HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Al Carroll » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »

Al Carroll

Profile Information

Name: Al Carroll
Gender: Do not display
Hometown: San Antonio
Home country: US
Current location: VA
Member since: Tue Apr 22, 2014, 10:33 PM
Number of posts: 113

Journal Archives

Proposed Amendment: Nonprofits and Public Ownership for the Public Good

From http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com and http://alcarroll.com

Continuing the articles on proposed constitutional reform I wrote last year. This one is primarily economic reform, thus its inclusion in this group.

--------
Article 10- Nonprofits and Public Ownership for the Public Interest

“1. National defense industries, healthcare, prisons, education, and news media must be nonprofit or publicly owned. No business, corporation, or individual can profit unfairly from federal, state, or local governments or public resources and must pay fair market value for all previous resources, subsidies, and research.”

So much of the worst in American (and all of human) society and history has been driven by the profit motive. So much of US (and state, and local) government practice is corporate welfare, reverse Robin Hood at its worst. From billions for stadiums built for sports teams at the local level to trillions for the Defense Department internationally, government in America often funnels money upward, from the working and middle classes to wealthy elites, and from public lands to private elite hands.

This is naked class warfare, both the cause of and maintenance of deep inequality. Wealth redistribution upward shows that those who maintain government should be run like a business could not be more wrong. (Businessmen also generally have terrible records as presidents.) Some matters are far better left to public management rather than private, done by the state with no private intent or to make a profit because doing so harms us all and is morally repugnant and unjust.

But since partisans of capitalism are generally unmoved by moral arguments, here is another consideration: businesses are far less competent at public enterprises. They tend to think in terms of individual profit for the next quarter, rather than the long term public good. Public parks are one obvious example. No one would reasonably want national parks opened up to strip mining, or the crassest commercial theme parks. Both would lose the parks' great value, aesthetic, public, environmental, and even long term economically, for purely short term profit.

Fire departments are an example we have learned from hard experience should not be private. Early American fire departments were, and they were notorious for incompetence and thievery. When your home caught fire, private fire departments demanded payment before they would put out the fire, negotiating with you while your place burned. Often they stole everything they could in burning homes, even looting neighbor's homes. Competing private fire departments even got into brawls over who would fight the fires, so lucrative was the theft.

Intelligence gathering is another area where privatizing has long been a disaster. But unlike the previous examples, America has yet to learn that lesson. The CIA looms so large in American consciousness, it will surprise many that the US had no national intelligence agency until the Cold War. Lincoln relied on the Pinkerton Detective Agency for intelligence during the Civil War. (They also became notorious for violent union busting.) Pinkerton routinely over estimated Confederate troop strength by 200-300%. US generals like McClellan then often refused to engage the enemy, prolonging the war.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, some of the torturers in prisons like Abu Ghraib likely were private contractors who were unaccountable to US or other law. Some CIA agents volunteered for Iraq for six months, resigned, and then worked for private intelligence companies for several times their previous pay. Besides being overpriced, a high turnover and lack of experienced agents and analysts almost certainly made mistakes that cost American, Iraqi, and Afghan lives, prolonging and worsening both wars.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars gave us still more examples of the folly of privatizing war, relying on mercenaries, the most infamous being Blackwater, later rebranded XE. Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on an Iraqi crowd, massacring dozens. A drunken Blackwater guard also killed no less than the bodyguard of the Iraqi Vice President.

Certainly conventional troops do commit atrocities. But they at least face military law, whose inadequacies are because of the protection of an old boys network. (Often, enlisted and junior officers get punished with prison, while senior officers get their careers ended, but no prison time.) Private mercenaries have far fewer laws to govern them, sometimes none. They are often not bound by military codes nor local laws, and rarely prosecuted, even for atrocities.

Equally disturbing, and most importantly for American society, mercenaries and “contractors” (actually support troops) came to outnumber US troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Without mercenaries, Presidents Bush and Obama would have had to withdraw far sooner, or bring back an incredibly unpopular draft. The public turned against both wars after five years, and so few Americans were enlisting that both the army and marines missed their recruiting goals for years at a time. Relying on mercenaries allowed both presidents to ignore public opinion and keep the wars going over half a decade more. This proposed article, by banning mercenaries, will end future unpopular wars sooner.

Nations and empires who relied on mercenaries were always undone by them. The Praetorian Guard often chose who would become the next Roman Emperor. Mercenaries in the Thirty and Hundred Years Wars prolonged and worsened both wars. Looting became one of the main ways to pay them, attracting the worst criminal elements into these armies. The French Foreign Legion had an appalling histories of atrocities in Algeria, Vietnam, and within France itself during the Paris Commune uprising. The Spanish Foreign Legion was equally notorious for rapes and other atrocities during the Spanish Civil War and helped put Falangist fascism into power, a dictatorship that killed half a million Spaniards over 40 years.

