Saturday, November 29, 2014

Proposed New Constitution, Article 9, Referendums and Recalls

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/


Article 9- Referendums and Recalls
1.Members of the public may propose referendums to pass new laws, recalls to remove for illegal or corrupt actions the President, Vice President, member of Congress, Supreme Court Justice, or any appointed official, or bring an end to wars or operations involving US troops.

    A referendum, done right, can be direct democracy at its finest. The public directly proposes and passes laws, completely bypassing both the Congress and the President. Referendums at their best show a public more far sighted than elected officials that may depend on elites for their office and fear angering them.

    There have been over 500 national referendums in recent history in 56 nations. The region with the most national referendums by far is also the most democratic, Europe. Two nations account for over 300 of national referendums worldwide, Australia and Switzerland. Outside of those two nations, the most common reason for a referendum was to approve a new constitution or other change of government, especially after an overthrow, independence, or to prevent or end a period of turbulence. In a few cases, nations do have purely nonbinding referendums that simply force a legislature or president to consider an issue.

    There are not any federal referendums in the US. But 24 states allow referendums within them. Most of these states are in the west, the best known being those in California. Puerto Rico has also held four referendums on their status, and they are perfect examples of doing them wrong. Each time, a pro status quo government worded the referendums to be confusing, hoping to defuse sentiment for statehood. Interestingly, sentiment for the status quo still keeps dropping, and for both statehood and independence it keeps rising, along with voter turnout on the issue.

    California also provides some very good lessons in these problems. The most destructive of their referendums was Proposition 13, which not only rolled back taxes, it required a supermajority to raise taxes. It took several decades to undo the damage done by Prop 13. Clearly, using a referendum for routine matters such as tax rates is a misuse, as is something as fitful and undemocratic as requiring a supermajority for a minor matter.

    California also faced one of the more despicable examples of populism, where Lyndon Larouche's organization of conspiracy theorists and bigots managed to stealthily force a proposition which would have quarantined AIDS patients. It's worth pointing out the measure was defeated by almost 3 to 1, and many of the signatures were gathered by a consultant later convicted of fraud.

    The final example of abuse of referendums or plebescites is in fascist, communist, and other dictatorships. Dictators use them to claim to represent the will of the people. But very few people are fooled by such claims. Everyone can see that a dictatorship's  elite proposal from above, with no debate or dissent allowed, is the opposite of actual direct democracy.

    Recalls certainly have a better history. Most recalls in recent US history have been successful, mostly at the local level, mayors or town councils. Most efforts to recall governors have failed. Meacham of Arizona was recalled for an ugly history of racism, and Blagojevich of Illinois for corruption. The worst example of a successful recall was Gray Davis of California, orchestrated by officials in Enron, who were later convicted on other criminal counts. Enron officials ordered rolling blackouts across California, leading to Davis being blamed for a nonexistent power crisis. The recall overturned an election less than a year before. The simplest way to avoid such a debacle on a national level is to allow recalls only for lawbreaking or other corruption.

    A recall can and should be used to remove corrupt officials. A recall could have removed Nixon far sooner and kept Reagan from avoiding responsibility for the Iran Contra Scandal. Recalls could have been used against partisan Republican leaders  misusing the impeachment process against Clinton for the ludicrous matter of lying about oral sex. Recalls could have been used to remove the five partisan Supreme Court judges who halted a valid recount of the 2000 election. Had recalls been around in the 1850s, they could have been used to remove the judges in the Dred Scott decision, possibly making the Civil War less likely.

    Referendums, had they been around at the federal level, could have ended the Vietnam War far sooner. The public opposed it by 1968, yet Nixon kept it going five years longer. A similar referendum could have ended the Iraq War as early as 2006, when most of the public first opposed it. There would have been tens of thousands of American soldiers still alive, many more not amputated or otherwise wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Iraqis surviving had the public been able to directly order these wars stopped.

2.A referendum or recall vote happens 30 days after the certified collection of valid signatures of ten percent of all voters.

    A 30 day period is long enough to allow for informed debate and avoid a rush to judgment, but short enough to avoid a buildup of cynicism and disgust for the process. Ten percent is a high enough threshold to prevent most fringe groups of conspiracists or bigots from getting a measure on the ballot. Recall that Larouche's people had to use fraud.

    Of course there are some groups large enough to succeed in still doing so. Birthers were and are over 10% of the public. In that case, all a ballot initiative would do is rouse the anger of the public against them, as Larouche's people did in California. Referendums that sanction prejudices are explicitly barred by the clause below.

3. No referendum may overturn, contradict, or limit anything in either constitution, and such efforts must be done instead by constitutional amendment. Nor shall referendums or recalls be funded by corporations, nor any private contributions except for individual unpaid volunteer work. Referendum advertising must be equally funded both pro and con, must be publicly funded only, and subject to reasonable limits.

    One of the arguments against referendums, and populism of any kind, is “What if segregation had been up for a vote?” It always was, and segregationists had to use force to win. For over a century they used massive violence and intimidation. Referendums are barred from being used for any form of government sanctioned prejudices by other proposed articles to this proposed new constitution.

    What would be best for elections would also be best for referendums and recalls. Publicly funded elections only, so that corporations and wealthy elites cannot hijack them and do not have a greater voice than the average person. Neither side should be given an advantage financially. The time frame for recalls and referendums must be limited for the same reason as for elections, to prevent the overload, the burnout and cynicism and unnecessary waste that long election campaigns currently produce.

    The founders, Madison especially, hated the idea of direct democracy. That is one of the strongest arguments for it, for we have been living with the destructive results of their limits on democracy for over two centuries.

