The Path to Possibility

Monday might be a very big day.

The California State Senate is set to vote on AJR-1, a resolution introduced to the California State Assembly in 2012 by Representative Mike Gatto. It calls for a constitutional convention for the purpose of revoking corporate personhood in regards to free speech and limiting campaign finance.

It has already passed the California State Assembly.  And the Senate judiciary Committee.  It was set for a vote last Thursday, but was tabled for unspecified reasons (rumors are some of the yes votes were absent at the time).  It has been rescheduled for a vote on Monday, June 23, 2014.

A very similar resolution has already passed in Vermont.  The movement, led by Larry Lessig and other citizen-funded groups was the very definition of grass roots. (Registering nary a ripple in the national media, of course.)

Similar resolutions are in various stages of percolation in 10 different states, introduced and supported by both Democratic and Republican legislators who’ve had enough.

Article V of our ceaselessly amazing U.S. Constitution allows for conventions to be called by the states, circumventing the federal government. It requires 2/3 of the states to call for the convention and 3/4 of the states to ratify the amendment once the convention puts forth a resolution. In short, we need 34 states to call for a convention and 38 states to ratify an amendment proposal.

It is also critical to note that constitutional conventions are required be very specific.  They can only be held regarding the issue for which they were called. No switcheroos or add-ons after one has been convened.

Of the people. By the people.  Like music to the ears, innit?

Needless to say, if AJR-1 does pass in California, it would be historic.  The largest state in the union would have called to amend the U.S. Constitution for the express purpose of returning the democracy back to the American people.

It would be a chance to undo the damage done by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) which proclaimed corporations as people and preventied bipartisan campaign finance reform on the grounds that money is speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, as well as McCutcheon v. FEC decided in April of 2014, in which SCOTUS struck down many of the remaining limits on campaign contributions. These decisions  effectively allowed for the purchase of entire elections by private interests.  It’s what led to the explosion of Super PACs and their shady regulations.

But let’s call this for what it is: legalized corruption.  A recent Princeton study found that voter opinion has no discernible influence federal lawmakers.  The only opinions that moved the needle were rich donors and the lobbyists that work for them.  In other words, lawmakers are only listening to the people who fund their campaigns. Money for influence. All that comes out of it is voter apathy and stymied political discourse (and cash windfalls for a select few). It’s the reason we can’t do anything about climate change, or for-profit prisons, or gun control, or our schools, or any of the monumental and mounting issues we face.

Legalized corruption.  

So long as SCOTUS holds that money equals protected speech, they can shoot down any campaign finance reform law anyone tries to pass.  And so far,  they pretty much have.

AJR-1 is a means to put an end to this broken corrupt system.

Of course, that’s if it passes.  And make no mistake, it would only be the first salvo in what could very well be a long and hard fought political war.

But however the vote goes in the California State Senate, the fight is only beginning.  Often times, the powers that be try to slow cook hot-button issues. They wait for the furor to die down, occasionally placating the disquieted masses with some meager, symbolic concessions, then get back to business when the noise dies down and interests shift (the 4 biggest banks are bigger now than they were before the 2008 crash…por ejemplo).

We can’t continue to let this happen.  It’s not about going after the super rich donors or even the politicians.  Its about tearing down the system that has squeezed the people out and made us inaudible.

We’re late in the game in California, but if you support the idea of exercising the power of the people and getting money out of politics, I urge you to call your California state senator Monday morning (you can find your state reps here) to let them know you support AJR-1 and you want them to vote yes.

Even if you don’t live in California, call your state legislators.  Let them know  you support a constitutional convention to get money out of politics.  Demand it. Tell them you want your democracy back.  (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a catch-all database.  The best way to find your representatives is to type in “who are my representatives” and then your state in your favorite search engine.  Usually in the first 2 or 3 choices you’ll find one that only requires your address or zip code and then finds your reps along with contact info for you. Teh interwebs are awesome.)

96% of Americans say that the influence of money in politics needs to be reduced. 91% believe nothing can be done about it.

They’re wrong.

It’s well worth it to show them.

Finger crossed.

 

Killing for Profit–An American Story

I was gonna go postal in a blog (still might) about this but The young Turks once again handled it much better than I ever could.

Wells Fargo Yovany Gonzalez
Yovany Gonzalez with his daughter Mackenzie.

For those without time to watch the video–and if you haven’t heard–the short version is that Yovany Gonzalez is suing Wells Fargo bank because he believes they fired him 3 days before his daughter, Mackenzie, was scheduled to have cancer surgery. Gonzalez alleges that the financial conglomerate and their insurance provider, United Healthcare, fired him for the express purpose of not having to pay for the expensive medical procedure.  (He was not offered his government mandated COBRA coverage until after 90-days…when he was no longer eligible.)

Mackenzie died of cancer in March 2011.

Germane here is the point that corporations are inherently devoid of morality.  By design, corporations are meant to, within the scope of the prevalent laws and regulations, generate profits and alleviate personal risk.  They can be either good or bad as profit and their executive leadership dictates.  Now these amoral “constructs” have assumed overwhelming influence in the U.S. because of our corrupt political system.

A prime example of this manifest corruption is the lack of gun restrictions–hell, there isn’t even talk of restricting access to guns, even after the Aurora, Colorado, Tayvon Martin, Gabby Giffords, and Virginia Tech shootings.  Gun restrictions very well might have saved lives in all of these instances.  America averages roughly 20 mass shootings a year.  Most just don’t make national news.  In fact, the rate of gun-related deaths in the United States is 8 times higher than in economically similar nations.

Yet it is political anathema to even consider any gun restrictions–even though a vast majority of Americans think more restrictions are needed.  There are even some gun regulations that a majority of NRA members agree with, such as:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 87 percent of non-NRA gun-owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.

2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.

3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.

4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.

5. Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.

–From:  http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/24/577091/nra-members-agree-regulating-guns-makes-sense/

A majority–in most case a super-majority–of Americans, a of gun owners, and of NRA members support these reasonable and very commons sense gun controls.  Still, no gun regulations get passed because lawmakers fear the power of the NRA and gun manufacturers.  Apparently the NRA members don’t matter.

Meanwhile Conservative–and establishment–propaganda has many people convinced that the government–the only body with the authority to check the power of these corporations–is an even greater evil.  This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as our government is now in the hands of corporate machines with no conscience.

We are in dire need of a political revolution that puts power back into the hands of the people.  But with people being being allowed to die in the name of profit, access to opportunity shriveling on the vine, more and more advantages being stacked in favor of the rich, and the voice of the people being increasingly ignored, I’m not sure how much longer the window for political change will stay open.

They right way.

After that, the only option will be violent revolution.  In modern times.  With modern weapons.  No sane person could possibly want that.  But given the human inclination to not act, even on our own behalves, until absolutely  forced, I dread that large scale violence is becoming increasingly inevitable in the long run.

The wrong way.

It is our Constitutional Right to not just be heard, but represented.  Despite all the other problems we face, getting money out of politics–ending the purchase of political office–has to be our first and foremost priority. 

We need a Constitutional Amendment revoking the corporate personhood which allows business interests to use their dollars as “political speech”.  We need strict, draconian campaign finance reform (I would prefer 100%publicly funded elections).  Take away the means of buying politicians.

Forget party affiliation.  Forget campaign promises.

Crush the corruption.

Get money out of politics.  If not for ourselves, for Mackenzie Gonzalez and those like her yet to come.

Free.  Thought.