The US defense industry, in Eisenhower's famous phrase the military-industrial complex, itself was one of the main drivers of the Cold War, then the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and now the current undeclared wars on terrorism in lands from Colombia to central Africa to Yemen to the Philippines. It is also socially and environmentally destructive to the US itself, far out of proportion to its size. The need for war or the threat of war to maintain an American empire distorts our democracy and society, giving us such movements as neoconservatism and government such as Homeland Security with its massive spying. Removing the profit motive will dramatically shrink all of that.

Even if one is unmoved by the moral arguments, one should acknowledge another matter: for profit defense industries are enormously inefficient and wasteful. Weapons routinely cost double or triple original estimates. Some combat planes cost more than if they were literally made of gold. Some military planes, like Howard Hughes' Hercules or “Spruce Goose,” were never in combat at all and barely able to fly. Hercules was the most costly and worthless plane in history.

By contrast, state owned defense industries produced one of the most reliable and low cost of modern weapons, the AK-47, compared to the far worse US commercially made M-16. (The M-16 jammed so often, US soldiers in Vietnam often used them to hold up tents.) Israel's defense industries, easily among the world's very best, have a large part entirely state-owned and much of the rest produced in partnership with the state. In the beginning Israeli weapons were almost entirely produced by collective enterprises.

Prisons are one more area that must remain ruled by and for the public interest. Private for profit prisons give the owners incentives to lock up as many as possible. The need for profit also cannot help but endanger not only the prisoner and the prison guard, but the general public in the long run. Abusive prisons where costs are cut to increase profit will worsen the rate of repeat offenders.

Private for profit healthcare has given the US terrible a far lower life expectancy compared to other industrial nations, especially for its cost. The worst of these US health industries are drug companies, charging up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single prescription. Typically drugs cost a tenth in other nations compared to the US. The next costliest nation is Canada, about half that of the US. Two horrifying side effects are that many Americans are over medicated because of the desire for profit, and many more Americans stop or never seek treatment because they cannot afford drug prices.

Public school education is funded unequally in America, with school districts based on income. For profit education private schools reproduce from young ages the inequality and elitism that undermines democracies. Contrary to public perception, US public schools have been getting steadily better for a third of a century. For example, the US dropout rate is now less than one in fourteen, where in the 1970s it was over half. Most of the problems in public schools are problems of economic inequality brought in from outside the schools.

The generally acknowledged best type of schools in the US, Catholic, notably don't have profit as their prime motive, only education. Parochial schools would not be affected by this proposal, only elite institutions. This includes elite private universities, mostly attended by wealthy elites, who receive far more public money per student than public colleges. This corporate welfare add to elite institution graduates dominating most of the upper levels of government. Taking away public giveaways and making them nonprofits will end their old money bias, and at least weaken their hold on the federal government.

“2. No journalist, commentator, or others presenting themselves as experts in politics, history, law, society, health, medicine, or science can make more than five times the median national income, and any excess income must be donated to charity or it will be seized by the federal government.”

Much of the worst actions of the media is driven by profit. This includes not just deliberate falsehoods, but fearmongering, deception, propagandizing, and hostility to empirical thinking and evidence. It was not always so. Believe it or not, as recently as the 1970s, news divisions at major networks were expected to be public services.

The problem is not ideological, for the most part, since some of the worst offenders don't even believe what they preach. To take the most obvious example, Rupert Murdoch does not agree with much of what his network and papers argue. It simply suits his business model to sell an ideology of fear and anger to a declining demographic.

The simplest cure, again, is to remove the profit motive. Media should be nonprofit. A salary cap will help drive out those who harvest fear for the sake of lucre. Media is enormously class biased in America. When watching a “news” channel one is typically watching multi millionaires who work for multi billionaires. Thus the inevitable class hostility and hatred directed against the poorest. Think how often there are calls to drug test those on welfare. Now try to think of any instance of a call to drug test CEOs and bankers on corporate welfare. Media figures have little idea of what it is to be homeless or work for minimum wage. The best media today is that which is nonprofit, PBS, NPR, and BBC. The worst news media is the most profitable, Fox.

There is an equal need for an end to vast industries of outright hustlers trading in not just fear mongering but pseudo science, from global warming deniers to anti vaccine conspiracists, conspiracy theorists of every kind, and an entire industry of faux medicine, today's equivalent of snake oil that sells by the tens of billions. Faux medicine kills, by the thousands, preying on the desperate who turn to it instead of tested treatments.

Pseudo science kills not just people but democracies. An industry of deliberately false science has convinced two fifths of Americans that global warming is not real. A separate industry of conspiracy theorists long ago ceased to operate with vanity presses and xeroxed pamphlets and today has entire networks peddling conspiracy thinking. Much of 1960s counter culture protest was dissipated chasing phantom Kennedy conspiracies. Much of the outrage against the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars was wasted over claims of phantom missiles on September 11, made by those who seem to have never passed high school science classes.

All of the above are still perfectly free to state their opinions. They will simply be unable to profit from them. There is a precedent, in laws that prevent those who commit crimes from benefiting from them. In New York, it was nicknamed the Son of Sam law. The same principle used against mass murderers can and should apply those who make their living by serial lying, that they cannot profit by doing so. Let them show empirical evidence, and if not, no profit. The number of websites claiming JFK was killed by UFOs will shrink rapidly if there is no ad revenue to be made from it. So will faux medicine if there is no profit in it.

