Public Vetting Issue

Article V was written at a time when representatives of the people met and acted without major interaction with the constituents.  Press coverage was slow and cumbersome.  A proposed state-initiated convention of states was a meeting that could not receive substantial public input during the process of drafting a proposal. 

If a convention of states were to meet as a result of 34 states having submitted valid applications, the delegates would start with a simple general idea, such as ‘term limits’ or ‘fiscal restraint’.  The public would little understanding about the language of the proposed constitutional amendment at the time the Article V convention was called to order.  Rules in place today would cause the convention to be a ‘limited convention’. 

The agenda would be relatively small with few legislative topics.  Developing the final proposal may take days or weeks and during this time the delegates would likely be on site at the convention.  Substantial delays may cause the delegates to have to return to the convention site after a recess. Completing the proposal during one session would have a degree of priority.  The press would have more interest after a rough draft was completed.  The time frame from the drafting of the rough draft and the final vote of this unicameral body could be as short as a few days.  Public input in this time frame is problematic. 

First the press would want to give complete details. Then public would want to examine the details and then get back to their state legislators.  And then the state legislators would need to relay that input to their respective state delegates.  Public vetting of a rough draft and a final draft of the proposal would be very problematic in the short time that the convention meets.  Expectations regarding the public vetting of proposals are vastly different than they were in 1787.  Yet the original language remains.  And a convention without proper public vetting is a strong reason that the public has fears of a ‘runaway convention’. 

A pre-convention would slow down the process and allow months of vetting of the rough drafts of proposed constitutional amendments. 

Government Reform

It’s sad.  Our elected representatives often seem more interested in hurting their political opposition than governing the country.  Conspiracy theories and thinly veiled racism often dominate daily rhetoric.  Virtually every issue has become weaponized.  We are no longer sure if Republicans and Democrats could even agree on the time of day. 

Our government is becoming dysfunctional.  Responses to major issues like the recent pandemic and climate change are botched to a degree that threatens our well-being.  It is easy to blame the members of Congress but, in the end, they are just a product of our political environment.  If this government is truly ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ then it’s time for the people to regain control of the function of government. 

Ultimately we have two choices, self-government or autocracy.  Our Founders put their best foot forward and created a fantastic plan for self-government.  In recent years events have shown a concerning drift toward autocracy.  When 147 congressmen voted against certifying our most recent presidential election, those concerns were highlighted. 27% of our legislators voted against the voice of the people.  That’s not consistent with the intentions of our Founders. Democracy is a fragile form of government.  Its existence depends on effective checks and balances. (The word democracy is used in place of a more accurately called democratic republic or representative democracy)

Greed and lust for power are at the root of the dysfunctional nature of our government.  That has not changed since George Washington warned of the dangers to our government in his farewell address.  What has changed is the rise in the power of corporations.  Corporate board rooms are filled with very intelligent people with limited moral restraint.  They often believe in the Ayn Rand philosophy of self-reliance and success at any cost.  Tax laws that favor their personal or corporate interests are a driving interest.  And some congressional votes are determined by the highest bidder. 

If we are to understand how to reform government we first must understand the current methods used by corporations to win votes for favorable tax laws.  A small minority of voters actually favor giving tax breaks to large corporation so the smart people in the corporate board room use an end-run.  It’s an elaborate smoke screen.  In the voting booth, deliberate reasoning (often called voting one’s pocket book) is replaced with passion.  Issues of passion such as abortion, racism, and gun rights are inflamed to the greatest extent.  Support for conspiracy theories is also a major benefit to this faction because it weaponizes social media to increase the level of passion in the voting booth. 

Major corporations like vulnerable people who are easily drawn in to issues of passion.  Science denial is part of the strategy and the religious right has many followers that are most likely to believe what they are told rather than investigate the facts surrounding the issue. 

Racism is the biggest tool to inflame voter’s passions.  As a leftover from many generations ago, states still have the right to institutional racism.  Therefore this power-hungry faction embraces state’s rights as a way to continue racist laws and the inflamed passion that they create. 

Lawmaker’s Creed

The principles of the Declaration of Independence can be summarized as follows:

Maximize the efficiency of the engine that drives our economy while simultaneously maximizing the satisfaction of the constituents.

