Thursday, June 27, 2013

Congressional food stamp experiment goes horribly awry

Donny Ferguson, an aide to Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX), recently ran an experiment to see whether he could survive on $31.50 worth of food a week. Two problems immediately arise: First, Ferguson is not a scientist and knows nothing about how to run a scientifically valid experiment, and, second, Ferguson is not a nutritionist and knows nothing about how to plan a diet that won't lead to obesity, malnutrition, and disease. But Donny is a Congressional aide, so he thinks he knows everything. That's a third problem right there.

From a scientific viewpoint, this experiment was doomed from the start. The goal was unclear. It's not hard to live on $31.50 for food. You can get free food at food banks and churches to supplement your diet. You can also get food from dumpsters outside restaurants. There is no problem surviving on a limited budget. The problem is getting the proper nutrition to sustain yourself over a long period of time.

The USDA provides plenty of information on nutrition and healthy food choices. Ferguson, even though he works in the Congress, did not read this information. If he had, he would have learned something important and could have educated his boss's constituents.

Ferguson set up his experiment. His objective was to survive for one week eating only the groceries that can be purchased with a single person's allotment of food stamps, $31.50. He planned to buy food at the cheapest possible place, a dollar store near Washington. He considered that this would give him the best chance of getting enough food to live on.

Ferguson methodically listed the foods he bought, but failed to list the nutritional contents of his food. How much fat and sugar were in these foods? How much did the food weigh? Were there sufficient vitamins and minerals to ward off diseases caused by malnutrition? We have no way of knowing this, but we can make a fair guess from the list of items that Ferguson has provided.

Ferguson's Diet
Two boxes of Honeycomb cereal. Around 50% of the calories in Honeycomb cereal come from sugar, the rest from refined carbohydrates. Note that there are no actual weights here, just number of boxes. Ferguson is using none of the precision he would have to use in a real experiment.
Three cans of red beans and rice. This is processed food, high in sodium. One 15oz can will provide 2/3 of your daily requirement of sodium. We could tell how much protein and other nutrients are in this item if we knew the brand and the size of the can.
Jar of peanut butter. Peanut butter is filling but also has plenty of fat. Less than a quarter cup will give you all your daily fat allowance. The protein is incomplete.
Bottle of grape jelly. Again, mostly sugar. The grapes don't contain much nutrition.
Loaf of whole wheat bread. Undoubtedly not whole wheat bread, but white bread with some whole wheat in it.
Two cans of refried beans. Depending on the brand, a good source of protein and fiber.
Box of spaghetti. Another dose of carbohydrates.
Large can of pasta sauce. Has some vitamins, but also sugar and salt, depending on the brand.
Two liters of root beer. Sugar.
Large box of popsicles. Sugar.
24 servings of Wyler’s fruit drink mix. Sugar.
Eight cups of applesauce. Cooking apples removes most of the nutrients. Mostly sugar.
Bag of pinto beans. Incomplete protein.
Bag of rice. Carbohydrates.
Bag of cookies. Sugar and fat.
gallon of milk. Has calcium but also animal fat containing cholesterol.
Box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal. Oatmeal is the only whole grain in the entire purchase, but it is adulterated by adding even more sugar.
It has been suggested that this diet is a recipe for obesity. Ferguson notes that he gained two pounds only halfway through the week, as if this were not a sign of trouble.
The USDA publishes a pamphlet with the following suggestions for a healthy diet. Ferguson did none of these things:
  1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. False. Ferguson's diet contains no fruits or vegetables except as flavorings in processed foods.
  2. Switch to skim milk. Unknown.
  3. Make at least half your grains whole. False. Few if any whole grains.
  4. Vary your protein food choices. Presumably to avoid saturated fats in meats. Ferguson's diet has no meat, but his proteins are incomplete, so that they will contribute to his load of empty carbohydrates.
  5. Choose foods and drinks with little or no added sugars. False. Ferguson filled up on sugar to stave off hunger.
  6. Look out for salt in foods you buy. It all adds up. False. Ferguson apparently doesn't realize the amount of sodium that has been added to his processed foods.
Experiment Fails Utterly
Ferguson claims his experiment was successful, but he admits he had to add extra meals outside the allotted 31.50. His excuse is that he had to take a plane trip and could not take his canned food with him.
It does not matter what his excuse may be. Ferguson did not complete his intended test and his results are utterly meaningless. Real scientific experiments require strict controls to assure that the tests can be replicated by other researchers.
Although Ferguson may have been able to survive for one week on this diet, the diet is extremely unhealthy. The large number of empty calories in this diet will lead to obesity, not because Ferguson is overeating, as many believe, but because he is not getting enough nutrition from his food.
Just as Ferguson was obsessed with the cost of his food but not the quality, the Republicans in congress are obsessed with cutting costs without considering the consequences. The result of Ferguson's diet would be obesity, disease, and early death. The results of Republican policies will be deteriorating quality of life for all of us by reducing the money spent on infrastructure, increasing costs of disaster repairs and insurance, deteriorating environment due to air and water pollution, increasing poverty, stagnation due to chronic unemployment, all of which should lead to social unrest.
A bad diet and a bad political policy both lead to predictably bad consequences.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scalia to SCOTUS: Stop bugging me with this stuff!