“3. All journalists, commentators, and others presenting themselves as experts for mass news media will be fined every time they lie in their articles, broadcasts, or public statements. No person or media outlet can profit from lies or falsehoods and shall be fined at least equal to all profit, money, or benefits made from lies or falsehoods.”

The nation's constitution should not be a defense for falsehoods. Media and media figures should be accountable for what they say and write. Those who argue for free speech of any and all kinds often ignore the fact that the First Amendment does not sanction defamation, libel, or slander. It does not protect incitement to murder nor callous recklessness that leads to mass panic (commonly known as “no right to shout fire in a crowded theater.”) That fact makes the US more free, not less. Neither should the Constitution or American society sanction and allow profit from the deliberate and knowing spread of falsehoods.

For an opinion is different from a fact, despite the mushy solipcist's claim that everything is an opinion. The simplest way to toss solipcism to the side is to ask the believer to point a loaded gun at his toe and fire. Let him then tell us that his bloody foot and limp is just an opinion.

Facts are black letter realities, and their truths are often simple Cartesian logic. Most often, either something is or is not true. An opinion brings in interpretation, hopefully backed by solid evidence. For example, an opinion is that capitalism or socialism is superior to the other, or a third system superior to both. It is not an opinion that capitalism is less than 500 years old, it is fact. It is a blatant falsehood that “free markets” have always been around. The fallacy is a mere ideological propaganda claim, known to non-dogmatic scholars in the social sciences as the naturalizing tendency of capitalism.

Falsehoods in journalism undermine the central purpose of journalism, and should not be allowed anymore than one should teach in math classes that two plus two equals five. What is just punishment for one posing as an expert spreading deliberate falsehoods, or lazily passing them along without checking or because it suits their ideology? Fines should equal any and all profit made from lies, including salary, royalties, and advertising revenue, plus the market value of all free publicity gained by falsehoods.

Again, no one is proposing interfering with anyone's mythical “right” to be a serial liar, only their profiting from destructive lies. To give it an old fashioned analogy, one could still hand out books with falsehoods for free. You just can't sell the book to make a profit.

“4.The agency in charge of judging lies and falsehoods by journalists, commentators, or experts for the mass media must be entirely of respected historians for matters of history and politics, respected legal scholars for matters of law, and respected scientists or doctors for matters of science, medicine, and health, and shall be nonpartisan, with no member affiliated with any party.”

A completely nonpartisan and expert agency is needed to judge and enforce these new laws. Otherwise the agency would inevitably become censorship by one party or ideology upon all others. Thus the need to be very specific, written within the new Constitution and not within ordinary or easily repealed law, in who would make up such an agency, and in what they judge. It must be made up of experts in the particular fields, the most highly regarded in those fields, not partisan hacks nor self deluded amateurs.

If defamation, libel, and slander can be punished without harming freedom of the press, then why not this? If a judge or jury can assess such matters, why not an agency with members far more trained than the general public? In fact, we do have a model for such an agency in the current existence of fact checking sites online. The great majority of these sites have laudable records as badly needed resources. What this article simply proposes is that such assessments add financial penalties so that none profit from willful or ideologically driven lying.

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

A 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.

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

An Amendment to Renounce War

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 both the Holocaust and Bangladesh, one tenth of the lives lost could have been saved, but were not. A military response is not always needed. In both cases, the more effective way of limiting genocide would have been to publicly denounce and isolate those carrying it out, offer refuge to 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

Proposed New Constitution Article 7- Ending Colonialism (Finally)

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.

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

A Proposed New Constitution Article 6- Limiting Corporate Power

Most of these articles on proposed constitutional reform have been posted under Election Reforms. But since this one deals with corporate power it seemed best to post here.

From the forthcoming A 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.

-------------
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

A Proposed New Constitution Articles 4 & 5, 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.

------

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.

-------------
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

Others' Proposed Articles and Amendments to the Constitution

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

Others' Proposed Articles and Amendments to the Constitution
by Al Carroll, et al.

There has been an interesting mix of reactions to my articles at Counterpunch, DailyKos, and Democratic Underground discussing constitutional reform. Some responses were kneejerk rejection, mostly incoherent or bluster. Perhaps the most juvenile was one who sputtered, “Dafuq...this is ridiculous.” The angriest responses were essentially, “How dare you even talk about this?”

As I argued in my first article, many Americans are afflicted with constitution worship. The constitution is just not to be questioned, and even those who think of themselves as left of center often become like fundamentalists on the subject. A few responded with hysteria, paranoia, or conspiracy theories. One insisted any constitutional convention would be taken over by Monsanto.

But those reactions were a distinct minority, not even a fourth of the respondents. Most responses were well thought out. Most often those that disagreed with my own proposals had read much history and law, given much thought to the subject, and had intelligent critical responses and their own counter proposals.

