Friday, August 26, 2011

Citizen Oversight

We pay the salaries of all Government employees.  Therefore, shouldn't we have access to all that the Government does?  (I mean access to non-classified information, of course).  After all, they have complete access to each and every one of us.

Citizen based oversight such as the Grand Jury system need to be re-invigorated for the purpose of protecting people's Constitutional Rights.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Plenty Hate To Go Around

In the world of activism, there are many different causes that people gravitate to based on personal preference.  The problem is when judgements and prejudices are carelessly thrown around.

The man vs. woman issue.

The racial divide.

The cultural / religious prejudices.

Heterosexual versus homosexual.

Republican versus Democrat.

The list goes on.

It’s important to take a stand and fight for what you believe in but not when the line is crossed from passionate commitment to hateful rhetoric. 

The one thing we have in common is that we are Americans.  And, we are all fighting for our rights.

We are not asking to be heard.  We are demanding that our Constitutional Rights be upheld as promised to us by the founding fathers of this country!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where are the grown-ups?

In today’s political climate, it is apparent that there are no more grown-ups to help guide our society in a meaningful and productive way.  Manners, civility, common decency, and ethical behavior are all arcane concepts.

Now, it is no holds barred.  Anything goes.  Rules?  Out the window. 

Exercising your constitutional rights result in over-reaching consequences.

Those who serve to protect us end up punishing, brutalizing and even killing our fellow citizens. 

White collar crime is applauded.

Some individuals in power whisper amongst themselves strategies about how they can pull off a multitude of clever and under-handed capers.  And, if they’re eventually caught, the penalties are slight compared with the crime itself.

Up is down and down is up. 

Nothing makes sense and we remain confused, appalled, and left in a perpetual state of shock.

It’s time for the grown-ups to come back from their extended vacations and exercise their moral and legal obligations to us. 

Who Are The Heroes Today?

A while back, I asked a group of people if they could list a few names of individuals they would consider heroes.  There was only one person who responded and he said for him it is God.  

We are inundated with lies, betrayals, on-going confusion and misinformation.  It's an important exercise for us to begin separating the good from the bad.

Historically, there are some civil and human rights leaders who are referred to with a nostalgic and reverent tone.  But who are the heroes today?  Who can we respect, admire, look up to and rely upon for guidance into the future?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tyranny or Parlimentary?

Recently, I sent an email to a former state senator in California.  I asked the following:

"If we are supposed to rely on bedrock rules known as constitutional protections (both federal and state) then how is it fair or legally sound that the county operates at a nearly tyrannical level?  According to their own memorandum, the Supervisors blithely state that the oversee three major branches of government – executive, legislative and quasijudicial."

This was her response:

"i think the county government structure, for all our california counties, was set up so as to centralize authority and responsibility.  the parliamentary structure is not unusual."

Parliamentary structure???  Where did she come up with that idea? In L.A. County, we are closer to a tyrannical design than parliamentary.  For many months now, I have  been posting blog essays about the L.A. County system. ( In response, some people have expressed my word use of "tyranny" as an extreme description. Really?  It might be scary terminology but why tip toe around this obvious and upsetting reality?

Today, I was validated....again, by visiting the Federalist Papers.  Thanks to fellow activist K.P., he suggested I look into these historical documents to find answers.  And, voila!  I found the following quote by James Madison - Federalist 47:

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Corporate Supreme Court; Time For Impeachment

By Ralph Nader
July 18, 2011

Five Supreme Court Justices--Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy are entrenching, in a whirlwind of judicial dictates, judicial legislating and sheer ideological judgments, a mega-corporate supremacy over the rights and remedies of individuals.

The artificial entity called "the corporation" has no mention in our Constitution whose preamble starts with "We the People," not "We the Corporation."

Taken together the decisions are brazenly over-riding sensible precedents, tearing apart the state common law of torts and blocking class actions, shoving aside jury verdicts, limiting people's "standing to sue", pre-empting state jurisdictions--anything that serves to centralize power and hand it over to the corporate conquistadores.

Here are some examples. (For more see Remember  the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound twenty two years ago? It destroyed marine life and the livelihoods of many landowners, fishermen and native Alaskans. Its toxic effects continue to this day.

