Sunday, October 30, 2011

Proposed Constitution of North America

This document does not pretend to be legal or formal. Such a document could only arise through an intense democratic process. Please read this as a starting point for such a process. Discuss the ideas herein, consider alternatives and determine your own ideals. Most importantly, please take the necessary steps to advance democracy in your own community. Imagine a political system that is inclusive, participatory, representative, accountable, transparent and responsive to citizens aspirations and expectations. In celebration of collaboration among diverse citizens, we anticipate this
Proposed Constitution of North America
I. The Continental Congress shall have responsibility and authority for legislation in North America. Each of the 525 Members of this unicameral body shall represent constituents' interests in a collaborative effort to best serve the needs of all while depriving the liberty of none.
A. The initial Congress shall be comprised of representatives chosen from among their members by the existing national legislatures: 363 from the USA; 122 from Mexico; and 40 from Canada. Every second year, that third of the Congress which has been in office longest shall be replaced through elections, designed by the Council to proportionally represent all significant political factions of each of the continent's bioregions. Each Member must reside within the bioregion served and may serve only one six year term. Each bioregion shall be represented by the portion of the whole number of Members of Congress equal to the portion of residents of the whole continent who reside in that bioregion, as determined by the Council.
B. As its first act and whenever called into question, Congress shall determine the delineation of the bioregions of the continent. Congress shall regulate the Continental budget, providing for equal lifetime compensation of every Member of government, not exceeding the mean average income of the citizens, and for the means to execute their charge, and giving full accounting to the people of every revenue and expense. Congress may issue currency without borrowing or taxation. Congress shall regulate inter-regional and extra-continental trade and maintain control of large corporate ventures in the interest of the people. Congress shall oversee the process of maintaining the use of limited resources at sustainable rates. By majority vote Congress may make laws as necessary to improve the general welfare, enhance security, and maintain the liberties of the people of North America, and ratify treaties negotiated by the Cabinet. Congress may by three quarter majority vote impeach any Member of the Congress, Cabinet, Court, or Council for abuse of power or criminal behavior, and may remove any Member of the Court by consensus. Upon impeachment the Member shall be suspended until the Court has resolved the matter.
C. Congress shall make no law restricting the rights, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of any person in the world. Congress may not make an ex post facto law, nor suspend the writ of habeus corpus. Every law made by Congress shall contain a date of termination not to exceed fifty years from origination. All proceedings, deliberations and votes of Congress shall be open to public scrutiny and documented for public understanding. Each Member of Congress shall spend the majority of the time of the term physically within the bioregion served. Upon receipt of petition from at least one percent of the voters, Congress shall vote upon any proposal therein. That no proposal shall be voted upon without first being adequately discussed, cloture shall require a two thirds majority vote.
II. The Cabinet shall have responsibility and authority to execute the laws duly passed by Congress. Each of the seven members of the Cabinet will carry out agreed tasks in the manner best serving all the people of North America. Delegation of tasks among the members shall be by consensus of the entire Cabinet.
A. The initial Cabinet shall be comprised of the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, plus the Secretary of State of the United States. Each year one member of the Cabinet shall be replaced through a continental ranked preference election, beginning with the former Secretary of State, proceeding through the former Vice Presidents and then the former Presidents of Mexico, Canada, and the United States in that order. Each Member may serve only one term of seven years.
B. The Cabinet may hire, regulate, and dismiss such employees as are necessary to execute the laws of North America. The Cabinet shall represent North America among the nations of the world, negotiating treaties subject to ratification by Congress. The Cabinet may direct the Navy and, during times of threat, the coordination of local militias.
C. Every member and employee of government within North America is bound to respect the equal right of each human to access with dignity the necessities of a healthy life. North America shall not engage in aggressive warfare nor occupy foreign lands with troops, and shall abide by all treaties which Congress has ratified. No Member or former Member of the Congress, Cabinet, Court or Council shall be hired for any task of government beyond their duty of office.
III. The Supreme Court shall have responsibility to resolve conflicts and oversee the administration of justice, seeking to prevent recurrence of crime and to provide amends for victims and, when practical, rehabilitation for offenders.
A. Members of the Court shall be appointed by consensus of the Cabinet and shall serve until resignation, death, or impeachment.
B. In response to a complaint, the Court may compel any parties to an orderly trial and delegate authority to a system of local and regional courts to assure quick quality decisions based upon review of observations from every available viewpoint and deliberation of appropriate law and precedent. The primary goal of the courts will be to satisfy the needs of all parties as much as possible within the laws passed by Congress. The Court may enforce the Constitutional limitations of Congress, Cabinet, and Council and resolve conflicts which arise among them.
C. The Court must satisfy the equal rights of accused and victims to a speedy trail by a jury of their peers following due process. No individual is granted superiority within the courts. None may be convicted except by consensus of a jury and the right to appeal may not be denied. Blame, retribution and punishment are to be avoided, but every person may be held accountable for behavior. The Court may only compel to trial Members of the Congress, Cabinet, Court, or Council who have been impeached by Congress.
IV. The Electoral Council shall have responsibility and authority to regulate elections to choose Members of Congress and the Cabinet within the guidelines of this document.
A. The Council shall be comprised of one representative chosen by each Political Party which has established itself by presenting to the Council signatures from at least one percent of the voters upon a ratifying document stating the goals of the Party.
B. The Council may direct government employees and enlist voluntary compliance among citizens to engage all residents of the continent in free and fair elections. The Council shall issue invitations to impartial observers from foreign nations to provide objective witness of their processes. Demographic census data gathered for electoral purposes may be shared with Congress and the public, without disclosure of specific private information.
C. Every decision of the Council must be made by consensus. No individual Member of the Council has authority without consent of the whole Council. Registration of residents for voting may not be used for any regulation of those residents beyond elections. The Council may not regulate the internal decision making processes of any party, nor allow any citizen greater vote than another.
V. Within two years of the ratification of this Constitution, preexisting governments within North America shall have ceded all authority to the new governments of the Continent and the bioregions. Any remaining resources of government will distribute to the lowest practical level of common ownership.
A. When ratified by three quarters of the population of North America, this Constitution and all laws and treaties pursuant to it shall be the highest law of the continent.
B. Within three months of the ratification of this Constitution, every existing national and regional government shall submit to its constituents a detailed plan for transferal of all resources to existing local governments, to one of thirteen new bioregional governments, or to the continental government defined herein. The citizens of each bioregion are empowered to create their own government subject to popular ratification. Within two years of ratification of this constitution, every preexisting state, provincial, and national government in North America shall cease to govern.
C. Within twelve years of ratification of this Constitution and every subsequent ten years, the Electoral Council shall organize a continental election for popular confirmation of this Constitution by the adult residents of North America. Within three months of any such election failing to confirm the Constitution by at least sixty percent majority, the Council shall convene a Continental Convention to draft a new proposed constitution, which will be subject to same ratification.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Open Letter to Middle Class Americans