Greed and lust for power must be controlled in order to keep the economy running well.  Dysfunctional government is not economically efficient.  And that does not make us happy.  Lower numbers of protesters in the street is a sign of satisfaction of the constituents.   Allowing corporate interests to manipulate voters by inflaming passions, in order to control corporate tax laws, is not consistent with the Lawmaker’s Creed.  The danger of this is well documented in Washington’s farewell address. 

If we are to meet our current and future challenges we must replace passion in the voting booth with deliberate reasoning.

Current Landscape for Change

Private organizations have had little success in countering the major factional interests when it comes to major national issues.  Our Congress is mostly unresponsive to grass roots efforts.  The combination of factional interests and lack of oversight of our three branches of government threaten our democracy.

We have no oversight over a Congress that is persuaded to favor corporate interests over the will of the people.  We have no oversight over biased decisions by the Supreme Court.  And although Congress has oversight over the President with impeachment, a biased Congress may choose to treat the President as a king.   Oversight can only be obtained by use of Article V of the Constitution.  (At this time, violent overthrow of the government is not considered a viable option.)

New constitutional amendments can be initiated through Article V by Congress or by the states.  An intransigent Congress has not and will not choose to create oversight over itself.   One or more state-initiated constitutional amendments are the only reasonable option.  But even that option has roadblocks. 

If major factional interests continue to inflame passions related to racism, abortion, and gun control in state government, those governments may choose to avoid government reform and state-initiated constitutional amendments.  In this case, at some point in future election cycles, we can expect to see more people protesting in the streets and an increased propensity to street violence.  State lawmakers need to understand this risk.  Additional oversight over the federal government is needed to avoid violence in the streets. 

The Oversight Mechanism

An Article V convention is necessary.  But that may only be the committee that drafts the final legislation.  True oversight discussion will be debated in one or more pre-convention settings. 

But the size, scope, and potential impact of these gatherings is not defined by precedent or constitutional design.  It would be nice to have the results of a study by a blue ribbon panel or a think tank.  But the country is left with the ideas of a few individuals and small private groups such as Path to Reform; pathtoreform.org.  National leadership regarding the concept of government reform is sorely lacking.  Conceptually, large corporations are always researching ways to improve their functionality.  Our government is stuck with a structure that worked well in the past, but not necessarily today. 

If the convention of states is to be successful in achieving government oversight, it must have the appropriate level of authority.  Merely discussing one topic for a proposed constitutional amendment may not be enough.  Even discussion of several ideas for amending the constitution leaves the gathering short of true oversight over each branch of government.  The will of the people should be recognized for major policy issues as well as structural changes.  All of the issues not discussed by this gathering can and will be weaponized and the passions created by that weaponization will find their way into the voting booth.  And some of the deliberate reasoning by the voters will remain sidelined. 

Giving power to the convention of states as a subservient part of Article I will require a constitutional amendment.  And that power can allow the people, with a supermajority vote, to overturn a ruling by the Supreme Court.  It could also pass policy legislation subject to a veto by Congress.  A supermajority vote clearly demonstrates the will of the people. We have the opportunity to take the air out of the political footballs and reduce the level of passion in the voting booth. 

Someone needs to take the lead.   The future successes of our government are likely tied to leadership that includes attention to government reform. 

First – Demonstrate Success

It’s human nature that we sometimes have contentious disagreements.  But for every person that goes off the deep end to escalate a fight, there are more people that would rather compromise.  Our Founders compromised on many issues and perhaps the true silent majority wants to avoid fights at our national and state capitals. 

We need to find those who wish to lead by example.  Grass roots success can lead to national success.  If we can demonstrate that non-partisan debates can take place on a local level, that sets the stage for a ‘great debate’ at the pre-conference gathering and that leads us along the path to an A-5 convention and government reform through amendments to our Constitution.  Not every state legislator lives to sling mud at the other faction. 

A grass roots debate can be in full compliance with Article V.  Results of the debate can be archived for further reference by all those who want to improve our government.  Even small examples of Republicans and Democrats sitting at the same gathering and having a collegiate debate can send a message to state legislators.  Rules of the debate can preview the same rules that will be used at the ‘great debate’.

For example, I live in Michigan’s 108th district.  It is comprised of three counties.  If two Democrats and two Republicans from each county got together we would have 12 voting members at the mini-debate. 