The Supreme Court found a way around the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the case of US v. Windsor. It seems that the federal government can't make any rules regarding marriage. That's up to the states. The State of New York decided that it would recognize same-sex marriage, so that should be good enough for the feds. No more DOMA.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, had more choice words for the small cabal that foisted DOMA on We the People. DOMA contrives to deprive some married couples, but not others, of rights and responsibilities, creating two kinds of marriage within the same state, the preferred, heterosexual one and the denigrated, LGBT one. It blows up New York's attempt at recognizing the equality of same-sex marriage by inserting inequality into the entire U.S. Code.

You have to admit this is one of the most high-minded decisions we've seen from the Court in a long time.

You may have to admit it, but Justice Scalia does not. He splutters incoherently in his dissent, claiming at length that the Court should not have taken up this case. It's a waste of time, he says. The U.S. Government says its not going to defend the case, so there is no case. The court can't take a case unless there is a dispute. All we have here is a big love fest.

Scalia doesn't care that the Congress decided to defend the law. The Congress has no standing to do that. In a wonderful exercise in absurdity, Scalia goes off on a wild tangent, explaining what horrible things may happen if the Court starts accepting cases from the Congress instead of letting the political process work itself out.

True, John Marshall said it was the duty of the court to determine what the law is. But not this law, says Scalia. Only other laws. The laws Scalia wants to change or eviscerate. Laws like the Civil Rights Act and the Campaign Finance Law, to name just two.

But the Court already accepted this case and all his rhetorical fury is wasted, so Scalia goes on another visit to the land that never was, the one where the Constitution works perfectly and Congress only writes perfect laws. This time he visits the place where DOMA represented the will of the Congress and the President, so an attack on this law is an attack on the U.S. Government itself.

The backers of DOMA were not attacking LGBTs, oh no! The hatred the Christian right spewed for years in every media outlet was not relevant to DOMA. No, the Congress passed DOMA to avoid difficult choice of law issues where the laws of one state conflict with another, and President Clinton signed it because he approved of the law. In other words, they passed it to save time and money.

Neither of these propositions is even close to being true. The Republican Congress passed DOMA as a sop to its radical Christian minority, which needed something to show for their unfaltering loyalty to the Republican Party. Clinton signed the law, which he has since repudiated, because he needed the cooperation of the majority party to carry on the daily business of government. It was a gritty, sordid compromise, not a noble attempt to save the government time and money on useless court cases.

Scalia calls two Frenchmen, the Baron de Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville. Both these men were nobles who distrusted democracy. They were also not American Judges nor elected by Americans, so, by Scalia's oft-expressed standards, their opinions should have no standing in a Supreme Court case, like the German Constitution he mocks in his dissent.

Finally, and more than once, Scalia expresses his surprise that the Court should take notice of LGBTs as an oppressed class. When did they become oppressed, he asks. At the time DOMA was passed, no state or foreign country recognized same-sex marriage, he says, so the supporters of DOMA could not possibly be attacking LGBT individuals.

