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a couple of quick notes

(Minor) The hypothetical situation with hospitals hiring doctors on the basis of the amount of support they can bring in from the pharma industry is very much the current situation in academic research. I think you may have even discussed this in one of your Change Congress talks, so perhaps you'd already rejected the idea of making that connection here.

(Less minor) One way to look at, or "frame", the effect of lobbying influence: it doesn't change what individual congresspeople do, but it does change who is there to do it, and this has the same end effect – The vector sum of Congress's agenda is heavily influenced by money. There's got to be some easily-graspable metaphor for this effect (something involving sports, perhaps?) but it eludes me at the moment.

--Woozle 16:22, 4 August 2008 (PDT)

late thoughts

when discussing/debating politics, oftentimes discourse results in the sentiment, “Well, there is no silver bullet….” job one then, is to show people how our Constitution is the Silver Bullet; that's what the Framers built--a silver bullet of governance.

“Despite generations of empirical work trying to show the quid-pro-quo many believe must be there, nothing has been found.” but why cannot realities such as the loss of the Fairness Doctrine and dysfunctional FCC, or the revocation of the Glass-Steagall Act of the ‘30s, for instance, not be the evidence showing how money changes results? citigroup and other banking interests have dumped truckloads of money into political campaigns since the 1990s in hopes of deregulating that sector. sandy weill has one of the pens clinton used to repeal Glass-Steagall framed and hanging on the wall of his penthouse. isn’t that evidence money not only changes high-level decision making, but is actively used to do so?

if fixing the bankruptcy that is congress is the first step to solving all other problems, then we’re dealing with a cruel paradox: hoping the solution we seek arises from the problem itself. it’s like asking a corporation--a “legal fiction”--to stop looking at the bottom line (revenue), and look to the greater good. it’s like asking a drug addict to burn their dealer’s number. this paradox is what our high law addresses, and is why the constitutional principle of convoking a convention is found in it. we cannot expect a corrupt government to build a better mousetrap for corruption. therefore we must dust off the Constitution and put it to work. electoral reform is the mousetrap we need built or we’re going to find rodent poop in the pantry until…. until what? imo, the most important information of the paper is the note that the manner in which elections are conducted greatly affects results.

ben franklin said “Half the truth is often a great lie….” i do not believe the american people are stupid, or could care less about the current state of affairs, i believe they are continually offered half truths. of the bell-curve of political consciousness there will always be folks who are paying attention and actively seeking solutions to problems. if that segment heads in a prudent direction, most everyone else will follow. in terms of political science, based on what we have to work with, popularizing the convention clause of Article V is the thing to be doing now. in fact raising awareness of the convention clause has coerced needed changes out of the congress in the past. if we can coerce a 28th Amendment proposal out of it which secures and enshrines The Vote in our high law, i think all else will follow in a natural progression of events. john de herrera 11/26/08

late thoughts 2 (edited)

America was originally thirteen colonies. The British had us under their thumb, we organized, and with help, threw off a long train of abuses to secure freedom (the Treaty of Paris 1783 transferred sovereign power from a European monarchy to the people of the colonies, and in turn remaking them into states).

For a short time the Articles of Confederation kept us and our new freedoms intact. Then certain citizens thought revisions were needed, and Alexander Hamilton led a group that went state to state with the idea it was time to call a convention. Most everyone agreed, and delegates convened in Philadelphia. After the first few hours they realized they were split in two: Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Federalists wanted a centralized government. Anti-Federalists were like, "We just got free from the British! A new centralized government?! It’s just a matter of time before money corrupts! And then what?! Another war for independence?!" Some representatives who had shown up turned heel right then and there, hollering at the top of their lungs evil was afoot.

After it was drafted, the Federalists had to sell this new constitution to the thirteen states because nothing had been ratified. The final rebuttal to Anti-Federalists, who thought it was a mistake to place all that power into three branches, was Federalist 85. Hamilton wrote it. He said, Look, if Congress becomes so corrupt it's no longer expressing the will of the people--if corruption ever becomes institutionalized--the states can convene to purge it.

The clause, upon satisfaction of numeric count, is peremptory, done without debate, and no Congress, Executive, Court, or private citizen can say Boo about it. The convention clause is a legal principle outside the grasp of any citizens alive at any one time--that we consent to governance, and when things run afoul we can amend. That was the final rebuttal to the Anti-Federalists, and why we ratified the Constitution and became the USA.