The most common counter argument was that what was needed more than anything was for the current rights in the constitution to be actually followed. Articles in the constitution give the power to declare war to congress, and the Fifteenth Amendment is supposed to protect voting rights. My response is that the elitist nature of the current system put in place by the founders into the original constitution prevents the nobler parts of the document from being enforced. The bad drives out the good, and the former needs to be removed or reformed.

Here are 33 other counter or additional proposals from 13 different commenters. I argue that most of these certainly deserve serious consideration. I do not claim to have all the answers and always wanted my proposals to be a starting point for the public.
Numbering and bolding is added by me:

-----
Greeting, Dr. Carroll,
Thank you for your very interesting essay on proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution. I agree with your proposals.

1. I would like to add that the U.S. should experiment with proportional representation. Instead of winner take all, congressional representatives would be allocated according to the percentage of votes received in each congressional district.

2. Voting must be done via a verifiable system that must be publicly owned, so there is no profit motive, and no conflict of interest, nor appearance of conflict of interest attached to voting.

3. A net neutrality amendment should be written into the constitution. The internet is to be declared a common carrier. No former internet service provider executive may serve on the FCC. All laws forbidding municipalities, counties, regions, or states from developing and providing their own internet service must be abolished.

4. Descendants of U.S. slavery are entitled to reparations.

5. All substance abuse is decriminalized. Funds dedicated to the criminal justice approach to drug use, are to be transferred and used in a healthcare based approach.

6. All citizens of the U.S. are entitled to water, food, education, housing and healthcare as basic human rights.

7. Mandatory periodic debt forgiveness for individuals, small businesses, and local governments. No financial institution may profit from the repackaging and reselling of debt.

8. No results or projected results of any elections may be broadcast prior to the closing of the polls in the relevant district.
Dawn Uwangue, Staten Island, New York

-----
9. I would add an amendment requiring environmental protection. Basically it would make the Antiquities Act part of the Constitution. "In the absence of Congressional action, the executive, shall have full power to declare areas as national monuments or forests, collected from the public lands held by this Government in trust for the People. Congress may not exempt any State or Territory or any part of it from this amendment, nor place any limitation on the sizes of areas protected, or on the number of areas set aside by the President. the Legislature shall have the sole authority to designate areas wilderness or parks, and may abolish monuments that have been degraded.

10. I think adding members to the Supreme Court would solve a lot of those issues. Remember the court did rule against Bush at the height of the Imperial Presidency, which provided a necessary bounds on a presidency gone amok. Originally the executive was meant to be a group, not just one person, but that changed over the years.

2. I would change us to be more in line with a parliamentary system, with seats given based on percentage of voters, so say the reform Party gets 1% they get 1 seat.

11. I would lift the cap in congress so it grows in size every 10 years as was intended.

12. Give the president the ability to call early elections if congress does not do its job.
MorrellWI1983

-----
12. Any sane system could not end up in the deadlock situations we routinely find ourselves in. Snap elections would occur to determine the mandate, and the ones causing the mess would be ousted.
Aseth

-----
I want the new constitution to explicitly include examples of things that are not permissible. Several such examples would include
13. miscellaneous schemes for stealth governing.

14. Ferocious limits on the operations of corporations, (and believe me, I mean ferocious).

15.Possibly explicit constraints on the activities and institutions of political parties.

16. Limits on the size and expenditures of the military.

17. Especially ferocious limits on the operations of media corporations.


18.Specific limits on patents, copyrights and other intellectual property grants, etc. etc. etc.

19. Explicit statements about every citizen's right to a free and well-funded education, and so on.
Untimelyrippd

-----
19. Specific FIXED limits on these things -- for a reasonable term of years, NOT renewable or adjustable by a simple act of Congress. And a complete ban on what is now called "proprietary" intellectual property. If you aren't willing to expose your creations to public view (and eventual passage into the public domain), they are to be afforded NO legal protection at all. Patent/copyright (with their limits and conditions) or lose it -- no other choices.
Thanaotkephaloides


20. Why not change to corporate charters to specify that representatives of workers, community members and environmentalists must be represented on corporate boards of directors. (The codetermination laws in Germany and the Scandinavian countries have 50% of board members democratically elected by the workforce.)
Cherrymapin

-----
21. Genocide should be factored in so that American Indians are given a handicap so that we get one for each of the original nations of this OUR LAND.
Representation based on government census over represents Whites, many Latinos are counted as White and Arabs are counted as White. But over counting the conquering population was a feature of the Constitutional convention's piece of paper. "Indians not taxed."
Clyde Grubbs

-----
I like a lot of this, but there are parts I am not so sure of.

22. I would prefer 4 year terms for both houses, because I fear that yearly turnover of people who have no training for this job would end up in chaos, or be run by the non-elected staffers who would be the ‘old hands’ giving all the advice to the constantly new senators. Since they would be chosen at random, they could have terms that start two years off from the four year cycle to stagger the ‘everyone is new’ issues.

There also needs to be a way for people to opt out, for health or certain other reasons, just as we can do for jury duty. A parent expecting a child, the only surgeon in a rural hospital, serious health issues, or other similar circumstances might be deemed a reason for turning down a term. We don’t have a draft for a reason, and I would rather not have ‘conscripted’ senators, either.

