Thursday, November 24, 2016

Microcosm and Relevance: A Look at Standing Rock


"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." -  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alright. I've been trying to write a "thank you" letter to the brave people at Standing Rock, but I am not sure that it would ever be adequate to the task. I tried to think of some technical stuff to write, but it just comes off as "too cold" for the situation. So, I'm just going to try and talk, I guess. I'm going to tell you why it matters to me and offer up a couple ideas I have on how to combat the situation. You can take from that whatever you like.

This matters to me because it is clearly defined, and easily observed by the masses for, quite possibly, the first time in history. It is an almost PERFECT microcosm of what is going wrong in the world today, at least, as I see it. There are questions of racism, environmental degradation, corporate greed, lies and promises/treaties broken, and these are but a few of the issues. In the technically advanced world that we live in, there is no justifiable reason for building more chains that only slavishly strap us to fossil fuels, especially when they come from tar sands oil. Just like in the days of "union busting," OUR governmental "protection" "forces" are being used to protect the only actual citizens our politicians really care to protect, the American corporate citizen, the profiteer, and the monied racketeer. Not only is ANOTHER treaty being violated, it is being violated against US citizens, which to me, is just a slap in the face. Further, these violations are such that these people, very arguably, are within their right to return with "force" against the government that is oppressing them and violating their sacred lands. However, to this day, the Lakota peoples at Standing Rock, and all Native Americans for that matter, find themselves woefully outnumbered and left to resort to more peaceful means of defense, however ineffective they are, lest they lose what little they have left, or worse, their lives and the very existence of their people.

It is clear that they cannot use any other kind of "force" because of how quick the government would be to unleash an almost war like response against them. This is oil we are talking about, after all.


Now, I've been using the word "force" with quotations on purpose. It's because I talk a lot about "force" and the ways it can be used. Keep in mind, if absolutely nothing changes, any situation will remain static without "force." So, any other "forces" that might be able to help these people must come from the outside, if anywhere else, as this will help to provide the "force" needed to move an already stagnant situation, meaning one that has not changed because of the use of brute military "force," in one hundred and fifty years. Something has to be done to help the courageous people at Standing Rock. I would like to advocate for the use of financial "force." Though this sounds a little bit shaky and makes one wonder if a CONGLOMERATE that is not only subsidized, but who has watched the big players in both the financial industry and the auto industry fail, as well as, made profit off the situation, would actually be affected by such a tactic. After all, when it comes to war they, the US Government, seem to have bottomless pockets. However, a mountain of donations from anyone and everyone willing to give could go a long way. En masse, they would pay to keep protesters warm and fed, they would provide for the means of self defense, and they would show the defenders at Standing Rock that there are people in this world that care for their righteous cause. It is not likely that the donations would ever match the kind of money that the corporations involved in this mess are able to gather, on top of what the government has, but the donations would give the Standing Rock defenders the advantage in courage, faith, and moral. Their defense might also provide the shock needed to put an end to the gross destruction of the environment caused by the overuse, or use at all, of fossil fuels.

There is, still, another way to increase the power of the non-violent "force" that the Standing Rock defenders have available to them. They can make use of the legal access to federal records that comes through the Freedom of Information Act, 80 Stat. 250 (1967).


Through the Freedom of Information Act, anyone of us can request budget records, personnel records, POLICE REPORTS, and more. This can be used directly against the people doing the government's dirty work at Standing Rock. Unmasking them, and letting them know that they have been unmasked, can put some serious momentum in the hands of the Standing Rock defenders. This is so because it would take away the individual anonymity of the people harming innocent defenders. That, alone, would be huge a threat to the government's operation there. Everyone is capable and should, by law, be able to find out the names of any and all of the police officers, undercover agents will probably be harder to unmask, working against the defenders, at anytime during the protest.

If these INDIVIDUAL officers are sent copious amounts of information on how they are being used against the PEOPLE of the United States by some corporations, solely for profit; perhaps, minds can be changed. Ask them to see reason, to use their sickdays, or to take their vacation time, so that hey can get out of the work they are doing. They can be given arguments as to why their actions are actually in violation of the Constitution. That is a strong force to an individual, to have people from around the country, or possibly the world, contacting them at their offices and HOMES. I would not recommend being aggressive or hostile in any communication, however. Another way this "force" can be used is with fax numbers and black pages, which serves the purpose of, again, showing numbers, and a hint of malevolence, to these people who do not seem to see what they are doing. Get creative.

I'm just talking here because I feel it needs to be done. The important thing to understand is that this is not going to go away. If there is a change in anything, I would assume anyone reading this would consider it a positive gain. Each little success can set a new precedent, especially if it is done without the use of conventional "force." President Obama has said, "We go as high as they go low." While this seems to fit the tone of the situation, it also seems that at this particular moment, he is not doing all that he can to stop this situation from getting out of hand. As he he prepares to step down from the office of the President of the United States, he has a chance to do something really great here, but he, as of yet, has given only lip service, which I feel just goes to show, along with other things, where his environmental policy really lies. The police/guard there have used "force" to a level that is...what? Freakishly abhorrent? Horrifically violent? The President can end this problem by simply redirecting the pipeline. What is he waiting for?

This why this is all relevant to me. This is being played out on every scale of every level of our socio-political system and every level of our government. If you don't own part of the 90% of this country's wealth, this is happening, or will soon happen, to you, if nothing is done to stop it. If you're not among the elite 1%, this is happening to you. If this microcosm fails, what fails next? How much "force" are you willing to use to NOT let this American microcosm fail?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It Sucks Being a Squirrel: I am Not Evil, A Brief Story About ADHD


"Remember that what you have is a neurological condition. It is genetically transmitted. It is caused by biology, by how your brain is wired. It is NOT a disease of the will, nor a moral failing, nor some kind of neurosis. It is not caused by a weakness in character, nor by a failure to mature. Its cure is not to be found in the power of the will, nor in punishment, nor in sacrifice, nor in pain." - Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD, "Answers to Distraction - Revised Edition"

I grew up in the 1970s, from seven to seventeen, when there was no such thing as ADHD. Back then, my erratic behavior was attributed to a lack of will or self control. There were no services available to help parents cope with a child that had a 'hidden' disability. The norm was to spank kids into compliance, or worse, silence. This created any number of untold problems for me, but it is not my purpose to whine about how my life sucked growing up. I have another issue to address, so please, be patient while I deliver the backstory.

When I was 17, I discovered Meth. It affected me in an interesting way; in that, it cleared my brain of all the fog that had long since made it impossible for me to think clearly.  For the first time in my life, I could think about one thing at a time, and because of this development, I could not see the downside of meth. I could not possibly understand why everyone was saying that it was a bad thing. It made me feel so good. I found out why, when I took work with a carnival. This is where I began abusing the drug. I shot up for the first time in my life, and that brought me more mental clarity than ever before. The sensation induced by this method of use was instantaneous; and though, I got the obvious clarity the first time, it only took a second injection to see the bad side of meth. Coming down was a nightmare. I suffered from suicidal depression, and I could feel the lack of nutrients in my body because, while on Meth, eating is not necessarily a priority. One can imagine that it would be similar to how someone starved by circumstance would feel, be it homelessness or what else.

It was all I could do to NOT seek an end to that feeling. I had decided at that time to NOT ever do Meth again because the only thing that could restore the mental clarity that it provided was further abuse, which can do serious neurological damage to the brain. Fast forward to the day that I was diagnosed with ADHD. The doctor prescribed me Adderall. Before going to the doctor, I did some research on the available medicines for my condition, if that was what the doctor was to confirm I was dealing with. The information available on Adderall was not promising. I was reluctant to try it because the reported side effects were similar to those of Meth, but I ignored the gut feeling that told me that it would affect me the same as Meth had. I tried it, in case I was wrong, but quickly found out that I wasn't. It made me feel exactly as I did when I abused Meth. The first pill was the last.

