Sunday, July 29, 2007

NEEDED NOW--CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS FOR PEOPLE’S RIGHTS AND MAINTENANCE OF PEOPLE’S AUTHORITY

NEEDED NOW--CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS FOR PEOPLE’S RIGHTS AND MAINTENANCE OF PEOPLE’S AUTHORITY

By Kevin Stoda

I think that the Constitution of the United States should be properly revamped to protect the poorest and to main proper enforcement of justice and governance for the Commonweal. No other constitution on the planet has gone through as little renovation as the American Constitution has.

Is this because the constitution of the United States of America and its Articles of Amendment are so perfect?

Or is this because the founders and subsequent congresses and governments failed to do their duties and have simply allowed lethargy and inertia to creep in and take over the whole system in place of responsible growth and advancement in good governance?

I believe that for far too long, glaring problems have looked Americans in their eyes, and Americans have until now blinked. Therefore, if a major alternative to the Democratic-Republican Cabal is to become properly formed, we will have to see the system further shaken in the coming months. That is, it will take a groundswell of participation by smaller parties and progressive forces at every state level in the country so that a new constitutional reform debate and reality is to be given a chance!

Until now, too many people and party members of whatever color have been frightened by the thought of getting our states and federal representatives to call for many necessary amendments to the constitution. However, reform is essential if American’s are going to take back control of their rights and freedoms in this—the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth!

It is now time--not only to think outside of the box but--to not shrink from the call for revision. The proposed amendments which follow this section of this article need to be fully considered and debated in order to make certain that our own powerful country (and its many neighbors and fellow peaceful allies) are free of our tyranny and bad governance—a governance whose power is currently designed and skewed primarily on behalf of the MOST ELITE, MOST POWERFUL and MOST WEALTHY.

It is for this reason that I would like to call out now a year, 2007-2008, of more than just conversation. I want to see a year where American states, statesmen, and peoples of all colors and classes march into their state houses and demand constitutional reforms at the federal level that protect and ensure prosperity, justice and positive and progress developments in our system.

In order to provide a forum for this, let me invite you all to write comments and add to my list of amendments (below) to reform the American Landscape and to stare down those who oppose or fear real progressive constitutional reforms.

Here is a list of possible Amendments that should be considered on the campaign trails at state and national level in 2007-2008. They should be the grounds for calling out constitutional conventions at the state level, too. [By the way, these practices and proposed amendments (below) are already in use currently in different countries and federations around the globe. We can learn from others’ expertise in these matters and jumpstart our democracy again.]


ELECTIONS

(1) Have a representative democracy that really gives more power to the states and to a greater variety of citizens and citizen-groups than does our current system. NOTE: A better job of representing the differing populations in society would still likely require a 5 % hurdle for gaining representation in a congress or parliament. This is currently done in Germany and in other European states more effectively than in the U.S. where an unreformed constitution reigns.

(2) Allow—at state discretion—at least one of the two state senators to be nominated once again at the state level, giving more power to the government of each state to carry out some national reform.
(3) Allow only approximately a 2 to 3 month period for all elections. Penalties should include charges of breaking the national covenant or constitution with the American peoples.
(4) Limit the executive branch’s ability to override most congressional vetoes and congressional legislation, i.e. permitting no Presidential notes weigh-laying intent of legislation.
(5) Allow for recall elections of representatives and president/vice-president at the national level.
(6) Regulate election funding & financing strictly & with universal but progressive taxes on the wealthiest corporations and taxpayers.
(7) Allow little—if any--corporate and private influence on individual election campaign, while limiting their very public influence on parties and issue-campaigns in contrast to how they exercise their influence currently.
(8) Allow voters to select back-up candidates, as is currently done in Australia.
(9) Get rid of the electoral college for presidential elections.



TAXATION LAWS

(1) More progressive and more universal taxes need to be restored—with bottom level wage earners receiving government subsidies for education, medical care, etc.
(2) No 100% write-offs on taxes except for recognized and bonafide apolitical NGOs.
(3) Limit defense and intelligence spending as a proportion of the total federal budget or GNP, similar to what Japan does currently according to its constittuion.
(4) Set up spending minimums as percentage of national budget and as percentage of GNP for primary. secondary, and tertiary education.
(5) Write tax laws that follow corporations significantly better across national borders than they do currently.
(6) Allow an opt-out of taxes on military spending for conscientious objectors. NOTE: These citizens would have to put equivalent moneys in a national societal care fund to be used for other needs in the nation.