23. The other thing I don’t see here are term limits for the House. I would think no more than 2 four year terms? Or is only a single term implied somewhere in the article?

24.I also think that VP and Secretary of State may need to stay separate, or that another job should be added. Yes, a lot of VPs are ‘just for show’, but it can still be a full time job, and Secretary of State is MORE than a full time job already.

25.The last thing I would like to see included would be national voting rights that can not be changed by any state or local government. All elections are treated the same, with the same rules, with early voting and easy registration guaranteed.

26.I have always thought that Election Day should be a Federal holiday. We can celebrate Columbus and two long dead presidents, but we have to work the one day of the year (or 4 years) that we can directly affect our current lives and history? Make it a Federal holiday and more people will be able to actually use their right to vote.
QueenoftheFaeries

-----
27. I do think we should find a way to do away with the party system and elect a more representative federal government. However that needs to be done on a pattern of New Zealand's Parliament where no group can take control and coalitions must be formed to effect government.

Such "time-honored" institutions as gerrymandering, parties, and the Electoral College should be mothballed.
MyOwnReality

-----
28...If the House is not enlarged... it could stay at 435 but there would actually be 4350 reps.... the rep who goes to Washington could be chosen from 10 local reps each of whom is elected in a sub section of the district and who stay in their subdivisions so as to stay in closer contact with constituents and local govt... they would choose one of their number to go to Washington to represent them all and have regular meetings with them via the net to keep current on local and national doings...
IreGyre

-----
29. There are still going to be people who have to work. Hospital workers, for example. How about having voting on both Saturday and Sunday and requiring that employers give one of those days off?
Jeff47

------
30. Any law with the outcome, even unintended, of denying the vote to members of any identifiable demographic group, shall be immediately void.
That was easy
It also takes care of LBGTs, religious minorities, atheists, agnostics, and other groups that are currently facing persecution or organized social opprobrium, or have faced such in the past.

31. What I'd like to also see is a provision that reverses all decisions taken by elected officials who were found to have gained office via voter suppression or tampering with elections.
Thereby removing the incentive that fanatical ideologues presently have for doing those things in order to get their policies enacted.
G2geek

-------
32. The Right to Vote should be exercised by inmates from their prison cells.
Eugene Debs gained a million votes while running for President from his prison cell.
He was unable to vote for himself, due to his being disenfranchised.

33. Under no circumstances should the qualifications for voting for a public office exceed the qualifications for running for that same public office.
That just doesn't make sense at all.
Anybody who is deemed eligible to run for President should also be deemed as eligible to vote for that President.
PacifistSocialist

-------------

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

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.

---------
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

Proposed New Constitution Article 2- Insuring Greater Democracy

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.

Article 2- Insuring Greater Democracy

“1.The Electoral College is abolished. The President shall be directly elected, with the winner being the candidate receiving the most votes.”

There probably is no part of the original constitution more disliked than the Electoral College, more regarded as archaic, useless, arbitrary, and pointless. Yet it persists, for it is politically useful to elites as a way to nullify and undermine broader populist democracy.

As described in the Introduction, the college was intended by the founders to be a veto against the public. If they elected the “wrong” man, the electors were to ignore the voters and choose the “right” man, one who would serve the wishes of elites. The other restrictions already in place to keep out populists made this unnecessary. Only rarely did electors vote contrary to what the voters of a state wanted. Even that was fixed in the 1970s by laws requiring the electors to vote the same as a state's popular vote.

So why does it continue? The college, like the US Senate, gives far more power to small population and mostly rural states. A lightly populated state like Wyoming gets three electoral votes, when based on its population it should get a fraction of one. Since rural voters tend to be more conservative, conservatives get an exaggerated sense of how conservative the nation is, and are overrepresented in the college. The big concentrations of electoral votes in a few states also makes it useful for political elites and the highly paid consultants they use to target those states.

The college has an anti democratic effect in other ways too. If you don't live in a swing state, you are mostly ignored by major parties's campaigns. That depresses voter turnout. If the other party will win in your state by over ten percentage points, why bother showing up at all? As much as 45% of the voters of a state are told their vote does not count. So the majorities in one state by one party are further exaggerated.

Congressmen and other officials running for office from the smaller party in the state are also far more likely to lose when they could have won. A Democrat running in largely Democratic Austin in largely Republican Texas, or a Republican running in largely Republican Orange County in largely Democratic California, could lose where they might have won.

Another distortion is that small groups in big Electoral College states have far more influence than they should. How much have US relations with Cuba been dictated by a small group of Cuban-Americans in South Florida?

This college is an incredibly unpopular institution and its fall is guaranteed by any future constitutional convention. In its place is the simple solution wanted by nearly everyone and practiced by almost every democracy in the world. The president will be the candidate who receives the most votes.

“2.The Supreme Court shall never, by any decision including indirectly, decide who shall be President.”