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Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books, among them Presidents' Body Counts and the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com

Friday, November 28, 2014

Proposed New Constitution Article 8, Renouncing War

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/


Article 8-Renouncing War
1. The United States shall not go to war except in self-defense, and permanently renounces wars or acts of military aggression.


     War is not healthy for living things, not just people, but democracies.

     Most Americans have long opposed most wars most of the time. Yet Americans keep getting maneuvered, pushed, pulled, prodded, lied to, deceived, conned, forced into, or propagandized into one destructive and often useless war, bombing campaign, or overthrow of another government, one after another.

       The constitution requires wars have a declaration of war from Congress first. The military was put under civilian command, and for most of its history was very limited in size. Even as late as the 1930s, the US Army was only 140,000 men. Many of the founders argued strongly against a standing army as leading inevitably to tyranny.

     So how did we wind up with a very large powerful permanent military, and the dangerous industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about? How do US troops keep getting sent to nations many Americans have never even heard of, much less believe it important to invade them?

     It was not always this way. Up until the 1890s, the main wars the US fought were against American Indian tribes. The big exceptions were wars against Britain (1812), Mexico (1845), and the Civil War, the last one begun by Confederate aggression.

     But there were a series of two dozen invasions, called filibusters, that most Americans don't know about today. These were private armies, mercenaries, led by American warmongers willing to invade other nations on their own to gain profit, territories, or power. Often they hoped to drag the US into wars, get nations or pieces of a nation taken away and made into part of the US. Filibusters invaded Canada four times, and their allies provoked the War of 1812. They also invaded California, and Texas five times. They gained an ally in slave owners who wanted to make Texas a slave state, and so provoked the war with Mexico.

    This was not what most Americans wanted. Congress passed seven neutrality laws over a period of 45 years making it illegal for private citizens to invade another nation. The laws proved difficult to enforce because of the size of the US and slow communications over great distances at the time.

    Public anger and horror over the huge loss of life in the Civil War ended these private invasions and US wars with other nations for a time. Even “Indian wars” declined. President Grant began a Peace Policy that reduced battles with Native tribes by over three fourths. But by the 1890s, the Civil War generation had died off and war enthusiasts like Teddy Roosevelt led a new push for empire and territory.

    The US took Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Samoa (and for half a century, the Philippines) by force. Self-righteous scientific racists like T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson insisted they knew how other nations of mostly nonwhite people should be run more than the nations themselves did. Between 1890 and World War II, US troops invaded ten Latin Americans countries over 30 times, sometimes taking over some nations for up to 20 years, at other times installing a dictatorship to run these nations on US orders.

    The Cold War saw American invasions in Latin America and Southeast Asia, dozens of US sponsored overthrows of governments, assassinations of national leaders, and outright genocide and democide in Cambodia and Indonesia, respectively. This has been done by US presidents on both ideological sides, Lyndon Johnson as well as Reagan, Obama as well as both Bushes. The only US president in the last 125 years to not invade, bomb, or try to overthrow another nation's government was Carter.

     Since World War II, there has not been a single declaration of war by Congress. There have only been three authorizations to use force, the notorious Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Bush Sr. receiving authorization (which he said publicly he did not need) for the Gulf War, and GW Bush's for the Iraq and Afghan Wars. The last is now being stretched by Obama to claim it covers him in a war against ISIS. Almost all congressmen in both parties agreed to Obama's claim and declined to even meet to discuss any kind of authorization, much less a declaration of war. Congress's failures are the strongest argument for making going to war more difficult, and demanding the public hold veto power over the start of wars.

    Political and media elites have the contemptuous habit of leaving the public out of war decisions. Both parties are guilty of it. There is the saying that “partisanship stops at the water's edge.” What this means in practice is that both parties support a president's wars without much reservation or criticism. For the only criticism accepted of wars by most of Congress or much of the media is that the president is not warlike enough, not willing to go to war or bomb just to show dissatisfaction or crush other nations’ leaders.

    For quick invasions, bombing campaigns, or missile strikes, the public will briefly rally around a president by instinct and then move on, as long as there are no heavy American losses. For longer wars, the same stampede effect is used, often preceded by heavy propaganda to promote fear of the latest “greatest threat ever.” Then once the war starts, public opinion is ignored. Nixon and GW Bush both publicly said they ignored antiwar demonstrations, the biggest in America's history. Both the Vietnam and Iraq Wars continued half a decade after public opinion turned against them. Media elites also often ignore public opinion, or caricature demonstrators as atypical when they came from across the spectrum of American opinions and backgrounds.

    After World War II, Japan looked at its shameful history, renounced warfare as an instrument of policy, and forbade armed forces used except for self-defense. The US should do the same. On this issue even many Republicans and conservatives agree, and originally were opposed to the US bombing Syria. For all the calls for wars by right wing media, they are out of touch with their own base. Most Americans of all ideologies and backgrounds want fewer wars, and never without just cause. Build such a stance directly into a new constitution.

2. The United States, its government, agencies, or agents shall never try to overthrow another nation's government again unless directly attacked by said government.

    It must also be made far harder for the president to send troops, bomb other nations, or by any other ways try overthrow other governments. Americans are aware that the US has invaded other nations or overthrown other governments. But most do not know just how often.

    In Latin America alone, over a dozen nations were invaded by the US. Dozens of nations faced coups or coup attempts against their governments by the CIA, or bought, stolen, or disrupted elections, and numerous assassination attempts of government leaders. Castro alone survived hundreds of attempts on his life. This pattern includes some that might surprise many, like the CIA orchestrating the firing of Australia's Prime Minister in 1975, or disrupting Italian elections for almost 30 years.

