March 24, 2009

McIlheran's guide to the U.S. Constitution

One more chuckle from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's right-wing guy's latest barrel of laughs:
When public sentiment turned [against the AIG bonuses], Washington crafted law to snatch the money, a plain trashing of the Constitution.
And how exactly is some unspecified and as-yet unsigned "law" a "plain trashing of the Constitution"? McIlheran relies on that renowned constitutional authority, Charles Krauthammer:
Even worse are the clever schemes now being cooked up in Congress to retrieve the money by means of some retroactive confiscatory tax. The common law is pretty clear about the impermissibility of ex post facto legislation and bills of attainder. They also happen to be specifically prohibited by the Constitution.
Your guide to good reading on the Web.

But I always thought the Ex Post-Facto Clause contemplated adjustments in the federal criminal — not tax — law where attempts are made to apply those adjustments retroactively.
In Collins v. Youngblood [citation omitted], we reaffirmed that the Ex Post-Facto Clause incorporated "a term of art with an established meaning at the time of the framing of the Constitution." In accordance with this original understanding, we have held that the Clause is aimed at laws that "retroactively alter the definition of crimes or increase the punishment for criminal acts."
Thanks for clearing that up, Associate Justices Thomas, Scalia, Chief Justice Rehnquist, et al (Krauthammer, C., dissenting).

(Regular Faux News contributor Charles Krauthammer, incidentally, coined the term "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and as such continues amusingly in his role as one of its leading diagnostees.)

As for bills of attainder, Congress could with facility get around that prohibition by crafting legislation applicable beyond only "named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group."*

Well played, Patrick McIlheran, well played.

* If the courts don't look too closely at the legislative history.

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