Now, on to my point. Society condemns Meth users while promoting drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, when doctors know that these drugs do much the same thing to the human body and mind as Meth. I keep arguing that each Meth case HAS to be scrutinized individually, not lumped together as someone taken over by evil. A great many Meth addicts have undiagnosed neurological conditions, or were unable to get the medicines that they needed when they were diagnosed. Either way, they are not doing the drug because they are evil. They are self medicating in an effort to manage their condition, a result of the negative stigma that comes with going to a psychiatrist, or what some call the 'shrink.' This stigma was especially strong when I was growing up. If ADHD had been better understood when I was young, perhaps my meth addiction would have raised a red flag of some sort and led someone to suggest, or insist, that I see a psychiatrist. Heck, the condition may have possibly even been detected before I found meth.

By the way, just in case there are some that are confused by the Squirrel moniker, the squirrel is the official Mascot of ADHD'rs all over the world. We are easily distracted, we are many; we are the meek who shall inherit the Earth!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The US Presidency, the United States Congress, and the Ability to Declare War


(F-22 Raptor: Image Courtesy of the United States Air Force)

"We should declare war on North Vietnam. We could pave the whole country; and put parking strips on and still be home for Christmas." - Ronald Reagan

"Right after we invaded Iraq, I put a sign on my law that said, 'War is not the answer.' That sign was either defaced, ripped up, or stolen every week. I had to replace that sign twelve times." - Paul Haggis

"If you want peace, you won't get it with violence." - John Lennon

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." - Sun Tzu

"There's nothing like a good ole war." - Theodore Roosevelt

"War is the motherfucking answer!" - Marine Corporal Joshua Ray Person

Introduction

The way that the Constitution was written has some serious historical meaning behind it. The American colonies had lived, since their very foundation, under the rule of a monarch who had, in the Hobbesian sense, the sole possession of the power to take his country to war. Questioning this could be taken as treason and Parliament was not sufficiently powerful enough to tell the King to be away with himself. Sir Thomas Hobbes outlined the nature of the Social Contract established between a King and his subjects in his book, Leviathan, published in 1651. On multiple occasions, throughout the American colonies’ history, it’s citizens had been called upon to fight in wars that sometimes stretched the boundaries of fairness; but in 1754, they got a particular dose of such a war that could have easily been prevented had the appropriate actions been taken by the legislative body in charge of the affairs of war. George Washington was commissioned a Light Colonel by the Virginia State Assembly to investigate the possible presence of a French military force setting up operations in a portion of the Eastern Ohio River valley that was then claimed by the Colony of Virginia. As it turns out, it was not far from the confluence of the Allegheny River, the location of the modern city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Washington’s orders were to observe and report, but he got over zealous, to put it lightly, and assaulted the French troops that he and his men encountered. He narrowly escaped with what could barely be called a victory, only to return to Virginia a hero. Not long afterwards, the Seven Years War erupted, and all because of the actions of one man, countless American colonials lost their lives in a war that could have been prevented by either self-restraint on the part of Washington, or punishment on the parts of the Virginia State Assembly, or possibly, even the English Parliament. Payment for the war was procured by levies ordered by the King and collected by his royally appointed tax officials in the colonies, which did not leave a good taste in the colonials’ mouths. In the coming years, the tax riots and boycotts conducted by the American colonies, which are part of what led up to the Revolutionary War, were based solely upon the inability of the Virginia Colony's legislative body inability to properly exercise their legal oversight power over an inexperienced military leader. Fred Anderson does a magnificent job of recounting this turning point in colonial history in his book, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, published in 2000.

After independence, the United States set about creating its own government. It did not really work out all that well for them, at first. So, with the bad flavor of an apparently overly powerful English executive in their mouths, and the stink of failure in their noses after the consistent failures of the Articles of Confederation, their first formal document constituting a government, where a consistently weak executive hampered the government’s ability to do its job, the founding members of the United States met in Philadelphia to give the process another try. Meril Jeson does a great job of outlining the difficulties faced by the Articles of Confederation Congress in his book, The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social Constitutional History of American Revolution, 1774-1781, published in 1940This second try at writing a formal document of governance for the United States is now known as the Constitution of the United States of America, and with only a few changes, it is still the Supreme Law of the Land, under which all other laws, municipal, county, state, or federal must comply. To ensure that this would be taken seriously, the founders wrote it directly into the document, in the form of the Supremacy Clause. This is Article 6, Clause 2 of the Constitution.

Aside from that, and the three most important points regarding this discussion, are what else the Founders put into the Constitution. First, they gave the supreme authority to declare war to Congress, located in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11. Second, they gave Congress the ‘Power of the Purse,' which is located in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7Finally, they made it a requirement that the President get congressional approval to engage in any immediate military actions, as well as, to get any needed monies to ensure victory in any particular engagement. They put this requirement in Article 2, Section 2, Section 1There are some people that want to claim that this section gives the executive a certain amount of leeway in the declaration of war, especially in the cases of dire emergencies, but that debate is still ongoing, and has been since the Constitution was first ratified. It is to this separation of powers written into the Constitution that author Louis Fisher holds true. He believes that this should be the bedrock of American governance, though he has witnessed repeatedly where Congress has failed to properly exercise the authority that it has been given. He outlines his discontent in Presidential War Power. The latest edition of the text was published in 1995.

Some History

On the first of June, in 1812, President James Madison sent a letter to both houses of Congress, explaining the repeated grievances committed upon American sailing vessels and their men whilst attempting to conduct legal trade with the French, then led by the empire minded Napoleon Bonaparte. The British had declared anyone trading with the French to be an enemy of the King and all of Britain. Though Madison did not request a Declaration of War, one was given, and monies were made available to engage in the war against Britain. Congress’ deliberations over the issue took just over four days; for that period, this was considered astonishingly quick. Mark Zuehlike outlines this in his book, For Honour’s Sake: The War of 1812 and the Brokering of an Uneasy Peace, published in 2010There is also the case of the Barbary Wars, which were not finally completed until not long after the War of 1812 had ended. In both occasions, Congress was quick to declare war and provide the President with the resources needed to eliminate the supposed imposing threat, with very little convincing having to be engaged in by the sitting president in either case. Fredric Leiner also does a great job of outlining these early submissions in his book, The End of Barbary Terror, America's 1815 War against the Pirates of North Africa, published in 2007.

There are very few presidents who have taken so much liberty with their presidential war powers as did Abraham Lincoln. He made much such a loose interpretation upon which to work that there were some things that happened which most people would not approve of now. Most famously, President Lincoln is known for his suspension of the constitutionally protected Writ of Habeas Corpus. He justified his actions because rioters and local militias in the border states were causing chaos. By suspending habeas corpus, he made it possible for his soldiers to detain these men indefinitely, so that they could no longer threaten the public order, or more, run the risk of pushing the border states into the Confederacy. President Lincoln later ignored a Supreme Court justice's decision overturning his order. Over the next few years, this allowed for some new restrictions to be implemented, which included the imposition of martial law in some volatile border areas and the curbing of the freedoms of speech and the press, a restriction which eventually expanded throughout the Northern states.

