The Case for An Article V Convention

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Guest post by John de Herrera

Today, as happens once or twice a week, a blog post or news item appears on the Internet examining the Article V Convention. Below it are the same comments Americans have been making about a convention for over half a century: that it’s dangerous, that with the way politics are played today such an assembly would be nothing more than an exercise in special interests gutting protections originally put in place of, by, and for the people.

Many today understand the necessity for our society to build consensus about what’s wrong (in order to do something about it), but few understand the function and utility of a convention. Nothing stays perfect forever, politics are dynamic, things change, and a scan of political sites makes clear consensus is that governance is off track. The question is, how do we address it?

A quick read of Article V (a single sentence) shows that upon the application of 2/3 of the states Congress shall call “a convention for proposing amendments….”The leading national group Friends of the Article V Convention has done an audit of Congressional Records (themselves part of the Constitution, as the Constitution mandates that both houses keep records). They show that not only have 34 states cast the requisite number of applications to initiate the call, but indeed 49 have cast over 750 applications.

In other words the states have satisfied the clause. Congress simply ignores its obligation to count them, all the while two or three new ones arrive each new session.

The reason the 113th Congress is allowed to disobey the law is because the people are unaware and/or fear a convention. So long as this state of affairs exists, Congress can simply ignore the record while looking busy with a bunch of partisan and divisive nonsense, i.e. politics as usual.

90% Disapprove of Congress

What’s more powerful, the right to complain about government, or the right to reform it? Clearly one right is more powerful. Indeed it’s the right that makes an American citizen who and what they are – a member of a society with the power to alter or abolish what it dislikes about government. You’ll find very few Americans who want to abolish government, the three branches – legislative, executive, and judicial. No, the vast majority want to keep what we have, but address how it currently operates.

Opinion polls show that 90%+ of Americans disapprove of Congress, a statistic that’s been trending for over a decade. When the institution established to represent the will of the People is disapproved by 90%, it’s self-evident it’s time for them to exercise their right to alter what they dislike. History teaches that if not, forces of corruption will alter it against our wishes, and some argue that’s already occurring due to corporations acting as citizens. This status quo of politics has resulted in government drowned in private money, where laws/loopholes go to the highest bidders, written by lobbyists, signed off on by members of Congress, and disliked by the People.

The Provisions of Article V

In the event Congress becomes unresponsive to the needs of the people a convention of the states considers amendment proposals. Proposals voted up by 2/3 of state delegations are then sent back to the people at large for ratification by 3/4. In other words, the functions of proposal and ratification are two separate functions. The fear of a convention comes from the perception that proposal and ratification are both done at the convention, when the former is done by delegates, and the latter by the people.

Seventy-five percent of Americans today are not going to suggest we chuck the Constitution and try to start over. But they are highly like to support the reversal of Supreme Court doctrines regarding speech and personhood, even, perhaps, public financing of elections.

Forcing Congress to Act

There are a number of things about American history that politicians do not talk about, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t, but because doing so would alter how we citizens see and think about our government. On the flip side, if enough of us become cognizant and desirous of reform, politicians will have no choice but to comply.

A paper put out by the Congressional Research Service (subsequently updated multiple times, most recently April 2014) says as much about the Article V Convention – that if enough Americans want it Congress will have to call one. That the paper has been updated since it was first delivered to Congress is significant: it means there is movement in the halls of power. Congress may not be talking about it, but they are clearly aware of growing interest in Article V. And the negative and false myths surrounding it.

American Citizen or Global Citizen

Even if you’re not American, it’s important to understand and educate yourself about this issue. Unless we start talking about a different Earth, a different global order, a different USA, and a different Constitution, there is no other way out for humanity. In this sense, an Article V Convention is unique. Once called, it sets off a natural progression of events that will deliver us from the inevitable catastrophe of corporate governance.

How’s that? Because a convention allows for humans to find common ground past the gridlock of corporate politicians. Believe it or not, the vast majority want to throw off this long train of abuse and ecological negligence. Everyone has an idea of what changes are necessary. Yet until we all come to the table, nobody is going anywhere.

It’s time to raise consciousness. It’s time for non-Americans call on Americans to exercise their right to a convention; it’s time Americans call on Congress to count the applications on record. Until the count is made nothing can happen. We don’t have all the time in the world to make it so.