Scalia seems obsessed with particular dates. But changes in social custom and belief are often sudden breaks with the past. When did the King of England become a tyrant instead of a benevolent ruler? When the Colonists signed the Declaration of Independence. When did African-Americans cease to be property and become citizens? When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In both cases, one act reversed hundreds of years of precedent.

So it is with the LGBT fight for full citizenship. The SCOTUS ruling in US v. Windsor is another signpost on the path.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our Decrepit Constitution: US Supreme Court merges with the robber barons

The years after the Civil War marked the beginning of modern America. Some people became extremely rich through government largess. The government paid companies to build railroads by giving away the land the rails passed by. Slavery was replaced by a system called sharecropping that tied people to the land like medieval serfs. Factories paid children and women starvation wages and forced them to work 60 hours or more a week. Corporations made even more money than they had before the war using slave labor. Financiers became the heroes of America by loaning the government enough money to end recessions—which financiers were responsible for starting.

The Progressive movement arose in opposition to corporate abuses. For awhile it looked like life would get a little easier for workers. The Supreme Court ruled (Munn v. Illinois (1877)) that legislatures could pass rules to control corporate pricing under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. This decision gave hope that We the People could fight back against the corporations that were sucking the life from the country.

Vain hope. The courts soon became the willing bedfellows of the corporations. The Supreme Court ruling in Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Co. v. Minnesota(1890) struck down a Minnesota act that established a railway commission with the power to set rates and timetables, which were the instruments by which railways exercised their monopoly powers. The Court ruled that the courts, not the legislatures, should decide what rates were appropriate.

This action reversed the spirit of Munn,which appeared to reserve that power for the legislatures, and at the same time made corporations more powerful than the government. The corporations were able to influence legislatures through largess. The people could elect legislatures that looked out for their interests, but the Court now ruled that those anti-corporate elections would count for nothing.

The Supreme Court was moving toward granting corporations full personhood. The framers had not foreseen this development, nor provided for it in the Constitution. The Court declared in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania (1888) that corporations were persons entitled to protection under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, despite the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment was intended solely to protect the rights of freedmen. This definition gave corporations protection from "unreasonable regulation" and taxation. In practice, it gave them virtual immunity from regulation and taxation, since the courts alone could determine what was reasonable and appeals were costly and time-consuming.

Another pro-corporation development at this time was the principle, right of contract, beginning with Godcharles v. Wigeman, 113 Pa. St. 431 (1866). The court in Godcharles declared that a law requiring laborers to be paid in cash instead of company scrip was degrading to the laborer, because it robbed the laborer of his right to make a contract for himself. By this declaration, the court accepted the fiction that what existed in the law books existed in reality and that a Corporation could not compel a laborer to accept company scrip in lieu of wages, because the laborer had an equal bargaining position with the corporation.

The courts forbade the state legislature to interfere with any contract duly made between two parties and particularly applied this principle to contracts between laborers and corporations, which they considered equal partners in an employment agreement. This policy meant that no law could interfere with an employment contract, no matter how unfair its terms might be to the laborer. Courts ignored the obvious fact that corporations, which had everything, were not equal to laborers, who had nothing. Courts assumed that laborers had the ability to walk away from any contract they did not like, despite the impossibility for most laborers, hardly able to feed and clothe their families, to do any such thing. Right of contract existed only in the minds of corporate lawyers and judges, not in the real world of need and subsistence.

The courts wielded the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause to protect corporations from state regulation. While doing so, they struck down numerous progressive laws that provided laborers with the eight-hour day, the right to be paid weekly, the right to work less than sixty hours a week, the right to be paid in cash rather than company store credits, the right not to pay higher prices than non-employees in the company stores, and many others.

The courts of the late nineteenth century ignored the common law precedents of the eighteenth century in their attitude toward the poor. They forgot the words of Lord Northington: “Necessitous men are not, truly speaking, free men; but, to answer a present exigency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose upon them.” (Vernon v. Bethell (1762)). In modern English, this means, "Poor men are not, truly speaking, free men, but to answer a pressing need, will accept any terms an unscrupulous employer may offer them."