As the war drew to a close, though, some have argued that Lincoln may have begun to recognize the dangers of his own unprecedented expansion of presidential war powers. More than 13,000 civilians were arrested under martial law during the war, throughout the Union. This ate at his conscience. When the war started, there was little doubt in Lincoln's mind that his suspension of civil liberties was both necessary and constitutional. His political opponents may have disagreed, but facing a full-fledged insurrection in the South and with the loyalty of Maryland, the state between Washington, D.C., and the rest of the Union, wavering, Lincoln felt that he had genuine grounds to worry that the nation's capital was in real danger. He used this fear to broadly interpret his powers. Where would the United States be if he had not done so? This is a very broad question, which has been left to much interpretation. David Herbert Donald explores this question in depth in his biography of Lincoln, Lincoln, published in 1995.

Now, consider the period of US history between the Civil War and the turn of the Twentieth Century. Was this an era of relative peace for the United States and its citizens? Were there any military conflicts that this country was involved in that could relate to this discussion. For some reason, a lot of people would like to make Americans, and the world for that matter, think that no such supposed threats existed, but this is just is not the truth. During this period in this country's history, the United States government, with the President at the lead and Congress footing the bill without question, commenced to committing repeated acts of genocide against Native Americans. It is enough that Native Americans were already a regular target of side conflicts throughout US history up to this point; consider Andrew Jackson's actions during the Creek War. Andrew Jackson led an army, through what is now the Deep South, burning down villages, killing men, women, and children, most of whom were non-combatants before he arrived, and steeling vital resources that these people needed to survive. All the while, his actions were endorsed by the US government, with Congress evening providing supplies for his men, right up until he crossed into Spanish Florida, against their wishes because of the international implications, to kill more innocent natives. They supported his actions up until then because he was opening up new lands for cotton cultivation. Howard T. Weir tells the tale of this disgraceful story in his book, A Paradise of Blood: The Creek War of 1813-1814, published in 2010.

Move forward back to the post Civil War pre Twentieth Century period. The actions of the government then were no different. Under the direction of the President of the United States, and with Congressional approval and funding, minus an official declaration of war, General William Tecumseh Sherman, of partial Cherokee heritage himself, commenced a war of genocide against the Native American Plains Tribes. He opened the plains to mass commercial hunting of the vast bison herds, collapsing the Plains economy, his surveyors helped locate resources and mineral cashes, which led to the violation of Native American holy lands, and when Native Americans had finally had enough, he led a massive war to crush any resistance that presented itself. He authorized the Apache Wars, personally led the Red River War, signed off on the American victory at the Battle of Rosebud Creek against the Lakota, and was standing by when General George Armstrong Custer was defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn, only to authorize a subsequent campaign of attrition against the families and villages of the men that had punished the US Army for its previous actions. His successors were present for the evil deeds carried out at the Wounded Knee Massacre. During all of this treachery and evil doing, various Presidents deemed these actions necessary to secure the interests and welfare of the good citizens of the United States, and Congress never once moved to stop them. Dee Alexander Brown wrote a heart wrenching account of the end of Native American Plains Culture in his book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, published in 1972.

Then there is, of course, the conflict that took place in the Philippines after the completion of the Spanish American War. The United States secured the Philippines from the Spanish when a US Navy fleet, under the command of Admiral Dewey, blockaded the port of Manila and secured its surrender. Afterwards, Filipino rebels, under the command of Emilio Aguinaldo, helped the United States Army, under the command of General Arthur McArthur Jr., defeat the remaining Spanish forces on the island. Their cooperation was garnered on the bases of a promise made to them by Theodore Roosevelt’s diplomats. They gave their assistance in exchange in for a guarantee that once the Spanish were gone; they would be allowed to formalize their independence free of foreign intervention. Without the knowledge of the Filipino fighters; however, the United States made a deal with Spain to transfer full sovereign control of the islands to US control after the signing of the peace treaty ending the war. Once Aguinaldo was made aware of this, he started an uprising that did not end until he was captured by the United States Army, which was followed by an attempted public humiliation. The conflict he began lasted through the end of the Taft administration. None of these actions, post Spanish-American War were ever approved by Congress as formally legal events, though they did receive funding each year, as continuous presidents deemed the conflict a threat to US interests in the region. Velasco Angel Shaw and Luis H. Francia tell the story of this betrayal and its subsequent Congressional approval in a clear eyed way that makes one hope that not all hope is lost in this world in their text, Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream 1899-1999, published in 2002.

The Departmental Reorganization Act(40 Stat. 556, May 20, 1918), also known as the Overman Act, was a law passed at the beginning of World War I, which gave President Woodrow Wilson sweeping powers in the execution of America’s involvement in the war. He was able to reorganize government agencies so long as the war was in continuous operation, and he was not required to surrender those powers until six months after the war’s cessation. With this power in his hands, Wilson created the War Industries Board, the National War Labor Board, and the Committee on Public Information, the last of which went so far as to nearly making being German in the United States illegal. Sauerkraut became Victory Cabbage and the music of German composers was banned from public performance. He also used the law to crush labor unions that refused to sign non-strike agreements in major war product production facilities, as well as, suppressing political radicals, whether they committed violent acts against the government or not, in direct violation of their rights to freedoms of assembly, the press, and speech. Some of the actions that Wilson took against labor unions and political radicals are directly responsible for the 1919 Red Scare and even further violations of American citizen's right to dissent. Griffin Fariello assembled a great collection of oral history interviews conducted with people who survived the government oppression of this early red scare. Many speak of the pain in losing good friends to the violence that the government brought against them in public, at work, and in their homes. His edited text is, Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition, published in 1995.

The War Powers Act of 1941(55 Stat. 838, December 18, 1941), also known as the First War Powers Act, was an emergency law that dramatically increased the President’s abilities to execute what were considered needed functions of the executive in World War II. The act was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 18, 1941, less than two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The purpose of the act was to give the President enormous authority to execute World War II in as efficient a manner as was deemed necessary by the President himself. The President was authorized to reorganize the executive branch, independent government agencies, and government corporations for the war cause. Further, with the power of the act on his side, the President was allowed to censor mail and other forms of communication between the United States and foreign countries that were considered suspect. Essentially, anyone that was deemed a threat by the subjective ruling of the state could find themselves locked up. This is exactly what happened to Japanese Americans all over the country, but mostly on the American west coast. Mary Matsuda Gruenewald tells her personal story in Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps, published in 2005.

Three months after passing the First War Powers Act, the War Powers Act of 1942(56 Stat. 176, March 27, 1942), also known as the Second War Powers Act, was passed. This further strengthened the President and the executive branch’s powers related to the execution of what was now the United States’ full fledged involvement in World War II. This act allowed the acquisition of, under the threat of federal penalties, as was required, of land for military or naval purposes. The law also repealed the confidentiality of federal census data, which allowed the FBI to use this information to round up Japanese-Americans, a blatant violation of the rights of natural born citizens, many of whom had already attempted to enlist in military service with the noble intent of defending their homeland in a time of war. This was also the act that made refusal to enlist in the military, when duly and legally drafted by the Federal Drafting Board, a federal crime punishable with severe prison time, or execution, if charges of treason could be verified. In this midst of this entire affair, Congress did little to question the acts of the President and his executive departments who were directing the war. They truly dropped the ball when, not long after the passing of this latest law, the President declared the war in Europe to be of the highest priority. One might think someone would say something, especially when it was an attack by the Empire of Japan that brought the United States into the global conflict in the first place, but nothing was done. Though this text is sometimes considered controversial, a good thing in most cases, The Secret History of World War II: The Ultra-Secret Wartime Cables and Letters of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, a collection of since declassified war cables, outlines this questionable strategy in grim political detail.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution(78 Stat. 384, August 10, 1964), was a joint resolution of Congress passed on August 7, 1964 and signed into law three days later by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The resolution was passed after a questionable event in which Vietnamese forces apparently attacked two small US patrol boats, which were ‘operating’ off the coast of North Vietnam. The law is of such historical significance because, like laws laws before, it gave the president the authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, the right to make use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Specifically, the resolution authorized the President to do whatever he deemed necessary in order to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty to engage with and defeat the North Vietnamese Army. This included involving armed forces to whichever extent he considered to be appropriate. The near limitless nature of this authorization is what made many people justifiably uncomfortable. With such powers, a single man could become the dictator of an entire nation, and anyone with a decent enough liberal arts education would now why such fears were not unfounded. Luckily, members of the Senate opposed the action, and while their opposition was not able to stop the passage of the measure, it did show that there were men in Congress who believed that Congress’ power had just been usurped out of fear of being on the wrong side of an initially publicly supported political situation.