Now fast forward to the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, when talk of a convention went around. It was viewed as a huge monstrosity. Americans have been conditioned like Pavlov's Dog to fear it like it some kind of Pandora's Box. But what politicians and Anti-Conventionists fail to mention is the ratification process. The ratification process--another constitutional principle--requires seventy-five percent of the country to agree before anything becomes new law. The Founders knew to get three-quarters of everyone to agree is difficult. Regardless of whether the idea is liberal or conservative, it must be popular enough to get the approval of one entire group, plus at least half of the other--75% sanctifies the popular will.

To fear a convention, is to fear open discussion, the very thing which must happen for any hope of survival. The Founders knew then what we know now, that corruption is dynamic, which is why the legal mechanism of the convention clause was placed in our Constitution. To check it should its ebb and flow distort governance for the common good.

Imagine this--Congress issues the call to the states with a date to convene (likely one year hence). The states hold special elections for delegates, and before long we'd get human interest stories of who these convention delegates are, and what they wanted to propose. They'd fly to the Capitol and the gavel would fall, calling the convention to order. We'd watch the delegates propose ideas--the good/bad/ugly--and in the process witness modern-day Jeffersons and Madisons emerge. They'd be on the news and late-night TV shows just like senators today.

After all the ideas are proposed, the gavel would fall again, end the convention, and everyone would go home. Then we'd start getting reports about which states had approved which ideas, and as soon as any one of them reached the thirty-eight-state threshold--Boom--ratification.

Whenever you debate an Anti-Conventionist, and they give the same invalid reasons---that the whole Constitution can be torn up, or that the current applications are somehow void or expired--ask them why it’s there? Why is the provision for a convention in our Constitution in the first place? Because some delegate might come up with a better idea than a Senator or Speaker of the House? Like taking private money out of public campaigns?

In fact though, because the requisite applications are on record, it's a constitutional requirement a convention is called. It’s mandated. To be Anti-Conventionist today is actually to be Anti-Constitutionalist, and that’s against the law. To advocate overthrowing our constitutional government is a federal crime. The intent of the convention clause is why the Founders left the requirement of a numeric total as the single thing to mandate the Article V Convention. In other words to question any application for any reason whatsoever, beyond whether it’s on record, is illegal. To a fine point, this is the rule of law in its most profound sense to the American citizen. john de herrera 12/25/08

A question for John De Herrera

[Hamilton] said, Look, if Congress becomes so corrupt it's no longer expressing the will of the people--if corruption ever becomes institutionalized--the states can convene and purge it. The clause, upon satisfaction of numeric count, is peremptory, done without debate, and no Congress, Executive, Court, or private citizen can say Boo about it.

...but then...

In order for there to be a convention for proposing amendments there must be applications from two-thirds of the states, and the reason [why there's been no convention] is because there are hundreds of applications requesting a convention and one Congress after the next has yet to issue the call. All state applications are in the Congressional Record and the Congress is ignoring them.

I'm not clear on what's happening. If a convention was supposed to be convenable despite a corrupt Congress, how is it that Congress is the roadblock preventing one from being called?

(Secondarily -- is there any listing anywhere of all the calls for a convention? Who requested it and when? That would probably be some interesting reading.)

I've greatly enjoyed reading your analyses as you've been putting them together, by the way -- this sort of plain-language interpretation of basic legal underpinnings is (or seems to me) something absolutely vital for citizen-run government to work. We don't all have time to become Constitutional experts, but we can certainly understand summaries (and go dig for more details if something seems not quite right).

--Woozle 14:24, 30 November 2008 (PST)

hi Woozle

just editing the above when i saw this message. i was trying to make the text less confrontational/indignant. thank you for your compliments, i appreciate them very much. in answer to your question, i'd say there's no single answer (and wonder if there needs to be). if i had to pick one, i'd say it was the mustard seed that is the 1947 National Security Act, which has grown into something which shades the truth that the applications are on record, live, and pending:

no offense meant to mustard trees, but it was truman's signature which set the nation on a wartime footing (arguably, the right thing to do at the time), which in turn meant less for education, until we've reached a point today where the most profound principle of our constitution is misunderstood for a multiple of reasons. at core, education. disproportionate education/military funding. the 111th congress is about to commit congressional laches, and it's not any one members' fault, and most have no idea.

philosophically, maybe the framers would say that what's become of things is because "popular information" is in the hands of rupert murdochs and clear channels. government without popular information is a farce, tragedy, or both. the 1996 Telecommunications Act is a factor, and if popular information was less concentrated, in more hands, and flowing freely, we'd have a convention.