See Arnold M. Paul, Legal Progressivism, the Courts, and the Crisis of the 1890s, Business History Review, 83 (1959) at

Thursday, June 20, 2013

SCOTUS consults dictionary to see if voter suppression is constitutional

Most people would consider the case Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona to be about the outrageous attempt by Arizona Republicans to deny the vote to Arizonans of Latino heritage. Not so Justice Scalia, who sees the case as an opportunity to discuss the dictionary meaning of the word, “accept”. Here we have the epitome of a narrow ruling, where the Court does not address the important issues in a case, instead discussing recondite matters of word meanings and reading the commentaries on election law in the Federalist.

Justice Scalia notes that James Madison, the slaveholding contributor to the Federalist, believed the federal government should not set its own requirements considering who should be allowed to vote. To do so, wrote Madison, would by degrees subvert the Constitution. Madison's overriding concern here was that non-slaveholding states would pass laws permitting African-Americans to vote. This was the reason for the Constitution's limitation in this area.

The people no longer believe there should a right to hold slaves. Therefore, the Court should give no weight whatsoever to any comments written by 18th century slaveholders on whether the federal government should determine voter qualifications. The Fourteenth Amendment took this power away from the states by declaring

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

Arizona's voter registration requirement, passed in 2004, is just such a law. It erects barriers between voters and the ballot box. Studies have shown that 90% of the voters refused registration under the law were legally eligible to vote. The law crippled voter registration drives, which target first-time voters and voters newly arrived in the state.

The white supremacists who passed this law in Arizona got the results they wanted. The groups most affected by tougher registration rules are young, first-time voters, minorities, and the elderly. An objective evaluation of the effects of this law must bring it into conflict with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits voting practices or procedures which discriminate on the basis of race, color, or ethnicity.

Once again we are faced with a situation where the laws are being violated by a small group of people who wield political power. These are the only people who could rectify the injustices they themselves are causing. Any other group that challenges these laws would require years of appeals and large sums of money.

We should not imagine that the conservatives on the court are colorblind. Justice Scalia knows that the framers had the same world view as slaveholders of that time, because they were in fact slaveholders. He personally favors rules that would exclude eligible voters from the rules, because his written opinion tells the supremacists of Arizona that they could make a similar law if they only followed his guidelines. They may, he writes,

request anew that the EAC[Election Assistance Committee] include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Those who want to suppress the vote of minorities should thank Justice Scalia for his helpful advice. None of the Justices mentioned that the right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and that no law that prevents even one qualified voter from casting his vote should ever be ruled constitutional by this Court. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

SCOTUS Gets One Right: Humans are not patentable

The issue in Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) et al. v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.(Myriad), et al., is whether a corporation can patent a human gene. The gene is question may hereafter be known as the Angelina Jolie gene. That's a better name than BCA1/2, to which it is referred by geneticists. Jolie discovered through an analysis of her chromosomes that she possessed mutations of this gene that are a strong positive indicator for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The case was brought by AMP against Myriad. AMP sought to use the Jolie gene for treatment but discovered that Myriad had taken out a patent on the gene. Myriad's fee for use was very high. AMP (and the other complainants) challenged the constitutionality of such a patent.

Under the law, patents can only be issued for materials not found in nature. The US Patent Office (PTO) issued a patent on Myriad's representation that the removal of the gene from a chromosome in which it is found in the human body rendered it somehow “not found in nature”. This logic would make it possible to patent a branch by removing it from a tree, since branches do not exist in nature except on a tree. Myriad claimed that the severing of connections to the rest of the chromosome made the gene patentable. The PTO agreed with Myriad's lawyers in their pursuit of this dubious patent.

Several commenters have complained about the technical complexity of the Court's written decision. I find this odd because most SCOTUS decisions are littered with legalese that is incomprehensible to the average college graduate. The laws of a country should be understood by its people.