Congressional Research Service: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42592.pdf

Friends of the Article V Convention: http://www.foavc.org

John De Herrera is a writer/artist/activist who lives and works in Santa Barbara, California. He is a former founding member of Friends of the Article Five Convention. You can email him at john@alipes.org.

Photo credit Wikimedia Commons

38 States Call for Constitutional Convention

 

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Can Red and Blue States Unite to Save Democracy?

One news item receiving virtually no corporate media attention is that thirty-eight state legislatures have officially requested a constitutional convention under Article V of the US Constitution. There has only been one constitutional convention – the first – in 1787. Article V requires Congress to call a constitutional convention if 2/3 of (34) states request one.

Most, but not all the resolutions are from red states calling for a balanced budget amendment. However two blue states, California and Vermont, have requested a constitutional convention to end corporate personhood and restrict corporate funding for elections.

Tallying the numbers is a bit complicated. According to the Congressional Record, forty-nine states* have requested constitutional conventions. Eleven of these forty-nine states later rescinded their requests.

ALEC Seeks to Restrict Delegate Freedom

Forbes Magazine argues you also have to subtract the states which have passed a delegate limitation act. This would prohibit delegates from considering any amendments other than those requested by their state.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the lobby group founded and funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is very keen to see all states pass a delegate limitation act and have even drafted model legislation.

ALEC and the corporations they represent believe the delegates to a constitutional convention must be closely controlled to prevent a runaway convention from passing amendments unfriendly to corporate interests – e.g. an amendment ending corporate personhood and limiting the ability of corporations to overrule state and municipal laws. Three states (Georgia, Indiana and Florida) have passed delegate limitation legislation. Another seven states (Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin) are considering it.

Using a Balanced Budget Amendment to Abolish the Fed

Clearly ALEC is calling for a balanced budget amendment in the hope it will force the federal government to cut spending for Social Security, Medicare and other social programs. This strategy could backfire if it leads to a debate on abolishing the Federal Reserve and stripping private banks of their power to create money.

Eliminating federal debt will be extremely difficult, if not impossible without scrapping a system in which nearly all our money is produced as debt (i.e. loans by private banks). There’s growing grassroots support on both the right and the left to abolish the Fed (see James  Corbett’s excellent documentary explaining how banks create money out of thin air.) A constitutional convention could be the ideal scenario to make this happen.

Why Red and Blue States Need to Work Together

red and blue states

California and Vermont are only the first of many blue states in the Move to Amend coalition seeking a constitutional convention to end corporate personhood. The vital question here is whether red states seeking a balanced budget amendment will be open to talking to blue states seeking to limit the de facto ability of corporations to overturn state and municipal laws.

The corporate media has been extremely cagey of late about magnifying the distrust and enmity between the two camps. I find this quite sad as there are many issues on which the so-called “extreme” right and left agree, like ending NSA spying, ending the wars in the Middle East, abolishing the Fed, restoring civil liberties guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, ending the President’s abuse of executive power and curtailing the power of the corporate oligarchy.

I think it’s a very good sign that a non-partisan group called Friends of the Article V Convention is keeping count of the states. There has been some talk the Friends may file suit if Congress fails to set wheels in motion for a constitutional convention.

States Seek Broad Range of Amendments

In addition to requesting a constitutional convention to pass amendmentss calling for a balanced federal budget and an end to corporate personhood, various state petitions seek amendments to limit federal income taxes, to begin negotiations for a world federation (i.e. one world government), to change apportionment for the Electoral College and the House of Representatives, to increase federal revenue sharing, to end federal interference in school management, to guarantee a right to life, to end unfunded federal mandates, to end judicial taxing power, to establish term limits for federal office holders and to restrict new laws to a single subject.

There are a few more I would add to this list, including constitutional amendments abolishing the Electoral College, restoring Posse Comitatus and limiting the ability of the President to rule via executive order. I’m sure readers have their own personal favorites.