[Woozle interjects] I think you're talking here about the discourse-chilling effects of media consolidation, something which I've argued elsewhere is more or less a hostile takeover of the "nervous system" by which we used to reach national consensus on major issues.

but if we were to name one reason, in the interests of creating the political science to coerce the call out of the legislature, the issue to raise would be some distant legislation(s) which have worn out their usefulness, and if we don't replace them we not only crash and burn the quality of our own lives, but the generations that follow. that would be the salespitch to the people who can make a difference right now. As soon as the idea is breached into the mainstream media – something real and substantial, as opposed to something like Bill Maher off-handedly suggesting a "constitutional convention" – then i think a natural progression of events will unfold, and we'll get it, and it will likely secure The Vote from private interests. at least that's what i hope lessig sees. i'm supposed to have lunch with him later this month so i certainly hope he's enthusiastic about this line of thinking.

he mentioned on charlie rose recently that mr. obama saw the job of president as the one who captures the imagination of the electorate. well, the situation is tailor-made for mr. obama: he can tell the electorate that he needs their help in coercing the call out of the congress. the convention of course does not shut down the other three branches, they go right along doing what they do. we simply must secure the voting process from private interests. transparent elections and a free society are one and the same. mr. obama can be the american who coerces the call so convention delegates can do what members of congress do not have the independence to do--propose a twenty-eighth amendment which secures The Vote.

Woozle replies

I'm not sure I've got the gist of what you're saying, so let me rephrase it and you tell me if I've got it right

The difference between Now (when we seem unable to call a Convention despite much popular demand) and Then (when the framers of the Constitution set things up so that we could, in fact, call a Convention without the cooperation of any of the three major branches of the federal government) is that in the meantime we have ceded control of the "national consensus" to the media, which in turn has been taken over by corporate interests who would rather not have a Convention.

In other words, we need a new "national nervous system", or at least enough of one so enough momentum can build to demand a Convention in a coordinated fashion. (And if that is in fact what you're suggesting, would this then be an appropriate time for me to start plugging an idea I've been working on towards creating exactly that? It's explained here, and I'd love to get some feedback on it while I'm still in the early development phase.)

--Woozle 18:16, 1 December 2008 (PST)


went through some of the pages woozle, some really interesting stuff there, thanks for your work. in regards to where we are today, to get to your ideas, the electorate must be led to a national convention--to a starting point--in order, ultimately, to have your ideas formally addressed. for instance the links on voting. voting is the issue upon which all others rest, but as far as what we know, it and new approaches to it are nowhere on the horizon. thus the need to convene delegates to address what members of congress do not have the independence to, let alone get to the floor. there's a window of opportunity to purge corruption from the legislature, we're in it now, and i believe we must work with what we have: congress or convention. according to google alerts, more citizens are taking a shine to the idea of a national convention. i hope it doesn't seem harsh, but if you prize your ideas, you should work to help bring about a convention so that your ideas have a chance to emerge.

Towards actually getting something done, I've posted further questions at Talk:Article V Convention rather than here. (This was written before reading your additional thoughts above.)
In response to the above, several things:
  • I'm all for a Convention, and will help however I can. Even if Obama turns out to be everything we hoped for, there are disturbing signs of deep corruption (both Lessigian-definition and the less innocent kind) within the system which may require a complete overhaul to get rid of. Also, the the forces of ignorance and authoritarianism have not gone away; we will still have to deal with them, and they may be much better organized by 2012.
  • I would like to see such a Convention use better methods of discussion than the current sausage-factory mode of political debate. It would seem important to try to get something working before such a convention gets underway, so there is time to work out the kinks and demonstrate viability. (Which is probably not a reason to delay the Convention if we can actually get one going; strike while the iron is hot and all that.)
  • I also see a system like InstaGov as being a check on government -- perhaps a sort of fourth branch -- which would not require any official sanction. (Usage within the system does not preclude unofficial usage outside the system, or vice-versa; the more, the merrier -- especially if we get the data-sharing protocols right, which is one area I haven't spent a lot of time working out yet.) Democracy's detractors often accuse it of being "mob rule"; my idea is (oversimplifying a great deal) to give the mob some brains and a conscience.
Thanks for your comments :-) --Woozle 15:04, 2 December 2008 (PST)

keep you posted on helping, woozle. as far as a "complete overhaul" i'm personally convinced that a single amendment concerned with electoral reform is all the overhaul the nation needs. simply remove private monies from public elections, and over a few election cycles you'd see many current aspects of corruption vanish.
i could be wrong but i think Robert's Rules of Order are still a great way to build consensus. i'm not well-read on other methods, and am still in the process of understanding rro.
i think that to have InstaGov become what you envision, it will need money, and/or someone of note championing it. or maybe it could be a non-partisan dailykos of sorts? members of congress drop in to post diaries there all the time. InstaGov--Giving the Mob Brains & Conscience.... love it.