They knew that Congress had not done its research into the incident and that they had just entered the United States into a war that could very well not have any planned exit strategy. The Johnson administration subsequently relied upon the resolution to begin its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in South Vietnam, as well as, the commencement of open warfare between North Vietnam and the United States. Louis Fisher found this surrender of Congressional authority over the power to declare war against a belligerent nation to be a complete and abject abandonment of Congress' duties, and an almost cowardly refusal to question the President’s motivations for entering Vietnam and putting thousands of American’s lives on the line. One could not agree with him more. The Vietnam Was was not an effort to stem the spread of global communism. It was not a war meant to protect the American home front from the perceived or possibly real threat of foreign invasion. It was not a war meant to achieve some measure of glory for the American cause. It was not a war designed to spread freedom and democracy to those deprived of the right of political choice. It was not even a war that was of any strategic importance to the United States' political position in Southeast Asia. It was a war of pure aggression, designed only to open up a live field testing facility for new military technology that needed to be proven in combat. It was the playhouse of the American Military Industrial Complex, and it was in direct violation of countless UN restrictions on the commencement and engagement in of war. It was also a theater where the United States actively engaged in the illegal use of chemical weapons on civilian populations. In 2010, Michael Pavelec Sterling put together a great collection of essays that are highly critical of this institution, The Military-Industrial Complex and American Society. These essays sought to explain why, on so many occasions, Congress and the American people have failed to challenge this daunting beast.

If this were the end of the discussion, then there might not be a whole lot of reason to discuss this phenomenon, except in the past tense. However, it is not the end. On September 11, 2001, Towers One, Two, and Seven were blown up at the World Trade Center Plaza, and not long after this, President George Bush, Jr. had been empowered to take America’s response to whomever might find themselves on the wrong end of American fury. The Resolution for Authorization for Use of Military Force(115 Stat. 224, September 14, 2001), which passed as Senate Joint Resolution 23 by Congress on September 14, 2001, authorized the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. The legislation granted the President the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force against those whom he determined planned, authorized, committed, or offered aid to those who planned, authorized, or committed the September 11th attacks. It included any nations who were suspected of harboring said persons or groups. This law also authorized Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, and as it is still in effect, gives the President, now Barack Obama but soon to be Donald Trump, the full power to engage in total war against ISIS, should either find it necessary or vitally important to do so, and the requirements for action are as vague as one could possibly make them.

Fisher offers much criticism for this affair, as well. First, it only took three days for Congress to approve the needed legislation for President Bush to have the power that he needed to engage in an aggressive campaign against anyone in the Middle East who he may have suspected to be harboring terrorist elements. Who exactly were these terrorist elements? Intel done on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan showed that there was at least some justification for going to war with that nation and its government who had a nominally poor track record when it came to providing harbor for suspected terrorists. However, no such intel could be solidly provided for Iraq, and yet, under the cloak of the Resolution for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Bush was able to invade the country, even without the backing of the majority of the international community or any credible evidence supporting any of his claims, the biggest one being the possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction, against that nation. Fisher also mentioned some of the other rights granted to the President in the name of preserving the national defense of the United States. He could make use of preemptive strikes, military tribunals, abnormal torture tactics, detention facilities whose locations were to be made classified, terrorist tactics against civilians, and the indefinite detention of individuals thought to be a threat to the United States. Here again is Congressional approval for a military engagement that was fought for absolutely no reason except the gain of commercial industry. Liberation had nothing to do with it. Only this time, the Oil Industry had jumped on board with the Military Industrial Complex. Just think, because of the Iraq Engagement, the US Military can now field smart tanks, highly advanced assault drones, and infantry uniforms capable of shielding the wearer from the open range sight of the enemy. In June of 2003, President Bush published what one can only describe as one the weakest attempt to justify such a war in all of American history, A Report Consistent with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution: Communication from the President of the United States Transmitting a Report Including Matters Relating to Post-Liberation Iraq as Consistent with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

Conclusion

From a strict constitutional sense, the President of the United States is not supposed to be able to engage in military conflicts with impunity and a nearly bottomless purse, which is exactly what happened in each of the cases reviewed here. This restriction was born out of a genuine and natural fear of an executive, the British Monarch in the case of the Founders of the Constitution, who could take an entire nation to war whether he felt it might or might not be justified, with the true circumstances behind the commencement of the conflict, ultimately, being of no consequence. One also has to question why Congress has always been so quick to hand over so much power to the President, without first taking some legitimate time to deliberate on the issue, especially, given the legal power that they possess over these matters. Expedience and the need to act quickly may be the immediate answer to this question; however, the United States had, in each occasion, military forces which could have been easily been engaged in defensive maneuvers until Congress decided which actions it felt were necessary to resolve the related conflicts. The real issue may be nothing more simple that job retention. Voting against a popular measure, no matter how ludicrous a Congressman may know it to be, or at least premature, could cost that Congressman their job in subsequent elections. So, throwing Congress under the bus may just be a political maneuver. In Chapter One of his text, Fisher discusses the need to repel immediate threats and how that may require rapid action on behalf of the President, and this is important. However, if Congress can smell garbage, they need to take the time to do their homework. They could be saving thousands of lives bey refusing to engage in a felonious or strategically unnecessary war. Damn the political consequences! Fisher says as much.

In Chapter 6, he speaks of the War Powers Resolution of 1973(87 Stat. 555, November 3, 1973), which was passed in an effort to check the lengths to which a president could go to commit the whole nation to acts of war against foreign nations. What was first thought to be the most vital strength of the bill, has since become well known as its most critical weakness. The law gives the President one hundred days to commit to a war before he has to ask Congress for permission to continue. What could a president do in that amount time? Could he engage in a war with a nation, defeat them, and pull out without ever having needed congressional approval? Could he get himself into so much trouble that Congress would have no choice but to help him get out of it? Could he over inflate the seriousness of the conflict to get public support behind him, thus pressuring Congress to act on his behalf? What happened after the 9/11 attacks? A President was able to hoodwink an entire nation into believing that the invasion of Iraq was vital to American security at home and around the world, and when he was found to be wrong, he deflected the blame on subordinates to keep himself out of trouble. To top it off, he had those one hundred days to get himself into the trouble required to lure Congress into funding his commercial venture.