*The 49 states which have formally requested a constitutional convention:

  • Alabama: balanced budget, June 2011
  • Alaska: federal fiscal restraints and term limits, April 2014
  • Arizona: ending judicial taxing power, Mar 1996, rescinded 2003
  • Arkansas: right to life amendment, May 1977
  • California: abolish corporate personhood, June 2014
  • Colorado: unfunded federal mandates, June 1992
  • Connecticut: prohibit interstate income tax, May 1958
  • Delaware: balanced budget amendment, Feb 1976
  • Florida: balanced budget, term limits, limit laws to 1 subject, April 2014
  • Georgia: balanced budget, Feb 2014
  • Idaho: limit income tax, April 1989, rescinded 1999
  • Illinois: increase federal revenue sharing, June 1976
  • Indiana: right to life, balanced budget, 1977, 1979
  • Iowa: balanced budget, June 1979
  • Kansas: balanced budget, May 1978
  • Kentucky: change apportionment for House, Oct 1965
  • Louisiana: balanced budget, May 2014
  • Maine: limit income tax, April 1941
  • Maryland: right to life, Jan 1977
  • Massachusetts: right to life, 1977
  • Michigan: balanced budget, Nov 2013
  • Minnesota: change apportionment for House, May 1965
  • Mississippi: right to life, Feb 1979
  • Missouri: unfunded federal mandates, Mar 1993
  • Montana: change apportionment for Electoral College, Mar 1973, rescinded 2007
  • Nebraska: balanced budget, April 2010
  • Nevada: right to life, unfunded federal mandates, June 1979
  • New Hampshire: balanced budget, May 2012
  • New Jersey: right to life, April 1977
  • New Mexico: balanced budget, Feb 1979
  • New York: federal interference with school management, Oct 1972
  • North Carolina: balanced budget, Feb 1979
  • North Dakota: end judicial taxing power, Mar 1996
  • Ohio: balanced budget, Nov 2013
  • Oklahoma: change apportionment for Electoral College, May 1965, rescinded 2009
  • Oregon: balanced budget, Feb 1979, rescinded 1999
  • Pennsylvania: balanced budget, Feb 1979
  • Rhode Island: right to life, May 1977
  • South Carolina: balanced budged Feb 1979, rescinded 2004
  • South Dakota: unfunded federal mandates, rescinded 2010
  • Tennessee: balanced budget, April 2014
  • Texas: balanced budget, Mar 1979
  • Utah: right to life, rescinded 2001
  • Vermont: corporate personhood, April 2014
  • Virginia, change apportionment for House, May 1964, rescinded 2004
  • Washington: change apportionment for House, Mar 1963
  • West Virginia: increase federal revenue sharing, Jan 1971, rescinded 2001
  • Wisconsin: change apportionment for Electoral College, Mar 1963
  • Wyoming: change apportionment for House, mode of amending constitution, Feb 1963, rescinded 2009

Photo credit Wikimedia Commons

Also posted in Veterans Today

Nobel Prize for Walmart

The Way Forward

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Guest Post by Steven Miller

(In this final of 6 guest posts, Miller discusses the role of reform in drawing people into action against the state.)

Nothing Can Be Done by Fighting for Reforms and Nothing Can Be Done Without Fighting for Them

We can summarize the salient features of the situation. Speculators wield massive political power in the US and the world. This is rooted in their absolute control of all forms of technology as private corporate property. At the same time, corporations are merging with the state. Speculators direct the capitalist class to use state political power against the people. They are engineering an escalating class war from the top against the rest of society. The capitalist class is compelled to implement electronic laborless production only in the narrow and limited ways that guarantee corporate profits.

Speculators crashed the economy in 2008 by bundling toxic mortgages into “investment tools”. Now they are doing the same with rents. Meanwhile, the situation has metastasized. There is no longer just one economic bubble. The Masters of the World are addicted to financial warfare based in bubble wars. In essence, these are just sophisticated video games that are played 24 hours a day using the assets of the public. Like days of yore, armies of mercenaries rampage across the land, despoiling the public. Like video games, they produce thrilling speculative battles with individual winners and losers. Unlike video games, they do this with the necessities of life.

So… can this situation be reformed? In other words, can the power of capital be limited or significantly altered so that the current crisis of destruction can be reversed, so that humanity can develop a sustainable economy that benefits people, rather than debasing them?

The answer is pretty clear: there can be no significant reforms. Capitalism’s feeble efforts to address Global Warming indicate this. As with the economy itself, capitalism is driving things inexorably towards greater instability and crisis. Reforming even one aspect of the situation – simply halting evictions, for example – would take a social movement on a scale never before seen. Even the uprisings of the Arab Spring have not fundamentally altered the situation. Everything today is influenced by the subjective understanding of the enormous class of people who can only survive by working.