Elections like 1876 and 2000 must never be repeated again. In both cases, a corrupt party blatantly stole the election and suppressed minority votes during the election, and even more afterwards. In both cases the Electoral College negated the popular vote. In both cases, five justices of the court sanctioned and actively intervened to maintain the results of these corrupt elections.

This clause removes the courts from elections, leaving the matter entirely to the executive branch. Clause 5 of this article, further down, guarantees election boards shall always be nonpartisan, and shall never decide to favor one party or ideology, and shall never exclude minority votes as happened all across the south in 1876 and in five states in 2000.

“3.The Vice President shall be nominated separately by each party and elected separately from the President, and also serves as the Secretary of State.”

The Vice Presidential candidacy is more a punchline than anything else. It has given us such awful and almost universally despised politicians as Aaron Burr, John Calhoun, Andrew Johnson, William Marshall (who refused to become president when Woodrow Wilson was in a coma), Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin.

Of 47 VPs, the only ones to be highly regarded by both historians and the public were just two, Truman and Mondale. Truman headed a campaign to halt waste in wartime industries and Mondale was the first activist VP. A failure rate of over 95% for over 200 years is incredibly high even by the worst of government standards. As VP John Garner said, being VP is “not worth a warm bucket of piss.” He did not say spit, that was cleaned up by later writers.

The office needs to be changed. The VP is chosen by a single person when they should be chosen by the voters, first in the party primaries and then in the general election. The office needs to be more than an empty formality, a person who spends most of their time at funerals or on make-work commissions to look busy.

Make the VP also the Secretary of State. That is where one would acquire the skills most needed to step into the office of the presidency should something happen to the president. Require the parties nominate their VPs separately, and let the voters choose them separately. Then there would no more Andrew Johnsons, disasters who became president, originally chosen just to help the party ticket.

“4.The Senate shall be 100 adult citizens chosen at random each year, representative of the adult American public by age, gender, race and ethnicity, religion or lack of, and income or social class.”

The Senate is a millionaire's club. This is no exaggeration. It has always been a vocation sought after by wealthy retired men almost as a hobby after a life in business or law. This must end. Let the Senate represent the American public directly, be chosen at random from the public itself to act as a check against any and all elite led efforts or laws.

Look at the makeup of the Senate today in 2014.
93 whites, 4 Latinos, 2 Blacks, 1 Asian.
Average age of 62. 80 men, 20 women. Average income of over $1 million.
52 Protestants, 27 Catholics, 11 Jews, 7 Mormons, 1 Buddhist.

Now look at the makeup of the Senate under this proposed plan:
62 whites, 17 Latinos, 13 Blacks, 5 Asians, 2 American Indians, 1 Arab.
51 women, 49 men. Average age of 54. Average income of $35,000.
51 Protestants, 22 Catholics, 16 atheists, agnostics, or unaffiliated, 2 Jews, 2 Orthodox Christians, 1 Mormon, 1 Buddhist, 1 Hindu, 1 Muslim, and 3 who won't say what their faith, or lack of it, is.

Clearly our current system leaves out the voices of most women and ethnic and religious minorities. Atheists and the unaffiliated especially are completely silenced, unable to be elected because of the hostility of those bigoted against them. But the most striking silencing of all is of working class people. Even the upper middle class rarely get elected.

A completely random process for choosing senators from the adult general public can easily be designed by statisticians. Having a senate chosen at random from the public guarantees the public shall always be represented. It turns the public into itself the fourth branch of government and a check on the power of the other three branches.

No doubt the more elitist and downright snobby will sneer at the thought of a waitress or truck driver in the halls of congress. No doubt many of those same people will pat themselves on the back, and never consider that to your typical member of the political or economic elite, the readers looking down on a waitress themselves would be sneered at by elites.

Those who sneer at the hard working and less educated are contemptible, unlike the ones they look down on. Not having a degree does not make one stupid, and equally important, it does not take away from them wanting to do what is right, and having basic common sense. The recent documentary Schooling the World makes a very strong case for how education can often be used to make a person less ethical, more materialistic, and less tied to their community. The famed book Lies My Teacher Told Me points out that, believe it or not, more education makes one more likely to support wars, not less.

Having wealth in many ways makes a person less capable. They are sheltered from day to day struggles. They don't know what it is to have to choose which bill to pay, to go without, or to see one's children go without. It is elitist to sneer at those on public assistance as “lazy” when truly the laziest people are those who let their wealth do their work for them. It is ignorant or willfully blind to not know the wealthy receive far more public assistance than the poor.

A nation should never try for change solely from above, imposed on those below. Those below must have a veto. A senate made up of 100 John and Jane Does rather than Rockefellers provides that.

“5.Redistricting and the administration of elections shall only be done by nonpartisan committee, and gerrymandering to favor one party or dilute minority voting power is forbidden.”

Redistricting is today done by the most highly partisan people possible. State legislatures decide voting districts, and they generally do so openly to favor their own party as much as possible. For over a generation after the civil rights era, it was also quite common for districts to be set up to weaken or exclude minority voting power.