Well, after years of litigation by Alaskan fishermen, the Supreme Court took the case to review a $5 billion award the trial court had assessed in punitive damages. A 5 to 3 decision lowered the sum to $507.5 million which is less than what Exxon made in interest by delaying the case for twenty years. Moreover, the drunken Exxon captain's oil tanker calamity raised the price of gasoline at the pump for awhile. Exxon actually made a profit despite its discharge of 50 million gallons.

The unelected, life-tenured corporate court was just getting started and every year they tighten the noose of corporatism around the American people.

In Bush v. Gore (5-4 decision), the Court picked the more corporate president of the United States in 2000, leaving constitutional scholars thunderstruck at this breathtaking seizure of the electoral process, stopping the Florida Supreme Court's ongoing state-wide recount. The five Republican Justices behaved as political hacks conducting a judicial coup d'├ętat.

But then what do you expect from justices like Thomas and Scalia who participate in a Koch brothers' political retreat or engage in extrajudicial activities that shake the public confidence in the highest court of the land.

Last year came the Citizens United v. FEC case where the Republican majority went out of its way to decide a question that the parties to the appeal never asked. In a predatory "frolic and detour," the 5 justices declared that corporations (including foreign companies) no longer have to obey the prohibitory federal law and their own court's precedents.

Corporations like Pfizer, Aetna, Chevron, GM, Citigroup, Monsanto can spend unlimited funds (without asking their shareholders) in independent expenditures to oppose or support candidates for public office from a local city council election to federal Congressional and Presidential elections.

Once again our judicial dictatorship has spoken for corporate privilege and power overriding the rights of individual voters.

Eighty percent of the American people, reported a Washington Post poll, reject the Court's view that a business corporation is entitled to the same free speech rights as citizens.

Chances are very high that in cases between workers and companies, consumers and companies, communities and corporations, tax payers and military contractors--big business wins.

Inanimate corporations created by state government charters have risen as Frankensteins to control the people through one judicial activist decision after another. It was the Supreme Court in 1886 that started treating a corporation as a "person" for purposes of the equal protection right in the fourteenth amendment. Actually the scribe manufactured that conclusion in the headnotes even though the Court's opinion did not go that far. But then it was off to the races. These inanimate giants, astride the globe, have privileges and immunities that "We the People" can only dream about, yet they have equal constitutional rights with us (except for the right against self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment) and more limited privacy rights.)

What is behind these five corporate Justices' decisions is a commercial philosophy that big business knows best for you and your children. These Justices intend to drive this political jurisprudence to further extremes, so long as they are in command, to twist our founders clear writings that the Constitution was for the supremacy of human beings.

To see how extreme the five corporate justices are, consider the strong contrary view of one of their conservative heroes, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist in a case where a plurality of justices threw out a California regulation requiring an insert in utility bills inviting residential ratepayers to band together to advance their interests against Pacific Gas and Electric. The prevailing justices said--get this--that it violated the electric company monopoly's first amendment right to remain silent and not respond to the insert's message.

Conservative Justice Rehnquist's dissent contained these words--so totally rejected by the present-day usurpers: "Extension of the individual freedom of conscience decisions to business corporations strains the rationale of those cases beyond the breaking point. To ascribe to such artificial entities an "intellect" or "mind" for freedom of conscience purposes is to confuse metaphor with reality."

It was left to another conservative jurist, the late Justice Byron White, dissenting in the corporatist decision First Nat'l Bank v. Bellotti (1978) to recognize the essential principle.

Corporations, Justice White wrote, are "in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only the economy but also the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process." The state, he continued, has a compelling interest in "preventing institutions which have been permitted to amass wealth as a result of special advantages extended by the State for certain economic purposes from using that wealth to acquire an unfair advantage in the political process". The state need not permit its own creation to consume it." (emphasis added)

Never have I urged impeachment of Supreme Court justices. I do so now, for the sake of ending the Supreme Court's corporate-judicial dictatorship that is not accountable under our system of checks and balance in any other way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Initiative would create citizen Legislature