Three quarters of the states must agree to pass a constitutional amendment.  Scaling that down, nine votes would be needed to advance any proposal.  Contrarily, four votes could stop any proposed amendment.  Robert’s rules of order would be altered.  Any one of the 12 participants may make a motion to advance a proposal.  Then one of two things would happen.  The motion could receive a second and advance for discussion or four of the twelve could signal to kill the proposal.  Once a proposal is killed, no further discussion is allowed and the meeting proceeds instantly to the next proposal. 

Under these rules, expectations for any issue would be low.  The purpose of the meeting is to separate acceptable ideas from those that will never succeed.  After a debate of moderate length, a vote would be taken and the results would be recorded for use by state legislators.  Those state legislators could use this information with their opportunity and perhaps obligation to initiate action on new constitutional amendments. 

Because amendments have not been proposed by the state-initiated Article V process, the entire mini-debate process would set a precedent and be educational for both state legislators and the public. 

A fully informed state legislator would understand that if and when a ‘great debate’ occurred, delegates would need to be chosen.  And that state legislator, wishing to advance his or her political career, may wish to be one of those delegates.  Certainly, the delegate selection process may favor those who personally held a mini-debate.  It would increase their level of qualifications because they had personal experience.  State legislators and former state legislators would seem most qualified to be delegates. 

It is likely that the mini-debate would be a one-day event.  If a larger number participated it would take longer.  And having 12 to 20 people certainly expands the possible choices of meeting places.  One of the real objectives is to show that Democrats and Republicans, in small numbers or large, can talk politics in a normal civil manner.  Too often, national politicians talk past each other without specific responses to claims or allegations made by the opposing faction.  The fact that some of the issues are abstract in the context of state politics makes the debate less contentious.

Debate suggestions could be written prior to the initial motion to discuss.  When one topic is finished, the next written proposal is brought up.  Each topic may be recorded by voting result and duration of debate time.  All results could be scanned in for further reference by state legislators.  The mini-debate could be initiated by anyone but it is most logical that a state legislator would initiate the mini-debate and attend the event. 

Those state legislators who want to diminish the current high level of divisiveness may choose this mini-debate as a first step.  Do you know such a state legislator?  These debates are simple and send a strong message.  When enough mini-debates are held, the attention that they receive will move the amendment process forward and secondarily may reduce our current level of divisiveness.

Jim Crow is Alive and Well

Many Americans believed that after the civil rights advances in the 1960’s that the Jim Crow era was over.  But the congressional votes to overturn the 2020 election say otherwise.  It’s all about disenfranchising African American votes just as it was done in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Those congressional votes shout out loudly that Make American Great Again means a return to the Jim Crow era. 

The allegation that the election was stolen is a clear reference to the votes cast in the inner cities of Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta.  MAGA challenges focused specifically on those areas dominated by African Americans.  Clearly, if Jim Crow laws were in place, the election results would have been different. 

Racism is often not easily defined.  But some common sense analysis applies.  Would it be easier for those congressmen who voted to overturn the 2020 election results to prove that they are not racist or would the preponderance of evidence point in the direction of these votes having a racist foundation?  The election was tested in court 60 times and the results lead to the conclusion that the election was free and fair.  Of the 147 congressmen who voted to overturn the results, how many were not white?  Facts speak louder than innuendo.

The Social Media Sham

A generation ago, social media did not exist.  Our parents could not have warned us of its pitfalls and we did not study it in school.  We all walked blindly into the arena with no knowledge or fear.  Basic communication between people seemed so innocent.  

But hucksters always find a way to exploit a new fad.  And social media has few, if any, guardrails.  For political hucksters, it’s a dream come true.  With no fact checking, and little or no learned experience from previous election cycles, it’s a political powder keg.  Political parties have their own private echo chamber and facts and lies are easily blurred.  And media outlets representing those factional interests have a ready-made audience.  This gives candidates the golden opportunity to become cult leaders. 

The riot at our nation’s capital on January 6th, 2021 did not happen spontaneously.  If you listen carefully to the comments made by the rioters you find that their main source of information was social media.  Factional leaders and factional media interests only contributed to the problem that already existed because of online misinformation. 

Freedom of speech, as defined by our First Amendment, may need to be reviewed.  We need to examine and define the point where repeated lies become seditious.  And we need guardrails for politicians who use incendiary tactics in this powder keg.  In some ways it may seem blasphemous to restrict our First Amendment rights by putting guardrails on social media.  That’s a very slippery slope.  But if we do not attempt to stop on that slope, we will end up at the bottom of that slope.  That’s what happened on January 6th

We also must consider that Congressmen who vote to gain favor with the echo-chamber driven faction that caused the January 6th problem must also be accountable for their actions.  If a faction is truly seditious, then climbing on that bandwagon, as opposed to deliberate reasoning in an attempt to protect and defend the Constitution, is a tort against our nation. 