Antonin Scalia (in a separate 1-paragraph, concurring opinion) also objected to the scientific terms included in the Court's opinion, written by his longtime collaborator on the Court, Justice Thomas. Scalia claims that he is unable to affirm the technical details of the opinion by his own knowledge or even his own belief.

Scalia made a good point here, but he failed to recuse himself because of his confessed ignorance of science. At least he admits his ignorance. Yet in the next sentence he says that, while BCA1/2 is not patentable because it is not found in nature, cDNA is patentable because it is not. Scalia says he has no knowledge of the science, nor even a belief. He therefore cannot have an educated opinion about the subject matter of this case.

CDNA is a material that scientists produce from DNA. Its production is somewhat like the mathematical determination of the square root of a number. Starting with the DNA, a scientist takes a number of well-understood steps to produce a cDNA, or complementary DNA. Just as there is only one square root for a real number, there is only one cDNA for a human gene segment.

The patent office does not grant patents for the square root of two, for example, nor for the process by which we obtain the square root of two. These are the building blocks of mathematics, without which there can be no progress in mathematics. Yet SCOPUS reaffirms here that a compound that stands in the path of further research can be patented, thus stifling progress.

The true importance of this decision was immediately recognized by journalists. Thousands, perhaps millions, of women who could not afford the extortionate prices charged by Myriad for cancer screening, may now be rescued from an early grave. The US is a country of laws, but it is a country of people first. We cannot condone business practices that result in the enrichment of a single corporation at the expense of human lives being needlessly lost.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Our Founding Felons: A crime is a crime whether the criminal thinks so or not

A felony is a serious crime, usually punishable by imprisonment for over a year. Actions committed by people two hundred years ago are sometimes excused as being commonly accepted at that time. While slavery is a serious felony today, at the time of the U.S. Revolution (1776), slave owners were prominent members of society. Owning slaves made them more powerful because slaveholding brought wealth.

Looking a actions as criminal only if the criminals themselves thought their actions were wrong would cede all the moral arguments to the criminals. Criminal organizations today have elaborate codes of honor, like the omerta of the Sicilian crime families, which create an entirely different moral system. For the crime families, the worst crime is informing for the police. For them, robbery, murder, and extortion are simply the means of conducting business.

We must look upon the actions of our founding fathers today as crimes if we find that other people at that time considered them as crimes, but the founding fathers ignored the opinions of others. Majority agreement does not make a law just, it only gives criminals justification for their actions.

Among the crimes that may have been committed by the founders—Washington, Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson—were the following:

  1. Enslavement
  2. Rape
  3. Genocide

Washington and Jefferson both owned slaves. Slavery was a customary practice in Virginia at that time, but what is customary may also be criminal. Abolition movements began as early as 1760 among the colonists. The Quakers began liberating their own slaves in the late 17th century. By 1774, they had succeeded in abolishing slavery within the movement.

Quakers wrote books and pamphlets decrying the ills of slavery. Some of them also made speeches on the subject. It was not possible for an American during the revolutionary period not to realize that many people opposed slavery.

The First Great Awakening, a revitalization of Christian churches in the 1730s and 1740s, decried slavery. Pennsylvania became the first state to pass anti-slavery legislation in 1760. Massachusetts adopted a constitution that declared all men equal. Thereafter, a number of law suits claimed that slavery was illegal in Massachusetts.

Washington and Jefferson both knew that slavery was being outlawed in several states, yet they did not free their own slaves. Neither man freed a slave during his lifetime, though Washington freed most of his slaves in his will. Jefferson freed only a few slaves in his will.

Both Washington and Jefferson had slave mistresses. Such a union is tantamount to rape, since the woman has no choice but to submit to her owner.

Andrew Jackson could have been prosecuted for the crime of genocide if that crime had been defined when Jackson ordered the four civilized nations to leave their land in the South and walk to new homes in Oklahoma. This act today would be called ethnic cleansing and is considered a form of genocide. Four thousand native Americans died along the Trail of Tears.