Throughout American history, it has been normal behavior for Congress to surrender to the President and to the public opinion of what many would call the mob. That is not their job. Their job is to be a deliberative body that provides a legitimate counter balance to the knee jerk reactions of Presidents who are not always thinking beyond the moment. This is the point of the Separation of Powers doctrine. Especially in cases such as this, the United States Congress has seriously got to start doing its job, or it is going to find itself either the lackey of the President, or just completely politically irrelevant. Given that the Separation of Powers doctrine, when exercised appropriately, has had a tendency to lead to policies developed with more deliberation, debate, and collaboration, one would think that Congress might consider such an important duty to be of the utmost importance. What happens when there comes a man that does not want to give those temporary powers back, or who intentionally ignores the one hundred day rule? Are they going to have to take them back by force or publicly punish him, or will they bend to public opinion, yet again? Each time that Congress yields to a President who fails to follow the appropriate procedures or intentionally takes advantage of loopholes in federal law, they strengthen the precedent that the President has the power to do whatever he likes, as long as he can find a creative way to justify it to the general public that is decidedly uneducated on the law and affairs of state. Each time they surrender their power because popular opinion suggests that they should, they push country one more inch towards the eventual rise of a President that will be able to take the powers of state into his own hands, dictator style, accompanied by the praise of an ignorant public. This is one of Fisher's biggest fears about the US Presidency and strongest disappointments in the historical development of the United States Congress.

A Final Thought

One might, seeing the way that Congress has responded to just about every single military conflict that the United States has ever been involved in, begin to believe that Congress is acting out of a sense of precedent. Just like the Supreme Court may require lawyers to seek precedent in the production of an opinion to be delivered before the Bench, Congress has repeatedly looked to its past actions to justify surrendering its war making powers to the President when they felt the situation demanded it, or at least, it seems that way. The very first time that this happened was in the case of the Western Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion that began in 1791. For three years afterwards, farmers around Pittsburgh refused to pay the required tax on the whiskey they produced, which had been levied by Congress. After consulting Congress, many of whom actually recommended that the President resort to force against his own people, getting the approval of the Supreme Court, and getting Alexander Hamilton to write some public letters justifying the action, Washington threw on his old uniform, called up the militia and any Revolutionary War veterans around New York who could still pick up a rifle, and essentially invaded western Pennsylvania. When Washington arrived in the area fully prepared for a fight, and trying to strike the image of the Washington of old, the resistance crumbled without a shot being fired, as a great many of the men participating in the rebellion had also served under Washington. If not that, they had at least come to idolize him for his role in the Revolutionary War based on stories told by those who had fought with him. It is interesting how both his first and last military engagements both occurred in the area surrounding what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Some have argued that it was the suppression of this rebellion which finally convinced many anti-federalist westerners to finally accept the Constitution and begin to resort to voting rather than the use of violence to make their political will known. Steven R. Boyd explores the significance of this event in his book, The Whiskey Rebellion: Past and Present Perspectives, published in 1985. Could this have been the first point where Congress found it okay to surrender its power, even if its own power was sufficient to handle the situation? How would things play out in a similar situation now if Congress had attended to the issue itself rather than allowing George Washington to charge in head first at the lead of an entire army? How many wars would either have never been fought, or at least fought differently, if Congress had had the courage to ignore rash public opinion and the ramblings of President's seeking quick action when it was, in fact, measured deliberation that was more in order? Whatever happened to the idea. long ago espoused by Sun Tzu, that the greatest victory is that which is achieved without ever stepping out onto the battlefield? One can just imagine a world where the United States respected the sovereign rights of so called belligerent nations as much as it demands that those same nations respect its own sovereignty. Imagine a nation where a deliberative government body actually did its job and taught its people to respect patience, tactful action, and the sanctity of life, no matter its point of origin. Imagine a world where the people are not squeezed for every last dime of their earnings to fund wars that make the rich richer, destroy economic and social infrastructure without care, and retard the development of technology that could help human kind to escape the grips of disease, hunger, and terrestrial stagnation. Just imagine.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

State Governments Cannot Possibly be Accused of Actually Representing their People


"People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." - Alan Moore

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." - Ronald Reagan

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." - Thomas Jefferson

"Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty." - Plato

The connections between the constituents of a state and the representatives of that state are a very important part of the study of state level political affairs. The question still remains, however, are those representatives actually responsive to those constituents, despite the many connections that they may have available to them? Could it be that there are certain ways in which the representatives do their jobs effectively and other ways in which they are lacking or in need of improvement? Could it be that they are entirely effective, entirely ineffective, or is it possible that they are effective in their responsiveness to only a given segment of their population, while they leave the rest of the population lacking and left to deal with the consequences of not being among the approved segment of the population? To a measured degree, state representatives are responsive to their constituents. However, it can said, without a doubt, that improvement is definitely in order. They are, in no way, entirely effective in doing their jobs, and one can be very assured that state representatives are only fully effective to given portions of their constituencies. Whether it be race, gender, income gap, or any other of a multitude of other numerous factors, there are certain people from these particular categories that regularly find themselves on the short end of response times from their state representatives. It is normally because their representatives, judges, mayors, governors, and many other officials, find that their time is taken up more and more by either their wealthy citizens, or the representatives of their wealthy citizens, namely commercial, industrial, and even mega religious interests. It will be the goal here to explain why exactly this is.

Black Insurgency and State Welfare Generosity

The work most appropriate to begin the first topic on this discussion is that of Richard C. Fording entitled, “The Political Response to Black Insurgency: A Critical Test of Competing Theories of the State,” published in The American Political Science Review. Fording’s goal is to understand why many states respond to social unrest in African American communities by increasing their access to social welfare benefits. He includes uprisings, their immediate after effects, and the delayed response time from various state governments, who usually respond with increased social benefits, but do so on a delayed time frame. He established a time frame from the 1960s to the 1990s for his pool of data. In this study, Fording discovered a couple of things that he said are extremely important. First, in states where African Americans have regular electoral success, they tend to not receive subsequent strong welfare distribution responses, no matter the intensity of the unrest that they may have caused. However, in those states where the African American vote is weaker, the subsequent release of welfare funding tends to be much greater. Another thing that Fording finds is that before anyone is offered any increased welfare, they are first beaten, arrested, and/or imprisoned. It is only after an immediately punitive response on behalf of the state that welfare benefits are then later distributed. Though the response is delayed and clouded by violence, Fording considers this behavior to be responsiveness on behalf of the state.

Now, how exactly can this be considered responsiveness on behalf of the community that was rioting? If you mean police barricades, attack dogs, water hoses, beatings, and arrests, then one might call this all an immediate response, but whom exactly is such a response meant to comfort. It certainly cannot be the people who are having their heads kicked in. Punitive responses like this are designed to secure the peace and calm of the people who actually have the most invested in their state governments, and in Southern states where race has always been highlighted, both pre Civil Rights Act and post White Flight, it’s certainly not the African American community. Now, it’s not necessarily just the white community, as a whole, for many of them are just as poor as the African Americans making their discontent known. The punitive responses to the social unrest are meant to ease the tensions building up in local business elites, who are worried that their moneyed interests in the city or state may be in jeopardy. The poor in this country are unfortunately accustomed to being beaten around a little bit from time to time. Normally, afterwards, they just go back to work and let it pass away. However, long after a conflagration is over, local or state governments increase welfare funding for the community effected by the riots. Fording would call this responsiveness, and in some weird way, in the eyes of the ruling class, it might be. However, what this really sounds like is more like hush money. Local leadership is essentially paying off the community that created the unrest to not to do it again. All this does is give the community a brief reprieve from their original complaints. Real responsiveness would have involved helping the community involved in the riots to escape the poverty, police brutality, and rampant crime that they were revolting against in the first place.