Social media platforms have recent provided minimal guidelines.  They fear legal repercussions.  January 6th was a wake-up call.  It is time for government to meet with the leaders of social media platforms in an effort to manage content in a way that keeps our country safe.   It is noted that the concept of ‘people’s safety’ occurs in the Declaration of Independence which preceded the First Amendment.

The Great Debate

It’s about federal government reform.  And it’s in full compliance with the Constitution.  An obscure part of the job description of all state legislators puts them in charge. Two things are needed from the legislators.  First, they must see a need for change in the federal government.  Secondly, they must be willing to consider non-partisan reform ideas.  

Technically the debate will occur at a pre-convention meeting of state delegations from all 50 states.  The pre-convention is a lead-up to an Article V convention and that meeting creates action to amend the Constitution.   It’s a circuitous route to reform but changing our government is not easy and should not be taken lightly. 

Partisanship is higher than is has been in many decades.  Our country will benefit from the ‘Great Debate’ because its structure mandates a non-partisan discussion.  The debate is open to all reform topics.  Two-thirds of the states must agree in order for a measure to move forward and if stated opposition is very substantial, the measure dies.  Adopting a new Constitutional amendment requires ratification by three-quarters of the states. 

Our Founders created Article V as a means to correct flaws in our Constitution.  It is important to understand why a state-initiated Article V convention has never been held.  Many prairie fire issues have seen attempts at an A-5 convention derailed as Congress chose to use the Congressional method of initiating efforts to amend our Constitution.  That complies with the Founder’s intent.  But that also created a long-term precedent of not using the state-initiated method. 

Our Constitution has not been amended by a new initiative in a full half century.  Historically, that’s a long gap between amendments.  Perhaps it was not that reform was not needed but rather that the traditional method to amend the Constitution has been blocked.  A very high degree of partisanship makes it less likely that the two sides will agree on any policy issue.  In addition, Congress likes its position of power.  Incrementally, it has increased the size of the roadblocks for state-initiated government reform.  Spreading unsupported fears of a runaway A-5 convention is an example. 

And submitting applications for a limited A-5 convention are essentially destined to fail.  Coordinating topics is a very high bar; scrutiny of the specific topic can lead to congressional obstruction.  A limited A-5 convention can only discuss topics approved by 34 states.  Recent history has borne out this pattern of failure. 

The modern reason that an Article V state-initiated convention has never been held is that an Article V pre-convention has never been held.  A pre-convention allows open discussion of all topics, not just the ones promoted by private organizations.  It opens the door to all reform measures that are supported by the will of the people.  Congress and the courts cannot stand in the way.  It is true that the pre-convention will lead to an A-5 convention but that’s just a structural necessity needed for full compliance.  The real action, the big open discussion, will occur at the pre-convention. 

Our Founders could not foresee the evolution of laws, congressional roadblocks, and long-term precedents that now hamper the process of amending our Constitution.  But they did have enough foresight to give equal power to the states in the amendment process.  And they foresaw the potential need for congressional oversight.  They did not outline the steps needed.  But perhaps they expected that in some form or fashion the ‘great debate’ would take place as part of the process to correct our government’s flaws. 

Sedition

Sedition is encouraging one’s fellow citizens to rebel against their state.  It is a crime for two or more people within the jurisdiction of the United States to conspire to overthrow or destroy by force the government of the United States.  The word seditious means disposed to arouse or take part in sedition.

Our system of government is a democratic republic or representative democracy.  It is commonly called a democracy.  Democracies are best known for free and fair elections and peaceful transfer of power.  Precedent, tradition, and legitimacy have helped to create these democratic norms.

On the heels of his humiliating defeat in the previous year’s election, John Adams set an important precedent. His departure from office marked the first peaceful transfer of power between political opponents in the United States, now viewed as a hallmark of the nation’s democracy. Since then, and until now, the loser of every presidential election in U.S. history has willingly and peacefully surrendered power to the winner, despite whatever personal animosity or political divisions might have existed.  