The paradox is that nothing can be won by fighting for reforms and nothing can be won without fighting for them. There are no revolutionary reforms by definition. Reforms do not alter political power, yet reform is what draws people into action against the state. People must engage in the revolutionary struggle for reforms by doing the teaching, by elevating the discussion of where these political struggles are headed. This includes presenting a revolutionary vision of what society could be if technology were used to create real economic democracy, with democratic popular control of technology guaranteed at every level.

Capitalism intends to control and sanitize this debate:

Capitalism is a sorry excuse for an economic system. With no present viable alternative, contemporary capitalism continues to produce cruel economic results and a twisted morality. But a debate is underway. Even the Harvard Business School, the birthplace of many of capitalism’s excesses has a large project in ‘Rethinking Capitalism.” (23)

So re-think this. Everyone sees that the private corporate control of technology is not sustainable. It inevitably leads to short-term thinking, based only on the interests of private profit. This produces nightmares in every direction from climate change to corporate agriculture, new diseases, Big Pharma and the despoliation of the environment from the insane overuse of petroleum in all forms. Corporations are behind it all.

But the corporate control of technology is not an Act of God. In fact, in the ‘90s, the US Post Office proposed developing an open and democratic Internet for everyone. Bill Clinton immediately squashed that one, intoning that corporations are the best way to develop this amazing tool. Since corporations inevitably deform the potential uses of technology in order to make a profit, they are not fit to control it. Period.

Youngdahl can see “no present viable alternative” because he cannot imagine the public seizure of private corporate property. Capitalism uses its Media-Industrial State to confuse the issues. We are supposed to believe that democracy is an economic system, which it is not. Then they confuse the concepts of the government and the state. We are supposed to rail against “big Government” when government is a fundamental necessity to guarantee people the things they cannot provide for themselves. Like sewers, for example. What people really don’t like – as we see with the NSA scandal – is the capitalist state, not the government.

Some people believe that we can succeed in replacing the rule of the 1% by ignoring it and building local cooperative efforts. This view is what Chris Hedges argues in “Overthrow the Speculators!”:

We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks… Public banks also protect us from the worst forms of predatory capitalism.” (24)

Interesting question. Why bother to get rid of simply the worst forms of predatory capitalism? It’s still predatory; it’s still capitalism.

Today Americans are under an onslaught from ALEC, the corporate lobbyists who write the corporate laws, the NSA and public surveillance in many forms, a governmental refusal to regulate capitalism in any form, plus the legalizing of extraordinary rendition and drones. The state is not going to permit any weeds to grow in the garden of speculation. This strategic question is not something to ignore.

Takeovers can work both ways. America has reached the point twice before where forms of private property were strangling the very life out of society. In the 1770s, when the 13 Colonies were the private property of the King, the American people rose up and abolished this private property. This power was exercised through private corporations, such as the Virginia Corporation, which raised private armies of mercenaries. Corporations today have reclaimed this power, aided and abetted by the Department of Homeland Security. In the 21st Century, there are more private police than public police in America.

In the 1850s, private property in slavery controlled all three branches of government – the Presidency (which includes the army), the Supreme Court, and the Congress. Slave property worked day and night to extend its rights over the rights of regular people, through the Dred Scott decision, the Fugitive Slave Act and a host of other actions. Recognizing that they could no longer continue to live free, the North waged the Civil War to expropriate private property in slaves and break their political power.

Move To Amend – an organization developed to abolish corporate rights as people and money as speech – is one group that addresses the issue of expropriation: “Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.” (25) After all, if corporations can expropriate the public – as they are actively doing today – the public can expropriate the corporations.

The third time is the charm.

Steven Miller, Oakland, California, January 2014 –  nanodog2@hotmail.com

….And a big Shout-Out to the Zapatistas – 20 years ago today!

References and Resources

23)  Jay Youngdahl. “2013 was a year of Heroes and Hope”. East Bay Express. 12-25, 2013

24)  Chris Hedges. “Overthrow the Speculators!”. 12-29-2013

25)    The Myth of Corporate Personhood. Turning the Tide.
photo credit: ryanophilly via photopin cc

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Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at nanodog2@hotmail.com

Originally posted at Daily Censored