Legislative Term Limits

One can begin this discussion with the work of Christopher Z. Mooney in his piece in State Politics and Policy Quarterly entitled, “Term Limits as a Boon to Legislative Scholarship: A Review.” The piece is a review of what he calls a massive phenomenon, as sixteen states, since the beginning of the 1990s, have placed term limits on the individuals running for positions in their states houses. Mooney sees that these limits may have an effect on a number of things. He sees first that candidate’s decision making processes will change, and he sees that it might have an effect, negative or positive, on voter turnout. He sees that it might have an effect on electoral competition and campaign finance. He sees that it may have an effect on the partisan outcomes of legislative elections. He sees that it may alter the demographics of the effected legislatures. He sees that is may alter the nature of power relationships within the legislatures. He says it may change the nature of roll call voting, the arrangement of legislative committee assignments, and the structure of committee leadership. He sees that this might have a negative effect on separation of powers between houses and the effectiveness of public policy initiatives. He sees it altering the legislatures relationship with lobbyists and the state’s executive branch. Most importantly to this discussion; however, he sees state legislature terms limits having an effect on the legislatures’ relationship with their constituencies. 

In his piece, “The Limited Impact of Term Limits: Contingent Effects on the Complexity and Breadth of Laws,” also published in State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Thad Kousser offered an appealing opinion on the effects of term limits on state legislatures. He found that in state legislatures with term limits, the effectiveness and quality of legislative efforts depended entirely upon the quality of the people serving in a given state legislature. The more educated the personnel, the more complex legislation should be expected to be, and the reverse is the case for the less educated, or less professional members of a legislature. One might then look to the work of Jeffery Lazarus. In his piece, “Term Limits’ Multiple Effects on State Legislatures Career Decisions,” again, published in State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Lazarus contends that term limits have actually had a positive effect on the careers of state legislators. His data tells him that having such limits constraining their actions encourages legislators to begin looking for fresh employment before they have even left office. Further, they are able to use their experience in the state house as a boon to their experience; meaning, essentially, that they used their time in the state house as nothing more than a stepping stool towards getting a better job, whether higher in the state government or in private industry. However, he does admit that this can limit their access to the mass of the people as they move up and have to continuously meet new people. Andrew B. Hall, in Legislative Studies Quarterly, says much the same thing in his piece, “Partisan Effects of Legislative Term Limits.” He noted that long seated politicians, after the implementation of term limits, who could have had a large network of connections with their people from all over the state, were unseated by their opposition, who had no such available connections.

What does this say for their constituencies, though? If it’s the upper crust of their constituency, it may not mean much, as the person may just be moving up in the government or moving to a business related to their legislative work but still connected to the local wealthy elite. So, for their wealthy citizens, their relationship will just shift addresses. What, then, about the people who have no connections with government or the elite business world? What about the people who are too busy trying to survive to keep track of the people running their local or state governments? This basically means that they are not able to develop any meaningful relationships with their legislatures and representatives before they are already gone. One can understand why this was done by the people running the state government. Legislators who spent their entire careers in the state house could build strong relationships with their citizens, local industries, and other branches of the government, giving them a great deal of influence over how the state legislature, and therefore, the state, was going to be run. They would also be much more likely to develop positive relationships with the populace, which could block lucrative investment deals in the state that the people did not want, whether it be because they were job killers or environmentally unsafe. Career politicians had the ability to be more responsive to their constituents, as opposed to term limited politicians who are more responsive to the wealthy elite and the industrialists that donate to their campaigns, and later, give them high paying jobs. This normally results in the implementation of policies that are not popular amongst the general populace, a sign that legislators are not responding to the needs of all of their constituents. Consider the present crisis with the Dakota Access Pipeline, approved by state legislators who have no clue what real affects such a project will have on the livelihoods of their Native American constituents at the Standing Rock Reservation and other locations.

State Judicial Elections

The common notion in American politics is that judges, whether they work at the municipal level, state level, in the federal circuit, or on the Supreme Court, are supposed to be impartial arbiters of justice. When people think of judicial rulings they think of someone who has been trained in the study of the law, someone who has been working in the law field their whole lives, and someone who is prepared to dispense justice free from any corruptive outside influences. This is supposed to be someone who is objective, unbiased, and who will make fair just decisions based on existing statutes. The theory of judicial behavior that actually adheres to this is the Legal Model. One cane get more information on this in Frank B. Cross', "Decision Making in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals," published in the California Law Review. Another theory of judicial behavior is the Behavioralist Model, which suggests that judges behave the way that they do because of a genuine desire to possess a greater empirical understanding of the scientific process in which they are involved. Ovid C. Lewis outlines the intricacies of this model in, "Systems Theory and Judicial Behavioralism," published in the Case Western Law Review. There, of course, then is the Attitudinal Model, which argues that justices are not necessarily the impartial arbiters that they have been made out to be. Rather, they are human beings just like the rest of the people on Earth and are just as likely to make rulings in court cases based upon their personal beliefs, ideological attitudes, and social values, as they are they the individual merits of a case. Jeffrey A. Segal and Harold J. Spaeth developed the theory over a period of almost thirty years and have managed to create a ninety percent accuracy rating in their predictions. They study, specifically, the United States Supreme Court. Though attempts have been made to apply the theory to lower levels of the American judiciary, especially state supreme courts who are appointed rather than elected, more work is needed. They admit, though, that more research may eventually bridge this gap. They thoroughly outline this model in their book, The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model Revisited.

What, then, is to be said about judges who are forced to campaign for money, speak at special events, and interrupt their hearing schedules in their effort win reelection to their post, or some higher post to which they seek election? Are these people going to be unbiased arbiters of justice, bench based social scientists, human beings with natural flaws who are influenced by their own attitudes, beliefs, and values, or are they going to be people who have abandoned their values and given up their desire to protect the integrity of the law? Will they find themselves firmly beholden to their campaign donors at the expense of the people? This would seem to be very likely. So, is it true? Are elected justices less interested in the needs of their constituents and more in interested in the needs of their largest donors? Joanna M. Shepherd says this is so in her piece entitled, “Money, Politics, and Impartial Justice,” published in the Duke Law Review. In the section entitled, “Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Campaign Contributions on Judges’ Voting.” In her research, she found a positive correlation between high campaign contributions and favorable court rulings for business associations, insurance companies, and lawyer groups. She found a negative correlation for organizations with smaller donations and rulings in their cases. Labor groups and medical organizations tended to find themselves regularly on the short end of the stick. Fear not, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has a plan to help resolve this issue. She would institute state level Judicial Nominating Commissions. All judges would be appointed by their Governor. They would all be subject to routine performance evaluations by their state houses, and finally, they would face statewide retention elections. This is outlined in, "The O'Connor Judicial Selection Plan," which can be viewed on the website of the The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. This is nice and all, but in the meantime, what happens to the people in those states with elected judges who are beholden to major corporations or rich local donors? They find themselves unrepresented, and possibly, even incarcerated.

Gerrymandering and Racial Bias

So what is gerrymandering? It is, essentially, the artificial and intentional redrawing of congressional districts, whether at the state or federal level, such that the person that wins the representative election from that district is almost assured to be of a certain political party. What is more important to know is that gerrymandering is not an old concept. Many scholars have studied the topic as if it just suddenly appeared as a political tool related to the political upheaval of the 1960s; whereas, the truth is that gerrymandering is something that has been going on in American politics for a very long time. There were early legal cases against the state of Massachusetts in the early 19th Century, and there were even legitimate accusations made against the Tammany Hall crowd for redrawing precinct districts to ensure their continued dominance of the government of the city of New York. Further, gerrymandering is not something that can be slammed as a charge of impropriety or political corruption against any one political party because history has shown that all majority parties in the United States from Federalists, to Whigs, to Jeffersonian-Democrats, to Republicans, to modern Democrats, and back to the Republicans, have used the artificial redrawing of representative districts to benefit their own majorities in city governments, state governments, and the federal government. Once they get in power, they have all sought to retain that power, and gerrymandering, despite multiple attempts to break the states from using the tool, is a way to help make that happen. For more information on the use of gerrymandering in American politics look to Partisan Gerrymandering and the Construction of American Democracy, by Erik J. Engstrom.

