Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thoughts on Congressional Term Limits

A continuation from my article five post yesterday, should there be term limits for representatives and senators?  While it sounds like a good idea on its surface, I also consider why the founding fathers did not write term limits into the Constitution of the United States.

The men who wrote our constitution were familiar with term limits, many had studied the ancient democracies of the world of which many included some sort of office rotation, either by law, or by tradition.  Some of our colonial assemblies also employed term limits.  Thomas Jefferson proposed term limits, "to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress".  And George Mason said (or wrote), "nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation".  It wasn't just the Virginians who embraced term limits, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania also embrace term limits and executive rotation.  Not all of our founders are so well documented, but they had just overthrown a perpetual monarch and desired to set up a form of limited government, it would not be unreasonable to think that many would consider term limits a good idea. The Articles of Confederation included term limits for the president of the congress, "no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years"

So, why were term limits left out?  None of our founders left a note explaining this, so we can only speculate. One reason was tradition, elected colonial assemblymen generally didn't serve many consecutive terms, they had farms and families to tend to, it just wasn't practical to be a perpetual politician.  Paragraph one, Section two, Article one, of the Constitution of the United States is often cited as the reason why term limits were not needed.  It seems logical that the two year turn over of the house through direct elections was, at least at the time, an adequate solution to ensure periodic rotation.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
I tend to agree with what I think of as the decision of delegates and states who signed then ratified the Constitution of the United States.  Every two years, the vast majority of the United States Congress can be replaced.  The ballot box is the most democratic method of term limits.  So why doesn't it happen.  The short answer is, it does, at least every once in a while.  The mid-term elections in 2010 saw a large portion of the congress replaced, as it did a few years before in 2006.  Polls show that 75% of Americans support term limits in general, but when it comes to those who represent them, they still generally prefer the incumbents.  I suppose it is easy to support term limits for the other guy.

So, should there be congressional term limits?  I'm not really sure, I suppose it would depend on what the limits are, the people are entitled to effective representation, which could be curtailed with limits or durations that are too short, but very lengthy limits could have their own pitfalls.  Perhaps I will consider the ideal term limits in the future.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Could Congress be Term Limited?

This is not an argument for or against term limits, simply an explanation of how it could be done.

Many people often complain that representatives and senators should be term limited, only being allowed to serve a set number of terms sort of like the president.  The only way for congress to be term limited is through one or more constitutional amendments.  The method that all other amendments were proposed requires two thirds of the congress to deem it necessary, and what are the chances that they'll deem necessary limits on their terms?

Article V, the Constitution of the United States
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Remember, the Constitution of the United States was written to give the states the control, and this little known passage in article five, is in my opinion, the only way that an amendment setting term limits on congress could be proposed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

E-Mail File Filtering, was that a GZIP file?

One of my customers had a problem, an e-mail was being blocked by their Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server file filter but they couldn't quite figure out why.  The e-mail's attachment did not seem to match any of the restricted file types, yet it was still being blocked.  To make matters worse, their file filter list included several file headers that would be blocked but the log only noted the filter list that blocked the file, not which filter list entry was triggering it.

I first had to break down the filter list into many filter lists with the following command.

foreach ($a in (Get-FseFilterList -File -List "BlockFiles").FileType){New-FSEFilterList -File -List $xyz -Item "*" -Filetype $a}

If you are familiar with Forefront Protection for Exchange, you know that its powershell commands aren't that great, and the above command created a bit of a mess as all of the filter lists were disabled and none of the action and notification settings were default, which wasn't what I wanted so I had to click away in the graphical user interface a bit then disable the larger filter list.

Once all the filter lists were ready I resent the e-mail, and sure enough, it was blocked, but this time I knew that the attachment had GZIP file headers, because that is the filter list that the log  flagged as quarantining the message.  There was just one problem, there was nothing resembling a GZIP file attached to the message.  The file that was causing the trouble was an image file with a .EMZ extension.

After a quick bing, I learned that a .EMZ file was a Microsoft Office image format known as Windows Compressed Enhanced Metafile which uses GZIP for compression.  It is really a GZIP file, in fact, you can open it with a compression tool to extract the .EMF file, Enhanced Metafile, inside.

Mystery solved.  Since the customer wants to allow .EMZ files, the filter list entry for the GZIP header was removed from the main filter list, but since they still wanted to block GZIP files, a new filter list was created to block GZIP files under their common file names.