Long before he became president, Andrew Jackson led a merciless war of extermination against the escaped slaves who lived with the Seminoles in Florida. He began his career by leading a force of American soldiers and Native American allies against Negro Fort, a stronghold for escaped slaves in Northern Florida. He led a flotilla up the Suwannee River and provoked Spanish soldiers to fire on his forces. Jackson was thus able to claim that the Spanish had initiated the war.

Jackson used the superior marksmanship of his gunners to explode the powder magazine at Negro Fort. The resultant explosion killed all but 30 of the 3000 people within the fort. Many women and children were among the dead. Jackson justified his actions by saying he acted to “chastise a lawless foe, who, combined with a band of Negro brigands, have for some time past been carrying on a cruel and unprovoked war against the citizens of the United States.”

Andrew Jackson was the most perfidious and violent of the Founding Fathers.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Maryland v. King: New Technology Confuses Supreme Court

DNA testing is decades old. Police have developed techniques for using it to identify suspects. The suspect in Maryland v. King was caught because he was arrested for brandishing a shotgun. The police collected a sample of his DNA on a cotton swab they touched to the inside of his cheek. The sample matched DNA collected in the investigation of a brutal rape. King was convicted of that crime.

 To most people, perhaps a vast majority, this seems reasonable, even a cause for celebration. The police solved an old crime. A victim got whatever justice she could from the capture and punishment of her assailant. The public breathed a sigh of relief that a dangerous criminal is now in prison instead of on the streets, looking for his next victim.

 The Supreme Court is not most people, however. They are priests in the strange cult of Constitution worship. They compare every trial outcome to a piece of paper that is incomprehensible to most people. No one can predict what they will decide once they have performed the necessary rituals over the scrap of holy paper.

Justice Antonin Scalia is the high priest of Constitution worship. In this case, Scalia writes that the police should not be able to perform the simple act of touching the inside of a suspect's cheek with a cotton swab. The Constitution forbids it, he says. He has made similar statements in the past. The Framers of the Constitution, a small group of men who wore knickers, silk stockings, and powdered wigs, wouldn't permit it.

 This seems most strange to me. Even the existence of DNA was unknown until about 160 years after the Constitution was written. Scalia and his brethren have no way of knowing what the men of those long-ago days would have thought about today's police procedures. The whole court considers what the Framers thought, or rather might have thought, to be very important.

 The Supreme Court is very good at splitting hairs. In this case, the crucial detail is not whether the police collected the DNA sample, but when. The police should not have collected the sample at the time of arrest, Scalia writes. They should have waited until after the suspect was sitting in a jail cell. He thinks there is a distinction there.

Pragmatism should be applied here. The result in this case would be exactly the same, no matter when the DNA was collected. The result is good. Justice was done.

The Court is also very good at imagining impossible scenarios that are prohibited by the law. The Maryland law permits DNA to be collected only from people arrested for serious, violent crimes. Scalia predicts this will be used to trace minor traffic violators, even though the law specifically forbids this. He writes that this decision will be used to build a national database of DNA that includes everyone who has ever been arrested, rightly or wrongly. With this statement, Scalia is bragging that not only can he red the minds of long-dead framers, he can also foretell the future.

No one, not even a Supreme Court Justice, can foretell the future with any accuracy, any more than he can read the minds of long-dead men.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A New Bill of Rights for We The People (conclusion)

IV. No person, or set of people, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge be hereditary. Associations of people, such as corporations, may not receive exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges for longer than 30 years.

This amendment is partly drawn from the Virginia Declaration of Rights with an addition that attempts to rectify some of the problems we have experienced with corporations. Corporations have no set life span and therefore can receive benefits, such as patents, copyrights, or trade mark protection far longer than any human. When corporations benefit from such privileges for decades, they do so at the expense of humans who may wish to use them as well. This amendment recognizes that artists and inventors have always used the work of others as inspiration for their own works and that current laws prevent them from doing so.

V. No set of people, such as a corporation or a labor union, may contribute money or any other fungible item whatever to a political campaign for the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge. Campaigns for public office must be limited to 30 days and must be funded by the political district in which the election is held. All qualified applicants for these positions will receive identical support.