So, now, who exactly is it that these people were drawing these skewed representative districts to protect themselves from? The original group from which the Tammany hall bunch sought to protect themselves was the Whig Party, along with African Americans, the Irish, early Italian immigrants, and even Jewish immigrants, all whom the Whig party would use to garner extra votes in their efforts to unseat the Tammany Hall political machine from its bastion of power in New York City. There are also innumerable examples of the Whigs doing the same thing in other parts of the North to keep South leaning Democrats from gaining strength in their states. Later, to ensure that they could keep Reconstruction alive, the post Civil War Republicans were found to be doing the same thing. Forward to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a massive regional political reversal that began in the 1970s and was completed by the turn of the century, has taken place. As a result, the Republicans are now the biggest culprits of this practice. If one were not sickened by the purpose of the redrawn districts, one might call them downright artistic in their shape and form. However, their purpose is nefarious enough that laughter would be beyond inappropriate. Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and subsequent amendments to the law, states like Texas and Georgia, and others, have drawn representative districts in their states in such a way that African American voters, known to vote Democrat, are able to secure very little impact on state elections. The same goes for Latinos. The only compensation that some states attempt to give them is pre-drawn “Majority Black” or "Majority Latino" districts, which, ultimately, marginalize their votes even further. Thus, states such as these have a system set to intentionally under represent one group of people and over represent another. Who are they wanting to be most responsive to, then? This is, of course, Caucasians. In state elections, such as these, where their gerrymandered districts are in full operation, there are some scholars who will say that race did not play a big role in the outcome of the subsequent elections, but is that not just exactly what the gerrymandered districts are trying produce in the first place? Their job is to marginalize, and leave intentionally under represented, the African American and Latino vote, and it has succeeded in doing just that. The various places where this tool has been implemented are further explored in, “Racial Redistricting and Realignment in Southern State Legislatures,” published by David Lublin and Steven Voss in the American Journal of Political Science. It is also clear that in states such as these, where reform is demanded, the elites tend to resist it. They do not want to give more of a voice to the people that they know could very possibly unseat them if they were appropriately represented in their home electoral districts. The African American and Latino populations in such states are not represented. Carline J. Tolbert, Daniel A. Smith, and John C. Green explore this in, “Strategic Voting and Legislative Redistricting Reform: District and Statewide Representational Winners and Losers,” published in Political Research Quarterly.

Voter ID Laws

There is yet another controversial set of laws that varying states use, Texas being one of the first, which some people will defend as legitimate attempts to stem what they think are rising attempts to defraud the American election system. Others will argue that the laws are directly targeting minorities in the United States to get keep them from voting. The biggest minority in this case would be Hispanic Americans, namely because of the supposed undocumented immigration crisis. The express intent of such laws as these is to supplement gerrymandering laws. They are meant to continuously shrink the eligible voter pool so that the elites of a given society can secure their political position. Further, it increases, even further, the number of people who are not represented by their government. Now, as it has been said before, there are people who are represented by their politicians after this is all said and done, but it is the business elites, the socially wealthy, and the racially correct. There exists an imbalance where the top feels supported and the bottom is becoming further and further marginalized. How much longer can that last before it become a serious social problem? The problem persists, while more people go unrepresented, yet nothing is done to correct the malady. Marjorie Randon Hershey explores the dangers and consequences of Voter-ID Laws in “What We Know about Voter-ID Laws, Registration, and Turnout,” published in Political Science and Politics.

Conclusion

So, how exactly can someone feel represented after a riotous social outburst when the very thing that they rioted about is what is done to them in return? Worse, how can they feel represented when their only recompense was hush money, in the form of increased welfare benefits only delivered years after their anger tipped the scale? Would not jobs that can pay life sustaining wages and few to no more police beatings of innocent people be more appropriate? Second, how can someone feel more represented when their leadership has moved on to another job before their constituents really ever got a chance to get to know them? Third, how can someone feel represented when they know that their judges are beholden to their donors and not the people who voted for them, if that was anyone other than their donors to begin with? How could they possibly be confident that they would receive justice in a judicial hearing? Fourth, how can someone feel represented by their government when they know that their vote has been intentionally marginalized by the drawing of insane voter precinct boundaries? Fifth, how can someone feel represented when they could be dropped from voters rolls and forced to reregister, possibly missing important deadlines, for no other reason than that they look like someone who could possibly be a threat to national security or someone’s political position? Finally, how can people feel represented when they know that their entire government has been purchased. In Texas, in 2014, the spending in the state elections exceeded over $100 million. Worse, this is just one state. How great must the combined expense be for such state elections across the country? The truth is that most people can’t and don’t feel represented because the United States government, its state governments, and their wealthy backers have worked very hard to make sure that they remain unrepresented.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Is it Time To End The Union?


Back in 1861, the southern states of the United States broke from the union and formed the CSA, the Confederate States of America. They did so because they felt that people from an entirely different culture and geographical location were passing laws and enacting changes that went against everything they stood for. Ideologies were localized to the point where, once our Civil War started, it was easy to draw up battle lines and there wasn't quite as much worry about divisive politics in the two new nations. It's been argued ever since that the northern states fought an "illegal war" to force the south back into the union that it was technically free to leave. This country has been suffering for it ever since with an angry union of two vastly different cultures that seem to disagree with each other on virtually everything. This nation is just too big and the problems we've always had are becoming unmanageable now that our population is well over 300 million.


The country is evenly split politically, and has been for quite some time, so every election cycle close to half the population, 160 million people, are unrepresented and disenfranchised. American politicians don't care about the people who didn't vote for them, and try to never make any promises to them during the elections. So, we get a revenge vote in the midterm elections that takes back a part of congress 2 years later and there's obstruction until the next election. Both sides do this. It's been going on for centuries now, and as a result, very little can ever be accomplished. Both sides are stifled and take turns oppressing each other and ending any initiatives and programs the other side enacts. The monetary cost of starting and ending programs is devastating, and the cost to people and businesses who begin to use new government services and rights, only to have them taken away again, is even more profound.



How long must we do this before we realize that we just aren't meant for each other? Again, we're in a situation where we have practically "foreign" voters from a quarter-planet away forcing laws on people who are fundamentally different. The bible belt should have no say in what happens on the west coast, and the west coast should have no say in how religious and conservative populations want to live. They are two vastly different cultures, and I feel it's time for each to govern themselves however they wish to be governed.

As it stands now, what we're looking at going forward is far worse than any issues an amicable split might cause. Donald Trump will do things the liberal states, millions of people residing in them, vehemently oppose. In response, these states will pass state-level laws to counter his federal laws and there will be a confrontation. Only this time it'll be conservatives against "states rights" because they're the ones controlling the Fed.

The outrage is real. For the second time in just 16 years a republican has been given the presidency by the electoral college after losing the popular vote. In fact, if you don't count George W. Bush's re-election, and I don't because it should have been Al Gore's re-election, a republican hasn't won the popular vote since 1988, but that doesn't seem to matter because this isn't a true country and doesn't function like one. Not like other ones in the world anyway. We're a union of states, or fifty small countries, tied together by a treaty we call "The Constitution." Further, each state has it's own individual government, house and senate, supreme court, education and agriculture departments, and it's own presidential election. Most colonies, and later territories, originally refused to join the union until the Bill of Rights was ratified and they had equal representation in the union as sovereign states. They hoped that this would allow them to continue to function as if they were still independent once they were in the union, hence all the redundant government on the state AND federal levels.