    This same pattern continued in recent years, under both parties, with drone attacks from Colombia to Pakistan, interference in Venezuelan elections, recognizing a coup in Paraguay, and a likely next president, Hillary Clinton, whose election advisers played a role in Honduras’s coup. This must end. Any government the US is not officially at war with, the US government should never try to overthrow.

3.Unless under direct and immediate attack, the United States shall not go to war or deploy troops without an official declaration of war by Congress. Unless under direct and immediate attack, the declaration of war by Congress must then be approved by a vote of the American public held 30 days later. Failure to get approval by the American public makes the declaration of war overturned.

    It must be made far harder to go to war. The only effort Congress made to control presidents' war making was the War Powers Act. In theory a president has two days to tell Congress about an attack, and 60 days to show cause or withdraw. It never worked. Presidents ignored it, even argued it to be unconstitutional, and Congress never used the act effectively.

    Wars need to be made very difficult to start and far easier to stop, when now the reverse is true. Unless the American nation, armed forces, or installations are being directly attacked, or citizens need rescue, the President should be forbidden to deploy troops. Congress must declare war first. Period. End of discussion.

    Without exception also, a declaration of war must be followed by approval in a referendum. A 30 day period is best since the rush to judgment and sometimes hysteria is often very brief. A 30 day period is deliberately intended to give enough time for opposition to wars or bombing to build. This clause would not come into effect if under direct attack, and so does not endanger Americans, only arbitrary use of military power.

4. The US President can deploy troops to rescue US or other citizens and must prevent genocide or other large scale atrocities. But the president must report to Congress on such action within 7 days and Congress must approve the deployment of troops within 30 days.

    The two exceptions to proposed clauses above are to rescue citizens under immediate danger, and to prevent genocide, other atrocities, or humanitarian catastrophes. As a nation which committed genocide against American Indians by the Trail of Tears, by systematic genocide in California during the Gold Rush, by deliberate starvation tactics of slaughtering the buffalo, and by the slave trade of both American Indians and Africans, the US should have a special commitment to ending genocide elsewhere, if possible. One cannot stop genocides entirely. But genocide or other atrocities can often be limited, and many people rescued. It is inhumane and morally callous to not try.

    Often American presidents have not even tried. The US government deliberately avoided trying to end or limit genocide at least four times, during the Holocaust, Bangladesh in 1971, East Timor in 1975, and Rwanda in 1994. Most Americans are not taught about these moral failures. Scholars know, and we need to teach and reach the public far more. In Rwanda's case, Clinton admitted his wrongdoing, that he could easily save 300,000 Rwandans. For the Holocaust, East Timor, and Bangladesh, one tenth of the lives lost could have been saved, but were not. A military response is not always needed. In all three cases, the more effective way of limiting genocide would have been to publicly denounce and isolate those carrying it out, offer refuge to the victims, and declare the guilty will face war crimes trials. In the case of the Holocaust, US bombings could have cut off or at least slowed the number of trains delivering victims to death camps.

    One may understandably ask, why the US? Why not other nations too? The obvious answer is we don’t control other nations, only our own. But we can and should ask other nations to work with us to halt atrocities when possible. In practical terms, only five nations, the US, UK, Russia, France, and China have the military power to end atrocities in other parts of the world. In practice China has never acted to halt humanitarian catastrophes. Sometimes nations like India have the power to stop regional atrocities, as India did when it halted genocide in Bangladesh.

     Halting or preventing wars is already done with peacekeeping forces around the world. It is not too widely known to many Americans, and some may scoff because they don’t know. But the United Nations does stop or shorten most wars most of the time. The obvious recent failure was the Iraq War. It was an exception. The UN currently keeps peace in 15 nations, and caused a 40% drop in wars in the past 20 years. Limiting wars, and certainly halting or limiting genocide, is a vitally important humane, ethical, and (I argue to conservatives) a Christian goal. It is one which also agrees with most Americans' sentiment. Many Americans sincerely believed in some wars the US fought because they genuinely wanted to help others and opposed dictatorships and atrocities. The new constitution should reflect that, and limit US actions to only that.

5.The US government is forbidden to go to war or use war as an opportunity to enrich in any way any American businesses, corporations, or individuals. Family members of government officials shall not be exempt from military draft, nor sheltered in special units, or in any other way.

    “The flag follows the dollar” in Smedley Butler's words, is one of the main reasons for war. Wars often enrich the already wealthy. Few things unite people on both side of the ideological aisle in disgust as much as undeserved advantage and profit in wartime. From shoddy guns and shoes in the Civil War to formaldehyde beef in the Spanish American War to no bid contracts in Iraq and cost overruns in defense contracting at times over 300% ever since the start of the Cold War, the list of abuses is long. The profit motive must be removed from warfare, and businesses and persons forbidden from getting wealthy often literally over the dead bodies of servicemen.

    It is also true that there are few congressmen's offspring in wars, less than a single percent during the Iraq and Afghan Wars. The class bias in who was drafted during Vietnam was especially notorious. So were special units set up to shelter sons of privilege from the draft. This must not be repeated.

------
Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books, among them Presidents' Body Counts and the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/.
http://alcarroll.com

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Proposed New Constitution Article 7, Ending Colonialism

This is an excerpt from A Proposed New Constitution, a call for fifteen articles to be adopted in a new constitutional convention. Currently, dozens of states have called for a new constitutional convention for a variety of causes, as well as proposals from scholars such as Larry Sabato, Andrew Burstein, Nancy Isenberg, and myself.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/

Proposed Article 7- Ending Colonialism
1.The United States recognizes the great wrongs done by genocide against American Indians, apologizes fully, and shall always strive to make amends. All federally recognized American Indian tribes are forever sovereign, defined by their treaty or other legal relationship to the United States, with full rights to decide their own government and laws, and to enforce those laws on all residents and visitors within their territory.


