure, will lead to the ability of Congress to confront the true crisis of medical care and funding. If they succeed, then everyone will issue self-serving pronouncements about the glories of the system and of "effective leadership." If Congress gets terminally mired because of the various veto points encouraged by both our formal and informal constitutions, then perhaps someone at the national level would emulate the Californians and now Guiliani who are leading the way at the state level. 'Twill be interesting to observe.

Congress' failure to enact policies which you support is not necessarily proof that the Constitution is dysfunctional. In fact, the system of checks and balances was designed to stop the enactment of bad legislation. Socialization of health care services at the cost of well over a Trillion dollars would appear to fall into that category. Hopefully, the Constitution works as designed this time around.
 

Yes, out of power political blowhards telling us that we need to change the current mess must be praised! We need "effective leadership" like Rudy could have offered. He is a beacon among the millions, leading the way!

Likewise, when Eliot Spitzer schools us from his perch at Slate or elsewhere, we should respect him ... as with Rudy, his actions have helped give him more time to reflect on how our government should work.

A lesson, btw, obtained from the more easily changed state constitutions is the value of federalism, including the ability of individual parts to be more flexible to change than the one large part.

OTOH, many states are not exactly ever changing in that regard either.
 

Joe:

There are a number of good health care reform ideas out there to return medical purchase decisions to the consumer that I could support. However, a "public option" from the folks who brought you Medicaid with the end result meant to resemble Canadian single payer health care rationing is hardly what I would consider reform.

The people of America and Canada already voted with their feet on the relative merits of their country's health care systems. Canadians with the money to escape, come the the US for treatment. If a US citizen tried the same thing, he or she could very well die on a waiting list.
 

Baghdad, if you don't like the "public option", you can stay with private insurance and wait for them to cut off your coverage when you actually get sick.
 

Bartbuster said...

Baghdad, if you don't like the "public option", you can stay with private insurance...

The purpose of the "public option" is to put private insurance out of business by government subsidizing the "public option" coverage and suppressing costs by fiat as do Medicare and Medicaid. When a private company does this, it is an anti trust violation.

To save costs, businesses will discontinue their medical coverage and send their employees over to the "public option." The employees will have no choice in the matter.

Once private insurance has been put out of business by the government, we will have no other option but the "public option" socialized medicine. Of course, the cost of socialized medicine of the population will soar into the Trillions. Even the Great Borrower cannot finance this through debt, so our taxes will soar and the US will join the rest of the socialized systems in rationing care.

Pardon this middle aged man for not wanting to die on a government waiting list in a couple decades.
 

The purpose of the "public option" is to put private insurance out of business



If the "public option" is as crappy as you seem to think it's going to be, that should not be a problem. No one will use it.

Pardon this middle aged man for not wanting to die on a government waiting list in a couple decades



I have no problem at all with watching you die when your insurance company cuts off your coverage. Stick with private insurance. Seriously. Pretty please.
 

I never should have added my paragraph about the medical care debate, which was meant only to be illustrative of the kind of deadlock that might, perhaps, provoke some national debate similar to the one that is now going on in California and, presumably, New York. But I really don't care what illustration anyone wants to use. Perhaps Congress will pass some wonderful piece of legislation that President Obama, for whatever reason, will choose to veto, and his veto will be upheld by 1/3+1 of the Senate.

Once again, a thread is being hi-jacked by people who have no apparent interest in addressing the question of whether New York might actually profit from a constitutional convention (ditto California).
 

Sandy:

Do you support constitutional change for the sake of change? For example, Guiliani is calling for a super majority requirement to raise taxes that you decried as a defect in California's constitution.

If this last election taught us anything, supporting change without knowing the particulars of that change can be hazardous to one's economic and even physical health.
 

Prof Levinson,

This may also be hijacking your thread to an extent, but at least it's related to state constitutional conventions, unlike the health care "debate".

In California, one frequently expressed concern is that restrictions on what subjects a convention can consider would not be enforceable. A convention called with a list of governance issues to consider could not be prevented from producing new language on gay marriage (for or against), abortion (for or against), and so on. The deliberative process of the convention would then be bent out of shape by every single-issue crusade under the sun.

Convention proponents argue that restrictions on the subject matter would be enforceable in court. Opponents might argue that the courts would treat such challenges as nonjusticiable political questions.

Realizing that there are 50 distinct answers (more if Puerto Rico, D.C., and some other places ever have constitutional conventions), do you have a general opinion on this question?

Thanks.
 

If this last election taught us anything, supporting change without knowing the particulars of that change can be hazardous to one's economic and even physical health.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:11 PM



What the fuck are you talking about?
 

Many thanks to Bob Richard for his thoughtful and relevant question. My general view is that conventions have an open table, that one must rely on a mixture of public-spirited seriousness and then, if that proves unavailing, the likelihood of the electorate saying no in any referendum procedure, to "runaway" conventions that simply couldn't resist the temptation to put their single-issue preferences into the text of a constitution. In both California and New York, the motivation for new conventions has to do with deep structural problems. One of the reasons, incidentally, that I support the selection of delegates by lottery, rather than election, is precisely to minimize the number of single-issue zealots. Any random sample would generate some people who simply couldn't stop talking about their own issue, but their numbers would, I'm confident, be small enough that they would ultimately be swamped by the majority who would recognize that those issues aren't really the first things that need to be addressed at a moment when, for example, California is reduced to paying its creditors with IOUs and New York is literally unable to function because of the insanely partisan behavior of New York Senators.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Bart addresses one of his replies to me; I did not mean my comment to address his first comment nor health care in general. Just to clarify.

SL makes health care a "central question" on the road to his desired convention, so should not be surprised if health care itself becomes a subject. The use of the 'f' word etc. is not necessary however.

Rudy leaves out a key matter: the lack of true democracy in our state legislature. Instead "three men in a room" (governor, head of assembly/senate) have way too much power. I'm not aware that this is mandated by the state constitution.

Likewise, his proposals are technical or ill advised or largely of the sort that do not seem to me ideally made into constitutional commands (at least on the federal level).

If this is a taste of the changes that a convention will bring, it is not that unclear why people are wary of it on the federal level.
 

On selecting delegates by lot, Prof. Levinson might be interested in this commentary by Steven Hill of the New American Foundation.
 

So Mr. "9/11. 9/11!, didntjahearme, I said 9/11!!!" Giuliani is making noises. So what? This is the same Giuliani that went (IIRC) around 1 for 20 in 1st Am. cases for the city, costing them mucho bucks. NO wonder he doesn't like constitutions as they exist.

And now he wants to change the NY constitution so that a supermajority is required to raise taxes ... precisely what has ended up causing California to go swirling around the sh*tter recently. More good thinking.

You know, there's good reasons that Hillary kicked his butt in the senatorial race. and why he ended up pretty much in last place in the presidential primary.

Now he wants to make up for it by trying to champion the standard RW "war horses". But that''s no help to anyone (rational, at least). Can't we just ignore Mr. "9/11"? Please??

Cheers,
 

From Hill's op-ed:

The Bay Area Council, a group of business leaders, has proposed randomly selecting 400 Californians to create a body of average citizens who could bring their common sense and pragmatism to the problems at hand. Those delegates would be paid to participate for eight months, starting with an intensive two-month education process in which they would hear from many experts about the problems and potential solutions for California.

Sandy, are you like Hill suggesting a random selection from the citizenry to redraft our Constitution? If not, from what pool do you suggest the delegates be chosen?

As for Hill's suggestion, I am trying to imagine the constitutional product that would be produced from a representative group of Californians - a quarter of whom do not speak English as a first language, a substantial number who are not even functionally literate and a heavy majority of whom would be hard pressed to describe a single provision of the current constitution, nevertheless draft an improved version whose provisions would work well together.

Who would decide which "experts" get to give this town hall meeting a crash course in constitutional law and theory? I am certain that a group educated by the Federalist Society would write a far different document than one educated by the folks who post here.
 

Bart:

There are a number of good health care reform ideas out there to return medical purchase decisions to the consumer that I could support....

You want "purchase decisions"? Don't join a HMO. And "public options" are just that: Options But a FYI: Medicare is not a HMO.

...However, a "public option" from the folks who brought you Medicaid with the end result meant to resemble Canadian single payer health care rationing is hardly what I would consider reform.

What makes you think that anyone is proposing the Canadian system (which, BTW, is more efficient than ours)?

Cheers,
 

Bart:

To save costs, businesses will discontinue their medical coverage and send their employees over to the "public option."

They can do this now Why don't they?

Not to mention, I'd think that a laissez faire guy like you would be happy to let people do whatever the F they want. Right?

Cheers,
 

Bart:

Of course, the cost of socialized medicine of the population will soar into the Trillions.

Socialized medicine, by definition, must cost more that capitalist medicine, where profit-making entities take their cut along the way. This is shown to be true in Medicare, that loathed and despised gummint program that everyone hates: Medicare always costs more that private insurance.

Yes, let's leave medical coverage in private hands ... after all, they've been so good about keeping costs down below inflation.

And heaven forfend that we might start another gummint program that might seem to show that gummints can actually do something good. Can't have that now ... or they'll want to take away our guns (for our own good, of course).

Cheers,
 

Prof. Levinson said: "one must rely on a mixture of public-spirited seriousness...."

... which is why I brought up Giuliani and the Republican base.... While they may not be able, given their current political woes, to do any serious damage, they can certainly throw a monkey wrench in the machinery given half a chance (see, e.g. California), so what's the point? Until we bury them and entomb them in 1000 tons of concrete like the Chernobyl reactor, so they can't rise from the grave and haunt us again, no point in any conventions.

Cheers,
 

Bart:

As for Hill's suggestion, I am trying to imagine the constitutional product that would be produced from a representative group of Californians - a quarter of whom do not speak English as a first language,...

... and this by definition makes them stoopid.

... a substantial number who are not even functionally literate ...

... but I hear tell that even accredited and licensed lawyers can't read for sh*te.

... and a heavy majority of whom would be hard pressed to describe a single provision of the current constitution, nevertheless draft an improved version whose provisions would work well together.

Strangely enough, this is one of the major problems with existing initiative procedures. Ballot measures are passed based on "popularity", rather than some dispassionate analysis of the costs and benefits (not to say that legislators are much better at this). Tax reductions are always popular. As are spending programs for the local pork. Is it any wonder that we get in the shape we're in?

"Free money! Free money over here!!!" always gets their attention. But that's not the way to overcome the difficulties.

Cheers,
 

"they can certainly throw a monkey wrench in the machinery given half a chance (see, e.g. California), so what's the point? Until we bury them and entomb them in 1000 tons of concrete like the Chernobyl reactor, so they can't rise from the grave and haunt us again, no point in any conventions.
"


That's hilarious. I mean, I kind of figured you'd only want a convention if it were run entirely by Democrats, with everybody else locked outside, but I never thought you'd say it.
 

Brett:

I mean, I kind of figured you'd only want a convention if it were run entirely by Democrats, with everybody else locked outside, but I never thought you'd say it....

What makes you think I'm a Democrat? I belong to no organised party. ;-)

But you have me wrong. I don't want "everyone else" locked out. Just the nutcases that could do serious damage. You know ... today's Republican party.

Cheers,
 

Might I suggest one more reason not to have a constitutional convention: The founders were (for their time) pretty liberal ... public-spirited idealists wanting to make their new creation work.

Today's "popular" sentiment is hardly of that nature. If the BoR were put up as an initiative (or repeal thereof), it might well be voted down. Certainly polls have shown these amendments, if put forth as questions in the poll, garner less that 50% support.

Why much with what we have? For all Prof. Levinson's carping, all in all it works about as good as one might expect of governent....

Cheers,
 

Arne Langsetmo said...

Socialized medicine, by definition, must cost more that capitalist medicine...

No, socialized medicine usually costs less than that offered by a free market by declining to provide new treatments and rationing the health care options that are left.

Last night's ABC infomercial allowing Obama hours to respond to planted questions by hand picked "town hall" participants to sell his public option government health care went briefly, but revealingly, off script:

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist and researcher at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said that elites often propose health care solutions that limit options for the general public, secure in the knowledge that if they or their loves ones get sick, they will be able to afford the best care available, even if it's not provided by insurance.

Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn't seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he's proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get.

The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if "it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.

That is all you need to know about Obama-care socialized health insurance.
 

Our resident LLB* must recall the days he minored in economics with this:

"No, socialized medicine usually costs less than that offered by a free market by declining to provide new treatments and rationing the health care options that are left."

Is there a "free market" currently in the US for medical care? When was there a genuine "free market" in medicine and what did it look like in quantitative and qualitative terms? "Free market" is a loosely used term that in practice is an oxymoron both in medicine and trade. And "socialized medicine" comes in so many varieties, it might be labelled "Heinz." And then there is the term "rationing" which has long existed as a practical matter for those unable to afford medical care.

So our resident LLB*, a self described middle aged man, hits all the right (sick!) wing talking points on the issue of medical care. What will he think when his Medicare time comes?
 

Shag:

The closest thing to a free market in health care are HSAs like the one I belong to where I pay for all care that is neither preventative nor catastrophic out of my HSA account. When it is your money being spent, it is amazing how that focuses whether treatment is really necessary.

I have no problem with a single payer system where the government collects and disburses premiums/taxes to pay for medical care. Where I have a problem is when government takes the next step and takes away my ability to decide which care to obtain.

In my preferred universe, the government collects premiums/taxes and provides you with a voucher to purchase private insurance for preventative and catastrophic care and deposits the rest in an HSA to spend on other types of care. You should be able to keep what you do not spend in the HSA. Forbes magazine offered a variation of this and their health costs plunged.

In the Dems' socialist universe, this is unfair because unhealthy people will not be able to keep any of their HSA money. Thus, the public option where the government treats everyone equally badly.
 

On my question re: "free market" in US for medical care, our resident LLB* provides this "horseshoes response:

"The closest thing to a free market in health care are HSAs like the one I belong to where I pay for all care that is neither preventative nor catastrophic out of my HSA account. When it is your money being spent, it is amazing how that focuses whether treatment is really necessary."

Just how close is an HSA to a "free market"? Surely there are forms of subsidation involved. While our resident LLB* may be disciplined to avoid or minimize nonpreventive and non-catastrophic medical care, others are not, even though the necessity for such care may not be attributable to their fault, such as being injured by a DUI person, or young children. Perhaps an HSA works well for a relatively healthy middle-aged professional couple with no children (although that couple could have a bad year). But an HSA might not be as good for others.

Close enough may win in horseshoes, but let's face it, there is no "free market" in medical care. So let's stop using the right (sick!) wing code phrase "free market" to describe what doesn't exist. Presumably under Obama's plan our resident LLB* may stick with his HSA, if that's his choice. But let's make sure many more persons are covered, especially children.
 

Arne wrote:
Just the nutcases that could do serious damage. You know ... today's Republican party.



The degree of lunacy is surprising.
 

Oh, yeah.
 

Shag from Brookline said...

Perhaps an HSA works well for a relatively healthy middle-aged professional couple with no children (although that couple could have a bad year). But an HSA might not be as good for others.

Why can't all competent adults make decisions concerning their own health care the way they do about other parts of their lives? Why should that freedom be restricted to "relatively healthy middle-aged professional couples?"
 

[Bart]: "When it is your money being spent, it is amazing how that focuses whether treatment is really necessary.

Yes, indeed. How amazing. Yet, IIRC, just a few short posts ago, this very same person (unless there's a namejacker around) was lauding a question to Obama concerning whether the public health insurance plans should provide "the best care available", no matter what the cost (or alternatively whether Obama should agree to limit himself and his family to only that treatment available under a public health plan). But this is true just as much for private health insurance plans, because even there, it's their money being spent. And while the patients might want "the best care available", the insurers (all of them, public or private) want to control costs, which means at the very least some limitations on type and amount of care provided.

If you want to allow people five opinions because that way they'll really be sure to get the best advice (or at least five different opinions), fine, so be it, but that's going to cost more (and pay more doctors' salaries). It's silly you want only the best, but expect not to pay more for that indulgence. So the Republican mantra about "rationing! they're gonna ration health care, I tellya" is as dishonest (or stoopid) as the day is long.

Cheers,
 

Let's examine our resident LLB*'s questions:

"Why can't all competent adults make decisions concerning their own health care the way they do about other parts of their lives? [Not all adults may be competent and even those who are may not make competent decisions about other parts of their lives. Witness the financial and banking crises under Bush/Cheney.] Why should that freedom be restricted to 'relatively healthy middle-aged professional couples?'" [So an HSA may be appropriate for relatively unhealthy middle-aged professional couples with pre-existing medical histories?]

And what about incompetent adults making health care decisions for their young children who may be incompetent solely because of their youth? Some form of a safety net is required. Some adults for economic reasons may lack the choice available to the healthy middle-aged childless professional couple.
 

Arne:

The question posed to Obama asked whether he would pledge to subject his family to the health care rationing that will be part of his "public option" and he sensibly refused, which naturally begs the question how he can justify subjecting the rest of us to his public option after he kills off the private insurance industry.

Under my preferred single payer HSA plan, the government would provide a voucher for insurance covering preventative and catastrophic coverage and put the rest of the money into an HSA to spend on other care as I see fit. I could spend the voucher on the insurance that I thought best fit my situation and could buy supplemental insurance if I wanted more coverage. The government would not be determining my coverage as will be the case in Obama's "public option" and is the case with Medicaid and Medicare.

One of the bitches about employer provided insurance is that employees are stuck with whatever their employer purchases and can only change insurance if they change employers. I do not see the benefit of replacing that bad situation of limited choice with the even worse situation of a government insurance that kills off all choice. I want to increase choice and responsibility, not reduce it.
 

Shag from Brookline said...

Witness the financial and banking crises under Bush/Cheney.

Sorry Sandy, but I am briefly going off topic.

I am writing a book about Mr. Obama's rather successful efforts to socialize the banks, the auto industry and perhaps health care (I am still waiting to see what emerges there).

I just finished the chapter on the irony of the failure of the government to socialize home ownership led to the mortgage meltdown and recession that opened the door for the election of our first socialist President.

Your crack repeating the common wisdom on the left that a lack of bank regulation caused the mortgage mess gave me a chuckle given that it was in fact Fed and HUD regulations ordering mortgage lenders, Freddie and Fannie to adopt "flexible underwriting standards" that led to mass mortgage defaults.

Here are some of the low lights of this regulatory disaster:

> In 1993, the Boston Fed published a manual for mortgage lenders providing point by point instructions on how they were to gut their underwriting standards to meet Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) targets and kindly reminded the banks that failure to follow these suggestions could lead to civil suits with punitive damages.

> In 1993, Congress enacted legislation providing HUD with the power to create regulations compelling Fannie and Feddie to meet equal housing goals.

> A couple years later, HUD first suggested and then ordered Fannie and Freddie to purchase enough CRA junk mortgages to make them 50% of their portfolios.

> To ensure that Fannie did not resist the Hud regs, Clintonistas Frankling Raines and Jamie Gorelick were put in charge of Fannie. (Why does Gorelick's name pop up during every disaster of this era?) Both made a killing buying up these junk mortgages before fleeing under an accounting scandal.

> In 2003, the Boston Fed governor who issued the manual gutting lending standards took over Freddie, where he ignored repeated warnings by his risk manager that the CRA junk mortgages were compromising the company and the country and went on to pocket over $20 million buying up this trash before he was fired during the 2008 nationalization of Freddie and Fannie.

> Fannie and Freddie's model bank that they held out as an example for others to follow was none other than Countrywide.

Socialism American style. I can hardly wait to see how it works with GM and Chrysler.
 

At best, cutting out the private middleman in health care will just delay the need for health care regulation for a couple of years.
As the costs of health care continues to increase much more quickly then national income we have to come to a Malthusian outcome.
Individual decisions which result in unlimited access to public funding will have to stop. By these I mean allowing a woman to decide to keep a fetus that will cost millions of dollars for its lifetime care, or a families decision to insist on "heroic care" for an additional week or two to live.
Even sooner will be a repeal of the law regarding special education.
You just cannot expect to have members of a community to spend a high multiple of its per pupil spending on just one student.
 

Our resident LLB*'s fiction looks like it will be coming out in book form, sure to top the Best Smellers List:

"I am writing a book about Mr. Obama's rather successful efforts to socialize the banks, the auto industry and perhaps health care (I am still waiting to see what emerges there)."

His Backpack of Lies just has to be sorted out and organized. What's amazing is that the period 1/20/09 to date, some 5 months and a couple of days, provides him with so much more material than 1/20/01 to 1/20/09, some 96 months. Perhaps convenient amnesia is the diagnosis or our resident LLB* was on Gilligan's Island for those 96 months.
 

Michael Kinsley's OpEd in the WaPo today (6/26/09) titled "Health Care Faces the 'R' Word" focuses upon "Rationing." Here's a key paragraph:

"It may seem absurd to worry about whether wealthy or well-insured people get every last test and exotic or speculative treatment when millions of Americans have no health insurance and millions more have gaping holes in their coverage. But the well-insured happen to include virtually all the people making the key decisions about health-care reform -- members of Congress and their staffs, the White House staff, Washington journalists, and so on. These people's fears that they would lose the right to 'choose my own doctor' (code for getting treatment with all the bells and whistles) helped kill Hillary Clinton's attempt to reform health care in the early 1990s. Fear of rationing could kill Obamacare for the same reason."

By the Bybee, speaking of the WaPo, Dan Froomkin's White House Watch yesterday tells us that his gig at WaPo on the Watch will end today. Perhaps he will tell us where he will relocate. Dan has not been reluctant to challenge and question Obama. That's what the Fourth Estate should be doing that it uttlerly failed to do from 1/20/01 to 1/20/09. Meantime, Krauthammer and the other right wing nails continue their screeds at the WaPo.
 

Shag:

What's amazing is that the period 1/20/09 to date, some 5 months and a couple of days, provides him with so much more material than 1/20/01 to 1/20/09, some 96 months.

Obama's impressive dispatch in effectively or actually nationalizing the banks and most of the US auto industry, much of it in relative secret under the major media radar screen, is one of the attributes of his socialism that convinced me this would be a great book project.

Do not fret. I will dedicate a chapter or two on how Bush set the table for Mr. Obama. However, it is the reality of Mr. Obama's change that is the fascinating story.
 

" . . . that convinced me this would be a great book project."

With DUI drying up in our resident LLB*'s practice, this may keep him busy. Maybe his comments at this, his own and other blogs will be cut and pasted, except for those comments that have been exposed as coming from his Backpack of Lies - which might make this a short book.

Of course, if this is indeed such "a great book project," just imagine the competition forthcoming, especially to get there first. Why, some might say if our resident LLB* can do it, so can I - "Yes I Can" - oops, might this be the theme?

Of course we don't have a publication date as yet, or for that matter a publisher. Surely our resident LLB*'s budget would not cover a factchecker (actually, based upon experience at this Blog, several factcheckers would be required). Perhaps we can anticipate self-publication by our resident LLB* who of course is well versed in self-promotion.

Obama's change may extend into a second term, which may delay our resident LLB*'s self-publication date. In the meantime, our resident LLB* may be in need of change - spare change - to keep going.

Our resident LLB* sluffs off the period 1/20/01 - 1/20/09 for a book by him even though he has scads of his Internet comments to cut and paste. Perhaps his comments don't stand up, based upon exposures too numerous to mention. But I suspect that our resident LLB*'s library on Obama will, like George W. Bush's Presidential Library, end up with more bookends than books.

Maybe our resident LLB* will honor us with a posting of a chapter at SSRN and invite comments.
 

We now (try to) return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Bart worries about a representative group of Californians - a quarter of whom do not speak English as a first language, a substantial number who are not even functionally literate and a heavy majority of whom would be hard pressed to describe a single provision of the current constitution ...

Here's what this jury pool selection process came up with in Ontario: "Meet the Members". Maybe I just have a soft spot in my heart for democracy, but I found reading these thumbnail biographies genuinely inspirational.

Bart again: Who would decide which "experts" get to give this town hall meeting a crash course in constitutional law and theory?

This is indeed a critical question and potentially the Achilles heel of the process. One can argue that the Citizens Assemblies in British Columbia and Ontario were steered in a specific direction by their staff and consultants. I don't yet know how to counter that argument except to say that the recommendations made by both bodies are vastly superior to the status quo in both provinces.

By the way, Bart, congratulations. While the effort was short lived, you actually tried to steer the thread back on course.
 

Today in the NY Daily News, a guest op-ed by someone whose opinion I respect more than Rudy [someone who authored 'The New York State Legislative Process: A Blueprint for Reform,' published by the Brennan Center for Justice] provided a means to deal with the lack of a lieutenant governor, the current acting one the disputed head of the NY Senate.

Or, we can hope for a state constitutional convention, maybe?
 

Sandy has decided to provide a follow-up sans comments.

I think comments as a whole are useful, but when the entry is clearly of a strongly personal nature (including strong digs at NY and "sheep"), reflecting hobbyhorses much covered before, this path might be for the best.

I fear the message would be that it should be a general practice, as shown by Prof. Balkin's path. Such is their right. But, it's not the same thing.
 

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