This ideology of the union valuing the states themselves more than the populations that live in them as a whole is causing problems today when California gets 2 senators, while Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Alaska, and other sparsely populated states who combined, are outnumbered by California voters, get 20 senators for an equal population. The electoral college reflects this old ideology, as well. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but was blown away in the electoral vote, which makes it obvious that people in rural states have greater representation than those in more populated areas.

This may have been necessary to form a union and get everyone on board originally, but it's a fatal flaw today as 40 million people in one state have to live with the will of people a world away from them. We've outgrown the structure originally written for 13 colonies. This nation has become too large. Further, its power is such that it threatens and invades  other countries around the world with frightening regularity because it possesses the combined power and resources of 50 nations. The rest of the world either hates or fears us, at this point, and we need to split this monopoly so everyone can be safer and happier. It's what's best for us all at this point. Further, it will allow us all to finally live how we want to, and it does not hurt that we already have the lines drawn up on the map.....

Editor's Note:



This idea that the United States is too internally diverse to hold up under its own weight is not a new concept. The glaring political contradictions that traverse state lines in this country are something that scholars and regular citizens alike have been mulling over since the nation's foundation. I wrote about it in an early RTC piece last year, which predicted that the 2016 election could produce a Civil War. In 2008, Ingor Panarin, a Russian political science and economics professor, predicted that the United States would split by 2010. The above map is a reference to the predicted split.

In 1789, the Founders glued together a union of diverse states with a Constitution that they argued would help to overcome the many regional differences that separated those states at the local levels. After this, the United States was held together by a series of compromises over slavery. From the language written into the original founding documents to the Compromise of 1850, the United States was held together by a thread, until in 1861, when that, now, hair thin string, finally burst. The Union was then restored by brute force.

Here is the problem, though. What the Founders did not outline in the Federalist Papers, the documents that they wrote to justify what was a treasonous act, as the Founders of the Constitution grossly overstepped their boundaries by creating an entirely new government to replace the previous Articles of Confederation government, is that the Constitution, despite the power that it gives the national government, was intentionally designed to highlight the regional differences that they knew would make radical shifts in the status quo difficult to implement.

The Constitution of the United States is not a Democratic Charter. It is a Corporate Charter. It was written by an elite class of citizens with the purpose of giving them the tools that they needed to control the flow of change, wealth, and power. The Articles of Confederation, as a document, threatened their ability to do this because it entrusted power in the hands of a popularly elected, term limited, People's Assembly. This country does not need to be broken up. It's foundational documents just need to be radically revised to adjust to the radical changes that technology is now allowing to outpace a dramatically outdated elitist security blanket. Things like the Electoral College, which was created intentionally to correct the mistakes of the people, need to go.

Americans need to get know each other better, and we need to remember that those who have served and died for this country, did not serve and die for their home state, their native city, or their local neighborhood. They put on their uniform, went to work, and served and died for a unified nation, the United States of America. The only things that truly divides us are geography, hoarded wealth, and corrupt elitists who profit on our ignorance and frustrations. These are things that can be overcome, and the place to start is with things like the Electoral College. Improved education would be a plus too. Many nations have come and gone throughout the years. One would like to believe that it is not yet our time to fade away into the pages of history.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Election 2016: Battle of the Sexes?


I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” - Malala Yousafzai

Wait....What?

Can it be that Simple?

2016

The year we decided who is better?

Men or Women?

This was the male Dominated Republican Party vs the Democratic Party that supports women's rights.

This is NOT Sexist. It is the result of the male dominated Republican party not giving Women equal opportunity. If a woman wants a career in politics, she really has no choice but to be a Democrat. There are Women in the Republican party, but Republican men only pull them out when they need them to show that they are 'not sexist.'

This election could not have been more obvious with Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton.

This was all about a battle of the sexes. Just a thought.....

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This Election Came Down to Political Retribution and Political Opportunism


"I am really hoping that the 2016 Presidential Election is remembered in history as the point where the American Left Wing began to finally be taken seriously." - Kent Allen Halliburton

I did not want to vote yesterday. I did not want to interrupt my sleep. I did not want to waste my energy. I did not want to put my name on a ballot that I felt did not represent me or what I stand for. The thought actually made me a little ill. Luckily, for me, Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party made it onto the ballot in Texas, so I was given a third option against Trump and Clinton. With this in mind, at a little after 8 A.M., I got up out of my bed, took a fresh shower, got into some nice clothes, put on my Father's old heavy leather jacket, and in the rain, walked up the street to my neighborhood polling place to cast my ballot.

Since then, Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States. A racist, bigoted, sexist, narcissist, incompetent businessman will now be the President of the United States. Since then, I have also been accused, mostly by Clinton supporters on Facebook, of helping to make that happen. I would like to ask, "How exactly, do you figure, that I did that?" I live in Texas. A 'Liberal' Presidential Candidate has not taken Texas in a general election since Reconstruction, and that was under the threat of force from the Union Army. I could have voted for the desk clerk at the Hilton Regency in Downtown Dallas, and Donald Trump would still have taken Texas. I voted my conscience, as did many others. That is the purpose of American elections. If our consciences had allowed us to vote for Hillary Clinton, she may very well now be President-Elect. She is not. Let that fester if you must.

Here is how this was political retribution. Going into the 2016 DNC Convention, a great majority of the political momentum in the United States, which truly was running rampant, was pushing at the back of Bernie Sanders, who stood for everything that American Progressives love and dream of. This was apparently not his time, though. It was, apparently, actually the time for Hillary Clinton to rise. Even though the great majority of the Progressive Wing of her party made it clear that they did not like her and would not support her, Clinton was pushed passed Sanders. Worse, many people felt that it was done through nefarious means, intensifying their resolve to resist her candidacy. Either way, as this election has proven, Center-Right Democrats cannot win federal elections without the Progressive Wing of their party behind them. I hope they have learned this strong lesson; though, I seriously doubt it.

As for political opportunism, the reference must turn over to the Republican politicians who supposedly turned on Trump and his ignorance. This is referring to men like Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker, Paul Ryan, among others, like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush. Trump has motivated the white vote that has remained at home in every major election since the collapse of Segregation. They crapped all over Trump while, at the very same time, they let him do what they could not manage to do themselves. Now, he has been elected, and all they have to do is rake it in, if they can manage to keep from screwing it up. The hope for all Americans should be that they screw it all up right out of the gate. Otherwise, this situation has the potential to be extremely dangerous.

The spectre of white supremacy is not something that I enjoy imagining, but that does mean that I should be required to compromise my personal ethics because the Democratic Party did not feel it necessary to listen to the Progressive Wing of their party, who had made it fairly clear that they were no longer willing to just swallow the DNC's swill. So, before anyone in the Democratic Party blames someone who made it clear as day that they were not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, for Hillary's loss, take some time to reflect on the reality that Bernie Sanders had a double digit lead on Trump, accompanied by a scandal free political record, going into the DNC Convention, and the Party Establishment forced through the candidate with barely a single digit lead and a laundry list of legal problems. This is just something to consider.....

Oh, and by the way, there is one last thing to consider. Trump was a Democrat right up until he decided to run for President as a Republican, and he was a heavy supporter of the Clintons. In other words, this could all just be a cleverly crafted scam to ensure that a secure set of social and economic policies will be enacted no matter which way the the national mood leans.


"If everyone in the world could be pleased, all at the same time, there were would be no drive to change all the horrible stuff that is going on in the world." - Craig Kent Marks