The below is an article that addresses actual and viable possibilities to improve our representation in California. 
JULY 8, 2011
A former Republican presidential candidate and long-time political reformer said Wednesday that he plans on leading a statewide initiative effort designed to expand the number of politicians in the state by reducing the size of political districts for Assembly and state Senate candidates. The idea is modeled roughly on the New Hampshire House of Representatives, which has the nation’s highest 400 members — each which enjoy the modest salary of $200 for every two years.
The goal, advanced by John Cox, a Chicago-area activist and businessman who now resides a good bit of the year in San Diego County, is to create more of a citizen legislature. “Everyone can see the money chase is corrupting the political process,” he told me Wednesday at the Hyatt in Sacramento, after he met with legislators in the Capitol. He doesn’t believe that politicians are necessarily corrupt, “but the system is corrupting.”
I wrote about the idea of expanding representation in this column in April after meeting with representation activist Michael Warnken at the Libertarian Party convention in Lake Tahoe, where I was keynote speaker. Warnken joined us at the Hyatt Wednesday. Consider these facts (based on Warnken’s data) that I reported: “There’s one representative for every 29,151 Iowans (as of 2008 data) and one Assembly member for every 459,458 Californians (now 483,000). There’s an elected representative in New Hampshire’s house for every 3,290 of that state’s residents, which is the best level of representation in the nation.”
California has an enormous representation problem, which is why the Libertarian Party approved a resolution calling for representation reform. But this idea should appeal to a wide number of voters whatever their political persuasion. Unlike many other reforms, such as the ones advocated by moderate business groups such as the Bay Area Council (constitutional convention, open primary, majority-vote budgets, etc.), this is not designed to get a specific political outcome. The council, for instance, tried rigging the election rules so that Californians would elect more “moderates” from both major parties.
Rather, Cox’s idea is designed to make it easier for average Californians, whatever their political persuasion, to know their elected officials and influence public policy. California’s districts are so enormous that there is little chance for average voters to know their representative or to have any influence. Only professionals, who can afford campaigns financed by special interests (unions, corporations, environmentalists) have a chance to run for office. Where I used to live in Los Angeles County, there were approximately 2 million residents for every county supervisor. How representative is that? Such a situation enhances the influence of special interests and turns money into the most important political factor. The coming initiative only deals with the state Legislature, but Cox believes the concept can be expanded to the county board and other elected bodies.
In a true citizen legislature, money doesn’t matter very much. Regular people with regular jobs can run for office. People will know the legislator. It’s easy to throw the bum out. Local concerns win the day. It’s a brilliant way to reform the system and it will create a more responsive Legislature. It offers no threat to the state’s dominant Democrats given that there are more Democratic voters than Republican ones. But it does offer a specific threat to special interests, and unions in particular, which will be sure to campaign against Cox’s initiative, if he raises the funds to get it on the ballot. He is looking toward next November.
Cox said the initiative language, still being discussed, would probably be something like this: The size of districts shall be no more than 10,000 people for the Assembly and 20,000 for the Senate. He foresees a very large Legislature and an executive council for each body similar in size to the current Legislature that would do much of the day-to-day work. A key point is that the legislators would not get full-time staff and big budgets as they do now. Yes, there would be more politicians, but there would be a smaller class of professional politicians.
The thinking is that regular people, who work in regular jobs, would then dominate Sacramento. These citizen legislators would better understand the needs of their constituents and would be less likely to serve as the cat’s paw for unions and big corporations. Cox notes that about 2,000 bills are introduced in each legislative session. He believes that number would go down even as the number of representatives would go up because the newly elected legislators would be there for the right reasons.
In the current system, he said, voting percentages are declining because people know there is no way they can affect the political process. After his reform, “people will come out of the woodwork to participate.” His argument to the Left: Under this system, the rich won’t have all the power. To the Right: Broader representation will lead to less social engineering and better fiscal management. To everyone: All of a sudden, money won’t be as big of a factor and lobbyists won’t be able to have the control they now have.
Perhaps this is a bit idealistic, but the Founding Fathers would be aghast at how unrepresentative our supposedly representative democracy has become, especially in California. Here’s an initiative that might get mocked at first, but upon closer examination it makes an inordinate amount of sense and should appeal to people from every political persuasion who are seriously interested in reform. Stay tuned for more on this one and for the resurgent career of John Cox.