BILL OF RIGHTS

(1) Incorporate the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights into the U.S. Constitution.
(2) Maintain most of the current amendments to the Constitution.
(3) Eliminate current uncontrolled rights to bear arms to only the domain of common-sense levels of privacy rights, self-protection, and police protection.
(4) Make it possible for 60% of the states to call for impeachment of a renegade president or vice-president.
(5) Add minimum health care and education standards to rights in the Constitution outlined for each citizen.
(6) Add consumer, environmental, health, and labor protections to the Constitution.
(7) Define Human Rights to involve all corporate operations and franchises outside the USA affecting USA corporations, citizens others and their families—leading to more overseas prosecutions according to international and national law.
(8) Recognize International Court of Justice as pertains to all human and most civil rights.
(9) Allow U.S. citizens to take U.S. officials and others to the International Court of Justice.


PROCEDURAL REFORM

The constitutional procedures for making amendments and ratifying in the current constitution are four. These four pathways, according to one Vermont website are:

•Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
•Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
•Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
•Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times) [1]

This same website states: “It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal, nor a ratification.”[2] This means that the executive branch is not needed at all for the constitution to be amended.

In the days of Bush and Cheney this is good news indeed!

The people, their states, and their state representatives can bypass the currently extremely obstructive branch to regain and enhance our freedoms and justice.

Further, since the current U.S. Constitution doesn’t make clear how to exactly hold a convention of states, there is no clear precedent to keep reformers from calling for such a convention of states starting today. In other words, we can NOW define how this process is done if we get started sooner than any other group in calling out and carrying out such a series of conventions, i.e. starting in August 2007.

Alternatively, we progressives can try to get rid of congressional roadblocks in the upcoming elections and get started by voting out those candidates who oppose the convention and the convention’s demands. Then, in 2009, we could proceed with the time-worn procedure of making first a proposal in congress which would be followed by votes from state legislature or choose the less-used path of getting state level constitutional conventions to move towards ratification.

The internet and other new communication technologies can make it easier than in any prior period in American history to organize such conventions.

It will be an uphill battle for us in America to reform the constitution and get better governance in this first decade of the 21st Century because currently ¾ or the U.S. States have to support ratification either through convention process or through the state level ratification process. However, we could seek first to amend the ratification process at an early stage in a progressive constitutional amendment process by changing amendment passage to a lower hurdle of 2/3(or even 3/5 plus 1) majority of states.


JOIN THE CALL FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM

There are many sites on the web currently calling for the constitutional renewal and the reforms outlined above are simply a starting point for calling for immediately STATE COVENTIONS by all progressives in America.

One such web site on the Constitution and its role in America today is also unhappy with the status quo. The site is run by the Constitution Society, which states the following rationale for its existence: “This organization was founded in response to the growing concern that noncompliance with the Constitution of the United States of America and most state constitutions is creating a crisis of legitimacy that threatens freedom and liberty.” [3]

Other sites deal with particular amendments, such as the amendment to abolish the electoral college at the National Popular Vote’s web page: http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/index.php

A similar site is run by Recapture Freedom’s site: http://www.recapturefreedom.com/index.htm also focuses on a few other particular amendments.

Many of the amendments floating around on the web these days are conservative—like the “English-Only Amendment”. However, other amendments, like the gay rights one are definitely not so conservative.


PROPOSAL TO PROGRESSIVES

As progressives and reformers, I propose that in the next two weeks we vet the basic core amendments that we as a group would like to see put into our constitution. Then we need to prepare to take the internet and public officials by storm and get constitutional conventions called by January 2007 in all states in order to take our campaign not to just presidential politics but to the state level congressional sessions leading up to the 2008 November elections.

We should try to get some conventions rolling throughout this winter, spring, summer and autumn through 2009.

NOTES
[1] Constitutional Amendments, http://www.usconstitution.net/constam.html
[2] Ibid.
[3] Constitution Society, http://www.constitution.org/

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