A good example of partisan redistricting is Austin. Politically, Austin's voters are quite similar in their outlook to San Francisco's. The Republican state legislature gerrymandered Austin out of its own congressman, dividing it up into parts of six more conservative districts. By one gerrymandering effort alone, nearly a million Americans are not represented in the House.

But perhaps the most notorious examples of partisan electioneering have happened in Florida and Ohio. Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris purged eligible voters, mostly Black, and halted a recount to help her own party. Ohio's Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, himself Black, disenfranchised a number of minority voters, and then refused to cooperate with investigations into his actions. Neither person, nor indeed any politician, has any business as an authority to decide who can vote.

Less known, but just as unjust, is how partisan election rules keep out third parties. When John Anderson ran as an independent candidate for president in 1980, eventually getting 8% of the vote, his campaign spent much of their time and limited funds overcoming the many barriers to getting on the ballot in each state. Anderson at one point had over a quarter of voters supporting him. State barriers trying to exclude him were not the only reason he did not do nearly as well as he could have. But they had a crippling effect on his campaign.

Voting, and insuring that everyone eligible can vote as easily as possible, should not be up to partisans with a stake in keeping out voters of other parties. It should be as nonpartisan and uncontroversial as health or fire departments.

“6.Congressional representatives' terms are changed to four years, elected in the same elections as the President.”

Most of the public does not show up to vote for midterm elections. These votes, and the people chosen by them, are illegitimate because most of the public is not represented. That must change.

Blaming the voters themselves is pointless. Voters often show up depending on how much they have been conditioned to show up, and the media does not do so for midterm elections. The media pays far more attention to the presidency than all other offices combined, but there is no law that will change that. Instead that attention must be harnessed so that a majority will always turn out to elect their congressmen.

The terms of the two houses are almost reversed by this proposed system. Today senators are wealthy elites with a longer term than a president, and they represent mostly small population states. Congressmen serve only two years, and while still well off, have slightly higher numbers of the upper middle class than senators. This new system makes the new House the upper house, with longer terms and still likely more well off economically than the Senate.

The new Senate will be mostly working class and mid and lower middle class. While there will still be some from the upper middle class, it is unlikely to have more than a single member of wealthy elites. There likely will even be several members of the Senate each year who were unemployed at the time of being chosen, and a fair number of retirees and housewives. With a new Senate every year, it will represent the mood, beliefs, and priorities of middle America better than any past congress ever has, or could. With nonpartisan redestricting, the House will look much more like America as well.

That is as it should be. This will be the most direct form of democracy seen since town, village, or tribal meetings, a populist one that can and will block elite actions that harm others or the nation.

---------
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

Proposed New Constitution Article I- Continuing & Expanding the Original Constitution & its Amendmen

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution, available online. This and all related articles may be freely shared and reposted, in full or in part, under Creative Commons, with proper authorship and not for profit.

Article 1-
Continuing and Expanding the Original Constitution and its Amendments

“1. All articles and amendments from the previous Constitution of 1787 remain the final law of the land, except as changed by the following articles or later amendments.”

As was just described in the Introduction, the original constitution does not deserve reverence. It was elitist, conceived in secrecy, passed by undemocratic means, and deliberately designed to insure economic elites will also hold political control. This proposed constitution does not seek to take away what was good and right in the original amendments to the original Constitution. The Bill of Rights, and amendments such as the Reconstruction Amendments and the Right to Vote for Women remain incredibly important.

The original constitution is another matter. It is purely a document of power, who has it and can wield it. It is not about rights or democracy, but designed to limit rights and democracy. The amendments stay protected. The First Amendments is the most cherished part of the entire constitution, protecting freedom of speech, assembly, petition, and religion. It also blocks established state churches, one of the main causes of religious repression and wars partly or wholly begun or justified using religion. The lack of an official state church is one of the main reasons the US is one of the most devout nations in the world, with an incredible diversity of faiths. There are dozens of Southern Baptist organizations alone.

The Second Amendment is the most controversial of all the amendments. It is best left alone, for any attempt to alter it would at least occupy and perhaps split apart the entire convention. Not only that, crime has been dropping for several decades already, including gun crimes. Most gun deaths are suicides, and they along with some gun crimes can be reduced by restricting guns to the mentally ill, felons, or those under restraining orders, by ordinary law.

The remaining amendments include rights against self incrimination, to a speedy trial, equal protection in the Fourteenth Amendment, an end to slavery, suffrage for women, presidential succession, and an end to poll taxes and literacy tests. It would be difficult to understate the importance of these rights to individuals and to expanding rights. All these amendments besides the Bill of Rights are ones most of the founders would have opposed. These amendments are almost all very real defeats of the original elitist intent of the founders.

"2. This and all future constitutional conventions must be representative of the US public, by gender, race and ethnicity, and religious faith or lack of. Its members must be respected intellectuals drawn from education, religious institutions, civil rights groups, non-governmental organizations, labor, business, military veteran groups, consumer groups, and scientists. No current or former elected officials or appointed cabinet members or presidential or congressional advisors or staff are allowed. All constitution conventions must be in full view of the public, every word said by every delegate at the convention scrupulously recorded."

