By Alan Pugh
Ignorance runs rampant in our land. Why else can those who rule it be able to support and pass blatantly unconstitutional laws and yet hear no hue and cry from the public for their swift removal from office for violating the oaths they take when sworn in to "Protect and defend the constitution" of the united States?
We occasionally get real news from the media that should make us think aout just what is, in fact, going on here. Even _The NY Times_ has a hard time not reporting on supreme Court decisions the same way they suppress other news they find to be inconcienient to report. While in the past it has been difficult to both live a normal life and keep up with what is being done to us by "our" government, it has, in recent years become =much= easier to discover what is going on behind the curtains than it once was.
Five years ago, it would have been an expensive and monumental task to discover what was contained in bills that are currently before the congress. Today, the average citizen can connect to "Thomas", a web server at the Library of Congress and search for bills that cover subjects that concern him. Of course, the fat cats who fund campaigns and maintain paid lobbyists in washington still have more access than we to to current legislation because the "chairman's marks", as the last minute changes to bills before they are passed are known, are made available to them, and are not currently posted on the internet. However, there are several groups fighting to have them posted as well, though I wouldn't hold my breath on that as the protected class seems to want the status quo maintained.
However, what is available can be extremely useful if you want to cut through the lies and obfuscation of the media, providing you can read and understand what they say. Some bills are extremely confusing, because they are nothing but changes in the wording of current law. You will see a section that says something similar to the following which was taken verbatim from Senate bill 262 ...
(b) UNLAWFUL ACTS- Subsections (d)(9), (g)(9), and (s)(3)(B)(i) of section 922 of title 18, United States Code, are each amended by inserting `, on or after September 30, 1996,' before `of a misdemeanor'.
Now, it is important to consider that in the law, Words and Punctuation Mean Things. So, just knowing what the bill says didn't appear to help you much did it? Luckily, the U.S. Code is available on the net as well at the House of representatives. Now, you can search for what change was actually made by inserting ", on or after September 30, 1996," into the text of the law. You could then tell exactly what the change in the law would man without the distorted filter of media reports (if they report on it at all). I leave this search as an exersize for the reader.
Just a few years ago, you had to either purchase a printed copy of the U.S. code (not cheap!), had to avail yourself of the services of an attorney, (again, not cheap!) or trust the media to report it if it was important( cheap, but illogical). Now, you have, at your disposal, the entire Code, for the cost of whatever internet provider you are using. You can also use the code to settle arguments. I was recently involved with a discussion of what exactly constitutes a "militia". I claimed it included all of the people, and he claimed it was just the national guard. Knowing that the term has been defined in the Code, I simply broght it up on my computer and let the law speak for me. End of discussion. (I was correct of course.)
So far, I've discussed how to find proposed laws and waht the law currently is. This is nowhere near the limits of the information available to you. If you want to find out what has been said on the floor of the House or Senate, go to Thomas, and follow the links to the congressional record. Be advised, however, that your representatives have the ability to 'revise and extend' their remarks, so just because it is in the Record does not mean it was actually said. You see, politicians lie so easily that you can't even take what they claim to be their record of proceedings to be accurate. You would be well advised to take what is in the record as what the congresscritter or senator want in the official record, and nothing more. Also, the record is =huge=. Finding what you are looking for is possible, but not always easy with searches. The ease with which one may search through electronic documents is a very powerful feature. If you had a subscription to the printed copy of the Congressional Record, which is by no means, cheap, you would be hard pressed to find anything useful in it because you would have no time whatsoever to do anything but read the whole thing all the time 24 hours a day.
In addition to the Record, you can also access the Federal Register. The Register is where all proposed and final regulations are published by the various agencies of the federal government. To get an idea of how useful this information is, consider this: the congress may pass a bill that has a line that says something like "The FCC will offer frequencies X and Y to the public". The FCC may turn it's implementation of this single sentance into a volume bigger than your average dictionary when it places it's interpretation of it into the Register. It is also the place where proposed regulations are published prior to a time of public comment, so if you are interested, you can send your comments to the agency on their proposals. be especially watchful of entries here by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You'd be amazed at what they do on a regular basis to your propery rights.
At http://law.house.gov/cfr.htm you will find The Code of Federal Regulations which contains the text of public regulations issued by the agencies of the Federal government. Proposed regulations and regulations issued so recently that they are not yet in the Code of Federal Regulations database, may be found in the Federal Register.
Want to find out what the current U.S. Tax Code is? Go to http://www.fourmilab.c/ustax/ustax.html. You can also find his information at the site referenced above for the U.S. Code. The tax code is Title 26 of the U.S. Code (26 USC).
Finally, I'd like to return to the supreme Court. Where else can 7 men and 2 women sit that has more impact on our daily lives? Recent (since 1990) and selected historical decisions by the Court can be found at Cornell University. A more extensive, though less user-friendly selection of decisions can be found at Fedworld. Fedworld has on file over 7000 Supreme Court opinions dating from 1937 through 1975, from volumes 300 through 422 of U.S. Reports.
When you hear of a ruling handed down by the court on TV or the radio, I would advise you go to Cornell and find out what the justices actually said in the ruling. They are a little difficult to read at first, but over time, you will find the language they speak isn't all that different from english. I really like to look at the dissents, as they can be facinating reading. I strongly encourage you to read them too.
You will probably find all of the above a bit daunting as there is a lot going on in government every day that affects you regardless of wether you know about it or not. It is a principle of jurisprudence in this country that "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Today you have the tools at your disposal to reduce your ignorance. If you have friends that are interested in keeping up with current events, you might each specialise in a particular area and share information you find interesting or important. All it will cost you is a bit of your time to be more informed. If you know someone who does not yet have access to the internet, I would appreciate you sharing this article with them. Perhaps it will spur them on to 'get online' and help to expand the ranks of the informed. Also, get in touch with our local and state governments and make sure they have as big a presence on the net as possible. Remember, it is supposed to be =your= government. More accurately, as a citizen, YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT. Make the bureaucrats stand up in the sunshine and take responsibility for what they do in your name.
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The root password to the constitution is "drugs".