Free and fair elections are measured by laws that are established prior to the election and then implemented in the election process.  States are in charge of the election laws that are used to elect our President.  In 2000 in the state of Florida, the Florida Secretary of State stopped the recount process and certified the narrow victory for George W. Bush.  The national perspective on laws used to elect the President was that the certification of the vote by the Secretary of State of Florida was legal and appropriate.  The United States Supreme Court in Gore v Bush supported that conclusion in a unanimous decision. 

The election laws had been followed and the 2000 election was over. Gore conceded.  Legitimacy of the election was accepted on a national and international basis.  Precedent and tradition had been followed.  Overall strength and legitimacy of our system of government was as strong as ever. 

Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment.  We have the right to question all aspects of our government including the election process.  But it is important to the legitimacy of our government that we follow and support existing laws.  The 2020 election was somewhat different because the pandemic affected our method of voting.  But that did not occur overnight.  Adequate time was available for election law modification prior to the election.  And indeed many modifications were litigated prior to the election.  There was no overriding legitimate reason to delay the election.  Election legitimacy is based on voting in accordance to existing laws and accurate vote counting. 

Claims of election fraud prior to the election have no basis.  Our court system is the place to challenge election procedures.  If a candidate cannot win these challenges in court, then the laws dictate that the election is expected to follow the pattern of free and fair. 

Historians will agree that the 2020 election was held in accordance with laws that existed at that time.  And legal experts will agree that the votes were counted accurately; the 60 court challenges did not change the result.  All 50 states certified their election results.  All laws were explicitly followed; legally the election was over.  If a Super Bowl referee makes a critical call, and the reply officials do not reverse the call, the winner of the game may be decided by that call.  And when the fourth quarter ends and one team is ahead, the game is over, the rules do not allow further challenges.  That contest is based on rules and our Presidential election is based on rules. 

Many of us may not like the results of the contest, but we typically do not join with others or solicit an organized effort to engage in efforts to contest the result.  Venting our personal frustrations is normal and is not unlawful.  Sedition requires two or more people. 

Free and fair elections and peaceful transfer of power are cornerstones of what we call democracy.  If the free and fair election process is substantially damaged, it may not be possible to maintain our current form of government.  It follows that those who organize in an attempt to upend our free and fair election system are guilty of sedition. 

Sedition is far more dangerous when it is perpetrated by the President of the United States.   And all those who follow the seditious leader are equally guilty.  The concept of ‘I was just following his lead’ may not be a legal defense for the crime of sedition.  This is especially true for elected officials because they have a relatively perfect knowledge of the law. 

Freedom of speech is guaranteed and elected representatives have a specific right to make comments and investigate prospective wrongdoing.  But when the intent of their actions is seditious, freedom of speech is overridden by sedition laws.  An organized effort to overturn a free and fair election is seditious.  Those belonging to specific political party or a specific faction cannot use this as an excuse for an attempt to undermine our government.  Fans should not organize to ban professional football because their team lost the Super Bowl. 

Congressmen represent about 700,000 people.  They are elected to speak for those people.  If their speech undermines our government, that’s sedition on steroids.  Elected representatives swear an oath to protect and defend our Constitution.  That requires them to be extra cautious when taking actions that could potentially undermine our system of government.  They should, in accordance to their oath, avoid taking actions and or voting for measures that might be interpreted as seditious. 

All actions to challenge the results of a presidential election after 50 states have certified their election results are antithetical to the election process. Those actions lack precedent and go against tradition.  Any hint that the election was illegitimate, after all of the laws were followed when holding the election, smells of sour grapes or a precursor to sedition.  The more actions and votes taken to support those challenges, the higher the level of seditiousness.   Inevitably, a rising level of seditious actions leads to an overt attempt to overthrow the government. 

Many Americans did not expect that votes by our elected representatives would lead to the violent action of January 6th 2021.  And these Americans supported these election challenging votes by their elected representatives.  It is not clear how many Americans wanted to overturn the election, and therefore overthrow the government, just because their candidate did not win. 

In retrospect, it’s easy to see the effect of those votes.  If the President, of his own accord, chooses to continue attempts to overturn election results, that’s personal action and does not meet the definition of sedition.  The law gives him the right to be a sore loser.  But he has no authority to command or persuade others to take actions against our government. 