The original constitution was by, for, and of elitists, entirely white males, mostly very wealthy slave owners, speculators, and professional politicians. Any and all future constitutions, including this proposed one, must not be. They must include everyone, every last social group, every last group of important representative institutions. To fail to do so means the document is not legitimate, and deserves not to be seen as such.

Look at the background of the original 55 founders:
41 had been members of the Continental Congress. 35 had legal training (not all practicing.) 18 were speculators in land or stocks. 14 were plantation owners, also owning many slaves, and others had domestic slaves. There were only two small farmers. The only other good trait of the founders were five who were doctors or scientists.

All 55 were white. All 55 were male. 49 were Protestant (28 of them Episcopal), and only two Catholics. Three of the most important, Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, were Deists, believers in God who did not belong to any church.

Now look at a hypothetical convention of 100 delegates who represent a cross section of America under this proposal:

64 whites, 17 Latinos, 13 Blacks, 5 Asians, and 1 American Indian.
51 women and 49 men.
51 Protestants, 22 Catholics, 16 atheists, agnostics, or unaffiliated, 2 Jewish, 2 Orthodox Christians, 1 Mormon, 1 Buddhist, 1 Hindu, 1 Muslim, and 3 who won't say their faith.
Obviously there were would be no plantation or slave owners, though likely a few speculators or lawyers. Most of the membership would be drawn from institutions devoted to public service, and no office holders. The only thing the two conventions would share might be roughly equal numbers of scientists and doctors.

Such a convention would be far more devoted to the public good than the founders ever were. The chances of institutions like an Electoral College being repeated are extremely remote. Ideally the delegates would seek consensus on as many issues as possible, and deliberate obstructionists would be few, as they are intellectuals more than ideologues.

The most constructive way to run a convention would be to limit the time to several weeks to give the delegates impetus to finish decisively. Immediately hold an informal nonbinding straw poll to see which proposals have the most and least support. All proposals with less than a third support get tabled until the end, perhaps never voted on at all. Those with the highest support are voted on, in that order. This would create a momentum to hopefully carry forward the proceedings, and help solve the more difficult and contentious issues.

Such a convention must also have rules in place to bar filibusters entirely, strictly limiting the amount of time speaking by one person, establish quorums easily, and bring votes quickly. For the truly intractable issues, a model can be found in how historic treaties like the Camp David Accords were negotiated. When two sides disagree strongly on an issue, those who are not part of either group and with the least stake or emotion tied up in that issue act as go betweens, seeking out common ground and finding solutions neither side had tried or thought of before.

This and any other possible future conventions must be out in the open for all to see, with no more secretive deliberations as the original convention had. The media must be there to observe but not interfere or agitate, and the public there to observe, much like the visitors' gallery in Congress today. Secrecy and elitism create and guarantee mistrust, rightfully so. Recent history shows us the public greatly distrusted NAFTA and GATT, for perfectly valid reasons, as gatherings of remote elites designed to undermine democratic institutions out of sight from the public. This convention must be accessible. Every word at it must be recorded for historic reasons as well. There is much we do not know about the original convention because of the walls of secrecy those elitists hid behind.

"3. Each of these following articles must be voted on and approved separately by two thirds or more of those voting to become the law of the land."

The public should not be forced to vote an entire document either up or down, accepting those parts they disagree with in order to have those parts they do agree with. This is what the original founders did (except it was to other elites, the special state conventions and not the public) and it further shows how anti democratic their methods deliberately were.

The vote should also be a supermajority, two thirds or more, to become the highest law in the land. Passing by narrow majorities would be rightly seen as contentious, undermine any consensus these new laws deserve to be our constitution, and probably foreshadow a great deal of conflict.

One of the best examples is the abortion issue. There are few countries where abortion is a more divisive issue than the US, and that is precisely because of how it was done. The Supreme Court declared abortion bans to be unconstitutional based on an implied right to privacy. In most of the rest of the world, abortion bans were dropped by vote. Thus the issue felt more resolved to most of the public. Had the court not acted, an abortion ban may well have dropped anyway, state by state. I hasten to point out, this proposed constitution includes the right to privacy in Article 15, protecting abortion rights among other things.

This vote must be held by the public, and not by legislatures as the current constitution requires. Needing approval by the states gives far too much power to small population and mostly rural states, far out of proportion to their population. It is deliberately anti democratic, as the founders yet again intended.

If two thirds of the public nationwide vote for these articles, that gives them legitimacy. But would that not ignore the original constitution? Yes, and that is half the point. The founders did precisely the same, ignoring the original Articles of Confederation. The original Articles state they are “...perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time be made in any of them; unless such alteration agreed to in Congress of the US & confirmed by legislatures of every State.” As pointed out in the Introduction, on both counts, the constitution was illegally adopted, not agreed to either by congress or state legislatures.

If the founder could ignore the original Articles, we as a nation can and should ignore the founders and the constitutional requirement, based on the precedent the founders themselves set. A two thirds supermajority will create enormous pressure on the federal government: Accept these new constitutional articles we have just approved, overwhelmingly, as now the highest law of the land.

---------
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
Go to Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »