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.

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