Each elected official has free will and a duty to protect and defend our Constitution.  Those members of Congress that chose to challenge the election results are individually accountable for their pre-seditious actions.  And their continuous rhetoric supporting that position only reinforces that accountability.  Failure to acknowledge the winner of the Presidential election, after the votes had been counted and certified may be, in retrospect, a seditious act.  During the Nixon era there was a slogan ‘America, love it or leave it’.  That applies today.  Members of Congress can’t have it both ways.  They cannot claim to protect and defend the Constitution and love America and at the same time cast votes that undermine our form of government.  If they don’t like our election system (finalized when 50 states certify their vote totals) perhaps they can leave Congress or leave the country and go to a country where they find the laws more suitable.

The rhetoric and actions taken by members of Congress has directly or indirectly lead to a violent attempt to take over the halls of Congress.   The word seditious means disposed to arouse or take part in sedition.   A degree of guilt certainly falls on some of our elected representatives.  If they suffer no negative consequences, then they, and all future elected representatives, will be emboldened to take similar actions in the future. 

If the President has personally done wrong, then laws will be enforced and the President will suffer negative consequences.  It is also time to consider potential illegal actions by other elected officials and penalize those who are guilty. 

Federalism is part of our system of government.  Indirectly, with the votes of the people, states elect the President.  Those state officials, 18 attorneys general, who participated in the election challenge, after all 50 states certified the election results, may also have a degree of guilt.  Their efforts had major racial overtones.  Perhaps they would overturn the winner of the Super Bowl because one team had too many black players or too many white players. 

Our system of government, has in the past, and will in the future, endure many challenges.  Ultimately, our success as a government will depend on how we respond to sedition and all other challenges.  We should encourage our elected officials to take a long-term perspective and let their better angels guide their actions. 

Redefine Presidential Powers

Our Founding Fathers could not anticipate the evolution of presidential power.  And it’s not uncommon for a president to be driven by a lust for power and influence.  The Constitution does not spell out every possible circumstance, so it may be necessary to add clarity.

We all anticipate that the President is not above the law.  But the Justice Department is allowed to make interpretations of the law based on the special circumstances surrounding the leader of the executive branch of government.  But the good intentions designed for one set of circumstances may not be appropriate for all presidents. 

There’s nothing in the Constitution that states that a sitting President cannot be indicted.  On its face the rule appears to protect the President from lawsuits that could detract from his duties to protect and defend the Constitution.    But that ruling has two flaws.  If a president is investigated and not indicted, it gives the false impression that the president is not guilty regardless of the conclusions stated as a result of the investigation.  Secondly, the President may break the law as many times as he or she sees fit and avoids prosecution during the presidential term(s).  The President is effectively a king (during his or her term of office) subject only to impeachment and removal.  Impeachment and removal has recently become so political that Senate members of the same party rarely ever vote to remove.  Only crimes that are horrendous result in any negative consequences for a president during the term of office. 

Alternatively, if a president can be indicted, the risk of political witch hunts is high.  But that risk may be more manageable than the alternative of a lawless president.  Although the head of the Justice Department is independent, he or she serves at the pleasure of the President.  That substantially reduces the chances of a purely political indictment. 

Discretion, on the part of the Justice Department can be influenced by historical precedents.  Indiscretions on the part of the President are measured by the term ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’. The Justice Department may ask; could the alleged indiscretion be considered impeachable offense?    They may also ask; if we prosecute the President for this minor offense, will this black mark on the President be too damaging to the country.  Or is it best that the charge be delayed till after the presidential term or written off as a political ploy.  Discretion may certainly delay prosecution of alleged crimes committed prior to the President’s candidacy or term of office.  The President is not above the law but may receive a limited and defined degree of discretion.

Sentencing, subsequent to conviction, is not addressed in the Constitution.  Disruption of presidential duties because of the conviction may not be in the interest of the country.  A conviction of the President is not directly related to removal from office.  Although sentencing may be delayed until after the presidential term expires, it may be appropriate that this black mark be placed on the record.  Political power and influence is likely to be negatively influenced by a conviction.  Certainly, a president with a conviction during the first term of presidency would be less likely to be reelected. 

Pardon Power

Presidential pardon power is absolute.  It gives the President the power to right a perceived wrong.  But it also gives the President the power to give a get-out-of-jail-free card to lawbreaking friends and relatives.  That abuse of power usually has political consequences for the President and or his political party.  But a major exception occurs during the lame-duck part of the presidential term.  There are little or no political consequences for pardons issued during this time frame.  And that allows an additional abuse of power.  The President may assure a potential criminal, committing crimes for the benefit of the President, that a pardon is coming.  The lame-duck pardon skirts the law and political consequences. 