American elections are frequently auctions where groups of monied interests attempt to capture political offices. The politicians who win these offices proceed to return money to their backers in the form of favors and votes. This practice is perfectly legal but resembles in all respects a system of corruption where bribery is the norm and objective analysis is unknown.

Sometimes wealthy politicians buy elections using their own money. This results in legislative bodies filled with people who have little in common with those whose interests they are supposed to represent. The best way to take money out of politics is to make it illegal to spend money on political campaigns and use public funding. The elections can cost less by limiting the amount of time campaigning is permitted.

Speech is only free when we all have an equal opportunity to speak. Speech magnified by the electronic media using cash is not equal with speech delivered on a street corner by a person standing on a crate. Free speech is important in a tyranny, but only if one has the means to eommunicate it. In 1776 the means was a printing press or a broadside. Today we need to protect free speech and also provide the means to make it heard. So public financing of elections is essential for a democracy.

VI. Habeas Corpus. The right of habeas corpus is absolute for all prisoners held by the U.S. Government and cannot be abridged by action of the government except during a war declared by a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives and signed by the President.

The courts and the executive have , in recent years, limited the right of habeas corpus, which gives a person the right to be charged with a crime or else be released from prison. The government has done this by creating a conflict without an actual declaration of war. The declaration of war is a check on the power of government, which otherwise can act as if it at war indefinitely, suspending rights and ignoring the established conventions of war.

The Geneva conventions of war require prisoners of war to be treated humanely and also repatriated at the end of the war. Blurring the line that divides war from peace effectively repudiates the Geneva conventions. Democratic president Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnamese War by getting the congress to authorize his actions without a formal declaration of war. Ronald Reagan used government assets to overthrow the government of Nicaragua without even admitting to congress what he was doing. George W. Bush used his presidential power to declare an essentially endless war.

This amendment will help the U.S. take a step back toward the family of nations.

VII. Adopt the International Human Rights Conventions as constitutional law.

The story of Europe since the end of World War II is a continuous success story for peace over war. This region, which had witnessed over 100 years of continual aggressive warfare between nations, took a different direction by common agreement. At the outset, the U.S. also promised to take this new direction.

Germany turned from one of the most aggressive countries in the world into one of the most pacifist. England gave up its colonial holdings and changed its empire into a commonwealth. France struggled to regain control of its overseas colonies but gave up Vietnam after Dien Bien Phu (1954). The French people in 1962 voted overwhelmingly (91%) to end the occupation of Algeria.

Great Britain relinquished its overseas empire comparatively quickly after the war. India won its independence from Britain in 1947 without military resistence. Most of the rest of the Empire was integrated into the Commonwealth of Nations.

The United States and the Soviet Union, alone among the Colonial Powers, continued to resist independence movements. The United States continued enforcing its will on foreign nations through military actions in Vietnam, Central America, and Iraq. These military actions resembled colonial wars in their disregard for the Geneva Conventions concerning aggressive war, treatment for prisoners, and the use of torture.

The U.S. held trials of German war leaders at Nuremburg and executed several of the most culpable for war crimes, primarily planning and carrying out wars of aggression against other countries and mistreatment, murder, and torture of prisoners of war. After the war, the U.S. joined with other nations to create the United Nations and revise the Geneva Conventions.

The U.S. abandoned its leadership of the global humanitarian movement as a result of its wars against Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In addition to its military interventions, publicly admitted, it has intervened secretly in Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Tibet, Indonesia, and others. These interventions may have been justified as reactions to events in those countries, yet the U.S. elected to use military force instead of diplomacy to respond to these problems.

The United Nations was formed as an alternative to military action. The international treaties agreed to—and those not yet agreed to—by the U.S. are intended to foster universal human rights. If these treaties are integrated into the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. becomes a guarantor of universal human rights. The problem of whether the U.S. can use the Alien Tort Statute to protect human rights abroad becomes moot: The U.S. will have other, more direct means to foster human rights.

The U.S. must repudiate war as an instrument of policy and join the rest of the industrialized nations in fostering peace.