To the remaining middle class:

Congratulations. You have survived, through whatever combination of wise choices, fortunate opportunities, and minor compromises. You’ve probably helped a lot of people along the way. You have every right to be proud of yourself.

I mean, look at the statistics. The American middle class is a tiny fraction of what it was in your childhood. If you’re bringing in more than $27K, you’re better off than half the populace. The disparity in wealth distribution hasn’t been this stark since the Great Depression. And the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of a train called global resource scarcity.

You are not to blame for these problems. You have simply played by the rules which were made by people far wealthier than you could ever aspire to be. It’s hard to fathom how wealthy these very influential people are. If one could make a million dollars a year, it would take a thousand years to become a billionaire. The richest families, multibillionaires, have been amassing wealth since the dark ages. They were raised to manipulate corporations and governments.

But all that money doesn’t seem to make them any more wise or compassionate. Perhaps it’s the inbreeding that accumulates such fortunes, or maybe the air in those lofty chambers is too rare. Secure in their estates, they don’t ever see the masses they manipulate. Child prostitution, slave labor, and the brutality of war are abstracts they never need look at.

Meanwhile there are real people suffering every day. The USA has become the evil empire, invading any country that refuses to be dominated, murdering and torturing rampantly. We have more of our population, mostly the non-Caucasian portion, imprisoned than any society ever has. US based extractive corporations are raping the planet’s ecosystems and destroying indigenous populations.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The planet has enough resources to sustain a healthy human population. So how do we convince the rule makers that this is our goal? How extreme does the imbalance have to get before enough is enough? To quote the old labor song “Whose side are you on?”

Every one of us has some complicity. We may work for exploitative corporations or at least buy their products. We pay our taxes and vote for the “lesser of two evils.” We cling to our comfortable lifestyles and reject the call for revolution. By refusing to be part of the solution, we become part of the problem.

Change is inevitable. The planet cannot continue to produce all that Americans consume. No matter how wise our leadership, the American Dream must die. We cannot sustain the current group of rich people without great suffering. We certainly can’t afford more rich people. Do we have to chop the last tree, drain the last river, and mine the last stone before we realize that we can’t eat money?

I propose two questions regarding our choice of lifestyles: 1) Would it be possible for everybody on earth to live the way I do? and; 2) Will the next seven generations be able to live the way we do? If the answer to either of these questions is no, it must be time to simplify.

Right now the planet has about 4.3 people per hectare of arable land per person. That’s about 2.7 per acre. It’s a real challenge to live on the food grown in such a small space. Even with all our technology, we aren’t coming close, but with attached greenhouses, window boxes, composting toilets, and a lot of work, we might be able to eat a sensible vegan diet of local organic produce.

Your car is not sustainable. Even if every person could afford a Prius, the resulting gridlock on a paved planet would not be livable. If we devoted land to growing bio-fuel for all, where would we grow our food? There is no replacement for cheap oil. We’ve already used half of all the oil in the world with less than 10% of the world population driving. Now all the Indians & Chinese want to live like Americans, so we’d better set a better example.

The solutions are simple. Refuse to support any system that exploits. Put your energy into creating the world you really want to live in. Grow your own food. Pedal your own bike. Care for your neighbors.