    Scholars know that what happened to American Indians was genocide. The evidence is overwhelming and hard to deny. The number of deniers teaching in universities is as low as it has ever been. Today many scholars are themselves Natives, and non-Native scholars often think of themselves as allies aiding Native causes.

    But you would likely not hear the same answer by asking much of the general public, or looking at what is taught in public schools. I've taught over 2,000 college students in the past ten years. Public school students are mostly given the Thanksgiving story about Natives, and not much else. Not one in a hundred ever hears the word genocide. Many students are taught that Columbus was actually a friend to Natives. It is hard to be more appalling and dishonest.

    In Germany, the nation admits the wrongs in their history. They teach extensively about the Holocaust in their public schools. Having an American admission of genocide, an apology, and a vow to work to always change these wrongs, needs to be written into the new US Constitution itself. Then no one can ever deny it again. Our schools will have to teach it, much like having MLK Day forces them to teach about civil rights. Teaching the truth makes a repeat of past wrongs much harder, and just as important, difficult to deny present wrongs.

    Honesty and self-rule are the best form of reparations. Native tribal nations should be sovereign by right. By international law, sovereignty cannot be abrogated or taken away, and is permanent. Tribal nations are defined by their treaty or other legal relationship to the federal government. But the Supreme Court defined that relationship as domestic and dependent. One result is that non-tribal members often cannot be prosecuted under tribal law, leading to a number of abuses. Squatters occupy reservation lands. Even legal residents who are non-Native cannot be punished in tribal courts. Worst of all is the high number of crimes committed by outsiders, especially rapes that were until recently not punished because of lack of jurisdiction. Recognizing tribal sovereignty over all who come onto reservation lands is long overdue.

    Most Americans do not know about how Native sovereignty was taken away with the start of reservations, and only partly returned with the New Deal for Indians and by the efforts of Native activists. Most do not know how Termination tried to end all reservations in the 1950s, that dozens of tribes were targeted, and that some still suffer from that awful time. There are also dozens of tribes awaiting recognition that deserve to be federally acknowledged, sometimes decades overdue. Often they are hampered by a lack of written records because scientific racists like Walter Plecker in Virginia systematically destroyed or altered every document he could. There are also dozens of dubious outfits posing as tribes clogging up the recognition process, often taking advantage of an unwary public financially.

    Recognizing tribal sovereignty in a new constitution can change all of that. A repeat of Termination becomes impossible, and those still denied recognition from those days retrieve it. The recognition process would be decided by tribal nations, not Washington, with the greatest weight given to the opinion of those tribes most related to those applying. Some reservations might choose to split, since they are today made up of several tribes forced together by federal agents. Other tribes split by treaties into multiple reservations might choose to unite.

2.All American Indian tribes have permanent and absolute rights to their current reservation lands, forever. All federal lands, or lands reacquired by American Indian tribes, that are within their historically recognized boundaries or protected by treaty, will be part of their reservations. All sacred sites of federally recognized American Indian tribes shall be returned immediately, or protected by federal partnership if requested by tribes.

    Having a tribe's right to their homeland needs to be written into the constitution itself, to make it inviolable, permanent, and not just protect it, but also make it easier to get homelands returned or bought. Some tribes are making efforts to buy back their homelands. But often these efforts are blocked by state governments. Where the federal government at times works with and protects on behalf of tribes, state governments are traditionally those most hostile to American Indian nations.

    State efforts to limit a tribe's rights to land or anything else should be entirely and permanently blocked, since the constitution makes it clear Indian relations are purely a federal matter. All the Five Tribes remember that during the Trail of Tears states led the effort to drive them off their homelands. In recent times, both California and New York had bouts of anti-Indian sentiment led by their governors.

    Federal lands within a tribe's recognized traditional homeland should be returned. The best known example is the Black Hills, Paha Sapa to the Lakota. Lakota have been pushing for their return for over a century, repeatedly turning down monetary offers. For sacred sites especially, there should be a strong effort to return them to the tribes' jurisdiction, and if the tribe does not have the means to protect them, then do so by partnership with the federal government.

    There are also many reservations that are endlessly fractionated, divided up again and again, starting since the Dawes Allotment Act. This makes jurisdiction, law enforcement, and economic development far more difficult. Returning control of all lands within traditional recognized territories can end these problems.

3. Native Hawaiians are recognized as a sovereign tribe by the US government and shall have a reservation with a sovereign government with relations with the US government and rights equal to an American Indian tribe, and shall see their sacred sites returned. Nothing in this article shall be construed as denying or abridging Native Hawaiians' right to pursue the return to being an independent nation as they were before the illegal overthrow and seizure of their nation.

       Pacific Islanders, Hawaiians, Chamorros, and Samoans, are America’s other indigenous peoples, America’s other original tribes. Not enough people know the history of the Hawaiian kingdom's illegal overthrow or US takeover of these islands.

    The Hawaiian story is similar to American Indians. Anglo-Americans came to the islands bringing disease that wiped out much of the people. They took over most of the land for their own profit, starting plantations that brought in exploited workers, only Asians rather than Africans. When Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani tried to halt them, the plantation owners overthrew her with the help of US Marines. The Hawaiian language and religion were both banned  Hawaii became a state in an illegitimate vote. Few Asians or Native Hawaiians could vote, and most who voted for statehood were white servicemen who were very recent residents.

        The Hawaiian sovereignty movement today is very strong. It overturned the language and religion bans and started Hawaiian schools. Most Native Hawaiians want to see the Hawaiian nation be independent again. This part of the proposed article might be a first step, giving Hawaiians a sovereignty recognized by law, and constitutionally backed. Just as for American Indians, all Hawaiian sacred sites taken away (some actually used as bombing ranges) are given back.

4. US citizens and nationals of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington DC have full local self-rule, and shall vote in federal elections and have federal congressional districts.

    Puerto Rico's people are a mix of Taino Indian, African, and European, both by blood and culture. The island has a larger population than over twenty US states. Yet its people have never voted in federal fall elections. Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and even DC have been denied the vote or local self-rule because of a leftover status from colonial conquest. They are legally territories or a district rather than a state.

        All of them are also made up mostly of people who are not white. 49 of 50 US states have white majorities, all except Hawaii. These four territories and one district all have populations with nonwhite majorities. Puerto Ricans are mostly mixed. The people of Samoa and Guam are Pacific Islanders, though the military almost outnumber Chamorros in their own homeland. The Virgin Islands is Black majority, as was DC for much of its history. Today DC has no racial majority, with many Asians and Latinos.

        All these territories and the federal district are often treated like colonies. Most of the people are poorer on average than most of the rest of America. Resources often flow out of them. They have often had little to no say in their own destiny. Puerto Rico saw several independence movements crushed, and citizenship was forced on them against their wishes. Chamorros and Virgin Islanders had no self-rule at all for about 60 years. Even Washington DC had no local self-rule until the 1970s.

    Both Puerto Rico and DC have seen statehood blocked because the major parties don’t want to add a state that will vote for the other party. All the islands were all either independent nations or are distinct cultures in their own right. Only DC can vote for presidents, but none of these territories or the district have a vote in Congress like the states. Over 5 million Americans are denied some voting rights and their own congressmen because of these hold overs from colonialism.

    All of these peoples, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, Samoans, Virgin Islanders, and the people of DC, deserve self-determination and a full voice. The fact that they do not have it shows continuing system wide racism. Most of the American public does not know these histories, and that must end.

    Let American Indians be truly sovereign on reservations and have them expand to include as much traditional homelands as desired. Let Native Hawaiians have status as a sovereign tribe, and pursue independence. Let Guam, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands finally vote in federal elections, and let all of them plus Washington DC finally have voting congressmen to represent them. It should be a source of shame to the US that this has continued as long as it has.

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Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books, among them Medicine Bags and Dog Tags, Presidents' Body Counts, and the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution and Ira Hayes: The Meaning of His Life.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/.
http://alcarroll.com

Monday, November 24, 2014

Proposed New Constitution Article 6, Limiting Corporate Power

From the forthcomingA Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/


Article 6- Limiting Corporate Power
1.All rights in this and the previous constitution, as well as under all American laws, are limited to human beings only. A person under US law is defined as a living human being only. Corporation rights and powers may be severely limited by any and all governments, whether federal, state, city, country, special district, or American Indian tribe.
  
   The Fourteenth Amendment may be the most misused and abused of all amendments. Intended to guarantee rights for former slaves, it has mostly been used to give corporations almost unlimited power. Two decades after the amendment passed, the courts ruled in Santa Clara v Southern Pacific that corporations were persons under the law, that as collections of individuals it was a legal useful fiction to pretend they were a person.

    Corporations have rights no living person has. Corporation can be immortal, meaning they never have estate taxes. They pay far lower income tax rates than most people do. There are limits to how much and when they can be sued, and corporation management are largely protected from lawsuits for their actions. Of course the greatest and most controversial right given to them is from the Citizens United ruling. Corporations can spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns, as long as it is done through a third party.

    This ruling showed the class and ideological bias of the court at its worst. Condemnations of it range across the political spectrum, from Ralph Nader to John McCain. This ruling has frequently been compared to the Dred Scott or Plessy v Ferguson decisions both for the devastation it causes American society and how infamously it will be remembered in history.  In opinion polls, up to three quarters of Americans want to see it overturned, across all parties and political beliefs. Two dozen states have their campaign finance laws affected by the ruling. Sixteen states have called for constitutional amendments to overturn the ruling.

    But this ruling is just the final end product of a court always designed and usually working for the most elite class interests. There is some documentation that the judges in the original Southern Pacific case did not intend their ruling to go that far and set as broad a precedent. Corporations are so powerful that many people don’t realize there was ever a time when their power was limited.

        Even other elites worried about corporate power. Corporate charters in British colonial and early American times were limited. They had only so many years of existence, had to serve the public interest, and were often chartered with a narrow purpose. One of the proposed amendments for the Bill of Rights was a limit on corporate power. Andrew Jackson, before the civil rights era when little attention was paid to the Trail of Tears, was often held up as a popular hero for his successfully breaking one of the most powerful corporate institutions, the Bank of the US.

2.A corporation must serve the public interest and its life span shall be limited. Any corporation shall be permanently dissolved if they break the law more than five times. No business, corporation, or individual can escape fines, punishments, or legal judgments by declaring bankruptcy, holding companies, shell companies, or any other diversion, evasion, or tactic.

    Corporate crime in America is far more serious than many realize. Corporate crime is the cause of more deaths than street crime, over 60,000 workplace deaths alone. Add to that one corporate scandal after another, each of them mostly or entirely unpunished, BCCI, Enron, Worldcom, subprime mortgages, underwater loans, etc., etc. The scandals are increasing in numbers, scale, and in how rarer punishment is becoming. Hundreds went to jail for the savings and loans bank scandal of the 1980s. Almost no one was jailed for the mortgage scandals.

    In the documentary The Corporation, the film makers followed the logic of declaring corporations to be persons. If a corporation were a person, what would its personality be? They concluded the characteristics of a corporation define it as a sociopath. It cannot have empathy for others and acts without concern for anyone else. It is deliberately amoral, and defined as such for the purpose of self- interest alone. In fact if a corporation were to act morally (for reasons other than self interest in its public image) it almost certainly would face lawsuits from shareholders for failing to pursue maximum profit.

    The power of the public over any and all corporations should be absolute. If a company pollutes, force it to clean up. If a corporation makes a destructive or defective product, let it be punished the same as an individual. For a time there was a movement towards “three strikes” laws for crime. Why not five strikes laws for corporations? If they break the law five times, they can be dissolved.

    Let there be no more legal loopholes used to escape punishment. Bankruptcy was intended to let companies and individuals fail at business but still be able to start over. It was not and should not be there to avoid punishment for crimes. Combine this Proposed Article 6 with Proposed Article 11, which requires all crimes be punished and all criminals cannot evade punishment. A corporations that kills through negligence, incompetence, or greed, deserves a corporate death penalty, the end of its existence.

3.The right to collective bargaining by unions or other workers shall not be limited more than other civic or lobbying groups, nor subject to government recognition.

        Unions are the most democratic institutions in America. They are the most representative of their membership. That is part of why are often demonized by those opposed to them and why so much effort has been expended to crush the labor movement.

        It is not widely taught in public schools, but America has one of the most violent histories of class warfare anywhere in the world. Not simply “class warfare” as used today, where even bringing up class issues gets one labeled a Marxist. (Full disclosure: I am a traditional Catholic. That means I believe in social justice, and that capitalism is a sin.) From colonial times until the Great Depression, unions and strikes were often crushed with great brutality. Companies often used private armies, or had the police or US Army break a strike with violence. Two of the most notorious examples include the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, broken by killing over 100 strikers. In the West Virginia Mine Wars in the 1920s, the largest armed uprising since the Civil War saw a company army of over 5,000 kill over 20 miners with not just guns but mortars, and their own air force.

        The reason why today we do not often hear of violent strikes, or many strikes at all, is that after World War II the US government learned to be a better strike breaker. During the Great Depression the Wagner Act was passed. It recognized union rights to exist, to bargain collectively, and to strike. But it also required unions to submit to being government recognized to be seen as legitimate.

        The Taft Hartley Act, passed during Cold War hysteria, went much further. Any perceived radicals in a union can get it stripped of recognition. Companies can dictate when unions hold their elections, and unions have to give 60 days’ notice before striking. Company spies by law cannot be kicked out of a union, and strikebreakers' jobs are protected. A National Labor Relations Board is stacked with anti-union officials. Even were it to rule in favor of unions, it has little power, and so many workers are fired for joining unions or speaking out against abuses. Over 400 union locals are stripped of recognition each year.

        Imagine how difficult organizing would be on any issue were these same practices forced on others. How powerful would the National Rifle Association be if it lost 400 chapters a year? How well would any organization on either side of the abortion issue do if the other side could decide when it holds elections, given 60 days to prepare for campaigns, and that organization could not remove spies in its midst or people hired to break their group up?

       None of these union busting practices should be legal. Let unions be treated by the same standards as any other civic, lobbying, or interest group. Anyone who joins a union should be able to. Over half of Americans wish they were part of a union. But under 10% of Americans actually are. These are mostly government workers such as cops, firefighters, and teachers. Only public pressure on governments keep them from being as abusive to their workers as private companies.

    Unions were what turned the US into a middle class nation. For one generation after World War II, unions helped spread prosperity to those people most responsible for it. But since the 1970s inequality has grown sharply, to where it is now as bad as before the Great Depression. Unions can reverse that, and doing so would be good for the nation as a whole and business as a whole. An economy is much more vulnerable when it depends mostly on the spending of the well off.

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  Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books including the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Proposed New Constitution Article 5, Voting Guarantees Benefits

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com


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Article 5-Voting Guarantees Benefits
1.All eligible voters must vote. Failure to vote results in inability to receive all government benefits until the next election, including licenses, grants, subsidies, tax refunds, eligibility for public assistance, student or business loans or credit.

    One must seek ways for the most disaffected to join the political process. The flip side of the last clause of Proposed Article 5 is making them see it is in their self interest to vote, once a more representative democracy is in place. Obviously eligibility for public assistance for children is not affected. They should not be punished for their parents' actions. Instead those most affected are those least likely to vote; college students; the young, by tying driver's licenses to voting, as Proposed Article 3 also does; and the lower income who are more likely to receive tax refunds. A number of nations like Australia have used small fines to increase voter turnout. But in the US this likely would simply lead to the unemployed serving a few days in jail since they could not pay the fine.

2.Those with strong and longstanding religious, philosophical, or political beliefs against voting are not required to vote if they state their longstanding beliefs.

    There are some faiths who avoid deep political involvement, the Jehovah's Witnesses in particular. Anarchists also often refuse to vote based on their convictions. The Six Nations of the Iroquois do not consider themselves citizens of the US. But where most American Indians consider themselves dual citizens, of both the US and their tribal nation, the Iroquois insist they are Iroquois citizens alone, bound by treaty to the US. Thus they join the military as foreign nationals, and Iroquois who vote in US elections are stripped of Iroquois citizenship.

    All these deeply held beliefs against voting should be respected and not penalized. The law should also not place much of a burden upon proof of their belief, just a simple statement. But those who lazily proclaim they don't want to vote deserve no such consideration.

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 Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books including the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Proposed New Constitution Article 4, Ending the Buying of Elections

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com


Article 4-Ending the Buying of Elections
1.All elections shall be publicly funded only. Private contributions or donations to or on behalf of a candidate or party, except for unpaid volunteer work, are outlawed. Corporate donations of any kind are forbidden. Business and corporate owners and management are forbidden from intimidating, pressuring, or influencing in any way their employees, punishable by long prison sentences.

    Money is the true engine of American politics, and that should change. Few other democracies have as elitist and plutocratic a ruling political class as the US. There have only been two US presidents who were not wealthy men at the time they were elected, Lincoln and Truman. Congress is a millionaire's club.

    This is not true in most of the rest of the world. Most other democracies elect people who are truly representative, rather than elites. Poland and Bolivia elected labor union leaders as presidents, Lech Walesa and Evo Morales. Hungary had a playwright  president, Vlaclev Havel. Brazil and Uruguay have former guerilla leaders who fought against dictators, Dilma Rouseff and Jose Mujica, the latter donating most of his salary to charity.

    But when the US wants to see “outsiders” run for office, the only ones able to are multi billionaires, Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and Michael Bloomberg. The number of wealthy dynasties in US politics are legendary, the Adams, Roosevelts, Kennedys,  Rockefellers, and Bushes.

    Jesus righteously intoned that it was easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to get into heaven. It would almost be easier for a working class man to be the king of either heaven or hell than to get elected to office in America.

    For the need for money to win office acts as a filtering process. One must win over the very wealthy to be able to run. Candidates depend on them utterly for sponsorship and patronage. In turn, one must give donors what they want. The idea that money equals speech is defended by elites today, both in the media and in the courts. If money is speech, the average man is shouted down by the giant egos of plutocrats, armed with wallets that a thousand average men cannot match. The moneychangers have driven the priests out of the temple and demand high admission fees to receive blessings and salvation.

    In 2012, the presidential campaign was the first multi billion dollar one, and 2016 will certainly be even worse. This must end. Let campaigns only be publicly funded outside of volunteer work. The billionaire should not have more of a voice than any one of his workers. Britain has had limits on campaign spending ever since 1883. The reason for it is obvious. They knew the corrupting influence of money even more than the US, with the outright buying and selling of offices turned into an art form.

    In its place we should see the government provide an equal amount of air time, adjusted for its market value, to each party. This air time must be to each party that has candidates, not just major parties. The two party monopoly should end, and most of the public wishes it to end.

    This should not be as expensive as it might seem. For one thing, Congress can limit how much is to be spent, and few in the public will have an appetite for expensive campaigns. For another, networks shall be required to provide this airtime for free, since they make billions every years from the use of public airwaves. The only substantial expense will likely be from online advertising, easily limited.

    The government should also provide servers for the posting of online websites in equal measure for each of the candidates. If parties wish to set up sites to present their beliefs and proposals and recruit for their parties, that would be allowed by law. But party websites campaigning for their candidates, outside of a brief mention of who they are, would not be. Individuals wishing to set up websites, noncommercially, to promote or argue against candidates, parties, proposals, or platforms, would not be affected by this Proposed Article 4.

    The billionaire or any other boss must also be prevented from intimidating in any way how his workers vote. Announcing or threatening layoffs or the targeting of workers who disagree with a boss over a candidate, party, or law should be seen as the civil rights violation it is.

2.Campaigning and advertising for all general elections are limited to the period of six weeks before election day. Campaigning and advertising for all primary elections are limited to the six weeks before the general election period.

    Few things discourage interest in politics more than ridiculously long campaigns. Primary campaigning begins a year and a half before the general election, and at times candidates declare their runs two or three years in advance. Yet the common wisdom is that only the most partisan voters pay attention. Most of the public does not follow the election before Labor Day. This clause will limit all advertising to begin no earlier than the start of August before a November election. Great Britain has even stricter time limits on campaigning with no loss of democracy.

3.No election, whether federal, state, county, city, special district, American Indian tribe, or of unions, civic groups, lobbying groups, or private clubs, is valid unless more than half of its citizens or members vote. If less than half of citizens or members vote, there must be immediate new elections with different candidates.

    If most of the public does not show up, an election is not a valid representation of the public's wishes. This clause works best with Proposed Article 2, where the elections would only be every four years when the president and congress are chosen. Much of the public has a de facto boycott on election, especially local ones. Forcing parties to field new candidates gives the public a way to state their dissatisfaction with the candidates they have been given.

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 Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books including the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Proposed New Constitution Article 3, Guaranteeing the Right to Vote

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/

Article 3-Guaranteeing the Right to Vote
1.The right to vote for all citizens of legal adult age is absolute and cannot be denied, limited, barred, blocked, or suppressed, whether by deliberate attempts or unintended outcomes. All current such attempts are ended. Any law with the outcome,  even unintended,  of denying the vote to members of a particular ethnic group, age group, economic background, or party, shall be immediately void.
    Many cynics will tell you that voting solves nothing. They are only half right. Believing voting is a magic bullet is false, for it is only one solution among many, one to be combined with others. Such a belief in voting alone as being the mark of a democracy almost turns voting into an empty ritual, part of what scholars call civic religion. But truly free and representative voting can and has solved much. For if voting were truly completely useless, American elites would not spend so much effort to stop it, centuries of trickery, exclusion, and often insane levels of violence.
    At first voting was incredibly limited in the US, not only by gender and race but by a high property requirement. In some states, more than nine tenths of white males could not vote at the time of the constitution. It took two generations for the majority of poor white males to sometimes be able to vote. Even that was later limited by poll taxes aimed as much at stopping poor whites from voting as Blacks. The Fifteenth Amendment was supposed to protect Black voting rights. It took enormous violence, over 50,000 deaths after the Civil War and a corrupt and then indifferent Republican Party to intimidate the Black community into not voting, something that was not reversed until as late as the 1970s in some areas.
    Over 6,000,000 Americans today are legally barred from voting, over 3% of the total. The excuse for taking away their vote is that they have criminal records. Since the “justice” system is incredibly unequal and racist, this falls almost entirely on minorities. Though almost two thirds of American criminals are white (since two thirds of Americans are white) two thirds of those locked up in prisons or on parole are Black or Latino. A Black or a Latino are far more likely to be charged and imprisoned, and for longer, than a white committing the exact same crime.
    The laws deciding when ex convicts can vote are incredibly uneven. In some states, voting returns automatically after a set period. Other states require a formal pardon, and the process can be a quick formality or very drawn out and difficult. In six states, all in the south, felons are barred from voting for life. Stealing a car at 17 means one will never vote their entire life. In three states, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, one out of five Blacks cannot vote. In Florida, the majority of Black males cannot vote.
    Being blatantly racist, this is simply unjust. The right to vote should return automatically when one pays one's debt to society. For lesser nonviolent felonies, it should not be taken away at all. Having the vote available to some prisoners could aid their rehabilitation, were it to become one more thing a parole board could look at as a sign of a genuine attempt to reform. (Those imprisoned for drug possession should not be in prison at all. Proposed Article 15 will end the Drug War as a violation of the right to privacy.)
    There are a wide range of attempts to limit voting, old fashioned voter suppression by other names. Voter ID laws could block up to 9% of all voters from voting, mostly minorities and the poor. In some states there are laws or attempts to make it more difficult for college students to vote. Others are putting in place shorter absentee voting times or harder requirements. Many states make it difficult for Americans overseas to vote. Some states like Texas require a ballot to be applied for within the state before leaving and then sent by mail. In some nations with poor postal systems means one needs to vote many months in advance.
    The right to vote as a part of Proposed Article 3, or a constitutional amendment, stops all these attempts. It is already widely proposed. 173 congressmen have already signed on as co sponsors, including 11 Republicans. Two counties and a city, with a combined population of two million, have also passed resolutions in support.
2.Any official who deliberately or unintentionally makes voting more difficult shall be immediately removed, their decisions voided and actions reversed. Deliberately blocking others from voting or blocking voting recounts shall always be prosecuted and punished as a felony.
    Having very partisan officials in charge of elections, as election commissioners or Secretaries of States, almost guarantees partisan outcomes. Besides requiring election committees to be entirely nonpartisan, as Proposed Article II does, one needs both to remove the incentive to cheat and provide punishment if someone does.
    Removing the official will be the punishment. Automatically voiding and reversing their decisions removes any incentive. Blocking voting or recounts needs to be a felony punished harshly. While the civil rights acts do punish for killing someone to stop them from voting, there is no punishment for such crimes as a riot that partly blocked the Florida recount in 2000 or those who sent false voter registration information in Wisconsin in 2012.
3.Voting days shall be national holidays, with a paid day off for workers only with proof of voting.
    The average voter turnout is much lower than most people think. Most references to US voter turnout are to presidential elections and claim the typical turnout is 1/2 to 3/5 of all eligible voters. (Notice also that using “eligible voters” as a standard rather than “all voters” leaves out the many who never vote.) The actual average voter turnout is under 10% for all US elections. For local elections, especially special districts set up for water or community colleges, turnout is routinely under 1%. Compare this to other democracies. Almost all nations have turnouts of at least 2/3. Most have turnouts over 90%. The US is almost unique in its high voter apathy and disgust of an enormous part of the public.
    Some members of the media elite such as George Will argue low turnout is a sign of contentment. Such a view could only come from the very sheltered or willfully blind. Turnout is lowest among those who have the least reason to be content. The poorest vote least of all, minorities much less than whites, the young less than the old, and the less educated much less than the most educated. If contentment were why voters did not vote as Will claims, the wealthy never would vote, and the poor always would. The reality is the exact opposite.
    The reason why poor and minorities vote much less is obvious. They are being smart, or at least realistic. They know they are not being represented, and see no reason to waste their time. To get them to vote, one must not only make a system which will represent them, as Article 2 does. One must also give them other incentives.
    A waitress or construction worker has little incentive to vote if it means they lose money by taking off time when they could be working. An eight, ten, or twelve hour shift of physical labor makes it difficult to go and wait in line. Partisan election commissions don't make it any easier. There were many accounts in the last several elections of waiting up to ten hours to vote in inner cities while suburban voters were done in minutes.
    One way to boost turnout is to make election days national holidays. Most other democracies have their elections on either Sundays or make them national holidays. But since many working class people work weekends, and many others see Sunday either as a day for church or for relaxing watching pro sports and having a barbecue, Sunday is not ideal. A paid holiday gives workers incentive, being paid for a day's work for showing up to vote that hopefully is done in a short time. Failing to vote would mean one is not paid for your holiday off.
4.The voting age is lowered to sixteen for any US citizen proving their maturity by holding a job, driver's license, or living on their own.
    Some other nations allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. 5 nations in Latin America, 4 in Europe, and 2 in Asia allow voters under 18, sometimes conditioned on employment. Why not? If they are taking on the responsibilities of adults, why not reward them as adults, with adult powers such as voting? The intent here is not just to reward them for adult behavior, but also to establish the voting habit early. In the Philippines, there are mock elections in high schools. Thus their voter turnout is much higher.
    Tying voting to driving is another way to give them incentive to vote. Proposed Article 5 has a voter losing licenses, including your driver's license, if one fails to vote. The threat of losing their driver's license would spur voting habits to change, to be adopted early in life. A 16 year old knowing that they could lose their license if they don't vote will develop the habit early.
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  Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books including the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com