We may consider restricting the Presidents pardon power.  Eliminating all lame-duck pardon power would still leave the President with 95% of the pardon power time frame.  Our Founders did not intend that pardons would be issued for personal friends, close relatives, and business associates.  Pardon power may be eliminated from a well-defined list of those close to the President without opposing the intentions of our Founders. 

Were the Benghazi hearings seditious?

Most Americans never considered the long term consequences of congressional action for the sole purpose of pleasing their political base. 

Benghazi hearings lasted longer than any other and produced no indictments.  They easily fit the definition of a political witch hunt.  Highly political ploys send a divisive message. 

One overt action, taken on behalf of a political party rather than the people, may not be enough to qualify as sedition.  But a pattern of overt political actions, especially brazen overt political actions is sedition.  The January 6th, 2021 riot is evidence that these actions are seditious.  It is overwhelming obvious that they contributed to the problem. 

When Congress or the President takes overt political action that undermines the credibility of government, that action is seditious in nature.  Demand for another hearing that would re-investigate the results of the 2020 presidential election, after 60 court challenges failed, was a brazen political action under any common sense analysis.  And it is hard to argue with the allegation that this demand contributed to the January 6th riot and therefore was seditious. 

We must consider not only a penalty for that demand but also consider penalties for all of those acts by Congress or the President that send the type of divisive message that could contribute to subsequent violent action against our government.  

It is reasonable to conclude that the Benghazi hearings began a pattern of behavior that lead to seditious action.  Perhaps the January 6th riot gives us a better opportunity to define and call out patterns of dangerous behavior. 

It’s all about Health Care

Of the 50 top rated democratic countries on earth, each has universal health care (except for the countries with a population under three million).  The United States is the lone exception.  We are ranked 25th on the Democracy Index.  Countries that have large populations and do not have universal health care are more prone to dictatorship. 

Our health care costs are about twice as high as other countries with universal health care and our health outcomes are similar. 

The United States Supreme Court has had consistent heartburn over the constitutionality of the mechanics of universal health care.  It seems that because universal health care was not around in 1787, the mechanics of the system were not written into the Constitution and therefore can be easily called unconstitutional.  Ultimately, anything that is not specifically spelled out in the Constitution or its amendments may be subject to arbitrary decisions of the judges. 

Thomas Jefferson laid out the parameters of the problem: 

“You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps…. Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.”

When we see all the other countries with less expensive health care we must question the partisan loyalty of our Supreme Court judges. 

One political party has dominated the appointment of judges to the court.  Are we subject to the ‘despotism of oligarchy’?   The answer would not surprise Thomas Jefferson.  Moving from our present capitalistic health care system to a universal health care system would threaten the profits of the powerful pharmaceutical industry and the powerful insurance industry.  In an oligarchy, those powerful industries would be favored over the will of the people.  It seems that the political party that has dominated the appointment of judges is also in favor of ‘despotism of an oligarchy’. 

And the will of the people can be influenced by carefully orchestrated propaganda.  The oligarchs and there favored political party have had decades to contrive carefully stated phrases to support their position.  Most of their phrases have been an attempt to prevent universal health care from hurting their profits. 

‘Administrative state’ has been given a very negative connotation while each country with cheaper health care has a well-developed administrative state.  This scares the oligarchs. 

‘Tax and spend’ references the fact that universal health care involves a much larger budget.  What is not said is that this larger budget is more cost effective.

‘Reduce the size of government’.  Factually, you cannot obtain cheaper health care without a larger government footprint.

The favored phrase is that ‘socialism is bad’.  All of the other large democratic governments have a larger degree of socialism and all have lower health care costs.   We already have a socialized mail delivery system and a socialized federal highway system and many other aspects of socialism.  Every nation seeks a balance between capitalism and socialism.   In the long run, this move toward socialism means little more than a reduction in health care cost and saving 45,000 lives of those unfortunate Americans who fall through the cracks each year because they don’t have health insurance. 

We must ask; will corporate profits dictate the function of our government and our health care system?  And if biased judges are the ultimate arbiters of constitutional questions, are we moving directly to the ‘despotism of an oligarchy’?